Posts

Cristiano Ronaldo and the Chancellor

It’s not often that you read about the Premier League footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the same sentence but things are a little bit different at the moment.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the current UK Chancellor, delivered a mini-budget and it’s fair to say there were a number of surprise features.

The chancellor pledged £45bn worth of tax cuts, funded by borrowing, as part of a plan to boost economic growth. The markets didn’t react favourably with sterling hitting record lows against the dollar and the Bank of England having to step in calm the market by buying £65bn of government debt at an “urgent pace” to help restore “orderly market conditions”.

So, what has all of this to do with Premier League footballers?

It’s no surprise that footballers of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo of Manchester United and Kevin de Bruyne of Manchester City are well paid.

One of the chancellor’s tax cuts was to reduce the top rate of income tax from 45% to 40%. This top rate was applicable to people with taxable earnings over £150,000 per year.

The average Premier League player makes significantly more than £150,000. In fact, according to the Times newspaper the average Premier League player earns in the region of £4 million a year which approximately works out at a tidy £75,000 a week.

This reduction in tax from 45% to 40% will result in some pretty significant figures in terms of extra income hitting the players’ bank accounts.

Kieran Maguire, the renowned football author and academic highlighted that Cristiano Ronaldo will have an extra £1.3 million of net income on his £400,000 a week (yes, that’s £400,000 per week) salary from Manchester United as a result of the tax cuts.

The Premier League already pays out the highest average salary in European football and with the tax cuts there’s a possibility that the Premier League will become an even more attractive destination for top footballers.

In terms of the other top European football destinations there are a variety of tax situations.

Tax rules in Italy allow overseas players to have the first 50 per cent of their wages tax-free for five years if they have a contract for at least two years. Italy’s maximum tax rate is 43 per cent.

In France, foreign footballers can pay as low a tax rate as 27 per cent.

Spain used to have tax exemptions for football players but this has now ended and the top rate is 47%.

Germany’s top rate is 45%.

Back to the mini -budget and the Premier League players. Not every player is as well paid as Cristiano Ronaldo but the average earnings are still pretty impressive. It’s been estimated that Premier League players will be around £240,000 better off each year on average as a result of the tax cuts.

According to tax cut theories one of the benefits of reducing the tax on higher earners is the “trickle down effect”. In simple terms this is where tax cuts result in the higher earners spending more money which will then create jobs and income for other people.

So, does this mean that the Premier League footballers will be spending their additional income in the local fish and chip shop or will it be on a new Ferrari imported from Italy or another luxury holiday in the Maldives…

[3 October 2022 UPDATE: what a difference a weekend makes. This article was written last Friday and today on Monday the Chancellor announced a U-turn on the decrease in the 45% tax rates and the top rate of income tax will not be reduced to 40%. Maybe the players need to cancel that order for the new Ferrari…]

Superman helps hackers.

It’s a sign of the times that hackers are constantly on the lookout for weaknesses in people’s computer security systems.

Individuals can go a long way to making things more difficult for the hackers by ensuring they have up to date anti-virus software in place and that their passwords are good passwords.

But what is a good password?

Before answering that, let’s look at some bad passwords.

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) released a report on some of the most hacked passwords. They analysed hacked accounts where details were being sold by hackers.

In one year alone an astonishing 23 million people around the world with the password “123456” were hacked.

You should really hang your head in shame if your password is 123456 as it’s very easy to hack into.

OK, what about the name of your favourite football team as your password. Would that provide you with more protection?

Alas not as football team names are very common passwords.

Roughly 280,000 accounts were breached in a year with the password “Liverpool”. 

“Chelsea” and “Man-Utd” passwords were breached 216,000 and 59,000 times respectively.

Using the names of your favourite music artist also isn’t a good idea.

The most popular passwords using the names of music artists are “blink182” and “50cent” (these are probably popular as they satisfy the need to have letters and numbers in a password).

If you’re a fan of superheroes then avoid Superman, which was the most common superhero inspired password.

So, onto good passwords.

According to Ian Levy, the Technical Director of NCSC, “Using hard to guess passwords is a strong first step and we recommend combining three random but memorable words. Be creative and use words memorable to you, so people can’t guess your password.”

There you go.

As easy as 123 or should that be, as easy as “123456”…

Exams for sale….

One of the five fundamental ethical principles is Integrity.

Being straightforward and honest is a vital characteristic of being a professional accountant.

Most people who are studying for their professional exams have one thing on their mind. Namely, to pass their exams but four students who were studying for their ACCA exams had other things on their minds and at the same time, were not the brightest individuals out there.

What they planned to do was to register for some Computer Based Exams (CBEs) and then whilst sitting the exams they would use their mobile phones to take photos of the computer screen showing the questions. They would then sell these photos with the questions on them via the internet.

The four individuals involved, Chen Yiyun, Hiujiao Ru, Zehui Gong and Ziying Wang decided to sell the questions on Taobao Marketplace, a Chinese shopping website.

They no doubt thought that this was an extremely clever way of making some money. What could possibly go wrong by taking photos of the questions and then selling them online?

One of the other fundamental ethical principles is that of Professional Competence.

Now, if these individuals had even a minuscule amount of Professional Competence, they would have reviewed the photos before selling them.

Alas for them they didn’t review them.

If they had reviewed them, they would have seen at the top of the computer screen in the photos their ACCA student registration number and the exam centre.

ACCA were made aware of the questions being for sale and made a test purchase on the Taobao Marketplace. Given the student registration numbers were on the screen, they didn’t need a team of top detectives to identify the individuals involved.

Unsurprisingly, the four individuals are now ex-students of ACCA having been found guilty of misconduct and they were ordered to pay costs ranging from £3,500 to £7,000.

Remind me – what was I going to buy?

Do you wish you had a better memory? Perhaps you do but you can’t remember whether or not you do.

If this is the case then help may be at hand.

University researchers have suggested a simple technique which could improve your memory.

Dr Mark Moss from Northumbria University led a research study which found that students studying in a room with the smell of the herb rosemary (in the form of essential oils) achieved 5% to 7% better memory results than students undertaking similar studying in a room without the smell of rosemary.

Dr Moss reported that the sense of smell in humans is highly sensitive and sends messages to the brain which can set off reactions and responses.

In the case of rosemary, the smell could well result in a better memory.

This view isn’t new though as ancient Greek students used to wear garlands of rosemary in their exams and Ophelia, the young noblewoman in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet said “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance.”

So, in conclusion, the next time you are studying hard for an exam it may be an idea to buy some rosemary essential oils to help your memory.

That is of course, if you can remember to buy some in the first place…

(Details of some of the work done by Northumbria University can be found here).

Pass the doughnuts…

Does your weight affect the amount of money you earn?

That’s an interesting question and researchers from the universities of Strathclyde in Glasgow and Potsdam in Germany have come up with a potential answer.

They analysed data from nearly 15,000 working men and found that men within that the recommended Body Mass Index (BMI) health range earnt more than those who were outside of the range.

Individuals who were underweight on the body mass index were found to earn 8% less than those who were in the top end of the healthy bracket. They found that the effect was more prominent in manual jobs where no doubt the extra strength of the guys in the healthy weight bracket helped increase their earnings.

What was perhaps surprising though was that there was also a difference in earnings in white-collar office jobs. They found that in the more middle-class occupations the rewards peaked at a BMI of around 21.

It wasn’t just men who were impacted though. The study also looked at the weight and earnings of 15,000 German women and found that the slimmest earnt the most and the obese the least.

Jonny Gifford, of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development was quoted in the press as saying “it is depressing that, in this day and age, looks are in any way a factor in how much people are paid”.

I have to agree with him as organisations should employ people on the basis of their abilities as opposed to how heavy they weigh.

Anyway, best dash as I’ve got a doughnut to finish…

Start walking…

Do you sit at a desk when you’re at work?

If you do, how long do you spend sat there before you get up to move around?

If you sit at your desk and work on your computer without moving around then I’ve for some unfortunate news for you because a sedentary lifestyle where you sit at your desk without moving around is bad for you.

Researchers at the University of Utah examined the health, exercise and nutrition records of over 3,000 Americans over a 3 year period and on average they spent 34 minutes sitting or lying down per hour whilst working.

Ignoring the question as to what were they doing lying down it will come as no surprise that the more time they spent on sedentary activities the more likely they were to die during the study.

Swapping sitting with standing up appeared to make no difference to the risk of death but what did make a difference was replacing 2 minutes sitting with 2 minutes of walking around

2 minutes of walking around per hour instead of sitting down reduced the risk of death by 33%.

So, the trick is to make sure you walk around for a couple of minutes an hour whilst at the office.

Of course, if those 2 minutes are spent walking to the vending machine to stock up on crisps and chocolate to eat at your desk there may not be that much of a benefit…

Does this help you concentrate?

