Tag Archive | "economy"

Contractors to Leave the Public Sector Due to Tax Changes

The IPSE have warned that key contractors will leave the public sector if the government continue with proposed tax changes this year.

Basically, up until now it has been down to the contractors themselves to determine if they have the correct employment status, and this only gets questioned if the Inland Revenue has reason to believe it might be wrong.

With the new changes it will be up to public sector employers to decide the employment status of a contractor, which means they become responsible for putting on employment taxes. Not only that, but it also takes away a lot of control from the contractors themselves, as they could could find themselves labelled as an employee rather than self employed.

In short, things are going to become a lot more confusing for both employers and contractors, and it will no doubt just lead to more paperwork and time wasted phoning up places where they put you on hold for 45 minutes.

When you consider all of this, it’s easy to see why the IPSE are predicting that contractors will leave the public sector in their droves and start looking elsewhere for work. Why continue in a sector that just wants to hold you down, when there are so many other industries out there that are new and dynamic? The choice is going to be clear for thousands of people.

You can be sure the government didn’t think of this when they were sitting around and planning things out. That is the problem with many of these new initiatives…they fail to see the bigger picture.

No doubt the initial goal of all this is to save money for the government, but in the long run they may end up losing money as they find it hard to fill jobs in the public sector.

Actually, it wouldn’t surprise me if the government do a complete U-turn once they see just how many people start to quit. It wouldn’t be the first time they have backtracked on a new policy.

Sure, these kind of things seem like a good idea when you are sitting around in a meeting room in a nice building in the centre of London, but then it gets implemented in the real world and soon becomes apparent that they got it completely wrong.

Who knows though. Maybe the IPSE are off the mark in their predictions, and perhaps the new changes will be a good thing for the public sector. I highly doubt it, but let’s wait to see what happens.

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Which sectors will be successful in the recovery stakes?

BDO LLP, the global accountancy and business services firm, believes that we will see a clear division this year between companies that take up opportunities to grow and those that are left struggling behind in difficult markets.

BDO’s latest Industry Watch report forecasts a slight rise in business failures in 2012-13. At the same time, it says all sectors will see growth prospects increasing as the economic recovery gets underway. However, it will be a two-speed recovery with firms that are prepared to exploit new markets and increase online sales leading the way, whilst those that depend on cautious consumers and high street sales lagging behind.

Shay Bannon, a business restructuring partner at BDO, explained that companies with innovative products and new distribution channels will have a significant advantage over their competitors, regardless of the sector they operate in. Those who fail to respond run a much greater risk of finding themselves in difficulties.

Firms in the technology, media and telecoms sector are best placed to outperform the wider economy as all industries realise the need for innovative technology if they want to be successful and grow.

On the other hand, companies dealing in property and construction, business services and the leisure industry are still experiencing difficult market conditions. The retail sector also has both challenges and opportunities with the winners being those with a strong on-line presence. Retailers who are prepared to adopt new mobile shopping technology could well be set to reap the rewards.

UK businesses that are prepared to break into Far Eastern markets are also expected to do well. Manufacturers have benefited from the weak pound. Falling inflation and low interest rates and those companies that can adapt their products for new overseas markets should continue to flourish.

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Are contractor accountants worried about their finances?

CABA, the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association, says the accountants who contacted it for advice last year were mainly worried about unemployment and finance issues.

The charity received more than 430 calls, letters and emails from chartered accountants and their dependants in 2011. 38% of the callers wanted to talk about financial problems and a further 13% were worried about unemployment. Other common issues were ill health, mental health and carers/caring.

Kath Haines, the chief executive of CABA, said the majority of enquiries the Association receives have been prompted by the sluggish economy. Chartered accountants who have been made redundant are struggling to find another job, older members are finding they have not make adequate provisions for their retirement and others face reduced benefits after changes to government regulations.

CABA has introduced additional resources to help members with problems in these areas, Ms Haines continued. The Association provides the support they need to get their lives back on track as quickly as possible.

The charity was set up in 1886 to offer advice and training to members of the ICAEW, both past and present, and their dependants. It provides debt management and advice, career coaching, financial assistance and has a 24 hour counselling helpline.

Last month, CABA set up two new services to help unemployed accountants get back into the workplace. Workfriend, which is designed to help people brush up on their job seeking skills, and Career Coaching to help those who have been unemployed for some time.

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Are micro-businesses to be freed from some onerous red tape?

You may be relieved to learn that the European Council has agreed new requirements to reduce bureaucracy and create a less burdensome accounting and reporting system for micro-businesses.

