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Last feed update: Tuesday January 16th, 2018 11:19:52 AM

Mind games

Tuesday January 16th, 2018 11:39:21 AM
As psychometric testing becomes more popular, here are some tips for before, during and after the process. Psychometric assessments are being increasingly used by organisations at the selection stage of the recruitment process to help them select the best candidate for the role and for the organisation. These assessments often include personality and cognitive assessments. The cognitive assessments will indicate how well a candidate will deal with the intellectual challenges of the role whereas the personality assessments can give a good insight into how a candidate will interact with others and how they prefer to work. People often find this a daunting process but upon completion, most find that it has been both interesting and insightful, and a valuable experience for them overall. Here are some tips to help you prepare. Before the assessment Find out how long the appointment will take and make sure you give yourself ample time. Remember, this entire process is part of your interview, so conduct yourself accordingly – dress smartly, make your appointment promptly and don’t be late. Be friendly and polite towards everyone you meet as these factors may also be taken into consideration, particularly if personality profiling is part of your assessment. Sleep well the night before the assessment. Many companies try to avoid testing candidates late in the afternoon, and for good reason. People perform better when they are rested and more alert, so try to schedule your appointment in the morning or as early as possible in the afternoon. During the assessment If you don’t understand the instructions or examples, ask for clarification. It might sound obvious, but it is vital that you understand both before beginning the assessment. Take a break between tests if possible. If one isn’t offered, then ask – performance generally begins to deteriorate after 50-60 minutes. Taking a break after 40 minutes can reverse this trend. So don’t be afraid to ask for a short break – it will improve your performance. If you are doing cognitive assessments online, do them in a place where you won’t be disturbed. Generally speaking, these assessments will be strictly timed and it will not be possible to “pause” the test and return at a later time. Don’t worry if you feel that you’ve performed badly on an assessment. It’s difficult to gauge how well you’ve done. Also, most of the tests are designed so that only 1-2% of people can actually answer all questions. Set it aside and move on to the next one. For personality assessments, the key is to answer honestly. Give the first answer that comes to mind and don’t over-think it. Don’t give answers you think are desirable, but may be untrue. There are social desirability scales built into the assessments and it will show if you do this. More importantly, if you’re not going to be suited to the role or organisation, then you’ll have had a lucky escape. After the assessment Ask for feedback. Sometimes it will be offered but if it isn’t, ask if it’s possible to get feedback. In some cases, there will be a report written on your results and sent to the company. Ask if you may have a copy of this when the process is complete. Whether or not you get the job, it will be a useful and insightful thing to have, and could help highlight areas for future development. Jayne Lee is a Chartered Organisational Psychologist at Davitt Corporate Partners.

Take your time, your career is a lifetime in creation.

Monday January 15th, 2018 03:24:05 PM
There is no right or wrong time to move and no reason to feel pressurised by your peers to make a move that you are not feeling just at this time.

Revenue treatment of professional subscriptions

Monday January 15th, 2018 01:02:28 PM
Revenue guidance on the application of tax to professional subscriptions paid by employers on behalf of their employees has been amended.  The updated operating practice which is published in Part 5 of Revenue’s Tax and Duty manual suggests that the Revenue interpretation of the application of the Schedule E deduction rules has tightened. Finance Act 2011 abolished a general exemption from BIK (provided in Finance Act 2004) for professional subscriptions paid by employers on behalf of their employees.   Since 2011, the administrative practice setting out Revenue’s interpretation of the general rule for deductibility of professional subscriptions as a Schedule E deduction (under TCA97 section 114) has largely followed the examples published in eBrief No. 19/11.  As the Revenue interpretation (though not the law) appears to have changed it may be worthwhile to review the updated operating practice as it applies to any professional subscriptions.  The new Tax and Duty Manual note refers to related commentary published by Revenue which should also be read in this context.  This administrative revision to published guidance does not apply to the Schedule D rules for self employed professionals.

Talking Points - upcoming sessions available to book

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:51:05 PM
Take a look at forthcoming online HMRC events.  HMRC ask that people register at least five minutes before a digital meeting is due to start. Capital allowances and vehicles This meeting mainly covers the special rules for cars. Wednesday 24 January - 11am to midday                 Register now Wednesday 24 January - 1pm to 2pm                        Register now Basis periods This session will look at commencement years, changes to accounting date and overlapping periods. It will also look at some pointers when dealing with a change from sole trader to partnership and vice versa. Friday 2 February - 11am to midday                           Register now Trade losses This session will examine the different ways trade losses may be relieved. Friday 2 February - 1pm to 2pm                                Register now Income from property - minimising the risk for individuals This meeting will be dealing specifically with expenses and deductions, allowances and reliefs including repairs, the relief for the replacement of domestic items and the restrictions to income tax relief for finance costs. Friday 19 January - 2pm to 3.15pm                            Register now Wednesday 31 January - 11am to 12.15pm               Register now Wednesday 31 January - 2pm to 3.15pm                   Register now The requirement to correct and other offshore tax developments Find out how HMRC are planning to reduce offshore non-compliance and get taxpayers to disclose more information. Tuesday 23 January - 1pm to 2pm                              Register now Negligible value claims and share loss relief This session will look at certain conditions that must be met for your clients to claim that an asset has become of negligible value. It will also provide an overview of share loss relief. Thursday 25 January - midday to 1pm                         Register now Disguised remuneration: how to settle your tax affairs if you are an employer Following the publication of the settlement terms for disguised remuneration schemes, using case studies this webinar talks through how to settle your tax affairs and pay what you owe before the new loan charge applies. The short presentation will be followed by a Q&A with a team of experts involved in settling tax avoidance cases.   Tuesday 30 January - midday to 1pm                           Register now If you have any questions for HMRC’s subject experts more than 24 hours prior to the meeting, please send them to team.agentengagement@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk, including the title of the meeting in the ‘Subject’ line of your email. Any questions that arise after this time should be submitted during the live meeting. The organiser will run through how to ask questions on the day. Missed recent Talking Points events? HMRC only keep the recordings for a limited time, so this is your opportunity to catch up on the latest meetings.  Agent toolkits and you: this meeting covered the benefits of using toolkits to help reduce errors when completing your clients’ tax returns and included a demonstration. There was also an opportunity for the audience to give feedback to aid the development of the service: Register and view Company tax returns online: this meeting covered the common reasons for rejection of company tax returns and how to avoid late filing penalties: Register and view Incorporating a CIC: Colleagues from the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies explained how to incorporate a CIC, including guidance on how to get things right first time: Register and view Agent Access to Services: Creating an account and accessing services: Register and view These interactive meetings were run on the ‘GoToWebinar’ platform and the information was correct at the time they were originally broadcast. The future Talking Points programme and links to other recordings we’ve published will continue to be hosted on GOV.UK.