The Journal of Consumer Research published the results of five experiments into how the level of background noise can impact on performance when someone is working on creative tasks.

The  results are interesting and in simple terms found that a moderate level of ambient noise is better for enhancing performance on creative tasks than both low levels and high levels of ambient noise.

Or put another way, people are more likely to be able to work creatively if there is a medium level of ambient noise compared to where there is silence or loud noise in the background.

So, what lessons can we learn from this if we’re studying?

Whilst the optimum situation and level of background noise is very much a personal preference the science behind it could indicate that we should head somewhere with a mid level background noise.

Now, where could we find such a place?

Well, the local pub around the corner has a great mid level background noise as far as I’m concerned but there are some liquid distractions that will harm studying.

What about a coffee shop or cafe? Again, there would be some great mid levels of background noise but you’ve got to get there and what happens if you don’t find a seat. All of this will dig into your valuable study time.

Well, up step the fantastic website coffitivity.com which enables you to play background coffeeshop noise on your computer whilst you’re studying.

You can’t order a Cafe Latte or Cappuccino but in my opinion it’s a great tool for those who like to study with a non intrusive background noise.

It’s also excellent for people who don’t have any friends to go to the coffee shop with.

Best to take it back…

Most of you have probably had an interview. In fact, some of you may have had a number of interviews but a boss of one of the top companies in Australia has recently disclosed a pretty unusual way of deciding who not to offer a job to.

Trent Innes, who heads up Xero in Australia said that he will greet the person when he or she arrives for the interview and then take them to the kitchen to offer them a drink before heading to the meeting room with the drink. Even if they aren’t tea or coffee drinkers they will generally walk away with a glass of water.

He explained in the Venture Podcast with Lambros Photios that after taking the drink back for the interview “one of the things I’m always looking for at the end of the interview is, does the person doing the interview want to take that empty cup back to the kitchen?”

He explained that what “I was trying to find was what was the lowest level task I could find that regardless of what you did inside the organisation was still super important that would actually really drive a culture of ownership.”

He went on to say, “You can develop skills, you can gain knowledge and experience but it really does come down to attitude, and the attitude that we talk a lot about is the concept of ‘wash your own coffee cup’.”

That’s quite a smart move by Mr Innes as he said that attitude was the most important trait he looked for when hiring people.

He said that “Especially in a fast growth company or a start-up environment or scale up environment – you need people with a really strong growth mindset and that comes back to their attitude.”

So, how many interviewees do you think offered to take their cups back?

Perhaps surprisingly, the number of people who offered to take their cup back to the kitchen was pretty high. According to Mr Innes only 5 to 10 per cent of the interviewees didn’t offer to return their empty coffee cup back to the kitchen.

So there you go. If you’re attending an interview and you go to the kitchen with the boss to get a drink, it’s probably a good idea to offer to take the cup back.

I’m not kicking a ball, I’m being looked at.

Professional footballers must have a great life. Playing football and earning significant amounts of money. Oh, and using some very clever tax advisers…

There are serious amounts of money being paid to some of the top footballers. Payments of in excess of £200,000 per week are fairly common (over £10 million per year).

This income doesn’t simply go into the tax return as salary. No, there are far more sneaky/clever [delete as you feel appropriate] ways of minimising the tax liability (or should I say maximising the after-tax income).

One of the methods used to minimise the tax is to make two types of payments to the player.

One would be for playing football whilst the other would be for “image rights”.

“What are image rights?” I hear you say.

Well, the basic idea is that the player would agree to let the football club use his image in any sponsorship or TV deals that the club has.

Without going into too much technical detail, the key difference from a tax point of view is that the payments made to the player for playing football would be classified as employment income and would be taxed at 45%.

Payments for image rights on the other hand would in effect be rental payments for an intangible asset. Players would assign their image rights to a company (where they could be the 100% shareholder) and the company would only pay corporation tax of 19% on the income.

With the globalisation of the Premier League, there are now numerous players who are not tax domiciled in the UK and if their image rights were channelled through a non-UK company they could potentially escape tax altogether.

Given the size of the payments involved there’s a lot of tax at stake and no doubt the tax authorities will be looking closely at these schemes.

In the meantime, most of the readers of this blog are not professional footballers but instead undertake far more interesting finance and accounting activities in an office. Why not suggest to your boss at your next pay review that you’d like image rights instead of a pay rise so that you can receive more tax advantageous rental income from an intangible asset via your personal company…

Should you employ good looking people?

Should you employ good-looking people or not so good-looking people?

Whilst the obvious answer would appear to be that it doesn’t matter what a person looks like as long as they can do their job properly, researchers in Japan have found out that the attractiveness of an employee can have an impact on the sales of a business.

Interestingly though, it’s probably not the correlation most people would think applies.

Researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong studied retail sales in shops and found that the more attractive the shop assistants of the opposite sex were, the lower the sales were. The researchers found that male shoppers were less likely to go into the shop if the more attractive woman in the research study was serving.

Even if they entered the shop with the attractive shop assistant in it, only 40% of them bought something. This compared to 56% who purchased something when a less attractive assistant was serving.

Lisa Wan of the University said “attractive service providers can lead consumers to become self-conscious or embarrassed. This is especially true when the provider is of the opposite sex. Even when the attractive salesperson is the same sex, consumers may feel a sense of inadequacy through self-comparison.

In either case, the shopper may avoid interacting with physically attractive providers, rendering the salespeople ineffective”.

It’s worth mentioning though that the scientists undertaking the research were monitoring a shop selling figures from Japanese comics and the male shoppers were obsessed with computers.

“Male shoppers obsessed with computers” – surely they would only notice the female shop assistant if she was holding a computer?

You’re fired…

How many CEOs of top global companies were replaced last year?

Well, the answer may surprise you and what also may surprise you is the reason they lost their job.

PwC have been keeping track of the movements of the CEOs of the largest 2,500 global publicly listed companies since 2000 and the most recent data for 2018 has been released and it shows some interesting things.

In 2018 the number of departures of CEOs reached a record level with nearly 18% being replaced (up from 12% in 2010).

It was the reason for their departure though which raised some eyebrows.

CEOs can leave their jobs for a variety of reason and PwC categorised the reasons as planned (e.g. they were due to retire), forced (e.g. they did something a bit “naughty”) or M&A (e.g. they were no longer needed due to a merger or acquisition).

The latest split showed the 18% of departures as:

Planned – 12.0%

Forced – 3.6%

M&A – 2.0%

Digging a bit deeper though into the forced departures shows some worrying reasons.

Historically the main reason CEOs were forced out was due to poor results but for the first time the largest group of CEOs forced out was due to integrity reasons.

In 2018, 39% of those forced out were due to integrity reasons. Ten years ago in 2008 the corresponding figure was only 10%.

These integrity issues could include scandals such as improper conduct, fraud, bribery, insider trading, environmental disasters, misleading CVs, and sexual indiscretions, according to PwC.

So, in summary more CEOs are being fired and the main reason is integrity issues.

All in all, a pretty poor performance…

Dog seized to pay tax bill…

It’s always best to keep up to date with your tax affairs. Although most people don’t enjoy paying their taxes, it’s the law and if you don’t pay there can be serious consequences.

Over in Germany reports have emerged that make it fairly clear that you don’t mess with the German authorities when it comes to taxes.

An unnamed lady was behind in paying her taxes.

The authorities sent a debt collector around to collect whatever assets the family had to settle the tax liability.

According to the lady in question, two valuable items were identified.

One was the wheelchair of her paraplegic husband. Now, before even getting into the rights and wrongs of taking a disabled person’s wheelchair to settle debts, luckily for the family it was not an issue as it turned out that it was owned by a local association and was not the property of the family so the debt collectors couldn’t take it.

The authorities though have denied they tried to take the wheelchair and a spokesman said “Mobility aids for the disabled are absolutely exempt from being seized as collateral.”

One item though which was not exempt from being seized was the family pet.

Alas for Edda, the family dog, she was taken by the debt collector.

Edda is a pug and they are a pretty fashionable dog breed at the moment and the debt collector took the dog as settlement for the debt.

Edda was then listed on eBay and was sold to Michaela Jordan, a local police officer for €750 (approx. £650).

There’s a twist in the “tail” though in that the new owner has now sued the local authorities who sold Edda as apparently, she was advertised as being a healthy dog but has required veterinary treatment costing approximately €1,800.

We wish Edda well.

Would you send a selfie of your legs for a bonus?

I’m all for equal rights in the workplace. It doesn’t matter whether you’re male or female. It doesn’t matter what the colour of your skin is or your religious preferences. The only thing that does matter is whether or not you can do your job.

Not everyone shares the same view though and in Russia, aluminium manufacturing company Tatprof is offering a bonus to its female employees if they wear a skirt and makeup.

Oh, and to get the bonus they have to send a selfie of them showing their legs and make up to their (mostly male) bosses.

