Everything you need to know about our Making Tax Digital event

Everything you need to know about our Making Tax Digital event

HMRC, Smith and Williamson, CIOT, FreeAgent, the AAT, Grant Thornton, ICAS, and QuickBooks all spoke at our kick-off roadshow event in Bristol last week

Last week on 19 March we kicked off our roadshow series celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Accountancy Age brand. This year, we are travelling around the UK to five destinations with each event focusing on a different topic but with an overall umbrella theme of the future of accountancy.

Our first roadshow event was held in Bristol’s trendy M Shed where a group of accounting and finance professionals came together to discuss HMRC’s upcoming regulation, Making Tax Digital for VAT.

Following a networking breakfast, our first panel discussion was based on the journey so far with Making Tax Digital (MTD), including talking about how far we’ve come and what MTD might bring next.

Panel 1

After an introduction from Accountancy Age’s Managing Editor Beth McLoughlin, who spoke about current developments around MTD including announcements made in the recent Spring Statement to delay MTD for all other taxes until at least 2021, the panel moderator Dan Sullivan, business development manager at Intuit QuickBooks, was welcomed to the stage.

Sullivan then welcomed the three panellists to the stage. Rebecca Hutton is the Head of the External Stakeholder team for the Making Tax Digital for Business Programme, HMRC and joined the panel to share advice on preparing and insight on potential upcoming developments. Helen Bassett, Smith and Williamson’s Associate Director of Assurance and Business Services was able to provide case studies and examples of where her firm had assisted clients in preparing for MTD and helped them to overcome challenges. Finally, Richard Wild is Head of the Tax Technical Team at the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and was on the panel to share his insights and opinions on MTD and how he feels the industry has handled it.

With their ability to provide different perspectives and experiences, the panel shared some interesting facts and opinions. Hutton pointed out that the 1 April deadline has become notorious, and businesses should stop thinking about it in such a ‘final’ way. Nothing will happen for businesses until at least it’s time to submit their first return in either June or August and even then, they have until April next year before they will be fined for non-compliance.

Bassett highlighted that MTD affects all manner of businesses meaning there is no single, one-size-fits-all solution. Smaller businesses need more cost effective solutions while bigger firms can stomach more expensive ones.

For Wild, MTD is really about bringing people into the twenty-first century. In the long-run it is beneficial to businesses, even if they feel like now it is an unnecessary pain. Businesses will see the return on investment and on time as VAT returns processes will become slicker, more efficient, and more accurate. And this is just the start, with more taxes on the horizon.

The roundtables

The roundtable sessions were insightful and sparked a great deal of interesting discussion. Our delegate audience were diverse, ranging from representatives from global accounting firms right down to sole practitioners based in the local area, meaning experiences were rich and different. Topics covered included how MTD will improve overall productivity within businesses, the risks and cyber security issues we face because of MTD, how MTD is changing the role of the accountant, how accountants can help their clients benefit from MTD, and where MTD fits in the future of the accounting industry.

The roundtable sessions, each lasting 30 minutes so delegates had a chance to attend two, were an engaging mixture of factual advice and personal experiences. Delegates shared how they overcame problems in real life situations and how they have guided clients through the MTD journey so far, but also revealed interested anecdotes, for example explaining how they approached certain clients who were still working off paper-based records and had a big change ahead of them.

We would like to thank the five experts who chaired our roundtables; Brian Palmer from the AAT, Jeremy Clarke from ICAS, CIOT’s Richard Wild, and two representatives from Grant Thornton LLP, Jenny Bourke and Jacqui Shackleton.

Panel 2

After a refreshing coffee break, delegates returned for our final content session of the day. This second panel was focused more on the general transformation of the accounting industry with the onslaught of technology and how MTD will fit into this now and in the future.

Accountancy Age’s Managing Editor, Beth McLoughlin, was moderating this panel and joining her was Nick Longden, Vice President of Sales at FreeAgent, Brian Palmer, Tax Policy Expert at the AAT, and Jeremy Clarke, Assistant Director, Practice at the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS).

Longden explained that managing clients at different stages is a tough challenge for accountants to content with and it’s the accountant’s job to keep their clients compliant. But the effort is worth it. “Yes it’s about MTD. But it’s also about MTD enabling more in the future.” Many are viewing MTD as a trigger towards more businesses embracing digital innovation.

Palmer added that, whether in practice or industry, accountants are really starting to see the benefits of MTD. He emphasised that the 12-month soft landing period is vital and it will be interesting to see what happens in those 12 months. But once people have got over the initial learning curve, MTD really isn’t so daunting.

For Clarke, “we have nothing to fear from this. The government had the right idea in starting this journey. There is a way of doing this in line with businesses being ready and we’ve not always got it right in some areas. We need to show clients why this is something to embrace and the government must get their timings right because too-early mandation will not work. If they do, the benefits to the UK economy will be huge.”

With thanks

We were lucky enough to hold our first roadshow event at the M Shed in Bristol, a fantastic event space with a balcony overlooking the city. Senior level accountants in practice and industry were welcomed from the surrounding towns and cities to enjoy an event discussing the current issues they might be facing without them having to travel for miles.

Thank you to our sponsors for this event, Intuit QuickBooks and FreeAgent, who’s speakers Dan Sullivan and Nick Longden respectively provided a slightly different angle to the MTD conversation and were both fantastic additions to our panels.

Our event ended with a buffet lunch and drinks, giving delegates, speakers, and Accountancy Age staff the chance to mix and chat about what they had learned. We really enjoyed the event and can’t wait to continue on the road! Our next roadshow event is on Wednesday 3 April in Birmingham, focusing on Technology and the Future of the Workforce. There is still time to register for your free place here and bring your colleagues too if you haven’t done so yet.

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