Thursday, 30 December 2021

Azure DevOps Series - Overview

Azure DevOps is a SaaS platform that provides tools for deploying software using DevOps techniques generally within Agile software delivery projects.  DevOps is useful for gathering requirements, building the solution, performing daily “integration builds”, and having deliverable end-of-sprint demos.  The key to building software today versus several years ago is that we should automate as much as possible.  Azure DevOps provides excellent tooling to automate and implement automation results in better quality, reduced timelines.  Building software is easy as long as you have great people and precise requirements.  Agile practices and DevOps processes and tooling can help get you to the desired state.

  1. Azure Boards are great for planning and getting the requirements cleanly broken down.
  2. Visual Studio coupled with Azure boards items with Azure Repos (source control options are GitHub & TFVS) is ideal for the development using most languages such as C#, NodesJS, Angular, React, TypeScript.
  3. Azure Pipelines are good at deploying solutions by setting up the infrastructure (I prefer to use PaaS and get out of the Infrastructure world, using ARM templates) and deploying code with the appropriate DTAP environment configuration.  Azure Test Plans are used to verify builds. 
  4. Monitor and Alert – Azure Monitor/App Insights is ideal for monitoring the infrastructure and operating code to detect issues early.
  5. Azure Artifacts help create and share Nuget code packages.

More Info:

Sunday, 7 November 2021

Figuring out SaaS licencing and SLA's

Overview: Buyers be they B2B or B2C will want to understand you licensing, probably cost, and level of service.  Keep it simple, keep it understandable, make sure you cover what availability, performance, actions users can use you service for are all clearly outlined in you Service Level Agreement (SLA).

Licensing pricing options:  Pay per use one-off, yearly, pay per user monthly or annual, pay per consumption e.g. stripe.  

SLA:

  • Availability 99.9 or better is good, it really depends on what you are offering but there are often penalties for missing availability SLA.  If I build a pretty standard SaaS application that utilises App Services, APIM (standard, premium geo loaded has a higher SLA) and Azure SQL, I can't make a 99.9% SLA excluding AAD and any patching, or application caused downtime.  At a SaaS product level providing an actual 99.999% (5 nines) SLA is not as easy as the marketing and legal stakeholders might assume.

It becomes easier to offer 99.9+% SLA's if you as a company assume the risk.  i.e it's unlikely all the downtime will occur and affect you sequentially so offering money back is absolutely possible.  Also most SaaS companies require clients to claim, it is not monitored and automatically applied to your bill.
  • Support - phone, bot, email and max time to respond and time to resolve.  
  • B2B Monitoring - Good idea to monitor you SaaS provider and not just take their word for it.  Technically, monitor availability of individual services (web sites or API's), it also good to know when items outside of your control (with the SaaS vendor) are unavailable in internal support.  Examples: page load times, login times, you are looking for availability and speed.   How much of the service is down, how much does this affect end customers.   You may want to use a 3rd party tool or write your own as a last resort to monitoring.  When relying on 3rd parties to provide services ensure you do a hazard risk assessment.  Plan for when things happen, how will you respond, adjust.

SLA vs SLO vs SLI:
  • SLA (Servcie Level Agreement - contractual agreement SaaS company makes with the customer.
  • SLO  (Service Level Objective) - Goal availability (and acceptable performance) of the microservice or application.  Measurement goal.
  • SLI (Service Level Indicator) - checks if SLO is achieved.  Actual Measurement.


Power Apps - MicrosoftTeams.CreateATeam() connector method not working

Problem:  I am provisioning a new team inside my tenant using Power Apps.  The code throws an error and I can't get the TeamId, however, the Team is being created.


Hypothesis:  The call creates the team and using the Monitoring Tool inside Power Apps I can see the call is working.  The issue appears to be when Power Apps reads the response.

Possible Resolutions:  

  1. Use Power Automate and fire from the Power App
  2. Create a custom Postman Collection using the Teams Graph API



Sunday, 3 October 2021

Asking for Gender Pronouns and Title in forms

 Here are a few pointers when asking for Gender, Sex, Pronouns and Users Title

SaaS Onboarding & Payment Collection

Overview:  Selling a SaaS generally can be split into B2C and B2B.  Both SaaS models require the ability to onboard a customer and collect the payments for the service.  And to do this a website /Content Management System is need to allow the customer to trial, buy, purchase add-on and collect recurring revenue.

