Member Since: 9th Aug 2001
27th Jun 2016
Getting rid of VAT and evolving into a 21st century "purchase tax" at the end of the sales cycle may be another opportunity to slash costs and the state.
17th Feb 2015
the song says, it's not what you do, it's the way that you do it
After 6 years in use, we moved last year from INVU to Linden House.
Linden House did the conversion and the "old" INVU history is readily available via Linden House's Virtual Cabinet.
Virtual Cabinet is a peach if you can connect with your client database - our client bedrock is ACT! We find it a joy, easier and quicker in functionality in use because we can scan, file and search using the ACT! link and ACT! client record.
The digital sign-off with the Virtual Cabinet is such a big plus and has transformed the way that we work. We got Mercia to design some tax and accounts front covers for us and now issue tax returns as a PDF inside what we call a "Tax Binder" consisting of:
Mercia's front cover plus 2 page comment (an ACT! Template) consisting of comment, payment methods, timescales, instructions, retention etc.Tax Graph - income breakdown and tax as % of income.SA302 substitute.Data Input sheets (courtesy of BTC) and supporting documents followed by theSA100
All of the above is created digitally, "merged" using Adobe Acrobat, issued digitally via the Virtual Cabinet, signed and approved digitally, returned and filed digitally inside Virtual Cabinet and easily accessible through the ACT! record. The principle is no different with AR01's, accounts, and payroll - all sent and approved digitally via Virtual Cabinet.
Our new TAX Binder has been well received - was described by one client as "superb" - and some of our savvy clients are uploading documents through their Virtual Cabinets straight to our desktops.
We were prompted to move to Virtual Cabinet by concerns over Data Security sending PDF files by email, the swingeing fines should breaches arise because of error, the validity of approvals by email in general, issues surrounding RTI approvals and timescales, postal costs and a wish to "up our game".
The ground was prepared with our clients beforehand and both the presentation and delivery has gone down very well with our clients arriving (as it did) at the time of the eBay and Sony hackings. The topic of data security has proved to be a big concern to our clients - with some flatly refusing to use Dropbox considering it unsafe - and I think we got the timing dead right.
To such an extent that 9 months on , we have increased our fees by 4% this year - with a direct reference to increases in software costs because of the increases in compliance and data security - and no-one has demurred, one commenting as she signed "Well Peter, you have spent such a lot of money this year protecting us .....".
All in all, a "win-win" scenario as our clients are now paying for what they perceive as added extra value, we've got better working practices and data-security, and we are paying less than we did for INVU. Linden House support is good as well.
As background, in addition to the ACT! database bedrock, the software we use is VT accounts, Payroll Manager, BTC and Absolute (IRIS) Company Secretarial software although we are now starting to introduce Kashflow having moved the practice accounts over. The auto-reminders don't half get the money in sharpish.
I am a sole practitioner with one member of staff on a 4 day 25 hour week, with 2 others working a one day - 5-6 hours a week.
Happy to post the client communication that prepared clients for the change if of interest to anyone.
26th Nov 2014
be careful what you wish for (2)
not forgetting that pension income may very well be taxed at a much higher rate than the tax relief originally obtained delivering a breach of the trust implied - because there would be few that would have saved with a 20% bonus on the way in had they known they were to be smacked with a 30% charge on the way out.
26th Nov 2014
Be careful what you wish for ..........
amalgamation of the 2 supposes higher tax rates for pensioners with the introduction of this "new" NI supplement.
20th Jun 2014
We have been archiving for 7 years know - originally with INVU, but recently transferred to Virtual Cabinet taking all of our previous history with us. The document search and retrieve facility of the new Vcab filings and old INVU archive is superb.
We find Vcab outstanding - the scan, search and file interface with our client Database (ACT!) is jaw-droppingly easy. The simplicity of getting any document from any software (BTC/VT) into Vcab is so straightforward - just saving to mapped drive/folder leading to the inbox. Unprompted, we are finding that clients are starting to upload documents into Vcab that arrive and appear in the inbox.
Perhaps this was a response to the explanatory preparing the ground email and usage notes we sent out.
