It may not grab many headlines, but in its own quiet way Sage Corporation Tax Online represents a significant marker in the race to deliver the first comprehensive suite of tax and practice solutions.
Working as a cloud companion to Sage Accounts Production Online and Sage One, the corporation tax module offers small firms a low cost, flexible set up to process year-end accounts and CT600s entirely online.
Having given its big rival a head start, Sage is now breathing down the neck of IRIS, which has been leading the race with its IRIS Open suite of tools, which includes KashFlow for bookkeeping and IRIS OpenTax (personal tax, trust and CT600 returns). As yet, there is no online IRIS module for accounts production.
Nick Longden, vice president of Sage Accountants for UK and Ireland, told AccountingWEB in December that work is in hand to complete the final piece in the jigsaw in Sage’s entry-level online practice software suite with a personal tax module, coupled with further practice management enhancements to its Sage Impact environment.
So far, 2,000 firms have signed up for the Sage Impact collection - “reasonable traction for a product launched in May”, according to Longden. Along with Sage One and the online accounts production tool, Impact includes the Sage View reporting and analysis tool and Sage Value, a module to facilitate value pricing and fee collection as part of the client’s software subscription.
“We’re building Impact up in next few months as a portal into the Sage online world and are looking at options for practice management, which will allow us to create a full practice solution around Sage One,” Longden said.
But all that is for the future, after the self assessment deadline at the end of January. For those interested in more tangible insights into what’s available now, this article offers a brief introduction to Sage’s new corporation tax application.
Sage Corporation Tax Online - overview
As part of the Sage Impact suite, the usual starting point for Sage Corporation Tax Online would be from the client dashboard in the Sage One Accountants edition. If you were starting the day with the tax return, you would choose your client, click and then click the CT program link to fire up the tax module.
Completing a CT600 is the final step of a sequence of actions arising from a trial balance that is processed into a final set of accounts, from which the figures are taken into a CT computation, from which the results are entered into the return itself.
Many desktop applications (including Sage) require data imports and exports between accounts production and tax, which also require a companion iXBRL file to accompany the CT600. One of the advantages of Sage’s online set up is the individual steps have been eliminated. So when the accounts production program generates the iXBRL submission for Companies House, the same file is available for the CT program to pick up and submit alongside the tax return and computation.
The structure of the program is simplicity itself: One half of the left hand menu reflects the different elements within the tax return, starting with standing information such as the company number and tax reference and then leading the user through the steps from adjustments, losses, allowances, loan declarations and other sections all the way through to submission.
The Computation Preview is displayed on a separate left hand menu tab.
Validation checks are built in throughout Sage Corporation Tax Online, so it will tell you if you entered an incorrect company number. Further on in the process, if you attempt to enter a prior year loss where there was none, an orange message appears to warn: “Account claimed to be carried back to previous year must be equivalent to or less than the losses available to carry back”:
When it comes to run the computation, the default presentation is to show all the section summaries. But if most of them are not needed or would confuse the client, the accountant can suppress them from view when outputting a PDF version for the client to sign off.
Just in case you ignored any warning alerts along the way, these are presented on the computation summary screen, with a gentle warning against filing the return until they’ve been cleared up.
When ready to submit, you go to that section of the app, which will already hold your user ID and password details with HMRC Online. The submission process will require you to make sure the iXBRL accounts and computation are attached alongside the CT600 and then queue the pack up for HMRC’s computers (see below).
Apart from the complexities of the calculations itself and assembling the right bits of information, there’s not a lot else to report. But Sage is particularly proud of its usability work on Sage Corporation Tax Online, which features several subtle touches that make the web-based program easier to operate. On the simplest level, if you’ve grown up pressing the Enter key to jump between fields in Windows programs, Sage CT Online works in the same way.
If you enter a figure that previous year loss into the field on the tax form, it will automatically turn the figure into a negative number. Or if you start a figure with a bracket to indicate it’s negative, the program will close the bracket for you too.
Over the years Sage has suffered from a reputation for lagging behind its rivals in the quality of its tax and practice software. The rapid development of Sage Impact during the past year challenge’s that old stereotype; Sage Corporation Tax Online may not be the most exciting program you’re ever going to use, but it is a good representative of the new, technically credible Sage ethos.>
Pricing update: As well as quickening its speed of development, Sage is taking an aggressive approach to pricing to win new customers for its cloud suite. If the customer already uses Sage One Accountant Edition and the clients are Sage One users, the corporation tax module is free. For any firm that wants to prepare CT600s for non-Sage One users, the fee is £120.