Category Archives: News

The Office is Dead – Long Live the New Remote Office!

What is an office?

Most people think of working from a desk, in a room surrounded by your colleagues, with the constant background sound of phones ringing – but this is fast becoming a thing of the past.

The New Approach
The “Office” is fast being replaced by alternative working spaces. Advances in technology, mean that an impromptu office can now be set up anywhere, sometimes within seconds. Free WIFI offered in places such as spas and coffee shops, see a new generation of technical savvy business owners, balancing a more relaxed work and lifestyle.
The BBC recently reported that stress for employees within large companies, is now at an all time high. Together with the average commuting time having increased, so it is no wonder that employees are seeking more holistic approaches to their work life.
For some, this new way of working is perfect, including examples like the following:
• for a busy parent balancing a full time career;
• the ability to work once the kids are in bed
• or at school without the commute makes a career accessible
All of these helping to eliminate the age-old decision of a career or family.

Whilst the ability to work from anywhere in the world has a large number of advantages there is also negatives. How do you avoid household distractions getting in the way of an important job? Or more extreme but still likely, how do you stop the sand getting in your keyboard if you set your desk up on a beach?
Here at Blue Skies we have three key elements for our staff, when they request to work remotely from home.

1. Trust
A huge amount of trust is placed on our staff, and we strongly believe everyone will do what’s right for the company. Therefore we trust them to be working when they state they are, with occasional reviews.

2. Guidelines
We do have certain stipulations in order to make sure the work and home life balance does not become blurred. These include making sure staff are not distracted. That staff at home can book on and off for breaks, as and when they need them. We have clear policies that outline what is expected and what can be expected from us, plus as an employer we take health and safety very seriously, so it is essential the request to work from home, or a different location, does not have any detrimental effects on any of our staff.

3. Technology and security
Blue Skies invest heavily in technology, with security being a number one priority for us. We have the ability to export and import information through our dedicated encrypted portal, and are actively encouraging clients to send in their information digitally. Wherever staff chooses to work, they still have to pass a number of security checks to be able to log on to our secure system and are also still contactable using our In-house phone system.

However, as of yet we haven’t had any requests for a home office anywhere more unusual than at homes – but who knows where our next request for a home office could be………………………………

#BlueSkiesChallenge

Crush the calorie workouts
In the run up to Christmas everyone in our office is trying to burn extra calories to fit in to their party outfits.
So to help everyone along, below is a 15 minutes strength and cardio workout that will help get you one step closer to burning those calories off, plus toning those muscles up.
As with all exercise it should be done in moderation and in a safe environment, and if you are in any way unsure, or have any health issues, you should not partake without the consent of a doctor.

Challenge 1

GOBLET SQUAT CHALLENGE
How to do a Goblet Squat:
Stand holding a light kettlebell / or dumbbell, close to your chest, with your legs about shoulder width apart.
Squat down, lowering out bottom while bending your legs, ideally until your hamstrings are on your calves, or as low as you can go – but making sure you keep your chest and back straight and your head lifted up.
Then after your goblet Squat, throw in some Push Ups!
E.g. one Goblet squat followed by 10 Push ups first, followed by:

1 Goblet Squat 10 Push ups
2 Goblet Squat 9 Push ups
3 Goblet Squats 8 Push ups
4 Goblet Squats 7 Push ups
5 Goblet Squats 6 Push ups
6 Goblet Squats 5 Push ups
7 Goblet Squats 4 Push ups
8 Goblet squats 3 Push ups
9 Goblet Squats 2 Push ups
10 Goblet Squats 1 Push up

Exercise is so important not just for the body but for mental well being as well.
Just a 15 minute workout each day, can start you on the most amazing journey, and the best thing with Goblet Squats, is that it works areas all over your body – including your Glutes, Quads and Hamstrings.

Go on – give it a go!

Amir’s Movember Challenge!

One of our newest recruits Amir has decided to support Men’s Health Awareness month and is taking part in the Movember challenge. We are looking forward to seeing the transformation of Amir’s Facial Fuzz!

Please help support Amir and enjoy his updates throughout the course of the month on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

http://bit.ly/2hPNSRT

Keeping everyone happy all at once= Impossible

If there is one thing I have learned through years of people management and probably more so being a parent, that sometimes no matter what you do, not everyone will be happy.
Even positive changes can cause friction, such as sprucing up a room. Someone will say the predicted lines of
• what a waste of money”, or
• “what an awful colour” and so on.