Annual Tax Report

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:37:21 PM
Tax receipts have recovered from the economic downturn and, at the end of 2017, the level of receipts was the highest on record.  The Annual Tax Report published by the Department of Finance recently also states that income tax is the single largest revenue stream for the State, followed by VAT.  The Annual Tax Report complements the information contained in the Department’s December Fiscal Monitor.   The Report tells us that it offers a more strategic perspective by analysing developments over a longer-term horizon in order to better understand the evolution of taxation revenue.   The Report is to be updated annually.  In the Report the tax revenue developments since the beginning of the last decade are covered.  We are given insight into the evolution of tax revenue during the crisis, and shown how taxation revenue has evolved from its low point to the present. The concentration of corporation tax receipts is also reviewed. You can read the Annual Tax Report from the Department of Finance website.  

Business Relief and forestry/woodland businesses

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:36:56 PM
Revenue amended their Capital Acquisitions Tax (CAT) Manual to clarify that forestry/woodland businesses are not regarded as the making or holding of investments for the purposes of eligibility for CAT business relief. The manual in Part 12 tells us that while the carrying on of a forestry/woodland business may appear to be in the nature of making or holding investments in view of the long-term nature of the realisation of profits or gains; taking all aspects of a such a business into account, the business should not be regarded as the making or holding of investments.

Tax treatment of civil partners

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:36:29 PM
Revenue guidance has been updated to clarify the treatment of civil partnerships entered into both inside and outside the State following the introduction of the Marriage Act 2015. In Tax and Duty Manual Part 44a-01-01, further details and examples have been included on the basis of assessment for civil partnerships. Illustrative examples have been updated to include current income tax bands and rates. 

eRCT System - Input of Payment Notifications

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:36:04 PM
Revenue guidance has been amended to provide information for principal contractors submitting payment notifications for a closed contract under the eRCT system. Tax & Duty Manual Part 18-02-11 (Electronic Relevant Contracts Tax System) tells us that: A principal contractor can make a payment notification for a closed contract up to 9 months after the end-date of the contract.  If the payment was made more than 9 months after the end-date of the contract, the Principal will need to re-open the contract to submit a payment/post payment notification.    Where a contract has been closed for 9 months (and not re-opened), only unreported payment notifications can be input on that closed contract.  Where a contract has been closed for 18 months or longer (and not re-opened), no payment notifications - either post payment or unreported - can be input on that closed contract.

Taxation of payments to craft apprentices by Education and Training Boards

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:35:44 PM
Payments made to craft apprentices by Education and Trainings Boards (ETB's) are assessable under Schedule E rules, and are therefore subject to deductions of tax under the PAYE system by the relevant ETB.  Revenue Tax and Duty Manual Part 05-01-25 contains the details of the tax treatment of such payments.  

Very last chance to join Chartered Tax Consultant (CTC™) 2018!

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:35:23 PM
Good news: there is still some time to enroll on and start (CTC™) 2018.  Although the programme has started as of 5 and 6 January, just one module has taken place meaning this is your final opportunity to sign up and join this year’s group of current and aspiring tax professionals.  We can accept bookings until Friday 19 January only, so contact Amy today to secure your place and to find out more.

In the media, 15 January 2018

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:34:49 PM
In his regular column in the Sunday Business Post, Brian Keegan, Director of Public Policy and Taxation shares some tips for businesses who want to keep on the right side of Revenue. In a piece in the Irish Examiner today, Brian calls for a redesign of the Local Property Tax system. 

Self-assessment deadline approaching

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:33:38 PM
As we approach the online self-assessment filing deadline for 2016-17 later this month on Wednesday 31 January, HMRC have published a special edition of the Agent Update focusing on self-assessment (SA).  Included are critical updates on Online Filing Exceptions, SA pre-population and Tax Credits. Exceptions from online filing for 2016-17 Readers are reminded that there are a number of exceptions from online filing for 2016-17 due to software not being updated in time for legislative tax changes. If you are filing a 2016/17 return on paper after 31 October 2017 on the basis that online filing is excluded and thus reasonable excuse applies, the updated reasonable excuse template should be used to claim reasonable excuse and avoid a late filing penalty. Paper returns filed under one of the exceptions must still be filed by 31 January 2018. Toolkits As you prepare your clients 2016-17 SA returns you may want to take a look at some agent toolkits that have been specially tailored to support you in this area. They have been designed to address the most common errors seen from previous years and include checklists of the key issues to consider and links to HMRC technical guidance and manuals. By identifying the most common errors this may prompt a conversation between you and your clients. Why not take a look at the following toolkits: Business profits Capital allowances for plant and machinery Capital gains tax for shares Capital v revenue expenditure Income tax losses Private and personal expenditure. If your client owns land or property then you may be interested in the capital gains tax for land & buildings toolkit. The property rental toolkit may also be useful if your client owns an interest in land or property that they receive rent or another type of income from. SA pre-population update HMRC have also advised that the self-assessment pre-population service will remain in private beta over the self-assessment peak. This means the service is not being rolled out any further before the 31 January 2018 filing deadline. Some agents have been experiencing difficulties with Personal Identify Verification as part of the private beta. HMRC are aware of this and have been working with them to resolve these issues. According to HMRC, the service is running well and usage is much higher than expected with the pre-populated data proving very valuable to agents. HMRC don’t expect any more software developers to integrate with this service leading up to 31 January peak so to ensure its stability it will remain in private beta. As private beta is tighter controlled, HMRC feel it’s appropriate to continue running in this status until the strategic solution for Agent Identity Verification is made available. Tax credits When speaking to your clients about their SA returns please remind them to update the Tax Credits Office with their final income details to ensure they get the right benefits. Tax credit claimants who make an SA return need to provide the net profit figure from that return before 31 January 2018. If they have other income, these also need to be reported to the Tax Credits Office. Other income sources are commonly omitted from tax credit claims and renewals. Claimants who receive too much money will need to repay HMRC later.  If your clients need to tell HMRC about their updated income for last year, please tell them to call the Tax Credits helpline on 0345 300 3900. This cannot currently be done online.   Claimants can get help to help work out their correct tax credits income by visiting GOV.UK  and searching for ‘Tax credits: income working sheet’ (TC825).

