Making Tax Digital (MTD) and Farming

MTD, farming, VAT, Xero

As you will have no doubt heard, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are introducing a new way to file a business’ VAT returns from 1 April 2019. For VAT registered businesses with a turnover over the VAT threshold, currently £85,000, this is generally mandatory – there are exceptions, via religious beliefs, age exception and internet speed, however HMRC do not anticipate too many businesses falling within these criteria.

What does it entail?

In simple terms, VAT returns must be filed digitally direct from software, with all the transactional detail that make up a VAT return’s figures being within software. This will come into force for the first VAT return commencing after 1 April 2019, so if you have a May 2019 VAT return, the first VAT return on the new system would be the quarter to 31 August 2019. If you have monthly VAT returns, it would be the month of April 2019.

Which software?

There are many providers of MTD enabled software on the market, most on a subscription basis, so which do you choose? Your accountant may suggest one they prefer, however, it may not provide the management detail you would prefer. If you are looking for a reasonably priced software, yet easy to use and tailored to farming, then Farmplan Cash Focus or Cash Manager could be the right fit for your business. Other mainstream software packages including QuickBooks, Sage and Xero are also available, however, they may not provide the management detail of benefit to you and your business.

As accountants, we are happy to work with any of the above, and others too. We suggest a software package that suits your own requirements and needs, and can talk through the prices of different packages with you. If you would like a demonstration of Farmplan, then please just contact your usual contact or any of the Saint & Co farming team.

The costs

Farmplan Cash Focus is £198 + VAT per year on an annual contract. This software is simply analysing the bank transactions and any other business income/expenses not through the main bank account, with the facility to produce a variety of reports from the data held, together with filing of the VAT. The software is desktop software with the facility of cloud backups, and should suit many farmers. As accountants, we can then use the data for annual accounts, cash flow projections and much more. Other variants of Farmplan, giving extra functionality come at extra cost.

Xero, QuickBooks and Sage pricing is around £10 to £25 per month, depending on the version you use. Each has its own merits, and may be of more relevance to your own business.

If you would prefer Saint & Co to do your VAT calculations, then please contact us. Preparing your VAT quarterly will help to prepare your annual accounts, and can also help with tax planning opportunities throughout the year.

Have staff?

If you require payroll functionality, then all the software above have payroll software capabilities, albeit, this will be at extra cost – costs being dependent generally on the number of employees.

If you want to know more, talk through your options, or discuss anything else, please contact us

BITE 2018 Recap: How accounting sits at the core of your business

Xero, tech, BITE 2018

On Friday the 12th of October, 2018, hundreds of business owners descended on Carlisle Racecourse to spend the day learning about Business, Innovation, Technology, and Efficiency.

Or ‘BITE’ for short.

Saint & Co. welcomed a number of guest speakers to the stage to share their insight and expertise. And we couldn’t be more pleased to have had the brains behind BITE – our very own Andrew Liddle – kick things off in the morning with his talk called ‘How accounting sits at the core of your business.’

If you missed the event, or you’d like to refresh your memory, here is an edited transcript of Andrew’s talk:

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

For those of you who do not know me, I am Andrew Liddle, a partner at Saint & Co., and the person who had the idea to bring this event to our community.

When looking through the final running order for today, we realised that there was an omission – so there is change to our running order this morning. You will be pleased to know there will be a tea and coffee break at 11am!

My Inspiration

The idea (for BITE) came to me when I attended a conference held by Xero – we use Xero internally for a significant number of our quarterly and monthly bookkeeping assignments for clients. I was visiting to see what the latest developments to the software we use were, and to see what was coming next in terms of features and enhancements.

The event was held at the Excel Arena, and as I entered the exhibition hall I was immediately struck by the number of people attending, and the huge array of applications that connected directly into Xero.

Yes, some of these applications were related directly to the accounting function, but a number were dealing with other business areas, such as advertising and marketing, which are traditionally outside the accounting function but used Xero as the hub of these tasks.

This intrigued me, and I spent the best part of two days looking at these applications and listening to talks about the impact of technology. At the conference I met Karen – whose firm we use for our marketing – and we were talking about how rapidly the technologies are moving and how this creates opportunities and threats, and realised that a smaller, focused event would be of interest to the business community our firm serves. Our businesses want to learn, develop and improve, and why should they have to travel to the major cities to do so when we could bring an event like BITE to them here?

