I was interested to see that two readers have commented on my last post to say they won't accept new clients unless those clients are prepared to use online software.
I have heard about accountants who go a step further than that and refuse to accept new clients unless they use a particular package (Xero in one case, FreeAgent in another, Sage One in a third case). MTD is definitely one reason for this, but, as one friend told me, that's just an added incentive. She's had a Xero-only practice for years and loves the uniformity of everyone using the same system. "It means I only have to know one piece of software. I don't have to spend time looking up how to generate a trial balance in this system and a P&L in that system. And I know where clients typically make mistakes, so I can tailor my training to that, and I can find errors really easily because I know the software so well."
That's compared to us having to know any system that a client happens to bring in.
I was chatting with Paul and Maria about whether there's any chance of our practice going the same way - having just one or two systems that we'll accept clients on, and weeding out the others. Paul's sceptical sniff had Maria offering to lend him a handkerchief. "No chance."
"Not even with MTD coming in?"
"MTD won't make any difference. You know what I think about that, Allie. MTD isn't even going to be compulsory for VAT until April 2020 - "
"2019, Paul," interrupted Maria.
"You want to read your papers more carefully, young lady. No penalties till 2020. Soft landing. So it won't really become compulsory until April 2020."
"It'll be the law from 2019!"
"You're both right," I tried to calm matters down. "Go on, Paul. MTD's not going to be attracting penalties till 2020. So? That's less than 2 years away now."
"Yes but a lot can happen in 2 years. Brexit's going to be a complete train wreck. By the time the Revenue have finished sorting all that lot out, they won't have time for MTD. It'll just get forgotten about."
"Are we really safe to assume that?"
"Yes we are."
"But even if MTD doesn't go ahead, wouldn't it be great to only have to know one system? Not to have to find out how to get reports from any system you can think of?"
"Alice. How well do you know old Henry? Can you really see him sacking clients who don't use the system he wants?"
"No, Paul," I had to admit. "I can't."
"Well then, shut up and get on with your reconciliation. And make me a cup of tea while you're at it."
"I can't do a reconciliation and make you a cup of tea, you silly man."
"You're a woman aren't you? You can multi-task."
"If I spill tea on these papers then Jack will be furious. Go and get your own tea, you male chauvinist pig."
So Paul got his cup of tea and I got cold water thrown on my vision of an ideal practice. Maybe when Henry retires things will be different.