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10 Ways Bookkeepers Can Use ChatGPT

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would undoubtedly have heard the term artificial intelligence or “AI”. AI is the new buzzword and seems to be everywhere you look. In particular, most accounting software, and many other apps have embraced AI and have made it a part of their interface.

While some may be dubious about AI (even afraid), the fact is, that it is here to stay and has been a part of the way we use technology for a long time. Google apps including Gmail and GDrive, apps like “Grammarly” and other apps that make suggestions as you type, for example, are all using AI to enhance the user experience and basically make life easier. 

Given AI is already here and we use it daily (even though we may not be aware of it), I have started to wonder how bookkeepers can use it to assist with daily tasks. To that end, I have done some research into how we can use ChatGPT for this purpose.

What is ChatGPT?

ChatGPT stands for Chat Generative Pre-training Transformer. It was launched in November 2022 and is a remarkable text-based chatbot. It enables users to effortlessly type queries and receive accurate answers, as well as efficiently complete tedious tasks. This advanced chatbot is trained with extensive data, allowing it to generate responses that closely resemble human-like interactions. You can download the ChatGPT apps from your favourite app store.

So now that we know what it is, how can bookkeepers use ChatGPT? There are actually many ways to use it, but here are 10 ideas to get you started. 

    1. Writing those “difficult” emails to clients. Sometimes as bookkeepers, we need to tell our clients they have to go, or we are putting our prices up or we found something dodgy in their accounts, etc. Ask ChatGPT to write the email for you by telling it what the email is about. You will receive a professionally written email script in seconds.
    2. Creating Excel formulas. Tell ChatGPT what you want to calculate in a cell or column and provide the data to work with and it will create the formula for you. Here is an example of how this might work.
    3. Creating journal entries. ChatGPT can extract information from receipts, such as dates, seller names, and amounts. Just provide the dataset, and ChatGPT will analyze it and input the client information for you. More specifically, the prompt you would use would be: “Use the following transaction details (add transaction text) and amount to create a journal using these account names (Add accounts) using (Add accounting system)”
    4. Creating checklists and subtasks. Ask ChatGPT to create a list of steps to complete any bookkeeping process. The result can be modified to suit your needs and business. You can also ask it to create subtasks for each of the steps inside a checklist.
    5. Creating client questionnaires. Ask ChatGPT to suggest a list of questions to ask new clients during client onboarding.
    6. Creating client onboarding checklists. Ask ChatGPT to create a checklist for you when onboarding a new client. You can tell it some basic details like number of employees and business structure.
    7. Creating an engagement letter. Ask ChatGPT what to include in an engagement letter for a client with XYZ requirements. Adjust to suit your business requirements.
    8. Staff onboarding checklist and letters of offer. Ask it to create a checklist for onboarding staff either for your business or for a client. Also, ask it to create letters of offer based on the details you provide. Adjust to suit your business.
    9. Creating email templates. Make a list of the type of emails you write continuously e.g. a request for information. Ask ChatGPT to write these emails for you. Update the details to suit your business and then save them as templates.
    10. Creating copy for your blog or website. Tell ChatGPT what you want to write about e.g. ideas for your About Page. Ask it to write you the copy for this page. You can do the same thing for your blogs. Simply provide it with some basic information e.g. how GST applies to food sales in Australia, and ask it to provide you with copy for your blog. Of course, you should check the details it delivers for accuracy and currency before publishing.

    I hope these ideas, or “prompts” as they are known, give you the motivation to start to play around with ChatGPT in your bookkeeping business. Obviously, the sky is the limit regarding what you can do with ChatGPT. I’m sure once you get started, you will discover many more ways to use it in your business. If you would like to share any prompts you currently use with ChatGPT, please add them below in the comments. I’m sure other bookkeepers would love the extra motivation!

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    The bookkeeping behind the Taxable Payments Annual Report

    There is a lot of information available to you if you just want to understand what a Taxable Payments Annual Report (TPAR) is and why you may need to lodge one. In short, if your business is primarily in one of the below industries and has made payments to contractors in the previous financial year, then a TPAR will need to be prepared and lodged.

    • Building and construction services
    • Cleaning services
    • Road freight and courier services
    • Information technology services
    • Security, investigation or surveillance services

    If you are new to the TPAR, then I suggest you go to this ATO webpage and have a read!

    So, as I said, there is a lot of information you can Google about TPAR in general, but not a whole lot about how to prepare the report from a bookkeeping point of view. Some software will have you believe that you just select a few boxes here and there and then submit the report to the ATO. Voila! Done. Easy. Well, it is easy if you didn’t actually pay contractors in a given year, but if you did, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure your report is true and correct. In this blog, I will share my process for preparing the TPAR for my clients. I hope this helps you if you are feeling a bit lost as to the “how” behind the “what”!

