IT advice from our Secret Accountant in the heart of England
Helpful advice from our UK-based Secret Accountant around the IT aspects of your practice.
Yes, it's a boring word but spending some time thinking about your business plan will help you in making the right choices:
PCs and laptops are readily available in a wide range of formats. But it’s very important to think about exactly what you need.
Laptops with a good storage and operating capacity may be all you need as these can handle all of the software needed and are portable.
Despite the use of the cloud and paperless offices, a good printer may still be needed. Leasing and maintenance of printers is expensive so some shopping around will be needed.
The best possible internet access (with mobility) is essential as everything you will use now and in the future is dependent on it.
Take a look at the exhibitors list for Accountex every year. It demonstrates just how many suppliers are competing for your software needs. As a start-up cash flow will be a primary concern. So before diving in to the ocean of accountancy software, decide on your basic operations - with a view to expansion.
Minimum requirements of a new practice’s software would be:
- Must be able to expand in line with the practice and cover a range of entities. Many software providers have bolt on options so that you can start off with a cheaper licence and then pay more when the client list increases
- Should be able to link in with bookkeeping packages that clients may use
- Should have cloud based options
- Must be regularly updated
- Should be able to generate all IXBRL reports for filing
- Must have direct online filing facilities with Companies House and HMRC.
- Wide range of options. HMRC keeps an approved list
- Needs to incorporate facilities for regular updates and for auto-enrolment procedures
- Must handle all RTI issues
- Many packages include ‘standard’ letters for employees and employers
VAT and bookkeeping
Most packages will handle VAT as part of the book-keeping process.
- Can exist as a stand-alone to accounts preparation but very useful if data can be imported directly to save re-entering time
- Should be simple enough so that clients could use it themselves and share the data with you for VAT and other needs
- Must be ready for Making Tax Digital
- Storage and data sharing issues are very important
- Should provide free trial versions so that you can properly research the merits of the package
Examples of well-known packages:
Personal tax (all issues) and corporation tax will be the main initial issues. Other taxes like IHT etc can easily be added on.
- Must be easily updated - most tax software is updated regularly
- Must be able to address clients’ needs - ie capable of emailing the returns or creating paper versions if needed
- Must be able to produce all types of reports in whatever media needed – summaries, SA 302, calculations etc
- Must have good online filing capabilities and be able to link in to joint filing, etc, with other packages
- Should be cost-effective when a practice starts with a small client base and then easily expandable with bolt on options for more clients or different tax issues (for instance trusts or inheritance tax).