Thursday, 22 February 2018

Phew! Is February over yet?

Here’s a round-up of the year so far…

So, how’s 2018 been for you up till now? Nice and relaxed? Or crazily manic?

It’s definitely been the latter for us, and not least because the end of January always culminates in our busiest time of the year – tax returns and all that.

Then, no sooner have you managed some well-deserved rest at the start of February than Valentine’s Day arrives with sackfuls of cards from mystery admirers who just can’t resist the fast-lane lure and idylls of accountancy. It results in a lot of post to open and, we admit, is the main reason why this month’s article is slightly later than usual…

Nonetheless, it also means that two months into 2018, now’s the perfect time to take a look at what’s happened so far this year. Financially-related, of course.

How many of the following can you relate to?

Hurrah – tax returns are done and dusted!                                                           
The 31st January saw clients and accountants breathe a collective sign of relief for another year. For some, what better feeling is there than being able to relax once it’s all over? And particularly after the buzz of having left everything to the last minute. Again.

But some tax return software said “No”.                                                               
Which no doubt merely added to the sense of rush for the adrenaline junkies. One software programme was found to have miscalculated tax owing on foreign income, which, once rectified, resulted in a nice surprise. But not for the person who was being taxed. Conversely, a different software programme developed glitches in the week leading up to the deadline, leaving taxpayers and their agents no option but to file erroneous figures and pay the tax due – in some cases, an overpay, whilst an underpay for others.

And late filing fines may be illegal.                                                                           
Assuming that you did file your return on time, you won’t have been penalised with a £100 fine. Yet one leading judge has warned HMRC that automatically fining people for filing their tax returns late may not be legal – simply because they were issued automatically by a computer. The judgement means that penalties are only valid if issued by humans and is expected to lead to a surge in successful appeals. Looks more like a case of ‘Computer says “Doh!”’

Credit card charges are now a thing of the past.                                                       
If you’re an advocate of ‘cash is king’, then this won’t apply to you. But for those who wield more plastic than Barbie and Ken, they’ll be delighted that credit card fees were scrapped as of mid-January. Of course, businesses wouldn’t dream of increasing their pricing to compensate. Or, in the case of a Glasgow taxi firm, replacing the fee with a service charge instead…

Not all accountants are foul-mouthed, sweary **$***>$.                                           
One from Sheffield did hit the headlines though, after confronting a couple of clients outside a pub with a profanity-laden rant following a fee dispute. (Incidentally, saying “Please” at the end of an expletive-heavy outburst rarely tends to soften things.) More refreshingly, a different article even accused us (accountants in general, that is) as being too nice. Aw, isn’t that lovely…

But they ought to take a Hippocratic Oath.                                                                     
Apparently, this is to help combat tax avoidance so, thankfully, isn’t something that we need to worry about. More relevant for us and other mainly sedentary professions would be a Hippopotamus Oath, in which we ban all fast food at our desks and vow to get out more.

And it’s BAFTA and Oscar time…                                                                                     
Okay, this has nothing to do with finance but who doesn’t enjoy a good film? Forget ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’, ‘The Post’ and ‘Darkest Hour’, why hasn’t ‘The Accountant 2’ with Ben Affleck come out yet…

So, there you have it – the main goings-on to date in the fiscal world. We know, enthralling.

And, by the way, if you thought that opening more than 400 Valentine’s cards takes a long time, you should see how long it takes to write them.

Ages. Absolutely ages.

Until next month...