The bonus is 100 Russian Rubles (approx. £1.25) and it’s been reported that 60 people have so far sent in selfies to get the bonus.

Some may say that there are 2 sides to the argument.

The first, and probably most obvious, is that this is a step backwards in the workplace. A person should be judged by their ability to do their job rather than what their legs and make up look like. It’s 2019 for goodness sake and not the 1950s.

A counter argument though was put forward by Anasasia Kirillova, who works for the company’s department of corporate culture and internal communications who said that “Many women automatically put on trousers, so we hope that [the campaign] will increase our ladies’ awareness, allowing them to feel their femininity and charm when they make the choice of wearing a skirt or dress”.

It seems the message is coming from the top of the company.

According to Ms Kirillova, Tatprof’s male CEO Sergei Rachkov “really wants to maintain the female essence in every female employee of the company, so that young women do not have male haircuts, do not change into trousers, so that they engage themselves in handicraft, project all their warmth into raising children”.

Now, I’m personally not convinced by this counter argument but what about opening up the bonus option to everyone in the company?

What about offering the bonus to men as well as women who send a selfie of themselves wearing a skirt?

Causing a bit of a stink…

There’s no room in the modern workplace for bullying and intimidating work colleagues.

Companies should have anti bullying practices in place and in most countries around the world there are laws to protect people who are being bullied.

The Oxford dictionary defines bullying as seeking to “harm, intimidate, or coerce someone perceived as vulnerable” but in some situations it’s difficult to decide whether or not an activity is actually bullying.

Over in Australia a worker claimed that he was bullied by a colleague who repeatedly broke wind at him.

David Hingst claimed that his ex-colleague Greg Short would “lift his bum and fart” on him up to 6 times a day.

Mr Hingst didn’t take this well and sued his former employer for A$1.8m (nearly £1m).

Now, let’s pause here for a moment and hold our breath.

Bullying in the workplace is clearly wrong but claiming damages of nearly £1 million when somebody breaks wind in front of you does seem a bit steep.

Mr Hingst was adamant though and last year took his case to the Supreme Court of Victoria.

The Court found that there was no bullying.

Mr Hingst didn’t agree with the decision and appealed against it and last week the appeal was heard by the Court of Appeal.

Mr Hingst reportedly told the Australian Associated Press that “I would be sitting with my face to the wall and he would come into the room, which was small and had no windows. He would fart behind me and walk away. He would do this five or six times a day”.

Mr Short, the alleged perpetrator of this “crime” had said that he may “have done it once or twice” but denied doing it with the intention of distressing or harassing Mr Hingst.

Alas for Mr Hingst, the Court of Appeal rejected his appeal and found there was no bullying.

Mr Hingst though isn’t taking this sitting down and reportedly has said that he plans to appeal to the High Court.

Nicely said Mr Musk

We’ve all been there haven’t we? Long boring meetings that don’t seem to be going anywhere.

Maybe you’ve tried to give the impression of being interested in what was being said but in reality the meeting wasn’t relevant for you and your mind was wandering to other more interesting things.

Well, if you’re not a great lover of excessive meetings then you are not alone. In fact, you share the thoughts of an incredibly successful and admired business person. Namely, Elon Musk.

Mr Musk’s current business interests include Tesla and SpaceX.

In the past he founded x.com which later became PayPal. Paypal was subsequently bought by eBay for $1.5 billion.

He currently has a net worth in excess of $20 billion.

But what does he think about meetings?

In an email to his staff that was leaked to the electrek website there were a few productivity recommendations:

In the words of Mr Musk, these include:

– Excessive meetings are the blight of big companies and almost always get worse over time. Please get of all large meetings, unless you’re certain they are providing value to the whole audience, in which case keep them very short.

– Also get rid of frequent meetings, unless you are dealing with an extremely urgent matter. Meeting frequency should drop rapidly once the urgent matter is resolved.

– Walk out of a meeting or drop off a call as soon as it is obvious you aren’t adding value. It is not rude to leave, it is rude to make someone stay and waste their time.

– Don’t use acronyms or nonsense words for objects, software or processes at Tesla. In general, anything that requires an explanation inhibits communication. We don’t want people to have to memorize a glossary just to function at Tesla.

– Communication should travel via the shortest path necessary to get the job done, not through the “chain of command”. Any manager who attempts to enforce chain of command communication will soon find themselves working elsewhere.

– A major source of issues is poor communication between depts. The way to solve this is allow free flow of information between all levels. If, in order to get something done between depts, an individual contributor has to talk to their manager, who talks to a director, who talks to a VP, who talks to another VP, who talks to a director, who talks to a manager, who talks to someone doing the actual work, then super dumb things will happen. It must be ok for people to talk directly and just make the right thing happen.

– In general, always pick common sense as your guide. If following a “company rule” is obviously ridiculous in a particular situation, such that it would make for a great Dilbert cartoon, then the rule should change.

Nicely said Mr Musk.

She did what for a living?

Businesses can pay significant amounts of money for celebrities to endorse their products.

For example, the American singer and actress Selena Gomez is reportedly paid USD 550,000 per post that she promotes to her 133 million Instagram followers. Cristiano Ronaldo, the Portuguese footballer on the other hand “only” receives USD 400,000 per promoted post to his 120 million followers.

But not everyone is happy for famous people to be associated with a product.

Charles de Cazanove is a Champagne house that was founded by Charles de Bigault de Cazanove way back in 1811.

The Cazanove brand is now owned by the GH Martel Group and they have launched their latest Champagne vintage in a promotion with Clara Morgane. The champagne is imaginatively called “Le Champagne by Clara Morgane” and sells for €50 a bottle.

So, do you know who Clara Morgan is?

If you don’t and you’re a lady then ask your husband or boyfriend if he knows who Clara Morgan is.

If he does know who she is then there is probably another question you should ask him as Ms Morgan is famous as an adult movie actress.

Although Ms Morgan now performs with her clothes on (she’s a singer), it’s not good enough for a descendant of the founder of the Cazanove brand.

Count Loic Chiroussot de Bigault de Cazanove, who apart from needing a very long business card, isn’t happy that his family’s name is being associated with an adult movie star.

He reportedly said that “I am truly shocked. It’s simply scandalous. How could anyone associate the name of my illustrious family to that of Clara Morgane? It’s inconceivable.”

Although the family sold the brand back in 1958, the Count has been reportedly getting lawyers to try to remove his family’s name from the Clara Morgane vintage.

Either way, with all this publicity I’m sure the GH Martel Group are drinking to the success…

KPMG fires unethical partners

Picture the scene – you’re the senior auditing partner of KPMG in America with more than 30 years of experience serving some of KPMG’s most prestigious clients. There are over 9,000 KPMG people in the US who look up to you as the boss.

You receive some leaked information about which of your audits the US audit watchdog is going to examine as part of their annual inspection of how well KPMG perform audits.

Do you:

(a) Disclose this unethical breach immediately, or

(b) Try to keep things quiet and make sure that the audit files of the audits selected are perfect?

Unfortunately for Scott Marcello, the (now ex) head of KPMG’s audit practice in America, he didn’t choose option (a).

The background to the issue is that every year the US audit regulator, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB) selects a sample of audits to inspect and ensure they have been performed properly.

A former employee of the PCAOB had joined KPMG. A friend of his who was still working at the PCAOB tipped him off about which audits would be selected for inspection this year.

The confidential information was then passed up the KPMG hierarchy until it reached Mr Marcello.

We can only guess what Mr Marcello and 4 other KPMG partners were planning on doing with the leaked information but one thing was for sure and that was they didn’t disclose the leak.

Whilst the 5 partners clearly weren’t very ethical, KPMG as an organisation acted quickly once they found out about it.

The 5 partners were fired and Lynne Doughtie, the chairwoman and chief executive of KPMG was quoted as saying “KPMG has zero tolerance for such unethical behaviour. Quality and integrity are the cornerstone of all we do and that includes operating with the utmost respect and regard for the regulatory process. We are taking additional steps to ensure that such a situation should not happen again”.

The PCOAB publish the results of their inspections and the previous results of the KPMG inspections perhaps give a reason for why Mr Marcello was keen for any help, whether it was ethical or unethical.

In 2014 and 2015, KPMG had more deficiencies in their audits than any of the other Big 4 in America.

38% of their inspected audits in 2015 were found to be deficient whilst in 2014, 54% were found to be deficient.

Not the brightest fraudster

There are clever frauds and there are not so clever frauds.

Both are morally wrong but this gentleman’s attempt at fraud clearly showed that he wasn’t the brightest individual. It’s also resulted in him receiving an 8 year jail sentence.

Mohammed Shareef from Harrow in the UK ran a number of ice-cream shops and thought that an easy way to fraudulently obtain money was via his VAT affairs.