B2C SaaS (small to large):  You need "brochureware", web pages that show the service and allow the user to purchase.   As I generally sell SaaS software, and B2C is often 1 off or pay as you need, I'd recommend Shopify, there are add-ons for selling digital goods.  You can always use marketplaces like amazon or eBay also.  WooCommerce (integrates with WordPress), BigCommenrce, Magento, Wix can be used for selling physical goods but need some thought and add-ons for digital goods.  All the options are not great at Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) e.g. Netflix, or ARR (annual, e.g. Grammarly, Blinkist) billing, or "pay as you consume" also referred to as "metered billing" or "pay-as-you-go pricing" (Uber, AWS, Twilio, Stripe, Azure, GCP) revenue models.  Pay-as-you-go pricing has variable costs but allows your to reduce the cost to your customer by only charging them for what they use.

There are plenty of add-ons but in the Shopify world it's bring in an add-on and a few moving pieces.  For a medium sized SaaS selling MMR solutions, the overhead of setting up and managing the processes is fairly steep.  As the business gets bigger, it's worth the integration or using a dedicated solution like ChargeBee.

B2B SaaS: Could use any revenue model but it is best if your product lends itself to subscription-based selling.  e.g. Office 365, Workday, Legal practice management software to manage clients and work for law firm.  For small SaaS startups selling digital services use a solution like ChargeBee (low end) or Paddle (top end).  You can use anything in-between and addons to get a solution but for the price, setup, expansion as a general rule ChargeBee is good:

  1. Recurly
  2. Chargify
  3. Zuora
  4. Chargify
  5. Stripe
  6. Billby (Good for startups)
  7. ChargeBee (Good for startups)
In the UK, we need direct debits often setup, you can look at something like Bottomline PTX.  I also like recharge.

Privacy Management: OneTrust provides a good configurable SaaS service for cookies and privacy.  If not built into your CMS/platform, then OneTrust is an option.
Pay-as-you-go/metered billing:  You pay based on consumption of services you owed x for the last 30 days e.g. AWS, Azure.  I try to stay away from this model as it's normally difficult to understand and customers in SaaS as a general rule don't like complex unknown pricing models.

Traditional:  Basically, pay as you buy a license.  So you get a perpetual license.  Akin to physical shopping but for digital goods.  Shopify is perfect for this model with a digital download add-on.  E.g. bjjfanatics.com

SME SaaS Business Checklist:

  1. Where you you selling, physical vs virtual
  2. Subscription or 1 off payments (account maintenance), trials, upgrade, upsell and cross selling.  Autorenewals.
  3. Jurisdictions (Tax, VAT, shipping, currency)
  4. Cost (fees, what's included, percentage of sales, growth)
  5. Support (Tech touch, Low touch e.g. email vs 24 hrs phone support, is this subscription based)
  6. Retention (Churn, New, Length of time for customers, support churn warnings, unsubscribing).
  7. Does my billing/subscription allow me to sell on web, native mobile, marketplaces.
Methods to set the SaaS price:
  1. Value based pricing - set the price based on the value the customer saves/gets
  2. Cost plus pricing - your cost plus markup
  3. Competitor pricing - what our our competitors charging
  4. Art of adjustment pricing - set a price see how much demand, change price how does it affect demand, MRR and total expected revenue.
Metrics to capture in SaaS Sales:
  1. MRR
  2. ARR
  3. CLV (Customer lifetime value)
  4. Churn rate
  5. Cost of Customer Acquisition

Marketinghttps://sproutsocial.com/

Support:  It's important to minimize human support effort, automating as much as possible is key.  Bots, knowledge articles that are easy to find are awesome.  Coveo does a nice job of setup for community channels.

User tracking:  Google analytics is pretty good for getting stats.  I do like a new tool to me Pendo which is expensive but extremely powerful.  Pendo's main 2 features for me are user interaction/how they use the site, and providing help tips/Guides are html injected into applications.



Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Azure Synapse Intro

I have not done any serious big data work in many years and I'm using this post to understand the Azure options and update my skills.   

