Businesses in the UK now have less than nine months to prepare for wide-ranging new rules requiring them to manage their accounts and submit tax returns digitally.

The government’s long-anticipated and controversial Making Tax Digital regime, hailed as the biggest tax and accounts shake-up in a generation, finally comes into effect in April 2019.

Experts in the accountancy world have warned the changes could catch many businesses off-guard. Shipleys Tax have urged business owners to begin researching and investing in digital reporting software that’s compliant with the new rules.

What is Making Tax Digital (MTD)?

Making Tax Digital for VAT is being brought in by the government as an attempt to streamline and simplify the tax reporting system. Making Tax Digital for business (MTDfb) begins on 1 April 2019 with MTD for VAT. From that date, VAT-registered businesses above the threshold of £85k (currently) will have to keep digital records and submit VAT returns using compatible software.

 There will be specific rules for how business will report digitally and the software used to do this has to comply with HMRC’s guidance. Gone are paper records and spreadsheets (to a certain extent), in its place will be digital books and records stored online in the cloud.

This may come as a culture shock for many small businesses who are used to doing it the traditional way.

Businesses that exceed or expect to exceed the VAT registration threshold will need to consider:

·      are they exempt from the requirement to file returns electronically under MTD (charities, local authorities, government departments and overseas businesses will not be exempt from MTD for VAT)?

·      what records will need to be kept digitally

·      what the digital VAT account should look like

·      how to submit their digital VAT return in line with MTD requirements

·      whether to submit their digital VAT account to HMRC

·      penalties for late filing and payment of VAT, and for not keeping digital records or having digital links.

It is also worth noting that the government has plans to roll out MTD requirements for all other taxes in 2020.

What are the key dates to look out for?

·      April 2018 – HMRC opened pilot for businesses to volunteer to submit their VAT returns

·      Spring 2018 – HMRC launches consultation on MTD for corporation tax

·      1 April 2019 – start of first VAT period where MTD is mandatory

·      7 June 2019 – submission deadline for first monthly VAT returns under MTD

·      7 August 2019 – submission for first quarterly returns under MTD

·      1 April 2020 – MTD mandatory for all taxes (planned)

What can you do now to get ready for MTD?

Reports suggest some businesses have not heard about MTD. There is less than 12 months to go until MTD is implemented, many are still uncertain about the requirements and how specifically these requirements will apply to their business.

HMRC is still publishing further guidance on specific definitions and how MTD will work in practice. However, what businesses can do now is to review existing VAT accounting systems and processes in relation to the preparation of VAT returns.

Our recommended steps

To ensure that your business is ready for MTD, we would recommend the following steps:

1.    Review your internal reporting systems, processes and controls. Liaise with your advisers/software providers and internal IT teams to get a view on what they can do to help to get ready for MTD.

2.     Consider likely costs and potential disruptions to your business. Agree additional budgets for changing and maintaining your systems, seeking specialist advice.

3.     Test the integrity of your data and consider whether your VAT-related data is accurate, current and complete.

4.     Consider what information you wish to submit to HMRC and how the API connection will work. Do you need to develop or acquire additional software? Is it easier to outsource the submission of VAT returns to a third party?

Accounts and IT system changes may take 9 to 12 months to review and implement. HMRC advise that failure to meet the necessary MTD requirements could result in penalties although there will be a 12 month grace period (‘soft landing’) after MTD goes live to enable businesses to ensure that they have the necessary processes in place and digital links. It is important therefore that all affected businesses start reviewing their systems, processes and VAT adjustments now.

If you have any queries regarding the above, please contatct us on 0114 275 6292