NUMBERS MAN: Harding Martin Chartered Accountants director Neil Harding.
NUMBERS MAN: Harding Martin Chartered Accountants director Neil Harding. Rob Williams

Accountant can recall time when paying tax was "optional"

LOOKING back on his years in the world of accountancy, Neil Harding can recall the days where businesses viewed paying tax as "optional".

Technology has not only drastically transformed the way he deals with clients' books - now flicking through them on a screen rather than a hard copy - but the way businesses operate globally.

Alongside brother Graeme, Neil took over the firm in 1985 and have watched Harding Martin Chartered Accountants grow into the large organisation it is today.

"In the 1970s, it was considered optional if you paid tax in this country (as a business)," Mr Harding said.

"Then, you saw in the 1980s, the introduction of some complex legislation changes that have continued to develop.

"Today, we live in a far more complex, compliant world where it would be very difficult to succeed and not fall foul of the law without having some tertiary education and detailed knowledge of the tax law."

It was common for the brothers to work 80-hour weeks in the late 1980s to deal with the inundation of work.

Thirty years ago, a very small percentage of Mr Harding's clients had shares but now it seems everyone has a portfolio and superannuation isn't enjoyed by just the very wealthy.

Local businesses now compete on the world stage, with the internet creating more competition each year.

"It's no longer just regional, we can all see what everybody else has to offer," he said.

The 57-year-old has gone from visiting clients over their kitchen table to working for businesses around Australia and the globe, which means getting his head around international tax laws.

"Today, we've got clients that are running internet businesses," he said.

"You've got to follow the currency trends, because they're now dealing with multiple currencies and trying to work with them on how to reduce the risks and the best rates they can get through foreign exchange."