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MTD will force changes for today’s accountants

As the MTD for VAT regime kicks off from the beginning of this month, North West London Society chair Viresh Paul fears the only winners will be the software vendors.

Viresh Paul

April 2019

By the time you get to read this at least one of two events will have come to pass. I have no intention of referring again to the B word but MTD for VAT will be the focus of our attention and we will all be rushing, if we haven’t already done so, to get clients on board or even registering them for MTD with HMRC.

The cloud of confusion and, dare I say, nervousness surrounding the introduction of MTD evoke visions of the chaos surrounding the millennium bug (remember that?) but I would venture to suggest that the first day of April will come and we will still be confused and a little bit nervous.

The confusion - ranging from questions such as do we have to post each individual invoice when we are used to posting monthly statements to how long do we have to keep digital records - will all be answered in good time but the nervousness will no doubt linger on. Will HMRC be able to see all our transaction data is the question that reflects the nervousness of clients who cannot fathom why they have to pay more for software for their books to be kept digitally?

Some accountants will also soon realise that, contrary to the claims of software vendors about the opportunity offered by MTD to ‘grow’ their practices, the only people who will be gaining financially out of this are the software vendors with their upgrades and new concoctions like bridging software.

Was that an email that just landed on my desktop from my Account Manager (at the nameless software vendor) offering to raise an order for my practice to acquire an MTD bridging software at ‘only £200 per year’?

Realisation will surely dawn, if it hasn’t already, that the MTD project only serves to save HMRC costs while making clients and accountancy practices foot the bill and boost the finances of software vendors. There is, of course, nothing new about that but once we are past 1 April there will be quite a few worried about the direction all this is heading.

Is this another means of getting small businesses to file not only VAT returns but accounts directly with HMRC using MTD software and are we all going to have to start looking into alternative career choices?

While established SMEs may not be keen on embracing technology, the millennials could get hooked quite easily and that must surely mean that the accountant of today will definitely need to learn new skills and change the manner in which we have served our clients in the past. That is indeed a very sobering thought as we head towards unchartered waters.

Viresh Paul is Chair of NWLCA.

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