Capital Allowance claims support

Capital allowance review service a Landmark practice development partner

Accountants/Advisors have an important role to support their clients during these uncertain times and are no doubt looking to increase cash flow where possible.  Capital Allowances are a tax relief that can help to reduce tax pressures for those businesses facing financial challenges and it is our aim to ensure we help by giving the right support and advice to meet the client’s needs.

Here’s why Capital Allowances requires specialist support

The claims arise due to the complicated nature of the laws governing Capital Allowances and the frequent changes that have taken place over recent years. It takes our specialist commitment and knowledge to recognise all assets that are eligible for Capital Allowances, in particular, those that are inherent within a property. This usually arises from a lack of detailed information available to the Accountant when claims are made. However, we have the skills and technical knowledge necessary to overcome these hurdles and to submit a comprehensive claim to HMRC.

Let us do the hard work for you!

Many businesses don’t take the steps they should because they’re too busy or too uncertain about what to do.  Our team of

  • Property Law & Capital Allowance Experts
  • Chartered Accountants & Tax Experts, 
  • Chartered Surveyors & Valuers

can help and have the right skills to deliver the best approach to Capital Allowance claims. 

Our Process is comprehensive and deals with all aspects of the Capital Allowance claims from start to finish, including 12 months after the claim has been submitted to HMRC, thus taking the risk and responsibility away from you and giving you peace of mind.

Calling in the Property Tax Specialists

We find the most efficient way of assessing whether tax savings can be achieved is through trusted partnerships with advisors. There’s no doubt there are established routines for assessing Capital Allowances and therefore it’s important to stress that we’re not questioning abilities. We look to enhance the level of Capital Allowances claimed by introducing additional disciplines that add value. For example, a survey is completed on the property to identify items that are not visible within the paperwork and sit within Land & Buildings on the Balance Sheet (not Fixtures & Fittings).

Contact us to find out if you are eligible to claim.

What is Fee Builder?

Message from Landmark’s founder Bob Edwards FCCA:

As a practitioner with more time at the coal-face than I can believe, I can pretty much guarantee that COVID disruption has turned the screw on your ability find enough hours in the day to cope with client and staff demands. Which begs the question, while you are throwing fuel on the fire to keep your practice running, who is cutting more firewood?

For the last 15 years I have spent an increasing amount of my time supporting smaller practices by providing “firewood”: ideas, resources and easy to follow instructions to keep firms ahead of their competitors. Fee Builder is Landmark’s wood store. And you can tap into its resources by joining as a subscriber. For an affordable monthly fee you will be able to access the material that Fee Builder adds to your dashboard each month.

While you concentrate on serving your clients and supporting your staff we will provide you with the icing on the cake: new strategies, draft emails, fact sheets and easy to follow instructions to expand client services and make the most of current opportunities.

We are confident you will find inspiration to add fees to your practice income and increase the range of services you can offer clients. There are no long term lock-ins. Bob Edwards, October 2020.

Join Fee Builder here

The best way to learn to swim is to be in the pool. Give Fee Builder a try. Jump in. 

90-day Money Back Guarantee

We are confident that if you actively participate in the processes we suggest you should see benefits for clients and additional fees as a direct result. If you do not, and you can demonstrate that you have followed our guidelines and had no positive results, we will give you your money back. This guarantee applies for the first 90 days after you join the Fee Builder program.

Ethical concerns COVID related client fraud

Aside from my responsibilities as a director of Landmark I still have a small professional practice and I do have clients that are furloughing staff.

Recently, I received an update from my institute, the ACCA, setting out ethical concerns and advice for members regarding CJRS fraud. I found the contents useful and have shared fragments in this blog.

The Legal Framework for CJRS claims

The Treasury Direction under the Coronavirus Act 2020 states that:

‘the person making the claim [CJRS]accepts that:
(a) a payment made pursuant to such claim is made only for the purpose of CJRS and
(b) the payment must be returned to HMRC immediately upon the person making the CJRS claim becoming unwilling or unable to use the payment for the purpose of CJRS.

 

No CJRS claim may be made in respect of an employee if it is abusive or is otherwise contrary to the exceptional purpose of CJRS’.

Examples of areas of concern that may indicate fraud include:

Employer-benefit fraud

  • where an employer purports to place an employee on furlough in order to access the scheme, but in fact has instructed that employee to work, provide services or generate revenue for that employer
  • where the employer does not pay the full furlough entitlement to the furloughed employees.

Employee-benefit fraud

  • where an employer seeks to allow an individual not ordinarily employed by them to be regarded as an employee for the purposes of the scheme, so that the scheme will provide funds for the individual that they are not entitled to.

