Xerocon is Xero’s Annual Conference which came to London’s ExCeL in November.  If anything qualifies to be described as sexy in the accountant’s calendar this must be it.  The production values are top of the range, the vibe is rock concert, the tech is genuinely cutting edge.

Keeping up with Xero’s development team can leave one out of breath.  This does not feel like a company resting on its laurels, the innovation, the reinvestment in the core product is inspiring.  So in this month’s newsletter we attempt to provide you with the pint-sized update on all things Xero.

New Features and Functions
The New Interface
Many of you will have already seen the new Xero interface.  Change always divides opinion but our first impression is that it makes for a more user friendly experience.  Certainly it was clear that a lot of user research and feedback has gone into the new design.

New Expense Claims
Launched in July this does not really qualify as news but if you are not aware, Xero has released a revamped Expenses.  Using Optical Character Recognition on a new Expenses Android or iOS mobile app, the new tool means it is no longer necessary to type in data for expenses.  The feature however comes at a cost of £2.50 per active user per month.

Payroll Employee Bulk Upload
If you’ve ever been frustrated with having to add a lot of employees to a Xero payroll one by one, we now have the facility to upload them from a csv file.

CIS Return HMRC Filing
CIS Returns can now be filed direct to HMRC from Xero through Online Filing Beta.

Upcoming Features
Optical Character Recognition for email Bills
As well as for Expenses Xero is incorporating Optical Character Recognition for Bills.  Users will be able to email Xero Bills and OCR will extract the data and put the information into the purchases record.

Many users effectively already have this functionality through Receipt Bank but for those that don’t this will be a welcome new feature.

It’s also worth noting that Xero has announced its acquisition of Hubdoc, a direct competitor of Receipt Bank.  Whilst functionality and price remain very similar it seems logical that Hubdoc would be granted a closer integration.  We will watch this space.

Making Tax Digital – VAT
Making Tax Digital VAT returns are now available for accountants to test in beta and will be ready for all users by the March deadline.  Xero have used the opportunity to rethink the VAT submission functionality and Xero’s VAT pages will now become a two way flow of information between Xero and HMRC allowing you to see pending returns at HMRC for example.

Making Tax Digital – Self Assessment, Corporation Tax, Accounts Production
Xero’s big news at Xerocon was the announcement that it had acquired tax software Instafile and that this would in time integrate producing and filing Self Assessment Returns, Statutory Accounts and Corporation Tax Returns.

This may be more exciting to accountants than business owners but it is an important development.  Up to now, we have not been able to turn Xero bookkeeping into Statutory Accounts without exporting the data,  Bringing this functionality onto the platform will streamline first accountants work, but in time opens up the real possibility of filing tax returns direct to HMRC as an end user.

The App Marketplace
Of course a big part of the Xero experience is the App Marketplace.  This year’s Xerocon heavily featured FinTech, perhaps because they have the investment to co-sponsor events.

Two challenger banks were strongly in evidence – Starling and Revolut.

If you are looking for finance Iwoca is filing a small business lending space that the established banks used to service.  Transferwise also has a strong offer on International payments  and a good integration with Xero.