Become an MTD champion

Making Tax Digital champion
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Regardless of what form HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) scheme takes, some firms are already planning ahead to mitigate the impact on their clients, staff and firm.

To prepare clients for the eventual changes, Paul Bulpitt, founder of the Wow Company and Xero’s head of accounting, has appointed one of his tax managers as the firm’s “MTD champion”.

Describing the position during Bristol's Xero roadshow, Bulpitt said the MTD champion had already responded to the consultation documents, and will aim to harness opportunities the digital tax change may present. Some delegates greeted his MTD champion description by outlining how they’ve created a similar role within their firm.

Bulpitt’s firm has started profiling their clients so they know which businesses it may hit worst. It has also categorised clients who are already using direct bank feeds, and captured who they should hook up.

Irrespective of MTD, the WOW Company’s profiling and client risk assessment follows Bulpitt’s pursuit of long-term planning and looking to the future.

His eagerness to prepare clients for the change is not driven by the necessity of the MTD timeline, but through imagining what working in practice will be like in five to ten years. “The move online is inevitable,” he said. “We’re beyond discussing whether the move online is a good or bad thing.”

However, the stark reality exposed by Xero’s State of Accounts survey shows that cloud adoption and technology underpins everything an accountant does, but the tech is not always infused into every practice. 

For example, 86% of businesses are currently using cloud technology but accountants are not matching this figure. And worse, 55% of businesses surveyed believe that they won’t need an accountant in 10 years’ time.

Preparing beyond Making Tax Digital

Bulpitt, though, has embraced the supposed threat of automation, AI and new technology. Beyond MTD and its intricacies explored in the consultation documents’ small print, he sees automation and tech as an aide to practice growth. Bulpitt explained how the expansion of technology (such as automation and AI) is “fundamentally a good thing” because it expands his firm’s capability.  

“Imagine being able to deliver real-time information to your client’s watch, imagine if a chatbot could answer simple queries for you, or imagine being able to book a meeting through a virtual assistant,” he said.

Throughout the session, he kept returning to how technology will assist the insight and the value accountants provide. “Our personal relationships are our competitive advantage,” said Bulpitt.

A panel of Xero and cloud accounting enthusiasts joined Bulpitt later on in the session to reveal what their firms are doing to embrace the changing technological landscape.

Stacey Morrison, who heads the Old Mill Group’s cloud accounting exploration, focused on educating staff members about cloud. “People are still resistant to change, so you have to be supportive of that. Without a legitimate reason, they will resist change. Be open with staff about why it will make their jobs easier,” she recommended.

Morrison also implemented mandatory cloud accounting training for clients. “If rubbish is put in, rubbish will come out,” she added. Bulpitt echoed this in what he is doing with his clients and staff. He advised to educate clients and look to plug any digital skill gaps sooner rather than later.

This also feeds into his hiring policy. If a firm anticipates that they will need staff due to the changes, Bulpitt recommends hiring in advance, so you can bed them into the firm before any digital changes take hold.

Sharon Pocock added that her cloud accounting enthusiasm developed by “being curious about what’s around you”. She recommended that firms who have not yet flirted with cloud accounting to see what other firms are doing. 

Concluding the session, Paul Miller delivered a succinct wake-up call to anyone resisting the sweeping tech changes: “The train has already left the station. Get on board, or get off.”


Have you or your firm started preparing for MTD? Has someone within the firm taken on the role as an MTD ambassador? Have you begun educating clients about the changes?

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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17th Nov 2016 12:21

Can you ask Paul Miller how one can "get off" a train if one hasn't got on board?

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By RobertD
17th Nov 2016 12:39

Yes, let's all adopt the Dunkirk spirit and jolly hockey sticks get on with it. Wow can afford a head of MTD whereas I am payroll, accounts, vat, bookkeeping, AE, head of sales, billing, advertising department and secretary. Soon to be forced in to a huge workload increase and crammed in to one month less. So excuse me if I don't get excited about this latest adventure.
"I'm just going to have to sit this one out on the touchline with the half-time oranges and the fat wheezy boys with a note from matron, while you young bloods link arms and go together for the glorious final scrum down." General Sir Anthony Cecil Hogmanay Melchett

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17th Nov 2016 12:44

86% of business's currently use cloud technology!!!!!

Just not true be lucky if it was 10% down here in the South West

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17th Nov 2016 13:06

The position Xero would be creating if they had any sense is the "MTD write off strategy director".

This train is gonna hit the buffers.

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17th Nov 2016 13:07

So 86% of companies have embraced cloud have they? None of my clients have (I'm a bookkeeper) apart from one who leaves his stuff in dropbox for me.

55% of companies don't think they will need an accountant? So businesses know how to do their accounts to completion do they, or do they imagine they'll just feed everything into their little cloud app and it will do the rest? You only have to look on uk business forums to see how small companies who think they can't afford an accountant regularly mess it up.

Perhaps this article should have had sponsored by xero tagged on to it.

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17th Nov 2016 13:10

Cloud is not automatically an improvement.

its just a method of delivery.

Different horses to better on different courses.

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17th Nov 2016 13:34

So nothing to do with selling more software and technology then?

Never mind using "the cloud" here they are living there!

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17th Nov 2016 19:55

I have attended on of these shows and you picking up the figures incorrectly.

The 55% of people who don't think they will need an accountant in 10 years are referring to an accountant in its current form. In 10 years time most invoicing will be from software to software, so there will be little need for a number cruncher in between. The comment is said very much tongue in cheek and there will be a clear need for accountants in the future its just the role will change.

