AccountingWEB quotes of the year 2020
Every December AccountingWEB trawls our articles, Any Answers threads and blogs to present a snapshot of the past 12 months by picking out key quotes and comments that reflect the year in accountancy. Here are this year’s offerings.
“Let’s hope that we all manage to achieve at least a couple of our 2020 goals, and even if we only complete 50% of them by the end of the year, we are still further forward than where we would have been had we not set goals in the first place.” AccountingWEB member Ccaspell was full of optimism for his 2020 practice goals at the start of the year.
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“MTD for VAT has so far created additional, costly obligations for most businesses beyond what was predicted by HMRC. The results suggest there is a very long way to go to achieve the benefits claimed by the government about MTD for VAT.” Tina Riches, chair of the joint CIOT and ATT digitalisation and agent services committee, summarises the findings of a survey in which 90% of respondents rejected claims that MTD for VAT reduces errors.
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“I understand the need to ascertain whether they supplied a tax adviser with all the information in order to work out if the taxpayer was deliberate or not with not declaring something, but the way it is worded does suggest passing blame to the tax adviser and that does worry me.” SXGuy responds to a report from Jennifer Adams on the way HMRC enquiry letters looked to be expanding the scope of deliberate errors.
“Well at least he probably knew how to keep his clients in line and pay their fees, assuming he had any.” AndrewV12 offered his tribute to Chartered accountant turned mercenary ‘Mad’ Mike Hoare, who died aged 100 in February.
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“No self-respecting minister would accept those terms.” What the former Chancellor Sajid Javid reportedly said when the prime minister demanded he sack his special advisers. Javid resigned from his position less than a month before the Budget, making way for unsung rookie Rishi Sunak. The rest, as they say, is history.
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“In time the raft of Celebrity IR35 cases will cease as the penalties are now firmly fixed at the fee payer’s level. In my view many of these presenters have been skirting the grey line of self employment for many years and have just now fallen over the edge into higher taxation brackets.” AccountingWEB member Kestrepo puts Eamon Holmes’ IR35 tribunal defeat into context, but ultimately finds it hard to sympathise with the TV presenter.
“There will also be an impact on the demand side of the economy, through a reduction in consumer spending. The combination of those effects will have a significant impact on the UK economy… But it will be temporary. People will return to work. Supply chains will return to normal. Life will return to normal. For a period, it’s going to be tough. But I’m confident that our economic performance will recover.” Stirring words from newbie Chancellor Rishi Sunak during his “whatever it takes” Budget speech setting out a £30bn package to support businesses during the outbreak. If only he knew then what we know now…
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“I know that many self-employed people are deeply anxious about the support available for them… To you, I say this: You have not been forgotten. We will not let you behind. We are all in this together…
“I must be honest and point out that in devising this scheme – in response to many calls for support – it is now much harder to justify the inconsistent contributions between people of different employment statuses.” While giving with one hand to the self-employed, Rishi Sunak hints at the possibility of tax reform by highlighting a taxation discrepancy between the self-employed and employed.
“This experience has shown people at HMRC can do things that we didn’t know we can do, the way we organise, the way we work and the way we organise how quickly we can deliver things… I do fear that ministers will believe in future we can do things [and] expect everything delivered in one month.” Jim Harra commented on the speed his colleagues worked to get the CJRS service ready by the 20 April launch date.
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“We all appreciate cloud practice management is the future. In the current climate people are embracing it a little earlier than they intended to. They can keep the practice running as efficiently as if they were working in the office.” AccountancyManager’s Jonathan Stobart described some of the changes taking place in April’s analysis of the practice management response to coronavirus.
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“I won’t be charging clients anything, it just wouldn’t feel right sending them an invoice in these times… I see it as an investment in our ongoing and future client relationship, it cements what is hopefully a good existing relationship, plus it means that I don’t have to worry about buying the round of drinks or paying for a meal the next time I meet them!” AccountingWEB reader Sheepy306 decided against charging clients to process furlough claims.
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“The value isn’t the claim completion, it’s everything else in getting to that point. Do we place even a token monetary value on all our advice and work over the last six weeks? If we don’t value ourselves even at ridiculous fee levels are we building up future problems with clients – ‘I thought that would have been free?’” AccountingWEB reader Marky argued for the other side of the furlough fee debate.
