The Remote Tax Practice: Make It Happen With Caseware CloudTax

Caseware CloudTax helps tax practitioners solve many of today’s challenges and lays the foundation for the tax practice of the future.

In the age of lockdowns and working from home, both practitioners and their clients find themselves having to run their businesses remotely. Many tax practices experienced revenue losses when the initial lockdowns were introduced. Others have been victims of cyber-attacks and ransomware. At the same time, SARS also increased auto-assessments to grow collection revenues, which has introduced additional challenges for practitioners to ensure assessments contain appropriate information.

One thing has become clear: there is a burning need for tax practitioners to effectively manage data and client information, to find better ways of assisting their clients from any location, whilst continuing to ensure that their clients’ tax affairs remain in order.

Covid-19 has certainly reemphasized the urgency for tax practices to future proof their firms. There’s no doubt that smart tax practices have already seen the writing on the wall and are looking to transition to cloud-based solutions. Research shows that this is where future-fit accountants still have considerable room to grow, with less than 20% of accountants using tax-preparation software, whilst the rest are still managing their practices using manual processes.

But moving to tax-preparation software is only the beginning. Whilst preparing the tax return is the final deliverable, it must be recognised that it is the result of a process that starts much earlier.

In fact, most taxpayers spend between 75% to 90% of their time gathering information and documents. As anyone who has done it knows, it’s daunting to collaborate with clients via the phone or e-mail, and response times can often be very long. Another major issue is the use of spreadsheets to calculate and check numbers – an approach that introduces errors and that is time-consuming. It also means that the information is all over the place, wherever people are working on it—instead of in one central location where everybody can access it.

In addition, when information is dispersed, version control becomes a continuing and difficult issue to manage. And, of course, there is the time-consuming and inefficient process of submitting each tax return manually.

 Caseware Africa Offers A Solution For Tax Practitioners

Tax practitioners who transition to cloud-based solutions can quickly overcome previous challenges and take advantage of significant benefits. For one thing, moving to a cloud-based solution means that the firm is always assured of using the latest technology—without the upfront capital costs of acquiring a licence every time a product is upgraded or needing to roll out upgrades to every user.

Some of the main benefits of moving to the cloud are:

  • Better cost model. Costs are predictable and easy to manage, and practitioners do not need to invest in server and security infrastructure. This introduces considerable savings.
  • Better security. Data is stored safely and securely on multiple remote servers, without needing any resources or costs from the practitioner to maintain. The firm’s data, and that of its clients, is much more secure—no small thing given the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) and its stringent penalties.
  • Accessibility. Tax practices and their teams can work from anywhere at any time, and all they need is a browser and access to the internet. This means that firms can save costs on VPN connections and do not need to coordinate software update installations with their IT teams.
  • Centralised storage. Clients don’t have to struggle with managing multiple copies of the same information in different places. In addition, the cloud offers unlimited storage space and comes with useful features like automatic backup, so practitioners don’t have to worry about losing or redoing any work.
  • Enhanced productivity. Greater security is complemented by greater availability. Centrally located data is accessible to all who need it, from wherever they are. Tax professionals can service their clients from wherever they happen to be and do not need to be in their offices to do so. Another big advantage is that any number of tax professionals can work on the same documents simultaneously.

 Why Tax Practices Need Caseware CloudTax

Adopting CloudTax is a great starting point for the move to the cloud because it has been specifically designed with the needs of the tax practitioner in mind. CloudTax enables tax professionals to access all the benefits of the cloud while minimising the risks. Some of the main benefits are:

  • Easy collaboration with clients. Practitioners can make use of built-in queries and customisable questionnaires and send those to clients directly from within the app. Clients then respond easily by logging into their personal portal, answering the questions, and uploading any necessary documents—even via smartphone. The system notifies the tax professional when new information is provided.
  • Deadline Management. CloudTax keeps track of important deadlines and users can easily monitor provisional and annual return progress and status for all their entities.
  • SARS Integration. CloudTax integrates directly with SARS eFiling, which means practitioners can process all taxpayer details, correspondence, and tax return submissions automatically in bulk.
  • SARS Compliance. Tax return forms and calculation frameworks are frequently kept up to date to ensure that they are compliant with all relevant tax legislation, greatly simplifying the tax return process.
  • Seamless Data Integration. Trial balance information can easily and automatically be imported from Caseware Working Papers, Xero, QuickBooks, and Excel to pre-populate tax returns.
  • Optimisation. Checklists, questionnaires, and schedules are built-in that intelligently expand or collapse according to the complexity of the return.
  • Prepare, calculate, and submit tax returns directly to SARS eFiling. CloudTax supports Provisional (IRP6), Individual (ITR12), Corporate (ITR14), and Trust (ITR12T) tax returns with built-in calculations aligned to SARS.
  • With CloudTax, tax practitioners are now more empowered than ever with a holistic cloud-based tax return solution, that can be used seamlessly for all provisional and annual returns for Corporates, Individuals, and Trusts. The tax practice of the future will be cloud-based. With CloudTax, tax practitioners can take a very meaningful step towards setting up their firms for future success.

 

Bridging the COVID-19 knowledge gap is critical for accounting profession

An existing skills deficit has now become an urgent problem in search of a solution.
By Christiaan Steyn, Product Manager: Assurance, Caseware Africa

Lockdowns and the emergence of the work-from-home (WFH) model is exacerbating a competency problem in accounting and auditing.

Before COVID-19 struck, it was already apparent that students taking the Initial Test of Competency given by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA) were deficient in the requisite skills needed to perform well as accountants or auditors, among them logical and reasoning skills.