Talking Points upcoming sessions – book now!

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:32:34 PM
Take a look at forthcoming online HMRC events.  HMRC ask that people register at least five minutes before a digital meeting is due to start. Capital allowances and vehicles This meeting mainly covers the special rules for cars. Wednesday 24 January - 11am to midday                 Register now Wednesday 24 January - 1pm to 2pm                        Register now Capital gains tax treatment of compensation This session will look at the circumstances where compensation can be subject to capital gains tax and how the tax rules will apply. Tuesday 16 January - 1pm to 2pm                             Register now Basis periods This session will look at commencement years, changes to accounting date and overlapping periods. It will also look at some pointers when dealing with a change from sole trader to partnership and vice versa. Wednesday 17 January - 11am to midday                 Register now Friday 2 February - 11am to midday                           Register now Trade losses This session will examine the different ways trade losses may be relieved. Wednesday 17 January - 1pm to 2pm                       Register now Friday 2 February - 1pm to 2pm                                Register now Income from property - minimising the risk for individuals This meeting will be dealing specifically with expenses and deductions, allowances and reliefs including repairs, the relief for the replacement of domestic items and the restrictions to income tax relief for finance costs. Friday 19 January - 11am to 12.15pm                        Register now Friday 19 January - 2pm to 3.15pm                            Register now Wednesday 31 January - 11am to 12.15pm               Register now Wednesday 31 January - 2pm to 3.15pm                   Register now The requirement to correct and other offshore tax developments Find out how HMRC are planning to reduce offshore non-compliance and get taxpayers to disclose more information. Tuesday 23 January - 1pm to 2pm                              Register now Negligible value claims and share loss relief This session will look at certain conditions that must be met for your clients to claim that an asset has become of negligible value. It will also provide an overview of share loss relief. Thursday 25 January - midday to 1pm                         Register now Disguised remuneration: how to settle your tax affairs if you are an employer Following the publication of the settlement terms for disguised remuneration schemes, using case studies this webinar talks through how to settle your tax affairs and pay what you owe before the new loan charge applies. The short presentation will be followed by a Q&A with a team of experts involved in settling tax avoidance cases.   Tuesday 30 January - midday to 1pm                           Register now If you have any questions for HMRC’s subject experts more than 24 hours prior to the meeting, please send them to team.agentengagement@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk, including the title of the meeting in the ‘Subject’ line of your email. Any questions that arise after this time should be submitted during the live meeting. The organiser will run through how to ask questions on the day. Missed recent Talking Points events? HMRC only keep the recordings for a limited time, so this is your opportunity to catch up on the latest meetings.  Agent toolkits and you: this meeting covered the benefits of using toolkits to help reduce errors when completing your clients’ tax returns and included a demonstration. There was also an opportunity for the audience to give feedback to aid the development of the service: Register and view Company tax returns online: this meeting covered the common reasons for rejection of company tax returns and how to avoid late filing penalties: Register and view Incorporating a CIC: Colleagues from the Office of the Regulator of Community Interest Companies explained how to incorporate a CIC, including guidance on how to get things right first time: Register and view Agent Access to Services: Creating an account and accessing services: Register and view These interactive meetings were run on the ‘GoToWebinar’ platform and the information was correct at the time they were originally broadcast. The future Talking Points programme and links to other recordings we’ve published will continue to be hosted on GOV.UK.

Making Tax Digital – draft VAT regulations published

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:30:47 PM
Ahead of the first phase of MTD for VAT in April 2019, HMRC have released draft MTD VAT regulations, a notice and an explanatory memorandum for consultation. Comments are requested by 9 February 2018. MTD for VAT comprises two main elements – the keeping of digital records and the digital submission of the VAT return via functional compatible software. The published documents confirm that: Only some records and certain information would have to be kept digitally. The complete set of required digital records do not all have to be in one piece of software - but there must be a digital link between the different pieces. Those using the Flat Rate Scheme are covered by additional requirements.   Partial exemption adjustments can be carried out outside the digital records and transferred in manual. HMRC began piloting MTD for Business for VAT in December 2017, starting with small-scale, private testing. A wider, live pilot is due to start in Spring 2018 Chartered Accountants Ireland recommends that firms and business continue their preparations based on the current timetable. The Institute is also currently developing a MTD hub which will be available in the coming months once final legislation is available.

Finance Bill 2018 progresses to Committee stage

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:30:03 PM
Finance Bill 2018 (official title: Finance (No. 2) Bill 2017-19) was considered in a Committee of the whole House last month and no amendments were made. The remainder of the bill is now being considered in a Public Bill Committee which had its first meeting on Tuesday 9 January 2018. This stage is expected to conclude by Thursday 18 January 2018.

