By Phil Ellerby

Whether you like it or not, the Making Tax Digital (MTD) deadline is almost here – and all VAT-registered businesses with a turnover of more than £85,000 WILL be affected by it.

From April 2019, the law will mean that these businesses must:

  • Keep digital books and records
  • Set up a digital tax account with HMRC
  • Submit digital VAT records via MTD-compatible software

Clearly, these significant changes will impose an increased administrative burden on a wide range of SMEs.

At Northern Accountants, we’re helping to guide our clients through every step of this critical change. If you’d like our assistance, please get in touch or call 0113 2189552 – we’ll be happy to take care of everything on your behalf.

If you’d rather go it alone, below are the 5 essential steps you MUST take to be compliant:

Step 1 – Forget about filing paper records

If you currently maintain financial records on any form of paper, you’re living in the darks ages and need to stop now! From April 2019, the use of spreadsheets or any manual book-keeping system will not be an option for VAT-registered businesses with £85,000 turnover.

Step 2- Get connected

Whether you choose to use a PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone; you’re going to need to get online and input data electronically to comply with Making Tax Digital. HMRC are doing this to significantly reduce tax return errors and make tax audits easier – as their software will be able to replace hours of manual investigation by hunting for mistakes or inconsistencies automatically.

Step 3 – Sign up for a digital tax account

Every business, charity or partnership must have a digital tax account with HMRC, where the details of every taxpayer are stored in one place. For MTD compliance, businesses will need to submit financial information to HMRC on a quarterly basis – with banks, pension providers and Government departments also uploading information to the account automatically.

Step 4 – Choose MTD-compliant software

To comply with MTD, some form of cloud accounting package will be needed to keep records in a digital format and submit them to HMRC. At the minute, the main players are Sage, Quickbooks, FreeAgent and Xero (which we highly recommend) but there are plenty of others available – simply select one that’s best suited to your business and accounting needs.

Step 5 – Start filing your VAT online

Manually entering your VAT figures into the existing HMRC portal will not be allowed once the MTD deadline arrives. So, the sooner you start filing VAT returns online, directly through your accounting software, the better!

The Making Tax Digital Timeline

Phase 1 – 1st April 2019: VAT goes digital for VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the £85,000 VAT threshold. VAT-registered businesses below the threshold continue to operate as normal.

Phase 2 – 1st April 2020: VAT goes digital for VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover below the £85,000 VAT threshold.

Phase 3 – 1st April 2020 (proposed start date): Income and corporation tax go digital for all businesses regardless of whether they’re VAT registered.

Future tax changes and the risks of doing nothing – take action now!

All affected companies who cannot comply with these new MTD rules risk financial penalties and the sort of business disruption which is usually associated with being ‘non-compliant’ in the eyes of HMRC.

While the initial Making Tax Digital deadline of April 2019 only affects around 2.5m businesses with a larger turnover, we expect that smaller businesses will eventually have to follow suit and comply with MTD.

According to The Budget 2018, the existing £85,000 VAT threshold will remain in place until at least April 2022. But before then, MTD for income tax and corporation tax could be introduced – with April 2020 already pencilled in as the earliest start date.

Put simply, now is the time for SMEs to act. We are not expecting any further delays to MTD. Fail to comply and your business could be seriously disrupted.

Should you need any help, please don’t hesitate to call us on 0113 2189552 to arrange a free MTD assessment.