Farming feature: Farm offices given new insights into changes that will affect their way of working
PUBLISHED: 15:25 04 May 2018 | UPDATED: 15:25 04 May 2018
Around 40 farm office workers were in Framlingham this week for a joint event hosted by farm co-op Fram Farmers and the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators (IAgSA) to bring them up to speed with a host of important changes for those in charge of the paperwork. Sarah Chambers reports
The vital role of the farm office in keeping businesses healthy and afloat was highlighted this week at a key event in Suffolk.
Around 40 farm secretaries gathered at Fram Farmers’ headquarters in Framlingham on Wednesday, May 2, for a conference aimed at bringing them up to date with the many changes they face, including , software and digitalisation updates.
It was a joint event organised by the farming co-operative and by the Suffolk branch of the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators (IAgSA), which is set to host its body’s national conference in Suffolk next year.
There were IT updates from Farmplan and Landmark Systems and accounting topics from Whiting & Partners including Making Tax Digital (MTD), cash flow for paper and spreadsheet users and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Trina Nunn of Whiting & Partners gave delegates an insight into new General Data Protection Regulations which come into force on May 25, focusing on the practicalities of what needs to happen in farm offices.
“We should take stock of what personal data we hold on individuals with whom we have a legitimate business reason for processing their data, for example employees, customers, suppliers and tenants,” she said.
Annabel James of Landmark Systems, one of just two agricultural software providers on the HMRC Approved Suppliers list for digital submission of VAT for April 2019, said while the move to a digital accounts package can feel like a big step, her firm had introduced a specialist package to make it easier.
Simon Eagle of Farmplan said his firm was working with key industry groups to make their solutions user-friendly.
“We realise many existing paper and spreadsheet users are being forced to change and have restricted budgets to adopt new software, therefore we have also introduced a low cost subscription for our entry level Cash Focus solution, at £198 a year, to try and help ease the burdens being imposed,” he said.
Richard Alecock of Whiting & Partners, who spoke about Making Tax Digital (MTD), said the end of paper accounting for millions across Britain was making it easier for businesses to stay on top of their day-to-day accounts.
“Many businesses and accountants are moving online to improve efficiency, boost profitability and make the transition painless,” he added.
IAgSA Suffolk branch chairman Jenny Pine said while most farming operations had some element of digital record keeping, the conference brought together professionals who support the accounting and recording function to learn about the latest developments in bespoke farm accounting software.
“We had demonstrations on data import from the FramFarmers monthly statement directly into accounting software and fears were dispelled by Landmark and Farmplan about VAT submissions when the Government gateway for VAT closes next year,” she said. “A range of bespoke farm accounting software is available starting at a single entry system with costs comparable with general commercial software but with all the features necessary to cope with the nuances of farm accounts.”
Fram Farmers’ group accountant Ian Caley said the value his organisation adds to its members’ own farm office administration functions was a key benefit of membership and he was delighted that more than 40 farm secretaries attended the “varied and enjoyable” morning.
“A close working relationship with farm secretaries benefits everyone,” he said. “Accounting software advances for example, the data import function demonstrated today, takes a bit of time and patience to set up but will save a lot of time in the long run.
Farm Farmers chief executive Richard Anscombe said: “The closer Fram Farmers is to farm secretaries the better, as we can make sure that there is a healthy two-way dialogue and we understand the changing needs of our members and how our accounts and administration department in particular can evolve to keep adding the maximum value we can.
“I am delighted that FF has hosted today’s very important event and look forward to continuing our close relationship with Jenny Pine at IAgSA.”