Aug 2019: High noon for MTD

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High noon for MTD is going to fall next week as quarterly filers attempt to file their first mandatory VAT returns under the new regime. Head of insight John Stokdyk sets the scene for the big showdown.

In June we noticed a visible lull in MTD traffic as members dallied with other priorities. But the late June surge around the “What next for MTD?” theme continued through July, with articles and Any Answers queries cropping up regularly around MTD mechanics and latterly the workings (or otherwise) of HMRC’s Agent Services Account.

The portents point to a short, sharp period of stress around this first MTD meltdown filing season. Rather than prioritising marketing for this period, we would encourage any software developers in this sector to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to customer service as there are going to be a lot of accountants hanging on the lines.

Customer service spikes and problems can often be turned into topical content that will appeal to the wider profession. If you encounter and solve an MTD filing issue among your customers, it is also likely to affect other accountants. Putting out a quick alert and workaround can save other filers a lot of anguish and raise your profile as a proactive, supportive software supplier. 

Given the large number of searches we saw for MTD flat rate VAT software we saw last week, “How to handle the VAT flat-rate scheme under MTD” would be a good starting point. And remember, there will be mini-replays of the August teething pains in early September and October as the next filing groups submit their returns.

There is life beyond MTD, however, and looking ahead to the rest of the month we’re already seeing concerns rising within the community about three major issues in the pipeline:

  • Finance Bill 2020 - The consultation period for next year’s bill runs until early September and passions are building around the proposed clauses implementing off-payroll rules for private sector engagements. 

  • VAT reverse charge for builders - This new measure to cut VAT evasion in the construction industry will come into effect on 1 October and the level of anguish it is likely to provoke can be judged by a 10x increase in Any Answers traffic around the issue since May. There is plenty of scope to emulate Neil Warren’s approach of advising builders (and their accountants) about how it will affect them.

  • The European Union was the third fastest growing topic of debate within the community over the past two months. With 90 days to go before the expected departure date, UK accountants are finally getting their heads around the technical ramifications. This is another area where they will welcome well informed technical support on specific issues.

There was a time when journalists used to talk about the August media silly season. For accountants this year, it will be anything but. The level of frustration and stress being experienced is unprecedented and unlikely to subside over the next few months.

Suppliers to the profession will earn their fees this month if they can lessen the burden customers feel when coping with a barrage of regulatory changes. This is a particularly important period to let them know by every means you can that you are there for them when they need you. 

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