I am delighted to be able to present to you my first Report of the Australian Business Registrar.
Since taking over the role in January 2013 I have been struck by the pivotal role the ABR, AUSkey and SBR play in making it easier for the community and government to interact in an environment of increasing complexity and regulation.
The ABR presents an opportunity for government agencies to better understand businesses and to use the information to develop strategies that better meet business needs and achieve policy objectives. We have seen examples of that recently, as ABR information has been used to identify businesses needing assistance during times of crisis, such as the Queensland floods and the Tasmanian bushfires.
This year, we made real improvements to the integrity of the ABR under the Towards a better business future program. Some further work was also announced in the 2012–13 Budget to reduce compliance costs and the regulatory burden for businesses and their intermediaries.
We are working extensively with software developers to transition the ATO electronic lodgment service to SBR from 2015. At the same time, we have seen an increase in both the number of software developers investing in making SBR accessible through their accounting software and of lodgments made using the system.
We have also been working to assist in implementing the government’s decision to use the SBR standard for superannuation reform.
The recent move of the SBR policy function from the Treasury to the Registrar of the ABR brings together SBR policy and operations. It provides the opportunity to better influence government policy to improve uptake of SBR, and realise growth in business, government and software developer engagement.
The next 12 months will be an exciting time for the ABR as we deliver new online services that will make it even easier for businesses to register for an ABN or AUSkey and report to government using SBR-enabled software.
Chris Jordan AO Registrar of the Australian Business Register and Commissioner of Taxation
The Registrar is responsible for maintaining the ABR. In this role, the Registrar and supporting staff also operate AUSkey, host and develop the infrastructure for SBR and provide policy advice and strategic planning for SBR.
These whole-of-government functions constitute Program 1.3 of the Treasury Portfolio Budget Statement for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The ABR, AUSkey and SBR together form a whole-of-government framework designed to streamline interaction between business and government across Australia – making it easier for businesses to deal with government.
The ABR is a comprehensive database of identity information provided by businesses when they register for an ABN. The ABN is a unique trusted identifier for all Australian businesses and other organisations including government bodies and nonprofit organisations.
The ABR makes it easier for businesses and government agencies to deal with each other. Using the online ABN Lookup facility, businesses and consumers can verify the identity of organisations they deal with, including their goods and services tax (GST) status and, in the case of charities and nonprofits, their governmentendorsed status.
Government agencies can access more detailed, non-publicly available information on the register to support their programs. The ABR offers them a free and reliable tool to conduct compliance activities, improve service delivery, plan local infrastructure and promote economic development. The ABR is also integral to the measurement of economic activity, providing a register of businesses for compiling economic statistics that inform decision making by government, business and the community as a whole.
Linked to their ABN, businesses can apply for an AUSkey, a secure digital credential that authenticates their identity for the purposes of undertaking electronic transactions with government agencies, including through the national SBR online gateway.
SBR simplifies reporting and reduces compliance costs for businesses by rationalising data requirements across government and provides a way for businesses to report electronically to government agencies directly from their own business systems. This can also reduce administrative costs for government agencies and improves the timeliness of business reporting.
The ABR is established under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) ‘Act 1999’ (ABN Act).
The ABN Act is a taxation act for the purposes of the Taxation Administration Act 1953 (TAA). For example, Part IVC of the TAA (which deals with objections, reviews and appeals in relation to decisions) applies to ABN reviewable decisions by the Registrar, and failure to update details on the ABR is an offence under 8C of the TAA.
The Registrar of the ABR is responsible for its administration under the ABN Act.
The Registrar is required to maintain the ABR in accordance with the requirements of the Act, including issuing ABNs and maintaining a publicly available register.
The Registrar is also required to provide an annual report to the Minister (the Assistant Treasurer) on the operation of the Act.
In providing a wholeofgovernment resource, the Registrar and staff work with a wide range of agencies, including:
In administering the ABR, the Registrar is guided by the ABR Advisory Board. The Board has been established to provide a whole-of-government perspective on the development and operations of the ABR in its function as a resource to be used by all levels of government in interacting with the Australian business community.
While the Registrar is accountable for the ABR’s outcomes, the Board provides advice on priorities for the program of work with the aim of promoting the uptake of the ABR as a whole-of-government service and reducing compliance costs for businesses in dealing with government.