If somebody is registered for VAT they have to charge VAT on their sales but they can offset any VAT on eligible expenses. If the VAT on their sales is greater than the VAT on their purchases, they pay the balance to the tax authorities. If VAT on their sales is less than the VAT on their purchases, they can reclaim the excess VAT suffered from the tax authorities.

This is where Mr Shareef’s grand plan originated.

His plan was to submit false VAT repayment claims and to do so he needed some false VAT expenses.

Mr Shareef’s plan went to his head though as instead of small amounts, he submitted false VAT repayment claims amounting to £1,669,463 over a number of years.

These claims came to the attention of the authorities and they investigated the expenses. They found that Mr Shareef clearly didn’t have the greatest criminal mind in history.

Ignoring the shops he actually owned, he instead submitted invoices for shops that didn’t even exist.

He also claimed he had no knowledge of certain documents but they were all found on his computer and investigators proved he was the author of the documents.

He also created fake bank statements but these statements were obviously fake as they had spelling errors in them. He also had fake 2012 statements where he had mistakenly put transactions in with a date of 2011.

He was found guilty of cheating the public revenue and sentenced to 8 years in jail.

Should you employ good-looking men?

That’s an interesting question and unless you’re a modelling agency then the answer for most jobs should be that looks aren’t important and it’s the ability to do the job that counts.

Research from Aarhus University in Denmark though has raised some interesting observations which could have an impact on fast food restaurants.

The study found that women were more likely to order healthy options such as salad instead of unhealthy options such as chips when they were in the company of a good-looking man. The research found that a woman was more likely to go for low calorie items when they were with a handsome man.

This healthy eating wasn’t present though when a women was eating with a good-looking woman.

Men on the other hand, tended to spend more on expensive food and drink when they were with an attractive woman.

Whilst we can probably guess that a woman doesn’t want to be seen as somebody who could eat a whole restaurant on a date and a man wants to be seen as wealthy and able to afford expensive food, Tobias Otterbring, the author of the study puts it nicely when he says “this research reveals how, why, and when appearance induced mate attraction leads to sex-specific consumption preferences for various food and beverages.”

He went on to say that “the most valued characteristics men seek in a female mate are beauty and health, whereas status and wealth are the top priorities for women.”

He also said that the study findings suggested that fast food chains should consider whether to employ good-looking men in case it encouraged women to look elsewhere for healthy options.

Somehow though, I can’t see many fast food restaurants saying that “good-looking men should not apply” in their job adverts.

How do you feel?

It’s an unfortunate fact of life that people get sick. In the winter months especially, there can be a lot of cold and flu bugs going around.

But what percentage of working hours do you think are lost to sickness?

The ONS (Office of National statistics) in the UK has just released details of the number of sick days in 2016. The number of hours lost to sickness as a percentage of working hours was 1.9% or to put it another way, about 137 million working days were lost due to illness in the UK last year.

This may sound a lot but of the number of sick days taken has fallen over the last few years. Last year the average number of sick days per worker was 4.3 whereas when records began in 1993 it was 7.2 days per worker.

It looks like the fall in sick days could be down to a number of factors.

The economic downturn in the late 2000’s arguably caused people to “struggle on” through an illness rather than risk losing their job. Companies are also more flexible nowadays when it comes to letting people work from home. If someone isn’t feeling 100%, a lot of employers will let them work from home and even if they are not up to full speed at least they will be doing some work.

The details also show that there’s a difference between the public sector and the private sector. The percentage absenteeism in the public sector is 2.9% compared to 1.7% in the private sector.

The most common reasons for missing work last year included minor illnesses such as colds (25%), musculoskeletal problems such as back ache (22%), mental health problems including stress and depression (11.5%), stomach upsets (6.6%) and headaches and migraines (3.4%).

Your new (waggy tailed) baby

It’s a busy time for new parents when a baby comes along. Lots of employers give maternity and paternity leave for the new mums and dads but what about when your “baby” has 4 legs and a waggy tail?

Artisan Brewers BrewDog are a Scottish beer company who are very successful and sell their craft beers around the world.

They are also pretty unusual. They have grown from having two staff and two investors in 2007 to a current global team of in excess of 500. It has broken crowdfunding records with more than 32,000 shareholders.

More recently though, they became the first major company to offer their employees a week off if they get a new puppy. This will enable the humans to bond with their new pets without worrying that their work will suffer.

Founders James Watt and Martin Dickie, who themselves founded the company with their dog Bracken, said in a company statement that ‘Yes, having dogs in our offices makes everyone else more chilled and relaxed – but we know only too well that having a new arrival – whether a mewling pup or unsettled rescue dog – can be stressful for human and hound both.

‘So we are becoming the first in our industry to give our staff help to settle a new furry family member into their home,’

If any employees are thinking of getting a new puppy, then they won’t be the first in the company with a dog.

As well as providing time off for new dog owners, BrewDog also allow their employees to take their pet dogs into the office and there are currently over 50 employees at their head office alone who take their dogs to the office every day.

Goodbye tax advisors?

Do you know anyone who works in tax?

If by any chance you are in Australia then if I ask you this question in 5 years’ time, as a result of Ailira the answer may well be “no, as no-one works in tax”.

“Who is Ailira?” I hear you say.

Ailira is the brainchild of Adelaide based tax lawyer Adrian Cartland and stands for “Artificially Intelligent Legal Information Resource Assistant”.

Mr Cartland created Ailira to help people with their tax affairs and believes that she could eventually replace human tax agents.

He told the Australian Business Review that “Your tax agents will probably be gone within five years”.

What was interesting was that although to a certain extent Ailira functions like a search engine, you can ask it tax questions in the same way that you would ask a person who works in tax.

Mr Cartland said that “The one thing we had difficulty with is that people are so used to doing keyword searches that they struggle to ask a question as you would to another human.

“So we did some upgrades of Ailira’s interface to encourage people to treat Ailira like a human, more in plain English.”

That’s an interesting phase “plain English” as anyone who has worked in tax or studied tax will appreciate that it’s not always possible to explain tax in plain English as the tax laws can be pretty complex.

Still, good luck to Mr Cartland and importantly, good luck to Ailira who by the sound of things may well be doing a lot of work in the future.

A football star who can’t kick…

When you were young did you dream of being an accountant when you grew up? My guess is that most of you probably didn’t fall asleep at night dreaming of spreadsheets and calculators. Perhaps a more common childhood dream was playing for your favourite football team or being a famous actor or actress.

There have been some interesting developments recently though when it comes to playing for your favourite football team and some of the top teams are now signing players who will never be kicking a ball for their team. Instead, they will be representing their teams in the world of gaming, or to be more specific, football gaming such as EA Sports Fifa

Manchester City have recently signed Keiran Brown, an 18 year old gamer who has more than 12,000 followers on his YouTube channel.

Keiran will represent Machester City at Fifa esports tournaments where gamers sit in front of computers representing their team and watched by crowds of thousands of spectators.

Manchester City didn’t disclose how much Keiran will be paid but other professional gamers are reported to be paid in the region of £3,000 per month and can also win prize money at tournaments which can run into the thousands of pounds.

It’s quite a smart move for the club though as football games on consoles such as Xbox and PlayStation are extremely popular with supporters of the actual game.

Diegao Gigliani, vice-president of media and innovation at Manchester City was quoted as saying “As esport continues to gain momentum, it makes sense for our clubs to be part of the action and get closer to our fans, who love playing EA Sports Fifa as Manchester City. We will be a bigger presence at gaming tournaments, we will have more content through our digital channels and we will activate even more with our fans at matches and club events.”

So, in summary, if you want to play for your favourite football team but can’t kick a ball then maybe get out your Xbox and start practicing…

Is this the best time to leave the office?

When do you think it is a good time to leave the office on a Friday night? After all, if the sun is shining and you’ve got a nice weekend planned it would be good to be able to finish at a reasonable time.

In some jobs though there can be pressure to finish projects which legitimately means that you’ll have to stay late to meet the deadline.

In other companies though there can be a culture of staying late as there’s “always something to do” and never enough time to do it all or there can be pressure to stay late to “prove” that you are busy and working hard.

As an aside, when I was younger I used to work with a colleague who would bring in a spare jacket to leave on the back of his chair when he left the office at the end of the day – his boss would see the jacket on the chair together with an open file on the desk and the screensaver active on his computer and think he was still working hard and in a meeting somewhere else in the office.

Back to 2016 though and Credit Suisse, the leading investment bank, has introduced a new policy called “protecting Friday nights”.

In an email leaked to Reuters, Credit Suisse said it would be ordering all employees to stop working at 7pm on Fridays.

Marisa Drew, co-head of banking and capital markets in London reportedly told workers that she “had given a great deal of thought into how we can provide some time off for our bankers”. Ms Drew went on to say that this would allow “employees to make firm plans with family and friends and ensure that this time will be respected”.

