Mid West Society News

Tax

We are receiving a high volume of queries regarding the Wage Subsidy Scheme and also other tax matters arising from the impacts of COVID-19, due to the issues showing up and the changes made by Revenue to the administration of the tax system.  We are endeavouring to respond to the volume of queries and engage with Revenue while also keep up to date on the changes.     Please note that we continue to contact Revenue regularly at a high level on all tax matters relating to Covid-19. We are requesting clarification on a number of issues raised by members.  We have also requested clarification from Revenue on a number of further issues raised on the Wage Subsidy Scheme.     We understand the difficulties and confusion for members, particularly those involved in payroll processing and related services.   We are working to obtain timely clarifications and as we receive relevant updates we are advising all people via the appropriate channels.     Please check in regularly on the COVID-19 Hub for latest updates.   

Apr 02, 2020
Ethics and Governance

From a governance perspective, COVID-19 will test the robustness of our legislation and our ability to take a more technological, and perhaps modern, approach, writes Claire Lord. The Irish Government recently announced additional measures to protect citizens by delaying the spread of COVID-19. One of these measures is social distancing, which requires individuals to keep a two-metre space between them and other people. This measure and the increasing restrictions on international travel is making it difficult for Irish companies to hold ‘in-person’ board meetings and to proceed with shareholder meetings, particularly annual general meetings (AGMs), in the usual way. Against this backdrop, what can companies do to allow business to proceed so as to comply with the law while protecting the health of its directors, employees and shareholders? Board meetings Generally speaking, the board of an Irish company can meet ‘virtually’. This means that board meetings can be conducted by telephone, video conference or a similar facility. For a virtual board meeting to be properly convened, all directors must be able to hear each other and speak to each other. At a virtual board meeting, the quorum is made up of those participating in the meeting. All participating directors are entitled to vote in the usual way and the location of the meeting, consequent on social distancing requirements, is likely to be the location of the chair. The board of an Irish company can also usually pass resolutions in writing. For a written resolution to be valid, it must be signed by all directors of the company at that time. A written resolution takes effect when the last signature is collected. A written resolution can be signed in counterpart and can be circulated and signed electronically. The fully signed version must be retained with the minute book of the company. The written resolution procedure can be used even if one of the directors is not permitted to vote. Where this is the case, the remaining directors sign the resolution and note the name of the director who is not entitled to vote and the reason why. It is always recommended that a directors’ meeting is held where the business to be transacted is contentious, or if it is anticipated that the business to be approved will not be supported unanimously. Directors must also meet where they are required to make a declaration of the company’s solvency as part of the summary approval procedure to approve certain restricted activities. Where these circumstances exist, meeting “virtually” is sufficient. The board of a company must also consider the location of its board meetings or decision-making where it is important from a tax residency perspective for them to be able to demonstrate that the company is managed and controlled in Ireland. Shareholder meetings Companies with AGMs due to occur in the months ahead should consider how best to proceed with their AGMs in a way that complies with the law, and affords shareholders the ability to participate, while observing the Government’s restrictions on mass gatherings. An AGM must have a physical location that is specified in the AGM notice. The quorum for an AGM is determined based on the number of shareholders present in person or by proxy, usually at the physical location of the meeting. Therefore, to avoid a large  number of shareholders attending at the physical location for the meeting, shareholders should be encouraged to appoint a proxy to attend and vote on their behalf. Ideally, shareholders should be encouraged to appoint the same proxy where possible (while always considering how a quorum will be achieved).   While an AGM must have a physical location, a company can permit participation by shareholders at an AGM via technology, once that technology permits shareholders to participate and vote electronically.   Multi-member and single-member private companies limited by shares (LTDs) and single-member companies of other types can dispense with the legal requirement to hold an AGM by opting to carry out the business of the AGM by way of a unanimous written resolution.  Similarly, all company types can pass resolutions in writing.  In the case of LTDs and designated activity companies (DACs), this right applies regardless of any provisions in the company’s constitution.  Similarly, LTDs and DACs can pass majority written resolutions where a particular process is followed. Business as usual? We face significant uncertainty in the months ahead with the spread of COVID-19. Finding ways to conduct business regardless, while protecting the health of others, will test our ingenuity. From a governance perspective, it will allow us to see if our legislation is robust enough to support a more technological and, dare I say it, modern approach.   Claire Lord is a Corporate Partner and Head of Governance and Compliance at Mason Hayes & Curran.