Azure Synapse Analytics - built for limitless scale for unstructured and structure data for big data  - supports petabyte analytics.  Ingest and prepare data for BI.  Instance can be a dedicated or serverless PaaS service.  Data lake Gen 2 assigned to each synapse instance.  GA Dec 2020.


Use to be Data Lake (massive, semi structured data) and Data warehouse, Azure Synapse Analytics can be referred to as Data Lakehouse.  Basically all the sperate pieces are under 1 umbrella i.e. ADF, SSIS, Dataware house,..
  • SQL Serverless Pools is pay be use/pay per query.  Can use SSMS to manage data.  Good for small or new data ware housing.  T-SQL works perfectly so simple for smaller projects or PoCs. 
  • Go from 3NF in relational data to using Fact and dimension tables to put data into a star model for MPP.
  • Data Warehouse Units (DW) - Same as DTU, made up of CPU, Mem, IO.  Simple to upgrade.  Lowest is DW100 can be huge, and simple to scale up and down.  More DW's means more VM's/work process work on the data.

Azure Synapse Studio  - SaaS development experience provide code free and code first (C#, Scala, Python, SQL, Java), notebooks are used for working with data.




Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Observability in Azure SaaS Solutions

Problem:  Software has many places where errors and tracing is logged to.   Support get an incident, they need to investigate figure out how widespread the issue is and then try patch together various logs to figure out the problem.

Thoughts:

Observability is not a new concept, we need to be able to: 1) view and connect logs & 2) tracing and view metrics & notifications.

Implementing Observability must cover:

CI/CD allows devOps teams to find issues early using Unit testing.   Automated testing on UI.  API automation testing is also great.

Azure offers continious monitoring by performing various API calls to ensure your servie is running and any failures are picked up hopefully before any customers are aware.  You can also be notified of performance slow down, check performance speed between releases.  Which is great for identifying bottlenecks and with the Azure PaaS world, it is easy to increase the processing causing the bottleneck.  

Performance metrics built into the CI/CD and developers work allows us to identify issues early and costs miles less to correct early. 

Security and LINTing in CI/CD also allows us to pickup issues early and correct at a way lower cost.

Instrument you hardware and software, well on Azure you can use App Insights and you have a fantastic instrumenting platform that captures events.  A big reason to use Azure Services for as many of the function pieces in your solution.

Work In Progress ...

TBC Azure App Insights detail, ParentOperationId, Linking operations with a ServiceBus or work process call.



Sunday, 5 September 2021

R&D UK tax Credits for Software development

Overview: R&D incentive claims with HMRC are designed to attract and encourage investment in R&D in the UK.  By providing for a taxable credit at 13% on qualifying expenditure, namely: Staff costs, consultants, Software licenses, hosting.  Claiming R&D costs reduces the companies tax liability and can be attractive for starting a new business or building new SaaS products.

The idea is:

PoC, Concept Design, software design and initial testing are likely to be deemed as probably qualifying for R&D claims.  The product/service must seek to advance (new or appreciable improvement of a process, product or increase technical capability) technology.

Specification/Requirements, scale up to commercial release, training may be qualifying activities. 

Thoughts:  R&D relief claims are complex.  There are different rates for SME vs large corps and rates if the company is in profit.  It is worth doing, and I believe it is pretty common to pay experts based on a percentage of R&D claim.  The big players have divisions to do R&D claims, i.e. KPMG.  There are also tons of specialized smaller firms that will do R&D claims.  For a SaaS startup, I'd contact a specialist provider to make the R&D claims and agree to a fixed percentage of the savings.

Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Creating a Power Platform Custom Connector from a Postman Collection

Problem:  I like to discover an API and play with it using Postman.  I save the collection and theoretically I should be able to upload the postman collection into the custom connector to generate the Power Platform connector.  Until a few days ago, the custom connectors only supported Postman v1.0 collections.  And Postman has not save using the v1 format for a long time.  

I was happy to see the Custom connectors support v2.0 and 2.1 of postman collections.  Only problem is while it says it does if is still broken.  So I have to go the old school way.

