September 2017 - Why the Aberdeen economy needs a new football stadium
For those people not living in and around Aberdeen it is reasonable not to know of the controversy over Aberdeen Football Club’s proposed new stadium to the east of Westhill, but within the Aberdeen City boundary.
Let me first of all nail our colours to the mast; we are wholeheartedly in favour of the new stadium, and we also have five of our team who live in Westhill who are in favour too, which contrary to the “No” campaign does not make us at all unusual.
Why is a new stadium needed? The simple answer is that Pittodrie, the club’s home since 1903 is now not fit for purpose and if the club wants to continue playing European football under the auspices of UEFA, then the measures demanded by UEFA would see the stadium capacity fall to below 15,000. That’s not scaremongering, simply the information passed to us following visits by UEFA delegates to the club. Why not re-develop Pittodrie? Why not indeed. The simple answer to that as far as we can see is that the opportunity was lost once the sites on which Gray’s timber yard and the gasworks were sold and flats were built on them. The footprint simply isn’t big enough to fulfil all of the club’s requirements. Whether they should have bought these sites is irrelevant, they didn’t and we are where we are.
So why does a football club needing a new stadium have an impact on the local economy? Well for a start most people underestimate the impact a football club can have on the economy, the club’s spending power, money spent by players and fans alike supports a whole raft of businesses. But that aside it has to be viewed as part of the whole North East of Scotland’s future. Three years ago the area was hit by an oil recession and had the job losses we endured been in London, Birmingham or Manchester there would have been emergency taskforces by the dozen pumping billions of pounds into the economy. What we got from then PM David Cameron was him saying that a low oil price suited the UK economy. My view from that is that basically we are on our own and we the locals will have to resolve the problems of replacing lost oil revenue. The oil industry is not dead but it will at some point die or massively contract just as the Granite, Fishing and Paper industries in the North East have died or massively contracted.
So what have we to offer? Well tourism for one and no matter what you think of Donald Trump, his golf course at Menie is an attraction and is bringing golfers to the city. We have as we speak the construction of the new Exhibition centre with its 18,000 capacity which should see us compete with the rest of the UK for top entertainment acts. We now have at long last the new road which bypasses the city and will see journey times massively reduced and we can therefore expect more people and businesses seeking to locate along the new road. What message would a “No” to the stadium send out to the population as a whole? Basically it would be that the narrow minded population of the area don’t want progress or at the very least don’t want progress if it’s at all near their backyard. The irony of these protesters in Westhill who say we cannot have erosion of the Greenbelt, is that ALL of their house were built on land that was once Greenbelt.
This is one fight the City of Aberdeen cannot afford to lose if we are at all going to be seen as a forward thinking, robust, enthusiastic and reliable area in which to do business. The stadium simply cannot fail or I’m afraid we can forget about any prosperous future if people are going to be put off making applications if a few very selfish people are allowed to continually block progress.
February 2017 - The VAT Flat Rate Scheme: What is changing?
Following setbacks in court, HMRC have decided that they are changing how the Flat Rate Scheme (FRS) operates. We are somewhat bemused by their headlining of the changes as “tackling aggressive abuse of the VAT Flat Rate Scheme”, since as far as we can see all that businesses have done is followed the rules and guidance provided to them by HMRC on the implementation of VAT from when the scheme was first introduced. The subtext to all of this is of course that the scheme is costing way more in lost VAT revenue than HMRC ever envisaged.
The major change in the scheme is the introduction of a new business sector called “Limited cost traders”. HMRC define a limited cost trade as one who spends less than 2% of its sales on goods (not services) in an accounting period.
When working out the amount spent on goods, it cannot include purchases of:
• Capital goods (such as new equipment used in a business)
• Food and drink (such as lunches for staff)
• Vehicles or parts for vehicles (unless running a vehicle hiring business)
A firm will also be a limited cost trade if it spends less than £1,000 a year, even if this is more than 2% of the firm’s turnover on goods.
So, who will be affected by this change?
It will increase the VAT paid by labour intensive businesses where very little is spent on goods. For example, this may affect Oil contractors, consultants, hairdressers and accountancy firms.
Mike Cherry, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said, “Many small businesses rely on the optional VAT flat rate scheme to simplify the management of their tax affairs”
At the heart of the reform is the introduction of a new flat rate category; the Limited Cost Trader. This new category introduces a 16.5% rate for businesses with limited costs.
If you fall into this category, then this example should assist you in deciding whether or not to stay in the scheme.
Turnover of £85,000
VAT at 20% - 17,000
Total Invoiced - £102,000
Fixed rate VAT payable is £16,830. “Profit” on Scheme calculations £170. If your input VAT is likely to be in excess of £170 then it would be advisable for you to withdraw from the scheme.
