Making Tax Digital: An interview with Julia Reid, Johnston Carmichael Digital Solutions Manager

Gareth Spowart, Senior Public Practice Consultant at iMultiply interviews Julia Reid, Manager of Johnston Carmichael’s Digital Solutions team.

What exactly is your role at Johnston Carmichael?

I am a manager in the Digital Solutions team.  We have a team of 30 staff who help our clients get ready for Making Tax Digital for VAT, which comes into effect from April 2019.  I help to oversee the whole process firm-wide and empower the team to perform the migrations, training and support for our clients. This follows a standard approach, which we have designed.  This mainly involves listening and analysing what works well currently, along with the challenges and evaluating what software options would work best to achieve successful outcomes. We are constantly evolving our approach where required.

What do you enjoy about working in Digital/Cloud Accounting?

I absolutely love making change happen. I get a real buzz hearing from people who were sceptical or perhaps against change, completely change their views and truly embrace what we have suggested for them.  I also love the constantly evolving workflow, meaning that I never have the same day twice over and am always learning new things.  I cover our Edinburgh, Perth and Stirling offices, so even my commute is different every day, and I get to see so many different places and meet so many interesting people.

What are the main benefits of Cloud Accounting?

The main benefit for me, is that your information is accessible anywhere, anytime and from pretty much any device.  There’s nothing worse than “I need to send that invoice to a client” popping into your head when you are in the middle of something else, then frantically trying to remember to do it whilst trying to concentrate on something else. The immediacy of being able to log-in on your phone, click a few buttons and within 30 seconds it is sorted and on it’s way, means you can move onto other tasks without distraction.
Another huge benefit is bank feeds, this is where your internet banking transactions automatically download into software ready for allocating to the appropriate code. This saves you having to manually key the date, amount and narrative, thus saving vast amounts of time in the long run, along with reducing the scope for errors.

What is MTD and what are the pros?

Making Tax Digital is an initiative by HMRC to make it easier for individuals and businesses to keep on top of their affairs.  From April 2019 only VAT records will need to be kept digitally, with other taxes planned to follow in 2020.  After April 2019, affected VAT returns will need to be submitted to HMRC using MTD compliant software and not through the existing Government Gateway.  One of the key drivers of MTD for VAT is the reduction of manual intervention in the VAT return process, therefore reducing the scope for errors which HMRC estimate costs the UK economy £34bn each year.  By helping our clients become compliant with these new HMRC rules, we can demonstrate how they can use the up-to-date and accurate information to make better informed and timely business decisions, as well as plan and control their cashflow more effectively.

What are main challenges of converting clients?

There are some clients who simply don’t want to change, and are concerned that HMRC are making this happen with quite short timescales and with a cost implication for them.  This is completely understandable, so we try to make the changeover as painless and straightforward as possible, while offering an affordable, fixed-price yet high quality service.  No-one likes being told what to do, so we just need to break it down into small, achievable steps to get through the short-term pain, for long-term gain.

What type of clients do you work with?

A massive range of clients!  From professional services, software, engineering and manufacturing, hospitality, leisure and tourism through to construction, agriculture and the trades.There are a lot of traditional clients who are still using manual records or spreadsheets, so they are our main focus for now but there is an ever-growing number of clients becoming frustrated with their existing software or processes and are looking for our expert advice on how to re-invigorate their finance function.  This involves taking advantage of the efficiencies that can be achieved by cloud accounting, along with the vast array of apps that can be used to complement accounting systems and their business as a whole.

What advice would you give to someone looking to move into this type of work?

No-one will tick every box, but be clear, up-front and honest about what skills you do have and how they can be transferrable and relevant for what we do. The success of our team is, in the main, due to blending together a variety of skillsets and personalities, who all contribute in their own way and respect one another’s contribution.  This is, by far, the most positive, exciting and engaging team that I’ve ever been a part of.

Contact Gareth Spowart if you would like to hear more about our Public Practice vacancies on or 0131 603 7747.

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