This week’s UK tax tidbits, 15 January 2018

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:29:24 PM
The latest HMRC performance stats and research on the hidden economy feature this week. The Disclosure of Avoidance Schemes in VAT and other Indirect Taxes regime is the new way for promoters and users of these Avoidance Schemes to disclose them to HMRC. The regime came into force on 1 January 2018.  Guidance on the new regime has been published in Notice 799 on GOV.UK.  The Disclosure of VAT Avoidance Schemes regime set out in Notice 700/8, continues to apply to arrangements entered into before 1 January 2018. The government recently published the latest list of employers named for underpaying their workers the national minimum wage. You may be surprised at the errors employers’ make, read HMRC’s guide on complying with the national minimum wage HMRC has published its latest departmental plan. The November 2017 monthly performance report has also been published. The Indexation Allowance for September 2017 together with historical data has been published National Insurance: apply for a portable document A1/E101 if self-employed in European Economic Area (CA3837) has been updated The Hidden Economy in Great Britain is the result of research which sought up-to-date information on the nature and scale of the hidden economy, and the characteristics and motivations of those involved The detailed guidance notes for charities on how the tax system operates has been published The following PAYE forms have been updated:- PAYE draft forms: P11D and P9D and PAYE draft forms: P11D and P11D Working Sheets (2017 to 2018) The following newsletters are now available:- Pension schemes newsletter 94 - December 2017 and HM Revenue and Customs: Trusts and Estates newsletters Check your tax with the official HMRC app Use the online service (GD95 or GD94) to send your Gaming Duty Return and make a payment on account. Revenue and Customs Brief 4 (2017): judgment of the Supreme Court in Investment Trust Companies explains that a final consumer who has been wrongly charged VAT by a VAT registered business must claim it back from that business but in very exceptional circumstances may be able to claim it from HMRC.

Brexit Bites, 15 January 2018

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:28:17 PM
This past week saw Germany take a hard line on the UK’s hopes that financial services are included in any trade agreement reached with the EU.  In other developments, the UK Prime Minister last week met with major finance businesses to discuss Brexit and asked that they emphasis to other EU countries the benefits for Europe of the UK’s financial centre. Germany takes a hard-line on financial services German government officials have reportedly said that any trade deal between the UK and the EU can only include financial services if the UK pays ‘substantial’ amounts into EU budget and continues to follow EU law. The comments emerged as UK Chancellor Philip Hammond and Chief Brexit negotiator David Davis travelled to Germany last week to highlight the important relationship that exists between the UK and Germany.  The strong German stance might thwart the UK’s hopes that a bespoke trade deal can be agreed when the negotiations on the future relationship between the EU and UK begin. The EU has said from the outset that the UK cannot ‘cherry pick’ aspects of EU membership. Norway and Switzerland, both non-EU countries have some access to the EU’s Single market but they have to pay into the EU Budget.  But the UK has reportedly ruled out a Norway-style arrangement.  Next round of talks Trade discussions are scheduled to start in March this year with a completion date pencilled in for October 2018. The EU has hinted that the UK can expect to receive a deal like the Canada/EU trade deal which doesn’t incorporate financial services.  But the UK is believed to be hoping for more from the future relationship. It’s thought that over 5,400 UK firms rely on the EU’s passporting rights to do business in the EU and over 8,000 EU companies use passports to provide services in the UK.  So a loss of passporting rights is likely to be costly and disruptive. Prime Minister meets finance companies The UK Prime Minister Theresa May met executives from major finance companies last week to give them a clearer picture of what Brexit might mean for their businesses and how financial services might be safe guarded.  UK Chancellor Philip Hammond accompanied the Prime Minister when she met senior executives at firms which were reported to include Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, HSBC to discuss the opportunities and challenges brought about by Brexit. Company representatives were told by the Prime Minister to emphasis the benefits of the UK’s financial centre for Europe in their conversations with other EU countries. A Downing Street spokesperson said the business leaders at the meeting "were united in emphasising the need for as much certainty as possible.” The statement said “The conclusion of phase one talks were deemed to have provided reassurance and the business leaders gave their views on how to maximise the benefits of an implementation period.” The Chancellor said “the UK’s financial services sector was an enabler of the real economy across Europe and that any moves to undermine it risked undermining Europe’s economies. There was agreement that fragmentation of the European market would likely benefit centres outside of Europe.” Brexit shorts Michel Barnier reiterates that UK banks will not automatically have passporting rights into the Single Market on Brexit The UK government’s Brexit sectoral analyses show the extensive links between Ireland and the UK Cambridge Econometric study predicts job losses if a Brexit deal is not reached Read all of our Brexit updates on the dedicated Brexit section of our website.

Revised anti-money laundering and tax evasion rules in force from 1 January 2018

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:26:03 PM
Revised rules obliging Member States to give tax authorities access to data collected under anti-money laundering legislation took effect from 1 January 2018.  These rules aim to give national tax authorities direct access to information on the beneficial owners of companies, trusts and other entities, as well as customer due diligence records of companies. The revised rules include the creation of ultimate beneficial ownership registers and are reflected in the Directive on Administrative Cooperation (Directive 2011/16/EU) which was originally transposed into Irish legislation in 2013.  

Tax policies in the European Union 2017 survey

Monday January 15th, 2018 12:25:39 PM
The "Tax Policies in the EU survey" examines how Member States' tax systems help to promote investment and employment; how they are working to reduce tax fraud, evasion and avoidance; and how tax systems help to address income inequalities and ensure social fairness. The report presents a summary of investment and employment measures available in Member States.  The Commission concludes that social justice and fairness are key topics for policy makers in general and in taxation in particular. Tax issues relating to digitalisation are described in the report as both a challenge and an opportunity; necessitating rethink of how tax systems designed. 

Your time to shine...