The new scheme commences on 1 April 2017 and you should contact us to discuss your options.
October 2016 - Where are we going with HMRC?
Dealing with the Revenue on a daily basis, I have to say that the times we live in at the moment are the most turbulent I’ve ever experienced.
Local offices have disappeared at a rate of knots.
The drive to centralisation is relentless.
Call centres seem to be at the heart of day to day dealings.
When I started in the profession some 37 years ago Tax Inspectors were treated with a degree of respect and of course distrust, but you knew they had as their drive the object of the taxpayer paying what he or she was due, no more no less. You could have a dialogue with them and cases were dealt with sensibly and amicably.
In the 1990’s one Inspector said to me after an enquiry had been finalised:
“If you’re unhappy and I’m unhappy, then we’ve probably got the right result.”
Today? Well with all due respect, I’d rather deal with today’s Inspector than those around in the 1990’s. Our clients agree. HMRC drive on into the Digital world and I’m quite certain they would be happy if they didn’t have to deal with those “pesky” accountants and tax advisers.
Getting the correct amount of tax doesn’t seem that important because there is now a penalty regime which in my view is skewed entirely in favour of HMRC. A half hashed job, getting some tax and topping up with a penalty seems to be the direction we are headed in.
The dash for cash drives on.
August 2015 - When It Comes Back
All of 2015 has seen huge changes in the Oil industry in the North East, most of it very unpleasant. A massive fall in the price per barrel has seen drastic cuts in personnel and overheads. At the time of writing no-one can with any degree of confidence tell us when the price will bounce back or indeed if the price will bounce back, but on the assumption that we achieve say $80 a barrel what needs to be done to sustain business and standards of living?
In our view everyone must take personal responsibility for their own business and their own personal finances. “Shouldn’t they have been doing so already?” I hear you ask. Let’s not go over history let’s talk about the future. It would not be unreasonable to say that many people spent up to their earning levels and assumed that the industry would sustain through their careers. That myth has been blown away, so how would we deal with a “fresh start”?
First and foremost assume that there will be future downturns. There will be. Secondly, retain 15%-20% of post-tax earnings. That way you can build reserves to sustain you through future lean times. Thirdly, consider diversification so that you can have more than one income stream, be that other types of work or income from investments.
Very simple actions to take, but ones which might mean you can maintain lifestyle and not have to consider selling the family home and downsizing just to survive.
Alan Moir 26 August 2015
March 2015 - The Workplace Pension (Auto Enrolment)
In our view this is a massive change for employers which sadly but not surprisingly many employers have failed to grasp the significance of.
In 2016 and 2017 the vast majority of SME’s will be required to Stage for Auto Enrolment (AE) and they should receive by 31 May 2015 a letter from The Pension Regulator (TPR). This letter will inform them of their staging date, have a unique letter code and ask that the employer nominate a contact by a set date, usually within two months of the letter being issued.
This letter may come out in April 2015 and state that a staging date is 1 January 2017. We can hear employers now saying “We have loads of time to get ready” and to an extent they are right.
Commentators have described Auto Enrolment as a Tsunami about to hit employers and what they mean by this is that the vast numbers of employers due to stage in 2016 and 2017 may mean that many may leave it too late to get things in place before staging.
Let me explain. There are only so many businesses in the UK who are willing and able to assist with the set-up of AE and getting one or two employer approaches per week will not present them with any real problems. However should 100 turn up per week then they are simply not going to be able to cope with such a rush and as a consequence many employers are going to be late in staging and will be fined by TPR. The fines are a fixed penalty of £400 and then daily penalties between £50 and £10,000 depending on how many staff you have. Imagine the daily penalties last 2 months. That’s next year’s holiday cancelled then!
So what should you do first?
In our view you should get the final element of the process in place now and that is the pension plan. It takes time to get these set up and as we said earlier if you leave it too late you may be at the back of a very long queue. So if you get the pension in place now you will almost certainly be ahead of the game and you can then decide on what method you will employ to deal with the compliance aspect of AE; this may be run by yourself or you may employ an outside agent such as an accountant or a payroll bureau. Importantly, even if you have the pension available, you would not have to actually contribute to it until your staging date.
Please do not let the letter sit and gather dust on your desk, do something proactively now.
At Fyfe Moir & Associates our aim is that when the Tsunami hits our clients will be on high ground.
Alan Moir 25 March 2015
December 2014 - Winning your share of a contracting market
In many ways 2015 could be more challenging than 2014, so how are you going about winning more than your share of new business?
Why not give it a go?
“Did you know that research suggests that 73% of business buyers say “No” at least five times to any salesman before eventually saying “Yes”? And did you also know that the same researchers discovered that a staggering 92% of salespeople give up and move on to another target before they get to the fifth “No”?