So, good news for Credit Suisse employees as (unless they are working on a deal) they have to leave the office by 7pm on Friday.

When do they have to be back in the office though? Well, they have been told that they cannot go back to the office until midday on Saturday.

Yes, a whole 17 hours to relax, see the family and get some sleep…

You can’t read this book…

Everyone seems to be on their smartphone or tablet at the moment. After all, when was the last time you read a book? Or let me ask you a slightly different question, when was the last time you coloured in a colouring book?

“Coloured in a colouring book!? I’m not a child”, I hear you say but whilst most people will come to the conclusion that the last time they coloured in a colouring book was when they were a young child, things may be changing.

One of the latest crazes doing the rounds in the UK at the moment is adult colouring books where grown men and women are buying adult colouring books to colour in. A quick Google search of “adult colouring books” will reveal the vast variety of such type of books (as an aside make sure you include the word “colouring” when searching for adult colouring books otherwise you may get an unexpected search result).

It’s been reported that more than 3 million adult colouring books were sold in the UK last year which represented over £20 million worth of revenue for the publishing industry.

Now, whilst certain trendy people may well be rushing to buy colouring books, the tax authorities in the UK are also getting interested in the trend.

The reason behind the tax authorities interest is that colouring books are currently treated as children’s books and as such are zero rated for VAT purposes (in other words VAT is not charged on the books).

The tax authorities are currently in talks with publishers about plans to classify adult colouring books as uncompleted books which would then make them liable to VAT at 20% in the same way that diaries and notepads are.

The net result is that if the tax authorities do reclassify the adult colouring books then either the books will become 20% more expensive for the individual purchasers or if they remain at the same published price, the publishers will have to take the hit.

More expensive adult colouring books? It’s enough to make you throw your toys out of the cot.

Thank you 200,000 times from ExP…

WOW – thank you so much. We’re celebrating 200,000 fans on Facebook so a big, big, big thank you to all of you that follow us on Facebook – it’s much appreciated!

Whether you attend one of our classroom courses, our online courses or access our free courses on our website thank you so much for your trust in us and we hope we’ve helped you in your professional development.

Thanks again from all of us here at The ExP Group.

Maintaining eye contact…

It’s always nice to grab a social bite to eat with colleagues or clients but if I’m honest, I’m not sure I’d recommend the Bunyadi restaurant for such events.

The reason I wouldn’t recommend the restaurant for such events is not because of the food, location or service (which I’m sure are all very good).

No, the reason I think it would be an awkward location for colleague or client dinners is due to the fact that, how can I put it but using business terminology, they have taken an extremely differentiated approach to competing.

The Bunyadi restaurant has announced that it is opening in central London in June and the different thing about it is that it will be a naked restaurant.

Whilst an increasing number of people are choosing to eat their food in a more “natural” state without additives or preservatives, the company behind Bunyadi are taking things a step further by having a naked section in the restaurant.

Seb Lyall, the founder of the company behind the restaurant said “we believe people should get the chance to enjoy and experience a night out without any impurities: no chemicals, no artificial colours, no electricity, no gas, no phone and even no clothes if they wish to. The idea is to experience true liberation.”

When you arrive at the restaurant, you’ll enter the bar area (where everyone is fully clothed) and then head to the changing rooms where you will be given a gown. You then go to the naked area, take off your gown, fold it and put it on your seat and then sit down to enjoy your meal (and no doubt concentrate very carefully when eating your hot soup so that you avoid spilling any of it in your lap).

If you are interested in going to the restaurant you can sign up on their website but you’d better hurry. At the time of writing, there were over 15,000 people on the waiting list.

Is it a load of bear or a load of bull?

The major stock markets around the world have had a rough ride this last week. The drop in share prices has been driven by the heavy falls on the Chinese stock market. At the time of writing the Shanghai Composite index (a stock market index of all stocks that are traded at the Shanghai Stock Exchange) has fallen by nearly 16% over the last week.

If you read the financial press words such as “bear market”, “bull market” and “correction” are being used a lot.

What do these phrases mean and where do they come from?

A bear market is where share prices are falling and is commonly regarded as coming into existence when share indexes have fallen by 20% or more. A market correction is similar to a bear market but not as bad (a market correction is where there is a fall of 10% from a market’s peak).

A bull market on the other hand is where share prices are increasing.

So, where do the phrases bear market and bull market come from?

There are two main views on the origin of these terms.

The first view is based on the methods with which the two animals attack. A bear for example will swipe downwards on its target whilst a bull will thrust upwards with its horns. A bear market therefore is a downwards market with declining prices whilst a bull market is the opposite with rising prices.

The second view on the origin is based around the “short selling” of bearskins several hundred years ago by traders. Traders would sell bearskins before they actually owned them in the hope that the prices would fall by the time they bought them from the hunters and then transferred them to their customers. These traders became known as bears and the term stuck for a downwards market. Due to the once-popular blood sport of bull and bear fights, a bull was considered to be the opposite of a bear so the term bull market was born.

Whatever the actual origin of the terms though I’m sure most people will be hoping for a bull market rather than a bear market.

Is Toby the Gorilla more talented than you?

Gorillas are the largest member of the primate family and 98% of their DNA is the same as humans. They are amazing animals but unfortunately they live in areas of the world that have suffered from genocide, war and natural disasters. They are on the verge of extinction and have been classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

There are less than 900 mountain gorillas left in the world today.

This really is a shocking statistic but luckily there is hope out there.

The not for profit (charity) industry is a significant sized industry. The latest reported figures for the UK alone show that there are over 164,000 registered charities with a combined annual income of £64 billion.

Although these organisations are not for profit organisations they share a lot of business characteristics with commercial organisations but there is one key difference.

Commercial (for profit) organisations generate revenues and incur expenses. The expectation is that the income they generate will exceed the expenses incurred and as a result there will be a profit for the shareholders.

Not for profit organisations also generate revenues and incur expenses. The key difference though is that the focus isn’t on making a profit. Instead, they aim to have as high a surplus as possible between their revenue and their expenses so that this surplus can be spent on supporting the causes they want to support.

The revenue for a not for profit organisation includes for example donations from the public whilst the expenses would include the costs of running the charity such as staff salaries and office rental expenses.

In simple terms therefore, the more a charity can increase its income whilst keeping their expenses as low as possible means that they will have more to spend on the causes they are supporting.

One of the challenges facing charities in today’s environment is getting awareness of the work they do to the public in the hope that the public will help with donations. Awareness and PR campaigns can be very expensive and are out of the reach of most charities.

The Gorilla Organisation is an excellent charity. They have a team of hard working inspirational people who are doing as much as they can to help the critically endangered species. The brains behind the Gorilla Organisation have recently pulled together some fantastic volunteers who also just happen to have some amazing talent.

Some famous actors, producers, directors, editors and creatives have all got together to produce a series of short films.

If you go to mygorilla.org you can see some marvellous short videos featuring an extremely talented Gorilla called Toby.

As well as being the creators of what is in my opinion without a doubt the best series of short gorilla films, the Gorilla Organisation also hosts the iconic Great Gorilla Run where thousands of people dress up as Gorillas and run around the City of London.

In the film below, Toby the Gorilla is promoting the Great Gorilla Run as well as showing off his skills on the piano.

For details on the fantastic work the Gorilla Organisation does visit gorillas.org.

For details of the Great Gorilla Run visit greatgorillarun.org.

The image at the top of this post is courtesy of the Gorilla Organisation.

An impressive lady but competition is coming.

She’s an interesting lady.

Her full name is Barbara Millicent Roberts. She’s 56 years old and has had over 150 different careers including being a lifeguard, a doctor and a Spanish language teacher. Perhaps most impressively of all she travelled into space in 1965, four years before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.

She’s managed to do all of this despite being only 29 cm tall.

The Barbie doll is the centrepiece of many a child’s toy cupboard and it’s been estimated that over a billion of them have been sold in more than 150 countries since they were first introduced in 1959.

There have been a number of business issues faced by Barbie recently. Even though there’s an Accountant Barbie, I should in fact clarify that and say that there have been a number of business issues faced by Mattel, the owner of the Barbie brand.

Some of you may have heard of Bratz dolls.

Bratz dolls were a competitor to Barbie dolls back in the early 2000s and they were pretty successful. They were so successful that by 2004 they had taken more than 40% of the UK toy doll market and had in fact also taken the top spot for sales of dolls which had been held by Barbie since records began 10 years earlier.

In 2006 Mattel sued MGA Entertainment, the owners of the Bratz brand as they claimed that the Bratz doll creator Carter Bryant was working for Mattel when he developed the idea behind Bratz.

In essence Mattel argued that as they were paying Mr Bryant to work on Mattel matters and not those of another venture the Bratz doll idea was Mattel’s and not MGAs.