I wanted to generate custom connectors for HMRC's REST API so that I can connect with the Power Platform.  Option 2 below gives me a way to build my collections using HMRC's API's and generate the appropriate version 2 Swagger definition.

Resolution

Option 1: 

  1. Export the postman collection in v2.1
  2. Upload the postman file to https://apitransform.com/ and generate the OpenAPI specification (version 3.0.0) gets generated.
  3. Upload the OpenAPI 3.0.0 specification file to Transformer | APIMatic and generate the JSON Open API 2.0 version.
  4. In Power Apps add a new custom connector based off the Open API file (version 2.0) to generate the connector.

The process is a pain, but this approach does not need any software installed.  I do feel Power Platform are about to improve by accepting the Postman v2 collections and it would be great if it could read Open API file in YAML and JSON in both V2.0 & 3.0 but any of these permutations would be a game changer.

Warning: Large collections end up with information being lost in the translations.

Option 2: 

  1. Export the postman collection in v2.1
  2. Upload the Postman 2.1 Collection file into Transformer | APIMatic and generate the JSON Open API 2.0 version.
  3. In Power Apps add a new custom connector based off the Open API file (version 2.0) to generate the connector.

Monday, 16 August 2021

Distribute tracing using Azure Application Insights across Azure SaaS product

Overview:  Building SaaS products using multiple underlying Azure PaaS, and IaaS services with multiple Microservices supporting and calling each other is great.  The issue is we need to be able to trace, debug, and observe the logic flow through multiple Microservice calls.  Distribute Tracing on Azure supports technical players such as devOps teams, developers, support, technical leads and/or architects to find and trace the entire execution to figure our what is/has happened.  Application Insights provides rich functionality on Azure PaaS services.

Distribute Tracing:  A good option for providing consistent traceable logging is to use Application Insights with the Distributed Tracing to trace the flow of each transaction.  The original request generates an Id which is set as the operation_parentId.  Now we can easily follow the execution of a specific operation.

It is fairly easy to tie multiple operations together.  For example, an operation that fires timer jobs, each timer job would be seen as unique operations with their own full trace.  By referencing the original operation when the timer jobs are setup, long running distributed jobs can be tied together.

Thoughts:  Distributed tracing generally catches exceptions from the underlying infrastructure services such as SQL, Azure Functions, App Service on Windows but in code you can add additional tracing information.  The tracing info can be exception based but most of this is picked up anyway or trace base (when an even happens you want to record).

It is a good idea to instantiate the Telemetry client once per service e.g. webAPI and merely call using the same instantiate telemetry object instance throughout each application.

On exception in both client and Server side code write to App Insights telemetry.  Below is the C# server side code snippet:

try

{

    ...

    telemetry.TrackTrace(message, SeverityLevel.Warning, properties);

}

catch (Exception ex)

{

    telemetry.TrackException(ex);

}

More Info:

Distributed Tracing in Azure Application Insights - Azure Monitor | Microsoft Docs

Application Insights API for custom events and metrics - Azure Monitor | Microsoft Docs

Sunday, 8 August 2021

Tools for Architects

Overview:  As an architect we use multiple tools, it's a good idea to standardise tool usage especially in larger businesses. It's pretty common to se architects using different tool for drawing architecture diagrams (viso, draw.io,...)

Common Drawing tool I've seen architects use:

  • Visio
  • Draw.io
  • Balsamiq (my odd tool of choice)
  • Miro (great for sharing)
  • PowerPoint (sic. but it happens and some architects are good with it)

Tools for Retrieving Azure Architecture and creating documentation:

Enterprise Architecture Tooling:

  • Sparx
  • Archimate

Dev Tooling I use a lot:

  • Visual Studio
  • SQL Server Management Studio 
  • Postman/Swagger

WIP


Sunday, 1 August 2021

JMeter - The basics

JMeter is an easy to use open source load testing tool by simulating network requests.  JMeter is good for figuring out how well the server side responses are working under different test conditions.  JMeter is built with Java and can run on Linux, Mac or Windows using a Java Virtual Machine (JVM). 


