by Georgina Swan

SBR estimated to save business $800 million a year

Jun 30, 2010
Development ApproachesFinancial Services IndustryGovernment

A new era has begun with the commencement of the Standard Business Reporting (SBR) program, a standardised approach to financial reporting across government agencies that could save businesses up to $800 million a year.

Three years in development, SBR takes in several government agencies, including ASIC, APRA, the ATO, state and territory revenue offices and ABS. SBR program director, Paul Madden, said the idea is to harmonise the information reporting requirement.

“SBR is all about reducing the reporting burden for business,” he said.

The program, led by the Australian Treasury, is nothing if not complex; Madden co-ordinates the work of teams across 12 government agencies. Its scope takes in about 87 different forms, including business activity statements (BAS), payment summaries (PAYG), tax file number declarations (TFN) and State Revenue Office Payroll tax. It has the potential to change the business process for more than 240 financial software developers and 2.1 million businesses. It will reduce the number of questions that require financial answers from about 9600 to less than 2840.

SBR uses Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), an open specification which Madden said allows the capture of definitions and meta data.

“The technology also allows you to map those definitions to the data within the business systems,” he said.

It means the taxonomy can be mapped to business accounting and financial information.

“The real benefit comes with being able to take the taxonomy and impose it inside business software systems so [forms] can be prefilled directly,” Madden told CIO.

The system has big implications for businesses because it has the potential to stop double handling of data and it adopts existing standards. Adoption of SBR is voluntary, but Madden says even CIOs who run their own payroll and accounting systems will be able to implement SBR systems, thanks to a software developer kit (SDK).

Businesses will also have a single sign on to access online services under another key component of the SBR program — AUSkey. More than 51,000 AUSkeys have already been issued to businesses.

“If a large SME with a national business was able to report to each of those agencies, the last thing they would want is to have passwords,” Madden said. “They can use AusKey to report to any one of those agencies.”

More information on the program is available from the SBR and AUSkey websites.

Several vendors have been involved in the program. Fujitsu supplied and supported its Interstage XWand software, a custom technology to produce XBRL enabled financial applications in a deal worth about $4 million over an initial 2 year period.

IBM will provide ongoing application maintenance for the SBR Core Services system, under a 12-month agreement worth $2.7 million. The application was developed in Java by a team in Canberra. According to IBM, the solution is built on IBM Data Power custom hardware. It has no specific operating system.