Now, there’s no excuse for not knowing what you should know. Your clients expect it of you. So do your work colleagues. And most of all, you should expect it of yourself.

So, read on… with slight apologies for the length of this communication, but there’s a lot to communicate and a lot to learn about.

Marketing and Practice Management

Growing your bottom line in 2014

growthAchieving 20% growth year on year is the hallmark of a high growth business (www.growthaccelerator.com). This level of growth would satisfy most ambitious organisations but achieving and sustaining growth of this nature is challenging, not least in today’s changeable climate.

Implementing measures that ensure your organisation works smarter, does not necessarily mean that your business will have to work harder to grow its bottom line. The insight to make sound business decisions could be the catalyst to make 2014 the year of record growth for your organisation. This free guide from Exchequer looks to provide seven steps to growing your bottom line.

You can download it from here. Registration is required.

But, you should be digital already

Accounting firms need to dive into the digital future right now, according to Intuit’s David Bergstein, because their clients and their competitors already are. “Firms that are embracing technology are really growing by leaps and bounds,” explained Bergstein, a CPA, CITP, CGMA, and regional strategic account manager in the Accountant & Advisor Group at Intuit Inc. “This is driven by clients and by younger people. When do they want their answer? Yesterday. And the only way to deliver it yesterday is through digital.  It’s not just clients who are forcing firms to make this change – it’s also the staff they’re losing: Younger people leaving firms are not starting a brick-and-mortar office and bringing in servers – they start in the cloud.”

Read the full story here.

The Psychology of Sharing [Infographic]

What are the types of people who are most likely to share content online? And why are they sharing it?

The infographic in this article by StatPro categorises people into six types of sharers: hipsters, careerists, altruists, connectors, boomerangs, and selectives.

Read about it here.

App of the Week: LastPass

last passThere are all kinds of ways to create strong passwords.  But if you’re like most people, you’re not likely to use them. And why should we, when there’s LastPass?

Promising to be “the last password you have to remember,” LastPass is downloaded to your computer, where it appears as an add-on to your browser. You set a strong password for LastPass – and then it starts remembering all your logins and creating super-strong passwords for Web sites from then on, so that eventually you don’t need to remember anything but your LastPass password. (Try not to forget that one, will you?)

Read about it here.

Firms should consider setting ethnic minority diversity targets, says SRA

Law firms should consider setting diversity targets for BME lawyers and staff, just as some have done with women, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has said. The SRA said that “one of the most significant changes” to help cut the disproportionately high number of BME solicitors caught up at various stages in the regulatory process, from reports about conduct to interventions, would be an increase in diversity within medium and large firms. The SRA was responding to an independent report on the issue by Professor Gus John, published in March.

Read the full story here.

Medium-sized firms lead way on fee income, profits and PEP

cyclingLaw firms with 11 to 25 partners are leading the way out of recession, with rising fee incomes, net profits and a 21% surge in profit per equity partner (PEP), research has found. The annual benchmarking report for 2013 by MHA, a UK-wide association of nine accountancy and business advisory firms, drew a very different picture for firms with fewer than 10 partners, where net profits fell. Karen Hain, head of professional practices at MHA, said the Jackson reforms had “radically changed” the sector, leading to firms closing down, merging or being bought by alternative business structures.

Read the full story here.

Lack of conveyancers in London’s booming property market

There is a shortage of conveyancers in London with vacancies increasing by 34 per cent between quarter four 2013 and quarter one 2014, according to the Venn Group. A rush by overseas investors to snap up London’s commercial property, coupled with reports that confidence in the housing market reached a three-year high this month, has sparked a boom in demand for conveyancing locums in the capital. While growth in both the residential and commercial property arena is indicative of both increased confidence amongst consumers and businesses, Venn Group’s data reveals that any future growth could be severely scuppered by a lack of available talent.

Read the full story here.

