MTD for VAT tools hit 300 mark

"Baffling array" of MTD for VAT bridging apps hit the market
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The “baffling array” of bridging software tools now listed on HMRC’s MTD for VAT page is causing problems for businesses and accountants, according to industry figures at Accountex.

When AccountingWEB first reported on HMRC’s initial list of MTD for VAT products in July 2018, there were 18 vendors. By the turn of the year the number had increased to around 30 and that figure doubled by March.

But HMRC’s new, filterable list of MTD for VAT products now shows more than 300 options. Not only does this explosion make it difficult for businesses to select suitable tools, the software bonanza will store up problems for later.

To help steer users through the MTD software maze, AccountingWEB launched a dedicated Software Reviews page, but other industry players are lending a hand too. MyFirmsApp commissioned tax specialist Allison Plager to write an independent guide to MTD for VAT bridging software that filters what she calls the “baffling array” of bridging products down to 10 choices for accountants in practice.

“As with many other things in the UK, the preparation for MTD seemed to be a bit last minute,” said Mike Page, head of product management and customer experience at MyFirmsApp. “In Scotland we had accountants in practice in November-December saying that they still didn’t know what MTD for VAT was.

“There’s always been a big proportion of clients who weren't ready for this step, and the plethora of bridging software out there, quite frankly, is confusing. What we are trying to do is provide some sanity and order out of that confusion.

“HMRC has published a list of recognised suppliers on its website but other than that, offers virtually no guidance on each product. Our intention is to help create order out of the chaos and to give a flavour of what’s available in the market.”

The guide includes a review of each of the solutions as well as contact details, price and recommended specifications.

The future of bridging software

Although the expectation is for bridging software to be a temporary solution, Page expects them to keep on playing an important role in the future of tax digitisation over the coming months.

Page’s comments were echoed by MyDigitalAccounts founder John Whelan at his Accountex talk on MTD. “If you’re on tight margins with non-compliant software, [bridging software] may be the answer,” he said. “You can still maintain spreadsheet records and use bridging software to mimic HMRC’s old screen system.”

But with 300 options to choose from, how do you pick the right one? “I’ve never heard of 90% of them and I thought I knew accounting software,” Whelan continued.

With very low margins for both accountancy firms going the bridging route and the software companies serving them, some of the new MTD for VAT software providers won’t be able to match the support provided by established specialists, Whelan warned.

“There’s always a muddle when software goes live. But if you use bridging software there won’t be telephone support. If you go that route, you’ll have to be quite self sufficient.”

If you want to survey suitable MTD for VAT products, visit AccountingWEB's software reviews page.

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07th May 2019 19:07

what a complete mess this is going to end up as . Clients will not understand how to use the software - the accountant will be given rubbish records or if the accountant does the books the records will be incomplete . Some Accountants will make out they are experts in MTD and others will say its not going to work. Then the Tax man will look at these records and I guess they will be in such a mess that they will be unable to check for accuracy. No one will ever get to know if the tax gap has been bridged and the truth is that all the different ways of getting penalties - surcharges - tax rates - fees for government services and all the other ways of bringing money into HMRC will hide whats really happening .

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to GHarr497688
07th May 2019 18:44

GHarr497688 wrote:

I give up !

Good. Send me your clients and tell them I’ll be happy to look after them without whining like a trapped poodle.

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to Tim Vane
07th May 2019 19:06

With your attitude I doubt you would want my clients lol.I am entitled to opinion which is shared by many others on Aweb. You can put your point across without being rude and obnoxious hiding behinds a profile .

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to Tim Vane
09th May 2019 13:17

Completely agree with Tim Vane. So many whingers on this forum. It's become like the Peasants' Revolt when they complained about machines taking their jobs.

If you can't handle challenges and turn them into opportunity then you're in the wrong profession.

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07th May 2019 18:48

All we need now is another 29 meaningless lists of the top 10 MTD software choices and we’ll be able to cover all 300.

I also don’t understand the point about not getting telephone support for bridging software. I assume that most suppliers will offer support, even if by email, so what’s the problem.

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to Tim Vane
07th May 2019 20:11

To be put on the HMRC list suppliers need to explain their support model.