In other words, while 92% of impatient salespeople rush from company to company chasing the 27% of sales where the buying decisions are made quickly, the other 8% of salespeople (i.e. the patient ones) are the only ones who stand any chance of winning the other 73% of sales!
Look at the maths and you’ll discover something that could give your business all the new customers and sales you can cope with!
I know that sounds unbelievable, but just do the maths for yourself. Because when you do you’ll discover that, on average, patient companies (i.e. the ones with patient salesmen who persevere beyond the fifth “No”), will win a massive 3109% more customers than their impatient counterparts.
Putting it another way, for every new sale the impatient salesman wins, the patient salesman wins 31!
Of course, every single person who sells anything in your business may already be part of that very elite band - the 8% who are already very patient.
But can you be really sure?
With up to 31 times as many sales as your rivals’ at stake, it’s probably worth making sure, 100% sure, isn’t it?
Making sure that your people are patient and persistent, and making sure that your systems support them in their role by making it easy for them to be patient - and impossible to give up too soon.”
If you would like help with your marketing strategy then get in touch with us.
Fyfe Moir & Associates, Accountants and ………..
Alan Moir 24 December 2014.
9th December 2014 - Putting the “Rainy Day” theory into practice
Here in Aberdeen and the North East these past few weeks have been all about oil, its price and what it means for our economic powerhouse. We have been here before. Oil companies have tended to hire when things are great and then fire when they either realise they are overstaffed or when the margins make uncomfortable reading. Whichever reason it is, it is in my opinion entirely predictable and we only need to look back to realise this.
This is why everyone associated with business in Aberdeen and the North East, has sensibly retained say 20% of their post-tax earnings. Haven’t they?
Yes I know it’s very easy to be wise during or after the event but all of what is happening and will happen is entirely predictable which is why I am very surprised at the collective surprise that it is happening again. Of course it is happening again! Global market, extremely price sensitive product, world politics and strife and of course Westminster Governments which just cannot help themselves when it comes to trying to squeeze yet more tax revenues from the oil industry and which just never seems to have a long term cohesive plan for said industry.
It is too late for this cycle, but please, please, please begin now to plan for the future. Set out a clear business and personal plan and project ahead, setting goals, taking account of worst case scenarios and truly put in place reserves, both business and personal so that when the next downward cycle hits, you can confidently ride out the storm.
Just a thought.
14th October 2014 - VAT Registration Threshold – Are Governments’ missing the point?
I’ve always found it strange that registration levels have largely speaking been set at relatively low levels. From 1 April 2014 the level at which a relevant business must register is set at £81,000 or an average of £1,558 per week. Now I don’t know about you but that seems pretty miserly to me and I believe that it is hugely counterproductive not only to business but also to the overall tax take. Now let me be perfectly clear here, I have no information on what the ramifications of what I am about to say are tax wise, it’s more of a gut feeling, a feeling that it’s the right thing to do.
Why not consider increasing the threshold to say £125,000. That way the pressure on those willing to offer cash to avoid VAT should ease and all legitimate business owners can feel that they are on much more of a level playing field than those who operate on the Black economy.
At the same time as this large increase in the VAT registration threshold, HM Revenue & Customs could really get their act together and start focusing in on those businesses which are returning significantly less than £125,000 in turnover and by looking at lifestyles, etc. determine if accurate accounting information has been recorded on tax returns.
We will never get rid of the Black Economy; there will always be people who evade their taxes. I feel that by increasing the VAT registration threshold we will help legitimate and struggling business owners whilst at the same time narrowing down on those who continue to evade, subject of course to HMRC doing their part.
Just a thought.
Choosing an accountant can be a daunting task for any business or self-employed individual. Most people choose their accountant based on third party referral, professional referral (solicitor or banker) or by looking up a website. However, it is a vitally important decision and one which can be costly if you get it wrong writes Alan Moir of Fyfe Moir & Associates.
There are many things to consider and questions to ask when choosing this professional service and it is important to ask the right questions to help you make the correct decision. Questions might include:
At a time when it seems increasingly difficult to raise finance and satisfy the need for up to the minute information required by lenders, an increasing number of people need to know that they will receive their final accounts within 30 days of them providing all of the information needed by the accountant. For others, however, time is of no real consequence provided all filing deadlines are met.
HM Revenue & Customs have clearly been told by successive governments to raise as much cash as possible and they are using more and more aggressive tactics to raise cash. An example of this is an unprecedented penalty regime with rates of penalty akin to those offered to the likes of Lester Piggot in his serious tax fraud investigation. You need to consider if your accountant is going to step up and represent your best interests to HMRC or is simply going to lie down to them.
Business today is as complex as ever. Your advisers are as important to you as they ever have been. Getting it right could be the difference between getting by and prospering.