This event was also where I first became aware of our keynote speakers this afternoon, Andrew and Pete, who stood out from all the talks I attended over those two days as the ones I would most want to hear again.

Finally, I would like to thank my fellow partners for embracing this idea to enable us to bring it to you all today.

A Story of Innovation

From the receipt of a ZX Spectrum some 40 years ago, I have always been interested in technology and innovation. The ZX Spectrum brought computers into the home environment for the first time.  All programs were installed via a cassette tape and could take up to 10 minutes to load as you sat eagerly awaiting the installation of your new game – Manic Miner and Daley Thompson’s Decathlon were particular favourites!

Some would say that 10 minutes to load a program is quick in comparison to the time you’re sat waiting for Windows to download and install the latest security patch on your computer.

Throughout the 80s and early 90s, computers were gradually becoming more and more commonplace in the workplace and the home. When I first started at Saint, we had 4 computers in the entire office which we had to book a slot to use. Most sets of accounts were produced on handwritten schedules, with the finished accounts produced on typewriters.

Giant Leaps; Same Old Mistakes

Now we have a server in every office, computers on every desk, with the majority of staff using 2 screens to ease multi-tasking, and the ability to work anywhere in the world as long as you have an internet connection.

It will not be long once Elon Musk’s space tourism business commences where it will be possible to file your VAT return while orbiting the moon. Or, more likely, sharing selfies on your social media platforms while commenting that the freeze-dried rocket food you have been served on the flight tastes just like chicken!

Throughout all these technological advances, we still see that a large number of clients continue to bring in their accounting records months after the event, which makes their numbers simply a historic scorecard.

A significant minority of our clients are using the improvements in technology and software applications available to have their accounting information accessible in real-time. And they use this data to enhance their business and personal life.

The story I am about to tell is one such example.

Meet ‘David’

I have a client who, to protect his identity, I am going to call David.

Now, David runs his own business and is successful, but the one thing he hates is paying tax. I used to dread his phone calls every time he had to make a payment to the Inland Revenue, as he would always say “how much?” and “is this correct?”

“Yes”, I would reply, “it is correct and you need to pay it by the end of the month.”

The industry he operates has become increasingly regulated to such an extent that he was faced with having to submit quarterly accounts to his regulator within 6 weeks of the quarter end. So he rings me up and says he has this problem and, as he is the chief cook and bottle washer, he is going to need some help as he doesn’t have enough hours in the day to cope with this change.

David’s record keeping in the past was simply a box of his bank statements in order, paying in books filled in fully, and chequebook stubs fully completed. They always arrived 4 months after his year-end, so by the time we got around to discussing these figures, they were out of date.

When we had this conversation, Saint had recently conducted a review of the cloud accounting providers at this time, and as a firm, we had selected Xero to be the one we would recommend if asked. I thought to myself, we have the opportunity to try this now for real.

A Chance for Change

I said to him, yes, we can help, but we would have to change how we processed his transactions. I explained that we would use this new cloud accounting technology to assist with him this. He said, “that’s great but I don’t want to pay any more fees.” I said they would have to be an increase, but it would be sensible to reflect the increased work.

So we set-up Xero and obtained a direct feed of his bank account transactions. He never processed a transaction, although he said he would, so we had to do the processing for him.

The first couple of quarters were a pain as we were back and forth identifying transactions  and getting him to use a debit card for payments rather than cheques – to a point where we simply gave him a quick call to go through a couple of  transactions we could identify directly from the bank feed to allocate the correct code.

A Bit More Back and Forth

During these phone calls, I said to him “you’ve had a good start to the year, but you’ll have a hefty tax bill if this continues.”

“Really?” he said, “how much?”

I told him if this continued he would have this figure to pay, and when he would have to pay it by.

After a few curses, he asked “what can I do about it?”

We talked through his options. Increasing his salary was considered. “I would have to pay too much tax on that if I increase, and I would only spend it down the pub!” he said.

He eventually decided that he would make a regular pension contribution for his retirement, and he would transfer 20% of his profit each quarter into a deposit account to cover his tax bill. And then in quarter 4 of his financial year, he would consider making a top-up to his pension if he was having a better-than-expected year.

A Happy Ending

I now no longer get the phone calls each time David has a tax bill to pay. He has the money set aside to cover it, and he knows that he has done all that he can to minimise the amounts.

