ACCOUNTING professionals in Australia are facing up to the uncomfortable realisation that small and medium enterprises (SMEs) may be ditching their services in favour of cheaper ‘cloud’ based accounting systems.
The realisation has come out of national research by software developer CCH in alliance with Brisbane-based coaching, content and technology firm, Proactive Accountants Network.
The research found that almost two thirds (64 %) of SMEs would consider replacing some of the roles that their accountant currently performs with a cloud-based accounting system.
Already 14 percent of SMEs use cloud-based software to manage their accounts, the survey found. Online programs such as XERO, SAASU, MYOB and the soon to be released CCH iBizz are making it easier for SMEs to bypass their accountants, and lodge their Business Activity Statements (BAS) through lower priced avenues.
CCH has teamed up with Proactive Accountants Network to educate accountants on the move towards cloud based accounting.
The firms are conducting a tour – titled Remaining Relevant and claimed to be the biggest accounting event ever staged in Australia – to 13 Australian cities and likely to be attended by 2,000 accountants.
Proactive Accountants Network CEO Rob Nixon said accounting firms were an intermediary that process and compile data and they were in the firing line of being drastically disrupted by the internet.
“It’s not years away – it is happening right now,” Mr Nixon said. “I already know of accounting firms who have had ‘ethical clearance’ letters from Asian accounting firms doing the work directly for their clients.
“They can do this because the accounting data is ‘light’ (a login) and not ‘heavy’ (a USB stick or disk.) When the data is light it is more transportable. “Compliance is being commoditised with these tools. You can go to accountant websites right now and see ‘packaged’ compliance services advertised at set fees per month.”
Mr Nixon said the situation was “not all bad”.
For those accountants who are embracing the technology, he said, 62 percent believe the biggest benefit of using a cloud-based system was that it could be accessed from multiple locations. He said 32 percent felt cloud accounting technology meant they did not need to worry about maintenance or purchasing hardware or accounting software.
Mr Nixon and the CEO of CCH Wolters Kluwer Asia Pacific, Russell Evans, want to stem the tide of SMEs doing it on their own because research found that SME businesses failed, in part, due to failures in seeking professional advice (about 26% in the report) and receiving poor professional advice (21%).
“It is in the best interest of accountants to maintain leadership in cloud solutions so they can better service their SME clients,” Mr Evans said.