Accountants play ‘vital role’ in reducing corruption, study suggests

Research published by the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has suggested that accountants play an important role in helping to reduce corruption levels.

The IFAC’s study, which was conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), revealed that the higher the number of accountants in a workforce, the lower the overall level of corruption.

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Accountants also have a greater impact in nations with stronger governance structures, the study highlighted.

However, the IFAC also recognised business leaders, the government and the financial sector as being key to combating corruption, alongside the accountancy profession.

Fayez Choudhury, Chief Executive Officer of the IFAC, commented: ‘The study confirms that the accountancy profession is a crucial part of strong national governance architectures that confront corruption, in partnership with good government and strong businesses.

‘And vitally, the study shows professional ethics, education and oversight – at the core of the global accountancy profession – are key to our positive impact in tackling corruption.’

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Warm autumn impacts sales

27 Oct 2014

UK high street sales fell in September, causing concern over the state of the economic recovery, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

During a time which has traditionally seen a large rise in shoppers seeking winter clothes and other seasonal purchases, sales volumes fell by 0.3% over the month of September. The ONS said that clothing and footwear sales in particular fell by 7.8% on the previous month, while shop prices fell by 1.4% compared to September 2013 – the steepest fall in five years.

An ONS spokesperson said: ‘Feedback from retailers suggested the fall was a result of unseasonably warm weather meaning consumers have delayed purchases of autumn and winter clothing’.

A preliminary estimate of current gross domestic product (GDP) has been released by the ONS, fulfilling expectations of 0.7% growth between July and September – lower than the 0.9% growth reported in the previous quarter, but overall 3% higher than the same quarter last year.

Their report also indicates increased output in the four main industrial groups: services, production, construction and agriculture.

With an imminent shift in weather, and the clocks having changed, it may well be that sales improve as more people wrap up warm and the dry spell ends.

Foreign lorry levy results in tax windfall

Foreign lorry levy results in tax windfall

24 Oct 2014

A new levy on foreign HGV vehicles coming into the UK is likely to raise twice as much in tax revenues as initially expected, according to Treasury figures.

Foreign lorry companies have to pay anywhere between £1.70 and £10 a day to use UK roads, and failure to do so could result in a £300 roadside fine.

Since it was introduced in April the levy has made some £23.4m for the Treasury, which is already £3m more than it expected for the whole 2014/15 tax year.

Nearly one million levies have been bought so far, with the countries buying the most levies being Poland, Romania, Spain, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

The Treasury is not publishing details on whether the revenue raised will be spent specifically on road improvement. Nonetheless, the levy was widely welcomed by UK haulage companies, particularly as British lorries often have to pay equivalent taxes to drive on roads abroad, which their competitors can use for free.

Not all businesses are so positive about the tax however, with some commenters complaining that the costs of the levy are being passed on to UK exporters and consumers.

Labour leader promises NHS with no tax increase

22 Sep 2014

Ed Miliband has made a pledge to protect the NHS from its funding crisis without raising taxes ‘for everyday working people’.

He spoke on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show. While reinforcing his promise to bring back the 50p top tier income tax rate, and a levy on homes with a value over £2 million, he said there would be no increase in national insurance.

‘I am deeply worried about the NHS in the next parliament,’ he said. ‘We are certainly going to make sure the NHS does not lose money and we want to do more than that. We will be saying more about that between now and the election’.

If elected to power next year, Labour also promise to strengthen GP services and repeal the Health and Social Care Act. Mr Miliband said: ‘We are going to put the right values back in the NHS’.

Funding for SMEs ‘falls by £2.3bn’

22 Jan 2014

The research suggests that lending via the Funding for Lending scheme has fallen by £2.3bn since June 2012, stating that there is a lack of understanding of businesses’ funding needs.

Margaret Hodge, Chair of the Committee, also warned that there is a lack of coherence between Government departments, resulting in an ‘ad hoc’ approach to funding schemes.

According to the report, the number of loans provided under the Enterprise Finance Guarantee scheme has also fallen every year between 2010 and 2013.

However, the Government stated that the report does not ‘reflect the reality’ that credit conditions for SMEs are improving, with new lending being provided and cheaper loan rates on offer.

Responding to the report, the British Chambers of Commerce has called on the Government to give the new British Business Bank greater powers, including the ability to lend directly to businesses.

The Government has confirmed that the new Business Bank will be fully operational later this year, and is expected to unlock up to £10bn of funding over the next five years.

We can offer assistance with all of your business needs, including help with raising finance. Please contact us for further advice.

New campaign to protect businesses against cyber crime

21 Jan 2014

Small businesses are being encouraged to take steps to  protect themselves against cyber criminals, with the launch of the Government’s  new ‘Cyber Streetwise’ campaign.

The campaign aims to provide SMEs and individuals with a  range of online safety advice, and includes the launch of a new website together  with online videos.

While an increasing number of people are accessing the  internet on portable devices, such as laptops, tablets and smartphones, recent  research suggests that more than half are failing to ensure that they are  adequately protected when online.

According to a recent study, only 44% of individuals  download internet security software onto new equipment, while only 37% download  updates for PCs when they are prompted. In addition, less than a third use  complex passwords to protect their online accounts, and 57% fail to check  whether websites are secure before making an online purchase.

Commenting on the launch of the campaign, Security Minister  James Brokenshire said, ‘The  internet has radically changed the way we work and socialise. It has created a  wealth of opportunities, but with these opportunities there are also threats.  As a Government we are taking the fight to cyber criminals wherever they are in  the world’.

The Cyber Streetwise website can be accessed here: https://www.cyberstreetwise.com/#!/street

Inheritance tax numbers ‘to double by 2016/17’

25 Nov 2013

The number of families liable to inheritance tax (IHT) is likely to double by 2016/17, experts have warned, fuelling calls for the Chancellor to review the controversial tax.

According to some analysts, the number of estates caught by IHT is expected to rise from 21,000 last year to 42,000 in 2016/17.

The IHT nil-rate band (or tax-free threshold) has been frozen at £325,000 since 2009, and the Government has announced that it will remain at this level until at least April 2018.

However, house prices are climbing faster than previously anticipated, with recent statistics suggesting that prices could rise by 25.2% by the end of 2018. This is likely to lead to a sharp increase in the volume of estates being dragged into the IHT net.

‘Inheritance is a deeply unfair double tax that punishes families simply for having the misfortune of losing a loved one,’ commented Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

A Treasury spokesperson said: ‘Over 96% of all estates do not have to pay inheritance tax. Since 2009, the value of core estate assets such as domestic property has fluctuated significantly. Despite this, the number of estates paying tax has remained at less than 4% for over four years’.

We can advise on strategies to help mitigate your IHT liability – please contact us for advice.