Apr 01, 2020
Audit

Covid 19 is causing an unprecedented shock to the global business world.  As well as the business risks, companies and their auditors are facing many practical difficulties in preparing financial statements and conducting audits.  There is a great deal of uncertainty as to how the Covid-19 situation will continue to evolve.  We aim to provide links to relevant up to date advice and guidance and we will monitor developments continually and will update and add material over the coming months.  With input from members in practice dealing with these challenges daily we have developed a number of Frequently Asked Questions on auditing matters that are of particular relevance in the current climate and we will add further information and additional topics as they arise.   Published 30 March 2020  

Mar 31, 2020
Tax RoI

Revenue’s guidance to assist taxpayers and tax agents who are experiencing a range of difficulties caused by the impacts of COVID-19 deals with some of the common queries raised by members.  The Institute will continue to engage with Revenue, the Department of Finance and other key government agencies over the coming weeks.  We are reporting key updates in our special email bulletins, and all updates are available on our dedicated COVID-19 Hub.  The Hub collates information, guidance and supports from across the Institute to keep members informed and help prepare and respond to the challenges presented by COVID-19. 

Mar 30, 2020
Tax

The COVID19 legislation provides for the operation of a Wage Subsidy Scheme for employers (section 28 of the Bill as passed by Dáil Éireann).  It has emerged that businesses with significant cash reserves will not necessarily be disqualified from the scheme. During Dáil debates on the legislation the Minister for Finance addressed some of the deputies’ points on employers’ eligibility for the scheme.  Responding to Deputy Michael McGrath’s comments on businesses having cash for operating expenses and investments the Minister said “Deputy Michael McGrath presents the concept that the presence of cash reserves would in some way debar a company from participating in the scheme. I do not believe that will be the case. I think it is very possible that companies will have cash reserves, precisely for the reason the Deputy refers to, that they have costs coming up that they know they need to meet.”   Per Revenue guidance, eligibility for the Scheme will initially be determined largely on the basis of self-assessment and a declaration by the employer concerned.  A key indicator is that there is to be an expected decrease in turnover by 25 per cent for Quarter 2, 2020.  This decrease can be gauged by reference to Quarter 1 2020 for example, or against another reasonable reference period.     The Institute recommends that employers maintain any supporting records which clearly show the negative economic impact to their business arising from COVID-19.  This will simplify the handling of any follow up discussions or checks by Revenue post the crisis.  Examples of the types of documentary evidence are set out in the Revenue guidance.    There has been some commentary regarding the publishing of the names of employers availing of the scheme.  We understand that some businesses may have reservations about this.  However almost every business in the country is affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the list will be published after (and not during) the scheme, and there is precedent for companies which benefit from tax administered schemes such as the EIIS to feature on lists of beneficiaries.  We gather that many Revenue phone services are to be closed for the crisis period but the National Employer Helpline (01 7383638) is being maintained to deal with queries on the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme.    Read Revenue’s guidance here and Revenue’s FAQ document may be useful. Revenue’s other information and advice for taxpayers and agents is available here.  We will continue to advise all members using the appropriate communication channels as soon as further clarifications and updates are received.  

Mar 30, 2020
Tax

Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Act 2020 (Act No. 2 of 2020) was signed into law by the President of Ireland on 27 March 2020.  The text of the Act will be available on Irish Statute Book in due course.  For now you can read the legislation as passed by Dáil Éireann as well as the related debates and proposed amendments.   

