SMEs and VAT: 5 Steps To Ensuring Compliance

Ross MacKenzie

The UAE’s small-to-medium enterprises have been the most challenged in complying with the country’s recent introduction of Value Added Tax as they face, for the first time, a range of new regulatory issues. With Bahrain now readying to introduce VAT later this year, it’s opportune to reiterate 5 key steps which can keep SMEs abreast of the move towards a regulated economy and offer up a solution to ease compliance while also helping to transform your business and heighten your competitive edge.

# 1: Forget Excel For Company Accounts:

The previously preferred program for SME accounting, Excel just won’t pass muster any more. To be fully compliant with the UAE’s Federal Tax Authority (FTA) requirements, businesses need to maintain a proper set of company accounts which can be subject to a Government audit at any time. Faced with this requirement, an immediate reaction might be to rush to invest in financial software to ‘bolt’ on to other programmes. This ‘flight-to-software’ though doesn’t stack up in today’s digitally dynamic world where customer experience is the main driver to competitive success.

The Cobweb CompleteFinance (built on the Microsoft Dynamics 365 platform) solution is the answer. Priced specifically for SME affordability, it comes in as little as US $170 a month/organization. It gives a business all the tools needed to maintain compliant company accounts and much more!

This uniquely packaged solution has added omni-channel engagement extras for today’s most pressing business needs, meaning you won’t have to invest in additional ‘bolt-on’ multi-solution software modules. With the built-in availability of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement modules, you’ll be able to address real time customer engagement – today’s most vital success factor – and get much higher lifetime value. 

The Microsoft Dynamics Customer Engagement plan includes sales, marketing, helpdesk, field service, project service automation, and Microsoft social engagement modules, all within the same price. No other program stacks up in comparison.

#2: Retain company data for five years.

Accountancy software won’t cope with this requirement in isolation – it will also mean you’ll need expensive, inhouse servers with all the maintenance and staff costs involved not to mention capex investment in future upgrades as you grow. Cobweb CompleteFinance though is a Cloud-based solution combining all the benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 including a free backup and recovery service. Data is continuously backed up and saved in multiple locations around Microsoft’s network for additional security.

Dynamics 365 is also effectively a disaster recovery solution. If your business is hit by fire or any natural disaster, you can carry on working with files on Dynamics 365 on a device of your choice, no matter where you are. You need not worry about the confidentiality of your data either. A major Dynamics and Office 365 security plus is that Microsoft ensures your data can’t be read by anyone other than those it’s intended for! It does this by implementing complex data encryption methods. Data is encrypted when it’s stored within the Dynamics / Office 365 system and as it moves through the internet.

When a user logs in to Dynamics 365, Microsoft sets up a secure path between the device and the servers so that anyone looking at the traffic passing between the two can’t decode any of the data.

#3: Make Sure Staff Are Trained Up:

It’s important that your staff are fully trained on the systems and software you use to handle VAT compliance. With Cobweb CompleteFinance, your in-house staff will receive full training, which means they’ll be better able to answer those vital queries that may come from customers and suppliers.  Cobweb will also provide training on the other modules that are part of the Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement Plan.

#4: Seek Expert Help

SMEs are time poor and need to focus on building and sustaining their business. To avoid spending hours on compliance issues, you could consider hiring a financial consultant to help you navigate the vagaries of VAT compliance – it could prove cost-effective in the long term and help avoid potential problems later.

While compliance may seem daunting initially, preparing your systems for VAT collection and payment needn’t be a complex or expensive undertaking. More than 150 countries have VAT systems in place, including the UK, where Cobweb is a market leader and has all the experience that comes with that status.  Partnering with an experienced solution provider makes keen business sense on your compliance journey. 

Cobweb has partnered with 3rd party external financial consultants to offer our SME customers a managed accounting service.  Consider having your books and VAT reporting handled by a proper financial consultant as they are ideally suited to help you navigate the nuances of VAT and a regulated economy.

#5: Don’t Delay Registration

Companies that don’t meet the FTA registration threshold may be tempted to wait for phase two of VAT implementation before registering. And, while it’s true that VAT implementation will add to the costs of those registered and subject to compliance requirements, delaying registration could put you at a disadvantage. If you don’t register you cannot offset your input VAT for things you buy in from the market and you will not be able to charge output VAT to your end consumer. So, while you may be able to offer your products or services at more advantageous prices, you will lose out on some VAT credit which will ultimately impact your costs.

Want to know more about a solution which aids VAT compliance and sets you up for today’s digital transformation, including vital customer engagement?  Read more about how Cobweb CompleteFinanace can help.

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