HMRC has put in place a fraud hotline (telephone 0800 788 887) and an online whistle-blower service based on a structured email form, for employees and the public to report suspected fraud in the furlough scheme.

ACCA advice for accountants

The advice that the ACCA offers for members is reproduced below:

Professional accountants should ensure that clients understand the rules relating to the furlough claim and have systems in place to ensure compliance.

If they become aware that an employer-client is breaching the rules (for example an employee is carrying on work while on furlough), advise the client accordingly and ask the client to rectify the error. A member should keep sufficient appropriate records of discussions and advice given.

If the client rectifies the error (and repays the ‘over-claimed grant’), the accountant is free to continue to act for the client. However, should the client ignore such advice and guidance, the accountant must:

  • cease to act
  • inform HMRC of their withdrawal
  • submit a suspicious activity report to the National Crime Agency (see ACCA’s guidance on making a suspicious activity report)
  • consider carefully their response to any professional enquiry letter (also known as professional clearance letter).

Accountants should also be aware of their obligation on engagements in assisting a client to apply for any other government support measures such as Bounce Back Loans and the use of ‘Time To Pay’ arrangements. Accountants should fully explore what support is available for their client’s actions ethically and within the law. A professional accountant shall not be allowed to be associated at any time with information that they believe to be wrong or misleading.

Have your clients received CJRS letters from HMRC?

The ACCA have also offered advice to practitioners regarding the stream of letters now being sent to businesses asking them to to correct any errors made regarding past CJRS claims.

The ACCA said:

Practitioners will be aware of, or may have received on behalf of their clients, HMRC letters prompting them to correct any errors made on claims relating to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grants.

HMRC has recently started sending out these letters – about 3,000 per week. These letters will invite the client to declare whether any overclaims were made by them in relation to CJRS grants.

The letters should not be ignored – they must be responded to even if the client believes no declaration is due. A response by letter should suffice for these purposes. Legal or expert advice should be sought before any ‘certificate of tax position’ is signed and submitted to HMRC.

Additionally, it was stated that:

The Finance Act 2020, Schedule 16 contains an amnesty for notifying HMRC of any errors or overclaims within 90 days of the later of any tax charge being payable due to the overclaim and the date of Royal Assent of the Act. As such, the earliest date this amnesty will expire will be 20 October 2020.

The following behaviours should be checked and corrected within the time limits of this amnesty:

  • not being aware that remote staff are working, eg work-related emails being generated or line managers asking furloughed staff to carry out some work
  • technical or computational issues – innocent errors such as where there is misunderstanding of the methods of certain calculations will not be targeted
  • delays in making payment to staff for the wages due from the furlough grants
  • deliberate fraudulent behaviour

This will be the only chance employers have to remedy their position without any penalties being charged so it is crucial that clients respond promptly to HMRC.

Penalties for those who fail to notify HMRC within the ‘amnesty’ period but knowingly received the CJRS grant or overclaimed the grant even though they were not entitled to claim it due to any changes in their circumstances will be based on ‘deliberate and concealed’ behaviour. This could potentially make the client liable to a penalty of 100% of the tax due.

Clearly, clients need to either confirm that their claims are valid or advise HMRC of errors and do this within the 90 day amnesty period.

Evidence of compliance

In the rush to access furlough support grants clients may not have amassed evidence to support their claims. Again, the ACCA offer sage advice on this topic. They say:

It would be advisable for practitioners to start advising their clients that all claims are checked and ensure full records are available supporting the claims. Practitioners will have assisted many clients on submitting the claims on behalf of their clients and while they may have been provided with computations and payroll records, they may not be aware of any other conditions that may have been broken by the client or their staff.

Of course, there is no advice on the nature of the CJRS claims records that need to be kept but this is where the October 2020 resources provided to Landmark’s Fee Builder subscribers may come in useful.

They include:

  • Technical notes
  • Fact sheets for clients with draft covering emails
  • A suggested format for evidencing CJRS compliance

Based on the HMRC’s interest in this area and the ACCA’s response it would appear that as practitioners we cannot ignore this issue.

A new service for your practice?

The Fee Builder resources for October 2020 would provide you with the resources to tackle CJRS compliance and record keeping needs within the requisite 90-day window offered by HMRC.

Sign up now, no financial risk, we offer new subscribers to Fee Builder a 60-day money back guarantee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome back – the power of a phone call

When the CEO of a highly successful accountancy firm was keen to source new marketing content, she signed up to Landmark PD’s Fee Builder programme, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

The platform was specifically designed to provide UK accountancy practitioners with exclusive access to ideas, resources and strategies helping them to maintain and develop the value and range of services offered to their clients.

