I am pleased to present the 2013-14 Report of the Australian Business Registrar.
This year we report on our continued investment into digital infrastructure that reduces the intrusion and impact on business when reporting to government.
The ABR Program is building a whole-of-government digital infrastructure for the exchange of entity-specific information among businesses and government agencies. The Program’s ultimate scope encompasses all the ways that businesses interact with government services – providing the essential identification, authentication and transaction services.
Our objective is to use technology to re-engineer business practices. The vision is an environment where information is exchanged routinely and automatically using natural business systems - rather than businesses having to prepare a multitude of bespoke reports for different agencies, requiring the creation of an unnecessarily large range of datasets.
The highlights for the ABR program in 2013-14 were:
In the coming year we will continue our efforts:
Chris Jordan AORegistrar of the Australian Business Register
The Registrar is responsible for the ABR Program. In this role, the Registrar and supporting staff maintain the ABR, develop the infrastructure and provide policy advice and strategic planning for SBR, and operate AUSkey.
These whole-of-government functions constitute Program 1.3 of the Treasury Portfolio Budget Statement for the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
The ABR is established under A New Tax System (Australian Business Number) Act 1999 (ABN Act).
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 ABN Act also provides for the Registrar to facilitate electronic dealings between businesses and government entities, for which SBR provides the infrastructure. The Registrar uses the Act’s administrative powers as the custodian and issuing authority for AUSkeys, which allow businesses to authenticate their identities when dealing online with government agencies.
The Registrar is required to provide an annual report to the Minister (the Assistant Treasurer) on the operation of the Act. This is done in the Commissioner of Taxation Annual Report and supplemented by this document.
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.
In providing a whole-of-government resource, the Registrar and staff work with a range of agencies, including:
The operation of the whole-of-government work administered by the Registrar is guided by a number of key advisory and decision-making forums, including the ABR Advisory Board, the SBR Board and the SBR Steering Group. In addition to the Boards with members from various organisations, formal scrutiny roles exist with the ANAO.
In administering the ABR, the Registrar is assisted 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 use 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 by the Registrar in consultation with the Government. The Registrar is Chair of the Board.
Among matters discussed during 2013-14, the ABR Advisory Board considered work underway to improve the Register through the Towards a Better Business Future (TBBF) and Reducing Business Costs (RBC) Government Budget programs, as well as initiatives to assist government at all levels with disaster response and recovery. As the governing body for AUSkey, the Board was also presented with updates on the usage of the system and the future of the authentication solution.
State, territory and local government agencies
Australian Bureau of Statistics
ACT Revenue (representing state and territory revenue offices)
Australian Business Register
Small Business Victoria (representing state government agencies)
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service
Office of NSW Small Business Commissioner
Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Australian Local Government Association
Australian Taxation Office
Department of Finance
Department of Human Services
Department of Industry
Department of the Treasury
The SBR Board, chaired by the Secretary to the Treasury, is the primary policy and direction setting body for the SBR program. The Board provides overall guidance, endorses strategic plans, decides the program’s scope and strategic intent and, where appropriate, resolves strategic issues.
Meeting twice in 2013-14, the focus of the SBR Board was on identifying opportunities to extend the SBR Program, including for government-to-government and business-to-business applications. The Board also initiated work to modify the SBR taxonomy so as to facilitate expansion in the use of SBR, particularly in relation to non-financial data.
Secretary to the Treasury (Chair)
Secretary, Department of Industry
Secretary, Department of Human Services
Secretary, Department of Health
Secretary, Department of Communications
Australian Statistician, Australian Bureau of Statistics
Commissioner of Taxation
Chairman, Australian Securities and Investments Commission
Chairman, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
Deputy Secretary, Governance and Resource Management Group, Department of Finance
Deputy Secretary, Economic and Strategy, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
Deputy Registrar, Australian Business Register (Chair, SBR Steering Group)
Executive Director and Commissioner, Office of State Revenue Queensland (representing the eight state and territory revenue offices)
Representative, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Representative, Australian Board of Taxation
Representative, Business Council of Australia
Representative, Council of Small Business of Australia (also representing the SBR Business Advisory Forum)
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.
The Steering Group, which met four times in 2013-14, provided advice to the SBR Board on program strategy issues, and worked to align the AUSkey and VANguard systems for the authentication of ebMS3 messages between business and government. Representation on the Steering Group was expanded to encompass the wider range of agencies seeking to make use of SBR for their data transactions.
Deputy Registrar, Australian Business Register (Chair)
General Manager, Deregulation Division General Manager, ICT Engagement and VANguard, Department of Industry
National Manager, Government Business, Department of Human Services
First Assistant Secretary, Efficiency, Assurance and Digital Government, Department of Finance
First Assistant Secretary, Best Practice Regulation and Deregulation, Department of Health
Assistant Secretary, E-government Branch, Department of Communications
General Manager, Statistics, Australian Prudential Regulation Authority
Senior Executive, Registry Transformation, Australian Securities and Investments Commission
First Assistant Statistician, Program Delivery Division, Australian Bureau of Statistics
First Assistant Commissioner, Enterprise Applications, Australian Taxation Office
Executive Director and Commissioner of State Revenue, NSW Office of State Revenue (representing the eight state and territory revenue offices)
The Registrar’s decisions and operations are subject to review by a range of external bodies including the courts and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT), parliamentary committees, the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Australian Information Commissioner.
The ANAO undertook a performance audit of the ABR Program in 2013-14, with the report* stating its recommendation in the following terms:
‘To make it easier for business to deal with government, the ANAO recommends that the Registrar of the ABR works with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Department of Industry and the Department of the Treasury to:
(a) review the entry points to government; and
(b) develop and implement the most effective and efficient delivery mechanism for businesses to meet their registration and reporting requirements, and to access information and services from government.’
‘The Registrar is committed to continuing to work collaboratively with government agencies, including the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, the Department of Industry and the Treasury, to further explore and deliver whole of government outcomes that reduce the compliance burden and make it easier for business to deal with all levels of government.
Since the development of the Business Reporting and Registration business line in 2010, the whole-of-government initiatives (Australian Business Register, Standard Business Reporting and AUSkey) that come under the umbrella of the Australian Business Register (ABR) program have continued to evolve.
As noted in the report, the two Federal Budget initiatives, Towards a Better Business Future and Reducing Business Costs, are helping to improve the integrity of the information held on the ABR, as well as making it easier for business to register for an Australian Business Number (ABN) and meet their reporting obligations to government.
The 2014 vision for the ABR Program of work is to ‘Contribute to improving the wellbeing of the Australian people through enhanced business productivity by:
1. Reducing the administrative cost to business of complying with government regulation,
2. Influencing government policy and implementation, through advocating the use of services, technologies and processes to minimise the administrative impact on business, and
3. Encouraging the adoption of new practices by businesses to reduce operating costs’
We will explore opportunities to identify where further changes can be made to the ABR in the future.
The ABR Program is managed by an Executive comprising the following senior roles:
Figure 1: Organisational structure at 30 June 2014
Overview of the Report of the Australian Business Registrar 2013-14.