Tax doesn’t have to be taxing – so said an HMRC campaign a few years ago. But it still remains a challenge for businesses. The UK government is seeking to change that with Making Tax Digital, a programme that will create an efficient and effective digital tax system, both for businesses and individuals.
The first part of the programme – Making Tax Digital for VAT – begins in April 2019 and nearly every UK business that is VAT-registered and over the current VAT threshold of £85,000 will have to file their VAT returns digitally using functional compatible software.
And with Making Tax Digital, HMRC is driving an almost unprecedented digital revolution within business. Sage supports the streamlining and simplification of the tax system, which will help companies across the country to spend less time on business admin.
HMRC has admitted £9bn in tax is lost each year due to inaccurate submissions and it recognises that businesses want to get their tax payments correct. Some businesses also often overpay taxes, although there aren’t any official statistics on the cost of these mistakes. By implementing Making Tax Digital, it is aiming to reduce this figure by making sure businesses are able to accurately make their submissions.
HMRC’s bid to have the world’s most digitally advanced tax system begins with the VAT element and will also include other methods of tax – such as income tax, corporation tax and self-assessment tax – in the future.
But what will Making Tax Digital mean for businesses? It will allow them to spend less time on admin. Sage research found that from January to October in 2018, small and medium-sized businesses lost £30.8bn due to a lack of productivity because of unnecessary admin tasks.
That’s where Making Tax Digital will make a difference for businesses: it will lead to a reduction in errors and better efficiency with record keeping, resulting in a boost in productivity.
The first step is to see if Making Tax Digital for VAT applies to your business. It’s worth checking with HMRC to see if your business falls into one of the deferred or exempt categories. If it does apply (no matter whether that’s from April or the deferred date of October 2019), review the processes required for your business to generate VAT returns, such as how you process sales transactions.
You’ll need to consider how you’ll submit your VAT returns – one of the fundamental changes is you can no longer manually key in your figures into HMRC’s portal. Sage software connects directly to the portal, making submissions quick and easy. Just check you’re using the right version.
By using accounting software, invoicing and submitting tax returns, for example, turn into procedures that can be completed in minutes. This means your staff can be more efficient as they can input data once, rather than multiple times across disparate systems.
It also offers real-time insights on cash flow, the opportunity to automate manual processes and provides the comfort of staying compliant. Research by Sage found a move to digital accounting can lead to businesses saving £17,000 per year.
The final step is to work out when your business will make the switch to Making Tax Digital and then put that into action. Be aware, the start of the year is a busy period for accountants, so if you need their help, it pays to move quickly.
Sage has been helping businesses with compliance and legislation for more than 35 years. We’re here to help businesses be ready for Making Tax Digital and supporting accountants in their preparation too.
There is an alarming assumption among some businesses that it is possible to opt out of Making Tax Digital. This just isn’t true and considering HMRC intends to levy penalties, it’s a dangerous misconception.
So when’s the best time to prepare for Making Tax Digital? Right now. Waiting until April 2019 might seem logical but don’t forget that there might be a transition period for your business. Many businesses will be making the switch at the same time, so there’s a good chance support telephone lines will become congested.
To counter that, start the Making Tax Digital ball rolling in your business today. Begin conversations, inform your staff and speak to specialists such as Sage and your accountant now.