Business

Seeing things from a new perspective

Accountancy firms that are part of the HCWA network offer a unique range of perspectives and employ people from a variety of different backgrounds. JONATHAN BROWN explains how he came to join Barnett & Turner in Nottinghamshire and why he thinks his move has been so positive.

Working in an independent accountancy business has been quite a new experience for me. That’s because originally I trained in the public sector. 

Of course, there were plenty of personal motivations for the move – not least the fact that I was undertaking a lengthy commute into Sheffield each day as a trainee management accountant. Ultimately though, I feel the culture here suits me much better.

We’re a tight-knit team and there’s a family feel to the business, which is important to me. Inevitably, when I joined the public sector after graduating from university in Accountancy and Finance, I found things to be pretty hierarchical. It can be a political environment with a number of restrictions, so getting things done can be quite a long-winded process.

Here, although things are on a smaller scale, there seems to be much more variety. Dealing with clients in the private sector, you don’t feel as if you’re doing the same job more than once. You’re always on your toes, there’s lots of responsibility and you feel valued, by both our clients and within the team.

From a client perspective, you get the best of all possible worlds. Our team may come from a variety of backgrounds and have insights into the way that different organisations work. At the same time, we’re given a sense of ownership and a really varied range of tasks. That makes us truly committed, responsive and ready for whatever challenge gets thrown at us next!

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Being true to your values may take a little bit of reflection

Like a chameleon, the environment at Barnett & Turner is changing. And it’s all to do with the unique ‘Culture Club’ set up by Jono Wilson - Here, he makes the case that every organisation can benefit from a little open discussion, reflection and renewal to get the best out of any team!

When you manage a business, it can sometimes be too easy to keep ploughing on in the same direction. After all, you’re preoccupied with day-to-day pressures and deadlines. But it’s healthy to take stock once in a while and reflect on the way that everyone interacts with one another and the expectations we have for behaviour.

That’s exactly what we’ve done recently at my own accountancy firm. Barnett & Turner has been around for 110 years or so and as a business we continue to learn, change and improve. So I have brought together a group of staff to form what we’ve called our ‘Culture Club’ to review, redefine and take ownership of our business culture, ensuring that we play by the right rules to maintain a positive environment for us and our clients.   

It’s a process that I believe could benefit almost any company.

We have a range of people involved. Some are client-facing fee earners, while others work behind the scenes. There’s a good male-female balance and a variety of ages, so we get a healthy range of perspectives. 

Our aim is to focus on what we need from each other as people, to ensure our continued success both as individuals and as a business. We started out by considering who we admire externally – friends, sportspeople and others with a high profile. Could we bring some of their traits and habits into the work that we do here?

After plenty of discussion, we’ve produced a ‘play-book’ which pulls together the cornerstones of what we consider to be our unique culture and how we want the firm to be – for us, it is much more than just a mission statement or staff handbook! The principles include making a difference to our clients and each other, being true to our values, ownership and trust, honesty and commitment and solution based thinking. We’ve also included fun and positivity - it’s important to show some love!

We’re currently preparing to present our play-book to the wider team working in the business and I admit to being excited at the prospect, as everyone has been so engaged in the process so far. I’ve also found that it’s given me a new lease of life and motivation as a leader. 

Our intention is to use the Culture Club as a talking point with new recruits and to share the play-book in interviews. It means we can be quite clear and up front with them: “This is who we are and what we expect. Do you feel that you will fit in and are you excited at the prospect of joining B&T?”

Over time, the values will become a benchmark for appraising our work and behaviours. We will challenge ourselves to check that we’re living up to our aspirations and embracing the culture that we have collectively agreed to create.

It takes a little time and commitment, but I really believe it’s worth the effort and I have no doubt that it will help us get the best out of each other. Perhaps it’s time to consider creating your own version of the Culture Club?

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Keeping an eye on your business via the cloud

One of the great advantages of cloud accounting is that your professional adviser is there with you in real time, writes Natalie Goodall of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner

While it’s true that the key driver for using cloud accounting systems has been the government’s Making Tax Digitalprogramme, we’d usually advise all our clients to work in this way, even if they’re not VAT registered.

From our point of view, there are a number of advantages, if we notice for example, that profitability is healthy, we can work proactively to manage tax liability. On the other hand, if a client’s figures are not looking so rosy, there may be another conversation we can have, which gives us the chance to offer some specific advice or recommendations.

