25 February 2014
On the one hand, social media is all about trust and engagement. But, on the other hand, it may be prudent for a business to have some clear guidelines about what staff can and cannot do online – in their personal as well as business lives. Maz Dannourah, a solicitor at Roythornes who advises businesses on employment law (and, in particular, issues concerning social media), offers some constructive advice.
We’ve all heard the scare stories about social media. How personal posts on corporate accounts have caused embarrassment to businesses, how staff have complained about customers on their private accounts and how simple ‘off the cuff’ remarks have gone around the world and been taken out of context.
You might then be forgiven for wondering: why venture out into the social media world when it’s so dangerous? The simple answer is that it offers yet another channel to your customers and a flexible way in which you can engage with them. More...
22 January 2014
This month’s guest writer – Alan Blake, partner and tax manager at Streets Chartered Accountants – gives some timely words of advice as the end-of-the-month deadline for submitting self-assessment tax returns approaches.
It may be hard to believe but paying more tax than you actually need to is a worryingly frequent occurrence. Certainly there is a sense that the Treasury would like us to believe that paying tax is becoming less and less avoidable - not least because it seems that the Treasury is closing all the loopholes for tax avoidance. As such there may be fewer ways to reduce or defer a tax liability.
However, there is a danger that tax payers think there is nothing that can be done. This need not be the case and certainly, within the tax profession, there remains a focus on ensuring that the more simple and routine tax saving techniques are used and exploited. As we approach the 31st January self assessment deadline, it is important to ensure that individuals don’t pay more tax than is absolutely due and necessary.
Experience, however, does show that there are a number of common pitfalls whereby people find they have paid the wrong amount – and possibly too much.
It is possible, with the help, support and advice of both your taxation adviser and accountant, to ensure you avoid being caught by the taxman. The following are some simple steps to adopt:
- Always consult with your advisers as soon as you receive any forms or paperwork from HMRC, however innocuous they may seem, especially if the nature of that paperwork looks like some form of enquiry.
- Be timely with your affairs. Leaving the filing of your returns to the last minute inherently runs the risk of inaccuracies; for example, pressure to make the submission without reference to sometimes vital information.
- Ensuring you or your adviser appreciates the current tax regime and knows which expenses are allowable and disallowable. For example, the full amount of mortgage payments on a buy-to-let repayment mortgage are sometimes claimed whereas only the interest element is allowable.
- Ensure you keep all the appropriate paperwork. Otherwise an allowable expense can become one that you are not able to substantiate and therefore claim.
- For those people who do not prepare tax returns particular care is required in checking that their PAYE coding notices are correct. For example, the coding may include benefits which have lapsed.
- Don’t rely on HMRC’s calculation even if this shows a repayment due to you. It is more common than you might think for the Revenue’s assessments and coding notices to be inaccurate, especially for those in receipt of multiple sources of income, such as pensions, and for those whose circumstances may have changed. Don’t assume that HMRC would, for example, link you as having two separate jobs or types of earned income.
- Advise your accountant/tax adviser in advance of any purchases or changes you are planning so that your tax affairs can be arranged in advance of changes.
- If you run your own business then make sure you’ve considered, with your adviser, the most tax efficient approach to your remuneration.
Based on experience, through effective management and appropriate advice, it is possible to only pay what you really need to. Having a professional and diligent approach to your tax affairs can ensure your house is in order and, should you be subject to an enquiry or investigation, you have all your ducks in a row to be able to deal with it.
16 December 2013
This month’s guest writer – solicitor Aimee Marsh of Metcalfe Copeman & Pettefar LLP – warns of the possible legal pitfalls involved in selling to consumers online.
Selling goods and services via the internet is becoming increasingly valuable, especially for new businesses. It allows trade all over the country and abroad from an office no bigger than a shoebox. Marketing online couldn’t be easier, particularly with customers able to tweet about excellent customer service they have received. And best of all; very limited overheads.
But there are always difficult customers. There’s no escaping them. What’s even worse are the difficult customers who know their rights! It’s always better to be one step ahead. More...
20 November 2013
Wine producers on the far side of the Atlantic have successfully (in part, at least) supplanted continental European producers in UK stores and homes. Our guest writer this month – Philip Amps of Amps Fine Wines – believes that quality and choice are keys to the success of Californian wines in the UK market.
We are very lucky in the UK that we have such cosmopolitan wine choice. When you walk into any independent wine merchant you can select a wine from many different countries from around the world. But what to choose and what might be slightly different to your normal ‘thank god it is Friday’ or ‘Christmas Day Special’ bottle of wine?
