No prizes for guessing what subjects topped our traffic charts in January 2020. But the immersive fog of tax-season makes it difficult to spot the issues that will fill the post-deadline vacuum. John Stokdyk hunts out the meaningful trends.
Overall, self assessment-related traffic swelled to more than 113,000 hits during January, with surges in Any Answers discussions around a range of related compliance topics including capital allowances, property tax, accounts production and benefits in kind.
Last year was notable not just for the scale of compliance change brought on by Making Tax Digital for VAT, but the volume of other issues jostling for attention such as the VAT reverse charge for construction, the loan charge, IR35 off payroll rules and, of course, Brexit.
Political turmoil has parked a few of the more contentious tax issues for now, so we could hope for a quieter year on the regulatory front. But don’t bank on it. Just looking ahead over the next two months to the beginning of the new tax year, there’s already a chunky menu of changes to stimulate anxiety within the profession. And the Budget on 11 March is odds-on to introduce a few more.
Starting with a comparatively clean slate after the Christmas lull and January rush makes it a little more difficult to pick the biggest issues that will emerge during the next month, but we can certainly make a few calculated guesses.
Contenders for attention in February
European Union - Even before the last tax returns were filed on deadline day, the UK officially severed its ties with the European Union at 11pm on 31 January. We did see an increase in EU-related traffic last month, but it was way down the scale compared to tax issues. That situation is likely to change in February and March as businesses encounter specific niggles with EU VAT, import duties and other unexpected surprises. Start pre-empting and briefing them on those issues now, before they escalate.
Budget preparations - Turning to our crystal ball for February, we can see interest awakening in the Budget on 11 March. Not only is it the first big financial statement for 16 months, it will also tell us more about where Boris Johnson’s government plans to take business and tax policy over the next five years.
IR35 – The government’s private sector off-payroll review triggered a spike in mid-January, but the main lesson to emerge from the announcement was that the implementation of rules that already apply to the public sector will proceed as planned from 6 April. Momentum behind this issue is sure to continue building as practitioners consider the implications and engagers and contractors wrestle with their options.
Practice management - Spring is the traditional time when practitioners come out of their busy season bunkers and start looking for tools and techniques to make things work more smoothly next year. The topic dropped off the radar in December, but started climbing back to prominence in January. We’ve also seen in the past how the dreaded MTD effect slowed down investment in new initiatives. This lull was particularly evident in marketing activity, which went through an enthusiastic, but uncontrolled period of expansion in the preceding years. If you are a vendor serving this influential group of AccountingWEB members, focusing attention on things like workflow, CRM and effective (ie measured and managed) marketing would be a good bet for rising demand in the next few months.
AccountingWEB’s editorial team will be reporting from a number of roadshows and conferences over the next few months, so we’ll be doing our part to stoke interest in all of these subjects.
Advertisers subscribing to our Insight Exchange service are invited to a webinar on 18 February, where our content team will explore the underlying traffic trends and pass on practical advice on how to get the most out of your interactions with the AccountingWEB community.