“If the CJRS was the Titanic then the self-employed were poor Jack clinging onto a bit of driftwood and the PAYE employees were Rose, safe and sound on her bit of wood when she could have totally shared it.” Genius cinematic analogy from BrightPay brings some light relief in a dramatic update on the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.
“Those AccountingWEB sessions were a lifeline helping to put the flesh on Rishi’s bones and also showing that we were all in the same boat trying to learn and interpret.”
“I wouldn’t have got through the last few months without Aweb. It really has been my lifeline - mentally as well as help with understanding the schemes.”
Responses from AccountingWEB members to our regular Any Answers Live webinars. It was great to discover that there was a way we could offer immediate, direct assistance to our members - and that they appreciated it so much.
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“I had been prejudging many clients before Covid by not even thinking that they’d be willing to meet via Zoom… Emails are a great way to get things off your to-do list, but over the last few months the power of actually picking up the phone or sending a WhatsApp message has shown that email is just a lazy way of doing things.” Woods Squared director Alan Woods explained how his firm embraced more more immediate communication mechanisms when the panic struck.
“We haven’t done everything we have so far just to step back now and say, ‘job done’. In truth, the job has only just begun.” Chancellor Rishi Sunak during his Summer Statement. In the second phase of the government’s coronavirus response, Sunak cut VAT for the hospitality sector and introduced the Jobs retention bonus.
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“In the world of the nation’s favourite tax, one word can make all the difference.” Neil Warren gets to grips with the meaning of “attraction” in his analysis of the temporary VAT rate cut for food served in tourism and hospitality businesses.
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“Was initially told, ‘We cannot ask you to work, however, you can if you want to due to having nothing else to do or if you want to keep our clients happy, we will also top your pay up to 100%.’ We then received phone calls weekly from the partners asking what work we had done and what we are expecting to do in the next week... We were actually busier.” A furloughed accountant blew the whistle on their firm of chartered accountants that claimed CJRS for 90% of staff while expecting them to continue working.
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“In connection with our audit procedures on Wirecard’s 2019 financial statements, we are unable to obtain sufficient evidence to confirm cash balances on trust accounts in the consolidated financial statements in the amount of €1.9bn. We have information indicating that spurious or falsified balance confirmations have been provided in relation to these accounts.” EY admits to some discrepancies in its audit of collapsed German payment technology company Wirecard.
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“Where are the things within the software that will actually make the experience better and will make our clients and many of our colleagues think, ‘Yeah, actually, there’s something in this that is of real benefit to us, not just to HMRC’?” Paul Aplin launches his “let’s get it right this time” tirade in our webinar on getting ready for the next phase of MTD.
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“Everyone I’m dealing with is thinking about cashflow forecasts and people are starting to pay more attention to their financial figures. I’m seeing a lot more interest in every row on the profit and loss statement – an interest that almost wasn’t there before.” On AccountingWEB’s No Accounting for Taste podcast, Ria-Jaine Lincoln highlighted the demand for cashflow forecasts during the peak of the pandemic.
“The longer you hang on, the less the value of what you have is, because you’re not reinvesting in the business. It’s a Catch-22… There’s a whole new conversation around brownfield vs greenfield accountancy firm development [within the cloud accounting generation]. Why put money into a dilapidated Victorian house when instead you can build a new house to support the lifestyle you want to live?” ICAS assistant director of practice Jeremy Clarke described the “perfect storm” facing the Baby Boomer generation of accountants because technology has reduced the cost of entry to practice so dramatically.
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“Self assessment will never die, because MTD will only cover trading income and property, so everything else will need to be pulled together.” AccountingWEB tax editor Rebecca Cave offers an optimistic analysis for the transition to Making Tax Digital for income tax.
“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.” Mark Twain - quoted by Wilcoskip in a comment on Nick Elston’s article, I was shocked by my client’s ingratitude. The AccountingWEB member added: “One of the unbreakable laws of accountancy… that no matter how much you help some people, how much you have their back and add value, they will still turn round and blame you for something (usually their tax bill) in a second.”
