ACCA reacts to ‘political budget from political Chancellor’
According to ACCA, this was a political Budget focused on a range of populist measures, as was to be expected this close to the General Election.
According to ACCA, this was a political Budget focused on a range of populist measures, as was to be expected this close to the General Election. Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at ACCA commented:
'As you’d expect so close to the General Election, this was a political Budget from a political Chancellor. It contained a number of welcome measures that will go down well with voters from a range of economic backgrounds such as a further increase in the personal tax free allowance to £11,000, a new fully-flexible ISA and the new first-time buyer bonus.'
On the news that the government will launch a review into SME business rates Chas Roy-Chowdhury said: 'Business rates can be a punitive cost for small businesses looking to grow, especially those operating in the retail sector, so the Chancellor’s commitment to a review is to be welcomed.'
On the announcement from the Chancellor of a reduction in lifetime allowance from £1.25m to £1m on pensions, Chas Roy-Chowdhury said: 'This is not the right way to deal with long-term investment. Every year the government steps in and moves the goalposts. The Chancellor should exercise caution when meddling with the pension pots of those who have been contributing to them for 30 to 40 years in many cases. They are heavily relied upon by those looking to retire and care should be taken not to jeopardise their future.
'As expected Osborne continued with the policy of greater flexibility for pensions by allowing the sale of annuities. The big challenge for the Chancellor is to create a fair market for these sales. What the Chancellor didn’t make crystal clear was the tax implications of withdrawing a lump sum. There is the potential for a large number of people to get quite a shock when they find out they will have tax to pay on their money should they wish to get their hands on it.'
On the Chancellor’s plans for fighting tax avoidance, Chas Roy-Chowdhury said: 'Combating tax avoidance has been a key plank of this Government’s rhetoric for the last five years, so today’s announcement came as no surprise. We are disappointed that the Chancellor has chosen not to wait for the OECD’s important work with the G20 to be completed before pressing ahead with his plans. Any measures must be backed up with additional resources for HMRC otherwise they will be nothing more than headline grabbing soundbites.'
On the news that the government will phase out conventional tax filing by as many people as possible, Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at ACCA said: 'This move to the brave new world of digital tax returns will allow people to have a holistic view across the range of taxes they pay. As well as settling their taxes, taxpayers will be able to amend their tax codes and even pay their parking fines online, which is welcome news.
'Many of those filing paper self-assessment forms are self-employed people and those running small businesses who have been using the postal method for many years. They need to be given access to resources which help them move the process online to ensure they aren’t left behind.'
It was however disappointing to note that the starting point for paying National Insurance Contributions was not increased alongside personal tax free allowance Chas Roy-Chowdhury said: 'ACCA has called for this since the Chancellor began raising the income tax threshold in 2010. The NIC’s bands need to be raised in line with personal tax free allowance to ensure the amount of tax people pay remains consistent and fair for all.'
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No more tax returns!
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The chancellor announced that small businesses and ten million individuals will no longer need to file tax returns.
The chancellor announced that small businesses and ten million individuals will no longer need to file tax returns.
This will rely on:
- the successful and secure rollout of digital accounts for taxpayers
- the correct information being in these accounts
- all information being complete
- businesses keeping their records up-to-date and these records being accurate, with distinctions between areas like capital and revenue being clear.
The digitalisation aspect of the proposal – linking business accounting software to a digital account by 2020 – is ambitious and there is no clear proposal as to how this will be achieved.
In the document Making tax easier; the end of the tax return the government states ‘their accounting software will be able to feed data straight into their digital tax account, so most businesses will simply log-in to check their details with no need to send an annual return.’
We are concerned at the potential tax loss to the exchequer, the risk of continual defaulters and also the fact that businesses and individuals may end up paying more tax than is due.
We would like to hear what you think on the proposal. Questions for you to consider include:
- is the change a simplification – for your clients, for HMRC, for you?
- is it likely to result in more or less work for you?
- in your experience will HMRC systems and software be able to cope?
- are you concerned over certain groups or types of clients being able to cope with the change?