So, when Heidi Grimes of Ledger Accounting Services requested to cancel her subscription following an initial trial, the decision came as a bit of a surprise to the Fee Builder team at Landmark.

The Problem

Landmark’s founder Bob Edwards got in touch immediately, to find out why Ledger Accounting had not found Fee Builder suited to their needs.

“I was intrigued to be honest as I know the value of the content we provide. Heidi’s email had said the information we provide was not useful as she could already access a lot of the information via HMRC emails,” Bob explained.

“We already knew that she was keen to source useful marketing content for LinkedIn and other campaigning needs, which is why she signed up to Fee Builder in the first place. What Heidi was saying about the value of our resources didn’t make any sense, so I picked up the phone. Never underestimate the power of a phone call.

The Solution

Undeterred by the complaint, Bob sent Heidi the very latest material his staff had just uploaded to the Fee Builder dashboard. This included a copy of client alerts that had been recently added.

Heidi reviewed the content and reversed her decision on cancelling Fee Builder when she realised a vital step in the sign-up process had been overlooked.

“It is now clear to me that due to a misunderstanding, our marketing assistant had not logged in to your site dashboard so we have not been fully utilising the information you make available,” she said.

“Having seen the files you sent us recently, I agree that September’s content is extremely useful.”

Based on the Fee Builder information now received, Heidi was able to inform clients of a new grant scheme that clients could use to pay for much needed business support consultancy work with Ledger.

She said: “I’ve always struggled with making content interesting and personable but if articles are readily available it’s far easier to insert our personal twist into it.”

Based on this new appreciation of the resources provided by Fee Builder Heidi willingly agreed to reverse her original decision and has now re-subscribed to the Landmark Fee Builder service.

The Lesson

Since Heidi’s SME article went live, Ledger Accounting Services received four client enquiries and are now assisting with grant applications to pay for a programme of consultancy work with Heidi’s company.

Bob said: “It’s always gratifying when our material is used and achieves its aim of win-win service deployment for practitioners and their clients.”

Now they can both laugh at the misunderstanding, but there are also important lessons that Landmark can take away from this situation.

If Bob had not got in touch initially, then the company would have lost a customer.

The team has also learnt that it needs to underline how their dashboard works and that subscribers know that they need to log in to fully access all the resources they are paying for.

Find Out More

If you are on the lookout, as Heidi was, for relevant ideas and content to support your service offerings to clients and prospects, why not give Fee Builder a try? The service is low-cost and you can cancel at any time. Take a look.

 

Adversely affected?

Man sitting at dek holding magnifying glass

In a recent article that I wrote for Informanagement Ltd, I discussed recent guidance issued by HMRC that aimed to clarify if claimants of the Self Employed Income Support Scheme grants passed the “Adversely Affected” test. My post is reproduced in full below:

A troublesome aspect of the SEISS scheme is that claimants need to confirm that they have been adversely affected by the coronavirus outbreak in order to make a valid claim.

Will this condition come back to haunt us?

Guidance has been published on the GOV.UK website on this very subject. A summary of pertinent comments included in the guidance are reproduced below:

  1. Adversely affected is typically when your business has experienced lower income or higher costs due to coronavirus.
  2. HMRC expects you to make an honest assessment about whether your business has been adversely affected. There is no minimum threshold over which your business’ income or costs need to have changed.
  3. Keep recordsof how and when your business has been adversely affected.

The guidance then lists a number of factors that may provide evidence that a claim was justified:

  • You are unable to work because you:
    • are shielding
    • are self-isolating
    • are on sick leave because of coronavirus
    • have caring responsibilities because of coronavirus
  • You have had to scale down, temporarily stop trading or incurred additional costs because:
    • your supply chain has been interrupted
    • you have fewer or no customers or clients
    • your staff are unable to come in to work
    • one or more of your contracts have been cancelled
    • you had to buy protective equipment so you could trade following social distancing rules

And then the guidance states that If your business recovers after you have claimed, your eligibility will not be affected.

It is not clear if the same issues will apply to the CJRS as the guidance published refers specifically to SEISS.

It will be interesting to see how HMRC will enforce eligibility for these major grants in the coming months. One thing is clear, when accounts are submitted for 2020-21, this will provide basic evidence of how income and expenses have fared compared to the previous year.

Wonder if HMRC will put two and two together?

Informanagement supply professional firms with regular, updated news-feed and content on tax and business related issues. I am part of the editorial team at Informanagement. If you are thinking of changing your content or website provider I suggest you give Laurence Vogel – the head of UK operations – a call, 08452 722 377.

