Welcome to Tech Talk, a monthly catch-up with an accountant in practice to find out the effect that technological changes have had on the industry over the years.
This month we spoke with Alastair McKillop, who started as a sole practitioner in 2015. He provides his clients with corporation tax, self-assessment, VAT, payroll, CIS and other compliance services.
Alastair, what’s the first piece of technology you interact with when you step inside your office? That would be my email account. Possibly followed by my phone because it is my mobile office as such because everything I do in there is work related, including text messages, WhatsApp, and I use all those apps a lot for work-related purposes.
Can you tell us about the tech set up within your practice? I use Thomson Reuters’ Onvio for my document storage and client files and Digita for accounts production, which is connected to personal tax, corporation tax, etc. Recently, I have also started using Onvio VAT as a bridging solution for Making Tax Digital.
What three considerations did you make when choosing the technology for your practice? I was a customer of a different provider when I started as a sole practitioner. It was the software we were using in the previous practice where I worked, so I was happy to just go along with it. I did that for the first two years and the first thing that triggered that change was the oncoming General Data Protection Regulation. That’s when I started looking at other solutions and seeing what was available other than the software I was currently using.
I then talked with the team at Thomson Reuters who told me they had a cloud based solution. I realised that would be a massive advantage to me in terms of when I work and where I work from.
My previous provider didn't have a cloud-based solution for taxation or accounts production so, although the initial trigger was GDPR, once I saw Thomson Reuters' cloud-based software and the Onvio document storage system, I knew that was what I wanted.
As a sole practitioner, it's fantastic to be able to use it to work wherever and whenever you want. All my clients' files are stored on Onvio and I have access to them on my phone at all times. When you are a sole practitioner, you don't have the luxury of back-up staff to help you, and also clients now expect instant replies with answers to their queries.
You have to be able to have those documents at your fingertips. My clients would never know if I was at work, having a day off or even away on holiday because, regardless of when they ring me or what they are looking for, I always have access to everything I need, wherever I am.
What do you think is the biggest issue in accountancy that technology can help with? I think that would be the burden of compliance and deadlines that are constantly being pushed on to the accountant. Time and again clients are passing more and more administration on to ourselves and that's where technology helps and allows us to solve these issues at any time of the day or night.
Can you tell me about a recent project or process that you made better, faster, smarter or more efficient? That would be the recent changes to VAT and return filing with MTD. For my clients, I am using bridging software and that has improved the way clients record and keep their VAT records.
It has given me the opportunity to design a VAT spreadsheet that they can use. By bringing that onboard I was able to tidy some clients up and make their VAT records more useful and easier to use.