“It turns days and hours into minutes”: Accountant gives insight into the Sage VAT 201 experience

VAT submissions is a complicated process that challenges an accountant’s schedule, attention to detail, and patience. Apart from human error, VAT submissions make quite a dent in an accountant’s resources.

Fortunately, eFiling with the new VAT 201 feature in Sage Business Cloud Accountants Edition automates the submission process and allows accountants to prepare, submit, and track VAT 201 declarations through direct integration with SARS.

Casiem Phiri from CST Consultants shares his experience with the VAT 201 feature. He explains how it reduced his VAT submission process from days to just a few minutes.

Here’s how the new Sage VAT 201 feature simplified Casiem’s practice.

Tell us about your business.

CST Consultants is a small practice that I established in 2019. We only have two employees and service about 27 clients via Sage Accounting software.

What were your biggest challenges with client VAT returns in the past?

Before I started or was certified as an accountant on Sage, I used Excel spreadsheets to prepare returns. I would print them and include the supporting documents before submitting them to SARS via eFiling.

Apart from being very time consuming, working with a manual system on Excel led to human error. It ended up taking even more time to fix the errors and ensure all the formulas were correct.

Another challenge was waiting for clients to send all the relevant information and documents.

So, double-checking, error remediation, and waiting on documents made meeting SARS deadlines increasingly challenging.

Describe your process for managing clients’ VAT returns in the past.

Well, first, I had to wait for clients to send through invoices and bank statements. Meanwhile, they had to wait for the bank to send them the respective documents. I would then collect all the invoices for processing.

It was very time consuming because I had a lot of information to process and had to double-check everything – and that’s not to mention correctly submitting the returns within SARS deadlines.

It was also frustrating to constantly log back into SARS eFiling, enter my details, and recheck everything before eventually submitting the returns.

How long did it typically take to complete VAT returns in a month?

It used to take hours and often days to submit VAT returns due to all the manual work and double-checking.

Using this feature, how long do returns now take?

I would say five minutes because most of the work is already automated.

Describe your experience with the new VAT 201 feature in terms of setting it up, challenges, and potential changes you’d make?

Using the feature is easy because you only need to do everything once. All you need to do is go to your eFiling profile, look for an ISV, activate it, choose Sage, and then you go back to Sage, where you can log in once and save everything.

Everything is automated from here and easily integrates with SARS and our own systems. The process is significantly quicker when actually submitting the returns because the feature has already done all the work for you. And the best part is that you don’t have to log in every time.

In what ways has this feature benefited your practice and you as an accountant?

Firstly, it gives me more time to advise my clients and spend time with them. Most of my clients are in the farming sector, and before I started my practice, I worked as a business advisor for an international NGO. I started my practice because I saw a gap in the market for farmers.

Now that I have more time, I don’t just advise my clients on accounting but also on their crops, farming processes, and the like.

The feature also simplifies the submission management system and planning process. The company console feature tells you exactly what to do and includes notes from clients.

You also get alerts or reminders to submit returns, which helps me stay on top of the process and comply with SARS deadlines.

Would you recommend Sage Business Cloud Accountants Edition to other accountants? Why or why not?

Definitely, yes. This is a golden nugget for those using Excel or other manual methods. I would definitely advise them to start using it.

What top VAT tips and advice would you give for small businesses?

Have an effective management system in place and don’t wait until the last minute to submit. Always submit your returns a day or two before the deadlines because they still need to sync with the other servers.

If you use the Sage feature, you don’t need to submit because it’s all linked. All you need to do is submit the invoice as supporting documents because you still need to upload them on SARS eFiling if you are claiming.

If your client is VAT registered, you can go ahead and submit statements because it works like a tax invoice. So you basically submit the bank statement as a supporting document to claim the VAT.

Anything else you’d like to add?

This new feature has really given me the time to connect with my clients on different levels. The technology does all the processing, so I can be efficient in VAT submissions while giving my clients even more support.

Want to know more? Register for the Sage Business Cloud Accounting VAT module online course.