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Budget 2015 - Commitment to Banking APIs

If you managed to make it to page 92 of the 2015 Budget Report you may have stumbled upon this little gem:

2.220 Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) in banking – The government has
today confirmed its commitment to deliver an open API standard in UK banking and, working
with the banking and FinTech industries, set out a detailed framework for its design by the end
of 2015. This will enable FinTech firms to make use of bank data on behalf of customers in a
variety of helpful and creative ways, and ensure the UK remains at the forefront of developments
in financial technology and innovation.

It’s great to see that the Government have recognised the value to the SME community in encouraging banks to develop open standards for sharing data. This has been a bugbear of mine since I started working on QuickFile, and in nearly 5 years the lack of commitment from the banks to address this problem is somewhat depressing!

Access to real time banking data in accounting software in my view removes a significant obstacle for small businesses to effectively manage their finances. The workarounds for pulling in bank feeds (e.g. data scraping, browser extensions etc) are far from ideal but for a long time have been the only viable option.

I only hope the banks don’t drag their heels too much, although this is an encouraging step forward. We’ll wait and see how this pans out!

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Interesting, but the announcement about the end of annual tax returns (at least for self assessment if not for corporations) is also pretty interesting. What are your views on this? How technically feasible and desirable would it be? Would it prevent correction of mistakes and adjustments?

If the Government Digital Service gets their hands on the deployment, it could be much longer than 5 years…

Firstly there’s a good overview of the Tax Return proposals here on Steve Bicknell’s blog.

In many ways having the banking APIs is a prerequisite for what the government are proposing to do with Tax Returns. If they want businesses to submit monthly accounting data to HMRC, they must first ensure there is a practical way to extract real-time banking data. I don’t see otherwise why they would mandate the banks to develop these APIs.

Regarding the technical feasibility, it certainly makes sense for the relevant agencies to pool together and pre-populate financial information into a tax return, anything that saves the tax payer time and removes the risk of error has to be a good thing.

What these proposals seek to do is force businesses to maintain more current accounting records and to avoid the last minute tax return madness. Overall it seems like a good idea, although I’d stop short of calling it “The end of tax returns”, to me it just seems like a tax return that you submit on a more regular basis.

It will certainly be interesting to follow this as more details emerge.

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Call me the eternal pessimist, but I can’t help thinking this is to make it possible / easier for HMRC to help themselves to what they think they’re owed. And from much personal pain, what they think and what they are owed are too very different things. It’s not just me either:

In a reply to a letter I wrote to my MP asking him to get HMRC off my back, it looks like this will become law and this standardised API is the mechanism to make it possible for them.

It would be a different story if HMRC weren’t a bunch of robots and they had inter-departmental communication.

Don’t get me wrong, for FinTech firms, it’s great, and makes one of my feature request easy to implement :smile: but the “API” will be abused by HMRC.

Most of my clients are banks. The FCA constantly hand down regulatory and mandatory changes that result in 50 to 100 IT projects per year. Good for my business. When the API is put on the FCA’s road map, banks will have to deliver by a set date. If my suspicions are correct, then this will be sooner rather than later.

Regarding the end of the annual tax return, this is another blow to small business. Clearly there’s a civil servant somewhere that deems it better to have our money squandered in the public purse, rather than working to improve British business.

“What The Left Hand Giveth, The Right Hand Taketh Away”.

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Good stuff. I noticed the natwest app for chrome stopped working so I’ve ended up using natwests own ‘download statement from last download’.

@tom_44 I think you have highlighted the problem with bank feeds in their current form, if anything changes on the target site the feed will break. Feel free to post a separate thread regarding this, we will do what we can to assist.

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