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How promoting the role of accountants and bookkeepers can drive small business growth

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Jo Copestake

Nov 22, 2022

In the House of Lords last week, I watched as we launched our manifesto to support small business recovery. Surrounded by our amazing accounting and bookkeeping partners and small business customers, I understood the magnitude of what we are fighting for. 

It was great to be able to connect many with their local MPs and take their issues directly to them during the event. This is more important than ever as recession looms, and businesses face such a tough road ahead. 

Regardless of how resilient UK small businesses are, support is needed more than ever. Accountants and bookkeepers are key to providing it. 

While already the most trusted advisors of a huge number of UK small businesses, many owners are unaware of the true value accountants and bookkeepers can provide. This is why we are asking policy makers to lean more on your vast knowledge and expertise to lay the road to recovery for small businesses. 

Alex von Schirmeister speaks to advisors and policymakers at the House of Lords

Here are the recommendations we laid out for the Government to raise awareness of the incredible work you do to support small businesses. 

A national campaign to promote accountants and bookkeepers

We’re asking the UK Government to carry out a national campaign to encourage small businesses to work with an accountant. By working with accountants and bookkeepers, small businesses will not only gain financial counsel, but overall business advice to spur growth and manage the transition to digital tax with Making Tax Digital (MTD). 

We’re also recommending data is gathered to interrogate how businesses that work with accountants adjust to broader change. Being able to see how many late tax returns involve an accountant versus those that don’t, would likely make a strong case for working with an advisor.  

And given how closely you work with small businesses on a day-to-day basis, we want to ensure your insight is fed back into policy-making circles to drive tangible change. 

Advisors, policymakers and small businesses discuss issues at Xero's event at the House of Lords

More digital support for current and future accountants

The importance of digital tools to small businesses has been well documented, improving efficiency and optimising time-consuming tasks. But these tools, and the training to use them, are also vital to the ongoing success of accounting firms, who must steer both themselves and clients through digital transformation journeys. 

We want the government to increase education and training for current and aspiring accountants to ensure they’re able to seamlessly embrace and use digital tools. This way, they are prepared for the future, while also being able to share and develop these skills with clients. With this in mind, cloud accountancy must be included in education courses, from T-level at school, through to graduate and postgraduate business courses. 

Meanwhile, education should reflect the changing roles of accountants. You are no longer solely financial consultants – you interpret and contextualise numbers while making recommendations for small businesses as a whole. Training and education should teach new accountants the skills to fill this vital role. 

Give accountants more time to adjust to regulatory changes

The road to MTD has been far from straightforward, and we know you have felt the push and pull of this uncertainty when communicating it to clients. We have asked the government to offer greater clarity around regulatory changes so that you have more time to adjust and prepare.

Communication on regulatory roll out should be clear enough that nobody feels confused or ill-informed. The government should also emphasise how important it is for small businesses to talk to accountants when planning for these changes, so that the transition can be as smooth as possible. 

Time for change

You’ve done an amazing job of supporting your small business clients, and now it’s time the government did more to help others benefit from your expertise, and gain what they need to thrive in the years to come.

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