Does MTD’s delay push back the digitisation of clients and, therefore, your practice? Kevin Reed discusses the big questions posed at QuickBooks Connect 2023.

There was an air of expectancy at the grand Old Billingsgate venue for QuickBooks Connect 2023.

Not only were new products and services to be announced by the software giant, the event was a chance for accountants to ‘air their views’ following the latest delay to MTD ITSA – and gauge what that delay meant to their firm and clients.

Firstly, the new tech. QB Practice Management is aiming to become the beating heart of practice’s tech stack. It will enable the centralisation of records, automate recurring tasks, and integrate in with clients’ books, offering accountants the chance to provide more valuable insight.

A new tool, Books to Tax, will help accountants to prepare and file both annual accounts and CT returns to Companies House and HMRC respectively. Bureau Payroll is QuickBooks’ first ever cloud payroll offering, which can link with ‘any’ financial management software.

HMRC criticism

Onto the talks. HMRC’s Mel Hume was on the receiving end of numerous pointed and critical questions regarding the latest MTD delay, during the MTD ITSA session. For example, one attendee asked: “Sending letters to HMRC is like snail mail. You want us to be digital…when are you going to do the same?” Another said their clients had “lost confidence” in HMRC’s digital plans.

Hume accepted the frustrations, and spoke of a new ‘co-creation strategy’: this will aim to give key parties (including software providers and the accountancy profession) more of a say in HMRC’s operational priority list.

Accountant Simon Brook, also on the MTD panel, said that his firm’s time on beta-testing MTD ITSA with clients had brought about value through “efficiency gains”. Frustratingly, only three quarters of filings had been made at this point.

Talking the talk

Perhaps as pertinent as efficiency – Brook spoke of altering his client message from ‘we must change how we do things because of MTD’ to ‘we must change because it will help you build a better business’.  

“My firm isn’t ‘working towards MTD’, we’re working to get our clients keeping records through QuickBooks.”

On communication, QuickBooks UK country manager Jolawn Victor (pictured at the event) said that part of the software provider’s role was to help accountants “understand their value and communicate that on”. “[Practitioners] say ‘help me train my clients to use the tools’.”

Take time to make time

Victor also noted that practitioners will always step in to help their clients fight fires, but she is keen for them to make time to focus on strategy and operations. In doing so, the more automated and systemised practices are, the freer time to better support clients.

Issues vs tech

The themes and messages that come out of an event such as QuickBooks Connect are driven by a number of factors: regulation; the economy; or a technological ‘leap’. AI was mentioned in a few conversations, but there was definitely a focus on how can firms get clients digitised, and keeping good records, without MTD as the ‘stick’.

And so, messaging and communication underpinned everything. There was the ‘time’ factor too – improving workflows and automating data capture should improve the practitioner’s ‘time hygiene’. And those same systems should be putting more valuable and insightful in front of the accountant. The Catch 22 is that, generally, accountants are time poor, because they have so much to do. So, clearing the diary to consider how to future-proof the practice (as pointed out by Victor) is a big ask.

It feels as if the technology is there – the myriad of transactional-focused exhibitors at the event were an illustration of that. It’s now about mindsets (practice and client alike), the messaging, and taking control of your own digital destiny.

Kevin Reed is editor of Financial Accountant and a freelance journalist.

If you’d like to transform your practice, then begin the conversation by clicking here.

AdvanceTrack’s previous article on managing MTD’s postponement is available here.

This year is going to be a very busy, but very exciting, time for AdvanceTrack – and we’d like you to join us

While companies that provide technology-driven solutions have a reputation for not always engaging with their customers, we put customer service and understanding your requirements as top priority.

We’re delighted, therefore, to be able to announce two opportunities for you to meet with us and discuss where you’re heading, and hopefully how we can help you on that journey.

First off, we have the Quickbooks Connect show, held across 27 and 28 February in London’s Printworks.

This year’s agenda covers the most relevant issues facing practices: from marketing (harnessing social media and building a digital brand) through to moving your practice and clients to the cloud.

“We’re taking part to meet with forward-thinking practices, many of whom will already be clients of ours and hopefully some new faces as well,” says Vipul Sheth, founder and MD of AdvanceTrack. Sheth expects conversations to revolve around Making Tax Digital (see this month’s feature spread for more). He foresees many practices wanting a ‘solution’ to MTD, and a big part of that will involve the use of efficient cloud-based bookkeeping among other things.

More importantly, making this transition will put client information into practices’ hands that they can leverage to provide a better service. “The truth is that we speak about this a lot,” says Sheth. “If practices see this as ‘stopping clients getting tax penalties’ then it’s a client/adviser conversation about price. But good conversations with clients is about helping them run their business. Then clients look at the price and say ‘this is what I pay my accountant for’.”

Next we have AdvanceTrack’s own conference, following on from last year’s successful inaugural event at America Square with 70 people in attendance. The invitation-only event will see respected consultant Paul Shrimpling set out the process by which you deliver higher-value services to clients. The conference will then follow workshop-style sessions that provide more detail and insight into making that transition.

The conference will take place a few days after GDPR comes into effect – and AdvanceTrack will outline what we’ve done to make sure we are a compliant organisation.