Is the Standard Business Reporting environment set to expand?

The Australian Taxation Office’s (ATO) cornerstone Standard Business Reporting solution (SBR), which was completed in 2010 at a total cost of $53.2 million, is being shared across federal, state and territory governments, and further expansion is currently under consideration.

“We’ve developed a roadmap to explore opportunities to expand,” Deputy Registrar at the Australian Business Register Mark Jackson said at the GovInnovate conference in Canberra on Wednesday 27 November.

SBR’s AUSkey system acts as a single ‘key’ for users to access online services across participating agencies has significant potential for across-government sharing and collaboration, according to Jackson.

SBR may also play a central role in the achievement of a number of elements of the National Digital Economy Strategy, including the goal of digital platforms becoming the major channel of service delivery for all government agencies by 2020.

“To accelerate the provision of government services digitally, the government will adopt a digital-first policy,” said Jackson. “Under the digital first policy, agencies will commit to implementing online processing for government services with a single authentication process by the end of 2017.”

Jackson’s statement is consistent with the Coalition’s intention to use ICT as a means to standardise service delivery and reduce the regulatory burden on business, outlined in its ICT policy.

“There are a number of cases where government leadership co-ordinating or facilitating agreement among private parties can accelerate digital activity…[including] standards for online authentication” states the policy.

The SBR solution was first proposed in the Rethinking Regulation Report by the Taskforce on Reducing the Regulatory Burden on Business set up by the then-Prime Minister John Howard in 2005.

Standardised business reporting was also one of 27 deregulation priorities identified by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in its response to the 2006 Banks Report.

The project was completed in 2010 without any delays.

Intermedium has identified three suppliers that contributed to the project:

  • IBM was awarded two contracts with Treasury to design and build the program with a total combined value of $26.8 million. IBM also signed two contracts with the ATO in relation to SBR — a $2.86 million contract in May 2009 for the development of WebSphere software and an additional contract of $670,961 in June 2009 for the use of Tivoli licenses as part of the SBR;
  • Verizon was contracted by the ATO in August 2009 to test and implement the SBR with a total contract value of $18.44 million; and
  • Fujitsu signed two contracts with Treasury in August 2009 for the supply of XBRL software and related services, with a total combined value of $4.42 million;

The SBR solution was originally designed to act as a standardised portal for the lodgement of business forms and information to be shared across the ATO, the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and state and territory revenue offices.

However, since the development of the SBR, there has been a significant push to expand both the scope and use of the solution.

“Wider adoption of SBR capabilities and further convergence of system architectures is expected over time,” said Jackson.

“While the initial focus has been taxation and company compliance reporting, it is now being expanded into other areas such as superannuation and employer reporting.”

In addition to its use by the founding agencies, ATO is now working with the Department of Human Services and Australian Financial Security Authority “to provide SBR-enabled solutions to their clients”, he added.

“The SBR solution includes systems, processes and standards that can be customised and adapted to agency requirements with a minimum of fuss.”

“The issue for government is that the implementation and support costs for data interchange projects are high,” said Jackson.

“A standardised approach addresses this issue and provides the opportunity to reduce these costs as well as achieving the level of interoperability required for telling-us-once style initiatives for government.

“The SBR infrastructure is in place, the only costs are those associated with additional shared capacity, agency-specific taxonomy developments and requirements, the agency connection to the shared infrastructure, and the integration with agency business systems,” said Jackson.

The expansion of SBR, potentially to a whole-of-government level, has been recommended in a number of reviews and reports.

“Government strategies, such as the Standard Business Reporting Program, will improve businesses’ experience of the system, including through a reduction in the compliance costs of interacting with government. Extending these strategies to other business interactions has the potential to further improve outcomes,” said the 2010 Henry report.

“Further areas of reporting that would quickly leverage the SBR approaches include extension of the use of the ‘single SBR credential’ to other government agencies…Department of Human Services requirements in relation to employees (for example, those of Centrelink); the superannuation industry.”

The potential for expanded use of SBR is also included in the 2010 Moran and Cooper reports.

Jurisdiction: Federal
Category: IT Services
Sector: Finance & Services
Tags: ATO, Australian Taxation Office, CeBIT GovInnovate, Coalition ICT policy, sbr, Standard Business Reporting Solution

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