The CA Catalyst programme entered its second full year of operation, continuing its goal of helping Chartered Accountants embrace the opportunities of technology and find a clear path through the challenges.
Workflow automation was a key area of focus this year comprising of a webinar on adoption of automation and several case studies to aid learning. Workshops were provided to nine locations across Australia and New Zealand to guide practitioners with approximately 800 members attending overall. This culminated in a workflow automation playbook on how to plan and implement change such as new software and tools within an accounting practice.
This well-received dissemination of information was replicated for their next focus on data analytics and visualisation. A webinar on how data can drive business performance, and a multi-city roadshow of workshops was held for a total of 1,000 Chartered Accountants on storytelling using data and leading practices as case studies. These learnings will be collated into another playbook to be made available to members later in 2020.
A strong focus on collaborating with leading innovation communities Stone & Chalk and Fishburners in Australia and The Icehouse in New Zealand saw 65 Chartered Accountants across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland complete the CA in Residence programme. Experienced members provided guidance to startups and led sessions on how to manage through COVID-19. In New Zealand, 16 scholarships were provided to members for The Icehouse Innovation Hub’s Owner Manager and Leadership Development Programs with future plans to deliver scholarships on business growth for sole practitioners and SMPs.
CA Catalyst also ran the Small Firm Big Impact panel series which provided a live look-in at the many key learnings start-ups gained by partnering with a Chartered Accountant such as cashflow forecasting, revenue stream addition, capital raising readiness and other growth-oriented strategies.
In March 2020, CA Catalyst member ambassadors helped digitally transform small businesses as part of the Australian Government’s Digital Champions Project. This included running digital accounting workshops to a cross-section of the small business sector in major city and bushfire-impacted areas such as Kangaroo Island and Shoalhaven.
The Shaping the Practice of Tomorrow nine-part podcast series is designed to help our members in practice take full advantage of the digital disruptive opportunities sweeping the accounting profession. This included interviews with Chris Jordan, the Australian Commissioner for Taxation, key technology players and prominent members at the forefront of innovation. The series has generated over 11,000 downloads with a positive reception from members ensuring a second series underway.
In December 2019, Chartered Accountants ANZ launched the Tools & Resources Hub so members in small to medium practice (SMP) could more readily access relevant tips, tools and guides to assist running their practice and servicing their clients.
CAs, particularly in small practices are time poor and often need to find the relevant support quickly and easily. The new hub contains a wealth of resources including technical Q&A help sheets to assist with business as usual, as well as tools and resources to assist with managing virtual practices.
Over 43,000 members have visited the hub in the first few months with over two thirds of these being regular visitors, returning to access resources such as the Business unusual: Business continuity playbook and year-end financial reporting and audit guidance. Resources on practice management, responding to COVID-19 challenges and client service essentials also continue to be popular.
Advocating in the public interest
Chartered Accountants ANZ advocates on behalf of members on matters of interest to the accounting profession, the business community and the public.
During 2019-20, our 30-strong advocacy team sought member input and lodged 218 submissions, compared to 226 during the previous year. Each advocacy expert has an extensive network in their particular specialist area including as part of advisory groups for regulators such as Inland Revenue, the Australian Tax Office, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, and numerous others.
While our policy priorities in 2019 continued to centre on audit quality, the future of taxation, a strategic advice model in Australia for financial advice, reducing regulatory burden, and business issues such as modern slavery and anti-money laundering, 2020 saw our advocacy efforts also laser-focused on how policy can best assist businesses to immediately respond to the unique challenges of COVID-19 and begin to navigate a path towards recovery.
Our advocacy efforts in Australia during COVID-19, including a submission to the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19, concentrated on:
- raising issues with the practical application of the eligibility and turnover tests for Government schemes and clarifying the tax treatment by the Australian Tax Office.
- the need to put into place arrangements in anticipation of an increase in insolvencies once Government support winds down such as allocated funding for liquidators to undertake assetless administrations.
- the provision of a grant or voucher to enable businesses to access the professional advice they need to assess their current financial position, viability and future recovery prospects, and to access Government support.
- securing the ability for registered tax agents to temporarily provide advice on the introduced early access to superannuation measure, without having to hold an Australian Financial Services licence so clients could make informed decisions about their financial position.
- a recovery framework to create inter-generational value and linked to existing long-term commitments such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Our advocacy efforts in New Zealand during COVID-19 concentrated on:
- the eligibility criteria for the wage subsidy.
