Digital signatures are almost across the line

22nd June, 2016

There’s some pretty exciting news regarding the recent passing of the third reading of the Tax Transformation Bill. Freeing yourself from waiting on wet signatures from clients will mean a heap of time saved in your practice.

Making digital signatures lawful is a critical step in the transformation to what MYOB refers to as the Connected Practice. It means compliance documents can be quickly and securely transmitted without the need for paperwork and without the painful delays.

What exactly is a digital signature?

There are a couple of terms that float around, so let’s clear up which is what and why.

Electronic signatures (or e-signatures) refer to scanned versions of one’s wet (handwritten) signature. The Government’s 2011 Electronic transactions under Government Model Contracts has more on these.

Digital signatures use encryption technology to provide authority. MYOB Portal uses this technology already. With MYOB Portal, you can send sensitive documents to your client, who then ‘signs’ their tax document on their smartphone. The document is then securely returned to you in an instant.

When can we start using digital signatures?

The start date is still to be confirmed. The crucial piece from the majestically named Taxation (Transformation: First Phase Simplification and Other Measures) Bill is section 13B(2):

(2) The Commissioner must publish guidelines that set out the criteria and technical requirements for:

  1. the use of a valid electronic signature on documents provided to the Commissioner:
  2. the nature of, and circumstances in which, the Commissioner accepts information under an electronic signature.

So we’re currently awaiting those guidelines from the commissioner, it seems. Without them, we’re still using our trusty Bics for a while yet.

If you’re interested in this technology, stay tuned to this blog. We’ll keep you posted when we learn anything new.