Before the introduction of Standard Business Reporting (SBR), companies were asked by various government agencies to deliver the same information in multiple ways. For the same data definitions, different data sets were used. This created for businesses a situation of unnecessary administrative burden, extra costs and frustration. For government agencies, it created a situation of not fully transparent, reliable or comparable data. For society, it resulted in a situation where tax money was spent on time-consuming, manual administrative processes instead of the core activities of the government.
For decades, the Dutch government has been working to reduce the administrative burden on business, and is regarded by the World Bank as a world leader in doing so.
The SBR programme was started in 2003 with one of the major goals to reduce the administrative burden. An important aspect behind this reform project was to give actual meaning to the widely held intention to make the public sector a better partner for the Dutch business society.
When starting, different principles were formulated that SBR would have to address on a higher level:
- the contribution to reduce administrative burden;
- the close cooperation between government and business;
- the realisation of reliable, comparable financial data;
- the adoption of technology to facilitate regulatory compliance;
- the possibility to reuse information to stimulate economic growth.
In close cooperation with private stakeholders, the Dutch government has implemented the digital reporting framework Standard Business Reporting. SBR is based on commonly accepted data and process standards, and now accommodates the exchange and processing of tax filings and financial reports on a large scale in the Netherlands.
Over the past 6 years, several government agencies such as the Tax Administration, the Chamber of Commerce and the Central Bureau of Statistics (Statistics Netherlands) have standardised and harmonised their data definitions, processes and systems to get ready for receiving and sending SBR messages.
SBR is not a product or a service, but a methodology in which all stakeholders determine a common set of standards, preferably open standards. That is a new but proven and innovative concept. To avoid vendor lock-in and monopolies, and to stimulate the private sector to offer innovative and competitive products and services, SBR does not create or prescribe any software, but merely agrees on standards (standards level the playing field).
For the Netherlands, SBR is a cross-domain method. It is used by:
- the Tax Administration for about 40 information chains with 17 000 intermediaries, working for all businesses (1.5 million) in the Netherlands;
- the Chamber of Commerce for the annual report that organisations (mandatory for 900 000 organisations) had to deliver to them (often via one of the 17 000 intermediaries);
- Statistics Netherlands for statistical information from entrepreneurs;
- the Education Executive Agency (Ministry of Education) for the annual report from educational organisations from all levels (elementary school to university: 1667 in total);
- intra-governmental, all 11 ministries for all financial systems concerning their yearly budget and the overall state budget;
- banks: four major banks with their business clients for credit reports;
- housing corporations for sending their annual reports (and more) to their regulator.
Both governmental departments and businesses run the SBR programme. The public–private partnership is structured into three types of consultation:
- SBR Board (strategic level)
- SBR Platform (tactical level)
- SBR Expert Groups (operational level)
In 2014 the SBR Road Map 2020 was developed in which the next steps for SBR are formulated, giving direction to the participating parties on how to proceed. The vision and goals of the SBR Road Map are also the key drivers for organising the activities and they fit seamlessly in the SBR governance. The SBR Road Map is updated yearly.