A key advantage is the ability to spot problems before they get out of hand. Keeping accounts in the cloud means that your professional adviser is able to log on at any time and see exactly what’s going on. While some businesses joke about ‘Big Brother’, the reality is that they soon see the advantages.

As cloud accounting became more commonplace, we started checking in on client accounts on an ad hoc basis, but we are now putting systems in place to ensure regular monitoring.

In terms of practical impact it can make, think about notification of your corporation tax bill. Would you rather have an idea of the figure eight months in advance or just a week before it became due?

Most accountants will be happy to offer some training to clients, depending on their level of confidence with software such as Xero, Sage or QuickBooks. Inevitably though, queries arise from time to time and we find that this serves as a useful communication channel. When a client calls up to ask for advice on the software, there’s always an opportunity for a five-minute chat to get up to date on their business and accounting issues.

We work closely with the leading providers, Xero and QuickBooks, and are cloud certified advisers. If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the new technology, make sure to have a chat with us to see how we can help with a stress-free demo and set up options.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Manage cashflow with superior tax planning

Jono Wilson of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner in Mansfield shows how tax and cashflow are closely inter-related and points out some opportunities you just might have missed.

With a downturn in the economy and some uncertainty surrounding the UK’s position after Brexit, many companies are turning their attention to tax planning – especially if cashflow is becoming an issue. Here are seven different areas that are worth thinking about and, of course, discussing with your professional advisers.

Research & Development

Companies involved in qualifying R&D activity, may qualify for tax relief on certain costs incurred as part of the process. If you’re a small or medium-sized enterprise, this result in additional relief of up 130% on costs incurred. Where a company has made a loss in the year the benefit of this relief allows Small and Medium enterprises to surrender tax losses generated by R&D tax relief for a cash repayment.  

Patent Box Relief

Innovating in your market place with new, patented technologies or inventions? Patent Box Relief allows you to access a lower rate of Corporation Tax on the profits derived from the exploitation of patented technologies and products. While the qualifying criteria are complex, the benefits to companies can see their Corporation Tax liabilities significantly reduced to as low as 10% on these profits where this relief is available.  

Capital Allowances

Don’t overlook this advantageous relief, Capital Allowances are often a valuable relief assisting in reducing a company’s taxable profits, generating deductions of up to 100% of the qualifying capital expenditure incurred. If you have incurred significant expenditure on property renovations in the previous 2 years, a review of the expenditure should be undertaken to maximise any Capital Allowances available which could result in significant tax savings for companies.

Corporation Tax

With a downturn in the economy and some uncertainty surrounding the UK’s position after Brexit some companies are facing the prospect of making a current year tax losses. If a company has previously been profitable and paid Corporation Tax in the prior period there is the potential to utilise current year losses against prior year’s profits and generate a tax repayment.

Foreign Tax Credits

If you are undertaking work overseas, you may find that you suffer a withholding tax on payments received. What you may not realise is that you can claim relief against UK Corporation Tax on a pound-for-pound basis for any withholding taxes which have been suffered potentially generating a repayment. This claim can be made for a period of up to four years, in some cases allowing companies to access significant tax savings.

Tax-efficient remuneration and benefits

We always encourage our clients to think about what savings can be made in other areas of their business. Staff costs will typically be a significant cost to most company’s therefore any savings that can be access in this area are usually welcome. Simply changes like moving to an alternative provider for your Corporation Benefits package can result in significant cost savings for a company as well as great some tax efficiencies for your employees as well, for example moving to a salary sacrifice pension scheme.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Why weak personal security is a risk to business too

Many businesses are becoming better protected in the IT sphere, argues Jono Wilson of Barnett & turner, but the lax personal security of employees can still pose a risk.

We’ve all become quite used to the idea of enterprise security. In business environments, there are often well-defined procedures and protocols for using IT and most companies understand the potential risks.

But what about our personal security? We’re often less careful outside the work environment and many of us have a large digital footprint.

Email is a particular concern. If you think about it, your email address is a linchpin for pretty much everything else you do online. It’s the primary building block for most authentication. If you need to reset a password, where does the link get sent?

Many of us can get quite lax over password protection too. We’re asked to remember so much information for so many different online contexts, we end up going for the easy option and repeating the same letter/number combination.

Perhaps in a business, you’re encouraged to change your password every 30 days. But when did you last change it with your home ISP? In some cases, it can be five, ten or even fifteen years ago. So if there’s one thing you definitely do as a result of reading this short article, my plea would be that you go and change that personal password. Don’t put it off until next week or next month, as it’s way too easy to forget.

