Firms price up MTD filing only service for change-averse clients

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As the reality of MTD for VAT hits home for many clients, some AccountingWEB members are pricing up a plan B service for those unwilling to change their processes.

In the time remaining, accountants are faced with an MTD for VAT choose-your-own-adventure – option one: step back and let the client get on with it. Or option two: offer a new hand-holding service.

Last week we heard how Peterlee-based firm The Bailey Group is slamming its foot down on the plan B accelerator. The firm’s CEO told AccountingWEB about his Making Tax Digital scan van plans. The idea is that the scanner-equipped van would visit businesses, scan their records and effectively “take the worry off them and do it for them”.

Elsewhere on AccountingWEB, practitioners are concocting their own plan Bs. AccountingWEB regular SteLacca has started to see change-averse clients getting “itchy about MTD”. Unlike their other clients who will file their own VAT returns with no problems, the straggler clients are looking for ways to remain compliant without changing their processes.

For those clients, the AccountingWEB member is set to offer a filing-only service. They don’t anticipate such a service to be too onerous. In fact, they imagine it would only take between 10-15mins. As a result the clients can carry on as they did before while their VAT return is filed in an MTD compliant fashion. Everybody’s a winner, right?

As the discussion unravelled, this service produces a couple of issues. The first being how you’d price such service, but secondly, there is a chance that such a service could tie you later down the road.

The AccountingWEB community was split. AccountingWEB member Wanderer voiced a concern that such a service “ties you into something that's very time critical, for a number of clients, four times a year”.

Those not committing to this long term arrangement are using what time is left to double down on education.

Lionofludesch, who is spared from this rollout, said they’d be educating the client on how to submit rather than shaking hands on something they might regret later down the road. “It’s more expensive at the outset but it'll be more convenient and cheaper in the long run,” they advised. “I'd guess the client would be better off within a year.”

AccountingWEB member NH is also avoiding this idea, too. They’re insisting their clients use the software. “We have gone to each client and shown them the benefits to all concerned, so far no one wants to stick with spreadsheets.”

And Wanderer is another making their clients responsible. Of course, they’ll help them along the way but the ultimate responsibility on an ongoing basis is left with the clients.

But firms are offering this service. For example, SJRUK is also putting their weight behind a file-only service: “The clients that use spreadsheets seem to be adverse to software and therefore we will use our bridging software to file - or that's the plan.”

While the pricing is still being considered for some, the consensus hit somewhere between £40-to-£60. But with that, PaulinLeeds explained, the firm needs to request, review, file, email and bill. “It's not just press the button and file any rubbish,” said Paul. “I would never just submit without a bit of review work.”

However, the agreed price underwent scrutiny from the AccountingWEB members who are leaving it to the client.

“If you are going to review them you need to at least treble those fees,” said Tom7000. “Or you will be chasing your tail when you get 30 returns 90 minutes before you go home on a Friday, which is deadline day.”

However, Ireallyshouldknowthisbut called Tom’s additional £100 review charge a result of “poor client management”. “If you file VAT (which we do) you have to have clear deadlines. 75%+ of our VAT comes in the first week of the month,” they argued.

But for those sniffing at who’d ask for that kind of service, PaulinLeeds answered: Many clients pay for things that they can do, but just not wish to do it or simply value their accountant doing the work. I can clean my house, the windows, do the decorating and the garden. However, I chose to let others do some of these.”

What camp do you sit? Are your clients dragging their feet? Are you going to offer a similar service?

About Richard Hattersley

Richard Hattersley

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

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By Matrix
25th Feb 2019 20:10

I would not want to file as agent if I had not prepared the return, how do you price in the risk?

Thanks (3)
to Matrix
26th Feb 2019 11:15

Simple - don't be a *"[***]". You are only providing a mechanical service.

If something looks odd, say so.

* Edited because the system replaced the cat with asterisks. Let's see if this gets through the censor

Nope. I was referring to a little cat, nothing worse

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By Matrix
to davidross
26th Feb 2019 11:39

But how do you know if it looks odd if you haven't checked the return? And if you are checking the return then it isn't a filing only service.

Thanks (1)
to Matrix
26th Feb 2019 13:17

You are filing as agent. Your engagement letter can be clear on your and the client responsibilities.

I generally don't prepare my clients' accounting records, but I can still prepare, review and file their accounts and tax returns!

You can quickly review a list of transactions for anything looking odd (as an accountant I do this all the time). You can compare with previous quarters. You can check the VAT return to the TB to see if the two agree.

For simple VAT returns e.g. on Excel cashbook how difficult is it to review the list of transactions and that it adds up etc and the calculated c/f bank balance (b/f + income - payments) equals the actual quarter end bank statement.

Would you push away a client asking for your help. I find people send their VAT returns evenly between week 2 and week 4 of the month.

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By Matrix
to paulinleeds
26th Feb 2019 17:47

That is not a filing only service though. And I wouldn't charge £40 for this.

Thanks (2)
26th Feb 2019 14:00

I would be keen to know the cost of the scan van turning up and doing your invoices in the car park.

Instead of the shoe box coming to you, your going to the shoebox.

I wouldn't want to do a filing only service as clients will expect it for next to nothing and it will be difficult to manage as you have no control of the information coming in.

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to Glennzy
26th Feb 2019 15:07

My original question on AA was specifically clients who are maintaining, e.g. a spreadsheet, but are currently incapable of finishing off and filing in an MTD compliant fashion. We then simply get the spreadsheeet and, using bridging software, wrap it up.

As for clients expecting it for nothing, that's simply a case of managing client's expectations. If we tell them at the outset, we can do, and it will cost you £X, then they don't expect it for nothing, anymore. They expect it for £X.

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to SteLacca
27th Feb 2019 10:17

Each to there own, but I cannot see it being something I would want to get involved in.

You are basically transferring the clients numbers onto your system then filing them. A 10 minute task.

Even the value pricing boys would struggle to talk that task up.

For £40 a return against the admin burden of managing the process, information in at last minute etc, is just not worth it.

You can get too bogged down in small tasks like this.

Surely people who file themselves now will just get some software to do the filing for them.

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26th Feb 2019 22:00

Ive been talking to other Accountants and they are all saying that this CANT work. What on earth are HMRC trying to do. The concept of MTD does not need to include digital records keeping and could be just an estimate of profit four times a year with a final adjustment at the year end. Expecting this kind of overkill is a complete disgrace and bought in with no education of formal notice by letter is criminal .

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