Communicate with clients to make MTD work for you | AccountingWEB | image of a large group of people in a chat bubble
iStock-yuoak-communicating

Communicate with clients to make MTD work for you

by

In the fourth instalment of our ‘Taking control of Making Tax Digital’ series in association with Dext, we’ll explore how you can guide your clients through the transition to build closer relationships. 

6th Jan 2022
Product Domain Expert Dext
In association with
Share this content

The aim of this five article series is to give practitioners the confidence and skills to ensure that their practice and clients are ready for the opportunities and challenges that Making Tax Digital (MTD) presents.

Proactive communication

As mentioned in our very first article in the series, communication is key for reassuring your clients. 

There’s a lot of information, and misinformation, out there regarding Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment (MTD ITSA), much of which is confusing or concerning even for seasoned practitioners. Your clients rely on their trusted advisors to guide them through the world of tax and compliance, so it’s essential that you take a leading role.

Any period of uncertainty can be a worry for clients, and if you don’t let them know you’re in control of the situation, there is a chance they may look for reassurance elsewhere. But proactive communication doesn’t have to be complicated or intimidating. The key is to apply your knowledge of clients’ needs and habits to ensure that you connect with and inform them in the right way to drive action, retain business and allay any natural fears that the idea of change brings.

That starts with focusing on value, then the details. 

Focus on value

From your first indication that change will be required, through outlining timelines and executing your clients’ digital transition it’s important to keep value at the heart of your message. The ‘what’ of MTD ITSA is pragmatic and potentially uninspiring. However, the value that this change can bring to your clients and their business is huge.

This is where it pays to have a vision of where you want to be after the MTD ITSA transition, and how it’s going to help your customers. This becomes the core of your transition message and should be the basis of every discussion with your customers. 

For example, more regular recording of information could help you give them a clearer understanding of their tax responsibilities in advance, while increased automation could reduce the risk of invoicing errors. By choosing tools in your tech stack that make a tangible difference to their lives, you can help make this value more immediate and compelling.

The tone of communication is also important. While MTD ITSA is an externally mandated shift, positioning it as something that you’re being forced to do against your will is unlikely to inspire positive action in your clients.

Creating a communication plan

Your communications with your clients regarding MTD ITSA should work in tandem with the developments in the rest of your firm. Education in this scenario should be progressive and iterative rather than all at once, partly to avoid bombarding your clients with information, but also to enable your team to learn as you go.

By building a strategic approach to informing and educating your customers you can ensure that they stay in the loop and are aligned with activity in your team, helping you work together.

1 - Segment your customer base

Every business is different, and that applies to business owners as well. Some of your clients may be already working in a way that complies with the new regulations, while others may need more help and support. This will affect the way you communicate with them, in terms of information, approach and medium. Split them into distinct groups based on their needs, using factors such as:

  • When they will need to comply with MTD
  • How they currently keep their financial records
  • What kind of support they’ll need
  • How comfortable they are with technology
  • How they prefer you to communicate with them.

The more targeted your messaging, the easier it will be to inspire action.

2 - Phase your plan

Business owners are busy, and different clients will require differing amounts of time to onboard onto new systems and processes. Your different client segments can help guide your implementation timelines, devoting more time where it’s needed.

You may wish to handle all the ‘quick wins’ first of all - those clients who pose the least challenge - in order to spend more time with clients that need additional support. 

All schedules should build backwards from the deadline for MTD ITSA with an awareness that:

  • Clients take time to build new habits and change old ones
  • New software will take time to learn, both for your team and your customers
  • Clients will likely require multiple touchpoints to prioritise change.

3 - Optimise your medium for messages

You can mix and match mediums and approaches to increase the efficiency of your communication. For example, a general explainer video or virtual webinar to all your clients that covers the basics for MTD ITSA could be an engaging way to kick off your communications schedule, followed by more in-depth content according to the needs of your customers. 

4 - Track and measure progress

The end goal of communicating with clients is to drive action to ensure they are working compliantly and understand their obligations under MTD ITSA. All stages of your communications plan should have clear goals for each segment that move them closer to compliance. 

