I read an interesting article last week in the Telegraph.

You don’t have to know the entire works of Shakespeare or the square root of Pi to seem highly intelligent, says Rebecca Burn-Callander, Enterprise Editor of the Telegraph. There is no fast-track route to wisdom but intelligence, defined as the way that we comprehend, analyse and respond to the world, is a far more malleable concept.

Scientists once claimed that intelligence quotient (IQ) levels were hereditary. This meant that human beings had no control over their brain power; it was decided by their genes. However, recent studies have shown that IQ scores are barely linked to genes at all. They can also be extremely volatile, changing significantly – by up to 20 points – over time.

The Telegraph has scoured the writings of neuroscience experts, business leaders, technologists, and psychiatrists to find out how ordinary people can instantly boost their IQ levels by making small tweaks to the way that they comprehend the world.

The idea is to increase mental agility. The seven techniques in this article cannot make anyone appear well-read, or replace life experience. They are:

  • Distrust everything you hear
  • The modesty bias
  • Look people in the eye
  • Use your middle initial
  • Become a night owl
  • Surround yourself with smart people
  • Keep schtum

Read more on the seven techniques here

Warning to accountants and lawyers (and banks)

Watch out: Danny Alexander threat to firms that facilitate tax evasion.

In City A.M., Charlotte Henry reports that Danny Alexander has proposed a new law penalising firms who assist with tax evasion. The chief secretary to the Treasury said in an interview: “We should create a new offence of corporate failure to avoid preventing an economic crime and also that organisations who facilitate or encourage evasion should face the same penalty as the evaders themselves.”

Alexander added: “Organisations, be they accountants, banks or whatever, who help people evade tax will be liable for this new offence and crucially liable for financial penalties”.

Read more here

Round up

Here is my regular round-up of marketing and business promotion issues plus other interesting things over the past week. Each week, I include a section titled Technical Stuff – it provides a useful reminder of some of the stories that emerged in the last week that touch on technical issues. I hope that you find it useful.

Marketing and Business Promotion

Marketing ideas from Marketing Profs

More marketing ideas and tips have been published by Marketing Profs. Here they are:

Facebook launches Dynamic Product Ads for data-minder retailers

In Adweek, By Garett Sloane: Facebook is giving Target and other retailers a new way to market to its 1.4 billion users. It’s called product ads—yet another ad format that Facebook says sets it apart from rivals like Google because it can harness the social network’s popularity and behavioural and location data on consumers. It’s described as a solution designed to help businesses promote multiple products, or their entire catalogues, across all the devices their customers use: phones, tablets and desktop computers.”

Businesses will be able to upload their product catalogs and let Facebook generate ads for items while targeting them to users. These product ads could rival Google’s shopping ads, which have evidently performed well for retailers in search.

In a blog post, Facebook explained further: “Advertisers can curate ads as they see fit. For instance, they can highlight products that were viewed on their website/mobile app or showcase best-selling products.

5 Surprising Tips for Tweets That Drive Engagement

From Simply Measured: Learn how your brand performance compares: Written by Kevin Shively, In the recent Twitter benchmark report, Simply Measured analyzed over 23 million engagements (Retweets, @Replies, and favorites) from 117 million users interacting with 145,828 brand Tweets over the course of Q4 2014.

What can you learn from these users? Below are five tips based on findings from the study. Be sure to test these tips for your own company, as they’re based off findings from the largest brands in the world, and audiences will respond differently to everyone.

For more details, download the full study for free today.


KPMG’s SME foray is doomed to fail, says Accountancy Age reader poll

In Accountancy Age, Posted 17 February, by Chris Warmoll: KPMG is doomed to fail as the Big Four firm attempts to wrest business from High Street practitioners, according to Accountancy Age readers. That was the majority view when asked if the Big Four firm “can compete with the high street for business”, with 77% of the 88 readers polled, answering no. Just over a fifth (23%) felt their move into the SME sector would succeed.

