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Why accounts aren’t as taxing as they seem

Carl Palfrey and Liam Hutton have been part of the Companies House family for a good few years, specifically working in our Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) directorate.

Both are well-versed in the analysis of our electronic services and the world of accounts, and work closely with policy colleagues and external organisations who provide much of the technology we use for our digital services.

Carl says:

Normally, when you start talking to people about the world of accounts, XBRL and taxonomies, which are at the heart of the technology we use for our digital services, it can lead to glazed-over looks and, dare I say it, a lot of bored expressions!

Liam agrees:

Accounts are some of the coolest things. Our services at Companies Houses aim to facilitate accounts in the best way possible to continue making the UK economy one of the best and most transparent places to do business.

Plus, before the pandemic, we were on the verge of visiting international countries to speak with overseas regulators and share our learnings – see, it’s not that boring!

Carl continues:

Of course, constant speeches from me about unfamiliar technology, along with the perceived staidness of the subject of accounts doesn’t really help our cause in telling people just how interesting the world of accounts actually is.

So rather than risk boring you, readers, here’s a high-level view overview of just one of the things we’re doing to make sure our account services continue to provide world-class service that the UK economy can rely on.

At the moment, we’re working on updating our digital systems so that they can cope with important changes coming in April 2021. We’ll be releasing significant new technology to our software filing platform and enabling the UKSEF Taxonomy.

UKSEF Taxonomy? You lost me.

Liam says:

In a nutshell, this is a method for listed companies to supply us with ‘flashy’ accounts electronically. But for businesses to be able to do this, Companies House needs to install a new software that provides significant new capabilities of what can be achieved with electronic accounts,

This is exciting because this means that listed companies will now be able to submit electronic accounts containing pictures, graphs and display them in full colour. Although only available for listed companies currently, it does show the potential of how our technology will evolve in the future.

With the arrival of this new platform, Companies House will also be introducing other taxonomies in 2021, which will enable customers to submit revised - otherwise known as ‘amending’ - accounts for the first time in the electronic world.

The government has launched 3 consultations to crack down on fraud and improve corporate transparency and the quality of information on the register.

Complete the online consultations to have your say:

Leading the way 

In fact, Companies House is a world leader when it comes to providing XBRL accounts. Before the arrival of COVID-19, Companies House representatives spoke with Australian and New Zealand regulators who were keen to learn of our experience in this area.

Carl says:

Even though we knew that travel budgets were (sadly!) not available for this, it was great to see how other nations looked to Companies House in this way.

It’s not the first time Companies House has been at the vanguard of accounts innovation either. We were also the first organisation to enable the recording of carbon emissions within electronic business accounts, thanks to a partnership with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Financial Reporting Council (FRC).

We've enabled an accounts taxonomy that could literally help protect the planet, allowing the government to monitor carbon usage and its environmental impact, and introduce measures if needed.  

So to conclude, accounts, XBRL and taxonomies may not initially seem like the most exciting subject, but they are crucial when it comes to driving confidence in the UK economy.

In fact, these technologies enable Companies House to have a significant impact on financial analysis and the economic heartbeat of the country. Our April implementation continues this work and paves the way for more exciting developments in the future.

Liam says:

The world of accounts can be a bit tough sometimes, so I make sure to regularly consult with my new boss, our ‘Little Lord’, as my wife and I call him.

Lockdown’s been difficult for many and rules around hospital visitation made it all the more complicated when he was on the way, but we’ve been lucky to have a fantastic baby boy who will no doubt grow up loving his accounts and analysis too, just like his dad!

Our 5-year strategy details a new vision for Companies House and outlines our commitment to driving confidence in the UK economy.

Read more about how we’re helping to make the UK the best place to start and run a business.

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