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Entries open until 11 September 2020 The Good Governance Awards recognises and encourages adherence to good governance by charities and other non-profit organisations in Ireland. The 2020 Awards are now open for entries for both the Annual Report Award and the Governance Initiative Award on www.goodgovernanceawards.ie Institute involvement The Institute are proudly supporting the awards for the third year. It is important to recognise good governance and more importantly to recognise the people that are responsible for putting it into practice. Members of our profession are held in high regard by charity and non-profit organisations and many are involved in the sector by direct employment, volunteering, accepting trustee appointments, acting as advisors, accountants, or auditors. Two Award Types Annual Reports: This award recognises annual reports that effectively tell the story of the non-profits its activities, impact, finances and demonstrates adherence to good governance practice.   Governance Improvement Initiative: This award recognises initiatives that have been taken in the last 12 months to improve the quality of the non-profit’s governance. Four great reasons to enter Open for non-profits of all sizes: There are six entry categories ranging from small (annual turnover of less than €50,000) to the very large (turnover of over €15 million).The push this year is for getting smaller non-profits involved Entries reviewed by a first class assessment and judging panel: There is a panel of over 60 assessors and judges and seven accountancy firms who bring great expertise and experience who will review each entry and provide valuable feedback and insight to assist in enhancing each submitting organisation’s governance Organisation reputation is enhanced with stakeholders: Entering the Good Governance Awards demonstrates commitment to adhering to good governance practice and transparency. It also shows willingness to be assessed and receive feedback on how governance can be enhanced Boost team morale and gain valuable PR opportunities: Being shortlisted for a Good Governance Award recognises hard work to adhere to good governance practice. Winning an award boosts credibility and increases awareness of the organisation which can help convince even more people that it is a cause worth supporting. New award category for 2020: very small non profits In this year's Good Governance Awards, there is a new entry category for very small non-profits (annual turnover less than €50,000). As an added incentive to encourage smaller non-profits to enter for the Annual Report award, thanks to the Community Foundation of Ireland, those shortlisted in this category will receive €1,000 with the overall winner receiving an additional €1,000. For more details, see www.goodgovernance.ie Institute supports and services for those involved in the Charity/Non-profit sector (‘the Sector’) The following are examples of key supports and services the Institute have in place for members: Dedicated Charities and Non-profit members group (ROI), co-chaired by Paula Nyland FCA and Tony Ward FCA – See page 50 of 2019 Annual Report) Dedicated Charities and Non-profit members group (NI), chaired by Dr Rosemary Peters Gallagher OBE – See page 23 of 2019 Ulster Society Annual Report) Concise Guide of Ethics and Governance for the charity and not-for-profit sector Northern Ireland: Notification facility for Charities/Non-profit boards seeking expressions of interest from Chartered Accountants to join their board. Click for list of contacts Procedures for Quality Audit for Charities – ROI Procedures for Quality Audit for Charities – NI Online courses relevant to Charity and non-profit sector (click and search) e.g. Auditing and Accounting for Charities – ROI Also, events run by District Societies (Western, Cork, Ulster, Mid West, North West, Leinster, London, Australia, United States) Northern Ireland:  Organise webinars on relevant topics for sector (click and search) Technical representations to standard setters, government and regulators on matters also affecting the Sector, based on inhouse technical research and expert input from members technical committees Technical Releases and Technical Alerts providing additional information on technical matters also affecting the Sector Dedicated Governance Resource Centre an Ethics Resource Centre containing updates and other resources on matters also relevant to the Sector Níall Fitzgerald - Head of Ethics and Governance      