Mar 30, 2020
Tax

Updated on 30 March 2020 The COVID-19 legislation was signed into law by the President of Ireland last Friday (27 March 2020). The legislation provides for the operation of a Wage Subsidy Scheme for employers (section 28 of the Bill as passed by Dáil Éireann).  It has emerged that businesses with significant cash reserves will not necessarily be disqualified from the scheme. During Dáil debates on the legislation the Minister for Finance addressed some of the deputies’ points on employers’ eligibility for the scheme.  Responding to Deputy Michael McGrath’s comments on businesses having cash for operating expenses and investments the Minister said “Deputy Michael McGrath presents the concept that the presence of cash reserves would in some way debar a company from participating in the scheme. I do not believe that will be the case. I think it is very possible that companies will have cash reserves, precisely for the reason the Deputy refers to, that they have costs coming up that they know they need to meet.” Per Revenue guidance, eligibility for the Scheme will initially be determined largely on the basis of self-assessment and a declaration by the employer concerned.  A key indicator is that there is to be an expected decrease in turnover by 25 per cent for Quarter 2, 2020.  This decrease can be gauged by reference to Quarter 1 2020 for example, or against another reasonable reference period.    The Institute recommends that employers maintain any supporting records which clearly show the negative economic impact to their business arising from COVID-19.  This will simplify the handling of any follow up discussions or checks by Revenue post the crisis.  Examples of the types of documentary evidence are set out in the Revenue guidance.   There has been some commentary regarding the publishing of the names of employers availing of the scheme.  We understand that some businesses may have reservations about this.  However almost every business in the country is affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the list will be published after (and not during) the scheme, and there is precedent for companies which benefit from tax administered schemes such as the EIIS to feature on lists of beneficiaries. We gather that many Revenue phone services are to be closed for the crisis period but the National Employer Helpline (01-738-3638) is being maintained to deal with queries on the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme. 

Mar 30, 2020
Careers

Working from home has become necessary for many people due to COVID-19. But how can you manage when it comes to working remotely? Eric Fitzpatrick gives us nine tips on how to successfully work remotely without going stir-crazy or losing productivity. The Coronavirus is forcing organisations and workforces to reconsider their current work practices. Non-essential travel has been cancelled, events are being postponed or moved to online platforms and companies and organisations have their staff work remotely from home.   At first glance, working from home can be appealing, but there is a downside to it as well. As someone who has worked from home for more than ten years, the following are worth noting when it comes to remote working.  1. Discipline  The key to working at home is discipline. Be clear about what time you will start and finish. Agree these times with your organisation. You might have more flexibility with your hours than you would in your office but it’s important to be clear about your hours. Build in the times and duration of your breaks. Know that you’ll take a break at 11am for 15 minutes. If you’re not disciplined, 15 minutes could easily become 30 minutes or longer.  2. Get dressed If how you dress is too casual, how you work might be, too. Wear work clothes. Working from home might mean dressing as you would for casual Friday in the office, but dressing for work gets you in the frame of mind for work.  3. Designate a workspace  If you have a home office where you can close the door behind you at the end of the day, great. If not, work from a space where you must be clear at the end of the work day, such as the family dining table. By removing access to the workspace, you remove the temptation to go back to work for a couple of hours in the evening.  4. Work in a room that is bright and airy Working in a dark office with no natural light can reduce productivity and enjoyment.  Create a tidy workspace and an environment that is conducive to effective working. Have a place for everything and place only that which you will need in that workspace. 5. Ditch your mobile Be without your mobile for as much as possible, if not needed for work. Leave it in another room if you’re working on a project from which you don’t want to be interrupted. You can lose up to an hour a day picking up your phone to check social media platforms. Remove the temptation.    6. Skip the chores During your working day, don’t put on a wash, do the weekly shopping, vacuum, change the bed covers, paint the kitchen or replace that lock. You’re being paid to work, not to get ahead of the housework.   7. Keep healthy  If you walk or cycle to work, working from home takes away the opportunity to get that exercise. Can you make time elsewhere to get in some activity? Your kitchen will probably be closer to your workspace that the office canteen is to your office desk. It can be very tempting to take 10 seconds to walk to the kitchen to grab a snack. Working from home, you might find yourself doing less exercise and eating more – a bad combination. Try to manage your activity levels and snack time. 8. Don’t go stir-crazy  Working from home can take a bit of getting used to. You go from working in a busy, noisy office to working in quiet isolation. At first, it seems great, then slowly the walls start to close in. The silence becomes too loud and you find you need people to interact with. Don’t go more than two days without speaking to colleagues or clients. Design your calendar to ensure you have regular contact with the outside world.  9. Turn on the radio Music can be a positive contribution to an effective workspace at home. Played in the background, it can replace the noise of the office and remove some of the quiet isolation.  Working from home can increase productivity, improve your quality of life and may become necessary for many people over the coming weeks or months. Knowing how to manage it can make it as successful as possible.   Eric Fitzpatrick is owner of ARK Speaking and Training.  

