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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…