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Accountants lack guidance on SME digital advice, taskforce finds

A government taskforce has found that the absence of a reliable central authority for accountants to source digital advice could be hurting many of their small business clients.

Accountants lack guidance on SME digital advice, taskforce finds
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Last week, the Small Business Digital Taskforce handed its final report to the government on how small businesses can make the most of digital technology.

Small Business Digital Taskforce chair Mark Bouris recommended the establishment of a new independent body to serve as a central point for information and advice on digital options for Australian small businesses and their advisers.

"The Taskforce's vision is that this independent body will provide small businesses, industry associations, the accountancy professions, and others, with tailored, up-to-date, and easily accessible information and advice on digital best practice," Mr Bouris said.

"At its centre, the new body will maintain a curated online platform which will be recognised internationally as the 'gold standard' for digital small business advice."

However, Smithink director David Smith was sceptical about creating a central authority for digital advice, saying that the digital economy is moving so fast, its information "will be always be out of date".

He said the most successful accountants would be the ones doing their own research and are fundamentally interested in the digital space.

"They're reading the articles, reading the newspapers, keeping themselves up to date and searching around on the internet to explore what's possible and use their own lateral thinking to think about how something which is emerging in the digital space could be applied to themselves or their clients," Mr Smith said.

"If you're relying on some sort of third party to garner this information, I don't think you'll be inquisitive enough to really understand and absorb it to be an effective adviser."

The report said the key message from digital service providers and vendors was that accounting providers "need to have interoperable systems that allow businesses to change, providing greater flexibility and choice, instead of locking a business in to one provider".

It also noted the role of accountants is changing from a tax and compliance expert to the broader role of a ‘trusted adviser’.

“Accountants not only use suppliers’ products to provide their small business clients with more detailed and timely information and business analytics. They also recommend various digital products to their clients,” the report said.

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