Just as with your internal process changes, it’s important to create visibility and accountability around this process to ensure your clients are moving forward. Ensure that you’ve mapped out key deadlines for informing clients of necessary actions, and also that your messages are driving actions, whether that’s in the form of meetings booked, software downloaded, training done or submitted returns.

Take control of your future

At Dext, we’re helping thousands of firms create future-ready processes that benefit clients, owners and the bottom line. No matter where you are on the journey towards compliance, time-saving technology, support and advice are always available from our expert team. 

Get in touch today to find out how you can take control of your future.

Replies (7)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
06th Jan 2022 16:38

I don't believe even HMRC is stupid enough to drive the tax system hard and full pelt at the brick wall that is MTD represents for small businesses whilst pretending its a bridge to a better future.

They might well swerve at the last minute as they have what 5 or 6 times already in the past 8 years?

Or will brakes will be applied when the screams at the back get loud enough (most of the passengers are not even aware of it yet), and only smash up the front of the bus and keep those small practitioners in the back only a hard jolt.

Or will they just laugh manically tell us to shut up, and keep pressing the accelerator until instead of heading to the promised land, the wall appears (as predicted by anyone who knows anything about small business and taxation) and Giles is sent straight through the windscreen smashing into it, and ensuing his career is over as the_man_who_broke_the_tax_system.

He seems smarter than that.

Thanks (3)
Replying to ireallyshouldknowthisbut:
avatar
By johnjenkins
07th Jan 2022 10:06

It's not up to him to make it work. So he's earned well and steps aside when it's all done. Sounds smart to me.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Open all hours
06th Jan 2022 18:25

MTD is an HMRC project. I’m sure they can’t wait to take the credit for its success. It is time to pass the responsibility of communication to them. There are thousands of unrepresented ‘customers’ who will hang on their every word.
Meanwhile, tonight, I will draft our weekly client email and it will feature : payments on account, deadlines, BlackBerry and Apple, farm subsidies, Goldman Sachs and Crypto, taxation of fuel, R&D, and New Year Honours.
MTD has been parked, by popular demand.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By Open all hours
06th Jan 2022 18:29

Duplicated due to substandard home broadband.

Thanks (0)
avatar
By AS44NG
07th Jan 2022 13:12

Paul, you were pleasantly modest in the promotion of Dext, so allow me ...

We have been using it for over a year and are thankful that it exists! Clients like it, which is a bonus. Its integration with Xero is a real bonus too.

For those who are still receiving all client invoices and expenses via the post I would suggest that you seriously look into using Dext/Xero. The time savings are incredible. With MTD for income taxes lurking we would not would have no chance in maintaining a level of service without Dext.

Paul, please make the cheque payable to ...

Thanks (1)
avatar
By adam.arca
09th Jan 2022 14:36

Jeez, I knew even before clicking on this article that it was going to be a mistake.

Totally fed up of this sort of article now, always saying pretty much the same thing. If I read one more time about segmenting my client base, I think I’ll scream. What do these people think accountants do at least once a week, every week of the year?

But this article goes further. Apparently we’re supposed to elect ourselves as HMRC’s cheerleaders and communicate the value of the MTD project to our clients? You do that, Paul, if you want to but I’ve got more respect for my professional integrity: clients would never believe a word I said ever again once they’ve stepped in this steaming morass of horse dung.

Once again, in words of one syllable for the hard of understanding:

THERE.IS.NO.VAL.UE.IN.M.T.D.

(Clearly, I’m talking generally there as, equally clearly, there will always be value in digitalisation for specific businesses where there specific circumstances warrant it).

Thanks (1)
Replying to adam.arca:
avatar
By johnjenkins
10th Jan 2022 09:12

MTD is two fold. The first is to get rid of the one man band and the second is to be able to track every transaction made by business. Now if HMRC were an organisation full of experts (Accountants and computer bods), then perhaps that might be achieved. As we are now, and in the next 15 years I cannot see it happening.
QU for the under £85k turnover? Never going to happen.

Thanks (0)