Over the past four days, we’ve been looking at some of the key ingredients that can help bookkeepers re-energise their practices in 2021 and beyond in FreeAgent's Bookkeeper Boost Week. As the event series draws to a close, here are some tips from the week’s workshops and webinars that could help you give your practice a boost.
1. Keep your clients up to date with the latest news and legislation
Client happiness is one of the cornerstones of practice success. One surefire way of keeping your clients happy is to keep them up to date with any legislation or industry news that might affect their business.
During Bookkeeper Boost Week, Verna Gellvear from HMRC spoke about Making Tax Digital (MTD), which is set to affect even more businesses in the near future. If you’re due to give your clients an update on MTD, here’s a rundown of the upcoming milestones in the initiative:
MTD for VAT
The scope of MTD for VAT will expand in 2022. VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover below £85,000 will need to follow MTD rules for their first VAT return starting on or after 1st April 2022.
In the meantime, HMRC will stop accepting VAT submissions made using the XML facility from 8th April 2021. This means that accountants and bookkeepers who use accounting software to submit their clients’ VAT returns must do so via the software’s MTD connection with HMRC.
MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment
MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment will be introduced in 2023. It will require self-employed business owners and landlords with annual business or property income above £10,000 to follow the rules for MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment from their next accounting period starting on or after 6th April 2023.
MTD for Corporation Tax
MTD for Corporation Tax is likely to be the next phase in the initiative but won’t be rolled out until 2026 at the earliest, according to HMRC. The outcome of a recent HMRC consultation on the introduction of MTD for Corporation Tax is expected in the near future.
2. Let technology do more for you
As part of Bookkeeper Boost Week, FreeAgent’s Practice Implementation Consultant, Tony Stevenson, and Jason Dalton MICB PM.Dip from Safe Hands Bookkeeping discussed how revitalising your practice systems can boost your practice’s efficiency.
Use cloud accounting software to collaborate with your clients
If your practice currently uses spreadsheets or traditional bookkeeping methods, consider whether you’d be better off using cloud accounting software. By providing your clients with a simple and reliable way to share their business figures with you in real time, you’ll have far less paperwork to chase and fewer data entry errors to correct.
If you’re a FreeAgent partner, you can integrate FreeAgent with pre-accounting tools for further time-saving opportunities. AutoEntry and Dext (formerly known as Receipt Bank), for example, use optical character recognition (OCR) and artificial intelligence (AI) to import your clients’ receipts, expenses and bills into FreeAgent. This can help you to automate your data entry while reducing the risk of manual errors.
Capitalise on the convergence of banking and accounting
Another talking point at Bookkeeper Boost Week has been the convergence of banking and accounting. Thanks to Open Banking bank feeds, your clients can import all of the transactions from their business bank account into many accounting software solutions automatically.
If your clients use FreeAgent, they can use its AI-powered ‘Guess’ feature to attempt to explain their bank transactions automatically, reducing the time they have to spend on reconciling their accounts.
3. Be prepared to adapt as clients’ expectations change
FreeAgent’s Tony Stevenson and Safe Hands Bookkeeping’s Jason Dalton also discussed how bookkeepers are adapting their practices and services as the role of the bookkeeper changes.
Client requests are evolving and bookkeepers are being asked to provide a wider range of advice and guidance than ever before. Some clients may ask for your opinion before making a big financial decision, for example, while others may ask for your help with getting their business started or even with finding new customers.
4. Review your practice’s approach to marketing
The importance of marketing has been a recurring theme throughout Bookkeeper Boost Week. If you’re able to dedicate some time each week to marketing your practice, you’ll have a better chance of growing your client base and achieving your goals.
Your practice’s website is often the first place prospective clients will go to find out how you could help them. As part of your marketing efforts this year, consider reviewing your website to make sure it’s inviting to prospective clients and that it provides accurate details of your services. You might also want to invest some time in raising your practice’s profile on social media.
For more tactics to help you develop your marketing strategy, check out our recent blog post on marketing tips for accountants and bookkeepers.
If you missed any of our Bookkeeper Boost Week webinars and workshops, you can watch all of the recordings here.