Overdrawn directors’ loans

A man with glasses

I am still asked to repeat myself when I challenge my remaining director clients that continue to overdraw their loan accounts and then act surprised when confronted with the inevitable tax consequences.

Coronavirus has added to this state of selective amnesia.

Prompted by this realisation, I recently wrote a client alert on this topic that was also made available to Landmark’s Fee Builder program subscribers.

Here’s what the alert said:

TITLE: Directors’ loans – a word of caution

Director/shareholders have a unique position with their companies for tax purposes. Usually, they can decide when and how to withdraw funds from their business, but these withdrawals can have unforeseen tax effects.

Salaries and dividends

If amounts drawn are salaries or dividends the tax implications can be planned for and will form part of the annual tax return submission. Likewise, if directors withdraw funds that they have previously loaned to their company this will create no tax issues.

Overdrawn directors’ loans

If directors treat their company and director’s loan as a private overdraft – the director ends up owing their company funds – then we have a situation where unexpected tax and NIC liabilities can arise.

These tax issues include:

Benefits in kind

A company that lends more than £10,000 to a director is obliged to charge interest on the loan. The rate charged must be at least 2.25% (from April 2020, previously 2.5%) otherwise the taxman will treat the difference as a benefit in kind. This would increase the director’s income tax and the company’s NIC liabilities.

Increased corporation tax

The more significant tax liability arises if an overdrawn directors’ loan account remains unpaid nine months after the company year end. If so, an additional corporation tax payment would be due based on 32.5% of the loan outstanding.

There is no £10,000 tax -free limit when this charge is applied. All of the outstanding loan balance is subject to the 32.5% calculation.

This extra company tax can be claimed back if and when the loan is repaid but not until the accounting period in which the loan is repaid. There are also anti-avoidance provisions in place that will counter any attempts to pay off the loan and then borrow the funds back after a short period of time.

Is your director’s loan overdrawn?

During these difficult times we will all need to manage our finances with care and aim to avoid strategies that create unwanted tax liabilities. If you are presently building up an overdrawn position on your loan with your company please contact us as a matter of urgency so we can devise a plan to regularise your loan and mitigate any tax issues.

Send this to your director clients?

Feel free to copy this material and send to your director clients with my compliments. As you will observe, the text closes with a request to seek advice.

What is Fee Builder?

Fee Builder provides participating firms with monthly resources to market and deliver services to clients and provides weekly client alerts on topical issues. It is a low cost service with no long-term lock-ins.

Take a look…

Opportunity for you and your clients

One of the most reported issues from practitioners – that seems to block clients from seeking the support of their accountants – is that clients do not have the funds to pay for their advice.

Aside from the health impacts, disruption by coronavirus is blocking access to professional advice at a time when that advice is desperately needed.

Which is why accountants need to sit up and take note of the recent offer to provide affected businesses with small grants to cover your advice.

SME grant funding available from September 2020

Please note, initially, these grants are only available in England.

Here is a extract from a local Growth Hub about the funding available:

The government has announced new SME grant funding to support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) to access specialist advice to help further mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 to build in resilience or address potential new opportunities.

We … administer grants of between £1,000 – £3,000.

These will be available to help SMEs that have been directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic to access professional support covering digital, legal, HR, financial, health and safety, or other consultancy advice, and to purchase minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue to deliver business activity or diversify in response to COVID 19.

Grants will cover 100% of costs, excluding VAT. Once an application has been approved, businesses will be required to make the payment for the support or purchase, and make a claim for the grant.

This scheme will open for applications mid-September.

Contact your local Growth Hub now

We recommend that you contact your local Growth Hub asap.

You will need to find out how and when applications on behalf of clients need to be made (from September 2020).

Clients suffering from the COVID economic fallout being denied access to your advice due to lack of funds is unfortunate; this new opportunity to secure external grant funding to cover your advice should not be ignored.

Details of the LEP Growth Hub network can be accessed here. 

Details of information and allocation to different areas of the UK can be accessed here.

 

How to approach clients

As these grants will probably be offered on a first come first served basis – and assuming the applications qualify – you should probably start gathering details of clients who may benefit from funding.

If you subscribe to our Fee Builder Program we will be uploading resources 1 September 2020, that you can use to help you select and contact relevant clients. This will include details of the scheme written in an accessible format explaining: what is available, listing the services that you can offer and how to register their interest.

This is an opportunity not to be missed…

When 30 days is worth 60 days

We make new practice development material available as part of our Fee Builder program on a monthly basis. We also offer firms that would like to try out the service a 30-day free trial period.

What do you get during your trial period?

