Why you need a bookkeeper who is a BAS agent

Why you need a bookkeeper who is a BAS agent

If you outsource your bookkeeping to an external business or subcontractor, you need to be confident that they have the knowledge and skill to keep your organisation’s finances straight and make sure you remain compliant.

If you also want them to help you prepare your business activity statements, and meet the ATO’s strict requirements and deadlines, they must be a BAS agent. (An inhouse bookkeeper doesn’t need to be a BAS agent.)

This task is too important to leave to someone who isn’t qualified. As the business owner, you will wear the risk if something goes wrong.

Here are some reasons why you should hire a bookkeeper who is also a BAS agent.

What is a BAS agent?

A BAS agent is a person or business that provides services that assist businesses with their business activity statement (BAS) obligations. They can help them manage their GST obligations, like lodging instalment activity statements and business activity statements.

By comparison, a bookkeeper performs more general tasks, such as data entry, recordkeeping, and coding transactions into bookkeeping software.  If a business is registered for GST, a bookkeeper can’t do any of these jobs unless they’re supervised by a BAS agent.

The law for BAS agents

Under the Tax Agent Services Act 2009 and Tax Agent Services Regulations 2009, BAS agents must have the qualifications and experience to assist businesses with GST, PAYG, FBT, superannuation and other requirements.

This includes having:

  • a Certificate IV in Financial Services in bookkeeping or accounting
  • 1000 hours of experience over four years if they’re part of an association, or 1400 hours otherwise
  • registration with the Tax Practitioners Board, including the required number of continuing professional education (CPE) hours to maintain registration

By law, only a registered BAS agent (or tax agent) is allowed to charge you to complete your BAS, code transactions and perform other functions for GST-registered businesses, and represent you in dealings with the ATO.

This will give you peace of mind that the person you’ve tasked to do your BAS really knows what they’re doing.

Systems and compliance

A BAS agent’s work goes beyond just typing numbers into a bookkeeping system. They can also design and set up a system to guide future processing of transactions and ensure ongoing compliance with ATO requirements.

Their expertise and advice can be extremely valuable in helping you plan and make decisions, especially in early or growth phases of the business.

Time savings

It’s easy for new business owners to take on everything themselves to save money. But they quickly find that some tasks are best left to experts.

Any business owner who does their own BAS will tell you it’s the bane of their existence. It takes up a lot of time that they could be spending on other aspects of the business.

One of the first tasks that a new business owner should delegate is their bookkeeping and BAS requirements.

Responsibility for mistakes

Generally, you are responsible for mistakes made by your bookkeepers.  If you fail to provide them with required information – even if they told you it wasn’t necessary – the ATO will most likely impose administrative penalties on you.

The exception to this is the ‘safe harbour’ rule, under which you will not be liable for a registered tax practitioner failing to lodge a documents or making a false or misleading statement.

You can seek safe harbour if you provide your tax practitioner with the required information and they:

  • Don’t take reasonable care, resulting a false/misleading statement that causes a tax shortfall
  • Fail to lodge a document by the due date.

You can’t seek safe harbour if the mistake/late lodgement resulted from your bookkeeper’s “recklessness or intentional disregard” of the law.

If your bookkeeper has been reckless or has deliberately done the wrong thing, you may be able to sue them for professional negligence, provided they are a contractor and not your employee.

Importantly, the burden of proof is on you to prove that you submitted the required information to your tax practitioner, so make sure you always keep records of when and what information was submitted.

By using a contracted BAS agent rather than an employee, you’re protecting yourself against liability for any mistakes – even if they do the wrong thing, you can file a civil case against them for negligence.

Want to know more?

Finding a bookkeeper who is also a BAS agent will allow you to focus on what you’re best at, confident that your financial and tax requirements are under control.

Lindsay Villiers from JTRB is a registered BAS agent. She will take the burden of managing your finances off your shoulders.

Contact us to find out more or discuss your particular needs.

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