Monday January 15th, 2018 09:41:06 AM
Take your interview technique to the next level with these expert tips from Ed Heffernan. If you Google “interview advice”, you will be presented with over six million results. Bizarrely, when you then search for “interview advice for accountants”, you have 84 million results to choose from! It’s impossible to work your way through the noise of the internet and uncover the real pearls of wisdom, so we’ve done it for you. In the pages that follow, you will find checklists for the three stages of interview – the planning or preparation stage, the ‘on the day’ stage, and the ‘next steps’ stage. We’ve glossed over all the stuff you already know, like show up on time, look presentable and have a firm but friendly handshake, so add these points to your checklist to give yourself the best chance of success. Before the interview Research the company: but go beyond the superficial. Get your head around what the organisation does but more importantly, why they do it. If you can demonstrate that your values align with those of the company you wish to join, you will put yourself in a good position. It will also help you answer those dreaded questions: “What do you know about your business?” and “Why does this company and role interest you?” Get comfortable with the company’s financials: you’re an accountant, after all, so this should be second nature. Depending on the industry, different figures will hold varying degrees of importance so in leasing, for example, impairment will be key while in the ‘software as a service’ business, revenue recognition and the revenue model will take precedence. Search for your interviewers on LinkedIn: to identify any similarities or common denominators. If you attended the same college or have a mutual acquaintance, you can create an immediate bond – however tenuous it might be. It’s also a nice idea to connect with the interviewers and send a ‘look forward to meeting you’ note ahead of the interview. It’s a small gesture, but it shows confidence and an understanding of the importance of relationships. Prepare for competency-based questions: telling an interviewer that you’re capable will only get you so far. If you can demonstrate your ability and quantify the effect of your efforts you will cast yourself in a much more favourable light. Prepare some probing questions: for the end of the interview because virtually every interviewee is asked: “So, do you have any questions for us?” You won’t get a better opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, understanding of the company and enthusiasm for the role so leverage what you already know about the company to come up with some really challenging and insightful questions. Good examples include: “Can you describe the month-end process and how would I participate?” and “What are your expectations of this hire?” Confirm the format of the interview: irrespective of whether you’re dealing with the company’s HR department or a recruiter. The more you know about the interview process, the better prepared you will be. You should also ask for some information about the interviewers – their roles, career paths, what they’re like and so on – to give you a rounded view of what you’ll face when you enter the interview room. Know your dates: when you’re working through your career history and the experience you’ve gained in various roles, it’s important that the dates match those listed on your CV and LinkedIn profile as this will demonstrate your attention to detail. It’s also important to demonstrate how your past experience could benefit your future employer, but look beyond the superficial. For example, a large hotel chain and a renewable energy company have a lot in common. Do you know why? It’s all about context! During the interview Travel light: keep your phone on silent and out of sight, leave your bag and jacket at reception, and don’t bring your CV as you should know it inside out. Also, arrive five minutes early – but no more, as you don’t want to put your interviewer under pressure. Dress to match the culture: but err on the side of caution. If the office adopts a casual, dress-down approach, attend the interview in smart casual attire. Interviews can be decided on fine margins and in this scenario, jeans and a t-shirt could be the deciding factor. Make eye contact and smile: this is a common piece of advice but it cannot be reiterated enough. It demonstrates engagement and likeability, and will subconsciously position you as a team player and a thoughtful candidate. Keep it positive: if you’re asked a question that leads you to say “no” or “I can’t”, be sure to follow up with a qualifying statement that leaves a favourable impression and provides adequate context for the interviewer. The ability to say “no” is an admirable quality, but you need to be able to say it in the right way. Ask clever questions that get the interview panel talking: clever questions your peers wouldn’t ask as this will set you apart. There are questions you should avoid too – anything to do with salary, work-life balance and so on can be cleared up with the HR department at a later date. Stay on your guard: interviewers may appear casual and, on occasion, almost familiar in their approach but remember, you are being assessed at every point so keep it very professional. HR representatives are sometimes more formal and structured in their approach than hiring managers, but treat all interactions with the same high degree of professionalism. Be prepared for questions on the specifics: particularly if the role you’ve applied for has a technical slant. Anything less than a detailed, considered and confident response will leave room for doubt with regard to your ability, so be on top of your technical game. Be coy when it comes to talking about your salary: if you notice some buying signals (questions about salary, start dates and other interviews, for example), use it to your advantage. Questions about your current salary can be tricky, but you should stress that the company and role are most important and you hope to match or increase your current package in line with market norms. Where possible, leave salary negotiations to your recruiter and don’t disclose too many details as you may under-price or over-price yourself. After the interview Be patient: hiring managers will routinely say “We’ll get back to you tomorrow” and while it might be said with the best intentions, it’s often a promise that goes unfulfilled. Always add three days’ grace as this will help you avoid unnecessary disappointment and worry. Follow up by email with the HR department or recruiter: particularly if, after the interview, you’re still keen on the role and leave a positive message. In the case of a deadlock, it could tip the scales in your favour. Check in with your recruiter if you don’t hear back from them within three days: there’s a saying in recruitment that “time kills all deals”. You have an active role to play in the recruitment process, so use your initiative and take control. Prepare diligently for your second interview: if you’re invited for a second interview, congratulations! All interviews and hiring processes are unique so your second interview may be the same as the first, or it could be more detailed, or it could be broader in its scope. You may be interviewed by the same people, or new people. Whatever happens, prepare as diligently for your second interview as your first and you won’t go far wrong. Be positive and enthusiastic: remember, when you’re on par with another candidate in terms of your experience and academic record, the person who wants the job most and who appears to be the best cultural fit will win every time so don’t be afraid to show your enthusiasm! Leadership material Ken Bowles, CFO at Smurfit Kappa, shares his thoughts on becoming a great leader. We’ve a great culture at Smurfit Kappa and over the years, we’ve worked to define what makes a successful leader. The capabilities cover areas such as opening up, making the most of diversity, being authentic, knowing yourself, embracing learning and, of course, operational excellence and taking a strategic perspective. No-one will excel in all areas, but I look for these capabilities at all levels as they’re key to success in our organisation.  Our people help shape the future of Smurfit Kappa. We look for people with the potential and ambition to become future leaders... ultimately we’re a large global company but at the same time, we’ve a personable atmosphere with short lines of communication where you can contribute from day one. That said, people sometimes leave our organisation and the most positive exit experiences I’ve had with employees were when their exit didn’t come as a surprise. So my advice is: if the company isn’t delivering what you expected in terms of career growth or you are dissatisfied with your salary or benefits, talk to your manager first and try to resolve the issue. If it can’t be solved and you hand in your notice, take the time to attend exit interviews and give constructive feedback to your manager and the organisation as a whole. Leaving in a positive way is important; you never know when you’ll meet previous employees and old bosses again. How to tackle competency-based questions in four steps Prior to your interview, you should prepare answers to a range of competency-based questions such as “Tell me about a time when you solved a problem for your employer?” The answer should provide specific examples of activity in your previous roles. Adopting a structured and logical approach will help you prepare rounded and detailed answers that will impress your interviewers: Describe the situation you’d like to refer to. Outline what you did, and avoid referring to “we”. Define the outcome of your efforts. Describe what your learned from the experience. This approach will help you tackle a variety of competency-based and situational questions. It would be useful to practice your responses, but don’t go overboard. Just get used to applying a structured approach and familiarise yourself with the main points of interest.