Britain’s export strategy is under attack

Wallpaper Boss, Andrew Graham, CEO of Blackburn-based family business Graham & Brown, has lambasted Britain’s ‘naive’ export strategy, saying that Britain must adopt a German model to help mid-sized companies to trade abroad. He claimed that the Government’s export strategy is “naïve”, “slow” and “bureaucratic”, and does not give sufficient support to mid-sized exporters.  In a letter to Business Secretary Vince Cable, Andrew Graham, who is also an ambassador for UK Trade & Investment, warned that the Government’s failure to act now risks turning Britain into a “bit-part player” on the international stage.  Mr Graham said policymakers should “back the best” exporters and target mid-sized businesses that are already selling abroad, rather than focussing disproportionately on start-ups.

[This story coincides with the launch by Bizezia of the World Business Portal at www.onesmartplace.com-featured-zones]

Read more about the story above, here.

ONS: Record numbers working from home

officeCommenting on new figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on the growth of home-working, TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Improvements in home technology have made home-working an attractive and cheap alternative to costly commutes into the office. Home-working also helps those unable to travel – including disabled people or those with caring responsibilities – to stay in work and continue their careers. But too many bosses still don’t trust staff to work from home and instead force them to trudge into the office so they can keep an eye on them.  Employers’ attitudes to new working practices must change to make a much better use of modern technology in all workplaces.”

BBC News reported that the number of people working from home has risen to its highest level since records began, according to the ONS. There were 4.2 million UK home workers in the first three months of 2014, amounting to 13.9% of the workforce. The ONS said that was the highest proportion since measurements started in 1998. The figures include those who work at home, and those who use their home as a base, but work in different places.

View the ONS statistics here.

Apple Reveals iOS 8 With HomeKit, HealthKit

As expected, Apple has shown a preview of its next-gen mobile operating system, iOS 8. A number of rumoured additions were announced – from Shazam integration and a health-related app to a push for the “smart home.”  It is available to developers in beta now and will get a final release in the autumn. It will be compatible with iPhone 4s, 5, 5s, and 5c, as well as iPad 2, iPad with Retina display, iPad Air, and both mini iPads.

Read more here.

Operating Systems: Big Upgrades for Apple Mac OS X Yosemite

Apple has unveiled a new version of its Mac OS X software, dubbed Yosemite. Developers will get access to Yosemite now, while the public will get it in the autumn. Like the previous version, Mavericks, it will be a free upgrade.

Craig Federighi, senior vice president of Software Engineering at Apple, joked during his Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) presentation that Apple execs took a road trip to hunt for the best follow-up name to Mavericks. After passing on Mac OS X Oxnard, OS X Rancho Cucamonga, and OS X Weed, they landed on Yosemite.

Read more here.

Writing a great marketing plan

Via accountingWEB, you can get ahead of your competitors with this simple, step-by-step process designed by seasoned Marketers to help Accountants write effective marketing plans.

This free non-marketer’s guide to marketing plans provides 4 stages to building a successful marketing plan for your practice and can be downloaded from the source link provided below. Registration is required.

Read more here.

Your Roadmap to Building a Next Generation Firm

the intentional accountantThis is about the book that’s empowering bean counters to become better entrepreneurs!  RootWorks founder and CEO Darren Root has authored an all-new book to take you through the process of creating the vision and business model for your Next Generation Accounting Firm. One of the accounting profession’s most highly esteemed thought leaders, Darren, maps out a vision for independent accountants to go beyond merely working at a job, and start assembling the machinery to build a true enterprise. With a straightforward, unpretentious manner, this book gives you a practical, end-to-end roadmap of the strategic process and organisational methods that have changed the lives and personal fortunes of thousands of practitioners and shareholders in accounting firms nationwide.

More details are available here, including how to buy the book.

The Struggle towards Social Media sophistication

Accounting firms are trying to adapt to, and with, platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. In the recent past, many accounting firms struggled to recognize the necessity of social media, while only those that were considered cutting edge integrated it into their marketing strategy.

Today, the awareness level is high enough to have encouraged – or perhaps forced – most firms into establishing a social presence, so that the message is gradually becoming less “I’m here!” and more “This is why I’m here and what I can do for you.”

