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  By Declan McEvoy In light of recent Brexit activity, and the threat of a no-deal, the Government has specifically ring-fenced €110 million for the exposed agri-food sector in Budget 2020, with specific conditional investment supports attached to the funding: €85 million for beef farmers; €14 million for fisheries; €6 million for the livestock and mushroom sectors; and €5 million for the food and drinks processing industry.  There was also an increase of €1.6 million in Bord Bia's budget to market beef and sheep meat. There are a few other things accountants should know when assisting their clients in agriculture. Farm schemes Existing farm schemes were rolled over but there was a €3 million fund earmarked for pilot environmental agri-schemes. These environmental schemes still have to be worked out but are climate action-related and so funded out of the carbon tax fund. The Targeted Area Measure Scheme (TAMS) budget for on-farm capital investment has an increased funding of €12.1 million, granting aid to 5,800 farmers. While, in forestry, €103.5 million has been allocated to forestry planting premium to support an additional 8,000 hectares of new planting and the construction of 125 kilometres of forest roads. Taxes Budget 2020 didn’t just see the Minister giving money away, but impose taxes on the sector, as well. Stamp duty There is an increase in stamp duty to 7.5%. However, there was no mention of consanguinity relief, which is due to end next year. Restructuring relief The current relief available for farmers for consolidation of farm holdings has been extended to 2022. This capital gains tax measure allows a farmer to dispose of a holding and purchase a holding nearer to his or her base to consolidate the farm.  Income tax changes No different from other sectors, the €150 increase in the earned income credit applies and the €100 increase in the home carer credit applies, as well. Carbon tax The big buzz in the budget was around carbon tax and the increase of €6 per tonne, applying to all carbon-based fuels, and adding approximately €0.02 a litre to agri-diesel. However, because agri-diesel is considered a marked gas/oil, this effect will not take place until 1 April 2020. This carbon tax will come at a great cost to agri-contractors and farming, in general. Succession planning In regards to succession, the Budget has changed the threshold for Category A Parent to Child, from €320,000 to €335,000. It’s a small but welcome change. For the agri-food specifically, the extension/widening of the Keep Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) scheme, Employment and Investment Incentive scheme (EIIS), and the changes to research and development should benefit the sector. Brexit As the Budget was set against the background of a no-deal Brexit, the level of funding will have to be monitored. As with everything, the impact of a no-deal Brexit cannot be measured until it happens, and a quick response will be necessary once it does.  Declan McEvoy is the Head of Tax and a Partner at ifac accountants.

Oct 13, 2019
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If you have a strong team of business analysts or people in functions like finance working with manual processes, the implementation of RPA should be a smooth process, but there are still challenges you need to overcome, says John Ward. Most companies have processes that require manual effort. However, with robotic process automation (RPA), rather than an administrator taking information from one system, analysing and exporting it to another, the technology sits in the middle and automates the process for you.  Historically, RPA has been best deployed for repetitive tasks requiring little in the way of decision making and intuition, but with the ongoing growth and accessibility of artificial intelligence, synergies are starting to emerge.  Ultimately, RPA allows staff to do work that adds value, and removes the manual effort that could be better used elsewhere.  Better experience Typically, where you have a significant back-office headcount or people answering calls and queries such as in HR, finance and call centres, there are opportunities for RPA. In any of those roles, people are usually working around the constraints of a system. Let’s take the example of order fulfilment where, if a customer rings, the employee might have an internal system for checking whether an order has shipped, and an external one for checking its location – a manual task the agent must repeat each time.  An RPA process, however, could obtain the original reference and log in to each system to retrieve the status in one automated step rather than two manual ones. That’s empowering for the employee, and a far better experience for the customer.  Four key challenges when adopting RPA While we can clearly see the benefits of RPA in the example above, adopting any new technologies has its challenges, especially when it comes to the finance function. Here are a four key challenges organisations encounter. Selecting the right process to automate: Sometimes there are processes that we think would be the best candidates for automation, but are too complex or require too many decisions to automate easily. You need to decide if there are other ways you can make that a more efficient process outside of RPA. Knowing which software is right for you: Some tools have better capabilities for specific industries or requirements than others. For example, in a regulatory environment, the monitoring and auditing of bots may be high priority, whereas they might not be useful at all in a call centre. It’s important to map out your company’s needs before buying into any one system. Integrating RPA with your organisation: Every development process goes through a methodology. Developing one that’s fit-for-purpose for your organisation is very important.  Scaling RPA across your business: There are different models for scaling RPA, so it’s important to look at how your organisation’s structure and how scaling a project would work. Lower barrier to entry The barrier to entry with RPA is lower than for big software change projects because code is not being developed – instead, the people who understand the business process need to be the ones who implement the tools. If you have a strong team of business analysts or people in functions like HR and finance working with the process, they can help implement RPA more easily. You still have to get the software depinternalloyment and architecture right, but in terms of automating the process, you don’t need a big team of software engineers. You have the talent already under your roof, so it’s important you use it. John Ward is the Head of Emerging Technology in EY Ireland.

