The number of developers making their applications compliant with the Department of Treasury's Standard Business Reporting (SBR) program has quintupled, with a slew of SBR-compliant applications expected in the next six to 12 months.
The SBR program allows routine forms such as Business Activity Statements to be pre-filled and electronically submitted to government agencies using a business's own accounting system.
At the moment, there are only 10 software developers, including Reckon and TechnologyOne, that have built SBR-compliant applications that businesses can use to electronically lodge forms. However, Treasury expects the number of applications to increase over the next six to 12 months, as it works with over 50 developers.
"The SBR program is working with over 50 developers at various stages of implementing SBR-enabled solutions — it is expected these will be progressively released to the market over the coming six to 12 months. We expect take-up of the SBR channel to progressively increase over the next three years, as more products become SBR-enabled," the Department of Treasury told ZDNet Australia.
Since SBR first commenced last year, over 11,000 informational transactions and 453 reports have been processed. There are currently 11 government agencies participating in the scheme, including the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) and the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, as well as all state and territory government revenue offices.
In order to use SBR, businesses need to have an AUSkey, which was introduced a few months prior to SBR. The single sign-on system has been used by about 255,000 businesses since its inception, but has not been without some concerns.
As AUSkey initially did not support Linux distributions, many businesses were unable to use SBR with their chosen operating system. This was eventually remedied at the end of last year, with the head of Linux Australia John Ferlito and several of his associates helping to ensure that AUSkey registration worked on the Ubuntu 10.04 Linux distribution and beginning work on developing an application programming interface for SBR.
The ATO has since taken responsibility for API development, but the ATO has engaged him to undertake a review and, so far, he has been impressed with what he has seen.
"It's an open API, it's fully documented. There's no tie-in, effectively, with anything proprietary. Anyone can, if they had the time, open up an editor and start writing software to interact with the API. It's done in a very open and standards-based fashion."
He said that it was a step up from applications such as e-tax, which left those using Mac and Linux platforms out in the cold, and that the use of APIs could be the way of the future.
"It's basically the way that businesses will interact with government. You're talking about a standardised API where you can send a form to any government department using a standardised interface. The number of applications that people will be able to start [developing] will be amazing."
The project and its future potential has attracted funding from the Australian Research Council's Linkage Project funding scheme for a study into its uptake. Dr Christine Jubb of Australian National University (ANU) received funding for her study, "Examining the development, implementation and private and public sector adoption of SBR in Australia", earlier this month.
"The project is based around the enablers and inhibitors to adoption. We're going to be interviewing mainly the information intermediaries such as accountants, auditors, tax agents, bookkeepers and payroll processors," she said.