Dominating proceedings at the software association’s annual shindig was a trio of hot topics that have preoccupied accountants around the country: Making Tax Digital, GDPR, and Open Banking.
The Wellcome Collection in London provided a warm welcome to the developer community, where HMRC’s Lee Hawksworth was on hand to update BASDA members on the government’s digital taxation plans.
For BASDA members and interested parties, the big news was around the launch of the organisation’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) community forum, and the publication of their selecting business software guide for potential buyers.
Here’s what AccountingWEB learned on the day.
MTD for VAT: Full steam ahead
The ambitious MTD for VAT timeline means that unless developers have already launched their product (or plan to in the next month) they have three VAT returns to get their houses in order before 2.5 million VAT-registered businesses are mandated into the new rules.
Under questioning from BASDA members, HMRC’s head of software developer collaboration Lee Hawksworth acknowledged that the Revenue has a big challenge ahead of it, not least because 85% of VAT returns are currently submitted via the government gateway rather than through software.
However, in spite of this the tax authority team remain confident that the MTD for VAT programme will be delivered as planned. According to Hawksworth, the pilot will be opened up to the public later this summer with sign-up access available via gov.uk, before businesses are mandated in April 2019.
A publicity campaign is also planned prior to mandation to raise awareness among affected businesses.
Making Tax Digital: Developers better together
The headline announcement from BASDA was the launch of a Slack community forum, where members can anonymously ask and answer each other’s questions on any aspect of the government’s digital taxation programme.
“As an organisation, we’ve always had a lot of face-to-face meetings as part of our specialist interest groups,” BASDA chair Kevin Hart told AccountingWEB, “but we recognise that for developers it’s harder than ever to justify time out of the office. Life on the MTD road can be challenging, so we’ve endeavoured to create a safe forum to ask questions – particularly around testing.”
If consensus is reached around a specific issue a BASDA community moderator will raise it with HMRC to get a definitive answer. The forum is now live and filling up with content, and BASDA members can sign up by contacting the association.
GDPR: Practices aren’t prepared and don’t care
In a GDPR question and answer session, one BASDA member stated that many accounting practices weren’t prepared and did not care about the new data regulations. “How would practitioners be caught if their behaviour did not change?” asked the questioner.
In his role as a panellist, John Mitchison from the Direct Marketing Association responded that it is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) that looks after GDPR enforcement. “It is a risk-based regulation that operates on the basis of complaints,” said Mitchison. “If someone complains to the ICO they look into it. It depends on the severity of the problem being caused, and a larger number of complaints will likely push it up the list.”
In response to a follow-up question on whether any of the professional bodies such as the ICAEW or ACCA could take on a regulatory or supervisory role for practices in place of or in partnership with the ICO, Mitchison stated that when it comes to data the ICO is the single point of contact, and this is unlikely to change.
PSD2 and GDPR: When two worlds collide
The Chinese character for risk famously contains the character for opportunity within it – something that could equally apply to this year’s new, potentially contradictory, data regulations.
On the one side, the PSD2 ‘Open Banking’ regulation promises to open up customer data to a new breed of applications to drive efficiency and entrepreneurship, while on the other the incoming GDPR data protection rules promise to protect data from pernicious or opportunistic individuals seeking to exploit it.
While it is still too early to assess the relative impact of these regulations, presenting to BASDA members Peter Davey from Open Vector stated that those organisations with a strong focus on data security and portability would prosper from them. “If nothing else,” said Davey, “the PSD2 rules have turned the payments industry from a dry backwater into one of the most dynamic industries around.”
Another initiative coming out of BASDA HQ was the association’s new selecting business software guide. The guide is aimed at potential buyers of software rather than developers and revives a previous booklet from the organisation. While it is pitched at medium-to-large-sized businesses, a small business version is likely to be available later in the year.