Will Cowie from Inspire Education talks about the benefits of engaging a Registered BAS Agent.. A friend of mine got fined by the Australian Tax Office. He ran a small computer store in the suburbs servicing his local community, but his story applies equally to any small business owner. To save money, he used to do keep his own books and prepare his own Business Activity Statements (BAS). Unfortunately, while he was great with computers, bookkeeping wasn’t one of his strengths. He made errors, underreported his tax obligations and ended up with a fine on top of his outstanding tax obligations. It took years to pay off and added an extra layer of financial stress on top of the normal trials of small business ownership. After being hit with that fine, he hired a bookkeeper who was registered as a BAS agent. The agent took over nearly all the recording and reporting tasks for the business. It freed my friend up from hours work each week; work that he hated doing. That was time he could use to improve his business, bill more hours, or simply go home and enjoy his Friday evenings with his family. If you think hiring a bookkeeper and BAS agent is expensive, consider the alternatives. It just might be a great investment in your business and your peace of mind! What is a BAS Agent? A registered BAS agent is an individual, partnership business or company that can provide BAS-related services like BAS preparation and lodgement or advice about BAS laws. They must meet strict training, experience and professional standards set out by the Tax Practitioners Board. If a bookkeeper is providing BAS services for a fee or other reward, then they need to be registered as a BAS agent. “BAS agents” were created as part of the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and were first introduced in 2010. Before that time, only Tax Agents were supposed to do BAS, but many bookkeepers started to offer the service anyway. The problem is they weren’t always qualified or experienced enough, leading to a lot of costly mistakes! Clients like you got burnt, the bookkeeper was likely sued and everyone lost out. What Does BAS Agent Registration Represent? Today, bookkeepers doing BAS must be suitably qualified and registered as a BAS Agent. They need to have:
- A recognised and approved qualification like the Certificate IV in Bookkeeping (or an equivalent or higher level bookkeeping/accounting course).
- Completed at least 1,400 hours of relevant work experience in the last 3 years.
- Completed approved courses in GST and BAS principles.
- Passed a “fit and proper person” test.
- Professional indemnity insurance that offers you, the client, financial protection.
BAS agents must also abide by a strict code of professional conduct and can lose their registration if they don’t. They also need to keep up with ongoing education and professional development, ensuring they keep their skills up to date. Ultimately, this means you can hire a BAS agent and be confident in their skill and ability to prepare your BAS correctly. What are the Benefits of Hiring a BAS Agent? BAS agents are trained, practiced professionals. As with anything in life, practice makes perfect. Your agent will almost certainly be able to prepare your statements faster than you could, and more accurately too. Their job is to know the laws relating to GST, PAYG and other taxes reported in BAS so they can get the maximum benefits for you too. If you haven’t been keeping up to date with your reporting or tax payments (and sometimes businesses do fall behind) hiring a BAS agent is an excellent move. They can help sort out your finances and it sends a strong message to the Australian Tax Office that you’re taking the problem seriously and will do better in future. It can be a big help if you’re negotiating with the ATO and paying off fines and outstanding debts. Another major benefit BAS agents offer is an extended lodgement period. Agents can have up to 28 extra days to prepare and lodge your BAS documents on your behalf. That means you have more time to collect your information and find cash to pay a tax bill. Finally, BAS agents almost always start out as bookkeepers and most continue to offer bookkeeping services too. They can help you set up quality financial recording and reporting systems in your business; or refine and make your current systems more efficient. Why Not Hire a BAS Agent Today? Rather than wait until it’s too late, hire a BAS-certified bookkeeper today. Once you’ve got bookkeeping systems in place, recording transactions and tracking GST will be much easier. Good data can actually help you keep more money in your pocket! You’ll know exactly what you owe and your BAS agent can use that data to maximise your BAS. You’ll be able to sleep easy at night knowing your BAS are taken care of, plus you’ll have more free time in your year to spend how you choose. William Cowie is a content production specialist for Inspire Education, one of Australia’s leading vocational education organisations. Inspire provides Bookkeeping, BAS, Health and Safety, and Training and Assessment courses.