Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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EY unleashes TaxChat self assessment service

Big Four firm EY has launched TaxChat, a digital, on-demand self assessment tax platform for consumers.

20th Nov 2019
Staff Writer AccountingWEB
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TaxChat interface
EYTaxChat

Global accountancy giant EY has announced the release of TaxChat, a digital platform designed to help individuals complete their self assessment tax returns (SATRs).

TaxChat connects customers with an EY adviser via a digital platform which they can access online or by downloading the EY TaxChat app.

EY's lead partner on the project Mark Lee told AccountingWEB that the purpose of the service is to "combine a digital journey with personal and private client service."

Lee described the service as “not 24/7, and not a chatbot,  [but] a way of securely communicating with the client's advisor and the client's team.” 

After undertaking a study to research key issues surrounding self assessment, EY discovered that a third of the UK's 11.5m taxpayers were concerned about incorrectly filing their tax returns. Responding to these concerns, EY developed the mobile tax service as a consumer version of EY’s US TaxChat, to provide on-demand advice from tax professionals regarding SATRs.

An online and app service

Following registration, users are asked around 10-12 questions on income such as employment, self-employment, rental and investment, with supplementary follow-up questions on the relevant areas. 

“This takes very little time, 1 or 2 minutes,” said Lee. Upon completion of these questions, a fee is quoted which “makes it very clear the charge that is going to be encased for the service.” 

“Individuals know the price very early in the journey and there is no obligation,” added Lee.

Fees start at £329 inclusive of VAT, which includes the completion of one SATR and all associated activity, such as payment reminders, dealing with HMRC correspondence and answering ad hoc queries.

According to Lee, “in most cases, clients stay with us for many years, so in the second year, we review complexity and assess any to revise the annual fee.”

The TaxChat journey

Customers are guided through the self assessment process by an allocated adviser via the chat platform, with the adviser answering questions throughout the process. Messages can be sent through the chat function which “will be picked up and responded to by that customer’s advisers, usually the same day, or the next day,” explained Lee.

Users provide the EY adviser with their tax information by uploading required documents and photos onto TaxChat where everything can be 'e-approved'.

After the data exchange, the adviser prepares the tax return on the customer’s behalf and populates it into the platform. The customer is notified when the SATR is ready and is required to make payment via the application by debit or credit card.

At the end of the process, the individual can download and review the tax return. “If they are happy, they can approve the return and submit it straight through to HMRC,” added Lee.

Interactivity of TaxChat

Lee made clear that the chat service is “not a real-time, live conversation but is interactive based on when the adviser is there.” However, it can be almost real-time if the adviser is working with a client at that time, he added.

The level of interactivity is based on EY clients who “don't necessarily want real-time communication” with the more complex tax questions. More consideration is preferred so that the adviser can make sure they have checked and reviewed any requests before responding. The “turnaround time of a number of hours, or the next day, has gone down quite well,” Lee told AccountingWEB.

TaxChat users and MTD

Lee describes TaxChat’s target user as individuals required to complete and SATR, ie “landlords, freelancers, contractors, self-employed, and individuals earning over £100,000”.  For people who have “just entered the area of having to complete a tax return, [TaxChat] is a good way to understand what their obligations are.”

The TaxChat lead partner concluded that with regards to Making Tax Digital, “EY is keen to prepare for MTD for SATR. To do that, I think every business will require a digital platform where they can connect with their client, a third-party organisation and HMRC. EY TaxChat is a foundation for that.”

Replies (10)

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By mjshort
20th Nov 2019 15:10

Why would Ernst&Young be rummaging around the bins doing this work?
Has audit become too dificult?

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By flightdeck
21st Nov 2019 12:59

Agreed, why? Seems very at odds with their brand (corporate audit, advisory and financial crime at expensive rates is how I visualise EY). I don't see them as a B2C outfit (at all) but suppose many £329's add up and if you can do that work largely through AI and a cheap offshore center for when the human touch is required, then it could be highly profitable and it only needs one of their partners to make the case and be willing to pick up the ball.

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By Whitnalls44
21st Nov 2019 10:30

£329 including vat will be for a PAYE only SATR , their clients must have money to burn

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By hfc1875
21st Nov 2019 10:48

2nd year fee quote will be fun!

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By johnt27
21st Nov 2019 13:13

Think it's a great idea and one that's easily replicable for accountants willing to embrace the 21st century.

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By Sheepy306
21st Nov 2019 13:28

But I don't see how the EY offering is any different to any service offered by small accountancy firms already. I have many clients that simply email me their information or upload it via Dropbox, and I have next to no contact with them throughout the year, I just haven't given the service a fancy name and big marketing push. The main difference of course is that EY will either outsource the work to another country or will get very junior staff working on it, as opposed to UK-based partners and/or experienced UK-qualified staff. I really don't see how a small client that is attracted by a £329 EY price tag will get any benefit of having EY printed on their accounts.

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By jackpot
21st Nov 2019 14:26

Very interesting!

Just tried to register on the app to see what they would charge me, but it won't let me register as there are no countries to pick from on the relevant drop down menu.

£329 seems very cheap for EY to be picking these types of returns up. I wonder what would happen if the new client starts asking tax planning questions? What would they charge for answering those?

Will also be interesting to know what the charge would be if the client makes EIS investments and needs someone to keep track of deferred gains for example?

Good luck to them I say.

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By Malcolm McFarlin
21st Nov 2019 15:39

I think KPMG tried a similar venture at this type of work but subsequently abandoned it. The Big accountancy firms fee structure is too high. How do their MLR fit into this venture? I am aware that KPMG used to charge 5K to pass their MLR and client engagement procedures [and that was over 10 years ago].

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By ireallyshouldknowthisbut
21st Nov 2019 16:32

Ive got really clever digital journey* we have developed.

The website has a list of fixed fees, and clients use a telephone device to "speak" (using their actual voice) to the accountant (who also uses their actual voice) who asks key questions and confirms the price and emails out a quote inside of about 10 minutes.

Sounds like EY have developed an over engineered solution to a problem that doesn't exist.

*If you use this work it means its great.

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Mark Lee 2017
By Mark Lee
22nd Nov 2019 10:52

Just to be clear the EY partner quoted above shares my name but it's not me. Obviously!

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