JMeter is Single Agent:

  • JMeter runs from the machine it is installed on so it does not have multiple agents.  Saying that it can simulate hundreds of users on fairly low spec machines.  
  • To avoid network latency, test on the same subnet or data center.  A simple VM in Azure (with 2 vCPU's and 8 GB RAM) can mimic over a thousand requests per second.
  • You can run tests off multiple machines to generate extreme loads (first I would use 8 cores and 64GB ram until the network traffic is maxed).
  • Install the Windows JDK 11 before installing installing JMeter.
JMeter GUI
Open /bin/jmeter.bat


Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Azure DevOps User Stories Tips


Quick Point on User Stories and Acceptance Criteria.

1.      User Stories description must follow the format:

As the <role> , I want to <feature> so that <benefit>

Note: Always follow the exact same format and bold up the standard/fixed parts for user stories.  Pls keep consistency across your teams user stories.  Under the user story in the description, feel free to add more description, annotated images (very useful) and links to Figma, Axure, UI mocks or Miro.

2.      Acceptance Criteria (Use Gherkin Language) under the user story (ensure it goes into the User Story section and not comments or the description)

Scenario:
  Given
  When
  Then

Example

Scenario: Employee requests leave
  Given an employee has sufficient leave available in the year
  When the employee schedules leave (holiday)
  Then the employee is informed his request is valid and his manager is informed of the request.

Note: Always follow the exact same format and bold up the standard/fixed parts for user stories.  Pls keep consistency across your acceptance criteria.  I bold and use the four parts as shown above in the example.

3.      Other:  Order is Tasks belong to User Stories, User Stories belong to a Feature.  Features belong to Epics  These items must be related within Azure DevOps.   Epics > Features > User Stories (Acceptance criteria) > Tasks.

Scrum - Part 1
Scrum - Part 2 
Scrum - Part 3 - Scaling Scrum
Scrum - Part 4 - Kanban and Scrum
Scrum - Part 5 - Certification PSM 1

Azure DevOps - Introduction

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Open Banking & Crypto currency - Capital Gains Tax

In the 2019/2020 & 2020/2021 UK tax years, I bought and sold crypto currencies; I happened to make a little money out of it thru no skill of my own.  "A rising tide lifts all boats".  It has been bothering me so I looked up how taxing crypto works and it falls under Capital Gains. 

UK individuals get £12,300 I am well below the threshold for owing HMRC additional tax.  I still need to report my gains on my SA100/Self Assessment with HMRC using SA108 for reporting Capital Gains.  There is also a great initiative Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2)/Open Banking offered by companies like TrueLayer that provide API's to get current account statements/transaction using OAuth2 permissions.  PDS2 is pretty useful for anti-money laundering (AML), Know Your Customer (KYC) and fair amount more that I'm not an expert in working with.

It is worth using this capital gains allowance if you can get solid returns off applicable assets such as shares or cryptocurrency.

"When you dispose of cryptoasset exchange tokens (known as cryptocurrency), you may need to pay Capital Gains Tax.

You only have to pay Capital Gains Tax on your overall gains above your tax-free allowance. The Capital Gains tax-free allowance is: £12,300".

TrueLayer and Token is a service that connects to all UK commercial banks instead of you having to individually connect to the banks Open Banking API's.

References

Payment Services Directive 2 and Open Banking | UK Finance

https://www.gov.uk/capital-gains-tax/allowances

Elastic Database Client Library for client database segregation on Azure PaaS for SaaS

Overview:  Provide a logically separated database instance for each client on my SaaS solution.  Using the Elastic Database client library from Microsoft on Azure PaaS services provides logical security separation of data, performance is on a per customer, and easy scalability.  Use Azure SQL Elastic Pools (HA redundant secondary database, built in DR).  Also add temporal tables for a full history of all transactions.

PoC:

  1. Provision 3 databases - A Shard Map Manager (Catalogue) database and 2 client databases (tenants/shards).
  2. Add shard related metadata to the Catelogue database for each of these databases.
  3. Create below Three service principals in Azure AD: 
    • Management Service Principal: for creating shard metadata structure.  A database contained user in Shard Map Manager db and each tenant db.
    • Access Service Principal: to load shard mapping at application side.  A database contained user in Shard Map Manager db.
    • Connection Service Principal: to connect tenant database.  Database contained user in each tenant db.


