Over the past year AccountingWEB has witnessed real turmoil and significant change across the profession. As we head into what looks like another year of austere times, we look back and reflect on 2011.
“I want us to be the first government in modern history to leave office having reduced the overall burden of regulation, rather than increasing it,” announced David Cameron in April. Throughout the past year, the coalition government introduced a string of initiatives to deliver that business-friendly promise, but did the coalition government live up to its rhetoric?
Professional regulation and reform has been one of the hot topics in 2011. The Big Four-dominated audit market came under attack from the Lords economic affairs committee and European commissioner Michel Barnier. But planned simplifications of small business financial reporting and tax could also spell doom for high street accountants. To cap all this, a new approach to tax policy making promises a flood of consultations in 2012 that could deliver significant change during 2013/14 - if the government can sustain its reforming momentum.
The country’s financial woes brought a new level of parliamentary scrutiny to tax and accountancy matters in 2011. While broadly welcomed, there was an accompanying feeling in the community that these efforts could have been coordinated and more focused on obtaining tangible improvements.
This year was not a good one for HMRC or its permanent secretary for tax, Dave Hartnett, the main scapegoat for all the parliamentary scrutiny. Things got off to a bad start early in 2011 when Hartnett and Dame Lesley Strathie were called in to explain the PAYE fiasco to the public accounts committee. This was followed by more grillings over the high profile corporate tax settlements Hartnett negotiated with Vodafone and Goldman Sachs. Once he became a national hate figure, his days were numbered...
April saw the introduction of mandatory efiling of Corporation Tax returns accompanied by accounts in the iXBRL format. This had been on the cards for two years and stimulated considerable fear and doubt among practitioners. Despite efforts from the six main professional tax and accountancy bodies to delay compulsory iXBRL online filing, Treasury minister David Gauke pressed ahead, claiming “There will never be a perfect time to mandate filing in iXBRL. Elsewhere, tablets and apps ruled the roost in our Gadget Zone.
The traditional compilation of wisecracks, pithy sayings and comments that encapsulate the main events of the year.
What got AccountingWEB members talking in 2011? The most significant change this year was our site upgrade after our old system struggled to keep up with the volume of demand. A dedicated group of AccountingWEB members generously gave up their time to help make AccountingWEB better for all our members. 2011 also saw the birth of the Time Out discussion group for all non-accounting related issues, as well as the significant growth on the site of blogs and discussion groups.
About Robert Lovell
Business and finance journalist