Do you & your colleagues have what it takes to be crowned the smartest quiz team in Glasgow?

Lusona Consultancy are delighted to be sponsoring the CIOT Glasgow Branch Quiz Night on

Thursday 26th September at 29 Glasgow, Royal Exchange Square

and we would be thrilled if you could join us!

The event is the first of its kind to help raise funds to support the work of two tax charities – TaxAid and Tax Help for Older People.

You don’t need to be a member of CIOT or ATT to take part, just click here to book your tickets, priced at £10 per person with a maximum of 5 people per team.

Each ticket includes an arrival drinks voucher, with a fantastic prize on offer for our winning team!

We look forward to seeing you there!

Exciting News!

Lynsey Kerr has joined our Professional Practice team as a Consultant recently and brings with her several years of recruitment industry experience.She will work alongside Stuart Ringland who has been delivering recruitment solutions to accountancy firms of all sizes for fifteen years and is recognised as the leading expert in tax recruitment in the Scottish market.

Lynsey will specialise in recruiting in the audit and accounts preparation space, as well as advisory and junior tax positions.

Her remit is Scotland wide and she is known for her proactive and efficient approach delivered with a friendly and courteous manner.

Lusona are proud to be an exhibitor at The ICAS Conference 2017 and we’ve secured an exclusive 20% discount on tickets!

With a great range of speakers and exhibitors, find out everything you need to know to successfully conquer the next 12 months in business.

Book your tickets – call 0131 347 0241 and quote ‘UNEXPECTED2017’ https://lnkd.in/gSkBUj5

5 Problems small businesses are having with auto enrolment

As we approach the fourth anniversary of auto enrolment, it seems that smaller employers are, for the most part, smoothly adapting to providing workplace pensions. However, some small businesses are struggling with some aspects of how auto enrolment works.

To help make sure you don’t get caught out by the common auto enrolment problems, Bytestart asked Paul Budgen of NEST, which has been set up by the government especially for auto enrolment, to share his advice on the five auto enrolment issues that business owners are asking about.

 

1. Not knowing where to start

One of the most common questions I used to get asked was what do I do first?

Auto enrolment can be daunting, especially if you are one of the 83 per cent of small employers who’ve never offered a company pension before. Just because it’s unfamiliar, it doesn’t have to be challenging.

To make a start, it’s important to know your staging date. This is the date you’re required by law to enrol your workers into a workplace pension scheme. The Pensions Regulator (TPR) tells you when your staging date is and if you need to check you can do so on TPR’s website.

The site also has a host of useful guides and information for employers, so if you’re at the start of the auto enrolment process, or just need extra information, it’s definitely worth visiting.

 

2. Not knowing which pension provider to choose

Having never offered a pension before, how do business owners and small employers know what a good automatic enrolment pension provider looks like?

Well, a good resource to help you find a good quality employee pension scheme is The Pension Quality Mark (PQM) from The Pensions and Lifetime Saving Association (PLSA). The PQM provides an independent assessment of pension schemes, and their PQM READY status shows that a scheme meets their high standards.

These standards include having good governance, low charges and clear member communications. If you choose one of these schemes as your automatic enrolment pension provider, then you only have to pass the contributions element of the PLSA assessment process to be awarded a Pension Quality Mark yourself. This means you can then demonstrate the benefits of your scheme to your workers.

If your auto enrolment scheme provider is a master trust, you can check whether they have published a master trust assurance framework (MAF) report. A MAF report demonstrates that a master trust is meeting certain standards of administration and governance. There’s a list of accredited master trusts published by TPR.

Governance is important as there’s a well-recognised relationship between good governance equating to a good pension and member outcomes.

 

3. Being turned down by a pension provider

Some smaller employers are discovering that the pension provider they had in mind will not accept their business, or could only enrol some of their workers.

In 2015 NEST found out that 35 per cent of NEST’s customers said other pension providers had been unwilling to enrol their entire workforce. If this happens to you, then remember NEST was set up by government to ensure all employers could access a high quality workplace pension scheme, no matter what their size.

 

4. Finding time for the added admin

Many small business owners already wear lots of hats, they are the director, procurement, sales, marketing, HR and payroll functions in their business and now they need to do pensions too?

We know that back when auto enrolment pensions were announced some questioned how easy it would be for smaller employers, and the intermediaries who help them, to make time for another potentially complex process.

To help flatten out the learning curve and save time when it comes to processing pensions, NEST looked to understand how the process of managing an auto enrolment pension could fit naturally into small businesses’ existing admin work.

We found out, for example, that around two thirds of small employers were experienced in dealing with payroll issues while less than a quarter were experienced in dealing with pension issues. Knowing this, we developed NEST web services, a package that makes setting up an auto enrolment pension scheme, enrolling members and paying contributions possible direct from your payroll software.

