A group of leading software developers and accounting practitioners met together at ICAEW on 3 May. This was the second that this group had convened.
The participants included the major software houses (including Sage, Xero, IRIS, Intuit and Receipt Bank) together with a range of ICAEW practitioner firms (from the Big 4, through large and medium practices down to a very small firm).
Sadly HMRC, who were invited, could not be present at the meeting as the general election prevents them from attending such engagements.
Some of the larger software vendors continue to make progress with beta testing, albeit slowly. At this stage only the agent registration process has been tested and it is still too soon for quarterly uploads to have been piloted.
It was useful to hear that the majority of taxpayers on the pilot had little digital expertise before the pilot. The feedback from these trials will be invaluable in ensuring that individuals with elementary digital skills can make full use of the software without introducing errors or omissions.
There was debate amongst all those present about the requirements to include transactional data in the reports. This remains an ongoing topic of conversation, but ICAEW has been told repeatedly by HMRC that the quarterly reports are only totals and will not be transactional details.
Access to the necessary application programming interfaces (APIs) remains mixed. With some vendors having no access to APIs, while others are currently building software that makes use of these APIs.
The availability of free software continues to be discussed. It is proving challenging for software vendors to identify a business model that will make free software a viable proposition.
There was a wide spectrum of opinions as to the viability of providing free software. Some vendors have stated that they have no interest in providing free applications. Others continue to evaluate the market and are considering how best to provide free software. A few vendors have expressly stated that they will be providing free software.
There was belief by this group that spreadsheets will have role in MTD. This reflects the importance of spreadsheets to members. It is likely that template spreadsheets will be used as a method of importing data into accountancy applications. At this time we believe that it is unlikely that the direct uploading of spreadsheets to HMRC will be possible. However a small application that translates spreadsheets into the HMRC APIs may become available.
The group recognises the need for the need for clear education and communication from HMRC. We will continue to engage on this topic with HMRC at every opportunity.
The next planned meeting will be July after the general election.
We wish to compile a list of questions to be presented to both software vendors and HMRC. Please send your questions to us here.
If you have any questions you want us to raise in this forum, please can you direct them to firstname.lastname@example.org
HMRC has told us specifically that the level of data it will be collecting is based on that which is normally given on the self employment pages of the current tax return. That is either '3 line accounts' or the more detailed information given for larger businesses. The APIs (interfaces) to collect this are what have been released to software developers. We are working with the software developers through the Software Advisory Group and sharing information with our members as it becomes known. There is still much that none of us knows and we will shortly be updating the ICAEW/MTD.com hub with a list.
Like many others I am extremely frustrated at the lack of detailed information about the data that HMRC is planning to capture from accounting systems. The fact that most of the major software providers are already working on the MTD interfaces demonstrates that the data requirements are already known. Presumably HMRC has already provided provisional data definition and tagging rules to the software houses. Why is this not being shared with the accounting profession? This group has an opportunity to find out what the software houses know and communicate it to members. Please don't waste it.