The positioning is more strategic, and the conversation more engaged – the result of both social media’s proven influence and the maturation of some of its biggest platforms.

Read the full story here.

Watch what your ad says!

A well-known personal injury firm has been ordered to stop running a TV advert which directed clients to its NHSLaw.co.uk website, on the grounds that the public might confuse it with the National Health Service. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said 10 people complained that the advert, by Neil Hudgell Solicitors, was misleading, because it implied a link with the NHS which was “likely to add legitimacy to, and increase trust” in the firm.

Read the full story here.

Technical Stuff

Considerations when working with an aging client base

elderly[3 June 2014, Journal of Accountancy]  By Sarah Beckett Ference, CPA, from the US:  CPAs in the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program have cited various issues they are dealing with as the country’s elderly population grows at historic rates. The 2010 Census recorded the greatest number and proportion of people age 65 and older in census history. This aging client base presents service opportunities but also new challenges to address.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2012 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report, one in eight older Americans suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. Consequently, questions related to serving elderly clients are likely to increase. The client may forget a name or misplace a bank statement. The CPA may notice changes in client behavior or personality. Diminished mental capacity, whether caused by Alzheimer’s disease, another form of dementia, or something else, is a complex issue. CPAs should be aware of the professional liability risks that may exist when working with aging clients.

Read more here.

HMRC asks taxpayers to check their effective tax rates

From the ICAEW Tax Faculty Team: The latest HMRC ‘nudge letters’ are aimed at high net worth individuals. You may be aware from the media that HMRC has been writing to selected taxpayers to tell them their effective rate of tax is lower than average and ask them to check if it’s right. Copies of the letters have been sent to authorised agents. The letters, headed up ‘Your effective rate of tax’, have, the Faculty understands, been sent to around 1,000 high net worth individuals. The letter says: “A person’s effective rate of tax is the percentage of their income they have paid in tax. Looking at the figures in your self-assessment tax calculation for the year ended 5 April 2012, we can see your effective rate of tax is lower than the average for people with a similar amount of income to you. This means there could be something wrong with your self-assessment tax return.”

More information is available here.

FRS 102: What auditors need to do

On accountingWEB, posted by Steve Collings:  FRS 102, the Financial Reporting Standard applicable in the UK and Republic of Ireland, is considered to be the most significant change in financial reporting for a generation.

Professional bodies are encouraging firms around the country to start planning for the transition as the rules are applied retrospectively. Auditors, of course, must also consider their position when it comes to the transition process – particularly in light of any ethical threats that may arise (for example where the auditor is actively involved in a client’s transition process).

Read the full posting here.

Legal Ombudsman calls into question lawyers’ responsibility for land tax

houseThe Legal Ombudsman has reported a number of complaints regarding stamp duty land tax.  The tax payable to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when buying a house is usually collected by lawyers and then paid to HMRC on behalf of their client.However, the Legal Ombudsman has reported a number of cases in which the lawyer has failed to make the payment. As the rules stand, if a lawyer doesn’t make the payment, for whatever reason, it is still the client’s responsibility. As a result, HMRC has been contacting homeowners requesting the outstanding fees along with interest and penalties.

Read the full story here.

Charities SORP approved for release

On May 22, the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) approved the new Charities Statements of Recommended Practice (SORP) for publication.  The FRC are required to review the Charities SORPs to ensure that:

(1) They have been prepared in accordance with the FRC’s Policy and Code of Practice on SORPs.

(2) They do not appear to contain fundamental points of principle that are unacceptable in the context of current practice or to conflict with an accounting standard.

The FRC Board considered and approved the SORP for the new Financial Reporting Standard (FRS 102) and the SORP for Financial Reporting Standard for Smaller Entities (FRSSE). The two SORPs are necessary to support charities implementing the new UK Generally Accepted Accounting Practice which takes effect for financial years beginning on or after 1 January 2015.

The SORP-making body anticipates publishing the new SORPs on the dedicated micro-site in the summer and possibly as early as July.

Read the full release here.

