TAX AND TECHNOLOGY – WHERE DO ACCOUNTANTS FIT IN?
As the adage goes, the two things in life that we can be certain of are death and taxes. And taxes, seemingly, have been around almost as long as death. However, recent years have seen rapid innovation within the realm of taxation thanks to the rise, and advance, of digital technology. The way in which we do business today is far from anything we could have imagined several years ago. Moving sales activities online, reaching out to customers online, holding meetings online—all these might have seemed impossible a decade or two ago, but here we are, witnessing the growth of digital technology and how it is shaping the way things are done. “Indeed, the advance of technology has changed the way small and medium sized businesses handle their taxes,” says Greg Bunyard of Private Client Financial, the financial services division of Private Client Holdings. “Research and experience show that many of the simpler functions involved in tax returns are increasingly being handled by automated technology – making it easier for SME’s to handle much of their own tax returns.” “As an accountant this development may have sparked some initial concern, but experience is showing that the role of the accountant is far from obsolete in the new, more tech-driven ecosystem,” says Bunyard. “In fact, accountants and technology now need to work together to benefit South Africa’s SME’s and accountants need to master tech offerings in the tax space.” The future accountant “Research done by Xero and World Wide Worx shows that the majority of SME’s see their accountants as one of their most trusted business advisers, and many frequently turn to their accountants for non-financial advice. This means that the role of accountants has changed significantly – we are not seen as “bean-counters” anymore but rather as “business nurturers”, a vital part of the success of a company. Accountants have had to branch out to offer added-value services to these small and medium businesses.” Bunyard says that amongst these added value services is unsurprisingly, tech-knowledge and savviness. “Understanding, and mastering, the current accounting software offerings is a crucial skill, and by doing so accountants can provide SME’s with more value through these tools.”
“At PCF we use ProfTax and Xero to ensure that we offer our clients the most up to date advice, information on government legislative and taxation changes, upgrades and software updates. Xero is one of the fastest growing cloud-based accounting software packages globally which connects business owners with real time figures anytime, on any device, anywhere in the world. Real time figures can mean the difference between staying above the line or sinking below, giving business owners the best chance of success.” “Our team also helps set up our clients on the Xero platform so that they can have access to all of these figures and resources, and we provide SME’s with training and ongoing support,” says Bunyard, who concludes by saying that accountants do have a pressing need to modernise their processes and their offering. “That said, they remain essential to their SME clients.”