Jul 01, 2020
Thought leadership

Originally published on Business Post, 31 May 2020 The Japanese government is delivering generous one off relief payments to residents of Japan as part of a package of measures to lift its economy following the coronavirus pandemic.    Japan, among the developed nations, has had one of the less stringent lockdowns with many businesses operating more or less as normal, except for the hospitality and tourism industries.  This per capita, no questions asked, lump sum is attractive but it is something of an outlier in the context of international economic responses.  One of the more striking aspects of government bailouts across the world has been their similarity of approach– cuts-and-pastes of policies between one jurisdiction and the next.  Now, as countries emerge from the restrictions, patterns of effectiveness of different types of government support for business are emerging.   Like Ireland, many countries used their Revenue Authority as a primary channel for economic relief.  Tax systems have the dual benefit of holding records on the entire business community (at least in theory) along with automated processes.  Few developed economies do not at this stage have highly automated systems for payroll tax collection and sales tax collection and this infrastructure has been widely used to pay funds to support employment.  New Zealand is of course a paradigm of how to deal with the pandemic, and has gone one step further.  The New Zealand Inland Revenue also delivers cheap loans to struggling businesses and the amount of the loans is predicated on the number of employees in the business.   Wage subsidy schemes like the Irish scheme have been introduced in the likes of Canada, Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand.  Not all employment support schemes have been an unqualified success.  Some countries are finding that emergency coronavirus benefits for workers who have been made unemployed trump the benefits of staying in employment.  Complexity and claimant publicity in Canada have turned out to be significant disincentives for take up, similarly to the rumblings in this country when the scheme was first announced here.  Reaction to the UK’s Job Retention Scheme to date seems to have been largely positive, but their scheme is only a few weeks old.   Countries are also exploring ways of getting more cash into troubled business.  Germany is looking to revise some of its tax rules so that losses in this pandemic year can be set against more profits already taxed in earlier years, resulting in refunds.  New Zealand is considering allowing estimates of likely losses in 2021 to be used to trigger tax refunds now.  In another echo of the Irish experience, Germany is scoping a new low rate of VAT for its restaurant sector.     It seems that in many countries, direct welfare benefits paid to individuals have not just undermined attempts to subsidise businesses to secure employment, but created issues of their own.  There has already been some debate in this country as to how recipients of the pandemic unemployment payment will account for the tax due on those payments at the end of the year.  In Germany it is unclear if individuals receiving comparable benefits to our Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be obliged to file tax returns; normal German tax administration procedures suggest that they will.  On the other hand the peculiarities of the Australian system are such that many individuals will look to file tax returns early to secure refunds of income tax overpaid.    Revenue authorities in different parts of the world are thus facing the prospect of a flood of taxpayer activity either because of refunds due or obligations to be met.  That's something that could well happen here too, unless Revenue devise and publish processes to simplify compliance for all those workers facing tax liabilities arising either from the pandemic unemployment payment, or from wage subsidies which were not subject to PAYE.   Future problems are accruing.  It's not just Ireland that is proposing to “warehouse” tax debt, but in every country where there has been tax debt deferral, these liabilities will ultimately have to be paid.  Countries are tending to replace the pandemic business liquidity crisis with a business debt crisis.  As long as that continues, there is little prospect of rapid business recovery.  Businesses which are currently being kept on artificial life support through subsidies, loans and tax deferrals will hit a wall when these dry up.  In Australia, the talk is already of an “insolvency cliff”, as troubled small businesses have up to now been shielded by a nationwide ban on liquidations.   This week the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council was calling for an “adjustment” to the national finances but in fact are championing Austerity 2.0.  Yet if we do too much to hinder a return to previous levels of consumption, many businesses will be consigned to a limbo of business stagnation.  When the crisis hit, few jurisdictions had the time and space to look at models implemented in other countries before they introduced their own systems for pandemic relief.    Now it is different.  While we can’t afford to follow the Japanese example, we can benefit from experiences in other countries, and learn from the ones that are getting it right.   Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland  