Back in 2008 a Californian judge agreed with Mattel’s claim and told MGA to stop making and selling Bratz dolls and also ordered MGA Entertainment to pay Mattel $100 million in damages.

However, MGA weren’t happy with this decision and the case went back to court in 2011 where a federal jury delivered a verdict supporting MGA.

Now whilst the court cases between Mattel and MGA are all very interesting, if you’re a parent of a young daughter what is probably of more relevance is that the Bratz dolls are being relaunched onto the market this coming weekend.

So, if you’re queuing up with your daughter to buy a Bratz doll this weekend you can impress her with your background knowledge of who owns the brand as well as let her know that the UK doll market is the second largest and second fastest growing segment of the UK toy market and has grown 11% over the last year to reach £288m.

I’m sure she’ll be very impressed with your discussion and won’t at all be interested in the doll she’s about to get….

Is it clothing or a blanket?

If you’ve just had a baby the concept of taxation is probably one of the last things on your mind but for anyone who has purchased a SnuggleBundl for their baby there is an interesting link to taxation.

blog-Snugglebundl-268x275According to the manufacturers the SnuggleBundl is “the world’s first lifting wrap for babies. This beautiful multi-award winning hooded baby garment ties at the front and the soft, strong handles on this wearable wrap let you lift and lay your baby so gently that they’ll stay sleeping”.

It seems that they have been selling very well and there have no doubt been lots of parents, babies and possibly very small adults who are extremely pleased with the warmth and comfort of the SnuggleBundl.

The tax authorities though had different things on their minds. They were more concerned as to whether the SnuggleBundl was baby clothing or was a blanket.

And the reason the tax authorities were so concerned about the classification was because of?

Well, the reason was all down to VAT. As is the case in a number of countries, the UK tax authorities do not levy VAT on children’s clothes. They do however levy VAT at 20% on blankets.

The tax authorities claimed the product was a blanket whilst the company claimed it was clothing.

The simple difference was that if it was classified as clothing it would be sold for £34.99 whereas if it was classified as a blanket it would be sold for £41.99 (£34.99 plus 20% VAT of £7).

This difference in price would have a major impact on the number of SnuggleBundl’s sold as it’s a big difference for a parent if they have to pay £34.99 or £41.99 for the item.

Given that in both of these cases the company would end up with the same amount of money, it was obvious why the company wanted it to be classified as clothing (if the item was classified as a blanket and sold at £41.99 the £7 VAT would need to be paid over to the tax authorities by the company leaving them with £34.99).

In what no doubt caused a huge sigh of relief the company (plus a few happy gurgles by some babies) the company won the case and the courts found that the product was in fact clothing and not blankets.

The directors of the company can sleep peacefully now…

Not the brightest individual.

Be honest now – have you ever thought that it would be nice to be able to cheat in your exams and get away with it? Have you ever thought it would be great to be able to pass your exams with ease without putting in any real effort?

blog-exam-cheat-man-275x275Well, if the thought has crossed your mind you are not the only one. The girlfriend of Ayan Zhademov thought it would be a good idea to cheat in her exams and she managed to persuade 20 year old Mr Zhademov to help her cheat.

Unfortunately for the lady (but fortunately for all the hard-working honest students who were sitting the exam) the plan wasn’t the smartest and her boyfriend didn’t look much like a woman.

“Didn’t look much like a woman” – why does it matter whether or not he looked like a woman I hear you say?

Well, the plan was for Mr Zhademov to pretend that he was his girlfriend and to sit her exam for her.

When the day of the exam came around, he wore her clothes together with a wig and lots of make-up.

It was reported that despite his efforts to dress up as a woman he simply look like a man wearing a dress and make-up which had been put on badly. The exam invigilators noticed something was wrong and became even more suspicious when he spoke as he had an extremely deep manly voice.

The end result was that he was caught out, his girlfriend failed her exam and he was fined £1,400.

The morale of the story is that it doesn’t pay to cheat and no matter how tempting it may appear to be, just don’t do it. Not even if your girlfriend or boyfriend is a genius and looks exactly like you.

ACCA exam tips released. Will you have a great escape or a rubbish escape?

Those of you that are attempting the June 2015 ACCA exams will no doubt be feeling a mixture of emotions.

blog-June-2015-ACCA-exam-tipsSome of you will be fully confident of passing although probably the majority of you are only hopeful of passing at this stage and are frantically trying to cram as much knowledge into your heads as possible by undertaking some last minute revision before the exams next month.

One of my students at a recent session was unfortunately ill during the run up to the exams and wasn’t feeling at all confident entering the exam hall. Pleasingly he managed to pass his exams and when he told me he the good news he referred to it as his “great escape”.

Hopefully you’ll be successful in your exams and won’t be relying on a “great escape” when you sit your papers but we’ve now released our ACCA exam tips for the June 2015 ACCA exams and the link to them is at the bottom of this blog post.

For those of you interested in seeing an example of a “rubbish escape” as opposed to a “great escape” the video below of two prisoners trying to escape from a New Zealand court makes nice viewing.

Good luck with your final revision and here are the June 2015 ACCA exam tips (after selecting this link, click on the paper you are interested in and the exam tips are on the right of that paper’s page).

Will you do this when you are 90?

As an education technology company we’re supporters of people who are keen to learn. Priscilla Sitienei ranks high up the list of people that we admire in terms of determination to obtain new knowledge.

And what makes Priscilla so special?

old studentWell, what makes her very special is that she is 90 years old and attends primary school together with six of her great-great-grandchildren.

Priscilla lives in Kenya and is believed to be the oldest person in the world attending primary school and if I’m honest I can’t imagine many other people older than her heading off to to school every day.

She missed out on going to school when she was younger as she got married young, raised 10 children and then worked 65 years as a midwife.

Interestingly, her job as a midwife involved delivering some of her schoolmates who are now aged between 10 and 14.

She’s living proof though that you’re never too old to chase your dream and 5 years ago enrolled in the Leaders Vision Preparatory School.

She recently told the BBC:

“I also want to inspire children to get an education… Too many older children are not in school. They even have children themselves…. I see children who are lost, children who are without fathers, just going round and round, hopeless. I want to inspire them to go to school.”

You certainly are an inspiration Priscilla.

[Image of Priscilla via BBC]

Probably not a good idea to do this before an interview.

Interviews can be stressful occasions. The best you can do though is to be as prepared as possible, be confident and answer questions as well as you can.

Unfortunately for this particular individual though, no matter how well he performed in the interview he was never going to get the job.

tube stationMatt Buckland was on the tube in London heading to the office. Anyone that has been on the tube in rush hour will know that it gets very crowded but generally people can get in and out of the train without too much drama.

Matt got to his station and was waiting for the doors to open to get off the train when a gentleman behind him started pushing and trying to get past him.

Matt politely told the other individual that he was getting off at that station but the other guy just ignored him, pushed him out of the way and then turned to him and rather aggressively told him to, how can I say it, but perform an act on himself which as far as my understanding of biology goes would be physically impossible.

Anyway, the grumpy individual carried on his way and Matt headed into the office where he was due to interview some people for a job.

In a fantastic coincidence, one of the people that Matt was interviewing that day was the grumpy guy who had told him to “go forth and multiply with himself” on the tube.

Brilliant! A rude person pushes past you and swears at you but you then meet them again a short while later to decide whether or not they should be offered a job at the company you work for.

Needless to say the individual didn’t get the job and as a learning point from this it’s best not to be rude to too many people on the way to an interview.

A pretty unusual team meeting for all to see.

Professionalism and confidentiality are two important features which should be present in today’s business environment.

Unfortunately for two individuals working at Marsh Insurance in New Zealand they undertook some activity in the office which was neither professional nor confidential.

cheeringA married manager in his 40s was working late with a junior colleague in her 20s when one thing led to another and before you could say “how do we record this on the timesheets” they were getting down to let’s just say some “activities which would be difficult to record on a timesheet”.

Whilst people having relationships with colleagues in the office maybe isn’t that unusual, what was unusual about this situation was what they got up to and also that they left the lights on and the blinds in the office were open.

This, together with the fact that the Marsh offices were directly opposite the Carlton Bar and Eatery which at the time of the “short term intimate team building exercise” was hosting a live band playing a concert with over 50 people in attendance.

This meant that the “teambuilding exercise” was viewed by all of the people in the pub with a number of them filming the action and subsequently posting it on facebook and YouTube.

Despite the cheers and encouragement from the pub the two office workers didn’t notice that their indiscretions were on view for all to see. When they finished the “teambuilding” the band in the pub across the road even struck up a rendition of King’s of Leon hit “Sex on Fire” but the couple were still unaware that their indiscretions had been recorded and proceeded to get dressed and head out of the office back home to their respective partners / homes.

With the viral power of the internet, word soon got around and my guess is that there was a fair amount of explaining needed both at home and in the office regarding their professionalism at the office.