Oct 13, 2019
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By Moira Dunne Most business owners and managers are stretched and would love more time to dedicate to steering the business rather than the all-consuming, day-to-day tasks. Owners and managers need to step back and consider things from a high-level occasionally so they can make strategic decisions, but this can only be done through delegation. Benefits for you and your team Delegation is an essential leadership skill that allows you to do more than steer your business without the distraction of the day-to-day tasks; it also allows you to develop your team through opportunities to expand their experience, skills and knowledge. This will increase their engagement as they see a development path within your business. Delegation can be difficult So, if delegation is good for our business and our team, why don’t we delegate all the time? Why do people avoid it? First, it can be hard to let go of the work you have been doing for years. It can be hard to trust others to do things as well as you do. What you don’t see is that a fresh pair of eyes on a task can not only rejuvenate a project but can make processes more efficient, improving overall office performance. Second, delegating tasks can initially slow things down as you need time to explain what needs to be done and how, and learning curves can take a while. Five steps to successful delegation Here are five ways to master the skill of delegation so you and your team can benefit from the experience without losing much time or productivity. Match the task to the person Pick the right job for the right member of your team. Consider their current knowledge and skill level. Don’t overwhelm them with a task that may be too difficult. Break difficult tasks down into stages and progress one stage at a time. Consider people’s preferences: are they more creative or analytical? If you have the flexibility, ask people to work on the tasks that will motivate them best. Provide clear guidance It is crucial to communicate the essential information required to complete a piece of work. Remember, the steps involved may be evident to you but not to others who are new to the task. Break the instructions down into steps, describing the process flow from the start of the job to completion. By doing this, you are starting to document your key business processes. Let it go Once you have provided instruction, it is vital to give the person space to do the work on their own. Be available for questions but don’t let this become a dependency. Encourage the person to try to work things out themselves before asking you. Check-in frequently As you encourage independence, you want to keep an eye on progress and quality by checking-in regularly. This is essential so you can make sure that: the work is being done correctly; and the person is not stuck and reluctant to ask questions. Frequent check-ins allow you to fix errors before they become a risk to the business. Give praise and redirection Finally, while it is important to praise the person so that they are motivated to keep developing and learning, it is also important to be honest if things are not done well. Discuss what further training or support is needed. Build on their good performance by stretching them further with the next task you delegate. View the learning as a process: each step or new task builds on the progress previously made. Look for opportunities to give recognition for a job well done. Bring the team member to a client meeting or make sure their name goes on a report. This is a simple, low-cost gesture that can strengthen the trust levels between you and your team. Pitfalls to avoid Nothing is fool-proof, so if delegation doesn’t work the first time, you should stop and ask yourself if you ran into any of the following pitfalls: Did you expect perfection straight away? Did you expect the job to be done exactly as you do it? Were you open to alternative ideas? Did you resist the temptation to take back the task and do it yourself? Delegation for growth Delegating is an essential skill that is fundamental to the growth of your business. Mastering this skill helps you grow as a leader. It enables you to identify and standardise your key business processes, and this helps with training, quality control and continuous improvement. Delegation also helps minimise business risk as you spread the workload and knowledge amongst your team, so the business is not solely dependent on you. Moira Dunne is the Founder of beproductive.ie