Mar 20, 2020
Press release

Project led by Prince Charles urges accountants to act on climate emergency Chartered Accountants Ireland today announced that it is one of 14 accounting bodies worldwide to become signatories to a call to action on climate change issued by “Accounting for Sustainability” (A4S). A4S is Prince Charles’ Accounting for Sustainability Project and was established in 2004 with the aim of promoting sustainable decision-making in business.  The memorandum of understanding signed by Chartered Accountants Ireland today states that signatories will commit to providing the training and infrastructure that accountants need, as well as supporting initiatives and providing the evidence needed to take action on climate change. In signing the memorandum, Chartered Accountants Ireland recognises that climate change is an economic, social and business risk that accountants must take action on collectively as a profession and individually as professionals working in the public interest.  The 14 accounting bodies signed up to the agreement represent a total of 2.5 million accountants and students worldwide, and now includes the 28,500 members represented by Chartered Accountants Ireland, the largest accountancy body on the island of Ireland. Barry Dempsey, Chief Executive of Chartered Accountants Ireland, said: “I am delighted to sign the Accounting for Sustainability memorandum, which commits Chartered Accountants Ireland to taking a leadership position on the need for greater action on sustainability, and to facilitating that change through our membership. We know that the role of Chartered Accountants is changing as the need to do business sustainably becomes more central to how companies and consumers operate.  We are focused on a future where members and the businesses they advise are better equipped to strive towards a net-zero economy sooner rather than later. We believe the accountancy profession can play a role in achieving climate change mitigation and adaptation. It will take commitment and it will take action, and we are pledging both today.” The signing of the memorandum is one part of a programme of sustainable initiatives already underway at Chartered Accountants Ireland. The Institute’s programme includes an Expert Working Group consisting of members drawn from practice and industry who are working to address the development of research and voice for the profession in the area of sustainability.  The Institute’s programme also includes an ongoing calendar of events, with networking, CPD training and professional development opportunities for members on sustainability, including most recently a Sustainable Finance event held at the Irish embassy in London, where members heard from a panel of experts on the challenges and opportunities for accountants and finance leaders working in this area. As a profession, Chartered Accountants are increasingly relied upon to advise companies on the policies and procedures that underpin doing business more sustainably and reporting on this fact for the benefit of stakeholders, customers and consumers.  About the Memorandum  As a signatory to the memorandum, Chartered Accountants Ireland is committing to the following actions: • To provide members with the training, support and infrastructure needed; • To support relevant market-based policy initiatives and incentives; • To provide sound advice to help governments to create the policy and regulatory infrastructure necessary for a just transition to a net-zero carbon economy.  The memorandum also includes pledges for professional accountants individually:  • To provide sound advice and services as organisations and governments develop and implement plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation; • To contribute to the efforts of their organisations to integrate climate change risk into organisational strategy, finance, operations and communications; • To use and implement existing and developing reporting frameworks such as those from the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures and the International Integrated Reporting Council. • To support sustainable decision-making within their organisations. The memorandum can be viewed in full here: http://www.accountingforsustainability.org/abn-climate-action ENDS Reference Fiachradh McDermott | Gibney Communications | 087 655 7070 | 01 661 0402 About Chartered Accountants Ireland Chartered Accountants Ireland is Ireland’s largest and longest established professional body of accountants founded in 1888. The Institute, which is an all-island body, currently represents over 28,500 members around the world. Chartered Accountants Ireland is a founding member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, the global alliance that brings together over 1.8 million Chartered accountants and students in more than 185 countries. About Accounting for Sustainability The Accounting for Sustainability Project (A4S) was established by HRH the Prince of Wales in 2004 with the aim of promoting sustainable decision making in business. A4S works with Chief Financial Officers and finance teams, the accounting community, governments, regulators, policy makers and the wider finance community across the globe. A4S established the Accounting Bodies Network in 2008 to work with professional accounting bodies as they recognise and incorporate principles of sustainability in their organisations.  

