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Accountancy Job Vacancy

19th April 2019
19th April 2019

Due to business growth, we are looking for a new member to join our established team in the accounts and tax department.

The candidate must be experienced in practice, and an accountancy qualification is desirable but not essential.

We are offering a part time position with flexibility.

If you are interested, please email you CV, or any questions about the position, to nickie@barwellaccountants.co.uk.

Data Breach – how to avoid one

5th April 2019
5th April 2019

The new phrase to send a shiver of anxiety down any business owner’s back is ‘data breach’ – but what can you do to reduce the risk of it happening to you?

A data breach occurs as a result of a cyber attack.  Criminals are then able to gain unauthorised access and steal private, sensitive or confidential personal and financial data.  Usually, the crims are wanting to steal data such as names, email addresses, usernames, passwords and credit card details. 

The way that the crims get access to your systems tend to be:

  • Spyware – malicious software that infects your PC or mobile device and gathers information about you, your browsing and Internet usage habits, as well as other data;
  • Phishing – where people are deceived into sharing sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers; and
  • Broken or misconfigured access controls which let people into parts of the system they shouldn’t have access to.

Best practice now is to be proactive about data security.  The top 3 tips are:

  • Segment your data:  whilst this may not stop the crims, it will slow them down and make their lives more difficult.
  • Use the Principle of Least Privilege, or PolP, where each user only has enough access to the system to do their job.  If one user account gets attacked, then anyone using that account won’t have access to the whole system.
  • Use a strong cybersecurity programme which can detect threats, prevent downloads, and stop malware from getting onto your network.

If, as an individual, you think you’ve been the victim of a breach, here’s a quick check list of some things you may need to do:

  • Reset passwords – you may want to consider using a password manager app
  • Check your credit cards for any suspicious activity
  • Think about putting a freeze on your credit limit on your cards
  • Check your inbox carefully, including your spam folder for any dodgy looking phishing activity
  • Use multi-factor authentication, where you need your password plus another form of ID

Personal Tax changes 2019 – 2020

29th March 2019
29th March 2019

Next week sees the start of the new tax year 2019 – 2020, so we have summarised the key personal tax changes that will come into effect.

Personal Allowance:  this goes up from £11,850 to £12,500.  For most people, this will give a reduction in tax of about £130 per year.

Higher rate income tax threshold (the 40% tax rate) increases from £46,350 to £50,000.

Income tax rates are as follows:  Basic, 20% rate is income up to £37,500; Higher, 40% rate is £37,501 to £150,000; and the Additional, 45% rate, is all income over £150,000

Other allowances are increasing as well, as follows:  the married / civil partners allowance goes up to £8,915; the minimum married/civil partners allowance is now £3,450; the married/civil partners transferable allowance is £1,250; the income limit for married/civil partners allowance becomes £29,600; and the blind persons allowance is £2,450.

Inheritance Tax changes are limited to the Residence nil-rate band, which goes up to £150,000.

Student Loans:  the Plan 1 threshold increases to £18,935, Plan 2 goes up to £25,725.  The 9% rate of reduction stays the same.

ISAs: there is a small adjustment to the annual Child Trust Fund and Junior ISA savings limit, up to £4,260.

Workplace Pensions: The minimum contributions into the auto-enrolment workplace pension increases, with the total amount from both employer and employee must be a minimum of 8% of the qualifying earnings.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) annual exempt amount increases to £12,000.

Non resident CGT:  non UK residents will be brought into the CGT scheme for the first time if they dispose of UK land and property.

Property Tax:  the gradual removal of interest relief for buy to let mortgages continues, down to 25% with a complete removal scheduled for 2020.

Company Cars:  the benefit in kind tax rates are increasing for company cars, dependent on whether the car is petrol or diesel, and also dependent on CO2 emissions.  For full information go here.

If you need any further help, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Are you a creature of habit?

22nd March 2019
22nd March 2019

One third of Brits eat the same lunch every day.  17% of us have had the same lunch for 2 years.  Whilst there’s obviously nothing wrong with liking cheese and onion sandwiches ever day, being a creature of habit in business can be a good thing.  It’s reminded me of the 7 Habits of Business Success:

1: Cultivate inner networks, by identifying and building relationships with key peers, mentors and advisors.

2: Become customer centric, focusing away from business and profit towards what you can do to improve the lives of your customers.  To do this you’ll need to fully understand the range of your customers’ wants and needs.

3: Act with humble honesty by acknowledging your own strengths and weaknesses, and then focusing on your strengths.

4: Foster adaptability because nothing ever goes according to plan.  Like life, business is full of surprises and unforeseen events so the ability to respond to changes without being paralysed is essential.

5:  Focus on opportunities, not the threats, as problems are a regular part of business life.

6:  Find a better way to make your business more productive – possibly through technology, automation, outsourcing or improving business processes.  Increased productivity enables you to focus on the critical issues that drive sales and profit.

7:  Balance lifestyle management so that the business does not take control of your life.  All work and no play will not end well.