He does still ring me when his bill is due for payment, as he likes to keep us on our toes. But a quick reminder of what we do for him, that he’s not stressing that his regulatory reporting will be completed on time (so he can enjoy his Friday night in the pub), and that he now has provision in place for his retirement, which he has saved corporation tax on, is met by a “I know, I know. I just need to have grumble at something.”

So today we’re bringing this new way of working to you all, with the aim of showing you the available possibilities. Our speakers and exhibitors have been carefully selected to raise your awareness and to show that there is a different way of doing all of this.

In Summary: Overcoming Barriers with Making Tax Digital

We have all attended events, read articles or had thoughts on improving our business, but are worried about the status quo being damaged. So we introduce barriers to implementing change.

However, like David, there is a change coming: Making Tax Digital – MTD for short. And this change is not going to target a specific industry; it is going to impact all VAT-registered business owners.

This change is being introduced from April next year, and the reality of Making Tax Digital is that you and I are now going to have to prepare our accounting records digitally to be able to submit a digital VAT return.  Here at Saint, we think this new initiative should have been named Making Accounts Digital, as it makes it easier to explain this change. However, with an acronym of ‘MAD’, this would not have lasted the first press release!

So, an action point from today is to make sure your business is ready for MTD.

This disruptor removes the status quo and removes the barriers to change as, unless you are already doing so, you are going to have to change and bring your accounting function into the very heart of your business.

Your record keeping can longer be an afterthought. Use this precious data to enable you to gain a greater understanding to your business; to understand how your cash flow varies over time; why, at certain times of the year, you are at the limit of your funding facilities; and once you become aware of the issue, then you can look at ways to alleviate it.

From your digital accounts, you now have information, and with relevant information, you can make informed decisions. But with a multitude of information at your fingertips, what details should you be looking at and using?

This is where your Trusted Advisor comes the fore

Who is your Trusted Advisor?

Studies have shown that most business owners see the accountant as their Trusted Advisor.

In the age of automation and artificial intelligence, this advisor becomes even more important. Some will ask why, and I would reply that we are human. We understand that not all the decisions we make are simply ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There are other factors in play, such as our own hopes and fears, which result in decisions that are grey.

At this moment time, the machines will not be able to cope with the answer “it depends”, and from my experience, people still like dealing with people.

As I said earlier in my talk, as a practice we have heavily invested in Xero and have recently become a Platinum Partner.

So, let me welcome to the stage Ashleigh Lambert from Xero, who will share her knowledge of Xero and the importance of the connections between people, and how their technology cements these relationships.

Ignore Making Tax Digital at your peril!

Xero, HMRC, VAT

Less than 6 months now to go until tax gets digital via H M Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) “Making Tax Digital” initiative. Yet a huge 40% of the affected businesses know nothing about it and have made no plans to conform with the new requirements for submission of their VAT Returns.

From 1 April 2019 VAT registered businesses with turnover above the VAT registration limit (£85,000) must submit their VAT Returns using HMRC approved digital software. The present online VAT filing system will be removed for businesses meeting the MTD criteria. The first VAT Return for a business’ VAT Return period starting after 1 April 2019 must be submitted digitally via “Application Programmed Interfaced” software (this just means that the digital software used must be capable of communicating with HMRC’s own digital software).

Whilst HMRC are expected to be lenient for the first year until people get their digital systems in place, they have published a penalty regime which will come into force from 1 April 2020 for late submissions and payments.

The regime is points based and will only apply to returns with a regular filing frequency e.g. monthly, quarterly or annually. It will not apply to occasional returns e.g. a return to report a one-off transaction.

A taxpayer will receive one point every time they fail to make a return on time. A penalty will be charged and notified once the taxpayer has reached the threshold penalty applicable to the frequency of submission periods as follows:-

Submission frequency Penalty threshold
Annual 2 points
Quarterly 4 points
Monthly 5 points

Points will have a lifetime of two years calculated from the month after the month in which the failure occurred.  Points will expire after a period of good compliance i.e. filing returns on time as long as all returns due within the preceding 24 months have been submitted.  The regime for period of good compliance is again set on the frequency of the returns as follows:-

Submission frequency Period of good compliance
Annual 2 submission
Quarterly 4 submissions
Monthly 6 submissions

As yet HMRC have not issued the amount of the financial penalty to be charged but Saints will keep you advised of this.

