Complying with compliance
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) have undertaken engagement sessions with members of the Institute of Public Accountants (IPA). The sessions were hosted by the IPA between September and November in Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney, Perth, Hobart and Adelaide.
The aim of the sessions was to receive feedback from IPA members about how they advise small businesses about ASIC compliance obligations, and to provide direct input into how ASIC should develop its small business strategy.
Legal obligations for small business
ASIC understands that businesses have numerous legal obligations. They are accountable to a number of Commonwealth and State regulatory agencies.
Consequently, when it comes to knowing, understanding and complying with their obligations, small businesses can be at a disadvantage. Unlike large operations, small businesses may not have the financial resources to obtain advice about their legal obligations or to employ staff to manage compliance.
Therefore, ASIC is seeking to understand how business owners want to be provided with materials that will help them understand and comply with their obligations. By reducing the red tape involved in compliance, operators of small businesses will benefit by spending less time and money on compliance, which can be better spent on growing their businesses.
Asking those who know best
ASIC has uploaded a survey on its website for small business owners to complete. The aims of the survey, which is available until 21 December 2012, are to find out:
- what small businesses know and do not know about their compliance obligations
- if small businesses know where to source information about their legal obligations
- how ASIC can better assist small businesses comply with their compliance obligations.
The IPA has helped promote the survey to its members and to their respective clients.
As ASIC develops its small business engagement strategy, it is also consulting with, and seeking feedback from, key stakeholders, including advisers to small business such as accountants.
These gatekeepers play an important role as they provide insightful feedback about matters affecting small businesses. They are also intermediaries that ASIC can leverage to communicate with small businesses.
Getting priorities straight
One of ASIC’s strategic priorities is efficient registration and licensing, with a focus on small business. Complying with legislative obligations does not cease once a business is registered and we are aware that due to the challenges faced in operating a small business, many business owners may not have the time to understand and comply with their obligations.
Once ASIC has completed its engagement with stakeholders and assessed the results of the survey, we will develop a strategy that will be educational and will provide tools for small businesses to make it easier for them to know, understand and comply with their compliance obligations.
We plan to partner with other regulatory agencies and use their collective knowledge and networks to adopt a whole-of-government approach to educating small businesses. We may also partner with business associations and gatekeepers to provide support to small businesses.
The strategy will also assess risks by identifying small business sectors/industries that are intentionally deficient in their compliance obligations. We may decide to take regulatory action that aims to change the attitudes and behaviours.
Small businesses account for 96 per cent of all businesses and employ half the Australian workforce. They are ultimately ASIC’s biggest customer, so while we are committed to making registration and licensing efficient, we also have an obligation to help small businesses understand and comply with their obligations.
But first, we need to understand their needs and expectations and the IPA has assisted ASIC in that regard.