Making Tax Digital: Q&A with founder and CEO of AutoEntry

Accountancy Age speaks to Brendan Woods, founder and CEO of AutoEntry, about what software providers can do to help businesses comply with MTD

Making Tax Digital was removed from the Finance Bill in April ahead of the debate on the bill in the House of Commons. What does this mean for the digitalisation of tax?

It’s not clear exactly what’s going to happen but I think the consensus generally from people I know in the industry is very much that it will be going ahead. HMRC has invested an awful lot of time and energy into technical resources and putting in that infrastructure. I think that the delay was probably not misplaced. I think it did need a bit of time to fully assess all of the edge case scenarios and all of the types of users and whether or not they’ll be capable and in a position to actually go forward with such a strong deadline. I think it’s just a matter of clarifying the position with the taxpayer base that will be affected and then they’ll progress forward again.

Do you believe that the government’s proposed timeframe is realistic?

I think the original time frame was probably a bit optimistic. What will probably happen now is that it will take that bit longer, but given they’ve increased the threshold for the initial roll out, I think that was pretty sensible, but it won’t be too long before it comes in. After the election on June 8 we will see what the new motivations are for the people that will be driving this forward. But I don’t think it’s off the table, it’s a simple delay.

How can software providers help businesses comply with MTD?

The main issue with MTD is the fact that people are going to have to submit quarterly updates to HMRC, and they’ll have to be done in a very timely fashion from the end of each given quarter. The traditional mechanism of collecting information for a year, then putting time aside after the year ends to collect everything, get it to an accountant, the accountant coming back with lots of feedback   – it’s quite a time consuming process. So, being able to get that quarterly update in the appropriate time frame will be the challenge

Alongside our partners in the bookkeeping space, we’ll provide solutions that will allow people to very easily from a mobile phone snap all of their bills and receipts and so on and have all of that information entered onto a system so that their accountant can very quickly run off a report and submit to HMRC after quarter end.

Will you be providing clients with any training initiatives on MTD software?

Yes, we already do. With everyone who subscribes to a free trial or uses our solution, we tend to offer free training to all of them to explain to them how to get the best out of it.

Should businesses see MTD as an opportunity to improve efficiency and embrace the digital world?

I don’t think many necessarily see it as an opportunity, they’ll probably see it as yet another thing that they have to do. But yes, what I think will actually materialise is that once they actually engage and participate in getting up to speed with MTD they’ll realise that having sorted out a solution for MTD they are in a much better position where they have far less administration, far less data entry to do and so on. They’ll be much more up to date with their accounts throughout the year.

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

Most businesses with little digital experience are typically businesses that key manual records in spreadsheets or otherwise, and often collect all of the paper bills and receipts in a place – whether that be a box, or a bag, or so on. If they actually look at the solutions that are out there they can create a digital storage location and save the time of having to enter the data manually themselves.

With tax shifting to digital, are there any concerns surrounding cybersecurity that you’re mindful of as a software company?

As a software company, of course we are very mindful of it. One of the things that people miss in the discussion on cybersecurity is very often people are reluctant to engage with software providers or cloud-based software providers on the premise that they are maybe exposing themselves to some risk. In fact, the research will always show that manual records or records kept on local computers by businesses who have not necessarily employed people with skillsets in data security are actually at greatest risk themselves than entrusting it to a software company whose business it is to do that.


Interview by Alia Shoaib, reporter on Accountancy Age


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