                        Management Service Principal: for creating shard metadata structure

CREATE USER [shard-map-admin-sp] FROM EXTERNAL PROVIDER

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_ddladmin', N'shard-map-admin-sp'

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_datareader', N'shard-map-admin-sp'

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_datawriter', N'shard-map-admin-sp'

GRANT EXECUTE TO [shard-map-admin-sp]

 

Access Service Principal: to load shard mapping at application side

CREATE USER [shard-map-access-sp] FROM EXTERNAL PROVIDER

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_datareader', N'shard-map-access-sp'

GRANT EXECUTE TO [shard-map-access-sp]

                                                         

Connection Service Principal: to connect client/tenant database

CREATE USER [tenant-connection-sp] FROM EXTERNAL PROVIDER

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_datareader', N'tenant-connection-sp'

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_datawriter', N'tenant-connection-sp'

EXEC sp_addrolemember N'db_ddladmin', N'tenant-connection-sp'

GRANT EXECUTE TO [tenant-connection-sp]


References:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/azure-sql/database/elastic-database-client-library


Sunday, 4 July 2021

UK Tax - MTDfITSA

Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Income Tax Self Assessment (ITSA) is the replacement process to HMRC's Self Assessments (SA) that starts 6 April 2024.  Of the 12 million UK people registered for Self Assessment, woughly 40% are mandated to switch over to MTDfITSA on the 6th of April 2024.  A combined gross income of over £10k from people with either a self employed business or a property business will need to register.

There is a new penalty and fining systems, the amounts of returns and work to complete an ITSA is significantly more than the single once a year SA.

Summary of comparison between ITSA & SA:

SA

ITSA

1 SA return done each year.

4 quarterly returns via approved software per business, required a digital record link to the underlying transactions.

1 End of Period Statement (EOPS) per business.

Crystallization/Finalization using HMRC approved software.

Paper submission due 31 Oct for pervious year.

Online submissions due 31 Jan – 9 months after financial/tax year end.

Approved Digital Software to submit (no paper returns).

1 month after each quarter, submit the quarterly return, these can be revised later.

Each EOPS is due ion 31 Jan the following year.  

The Crystallisation/Finalisation/Final Declaration is also due 31 Jan the following year.

MTDfITSA has been pushed back and it's scoped changed and follows on from Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) that is already live.  

HMRC use paper for self-assessments, then allowed XML submissions, and is starting MTDfIT to enable individuals to do their own Self-assessments.  Many people doing Self Assessments will be affected, and the associate costs & time shall be higher.  Just under 40% of people file SA themselves. If they need to be on MTDfITSA, it is highly likely that these smaller businesses will be severely impacted.  I believe Accountants that are doing small business self-assessment in the £400-£1,000 range will probably need to double or more these fees.  SA submissions start at about £120 (ex Vat) for simple Self-Assessments, these individuals, if they fall under ITSA shall probably be charged at least triple the amount compared to a TA doing all the work under self assessment or need to do considerably more work themselves.

MTDfVat took several years to implement (April 2022, all businesses, including those registered for MTDfVat but under the VAT threshold, must use MTDfV), and MTDfITSA is way more complicated than MTDfVat.

MTD for Corporation Tax (MTDfCT) is scheduled to start April 2026.  A pilot is scheduled to begin in April 2024 (unlikely).  Update earmarked for 2026, likely to be later.

MTD for ITSA (referred to as ITSA or MTDfITSA) 

