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Assistant Treasurer considers easing access to accountants through 'voucher scheme'

The Assistant Treasurer is exploring methods to ease small business access to advice and has invited the IPA to present its policy proposal.

  • Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
  • September 13, 2019
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Speaking at the Institute of Public Accountants and IPA Deakin SME Research Centre’s Small Business: Big Vision conference, Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said that the Institute of Public Accountants’ (IPA) proposal to legislate a “voucher scheme” to help small business engage a trusted and qualified intermediate was “a great idea”.

The IPA has been lobbying the government to introduce a voucher system to encourage small business owners to engage with a professional in their formative planning stage.

Presenting the organisation’s case to the Assistant Treasurer, IPA CEO Andrew Conway told Mr Sukkar that a voucher, acting as a co-payment towards the total cost of advice, could circumvent some of the common compliance issues down the track. 

“The IPA is keen to explore mechanisms within the tax system to encourage small businesses to seek professional advice as early as possible in their life cycle,” Mr Conway said.

“By seeking out the advice of appropriately qualified professionals like public accountant tax agents prior to commencement, many of the issues encountered by small businesses ‘downstream’ can be avoided.

“It is vital that the government provide incentive to access professional advice for the ultimate viability of the business which in turn benefits the economy as a whole.”

Mr Sukkar applauded the idea. Speaking in front of an auditorium of accountants and policymakers, the Assistant Treasurer admitted that his office has been exploring methods to facilitate greater access to financial advice for all Australians, including the small business community.

“Well, you’ve got great small businesses out there, people are rightly focused on what they need to do, but having that adviser, which invariably is your accountant or tax agent, involved early is very important. So, Andrew, I suppose what I’d be wanting to see from you [is] the work you have done on it,” Mr Sukkar said.

He added: “Giving [small businesses] access to great advice early is going to save a truckload of problems; in really extreme cases, it might be the difference between a small business surviving and flourishing or dying prematurely, even though it’s got potential.”

IPA’s government submission

In a recent submission, the IPA urged the government to ensure prospective small business owners meet the eligibility criteria and understand all the regulatory obligations that they are signing up for before applying for an ABN.

“It is for this reason that there should be a process early in the piece to educate the new small business and set them up with processes that best help them meet their compliance burdens and also run their business successfully from a business management perspective,” Tony Greco, the general manager of technical policy at the IPA, said.

To limit the financial cost of such a proposal, Mr Greco said it could be limited to first-time business entrepreneurs.

“More sophisticated small business owners who choose to run their business through a trust or company can be excluded on the grounds that such individuals will most likely be seeking assistance already during the early formative stages of setting up a business.”  

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