With Making Tax Digital on its way are you going to provide a bookkeeping service?

With Making Tax Digital happening, and just a slight delay for those businesses below the VAT thresholds, what are you going to do to help the “digitally challenged” clients?

That is not being rude – it is a fact of life. There are many clients that do not possess a computer and use a mobile phone for the purpose it was designed for initially – talking to someone else. Whilst age is one factor, this is a pure generalisation. In second or third generation businesses, it may be the younger members that do make some use of IT, but the books and records may still be “manual” and kept by the older generation. There are people that have gone onto accounting software, failed miserably, despite hours of training and hand holding, and reverted back to spreadsheets.

Like it or not, someone has to make those records “digital”. For the busy accounting practice, many will have moved away in the past from providing a bookkeeping service as it was not cost effective. They also wanted to provide the “value added” business advice.

Do you see the need for bookkeepers growing with MTD? I think it is inevitable. Do you pass these onto the bookkeeper down the road as you have done in the past or do you grow your own resources internally?

As with anything – there is no right or wrong answer!

However, the developments in accounting software and products has changed the dynamics of bookkeeping substantially.

Online accounting means there is no need for someone to spend an hour each day travelling between clients.

Bank feeds mean no more missing bank statements, and at least half the data entry is automated. With bank rules, many of the transactions can be fully automated.

Entry of purchase invoices, once the domain of the purchase ledger clerk employed specially to do this can be replaced by OCR products that extract the data with very high accuracy and make the entries into the accounting software.

Add in a few more of the potentially time consuming tasks such as expense claims processing which can be automated to a large extent too, and the actual bookkeeping time can be reduced significantly.

There are many advantages of bringing it in-house; it means you can “chase” the client more easily if he is falling behind with his records; the accounting functions can be scheduled in to suit you; any errors or mistakes can be picked up more easily; and you have the opportunity to generate more fees. Indeed, the hands-on approach can enable you to deliver that business advice that everyone wants to do.

So, once again, we will run a short “survey” – be clear this is not an official ICAEW survey and there are no claims to statistical validity etc – just a guide as to how you see the future of bookkeeping services in your practice. There are a handful of simple tick box questions so it will take you very little time to complete. Unfortunately, the budget does not extend to a carrot such as “complete this survey to win a Surface Pro)”.


 Results will appear in a future posting.