Now that the digital tax regime has arrived, industry leaders are turning their attention to where the accounting profession will be heading in the next 12 months.
So far, 2019 has been the year of Making Tax Digital (MTD). This focus has fuelled a massive amount of client education by software companies, professional bodies and practitioners alike.
Entries to AccountingWEB’s Accounting Excellence Awards this year confirmed MTD’s impact on the profession. Across the board, entrants had turned to cloud accounting and expense capture programs to feed digital records into their MTD for VAT filing workflows.
MTD was a key topic at Accountex 2019, but now that most VAT-registered businesses are actually living with MTD, it lacked the cutting edge of anxiety seen in previous years.
“If you do get it wrong, don’t panic, you’ll be well supported by your vendor,” explained MyDigitalAccounts managing director John Whelan in his MTD lecture at Accountex.
For many seasoned industry watchers, the big question at this year’s event was what the future held for the accounting profession in the remainder of the year and 2020. AccountingWEB’s roving camera crew set out to get some answers.
“Rather than Making Tax Digital, we think it’s going to be about how to make businesses digital”, said Damon Anderson, director of partner and product at Xero.
As the profession goes increasingly digital and transactions are rapidly processed and reconciled, data analysis will become a much more important activity for accountants, according to Sage’s director of product management Chris Downing. With all that information at their fingertips, accountants will be better positioned to help their clients with business insights and advice.
“2019 is all about looking at how accountants can be more efficient and really add value to client relationships,” Downing said. “Once you’ve got really good clean data, Sage will be working with accountants to add real value with data analytics and business tools to actually create meaningful conversations.”
Embracing the digital transformation
For the likes of ACCA’s Glenn Collins and IRIS chief evangelist Steve Cox, accountants who embrace the digital processes associated with MTD have some great opportunities to enhance their positions with clients and within their firms.
Then there is the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning factor. Through its alliance with MindBridge, Cox said IRIS was aiming to “help accountants mitigate risk and not worry about the fear of whether technology is going to overtake them, but augment them”.
Microsoft’s Robert Pope agreed that cloud and machine learning are having a huge impact: “In 2019 we’ve seen how quickly accountancy practices are becoming tech companies,” he said. The company has been investing heavily in AI and cognitive services. “We see them having huge impacts on the way organisations run their services,” he said.
Find out what the experts had to say in our latest Accountex 2019 video: