IPA heralds ABN reform, flags black economy pitfalls
The government’s moves towards reforming the Australian Business Number system will address its current deficiencies and provide greater system integrity, says the Institute of Public Accountants.
Earlier this week, Treasury opened for public consultation its proposals to strengthen the ABN system, of which submissions close on 31 August.
IPA chief executive Andrew Conway said the ABN plays a critical role in the tax system, but registering an ABN without planning and forethought may be contributing to the black economy rather than acting as a deterrent.
He said that while he applauds a simple and efficient ABN system, there aren’t enough checks and balances to ensure the registration of an ABN is appropriate or not.
“When the ABN system was introduced in 2000, it was supposed to hinder the black economy by strengthening the integrity of the tax system but that has simply not been the case,” Mr Conway said.
“The ease of applying for an ABN online by applicants who do not understand the legislative test for eligibility and their obligations has resulted in many obtaining one when not entitled.
“People involved in sham contracting who would otherwise be employees of a company fall into this category. There are also individuals applying for an ABN to legitimise a business that does not fully comply with its tax obligations.”
Mr Conway added that the extension of reportable payments to high-risk industries illustrates how the ABN system has been deliberately misused with the cash economy alive and well.
“When the building and construction sector was subjected to mandatory reporting in 2012, a whopping $2.3 billion of revenue was reported in its first 12 months,” he said.
“Mandatory reporting is being extended to other high-risk sectors to reign in the cash economy.”
Further, Mr Conway said applying for an ABN is an important step, and there needs to be more rigour in the process as it is effectively an applicant’s ‘licence’ to do business.
“Accountants are well-placed to educate applicants of the rights and obligations of having an ABN and, more importantly, to vet the applicant’s credentials for commencing a business that meets ABN eligibility criteria,” Mr Conway said.
“This check and balance function will no doubt help the government and the ATO in the longer term.
“We urge individuals considering starting a new business not to just jump online and apply for an ABN but to have a meaningful discussion with their accountant first and to understand what it takes to run a business and your obligations.”