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MTD - Why is no one talking about spreadsheets ?

MTD - Why is no one talking about spreadsheets ?

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As my client base is predominantly small businesses using spreadsheets to maintain their accounting records I was delighted when HMRC announced that spreadsheets would be accepted for MTD purposes, but I am becoming increasingly concerned by the general silence on the spreadsheet option for MTD since the announcement was made in January. 

Like every other accountant I am being bombarded on a daily basis with invitations to MTD webinars, seminars, meetings and conferences hosted by every software provider under the sun who, of course, make little or no mention of the spreadsheet option in their presentations.

I am aware that in using spreadsheets there will need to be some sort of software interface to enable the MTD submissions, but as yet I haven't heard any  discussions on where, when, how or who to go to for more information about this.

Am I the only accountant who would like to pursue the spreadsheet option as a low cost, familiar, and easy to use, option for their clients ? and can anyone point me in the right direction for more information on this topic.




Replies (12)

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By Tim Vane
08th Sep 2017 12:06

Spreadsheets will be the primary option for large numbers of firms.

The MTD agenda has been hijacked and driven by the software suppliers. Clearly it is not in their interest to encourage the use of spreadsheets, especially as they have spent such large amounts on software that they will say you just can't do without.

That's why you won't hear much about it. But don't worry, it's still going to be option numero uno for large swathes of the business community.

Thanks (1)
James Byrne
By jamesbyrne
08th Sep 2017 13:22

I agree with you that spreadsheets are a low cost, familiar and easy to use option. The key is turning an Excel spreadsheet into a trial balance. Once you have a quick way to do that, you can just use Taxfiler to produce a final set of accounts and file them. We're currently in discussions with Taxfiler about an integration.

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Replying to jamesbyrne:
By D V Fields
09th Sep 2017 22:34


?.. The key is turning an Excel spreadsheet into a trial balance.

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By DMGbus
08th Sep 2017 13:24

On AWeb there was an article last month stating that Clearbooks have an Excel option for MTD, see:

Spreadsheets for micro businesses

Clear Books Micro is built around a free online accounting spreadsheet for small businesses and provides a first step into a managed spreadsheet environment that can file data for MTD.

“Clear Books Micro will look very familiar to the small businesses that currently use spreadsheets and it is a very simple way for them to record basic accounting data. They can log their sales invoices, log the money that is coming into the business, and their expenditure as they run the business,” said Sayers.


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Replying to DMGbus:
By Paul Scholes
11th Sep 2017 10:13

That's right - it's in Beta testing at the moment but the client will have online spreadsheets to keep the books and CB are releasing a "practice edition" of the software where the accountant can use CB's full bookkeeping features with the spreadsheets.

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Replying to Paul Scholes:
By andy.partridge
18th Sep 2017 10:00

I have not been a big fan of CB but I have to admit this looks interesting. Thanks Paul.

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Locutus of Borg
By Locutus
08th Sep 2017 14:19

The Treasury/HMRC stated objectives for MTD always seemed unconvincing to me.

Following the proposed changes and delays it makes even less sense.

If I understand the current proposals correctly, MTD has largely been scaled back so that VAT returns currently filed electronically, will be filed electronically in a different way from April 2019. I'm not sure what that achieves for anyone.

Perhaps MTD will just fizzle out altogether.

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17th Sep 2017 10:33

Yes, we need an interface for MTD VAT and MTD A/cs. However nothing fancy will do! All I need for my clients is a manual interface as my excel cashbook already produces the MTD figures both for VAT an A/cs.

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By SteveHa
17th Sep 2017 15:47

Why was this posted anonymously?

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By Tornado
18th Sep 2017 00:33

I think HMRC will ultimately require full audit trails to be filed in a standard format (MTD complaint software) so that they have the ability to see EVERY transaction that has been entered when they read the information in their inspection software. This is not too difficult to achieve even at the moment as most software will produce a full audit trail but not necessarily in a standard format, hence the requirement to use approved MTD compliant software.

The problem with spreadsheets, as I see it, is that any information extracted from spreadsheets will also need to be in an audit trail format which will probably be impossible for most small businesses to achieve.

If it was just a matter of extracting key totals from spreadsheets and placing those in some kind of MTD template then that would be easier to achieve, but that only provides totals and not detail. Basically the same that many businesses, already do but not nearly detailed enough for MTD.

Whilst the spreadsheet option will be attractive to very many people, I fear that the requirements to interface with MTD compliant software will be impossible to achieve for the majority of spreadsheet users, also bearing in mind the variety of different accounting spreadsheet designs and indeed the numerous different spreadsheet programs in use. Not everyone uses Excel.

The Government have been very quiet on this particular point, probably because they don't know how to get around it themselves, and we STILL wait to read about the detail.

What a dire project MTD is as we bumble along from one uncertainty to another. Very sad.

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18th Sep 2017 12:52

VT runs inside excel and will be MTD compliant in due course.

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By djtax
19th Sep 2017 10:19

I attended an HMRC online Thursday last week on the latest re MTD (and learned not a lot!), including the requirement for VAT returns to be submitted under MTD from April 2019 when the existing HMRC online VAT process will cease (possibly only for those with turnover over £85000?). The use of spreadsheets in this context was raised as a query but HMRC were very unclear in their response. It sounded as if spreadsheets would be OK provided you used some other MTD compatible software alongside - which seemed to be a contradictory response! But who ever gets a clear response from HMRC on anything these days....

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