Business planning

“We have more time for our clients”: Accountant on Sage’s new VAT 201 feature

VAT submissions take up a lot of time. Human error, manual entries, and cross-checking in between makes this task one of the most dreaded in accounting.

Now, thanks to VAT eFiling for Sage Business Cloud Accountants Edition, accountants can automate the VAT 201 submission process. From preparation to submission, and tracking VAT 201 declarations directly to SARS, you can do it all within Sage.

Johan Booysen, from Booysen Group, took part in the Sage VAT 201 trial. For him, submitting VAT 201 through Sage has saved a tremendous amount of time compared to the previous manual preparation process.

Here, Johan shares his experience of the new Sage VAT 201 feature.

Tell us about your business.

Booysen Group is a SAIPA-registered practice of professional accountants. We provide accounting services to various types of clients, from sole proprietor businesses to larger companies, farmers, and a few mines.

Our vision has always been to use the most advanced technology wherever we can, which is why we don’t employ a lot of clerks. In fact, the software we use allows us to effectively manage our processes and gives us more time to focus on our client service – which is what we’re renowned for.

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

I’d say it’s always been the manual aspect of the process, which caused a lot of human error. The preparation stage is especially time-consuming.

Another challenge was that clients would make changes after submissions, which affected the liability in terms of the VAT calculation. We would submit a return and notice that changes were made, which affected the entire process.

What impact did these challenges have on your business and you personally?

Going back and forth to prepare, check, submit, and potentially adjust VAT returns took a lot of time. It also took manpower to ensure there weren’t any errors. We are customer-centric, so we had to spend a lot of time focusing on delivering quality work.

Personally, I find the preparation stage unnecessary and time-consuming, but it had to be done to ensure little to no mistakes were made.

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

Well, the clerk would do the calculations, capturing, and move on to VAT return preparation on eFiling. From here, a senior would revise what was done to ensure everything is correct. So, it would take quite a while before the VAT return is eventually submitted.

Even with the senior’s eye, there is always room for a mistake to slip in when it’s done manually.

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

Preparation and submission of the return would take between 20 to 45 minutes per client; this excludes calculations and data capturing. As mentioned before, we don’t have a lot of clerks, which made the process even more time-consuming.

We have about 35 VAT clients each period, so you can just imagine the time it takes per month.

Using this feature, how long do returns now take?

We’ve managed to reduce the time to around ten minutes per client, which means a saving of half-an-hour on each client.

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

Setting it up was quite easy and user-friendly. The only issue we experienced for some of our clients was with eFiling integration. Other than that, we didn’t experience any difficulty with the

feature. Sage also gave us a manual, which we sent to our clients. Overall, once you’ve done the setup, the rest is easy.

I do think this feature should be made available via mobile. Mobility is crucial in a world where we’re constantly moving around.

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

In short, it makes life easier.

The new feature eliminates the unnecessary preparation stage. It calculates everything for you. The only step we needed to take was to check, finalise, and submit.

Regarding client adjustments, the VAT feature doesn’t allow changes to a specific submission, which makes it a lot easier and less time consuming for us.

With the extra time we save from using the feature, we get to focus on other aspects of the practice and services we offer. This gives us the opportunity to be even more profitable with time to spend on other tasks.

To put it into perspective, one of our clerks took an opportunity at our KZN office, so she resigned. Before replacing her, we tested the waters and ended up not employing anyone else. This was purely because the system is so automated, that we didn’t need another clerk at all – saving us time and expenses.

Most importantly, the feature eliminates the human error element. It’s great to have the peace of mind knowing there cannot be any mistakes.

Overall, this feature has made our lives easier, so we can make the lives of our clients easier. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions that we made. Using this system is much more effective and we can advise our clients on issues we didn’t have time for in the past.

Because we work remotely and are constantly up and down between offices, being able to have instant, constant access to service and support is great.

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

Absolutely. Sage provides a cost-effective platform that makes your overall communication and connection with your clients much better than any other software solution. I cannot imagine our practice without it at this stage.

For example, whenever a client has a specific problem, we know the ISV marketplace will have a solution to integrate and solve that problem. It’s completely changed the way we do business in a typical traditional accounting practice – it makes it much easier.

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

  • Partner with a good service or software provider to manage your VAT processes,
  • Store your backups and documents per transaction in electronic format in the cloud, and
  • Keep proper and up-to-date VAT reconciliation reports for every VAT period.

Anything else you would like to add?

Don’t spend time on unnecessary tasks when technology can do it for you. Technology gives you the automation and means to better connect and communicate with your clients. It also allows you to integrate with your clients’ bookkeeping systems.

Using this system makes such a big difference in that we now can spend more time with the client, understanding their specific needs, and better advising them accordingly. Clients love it when you’re involved and actively building a relationship.

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