 

5. Getting the communications right

I know that in many smaller companies, business communications is direct, personal and perhaps normally done over a cup of tea. That’s one of the best things about working in a small team. However, auto enrolment has clear rules about how you should communicate with workers.

It’s important to remember you have a responsibility to provide your workers with some form of written communication detailing their new pension. An informal chat, even if that’s how you normally talk, isn’t appropriate here. It’s actually to everyone’s benefit if the communication is clear and takes place at an early stage of the process, so any snags can be ironed out.

 

To have a chat about any additional resource you may need to tackle the extra workload of auto enrolment, contact David McEwan on 01698 440 333. 

http://www.bytestart.co.uk/auto-enrolment-problems-small-businesses.html

Thank you to everyone who attended our networking event with Space NK in Glasgow last week. We were treated to makeovers, hand massages, champagne, canapes and SNK goody bags!

Stuart Ringland, Lusona Director specialising in Tax, explains:

It is increasingly difficult for companies to source dependable tax advice for the management of financial affairs that become ever more complex – and it’s clear that, amid a saturated jobs market, the situation is unlikely to improve anytime soon.

A number of factors are now coalescing to send demand for top taxation expertise rocketing, and with the best people being quickly snapped up, it’s creating a worrying talent war that is biting hard with limited supply increasingly failing to meet high, sustained demand.

Of course, as in all fields, the hardest jobs for businesses to fill are those that require specialised skills. However, finding the right person with the requisite in-depth tax expertise is nothing less than a minefield, particularly when the majority of graduates who decide on a career in accountancy continue to tread the more familiar routes of auditing and consultancy.

Those electing to train as a tax specialist, helping companies to ensure they are paying the right amount and remaining compliant amid an increasingly complex legislative framework, are therefore increasingly a prized asset. It’s never been more important to maintain watertight financial disclosures.

Indeed, tightened tax legislation is a big factor in the rising demand. It’s changing constantly – we now have both UK and Scottish taxes to contend with – mainly on the back of political pressure and the Inland Revenue becoming ever more focused on anti-avoidance. The result is that individuals and companies need to turn more regularly to their advisors for assistance.

There has been a particular spike in demand for tax advisors in recent months as partnerships look to restructure in advance of PCR Registration disclosures.

Worse, for those organisations doing business across borders, the international tax system is changing rapidly as a result of coordinated actions by governments and of unilateral measures designed by individual countries, both intended to tackle concerns over Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) and the perceived international tax avoidance techniques of high-profile multinationals.

From a recruitment point of view, we’ve seen many of our own larger corporate clients – including banks and asset managers with international interests – suddenly having to deal with the impact of BEPS, and struggling to meet its challenges head on.

Likewise, high-profile corporate entities are increasingly sensitive to the potential for reputational risk, especially following public condemnation over the tax systems employed by the likes of Starbucks and Amazon.

Indeed, Chancellor George Osborne faced stinging criticism earlier this year for striking a £130m backdated tax deal with Google when it owed much more – Labour claimed as little as three per cent was clawed back – while Prime Minister David Cameron has seen his own tax returns investigated of late following allegations over just how much he had benefitted from his late father’s offshore investment fund.

Financial institutions are even more on the alert following all the ethics scandals associated with that sector and its many tarnished reputations. The last eight years have seen significant changes on how both chartered accountancy firms and companies in general deal with tax compliance and reporting with a view to minimising costs.

Furthermore, we’re now seeing banks starting to lend; more cash is available and we are seeing more deals being done, so investors and entrepreneurs are seeking advice from tax advisors on how to best structure deals and take advantage of tax breaks in areas such as R&D and Patent Box. Therefore, good, dependable advice has become a prized asset.

Compounding the tax talent drought, issues remain with the supply of skilled professionals, caused partly by companies continuing to cut back on graduate intake following the economic downturn. With confidence still not fully restored and uncertainty remaining prevalent, we simply do not have enough tax professionals qualifying to meet market demand.

Unfortunately, businesses remain wary of over-resourcing at graduate level and therefore are opting to go to market only when they need experienced hire professionals.  However, they are then finding that they cannot get what they need without paying over the odds.

Price therefore is climbing year-on-year for qualified tax professionals between the stages of being newly qualified and seven years’ post qualified.

With demand for tax services increasing and more jobs being created at qualified level and above within industry and commerce, businesses have to start looking beyond the immediate and focusing on how they will bring through their own talent for a sustained solution.

So what can businesses do when specialised tax positions are difficult to fill?  They can encourage referrals from existing employees, offering ‘finder’s fee’ bonuses to those that bring in skilled new colleagues. They can obviously also consult with a recruitment expert in the field.