During your 30-days trial period you will have access to any resources added during the month in which you sign up. So if you sign up 10th July 2020, you will have access to any material added from the beginning of July.

As we add new resources every month on the 1st of the month you would also, in the above example, have access to resources added 1 August 2020.

If you sign up for free trial before 31 July 2020

Sign up before the end July 2020, and you will be able to access the following:

July 2020

  • Resources to help clients unwind the furlough process
  • Client update – summer statement 8 July 2020
  • Client update – proposed tax changes announced 21 July 2020 (inc. rollout of MTD)

And to be made available from 1 August 2020

  • Resources to promote and support New Business Start-ups
  • Any further client alerts written during August 2020.

We cover all the risks…

To facilitate your access to the above we will set you up with a secure dashboard. When logged in you will be able to view and download material with no restrictions.

To achieve this we will treat you as a fully signed-up subscriber to Fee Builder for 30 days.

If before the end of the trial period you decide that Fee Builder is not for you, you can cancel at any time.

Take advantage of this offer before the end of the month

85% of firms that try out Fee Builder stay on as paying subscribers.

To access July and August resources simply complete the online order form. 

Bonus offer…

Bob Edwards, our founder/director, will also speak with new subscriber to discuss any development issue they want to explore. No extra charges for this call.

Welcome words

I have to confess that I am not immune to the buzz of a kind word. Coronavirus has demanded that we observe physical distancing and this makes the usual face to face exchanges with one another – in most cases – no longer possible.

Which is why I have to thank sole practitioner, Robert Jones, for his recent testimonial regarding his membership of the Landmark Fee Builder program.

We have spoken on a number of occasions and I have enjoyed our exchanges. He has been kind enough to provide a testimonial regarding his use of the Fee Builder features including our conversations.

Here’s what Robert had to say:

I am a small sole practitioner and a recent subscriber to Fee Builder facing a number of key decisions in the upcoming months.

I have found Bob and the team at Landmark to be very supportive in terms of ideas to drive my business forward and in particular, Bob is a very good listener. Bob makes himself available and this is most welcome during these trying times.

The support materials provided throughout the pandemic have been vital in keeping myself and my clients up to date. I have been quite staggered at times how quickly Landmark get support materials together.

I look forward to continuing to work with Bob and would recommend Landmark’s Fee Builder service.

Robert Jones, R J Accountants, 14 July 2020

A personal invite

Would you find an opportunity to discuss issues that challenge you during these difficult times? I have more than a few years’ experience in professional practice under my belt and I am willing to listen and help you consider your options. Call me.

You can reach me most mornings on my mobile 07879 896073. Or email bob@landmarkpd.co.uk.

And take a look at what Fee Builder offers…

Best regards and stay well,

Bob Edwards FCCA, Founder/director LandmarkPD.

Sunak’s Summer Statement 2020

Houses of Parliament

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced further measures to support jobs and business sectors severely affected by the COVID outbreak.

Grants and reliefs offered included support for: employment, the beleaguered hospitality and tourism industry and included green initiatives as well as a novel scheme to get us to eat out in August.

The expected reduction in VAT was confirmed but was restricted to the hospitality and tourism sector. An across the board decrease was rejected.

To boost the flagging property market Stamp Duty is being reduced in England and Norther Ireland. Separate announcements on this topic are awaited for Scotland and Wales who have their own stamp duty regimes.

A brief summary of the changes announced today – 8 July 2020 – are listed below.

Job Retention Bonus

In an attempt an attempt to encourage employers to bring back furloughed employees and provide them with gainful employment, employers that bring back an employee, who was furloughed, and that continuously employs them through to January 2021, then a new Job Retention Bonus will be paid amounting to £1,000 per employee retained. Employees must be seen to be gainfully employed during this period and be paid a monthly average wage of at least £520 a month (November 2020 to January 2021).

Kickstart scheme

The new scheme will benefit employers that are prepared to create new jobs for young people (16 to 24-year-olds) who are at risk of long-term unemployment. The scheme will cover the wages (plus associated overheads) for six months. To qualify, these must be new jobs that offer at least 25 hours a week for youngsters paid the National Minimum Wage or above. Employers will need to provide training and support to find a permanent job. Employers can apply to benefit from this scheme from next month – August 2020. Government has made an initial £2bn available, but there is no cap on the number of jobs that can be created.

Apprenticeships

Employers that create new apprenticeships for the next six-months will be eligible to claim a new grant. The amount claimed will depend on the age of the apprentice.

  • Apprentices up to age 25 – employers will receive £2,000 for each apprentice.
  • Apprentices aged 25 and over – employers will receive £1,500 for each apprentice.

