Australian businesses staring down the barrel of GST compliance have been deceived by the "big five" accounting firms to the tune of almost $20 billion, an IT consultant has claimed.
That is the sentiment of Nick Pile, an IT consulting partner at accountancy firm Pannell Kerr Foster (PKF), and of ATO software consultant Computron and taxation reference provider CCH. The three partnering organisations last week launched a GST-compliant taxation software product the companies claimed could cut 80 per cent off the GST-related expense figures estimated by large corporate accountancy firms such as Arthur Andersen, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Computron, PKF and CCH execs cited the larger accountancy firms' recent estimates of $24 billion, equivalent to one third of Australia's entire annual export revenues, as the total GST-induced cost to Australian business.
According to Pile, Computron approached "the big five" to suggest an approach that could potentially save businesses 80 per cent of the quoted GST expenditure, $19.2 billion in total, but were "promptly shown the door".
Pile said the bigger accountancy firms were clinging to a traditional taxation model that was cumbersome and inefficient. "What the traditionalists at the big five seem to be promoting is that if you've got . . . a large ERP system, then you have to modify it so you can track, at a detailed level, the GST amount and the amount exclusive of GST."
Pile explained that according to this taxation approach, small changes to individual figures would incur lengthy "reconciliation" of data throughout entire taxation software systems.
He pointed out that the GST model favoured by the ATO's Business Activities statement was based on "gross", not "detail" figures.
"When you complete your business activities statement, you basically calculate your GST payable as one eleventh of your total sales. That's a gross figure," he said. "It's based on totals, not adding up every single bloody transaction."
"The big five seem hell-bent on not exploring an alternative proposition," he added.
Arthur Andersen, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young were unavailable for comment.