I’ve written before to say that perhaps the recession hasn’t actually gone away:
here, here, here, here and again here.

We already knew (from what we’ve been told by the papers and on TV) that France was doing badly.  But most people thought the Germans were running a strong economy and were the powerhouse of Europe. Now, there’s even a suggestion that the German economy could lead Europe back into recession. German business confidence has fallen to its lowest level for some considerable time.

Last week, the Telegraph reported that Germany, the euro area’s economic titan has joined the rest of the currency bloc, and has entered deflation in January, for the first time since October 2009. It may not see inflation again before the year is out. Analysts had expected deflation – but not at this pace.

The Greeks are taking a tough line over their debts and it will be interesting to see if other Member states who received bail-outs, challenge the deals they made.

But the really worrying thing is that we are all in for a second dose of the recession. Rachel Savage wrote last week in Management Today – she says that Crispin Odey, the hedge fund manager who correctly predicted the financial crisis in 2007 that brought the world to its knees, believes the global economy is about to crash again but this time it’s going to be even worse.

Lightning can strike twice.

‘We are in the first stage of this downturn. It is too early to see what will happen – a change of this magnitude means the darkness and mist is very great. This down cycle is likely to be remembered in a hundred years,’  wrote Crispin Odey in ‘a portentous letter to clients at his hedge fund Odey Asset Management’, which manages around $12bn (£8bn).

The recession he sees looming over the horizon will ‘devastate’ stock markets, and the European Central Bank’s €1.1tn (£830m) quantitative easing bazooka will not stop the coming storm. ‘We used all our monetary firepower to avoid the first downturn in 2007-09, so we are really at a dangerous point,’ he warned. ‘If economic activity far from picks up, but falters, then there will be a painful round of debt default.’

Here is my regular round-up of marketing and business promotion issues plus other interesting things over the past week.

Marketing and Business Promotion

Marketing ideas from Marketing Profs

More marketing ideas and tips have been published by Marketing Profs:

UK Gmail users can now attach money to emails

In Finance Rising, written by Huw Jenkins: Gmail has latched onto the UK currency revolution: users can now attach money to their messages to send to people – regardless of their email brand.

Much like attaching a folder with the infamous paperclip – a ‘£’ icon will now allow you to stick money on to emails, and will let you request amounts.

Those wishing to use the service must first setup a Google wallet account, which requires users to link a debit or bank account. The Google wallet will hold the cash for use on Google Play, or money can be shipped back to existing accounts.

The feature will be gradually rolled out to all UK Gmail users who are 18 years old or older.

The Ultimate Guide to Building a Content Strategy

Also in NewsCred, It’s a fact: The average website conversion for companies with defined content processes is more than twice that of companies without. Why? These companies set clear goals, have a plan, and built the internal infrastructure to stay on track.

Download the FREE NewsCred guide to find out how you can develop and execute a killer content strategy.

In this guide you’ll learn how to:

  • Understand your audience in order to define your brand mission, content strategy, and useful distribution platforms.
  • Build a team that understands and is excited about the value of content.
  • Create an efficient workflow so you can easily respond to cultural moments in real time.
  • Measure, analyze, and iterate until you reach your content goals.

Free Toolkit: Learn to Create Killer Marketing Content in 15 Minutes

From Act-on Software: Content marketing is on the rise, and companies that invest in content creation generate 67% more leads than their competitors.

So if you want to launch a content marketing program of your own? No problem. Everything you need to start creating killer marketing content that attracts prospective buyers and creates brand affinity is right here. Fill in the form at the link given below, to access your Content Marketing Toolkit.

This toolkit will give you a clear methodology for developing the right types of content, implementation tips, and practical resources to help you get started.

What’s Included in the Kit?
1. 15 Minute How-To Video

2. Downloadable Resources

3. Community Support

5 Ways to Evolve the Dreadful Annual Performance Review

From The HR Brief: The dreaded annual performance review: whether you’re on the giving or receiving end, it can be an uncomfortable experience for both managers and employees. But it doesn’t have to be.

Download this FREE guide to see how organizations use reviews to:

  • Motivate employees
  • Increase employee productivity
  • Create an on-going dialog between employees and managers
  • Support overall organizational goals

Learn 5 key ways to driving productivity with performance reviews.

Download the guide

Preparing for your next sales pitch

Read in Marketing Profs: Delivering a sales pitch is both art and science. It took intense amounts of work by sales and marketing to get to the right person with the right message, and convince them to make time for a conversation. The window of opportunity is small, so your sales pitch needs to sing.