Green jobs initiatives

From September 2020, home owners and landlords will be able to apply for a grant to make their home more energy efficient. The grant will cover at least two-thirds of the cost up to £5,000 per household. For low income households these grants will cover all costs up to £10,000.

Boost for the housing market

In an attempt to encourage homeowners and prospective buyers to step into the housing market, government is offering a temporary reduction in Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in England and Northern Ireland (regional variations may apply when announced). At present, no SDLT is payable on residential property purchases below £125,000. From today – for a temporary period to 31 March 2021 – this threshold is increased to £500,000. Accordingly, if you buy a home after today and before 31 March 2021, and you spend less than £500,000, you will have no SDLT to pay. It is projected that this will reduce the average stamp duty bill by £4,500. Please note, regional variations may apply and if you buy a second residential property in the same period you will still have to pay the 3% Stamp Duty Land Tax additional rate for property purchases up to £500,000.

VAT reduction for hospitality and tourism

In a much speculated change, for the next six months VAT charged on food, accommodation, attractions, and other services in restaurants cafes and pubs, cinemas, theme parks, zoos and more will see VAT reduced from 20% to 5%. This will apply from 15th July 2020 and will end 12th January 2021. From the later date rates will resume at 20%.

Eat Out to Help Out discount

Next month, it would appear that the Chancellor wants to encourage us to eat out. In a novel approach to boost the hospitality and tourism sector, meals eaten at any participating business Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, during August, will attract a discount of 50% up to a maximum discount of £10 per head including children. To participate in this scheme eligible businesses will need to register and can do so through a website to be opened next Monday.

The above update summarises the main points announced today.

Access this update to send to your clients today

You are welcome to copy and paste this text to use in your news feeds, website or other updates for clients. No copyright restrictions.

You could access a free copy of this update plus any other resources uploaded to our Fee Builder dashboard this month. You can review the material for July for 30-days on a trial basis.

To find out more about our Fee Builder program click here.

Unwinding Furlough – damage limitation begins

Thus far we have been encouraged by government to take advantage of various grants and loans to support our practice and clients during the COVID lock-down period.

Of most relevance for the majority of clients has been the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), commonly referred to as the furlough scheme.

Last month, Rishi Sunak announced that the CJRS will be closed 31 October 2020.

Too little , too late and withdrawn too soon?

For business owners whose businesses have been severely affected by lock-down the realisation that government funding for their payroll is to be progressively reduced from August 2020, and withdrawn from the end of October is bad news.

Even with the easing of lock-down, businesses will struggle to regain pre-COVID activity levels due to ongoing social distancing restrictions. This will be of particular concern to the hospitality sector.

The reserves of seriously affected businesses may be running low and if losses continue the withdrawal of the furlough scheme may be terminal.

Time for advisers to step up to the plate

The economic consequences of the COVID pandemic are expected to be global and unprecedented. In the UK, we all have clients who have already cashed in their chips, cut their losses and ceased trading. Many others are struggling to make sense of the changing conditions and their options in the coming months.

Key in these concerns will be deciding which furloughed staff can be usefully returned to active duty and those that will need to be laid off or offered part-time working.

When making these decisions employers will need to see how their choices will affect their costs, their ability to regain profitability, prospects for sales, financing and solvency. These concerns are the bread and butter of our profession.

The question is how do practitioners, affected themselves by lock-down restrictions, make time to support clients in a purposeful review of their financial affairs without adding unduly to their clients’ costs?

Unwinding furlough – a possible solution

The resources added to our Fee Builder service for July 2020, may provide a solution. We have created a simple spreadsheet tool, workbook and other materials that you can use to roll-out a program of effective support to affected clients.

Included in the resources are a 10-minute task, a challenge to prove that the process works. All you need to do is make a phone call.

To see if these resources would work for your practice we are offering you free access to Fee Builder for 30 days. We will take all the risks. If you find what we offer does not help you support your clients you can cancel before any subscriptions are taken.

Like to see what’s on offer? Reserve your 30-day free access by completing our online order form here.

Ironically, the devastating consequences of COVID do offer all of us opportunities if we can step back and see what our choices are as we confront the challenges ahead.

From all of us at Landmark, our very best wishes to all readers as we all strive to meet these challenges.

 

Losing clients? Downward pressure on fees?

If there is one result that practitioners desire it is winning a new client. There is nothing quite like the buzz and excitement that new business brings.

At the other end of the scale, there is nothing more depressing than losing a client.

Fall-out from COVID disruption

Many firms we have spoken to in the past few weeks have reported client losses. A number of these client losses are due to lock-down. Government support has proved inadequate and business owners have decided they have had enough and pulled the plug.