The ABR Advisory Board is also the governing body for the AUSkey authentication tool.
The Board meets twice a year. Membership of the Board is decided on and approved by the Registrar in consultation with the Government. The Registrar is Chair of the Board.
Back row: Robert Ravanello (ATO), Ian Ewing (ABS), Chris Jordan AO (Registrar), Kim Salisbury (ACT Revenue), Roger Arwas (Small Business Victoria), Stein Helgeby (Dept of Finance and Deregulation), Liesl Mckay (ASIC).
Front row: Sue Weston (DIICCSRTE), Marion Grant (Customs), Mark Jackson (ABR), Yasmin King (NSW Small Business Commissioner), Alice Jones (Dept of Human Services).
Until this year, responsibility for the administration of the SBR program has been shared, with the Treasury responsible for program policy and strategic direction and the Registrar of the ABR responsible for building and maintaining the reporting language, systems and infrastructure.
In March 2013, the Government decided that there would be benefits, in terms of improved information sharing, stakeholder engagement and more efficient use of resources, by consolidating the administration of SBR’s wholeofgovernment functions under the Registrar.
The Secretary to the Treasury continues to chair the SBR Board, the primary direction setting body for the SBR program. The Board, which usually meets quarterly, provides overall guidance, endorses strategic plans, decides the program’s scope and strategic intent, and where appropriate, resolves strategic issues.
Among matters considered during the year, the SBR Board endorsed the SBR Roadmap for the future expansion of SBR. The Roadmap outlines opportunities, priorities and resource implications for the expansion of the SBR program beyond the original scope of financial reporting to government.
The SBR Steering Group, chaired by the Deputy Registrar of the ABR, provides operational assurance and guidance for the program in the following areas: design, performance against project plans, performance against financial plans, program outcomes, and resolution of cross agency issues.
Key matters considered by the Steering Group during the year included the taxonomy architecture review, operational aspects of the SBR Roadmap and the adoption of the international standard, ebMS3, as SBR’s messaging standard.
The ABR, AUSkey and the SBR program are managed by an Executive comprising the following senior roles as at 30 June 2013:
The Executive reports to the Geoff Leeper, Second Commissioner, EST and Operations, as well as Chris Jordan AO, the Registrar. The Registrar is responsible for administering the ABR under the ABN Act and the Second Commissioner leads the business operations, technology and knowledge management functions of the ATO.
Figure 1: Our organisation structure as at 30 June 2013
As well as maintaining business-as-usual operations, our key tasks for the year ahead include implementation of the following initiatives under the Towards a better business future program:
A new ABR website will be launched that will provide the community with better information about our programs, help people to understand their rights and responsibilities and establish a modern website that allows for fast and targeted messaging to our main market segments.
A major change to the ABR system is expected by December 2013. This will improve the registration experience for applicants and more accurately capture the business activity and details of associates as well as geocoding of business addresses.
As part of the next major change to the ABR system, ABR partner agencies will be able to access the data through the new ABR website using ABR Search (an online reporting tool). The new tool will allow partner agencies to search and analyse data, including the new geocoding, branching and entity associates information being added to the register.
As a result of learnings from this year’s compliance program, our strategies, including the different channels we use to contact ABN holders to confirm their eligibility and ABR details, will be more integrated in 2013–14 and beyond. For example, desk reviews and field visits will focus on particular geographic areas, creating an intensity and visibility of compliance activities among at-risk groups of ABN holders.
With the AUSkey solution now stable, our focus has moved to working with prospective AUSkey adopters (agencies that may be able to use AUSkey authentication) to help them understand the benefits of and implement the solution for their online services.
As part of the Towards a better business future program, we are redesigning the AUSkey website to improve the user experience, including providing better support for users to selfmanage their credentials, and strengthening the integrity of the registration process.
We will continue to monitor and review potential security threats in line with the expansion of online services adopting AUSkey, as well as continue to address any issues relating to changes in technology.
The 2013-14 Budget provided additional funding to enhance SBR, reduce compliance costs and the regulatory burden for businesses and their intermediaries. This is being used to:
We are also continuing to develop SuperStream taxonomies and implement them into SBR.