​ATO sees data opportunity in consolidated ABR platform

The Australian Taxation Office believes there is potential in growing the datasets that are held by the Australian Business Register.

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO), in partnership with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), the Australian Business Register (ABR), and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, is currently working with the Department of Treasury to build a single online business registry service, which has the potential of becoming a central hub that will house public and private data about Australian businesses.

Speaking at the annual Technology in Government conference, John McAlister, Australian Taxation Office stakeholder engagement and adoption assistant commissioner, said the various agencies are looking to consolidate the business registration process, so that the process of a getting a company registration number or a business number, and to obtain a tax role registration can take place all on one online platform. He said this will remove the need to have to navigate through to multiple websites.

McAlister believes this will be an opportunity to continue to evolve the datasets housed within the ABR, with the potential of including information such as business indicators. However, he pointed out, evolving existing ABR datasets would be subject to changing legislation to enable the inclusion of such information.

He went on to point out that in growing the datasets the information could potentially be used by 520 government agencies across Australia who are partners with the ABR.

Some potential use cases could include seeing emergency services extracting ABR data about businesses in fire-affected areas to inform, for instance, a petrol station a fire is approaching, or if a supermarket nearby may have water for recovery service purposes.

"At the ABR it is a source of registered business information and it is increasingly becoming the trusted source for business information," McAlister said.

"As we move forward, we are looking to make it a national infrastructure that can be accessed by both private and government sectors, and hopefully in time to replace some of the duplicate systems that are there at the moment."

The ATO is also finally starting to see the federal government's investment into the Standard Business Report (SBR) gain traction and produce some real cost savings, McAlister admitted.

The SBR was an initiative launched by the federal government in 2010 designed to allow businesses and reporting professionals such as accountants, bookkeepers, and tax agents to lodge government forms electronically.

However, McAlister revealed that between the times it launched to 2014 there was very little traction, and it was not until post-2014 the department began to see results.

McAlister pointed out that based on predictions by Deloitte Access Economics, the SBR platform will see more than 60 million transactions take place and ultimately deliver cost savings of AU$1.1 billion during 2015-16, which will be mainly driven by transactions occurring within the superannuation system. He also believes more savings will be accrued when the ATO implements its practitioner lodgement service.

Updated 10.21am 4 August, 2016: The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science will also be participating in the delivery project a single online business registry service.

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