If you turn on the news then you can’t help but be presented with small business owners who are incredibly concerned about their future. New research from Iwoca shows that a quarter of SMEs expect turnover to shrink in the next 12 months, while 43% of owners expect to be personally worse off by the end of the year.
The other big news is that of Making Tax Digital project being kicked into the long grass, and likely to impact fewer sole traders, for its tentative 2026 introduction. Some accountants (and perhaps SME owners) have breathed a sigh of relief – particularly those for whom MTD was a distraction to the ‘business of doing business’ during these tough times.
There’s certainly a question to answer as to whom would receive the most benefits – if any – from MTD. I covered that very question in a blog a few months ago.
But the one thing that its enforcement did was make accountants stop and think: how do we systemise and digitise how we work with clients? And can we get to understand better how our clients work in order to drive that systemisation and perhaps even automation?
While tax matters can vary from client to client – and require a personal touch – there’s no doubting that the vast majority of the process is relatively straightforward and ripe for automation. More importantly, creating a flow of critical financial information between the client and accountant opens up the door for true accountants to grasp what many of their clients want: a good understanding of their financial position and some advice to help them grow (or perhaps survive, in this current climate).
Does MTD delay really ‘help’ accountants and clients?
Does stopping digitisation plans really help the accountants’ clientele? When a quarter of them expect revenues to fall?
There’s no reason to not help clients understand and use readily available apps to collect and send information through to you. they can use their mobile phone to undertake most basic back-office tasks: namely invoicing and capturing expenses.
We know that ‘lumpy’ filing of tax return information pushes many accountants to the limit in January – as I write, some of you will be under pressure. That will increase several times over when quarterly filing of some description becomes mandated.
As a profession we need to do one thing: be proactive and truly support clients to run their business. The most successful members in our profession make that effort.
It’s about having a firm that’s fit for the future. If you’re not able to give an answer to clients about how you’ll help them they will say that they’ve met someone who can – or go to someone that does the basics cheaper. And ultimately you erode the value of your practice.
Being able to provide value to clients inevitability adds value to your practice. It would be sad is small businesses and their practices are left to run into the ground. On the flipside, there are great opportunities for those willing to invest and transform.
Vipul Sheth is founder and MD of AdvanceTrack Outsourcing.