    How to prepare your TPAR in 6 easy steps

    1. Make a list of contractors

    Before you can prepare the TPAR, especially if this is the first time you have done this, you should make a list of all of the contractors you have paid during the financial year. Now move on to step 2.

    2. Check contractor Details

    The TPAR requires that you report various personal details about your contractors including the full name of the contact person, business name, business address, email address, phone number and the ABN. Before you begin preparing the TPAR, go through your contractor list and make sure these details have been added to their contact cards.

    3. Ensure contractors are selected to be part of the TPAR

    In your software, each contact card will have a checkbox to select if the contractor needs to be reported on the TPAR. Go through each contractor’s contact card and ensure this is selected if required.

    4. Print out the TPAR and check the details

    Find the TPAR in your software. At this point, it is only a draft report. Print it out and review each transaction – check that all transactions should be included. Remember, only invoices for labour and materials or just labour, need to be included. Invoices for materials-only do not need to be included. Materials-only invoices will need to be manually removed but clicking into the transaction and deselecting the checkbox for TPAR. If you have made any changes to the draft TPAR, then print out the updated version and move on to step 4!

    5. Ensure the TPAR agrees with your profit and loss data

    This is where some bookkeeping comes in! Not everyone knows that you need to make sure the total amount quoted in the TPAR agrees with the data reported on your profit and loss. This is called reconciliation. If you don’t do this step, your TPAR may be incorrect, so it’s pretty important! The TPAR only includes payments you made to contractors within a financial year – unpaid invoices are not included. Therefore, in order to perform this reconciliation, you need to print out the profit and loss in cash mode. Now, depending on how many transactions there are, you can either compare the two reports by eye or if you need to, you can export the profit and loss data to a spreadsheet to help you compare the calculations. Note, that the profit and loss data required will be where you recorded your contractor payments. This may be an expense account or a cost of sales account, depending on how your chart of accounts is set up.

    Now, you need to ensure that the total amount showing in your TPAR, less the GST, agrees with the profit and loss data. If your initial setup was correct, these two reports should agree. If they don’t, there may be a couple of reasons why. Here are some things to check:

    1) Make sure that all contractor transactions in the TPAR also appear in the P&L and vice versa. This may involve checking that those particular transactions have the TPAR checkbox selected or that you have a contractor’s contact card selected for TPAR. 2) If you have included some materials-only transactions in either the P&L data or TPAR, you must remove them. 3) You may also find that some transactions have been coded to other expense accounts and are therefore not included in the P&L data you initially exported or printed. Find those transactions and add them to your exported data.

    When you are satisfied that the two reports agree, then print out a final TPAR and save it as a PDF for your records.

    6. Lodge the TPAR

    Depending on the software you are using, you may be able to lodge the TPAR within the software itself. If not, you will have to download a TPAR file and lodge it with the ATO using Online Services and/or your myGov account. Find more details here about how to lodge via ATO Online Services. Keep a record of the lodgement receipt you will receive from the ATO with your TPAR from your software.

    Remember, if you do not have any contractor payments to report, you need to report a Non Lodgement Advice form. See my blog here for more information.

    So that’s all there is to it, but as you can see, lodging the TPAR does require some background work. You can’t just click a button and lodge it because you need to ensure the figures and the data are correct. I hope this blog has helped you in the run-up to the TPAR lodgement due date which is August 28th each year. If you need help preparing your TPAR, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and I’ll see if I can assist you.

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    Accessorial Liability: when to stay and when to run…

    An accessory to a crime is a person who participates knowingly and voluntarily in the commission of a crime. An accessory can be categorised as before or after the fact (the commission of the crime).   They need not be actually present at the scene of the crime in order to be held liable.

    In the bookkeeping world, there is much chatter about “accessorial liability” especially in relation to those providing payroll services for clients. So what is this about and what does it mean? Basically, as per the above quote, if you are involved in contravening the Fair Work Act 2009 and are knowingly doing so, then, if investigated by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), you could be classified as an accessory to the contravention and be prosecuted accordingly. In simple speak, if you are involved in performing payroll tasks for a client (or your employer) and you know that something is being done illegally or incorrectly in relation to the payroll and you do not do anything to rectify it, you have just made yourself an accessory. The FWO is clear about this and there are no if, buts, or maybes. No excuses accepted. So there are 3 aspects to accessorial liability – being involved, knowing it’s happening, and doing nothing to stop it. Is this scary for bookkeepers? You bet your life it is!

    Should I stay or should I go now?