The profession is taking steps to remedy a state of affairs that has now become serious. One initiative is the introduction of the new CA2025 training program by SAICA. This includes an updated competency framework that incorporates stronger emphasis on digital and decision-making acumen.

In the past, this lack of skills on the part of those entering the profession was not such a serious issue because they were able to learn on the job as first-year trainees, both from the second and third years with whom they worked daily and, of course, from the senior members of the firm with whom they would have come into contact intermittently. Thus, by the time they had completed the final year of their training contract, they had an acceptable level of competence, and the business world could employ them with confidence.

Research shows that working on projects—the archetypal on-the-job training—is the most effective way of obtaining the professional skills required to be a Charted Accountant. Much of this learning is acquired “by osmosis” through contact with more experienced colleagues, an informal way in which enabling competencies are passed on, as well as subtle lessons about how to conduct oneself as a professional, including the all-important ethical stance so important today.

When the state of emergency was initially declared and the country went into level 5 lockdown in March 2020, this cycle of gaining learning and experience over three years was broken for the 2020 first-year cohort, who began work in February. They had little or no induction and, with clients only being available through virtual channels and audits having to move to online platforms, these trainees were denied any of that vital on-the-job learning and experience. The second and third-year cohorts also would have suffered a proportional diminution of workplace training and experience. In addition, they were struggling themselves – learning how to cope with the virtual audit, the technology and how to support the juniors and how to get support from their superiors.

But of course, the vicious cycle did not end there. Although the lockdown levels were reduced, social distancing remained mandatory, office capacity constraints remained in place and working from home or hybrid work models became normalised. In an effort for clients to minimise exposure, some explicitly requested that audit teams do not visit their premises unless absolutely necessary such as for inventory count procedures.

Much of the audit process, as well as training, remains virtual. In short, opportunities for the traditional, largely effortless but highly effective on-the-job training and experience remains scarce and diminishes each year as the more senior cohorts are less and less equipped to pass on skills to the first years. Of course, one should also not overlook the lost opportunities to interact with clients and to deepen one’s knowledge of how businesses actually function.

In fact, this year’s third years who will enter the financial services profession at the start of 2023 will thus be the first cohorts to miss out on the traditional hands-on training across the whole period of their training contract, with significant consequences for the business world. In addition, those that are behind them—2022’s first and second year trainees—will suffer from the lack of skills and experience the years above them possess.

Anecdotal support for this analysis is offered by the significant rise in calls to Caseware’s support centre. In addition, for the first time, basic audit rather than purely technical questions are being asked.

Looking for solutions

One should not fall into the trap of seeing the pre-COVID period as a sort of golden age. As noted above, there were already signs that skills levels at the entry stage were not what they should be, and possibly also at the exit stage.

One of the reasons for this is the increased burden on partners to not only manage engagements, but also run a business in a difficult economic climate. Increased economic and audit fee pressures saw partners and other senior personnel increasingly less involved in the audits to keep costs down.

I see that part of the solution to the growing skills crisis in accounting and auditing will lie in reversing this trend and finding ways for more senior people in the profession to increase their involvement in audits and the contact they have with trainees. A complementary approach would be for audit firms to establish exactly what the skills levels of their junior staff are, and to put in place targeted training programmes to bridge identified gaps. Professional bodies also have a role to play in working with the audit firms to establish what the future skills gaps are and how best to bridge them—after all, they will certify the competence of those completing their training contracts and entering the broader financial services sector.

It’s not a full-blown crisis yet but that is where we are headed – action is required now.

Integrating monthly, interim, and annual financial statements for efficiency gains

By Nienke Krüger, Product Manager: Financial Reporting, Caseware Africa

Annual financial statement reporting is a process with which finance professionals are very familiar. As this is a statutory requirement, a lot of the yearly planning is built around it, and rightly so. However, the process can be an onerous one, particularly since queries and corrections might relate to transactions from up to a year ago.

Additional reporting is also required throughout the year, and management may need reports at shorter intervals in order to stay abreast of the organisation’s financial status.

In many organisations, the annual, interim, and monthly reports are approached as independent reporting processes, resulting in a disjointed approach that duplicates effort and consumes a great deal of time.

This begs the question of whether we are missing an opportunity to streamline all reporting processes by integrating them.

What is defined as the interim financials?

Different industries use different terminology for financial reporting that is not prepared on an annual basis.

Interim financial statements are defined by IAS 34 and although this standard does not prescribe who must prepare interim financials, it does provide the requirements of how they must be prepared. They are mostly performed by listed entities, but also by some specific industries that are regarded as more volatile.

Management accounts or monthly board packs

These are not legislatively regulated and are normally produced for management and other stakeholders who might not be intimately involved in the detail of the business on a daily basis. Management accounts originated from the manufacturing sector where there was a need to prepare a profit and loss statement on the basis of cost accounting rather than IFRS/SME standard.

Other industries adopted this procedure also but more from a monthly balance sheet and income statement perspective with the same grouping as that of annual financial statements.

Integration benefits

By integrating and aligning the reporting requirements, organisations are essentially preparing their annual and interim statements throughout the year, as they prepare monthly reports.

This is perhaps where the biggest efficiency gain will be for an organisation, not only on a monthly basis, but also enabling management during the audit period to get back to running their businesses a lot quicker as there are no surprises at year end.