- is the information you receive from clients complete, up-to date and accurate?
- in your opinion who will benefit from this policy - who will save time and money:
- personal tax clients
- small businesses
Please send your comments to email@example.com
We had an amazing response to our first call for comments, with many valuable comments received within 24 hours. These highlighted:
- cost implications
- HMRC's poor track record and the fact it is under-resourced
- the time spent sorting coding notices when HMRC already has the information
- that the tax take could be put at risk
- the naïve nature of the report and its unrealistic time frame
- the burden the proposal will place on small businesses and that costs will increase for everyone.
We are sharing these (anonymously) both internally and externally as we seek to influence this ongoing issue and ensure the best outcome for practitioners. We continue to welcome the views of our practitioners and ask you to respond via the email address above.
Changes to savings
Changes to savings, including Help to Buy ISA, more flexible ISAs and the personal savings allowance.
Help to Buy: ISA
The scheme will provide a government bonus to each person who has saved into a Help to Buy: ISA at the point they use their savings to purchase their first home. For every £200 a first time buyer saves, the government will provide a £50 bonus up to a maximum of £3,000 on £12,000 of savings. Further details are provided in the document ‘Help to Buy: ISA’ which is published alongside the Budget.
- new accounts will be available for four years
- accounts will be available through banks and building societies from Autumn 2015
- an initial deposit of £1,000 can be made in addition to normal monthly savings
- the maximum monthly savings is £200 with no minimum deposit
- accounts are limited to one per person, rather than one per property
- only available to individuals over 16 years of age
- the bonus is available to first time buyers purchasing UK properties
- minimum bonus size of £400 per person
- maximum bonus size of £3,000 per person
- bonus available on homes purchased of up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 outside London
- bonus will be paid when the home is purchased
Extending ISA eligibility
The list of qualifying investments for ISAs will be extended to include listed bonds issued by a co-operative and community benefit society and small and medium sized enterprise (SME) securities (not just equities) admitted to trading on a recognised stock exchange from summer 2015.
The government will explore further extending the list to include debt (as announced at Autumn Statement 2014) and equity securities offered via crowdfunding platforms and will consult in summer 2015 alongside a response to the consultation on how to include peer-to-peer loans.
A new personal savings allowance
The government will introduce an allowance from 6 April 2016 to remove tax on up to £1,000 of savings income for basic rate taxpayers and up to £500 for higher rate taxpayers. Additional rate taxpayers will not receive an allowance. As part of these reforms, HMRC will introduce automated coding out of savings income that remains taxable through the Pay As You Earn system from 2017-18, with pilots starting in autumn 2015.
Making ISAs more flexible
Individuals will be able to withdraw and replace money from their cash ISA in-year without it counting towards their annual ISA subscription limit, and the government will change the rules in autumn 2015 following technical consultation with ISA providers.
65+ bond extension
The extension of the availability of 65+ bonds through National Savings and Investments (NS&I) until 15 May 2015 is estimated to generate £3.2 billion of additional sales.
Bad debt relief on investments made through the Peer-to-Peer (P2P) lending industry
As previously announced at Autumn Statement 2014, the government will introduce a new relief to allow individuals lending through P2P to offset any losses from loans which go bad against other P2P income. It will be effective from April 2016 and through self assessment will allow individuals to make a claim for relief on losses incurred from April 2015.
Premium Bond investment limit
The planned increase to the NS&I Premium Bond investment limit to £50,000 will take place on 1 June 2015, providing further support for savers.
Changes to pensions
A look at proposed changes to pensions in 2015 and 2016.
From 6 April 2015
People with defined contribution schemes who are at least 55 years old can make withdrawals up to the value of the funds invested in the scheme. The first 25% will be tax free and the person can choose whether to have the 25% tax free element applied to each withdrawal or to allocate it to one withdrawal.
If withdrawals are made from a pension scheme after 6 April 2015 then that individual will be restricted to making future pension contributions of no more than £10,000.