  • Who is in - Individuals and Partnerships.  Require either trading income from self-employed businesses and/or property businesses (if you have either of these business types), if their combined revenue/income total is over £10K.  (To determine, need to look two years' back at the individual's self-assessment income).   If not trading in the two years previous means you are outside MTDfITSA.  I.e. new self-employed businesses would get two years grace before they need to file using MTDfITSA.  Unlikely to be enforced by penalties.  The mandatory start for quarters is 6 April 2024. Must have combined property and self-employed (unincorporated) business revenue over £10k combined. 
  • Partnerships are in if all partners are individuals (starts 6 April 2025).  I think there is a disconnect between the draft regulation and what HMRC are providing.  Partnerships declare income using SA800 for a partnership.  Then each individual partner has to do a self-assessment.  There is no way partnership income counts as self-employed income so partnerships are not a criteria for MTDfITSA.  Need to confirm what the "General partnerships with income over £10K that have individual partners need to join MTDfITSA" refers to, I suspect it is incorrect. 
  • Trusts/estates, LLP and Ltd are out at the start.  
  • 1.3 million landlords in the UK as of 2021.
  • Roughly 40% of Self Assessments are filed by individuals for themselves.  This is going to be tricky with MTDfIT.  If these individuals wish to file, they will need to do the quarters, have digital records, and use free software (HMRC are not providing MTDfIT free software).  They will also need to do MTDfIT EPOS and crystallisation.
  • Individuals doing Self Assessment can have ten or many self-employment businesses, 0 to 3 (4 - Foreign property is not clear) property businesses under MTDfITSA (Ord UK property, FHL UK, FHL EEA, Foreign property).
  • One can defer MTDfIT by changing year ends.  Individuals/practices Also can apply for exclusion based on age, religion.
  • Digital links/keeping digital records.  Can't re-key/copy and paste.   There is no requirement to use bank feeds/PDS2 data.  Some booking software firms are likely to file quarterly MTDfIT returns for each self-employed (and property) business.  Spreadsheets are an acceptable form of record keeping.   Excel and bridging software is sufficient for the source for filing.  If recording sales can use daily sales totals for the digital source but ideally link to the raw input system.  
  • PDS2/bank feed - unlikely to work, useful for bringing in data.  The issue is that the bank account would need to represent a single business; also, the mapping would be very rough into the MTDfIT categories.  Things like purchases from Tesco can't understand where to place the transaction.  As MTDfITSA quarterly is a rough estimate.  It is possible as an option.
  • Quarterly MTDfITSA is done per business and is due 1 month after quarter period ends.  Penalty points for late filing, missing 4 quarters in 24 months, is £200 penalty.  Record of last 24 months retained.  Property business quarters and year end run in the same cycles as personal tax namely start 6 April and end the following year 5 April.  As MTDfIT starts on 6 April 2024 (was 6 April 2023 but postponed again notice provide on 22 Sept 2021), the 4 quarterly submission for the 2024-2025 tax year and filling due dates are:

Qrt start date

Qtr end date

Qtr submission due date

6 Apr 2024

5 July 2024

5 Aug 2024

6 July 2024

5 Oct 2024

5 Nov 2024

6 Oct 2024

5 Jan 2025

5 Feb 2025

6 Jan 2025

5 Apr 2025

5 May 2025

  • Self Employed businesses with a year-end of 5 April or 31 Mar, are treaded as using the same period dates as property businesses'.  The majority of Self-employed businesses are already aligned with personal tax year ends.  
  • Each property business for the individual needs to submit an End of Period Statement (EOPS) each year and also a declaration for each business attached to an individual.  
  • Lastly, the Final "Crystallisation" (basically the final Self-assessment) needs to be submitted covering the self-employed business, the property businesses and the personal tax affairs of the individual.
  • Late payment has interest penalties, basically no penalty for 15 days late, then 2% for 16-31 days and then 4% is paid after this.  4% is on the outstanding balance from day past due.  Payment is due following year 31 Jan.
  • MTDfITSA adjustments can be done after the quarter and resubmit or at the EOPS.
  • Quarterly submissions are estimates and can be adjusted per quarter or finalised at year-end for each business.  Revenue could ask for proof of digital linking, so you can't just throw in a rough estimate.
  • After every quarterly obligation is submitted, the response gets a CalculationID, that can be used to view the end clients "year to date tax estimate" for the business.
There are basically Two possible flows for completing ITSA Tax returns:
  1. Full Process/Accountant/Practice/TA has booking data and does the quarters for each trade/business, the practice then does the end of year pieces also, the issue is it will be expensive.
  2. Client Individual Driven Process is where the end user shall submit their ITSA quarterly returns, and then use a practice to submit the business/trades end of years and then the individuals end of year/Crystallization. 

