This rather derogatory term – pen pushers – is defined in the Cambridge dictionary as “a person who has an office job that is not interesting”.
Of course, clerical work now involves very little pen pushing; rather, office jobs require button pushing. It would be interesting to research how much time is spent by clerical staff actually writing, with a pen, as opposed to interacting with a computer via a keyboard.
Although HMRC will have given little thought to this transformation, their intention to “Make Tax Digital” (MTD) confirms this transition will be edged along by their present plans.
Clients who presently wander into your office in January with a carrier bag will be in serious breach of regulation if quarterly data filing is required for all businesses, including property rental income, starting April 2018.
Where does this leave the profession? If HMRC get their MTD hat firmly in place a whole raft of compliance activity, for which we are paid, will no longer be required. The major MTD change is that HMRC intend to push all the data that is required to ascertain a taxpayer’s annual tax bill, to their digital account, without the need for an annual tax return to be filed.
If, as is likely, this annual SA filing chore is replaced by a form of “we can help you upload your quarterly data to HMRC” service, then, perhaps, what is lost is replaced. But how will this affect your workload? Most clients have year ends that align with the tax year end, 31 March or 5 April. This means that you will have quarterly peaks in button-pushing activity in July, October, January and April.
Or will you create a monthly service that includes processing accounts data (in anticipation of the quarterly upload) and a management accounts review? Without doubt, we should be considering our options.
HMRC may have sealed the fate of the remaining pen pushing activity to the history books. The future is digital…