One of the hardest parts of any manager, or business owner, is working out how to balance the needs of their team. Some like a hot office, while some like it cold. Radio on versus radio off. It becomes a constant battle to keep the team happy and productive because without happy and engaged employees, the productivity will fall, atmosphere will dive and work becomes a chore.
Then on top of the balancing act, there will be something that is changed or adapted. All of a sudden there is uproar among the voices crying “we have always done it like that”.

Tips on how to engage your workforce during times of change
Therefore as a small snippet from all the wealth of knowledge on the World Wide Web, below are some important things to remember when implementing any changes :
Be open and honest: – Let your team know what changes are happening and most importantly why. People may not always agree with the change but if they can see there is a reason behind it, they are less likely to resist.
Goals: – Set your end goal, and mini goals. If you break the task into small wins, then a sense of achievement will be felt before you even hit the final objective. Always remember what are you trying to achieve and why? Who is going to be responsible? How will you get there?
Set Time Scales: – Always let staff know timescales; it is proven people work better knowing deadlines and can then compartmentalize what’s happening
Communicate: – Make sure you keep everyone up to date with as much information as possible. A person second guessing what is happening is the beginning of rumors, which in turn cause uncertainty. Even if the progress isn’t as you would expect, its better to avoid negativity by being as open and honest as possible
Act Fairly: – Create a supportive environment, remember everyone has their own opinions. The change you are implementing may seem huge to you, but to some it’s just another task at work. Try to treat everyone fairly, and accept not everyone will be as keen as you want them to be.
If you need a bit more advice on how to move your business forward or deal with impending changes, give us a tinkle, if we can’t help we can always point you in the right direction.

Warning of fake HMRC VAT email scam

Cyber criminals have been targeting UK taxpayers with fake VAT return messages claiming to come from HMRC which, when opened, could infect PCs with a Trojan virus and allow them to take over the victim’s computer, according to information security specialists Trustwave

The firm says its research shows that on 6 September scammers launched a phishing attack using spoofed e-mail messages appearing to come from a HMRC support service domain and containing links to the JRAT malware disguised as a VAT return document. The scam email was sent using a registered HMRC-like domain (hmirc-gov.co.uk), which was registered on the same date and contained no web content at the time.

The fake emails had the subject header ‘VAT return query’, while the body of the email encouraged the recipient to click on the embedded image of a PDF document by suggesting that there were some errors in the user’s recently submitted VAT return. Clicking on the link results in the user being taken to a Microsoft OneDrive file sharing service that downloads the ‘VAT return’ zip file, which contains the malware.

Dr. Fahim Abbasi, senior security researcher at Trustwave, who discussed the phishing attack in a company blog, said: ‘We have witnessed an increase in phishing campaigns using Microsoft services such as SharePoint (a web-based collaborative platform) and OneDrive (a file sharing service). We assume that the scammers route their malware leveraging reputable cloud services like Microsoft to evade detection by various security defences. Users need to be particularly careful since such scams are quite active during tax return season.’

HMRC has been contacted for comment. HMRC guidance on Phishing and Scams is here.
http://bit.ly/1UPWxBW

Quids in

Old style £1 coins cease being legal tended at midnight on October 15
You may have heard time is running out to spend those old style £1 coins.

They’ve been in our pockets since 1983, so if you’ve been stashing away the quid’s make sure you dig them out and get them swapped.
It’s just under two weeks until shops will stop accepting the round pounds – so be aware that the old style coins cease to be legal tender at midnight on October 15, after which you will only be able to spend the new 12-sided pounds, which have been in circulation since late March.

I’ve found some old pound coins – what can I do after October 15?
• If you stick your hand down the sofa and find some old gold you will not be able to spend the coins from October 16. But you should be able to swap them.
• High street banks should let their own customers deposit old pound coins into their accounts.
• The Royal Mint says: “After October 15, the current round £1 coin can continue to be deposited into a customer’s account at most high street banks in the UK.
• But be quick! It is up to banks’ discretion and will only be a temporary measure.