High-Level Process for TA (full process):

  1. Clients sign up to MTDfITSA on HMRC using their Government gateway credentials, assuming they meet the criteria (Agent if authorised to act on the clients behalf can also sign the client up to MTDfITSA).
  2. Clients must maintain digital records, and it must be digitally linkable (spreadsheets are acceptable, min req allows for daily totals in a spreadsheet).  Need to record the transaction date, category and amount.
  3. Perform quarterly submissions per registered unincorporated business.  It can be submitted up to 1 month after the period ends.
  4. EOPS submission per business.  Due 31 Jan following year.  HMRC will return the tax calc for the unincorporated business.  Also, a declaration for each business must be completed by the TA or individual.
  5. Final Crystalisation & Declaration (HMRC does the calculation for the individual) are due 31 Jan following year.
  6. The payment date remains the same for Tax liability due 31 Jan following year.

Note:  All opinions are my own, and I am not a personal tax expert.

Numbers:
  • 32 Million Income tax payers, 4.1 million people are higher rate tax payers.
  • 450k people on additional rate (45%).
  • Median income per UK individual is £25k (males £27,400 females £22,200)
  • +-35k Tax & Accounting Practices in the UK (rough estimate).
  • 12 million people do self-assessments in the UK.
  • MTD ITSA will impact around 4.3-4.7m people (Self employment & landlords).
  • MTDfITSA affects 1.3m individual landlord.
  • HMRC recon they will gather an extra £9 billion per year.
  • HMRC estimate 1 million MTDfITSA customers will quality for the free software from vendors (less than £85k turnover and using cash basis accounting).
  • of the 12.2 million SA's due for the year ending 2020/2021, 10.2 million were filed on time by 31 Jan 2022.  It gets pretty crazy in filing day see HMRC's info.
  • HMRC recon that +-8 million of the 12.2 million 2020/21 self assessment (SA) tax returns have been filed as of 24 January 2022 (1 week to 31 Jan deadline, with Feb no penalty extension in 2020/21 year).  Interestingly the year before 9 million we filed at the same point the year before.
  • The pilot ITSA HMRC sign up is extremely low.  With HMRC estimating 4.3 million ITSA user sign-ups for the year starting 6 April 2024.
My Thoughts 10 Sept 2021 on ITSA:
HMRC have a lot of open questions both on the mechanics of ITSA and the API for MTDfITSA.  The regulation should be finalised +-end of Sept/Oct.  There are very few people that are eligible for the Pilot 6 April 2022 and very few accountants wanting to put their client on MTD.  My personal opinion is that HMRC will end up delaying the start for ITSA as they did for MTDfVat until is if more flushed out.  The API sandbox is not fit for pre-production however, all the vendors are doing best endeavors.  So not impossible to keep the existing timelines but i do feel there will be huge changes to ITSA coming along shortly from Revenue.

Self Assessment filling options:
  1. Most people use the current XML online filing done 31 Jan after the personal tax year.
  2. Some people still use paper based self-assessment due Oct after tax year,
  3. MTD for ITSA will be due 1 month after each businesses quarter, EOPS and finalization/crystallization process due 31 Jan the year after the personal tax year.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

Azure Elastic Pools - DB creation, schema alignment for SaaS

Overview:  Provisioning and seeding databases is pretty straight forward however ensuring multi-tenant databases schemas are aligned is a little tricky.  Azure has the Elastic Job Agent service that has been in preview for many years and is a good service.  It is extremely useful for updating multiple database instances en-masse.

There are 2 common scenarios

1. Provision a new database for a client.  This involves 1) creating the SQL database instance either on a server or an elastic pool. 2) Update the new database with the appropriate schema 3) insert any seed data into the database.

2. Update groups or all database instances to a specific schema i.e. change schema for all clients.

Scenario 1 needs to apply the schema to multiple databases and Elastic Job is perfect for this.  Scenrio 2 also needs to update a single database and can use the same T-SQL code to ensure new dbs have the correct schema applied.

Elastic Job Agent:

A job can be created that uses T-SQL (from source control) to ensure the schema of target databases are updated to a specific schema version.  A dedicate database is used to monitor and manage the jobs.  I call this the "agent-elasticdb" database.  

Note:  The Target can be all databases on a server, elastic pools, groups of name database instances or a single database.

If a job has multiple target database's to update, the updates are run in parallel.