4 ways you can go beyond accounting in 2017

Written by Amy Vetter 
Article source: Accounting Today

Every year, when the calendar inevitably and indiscriminately reaches its final page, people everywhere take stock of the year that was – the things they did well and the things they would like to improve on in the new year. When looking to the year ahead, many accountants ask themselves, “how can I go beyond accounting next year?”

We’re at an inflection point here in the industry where cloud technology, and in particular cloud accounting software, is providing us with the opportunity to be more than just the number cruncher for our clients. With key business performance data feeds displayed on elegant dashboards and the ability to extract insights from financial reports that are generated with the click of a button – a lot of us are asking what further steps we can take to become the trusted advisor in our clients’ businesses. Here’s how you can do so and go beyond accounting in 2017.

1. Stay ahead of the technology curve

A huge part of becoming the trusted advisor in the modern accounting landscape is not only leveraging cloud technology in your firm, but keeping up with the evolution of technology. There is no endpoint to learning, so it’s important to maintain your knowledge constantly by attending industry conferences locally and abroad. Online learning is another great way to stay in the know. With an AICPA membership you’ll have access to many resources including webinars and online libraries. Through the AICPA, you can gain access to the IMTA training center and even achieve new technology-related accreditations like the CITP designation. Join a local accountant meet-up or social group to stay in the know about what accountants are doing. It’s about keeping up-to-date with industry best practices in order to stay ahead.

2. Let the servers do the work for you

Cloud accounting software and applications have helped automate many of the aspects of our roles that were taking up time better used elsewhere. Before the year is out, identify the biggest inefficiencies in your practice and look for software solutions that will automate these timesucks – putting in a plan to implement them gradually in the new year. For example, I have found that a lot of firms struggle figuring out which client work needs to be actioned and when. Digging deep into client files on a regular basis is time-consuming and planning work shouldn’t necessitate reviewing client needs manually.

In this instance, you can cake advantage of an open practice platform like the new Xero HQ, which will help you streamline practice work. The Xero HQ activity feed, which is easily tailored to suit your practice, solves the pain point of prioritising client work. With a simple glance at the feed you’ll know which of your clients, for example, have bank transactions to be coded or have accounts that haven’t been fully reconciled for a number of days. The time spent here can be reallocated to those higher level advisory services that our clients need in order for their businesses to thrive.

3. Make it personal

For a profession whose currency is numbers, accounting is a remarkably personal business – and it should be. The firms I work with that are the most successful are those that care about their clients on a human level and partner with them to help them succeed. In today’s accounting environment, where personal relationships with clients are increasingly valued, understanding this will help you do exceptionally well. It is refreshing to see more firms developing these sorts of relationships with their clients, for the simple reason that they now have time to do it thanks to the efficiency of technology. There is finally breathing space to engage in deeper client relationships, analyse the data in a business and take proactive steps to help.

We’re well past the days of driving from client to client to use their desktop accounting software, which is where a lot of our close personal relationships with clients were once developed. Due to the now global nature of accounting, where our clients are no longer necessarily the small business next door, it’s important to maintain that bond with our clients. Regardless of client locality, maintain that personal relationship with them by using video conferencing tools like Google Hangouts in order to have that face-to-face interaction.

4. Hone in on your niche

If you haven’t already, carving out a niche or niches should be one of your top priorities in 2017. The more you work with the same kind of industry or client, the more it will help you as far as becoming the expert and gathering knowledge around best practices for that vertical. In order to find your niche or niches, think about the types of clients that are naturally attracted to you and whether you are enjoying the work you do with them. Do the same with your staff, questioning them about their passions and the types of industries they enjoy working with and narrow down a list of everyone’s preferences.

For example, I am a Yoga instructor and health and wellness is a huge passion of mine. Servicing clients in this industry never feels like work for me because I love this field so much. Match your list of prospective industries against industries that are profitable. A market assessment is also necessary in order to determine whether there are enough clients out there in this vertical. If you feel comfortable with the industry or industries you’ve chosen, then you’re on the right track.

Cloud technology will be our greatest ally in achieving the status of the trusted advisor in our clients’ businesses. By bringing the the human element to our client relationships, along with our niche expertise, we can go beyond accounting in 2017.

Betty Bookkeeper explains why Sole Proprietors must submit logbooks to claim travel expenses – December 2016

Hi Betty 

We’ve recently had two clients (both Sole Proprietors): one for which SARS disallowed all the motor vehicle expenses (fuel, insurance, depreciation, repairs) due to the non-submission of travel logbooks, and another with a tax audit requesting travel logbooks.

Both of the clients did not have travel allowance or the use of company vehicles on their personal income.

Is it compulsory that a Sole Proprietor should submit a logbook in order to claim business motor vehicle expenses? If yes, in which section in the Tax Act will I find this?


Hi Riette

Yes, a Sole Proprietor must submit a logbook to claim travel expenses. Many times sole traders use their own vehicles for business travel purposes for which they will seek a deduction in terms of section 11(a) of the Income Tax Act (“ITA”).

They will be able to obtain the deduction to the extent that the expenses are actually incurred in the production of income.

Section 11 deductions must be read together with section 23 of the ITA, which prohibits deductions in certain circumstances.

Section 23(g) specifically disallows deductions “in respect of… any moneys, claimed as a deduction from income derived from trade, to the extent to which such moneys were not laid out or expended for the purposes of trade.”

A sole trader’s motor vehicle is usually used for both private and business purposes. All the expenses incurred in respect of that vehicle will not expended for the purposes of trade and to such extent, will not be deductible in terms of section 11(a).

The sole trader must therefore apportion his motor vehicle expenses (which he actually incurred) between whatever relates to business use and private use. It is only the portion of total motor vehicle expenses relating to business use that will be deductible [assuming all other section 11(a) requirements are met]. This is why business kilometers traveled during the tax year, and by extension a logbook to prove such, is important. It allows the sole trader to verify (to SARS) the apportionment of the vehicle expenses for business use.

Section 102(1)(b) of the Tax Administration Act (TAA) states that the taxpayer bears the burden of proving that an amount is deductible. The logbook can assist the taxpayer in discharging this burden of proof. Furthermore, section 23 of the TAA also requires that a person who has submitted a return keep records that enable SARS to be satisfied that a person has observed the requirements of a tax Act.

SARS can request a logbook for the purpose of verifying the motor vehicle (business) expenses of a sole trader.

The following is an excerpt from the SARS 2014 Comprehensive Guide to the ITR12 return for individuals:


If you did not receive a travel allowance but incurred travel expenses in the production of your income, you may claim a deduction based on a logbook that must be retained for a period of 5 years after the date of submission of the return and must be available on request from SARS. The amount of your claim must be filled in next to code 4015.

Hope that helps!

Don’t forget that I’m here to answer your questions about the ICBA, or just queries about your accounting at work. All you have to do is email me!