Feb 25, 2020
News

While time management is important, attention management is how you make sure your priorities stay prioritised. Moira Dunne explains how you can make your productivity soar by identifying what is stealing your attention. Most people I know in business have very good time management skills. They set out their goals, prioritise their work and make a daily task list to get things done. In days gone by that was enough. Forward planning meant that work could be scheduled into the time available. By and large, an organised person could get all their work done quite routinely. However, those time management techniques were designed for a business world where people had control over their time. Blocks of uninterrupted time were easier to find and, in general, the plan for the day could be completed as expected. It was a business world without email, mobile phones, iMessage, WhatsApp, apps and social media. Technology has completely changed our work environment. Constant communication brings a steady stream of new requests and ever-changing deadlines. So allocating time to a task doesn’t mean it gets done. As soon as we check our email in the morning, our task list is already out of date, and when everything seems urgent, it is impossible to stick to our priorities. The steady stream of requests comes with an expectation of almost instant response time. So we generally work in a reactive, responsive mode. This is great for customer service and team cooperation, but it’s not conducive tor the achievement of plans and goals. Ultimately, the focus becomes less strategic and more operational, and business growth is affected. Attention management Right now, time management techniques have never been so important, but we have to supplement these techniques with skills to manage our attention. You have to ask yourself: how good are my attention management skills? Here are some tips on how you can become more aware of your attention and how to manage it. 1. Understand your attention Do some initial work to understand where your attention is going throughout the day. To spot patterns, track who and what distracts you. Use a time log for a few days to get the data on this. Make a list of those attention stealers to remind you what to avoid. 2. Protect your attention We often feel obliged to respond to new requests, emails and interruptions. It can be hard to say no to your customers or your colleagues. But we often end up working on something that has a lower priority than the work we planned to do. Empowerment over your time can give you the confidence to make decisions about client and office engagement. Decide on a reasonable request response time and communicate that to your clients and co-workers. It’s also important to ask yourself what tasks you’re doing that are outside of your specific role and priorities. With this knowledge, it can be easier to say no to others in the office. 3. Develop the right environment If you run your own business or manage a team, take a look at how easy or difficult it is for people to focus. Is there a noise level that can be improved? Can you work together to give each person some uninterrupted time throughout the week? Encourage people to focus on one task rather than multi-tasking. If your business allows it, turn off the phones at least some of the time. Provide a quiet room as a contrast to the open-plan office. Offer your office to your team when you are not there. Allow the use of noise-blocking headphones if it doesn’t compromise your service delivery. Above all, be creative. Come up with your own solutions for attention management that will suit your business. Be proactive, take control and be productive Let’s give some time to attention management. It is one of the most important business skills in today’s workplace. Combine this with the classic time management techniques and watch your productivity soar. Moira Dunne is the Founder of beproductive.ie

Jul 28, 2019
Brexit

Registering for an EORI number is just the first step to prepare for Brexit In order to continue to trade with the UK after Brexit, Chartered Accountants Ireland is urging Irish businesses to assess whether or not they have gaps in customs knowledge that could prevent them from trading with the UK post Brexit.    Regardless of whether customs duties apply, in order to move goods to, from and through the UK, customs declarations must be submitted to Revenue. Traders will need to have customs expertise and software to file these declarations; otherwise they will need to hire an agent to do this on their behalf.   Director of Public Affairs, Dr Brian Keegan said “Regardless of the form Brexit will take, Irish traders need to file customs returns before they can move their goods to, from or through the UK.  To complete the returns, traders need to know the goods classification number or commodity code, the customs value of goods and the origin of the goods to determine the amount of any duty payable.  Otherwise goods will be detained at ports and borders because Revenue officials will check that the proper declarations are in place. We are hearing about a critical shortage of customs expertise in the market.” Revenue estimates that customs declarations are expected to increase from 1.4 million to 20 million per year once the UK leaves the EU.   Dr Keegan said “Revenue has hired additional staff to deal with customs declarations and checks and businesses need to be proactive in their preparations to be able to complete paperwork. While, some traders are experienced in the customs formalities required to import and export outside of the EU, it will be a first for many other businesses, particularly the smaller enterprises.  We are urging these businesses to use the time between now and 31 October to upskill in the area of customs. ” While customs knowledge is critical, obtaining a customs registration or an EORI number is the first step that businesses must take to be able to continue to trade with the UK after Brexit.  Latest registration statistics from Revenue suggest that thousands of small traders have not applied for an EORI and these are the businesses that will be most affected by Brexit.  “Getting an EORI number takes three minutes and should be the starting point in terms of their plans but by no means the only thing they should do. Businesses need to look at customs software, get familiar with commodity codes and think about who will do the customs administration,” said Dr Keegan.  Regardless of the form Brexit will take, Irish businesses must do the following to prepare and they must do that now: Register online with Revenue for an EORI number – it takes a few minutes to apply and a number should issue immediately or within 3 working days if checks are needed Become familiar with the new customs administration, know your commodity code. Decide whether you will do the customs administration yourself or whether you need to hire a customs agent.If you do the customs yourself, you need to have computer facilities and software to do this to access Revenue’s Automated Entry Processing (AEP) system. Notes to editors To move goods into or out of the EU you need an Economic Operator and Registration Identification (EORI) number.  Therefore Irish and UK traders who trade with each other will need to apply for an EORI number. HMRC and Revenue use this number to identify you and collect duty on your goods. The number is also used when traders interact with customs authorities in any EU Member State.  In Ireland, you can register for an EORI number on Revenue’s EORI online registration service through My Account or ROS. In the UK, you can apply online to get an EORI number on gov.uk. Automated Entry Processing (AEP) system is Revenue’s electronic system, which handles the validation, processing, duty, accounting and clearance of custom declarations. About Chartered Accountants Ireland Chartered Accountants Ireland is Ireland’s largest and longest established professional body of accountants founded in 1888.  The Institute, which is an all-island body, currently represents over 27,000 members around the world.  The Chartered Accountants Ireland Brexit Action Group coordinates extensive lobbying and public information activities to help its members North and South of the border prepare for the departure of the UK from the EU. References: Dr Brian Keegan, brian.keegan@charteredaccountants.ie or Mob: +353 87 234 7329