Another way to compete is to encourage tax specialists to stay when you find them. Create a dynamic and supportive workplace, and continually monitor your retention strategy.

Essentially, only by singling out this ongoing problem for dedicated action and taking careful preparatory steps can it be meaningfully solved. Without that, companies will continue to pay the price of not being able to count on having top tax advice at their fingertips for peace of mind in an increasingly challenging business environment.

Technology and Business Intelligence Consultant at Lusona Consultancy, Rob Hilley explains:

It’s crazy that we continue to wilfully handicap our own IT industry through immigration rules which make it increasingly difficult for companies to employ migrant workers.

In particular, the UK’s chronic shortage of cyber security professionals is well known, yet we persist in our failure to address the situation through a ready-made influx of skilled workers from outside the European Union.

Side-by-side with this persistent skills shortage, we’re in the midst of a cybercrime epidemic that costs the UK some £27bn a year – a significant price to pay, by anyone’s yardstick.

Tech companies across the UK represent huge opportunities for growth, and cyber security is a massive, burgeoning industry, creating jobs and attracting investment.

At the same time, there is a desperate need for specialist talent to drive that growth – and immigration allows labour demand to be met with supply. Despite this, legislative barriers continue to be thrown up.

It’s no coincidence that the CIPD – the professional body for those in HR and people development – recently warned businesses to make contingency plans for recruiting staff. In fact, it expects yet further restrictions to be applied to the Tier 2 (General) Visa and Tier 2 Intra Company Transfer visa schemes.

For almost all applications for Tier 2 visas to employ overseas workers who are based outside of the UK businesses need to apply for what is called Tier 2 restricted Certificate of Sponsorship (COS). This has been capped at a limit of 20,700.

However, the cap was reached for the first time in June last year and again in July, and it will surely only be a matter of time before its reached again this year, leaving many enterprises unable to recruit overseas staff with essential cyber security skills, among other industries crying out for new talent.

It’s thought that demand will then continually exceed the monthly cap level due to the serious skills shortages being experienced across many industries and because unsuccessful applicants will want to re-apply.

Worse, despite the occupation 'cyber-security specialist' being added to the official skills shortage list late last year, it seems that many companies will not even meet the qualifying company requirements to hire non-EU immigrants and obtain Tier 2 visas under the scheme.

Becoming one of those qualifying companies requires a bewildering array of demands – so much so that they are likely to bypass them altogether and simply advertise for positions within the EU.

It’s particularly galling that the government has repeatedly told of its concerns over a dearth of sufficient security skills – Defence Secretary Philip Hammond pledged to take on ‘hundreds’ back in 2013  – yet the Home Office then goes and makes it even more difficult to hire skilled workers from outside the EU.
To my mind, it is disingenuous and needlessly restrictive. In an industry which is characterised by innovation, the difficulty in bringing in suitable staff, against the backdrop of a government-acknowledged shortage, is placing it at a massive competitive disadvantage.

Disappointingly, employers looking to hire talent from overseas must continue to monitor the monthly cap outcomes and plan ahead if they are to recruit successfully.

Sarah McParland, Lusona MD shares her thoughts on the gender pay gap..

We’re told repeatedly about the UK’s endemic pay gap between the sexes – a depressing gulf that divides our men and womenfolk and is threatening to widen to Grand Canyon-like proportions with every passing year.

So it proved again when the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHMRC) recently insisted that female graduates are too often earning £8,000 less than their male counterparts. The commission concluded that female graduates start on salaries between £15,000 and just under £24,000, while their male counterparts are more likely to be paid more than £24,000.

According to this purported research, the biggest gap was among lawyers, with women generally taking home some £20,000 – around £8,000 less than men.

I beg to differ. Such claims do not correlate with my experience in a recruitment career spanning almost 20 years. Furthermore, my company specialises in supporting the legal profession and deals on a daily basis with paralegals and qualified solicitors at every stage of post-qualifying experience, so when I am told that the biggest gap lies between lawyers, I believe it is nonsense.

There is no “gap”, no “great divide” – just women working on an equal footing and, in many instances, performing at a level way above their male peers.

Where do so-called researchers get these figures from? I have my doubts. It’s certainly no coincidence that their findings are often headline-grabbing and startling – particularly so for those whose experiences they claim to reflect. So many variables – both tangible and intangible – combine to determine what remuneration someone is willing to work for and conversely, what an employer is willing to pay.

Flexiblity can play a part as some seek out a better work-life balance. Likewise, job satisfaction can be key for many who are passionate about what they do, and therefore place that sense of self-worth before salary. It seems to me that only the public sector got into difficulty with gender-influenced pay grades.