The new regulations will cut dramatically the administrative burden on companies that meet two out of the following three criteria. Their balance sheet should not exceed £293,000, turnover should be £586,000 or less and the company should not employ more than an average 10 members of staff during the course of a financial year.

This new EU directive means that member states can exempt their micro-businesses from the burden of publishing annual accounts.

The financial reporting faculty chief at the ICAEW, Dr Nigel Sleigh-Johnson, said the move was a long-awaited step towards devising an appropriate system for small business reporting. Micro-businesses make a substantial contribution to the UK’s economy and are a key source of innovation and start-up activity. The ICAEW strongly supports any move to reduce the regulatory burden on such businesses.

However, he went on to point out that any changes to reporting requirements should not reduce access to financial information nor give out the impression that sound financial management was not important.

The UK now has a free rein to decide what rules micro-businesses should follow and now could be a good time to design a reporting regime suitable for all small businesses. This has been debated a lot in the past but there is still a lot of very important work to be done before the system can be deemed fit for purpose, he added.

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GAAR – It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Don’t know about you but I usually have that optimistic hope at this time of the year that things are going to get better. Possibly fuelled by an excess of several Christmas spirits, but mainly on the basis that they couldn’t get much worse. But even I might struggle to feel optimistic about 2012, even if Mother Nature keeps out of it and doesn’t produce any more tsunamis and earthquakes. The economy isn’t what you would call robust; although ours is looking healthier than many thought it would, it’s still not that good and badly threatened by our continental friends and their strange ideas on fiscal unity.

But there are always glimmers of hope from which to take comfort.

The fragrant Ms Primarolo is standing down at the first opportunity. St Vince of Cable sounds like he’s been put back in his box. Hartnett is retiring. Moribund and Balls seem to be losing everyone’s respect, even their own supporters’. And the Deputy PM has come out against tax avoidance.

Actually that last one is quite amusing if you think about it. It’s come about because HMRC have been caught out rather badly; cutting deals with companies with no obvious justification and thereby not collecting some £25bn in taxes owed. You may recall me writing about Goldman Sachs and their interesting approach to penalties, a position supported against all reason by a certain Mr Hartnett. Or even my much earlier railing against the shopkeeper Mr Green, paying a personal dividend some £500 million in excess of his net profits and, just to rub salt into the wound, paying no tax at all since it wasn’t actually his dividend, it was the Monegasque Mrs Green’s.

So eventually the slumbering giant awoke and took notice. Which is nice…

However you have to say that, as usual, said slumbering giant has once again failed to understand one of the basic drivers of commerce: if there is a small pinhole by which you can save even a little money, someone will engineer a coach and horses to drive through it.

Nevertheless, Corporal Clegg has started making serious noises about attacking unacceptable avoidance. He wants to see a general anti-avoidance rule to prevent corporations employing armies of lawyers to find ways to avoid paying taxes.

So near and yet so far.

The problem is not people avoiding taxes. The problem is that there are so many complications and exemptions and offsets in tax law that finding loopholes is actually quite simple. The problem is that most of HMRC don’t actually understand the laws they are trying to enforce and when they do, their own management decides not to bother enforcing them. The problem is that any such rule will have to be so loosely framed that it will more than likely impact a whole raft of people that it was never meant to; people who don’t have armies of lawyers on tap and who therefore will end up paying taxes they probably don’t owe while the real culprits take no notice.

When will it dawn on our political masters that more and more rules are not the answer? We need fewer rules, with clearer definitions of how they apply. We need an enforcement body that knows what it’s doing and how to do it. And we need politicians who understand that avoidance is legal and if you want to stop it you make it illegal so it can be correctly described as evasion. The problem is a lack of clarity of purpose. The problem with a general anti-avoidance rule was in fact neatly summarised by Macbeth, “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Anyway, have a Happy New Year. Fingers crossed…

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

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Is there a glimmer of hope in otherwise dismal economic times?

You cannot have failed to notice that there’s been a bit of trouble brewing in the Eurozone recently.

The UK’s membership of the European Union has never suited everybody and sure enough, the “Get out of Europe” brigade is having a field day.

Since we joined the EU, it’s been quick to impose thousands of regulations on us, many of which are expensive to implement and heap pointless bureaucracy on British businesses.

Take the Agency Workers Directive for example. The CBI warned that 250,000 jobs could be at stake if it was implemented and Open Europe has estimated that 80% of those affected will be in the UK. Furthermore, the impact assessment conducted by the Government estimated that it would cost British businesses £3.7 billion to prepare for AWR.