Is it true or just wishful thinking?

Decide from yourself: Read more here.


Learn from the best: The 7 Habits of The World’s Richest People

From Inc.: Wealthy, successful people have specific differences in behaviour and attributes from people living in poverty. What are those characteristics that separate extreme wealth and happiness from poverty and unhappiness? Here are seven, made from five years of observations.

Are there habits wealthy people consistently practice that impact their success? Are there traits or strategies we can incorporate into our own day-to-day lives that can give us a better chance of financial success?

In his book, Rich Habits–The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals, Tom Corley details habits – which he defines as daily, unconscious practices – that seem to suggest there are. For 5 years he observed the habits of 233 rich people and 128 people living in poverty. What he found were some significant differences in the daily activities and attitudes of the two groups. Here are 7 of the habits commonly practiced by the wealthy individuals he observed:

  1. They’re persistent.
  2. They set attainable goals.
  3. They find a career mentor.
  4. They are positive.
  5. They educate themselves.
  6. They track their progress.
  7. They surround themselves with success-oriented people.
Click here for in-depth analysis of each of the 7 habits.


Instagram Social Marketing Strategy Kit

From Simply Measured: Make your brand a powerhouse on Instagram and take your strategy to the next level with this four-part kit. This collection of resources is designed to help you master the channel and develop an Instagram strategy that works for your brand.

Download the Instagram Social Marketing Strategy Kit to get:

  • The Complete Guide to Instagram Measurement (eBook)
  • The Simply Measured Q4 2014 Instagram Study
  • 10 Tips for Increasing Brand Engagement on Instagram (Guide)
  • Must-read Instagram posts from the Simply Measured blog

…and much more.

Click here to download the full strategy kit.


How to Stop Your Mac’s Mail App From Wasting Gigabytes of Space

From How to Geek: Are you using Apple’s Mail app on your Mac? Then you’re losing gigabytes of space you could be putting to better use! The mail app wants to cache every single email and attachment you’ve ever received offline.

This could take up tens of gigabytes of space if you have a lot of emails. On a Mac with a large hard drive, this isn’t a big deal. But, on a MacBook with 128 GB of solid-state drive space, this can be a significant waste of space.

Running Great Meetings: The Meeting Leader’s Kit

From TradePub.com: Don’t miss out on this new exclusive offer from TradePub.com.

Free for a Limited Time Including:
“Running a Great Meeting for Dummies”

  • How to put together a productive meeting
  • Tips on running a virtual meeting
  • Kit includes 3 bonus meeting resources

The Meeting Leader’s Kit is a must-read for any executive who needs to set up a meeting – fast!

  • Running a Great Meeting In a Day – For Dummies
  • Real-World Options for Multipoint Videoconferencing
  • Executive Guide: Harnessing the Power of Enterprise Social Collaboration
  • 45 Cool Analytics We Can Extract From Phone Calls
Read more here.

Technical Stuff:

4 Excel Tricks That Will Save Hours of Headache

From Big4Playbook: Whether you work in public practice or are an accountant at a company, Microsoft Excel is likely an essential part of the work you perform. The author of the article says: “When I worked in public accounting, I used Excel on a daily basis for numerous work assignments. Over that time, I picked up a few useful excel tricks and best practices that made my life a lot easier.”

The following is a listing of tips and tricks (read the full article for an explanation on each) that will help you as you work through your working papers and spreadsheets.

  • Absolute References
  • Copying Visible Cells Only
  • Pasting Formats – Paste Special Shortcut
  • Pivot Tables

Granny bonds – the good news and the bad news

From the ICAEW Tax Faculty Team: The Chancellor introduced the new granny bonds for those aged 65 and over in his 2014 Budget speech. They were first made available by NS&I in January 2015 [and apparently have been selling like hot cakes].