Keeping on the right side of Revenue – the Top Ten tips for Business

Monday January 15th, 2018 09:20:21 AM
Sunday Business Post, 14 January 2018 Business people have many roles.  They are entrepreneurs, salespeople, managers, recruiters, designers, builders, marketers.  Business people are also unpaid agents of the Revenue Commissioners.  Whether you’re just starting out in business, growing a successful SME, or working on the finances of a major multinational, you need to have tax responsibilities at the back of your mind all the time.  Almost €8 out of every €10 collected in tax in this country is collected by Irish businesses on behalf of Revenue.  Increasingly, the role of revenue authorities, not only in Ireland but across the developed world, is just to count and check.  The tax collection figures for 2017 were at a record high, but there is a cost to making that happen. According to Revenue, some 647,000 “compliance interventions” were completed during 2017 which yielded €492 million.  A compliance intervention is any form of enquiry, audit or investigation on the affairs of the taxpayer, and the number of such interventions was up 15% on 2016.  There is not only a tax cost associated with this type of revenue enforcement activity. There is also a time cost for the taxpayer, and the disruption to normal business activity which is particularly galling if no tax mistake had actually been made. Revenue audits can be particularly disruptive, and can take months to resolve. Furthermore, an increasing number of businesses rely on being able to produce a tax clearance certificate to secure new work or to retain existing work. Any business requiring any form of public license to carry on the trade – publicans, fuel retailers and the like won’t get a licence without producing a tax clearance certificate. Since the tax clearance verification process went online it becomes even more important to establish a tax compliance record right throughout the year and not just at the end of the year.   At the more extreme end of things, there were 24 criminal convictions for serious tax and duty offences during 2017 with 301 settlements being published on the List of Tax Defaulters.   Finding yourself included in these numbers isn’t great for business either.  For all these reasons it makes good and ethical business sense to stay as best as possible on the right side of the tax rules, and to be seen to be staying on the right side of the tax rules. Here are my top tips for being a good tax citizen and keeping Revenue off your back.  1          Pay on time It may seem trite and obvious, but consistently late tax payments ring alarm bells in the Collector General’s office.  It is far better to source finance from almost anywhere rather than making a late payment to Revenue. Interest on underpaid tax runs at 8% percent per annum (10% if VAT or PAYE is late) and the interest on late payment of tax isn’t tax deductible when calculating your income tax or corporation tax liability for the year.  Revenue make the banks look cheap.  2          Watch your Payroll practice Because the Exchequer is so reliant on PAYE (it brought in over €13 billion with employer PRSI on top of that last year) the penalties are very heavy if you get it wrong and the job itself is thankless.  Don’t expect good service from Revenue either if looking for help on any issue which is not totally routine. A change in last year’s Finance Act means that in 2018 it is now more costly for employers to correct PAYE errors as Revenue will be looking for a higher settlement amount.  The rules have become so tight that businesses should always think about whether they are obliged to apply PAYE to any payment made to an individual for a service.  3          Change your payroll system in 2018 Almost all businesses have some form of payroll software or outsource payroll operations.  From the start of 2019, almost all businesses will have to use computerised systems capable of connecting directly to the Revenue computer systems to provide real-time information on their employees and their wages.  It doesn’t look like there is any way around this additional state-imposed cost to doing business.   4          VAT Thresholds If you’ve just started a new business, or set up as a professional on your own account, watch out for the way the VAT thresholds work.  A business providing more than €37,500 worth of services or selling more €75,000 worth of goods must register for and charge VAT.  Because VAT is calculated on turnover, the amounts of tax involved can get quite large as your business grows and develops.  Large amounts of tax means large settlements of interest and penalties should something go wrong.  5          VAT Rates Computerised accounting systems generally are good at handling VAT, so the main problems that can arise often have to do with applying the wrong rate of VAT in the first place.  Be particularly careful if you are operating in the food sector (which has myriad VAT rates often depending on the state of processing of the foodstuffs), or in the education services sector where the VAT rate can depend on the exact nature of the training and materials you are providing.  The other VAT area which often causes problems is where your business has a non-routine transaction, perhaps buying or selling second-hand equipment.  Trickiest of all is where there is property involved, for example buying a new premises or leasing a shop.  VAT on property is an area where even the most compliant of taxpayers can get caught out.  6          Capital Gains Tax  Businesses have to pay CGT in the same way as individuals.  For incorporated businesses, CGT is paid via the corporation tax system.  If your business is unincorporated, even though the Capital Gains Tax year is the same as the Income Tax year, it is broken into two periods for payment purposes.  Tax on gains in the first 11 months of the year is paid in December.  Tax on gains in December is paid in January.  The January payment date is easy to forget.  Missing a payment deadline will attract an interest charge.  7          Directors’ Tax Responsibilities  Company directors have particular responsibilities under Irish tax law and can be regarded as being self-employed.  Company directors who own shares in their business are subject to the same income tax filing rules as the self-employed.  They must file a return by 31 October each year, even if they have no additional tax liability after PAYE is paid.  If they don’t file, Revenue can increase their tax liability by up to 10%.  (This harsh rule doesn’t apply if the director is only a director of a non-commercial company, for example, the management company of a block of apartments.)  8          Keep the records straight Again, this might fall into the blindingly obvious category of things to do, but remember that there is little concept of materiality in tax matters. You might regard your petty cash as petty, but that doesn’t mean the Inspector of Taxes will.  Usually there is no problem reimbursing staff for reasonable expenses or mileage claims particularly if the amounts are within Civil Service norms. However, you have to keep clear books and records as evidence of how much you are paying and why. Businesses more often fail the tax test for how they reimburse, rather than for how much they reimburse.  While always important, these steps are vital if you are running your own small professional services company.  9          Take particular care with Family Owned Companies  A shareholding in this type of company can be quite hazardous to your tax health.  There’s a significant block of tax law specially designed to apply penal taxes on funds transferring between the company and its shareholders.  The reason behind this is to deter people from channelling earnings into companies (taxed at 12.5%) instead of accounting for them in their own right (and paying tax, USC and PRSI at anything up to 55%).  Be careful of either lending money into, or borrowing from, the company.  Private use of the company’s assets can also lead to perhaps unexpected tax bills.  10        Special rules in special cases Anyone in business in building, meat processing or professional services must be aware of the special rules that apply to their industries.  Those businesses which operate Relevant Contracts Tax (RCT) and Professional Services Withholding Tax (PSWT) will know how easy it is to fall foul of rules which can require tax to be deducted from gross earnings.  Neither RCT nor PSWT are taxes in their own right. Instead they are mechanisms for ensuring tax compliance and enforcement in areas which are seen as high-risk from a tax collection perspective. Think of them as applying on the basis of presumed guilt, so that you can always establish your innocence.   Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy and Taxation at Chartered Accountants Ireland

