Thursday, July 01, 2010

Australian XML Based Standard Business Reporting

The Australian Government has started use of XML based Standard Business Reporting program (SBR). This allows companies which need to report information to multiple federal and state government agencies to use on common interface format. Initial use is for tax and financial reporting: Business Activity Statement, financial statements (ASIC), and payroll tax returns.

SBR partner agencies include the Australian Treasury, Australian Taxation Office (ATO) and Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), state and territory revenue offices. There is a standard Taxonomy and a list of forms used.

Companies participating require a new digital identifier: the AusKey. Unfortunately the Australian Government has a poor track record with such identifiers, having introduced several schemes which were intended to provide one identifier for doing business with government, but proved too cumbersome to use. This may be overcome with AUSkey, as technology has progressed making issuing and using such keys easier and by obtaining agreement with state government for the use of the same identifier.

SBR appears to be designed for large businesses which can afford to implement the needed interfaces and have reporting complex enough to warrant automation. However, with increasing use of online systems by small and micro business, its use is likely to spread to smaller businesses. It would be a relatively easy upgrade to an online accounting package to add the interface.

The technical interface uses SSL security as commonly used for web applications, SOAP and XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language). These should be tools familiar to application developers (I have been teaching the use of XML for commerce to ANU students since 2000).

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