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Ralph review no help: Dickson

TAX laws have become increasingly complex and the Ralph Review will not help, says Pannell Kerr Forster managing partner Richard Dickson.

Mr Dickson said the tax laws had gone from being contained in one book to the “volumes we have today”.

“In some ways the Ralph changes will make the tax laws more confusing,” he said.

“In the first eighteen months, through the transition period, the GST will cause some problems.

“As we get used to it things will get smoother.”

Mr Dickson said technology had made a big difference to the way accountants operated.

He joined accounting firm Keogh O’Neill straight out of school in 1962 and “in those days we had bell punch adding machines”.

“Now we have offices that can be virtually paperless,” Mr Dickson said.

Technology advances should reduce the volume of compliance work for accountants.

However, Mr Dickson believes there will still be plenty around with Ralph and the GST.

“We are trying to move away from being a compliance-based practice,” he said.

“People see compliance as something imposed by the government, not something for their business.

“We are trying to move towards value adding services such as business and management consulting.”

Mr Dickson said this approach was sending PKF into multi-

disciplinary firm territory.

“We are capable of offering advice from listing through to corporate restructuring or insolvency,” he said.

“While I don’t see us in direct competition with Big Five firms I think to target big clients you need to be multi-disciplined.”

Mr Dickson said having direct client contact was essential.

“I built my practice on direct contact and that’s not something I’m willing to let go,” he said.

“We have good technical staff who can feed information to you plus good administration staff.

“I think the client contact helps me run the firm better.

“I can gain from clients who are running their own business – take things from them into my own management style.”

Mr Dickson said the firm’s partner retreats were one way partners could also learn from each other.

“If there is a partner who is growing his practice strongly we can all learn from that. If you don’t communicate within the practice you die.”

PKF has eight partners in Perth and an additional staff of 89.

Mr Dickson said the firm’s Perth origins could be traced back to the early 1950s when it was started by Norm Soutar.

When he joined the firm in 1962 it was known as Soutar Gooch Watson.

The firm was renamed Pannell Kerr Forster when it joined the international group in 1979 – the same year Mr Dickson made partner.

“In the early days we were an exporter of fees,” he said.

The export of fees means the referral of a client to another firm within the association in the region the client has started a new operation – usually overseas or interstate.

“It gave us credibility with the exporters and mining industry to be the member of an international organisation.”

The firm is currently ranked eighth in the Business News list of top accounting firms.

Its client base is drawn mainly from WA, including some of the State’s bigger companies.

Out of hours Mr Dickson coaches a Scotch College rowing team, something he’s been doing for the past ten years.

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