As Ian McTernan says - if you were to pick panelists completely blindly and at random with no information whatsoever on their background, sheer random variance would mean you would probably get a couple of all male or all female panels. Two panels out of somewhere between 30 and 250 are male?
Given there are mentions that there were multiple all female panels this reads more like a case of confirmation bias - looking for discrimination where there's no good evidence it exists.
My big problem with all analysis of this sort is consistently ignoring the breakdown of the statistics quoted - the ~50% gender split is true, but quoting that figure alone ignores the reality that amongst the older generations in accountancy there's a male majority and amongst the younger generations there's a female majority. In light of this it's not that surprising that the population of people experienced enough to be panelists has a male majority. I would expect that in ten years time the opposite will be the reality and we'll have more female panelists than male.
It's entirely possible that Heather is correct, I don't know enough about Accountex, but the arguments presented here aren't convincing to someone who hasn't already made their mind up.
The mistake Mr Harrod clearly made was trying to be honest and own up to the mistakes he made. I've seen in my own relatively short professional life regular examples of crooked accountants who do things much more flagrant than this on a regular basis.
It's frustrating that we never see any action taken against blatant criminals. Instead it's people like this who were talked into doing something wrong and were honourable enough to admit it who get the book thrown at them. Struck off? Certainly appropriate here, but imposing these excessive costs on top of that seems unfair.
In Northern Ireland at least nearly every professional I meet still wears a suit and tie. I'm fairly indifferent to it as I don't mind wearing a suit, but I wonder if it varies strongly by region.
Every time I think of casual dress though, it puts me in mind of the Casual Friday joke from Curb Your Enthusiasm:
They realized they were in a dodgy scheme after appointing us as their accountant quite a few years ago. The thing is though, they were told to enter these schemes by local councils - I imagine you can well understand how someone unfamiliar with the tax scheme might think they had some assurance from that. They were inclined to think, "Well if the government is telling me to join this umbrella organisation it must be legitimate".
That's the biggest source of my problem with the way this has been handled. The government itself was probably the single biggest proponent of staff joining these schemes and now a different branch of government is treating them like criminals for obeying the whims of council finance departments.
The added complexity here is that while my client was within this scheme for 3 years after being pushed into it by her original council employer, social workers have seen first a massive pay freeze for the last ten years and secondly a massive net pay cut when IR35 was introduced. I was genuinely not exaggerating at all when I said that the letter my client received was for her to pay twice her current gross annual salary in the next 30 days - that's how badly social workers have suffered from being hit by all of these different government policies in succession.
In the name of understanding let me give you an example of the only client I have caught up in this.
My client was a social worker employed by the local council for many years, she had no problem with this and was happy with her work.
However, after these loan schemes became popular, the local council decided that these were an excellent way to get out of paying Employer's NIC, sick pay and holiday pay (which are high in a job as stressful and mentally harmful as social work) and began pushing all their social workers to become self employed under the umbrella companies offering these schemes.
Our client then worked as a Ltd company contractor under these schemes for a number of years between various different councils.
HMRC then introduced IR35, leading to a cancellation of this type of employment and vast cuts in the salaries of all social workers in the public sector.
Right around the same time, my client received a letter from HMRC demanding that within 30 days of receiving this letter she had to pay them £60,000 of tax - twice what her annual salary now was after the public sector pay freeze, the cuts to local councils and IR35.
An individual with no knowledge of the tax system who was 100% happy being a council employee get pushed into a tax scheme by one government entity, central government then freezes her salary for ten years, passes legislation making her liable for the tax scheme another government entity forced her to be employed through and then on top of it passes new legislation forcing her to accept massive pay cuts to go right back to the situation she was happy in ten years ago!
Then sends her a letter telling her that she needs to pay up twice her annual salary within 30 days.
Can you understand why I might find the above to be a disgusting state of affairs?
I actually tried to register a single client as a test to see how the system worked just yesterday.
The answer? Not at all, the webpage immediately froze as I tried to register them for MTD and it was impossible to proceed any further. If this isn't fixed by the time April returns are due, there are going to be an awful lot of people without any way to submit VAT returns at all.
You must be living in an absolute fantasy land. I've had meetings with close to a dozen clients this week who are having their businesses directly [***] up by Brexit on how to deal with the fallout and have so far set up 3 Irish limited companies this week alone for people who have decided to move their profitable small businesses across the border to avoid the problems caused by this.
The fact that Mr Gill identifies Sage's problems in the field as arising from "Discounting offers and field teams" from their competitors gives me little hope that we'll see an improvement in Sage's offerings any time soon.
My experience time and again with Sage is that they have very little understanding of how our job is carried out in practice. Their software is designed to do things in one specific way which they have decided is the correct way and you hit a brick wall the moment you have to do something they didn't decide you were allowed to do. This has been my experience both with their accounts prep packages, their bookkeeping packages and their payroll packages. The icing on the cake is their poor attitude and their general appalling treatment towards the SME sector.
To sum up Sage's approach to business: A lot of years back our practice was the largest regional distributor of Sage software, selling and installing it to hundreds of clients and generating enormous sales for them. This changed when we discovered that Sage's Sales team were taking leads generated by us and having their direct sales team approach our clients behind our back to undercut our price offers. The practice ended up having to take Sage to court and winning for breach of contract. Sage have done nothing since to convince me that they aren't at the heart of their culture the same company which did all the above.
Agreed 100%. For me at least they've burned all my goodwill with their complete complacency and crap products. I made the mistake of giving their payroll software a chance last year and after eventually getting fed up at their poor support and lack of basic functionality I discovered that even the cheapest of competing products is superior in every single way to Sage's expensive offering.
I have to say, I was extremely happy to read this case. I've been in an almost word for word identical argument to the one advanced by the appelant here with HMRC over two years in nearly identical circumstances for another Subway store. Fantastic result.