Funds left in a defined contribution pension scheme when the individual dies would, from 6 April 2015, usually pass to the heirs’ tax free. If death occurs before age 75, in most cases the heirs can make withdrawals as and when they choose free of tax. If death occurs after age 75, withdrawals will be treated as taxable income of the heirs and will be taxed at their marginal rates or if all the funds are withdrawn as a single lump sum this would be taxed at 45%.
From 6 April 2015, beneficiaries of individuals who die under the age of 75 with a joint life or guaranteed term annuity will be able to receive any future payments from such policies tax free where no payments have been made to the beneficiary before 6 April 2015. The tax rules will also be changed to allow joint life annuities to be paid to any beneficiary. Where the individual was over 75, the beneficiary will pay the marginal rate of Income Tax. (Finance Bill 2015)
Additional funding of £19.5m in 2015-16 will be provided to support the new pension freedoms and the new pensions guidance service, Pension Wise. This funding will extend the availability of state pension statement and pension tracing services. It will also provide for extra delivery capacity for Pension Wise: the government has put plans in place in case there is a need to draw on Department for Work and Pensions resources to help manage any initial spike in demand for the service.
From 6 April 2016
Pensioners who have previously purchased an annuity using their pension funds will be able to sell that annuity and receive the cash. This will then be taxed at the individuals’ marginal rate.
On 18 March 2015 the government issued a consultation entitled Creating a secondary annuity market: call for evidence. Responses to this should be made by 18 June 2015.
The government will legislate from April 2016 to allow people who are already receiving income from an annuity to agree with their annuity provider to assign their annuity income to a third party in exchange for a lump sum or an alternative retirement product.
The government will reduce the lifetime allowance for pension contributions from £1.25m to £1m from 6 April 2016. Transitional protection for pension rights already over £1m will be introduced alongside this reduction to ensure the change is not retrospective. The lifetime allowance will be indexed annually in line with CPI from 6 April 2018.
A number of changes will be introduced surrounding business rates.
From 1 April 2015 the government is:
- increasing the business rates discount for smaller retail premises with a rateable value of £50,000 or below to £1,500 to 31 March 2016
- doubling small business rate relief for a further year to 31 March 2016
- capping the rise in the business rates multiplier at 2%
- extending transitional rate relief to support 16,000 small business facing significant rates bill increases due to the ending of transitional rate relief.
The Treasury has published a discussion paper, asking the following questions:
- What, in your view, does this evidence suggest about the fairness and sustainability of business rates as a tax based on property values?
- What evidence is there in favour of the government considering a move away from a property based business tax towards alternative tax bases? What are the potential drawbacks of such a move?
- If business rates remain a property tax, how do you suggest business rates could take into account the individual circumstances of businesses such as their size or ability to pay rates?
- What evidence and data can you provide to inform the government’s assessment of the trends in use and occupation of non-domestic property?
- Is there evidence to suggest that changing patterns in property usage are affecting some sectors more than others?
- What examples from other jurisdictions and tax systems should the government consider as part of this review? What do you think are the main lessons for the business rates system in England?
- How can government use business rates to improve the incentive for local authorities to drive local growth?
- What impact will increased local retention of business rate revenue have on business growth? What will the impacts be on local authorities?
- What other local incentives should the government consider to further incentivise business growth?
- Should business rates be reformed to make them more closely reflective of wider economic conditions and if so, how?
- How does the proportion of total operating costs accounted for by business rates vary by the sector and size of a business?
- What is the impact of the business rates system on the competitiveness of UK businesses? Are there any particular impacts on SMEs?
- How could the government better target support for SMEs given that the size of a company may not be reflected in the rateable value of a property it uses?
- Should investment in plant and machinery, energy efficiency improvements or other similar property improvements be treated differently by the business rates system? If so what changes could be made?
- What evidence and analysis should the government take into account when evaluating the impact of and any changes to the range of reliefs and exemptions present in the business rates system?
Farmers averaging – but nothing for creative artists
The chancellor announced changes to farmers averaging.