The I phone is 10 years old if you look how far that has come in 10 years then project it forward another 10 the movement is massive in what it can do.

It is not science fiction to think that in 10 years time you will pay your window cleaner with Apple pay or something similar.

Also the 86% of people using cloud technology clearly does not refer to only cloud accounting but any app that is used in business including google maps, uber etc.

Cloud accounting is probably used by 10% of businesses and has barely scratched the surface.

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to Glennzy
17th Nov 2016 14:04

"It is not science fiction to think that in 10 years time you will pay your window cleaner with Apple pay or something similar."

You can do this right now, one of my clients has software which does just this. its quite neat, but of course not all window cleaners use it.....or want to us it......or would have an advantage from using it. I pay my window cleaner with cash from my wallet as this is the most convenient for me.

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By JSJ54
17th Nov 2016 15:26

There's always one isn't there? And guess which one HMRC will be using to support their statements that MTD is an opportunity rather than extra work for the vast majority of businesses for no benefit?

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By RobertD
17th Nov 2016 17:00

I bet the accountants of Kent and Somerset fruit growers avoid mentioning apple pay to their clients.

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By Tornado
17th Nov 2016 20:04

"For example, 86% of businesses are currently using cloud technology"

Quite unbelievable, unless you count buying groceries online from Tesco's as being cloud technology.

How can you trust a firm that uses such questionable data to promote itself, unless there is more to this than meets the eye.

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17th Nov 2016 21:00

Are there really accountants out there who aren't using cloud accounting software to some degree?

I find that surprising.

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to Kent accountant
18th Nov 2016 18:08

Yes there are. Those accountants work in areas where broadband is available intermittently.

Places where something as simple as registering a client for self assessment takes 5 tries, because the broadband drops each time. Places where you have to remember to save all your work before you go for a cup of tea because your broadband connection may be lost by the time you get back.

I'll just post this now before I go for a quick wee, otherwise you'll not be here when I get...

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18th Nov 2016 18:14

Oh, look at that, I'm back. Still connect...

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By Tornado
18th Nov 2016 18:26

In a country that prides itself on inclusivity, particularly where it relates to race, colour, ability, religion, etc, those with poor of non-existent digital skills, lack of money to invest in digital hardware or even those with abysmal internet services are bound to be included and given all the help and finances they need to join in with the MTD revolution ........ or perhaps not. They might just get fined heavily instead for non compliance.

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18th Nov 2016 10:00

I dare say that providing software via the 'cloud' is cheaper rather than send you an update disk every few months - and of course they can hold your data and charge monthly therefore to some extent locking you in. But is it any different to keeping your records on a hard disk at if you buy an appropriate hardrive for home/work you can access it from anywhere on your travels to access any difference. Cloud is simply a different storage device...

As for bank feed...well I can download into excel and with appropriate formula do most of the analysis without having to add 'rules'. It really isn't that advanced...when you break it down....of course we are heading towards a push of a button solution apparently....but as with all things I dare say it will cost. As with everything in life there is nowt for free....

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18th Nov 2016 10:11

Considering we don't know anything, how can we plan and prepare for it? We don't know whether the threshold will be £10k or the VAT threshold or something else - so we don't know which clients will be affected and which won't. I don't think many of my trademen clients will thank me for pushing them onto online accounting only to find that they're small enough to be exempt.

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By Tornado
to Ken Howard
18th Nov 2016 11:13

For most of my clients it is far too early to push them into digital accounting and I have decided to hang back until at least mid next year before I make any final recommendations to them, although they will be generally aware of what is going on.

I use VT software for Company work and find this to be excellent and very reasonably priced. I spoke to them earlier this week and they confirmed that they will be updating their current accounting software (some of which is already free) to MTD standards, when they know what these standards will be.

I think there will be significant changes to the current proposals for the introduction of MTD, particularly the lower limit which I predict will be the raised to the VAT registration limit or more, so many of my clients will be in no rush to adopt MTD and there will be time to make the correct decisions for them.

At the end of the day, when it comes to software it will be horses for courses but VT provide good quality software and make no misleading claims about it so I am inclined to wait until they have proper MTD products to review before pushing my clients to a lifelong commitment.

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By rudyard
19th Nov 2016 06:07

Thanks Richard! Great tips to become MTD Champ.

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19th Nov 2016 11:01

Can we stop the ridiculous use of terminology such as Champion & Onboarding - wot happened to propa inglish

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By Tornado
to carnmores
19th Nov 2016 11:26

Oh dear, you are such an old fuddy duddy.

These days you need to get on down with the kids and go with the flow. If the flow takes you over a cliff then never mind, you are going to be agile enough to get out of the water and be a champion.

I think the real problem is that we have heard all of this before and can see a smooth talking salesman a mile away and now always look for the facts, and ignore the fiction.

Perhaps this is the reason why we are still successfully in business today, along with our clients.

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to Tornado
19th Nov 2016 13:13

LOL we lemmings are obviously in serious danger not so much onboarding as cliff jumping ....

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20th Nov 2016 20:31

My MTD final plan will have the following 3 key features:

1. Minimise the cost and inconvenience to clients.
2. Minimise the cost and inconvenience to me.
3. Minimise the benefits to HMRC and especially minimise any possible cash flow benefits to HMRC.

I commend this approach to the accountancy profession as a whole. Enough is enough with HMRC outsourcing their role to us at zero cost!

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