Director Principle Point
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MTD videos: The good, the bad and the ugly

27th Jun 2019
Director Principle Point
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Making Tax Digital has inspired accountants and software vendors to unleash their inner Kubrick and spread the word via video.

Self-professed accounting video aficionado Richard Sergeant sharpens his pencil and rates the best and worst of the bunch.

Accountants making videos is a bit of a love-hate thing for me. On the one hand there is the baffling and wonderful and on the other hand the patronising and frankly boring.

In recent months video marketing has become a hot topic once again. An Any Answers discussion last week mirrored a conversation I had with some old accounting friends about the energy, effort, cost and reward of investing in videos for both social channels and websites. 

Reactions it would be fair to say were profoundly mixed. But generally, the consensus felt videos are a tremendously good idea, great fun to do, and usually produced a fair amount of mirth across the office but not much else.

In trying to restore some of its reputation, I have searched YouTube and Vimeo for the one area that accountants have had an identifiable need to talk to their clients about in recent times: Making Tax Digital.

The MTD videos vary in quality from Citizen Kane to Plan 9 from Outer Space, but even accountancy's video Razzies should help you storyboard your Making Tax Digital blockbuster.

Is it my eyes or your production? 

Accounting firm Streets has put a lot of thought into this video, and I admire its simple factual approach. It’s well delivered, professionally done, unobtrusive and mercifully short and even has some nifty visual effects that render the presenter completely blurry. Perhaps it’s the artistic statement we need for MTD, but this effect caused my eyes to wonder where I should focus. It is a shame that it has only clocked 21 views since March.

Don’t fear the autocue

This one starts well for the big boys of Deloitte, and the agency responsible for the opening animation should be proud. Albert Fleming from Deloitte’s tax team talks us through the digital submission requirements under HMRC’s Making Tax Digital for VAT, but he becomes progressively terrified of the autocue as he does so. At 850 views, it proves that size really doesn’t matter.


“Oh my God, you killed the paper tax return!”

In my top five without doubt is this wonderful comedic effort by HJP Chartered Accountants, which manages to turn digital tax submission into a parody of South Park. It includes some rather risque allusion to exactly what MTD might stand for, all without Kenny getting it in the end too. Still only 154 views, though  

No dread, no view

BR Accounting and Business Services caught me hook, line and sinker here. With the hashtag #MTDready I was convinced I was about to get the reggae version of conforming to HMRC standards. But instead, we are treated to a considerable artistic feast. Someone had a lot of fun putting this together (obviously minus points for the music in the end), and for what end? Three views.

But can the vendors do any better?

The right tool for the job

This well crafted promotional push by BTCSoftware for fits the bill and is sterling work by a fine local agency. I can smell the storyboard from here, and tweaking and perfecting the subtle twists to match form with content. A classic from this multi award-winning provider, but with views currently at 213, it hasn't won the eye of the accounting profession yet.

Action thriller, eyeball stealer

QuickBooks goes full out action production on this Linkedin advert. I love it. The thrills, spills, and complete lack of detail. With 2.8K views, all you need to know is that MTD is easy “even in the back of a taxi doing donuts”.

What did I miss?

Xero takes a short and sweet approach, answering specific questions in under 40 seconds. The presenter doesn't hang around, which I have to confess completely threw me. Oh, hang on we’re off! At 3.4K views, I suspect many watched it at least twice just to grasp what’s going on.

Wake up at the back!

In contrast, Kashflow went with the Lynyrd Skynyrd live version of Free Bird long format. I’m afraid I struggled to get past 2:05 minutes. Perhaps the whopping four-plus minute run time is to blame for its slim 265 views.

The winner?

For my money, and those seeking identifiable ROI, Tax Optimiser shuns the high production values but gets a verifiable sales lead (see the comments) while blistering the pack with a mighty 4.8K views. Tax Optimiser shows that homespun gold can be just as effective.


The only winner

Inevitably, the star prize goes to HMRC who like the proverbial casino always seems to win when it comes to MTD. “What is compatible software?” It’s the question many of us have pondered over the last 18 months, and for this reason, the video has racked up an unassailable 61.5K views.

So, given the clear blue digital water between HMRC and the rest of the pack, should firms and vendors have even bothered? Could the money have been better spent elsewhere and just pointed clients to the tax authority channel instead?

Replies (5)

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By johnhemming
28th Jun 2019 06:29

I am a bit hurt that none of my videos appeared in your review. They are different in style because I use gamecasting software simply to create a training video. However, this one:
On digital links has 8,533 views (including 16 likes) and
This one
on submitting a vat return has 3,420 view

Thanks (2)
Replying to johnhemming:
Richard Sergeant
By Richard Sergeant
28th Jun 2019 10:04

Johnhemming - a class all of their own. And look at the comments!

To be fair, the patience of the editors is probably tested enough with this effort to add to my pulitzer portfolio, so I would count yourself lucky!

Thanks (0)
Replying to rsergeant:
By johnhemming
28th Jun 2019 11:51

Only a bit hurt, however.

What I have done is a few training videos looking at how the HMRC gateway works in terms of removing authorities and the like.

As you can probably tell I do these videos on a single pass without a script. There are in fact 31 of them, but only a few with thousands of views.

Thanks (1)
By EnglishRose
28th Jun 2019 17:08

This is another awful thing about MTD HMRC going on about videos - they mention them again in their letter to Nick Morgan today about MTD problems.

I will not be watching a single video. I want free software from HMRC or ideally carry on with paper records.

Thanks (1)
Replying to EnglishRose:
By johnhemming
28th Jun 2019 21:40

According to HMRC there are at last 11 organisations providing free software.

Here, for example, is a video which demonstrates how you can use software replacing paper records with a cashbook to do MTD

Is that sort of video a complete waste of time?
(it lasts 4 minutes)

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