Jameson Smith & Co Ltd

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Wednesday, 19 June 2013


There has been much talk in the media over public service cut-backs but what is relatively unknown is the additional pressure to HMRC over recent years due to the chaotic implementation of various software systems. These software systems were intended to assist the user but have as usual caused divisions internally as to just how useful they have been considering the huge cost to the public purse. I know from conversations with HMRC staff that the systems have been ‘a bit of a nightmare’ to implement and ‘not user friendly’ enough. You probably won’t be surprised to learn they were designed to be simple to implement and to be extremely user friendly.

To make matters worse HMRC is under increasing pressure to bring in more revenue yet staff numbers are under pressure and the heads of departments expected to deliver cost savings. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has instigated protests over the cut backs in benefits and proposed job losses resulting in a recent short strike of 55,000 call centre and face to face enquiry centres across the UK. So if you are seeking a time to pay arrangement be aware the voice at the other end of the phone may have their own problems too.

There have always been opposing views on the value of time to pay arrangements (TTP) with those on the supporting side saying the HMRC arrangements keep employees in work. On the opposing side however there are those who insist they are of little value and keep zombie companies afloat when they should be dead and buried. Whoever is correct the future of time to pay arrangements is in question once again as staffing reductions are very likely to impact on the number of proposals it is possible to monitor.

It is extremely difficult to establish accurately just how many proposals are now declined as HMRC no longer publish the relevant figures ceasing in early 2012. The last accurate figures published by HMRC from 2011 showed and sharp increase in the number of proposals declined in the twelve months from 2010-2011 from 2.7% (2010) to 9.3% and I suspect based on personal experience this number has increased even more sharply. Undoubtedly whatever your politics the change of government has made a huge difference to the change of stance of HMRC. They are under increasing pressure to bring in more revenues from this government and with less staff.

So what is the likelihood of getting a time to pay arrangement agreed with HMRC in the current environment?

Frankly the vast majority of TTP arrangements are doomed before they start as there is usually little thought put into them by either party. The company director often under pressure agrees to almost anything to get rid of the HMRC pressure and the HMRC are juggling a lot of cases. HMRC in their defence have an almost impossible job as they are being asked to do more for less and are working in difficult circumstances so they are also likely to be demotivated.

In order to agree a time to pay arrangement you need to have motivated people to monitor them and the terms agreed. All of this effort takes time and staff. I believe this area will and is having a definite impact on the likelihood of getting a time to pay arrangement agreed with HMRC.  It is difficult but I would put the chances of acceptance at around 30-40% at best based on personal experience over the last twelve months. I can’t prove this of course as I mentioned earlier the figures are not published now but if the number of proposals turned down is anywhere near this figure then there would have been huge increase in the number of TTP arrangements declined.
So what happens if your time to pay arrangement fails? At the moment they (HMRC) are particularly aggressive when pursuing failed agreements and will inevitably wind the ‘culprit’ company up almost immediately and certainly within days unless there are exceptional circumstances. A key element in failing time to pay arrangements is when due taxes are very often overlooked and not paid – this triggers a default and the subsequent lack of confidence by HMRC.        
One thing for sure is that with banks unwilling to lend despite all the political and banking rhetoric and HMRC getting tougher it can only be bad news for SMEs.

Written By Mike Smith

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Is Your Focus Killing Your Business???

Focus... A small word with huge potential.

You may have heard of the old saying that 'you are what you eat'; well this concept can be applied to all walks of life and more specifically today, we want to cover this concept very briefly when related to business.

So moving away from the idea of food for a moment, what we are talking about here is where you place your focus and how that can affect the results in your business and in your life. Here's a good example; your sat at home watching the TV and the news comes on. Most people watch the news, yet few think about how the content of what is projected from this little box in your front room affects your mood and consequently, your actions from that point. Most of the information that is provided on the news is likely to not be very positive or happy as the press don't believe that it makes a good story and whilst watching one news broadcast is unlikely to have a lasting affect on your subconscious you may start to be convinced of certain beliefs about the world around you, due to the content of the information that you are absorbing.

... and it's not just the TV...

What we absorb in our daily routines and through our habits can and often does determine the type of lifestyle that we live.

What sort of people do you surround yourself with on a daily basis? What sort of books, or magazines do you read? Positive? Negative? Supportive? Destructive? Motivational? Limiting???

All these things should be taken into account in order to work towards becoming a more balanced business owner or employee.

Slowly, but surely you may have been engaging in negative or self-limiting actions due to the type of people, or information that you choose to surround yourself with every day. If you look for the negative in the world, guess what you will find. Likewise, if you always look for the positive, you will find that, also.

All this can be wrapped up in a very simple, slightly amended, adage which is 'We are what we absorb'; in every sense of the word, so take the time to focus your attentions into more constructive, positive and ultimately successful areas of your life and your business, because they are there; you just need to focus on them for long enough and new habits and in turn, new results will be formed.

When people are met with challenges in business they often seek to blame the environment for the outcome and this is normal behaviour for us humans. In some cases a lack of focus can lead to serious situations such as bankruptcy or a winding up petition from a creditor against your business which leaves you with few options. Prevention is the best remedy and where you decide to put your focus can make the difference between success and failure... so think about what you focus on - on a daily basis.

Here's to your health in all forms and success in business whether you are a Director of a Limited Company, or you are employed by someone else's business.

Small success leads to large success...

By Tony Smith