As everyone knows time flies, so it is sensible for VAT registered business to look at their record-keeping systems for VAT now and consider switching to an HMRC approved digital package.

Here at Saints we have been planning for our clients’ needs in light of this expected development for some time.  To this end we have adopted Xero Cloud software which has been approved by HMRC as being digitally compliant.  We offer clients flexibility in that we can supply them with Xero and provide the necessary training for businesses to use the package themselves.  Alternatively, advances in technology mean that we can offer clients a fee competitive package to maintain the required book-keeping and submit the digital returns – leaving businesses to concentrate on their day to day operations without worrying about VAT return submission deadlines.

Contact your local Saint & Co Office to learn how this could work for your business and receive a fee quote which could relieve you of a lot of hassle and stress!

Cyndy Potter

Saints Tourism & Leisure Manager

Making Tax Digital for VAT guidance issued

HMRC have now issued their detailed guidance on the digital record keeping and return requirements for Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT.

VAT Notice 700/22 clarifies that spreadsheets may still be used to keep business records provided that there is bridging software that links to the Government gateway.

There will however be a one year “grace” period during the first year of MTD when businesses will not be required to have digital links between software programs, referred to in the VAT Notice as a “soft landing”.

The VAT notice includes a number of helpful examples illustrating different accounting systems and the digital links required to comply with MTD for VAT.

The VAT notice is essential reading for all VAT registered businesses.

WHEN DOES MTD FOR VAT START?

The Making Tax Digital rules apply from your first VAT period starting on or after 1 April 2019. A ‘VAT period’ is the inclusive dates covered by your VAT Return.

For example, where a business submits quarterly returns covering the periods to 28 February, 31 May, 31 August and 30 November, the business will need to comply with Making Tax Digital rules for the VAT quarter starting 1 June 2019 and ending on 31 August.

“SOFT LANDING” FOR MTD FOR VAT FOR THE FIRST YEAR

For the first year of MTD for VAT (VAT periods commencing between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020) businesses will not be required to have digital links between software programs. The one exception to this is where data is transferred, following preparation of the information required for the VAT Return, to another product (for example, a bridging product) that is Application Programme Interface (API) – enabled solely for the purpose of submitting the 9 Box VAT Return data to HMRC. The transfer of data to this product must be digital.

For the first year of MTD for VAT (VAT periods commencing between 1 April 2019 and 31 March 2020), where a digital link has not been established between software programs, HMRC will accept the use of cut and paste as being a digital link for these VAT periods.

However, for VAT periods starting on or after 1 April 2020, there must be a digital link for any transfer or exchange of data between software programs, products or applications used as functional compatible software.

USE OF SPREADSHEETS IN PREPARING VAT RETURNS

Example 3 in the VAT Notice describes a business that uses a spreadsheet and bridging software from April 2019, which allows the information to be transferred to HMRC via an API.  It uses a spreadsheet to record all sales, purchases, and expenses in a digital format. The VAT Return is then prepared within the spreadsheet, using formulae already written into the spreadsheet.

The VAT Return information is then sent via a mandatory digital link to bridging software, which digitally submits the information directly to HMRC.  Example 6 shows how a spreadsheet would be acceptable in order to consolidate VAT information prior to submit a Group VAT return.

If you haven’t already done so, please contact us to help you get ready for this significant change in VAT accounting and reporting.

Making Tax Digital delayed further, apart from VAT reporting

making tax digital

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) have confirmed that no further making tax digital (MTD) for business changes will be brought in before 2020 at the earliest.

The Treasury set out its revised priorities for current digital transformation projects, to make room for the additional demands on its resources of work to upgrade customs systems in preparation for Brexit.

The HMRC statement notes that the convergence of business taxes from the current range of IT systems onto a single system will now happen at a slower pace. This will slow the creation of the single account for all business customers.

For individuals, the introduction of further digital services will be delayed, with progress on simple assessments and real time tax code changes put on hold for the time being.

Note that the introduction of VAT reporting under MTD is still scheduled to commence in April 2019 for those VAT registered businesses with turnover over the £85,000 VAT registration threshold.

Does your accounts system comply with Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT?

making tax digital

Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT is scheduled to start in April 2019 which means that your VAT information needs to be submitted to HMRC digitally.