Alternatively, here are another 7 habits which give you a rather different set of issues to handle:

  • Get up early
  • Focus on the important first
  • Obsess over value – not obsess over the customer
  • Take care of the human, with exercise, healthy eating and rest
  • Fill the gaps by understanding your customers and keep asking what is missing from your own offering
  • Get out of the office
  • Love to learn, and love to teach

Which set of 7 habits makes most sense to you?

Happy Birthday, Internet!

13th March 2019
13th March 2019

The internet is 30 years old – and it’s probably never been more dangerous, with almost daily warnings of various scams, hacks and hoaxes.  Ensuring you are safe online has never been more difficult – so as we bite into a slice of birthday cake, here are our top tips to help you stay safe online, without the need for specialist technical knowledge:

To Click – or not to Click

That, to paraphrase Shakespeare, is the question!  It is likely that any site asking for personal information via a link will be dodgy.  Phishing is where you are promised something in return for giving them your personal data.  What are are most likely to receive in return are lots of irritating emails and possibly even an infected computer.

If it looks too good to be true…

You know how this ends.  If you are being offered something for free, you need to ask yourself how they are able to afford to give it away.  You will pay for the freebie somehow, somewhere.

‘Your computer is infected’…

Actually, of course, it probably isn’t, and how would they know anyway?  These tech support scams may involve very expensive phone calls to their ‘help’ desk, or downloading potentially dangerous software which can infect or control your computer.  Rather, use antivirus or anti-malware software which you control.

‘System optimizers’

These rarely actually optimize anything, but are more likely to try and control your options so you end up with unnecessary toolbars, annoying pop-up ads, or be diverted to landing pages you don’t want to go to.

Use a trusted browser

You’ll be safer with a well known browser such as Chrome, Safari or Firefox rather than a less well known one.  Stay with browsers which are regularly updated rather than older ones which don’t cope well with new versions of malware.

HTTPS

Websites with a green padlock and an HTTPS address are safer because this means the information is encrypted.  Of course nothing is 100% guaranteed safe…

Password Manager

Who still uses ‘password’ as their password?  Asking for suggestions for passwords online often generates a complex string of characters, numbers and symbols, which can be very difficult to write down by hand accurately.  What is the difference between l and I (the first is lower case L, the second is upper case i).  Password manager software from a reputable source may be the answer.

Of course there are many other more complex solutions, but for the non-technical person, starting here may be the best bet.

The Future of Work

22nd February 2019
22nd February 2019

A recent study from the NFU on the Future of Food predicts a large increase in the use of robotics in agriculture, which got us thinking about how that will change the pattern of work in our part of the country which is so dependent on the farming sector for employment.

Whilst the use of robots in farming is still relatively small scale, it is useful to look at other sectors where automation is more widely used as an indicator for future trends.  In the retail and warehousing sector, robots have been introduced in both shops and back office functions.  There have been 3 main impacts:

  • Robots have tended to assist humans, not replace them
  • Humans are able to focus more time and energy on the tasks robots cannot tackle
  • Humans are able to spend more time on customer-focused work.

Increasingly, humans find themselves working alongside robots, rather than being replaced by them. 

There has also been an expansion in the types of jobs humans undertake to support the robot workforce.  Entirely new categories of work are being created.  Think back to the start of the internet – how many software engineers and web design staff were there in 1984?

The challenge for agriculture seems to be the development of widespread robotic solutions, as most innovations at present seem to be relatively small scale.  In many ways, the UK is lagging behind our competitors in the use of robots in the workplace.  For every 10,000 workers, the US has 93 robot units, and Japan has 213.  In the UK, there are just 33. 

What is certain is that there will be more widespread use of robot technology in the workplace, and this will inevitably have an impact on the pattern of work for humans.  For the time being, we are told that robots will not replace humans but will work alongside us.  What impact has automation had in your own business?  Are your work processes suited to automation?  Has robot technology changed your pattern of work?

Rest assured, though – for the time being at least, it’s still going to be humans doing your accounts here at Barwells…

Making Tax Digital and the Self Employed

15th February 2019
15th February 2019

The HMRC introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) will impact on all tax payers, with a phased introduction from April 1st this year.  Here, we look at how MTD will affect the self-employed.

What It Means

If you are an unincorporated business, which is what most self-employed people count as, you will need to maintain your accounting records in a digital format, either through software or other digital apps.  These records will need to be submitted to the HMRC each quarter through your digital tax account, together with an end of year declaration of your total yearly income. 

Digital Tax Records

Each transaction will need to be recorded, with the following proposed fields:

  • Date of transaction
  • Value of transaction
  • Category of income or expense
  • Deducted amount (or percentage) for expenses

If you are a retailer with a high volume of low value cash transactions, such as a newsagent for example, you’ll just need to record the date, gross takings and income category.

Who Does This Apply To

If your business has an income above £85,000, then you should be registered for VAT and different rules will apply to you – see our previous article here.

If the income for your business is less than £10,000, you will be exempt from these new MTD rules.

