I’m always intrigued when industry “experts” say compliance is dead and that accountants need to value add for their clients. What do they mean by “value adding”? Why is it different to what we’re doing already? Does this mean the tax compliance work we’ve been doing never added value for our clients? Is the tax system about to be abolished? And what exactly makes them experts in the first place?

Paul Meissner, founder of 5ways Group in Melbourne and an accountant I respect, wrote about whether the death of compliance was a valid threat or mere scaremongering. Even though he wrote the blog post last year, his points are still valid and completely on the money.

Tax compliance isn’t just about filling in forms. People come to accountants for advice, and to be led through what is a complicated tax system. Yes, it will become simpler, and some of the form-filling will soon be automated. But you need to understand it’s not the sole reason your clients are coming to see you. (And if it is the sole reason your clients come to see you, then it might be time to move on.)

What tax compliance does mean is that as well as providing tax advice (which your clients already find valuable), you’re creating efficiencies that give you the chance to add more services to your clients.

A set of financials delivered nine months after the year end provides almost no value to a client because it’s no longer relevant. They want to see where their business is going, not where it’s been.

But the combination of Xero, the cloud, and add-on partners such as CrunchBoards, Receipt Bank and Chaser all offer real value to your clients. CrunchBoards lets you provide real-time reporting and forecasting to your clients, while Receipt Bank and Chaser are brilliant solutions for their Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable functions. These apps reduce the amount of time clients spend on basic admin tasks, and help them manage their working capital and cashflows.

Of course, for your clients to benefit from these programs their data needs to be up to date. If they can’t keep up with their bookkeeping, help them be either providing the service yourself or introducing them to someone who can (such as Zerobooks).

Information is only valuable when it is timely and relevant. And financial information nine months out of date is neither.

So what does “Value Adding” really mean?

To me, it’s about providing real advice in real time with real data. After all, that’s what clients want (and need) to help them manage their businesses more effectively.

Does it replace Tax compliance?

No. Tax compliance is a value-adding service in its own right. Additional reporting complements it by providing constant feedback on the business’ financial and tax position.

As Paul says in his blog post, a lot of this scaremongering is helping people sell books and courses that are usually out of date and repetitive.

Value Adding is simple. Help your clients get their records up to date, and then use that data to provide real advice in real time.

Your clients will love it.