Oct 13, 2019
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Companies have responded positively to newly introduced reporting requirements for Revenue Recognition and Financial Instruments, but there is still considerable scope for them to improve the quality of their annual report disclosures. The findings relate to three thematic reviews conducted by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC) to analyse companies’ disclosures for the new requirements and for existing requirements on the impairment of non-financial assets. The implementation of IFRSs 9 and 15, which applied for the first time to 2018 year-ends, represented significant challenge and change for many companies, following a period of relative stability in terms of financial reporting requirements. The FRC recognises the significant work that was undertaken in preparing for, and complying with, the new requirements. It takes time for such wide-ranging standards to be embedded, but there were many examples of good disclosures within the accounts sampled and which are shared in the reviews published recently. However, as expected, there is considerable scope for companies to improve the quality of their disclosures, which will be a focus of future reviews in the early years of application of the new standards. The FRC encourages all companies to review the reports in detail and consider the findings carefully when preparing their future reports and accounts. Impairment is a matter of particular interest to investors in sectors that are experiencing structural change and across all sectors in periods of heightened macroeconomic uncertainty. The thematic review of IAS 36 disclosures in relation to non-financial assets found opportunities for improvement in a number of areas. The FRC therefore encourages companies to consider how they can improve their disclosures. Each thematic review selected a sample of company accounts, skewed to focus on those sectors most affected by the relevant accounting requirements. IFRS 15 ‘Revenue from Contracts with Customers’ The FRC found that, in general, companies provided helpful and meaningful explanation of the impact of the new standard. However, there was still scope for all companies sampled to improve the quality of their revenue disclosures, specifically by:   Improving the descriptions of accounting policies and ensuring that these are tailored to their own particular circumstances; and Providing more detailed information about the judgements significantly affecting the amount and timing of revenue.  IFRS 9 ‘Financial Instruments’ The FRC identified instances of better practice across the sample of companies reviewed. However, it also identified that there was still room for companies to improve disclosures by:   Analysing the credit quality of trade receivables by non-banking companies; and Providing details of the indicators of a significant increase in credit risk, particularly by the smaller banks. Impairment of non-financial assets While the review identified instances of better practice across all key aspects of disclosure, it also identified a number of common disclosure omissions and opportunities to clarify and enhance disclosures. Specifically, the FRC encourage companies to pay greater attention to:   Providing relevant information around significant judgements and key assumptions made in estimating the recoverable amount of assets and cash-generating units; and Explaining the sensitivity to changes in key assumptions, where reasonably possible changes could give rise to impairment of goodwill or material further adjustments to already-impaired assets.  A link to the three thematic reviews can be found here.   Source: Financial Reporting Council. Published: 10 October 2019.

Oct 11, 2019
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The call for papers and proposals for the Larry Sawyer Educators' Symposium, in association with the Internal Audit Foundation, is now open. They are seeking submissions of recent research and proposals for future research and/or teaching techniques, including innovative ways to teach topics related to the profession. The symposium is scheduled for Sunday 19 July 2020 in Miami, Florida, and will be held in conjunction with The Institute of Internal Auditors’ 2020 International Conference. For more information, go to theiia.org. (Source: The Institute of Internal Auditors)

Oct 10, 2019
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Member states, with the support of the Commission and the European Agency for Cybersecurity, published a report on the EU coordinated risk assessment on cybersecurity in Fifth Generation (5G) networks. This is part of the implementation of the European Commission Recommendation, adopted in March 2019, to ensure a high level of cybersecurity of 5G networks across the EU. The report is based on the results of the national cybersecurity risk assessments by all EU Member States and identifies the main threats and threats actors, the most sensitive assets, the main vulnerabilities (including technical ones and other types of vulnerabilities) and a number of strategic risks. This assessment provides the basis to identify mitigation measures that can be applied at national and European level. Main insights of the EU coordinated risk assessment The report identifies a number of important security challenges, which are likely to appear or become more prominent in 5G networks, compared with the situation in existing networks: These security challenges are mainly linked to: key innovations in the 5G technology (which will also bring a number of specific security improvements), in particular, the important part of software and the wide range of services and applications enabled by 5G; the role of suppliers in building and operating 5G networks and the degree of dependency on individual suppliers. European Agency for Cybersecurity threat landscape To complement the Member States' report, the European Agency for Cybersecurity is finalising a specific threat landscape mapping related to 5G networks, which considers in more detail certain technical aspects covered in the report. Next Steps By 31 December 2019, the Cooperation Group should agree on a toolbox of mitigating measures to address the identified cybersecurity risks at national and Union level. By 1 October 2020, Member States – in cooperation with the Commission – should assess the effects of the recommendation in order to determine whether there is a need for further action. This assessment should take into account the outcome of the coordinated European risk assessment and of the effectiveness of the measures.   (Source: European Commission)

Oct 10, 2019