There are also a growing number of practices that are receiving requests to reduce their fees. This is doubly concerning. Clients are obviously counting the pennies and if they perceive that what you provide can be obtained at a lower price, they will switch.

There is no mileage in agreeing to these requests to drop fees as you will no doubt find yourself in a downward spiral. Clients will habitually request a fee reduction.

What’s in it for you?

If you crack this nut, if you wrap your services so the perceived value is more than a set of basic tasks, then you will be in much better position to avoid messy fee-reduction conversations with clients. The value wrapper will also make your services more appealing to prospects.

There are no downsides to this process.

What to do?

If the majority of your practice income comes from basic compliance work you may struggle to retain clients or resist requests to reduce fees.

Why is this?

The only way you can justify the fees you charge – perhaps higher fees than your competitors –  is if clients associate the work you do for them with value rather than just price considerations. Value demands its own price and is therefore more resistant to price challenges.

Consequently, the solution, the what to do, is simple. You HAVE to find ways to increase the value of the work you undertake for clients and make sure they appreciate these changes.

Short of ideas? Short of time?

Would you speculate £55 a month if this investment provided you with at least one idea a month to achieve this goal; to start offering services that have more impact, more value?

And what if you could kick-off the process each month by testing out each idea in just 10 minutes?

What have you got to lose? Take a look at our Fee Builder program. You can trial the service for a month and we will take all the risks, no fees to pay for 30 days, you can cancel your participation at any time.

The dinosaurs reputedly became extinct because they didn’t adapt to changing conditions. Don’t join the fossil record, challenges create opportunities. Join our Fee Builder program now to find out how.

 

Urgent v important a 10-Minute solution

If your house is on fire there is no time for considering how to improve your sprinkler system, you need to put out the fire.

Professional advisers have to chose the urgent in preference to the important every day. Practitioners know all too well that with the best of intentions, as soon as you sit to tackle your “important” to-do list, the phone will ring, a worried member of your staff will knock at your door or the post will deliver unexpected challenges from HMRC that will require immediate action.

And there is no let-up in this process. Which begs the question: How can we make time for the “important” tasks?

Bob’s take on this article

You will gain insights on the following points:

    • Distinguish what is important and what is urgent
    • Consider strategies to make time for the important issues
    • How to use our Fee Builder 10-Minute Task to benefit clients and deal with specific “important” opportunities…

Blue-sky days

One solution may be to close up shop for a day, decamp to a remote location where there’s no phone signal and brainstorm those important issues that never see the light of day.

Unfortunately, its one thing to identify what is important, its quite another matter to actually implement the required action as the following day, its back to fire-fighting.

Small steps approach

In a previous post on this blog Small steps can lead to incremental benefits we advocated the idea that it may be possible to break down important tasks and take action one step at a time. This approach has merit. However, you still have to decide which small steps to take…

Try our 10-Minute Task

One solution may be to test specific issues. For example, in July 2020, Our Fee Builder program looks at the opportunities to assist clients with difficult choices: should they continue to employ staff or lay them off as CJRS unwinds and closes 31 October 2020. And importantly, what effect will this have on the future capacity of the business to stay profitable?

To demonstrate that this strategy can be accommodated in your busy schedule we have added a 10-Minute Task to Fee Builder’s implementation check list.

For July, the 10-Minute Task is to chose a relevant client and make one phone call.

The call should open up a useful planning session with the client that could lead to ongoing consultancy work. It will also serve as proof – and a blueprint – to roll-out the process with other clients.

Try out this process with our compliments…

Access current month’s Fee Builder content – no charge

We would like to offer you the opportunity to sample the current month’s Fee Builder ideas on a complimentary basis. To do this all you need to do is complete our online order form. No fees will be charged for 30 days and if you see no value in the service you can cancel before these fall due for payment.

In conclusion

Firefighting will continue to be an inevitable consequence of the work we do. Hopefully, if you take advantage of the low-cost resources that Fee Builder affords you will start to see that you can continue to put out fires without excluding consideration of your sprinkler system.

Small steps can lead to incremental benefits

There is no need to re-invent the wheel. You are best placed to understand your clients’ needs and aspirations. They have chosen you as their adviser so there is no need to change your spots to be recognised.

To continue with the analogy, you could check your tyre pressure from time to time and change your tyres when the tread wears down, but there is no need to change the wheels.