What happens if I’m given the old £1 coin in a shop?
• You’ve got until October 16 to spend the old pounds.
• After October 15, shop staff should definitely not hand you the old pounds in your change. So refuse to accept them and ask for the 12-sided pound instead.
• In the mean time, The Royal Mint is asking shops and businesses to only give customers the new pound coins. But they are perfectly within their rights to hand shoppers the old pounds until the deadline.
• A spokesperson told the Telegraph: “We have urged businesses and their frontline staff to, where possible, prioritise the new coin when giving customers their change.
• “Customers are entitled to ask for their change in any way they wish, but until October 15th, businesses can continue to give out the old coin.”

Our Staff Energy – By Ben Burns

Thinking a little differently to the usual accountancy topics, we recently completed some market research of our lovely staff here at Blue Skies.

At Blue Skies, our staff have a good level of flexibility to their hours, to assist with that balance of work/play lifestyle. But as a general picture, we generally all work the well known 9am-5pm Monday to Friday, being available for our clients as much as we can.

However, like most offices, energy levels can flag at different points in the week and we started to wonder how this was affected by food/drink/sleep/exercise etc. So we asked them how they would rate their energy levels on a scale of 1-10, and reviewed it in comparison to their caffeine, water and sleep intake.

Looking at the various charts, we can see that generally speaking, those consuming more than 6 caffeinated drinks daily had an energy level of below 5. The number of drinks consumed equally to or below 5 all had similar energy levels. So anyone who’s drinking more than 5 caffeinated drinks daily, perhaps try bringing this number down to 5 or fewer?!

The other comparatives were inconclusive, with no clear pattern to the correlation of water consumed, caffeine consumed, hours slept and their self rated energy levels. Personally speaking, after moving away from drinking so many caffeinated drinks and switching to more water daily, I’ve felt a dramatic change in my energy levels, after the initial withdrawal complaints.

Here are our averages, so you can compare yourself to how we did:

Average number of Tea, coffee or caffeinated drinks daily whilst at work = 3.2
Average number of hour sleep (not including those wild party nights on the weekend) = 6.7hrs
Average number of hours worked per week = 37.5hrs
Average number of glasses of water daily whilst at work = 3.3
Average self-rated energy levels = 6.9/10

How do your energy levels compare? Let us know as we would love to hear!
Also, if you have any tips to increase our energy numbers, we are all ears!

We hope this has been useful to you. If you would like to know more about us, please contact us here at Blue Skies!

Office Leisure – By Ben Burns

You may have noticed, Blue Skies isn’t your typical boring accountancy firm. Our managing director Steven Sykes, has a vision that we as accountants and tax advisors should just as much be friendly and approachable, as we are knowledgeable.

Over the many years Steven has worked, he has recognized the need for staff having free time and over the years, he has built up quite a few ways of ensuring they get this chance to de-stress by providing his staff with various items.

As a result of this, I’m often the envy of my friends when I explain all the benefits he provides to us here are Blue Skies. To name a few, in the office we have the following leisure facilities to use in our free time:

  • The Blue Skies camper van – a kitted out touring dream machine
  • The Blue Skies gym – a room transformed from storage into somewhere we can all break a sweat
  • The Blue Skies pool table – currently Joe Warrs is our resident champ!
  • The Blue Skies games room – A 40’ TV alongside a variety of games consoles and games
  • The Blue Skies massages – We all get to enjoy a monthly massage from a local sports masseuse
  • The Blue Skies quiet area – For when the day gets too much, we have bean bags and background music to rest our eyes

As well as encouraging us here at Blue Skies to present this ethos to our valued clients and the public, he also wants us to feel and benefit from this ethos too. We all give 100% during our time in the office, giving our clients our full attention. To make sure we are always 100% ourselves, outside of our normal working hours, we have the option to enjoy the above mentioned items.

If you work as an employee, why not suggest these as ideas for your workplace?!

Or if you run your own business, implement them and reap the rewards of a much happier, relaxed work atmosphere?!

We are often on the phones to our clients talking about the burdens and complexities of our modern day tax system. Day in, day out this can take its toll, just as many other jobs! Embrace your inner smile and break it up with some fun once in a while!

We hope this has been useful to you.
If you would like to know more about us, please contact us here at Blue Skies!

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) – When and why do I have to pay this!

By Terry Cowan

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) – When and why do I have to pay this!

So to put it simply, if you own a possession that increases in value during the time you have owned it, when you sell or dispose of that item it could be liable to Capital Gains Tax (CGT).  Such examples of these are a second home, shares, business, antiques, etc.

You don’t pay CGT on selling your car, shares held in an ISA or even if you sell your only home for a profit.