Dealing with directors’ loan accounts

HMRC has tightened its grip on section 455 loans to owner managers.  Section 455, Corporation Tax Act 2010 (CTA 2010) is a key anti-avoidance weapon for owner-managed companies. Without it, owner managers could easily avoid a tax charge by arranging for ‘their’ company to lend them funds (as opposed to paying a ‘taxable’ bonus or dividend).

Read Peter Rayney’s article in full here.

Solicitors more diverse than society in general, profession-wide survey shows

Solicitors in law firms are slightly more diverse than the rest of society, the results of the profession-wide diversity monitoring undertaken by the Solicitors Regulation Authority have shown. A total of 12.9% of partners, solicitors and staff are from ethnic minority backgrounds, compared to 12.4% of the UK workforce as a whole. The SRA secured the co-operation of 86% of law firms in reporting data for the survey, which followed a request from the Legal Services Board…

Read the full story here.

Racial over-representation ‘an issue’, SRA agrees

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has accepted the findings of an independent report showing black and minority ethnic (BME) solicitors to be over-represented in its regulatory activities. Responding to the review by Professor Gus John, published in March, the SRA said today that the conclusion that BME solicitors continue to be disproportionately over-represented at key stages of the regulatory process is ‘consistent’ with the findings of previous reviews and the SRA’s own consideration of the issue…

Read the full story here.

Grayling promises to protect volunteers from ‘compensation culture’

The government is to introduce legislation designed to protect volunteers and small businesses from negligence claims in a move to further ‘tackle the growth of compensation culture’. Legislation will be brought in next year to provide volunteers with greater protection from negligence claims when acting in ‘the common good’; and to protect responsible small-business owners against claims from employees, the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, revealed today. In a post on the Conservative Home website Grayling dubbed the proposed legislation the ‘Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Bill’.

Read the full story here.

Stress in the City

stressedOK, be honest.  What is it that grinds your gears most in the office on a Monday morning? It’s well worth checking the Lawyer survey of stress in law, to see if your issues chime with the leading causes of work-related stress in the legal profession. Perhaps it’s that particularly prickly superior, or the ear-bashing client that seems to exist purely to drive you crazy? Well, the good news is that you’re not the only one.

Of all the various causes of stress flagged up by the survey’s respondents, being expected to complete too much work in too little time is the biggest problem. The magic circle firms are among the biggest culprits, with 87 per cent citing workload as an issue, compared to 67 per cent of those at US firms in London. Meanwhile, US firms are on top when it comes to bureaucracy, with 12 per cent of its lawyers reporting dealing with red tape as a problem, compared with 10 per cent of magic circle respondents…

Read the full story here.

New law to target “corrupt lawyers” who help criminals

[4 June 2014, Legal Futures] By Dan Bindman: “Corrupt lawyers” who help organised crime gangs and hide behind a “veneer of respectability” will be targeted by a new offence, the Home Office announced yesterday.

It is understood that the offence of “participation in an organised crime group” will feature in a serious crime bill in today’s Queens Speech. Those convicted face up to five years behind bars and further civil measures.

Read the full story here.

Scotland says yes to funding reform to see off English threat

The Scottish government has agreed to a series of civil justice reforms aimed in part at stopping litigants de-camping to England and Wales. The government has announced it has accepted the recommendations of Sheriff Principal Taylor for the funding of litigation.

Read the full story here.

Martin Pollins

Martin Pollins

Managing Director at Bizezia
Martin Pollins is a Chartered Accountant with wide experience in corporate finance and business management. He holds a number of directorships and has served on the boards of several companies, including those listed on the London Stock Exchange, AIM and OFEX.

He was a Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales from 1988 to 1996.

Martin Pollins ran his own firm based in Sussex and was the first Accountancy firm in the UK to advertise on television and Martin went on to create and launch the CharterGroup Partnership (the UK's first Accountancy network) and then LawGroup UK (one of the largest networks of lawyers in the country).

Martin started work on the Bizezia concept in 1996, developing the broad range of information resources and products over the past 18 years.
Martin Pollins
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