By Nick Williams, Head of Business Development, UK Accountants, Intuit QuickBooks
For months – years perhaps – we’ve been saying “it’s not too late to be early” to prepare for Making Tax Digital (MTD). Now it is a bit too late to be early. It really is time to just get on with it and drive to the cloud as fast as you possibly can. But if you’re working to the last minute, what are the things you can do to get your clients transitioned to digital accounting in time?
Stop trying to be a superhero
At QuickBooks Connect last month, chartered accountant Ian Fletcher accurately pointed out that accountants in traditional practices are absolute superheroes. They take a carrier bag, a shoebox, a battered suitcase full of receipts, accounts recorded on spreadsheets or even pen and paper. And they fit this jigsaw together with total integrity to produce the best possible result they can and get a full picture of their client’s accounts. Start getting your head around the fact you don’t need to be a superhero anymore. MTD is an opportunity to streamline data input and make sure clients share the right information and documents, so you can spend time on higher value work. This is just a change of mindset, but an important one to make sure you are focused on the right result, which is keeping your clients compliant and helping them to use the transition to digital accounting to grow their business.
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Think like it’s January
The end of the January jigsaw is the big motivator here to drive to digital accounting. But you can channel your experience from the busiest month of the accounting year to tackle the task. See your client’s transition to digital accounting as an opportunity to start a conversation about the work you do for them – just like you do when you’re filing their accounts in January. Every time you complete a set of accounts between now and December you should measure two key statistics: how many clients have we got and how many have we converted to the cloud to allow for digital accounting? Each engagement with a client is an opening to assess where they are at and what might land them in trouble with the law come April 2019. Are they going to be caught out by compulsory VAT, income tax or corporation tax? Of course, it’s the client’s responsibility to comply with MTD, but you’re their guide and their helper, and good communication will help you to identify any issues in time.
Prepare your own practice
A successful transition to digital accounting starts with looking at internal processes, and how data is being captured and harnessed. The technology is secondary. If you don’t review the efficiencies of your own workflows, and get the processes right first, your customers aren’t going to get the fully optimised experience they deserve. Once you’ve got the basics right, you can use technology to move from cumbersome and manual tracking to a unified view of work for managers and team members. You can also explore innovative technologies such as chatbots or virtual assistants which will help your clients make smarter decisions. The ability to simply ask how much money they made, what they’ll owe in taxes, or which customers are most profitable, is great real-time information to share with your clients and they’ll feel immediate benefits of going digital.
There’s no getting away from the fact that MTD is happening and it’s going to transform the way you interact with clients from today onwards. Now is the time to be 100% committed to getting them, and your own practice, ready – before it really is too late.