Contracted out state pension reformed
The chancellor announced changes to farmers averaging; highlighting that from April 2016 the period over which they can average will be increased from the current two year years to five years. The government states that it will engage with stakeholders later in the year on the detailed design and implementation.
The current rules relating to the averaging profits of farmers and creative artists are in Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005 (ITOIA 2005), Part 2 Chapter 16 s.221 to s.225. Farmers and market gardeners in the UK may obtain relief by averaging the profits of consecutive years.
You can find more about the current rules including examples on our website
Single-tier state pension introduced.
CGT: non-UK residents and UK residential property
The state pension is being reformed from April 2016 into a single-tier pension – the ‘new state pension’ - for future pensioners. The introduction of the new state pension means that there will no longer be an additional state pension from which to contract-out. Consequently, contracting-out and the NI rebate will come to an end on 6 April 2016.
The Occupational Pension Schemes (Power to Amend Schemes to Reflect Abolition of Contracting-out) Regulations 2015 set out the detail to enable employers that sponsor a salary-related occupational pension scheme to amend their scheme rules, in order to mitigate for the increase in national insurance.
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2015 to bring non-UK residents within the charge to CGT when they dispose of a UK residential property interest
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2015 to bring non-UK residents within the charge to CGT when they dispose of a UK residential property interest. Non-UK resident individuals and trustees may be able to benefit from private residence relief if they meet new qualifying conditions. But provisions will also restrict access to private residence relief for properties located in a territory in which the individual is not tax resident where the person does not spend a minimum of 90 midnights in the property over the year.
Non-resident institutional investors that are diversely owned, and companies that are not controlled by five or fewer persons will be exempt from the charge. Provisions will make clear that a residential property interest includes an interest in land that has at any time in the person’s ownership consisted of or included a dwelling.
The meaning of ‘dwelling’ will be based on that found within the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) legislation but will be modified, in recognition of changes to the provision of student accommodation, to make clear that purpose built student accommodation that is not linked to a specific institution is one of the classes of use not regarded as use as a dwelling.
Provisions will make clear that the CGT charge will be due to be paid within 30 days of the property being conveyed, unless the person has a current self-assessment record with HMRC when payment will be at the normal due date for the tax year in which the disposal is made.
Annual tax on enveloped dwellings: increased charges
Annual charges for the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) will be increased by 50% above inflation.
From 1 April 2015 the annual charges for the annual tax on enveloped dwellings (ATED) will be increased by 50% above inflation (Consumer Prices Index).
The measure ensures that non-natural persons holding residential property in corporate and other ‘envelopes’ and not using them for a commercial purpose pay a fair share of tax. This improves the fairness of the way property is taxed.
Simplify the administration of ATED for businesses
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2015 to introduce a new type of return, a ‘relief declaration return’, for those persons holding properties eligible for a relief from ATED. For each type of relief being claimed a relief declaration return must be filed in respect of one or more properties held for that chargeable period. No details will be required of the individual properties eligible for that relief.
A separate return will be required where a property is acquired during the year that qualifies for a different type of relief. The return will not require valuation details for relief properties. A return will be required, as now, in respect of any property which ceases to qualify for a relief, i.e. where ATED is due.
The overall result is that businesses which hold properties eligible for a relief will generally only be required to deliver one relief declaration return a year for all properties covered by a particular relief instead of, as now, multiple detailed returns. This offers a significant reduction in the administrative burden.
Research and development: increase tax credit
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2015 to amend the R&D provisions in CTA 2009.
NICs: employment allowance extension to personal carers
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2015 to amend the R&D provisions in CTA 2009 in order to increase the rate of the expenditure credit from 10% to 11% and the rate of the SME scheme from 225% to 230%.
R&D tax credits are a key element in the government’s commitment to an internationally competitive tax system and in its objective for strong and sustainable private sector-led growth. Raising the rate of both the ATL expenditure credit and the SME relief will increase the financial value of the relief, increasing the incentive to carry on R&D and improving the competitiveness of the UK as a location for R&D investment.
From April the ‘employment allowance’ relief will be available to individuals who employ care and support workers.