For all other unincorporated businesses with incomes between £10k and £85k, MTD will directly impact on your business accounting processes.

When Does This Apply?

You may not be surprised to hear that the deadlines for introducing MTD have been pushed back from the initial timescale.  As it stands now, payment of Income Tax and National Insurance for sole traders through MTD has been pushed back to April 2020. 

Self Assessment

A sole trader, who derives their only income from the business, won’t be required to submit a self assessment tax return.

If You Need Help

Because the deadline for introduction of MTD for the self-employed is over a year away, there is no need to panic now, but it is sensible for you to think ahead and be prepared for the changes which will impact on you.  If you do need any help, please don’t hesitate to contact us.   

Making Tax Digital and Individuals

29th January 2019
29th January 2019

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a major new initiative from the HMRC which will fundamentally change how tax is paid.  In the third of our series of articles, here we look at what MTD means for individuals…

Personal Tax Accounts (PTA)

The PTA enables individuals to communicate with the HMRC, to update any financial details, and check their tax affairs in real time.  Actions that can be undertaken include making tax payments, providing bank details, plus any taxable benefit details.  If you haven’t yet got yourself a PTA, then you can go here for more details and to go through the registration process.  The benefit to you is that it is hoped that the requirement to complete and file self-assessment tax returns will lessen for those with straightforward tax affairs.

Simple Assessment

This is where the HMRC has the power to assess your tax liability for income or capital gains tax, without the tax payer needing to complete and submit a tax return.  Currently, only certain taxpayers with a state pension are included in this but there are plans to roll it out to other groups of taxpayers in future years.

Under this scheme, individuals don’t submit a tax return, but rather HMRC send out a calculation of tax owed, which can be viewed in their PTA.  If you disagree, you then have a period to appeal against that calculation.

All of MTD is moving towards a fully digital tax system.  As with all of these big technological changes, we don’t expect it all to go smoothly.  And of course, we are more than happy to help you with any questions you have about how MTD will affect your own circumstances.  Don’t hesitate to contact us for help. 

In the next of this series of articles, we’ll  be looking at what MTD means for the self-employed.   

Blue Monday

21st January 2019
21st January 2019

Today is Blue Monday – apparently, the most depressing day of the whole year.  Here, we look deeper into why today is so significant, and what it means for businesses…

Blue Monday was defined in 2004 by a psychologist who was asked by a travel firm to come up with a scheme for promoting their winter deals.

A number of factors were identified which were seen as contributing to low mood:

  • The weather – today is definitely chilly but at least the sun is shining!
  • Debt – particularly that racked up over Christmas with the monthly statement about to drop through the letterbox
  • Monthly salary – with wage increases around the 3% mark, and inflation over 2%, pressure remains on wages
  • Time since Christmas – the decorations are packed away, it’s back to the daily grind…
  • New Year’s Resolutions – how many are you still maintaining?  Thought so…
  • Motivation – for many, this is the time when motivation levels are lowest
  • Need to take action – we know we have to, but…

Like many theories, this one turns out to be nothing more than pseudo science – they have even come up with a formula for calculating just how depressing today is meant to be.

What it does mean is that some marketing stunts can piggy-back onto the whole Blue Monday bandwagon.  McDonalds, for example, are giving away free cheeseburgers if you use their app.  There’s other deals on sushi, aromatherapy and diet plans.

Perhaps more importantly, it does help to raise the issue of well-being at work.   One in six will experience depression at some stage of their lives.  To claim that depression can happen on one day in January clearly trivialises the experiences of people who have a serious illness.  It’s an issue which businesses and staff need to be aware of all year round.

For more information from mental health charity Mind, and the NHS, click the links.

Making Tax Digital and VAT

11th January 2019
11th January 2019

If your business is registered for VAT, there are some far reaching changes happening which will be implemented for most businesses this April.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) will be implemented for any VAT returns which need submitting after 1st April 2019.  All VAT records will need to be kept digitally, using software which is MTD compatible.

There are a small number of businesses who are being allowed to defer the start of digital reporting for 6 months, but the vast majority of businesses will have to comply.

There are 3 key challenges for businesses, and it is important that businesses are prepared ahead of the April deadline.

Record Keeping

Manual records are no longer good enough.  Digital records must be kept using ‘functional compatible software’, which means software which can connect to the HMRC using an Application Programming Interface (API).  There is a requirement to collect more information after April than is currently the case.

VAT Returns

Returns can only be submitted using the HMRC API platform.  Manually entering figures will not be possible. 

Timing

MTD for VAT will be implemented on April 1st 2019.  You may have noticed that this is a couple of days after the UK formally leaves the EU.  There is some uncertainty around how VAT transactions between the UK and the EU will be treated, and you can virtually guarantee everything won’t go as smoothly as promised!  No large scale computer system is ever launched without there being some glitches…

Conclusion

It clearly won’t be good enough for your business to wait until April to ensure your VAT systems are ready.  If you’ve not implemented a MTD VAT compatible software system already, you need to start soon.  And of course if you need any help in preparing your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.  Its only a matter of weeks away…

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