  • As you are preparing management accounts on a monthly basis, you will stay close to the numbers, and therefore, any adjustment or analysis of the transactions can be done with the details at the forefront.
  • The grouping of the accounts is also performed monthly, and as such, the audit can commence with no changes required to the line items on the financials. This also helps to avoid duplication of work due to rework on audit packs as groupings are amended.
  • Adjustments can be made throughout the year for depreciation; expected credit loss calculations etc., and this increases the predictability of more accurate final numbers.
  • Provisional tax calculations are more accurate and therefore, the risk of incurring interest and penalties is less likely.
  • Then for the issue that is perhaps the most relevant to businesses – cash! This will enable you to have more accurate cash flow projections and make more informed operational decisions.

At Caseware Africa, we encourage the principle of one data source as this empowers our clients to have one version of the truth. This in turn enables you to have greater confidence in the information presented and make operational decisions that are right for your business. We believe if you use the annual solution, on a monthly basis, you can achieve the monthly board packs you require and if you need a more robust solution, you can also use the Interim template. But all emanating from the same data source and building on the work performed on a monthly basis for the efficient preparation of your annual financial statements.

Powerful Data Analytics with Caseware IDEA®

Caseware IDEA® Data Analysis is a comprehensive commanding data analytics tool that guarantees data integrity and accelerates the performance of analytics that yield faster and more effective external audits.

As an external auditor, making sense of the organisational data of your clients can be challenging, to say the least. Caseware IDEA® enables you to read, display, analyse, manipulate, sample and extract data with ease and from almost any source through a user-friendly, intuitive interface.

Auditors can quickly produce tailored reports, identify trends and outliers and detect fraud in the external audit.

According to Christiaan Steyn, Assurance Product Manager, Caseware Africa, auditing teams spend a significant amount of their time selecting samples and analysing client data for audit engagements. “It is now more important than ever for auditors to look at all of the data in the audit, rather than just a sample. This is because of the explosion of the amount of data available to auditors, together with the fact that risk-based auditing is now the expected standard for external audits, as well as the focus upon the analysis and management of risk that’s applied within the risk-based auditing approach.”

Steyn confirms that although auditors cannot be expected to identify 100 percent of all fraud in all cases, they have an obligation to find material misstatements that would change the audit opinion.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s due to an error or fraud – if it’s a material misstatement, auditors need to identify it. With IDEA®, auditing teams can increase their data coverage, by investigating a larger number of items and potentially covering 100% of the transactions,” he explains.

What took hours, now takes minutes with IDEA®.

“IDEA® enables teams to save an enormous amount of time using a built-in risk-based sample model that allows for systematic, random and monetary unit techniques, and prioritises areas of elevated risks. Not only can teams easily sample within minutes, but also take advantage of over 100 audit functions for a robust analysis, including ageing, duplication detection and Benford’s Law,” says Steyn.

IDEA® allows audit teams to import information seamlessly and easily from almost any data source, in almost any format.

Once data is imported, IDEA® protects source data integrity by providing teams with read-only access. With built-in workflows, teams are empowered with a full suite of analytical tests for financial audits, that drive additional efficiencies and again saves an incredible amount of time.

Steyn further explains that IDEA® allows auditors to display data in different ways, and to generate analyses that would otherwise not be available. “IDEA® can also be helpful in identifying unusual or strange items, testing the validity of items by cross-checking them against other information, or validating calculations.”

Pinpoint trends and perform advanced analytics with ease with IDEA®

Additional features include the ability to pinpoint patterns, trends and outliers visually based on the outcomes of tests, to focus audit efforts. IDEA® provides for a built-in audit trail that easily enables repeatable analysis, and which can also be used as audit evidence. It further enables users to implement bespoke advanced analytics in the analysis process with Python scripting support.

Steyn acknowledges that while new auditing tools and emerging technologies hold the key to evolving the audit process, strategic risks around their adoption remain, and must be acknowledged to ensure the industry continues to develop systems that generate value for firms and their clients. The quality of data, auditor’s knowledge of databases, and experience will contribute to the success of the processes that IDEA® enables.

“Not only will the amount of Internet of Things (IoT) and real-time generated data dramatically expand, but so will the amount of data that will be created and managed by enterprises. It is estimated that by 2025, nearly 60% of the 175 zettabytes (~175 billion Terabytes) of existing data will be created and managed by enterprises versus consumers,” says Steyn.

He encourages auditors to empower their teams with analytical tools like IDEA®. “Given the volume of transactions, quantity of data and the rate at which both are growing, it is imperative for auditors to embrace analytical tools.”

He notes that in his experience, the best way for firms to build adoption is by starting small. “Identify a few audit engagements and commit the partner and the team to start and, especially to complete the audit, enabled by IDEA®.”

IDEA® Powering the audit of the future.

By building up a collection of successful audit engagements powered by analytics in IDEA®, teams build expertise, confidence, and skill. “The audit of the future will undoubtedly not be possible without data-driven analytical tools. Audit firms that drive adoption first, will be best-placed to meet the needs of the rapidly changing audit landscape,” Steyn confirms.

Key Features

Connect & Consolidate
Import information seamlessly and easily from almost any data source, in almost any format.

Source Data Protection
Protect source data integrity with read-only access to all imported datasets.

Key Insights

Deliver Key Insights
Use over 100 audit functions for a robust analysis, including ageing, duplication detection and Benford’s Law.

Risk-based-transaction-analysis
Apply a risk-based sample model using systematic, random or monetary unit techniques, and prioritise areas with elevated risks.

Built-in-Workflows
Execute a full suite of analytical tests for financial audits with the SmartAnalyzer FinApp.

Explore-&-Visualise
Pinpoint patterns, trends and outliers visually based on the outcomes of tests to focus audit efforts.