First the good news: The announcement that they will be available until May 2015 looks like good news and the 2.8% rate of interest for the one year bond and 4% for the three year bond appear quite attractive. The interest is paid net of 20% tax and for basic rate taxpayers no further action is necessary.

The bad news: For non-taxpayers the tax deducted at source will have to be reclaimed using the R40 as NS&I are not part of the R85 scheme. This is likely to affect many of the individuals applying for these bonds, particularly as the new 0% savings income band of £5,000 comes into force from 6 April 2015. With a personal allowance of £10,600 and a 0% savings income band of £5,000, pensioners with income comprising a small pension of say £10,000, with a modest amount of savings income will need to reclaim the tax deducted at source on their granny bond interest.

The official rate of interest will fall to 3% from 6 April

Also from the ICAEW Tax Faculty Team: The government has announced that the official rate of interest will be 3% from 6 April 2015. This will be a fall from the current rate of 3.25%.

The official rate of interest is used in calculating the benefit-in-kind charge on beneficial loans to employees and on living accommodation provided for an employee or director. It is also use in calculating the pre-owned asset charge on assets other than land.


Stories on Auto Enrolment

Several stories have appeared on the importance of getting up to speed on auto enrolment. Here are a few of them:

Seven auto enrolment myths dispelled: From accountingWEB:  At the end of last year more than five million people were automatically enrolled into a pension scheme as a direct result of auto enrolment.  Despite this, a wide range of myths and misconceptions still exist around the planning and implementation of auto enrolment for both businesses and advisers. Drawn from the results of Buzzacott’s recent auto enrolment research report, carried out by Meridian West, the full article sets out the seven myths about auto enrolment:

  • Myth 1: Auto enrolment is a low priority for organisations
  • Myth 2: Auto enrolment is merely a compliance exercise.
  • Myth 3: Three to six months is more than sufficient to plan and implement auto enrolment
  • Myth 4: Auto enrolment requires only minor tweaks to systems and processes
  • Myth 5: Organisations with existing pension provision will not need to make
  • Myth 6: You need to be a pension expert to implement auto enrolment
  • Myth 7: Most employees will opt out of auto enrolment

‘Sick-note’ culture to be stamped out under radical new scheme

In the Telegraph, By Camilla Turner: Anyone ill for more than four weeks will face a fit-for-work test in a radical new scheme aimed at stamping out the “sick-note culture” which costs the economy billions of pounds each year. All GPs will be expected to refer patients to a company that will assess their ability to work and draw up a plan for their return.

More than a million people take sick leave for over a month each year, costing the economy over £9 billion. The new scheme, which will cost £134 million over four years, is aimed at stopping people from languishing on benefits while off work for long-term sickness, The Times reported.


Shared Parental Leave: BIS Eligibility Calculator

From Daniel Barnett, employment law barrister: Jo Swinson, the Employment Relations Minister, has (on 18 February) issued a press release about the imminent introduction of Shared Parental Leave.

Meanwhile, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills has developed an online calculator to help prospective parents calculate their eligibility for shared parental leave and their pay entitlements.

To learn more about shared parental leave, see the Acas Good Practice Guide or the BIS Technical Guide.


Taxation: Private Residence Relief: The Trading Trap

In Tax Insider, Mark McLaughlin wrote about the capital gains tax (CGT) relief on disposal of a private residence (TCGA 1992, s 222). It’s is one of the most well-known tax reliefs available. This is no doubt due to the large number of home owners who claim the relief when moving house at various points in their lives. Some individuals move house more than others. It may be tempting to buy a run-down house cheaply, renovate it, live there for a while and sell it for a profit. This process may then be repeated for subsequent houses, with the individual seeking to claim private residence relief on each sale.

However, the question arises whether HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may seek to challenge private residence relief claims in such circumstances. For example, is the individual actually trading as a property developer? If so, private residence relief will not be available, and the profits of the trade will be liable to income tax (and normally National Insurance contributions) instead.