Jun 22, 2020
Thought leadership

Originally published on Business Post, 24 May 2020 The late US President, Ronald Reagan, had a simple maxim about government's view of the economy.  If it moves, tax it.  If it keeps moving, regulate it.  If it stops moving, subsidise it.  Coronavirus has thrown this maxim into action.   Everything has stopped moving in the economy and must now be subsidised. No less a body than the European Commission formally recommended this week that Ireland “take all necessary measures to effectively address the pandemic, sustain the economy and support the ensuing recovery”.    Borrowing is of course one way of funding these subsidies.  In its capacity as the watchdog of fiscal rectitude among EU countries, the Commission has invoked its General Escape Clause.  That means that there won't be any sanctions for countries borrowing what they have to borrow, and doing what they have to do, to secure their nations’ health and livelihoods.  The European institutions have even made long-term finance available at virtually invisible lending rates for these very purposes.   While all this is helpful, it doesn't take away from the need to ensure sustainable tax revenues to deal with increased bills for our healthcare system, social welfare and other essential services which are likely now to extend well beyond 2020.  These bills cannot be met indefinitely by borrowing.  Gloomy unemployment forecasts of up to 22% in the second quarter of this year, as suggested by the Department of Finance this week, don’t augur well for sustainable tax revenues.   We find ourselves in something of a phoney war, a period of stabilized abnormality.  Everyone is looking forward to the resumption of something approaching normality as the country embarks on its phased reopening of businesses and amenities.  The real measure of the Covid-19 pandemic will be not so much on what does reopen, but what does not.  While it is the high-profile household names – Debenhams, FlyBE - which receive all the attention when they hit the wall, most industry will find it just as difficult to return to pre-covid trading levels.  Smaller service industries in particular are now finding that once they have worked through any business that was on hand, there is nothing new in the pipeline.   To compound matters, the British government's proposals on implementing the Northern Ireland Brexit protocol published this week, while receiving cautious welcome as being something rather than nothing, will not be workable.  The proposals emphasise not imposing additional customs declarations on GB and NI business as trade in goods flows between Britain and Northern Ireland.  This is politically understandable, but customs is a tax.  Taxes are very hard to enforce without declarations.  Further, the proposals are silent on how to manage the exports from Northern Ireland to Britain which are channelled for instance through Dublin Port.   We have a battered economy that is dealing with massive unemployment, compromised business models and the challenges of Brexit rearing up again.  Irish industry is not even paying the taxes which are currently due let alone being able to deliver additional ones.    Downturns tend to promote clamour for tax reform because the fairest tax is always the one which you don't pay yourself.  Tax reforms like changing the corporate tax regime or introducing a wealth tax seem all the more attractive when cash is tight.  The current signals are that tax-raising measures are not high on anyone's priority list, but that will change.  Given the high number of business closures and job layoffs, there will be fewer income earners and hence fewer taxpayers for the next several years.   For years Ireland has used tax as a primary lever of economic policy.  Long before we surrendered our interest rate and exchange rate mechanisms when we joined the euro group of countries, tax was used to drive investment and the employment which follows it.  Our system is characterised by a high rate income tax regime, a high rate VAT regime, a moderate rate capital tax regime, and a low rate corporate tax regime.  We aspire to social equity by having income tax rate thresholds and allowances skewed towards lower earners, generous tax relief for pension provision and a wide range of essential goods and services charged with VAT at lower rates.    It is impossible with any certainty to determine what tax changes might be sustainable when we really don't know what our economy is going to look like in three months’ time, let alone three years.  Overall though, when compared with most other developed economies the Irish tax burden is not particularly high.  We can rely on debt to meet the upfront emergency costs in 2020 and hope that these do not recur, but we cannot rely on it indefinitely while waiting for the numbers of successful businesses recover, and unemployment to fall.   Changes will have to be made, but now is not the time to make them.  It is still the time for subsidies, not for taxes, just as Reagan’s maxim demands.   Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland

Jun 22, 2020
Thought leadership

Originally posted on the Business Post, 10 May 2020   The phrase “in these uncertain times” can't disappear fast enough from our public discourse and commentary.  The extent of the uncertainty, be it in our business, personal or social lives, is compounding the discomfort of the lockdown.  This week's news that talks had finally commenced on a programme for government should be dispelling some of the uncertainty, but can any of the three players, Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Greens, win acceptance for such a coalition? Even arriving at an agreed programme for government is in real doubt.  The recurring mantra of the putative minor party in government, the Greens, is that any programme for government has to signal a 7% reduction in carbon emissions annually.  Nothing illustrates just how tall an order that is than, even with the reduction in economic activity, travel and fuel consumption because of the Coronovirus lockdown, that 7% target won’t be met this year. According to recent research by Carbon Brief, a publication which focuses on climate science, the estimated global carbon reduction in 2020 thanks to the worldwide pandemic lockdown will only be 5.5%.  This particular estimate might not be entirely agenda free, as Carbon Brief is supported by a group called the European Climate Foundation whose aims are to promote policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Separately however, the International Energy Agency's latest numbers project that emissions will have dropped by 8% by the end of the year.  This agency, originally established to secure oil supplies for some OECD member nations including Ireland, also points out that the lockdown effect is six times larger than that caused by the great recession in 2009.  It seems that the crippling misery of the lockdown is only achieving the same scale of reduction in carbon emissions that the Green Party is insisting we achieve each year.  To be fair to the Green Party and their supporters, their general election manifesto was clear in its target of achieving a 7% reduction in annual emissions for the next decade.  The Green Party manifesto had plenty of ideas for what needed to be done to achieve that, and even some ideas for how the associated costs could be met.  Their taxation suggestions were derived from old proposals and the manifesto offered little indication of how much additional tax might be collected to fund reform of the way we care for the environment. The Green manifesto asked for a financial transactions tax, seemingly oblivious to the havoc it wreaked on the stock exchange of one European country that did introduce one, Sweden, in the 1980s.  They want to reduce VAT on products and services linked with energy conservation, but that would require a change by the European Commission to the VAT Directive and is not within the gift of an Irish government.  They raise the old chestnut of a wealth tax on individuals holding assets over €10 million but without saying what the rate might be let alone how much it might bring in.  They want Ireland to support the OECD processes for global corporate tax form, even though Ireland has been among the earliest adopters of those change proposals.  No political party manifestoes for the last general election remain relevant because none of them were drawn up at the time of a pandemic.  The Green proposals to fund environmental initiatives are particularly problematic.  They weren’t coherent even at the time of their drafting, yet their greenhouse gas emission reduction target remains a red line for their participation in government.  What are they actually proposing to meet the cost of developing alternatives to our current patterns of energy generation, storage, transportation and consumption to reach this target?  Their manifesto proposals won’t do it. A new government is urgently required to ensure we can continue to bailout our damaged businesses and support the unemployed.  It is right to fear global warming.  It is right to be terrified of coronavirus and its impact on our people, our healthcare workers and our communities.  But the country cannot continue to deal with either crisis without having a reasonable economic footing.  We can neither tax nor borrow our way both to economic recovery and to a 7% greenhouse gas emission reduction target within a year or two.  Thanks to the pandemic, it may not even be possible within the lifetime of one government. All over the country, in every walk of life, totems are being knocked down.  In the space of a few weeks, we have re-engineered how our public services are delivered, how we shop, how we educate and assess student achievement.  Many businesses have re-imagined their business model and are still trading, often online, using courier deliveries and with people working from home.  Our politicians involved in government formation talks must now also re-engineer the attitudes of their parties and supporters.  Unless they do, there will be no certainty of success in government formation talks.  The time for red lines, and green lines, is past. Dr Brian Keegan is Director of Public Policy at Chartered Accountants Ireland