Record-Process
Follow a clear built-in audit trail that allows for repeatable analysis and audit evidence.

Advanced Analysis Using Python
Incorporate advanced analytics in the analysis process with Python scripting support.

Adapt IT International awarded prestigious MQA certification

Mauritius Tuesday 11th January, 2022:

Adapt IT International, the Mauritius-based subsidiary of Adapt IT Holdings Limited, has been certified as a Registered Training Institution by the Mauritius Qualifications Authority (MQA). This is a significant achievement and will position Adapt IT International as one of the elite group of MQA-certified training institutions in the country.

“MQA certification is an extremely rigorous process that took us two years to achieve, and we are very honoured to have been judged to meet the Authority’s high standards,” says Sandrine Permall, CaseWare Africa’s Mauritius Branch Manager. CaseWare Africa is a division of Adapt IT and is the African reseller for CaseWare International – the global leader in auditing and financial reporting software.

MQA-certified training companies must also demonstrate that they have policies and procedures in place to deliver training effectively, and to gather, and act on, client feedback. The aim of the MQA is to ensure that the Mauritian workforce is constantly being upskilled to maintain its position as Africa’s governance and finance hub, in line with the mandates of the Human Resource Development Council (HRDC). Moreover, up to 75% of training costs provided by MQA-registered training institutions can be claimed back from the HRDC.

Mrs. Permall confirms that financial professionals and auditors have a key role to play across commerce. A highly skilled corps of accounting and auditing professionals is essential if Mauritius is to continue along its current growth trajectory and realise its goals as a country. Mauritian accounting and auditing professionals need to be able to use the latest technologies to improve their productivity, enhance the quality of their outputs and ensure that they comply with an increasingly complex body of global regulations—especially since Mauritius is seen as a desirable domicile for international companies operating in Africa.

CaseWare has a proven track record of helping the accounting and auditing profession to work smarter. For example, CaseWare Cloud allows distributed teams to collaborate easily and maintain strict version control while the CaseWare platform ensures that wasteful and inaccurate manual inputting of figures is minimised with one version of the truth. CaseWare’s templates are constantly updated to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations and standards mitigating a key risk for the profession and its clients.

“CaseWare has a major role to play in equipping all Mauritian financial and auditing professionals to compete with international firms and provide their clients with the best possible outcomes,” she says.

“MQA accreditation means that we are now in an even better position to provide our clients with the training they need to realise the software’s full potential, underpinned by the refund of up to 75% of the total cost of the training,” Mrs. Permall concludes.

ISRS4400(R): Agreed Upon Engagements

What is an agreed-upon procedures engagement?

This can be defined as an engagement in which a practitioner agrees on specific procedures, usually audit-like in nature, with a client or a third party, and provides a report on findings against those agreed procedures. There is no assurance provided by the report, and the user is left to draw their own conclusions based on the agreed procedures and the findings reported against them. Previously, these were often referred to as factual findings.

Are these engagements subject to a standard?

Yes! The standard that applies to Agreed-Upon Procedures is ISRS4400 – International Standard on Related Services 4400 (Revised): Agreed-Upon Procedures Engagements. This standard was recently revised by the IAASB, and the revised standard is applicable for engagements where the terms of engagement are agreed on or after 1 January 2022. The revision of this standard by the IAASB (previously ISRS4400 – which replaced ISA920) Engagements to Perform Agreed Upon Procedures Regarding Financial Information) addressed the increasing demand for these types of engagements for both financial and non-financial information and incorporated the types of updates generally being made to the standards to enhance professional judgment, independence, accountability and consistency in the profession.

Are these engagements common?

Yes, increasingly so. In many cases, agreed-upon procedures are requested by third parties on specific aspects of a client’s business, and often these parties have a template or format for the reports they require. When this happens, practitioners may not always identify that the engagement being performed falls into the scope of ISRS4400. The term “factual findings report” may be more commonly used or identified. These engagements are the ones that fall into the scope of ISRS4400 (and are now referred to only as findings, and not factual findings). Some common engagements that fall into the scope of agreed-upon engagements include:

  • Reports to a funder on whether grant expenditure by a grant recipient is incurred in terms of the conditions of the approved grant or contract.
  • Confirmations or certificates of turnover provided to franchisors on the turnover earned by franchisees.
  • The verification of claims against investment or incentive schemes managed by the Department of Trade and Industry (for example in automotive, IT, import and export sectors).
  • Section 18 certificates for non-profit organisations confirming that donations are spent for the intended purpose.
  • Business TV licence audits.
  • Due diligence reviews.
  • Confirmations of earnings or EBITDA or other calculations for debt covenants

What is challenging about accepting and conducting these engagements?

Even with the revisions in the new standard, the nature and extent of these engagements varies greatly in size, frequency, complexity and risk. Although they are not assurance engagements, the report issued by a practitioner must still comply with the standard as well as with the extant ISQC1 and the new international standards on quality management – these will become effective in 2022, and thus, still exposes practitioners to quality risks. Given the extremely varied nature of these engagements, applying a consistent approach has been challenging in the past. Some of these challenges have arisen from the following:

  • The previous standards applied to financial information which provided very little guidance on procedures that were compliance, performance or non-financial in nature.
  • Difficulty in establishing a consistent, repeatable approach between engagements and between recurring engagements. Because all engagements require procedures that are unique to the activity, it is not possible to apply a standard set of work programmes, and therefore, very difficult to obtain, and maintain, a consistent approach with comparable work flows, work programmes and internal quality management mandates.
  • The standard is not well known and does not generally form part of the graduate accounting education syllabi. This means that practitioners need to read, understand, and interpret, the standard for themselves, if they are aware of it at all. This has resulted in the past in inconsistent approaches between practitioners.
  • Difficulty in communicating requirements of procedures with clients or third parties. The engaging party is usually clear on what they need in a report and what it will be used for, and thus provide their understanding of the procedures they require to be performed. In the execution of these procedures, there is often more detail or a sub-set of additional processes that the practitioner needs to perform to identify and acquire the information required to report against the original method. It can be challenging for team members to determine how to obtain the evidence needed to perform the required tasks, or what to request from the client – this may need to be explained differently to the wording of the agreed-upon process.
  • Where these engagements are performed manually i.e., not through specifically designed software, there is substantial repetition between recording the agreed-upon procedures in an engagement letter; doing so again in the working papers and again in the Agreed-Upon Procedures Report. Where the engagement comprises many procedures, this is very time consuming and subject to many errors of omission or transposition and carries a higher risk of the report not aligning with the initial required methods in the engagement letter.
  • The higher volume of manual documentation and repetition can also result in these engagements not being as viable – in terms of the time required in relation to the fees earned for these activities.
  • There is also the additional cost of having to repeat, or re-populate, documentation on engagement files for recurring activities in said manual files.
  • The use of manual engagement files always carries an increased risk to practitioners’ inefficiencies through the requirements for manual signoffs, document misplacements, lack of evidence on completion, timelines of reviews etc., and ensuring that file assembly and archiving requirements are met.

An efficient, quality solution to conduct Agreed-Upon Procedure engagements

Caseware Africa has introduced a cloud-based Smart Engagements solution for Agreed-Upon Procedure Engagements called ISRS AGREED UPON, that addresses and resolves many of the quality and efficiency challenges.

  • By using ISRS AGREED UPON for engagements, files can be populated with client and standing information relating to acceptance, continuance, skills, capacity, and independence requirements in the first engagement, and rolled forward to subsequent encounters, enabling practitioners to harness efficiencies in recurring events.
  • The procedures included in the ISRS AGREED UPON solution have been compiled to ensure compliance with the requirements of the new ISRS 4400(R) standard relating to acceptance and continuance, ethical and independence requirements and the other changes brought into the new standard, for example, the use of experts. These changes have been fully incorporated and thus practitioners using this product will not have to rewrite previous manual work programmes for the changes in the standard.
  • ISRS AGREED UPON can be adapted for the level of guidance required by your team. There is an option to select procedures that are core, or that are extended. Both facilitate compliance with the ISRS(R)4400 standard. Core procedures create efficiencies by reducing the number of procedures required for experienced users who understand the requirements for documentation, whist the extended procedures facilitate better documentation and therefore, make compliance easier for inexperienced users who require more detailed prompts or questions in order to arrive at the conclusions that an experienced user would.
  • ISRS AGREED UPON automates the inclusion of the actual agreed-upon procedures throughout the engagement file and related documents. The procedures themselves are captured once, and the engagement letter, work programmes and the Agreed-upon Procedures Report is populated from this source. This drives efficiencies by reducing the amount of repetitive documentation, and also resolves challenges relating to inconsistencies between agreed processes and reported procedures and findings.
  • ISRS AGREED UPON enables the practitioner to “reword” or tailor an initially agreed procedure to an inquiry or procedure that will facilitate asking for relevant information from clients in a manner that is understandable and will elicit the correct information/response. This “rewording” continues to be linked to the originally agreed procedure, ensuring a clear link between the work performed and the procedure to which it relates.
  • ISRS AGREED UPON enables the practitioner or team members to capture, at the time that the procedure is performed and concluded upon, the finding that should be integrated into the Agreed-upon procedures report. This finding is automatically transferred to the report within ISRS AGREED UPON, creating efficiencies between executing procedures and compiling the Agreed-upon procedures report. This also ensures that the agreed-upon procedures are directly aligned to the conclusions per procedure that are included in the Agreed-upon procedures report.

Last say

One of the primary drivers of the IAASB’s revision of the Agreed Upon Procedures standard was the increasing use of these engagements for both financial and non-financial information. Taking into consideration the changes and expansion in financial and non-financial reporting and the increased level of assurance that users, funders, and regulators require from businesses, the investment in a solution that facilitates compliance and drives efficiencies will ensure that you are able to viably provide these services to clients with confidence, increasing the value offered to clients and improving efficiencies and quality.

Corporate Tax Software Solution

Improving Tax Efficiency Through Automation

Michael Mncube, Tax Product Manager at CaseWare Africa, a division of Adapt IT, elaborates on corporate tax challenges and how automation can improve efficiency.

The Income Tax Act requires all businesses liable to taxation to register with SARS as taxpayers. This comes with income tax return submissions which must be done 12 months after the tax year-end. In addition to annual income tax returns, every company is required to submit provisional tax returns.

The Challenges For Corporate Tax

Timelines

Timelines are unquestionably important in the whole process of tax return submissions. All tax practitioners concur that taxes and timelines go hand in hand: missing such deadlines incurs additional penalties coupled with interest. All of these add up to additional costs added to clients’ bills. Time definitely costs money in the tax world.

Given that legislation allows for companies to select their own year-end dates, there is a high probability that a single tax practitioner will have a portfolio of clients with different year-end dates. For a single tax client, the tax practitioner needs to be cognisant of four dates: the first; second; and possibly, the third provisional tax, as well as the annual income tax return due dates. Imagine having a large portfolio of tax clients and all with different tax year-ends – now that is a nightmare guaranteed to keep a tax practitioner awake at night.

