The shift towards a more digital future and the impending introduction of HMRC’s “Making Tax Digital” initiative fundamentally changes the way we will do business, and also the needs and demands from customers. At Albert Goodman, we already have over 70 staff trained in Xero, Quickbooks and Sage One, and over 400 clients reaping the benefits of moving their accounts to the cloud.

Online accounting platforms allow businesses to create invoices, pay bills and keep up to date with their finances on the move. Similarly, Making Tax Digital (MTD) is HMRC’s drive to make the UK the most digitally advanced tax system in the world – and will ultimately require businesses to submit quarterly tax returns via digital platforms. At the moment, MTD plans are on hold due to the General Election, but they haven’t been scrapped, and the general feeling across the profession is that it is very much still coming and needs to be prepared for. However, we aren’t looking at MTD as the key driver for moving to the cloud, we are already moving our clients for the many benefits it brings them and the ability to comply with MTD will be an additional benefit.

The benefits of Cloud Accounting have been well publicised, but it’s worth revisiting, the key reasons are:

Time saving

Cloud Accounting systems allow you to upload or automatically bring “live feeds” of your bank account and credit card transaction data into your accounting stream. This, along with other smart features, means it’s quicker and easier to stay up to date with your bookkeeping, and you don’t need to wait for the paper bank statement to arrive in the post because you don’t need to enter the bank transactions – meaning time spent on bookkeeping will be drastically reduced.

Real time information, all the time

Even when you are working on the file, your accountant can be working on the same file at the same time. This allows us to interact with you in real time and assist you with any questions live. You get a clear overview of your financial position in real time, enabling you to make quicker and smarter business decisions, and enables us to advise you better.

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Flexibility

With Cloud Accounting software, you have the option to run your business remotely from anywhere, from any device with an internet connection. You can run your business from work, home, or on the go, and you can be confident that you have an up-to-date picture of how your business is doing, no matter where you are. You can see your business account balances, outstanding invoices, overall cash position and much more from anywhere, 24/7.

Cost savings

Cloud Accounting ensures there are no more expensive upgrades, up-front licence fees or downtime – Cloud software is updated live at no extra cost and means you don’t have lots of different versions of the same file. You don’t need to worry about installing the latest version or waste time waiting for significant upgrades to take place, as you receive access to new features and updates instantly. All your files are saved in the Cloud, so you don’t have to spend extra time or money on data backups, as your data is automatically saved and accessed (by you) remotely. If you need to give access to someone else, another benefit includes an unlimited number of users at no extra cost. All of this for a monthly subscription – which equates to around the same price as a mobile phone contract.

Having worked as an accountant for many years before the digital revolution, I can vouch for what game-changing features cloud accounting technology is providing to both accountants and business.

As our lives are becoming more and more digitalised, it should come as no surprise that business finances are moving in the same direction at a rapid pace. We no longer take our holiday photos to be developed and wait a week for them to come back before we can see them, so why do we still wait weeks for the bank statement to arrive in the post and then spend hours reconciling our records to the statement? Cloud Accounting gives us the opportunity to streamline our finances and ensure bank transactions are fed directly into our accounting software on a daily basis, giving the software the data to match transactions ready to be reconciled – resulting in a couple of minutes’ worth of work, as opposed to hours or days.

Cloud Accounting also benefits accountancy firms, such as Albert Goodman, because it means all data is in the same format and accessible in the cloud, which enables us to analyse and provide clients with valuable KPIs and benchmarking information on an ongoing basis. The centralised and automated cloud system allows us to spend more time providing added value services to our clients, such as integrating apps designed specifically for certain business sectors into their cloud package – for example, for retail businesses we can integrate point of sale apps in their accounting software, or we can support marketing firms by integrating sales pipelines into theirs. The list of potential options is endless.

As accountancy firms move to the cloud and old fashioned processes become automated, businesses should expect to receive more than just the basic compliance work from their accountant. I would urge businesses to make the most of an accountant who is comfortable with cloud accounting software. The knowledge that an accountant has, combined with the latest cloud technology, is a powerful tool when making informed business decisions about your business in real-time.