The ability to load several documents in to the inbox, sort and merge into one before publishing to the client is incredibly useful and is changing the way we work. Approvals such as RTI and AR01's are now quickly and digitally received and we are now only mailing 6 letters a week as the franking machine gathers dust and is on notice.
I think the postage/paper/toner cost savings from Vcab means that the cost will come down to about a £10 a month but I'm not pushing for time savings. They will come, but for the moment we are spending the same amount of time working simpler, smarter, and better.
In the longer term, I suspect that (as elsewhere) the mailing of sensitive documents as .PDF attachments will be prohibited, and the business and financial consequences of us, however unwittingly, breaching data protection are unthinkable. Fifty bob a week is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
As a "silver-surfer" I'm finding that my younger clients are techno-smart and rather than being left behind or suffer the indignity of my 'blakeys' sparking as I'm dragged across the car park towards the internet highway I've cheerfully embraced the technology my clients are using and used it as a USP with new clients.
"Have you heard about the cyber attack on Ebay? What would be the impact on your life should you suffer from your identity being stolen? What do you think would be the financial cost to you of identity theft? As holders of your most sensitive, personal information - on a scale of 1-10, how important to you is it that your accountant protects your private information?
Given the importance you place on personal Data Security, if we can show you that we can help protect you against identity theft by offering you Bank level Security on all sensitive communications would you be prepared to go ahead?"
We are finding that spelling out our new USP is an effective way of getting our fifty-bob back.
Finally, we benefited from a 2-3 week soft start with payroll clients for the document portal use and upgraded the Monitors to 27" from 2*19" per desk.
This has helped immeasurably with Vcab always in the background with smaller normal size windows riding on top as required.
2nd Jul 2013
Try Zen - excellent customer service.
15th Mar 2013
I was over-promised and undelivered.
15th Mar 2013
... as a past TAA franchisee
it cost me nearly as much to buy myself out as it did to get in.
5th Sep 2012
Size does matter!
The Practioner is right; buy-in is often a problem and larger firms have differening needs. There is a process that can be run at a strategic all-encompassing level for the smaller firms but also at a department level in a larger firm as part of a contribution to the overall strategy. Something I’ve always found useful when reviewing a business is to consider specific areas on an individual basis and then test them. For example consider the:
3. Market place
5. General economic environment
And do a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) on each of the subject areas – using a flip chart page for each – for example
1. Business strengths
2. Business weaknesses
3. Etc. etc.
I've always tried to involve key staff as part of the review exercise as much as possible because of the wider opportunities for input as well a greater scope to test each other’s assumptions and thoughts and achieve a better result. I've always gone off site for a day – a day should be enough – and been prepared to be surprised at what comes out.
As a by-product, the process can help staff involved to buy in to change - after all they may have been part of the design process.Tearing off the pages as I go, and blue tacking them to the wall around the room I find that a weakness from one chart will transfer as an opportunity to another – e.g. Marketing – and help identify overall goals and eventually help break these down into actions to get where we want to go.
Having ended up with these flip charts, give each participant a pad of post-it notes and allow 3 per chart to be stuck against what each considers the most important. Each post-it note has an order of priority - numbered 1, 2 and 3 (the higher the number the greater the importance) - and the scores when totalled soon identify greatest needs in each area and quickly form a priority list that can be turned into an action list going forward.
To get where you want to go it is important to address the tasks to three business areas: strategic goals - infrastructure and company values. Addressing one or two spurs can send you askew. You do need to look at company values or business culture - not as social work – but because it does have an impact on the bottom line.
This model can work in all sized businesses – it’s not a corporate thing – and follows a process whereby open minds can encourage deep thought and debate to help identify the business assets, business weaknesess, business threats, business opportunities in an objective way and devise a plan to deal with them and go forward. Larger businesess have the opportunity to also run this at a department level as well as a means to develop strategy.
13th Mar 2009
VT & PDF
As a long standing VT user we've never had any problems creating PDF's from any version of VT with a pdf writer. Amongst the joys of VT+ is the inbuilt ability to create internal PDF copies of any report and email - almost at the blink of an eye.