On 18 December 2017, HMRC published draft legislation together with examples of how the business account records might link with the HMRC computer in order to comply with MTD for VAT. The legislation specifies that “functional compatible software” must be used to record and preserve prescribed VAT related data.

What are Digital records?

“Functional compatible software” must be used to calculate the VAT due, report the VAT figures (as per the current VAT return) to HMRC, and to receive information back from HMRC.

VAT related data for each sale and purchase made by the business includes the time of the supply, the value and the rate of VAT charged, or in the case of purchases, the amount of input VAT allowed.

There is no requirement in the draft regulations that the electronic recording of this data must be done at the time the supply is made, or when the purchase is received. As long as the data is recorded electronically by the earlier of the date that the VAT return must be submitted, or is actually submitted.

Digital Links in the Trail
The business can use more than one piece of software to keep its digital records, but those separate software programmes must be “digitally linked”. HMRC provides examples of what it means by digitally linked in the draft notice.

One example is a business which uses one piece of accounting software to record all sales and purchases, this software then calculates the return and submits it to HMRC. As well as the records in the accounting software the business uses a spreadsheet to keep track of a fleet of cars and work out its road fuel scale charges. The draft guidance suggests that the business can type the adjustment into its accounting software.

We can of course work with you to make sure that your accounting systems will comply with the new VAT rules before they start in 2019.  Note that MTD for VAT will not be mandatory where turnover is below the VAT registration limit, currently £85,000 per annum.

Contact us if you need any help with any of the above.

Making Tax Digital

66204538 - businessman hands typing something on smart phone sitting at his office. close up view. mobile applications, communicating, playing games, social media, organizing work or wireless technology concept.

These changes apply to everyone including you: 

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) are making revolutionary changes to the tax system which will be launched in 2018. These changes are named Making Tax Digital (MTD). But what does Making Tax Digital mean for businesses and you?  In practical terms Making Tax Digital impacts on your business by requiring the mandatory keeping of digital records in a format acceptable to HMRC and the submission to HMRC of quarterly accounts figures.

What is it? 

  • HMRC is rolling out Digital Tax Accounts and with that, digital record keeping for businesses and landlords. The self-employed, companies and some individuals will need to submit details of income and expenditure on a quarterly basis plus a final year-end update.
  • New businesses will need to make a first return within four months of start-up.
  • MTD is intended to improve the accuracy of business records and minimise errors through the use of new technology.
  • At present, there are no plans to change the tax payment dates although a voluntary ‘pay as you go’ system will be introduced.

Who does it affect?

  • MTD will affect all businesses, including landlords; very few will be exempt. The main exemption will be for landlords and the self-employed with turnover below £10,000.
  • Some businesses may apply for an exemption on the grounds of insufficient internet infrastructure (however, HMRC expects this to be minimal), religion or medical conditions (these will be checked rather than accepted at face value).
  • Charities and community amateur sports clubs will also be exempt, but can voluntarily comply.

What does this mean? 

  • Businesses will have to submit details of their income and expenditure electronically on a quarterly basis, with a month to do this from the end of each quarter.
  • The quarterly updates and the year-end adjustments will be compulsory, and there will be penalties for non-compliance.
  • You will have to start keeping your accounting records and books digitally to allow the transfer of the data to HMRC in the prescribed format.
  • HMRC will not provide software; businesses will need to buy their own MTD compatible software. It is expected that free software will be available to the smallest businesses only.
  • MTD will apply for most unincorporated businesses and landlords for income tax and National Insurance from April 2018. There will be a one year delay for small businesses and landlords where the annual turnover is less than the VAT threshold.
  • MTD will apply from April 2019 for VAT and from April 2020 for corporation tax.

The Solution

  • The revolutionary changes to the tax system mean that the partners and staff of Saint & Co are actively involved in MTD, including attending courses to keep up-to-date with the latest HMRC legislation & guidelines. We are also working with our accounting software suppliers so that we can provide clients with the accounting package necessary to enable you to keep your ‘Digital Accounting Records’ as required by HMRC.
  • As yet HMRC have not issued the final definitive guide to MTD but we do have an outline of the new system. We will over the next year provide further information and discuss with you, the improvements or necessary changes required to your accounting systems and records so that you conform with HMRC requirements.
  • Should you wish to discuss MTD sooner then please do not hesitate to contact the partner looking after your affairs.