Provisional Taxes

Provisional tax is not a separate tax from income tax but a method of paying the income tax liability in advance, to ensure that taxpayers do not have huge tax debts on assessment. This is done through the submission of an IRP6 Provisional Tax Return. Provisional tax allows the tax liability to be spread over the relevant year of assessment. Taxpayers are required to pay at least two amounts, based on estimated taxable income, in advance during the year of assessment. A third payment is optional after the end of the tax year but before the issuing of the assessment by SARS. On assessment, the provisional payments will be offset against the liability for normal tax for the applicable year of assessment. Issues normally arise when estimating taxable income, as when this is incorrectly done it might result in penalties being imposed by SARS.

Corporate Income Taxes

Corporate income tax is a tax imposed on companies resident in the Republic of South Africa (i.e. incorporated under the laws of, or effectively managed in, South Africa and that derive income from within or outside the Republic). Non-resident companies that operate through a branch or that have a permanent establishment in South Africa are subject to tax on all income from a source within the Republic. Payment of such taxes is through the submission of an ITR14 income tax return. This return comes with its challenges.

If gross income as disclosed on the first page of the ITR14 tax return does not agree with the aggregate total revenue and total other income as disclosed in the income statement section, the ITR14 will not print or cannot be submitted.

Getting the right number in the right box of the ITR14 tax return is a challenge and consumes a bit of time. Take gross income for instance, which comes from three different fields in the Statement of Comprehensive Income (Income Statement) namely adding Revenue to Investment and Other Income.

For the Asset section of the ITR14 tax return, splitting the non-current assets section is also a hassle. The numbers are not disclosed on the same page of the Statement of Financial Position (Balance Sheet): this must be unpacked from both the face of the balance sheet and the property, plant, and equipment note.

These processes are daunting and time-consuming. Getting this wrong poses, a risk for tax practitioners as there might be reviews or audits imposed by SARS, meaning further time investment and costs to the taxpayers.

Penalties And Interests

Earlier this year SARS announced the implementation of administrative penalties on companies that do not comply with the requirement of submitting their tax returns. The penalties range from R250 to R16 000 per month that non-compliance continues, depending on a company’s assessed loss or taxable income.

With the possibility of penalties, there is now a more stringent requirement to stick to tax return submission deadlines in order to avoid such penalties and interest.

The Corporate Tax Software Solution

CaseWare Africa offers the optimal corporate tax software solution. Automating your business practices will save you both time and money. Your administrative time will be reduced. Automation can avoid costly mistakes and disputes with SARS by ‘getting it right the first time’.

With automation, tax practitioners will position themselves as strategic advisers. They will move into advisory roles and away from the traditional administrative role. One of the ways technology can create efficiencies is when tax practitioners make use of automated systems to submit their income tax returns.

Automated tax software solutions, such as CloudTax offered by Adapt IT – CaseWare Africa, can automate the income tax submission process. This process is usually done manually by tax practitioners and takes a lot of time.

CloudTax is an automated cloud software that allows tax practitioners to store historical tax returns in the cloud, synchronise SARS correspondences and letters, track the work done by multiple professionals on a company’s returns, and create provisional tax returns 60 days before a deadline imposed by the tax authority.

Keeping a manual diary of deadlines is a thing of the past: CloudTax notifies you of all tax deadlines (income tax and provisional tax) 60 days before due dates and keeps track of such until returns are submitted through a single dashboard.

The aim with CloudTax is to save tax practitioners time and ultimately money, over and above minimising errors if not actually eliminating them completely.

CloudTax comes with an ITR14 tax return solution, the Corporate Tax Product which has automated integration with SARS synching. Populating the ITR14 has never been this easy. Using the solution puts the right number in the right box. The ITR14 is pre-populated through automated integration with CaseWare Working Papers. CloudTax also incorporates flexible integration with Xero, QuickBooks, and Excel. Through automation, completing the ITR14 has been reduced to only seven simple steps.

Contact CaseWare Africa to set up a free demo.

The Remote Tax Practice: Make It Happen With CaseWare CloudTax

CaseWare CloudTax helps tax practitioners solve many of today’s challenges and lays the foundation for the tax practice of the future.

In the age of lockdowns and working from home, both practitioners and their clients find themselves having to run their businesses remotely. Many tax practices experienced revenue losses when the initial lockdowns were introduced. Others have been victims of cyber-attacks and ransomware. At the same time, SARS also increased auto-assessments to grow collection revenues, which has introduced additional challenges for practitioners to ensure assessments contain appropriate information.

One thing has become clear: there is a burning need for tax practitioners to effectively manage data and client information, to find better ways of assisting their clients from any location, whilst continuing to ensure that their clients’ tax affairs remain in order.

Covid-19 has certainly reemphasized the urgency for tax practices to future proof their firms. There’s no doubt that smart tax practices have already seen the writing on the wall and are looking to transition to cloud-based solutions. Research shows that this is where future-fit accountants still have considerable room to grow, with less than 20% of accountants using tax-preparation software, whilst the rest are still managing their practices using manual processes.

But moving to tax-preparation software is only the beginning. Whilst preparing the tax return is the final deliverable, it must be recognised that it is the result of a process that starts much earlier.

In fact, most taxpayers spend between 75% to 90% of their time gathering information and documents. As anyone who has done it knows, it’s daunting to collaborate with clients via the phone or e-mail, and response times can often be very long. Another major issue is the use of spreadsheets to calculate and check numbers – an approach that introduces errors and that is time-consuming. It also means that the information is all over the place, wherever people are working on it—instead of in one central location where everybody can access it.