If someone manages to get into your personal email, it can easily help them to gain access to other services too. A door is thrown wide open. And this can have a knock-on effect to the enterprise environment too, as it may be that personal emails feature in multi-factor authentications.

Another issue is that people may not even know their personal email has been compromised and, if they do find out, they lack the expertise or resources to sort things out.

One very useful free site is https://haveibeenpwned.com/. You simply type in your email address and it will give you a description of any compromising activity on the account. At least then, you’re aware and in a position to take some action.

As a business owner or manager, it may be worth talking to your staff about the potential issues that arise with private security online. After all, there’s no point in investing in your own security when it can be undermined by the personal email accounts of your employees.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Helping employees live your brand

How your staff can become ambassadors for the business… Jono Wilson, managing partner of accountancy firm Barnett & Turner, shares his insight on how your team members can play an important role in promoting your brand.

Your company’s brand is one of your most valuable assets. It’s what differentiates you in the marketplace and cements your reputation. When employees believe in the brand, a business will prosper. So here are a dozen quick tips for ensuring that everyone is playing their part in the process.

Ensure brand alignment

It’s essential to ensure that both employees and the leadership team understand what your brand stands for. Any lack of clarity from the top will mean employees don’t understand what is expected of them, which will translate into a confusing experience for your customers.

Communicate the vision

Make sure your employees understand the brand proposition. It’s vital that everyone is speaking from the same page when it comes to who you are and what you do, so make sure you have communicated the vision effectively. How can your team deliver on the corporate brand promise if they aren’t clear about what it is?

 Keep it simple

Your brand needs to have simplicity at its heart. Some marketers can alienate their internal audience by creating an overly complex brand structure that is difficult to execute for employees.  

Make your employees the hero

Celebrate your employees in your brand materials and put them front and centre. Ditch the generic stock imagery or shots of your slick new building and create imagery centred around your teams. 

Educate your employees

Provide your employees with training and guidance about how to represent and live the brand. Map out the customer journey with them, helping them identify what materials to use and how to ensure a cohesive brand experience.  

Create great content

You must create compelling and relevant content that will inspire employees to spread the word. Company news, articles and press releases can be fine, but interactive and design-rich media such as infographics, images and videos will work much better.

Invest in design

Make your employees proud of your brand and its content by ensuring it looks the part. Today people are far more design savvy than ever before and regularly consume design-rich content. Make sure your brand can stand up against not just your competitor set, but also the brands that your employees are interacting with. 

Don’t be over-protective of your brand

You should have the confidence to let employees present your brand in a way that feels authentic to them. Give them the understanding, tools and guidance and then let the brand breathe. Not every employee is the same and one size does not fit all. Different types of people require different tactics in order to turn them into brand ambassadors, so try to have as flexible an approach as possible and build a full brand tool kit that they can draw from.

Don’t be afraid of social media – let employees tell the brand story

When social media first became popular, many employers banned its use at work because it was a distraction. If you want your employees to post, tweet and snap about your business, you’ll need to relax those rules. Also, give employees the opportunity to attend industry events and conferences where they can meet clients and get the chance to promote the brand to their peers or competitors. 

Make it easy to share and keep them informed

Send out a weekly company-wide email that includes all content (news, articles, events, images etc) that employees can share. They know their clients best and can send on information that is timely and accurate. You should also encourage employees to follow, like and share the firm’s social media updates with their networks. 

Internal networking

Encourage internal networking by providing a forum for staff to interact with each other. It will help facilitate sharing of information, peer-to-peer learning and idea generation. You would be surprised how much practical insight can be brought into your branding communications.

Listen and act on feedback

Engage in a two-way dialogue with your employees. Invest the time to listen to your staff and provide them with a forum to influence the direction your brand takes. This might include an annual survey where employees can provide candid anonymous feedback. 

Finally, remember your brand is not static. It can morph over time and should be as dynamic as your organisation and its people. Always look for it to evolve.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Ransomware - are your systems protected?

Ransomware is a word that can strike fear into businesses and individuals alike, especially after the recent news articles about the NHS infection and other global attacks from WannaCry and its derivatives.

So what exactly is ransomware?

It’s a malevolent piece of software which goes through your computer files and ‘encrypts’ them so they cannot be opened or ‘decrypted’ without a special unlock code.  Once the files have been altered, the ransomware then displays a message explaining how much it will cost to obtain the unlock code and how long you have until the files are destroyed.  Some users have reported that even though they have paid the fee, they’ve not received the unlock code and lost their files.

