With all the attention devoted to HMRC’s Making Tax Digital project in recent weeks, one question begging for answers is, “What role are accountants and tax advisers going to play in the new regime?”
On Monday 24 October, AccountingWEB in association with Thomson Reuters will tackle that topic on the first day of our innovative online conference.
HMRC’s consultation documents set out the basic outline for online digital reporting, plus simplification and legislative changes that will be put in place before quarterly reporting starts for unincorporated businesses from April next year.
After reviewing the consultation documents Thompson Reuters tax product manager Mark Purdue set out his concerns for AccountingWEB: “There was very little information in the documents about agent access. One example they gave was of a client logging into software and clicking a button to authorise data.
“I think that is going to be an administrative headache for all concerned. Part of the reason you have an accountant to look after your affairs is you don’t have to look at day-to-day stuff.”
Purdue will be taking part in the Making Tax Digital sessions in October alongside Rebecca Benneyworth, who as chair of the Digital Advisory Group tasked with advising HMRC is keen to collect robust feedback for the tax department from small businesses and practitioners.
Benneyworth has made it clear in previous interviews and talks that she supports the idea of Making Tax Digital, but wants to ensure that HMRC understands the role that tax agents play in making the whole system work, and that there will be tools and processes in place that allow practitioners to provide digital tax services to clients.
The tax system depends hugely on practitioners who help thousands of small businesses with their tax affairs. As it makes the transition to digital services, HMRC will need their support more than ever to educate the wider public on how their responsibilities will change under the new system.
“I think the perception is that clients aren’t going to be ready,” said Purdue. “If you ask an accountant, they will say they are able to cope - but only as far as their clients will be able to cope. I think accountants have to take some responsibility to educate the client, as does HMRC.”
Most accountants are conscious they need to talk to clients about MDT, he continued, but as soon as they do, they will face questions. Until last week, there was little tangible information to give them. The consultation documentation changed all that.
“I think they have given enough to identify the clients you do need to talk to and there’s a lot more info around how the process is going to work,” Purdue said.
The Practice Excellence Live! sessions on Monday 24 October will equip practitioners for the next stages on their MTD journey. The first session at 11am will set out where things stand now with the digital tax initiative, while the 2pm session will look more towards the future challenges. Here are the details for each:
10am: What is MTD and what do you need to know now A clear sighted-assessment of the regime as currently set out by HMRC with feedback from our survey of AccountingWEB members - Project timetable - Quarterly reporting mechanics - The proposals will have most impact on businesses and accountancy firms - Are clients ready? - What you should tell them now
2pm: The impact of MTD on your accounting firm and clients - How well prepared are clients - Survey findings - Unincorporated reporting simplification - Post-MTD practice technology and process challenges - Client education and training - Is your firm ready? What you should be thinking about now
Each session will be broadcast from our pop-up film studio and steamed live.
If you'd like to find out more about Making Tax Digital, click here to register for our live digital MTD conference. Practice Excellence LIVE takes place on 24-27 October running at 10am and 2pm, and our expert speaker line-up is due to be announced soon.
AccountingWEB is working with Thomson Reuters Digita to collate the profession's feedback to the MTD consultation documents. You can participate in our quick survey here to share your thoughts. The survey responses will feed directly in to the official AccountingWEB response to the consultation documents.