Practice Talk: Billie McLoughlin from Harris, Lacey & Swain

Billie McLoughlin
Harris, Swain & Lacey
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Each week, AccountingWEB’s Practice Talk catches up with a different accountant in practice. This week we speak with Billie McLoughlin, business development manager at Harris, Lacey & Swain.

Last week we spoke with Richard Lacey, the owner of Harris, Lacey & Swain, and this week we stay in the same practice, only this time we’re speaking with the firm's business development manager.  

Billie McLoughlin is spearheading the firm’s Making Tax Digital preparations, and earlier this month it filed the first public MTD for VAT submission using Quickbooks. McLoughlin headed up mission control during the submission, and she told AccountingWEB that it had gone well and the client was even excited to take part.

The only hitch was a momentary pause due to HMRC’s communications when setting up an agent services account.

“HMRC doesn't have a direct MTD helpline,” she said. “So trying to get through to somebody that knows the ins-and-outs of it was quite difficult. Having said that, as soon as I got in touch with one particular lady she answered the question immediately and it was one sentence that I needed clarifying for the agent services account.”

But aside from that minor hiccup, everything turned out well in the end. Away from her MTD enthusiasm, McLoughlin also boasts one of the most impressive calculators to grace the Practice Talk pages. Stay tuned until the end to find out more. 

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As a firm what steps have you taken to being MTD ready?

Initially, we thought the best thing we could do is to practice what we preach. Immediately we put the firm's records onto cloud software.

Everybody in the firm became QuickBooks accredited. A select few went on to do the advanced accreditation. In a similar way, we have somebody in the office that's accredited on every cloud software. We are giving off the vibe of being software neutral.    

It's been important to ensure we have enough bookkeepers. These companies that will now have to put things on systems, they might not have the time or want to learn the new system. So we need to make sure we've got a backup plan and we can accommodate on their behalf. From there, we signed up to everything you can imagine to ensure we're up to date with all the updates.

We got the agent services account, registered for the pilot scheme and from there we were able to submit the first one.

What's the first thing you do when you start your working day?

Everybody now has their emails on their phone. You probably have checked your emails before you get into the office. You know what to expect before you arrive at your desk. If I am not on a course or visiting a client first thing, I'll come to the office and check my emails. You can't plan a day unless you know what's in your inbox.

So much focus is now on emails. For many, this spills into life beyond the traditional working hours. How do make sure emails are not overwhelming?

It could be overwhelming if you don't have control. We get a lot of emails, but they're not all five or six paragraphs. It might just be a sentence. It might be a question. It might just be a subject line. In terms of being overwhelming, if you looked at the quantity it could be but we have it under control and clients know where they are. As much as we say emails are the way we start our day, clients also call us about anything and we have an open door policy.

What do you do to escape the world of tax and accounts?

I like to travel. I like to go on exotic holidays with my partner.

Can you remember your first calculator?

I'm only 28 so mine was some crazy, statistical one for my studies. When I came to Harris, Lacey and Swain, I used the calculator my partner bought me as a joke. It's a gold Casio.

But I told him off because the nought-button wasn’t in the right place – I was so used to using the same calculator.

And that was when I knew that I'd become a boring accountant.

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.