The Countdown to Digital Tax

In our last article we wrote about Making Tax Digital for VAT and its introduction in April 2019.  Draft regulations require businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold to keep digital records and file VAT returns via ‘functional compatible software’. Businesses registered for VAT but with a turnover below the VAT threshold may comply on a voluntary basis.  In this article we take a look at the requirements in more detail.

Draft regulations laid on 28th February 2018 set out the requirements for keeping digital records and attempt to demonstrate how businesses could use software alongside spreadsheets to prepare VAT returns.  The regulations go on to state that a complete set of records does not have to be kept in one piece of software; records can be kept in a range of compatible digital formats, but an important feature is that where separate pieces of software are used to maintain a complete set of records, they must be digitally linked.  Here is an example scenario where different pieces of software are used:

A business uses one piece of accounting software to record all sales and purchases and transfers the totals into a spreadsheet. The business sends this spreadsheet to their accountant, who uses it to calculate the return. The information is then sent to a piece of software which submits the return to HMRC.

Altogether the three pieces of software maintain the mandatory digital records, calculate the return and submit it to HMRC, the links between the three pieces of software must be digital for the set of software to be functional compatible software.

The difficulty in trying to maintain links between pieces of software is that it is not always possible to determine where relevant pieces of data are stored; a problem inherent in the use of spreadsheets, which can be altered. Clearly, the easiest solution is for a business to use a single piece of accounting software to record all transactions and to either allow the accountant access to submit the return on their behalf, or to submit the return themselves.

In a recent survey, we asked several questions about accountants’ readiness for MTD for VAT.  From the responses we received it is clear that a significant number of businesses are not using software of any kind to maintain accounting records and a further, significant number are making use of Excel spreadsheets.  The question is, is traditional accounting software (desktop or cloud based) suitable for all clients?  A significant number of respondents stated that they would be offering bookkeeping services to their clients, but is there another way?  Could a simple cloud based cashbook be the answer for some clients?

Let us know what you think, is a cloud based cashbook a useful tool in maintaining digital records? Could a simple analysed cashbook be the answer for some clients? Let us have your feedback by completing this quick survey.

Further reading and the draft regulations can be found here