Have you thought of California? The answer is probably no but it is time you gave the wines another go and tasted what great wines California is now producing. These US vineyards have wine for every person and every palate! They are producing genuinely world class wines for the wine enthusiast, wines with personality, provenance and great drinkability. More...
28 October 2013
The energy companies (like banks and many other big businesses) rely on ‘inertia marketing’. As long as there is little real competitive pressure they can work on the assumption that customers will stay with them because the benefits of moving do not justify the ‘hassle’ involved. This month’s guest blogger – ‘The Energy Savings Guy’ better known as Chris Matthews of The Utility Savings Business – draws on support from Prime Minister David Cameron for his proposition that businesses should shake off their inertia and consider switching supplier.
The spotlight (energy saving bulb of course!) seems to be firmly focused on what I would call the ‘energy game’.
The mainstream media tells us of promises of rate freezes from one political opponent and threats of power shortages or even blackouts from the other. Surely this would suggest a check mate – but the publicity spinning machine continues on.
Many of us in the industry predicted the recent rate rises announced by SSE, British Gas and Npower. Now, sadly, it’s almost certain most other suppliers will follow suit, compounding the problem for energy users. More...
18 September 2013
Our guest blogger this month – Colin Hall of All Integrated Systems Ltd – highlights the devastating impact which crime and fire can have on a business and offers some advice for tackling both of these threats.
Many recent reports suggest that we are climbing out of recession. However, we have been in a failing economy for some considerable time and one of the major consequences of this has been a continued growth in crime – including burglary and arson.
These crimes are not only directed at soft targets like domestic properties with little or no security. More and more attacks are being reported on businesses.
How can we reduce the risk of a possible attack to our properties? More...
15 August 2013
This month’s guest blogger is Ken Craig of Peterborough-based accountants Rawlinsons. He has some sensible advice on business planning in uncertain times.
Whilst there are some welcome signs of recovery, concerns remain over the UK economy. As an adviser to many Peterborough businesses, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises, frequently I have found myself being asked about actions that might be taken in these financially-testing times.
The following steps might help you and your business weather challenging economic times; but remember, there is no substitute for one-to-one professional advice! More...
22 July 2013
This month’s guest blogger is Dean Chauhan of Greenwoods Solicitors LLP. Dean is a corporate and commercial lawyer. He advises organisations in a range of sectors, including media companies and digital businesses. Greenwoods is a leading regional law firm, with offices in Cambridge and Peterborough, offering clients a range of legal services.
Wednesday night (17 July 2013) saw the third episode of the BBC’s ‘Your Money, Their Tricks’ series - a report into the practices some businesses employ to trick customers out of their money.
Among these was a piece titled “You’ve been had by the ads”. More...
20 June 2013
It’s not often that the government wades in to help an entire industry with its sales and marketing but that’s just what it is doing for housebuilding at present. Guest blogger Karl Hick, managing director of Larkfleet Homes, is grateful – but feels the government could do better.
The level of support that the housebuilding industry is receiving from the government is unprecedented – but then, so are its problems.
In a nutshell, those problems derive from the difficulty that many would-be house-buyers are facing in securing a mortgage.
One of the principal causes of the recent financial crisis was widespread poor lending for domestic property purchases in the USA. Loans were made to people who had little hope of keeping up payments but the loans themselves were ‘bundled up’ and sold to investors as prime assets. Once the situation began to unwind, and the value of the homes themselves began to fall, the trickle of problems became an avalanche which neither the banks nor governments could contain. More...
15 May 2013
Our guest blogger this month is Nick Siragher, managing director of Shopper Anonymous Cambs & Beds. Good marketing communications may drive customers to your store (or other place of business) but if you don’t treat them right when they get there, you may as well have not bothered.
The New York Test is something I’m proud to have invented. It’s a semi-scientific way of determining if a town or city is a friendly place to be and whether the citizens are ‘nice’ or not.
It’s very easy to apply. Ask ten people at random for directions. If more than about six are generally helpful (when they can be) and are warm, polite and courteous to you, your location passes the New York Test. It’s judged to be a nicer location than New York. Anything between six and three is probably a fail. Score one or two and you’re probably in NYC itself!
I’ve noticed that locations failing the New York test also sadly score low on genuinely good customer service. By genuinely good customer service I exclude the ‘have a nice day’ style of non-genuine customer service favoured in the US.
So a correlation exists where nice people in nice town towns enjoy great service. Is this a revelation? Probably not. But there is something we can learn from this. More...