Four things we learned at Accountex 2016

THERE WAS a lot to take in during a jam-packed two days at Accountex in London’s ExCeL Centre, so Accountancy Age is here to break it all down.

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

We also attended a number of seminars which delved deep into the heart of the accountancy world, so here are four things that we learnt over the course of the two days.

Making tax digital is a long way away from being perfect

We heard it from HMRC itself. Oliver Fisher, HMRC’s deputy director of making tax digital’s strategic design and policy, admitted to a packed seminar that the government department “has a lot to do between now and 2020” – the year HMRC aims to go ‘fully digital’ for both its staff and the millions of taxpayers that use the taxman’s services.

Fisher sympathised with those who aren’t digitally-savvy, admitting that “not everyone” will be able to digitally file their tax returns, adding 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. Since Fisher’s revelation, HMRC revealed that it won’t be releasing the documents until after the EU referendum.

Competition is stiff in the cloud accounting game

Accountancy Age spoke to a host of big players in the cloud accountancy software game, from the likes of Sage, Intuit, Xero, IRIS and Thompson Reuters, and all of them are competing for relatively the same consumer base – the self-employed and their accountants.

Gary Turner, co-founder and UK managing director of New Zealand-based firm Xero, was in bullish mood when he spoke to Accountancy Age about the competition, claiming that the likes of Sage and Intuit are just “noise” compared to his tech company.

Despite this self-assuredness, there is a number of emerging accountancy software firms that are confident they can capture a significant piece of the action.

Mark Woolley, commercial director at software Australian software firm Reckon explained to Accountancy Age his firm’s ‘pay-as-you-play’ type software for taxpayers, meaning people only pay for the specific software that they use, instead of buying into an expensive subscription.

Tech firms are helping accountants go digital

After Turner labelled the technology company as just “noise”, Accountancy Age headed over to the Intuit QuickBooks stand, where Rich Preece, Europe VP and managing director explained to us how his tech company is helping taxpayers and accountants get online.

“It’s all about helping a firm of accountants grow themselves and grow their practices. We’re helping accountants move to the cloud, how to get their own social media profiles up and running, such as LinkedIn. Hopefully this will help practitioners get ‘in front’ of the clients”.

Preece also touched on Intuit’s refreshment of its partner programme in order to improve accountant’s relationship with cloud-based technology.

“We’ve got a great programme for accountants; it’s called the pro adviser programme and it trains accountants how to use cloud programmes to help their clients,” said Preece, who revealed that out of the 2,000 accountants who signed up to programme in the last year, employees from some of the larger accountancy firms made up the majority of users, along with the more tech-savvy, younger practitioners.

Award shows have never been more important to the profession

There aren’t many things better than a British accountancy practice, but former Accountancy Age editor Kevin Reed and chartered accountant Mark Lee explained across two very busy sessions why an award-winning practice stands out from the crowd.

Reed and Lee explored why recognition from a number of award shows such as The British Accountancy Awards adds weight to a practice’s marketing and business campaigns, while also positively motivating staff.

They spoke of making the process easy for the judges; including meeting wordcounts and providing KPIs and metrics that illustrate the story you’re telling across your entry.

Both said that, while it can help to have a specialist writer or consultant help you in the entry process, those within the practice closely linked to the entry itself should be as involved in putting the entry together as possible.

Last year Reed and Peter Gillman, former head award-winning firm Price Bailey, produced a short video explaining the strategy behind entering you or your practice into an award.

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