In addition, when information is dispersed, version control becomes a continuing and difficult issue to manage. And, of course, there is the time-consuming and inefficient process of submitting each tax return manually.

 Tax Practitioners Can Enjoy A Better Way

Tax practitioners who transition to cloud-based solutions can quickly overcome previous challenges and take advantage of significant benefits. For one thing, moving to a cloud-based solution means that the firm is always assured of using the latest technology—without the upfront capital costs of acquiring a licence every time a product is upgraded or needs to roll out upgrades to every user.

The Benefits Of Moving Your Tax Practice To The Cloud

  • Better cost model. Costs are predictable and easy to manage, and practitioners do not need to invest in server and security infrastructure. This introduces considerable savings.
  • Better security. Data is stored safely and securely on multiple remote servers, without needing any resources or costs from the practitioner to maintain. The firm’s data, and that of its clients, is much more secure—no small thing given the Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPIA) and its stringent penalties.
  • Accessibility. Tax practices and their teams can work from anywhere at any time, and all they need is a browser and access to the internet. This means that firms can save costs on VPN connections and do not need to coordinate software update installations with their IT teams.
  • Centralised storage. Clients don’t have to struggle with managing multiple copies of the same information in different places. In addition, the cloud offers unlimited storage space and comes with useful features like automatic backup, so practitioners don’t have to worry about losing or redoing any work.
  • Enhanced productivity. Greater security is complemented by greater availability. Centrally located data is accessible to all who need it, from wherever they are. Tax professionals can service their clients from wherever they happen to be, and do not need to be in their offices to do so. Another big advantage is that any number of tax professionals can work on the same documents simultaneously.

 Why Tax Practices Need CaseWare CloudTax

Adopting CaseWare CloudTax is a great starting point for the move to the cloud because it has been specifically designed with the needs of the tax practitioner in mind. CaseWare CloudTax enables tax professionals to access all the benefits of the cloud while minimising the risks. Some of the main benefits are:

  • Easy collaboration with clients. Practitioners can make use of built-in queries and customisable questionnaires and send those to clients directly from within the app. Clients then respond easily by logging into their personal portal, answering the questions, and uploading any necessary documents—even via smartphone. The system notifies the tax professional when new information is provided.
  • Deadline management. CloudTax keeps track of important deadlines and users can easily monitor provisional and annual return progress and status for all their entities.
  • SARS integration. CloudTax integrates directly with SARS eFiling, which means practitioners can process all taxpayer details, correspondence, and tax return submissions automatically in bulk.
  • SARS compliance. Tax return forms and calculation frameworks are frequently kept up to date to ensure that they are compliant with all relevant tax legislation, greatly simplifying the tax return process.
  • Seamless data integration. Trial balance information can easily and automatically be imported from CaseWare Working Papers, Xero, QuickBooks and Excel to pre-populate tax returns.
  • Optimisation. Checklists, questionnaires, and schedules are built-in that intelligently expand or collapse according to the complexity of the return.
  • Prepare, calculate, and submit tax returns directly to SARS eFiling. CloudTax supports Provisional (IRP6), Individual (ITR12), Corporate (ITR14), and Trust (ITR12T) tax returns with built-in calculations aligned to SARS.
  • With CloudTax, tax practitioners are now more empowered than ever with a holistic cloud-based tax return solution, that can be used seamlessly for all provisional and annual returns for Corporates, Individuals, and Trusts. The tax practice of the future will be cloud-based. With CaseWare CloudTax, tax practitioners can take a very meaningful step towards setting up their firms for future success.

CaseWare CloudTax is a financial software solution that can turn your tax business into a remote tax practice overnight. Read more about this tax solution and contact us if you have any questions.

 

Five Keys Area To Test When Building An Audit Plan

Auditors today are working in an exceptionally complex and ever-evolving industry. In an environment where there is pressure to add more value with fewer people and less time, auditors are challenged to discover more risks, audit more areas, more frequently, and uncover fraud for their clients.

Yesterday – Ineffective Audit Planning Methods

Many audits today are conducted at planned intervals rather than based on thoughtful consideration of evidence that points to patterns or areas of risk. Instead, auditors select a given area and assess risk areas based on consultation with the organisation. Depending on responses, an audit will either be performed annually or every two to three years for internal controls if it’s deemed to be less risky. Unfortunately, this method can facilitate overlooking risk areas and permit fraud or other issues to go undetected.

Today – Effective Methods For Building An Audit Plan

To help improve the effectiveness of audits and clearly demonstrate their value, auditors can deliver more value for their clients by firstly optimising audit planning. Secondly, empowering teams with systems and tools that focus subject matter expertise on the audit, as opposed to spending unnecessary time in extracting information from systems and preparing data within spreadsheets.

Thirdly, it is important to pinpoint findings that will save the company money and improve business operations. A more systematic approach to audit planning offers a variety of advantages, including:
• Breaking risks down into individual factors and then being able to align them across the audit landscape
• Individually scoring risks for each financial statement area.
• Calculating an overall score but also ensuring that specific levels of risk are clearly reflected on financial statements.
• Evaluating relative risk levels in order to establish the audit scope.

The Data Analytics Approach to Audit Planning

It’s well known amongst auditors that data analytics helps to simplify and improve audits, eliminate manual tasks, reduce costs, detect potential fraud, errors, and abuse – and most importantly these valuable insights are attained earlier in the process. However, many auditors are missing the opportunity to leverage data analysis software to help prepare a rounded and well-thought out audit plan. Using data analytics during the audit planning phase helps to focus audits, allocate resources effectively, optimise audit expertise resources, save time, and identify significant information about the business.