Ransomware is not a new thing; it has been around in various forms since 1989. It’s only recently been making the headlines due to the untraceable nature of new payment methods, such as Bitcoin.

How is it spread?

The most common method of transmission is through email attachments sent to you (eg inside Word documents, pdfs, spreadsheets etc), although your machine can also be infected by other machines on the same network already infected by the ransomware.  This can even happen at home if you have multiple computers connected to the internet at the same time.

There are many types of malware all working in different ways to achieve the same result, blocking you from your files.  Once you are infected, your options are limited: you either pay to release your files, pay a specialist to try to recover them (not normally successful) or lose all the data.

What can you do to reduce your risk or the impact of infection?

There are a number of simple and inexpensive ways to stay clear of ransomware

·      Keep your antivirus and Windows Defender updated

·      Keep your machine updated with the latest Windows updates issued by Microsoft

·      Review all emails and their attachments before opening them.
 

If the email is not from a sender you expect or recognise (ie a friend, bank, gas/electric supplier, online shop etc), then delete it.  If it is from a known source, don’t just open it, as people can fake where emails are from. Have a look at the content and the attachment name and see if they are related. Just as importantly, ask yourself whether you expected an email from the sender. If you are at all concerned, delete the email.

Make a copy of your files to a portable storage device, such as a USB stick or a USB hard drive which is only connected to your computer to back up your files. Alternatively, you could use a DVD/Blu-ray disk or one of the many cloud storage options available on the internet. You should also create a factory reset disc or learn about ‘Restore Factory Settings’.

If your computer is running a version of Windows pre 8, 8.1 or 10, then you can create a factory reset disc/ USB drive.  For Windows 8, 8.1 or 10 users, you have the facility to ‘Restore Factory Settings’. In both cases, this wipes all information from your computer and reinstalls Windows to its original factory configuration.  Once complete, you will need to reinstall your software and upload your files from the location in which you stored them.

While ransomware can be disastrous for the unprepared, following these straightforward suggestions can alleviate your main fear: the loss of business or personal data.

 If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Could changing your accounting date help reduce your tax bill?

If you’re an unincorporated business (a sole trader or partnership), you have free choice when it comes to your accounting date says Barnett & Turner’s Jono Wilson. Some choose a date for commercial reasons – for example to fit in with a cyclical trading pattern or to fall in a slack period – and for others the logical choice may be 5 April (or 31 March) to align with the tax year.

Choosing the right year end will not only make life administratively easier for a business, but choosing a year end other than 5 April (or 31 March) can also give you a cash-flow advantage and create outright tax savings, if the circumstances are right.

Depending on the choice of accounting date, new businesses and individuals joining existing partnerships may see some of their profits taxed twice because of special rules which dictate when – and to what extent – business profits are assessed. Profits taxed twice are known as “overlap profits”. 

Businesses trading when self-assessment was introduced in 1996/97 may be carrying overlap profits and changing a business’ accounting date can also cause profits to be doubly assessed.

The value of any doubly assessed or overlap profits is subsequently carried forward and given as a tax-reducer when a business ceases, when an individual leaves a partnership and on certain changes of accounting date.

The thought of profits being taxed twice naturally gives rise to a common misconception that overlap profits are bad. In reality, a change of accounting date can be used to your advantage, which is illustrated in the very simple case study below.

 A partnership with a 30 April year end went from being highly profitable to being loss making, almost overnight. A 30 April year end is great, as it allows a lengthy period between making profits and paying tax on them, but, where a business falters as above, tax becomes payable when the business has no cash (unless it has a very prudent and very disciplined tax provision policy). In this case, changing the year end to 31 March enabled the partners to use their significant overlap profits and it also enabled earlier access to trading losses; this not only created significant cash-flow benefits for the business, but it also got rid of the overlap profits.

A few years later, the business returned to significant profitability, almost as spectacularly as it became loss making, resulting in significant tax bills made worse by the catch-up effect of a large self-assessment balancing payment plus payments on account. In the light of this, the partnership year end was returned to 30 April, which created some new overlap profits, but it also had two additional and significant benefits:

o   It deferred payment of significant amounts of tax by 12 months, creating positive cash flow and allowing the business to get its tax provisioning in check; and

o   It pushed profits into a later tax year, giving the opportunity to undertake some income tax planning and reduce the deferred tax liabilities.

So if you’re unincorporated and interested in finding out more about this specific issue of your accounting date, it’s certainly worth starting a conversation with your accountant.