You must make a certain amount of profit on your item before you are taxed on them, and the tax rate you pay depends on whether you’re a basic-rate or higher-rate taxpayer.

There is a CGT free allowance, for the current year it is £11,300. If you don’t use your CGT free allowance, it is lost.  And you only get one CGT free allowance per financial year (financial year is the year ending 5th April).

If you sell a possession that is owned jointly, then both of the owners are entitled to the £11,300 each.
Remember if you don’t use your allowance in a tax year, it is lost for good.

To work out your profit, you will need to know how much you paid for the asset, along with any other fees attached to the purchase (for example on a house you may have paid agents fees in addition).  You then minus the total purchase cost from the sale price, leaving you hopefully with a profit.  This is the gain, that you may have to pay tax on.

If your capital gain is on an investment property such as a second home or a buy-to-let, the rates you pay tax are:

  • basic-rate taxpayers pay CGT at 18%
  • higher-rate and additional-rate taxpayers CGT at 28%

If your capital gain is on something other than an investment property the rates you pay tax are:

  • basic-rate taxpayers pay CGT at 10%
  • higher-rate and additional-rate taxpayers CGT at 20%

Remember if your gain is below the CGT free allowance currently £11,300 and you haven’t used this tax free allowance in the same financial year (from 6th April 2017 to 5th April 2018) you won’t have any CGT to pay.

If you do have CGT to pay, you must include the figures on your personal tax return.  Once your tax return has been submitted for that year, the payment will be due in the on 31st January.  You will be required to show your workings.
If you don’t complete a tax return, you can report it through the online .gov service.

So as an example, you sold your buy-to-let in October 2017 with achieved a large gain, you must complete your tax return online by  31st January 2019.  The payment will be due that same day.  In the same example, if you complete the tax return in April 2018.  The payment isn’t due until 31st January 2019.

Please note, as of April 2019 onwards, CGT on property sales will become payable within 30 days.

There are normally reliefs given to landlords when they sell a rental property.  In this case it is advisable that you seek professional tax advice, to ensure you are claiming the correct amount of tax relief.

If you are thinking of selling a possession that could well attract Capital Gains Tax but aren’t sure of your workings give us a call or send us an e-mail and we will be happy to help.

Making Tax Digital

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good news for all on the Government delay of bringing in their Making Tax Digital (MTD) regime

The original plan from the government and HMRC would have forced the smallest businesses and sole traders to start quarterly reporting from April 2017, but those below the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will now be exempt from requirements to quarterly report until the government can reassess the plans. Massive vocal opposition to the roll out timetable from MPs, business and the influential Treasury Committee has resulted in the climb-down.

There will be a one-year delay for the wider roll out, with an April 2019 start date for businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) to start keeping digital records but only for VAT purposes. Full-blown quarterly reporting will not start before ‘at least 2020’ according to the ministerial statement.

Changes at the Treasury after the election seem to have resulted in a more sensible approach to the whole Making Tax Digital debacle. The latest statement reads: “The Government will not widen the scope of MTD beyond VAT before the system has been shown to work well, and not before April 2020 at the earliest. This will ensure that there is time to test the system fully and for digital record keeping to become more widespread.”

The Treasury document states that under the new timetable:

  • Only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will have to keep digital records and only for VAT purposes;
  • They will only need to do so from 2019; and
  • Larger businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HMRC quarterly, for other taxes until at least 2020.
  • Making Tax Digital will be available on a voluntary basis for the smallest businesses, and for other taxes
  • Businesses and landlords with a turnover below the VAT threshold will be able to opt to use the new digital reporting system but it will not be mandatory until ‘at least’ 2020.
Business annual turnover Quarterly reporting details required Old timetable New timetable
Over £85,000 and VAT registered VAT Only 1st April 2019 Still 1st April 2019
Over £85,000: all businesses and landlords (not necessarily VAT registered) Income tax and national insurance 6th April 2018 At least April 2020
£10,000 to £85,000 (threshold not yet confirmed) Income tax and national insurance 6th April 2019 At least April 2020 but voluntarily basis only
All companies Corporation Tax 1st April 2020 At least April 2020

As VAT already requires quarterly returns, no business will need to provide information to HMRC more regularly during this initial phase than they do now. All businesses and landlords will have at least two years to adapt to the changes before being asked to keep digital records for other taxes.