OUTSOURCING INCOME TAX RETURNS: CONVENIENT AND/OR CONTROVERSIAL
By Sally Chaplin
This paper investigates the outsourcing of income tax return preparation by Australian accounting firms. It identifies the extent to which firms are currently outsourcing accounting services or considering outsourcing accounting services, with a focus on personal and business income tax return preparation. The motivations and barriers for outsourcing by Australian accounting firms are also considered in this paper. Privacy, security of client data, and the competence of the outsourcing provider’s staff have been identified as risks associated with outsourcing. An expectation relating to confidentiality of client data is also examined in this paper. Statistical analysis of data collected from a random sample of Australian accounting firms using a survey questionnaire provided the empirical data for the paper. The results indicate that the majority of Australian accounting firms are either currently outsourcing or considering outsourcing accounting services, and firms are outsourcing taxation preparation both onshore and offshore. The results also indicate that firms expect the volume of outsourced work to increase in the future. In contrast to the literature identifying labour arbitrage as the primary driver for organisations choosing to outsource, this study found that the main factors considered by accounting firms in the decision to outsource were to expedite delivery of services to clients and to enable the firm to focus on core competencies. Data from this study also supports the literature which indicates that not all tax practitioners are adhering to codes of conduct in relation to client confidentiality. Research identifying the extent to which accounting services are outsourced is limited, therefore significant contributions to the academic literature and the accounting profession are provided by this study.