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Are you really geared up to tackle fraud?

While many businesses believe they are doing all they can to counter fraudulent activity, they often lack the latest data analytics, argues Jono Wilson of Barnett & Turner. And that could prove costly.

Many companies still rely on old-fashioned human intervention to spot potential fraud, but in the modern era they may well be missing a trick. Data analytics are an excellent tool and can prove to be surprisingly cost-effective.

There are actually numerous tests available to help you identify red flags.

Take occupational fraud schemes, for example. You can easily compare purchasing rates between vendors and look for discrepancies or search for vendor preference patterns. 

Why not check sales prices and margins by customer? If you find unexpected anomalies or unusual pricing, it could suggest an internal fraud involving a member of your staff. 

Be on the look-out for ‘kickbacks’ too – expense reimbursements or sizeable petty cash withdrawals prior to an important contract being signed.

And it’s often useful to focus on the sums involved in cash payments to agents or customers, as round figures can be revealing of suspicious activity.

Some organisations will undertake a very good data matching test by comparing payroll records (name, address, postcode, bank account details) with records on a suppliers’ list. Any duplications will automatically raise concerns.

You might well think that your internal or external auditors will be doing this kind of work, but have you actually checked that they’re making use of the latest data analytics themselves? Of course, it’s also possible for you to invest in the tools yourselves. The important thing is to be proactive and to avoid complacency that might cost your company a lot of money. 

Did you know?

·      A typical organisation loses 5% of revenue each year through fraud

·      Smaller firms will usually have far fewer anti-fraud controls in place than larger ones

·      The more authority a person has within a business, the greater the scale of their typical fraud

·      Organisations with specific anti-fraud controls in place reduce losses significantly and detect frauds up to 50% quicker

Source: Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 2016, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk

Businesses prepare for tightening of data rules writes Jono Wilson of Barnett & Turner Chartered Accountants.

Next year’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect on 25th May 2018, is causing quite a lot of angst among IT professionals, marketers and other business people. And the UK’s exit from the EU isn’t necessarily going to change things. Whatever your personal view on Brexit, you might be forgiven for thinking that British businesses are no longer going to have to worry too much about EU regulations.

The reality, however, is that directives from Brussels are still going to be a fact of life until the point of formal departure.

There is a further reason, however, to take note of the GDPR.  According to the trade magazine and website Computer Weekly, the rules will affect any UK business which offers any type of service to the EU market, ‘regardless of whether your business stores or processes data on EU soil, and whether the UK stays in the EU or not’.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office describes GDPR as operating on similar principles as the Data Protection Act, but with an added layer of detail and an additional concept of accountability. So what are the key issues you’re likely to confront?

Lawful processing

If you are processing personal data, you need to have a legal basis for doing so and must be able to document it. Relying on someone’s consent? Well, you may be find that they have greater rights in future – particularly to have their data deleted.

Consent

People need to take affirmative action to give consent to their data being used. If they are silent or you have pre-ticked boxes for them, that won’t count.  You need to record when and how the consent was given. What’s more, it can be withdrawn at any time.

The rights of individuals

The GDPR gives a number of protections to individuals that your organisation must observe:

The right to be informed – you need to provide ‘fair processing information’, which will usually involve a privacy notice. It’s important to be transparent over how you use data.

The right of access – individuals will have similar rights to those under the Data Protection Act. They can ask you to confirm you hold data and request access to that data.

The right to rectification – if information you hold is incorrect or incomplete, an individual has the right to demand that you correct it.

The right to erasure – also known as ‘the right to be forgotten’. Someone is entitled to request that you delete or remove personal data if there is no compelling reason for your continuing to process it.

The right to restrict processing – if an individual asks for the processing of their data to be blocked, you must respect their request. You are only allowed to store the data and retain enough information to ensure their wish is respected.

The right to data portability – this allows people to obtain and then reuse their data – transferring it from one IT environment to another.

The right to object – an individual can object to profiling conducted in the public interest or for direct marketing purposes. They can also object to the use of data for scientific or historical research and statistics.

The detail of the regulations is understandably complex, so if you feel that you are likely to be impacted, it’s important that you read more online or take professional advice on how to prepare.

https://ico.org.uk/media/1624219/preparing-for-the-gdpr-12-steps.pdf

If you would like to discuss anything related to this article please do not hesitate to call Barnett & Turner on 01623 659659 or email Jonathan at jwilson@barnettandturner.co.uk