- Automation and AI will continue to change the landscape in which accountants operate
- Expectations of investors, regulators and the public are driving a change in information needs and focus areas
- Accountants will play an important role in improving professionalism and ethical behaviour in the financial services industry
Policy leaders and advisers at Chartered Accountants ANZ want to help you plan for the year ahead, so here are their predictions on the issues the profession faces.
Sarah Davidson, Australian Government Affairs Leader
Key policy issues will arise from the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority’s reforms commencing from 1 January 2019, the final recommendations of the Banking and Financial Services Royal Commission due by 1 February, the Federal Election to be held by 18 May, reforms in audit quality and the new auditing standards, measures to combat the black economy, as well as important developments in whistle-blower reforms, insolvency safe harbour, data privacy and modern slavery legislation.
Accountants will need to remain agile, adapt to increasing disruption, embrace new technologies and continue to evolve their business models in an environment of changing legal, regulatory and industry standards in response to heightened community expectations. This will require greater transparency and individual accountability.
Small businesses and consumers will increasingly rely on accountants as trusted advisers. Accountants will play an important role in improving professionalism and ethical behaviour in the financial services industry.
Susan Franks, Senior Tax Advocate
The need for less red tape and better law enforcement will drive government to adopt smarter streamlined regulation. There will be an increased focus on modernising business registers; a better exchange of business information between government entities – especially for tackling phoenix operators; and better data analytics that will allow the Australian Taxation Office to focus on taxpayer segments previously considered to be too small (such as small business and individuals).
Digitalisation, especially of small business, will continue to be a focus with single touch payroll expected to be extended to small employers, co-ordinated e-invoicing standards developed across Australia and New Zealand, and government initiatives to encourage all small businesses to be digitally connected.
Initiatives outlined in the black economy taskforce report will continue to be developed, including tax compliance certificates to obtain government procurement contracts; consideration of further industries subject to the taxable payments reporting system; and a greater emphasis on supply chain knowledge and the appropriate treatment of suppliers.
Geraldine Magarey, Thought Leadership & Research Leader
Robotic process automation will continue to take hold in the finance function. Remember the importance of getting your processes right in the first place as automating an inefficient process will still leave you with an inefficient process.
The use of AI will become more commonplace as many accounting packages start to build in this capacity. Understand what it is doing so you can feel confident it is being used in an ethical and fair way.
Cyber security challenges remain. Prepare as if you will be subject to a cyber attack. Have a plan for recovery to ensure your business or practice is cyber resilient.
More SMEs will be looking to their accountants to help them take their businesses digital.
Karen McWilliams, Business Reform Leader
Demand from investors and regulators for climate-risk disclosures will increase, including compliance with the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) recommendations for large organisations.
Australia’s modern slavery bills will take effect, increasing transparency and due diligence within organisations’ supply chains in Australia and beyond, including New Zealand.
New Zealand will introduce a co-regulatory licensing regime for insolvency practitioners that will build on the self-regulatory regime introduced by CA ANZ and RITANZ.
There will be continued progress towards the introduction of a director identification number across Australia and New Zealand, resulting in improved verification of a director’s identity in exchange for increase privacy for directors.
Tony Negline, Superannuation Leader
Superannuation matters will be dominated by the final recommendations of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry, the federal election and the Productivity Commission’s final report into the efficiency of the super industry. Of interest will also be the government’s ability to successfully legislate some controversial matters it has announced but has not managed to get through Parliament. It promises to be an interesting and very busy time.
Zowie Pateman CA, Deputy Leader – Reporting and Assurance
The reform of the Australian financial reporting framework will continue to take shape in a collaborative effort to create a simpler, clearer framework that better matches reporting based on a set of objective criteria.
There will be greater regulator involvement in proposals to change the way international auditing, assurance and ethical standards are set. Any changes to the way these standards are set could have far-reaching implications for us.
John Cuthbertson, NZ Tax & Financial Services Leader
The final recommendations of the Tax Working Group are expected in February and a number of discussion documents will result from this. While discussions around capital gains taxes have been the loudest to date, they require detailed consideration and there may be other documents produced on the taxation of business, environmental taxes or the introduction of a taxpayer advocate service released first.
Inland Revenue processes and administration will continue to change through the business transformation program, including automation of some services such as tax refunds; a shift to mandatory payday filing; and the transfer of income tax to its new computer system.
Reporting and compliance requirements are increasing for businesses. Our members need to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities under the common reporting standards and AML.