How do you prepare yourself – and your pitch – for that conversation? Use this checklist to make that interaction more effective, for you and your prospect.

Download the checklist

Having a boss could be bad for you: Freelancers are happier and earn more

From CITY A.M., written by Jessica Morris: Working for yourself could be the secret to happiness, a new report has suggested.

The report from Brighton University’s business school found the nation’s freelancers are happier – primarily because they don’t have a permanent boss – and due to taking home £42,857 per year, which is more than the national average salary of £27,200.

“For many, freelancing is emerging as the ideal lifestyle, especially in creative and digital industries where people can work from any location, including home, and which demand high levels of innovation,” Dr Jonathan Sapsed, who headed the report, told the Sunday Times.

The survey, which used funding from the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), comprised 32 individual interviews, 304 questionnaire responses and two focus groups. Somewhat surprisingly, it found some respondents had been redundant, and said this actually benefited them in the long-run.

Read more

Book review: Fast Forward

Reviewed on Amazon: Jim Mellon & Al Chalabi’s explosive new book ‘Fast Forward’. As the pace of technological progress intensifies, agile businesses and entrepreneurs are discovering new applications that take advantage of faster and cheaper computer processing power.

The status quo is being upended across all industries, and in some cases totally new industries are being created. Fast Forward is a book that filters this chaotic landscape and identifies the areas that will have the greatest impact to our lives, highlighting investment opportunities along the way. These disruptive technologies span the fields of robotics, transportation, the changing internet, life sciences, 3D printing and energy, all of which are experiencing tremendous growth. With their previous books published over the past 9 years, Mellon and Chalabi have established an excellent track record of recognizing investment opportunities before they become mainstream, starting with forecasting the Great Recession in 2005, and identifying gold as an excellent hedge. More recently, they have written about life sciences, and their recommended stocks in “Cracking the Code” have outperformed every major market in the world.


10 Creative Types You Need To Build A Killer Content Marketing Team

Read in NewsCred Blog, written by Lauren B. Mangiaforte: Creating content, especially in a lean marketing team, is an all-hands-on-deck endeavour. Having a dream team in place to create not only the social posts, blog pieces, and video snippets, but the strategy, big picture campaigns and creative long-term vision should be a top priority for marketers in 2015.

After all, we’re well past the infancy of content as a marketing maybe. It’s a marketing must: 78% of CMOs now believe content is the future of marketing. But where do you find the smart, creative, hard-working people to make your content strategy a success? In this new landscape, there aren’t a ton of experienced “content marketers” walking around, but that doesn’t mean people with the skills you need aren’t right under your nose.

The article lists descriptions of 10 creative types you need to build a killer content marketing team.

Read the article

Download Flash Storage for Dummies

Found in The Register.co.uk: Discover how to get more bang for your buck by applying flash technology to your modernized infrastructure.

Flash technology is making quite a splash in the storage industry. Offering superior speed and reliability when compared to traditional hard disk drives, flash storage is a flexible and increasingly cost-effective technology that can be used to optimize enterprise storage environments running mission-critical, I/O-intensive applications.

Flash Storage for Dummies, NetApp 2nd Special Edition, explores the many uses and benefits of flash storage technology in the enterprise. From flash-accelerated storage to all-flash arrays, flash technology improves performance and increases reliability in storage infrastructures. It also reduces energy and real-estate costs in the data centre

Free download

Technical Stuff:

Law Society: give accountants more guidance on breaches

In the Law Society GazetteMonidipa Fouzder wrote about a consultation by the Solicitors Regulation Authority which closed last week. Accountants scrutinising law firm figures should be given reporting guidance to avoid the ‘considerable’ confusion that has arisen for compliance officers on reporting material breaches, the Law Society has said.

In the consultation,  the regulator set out a list of accounting issues that would need to be ‘substantive deficiencies’ to require accounts to be sent to the SRA. Warning signs include the lack of segregation of client and office monies, controls and checks to protect against fraud and effective oversight by management.

The Society said in order for the proposal to be effective, accountants would need guidance on what might qualify as a ‘serious deficiency’.

In its response, the Society said: ‘Lack of guidance for COLPs (compliance officer for legal practice) and COFAs (compliance officer for finance and administration) on reporting material breaches has led to considerable confusion and a variation in reporting practices. We would not want to see this repeated for reporting accountants.’

