Last updated: 11 Jan 2021 02:30 Posted in:

There are always some clients who prefer paper-based accounting, preferring physical copies over digital documents. But this can come at a cost – to both them and you.

AIA Director of Operations David Potts commented: “By transitioning to digital, not only will your clients’ accounts be easier to manage, but they’ll take a fraction of the time to process, enabling you to work on other elements of your practice”.

AIA spoke to Mike Parkes from strategic partner, GoSimpleTax and asked him to explain more, and highlight how accountants can benefit from going paperless.

Offer real-time answers and advice

Paper, by nature, is chaotic. You’ll need filing cabinets, meticulously labelled, to accurately record each of your clients’ accounts – up to six years of their accounts, in fact, to ensure that they’re covered if HMRC launch an investigation into their tax return. That’s sure to take up a lot of space, and it also doesn’t provide you with an easy-to-access overview of what any of your clients owe the taxman.

Digital files, on the other hand, are much easier to read. Especially if you invest in a tax return solution like GoSimpleTax. Tools like these allow you to record client income and expenditure in real time, meaning that whenever a client asks for their expected tax bill, you can answer in just a few clicks.

As a professional advisor, this allows you to submit an accurate tax return on their behalf and help them manage their cash flow. Plus, as some tax return software providers also highlight any opportunities to claim tax relief, there’s an extra incentive for your clients to stay on top of their record-keeping.

Record income more easily

Another benefit of going digital is the ease with which you can record client income. At the moment, you have to log each of your client’s paid invoices into their tax returns. But with invoicing tools, that all changes.

By using software to request payment, any invoices paid will automatically update their accounts. For example, if a client receives payment for an invoice you sent, their predicted tax bill will be automatically updated based on the amount of that payment. This saves you time and also unifies two of your practice’s most important services: invoicing and the tax return.

You can also use these digital tools to understand when to schedule sending invoices as well as the follow-up emails to ensure that their customers pay on time. Integrations with online payment solutions like SumUp and PayPal can additionally help your clients’ customers pay them more quickly using a debit or credit card, saving you from chasing payments in the first place.

Each of these payments will then filter into your clients’ tax returns, making the 31st January tax return deadline much easier.

Enhance security

Tax return and invoicing software also allows you to log all client income and expenses in the system. That means no more hoarding scraps of paper for your customers – instead, they can take photos of their expenditure and you can upload it to the cloud, where it’s secure and less likely to be stolen.

This is true of all client information in fact. As data processed online is governed by GDPR, customer information is often safer when stored on software as opposed to in your drawers. What’s more, they’re backed up in the event of data loss.

Be MTD-ready

Last but not least, going digital means you’ll be ready for upcoming legislation. Making Tax Digital (MTD) was a government initiative launched in 2019 to gradually digitalise the UK tax system. It started with MTD for VAT, which stipulated that VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold would need to digitalise their accounts by 2022.

Soon this will extend to all self-employed individuals with an annual income above £10,000. The reason for this is that the government believes, by using software to submit tax returns, there will be fewer avoidable mistakes. These mistakes cost the government £8.5 billion in 2018/19.

By adopting this software now, you’re able to effectively onboard all your paper-based clients well ahead of the MTD for Income Tax roll-out date. So, not only will you be compliant with the incoming legislation, but you’ll also benefit from a streamlined workload well ahead of your competitors.

It’s time to go digital

After 2020, accountants should be looking to add value to their service in a way that protects both the needs of their clients and the needs of their practice. Many sole traders will be reeling from the pandemic, and you’ll need to stress how your services are essential to their success.

Traditional bookkeeping won’t be enough. However, by digitalising your clients’ accounts, you can offer a more comprehensive solution. This doesn’t require any additional effort on your part. Simply by adopting tax return and invoicing software, you can start alerting them of opportunities to claim expenses and even simplify their payment request process.

“By transitioning to digital, not only will your clients’ accounts be easier to manage, but they’ll take a fraction of the time to process, enabling you to work on other elements of your practice”.