Then we have health and safety regulations. It has been estimated that health and safety regulations have cost the British economy £176 billion over the last thirteen years and 71% of that can be attributed to legislation from the EU. That’s almost £125 billion the UK has spent courtesy of the bureaucrats in Brussels.

If countries continue to muddle through the current crisis, the chances are that nations like Greece, Italy, Japan, Portugal and Spain plunge back into recession. There would also be a 70% chance of that happening in the UK.

Amid all the chaos it would have been easy to miss one piece of good news from the ONS! The UK CPI inflation rate dropped to 4.8% and the RPI fell to 5.2% last month; both down 0.2 percentage points. The Bank of England now expects inflation will drop to under 2% within the next 18 months. That will be something to look forward to!

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My 8 step guide to a multi-billion pound business

After a lot of study and reading all kinds of authoritative sources I think I’ve worked out a business idea that lets you build a multi-billion pound business over the course of a few years. Like all projects it has a logical plan to make sure everything happens as it should. It goes like this:

First, you need to have a workforce based in a lower-cost economy than ours, which isn’t actually that hard to achieve these days. Even our expensive European cousins are trying very hard to drop down to a third world economy rather than accept the Euro is doomed. However, basing it outside Europe is preferable.

Then you need to reinterpret the meaning of the phrase “business specific”. Make it mean “works for you and can read”. This is important; if you want to deploy your workforce over here they need to be able to get in (not that hard to do, apparently) and be permitted to work here. That needs a Visa, but luckily you can use the ICT option. That allows you to import workers who have particular knowledge of your business. Hence the need for reinterpretation; if you don’t, they won’t qualify as ICTs and you can’t use them.

These valuable workers need paying of course, and there are rules about that. For less than a year’s stay, for example, they have to be paid £24,000. Not a problem, it only says you have to pay them that, what they actually get is a different matter. After all, you are paying for the travel and accommodation, so let’s offset that against the £24,000. That way you can pay them a little bit more than they get at home and spend the rest on their expenses. Or even yours.

Ah yes, accommodation can be expensive. Best way to economise is to share it among as many people as possible. After all they’re only here temporarily so can rough it for a while.

Better make sure the workers never ever let anyone see their pay slips while we’re at it. Wouldn’t want to disclose our margins, would we?

Right, so now we have a skilled workforce in place at roughly a third the cost of the locals. Time to drum up some work for them to do. So let’s sell them to UK businesses as a cheaper alternative to using the expensive workers they normally employ. With the money saved earlier we can afford to put them out at two thirds the usual charge, so the client must be making a big saving. Easy.

Then, once we have control, we have other options to maximise revenue. If there’s a bug in something, don’t try and fix it, that’s just a fudge. Rewrite it properly, from scratch. Much more work for your workers to do, not only re-writing it but testing it and releasing it and re-training the users.

More work means more people; don’t really care how good they are. Better get some more ICTs organised then. Advertise back home that you’ll sponsor an ICT for a mere £1000, no actual job offer required. That will get the applicants flooding in.

And when the locals kick up a fuss, persuade some senior politician – ideally one who is rapidly approaching sainthood – that the skills don’t exist locally and you have the only alternative. Make sure the skills don’t exist locally, of course, by only advertising roles at non-viable rates that only your workers can live with.

And the final bonus point: in only a few years you will have killed off the local industry totally and have it all for yourself.

Brilliant plan, isn’t it? Guaranteed to succeed. Wonder why nobody’s thought of it already…

About the author: Alan Watts

Alan has worked in IT for most of the last 35 years, and first went freelance in 1996. He has been a PCG member from its start and has been spreading the message that freelancing is a professional career choice for many years. Alan also runs Malvolio’s Blog, a personal but highly informative take on the life of the modern freelance.

Alan Watts, Principal Consultant, LPW Computer Services

© 2011 All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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FPB calls for national day to recognise UK entrepreneurs

Freelancers may be interested to learn that The Business Woman’s Network and the FPB are supporting the call for a national day to celebrate UK micro business owners.

The online business knowledge website wanobe.com launched the idea of a day to celebrate the UK entrepreneurs who run the 4.5 million small firms in Britain.

David Noble, the managing director of Wanobe.com said the men and women who run the UK’s small businesses represent dynamism for the battered economy at a time of high unemployment and are the nation’s unsung heroes.

95% of all companies in the UK are micro enterprises and between them they employ 33% of the workforce. Noble says it’s now time to acknowledge the vital role entrepreneurs play in driving the economy.