Audit Planning – Get It Right With Data Analysis

Running data analytics tests during the audit planning phase, helps to provide a better understanding of what is happening and highlights the areas of greatest risk. Moreover, it shows where control breakdowns are occurring, and the state of risk management in the company. Utilising insights provided by data analysis in this phase of the audit process helps shift or refine the focus of the audit early on. Also, if used in the planning process it can provide auditors with a comprehensive understanding of the scope of the business and can help to identify specific questions that need to be put to the company to adjust the focus of the audit – as and where required. Moreover, data
analytics helps to automate a significant number of manual tasks and save considerable time and costs. What can often take days to complete can be executed within minutes when the audit commences.

What Is The Best Approach To Build An Audit Plan?

Firstly, complete a risk assessment – but where to start? Trying to analyse each area can be time-consuming and overwhelming. Instead, the best option is to start with a few key areas at a time and the ones that reveal the most problems are the ones that should be audited first. Testing can then be expanded from there.

The Five Key Areas To Test

Data analytics applied to the following five key areas will reveal potential risk – an audit plan can be built based on the information revealed from scrutinising the following:

1. Accounts Payable
2. Accounts Receivable
3. General Ledger
4. Payroll
5. Stock and Inventory

Why Use Caseware IDEA®

Advanced data analysis tools help auditors strategically plan their audits and lead to better, more effective, audits. Caseware IDEA® has been the trusted industry leader for audit analytics for over 25 years. Caseware IDEA® has a strong presence in over 130 countries, is used by more than 250,000 users globally, and is trusted by audit firms of all sizes.

The Value Proposition Caseware IDEA® Brings To Audit Capabilities

  • Increases audit scope by allowing users to import all their records, including spreadsheets, and exported data from databases, accounting programs such as Pastel, for example, other ERP systems plus travel and entertainment applications in formats such as PDFs, plain text (.txt), print-report (.prn), open database connectivity (ODBC) and SAP.
  • Automates the sampling processes by eliminating the need to export data into spreadsheets and preparing manual sample sets.
  • Analyses 100 percent of the data across a multitude of datasets.
  • Streamlines testing procedures with built-in workflows.
  • Protects the integrity of the data by locking source data files so that they are read-only.
  • Creates an auditable trail so analysis can be documented, shared, and repeated.
  • Creates repeatable tests to reduce time spent on routine tests. Caseware IDEA® also offers more than 100 audit-relevant tasks and a variety of advanced features to help auditors better plan and execute their audits.
  • The following is a sample of these features:
    • Universal file conversion capabilities make it fast and easy to import all records.
    • Advanced audit functions with just a click, including Gap Detection, Benford’s Law, advanced fuzzy duplicate, summarisation, stratification, sampling, and more.
    • Data visualization with the ability to either auto-populate or custom-build dashboards with charts and field statistics into which auditors can drill down.
    • Audit automation through languages like Python or IDEAScript.

Brief Bio:
Christiaan Steyn, Assurance Product Manager, Caseware Africa, a division of Adapt IT. Christiaan is an Associate General Accountant (SA), with extensive technical knowledge and a passion for technology. He completed his articles at a medium-sized auditing firm where he gained experience in various industries. He was later appointed Template Developer and then moved to the role of Product Manager at CQS Holdings – which was subsequently acquired by Adapt IT and renamed to Caseware Africa.

The Future of Financial Reporting in the Public Sector

Proposed amendments to Kenya’s Public Finance Management (PFM) Act, giving Chief Financial Officers only one month to submit their Annual Financial Statements to the Auditor General after the end of the financial year, are sending shockwaves through the public sector accounting community in Kenya, reports international auditing and financial reporting software company, Caseware Africa. 

CPA Rexon Wachira, a public sector consultant at Caseware Africa’s Nairobi office, says the process of compiling and reviewing these entities’ Annual Financial Statements typically takes public sector financial professionals three months or longer, challenged by the fact that in the fourth quarter in a year, reports must be submitted in the same period as well. “There is grave concern that it may not be possible to produce Annual Financial Statements so quickly,” he says. 

Stephan van der Merwe (CA) SA, Specialist in Public Sector Solutions at Caseware Africa, notes that audit opinion is typically used to measure the entity’s performance. “The better your audit opinion is, the better the assessment of your entity’s performance, which is another reason why these Annual Financial Statements can take a long time to prepare; every entity wants to be very thorough to ensure they get a good audit opinion. Now with the proposed tighter deadlines, this could pose a huge risk for entities, and therefore, introducing efficiency into the process is now more important than ever before,” he says. 

While the amendment is still in the pipeline, Caseware Africa says now is the time for public sector entities to review their processes and do away with time-consuming and error-prone manual systems to ensure that their reporting is more efficient, accurate and compliant. 

Caseware’s IPSAS and IFRS Financial Statement solutions enable public sector finance professionals to automate the preparation of compliant financial statements on either International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), whichever is required. This includes flexible lead sheets and a centralised document manager to organise all working paper collateral. Both these solutions simplify collaboration, consolidation and assure preparers of compliance with international standards. 

Mr. van der Merwe notes: “In the East African public sector, several entities have successfully implemented either Caseware Africa’s IPSAS or IFRS Financial Statements solutions for process efficiency, data integrity and compliance. In the past, the focus among Kenya’s public sector customers was mainly on harnessing Caseware Africa to reduce manual processing, but we now see a sharp surge in interest in using our solutions to achieve compliance in terms of both international standards and reporting deadlines.” 

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