London’s mayor wants a softer Brexit

Saturday January 13th, 2018 01:14:00 PM
Eoin O’Shea takes a look at the Brexit report commissioned by the Mayor of London last week, and the reasons why Sadiq Khan might be looking for a softer Brexit than is being discussed. Last week, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan launched a report prepared by Cambridge Econometrics on the possible economic effects Brexit will have on London and the UK.  Formally titled Greater London Authority – Preparing for Brexit, the report aims to model these effects according to various scenarios on the hardness or softness of Brexit. The authors categorise Scenario 1 as representing the status quo and Scenario 5 as representing the UK crashing out of the EU with no trade deal in place. The report’s authors categorise Scenario 4 as being “the closest scenario to the government’s current position” – a transitional period post-March 2019, followed by an exit from the EU single market and customs union. The report gives the following effects Scenario 4 will have the UK compared to Scenario 1: A halving of projected growth in total investment in the years 2021-2030 (from 1.9% growth pa to 1%). The loss of 468,000 jobs, of which 84,000 would be lost in London. The report suggests that London is more economically resilient than the rest of the UK and will be able to recover from economic shocks more quickly. Exports from the UK would fall 2.3% and imports to the UK would fall by 4.4% by 2030. A population reduction 4.2% in London. The inner London population will fall by 4.9% and outer London by 3.7%. UK-wide employment reductions, including 4.3% in the manufacturing sector and 2.4% in the financial and business services sector. Interestingly, the report predicts a rise in agricultural employment of 9.7%.   The report, however, does seem to suffer from one obvious drawback: Scenario 4, according to the authors, assumes the UK will not have a tariff-free trade deal with the EU post-Brexit. The report states that Scenario 4 would mean that “the UK’s trade with most of the rest of the world would be under the WTO rules, resulting in the largest increase in trade costs between the UK and EU across all scenarios”. We have known for nearly a year that the UK intends to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU and, since last month, following the progress on the first part of the Brexit negotiations, the way has been cleared for the parties to start formal talks on such a tariff-free trade deal.  Brexit economic predictions appear to include an element of art, as well as science. The most optimistic economists believe a hard Brexit will add 4% to the UK economy while the most pessimistic consider that a hard Brexit will cost the UK’s economy 18% pa compared to non-Brexit projections. According to published economic reports, the difference between best and worst predictions would eat up 22% of the UK’s economy.   At the launch of the report, Mayor Khan said, “If the Government continues to mishandle the negotiations, we could be heading for a lost decade of lower growth and lower employment.” Will the report's economic predictions encourage the UK to negotiate for something softer than a Scenario 4 Brexit? We will have to wait and see. Eoin O’Shea FCA is a practising barrister, specialising in commercial and tax law.  