The FPB has already launched its own initiative called ‘Get Britain Trading’. Phil McCabe, the PR manager for the Forum, said although micro-business entrepreneurs are spearheading the fight to drive the British economy, a lot of people have no idea what it takes to run a business. Having a dedicated day to celebrate the contributions and efforts of small business entrepreneurs would be a wonderful way to highlight how commitment, creativity and bright ideas generate new jobs and help stimulate economic growth.

The Business Woman’s Network’s Mandie Holgate, explained that there are now more than 950,000 self employed females in the UK and around 15% of firms are majority owned by women. They should be extremely proud of the contribution they make to both society and the economy.

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Are accountants for contractors among the most pessimistic in the world?

Compared to business owners in other countries, Britons are among the most pessimistic, according to research by Grant Thornton.

The bad news is, this could include online accountants!

The International Business Report for quarter 2 shows that optimism amongst UK companies has dropped 9% year-on-year, and 14% since the first quarter of 2011. The Report looks at the views and expectations of over 11,000 companies in 39 economies.

UK business optimism is higher only than Japan, Spain and Greece, countries that have suffered severe financial or environmental upheaval. The downturn in the UK is linked to concerns over the economy due to the drop in consumer spending, weak bank lending and the decent demise of some high-profile retailers.

Companies in the UK expect their profits to decrease as well as their ability to invest in plant and machinery and R&D. Despite that, UK firms do expect their revenue to grow by 4% and their workforce by 7% in the next 12 months. 53% of businesses also expect to award a pay rise in the coming year.

The CEO of Grant Thornton UK, Scott Barnes, said that although this report paints a bleak picture, it’s important to realise that there are some positive signs. Overall business optimism around the world has increased over the last 12 months and governments and international organisations must build on this and make credible decisions.

However, UK businesses could be in for a tough time as employee disengagement rises and many employees start to look for new jobs.

Research from Mercer shows that only 61% of employees get a feeling of personal accomplishment from their job, compared to 70% 4 years ago. 55% said they are proud to work in their company and 52% are committed to their organisation, down from 60% and 59% respectively in 2006.

36% of respondents said they were seriously thinking about moving on and 40% of them were in the 25 to 34 age bracket. The main reasons behind this growing dissatisfaction are salary freezes and cuts to benefits and training.

Employers should be worried that so many key employees are disenchanted, especially as they are an integral part of recovery plans.

Chris Johnson from Mercer said there is a general malaise in the workplace which can undermine business performance. Mercer’s head of employee research for EMEA added that employees now tend to take more self-interested view and if their expectations are not met, they take action to do what is best for them.

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Banks must do more to help small businesses get finance

A new report claims that the UK’s financial sector is not doing enough to support SMEs and this is damaging the economy.

Will Hutton, The Work Foundation’s executive vice chair, has submitted the report to the Independent Banking Commission, and says that despite bank assets growing to four times GDP, lending to corporates represents only 5% of all lending.

The report goes on to say that the lack of support for SMEs has discouraged borrowers from applying for loans. This lack of investment reduces innovation levels, which in turn creates a cycle of less dynamism, less investment and less innovation.

The authors of the report want to see rigorous ring-fencing, or separation, of commercial and retail banking operations from investment banking, as well as additional capital being made available. By doing this, internal frameworks would be changed and the financial sector would find it more attractive to lend to smaller firms.

Furthermore, the banks must stop concentrating on balance sheets and start to look on small businesses as positive investments which will strengthen the economic recovery.

The FSB also agrees that lending to small businesses must improve. The banks say small businesses are not applying for credit and yet a recent survey from the FSB shows that around 960,000 of its members asked the banks for a loan in the past 12 months and a third were refused. 16% of those refused were not told why their application was turned down.

34% of those who applied needed the funding to cover cash-flow, but 21% wanted finance to buy new machinery and equipment and a further 17% wanted to expand their business.

John Walker, the FSB’s national chairman, pointed out that the OBR forecasts that business investment will help to drive the recovery but this cannot happen until banks work with companies to make sure they get much needed finance.

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90% of Britains think the economy is in a bad state

Only 10% of people in Britain think the economy is good, ranking us amongst the gloomiest nations in the world, according to a new survey.

24 of the world’s largest economies were polled and it transpired that Japanese and Hungarian citizens were the only nationalities that were more negative than us. And the Japanese have a good excuse after suffering the massive earthquake and tsunami earlier this year.

In contrast, at least 70% of citizens in Australia, China, India, Saudi Arabia and Sweden think their country’s economy is good.

The majority of us can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel either. Only 10% expect the economy to strengthen over the next six months.

The survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI and its MD, Bobby Duffy, said the level of gloom was understandable. We have absurd house prices and the cost of living is rising a lot faster than earnings. It is not surprising that people feel pessimistic and this will impact growth.

