Technology can help – but it’s not the be-all and end-all, says Tony Margaritelli.
Tech can turn an average practice into a good practice, but it can never make an average accountant a good accountant.
The benefits of automation, integration, VPNs, APIs, CRM et al are not in dispute. To try to denigrate their value would be to reduce oneself to the level of the Luddite, and we know what happened to them. What concerns me is that at this moment never has there been more pressure on accountants to maintain and update their core knowledge.
Presently we are seeing tax law changing almost on a daily basis as the government try to maintain the economy and employment with raft after raft of changes and updates that are both immediate, almost all-encompassing and suffer (to varying degrees) from poor drafting.
As a result our clients are, with some notable exceptions, suffering as they try to understand the implications. That means they are turning to us for help and advice and, a lot of the time, clarification.
Not only that, at the end of the year we have Brexit: a veritable smorgasbord of legislation and rule changes affecting virtually all of our clients in one way or another. Huge amounts of information are being uploaded daily and in, all honesty, huge chunks of it are actually imparting no information at all, other than to say we are to await clarification or re-directing the enquirer to another possible source of information.
As if that’s not enough, the whole vexed question of employment status is up for grabs with the new IR35 regulations set to come in, followed by the domestic VAT Reverse Construction Charge, which I think in terms of badly drafted legislation could cap them all.
Oh, I forgot – we have a tax return filing deadline to meet as well!
So lots for us to get our heads around in the next six months or so for sure, and if Covid-19 vaccines prove successful in any meaningful way there is no doubt HMRC and HM Treasury will be out to replenish that ‘Magic Money Tree’, catch and punish the fraudsters and close the supposed tax gap.
As accountants operating within the rules and regulations of our profession we simply must rise to the occasion, and make sure that we offer our clients the very best help and advice. That means finding the time to study and, once we are sure of the law, finding the most effective way to impart the relevant information to our clients. Tech will no doubt help, but as the demands on our available time are going through the roof let’s not succumb to the marketing hype and think that tech will help us because there simply isn’t the time at the moment.
• Tony Margaritelli, Chair, ICPA