Published on: 12 Nov 2017
Sometimes it’s the simple scams that can cause the most damage.
We hear all the time about ignoring scam phishing emails where fraudsters are pretending to be banks to get online bank account log in details but there’s a new scam involving email which is costing some people a lot of money.
The Art Newspaper has reported that at least nine art galleries and art dealers have been caught up by the fraud. The amounts lost to the fraudsters have been significant with amounts ranging from £10,000 to £1 million.
The fraud itself is fairly simple.
The fraudsters hack into an organisation’s email system and look out for emails sending invoices to clients.
For example, if an art dealer has made a sale of a piece of art and then emails the invoice through to the customer for payment, the fraudsters send another email straight after the original email.
This second email looks like it’s come from the art dealer and includes an identical invoice with the only exception being it has a different bank account on it for payment of the invoice. Yes, you’ve guessed it but the bank details on the second invoice are not those of the art dealer but instead are details of a bank account in the name of the fraudsters.
The customer innocently pays the invoice as it looks genuine and as soon as the money is received the fraudsters withdraw the money, close the bank account and are never heard of again.
As far as the art dealer is concerned they are waiting for the payment to be made but the customer has already paid the money but to the fraudster. By the time the fraud is discovered it is too late.
There’s a fairly simple solution to this and ensuring that anti-virus programmes are up to date and email passwords are changed regularly will go a long way in preventing this sort of fraud.
Published on: 20 Aug 2017
If you’re in the office at the moment take a look at the person next to you. Would you say that he or she is a “good worker” or a “toxic neighbour”?
A recent bit of research by economists from Harvard Business School has shed some light on the type of person you should be sitting next to.
If you’re an “average worker” and you sit next to a hard working and diligent person then your performance is likely to improve.
Unfortunately though the opposite is true and if you’re an average person who sits next to somebody who isn’t very good at their job then that badly performing person could well take you down to their level.
The researchers studied data from seating plans and reports from over 2,000 employees. The performance of these employees was rated based on the time they spent to complete a task as well as quality and effectiveness. Their efficiency was based on how often they had to ask for help.
One of the interesting bits of the research was finding out whether when a person sat next to a high performing individual that person’s performance improved because they learnt from the better performing individual or they were inspired by him or her.
When the research team split these people back up again the average worker’s performance reverted back to the average level rather than stay at the high performing level. This implied that the improvement was not due to learning new skills but instead was due to being inspired by the good worker.
When it comes to sitting next to a “toxic employee” who doesn’t perform, the bad news is that the negativity rubs off on the good employee almost immediately.
So it may well be worth trying to sit next to the stars of the office rather than the toxic ones
A quick word of warning though and if the person you sit next to has recently asked their boss to move away from you asap then the chances are that you aren’t the star of the office but instead are…
Published on: 11 Apr 2017
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. The Treasury in the UK has just initiated a project on players’ image rights and government technical experts will visit all English Premier League, Championship and Scottish Premier league clubs to review matters.
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…
Published on: 06 Apr 2017
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.
Published on: 18 Mar 2017
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.
Published on: 04 Mar 2017
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%).
Published on: 21 Feb 2017
Nowadays more and more children are eating at restaurants with their parents. Whilst this can be great for the restaurateur, there can also be problems.
On the positive side, allowing children into restaurants with their parents should bring more family customers into the restaurant but on the negative side, if the children misbehave or run around causing chaos then some customers will be put off spending time in the restaurant.
If you head to a child friendly restaurant such as the fast food giant McDonalds then you would expect children to be children and to be loud, excitable and bouncing around.
But what about if you run an upmarket, select restaurant with clientele who are looking for a quiet time to relax over a good quality meal and fine wines. Boisterous children could damage the image and banning children from the restaurant would be a bit extreme.
Antonio Ferrari, the owner of an upmarket restaurant in Padua, Italy has come up with a novel approach to encouraging good behaviour amongst the junior member of families visiting for a meal.
