Jessica Fino 4 Sep 2018 09:47am

Regulation burden tops accountants' concerns

The accountancy profession will dramatically change over the next decade thanks to new technology, a new survey has found

While optimistic about the opportunities that technological advantages can bring to the profession, 68% of accountants are concerned with the tightening of compliance regulation on clients’ businesses, while 65% see HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) as the greatest challenge they face.

In a new survey of 345 accountants in practice, Thomson Reuters found 96% of professionals expect technology to change their role by 2028. Most of them predict cloud computing (67%) and real-time date (52%) will have the biggest impact.

Accountants view compliance tasks, like bookkeeping and accounts preparation, as things they expect spending less time doing going forward.

The accountant of tomorrow research found 75% of accountants anticipate spending a little or much less time on accounts preparation and 48% much less on bookkeeping alone.

Moreover, 78% expect bookkeeping to become automated by technology by 2028, followed by data collection (74%), tax return submission/filling (65%), report generation (57%) and tax return preparation (56%).

Instead, accountants predict they will need to focus on areas like digital and cloud technology (89%), advisory (82%) and accountancy/tax law (74%).

Looking ahead, professionals expect they will need to integrate new skills and capabilities into their role over the next decade (96%) and change the business model of their firms (79%). They also think they will become more efficient due to technology (79%), but some think clients will expect more from them (70%).

Over half (62%) of the respondents predict their role as an accountant will be more challenging in 10 years’ time, and advisory work to become more complex (61%).

Interestingly, nearly half (44%) believe there will be fewer accountants in 10 years’ time than there is now, but only 26% think their firm will outsource more compliance work.

Charlotte Rushton, president of Thomson Reuters Tax Professionals business, said, “The tax and accounting profession is facing multiple sources of meaningful change, including new legislation and a wave of new technology that will impact both their own and their clients’ businesses. These trends raise many new questions, such as which areas of practice may require less effort and, in turn, where practitioners can create new growth opportunities.

“Accounting and tax professionals who increase their focus on adopting and becoming proficient with next-generation technologies, while incorporating higher-value advisory services into their mix, will position themselves for a stronger future.”

Freddie Faure, one of the accountants who participated in the report, said, “In 10 years’ time there will still be a need for my role as an accountant, as long as I progress with change and rebalance the core of bookkeeping services versus advisory services from a 50-50 split currently, to 25-75.”

According to a survey conducted by FreeAgent back in May, half of UK accountants would be comfortable working with a robot, while 62% believe that MTD will lead to new opportunities in their practices.