Income tax: statutory exemption for trivial benefits-in-kind
From 6 April 2015 the ‘employment allowance’ relief will be available to individuals who employ care and support workers. Employers will be entitled to deduct up to £2,000 per annum from their liability to pay secondary Class 1 (‘employer’) National Insurance contributions (NICs).
Employers who employ staff for purposes connected with their personal, family or household affairs are currently excluded from claiming the employment allowance, which would reduce their NICs liability by up to £2,000 a year. Removing this exclusion from care and support workers will support individuals who need to purchase care for themselves or others.
Selected low value benefits-in-kind (BiKs) to become exempt from income tax.
National minimum wage rate
From 6 April 2015 any employer who provides to their employees certain low value benefits-in-kind (BiKs) will, in some circumstances, become exempt from income tax. The exemption provides a number of conditions that must be met for a BiK to qualify as trivial, including an upper limit per individual BiK of £50.
Individuals who currently pay income tax on certain low value BIKs provided by their employer, will become exempt from income tax.
The measure is intended to provide a simplification to the current approach for dealing with low value BiKs, whereby employers are required to agree with HMRC whether certain BiKs can be treated as trivial.
A statutory definition of a trivial BiK will provide certainty to employers as to the treatment of such BiKs, and therefore allow employers to identify them in ‘real-time’, avoiding the need to contact HMRC or report such BiKs on P11D or PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA) forms after the end of the tax year.
Increases announced to national minimum wage.
The government has accepted the increases in the national minimum wage proposed by the Low Pay Commission. From 1 October 2015 the rates are:
- the adult rate of the national minimum wage be increased by 3%, or 20 pence, to £6.70 an hour, from 1 October 2015.
- an increase of 3.3% in the youth development rate to £5.30 an hour;
- an increase of 2.2% in the 16 to 17 year-old rate to £3.87 an hour
- the accommodation offset be increased by 3.5%, to £5.08 a day.
The government intends to increase the national minimum wage for apprentices by 57 pence an hour to £3.30.
Married couples will be allowed to transfer part of their personal allowance to their partner tax free.
Class 2 NIC collection
This change applies from 6 April and allows for the transfer of £1,060 of a personal allowance to a spouse or partner where the transferor’s income is less than £10,600 and the recipient doesn’t pay tax at the higher or additional rate.
Individuals can register to claim here
In future, the collection of Class 2 NICs will be through self-assessment.
Improving the operation of the Construction Industry Scheme
From the 2015-16 tax year onwards the collection of Class 2 NICs will be through self-assessment (SA), allowing the self-employed to pay their income tax and Class 2 and Class 4 NICs together through one process.
From 6 April 2015 the self-employed will report their liability through their SA so Class 2 NIC will no longer be automatic. Those that report a profit below a new Small Profits Threshold (SPT) will not be liable for Class 2 NICs, but they will be given the option to pay it voluntarily to protect their entitlement to contributory benefits.
The self-employed will no longer have to apply for a Self-employed Exception Certificate (SEE) from 2015-16 onwards. Those with low profits or profits below the SPT, who do not wish to pay Class 2 NICs, will not be liable automatically for Class 2 NICs and therefore will not have to seek exception.
CIS scheme to be simplified.
The Income Tax (Construction Industry Scheme) (Amendment) Regulations 2015 amend the Income Tax (Construction Industry Scheme) Regulations 2005 to remove the obligation to file a return in cases where the contractor has not paid any subcontractors in a tax month and also amend the rule that any repayment can only be made to a subcontractor after the end of the tax year in which the deductions were made where the subcontractor is insolvent. The Regulations come into force on 6 April 2015.
A series of changes will be introduced to improve the operation of the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) making it easier for businesses to access gross payment status, reduce administration burdens and move more transactions online. These include:
- the threshold for the turnover test will be reduced to £100,000 in multiple directorships
- the initial and annual compliance tests will focus on fewer obligations
- the nil return obligation will be amended
- joint ventures where there is already one member with gross status will be allowed
- easier access to gross payment status
- allow an earlier repayment to liquidators in insolvency proceedings
- mandation of filing of CIS returns and online verification.
