E-GST aids online IRD access

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 17/08/2012

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Inland Revenue is promising to make filing GST returns online less of a chore for businesses within weeks, but Business New Zealand boss Phil O'Reilly says the jury is out on whether its approach will prove best.

At present businesses can file GST returns on paper or by filling out a form on the department's website, copying across a "Document Lodgement Number" sent with each return.

Under the new "enhanced-GST" (E-GST) system, filing GST returns online will be one of the options businesses will be able to access after registering for an Online Services account with the department.

An Inland Revenue spokesman said 105,000 firms already had such accounts and those that did not would need to go through a one-off registration process.

They would then be able to access screens that will be pre-populated with their firm's details, so they need only fill in their financial information.

Another advantage of E-GST was that business owners would be able to partly complete and save their GST returns, so they could come back to them later if they were interrupted.

They will also get confirmation they have submitted them correctly and will be able to track their progress.

However, a source said the process might be more cumbersome than the existing one.

O'Reilly believed businesses would find the new system an improvement but he said it would be judged in the context of how it fitted in with other initiatives that made it easier for firms to deal with the Government online.

"Even if it is fantastic, if it works off a different system and has no relation to anything else the Government does, that is not very helpful."

Inland Revenue was also looking at the feasibility of developing a solution that would let businesses file GST returns through accounting software packages, its spokesman said.

Xero chief executive Rod Drury said it had been lobbying for that for three or four years. "It will be a massive productivity saver."

Inland Revenue said 39 per cent of GST returns were filed electronically at present. There were "no immediate plans" to remove the option of filing a paper return.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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