It’s not only the man in the street who feels less than happy about the state of the British economy. The BCC has now downgraded its expectations for growth for this year and next.

The Chamber has knocked 0.1 percentage points off its GDP forecasts and at the same time increased the forecasts for annual CPI inflation.

In slightly better news, the organisation now expects just 2.6 million people to be unemployed 15 months from now, instead of the 2.65 million it predicted 3 months ago.

The director general of the BCC, David Frost, said the economy still faces difficult challenges. However, he believes the coalition is right to continue with its plans to reduce the budget deficit. But, the government must also come up with policies that enable businesses to drive the recovery, he added.

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Who are the enemies of contractor accountants?

David Cameron has attacked the people he considers to be the enemies of enterprise that are threatening to hold back British businesses.

Speaking at the Conservative spring conference in Cardiff, the PM repeated his commitment to the promotion of economic growth. Cameron said that as well as having a positive social impact, new enterprises are good for the economy. He did however admit that we have our work cut out to encourage people to form a limited company.

For more than 10 years, the enemies of enterprise have taxed, regulated, smothered, crushed and generally got in the way, he said.

George Osborne’s budget later this month will lay out specific measures to help business start-ups. These could include the removal of bureaucracy and the easing of regulations.

Meanwhile, existing companies are confused about the requirements of the new senior accounting officer legislation adding compliance costs to their existing financial burden. However, Deloitte says most are in a good position to comply.

According to Deloitte’s research, 11% of organisations have complete confidence in their compliance, although 69% expect to file an unqualified certificate. The areas that are causing most concern are VAT, PAYE, corporation tax and excise duties.

The new rules mean that senior financial officers now have to certify annually that their company systems are fit for tax reporting purposes. The legislation only affects companies with a turnover in excess of £200 million.

HMRC had assured companies that the sign-off would not lead to increased costs, 50% of respondents claimed the costs had been significant. 13% did admit that the increased cost of compliance has been set off in part by the savings they discovered during the review process.

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How much tax do online accountants deduct?

Large organisations pay less tax on their earnings percentage wise than anybody else, according to the results of a survey by the Business Taxation centre at Oxford University.

However, their overall tax liability is higher as 81% of all corporation tax is paid by 1% of the largest companies.

A separate survey conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 11.9% of the government’s tax receipts came from Britain’s largest companies in the year ending 31 March 2010. The total remittance from these companies was £56.8 billion despite the challenging economic climate leading to lower commodity prices and profitability.

The PwC survey was conducted on behalf of the Hundred Group which provides employment for more than 6% of the UK workforce and generates £16.7 billion in employment taxes alone.

Corporation tax makes up 33.7% of the total tax burden for members of the Hundred Group, followed by NICs at 27.4% and local business rates at 20.3%. The major contributors come from the oil and gas sector, banks, retailers and insurance companies.

When it came to salaries in 2010, members of the Hundred Group paid an average of £46,550. This compares very favourably with the UK national average of £25,900.

The vice chairman of the Hundred Group of Finance Directors, Ashley Almanza, said the survey results show that member companies continue to make a substantial contribution to the country’s economy. It is vital for government and business to continue working together to create both investment and employment opportunities and in order to achieve that the tax system must be predictable and internationally competitive, he added.

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Business failures mean less demand for accountants for contractors

More businesses closed than started up in 2009, according to recently released statistics from the ONS.

Last year about 279,000 businesses closed their doors, the highest number since 2000 when the business demographic survey started.

As far as business births were concerned, the highest rate was in business administration and support services at 13.9%. 48,000 new businesses were created in professional, scientific and technical, representing a birth rate of 12.5%.

Over 44,000 construction companies died in 2009, whilst 42,000 professional, scientific and technical faded into oblivion. Business administration and support services had the highest death rate of all at 14.8%.

London had the highest birth and death rate, recording 12.6% of all new start-ups and 13.7% of business closures. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, recorded the lowest rate in both categories with 6.6% of new businesses and 9.2% of business deaths.

The CBI has now predicted that business growth next year will be slower than it had first thought. The employers group now predicts growth of only 0.2% in quarter one next year with a total growth for 2011 of 2.0%.

The first few months next year are expected to be especially sluggish due to the VAT rate hike, according to the CBI.

Ian McCafferty, the chief economic adviser to the CBI, said that economic growth had surpassed expectations in 2010 but this is not expected to continue as government austerity measures and VAT rises enter the economic equation.

The CBI has also predicted that economic growth will increase by 2.4% in 2012.

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