Jul 23, 2019
News

By Dawn Leane If the thought of networking brings on a cold sweat, you’re not alone. For many women, networking is a challenge. It’s not the activity of networking itself – research shows that women are at an advantage in this area. However, it’s the concept of networking that women often find uncomfortable. Networking is one of the most dreaded developmental challenges that female leaders must address, especially as most senior leadership roles are still filled by men and it’s hard for women to find others in the same position at an event. Regardless, networking is one of those things that we know we ought to do, but never quite get around to. We tend to see it as – at best – a poor use of time, or – at worst – self-serving and inauthentic. Yet, creating and maintaining a network of influential people is essential for success in business. Networks are key to hearing about role opportunities, advances and developments, and introductions and business opportunities in your sector. Connecting and communicating with a wide range of stakeholders is not a distraction from the ‘real work’ but actually at the heart of a leaders’ responsibilities. Simple mistakes Qualifications, experience and reputation will only take you so far. When you need someone to go the extra mile – to make an introduction, recommend your business or take a leap of faith – they must know you. In business, people do not extend trust easily. Even those who describe themselves as networkers make some basic errors. Things like: failing to be strategic; building networks of people like themselves; building narrow and deep networks; and failing to follow-up. Reframe your mindset The good news is that everyone can learn to network well. Networking is not just for extroverted people; some of the most successful networkers I know – the super-connectors – are introverts at heart. The key is to be strategic and intentional. If I could offer just one piece of advice to those who hate networking, it would be to reframe the exercise and adopt a new mind-set. Stop using the word ‘networking’ and, instead, think of it as building your guiding coalition. Reciprocity is key Don’t think about conferences and events as the places to start networking: the best connections are with people with whom you share an interest. View every meeting and every conversation as a potential contact. Most importantly, don’t think about what you need from your network: think about what you can offer. When we take every opportunity to give to our network (whether we need help or not) it stops feeling like networking. As the golden rule of networking is reciprocity, those you helped will look for opportunities to help you in return. Build first Finally, it is crucial to build your network before you need it. If you’re about to apply for your ideal job, become self-employed or grow an existing business, that’s not the time to start building your network. That’s the time to leverage it. Dawn Leane is Founder of LeaneLeaders. She will be teaching a course: Networking for women who hate networking.