The SRA also needs to carefully consider the potential costs to firms of changes, the Society said – both in terms of the cost of the report to firms and any wider costs for firms in gearing up to comply with changes. It was ’essential’ the SRA undertakes, and publishes, an impact assessment on the likely level of costs.

The Society described the current Accounts Rules as ‘complex’, with the lack of flexibility causing difficulties for firms, and said it would welcome the opportunity to work with the SRA on a forthcoming review of the rules as a whole.

Tips for reducing professional liability risk in business valuation

From the USA, written by Frank Vinluan, in CPA2biz.com:  Using engagement letters and adhering to AICPA valuation standards are among the best practices that can help CPAs (US accountants) protect themselves.

The risk of a lawsuit can start with the most innocent of questions. Take, for example, a client asking an accountant, “How much do you think my business is worth?”  Even if the accountant initially declines to answer, the client may persist. After all, says Mark S. Warshavsky, CPA/ABV/CFF, the client may believe that who else but the company’s CPA, someone who has worked with the company’s financial records for years, would know the value of the business. With more prodding, an accountant may relent and provide a number—without performing the due diligence required by AICPA Statement on Standards for Valuation Services No. 1 (SSVS No. 1). If the client uses that off-the-cuff valuation on a financial statement, tax return, or loan application, or for some other financial transaction, the CPA could be held liable for failing to comply with the professional standards and face a professional liability claim.

Business valuation claims are not as common as other litigation risks facing accountants. The majority of professional liability claims brought against CPAs in the AICPA Professional Liability Insurance Program emanate from tax work.

Even when a practitioner follows proper due diligence in conducting the valuation, a party who relies on a valuation may later be unhappy about what was paid—and then blame the accountant, Sterna says. These situations can arise when an asset underperforms after the transaction.

[In my view, this is equally applicable to accountants in the UK]  This is a good article that every accountant should read and inwardly digest.

Five common VAT MOSS misconceptions

In AccountingWEB, written by Les Howard – A lot of material has appeared online about the Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) in the past few weeks – much of it misguided, writes Les Howard, the founder of vatadvice.org. New websites, blogs, and Facebook groups have sprung up, trying to cancel MOSS, defer its introduction, and help small businesses to mitigate its impact.

During December, HMRC actually relaxed some aspects of the new regime, apparently in response to the efforts of groups representing small businesses. But the actual content of the available material is decidedly patchy.

At the risk of attracting some criticism, the author offers five misconceptions about MOSS that he has come across.

FASB considers delay to revenue recognition rules

In AccountancyAGE, written by Richard Crump: US standard-setters are considering whether to delay the date by which companies must shift to new rules around revenue recognition, one of the biggest changes to accounting standards in more than a decade.

Last year, the global accounting standard setter the IASB and US counterpart FASB agreed a converged accounting standard that will overhaul the way businesses record revenue on their books, allowing investors to better compare how much companies from countries around the world earn.

Companies using IFRS will need to apply the new standard for reporting periods beginning on or after 1 January 2017, while for US public companies the standard is scheduled to take effect for reporting periods beginning after 15 December 2016.

New error and wrongdoing tax penalties bite

Posted by Rebecca Cave in AccountingWEB: If you exceed the road’s speed limit in front of a traffic camera, you expect to receive an automatic speeding fine, and possibly points on your driving licence: Many tax penalties work in a similar fashion – if a taxpayer is slow in paying tax or submitting a tax form, the HMRC computer spits out an automatic penalty. In some cases one free pass is allowed, but the principle is straightforward: Act too slow and you get a penalty.

However, when the structure of HMRC powers and penalties was re-drawn in 2009, the circumstances in which tax penalties could arise were expanded considerably. Now there are potential penalty traps in all of these situations:

  • failure to notify HMRC of a chargeability to tax
  • error or mistake on a return
  • failure to keep or retain records
  • failure to submit a return online
  • wrongdoing relating to VAT or excise duties

Some of these new penalties are starting to be challenged in the tax tribunals, and the results are quite shocking.

Rebecca Cave is the author Tax Rates and Tables 2014/15 published by Bloomsbury Professional.

Threat from accountants spurs legal ‘merger mania’

From Pat Sweet in AccountancyLIVE: Law firms are set for a period of ‘merger mania’ over the next two years in the face of growing competition in the sector, with increased pressure coming from accountancy firms who have added  a legal services arm after adopting an alternative business structure (ABS).

