“For 30 years we’ve had the self-assessment tax return ‘season’ – a complete slog for tax teams to endure and navigate. That time is about to end, in dramatic change.”
Daniel Teacher is MD of T-Tech, an IT services organisation with a focus on the accountancy sector. He is talking to DAS about the huge impact that Making Tax Digital is about to have on practices and clients alike – and how to navigate that change.
“The sector sets the bar low – it expects and accepts that clients will give them data in multiple formats and via a wide range of channels, often with a starting point of manual entry. Small business clients also set the bar low, too – they assume that more money in their account from one day to the next means they’re ‘making money’. It all has to change.”
Making Tax Digital, although pushed back again into the mid-2020s, will see a huge increase in the frequency of reporting that the UK’s self-employed and landlord communities must make. General partnerships’ start date has been indefinitely postponed.
Accountants and tax advisers to these groups have huge decisions to make around systems and processes, and waiting until 2025 and beyond seems pointless in an ever-evolving world, but the fundamental issue is: can they create accurate and seamless flow of information between themselves and clients so that the quarterly reporting required is manageable?
If practitioners accept that each client will provide them with data in a slightly different way, and with slightly different taxonomies, then the workload created by MTD will be impossible to handle. But Teacher sees a solution: T-Tech’s Practice Gateway.
The gateway is described by T-Tech as a ‘digital front door for customers and their accounting practice’.
Its purpose is to surmount what has long been the biggest hurdle faced by practitioners, MTD or otherwise – to take client data and make it ‘fit’ into the practice’s own systems. And, rather than every client being forced into inputting their information in exactly the same way, the information-gathering aspect can be modified to suit how the client works.
Practice Gateway is virtuous. It simplifies the client input process, and robotic process automation (RPA) transfers that data into the practice tax tech such as, for example, CCH or Digita. Crucially, Practice Gateway can automate further actions and flag up when some intervention (whether client or practice) is required.
For the client it enables:
- Easy and safe transfer of tax information to their accountant.
- Uploading and management of personal files and documents.
- Approval or rejection of documents and letters from your adviser.
- Storage of private data – protected, but accessible within their own infrastructure.
- Easy-to-submit data process. Input on the go, rather than waiting at the end of each quarter.
For an adviser, the Practice Gateway can be used to:
- Synchronise client data with your other tax software.
- Integrate with SharePoint to store and access client files.
- Manage document approvals for groups and individuals.
- Implement client-level security to control user access to data.
- Perform complex tasks by leveraging Practice Gateway automation.
For the practice, the gateway can be used to:
- Simplify business processes by automating data transfer and management
- Define email notifications for any data transactions
- Create a “single source of the truth” from disparate systems
- Configure Power BI reports to expose business insights
- Expand your capabilities with modules for KYC checks, power of attorney delegation, and more.
“The gateway is about standardising the client input and moving away from email as the primary communication and information-receiving portal,” explains Teacher. “And by digitising and automating the back-end processes we remove even more data entry.”
Practices don’t generally have a good reputation for managing change. And the implementation of IT solutions is often held back because of the potential for upheaval to the replacement/alteration of existing tech or processes.
“We’re looking to take practices on a journey towards great technology,” explains Teacher. Crucially, using the Practice Gateway doesn’t necessarily require replacing existing pieces of software.
“The gateway isn’t ‘tax’ or compliance’ software. But it displaces their weaknesses,” concludes Teacher.
Find out more about the Practice Gateway by clicking here.
Practice Gateway – solving the age-old problem of client information flow
- Front end portal for clients to enter information, which then triggers a robot to input that information into the back-end system.
- Accountant then picks up the information and interacts accordingly with the client.
- Removes the need for a middleman.
- This solution is built so that the client can put in the information themselves, and then the robot will mimic the tasks that typically the accountant would do.
Case study – The Practice Gateway’s success for both Evelyn Partners (formerly Smith & Williamson) and the firm’s clients
Adopting the Practice Gateway was an important step in digitising Evelyn Partners’ tax function.
“We knew we wanted to look at something that would make personal tax compliance easier for our client to deal with, and give us a level of accuracy and automation,” explains Adrian Hextall, director of the tax technology team at Evelyn Partners.
A group of clients were initially chosen to adopt the gateway, and Hextall says that they came on board “really quickly”.
Clients have been more receptive as the depth of functionality has been illustrated, particularly its flexibility for their personal needs.
Evelyn Partners also praised the collaborative nature of the gateway’s implementation with T-Tech. What the firm needs most in development terms is listened to.
“The responsiveness of [T-Tech] has been paramount in us getting particular components added,” says Hextall.
And the future? To turn the gateway into Evelyn Partners’ tax function’s source of truth. “To have more data that we get directly from third parties and use Practice Gateway as a conduit for that. Rather than asking clients ‘what income sources do you have this year?’ we will instead say: ‘you have these sources, would you mind filling in the blanks?’,” explains Evelyn Partners' senior manager Chris Wright.