The founders of Taxforward, a new online self assessment tax filing tool launched earlier this year, are planning to disrupt the world of tax by making tax returns as easy as possible for entrepreneurs and the self-employed.
Set up by brother and sister Richard and Connie Cha in 2017, Taxforward is a web app designed to make self assessment taxes easy for non-tax experts. In particular, the software is especially targeted at sole traders, freelancers, landlords and company directors.
“Primarily, our user base is self-employed individuals. It’s usually the people who are new to self-employment who are happy to interact with a completely digital self-employment platform,” explained Connie Cha, founder of Taxforward.
“My personal history is intertwined with self assessment. I went to a school of music and drama and I worked as an actress, so shortly after I finished school had to file my first tax return. I had never approached anything as complex in my life. At the beginning, I thought about doing it on my own but it sounded like an incredibly confusing process.
“Four years later, after I had done three years at Deloitte at their consumer office audit team and I took a year out to continue my MBA in Oxford. It was there that we had the idea of Taxforward. We thought about creating an online do-it-yourself portal where an individual would be able to work through their tax return in a very simple manner.”
Taxforward’s software uses a conversational interaction with the user to compile the information it needs for the tax assessment. The app asks its users simple questions about their lives to find out key information about their tax situation. The answers tell the software which allowable expenses and reliefs to look for, and which questions to ask next.
The information that the user gives will then be used to run a series of calculations behind the scenes and transform it into data that populates boxes, automatically creating the tax return.
“In a regular tax return, you have to cross-check whether each piece of information is relevant to you or whether you need to fill in a particular box. In that kind of information overload you can miss really important details,” Cha explained.
“We ask really simple questions such as ‘are you married?’, ‘do you have children?’ or ‘do you make any contributions to a pension?’ and then we fill in the tax return in the back end."
The viability of the model proposed by Cha is based on the users’ trust in the software and the accuracy of its calculations so in order to encourage this confidence, Taxforward promises to pay if there is a penalty issued by HMRC because of a calculation error.
Similarly, to increase security all versions of the software offer 256-bit SSL data encryption (the same technology banks use to protect data) for all the user information stored in their servers as well as while transit to HMRC.
Commenting on the future of the app Cha mentioned that artificial intelligence will be one of the main tools that will help them to further develop it.
In the future, we would like to offer even more artificially intelligent solutions, such as different types of information gathering. We would like to gather all the receipts, expenditure and invoices of the user, and we are looking at artificial intelligence to help us do that,” concluded Cha.