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“It still seems a bit short of the mark, so I’ll be renewing my existing tax software subscription for another year. I won’t be jumping in right away, but will go with Xero Tax when it’s ready – it’ll be a significant saving.” Glenn Martin offers a ray of hope to the programmers with his assessment of the latest Xero Tax release, but they’ll have to deliver a working personal tax module before he invests in it.
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“As a lot of stores have done, they started shutting fitting rooms, then tills were shut. It is no wonder that people have taken to mail order. Let’s take the current Covid situation. You cannot try on clothes. You can touch them, feel them and hold them up to you. So what’s the difference? None. You buy and bring back cos they don’t fit and they are quarantined. If you tried them on in the store they would still be quarantined if they didn’t fit. No, the answer is ‘profit’. Slashing expenses to maximise profit has reached its optimum point. Little wonder big stores are going out of business.” Jon Jenkins adds his take to Alastair Barlow’s analysis of high street retail failure at Debenhams.
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“I wonder how many accountants will be pouring themselves a rather large glass this evening, just to take the edge off.” AccountingWEB member Mr Hanky’s reaction to the ill-fated Job Support Scheme announced as part of the Chancellor’s Covid Winter Rescue Plan.
“It’s easy on the outside to look in and draw conclusions. But Excel is the most popular software ever built by anybody. It’s probably what whoever was doing it at the time was familiar with, because Excel can do everything. But it was just not designed for that.” Hugh Johnson tries to rationalise how Public Health England managed to create a data consolidation system in Excel to collate the weekly Covid-19 test lab results after 15,841 results went missing for nearly a week in early October.
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“It’s great they’re supporting the economy but really? You release a plan late Friday and change it Saturday for payrolls starting Sunday...” As accountant Cole asked during a furlough grant low point, Does Rishi hate us?
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“It seems like any time Rishi Sunak opens his mouth, we get put back two weeks in our schedule of work. I estimate we’re at least a month behind in our compliance work, and I’m already dreading January." An anonymous accountant vented in an Any Answers post entitled Is anyone else exhausted?
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“From ‘whatever it takes’ we have now moved on to the point where [Sunak] is quite happy to ditch anyone in a job that is not ‘viable’, prospectively leaving millions on the scrapheap of unemployment. To make matters worse, his support strategies for the self-employed are little more than an inadequate sticking plaster, while many are getting nothing at all.” The Imprudent Accountant joined the “get Sunak” brigade in his October post, A knight in tarnished armour.
“Every time Rishi stands up in front of a camera I do have a Pavlovian response constructed mainly of words you would not say in front of the Queen.” Ireallyshouldknowthisbut on perhaps one of the reasons why accountants have topped the swearing league table.
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“I didn’t bother doing any research about Job Support Scheme 1 because I thought this is wholly inadequate. It’s never going to float. It will be gone in a couple of weeks. And then they made it more generous and then they got rid of it in its entirety.” Matt Portt admitted on the No Accounting for Taste podcast that he felt a hint of smugness when the CJRS extension sunk the Job Support Scheme.
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“Many member firms are under enormous resource pressure due to assisting clients with claims for Covid-19 related financial support and providing other pandemic-related business advice. While working every hour possible, they will still struggle to meet the filing deadline for all their clients.” The Tax Faculty weighs up whether the ICAEW should make representations to HMRC asking for the Self Assessment deadline to be extended.
“If there’s one thing that 2020 has done, it’s raised the profile of payroll managers. Accountants and other professions have begun to realise how complicated the things we deal with can be. On behalf of all my fellow professionals, thank you for offering your recognition.” Kate Upcraft on picking up the Outstanding Contribution award at the Accounting Excellence awards.
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And welcome to another tax year doing furlough calculations, Rishi’s Xmas present to payroll professionals https://t.co/GrKzd6O9bg
— Kate Upcraft (@kateupcraft) December 17, 2020
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“A worldwide outage to Google services that knocked YouTube, Docs, and Gmail offline occurred as I tried to write this article on Google Docs. It served as a reminder of just how reliant we have become on such services.” Once normal service was resumed, columnist Bill Mew summarised the anxiety and suspense people were feeling after a crazy year in tech.