Understanding bas statements: a guide for australian businesses


Business activity statements (bas) are an essential aspect of the australian taxation system, especially for businesses registered for goods and services tax (gst). Understanding bas is crucial for compliance and financial management. This article provides an in-depth guide for australian businesses on understanding and managing bas statements, supported by relevant statistics and data.

What is a bas statement?

A business activity statement (bas) is a form submitted to the australian taxation office (ato) by businesses to report their tax obligations. These include gst, pay as you go (payg) installments, payg withholding tax, and other taxes. According to the ato, as of june 2021, there were over 2.7 million active gst registrations in australia, highlighting the widespread relevance of bas.

Importance of bas for australian businesses


Compliance with the ato’s requirements is the primary importance of bas. Non-compliance can lead to penalties and interest charges. The ato reported that in the 2019-2020 financial year, there were approximately 28,000 penalty notices issued for gst and payg withholding non-compliance, underscoring the need for accurate bas submissions.

Cash flow management

Bas statements impact a business’s cash flow. Regular reporting can help businesses manage their finances better by providing up-to-date information on their tax obligations. A survey by quickbooks australia revealed that 40% of small business owners consider cash flow one of their biggest challenges, making effective bas management crucial.

Understanding gst and bas reporting

Gst reporting

Businesses with an annual turnover of $75,000 or more are required to register for gst. Gst-registered businesses need to include gst in their prices and can claim credits for the gst included in the price of their business purchases.

Frequency of bas submission

The frequency of bas submission depends on the business’s turnover. Businesses with a turnover of less than $20 million generally report quarterly, while those with higher turnover may report monthly. Ato statistics indicate that the majority of small businesses opt for quarterly bas reporting.

How to complete a bas statement

Reporting sales and income

On the bas, businesses report their total sales, gst on sales, and gst-free sales. This includes exports, which are generally gst-free.

Reporting purchases and expenses

Businesses also report gst on purchases, which they can claim as credits. This includes business expenses, overheads, and capital purchases.

Payg withholding

For businesses that have employees, payg withholding tax needs to be reported on the bas. This involves reporting the tax withheld from employee wages.

Common challenges and solutions

Record keeping

Effective record-keeping is vital for accurate bas preparation. The ato recommends using accounting software to streamline this process. Utilization of cloud-based accounting software has increased among australian businesses, with a report from ibisworld indicating a strong growth trend in this sector.

Deadlines and penalties

Missing bas deadlines can result in penalties. The ato provides a payment plan option for businesses struggling to meet their tax obligations, a feature utilized by many during economic downturns, such as the covid-19 pandemic.

Seeking professional help

Many businesses turn to professional accountants or bookkeepers for bas preparation. The tax practitioners board (tpb) in australia regulates these professionals to ensure quality and compliance.


Understanding and managing bas statements is crucial for australian businesses. It ensures compliance, aids in effective cash flow management, and supports overall financial health. With the complexities involved, many businesses benefit from professional assistance or utilizing modern accounting software. As australian businesses continue to navigate the challenges of tax compliance and financial management, mastery of bas statements remains a key component of their success.


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