Personal and company tax returns would soon be automatically completed by software and uploaded to the Australian Tax Office with little involvement by accountants, said LodgeIT, an online form lodgement service.
Accounting software companies were already adding basic forms such as tax file number (TFN) declarations and personal returns that drew information from general ledger software. But even more complex forms could be automatically filled by workpapers.
“If it becomes so easy to auto-fill these forms, at what point does the guy on the street say I’ll bypass the accountant entirely and press the button myself?” said Andrew Noble, founder of LodgeIT and owner of Noble and Associates, a Perth accounting firm.
Greater competition between accountants and bookkeepers was inevitable as their roles began to merge, Noble said.
“How much work can a bookkeeper do so that the business owner can push the button and fill a form from the general ledger and work papers?” Noble said.
“Accountants and bookkeepers have historically had quite different roles but with the emergence of these programs they have started to cross over,” Noble said. “I would much rather control the cloud ledger myself rather than the bookkeeper doing it daily and then it coming to me at the end of the year.”
Desktop software Reckon Accounts, formerly branded QuickBooks, already uploaded business activity statements (BASes) directly to the ATO. Xero has promised it would launch the first stage of its cloud-based tax platform in the next six months with a TFN declaration form.
“It makes sense to have a payroll form in your payroll app for TFNs. The same for tax returns in your general ledger program. The question mark is how deeply they will integrate and what sort of auto-fill features they will include,” Noble said.
LodgeIT had decided to give free access to its online form service for company, personal and trust tax returns, activity statements, PAYG summaries and TFN declarations, Noble said.
The company would offer a paid, specialised service for auto-filling complex forms with information outside the general ledger such as dividends, tax credits, capital gain, trust and beneficiary reporting.
“A typical company return has hundreds and hundreds of elements that have to be reported but only a very small fraction get filled from the ledger system,” Noble said.