Making Tax Digital: Interview with VP Europe of Intuit QuickBooks

As part of a series of interviews on Making Tax Digital, Accountancy Age speaks to Dominic Allon, VP Europe of Intuit QuickBooks, about the digitalisation of the UK tax system

Following its removal from the Finance Bill, what does this mean for Making Tax Digital?

Well look, MTD is the topic du jour. I’ve literally just walked down through all these presentation stands [at Accountex] and they’re all talking about the same thing. So, it’s kind of the topic on everyone’s lips, so I’m glad you asked.

I think the specifics with regards to your question about its removal from the Finance Bill, everyone sees as a temporary hiatus. I mean, I don’t have a crystal ball, I can’t predict the future, but I think everyone expects that the overall shape of MTD will remain intact with the thresholds and timelines that HMRC set out staying in place. And I think pretty much everyone sees that the bottom line is that by 2020, most self-employed and small businesses will be filing online, the four quarterly and annual return. So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s something that we as QuickBooks and that our business partners and accountancy partners still need to prepare for.

Is the government’s timeframe realistic?

Well, I think there are two elements to that. Firstly, if you take a big step back, we know that the industry is digitising anyway. So, as bookkeeping and accounting digitises, and as accounting firms and small businesses undergo that journey, there’s an element of “it’s happening anyway”.

I think with MTD what you’re going to see is obviously an incredibly powerful forcing function. It becomes a compliance event, it becomes a mandatory requirement. And so, if you look at the timelines from now and you look at the journey between now and April 18 and the VAT threshold, two years out for companies with over £10,000, it feels like there is enough time to get ready, but what we’re saying is, it’s never too late to be early. If you play the wait and see game you might be caught out. We know this is the direction of travel, so particularly for accounting firms with a large number of customers, now’s the time to plan your client migration path.

And then, for small businesses as well, the world is going digital anyway – automation office benefits are something you should be considering anyway. But given we know MTD is coming down the track, getting going now is definitely the right approach.

What can software providers do to help taxpayers comply with MTD?

The good news is that the benefits of software providers means that you can get all of your data in one place. You can use then the power of software to automate generation of the status of your business and prepare for your tax filing. And then, ultimately the vision would be that you can also file in line with the MTD requirements from the software as well so it creates a one stop shop where you get the benefits of saving time for your automation, understanding how you’re doing, and then actually filing for the government as well through the HMRC API. So it’s a one stop shop to manage your business and fulfil the MTD requirement.

Has the government carried out sufficient consultation on MTD?

Well, I mean the government has consulted quite widely, and certainly if you look at the conversation today it’s about MTD. So, there is no doubt in my mind that the industry is alive to this issue and so the government has done a good job I think of reaching out to small businesses and accountants and trade bodies and has started that conversation. Most of the key bodies and stakeholders with a vested interest have had a chance to be part of that conversation and the onus is now on industry, accountants and software providers to lead the way and help small businesses live up to their responsibilities.

Do you believe the government’s estimated costs to be accurate? Do these costs pose a real threat to a small business’ survival?

It’s not something I’ve been through in detail. What we’re really focussed on is ensuring that small businesses can live up to the MTD mandate and get all the benefits of digitisation that are inherent in the software platform in any case, and we believe if we focus on that side of things and helping accountants serve their customers to fulfil MTD, then we’re playing our role.

Do you think we’re still on track to become the most digitally advanced tax administration in the world by 2020?

It’s an interesting question. I mean if you look at the UK overall, if you look at its general internet intensity index, there is no doubt that we are one of the leading internet economies in the world – depending on which stats you look at and how you stat-rank them, we are one, two or three. But undoubtedly a leading internet economy.

With regards to digitisation of tax and tax compliance, we’re definitely facing the right direction and moving quickly. But whether we are number one, two or three on a particular ranking for me is less important than making sure that we can get the benefits of digitisation and automation like saving time, real time updates and enabling accountants and businesses to focus on successful business, and for me that’s the number one priority.

What can businesses with little digital experience do to adapt to the measures?

Well, I think there’s two things. So firstly, as I said, it’s not too late to be early. Now’s the time to start thinking what it means for you, and most of the customers that we talked to both on the business and accounting side are ready for the conversation. But what we try to do is make it easy and simple for people to live up to the responsibilities they have to run their business efficiently and effectively.

Will you be supporting clients through any training initiatives on MTD software?

We spent a lot of time focussing on collateral and material to help our customers navigate through that journey so we have a lot of material on our website that’s dedicated to MTD, and we are also running a series of ongoing webinars that are open to our partners. And then, finally, for our accounting partners, on a firm by firm basis we offer firm level training, but the bottom line is if you need to know more about MTD, we have more than enough material to update you and familiarise you with the program and know what it means and how you can stay compliant.


Interview by Alia Shoaib, reporter on Accountancy Age

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