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08th May 2019 08:42

Does that mean that the number of software choices now exceeds the number of taxpayers who voluntarily joined the pilot?

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to SteLacca
08th May 2019 10:06

Says something

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08th May 2019 12:04

Is it possible yet technically to swap suppliers?

I understood (not that I have done it) that you had to tell HMRC which supplier you were using as part of the change over process but there was no way of changing this once you were signed up.

We can safely assume 90% of these suppliers wont exist in 24 months time once we have reverted to a "cheap is best" situation on bridging.

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to ireallyshouldknowthisbut
08th May 2019 20:30

I have explained in various threads how you can swap suppliers. In theory it should take a few seconds.

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By Dazboj
to ireallyshouldknowthisbut
09th May 2019 19:04

You can link to more than 1 application through the MTD login, so there is no letting HMRC know which you are using.

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09th May 2019 11:34

I'm bemused by two points in the article...

1. "the expectation is for bridging software to be a temporary solution"
Really? When was that decided and by whom?

2. "But if you use bridging software there won’t be telephone support. If you go that route, you’ll have to be quite self sufficient."
Easy MTD VAT (https://easymtdvat.com) offers a comprehensive help page, a support ticket system, email support, a contact form, and if you look hard enough a telephone number if you run into difficulties.

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to EasyMTDVAT
09th May 2019 13:46

EasyMTDVAT wrote:

Easy MTD VAT offers a comprehensive help page, a support ticket system, email support, a contact form, and if you look hard enough a telephone number if you run into difficulties.


I'm sorry to have a go at EasyMTD (and this comment should perhaps also be directed at many more of the 300 apparent software companies offering MTD solutions) but how can you purport to offer "comprehensive help" when, by your own admission (see this AWEB article) you said:

EasyMTDVAT wrote:

"I wasn't aware when I wrote the reply there was an MTD requirement to record all business records electronically. After all, as developers, we only considered and adhered to the rules laid out by HMRC to retrieve VAT data from them and get VAT data to them. We have no involvement in how the VAT figures are "created" at the client end."

If you market a product to handle a technical issue, surely you have a responsibility to ensure that either you understand how the rules work or you make your lack of technical knowledge abundantly clear and tell all prospective users that you merely handle one step in the process and they should seek advice as to how to handle the rest, as the legal requirements are complicated and relying solely on your software could leave a business open to serious penalties from HMRC?

The major blame, however, must be directed at HMRC themselves for stipulating software as MTD compatible when it does not force (or even encourage) users to fulfil ALL of HMRC's compliance criteria.

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to charliecarne
09th May 2019 15:34

Firstly, the admission of "comprehensive help" was for the use of Easy MTD VAT - i.e. how to use the software. If users hit a road block using the software they can turn to this or the other lines of support we offer. I never mentioned anything about offering "comprehensive help" for direct Making Tax Digital related issues. Why would I? That's HMRC's job or the job of specialists in that field - like you I assume? I was merely countering the claim in the article that developers offering bridging software wouldn't be providing support for their products. That may well be true for some developers but it is far from true for Easy MTD VAT.

Secondly, despite what you imply, we understand what bridging software needs to do 100%. If we didn't, we would have failed to produce a solution and HMRC would not have given us the thumbs up or allowed us to interact with the live MTD system. Have you even tried Easy MTD VAT? You'll find it is quite capable of doing what HMRC stipulated.

How people create and present their 9 VAT figures is completely out of our hands. Our software doesn't allow those figures to be modified once they are obtained from an Excel spreadsheet or CSV - just as HMRC stipulate. But we have no control over what a user does to those figures or how they are generated prior to being imported into our software. HMRC don't stipulate we need to be involved in that part of the accounting process either. Our job, as a developer of bridging software, was to provide a bridge between that process and HMRC - a job we completed successfully and to an extremely high standard.

We're not accountants, the same as you're not a developer. Neither of us can be expected to know everything about each other's profession - just enough to be able to accomplish what we are instructed to do.

Of course, if we were developers of a full accounting package such as Sage or Xero then yes, we would require an in-depth knowledge of accounting and its laws. As we clearly state on our website, Easy MTD VAT is not that type of product. It is BRIDGING SOFTWARE. Nothing more, nothing less.

