This year’s self-assessment deadline is especially significant as it is the last tax return before the government begins its Making Tax Digital (MTD) rollout. Nick Williams, Head of Business Development, UK Accountants, Intuit, explains below.
There have been plenty of discussions already around how this new legislation will put an end to the January panic for self-employed workers and SMEs. But how can accountants use this year’s tax season to ensure a smooth transition to quarterly reporting?
Prime time to initiate client conversations
January has always been a mad rush for accounting firms, and the Making Tax Digital scheme provides a welcome end to the self-assessment rush. No more starting each year stretched to capacity, suffering out-of-control stress levels while gathering and consolidating huge volumes of financial information.
This year’s self-assessment deadline presents a big opportunity. It’s a prime time to be having client conversations around the benefits of quarterly reporting, including having a full picture of finances all year round. Accountants can use this milestone to lead these conversations, demonstrating to clients that there is a better way.
Taking stock and reviewing internal processes
After the 31st January, accountancy firms can begin to take stock and review their own internal processes. For example, by understanding how long it really takes to build client reports and streamlining the process. Removing any manual admin associated with managing clients’ self-assessments will free up more time to help them understand what the information really means to their small business.
Filing and e-filing tax will become a regular requirement following MTD, so it’s critical to address any inefficiencies in a firm’s process. Otherwise they risk being amplified several times a year when MTD comes into practice.
In short, this will be a time intensive but hugely rewarding review to help productivity. And starting during this year’s self-assessment will still allow 12 months to test it out before the first phase of MTD kicks in.
Becoming a trusted advisor
The reason why improving workflow process is so important is because many accountants and bookkeepers spend most of their time just capturing data. Many simply don’t get time to properly analyse the business reports and provide valuable advice to their small business clients.
As accountants review their processes following this year’s self-assessment deadline, they can take time to assess whether they are really providing value-added services to their clients. Aside from their number crunching abilities, accountants have years of experience in business and will have helped many successful businesses to scale. By improving workflow process, accountants will free up time to offer more strategic advice to help businesses accelerate their growth.
An accountant who really understands their clients’ needs can not only help with the usual tax and compliance services. They can also help to detect fraud, deliver data analytics and support with technology and business strategy. With the technology that is readily available, and advancing all the time, accountants are in an excellent position to provide data analysis and advice on how best to utilise the information.
This year’s self-assessment deadline presents an opportunity to up-level this strategic advice, and to set up more regular meetings throughout the year. This will enable accountants to better understand their clients’ business and transform from bookkeeper to adviser in the years ahead.