Capital gains tax: restricting entrepreneurs’ relief on associated disposals
Entrepreneurs' relief (ER) is no longer available to reduce capital gains tax (CGT) on certain gains.
Changes to enterprise investment schemes
From 18 March 2015 entrepreneurs' relief (ER) will not be available to reduce capital gains tax (CGT) on gains which accrue on personal assets used in a business carried on by a company or a partnership, unless they are disposed of in connection with a disposal of at least a 5% shareholding in the company, or a 5% share in the partnership assets.
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2015 to amend TCGA to ensure that in order for a disposal of a privately-owned asset to qualify for ER, the claimant must reduce their participation in the business by also disposing of a minimum 5% of the shares of the company carrying on the business, or (where the business is carried on in partnership) of a minimum 5% share in the assets of the partnership carrying on the business.
Changes to enterprise investment schemes (EIS) and venture capital trusts (VCTs) will be introduced to increase support for high growth companies.
Changes to enterprise investment schemes (EIS) and venture capital trusts (VCTs) will be introduced to comply with the latest state aid rules and increase support for high growth companies.
Seed enterprise investment schemes (SEIS) will be affected by the new rules, which include the requirement for companies to be less than 12 years old when receiving their first EIS or VCT investment, except where the investment will lead to a substantial change in the company’s activity. A cap on total investment of £15m will be introduced under the tax-advantaged venture capital schemes, increasing to £20m for knowledge-intensive companies.
The employee limit for knowledge-intensive companies will also increase, subject to state aid approval, to 499 employees from the current limit of 249.
The government also wants to make it easier for money to be moved between schemes by removing the requirement that 70% of SEIS funds be spent before VCT or EIS fundraising can occur.
Gift Aid Small Donations Scheme (GASDS)
It is proposed that secondary legislation will be introduced to increase the maximum annual donation amount which can be claimed through GASDS.
It is proposed that secondary legislation will be introduced to increase the maximum annual donation amount which can be claimed through GASDS to £8,000 from the current £5,000 limit. This will allow charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASC) to claim Gift Aid style payments of up to £2,000 a year with effect from April 2016.
To be eligible for GASDS the charity or CASC must:
- have existed for at least two complete tax years
- have made a Gift Aid claim in at least two of the last four tax years, with no more than two years’ gap between claims
- not have incurred a penalty on a Gift Aid or GASDS claim in this or the last tax year.
You can’t claim on:
- donations that come with a valid Gift Aid declaration
- membership fees
- a £20 portion of a larger gift.
New payment legislation has come into effect resulting in public sector suppliers and their sub-contractors paying suppliers within 30 days.
Official rate of interest reduced
New payment legislation has come into effect resulting in public sector suppliers and their sub-contractors paying suppliers within 30 days.
This has also been supported by the opening up of public procurement to SMEs. The old, difficult to use contracts finder has been retired and replaced by one that has been built with the SME in mind. It lists all opportunities, allows a one-off registration, has built-in alerts, allows for more specific business-type searches and notifications and standardises public sector contracts, making them accessible and understandable.
Complicated forms such as the Pre-Qualification Questionnaires for low value public sector contracts have also been abolished.
You can now see all public sector contracts and pipelines now on one website
The official rate of interest is being reduced from 3.25% per annum to 3% per annum.
Consultations and announcements
The latest review on average interest rates on mortgages has indicated that the official rate of interest should be reduced.
Accordingly, these regulations reduce the current official rate of interest of 3.25% to 3.0% with effect from 6 April 2015.
Further consultations and announcements will be made over the next few days and weeks.
Useful links and further reading
Further consultations and announcements will be made over the next few days and weeks. You can find these at
Publications – all consultations
Budget 2015 – latest documents
Budget 2015 – HMRC
Dip into this wealth of links to help you prepare for changes scheduled from April onwards.