Research conducted by legal communications specialists Byfield Consultancy and partnership law advisers Fox Williams shows 95% of managing partners at the UK’s leading law firms, some of which have merged recently and others which have not, forecast major consolidation at the top end of the sector in future.

In addition, 45% of firms which have yet to merge said they would consider doing so over the next two years. According to the survey, growth is the key driver for mergers cited by 81% of merged firms and 73% of non-merged firms, well above the need to increase financial stability.

Anthony May, partner at executive search firm Hedley May, says the stampede to merge is caused in part by the need for law firms to face ‘the elephant in the room in the legal market’, which is the advent of alternative business structures. PwC, EY and KPMG all set up legal practices last year.

Small companies’ threshold set at £10.2m for new EU accounting rules

Posted by Sara White and Diane Tan in AccountancyLIVE: Small companies will be able to report under the new EU Accounting Directive from 1 January 2016 with companies up to a turnover threshold of £10.2m able to use the new accounting regime. The directive is set to come into force in the Companies, Partnership and Groups (Accounts and Reports) Regulations 2015 which will be passed on 6 April 2015 according to the parliament.co.uk site.

As the rules are considered affirmative regulation, as they are part of an EU directive, although they are subject to parliamentary debate, this is procedural and the SI will come into force on 6 April 2015, after parliament has been dissolved prior to the election.

Meantime, the Financial Reporting Council has confirmed that it will release the response to its consultation into the new FRSSE (Financial Reporting Standard for Smaller Entities) 2015 in March. It is not clear at this stage whether the EU Accounting Directive would effectively make the FRSSE 2015 redundant. The legislation will permit companies to access the new financial reporting regime ahead of the mandatory application date. This responds to concerns from stakeholders that companies might have to report under two accounting systems in consecutive years if a company applying FRS 102 for the first time in 2015, which then qualifies as small in 2016 under the new thresholds, had to apply the small company accounting regime in their 2016 accounts.

The new accounting rules see adoption of the EU’s recommended maximum threshold of £10.2m in net turnover for small company accounts, a balance sheet of £5.1m and maximum 50 staff. This means that an additional 11,000 companies will be able to report their annual accounts under the new regime, despite overwhelming opposition to the use of abbreviated accounts, particularly as they would not show a true and fair view.

Auto Enrolment

Have you heard the word?

In the event that you have missed all reference to the ‘we’re all in’ advertising campaign from the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) then the latest advertising campaign, recently launched, by the Pensions Regulator (TPR) will be just what you need to catch up.

Alongside the DWP’s message with the friendly faces of employees and business giants, which has proved so successful for the large and medium sized business, is a very clear and stark message from the TPR for SME’s and their advisers, which is ‘ Act now, it’s the law’.

Designed for SMEs, this article focuses on how your business can ensure a smooth transition to auto enrolment by communicating effectively with your clients and adapting existing software.

Topics covered:

  • The staging date.
  • So what needs to be done now?
  • What will your payroll service look like with automatic enrolment?
  • How does your software need to adapt and how much will it cost?
  • Assessment and communications.

Accountants need to up their game: Don’t say you weren’t warned

Posted by Julia Irvine in ICAEW Economia: Accountants are likely to miss out on a “fantastic” opportunity to become preferred adviser to small businesses over the coming year if they don’t up their game on auto enrolment.

A major survey from the National Employment Savings Trust, the trust-based pension scheme set up by the government as part of the automatic enrolment reforms, shows that accountants are more popular as a choice of intermediary than payroll professionals or IFAs – 59% of employers overall and 70% of those employing one to four workers said they were likely to ask an accountant for help and guidance.

Yet accountants are the least prepared. The survey found that 90% of IFAs and 92% of payroll bureaus claimed to know a lot or a fair amount compared to 67% of accountants.

Accountants were the least aware (40%) that employers will need to complete a declaration of compliance with the appropriate government body (v 87% of IFAs). They were also the least likely to know their clients’ staging dates (23%).

It’s not as if the accountants haven’t had enough warning: the same survey last year found that, as far as building an auto enrolment proposition (a key indicator of readiness) was concerned, accountants (22%) were far behind payroll bureaus (56%) and IFAs (46%).

This year the new rules will apply to around 45,000 small and micro employers and to more than 1m in 2016 and 2017.

Martin Pollins
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