Accountex 2024 was buzzing with insights, caffeine-induced energy crashes, and sore feet. There were mind-reading beer taps, VR games, and battles for the best merch.

Most important, however, were the discussions attendees had along the way, the knowledge shared, and the connections made.

If you missed the opportunity to attend this year, or just want a refresher, this article has compiled 5 key insights gained from some of the most innovative minds in the industry.

Here are the top 5 lessons and action points Accountex 2024 that every accountant and bookkeeper should take to their practice.

Here’s what we’ll cover

1. Tax is getting simpler

2. MTD is here to stay

3. Data security has never been more important

4. Talent is fundamental

5. Tech is making space for human touch

Meet Sage Copilot—your dedicated AI-powered productivity assistant

Final thoughts

1. Tax is getting simpler

This year, simplicity was the main mantra.

HMRC reinforced this message with promises that Making Tax Digital (MTD) would make tax as pain-free as possible.

Jonathan Athow’s discussions highlighted the move towards making it easier to “pay tax and pay tax right,” through the rollout of MTD.

Although there would be change across the industry, he insisted that this would be beneficial for everyone in the long run.

However, some in the audience did highlight that the quarterly entries of clients’ data would likely quadruple their clients’ fees who weren’t yet digital.

Action point

Ensure you’re clued up on the changes announced late last year to the rollout of MTD and keep your clients in the loop of the implications this will have for their businesses.

2. MTD is here to stay

If you’re doubtful that MTD will ever actually happen, the message was clear across multiple talks: it’s still coming.

Rebecca Benneyworth MBE, explained that MTD is about so much more than quarterly accounting. Likening that to the tip of the iceberg, other issues such as re-platforming, new hardware systems, and integration of legacy systems, should all be remedied by MTD. 

With a UK general election on the horizon, Rebecca, Sharon Cooke, of 20:20 Innovation, and Andy North of Tax Calc, discussed the implications for MTD of a potential new government.

While Labour recognises the challenges of rolling it out, the speakers suggested that it was unlikely they would reject it. The prospect of closing the tax gap is too lucrative an opportunity to take off the table.

Action point

Rebecca Benneyworth MBE and Sharon Cooke of 20:20 Innovation both recommended looking to the software that will be ready for MTD.

Fortunately for UK practices, Sage is ready to support you and your clients through MTD.

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3. Data security has never been more important

With so much digital transformation and advancements in AI, data security is in the spotlight more than ever. As new technologies emerge, the consensus was clear: it’s crucial to keep client data locked down.

Bringing home the importance of accountants and bookkeepers fully understanding AI’s capabilities,

Danielle Fisher, product manager at Sage, showed how deepfake technology could be used to impersonate her during a Facetime call with an accountant.

While you should be vigilant in your AML and KYC efforts to protect yourself and your clients from opportunistic criminals, you also need to think about the risks posted by the tech that you’re beginning to explore.

Always ensure that what you use is trusted and secure.

Action point

Rebecca Williams, of Eccounting made Easy, summed it up during a discussion about key changes in the industry: as accountants and bookkeepers you’re handling client data when using new tools, always be GDPR compliant.

Explore AI and its potential but do so with the tech partners you trust.

Read more: How the Core Identity Framework can help to combat identity fraud

4. Talent is fundamental

A recurring theme this year was the critical role of talent in navigating these turbulent tech waters.

Building new skills into your practice is essential, and as Matt Flanagan of Blue Hub noted, “Communication skills and understanding commerciality are key.” It’s all about having the right people in the right places.

“If we communicate well, person to person, we can work really well together. When you take people on the journey with you facing new challenge, be that implementing online payslips back in the day or Copilot now, your clients trust you and believe in you.” Steven Watmore, payroll product manager, Sage.

As the work you do transforms, so too will the skills needed to do your work.

Your peers know this, as according to ACCA’s global talent trends report of 10,000 respondents in the industry, 23% are concerned about not having the skill set for the future.

Action point

Help your team upskill. Include your colleagues in the projects that you’re on, present the lessons you learned along the way, and empower junior colleagues (albeit with oversight) to work closely with clients.

This will create a culture of continuous learning in your practice.

5. Tech is making space for human touch

In an unexpected twist, it turns out more tech doesn’t mean less humanity.

“Experiment, even fail” was the most liberating takeaway from Accountex 2024.

Structured failure, as Stuart Hurst from Cloud 10 put it, is a way to test new ideas without risking it all.

He recommends putting aside 2 hours every week to try out new tools and processes to learn what goes well and what doesn’t.

He also advises putting time in your practice calendar where you share your failures, own them, and laugh about them. This fosters a culture where learning from mistakes is just as valuable as getting it right the first time.

Tech is also carving out space for accountants to dive deeper into personalised advisory roles. Blending tech and the human touch can reshape your role, empowering you to offer more nuanced, consultative support to clients.

Billie Mcloughlin from 20:20 Innovation shared that accountants might finally achieve the elusive “advisory” role. AI is taking on the mundane, freeing you up to focus on what you love—giving that hands-on support to your clients.

Action point

Write a list of the processes that you don’t enjoy or are slowing you and your practice down. Write another list of the many things you enjoy about your job.

Explore the tools that will solve the problems in the first list and allow you to spend more time doing the things from the second list.

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Meet Sage Copilot—your dedicated AI-powered productivity assistant

With tech and AI being increasingly essential in the modern accounting practice, as highlighted by the amount of discussion going on at Accountex 2024, Sage has developed its own generative AI solution.

Meet Sage Copilot, an intelligent productivity assistant that helps you can work smarter and faster.

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Final thoughts

As we pack away the swag and step back into the real world, these lessons from Accountex 2024 remind us that the future of accounting is bright, challenging, and undeniably exciting.

With every insightful session, quirky tech demo, and snippet of overheard conversation, we’ve gathered invaluable lessons that promise to shape the future of accounting.

Here’s to making the rest of this year as exciting and enriching as the last few days have been. Bring on the changes, the challenges, the MTD delays, and, yes, even the failures.

The industry is ready for them all.


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