I think you are blowing our admission of not understanding all the complexities of Making Tax Digital out of proportion. Again, we are developers of bridging software - we only need to know about the rules and laws for which bridging software is involved in. And that, Charlie, is exactly what we do know.

Coming on here and bashing us and other developers isn't productive. Developers have done what has been asked of them by HMRC so how can we be expected to do anything else? Do you think HMRC would have approved Easy MTD VAT if we had not followed their rules but instead followed the requirements of a disgruntled accountant? It would be more productive if you instead directed your gripes at HMRC.

I hope this puts an end to your concerns about Easy MTD VAT. Again, I invite you to try it and as a goodwill gesture I’ll even supply you with a handful of submission tokens without charge.

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to EasyMTDVAT
09th May 2019 19:28

Perhaps I was being a little unfair, but my concern derives from the fact that you claimed on the other post that I referenced that "they would simply need to add 9 VAT figures into 9 spreadsheet cells then use the bridging software to submit a return electronically" and, when it was pointed out to you that this would not be compliant, you said "Thanks for putting me (and the paper pushers) straight on that!", which implied (perhaps incorrectly) that you were not aware of this. I note your comment that your software will allow full compliance and (whilst I agree with you that, as developers not accountants, your advice need only be limited to use of the product) I hope that you offer at least basic guidance to your users that just filling in the 9 boxes will not suffice.

I apologise for picking on you, but yours was the only bridging software company to stick its head above the parapet on that thread! As I said, the blame lies mainly at HMRC's door for what will, I believe, create massive confusion amongst small businesses as to what MTD compliance means.

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to charliecarne
09th May 2019 20:09

I will take your advise on board and get a sentence or two added to our website stating to potential users that being MTD compliant doesn't just mean getting 9 VAT figures into a spreadsheet, and we will also provide a link to an offical HMRC page outlining the full compliance rules.

It is advice from end users like yourself that will enable us to improve Easy MTD VAT and hopefully make it one of the better solutions in a vast ocean of MTD bridging software. So, despite my somewhat defensive reply earlier, I thank you for your recommendation about providing basic guidance about MTD compliance.

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to charliecarne
09th May 2019 20:31

charliecarne wrote:

yours was the only bridging software company to stick its head above the parapet on that thread!


It may not be obvious, but I have been in the software business on my own account in some form or other since 1983 although I have done other things as well. I offer all sorts of software including MTD bridging software.
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to charliecarne
09th May 2019 15:52

charliecarne wrote:

The major blame, however, must be directed at HMRC themselves for stipulating software as MTD compatible when it does not force (or even encourage) users to fulfil ALL of HMRC's compliance criteria.


Although I agree with you about the general principle here. I don't think HMRC can do much more in practice than check that the software interoperates with their own software. They do have other conditions, but many of these are difficult to audit anyway.
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to EasyMTDVAT
17th May 2019 09:53

Yes, it was definitely to be temporary because its only function is to get the 9 figures as now but taken from eg an excel sheet to HMRC so that is utterly pointless from a tax collection point of view. It only has point if it is a staging post to the underlying invoices and expenses receipts also going to HMRC and ultimately totally open banking with HMRC being able to look into the bank accounts to see if they co-relate to the invoices and payments the software is sending them as I think is the system they are moving to in places like Spain.

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09th May 2019 11:25

I'm inclined to agree with 'ireallyshouldknowthis'. Wait a year and the smaller ones will no longer be around. How are those smaller software providers going to advertise their wares?
They wont have the money for advertising as say Quickbooks.
HMRC cannot give any advice as to which is best, better or bestest = not allowed.
The agents amongst us will go with the tried and tested providers we all know and love.
I would guess that a taxpayer will just start at the top of the list ie 123sheets Ltd and get so far (poss 10) and then give up.

