Chartered Accountants and Professional Business Advisers

The whole business of setting taxes and government spending will hopefully get a whole lot simpler now that there will be just one Budget statement a year instead of two. Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first Autumn Budget, set for November 22, should contain some news of real interest.

The Government has recently shown signs of ‘rowing back’ from its toughest austerity measures as the outcry against cuts to public services grows stronger. That, and the possibility of a hefty Brexit divorce bill, means The chancellor has a big funding hole to fill. It seems likely he’ll have to raise more tax to do that.

Rumours abound that he might restrict the tax relief on pension contributions and investments in the Enterprise Investment and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS and SEIS). Critics say these schemes designed to encourage investments in smaller companies only benefit the wealthy. It is suggested that relief in all three could be restricted to 20%.

It’s a small world after all

What does the recent trade dispute involving Bombardier herald for hopes of free trade deals post-Brexit, I wonder? A 220% import tariff was proposed by the US after claims that the aircraft and train maker, which employs thousands of people in Belfast, had received unfair state subsidies to help beat rival Boeing to a major contract. It was only July when Donald Trump promised a post-Brexit free trade deal with Britain “very, very quickly”, but at the same time he tells domestic audiences that any deals should favour the US and US jobs. We need politicians to stop jockeying for position and instead get on with the job in hand for everyone’s benefit.

Moving on up

As this Shipshape goes to press, we are on the cusp of relocating our expanding Godalming office to larger premises next door but one, and we look forward to welcoming you there. We will of course be notifying Companies House about the change for those clients who use our address as their registered office. While privacy and discretion have always been part of how we operate, the new offices have been designed to enhance our data security, so that we can easily comply with the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) that will apply from May 2018. There’s more on these regulations on page 5. What action will be required in your business?

Somebody’s watching me

HMRC’s new super computer ‘Connect’ is a part of the big data phenomenon, which makes use of the rapidly growing mountains of digital information being collected about us and the world we live in. We discuss Connect

in more detail on page 3 but, essentially, it gathers information about your income and lifestyle from multiple sources. Any discrepancy between this data and what’s included on your tax return could trigger an enquiry

from HMRC. Another example of the use of big data is mini cab firm Uber’s so-called surge pricing. This is where Uber raises its fares when the digital data it collects in real time shows high demand for vehicles. Prices can be triple the standard amount to entice more drivers to work and to manage the demand from passengers. Uber’s future in London will be a story to follow after its run-in with Transport for London.

You won’t be surprised to hear that retailers use weather information to make decisions about stocking shelves with BBQ food, but you might not know that some stores can now use the wi-fi connectivity on your smartphone to see if you’re a repeat visitor, find out which departments you visit and get access to your digital

retail history. Perhaps it’s time for us all to become more aware of the personal information we’re giving away about ourselves.

Paranoid Android

Are our jobs all going to be replaced by artificial intelligence? There’s concern from some in the accountancy and legal professions that it will be possible for many tasks to be performed by AI technology in the future. According to a report from PwC, up to 30% of UK jobs are at risk of being taken over by robots and AI by the early 2030s. How might this affect your businesses or your customers?

Automation might cut some costs and enable us to pass on savings to clients, but I’d argue that you can’t beat the personal knowhow of a trained human specialist for bespoke advice. It seems to me that trying to deny the potential of computers isn’t the way to go. I’d suggest we try to understand AI better and use it to complement our services rather than do away with the human touch.

Enjoy the read.