BusinessCompany NewsElectronic storage plan sparks fear for business

Electronic storage plan sparks fear for business

UK businesses could be forced to retain huge volumes of additional electronic data for audit purposes under 'frightening' OECD proposals to be considered later this month, Accountancy Age has learned.

Link: IT directors to feel audit pressure

The recommendations, which have found support within Customs & Excise and the EC, will require companies to retain full audit information in its original electronic form. It will allow government regulators, tax bodies and auditors to access the relevant information far quicker – and push up companies’ data storage costs.

A high-level meeting involving government officials and representatives of the British Application Software Developers Association will take place in Paris in less than two weeks time, where the proposals will be discussed in greater detail.

‘It sounds frightening,’ said Philip Taylor, co-founder and director of accounting software company Coda.

‘If the whole of the OECD starts to implement the sort of laws they are talking about in early messages, it will be a very large and very expensive disaster. The big danger is that it will take a simple idea, turn it into an unworkable rule and get useless information,’ Taylor added.

Early signs point to the OECD pressing ahead with the recommendations and a possible implementation date of 2005 has been mooted.

But Dennis Keeling, chief executive of BASDA, said the proposals were a good idea and could help to significantly speed up the audit process, as well as remove the need for having to maintain a paper audit trail.

‘Government can review transactions electronically (and remotely) so it can see if it needs to send an investigator round,’ said Keeling.

The government bodies hoping to push through the OECD proposals include Customs, the Inland Revenue, Companies House, the Office of National Statistics and the Financial Services Authority.

Email David_Rae@vnu.co.uk.

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