It’s not been reported what the colleague whose desk was used for the “teambuilding” thought of the matter.

Your phone – a communication or translation device?

English is often considered to be the international language of business.

Whilst you’re (or is that your?) not expected to speak 100% perfect English to pass your professional exams you are however expected to be able to understand English to such a level that you can effectively communicate business concepts to other business professionals around the world.

professional examsThe global professional bodies such as ACCA and CIMA are certainly international. ACCA for example has over 162,000 members and 428,000 students in 173 countries and it’s a fair guess that the majority of ACCA students and members speak another language other than English as their first language.

Whilst the number of English speakers in the world has been steadily increasing there is an interesting debate as to whether technology will result in fewer people speaking English and instead other languages taking off.

Most of us have heard of or used Google translate which translates written text from one language to another on the internet but Skype has recently announced a novel approach to translation.

Skype offers VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) calls and enables people to speak to each other free of charge over the internet.

They have just announced a beta version (a test version) of Skype which will provide near instantaneous VOICE translation between Spanish and English.

In other words, I can call a Spanish friend who doesn’t speak English, I speak in English on Skype and my Spanish friend will hear the words in Spanish rather than English.

Ignoring the question of how we became friends if neither of us speaks the other person’s language, this is a pretty impressive bit of technology.

Whilst it is still very much a test version and a lot of the initial calls may well be translating English and Spanish swear words, there are some interesting potential uses in the not too distant future.

Will we for example all have our own mini voice translation device with us in 10 years which will enable us to understand 50 different languages (or swear in 50 different languages)?

Will some lesser spoken languages become more popular than they are now?

Only time will tell or should that be only technology will tell?

Financial Trader to Football Manager.

It’s nearly the end of January and the New Year celebrations feel as though they were a long time ago.

In a lot of countries it’s traditional to make New Year’s Resolutions to change a certain area of your life.

The vast majority of resolutions though get broken by the end of January (anyone that goes to a gym will know that it is generally a lot busier in January than it is in July!).

financial coachingAs well as getting fit, other popular resolutions are to lose weight and (occasionally) to study harder towards the professional exams.

Some people have getting a new job as a New Year Resolution and one person who has made a very successful (and certainly very unusual) career change is Mark Warburton.

Mark has a financial background and worked as a financial trader in the City of London. As well as being good with figures he also had a love of football. This love of football resulted in him deciding to leave his well paid job in the City back in the early 2000s and to obtain his football coaching qualifications.

He took a 90% pay cut (yes, 90%!) but it’s paid off in the long terms as he has worked his way up the football career path and is now manager of Brentford who are currently in the playoff position in the Championship hoping for promotion to the Premier League.

If Brentford are successful in getting promotion to the Premier League then Mr Warburton would have successfully made the transition from analysing financial spreadsheets to analysing the tactics of his competing Premier League managers such as Jose Mourinho and Manuel Pellegrini.

Of course, anyone who follows football will know that football management is a tough job and the long term career prospects aren’t always that good. At the moment though things are going well for Mr Warburton and we wish him all the best.

How much does a Big 4 partner earn?

Different types of organisations have different rules regarding the disclosure of pay details of senior executives.

If you are a director of a quoted company in the UK, details of your remuneration package must be shown in the published annual report.

big 4 salaryIf you’re a partner in a professional services firm on the other hand then there isn’t such a disclosure requirement.

A recent report called Cheques and the City (a great play on names and would sound familiar to those of you who are fans of the American television sitcom starring Sarah Jessica Parker) by the High Pay Centre has provided more information about the leading Accounting and Law firms in the UK.

The report is an interesting read and some of the points raised are:

– approximately 1,400 of the 4,500 equity partners from the Big 4 and the 5 leading law firms were paid over £1m in the UK last year (there are roughly 11,000 people in the UK with incomes of more than £1m so this means that 13% of the individuals in the UK with income greater than £1m were from the top accounting and law firms).

– The senior partners at PwC, Deloitte and KPMG were each paid £3.6m, £2.7m and £2.4m respectively last year (there was no news on how much the senior partner of EY received last year but I think it’s safe to say he should have enough money to buy a coffee on the way to the office).

– The Big 4 are responsible for auditing 99% of the FTSE 100 and 96% of the FTSE 350 (the largest 100 and 350 quoted companies in the UK).

– The type of work undertaken by each of the Big 4 was as follows (figures shown are £m):

Big 4 revenue share

 

For those of you good with figures you’ll notice from the above table that KPMG is far ahead of the others in terms of the proportion of consulting work they undertake compared to audit and tax work (more than 50% of KPMG’s revenue was from consulting compared to just over 20% at PwC).

The Cheques and the City report can be found here.

December 2014 ACCA exam tips released but don’t do this…

Professional exams are tough. It’s not easy passing them but to be honest they should be difficult as if they are too easy then everybody could become a Chartered Accountant and the value of the qualification would be downgraded.

december-2014-acca-exam-tipsThat’s easy for me to say now that I’m qualified but in the run-up to my exams I can vividly remember wishing they were a lot easier!

It’s important in the final run-up to the exam to remain focused and concentrate on practicing exam standard questions.

There’s a lot of pressure when it comes to sitting professional exams. All your hard work is compressed into a few hours where you try to prove to the markers that you know what you’re talking about.

We’ve just released our December 2014 ACCA exam tips and whilst it’s only the examiners who know what’s in the exams, our tips show areas of the syllabus that we would pay particular attention to if we were sitting the exams ourselves.

Our ACCA exam tips are below but one thing you should definitely do during the exam is to remain calm. Whilst some of the topics in a number of the exams can be relatively predictable, there will always be surprises that can crop up.

The gentleman in the video below showed a remarkable level of calmness even though there were early signs that things were starting to go wrong. Let’s just hope that nothing like this happens to you in your exams and that you can remain as composed as the interviewer.

If you’re after any last-minute exam tips for the ACCA exams then here are our December 2014 ACCA exam tips (follow the link, choose the paper you are interested in and the exam tips can be downloaded on the right hand side of the page).

This is how not to cheat in the exams…

Passing professional exams is a tough exercise. You’ll only pass them if you work hard and put in the hours of studying that are required.

Occasionally people will no doubt try to cheat and maybe try to grab a quick glance over at the person next to them to see what they are writing. The advice is simple. Don’t do it and instead focus on preparing properly in the first place.

Ok, speech over with and now let’s look at the husband of Finland’s president who if I’m honest would be rubbish at trying to sneak a look at the answers of the person next to him.

Mr Arajarv is married to the President of Finland and together with his wife was recently attending an official function where he was sat next to Princess Mary of Denmark.

Now frisky Mr Arajarv didn’t try to have a sneaky look at Princess Mary’s exam paper. No, he tried to look at something more… how can I say it… but more personal.

Alas for Mr Arajarv his attempts to grab a quick look at Princess Mary’s “exam scripts” were spotted by the Princess and his attempts to look innocently at the ceiling afterwards are hilarious or pathetic depending on your point of view.

Unfortunately for Mr Arajarv (but fortunately for all of us) his performance was caught on TV and can be seen below.

This EY partner has been a bit naughty.

Well it seems like an EY partner was working late with a client and it was more than the audit files that they were reviewing.

office relationsNew York stock exchange quoted Ventas Inc has announced that it has removed EY as their auditor due to an “inappropriate personal relationship” between a (now former) EY partner and Ventas’s (now former) Chief Accounting Officer and Controller, Robert Brehl.

It looks like discussing the audit files wasn’t exciting enough for both of them and one thing led to another and before you could say “prudence concept” they were ripping each other’s clothes off having inappropriate personal relationships.

Now, as any self-respecting finance professional will know, a core characteristic of auditing should be “independence”.

[Words deleted so as not to upset people of a sensitive nature] with the Chief Accounting Officer when you’re an audit partner is clearly not a characteristic of independence.

KPMG have now replaced EY as the auditors of Ventas and my guess is that both the ex-EY partner and Mr Brehl will soon get a reminder of what independence means as if they are married their husband/wife will soon be independent of them.

And the prize goes to… the taxman.

Tax evasion is a major problem for lots of countries. The tax authorities of the Central European country Slovakia though have come up with an ingenious way to reduce tax evasion.

restaurant moneyRestaurants can be notorious for not declaring all of their sales. With lots of customers paying for their meals in cash it can be very difficult for the tax authorities to ensure that all the revenue is properly reported by restaurants.

The Slovakian tax authorities have come up with a clever way to limit the non disclosure of income by restaurants. They have launched a lottery with a monthly top prize of €10,000. The twist in this lottery though is that you don’t buy a ticket to enter. Instead, you enter the lottery by submitting your receipt from the restaurant.

Yes, your receipt acts as the ticket for the lottery. You therefore have happy members of the public who get free chances to enter a lottery to win €10,000 and a happy taxman who now has copy receipts which they can check against the tax records of the restaurant to ensure that the sales have been properly declared in the tax returns.