Five things to remember when giving feedback

Saturday January 13th, 2018 12:20:00 PM
Imagine your company managed its finances like it manages its employees; ignoring red flags, not following up with debtors and sitting down once a year to have a retrospective conversation about what went well and what didn’t. You wouldn’t be in business very long! Yet this is how managers often treat their most valuable resource: people. There is a very real cost associated with failing to give appropriate feedback, including confused priorities, missed opportunities and disengaged employees. Giving feedback is a key management responsibility (and a good life skill for anyone), but it’s the one managers avoid the most – particularly when the feedback is likely to cause discomfort. Consider these five pointers when engaging in feedback conversations: Set the scene. Regular dialogue forms part of your relationship with your team, extend this to include feedback. When a new member joins have a ‘positioning conversation’. Explain that as manager your role is to provide candid feedback on an ongoing basis. Clarify that the purpose of this feedback is to support the person’s development. The objective is to embed regular feedback as a team norm and create a culture of continuous improvement.  Check yourself. Challenge your motivation in offering the feedback – is it positive or negative? Make sure it's not your need for control, judgements based on your values or bias that is driving you to comment on an aspect of someone's performance. Consider whether or not you communicated your expectations clearly and give the other person the benefit of the doubt by believing that they didn't intentionally fail to deliver. That doesn’t mean that you can’t give the feedback, but it will make the feedback more balanced. Absolute honesty is critical as it demonstrates:  Respect for the other person How would you feel if your manager was unhappy with an aspect of your performance, but didn’t tell you? Perhaps causing you to miss out on promotion or a pay increase. Is that fair? Yet as managers we often put our team members in this position. Our own unease can cause us to dilute feedback or try to rescue the other person from a difficult message. What kind of a manager is prepared to set someone up for a lifetime of failure rather than experience a few minutes discomfort?  Respect for yourself   Difficult issues don’t go away just because you ignore them; they will only escalate. At some point, as the person’s manager, you will be called to account. Whether it’s your line manager, HR or a legal representative, somebody will ask you to demonstrate how you made the person aware that their performance wasn’t at the required standard.  Respectful language. The best feedback leaves the other party feeling respected and safe while understanding the challenge. This is achieved through the careful use of language. Where possible, avoid judgemental words like ‘why’ ‘never’ ‘always’ and ‘should’ and don’t overuse the words ‘you’ and ‘your’. Absolute clarity. Discomfort with difficult messages can lead managers to talk in general terms, be vague or even cryptic. In addition, we all process information through our own filters. A key component of giving feedback is to establish a shared understanding of the issue. Show  or tell the person what they could have done differently in a non-judgemental way.  Have them reflect back their understanding of what has been discussed.  Clarity allows the person to self-regulate and reduces the mangers need to micro-manage the situation.  Remember, feedback is a two-way conversation and it takes the engagement of both parties to find effective resolution to any difficulties.  Dawn Leane is Principal at LeaneLeaders, Leadership and Management Consultancy and Training.

Get to know the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017

Saturday January 13th, 2018 08:22:00 AM
The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 came into force on 1 January 2018, amalgamating the Financial Services Ombudsman and the Pensions Authority into a “one-stop-shop”: the Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman (FSPO). It cannot be overstated how important it will be for accountants to know about this change, the Act and what it means for them. What accountants should keep in mind The FSPO is now investigating all complaints relating to financial, insurance and pension services. The Act extends the time a complaint can be made about a "long term financial service" and this extended complaint period is retrospective, so accountants should be well-versed in the ins-and-outs of the Act, its changes to the complaint time limit, the powers of the Ombudsman, redress, mediation and, most importantly, how this can affect themselves or their clients, and the parameters around making or responding to a complaint. The Act The Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman Act 2017 sounds simple, but there are a few changes of which accountants need to make note. Time limit extension The time limit to make a complaint to the FSPO is six years. However, this does not apply where a complaint relates to a “long term financial service”. Long term financial service is defined as financial services with the duration of five years and one month or more, and life assurance policies. The time limits for a consumer to make a a long term finance service complaint are six years from the date of the conduct that gave rise to the complaint; or three years from the date the complainant became aware, or ought reasonably to have become aware, of the conduct concerned; or a longer period as allowed by the FSO provided there are reasonable, just and equitable grounds for a longer period. The FSPO can investigate complaints made before the Act came into force but had not yet been assessed due to the previous time limit. This means that complaints that were refused because they were outside the then-applicable time limits can be resubmitted to the FSPO. Powers of Ombudsman The FSPO may now require “any person” to provide documents, information or give evidence in relation to a complaint when conducting an investigation. Such evidence will not be admissible in criminal proceedings against that person and legal privilege in documents is preserved. Declining to investigate The FSPO may decline to investigate a complaint where the subject matter of the complaint is of such a degree of complexity that the courts are a more appropriate forum. Internal dispute resolution procedures The FSPO may consider a complaint before the internal dispute resolution process is completed when the regulated entity has failed to complete the review within the time limit or the complaint is of such importance so as to warrant waiving the internal dispute resolution procedure already in place. Redress The maximum financial compensation that the FSPO can award is €26,000 per annum in respect of an annuity and €250,000 for other financial and insurance complaints. For pension providers there is no cap on compensation, but any financial redress should be an amount the FSPO deems just and equitable but not exceed any actual loss of benefit under the scheme in question. Mediation The FSO must try, as far as possible, to resolve complaints by way of mediation. Both complainants and financial service providers will be encouraged by the FSO to engage in mediation. The process remains voluntary and anything said during mediation will not be admissible in any subsequent investigation or court proceedings in the State. Prepare yourself As the Minister Eoghan Murphy TD said of the Bill in May, the merging of these two offices will provide a simpler process for consumers who will have a “one-stop-shop” for complaints. Whether this makes it a smoother process for accountants and their clients in the financial services and pensions sector remains to be seen but all parties involved would be wise to prepare. Enda Hurley, Partner, Litigation & Dispute Resolution and Paula Mullooly, Knowledge Lawyer, at A&L Goodbody

Show off your general knowledge skills - Inter-firm table quiz

Friday January 12th, 2018 05:01:57 PM
On Thursday 22nd February 2018 an inter-firm table quiz will be held in The Dáil Bar at 7.30pm. Teams should consist of 4 participants but if you wish, €10 entry per person which includes a drink and some finger food! Please  email Veronica Byrne<mailto:veronica.byrne@charteredaccountants.ie> to register your team or as an individual to join a team.  






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