Checklists, don't you just love them? There's something sadly satisfying for an auditor to tick his or her way through some sort of checklist, or at least there was during my big firm audit training days.
These days we have largely forgotten them in smaller, general practices. For one thing, they take chargeable time to fill in and usually add nothing of value as far as the client is concerned. Secondly, 'checklist fatigue' invariably sets in after a few minutes and the user simply ticks the yes boxes mechanically with little or no reference to the actual questions. And, of course, a lot of the old checklist functions have been replaced by clever computer software which can check for a lot of basic company accounts disclosures, and can highlight issues in tax returns.
So we've been pretty sceptical of HMRC's tax toolkits. They may be useful as a training tool, but should we be using them on every job? Well apparently the advice from a number of tax experts is "yes".
I can see the logic: the checklists enable us to demonstrate that we are working to the required standard. Perhaps not the only way to do that, but an easy solution - if you or your staff have the time and patience to complete them conscientiously.
The only way to find out is to give them a try, so we have combined the main HMRC toolkits into a series of checklists that the personal and corporate tax teams can use on every job initially. What we don't know is how long they are going to take, or the impact on chargeable time and workflow. They will initially create quite a bit of non-chargeable time, so we'll have to monitor that and make sure they are not significantly reducing the speed of throughput of jobs. Managers have also been tasked to monitor the "no" answers - are there areas where we are consistently omitting something or getting things wrong? If so, we can spend some time on training to prevent this recurring.
But if it degenerates into mindless box ticking we'll have to think again.
Has anyone else had a go at the HMRC Toolkits, or the SWAT tax compliance checklists which are based on but expand their scope? And, if so, are you still using them? It would be interesting to know.