Accountex: Making tax digital and the power of cloud

ACCOUNTING EXPERTS, technology companies and a crowd of thousands descended onto East London’s ExCeL Centre yesterday for day one of Accountex 2016, and Accountancy Age was there to watch as the action unfolded.

The UK’s largest independent accountancy exhibition returned for a fifth time in as many years, and Accountancy Age interviewed some of key exhibitors and attendees on the tech trends impacting the profession.

Up in the cloud

First to step into the Accountancy Age Jobs stand was Jennifer Warawa, global vice president of product marketing at Sage.

Just days after announcing positive half-year financial results, Warawa explained how the technology firm plans to leverage blockchain technology to develop automated processes for its cloud-based software.

Despite being late to the cloud accounting technology game, Warawa said that Sage ‘has its foot on the gas’ in order to catch up with its nearest competitors, including Xero and Intuit QuickBooks.

Ed Molyneux, CEO of online accounting platform FreeAgent said his firm is trying “to carefully differentiate” from what his competitors are offering to accountants, focusing mainly on micro-businesses, rather than the UK’s 5.4 million small businesses.

After labelling its partnership with accounting network Danbro as “the biggest deal that has ever been done” in the accounting technology sector, Molyneux told Accountancy Age that he believes there is starting to be a “real shift from spreadsheet based solutions to the cloud” and adds that this year marks the start of “a big change in the sector over the next couple of years”.

Seminars and lectures

In the ACCA Theatre, former Accountancy Age editor Kevin Reed gave a keynote on how winning industry awards can benefit your practice, and provided advice on how to create an award-winning entry and what makes the difference in judges’ eyes.

With the taxman looking to go ‘fully digital’ by 2020, Glenn Collins and Jason Piper from ACCA expressed concerns that some self-employed people, mainly those who work in rural areas, will be unable to file a digital tax return.

Accounting professionals have previously expressed their fears towards the digital tax platform, and Oliver Fisher, HMRC’s deputy director of making tax digital’s strategic design and policy, admitted that HMRC “has a lot to do between now and 2020” – the year HMRC goes ‘fully digital’.

Fisher said that he knows that “not everyone” will be able to digitally file their tax returns, and that HMRC will “not force” those who are not already online to sign up to the digital system.

He also revealed that the taxman is looking to bring out consultation documents on making tax digital “soon”, despite them already being overdue.

Addressing the potential tax benefits of the digital platform, Fisher made it clear that he has never suggested “making tax digital will reduce the tax gap by £6.5bn”, but instead said that it would “take a slice off” the UK’s widening tax gap.

Accountancy Age will be returning for day two of Accountex on 12 May, where there will be plenty more periscope interviews with some of the biggest names in the profession.

Also, if you are attending Accountex, please visit the Accountancy Age jobs stand, number A491.

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