British accountants are under more pressure than ever to advise and support their clients’ business strategies as they navigate today’s challenging business climate. One in three (32%) accountants reveal their clients now expect them to deliver advisory services on top of day-to-day compliance work, and without paying additional fees.
In addition to the increased unpaid workload, this broader responsibility to support their clients is also taking a toll on accountants’ mental health, with one in five accountants saying the challenge of keeping their clients’ businesses afloat is keeping them awake at night.
The research, conducted by IRIS Software Group, a leading software provider of accountancy solutions, reveals that while many accountants have finally achieved the advisor status they were striving towards, they are now feeling the additional pressures that come with this role. Overwhelmingly, MTD (Making Tax Digital) came out on top as the external factor causing the most stress for the accountancy profession. The two biggest pain points noted by accountants were moving clients to MTD (43% mentioned) and preparing their own practice to do so (40% mentioned).
Two-thirds (66%) of accountants agree with the most recent delays to MTD ITSA (Income Tax Self-Assessment) and 63% also believe HMRC needs to listen to accountants more when developing the MTD roadmap.
Worryingly, only 25% of accountants surveyed feel they have the right technology and tools to support clients transitioning to MTD – a fact that is piling on the pressure as they try to help businesses stay on track and grow in both good times and bad. Compounding this lack of technology is a lack of communication. Some 80% of accountants admit to not having regular conversations with clients about how best to implement MTD.
New firms are also coming to the market at speed, creating a highly competitive market. So far this year, we’ve seen 4,397 new accounting firms enter the scene (1). These digital-savvy firms are built with MTD in mind to better serve clients as they navigate the changes. For legacy firms, evolving to meet the needs of today’s digital-first customer by seamlessly integrating MTD into systems will help them match the level of support new firms are providing and remain competitive.
Jim Scott, MD for accountancy at IRIS comments on the results, “Delivering the best services and advice to clients is at the heart of what accountancy professionals do. Yet while they have finally been recognised as the backbone to businesses that they are, they are feeling the pressure to keep Britain moving.
“To get on the front foot, firms must put digital in their DNA. Competition is fierce and new firms are entering the market at pace. Those that don’t evolve could potentially lose out to new, digitally savvy competitors who can operate more efficiently and offer value-added services. Digital tools enable a practice to be more nimble and give the accountant a lens into the clients’ business, further helping them to provide counsel and become a growth business partner for clients.”