    So if you’re a bookkeeper reading this and you’re not already scared about your involvement in your clients’ payroll, then you should be! In general, you do your best and bring your expertise and knowledge to the task, and hope that all will be well. But is that enough? Perhaps not it seems. The FWO will have us believe we need to do more in order to avoid becoming an accessory to payroll contraventions. So what can you do if you suspect something is out of kilter with a client’s payroll? Athena Koelmeyer from Workplace Law makes the following suggestions:

    • Arrange for a payroll audit to be performed by a professional HR service. This will uncover any anomalies and errors being made and assistance will be provided to rectify them.
    • Make sure that appropriate processes are in place and are being followed correctly. These processes should include:
      • ensuring employers (your clients) are across their obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009, modern awards and any record-keeping obligations
      • ensuring employees are properly classified under their relevant award
      • ensuring employees pays are correctly in terms of minimum rates of pay, allowances, penalties and loadings
      • ensuring all payroll records are compliant and correct
      • keeping up to date with changes to modern awards, especially pay rates, allowances, loadings, penalty rates etc.
      • conducting regular audits of your payroll set up, especially when using generic software
    • If you discover any anomalies with your client’s payroll, communicate this immediately with the client and ensure that they rectify the situation. Keep written records of the steps that were taken to repair the issue/s. If neither you or your client can rectify the issues, seek professional advice and assistance. Do not ignore the situation.

    The above is great advice is should be followed if you are going to provide a best-practice service to your client. As bookkeepers, however, we all know that in reality, making clients cross the t’s and dot the i’s is not as easy as it sounds. Some clients take your advice on board and some don’t for whatever reason. So what is Athena’s advice if you find yourself working with a client who is openly flaunting Fair Work laws and who refuses to make any improvements? Basically, her advice is to


    Athena says you always have to come back to the accessorial liability provisions under section 550 of the Fair Work Act when making your decision about whether to persist or leave. She says that where you are involved (processing payroll) AND you know that payroll processes as above are not sufficient, AND you don’t do anything about it (even if you tried to), you will be seen as an accessory in the event of prosecution. While this is not the forum to go into possible charges and legal consequences of said prosecution, I’m sure you’ll agree that you do not want to go there! Athena recommends that you should terminate your engagement with these types of clients immediately, no questions asked, and just walk away. Before walking away, always put your concerns and any steps taken to rectify the situation in writing to the client and retain this as your record in the event that you are pursued by the FWO. She also advises that you should report non-compliant clients to the FWO as an extra means of protecting yourself. Athena says, and I quote:

    If a payroll provider makes a client aware that their systems are not compliant, refuses to participate in the contravening conduct and terminates the relationship with them, then the payroll provider has done all that they can do to make the client aware of their non-compliance and not participate in any contraventions.

    Payroll HQ

    In my opinion, there isn’t any job worth doing where you are putting yourself at risk of litigation and possible jail time. If you are reading this and you think you may be at risk, then get some advice from a trusted advisor and/or your bookkeeping association. If you are sure you are at risk, then take Athena’s advice and run, run, run, and don’t look back!

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    Common GST Mistakes

    GST Mistakes

    When you’re completing your activity statements, it’s easy to make mistakes. It happens a lot and we see them first hand here at e-BAS Accounts. The main mistakes users make are in relation to tax codes. Users often use the wrong tax code when entering various transactions into their software. Here are some common transactions that are often coded incorrectly. We show the correct tax code application:

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    Meal entertainment: when does GST apply?

    The area of “meal entertainment” is an absolute minefield for accounting professionals like us. It can be very difficult to know when an expense incurred by a client relating to food or drink should be recorded with GST or not. Luckily there is a resource out there via the ATO that brings some clarity to the situation.

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    Netflix Tax – A Bookkeeper’s View (from the Trenches)

    My last blog was all about the new “Netflix Tax” and was really just an informational blog outlining what, how and when etc. In this blog, I want to look at the tax from a bookkeeper’s perspective and provide a real “from the trenches” viewpoint. All is not what it seems with the Netflix Tax!

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    Registered for GST? What you need to know about the Netflix Tax.

    netflix, tv, home-5336006.jpg

    For some time now, larger IT companies have been charging GST to their Australian consumers. Examples of these are Google, Adobe and Linkedin. They are doing this because of a new law that began formally on 1 July 2017. This new law is known colloquially as the “Netflix Tax”, requires all international companies with an annual GST turnover of $75K or more and selling services and digital products to Australian consumers, to enter the Australian GST system. While most of us aren’t too impressed with the 10% price hike on these products, GST registered business owners understand that they can claim the GST back in their BAS which alleviates the sting a little……or so they thought! Sadly, this is not the case with this new law. The “Netflix Tax” tells us something different and if you’re not paying attention, you or your BAS Agent are likely to get things wrong when processing your next BAS. Read on.

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    12 Best Bookkeeping Tips (you’re welcome)

    At this time of year we’re all thinking about Christmas and one of the best songs for the festive season is “The 12 Days of Christmas”. In keeping with this theme, this week we’re bringing you our 12 very best bookkeeping tips – it’s our gift to you! These tips will suit business owners at every stage, from start ups to old hands. Enjoy!

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