As summer is washed away in an autumn deluge, accountants around the country are preparing for another season: conference season.
This summer has been particularly newsworthy, with the stripping back of Making Tax Digital making headlines. For this reason, conferences over the coming weeks are set to not only welcome accountants back from their summer breaks, but also jolt them out of any digital despondency.
While MTD has been pushed back, what’s clear this conference season is that digital taxation is still just as much of a talking point as before.
One of the first big players to lay its foundation for the year ahead and address the digital elephant in the room is IRIS. The software house kicks off the season with the first leg of IRIS World from Twickenham on Tuesday 26 September. Including the second leg in Birmingham, 1,000 accountants are expected to attend the conference series.
Future proof your practice
When AccountingWEB caught up with IRIS shortly after the MTD summer news, the CEO of IRIS’s accountancy division Sion Lewis urged accountants against letting their digital plans fall by the wayside. “Don’t let it become out of sight, out of mind – complacency will kick in. It’s best not leaving it to the last minute.”
IRIS will reinforce this message at the conference with strategies and tools accountants should implement to “future proof” their practices.
HMRC will also play a role in underpinning this message. At IRIS World Mike Potter, HMRC’s chief digital and information officer, will address the current direction of digital tax, and outline the government’s push for the UK to be the most digitally advanced country by 2020.
Potter is also expected to reiterate HMRC’s commitment to working with accountants and agents to ensure MTD works for all businesses and individuals.
Innovation and GDPR
On a similar note, IRIS’s product launches at the event are expected to showcase the fruit of its close working relationship with HMRC, and the software releases are being teased as demonstrating “innovation [that] accountants will benefit from”.
But MTD is not the only compliance event for which accountants are preparing. With an implementation date of 25 May 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) provides a tighter deadline for accountants. From the looks of IRIS World and other conference lineups, that abbreviation will be as ubiquitous as MTD this autumn.
As we approach the event, IRIS’s chief product and marketing officer Nick Gregory said accountants still have plenty of work do to be ready for the climatic flip impacting the industry. “Changes in the political and legislative landscape, the local and global economy, social and technology advances; all cannot be ignored.”
IRIS customer panel
The software house will show the benefits of adopting a future proof practice by hearing from some of its digital pioneers. Practitioners such as Will Farnell and Kevin Whitehouse will share how they’ve embraced digitalisation.
Judging from Farnell’s comments earlier this year, his position on the panel will be to warn practices who do not take advantage of the MTD delay to rethink their digitalisation plans and educate clients.
“Too many accountants have seen MTD removed from the Finance Bill and have taken their eyes off the ball. It is those firms which will fall behind the competition,” he said.
“MTD isn’t just another piece of compliance – it should be viewed as the catalyst for digital change. Firms need to not only embrace technology into the hearts of everything they do but also ensure the workforce embraces it too. Without the right staff to take advantage of the latest technology, digital transformation is pointless.”
Gregory expects the IRIS World attendees will reach a similar conclusion: “Delegates will come away from IRIS World knowing the only way for a practice to survive in the future is to ensure it is end-to-end digital. They must drive efficiencies, increase productivity and climb up the client's value chain - if they don't, they will fail.”
You can reserve your place at the free accountancy conference IRIS World here.
About Richard Hattersley
Richard is AccountingWEB's practice correspondent. If you have any comments or suggestions for us get in touch.