This page is primarily aimed at small UK VAT registered businesses and organisations which use a bespoke, custom or home grown Microsoft Access database
for their accounting or accounts records. Such businesses are now required to submit their VAT Returns using MTD compatible systems or bridging software.
Making Tax Digital requires that all relevant data must be held in a computer system, and then transferred directly between computer systems.
To avoid the multitude of small businesses which use bespoke systems from each having to develop approved software that connects to HMRC systems,
it is permitted to use bridging software to handle the upload to HMRC.
Typically such software uses an Excel spreadsheet as input. So the bespoke system exports the required data into an Excel spreadsheet,
and the bridging software reads this and uploads the details to the HMRC system.
Most bridging software incurs a monthly fee, often after a free trial period.
Since 2019 we have been using a totally free utility to perform this task.
It is probably not as polished as the paid for solutions, but it has been doing the job very reliably, and we have no plans to switch.
To submit a VAT Return the MS Access database application simply needs to output the VAT submission details into a file, typically an Excel spreadsheet, in the format expected by the bridging software.
For convenience Access can then open the bridging software automatically.
In our case, the user then drags the Excel file and drops it onto the bridging software window. The bridging software logs in to the HMRC MTD system, which requires user input to authorise access in the usual way. Details of the VAT submission due and previous records are loaded and available to view if required. To proceed, the user clicks on the period they need to submit and if this matches the period data in the spreadsheet, the VAT Return details will be loaded. The user can then check the details are correct and submit when ready. The Making Tax Digital system requires final authorisation, as usual, before the VAT Return is finally submitted to HMRC.
The Xero Option
My other clients either already used MTD compatible systems, or took the opportunity to start using such software. By far the most popular option at the moment is Xero. Please see my Xero Integration page for further details on integrating an MS Access database with Xero.