May 19, 2020
Ethics and Governance

How can charities, especially smaller ones, deal with the many challenges they are currently facing? Kathya Rouse identifies key areas where accountants may be needed to help charity clients. Like everyone else, charities are struggling to come to terms with their new normal. The unprecedented situation we find ourselves in, and uncertainty around the short-term outlook, makes planning for the future exceptionally difficult. Some charities are continuing to provide ongoing services, while other charities are operating limited or no services due to the current government restrictions. It seems likely that some level of social distancing will be in place for some time and many charities will need to come up with new ways to continue/recommence providing their services while adhering to the relevant government restrictions. Amid all this uncertainty, how can we, as accountants, help? Many smaller charities do not have the expertise among staff or trustees to deal with many of the challenges they are being faced with. We are more than “just” accountants to these clients – we are their trusted business advisors who can be relied on to provide independent advice. I have identified a few areas where you may be needed to help your charity clients: Provide a sounding board and listen to their concerns Despite many similarities between charities, each one will have different requirements right now, so aim to provide a bespoke solution for each charity.   Encourage them to develop a contingency plan to guide them through planning for their organisation during the life cycle of the current pandemic There are various free templates and guidance issued by some of the main charity sector support organisations, such as The Wheel and The Carmichael Centre, which you can direct clients to. The contingency plan should be a live document which remains under regular review. Advise charities around their governance requirements and their AGM There is conflicting advice around whether AGMs can be held entirely virtually under company law except where specifically allowed by the company’s constitution. You can play a key role in helping the charity figure out its position re quorum and use of proxies to overcome this hurdle. Get involved in the budgeting process Budgeting has never been more important, and you can provide your expertise through assisting in, or reviewing, the budgeting process. Like the contingency plan, the budget should also be a live document updated regularly. Empower the trustees Empower the charity trustees to make decisions around whether they can use their current accumulated reserves to make up for a temporary deficiency in resources by assisting them to ascertain their restricted and unrestricted funds. Stay up-to-date Ensure you stay on top of the various funding streams available to charities, such as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the new €40 million COVID-19 support fund, and make sure to keep your clients abreast of any available funding. Keep up to date with ongoing regulatory, professional and other guidance which may be of use to your clients. Chartered Accountants Ireland have collated a list of various guidance documents which are available on its website and is open to everyone, not just members. Make use of any reputable free resources available to you and your clients. Kathya Rouse is a Partner at McMoreland Duffy Rouse and a CA Support Board member.

May 14, 2020
Ethics and Governance

How can charity trustees continue to safeguard charities during this tumultuous period? Michael Wickham Moriarty gives us three top tips on how to safely guide your charity through these uncertain times. The COVID-19 crisis has now been impacting Irish charities for at least two months. What should charity trustees be doing for their charities now and for the future? Keep meeting, but be flexible Board and committee meeting schedules may have been disrupted, or even paused, during the introduction of restrictions in March and April. This is entirely reasonably as management focused on facilitating remote working and core business continuity during the initial stages of the crisis. If meetings have been on hold, look to restart them now. All the governance functions of charity trustees are just as important during this crisis as they are during normal times. Undoubtedly, the agendas and board calendars will need to shift to focus on business continuity, crisis management and other COVID-19 related risks. All meetings should be remote rather than in-person. They may take place at different times to facilitate either board or management. Some meetings for board and committees may be called at short notice as the charity responds to a rapidly changing situation. The papers prepared by management may be less polished and punctual as the executive team focuses on crisis response. Going forward, charity trustees should continue to meet and focus on their core governance roles of strategic direction, oversight and risk management. Think of all stakeholders Given the serious impact of COVID-19, management may focus their energies and attention on specific stakeholders or critical areas. Charity trustees should ensure that all stakeholders are considered during the crisis. For example, the management team may be focused on serving and protecting their vulnerable beneficiaries without giving sufficient attention to staff welfare, including their own. In many charities, the funding and financial crises could take all the attention away from the critical work of the organisation. Institutional donors are a stakeholder that can dominate the attention of charities, but many of these funders are currently being flexible with their grants, allowing charities to focus on other stakeholders. Trustees should ensure due consideration is given to the needs of all stakeholders, as well as organisational sustainability. Be a critical friend to management Most charities are dealing with multiple complex risks with a high-level of uncertainty over the future operating context for funding, staff and beneficiaries. This level of uncertainty is likely to persist for the remainder of this year and beyond. Charity trustees must always balance their relationship with management between challenge and support. As a trustee, you may have access to networks, expertise and experience not available elsewhere within the charity. Use this information to test the assumptions that management use for their COVID-19 response plans. Examine the scenarios and decision points set out. This trustee perspective can really add value as you collaborate with management in agreeing how to chart your charity’s path through these unprecedented times. Good luck! Michael Wickham Moriarty FCA is a Governor and Vice-President of the Rotunda Hospital, and he is the Director of Corporate Services of Trócaire.

May 13, 2020

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