Bob’s take on this article

You will gain insights on the following points:

  • Focus on ideas that will have traction with your clients
  • Implement these ideas without undue demands on your time
  • Using our Fee Builder resources and tools, no need to reinvent the wheel…

How to recognise appropriate change

Time is a limiting factor, it demands that we get on with tasks rather than consider if the tasks can be be eliminated or undertaken in a simpler fashion. For most of us, navel gazing is a luxury we cannot afford; there are simply not enough hours in the day.

COVID-19 has exaggerated these demands as we are now required to socially distance from our clients and work colleagues. And still get the work done…

The key to recognising appropriate change is to eliminate ideas that don’t appeal and concentrate instead on ideas that may have traction with your clients.

For example, we suggested to firms that are part of our Fee Builder Program that they consider “pro-bono” services to assist their clients when the effects of the coronavirus disruption first started to bite.

This was a pretty radical suggestion as most practitioners would not be receptive to the idea of doing something for no reward.

This is what a Fee Builder firm in Kings Lynn reported when they adopted a pro bono approach with clients:

The ideas and strategies that the Landmark Fee Builder program have provided have made me think outside the box. Many are ideas that I would not have thought of in isolation.

For example, we have taken on the notion that at this difficult time it may be prudent to consider limited use of pro-bono services for clients. When we have done this we have had a good response and whilst this does not add to monthly billing it does demonstrate that we are willing to help clients that are adversely affected by the present disruption. Hopefully, this is an investment in the long-term value of practice goodwill.

Simon Dimblebee, Thain Wildbur – June 2020

Finding the time to consider change

If we don’t change and adapt we run the risk that over time more and more of our present routines and strategies will become ineffective and may possibly jeopardise the standards of service that we can offer clients.

Returning to the “wheel” analogy, if you fail to check the tread on your tyres, at some future date you may have a blow-out…

At Landmark, we have developed the Fee Builder program with this in mind. Each month we prepare easy to implement strategies such that our subscribers can quickly identify those that can be of value to clients and those that cannot. Very often it is the small changes that can contribute most to improved clients service.

Access current month’s Fee Builder content – no charge

We would like to offer you the opportunity to sample a few of the current month’s Fee Builder ideas. To do this all you need to do is complete our online order form. No fees will be charged for 30 days and if you see no value in the service you can cancel before these fall due for payment.

 

 

How will clients recover?

The following statement poses a question many or most of your clients and business prospects will be asking themselves, in short:

How on earth are we going to recover from the present coronavirus disruption?

You could probably divide your client list three ways, those that have:

  1. Fared better or marked time during the lock-down period.
  2. Managed to reduce the scale of their activity and maintain solvency.
  3. Had to mothball or close down their businesses or struggle-on.

Many in all groups may have received government grants or availed themselves of cheap loan opportunities. Grants are income, but the loans need to be paid back. Add to this the economic damage the lock-down process has created and its not difficult to see that the road back to pre-March trading conditions will be difficult to navigate.

Accountants are in a unique position

Accountants are in a unique position to help their clients plan and monitor this transition back to pre-COVID activity levels. If this is not possible in the short-term, then strategies will need to be implemented to maintain solvency, avoid losses and nurse cash resources. If this is not possible clients may need to be supported while their businesses are sold or liquidated.

There is an urgent need to reach out to clients and offer to help, to assist in creating an appropriate road map to recovery or closure. Sign up for our Fee Builder program for complimentary resources to do this.

Resources you may need

You will already have a pretty good idea which clients will need your help and these should be contacted asap. If you are unsure, survey your client base. We suggest:

  1. Client survey – send a short questionnaire and covering email/letter to gauge the level of support clients need, and
  2. Client survey follow up – based on the replies to your questionnaire, a comprehensive response document that suggests how you can be of help and what clients need to do to set the ball rolling.
  3. Kick Start Fee Guarantee – a strategy you may like to consider, if you are concerned with losing clients, is to have a strategy in place to minimise those losses. For example, you could offer a no price increase for two years and monthly billing – set at a negotiated rate to cover all the issues you have identified – and use this process to lock-in client engagement.
  4. Update your website – the survey and response material could be adapted to work from your website. This would simplify the administration.

Concerned that you won’t have time to do this?

Homeworking, disrupted communications, keeping an eye on staff and filing deadlines, all of these and many more issues will be taking up your time. With this in mind we have created the documents and briefs to make the changes to your website and/or make appropriate approaches to clients.

Take up a 30-day free trial to our Fee Builder program and we will send you complimentary copies of everything you will need to:

  • Identify clients’ needs.
  • Collaborate with clients to create a support program.
  • And as a result, lock-in client engagement.

A classic win-win outcome.

Read more about the Fee Builder program here or sign-up for your 30-day free trial.

 

Bob Edwards and the team at LandmarkPD. 10 June 2020.