Mark McLaughlin warns that too many claims for capital gains tax private residence relief could attract unwelcome attention from HM Revenue and Customs, and a possible challenge on the basis of trading.

Latest Briefings from AccountancyAgeInsight

The latest Briefings from AccountancyAgeInsight have been made available in the last week and are listed here:

  • Finance transformation roles: Pathways to CFO: ACCA’s smart finance function campaign showcases the good practices, challenges and opportunities corporate finance functions face. This report asks a simple question: are finance shared service and transformation roles valuable in the career path to becoming a CFO? View summary
    Company: ACCA
  • Weekly tax update – February 16th 2015:  In this issue, Tina Riches, National Tax Partner reviews the Scottish land and building transaction tax set to come into effect on 1 April 2015, the HMRC’s February 2015 employment related securities bulletin and claims for overpaid VAT by non-profit making sports clubs. View summary
    Company: Smith and Williamson
  • The local authority insolvency jargon buster: A handy A-Z guide aimed at recovery staff to explain those confusing technical terms often used in the world of insolvency. View summary
    Company: Smith and Williamson
  • Credit Wise: 2014/15 Annual edition: In this annual edition of Credit Wise, we look back at developments in 2014 and forward to 2015. If there is a dominant theme, it is that government needs to ‘walk the walk’ not just ‘talk the talk’ when seeking to protect creditors’ interests. View summary
    Company: Moore Stephens

FRC proposals to replace FRSSE with FRS 105 are too complex

From AccountancyLIVE, written by Pat Sweet: The latest proposals from the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to amend the new UK GAAP, FRS 102, to meet the new rules set down by the EU Accounting Directive have been described as ‘revolutionary’ by Baker Tilly, which says some three million small firms will see an impact from the changes which are now subject to consultation, although some commentators have warned that the document is ‘impenetrable’ and risks creating more complexity

There are concerns that the tight timeframe to rush through the new standard to comply with the EU Accounting Directive which comes into effect later this year means that there are concerns that business will have little time to prepare for the changes.

Read more here.


EC proposes accounting rules for single EU capital market

From AccountancyLIVE: written by Pat Sweet: The European Commission has indicated potential plans for the introduction of new EU-level accounting standards, as part of its wider initiatives to create a single market for capital across the EU’s 28 member states, which it says would help unlock additional funding for Europe’s businesses with a particular focus on supporting SMEs

The EC’s Green Paper on Capital Markets Union (CMU), which is now subject to a three-month consultation, looks at a number of ways of reducing fragmentation in financial markets, diversifying financing sources, strengthening cross border capital flows and improving access to finance for businesses, particularly SMEs.

Read more here.


TAXATION: The Principal Private Residence again

From CCH Information, Contributed by Mark Cawthron: A previous feature article in CCH Tax News, ‘Second homes, holiday homes, buy-to-lets … tell us about them!’, referred to two HMRC ‘campaigns’ aimed at owners of these types of property. Much of that article was a review of some First-tier Tribunal decisions on ‘principal private residence’ (PPR) relief for capital gains tax (CGT): this seems to be an area of considerable interest to practitioners.

2013 was a big year for PPR cases before the Tribunal, and in particular for cases revolving around relatively short periods of occupation of property by the taxpayers concerned.

Tribunal cases on PPR in 2014 have, on the whole, covered different ground. Perhaps the 2013 cases, taken together, have provided sufficient ‘steer’ to taxpayers’ advisers on the one hand, and to HMRC on the other, to enable tax return enquiries in those PPR cases involving ‘short periods of occupation’, to be resolved one way or the other without recourse to the Tribunal.

This follow-up article extracts, from the earlier one, the ‘principles’ that the 2013 PPR cases had, collectively, seemed to confirm. It then runs through some of the 2014 Tribunal cases and finishes with a few ‘current points’ on PPR relief.

Read more here.

Martin Pollins
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