Xero boss pushes for single ID number for firms

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 25/10/2010

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Xero founder Rod Drury says giving every Kiwi business a unique number that they could use to identify themselves to government agencies and one another is an idea whose time has come that could spark an innovation boom.

Currently a business needs separate numbers to deal with various government agencies.

An official at the Economic Development Ministry said it was discussing what would be involved with Inland Revenue and a paper could go to Revenue Minister Peter Dunne within the month.

Mr Drury said a single business number had the potential to save hundreds of thousands of businesses a few hours a week.

Business numbering systems had been implemented in many countries, including Australia, he said. The Australian Government is understood to be pressing New Zealand on its position, arguing a system similar to its Australia Business Number (ABN) could ease trans-Tasman trade.

New Zealand could go a step ahead by allowing sole traders and partnerships to voluntarily register with the Companies Office and obtain an ID number that they could use when transacting with larger businesses, Mr Drury said.

Xero is also seeking support for a common format for invoices, that in conjunction with the numbering system could make it easy for companies to routinely transact electronically within two to five years.

The online accounting software company has set up a website at simpleubl.org to promote the possible standard and show a sample invoice.

"That is a fundamental productivity improvement, [but] there are a whole lot of scenarios where a single business number helps," Mr Drury said.

"The vision we have is to completely lead the world in electronic data interchange between small businesses, large businesses and government."

He said the next step would be for the Government to agree on what would be the single business number and to decide whether to let businesses which were not limited-liability companies register.

Companies' GST numbers, allocated by Inland Revenue, would be the obvious candidate, he said.

An Inland Revenue spokeswoman said the idea was promoted by software developers at a meeting between the Software Developers Working Group and Inland Revenue this month, which Mr Dunne attended.

The group was set up to help Inland Revenue and the software industry work together to deliver improved tax services to businesses.

The Economic Development Ministry official believed a law change might not be necessary, but any move to allocate a single business number to sole traders would require the approval of the Privacy Commissioner.

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- The Dominion Post

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