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to Jennifer Adams
09th May 2019 16:58

You are to some extent right that calling your company aardvark accounts is a good marketing tool. However, there are other issues. For example not all providers handle apple numbers and people get word of mouth recommendations for that sort of thing. Also if you take things like for example flat rate vat, there are lots of ways of complying some more efficient than others. I have not yet finished the code to charge people for my services, but I am happy to have around 200 clients who are not being charged this year and will pay 50p per month (plus vat) in 2020. A regular user takes about 2 minutes to submit their vat return. I now have four users for my cloud cashbook which has only recently become available. One, for example, does monthly returns but only has about 20 transactions a month. I cannot see me charging that much for this sort of service in the long term. My marketing budget, however, remains at zero.

My assessment is that the market will in the long term be price sensitive and hence this will work commercially as a strategy.

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By johnt27
09th May 2019 12:22

No surprise this number has grown so much.

There are so many accountancy software providers that most people expected to get up to speed.

Also, the bridging software isn't overly complex to design so lots of people jumping on the bandwagon.

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By Dandan
09th May 2019 14:09

I have yet to find someone or some organisation who actually understand where bridging software fits in.

So many think that accounting systems means : Xero, QBO, Sage, etc. No one ever considers the thousands of ERP software used in the UK ,that originate either from the US or Europe , that are not MTD compliant. I have made a few of those become MTD compliant through a two-stage process : 1) write a macro to convert raw reports into the 9 VAT figures in a few seconds with no manual intervention and 2)use a basic bridging software to send over the figures to HMRC.

A lot of accountants need to start accommodating the needs of those businesses and not tell them to switch to software that would never be able cope with the complexity of the business. Switching from ERP to Xero, QBO or similar is like moving from Windows 10 to Commodore 64. Sadly, I have seen accountants doing just that and sending standard letters to all clients askling them to switch to "mtd-compliant" software.

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to Dandan
09th May 2019 15:04

It's a good point Dandan - bridging software (and getting the data to it) is a real issue for those with some ERP - and probably more so with those using perfectly good bespoke software that has been carefully crafted around their businesses.

The soft landing for digital link compliance really has to be used to come to useful solutions, and I'd say to
start *quickly*.

My concern are with those that just see bridging software as quick solutions, but then sit on their hands hoping the digital link 'thing' will just go away.

I've had a few joyful conversations with some business owners which have spurred them to talk to their IT developers and the numbers are quite legitimately eye-watering.

As the future will be about more data to HMRC not less, I can't help but encourage thinking about preparing for future compliance requirements not just VAT. (too soon?)

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to rsergeant
09th May 2019 15:48

The digital link thing is not that difficult. Bridging is a long term solution for people with bespoke software as well as a long term solution for people using spreadsheets.

I now have a few people who are migrating from handwritten books. I am tending to suggest that they use a cloud cashbook (which is not as complicated as cloud accounting) as this avoids all the complications of formulae in spreadsheets.

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to johnhemming
10th May 2019 10:57

Thanks, and I quite take your point.

I'm perhaps more concerned with where MTD may lead than the requirements now. The experience of other countries continues to suggest to me that we are currently 'having it easy'

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to johnhemming
10th May 2019 10:57

Thanks, and I quite take your point.

I'm perhaps more concerned with where MTD may lead than the requirements now. The experience of other countries continues to suggest to me that we are currently 'having it easy'

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10th May 2019 10:17

Not surprising. Lot of vendors out there all being pestered by customers to do something. And actually it’s a simple deliverable which should run smoothly, until HMRC realise what they have done, and when they move to the next phase of this pointless project.

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10th May 2019 11:20

I want HMRC to tell me of one bridging software product. Even having to compare 3 is too much work for me.....

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to EnglishRose
10th May 2019 14:44

Why? Do you also expect the DVLA to mandate one car manufacturer, or Defra to recommend a single vegetable to eat? I relish the free choice that this offers, as I can choose the product that best suits the way that I work, while you can choose something entirely different for your business.

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to charliecarne
17th May 2019 09:57

It's not the same. I have perfect paper recods which cost zero and submit the same VAT information HMRC will force me pointlessly supply once I buy a bridging product. It is the being forced into bit which makes me not to want to spend a single second on it. If you work full time, have childre, work for yourself etc the last thing you want to do is trawl through 100 products, test some, email companies try them out - that would be £5000 in terms of my time before we get very far and I bet HMRC will not let me tax deduct the cost of the time spent on this.

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