More than 150 accountancy practices in the UK have signed up with Accounting Online - a service dubbed as a tool 'which will drag accountancy into the 21st century'. The recently launched software service is intended to allow accountants the ability to offer online services to their clients - while enabling SME businesses to send accounting information to their accountant electronically. It is hoped that the software will help accountants reduce the cost of processing information such as accounts and VAT returns. The launch follows the publication of the Electronic Communications Bill, which e-minister Patricia Hewitt labelled as the 'role model for Europe'. The Scotland-based company said it expected to have more than 600 practices signed up by the end of 2000 and added the service would 'arm accountants with a tool to allow them to move away from being dependent purely on audit and accounting work'. The launch precedes the 10 December closing date for the consultation period for increasing of the audit threshold. Director Lindsay McDowall, said: 'Business Made Simple is a complete business management package and brings integrated accounting, database, stock control, contact management, word processing, fax and e-mail to the desktop PCs of a business.' The service uses a software package, BMS , which will be available free for single users for the first 12 months and £30 a year afterwards. It also includes free Internet access, a free Web directory entry and a free Web page on a regional and national enterprise park. 'Although many of the SMEs in the UK know they should be utilising IT and the Internet better to develop their businesses, there are two major barriers to these firms,' said McDowall. 'Software solutions are too fragmented or complex to use for most of these businesses. Secondly, the cost of implementing these solutions is a major factor. Accounting Online provides an integrated business management software package specifically designed for small businesses and it comes e-ready,' she added. McDowall also said she expected a rival provider such as Sage to introduce a package within six months as 'it is so simple to do'. She added: 'It is surprising no other systems supplier in the UK has yet tackled the enormous SME market through accountants in this manner.' BASDA said it would encourage 'any organisation which sets up e-commerce for accountants'.
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