Automation, robots, and worried about the future

reader Registered Posts: 1,037 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
Hi guys,

Bit of background, I'm a MAAT and I work in practice. I mainly deal with accounts and tax returns for 1 person companies and/or sole traders

I was just wondering if there is anyone in my situation (or not) who is worried about the future?

I'm always reading scare stories around robots, machine learning, artificial intelligence, etc wiping out accountants. Has anyone else come across these stories as well?

Also, I worried about Xero and all these other cloud companies making accounts and tax so accessible to clients that clients might just one day (sometime in the next 5 - 10 years) say I'm going to do everything myself and I don't need you any more.

Also, with HMRC trying to bring in Making Tax Digital does anyone get the impression HMRC would rather clients not have accountants so that the client is not represented and therefore easier to attack?

I guess we need to start specializing in niche areas like tax investigation, value added business advice, etc to survive in the future. It would be good if AAT supported us in this brave new world.

Any thought? Am I going crazy?


  • 98emrm
    98emrm Registered Posts: 10
    You need to buy 300 cans of beans, 600 bottles of water, a stove and a tent. Once you've done this you need to head for the mountains.
  • reader
    reader Registered Posts: 1,037 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
    Thanks for the advice; I will meet you there (right after I've carried on living my life).
  • 98emrm
    98emrm Registered Posts: 10
    I'm retraining to be a robot engineer, so I'm safe.
  • Neillaw
    Neillaw Registered Posts: 307 Dedicated contributor 🦉
    I don't think you've factored in time!
    The one sole trader company director is usually too busy to deal with their tax affairs and this won't change.
    They don't want to get involved in pension etc.
    If worst comes to the worst retrain as a robot engineer and learn how to fix them
  • TreadStone
    TreadStone Registered Posts: 280 Epic contributor 🐘
    reader said:

    Am I going crazy?

    Not crazy but possibly guilty of over-thinking it.

    I'm sure there was the same "panic" when self assessment came in. Taxpayers would simply complete their own tax affairs.

  • burg
    burg Registered, Moderator Posts: 1,441 mod
    All what you say is very relevent about how the future may change. We are in an industry whereby a degree of our work can be automated. However we have embraced these upcoming changes and actually increased fees and reduced work. We have used MTD as a tool to get all clients onto Xero now enabling us automate much more of the process. We are therefore reducing time but we have increased fees to cover the addition of Xero and a a more regualr service.

    Our service will become a monthly or quarterly one and we will increaase our contact with clients and our service. We will be far more responsive as we will have up to date info available in an instant.

    Most clients do not use us because they cannot do the work. In most cases they are in fact capable but it comes down to time. They do not have the time to spend the hours required recording data which they see as only calculating their tax. Something we may be able to perform in 3 hours may take them 10. Plus the stress factor. I'm s%#t at DIY. I've tried in the past and can do a few things but it takes me ages, I'm not guaranteed to get the result I want or even the right result and it is super stressful. I simply decide to pay someone to do it. I could by all means do it myself by taking the time to research and learn but I've really got so many other better things to do with my time.

    Clients take this same approach. It's hard to grasp for people like us who generally like working with figures and find them easy but many people don't.

    I do think the number of people who do their own tax returns may increase over the next 5 - 10 years but I don't overly seeing it affect me or my practice. More of a threat to us in the short term is the new PSB 'IR35' rules. Not necessarily on the PSB front as we only have around 10 clients who operate in the public sector but if HMRC deem the rules a success and role them out to all contractors that would mean a fair few lost clients.

    Accountancy is a very fast moving profession at this time and I firmly believe you need to embrace the change and lead it. If you don't you will get left behind and dissappear as people will move to those leaders who are at the forefront of utilising the latest technologies.

    A good part of my job as the owner of a modern practice is spent researching and understanding ways in which we could utilise, embrace and encourage the use of technology in order to make our practice more efficient and up to date with latest technological developments and trends. This iften means trying new things that no, or very few, other practices are doign and they do not always work. It also means that just because something is working well in the practice now does not mean that it is the best way of doing it. If we have not changed something for a while, why not? There could be a better way of doing it now!

  • reader
    reader Registered Posts: 1,037 Beyond epic contributor 🧙‍♂️
    Your point about the new rules for off-payroll working in the public sector spreading to the private sector is very well made. Almost definitely, these rules will spread into the private sector from April 2018 (or 2019). There is no way the Government can allow a situation where 1 doctor working as a locum via a company for the NHS is caught by IR35 but his wife (another locum consultant) working in a private hospital doing the same work can continue to evade tax and pretend they are outside of IR35.

    It is exactly these types of things that I'm worried about.
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