My advice is to disregard the hackneyed, dubiously sourced salary surveys. Ignore what your friends claim to be earning. It should also be kept in mind that paying high salaries does not guarantee businesses that they will have a fully engaged workforce, or that high-earning employees will be high performers.

Chris Connelly, director of Financial Services at Lusona, expresses his frustration at Scottish politicians in his bid to get a not-for-profit financial planning apprenticeship scheme off the ground

During all election campaigns, every party suddenly starts making an awful lot of noise about their unwavering dedication to training and support for the next generation. Whichever rosette the candidate is wearing, you can guarantee that they will be falling over themselves to promote their proposals, while promising that their policies will improve people’s lives immeasurably.

Unfortunately, this appears to be only that – noise!

They begin bidding over the number of apprenticeships they will create. They extravagantly promise extra millions for Universities. Thousands more college places will suddenly materialise if they are handed the reins of power.

Though the messages on education are admirable, I have come to realise that beyond the campaign trail, most election rhetoric is not backed with the appetite to get behind those that are trying to create opportunities for the next generation of workers and professionals.

For those of us who have made the effort to make a difference, the reality is very different. Contrary to the promises, the barriers facing anyone who attempts to make real world improvements can be incredibly demoralising.

Recently to take an example, I have been working to create a Not For Profit apprenticeship scheme specifically for the financial planning market.

The aim was to establish an apprenticeship scheme which would stand separately from individual employers, with the aim of plugging the skills shortage the industry faces and really creating a future generation of qualified and well trained financial planning professionals.

This, I thought, would gain the backing of the politicians who make a huge song and dance about being firmly behind education, skills, apprenticeships, economic mobility, opportunities for the young, helping regional businesses thrive and ethics in financial services.

However, this faith in politicians may have been slightly misplaced.

Firstly, we reached out to the leader of each party, presenting our progress in creating the backbone of the scheme, demonstrating the demand for the service and making clear our aims to steer young people towards fulfilling careers. We spoke, at great length, about further improving ethics in the financial planning sector and encouraging diversity within the industry.

Out of the four approaches we made, we received only one reply. That was from Willie Rennie, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, who said he approved of the scheme and would been keen to help. This help, however, would only be forthcoming after the election was run.

The other party leaders, all running campaigns incorporating help for young people and social mobility, remained silent.

The second major hurdle came in the form of good, old fashioned government bureaucracy.

Skills are a devolved power in Scotland, meaning that the Scottish Government has control over education and training for our future generations. In theory, this is a good thing. It should bring focus to the needs of young people in Scotland and identify growth industries in which people could retrain.

However, in reality, skills development programmes have become a postcode lottery, meaning that the Scottish Apprenticeship system is lagging at least two years behind that of England. Scottish employers are yet to be told whether they will be able to benefit from the UK-wide Trailblazer programme due to a labyrinthine nightmare of public sector departments and frameworks dictating how funds are distributed across the country, and what services can be offered locally.

Trailblazers is a superb scheme which offers degree level qualifications coupled with fully paid work experience. The schemes offer career routes not just for financial planning, but for legal, accountancy, engineering, and actually pretty much every profession imaginable (for a full list available of schemes available to those in England please visit https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/apprenticeship-frameworks-live-list). Sadly, though due to red tape it cannot easily be used in Scotland because of issues over funding and differences between the Scottish and English qualification frameworks.

The quandary we face with our own scheme, which could easily use the Trailblazer model, is that the Scottish Government is too busy politicking rather than taking this off the shelf, ready to go, apprenticeship programme and get it up and running in Scotland.

We have organised an accredited training provider that is ready to run the programmes and a well- established Not for Profit organisation which could house the scheme. There are open-minded people within Skills Development Scotland who will fight our corner to expedite the process of bringing Trailblazers to Scotland, but they concede that this will be a lengthy process.

So we find ourselves in a catch-22 situation with a tangle of bureaucracy, lack of actual commitment from the powers that be, so as it stands we are now no closer to getting this apprenticeship scheme off the ground, which in turn leaves all other industries in the same predicament if they are trying something similar.

What is needed to help get this process up and running is proof of demand. As such, I would ask that if you approve of the idea of a programme being implemented whereby young people in Scotland are given the same opportunity that is available to those in England that you lend us your support.

Most importantly, if you want apprentices in Scotland to be given the opportunity to earn whilst learning and working their way to recognised degree level qualifications, at the end of which being debt free and having gained four years work experience, then please get in touch to register your support, so we can increase pressure on the powers that be to get the wheels in motion. Thank you.

 

chris@lusona.co.uk 

01698 440 321 

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