He has introduced a “polite children discount” which offers 5% off of the bill if children are well behaved.
The Times newspaper quoted Mr Ferrari saying “We are not set up for kids – we have no crèche, the spaces are tight, bottles can be knocked over and we have a clientele that spends a bit of money to be tranquil while eating well.”
Has it been a success?
Well, one thing’s for sure and the discount hasn’t been offered that often.
In the 6 months the scheme has been active, there have only been 3 occasions the polite children discount has been offered.
Published on: 14 Feb 2017
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.
Published on: 29 Sep 2016
As England’s football manager there are certain things that you should do and certain things that you shouldn’t do.
Winning a major tournament is a thing that you should do for example whilst looking to receive large amounts of money to advise people how to get around football transfer rules is something you shouldn’t do.
Alas for Sam Allardyce he did the latter and not the former and is now no longer the England football manager.
There are plenty of ways that football managers can make money in a legitimate and ethical way and maybe Mr Allardyce should have followed the example of the current Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho.
In addition to the £12 million wages Mr Mourinho receives from Manchester United he also does pretty well from various other activities.
Hublot watches, Adidas, Jaguar, BT Sport, Lipton Tea and EA Sports all pay a significant amount of money to Mr Mourinho to endorse their products. They see him as an internationally recognised figure with global appeal.
The latest big name to sign him up is Heineken. They reportedly will pay him £4 million for a 2-year deal to be Heineken’s global football ambassador.
That’s a pretty nice sum of money to receive and it got the accountant in me thinking about the financials from Heineken’s point of view. How many additional litres of beer would Heineken need to sell to cover the cost of appointing José Mourinho?
Heineken’s latest set of published accounts show revenue of €20.5 billion with an operating profit of €3.4 billion. In 2015 they sold 18.8 billion litres of beer. Ignoring various accounting items such as contribution and fixed costs it follows that each litre of beer generates approximately €1.09 of revenue and €0.18 of operating profit.
To cover the £4 million (approximately €4.6 million) cost of José the company would need to sell an additional 26 million litres of Heineken!
This clearly shows the challenges involved when an organisation is deciding whether or not to undertake any form of sponsorship or increasing brand awareness as it is virtually impossible to accurately place a financial value to the benefits achieved. The marketing guys would argue that the value is more than purely an increase in immediate sales revenue.
The fact is that it is extremely difficult to directly link an appointment of a brand ambassador to an increase in sales. There are numerous other items which can impact on the sales of a product. For example, a sudden heatwave would increase the amount of cold beer that is drunk and not even Jose Mourinho could claim to be able to impact the weather.
Back to Mr Allardyce though and whilst I doubt that many companies will be approaching him to sign him up as a brand ambassador, at least he can claim to be the only England manager who won all of the games where he was in charge (even if it was only for one game…)
Published on: 15 Sep 2016
How would you feel if your chair was taken away from you at work? Probably not too happy I would guess.
A recent bit of research though may make your boss think otherwise.
Scientists from the Texas A&M Health Science Centre School of Public Health installed “standing desks” in a call centre employing over 150 people. The standing desks could be adjusted so that the employee could work at them either sitting down or standing up.
Half of the employees were given sit–stand desks to use whilst the other half were given traditional sitting desks. The performance of the employees was recorded over a period of 6 months and the results were surprising.
Despite the employees who had the sit–stand desks only using the desks in the standing position for a third of the time, their productivity increased by 50%. Productivity was measured by the number of successful calls that the employee made to the clients with “successful” being defined as being when the company earned revenue from that call.
Each employee typically made in the region of 400 to 500 calls every month and the company wanted them to achieve on average 2 successful calls per hour. Those with the sit–stand desks achieved the target whilst those with the traditional seated desks averaged 1.5 successful calls per hour.
Dr Gregory Garrett from the centre was quoted as saying that “having the ability to move throughout the day really makes a big difference”.
So, is it time to introduce standing chairs in your office?