- calling for a shift from a high-trust model of universal delivery of economic stimulus packages to robust evidence-based policy design that is targeted and developed in conjunction with affected sectors in the lead up to the New Zealand Budget.
- navigating a long-term solution to the issues around employer-related business costs for employees working from home.
- being a key COVID-19 advocacy stakeholder with Inland Revenue and Government through early and targeted consultation. Chartered Accountants ANZ has been actively consulted where wider consultation on the Generic Tax Policy Process was set aside.
- temporary measures introduced during lockdown to be made permanent such as the Commissioner of Inland Revenue having wider discretion to remit interest on overpayments and underpayments on a class of case or taxpayer industry basis.
"We're thinking about what sort of policy we need or how previous policies can be revamped. Do we need a tax conversation or a productivity conversation? We’ll get the richness from the diversity of our members."
– Simon Grant FCA, Chartered Accountants ANZ Group Executive, Advocacy & Professional Standing
Action on climate change
In November 2019, we hosted public consultation sessions for the New Zealand Government on proposed mandatory climate-related financial disclosures. Following this, in February 2020, Chartered Accountants ANZ became one of thirteen accounting bodies, representing 2.5 million accountants globally, to support a call to action to the accountancy profession in response to climate change. A survey of Chartered Accountants on the Member Insights Panel in February 2020 had over 1500 participants with 71% responding that Chartered Accountants ANZ should take an active role in climate change (71% somewhat or strongly agree in Australia and 70% in New Zealand). Accountants have a vital role to play to help the organisations they work with respond to climate change with the urgency and scale required.
The statement includes eight actions which accountants, and the accounting bodies, are committing to take including providing sound advice and services as organisations, capital markets, and governments develop and implement plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation, contribute to the efforts of organisations they work with to integrate climate change risk into strategy, finance, operations and communications and supporting sustainable decision making.
Chartered Accountants ANZ is committed to maintaining a strong audit profession, upholding and enhancing audit quality as well as leading the dialogue on the future of audit and how it can best serve the community.
The parliamentary inquiry into the regulation of auditing in Australia provided a further opportunity to draw on extensive research and engagement with members, firms, businesses, and investor and governance groups to develop a comprehensive plan for audit and risk.
Through two submissions and representation of Chartered Accountants ANZ at a public hearing, we outlined the ways to enhance the confidence, relevance, and quality of auditing, with several recommendations included in the inquiry’s interim report in February 2020. A plan tailored for New Zealand is also being developed through outreach with New Zealand members and stakeholders.
The future of financial reporting
Chartered Accountants ANZ continues to lead the call for businesses to embrace digital financial reporting as a tool to enhance decision making, consistency and confidence, by releasing original research and facilitating a dialogue in Australia and New Zealand.
Members’ extensive input on accounting framework reform in Australia through a survey of over 500 members and roundtables was heeded by standard setters and led to a workable model sympathetic to the views of Chartered Accountants. New international accounting standards on leases, revenue and financial instruments also saw us channel feedback to standard setters and provide guidance to members.
In order to retain members in financial advice, we have worked alongside other professional bodies to review the frameworks that regulate how financial and tax advice is provided in Australia.
The failures that were revealed from the Banking Royal Commission highlighted the extreme complexity of the current frameworks that are not in sync with each other, leading to Chartered Accountants ANZ developing a strategic advice model with CPA Australia, the Institute of Public Accountants, the Financial Planning Association and the SMSF Association for Government to consider an industry solution for consumers of advice in Australia.
This model aims to reduce the regulatory complexity and allow for more affordable, quality financial advice to be provided, and is currently being further developed in consultation with Government and stakeholders.
Supporting small businesses
As part of Chartered Accountants ANZ’s response to the New Zealand Tax Working Group, and our wider advocacy for small business, we supported changes to loss continuity rules to encourage investment in start-ups and small-to-medium enterprises and to help businesses seeking capital in response to COVID-19 in New Zealand. Chartered Accountants ANZ also sought changes to feasibility expenditure which were included in a New Zealand Tax Bill.
Similarly in Australia, we have advocated to reduce the regulatory burden on small businesses through our support of the modernisation of business registers and our involvement in the Board of Taxation’s review of small business tax concessions. We have also encouraged the digitalisation of small business including single touch payroll, the co-ordination of e-invoicing standards across Australia and New Zealand and development of government initiatives such as the cash flow coaching kit and the small business funding guide.
Chartered Accountants ANZ continues to be extensively involved in discussions with Government about small business’ access to finance and good quality accounting advice, including Government funding to assist their recovery through COVID-19.
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