Join ACCA's panel of independent disciplinary assessors
ACCA is seeking applications from amongst its members to join its panel of independent disciplinary assessors.
ACCA is seeking applications from amongst its members to join its panel of independent disciplinary assessors.
The key responsibilities of the role are:
- considering investigation reports, evidence and disciplinary allegations referred by ACCA’s Investigations department, and deciding whether there is a case to answer; if so, whether to refer it to ACCA’s Disciplinary Committee or to rest the matter on file
- reviewing decisions of the investigations department to close an investigation or to rest on file
- on occasion, reviewing the handling of a complaint when requested to do so.
Assessors have the power to seek legal or technical advice, and may direct that further enquiries should be carried out by ACCA. However, assessors have sole decision-making responsibilities.
- possess good analytical skills and excellent written skills
- is able to convey decisions and associated reasoning in a clear and logical manner
- is able to work alone to tight timescales and to make decisions on an individual basis, while recognising circumstances in which assistance should be sought
- has a clear understanding of what the public interest entails in the context of professional regulation
- recent experience of applying legal principles
- proven and significant experience in making difficult and evidence based decisions
- has good IT skills.
- Assessors are paid an annual retainer of £2,750
- £70 (inclusive of VAT, where applicable) will be paid for every case referred (subject to a fee uplift for particularly large or complex cases)
- £400 (inclusive of VAT, where applicable) will be paid for any meetings and training days which disciplinary assessors are required to attend.
It is estimated that each assessor will consider approximately 30 cases per year. However, ACCA cannot guarantee a minimum or maximum number of cases. Meetings, including training, are likely to require attendance on approximately four days per year on average.
For further information and to apply, please visit our website. Alternatively telephone 020 7059 5673 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for receipt of applications is 12.00pm (noon) Monday 13 April 2015. Interviews will take place in the week commencing 11 May 2015.
A bright future for smaller practices?
Small and medium practices are at the sharpest end of the business, and face many of the same challenges as their clients.
(This article was first published in issue 10 of Accountancy Futures.)
The future opportunities for small and medium-sized practices (SMPs) are fantastic, says Mark Gold FCCA, partner at UK firm Silver Levene. ‘This is simply because of their clients,’ he explains. ‘SMEs by their very nature require outside help, and it is a role the professional accountant can play completely.’
Gold is one of 17 partners at Silver Levene, an £11m turnover practice based in London. He also chairs the SMP Forum of FEE (the European Federation of Accountants), and is both a former ACCA president and a former chairman of ACCA’s SME committee.
Gold observes that time and again, accountants are seen as the most trusted advisers to businesses, both large and small. But he also makes the point that SMPs are businesses themselves. They face many of the opportunities and threats that their clients face, such as changes in technology and the regulatory environment, and need to adapt their businesses accordingly.
So what have SMPs themselves been telling us about the opportunities and challenges they face today, and will face in the future?
IFAC, the International Federation of Accountants, has just published its latest survey of small and medium-sized accountancy practices around the world. It will make interesting reading for the thousands of practitioners who relish being at the sharpest end of business.
According to the survey, attracting new clients and keeping up with regulations come at the top of the list of SMPs’ challenges, with pressure to lower fees, rising costs and differentiation also seen as key. The survey also suggests that economic uncertainty and rising costs are at the top of their clients’ list of challenges.
However, despite these issues, nearly three-quarters (72%) of SMPs say they are either maintaining or growing the previous year’s practice fee revenue. Tax and consulting are tipped to be the two biggest sources of revenue growth for the year ahead. However, a number of themes have emerged recently that have had a direct impact on SMPs, and will continue to. Rising audit thresholds around the world are affecting the business models of SMPs, as are technological innovation and the internationalisation of business.
‘Audit thresholds is the one people focus on,’ says Gold. ‘When Silver Levene sat down to talk about rising thresholds in the UK years ago, some people were concerned, while others saw it as an opportunity because they could see the shackles coming off. We wouldn’t be tied down by all the audit restrictions, so we could help clients with the advice they really needed.’ Gold has recently returned from Denmark, where he spoke with accountants in practice facing an increase in audit thresholds. ‘Some are worried, but many are rising to the opportunity,’ he says.