So far over 60 million receipts have been submitted by 450,000 people.

A very good idea.

Forget about Harry Potter. What about Alan the Accountant and his pants?

The Harry Potter books are a publishing phenomenon. Who would have thought that a story about a boy wizard would be so successful? Here we are more than 10 years after the first film in the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the movies alone have earned more than £4 billion worldwide. Add in the books, merchandise and rights and you have a hefty sum.

But will there be a challenger to the Harry Potter crown?

I’ve just come across another children’s book and forget about wizard characters such as Harry, Hermione and Ron and instead welcome in “Alan the Accountant”.

Author Jinky Fox has produced a book about the likeable accountant Alan and whilst I haven’t yet managed to find a “window of opportunity” to read the book yet it does sound an exciting read.

Publishers Flaneur said that “as a student the author Jinky Fox planned to become an accountant, but was sidetracked into fine art”.

‘The series of books planned for Alan the Accountant will help me examine the exciting world of Accountancy that I turned my back on,’ commented Jinky.

So, as an accountant myself I’m pleased to see this potential challenger to the Harry Potter crown.

As one of the publicity shots for the book shows on the left he even looks like a fashionable accountant when he’s in his trendy pants.

A colleague in our marketing department though joked that seeing as it’s a book for children starring an accountant it will no doubt help children to fall asleep at night.

Lap-dancing, land and VAT.

What’s the link between lap-dancing, land and VAT?

It’s an interesting question and one which a VAT tribunal has recently been considering.

old-ladyDancers at the Sugar & Spice club in the UK have to make payments to the club for the use of their facilities and the dancers earn their income directly from customers for dancing on the dance floor or private dancing in separate rooms.

The dancers pay the club a fee of £40 together with a commission of 25% on the fee they receive for private dances in the separate rooms.

When it came to completing their VAT return, the club argued that the fee of £40 charged to the dancers was a taxable supply (i.e. VAT would be charged) but the commission charged was for an exempt supply of land (i.e. they argued that the payment was for the provision of the room which they claimed was land and as a result VAT would not be charged).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the tax authorities argued that the commission was a taxable supply and was in respect of services provided to the dancers such as advertising, music, heating and security. They argued that this amount should be liable to VAT at the standard rate.

A decision couldn’t be reached between the Sugar & Spice club and the tax authorities so the situation went to a VAT tribunal.

The tribunal concluded that it was more than a simple provision of land (i.e. because of the provision of advertising, security, etc) and as a result VAT would be chargeable on the total amount.

So there you go. The next time you happen to be in a lap dancing club you can ask the young lady in front of you whether she knew that the room she is dancing in involves a standard rated supply rather than an exempt supply…

This poster came in handy.

Although some of the less ethical students may be tempted, it’s never a good idea to cheat in your exams.

plymouth-university2

 

The time and energy spent in trying to devise a method of cheating would be far better spent by revising the key areas in the syllabus.

Plus of course, the professional exams are very well invigilated and as a result there is a high probability that anyone who does cheat will get caught and that doesn’t bode well for a long term career in that particular area.

Plymouth University decided to emphasise to their students that cheating was not a good idea. Unfortunately, their good intentions didn’t really work out as planned.

They prepared anti-cheating posters and put these on the walls of their exam rooms.

Reddit reader hazzaap123 who was a student sitting an exam at the University took the photo above and posted on Reddit that “Just took a maths final with this on the wall of the exam room. It has formulas on that were needed in the exam. The poster got me an extra 10% on the paper”.

Yes, the anti-cheating poster prepared by the University included a picture of a hand with a formula written on it and that formula was needed in the exam that was taking place…

100,000 thanks plus your chance to win a free ACCA or CIMA course.

Wow – it only seems like yesterday that we started our blog and Facebook page and yet here we are this week celebrating 100,000 fans on Facebook so a big, big thank you to all of you that read the blog and follow us on facebook.

free-acca-cima-coursesOur blog readers really do come from all around the world. Our latest readership report showed that our blog has been read in 180 countries in the last 30 days!

So, thank you, dankie, shukran, do jeh, grazie, gracias, asante, merci (in fact sorry but we can’t do 180 languages but thank you all anyway!)

We’ve also got a little something to give back to you. We’ve got a short 2 minute survey and 5 people who complete it will be selected at random to win a free online ACCA or CIMA course.

If you’ve passed all of your exams or aren’t studying for them then don’t worry as if you are lucky enough to win the free ACCA or CIMA online course prize draw you can transfer the course to the person of your choice.

To complete the 2 minute questionnaire to stand a chance of winning a free ACCA or CIMA online course click here.

Thank you again for all the nice messages you’ve sent us over the years and here’s to the next 100,000 Facebook fans.

Good luck in the draw for a free ACCA or CIMA online course.

Do you ever feel tired at work? If so, then maybe you should…

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

…wear a tie.

Japan is famous for the long hours that some of their office workers undertake but there is now an invention that will maybe ease things a little bit for hardworking office staff.

A new tie called “Nemuri Tie” is now on sale in Japan.

Nemuri Tie means pillow tie in Japanese and if the advertising is anything to go by it will enable hard pressed office workers to grab a quick sleep at their desk.

It’s a relatively simple design in that it’s a normal looking tie but it’s got an inflatable pillow in it which can be blown up to provide a handy place to rest your head when you fancy a nap.

It can be inflated when the user is wearing it so there’s no need to keep on taking your tie off and putting it back on every time you fancy a sleep.

The Sleep Tie is currently on sale for just under £20.

It’s not clear whether the tie is stain proof for anyone that dribbles in their sleep.

No, honestly it is tax deductible as it’s purely for medical reasons…

The deadline for submitting income tax returns in the UK is in a couple of days on 31 January. According to the UK tax authorities there are still over 2 million returns that need to be submitted.

income tax deadlineThere are no doubt a lot of people hastily getting their figures together to meet the deadline.

Over in the US, one individual took a somewhat unusual approach to claiming deductions in his tax return.

Brooklyn Tax Lawyer, William G. Halby, kept records of his visits to, um how can I say this, but let’s just say certain ladies of the night that provide a certain adult service.

He subsequently claimed the expenses of these visits as tax deductible medical expenses on his tax return.

Mr Halby was quite open about claiming the expenses and as a Tax Lawyer he represented himself at the State of New York Tax Tribunal when the tax authorities argued the expenses were not tax deductible.

Now this wasn’t a small amount which he tried to put in as a tax deduction. Over a 4 year period he claimed expenses of $322,000 for what he felt were for medical purposes.

In one year alone he claimed “medical expenses” on his tax return which were itemised in detail and amounted to over $110,000.

Now this got the accountant in me thinking about these figures and after spending a brief couple of days reviewing some of the New York Agency websites where these ladies advertise their services, I’ve found that the average price for a “consultation” is in the region of $500.

This means that on average Mr Halby made 220 “medical visits” in one year alone.

Undertaking this number of visits and then claiming them on his tax return is arguably proof of both dedication to solving his medical problem as well as maintaining suitable and sufficient records for tax purposes.

All of his expenses were however rejected by the Tax Tribunal. The full text of the Tribunal’s decision can be found here.

Mr Halby is aged 78 and is currently single.

Your jewels are stolen and then this happens…

Well, that was a bit unfortunate.

First of all their jewels were stolen and then they had to pay tax on those very same jewels that they no longer had.

vat-reliefLuxury New York Jewellers Harry Winston can only be described as being pretty unlucky.

The company had taken advantage of the French Customs warehousing provisions. In simple terms, warehousing provisions enable goods that are only temporarily imported into a country before being re-exported to be held in a secure Customs warehouse without officially entering the country. The benefit of this is that it means traders who are importing goods and then re-exporting them don’t have to pay VAT or customs duty on the temporary import.

Unfortunately for Harry Winston, the jewels were stolen from the customs warehouse during an armed robbery.

Now, whilst the company was no doubt contemplating the loss of his jewels, things got worse for them as the French tax authorities claimed VAT and customs duty on the jewels. They argued that as the goods had now left the Customs warehouse and entered the country, VAT and Customs Duty was due on them as they had now been imported into the country!

Perhaps understandably Harry Winston wasn’t too happy at this. Not only were their jewels stolen but they were now being told to pay taxes on them!

They decided to take the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The ECJ made their decision though and confirmed that VAT and Customs Duty were in fact payable by the company.

The ECJ stated that it was an unlawful removal of goods from the warehouse and this gave rise to a customs debt on importation (interestingly the law didn’t care too much that the unlawful removal from the warehouse wasn’t made by the owner but instead by some thieves!!).

The unlucky jeweller could have avoided the taxes if they could have proved that the items had suffered destruction or irretrievable loss. As they had been stolen there was no evidence that the goods had suffered destruction or irretrievable loss.