Of course, audit requirements vary from one jurisdiction to another, and this can have an impact on how firms in these different jurisdictions approach the development of no-audit advisory services. As Sue Almond, ACCA’s director of external affairs, explains: ‘You can contrast Canada, where the environment is very much that there isn’t a requirement for an audit, with Norway, where until recently there was the requirement for all companies to be audited. The starting point is very different, and therefore market expectations are different.’
However, she adds that there is still a need for a service that can give assurance to stakeholders such as finance providers, irrespective of whether there is a formal requirement for an audit. ‘The challenge is to put yourselves in the shoes of the client or finance provider, and demonstrate the value of the audit or its alternative,’ she says.
However, issues such as rising audit thresholds focus on the traditional skills of qualified accountants. There are wider forces at play as well that need to be considered. Top of the list is the internationalisation of business. Even the smallest of SMEs will have the opportunity to do business across borders, and as a result will be looking for advice in areas such as taxation and regulation.
‘Even if you are an SMP servicing SMEs, it is unusual not to have some form of international element,’ says Almond. ‘It might not necessarily be global, but typically there are cross-border issues.’
According to a study by the Edinburgh Group, a coalition of 14 accountancy bodies including ACCA, seven out of 10 SMPs have clients that undertake at least one type of international activity. Around half have clients undertaking import and export activity, but relatively few SMPs have clients participating in a high number of international activities. The study concludes that there is considerable potential for SMEs to expand the scope of their international activities and that those that do not currently buy or sell goods or services internationally could be encouraged to consider how looking beyond home markets could boost business performance.
But it is as likely that SMPs are reacting to their clients’ demands. This is a point highlighted in research carried out by ACCA special adviser Professor Robin Jarvis, Dr Cristina-Maria Stolan and ACCA’s head of small business Rosana Mirkovic. In the report, 2020 vision: Learning from the past, building the future, Jarvis argues that the motivation for SMPs to provide business advisory services outside their core business activity – namely internationalisation guidance to SMEs – was embedded in their desire to respond as much as possible to their clients’ requirements and business goals.
As the report says: ‘Some SMP practitioners highlighted that their practice not only provides guidance beyond traditional accounting services, but that they primarily act as business advisers; in turn, providing international advisory services represents a different feature for their practice. This sets them apart from their competitors and ultimately provides them with competitive advantage.’
However, the report adds that in giving advice, SMPs are well aware of their knowledge limitations regarding foreign markets and the services they have the capacity to provide. They advise their clients to the limits of their knowledge, and then ask their international network to complement that knowledge. They then transfer the knowledge directly to their SME clients and, ultimately, directly refer their clients to their international network contacts (other SMPs, law firms, bankers, business consultants, and other SME clients) to ensure that their clients receive the appropriate support for enhancing their international activities.
‘This places accountants in a preferred position compared to a number of other professions and advisory services in supporting SMEs’ internationalisation ventures,’ the report says.
And then there is technological innovation, much of which is allowing SMEs, and therefore SMPs, to operate across borders, and in a more efficient and productive way. Gold believes this is having a huge impact: ‘Technology has to be utilised, and SMPs have to go for it.’
Giancarlo Attolini, chairman of IFAC’s SMP committee, agrees: ‘It is clear that developments in digital technologies are going to affect the world even more radically over the next 25 years than the last 25. Technology has already made business global.’
Attolini is a founding partner of Attolini Spaggiari & Associati Studio Legale e Tributario, an accounting, tax and law firm in Reggio Emilia, Italy. He believes that SMPs are facing a choice between providing transactional and advisory services.
‘It is critical that SMPs leverage automation and repeatable processes to enable them to add real value to their clients through proactive consulting,’ he says. ‘There will also be opportunities to provide real-time collaboration and professional services to clients utilising technology. For example, SMPs may wish to use the opportunity presented by the cloud to offer enhanced client accounting services.’
Philip Smith, journalist