Jul 19, 2019
News

Ever gotten a group together to brainstorm and felt like it was a waste of time? Anne Byrne feels your pain. She provides some practical tips to banish the brainstorming blues and to make your next brainstorming session more effective and innovative. I have a confession to make: I hate brainstorming sessions. I often find them unproductive, a bit chaotic and leave me wondering – what was the point? I used to think this made me a lousy innovator. Surely, brainstorming was the epitome of innovating? Lots of people in a room, coming up with lots of ideas – that’s innovation, right? As time has gone on, and I’ve learned more about innovation, I’ve come to realise two things: Brainstorming isn’t innovation, but it is an essential step in the innovation process. Brainstorming isn’t bad; it’s often just not done right! So, here are my tips for better brainstorming, learned from my own mistakes and experience. Tip 1: I wouldn’t start from here... Getting lots of people in a room and writing down loads of ideas isn’t productive unless those people understand the problem at hand and user's needs. Too often we rush to brainstorm when we haven’t entirely defined the problem. We need to understand the issue at hand before we start. Next time you’re thinking about holding a brainstorming session, take a moment to think about whether it’s the right time to do so: do you and the team understand the issues and trends? Have you articulated the problem? Have you spoken to the impacted users? Sometimes it’s a matter of timing. If you can get the groundwork done first, you’ll find brainstorming more productive, relevant and engaging. Tip 2: Stay quiet! I’m one of those people who will rush to fill any silence in a room – but one of the things that I’ve learned is that sometimes I need to zip it. Silence in brainstorming is powerful. Five or ten minutes of silent thinking and idea generation at the beginning of a brainstorming session works wonders. It allows people who may be more naturally introverted to gather their thoughts and more actively participate, and for more ideas to be generated, and it avoids the group getting sucked into “group think” around the first few ideas thrown into the ring before anyone has fully thought them through. Tip 3: Bold is beautiful To be truly innovative, we need to be bold, to put forward the big ideas that seem a bit scary or silly. Many innovations sound ridiculous or unfeasible when first pitched. The innovation process is about taking the big, bold, ludicrous ideas and refining them to make it work. Sometimes, we filter ourselves, and therefore limit the ideas that put forward when brainstorming. We are afraid of being criticised or ridiculed, so we stay in the safe zone.The challenge is to silence that inner voice; the one that tells us to play it safe or stay quiet. Taking a bit of time at the beginning of a brainstorming session, or at the formation of an innovation team, to focus on establishing trust is essential. Simple measures, like developing a team charter of behaviours or conducting an ice-breaker designed to build trust, can make a big difference. Tip 4: Be ruthless! Too often I’ve left brainstorming sessions with a wad of post-it notes, but no real idea what any of them mean, and too many ideas to feel like I can do anything useful. Brainstorming is itself a process: step one is creating lots and lots of ideas free from constraints, but step two is to whittle these down and start to tease them out further. By narrowing down your ideas, you can focus on developing the strongest ones. Tip 5: Let go Letting go of ideas is hard, so how do we do it? Set some rules and limits, apply them in a fun way, and do so in an environment of trust. Fostering psychological safety in a group is a key factor for letting go. People need to understand that it is an idea that is being rejected, not the individual who came up with it. A team that can trust and let go together can also foster critique and challenge ideas constructively.  Anne Byrne is the GovLab lead in Deloitte.

Jul 10, 2019
News

After a bout of bad governance in charities and not-for-profit organisations in Ireland, trust in the sector is at an incredible low. For charities to continue their work, they need to build back the public's confidence. Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí explains how accountability and transparency can achieve that goal. Only 50% of the public trusts Irish charities, according to recent research by nfpSynergy. This is below the level of trust in our schools (74%), the Garda (62%), the EU (55%) and the civil service (53%). Some consolation might be taken from the fact that trust in charities was above that of the banks (41%), but our banking institutions are on the long journey of trust-recovery after the banking failures 10 years ago. Back in April 2012, charities were getting a trust score of 74% but they fell to a low of 43% in November 2016 after the fallout from the Console scandal, and upward progress has been ever since. Charities need to continually work on generating and building back public confidence. Major failures in corporate governance by charities, such as Console and not-for-profits like the Football Association of Ireland, are extremely damaging for the sector as a whole, particularly given the criticality of public trust for charitable organisations and their sustainability. Restoring the public trust To restore and build public trust, charities need to be strongly committed to the principle of accountability and transparency – one of the six core principles in the new Charities Governance Code. Grappling with change and implementation of a new governance code is not always easy, especially with limited resources. The Charities Regulator itself has said that 2019 will be a year of learning before registered charities are expected to fully comply with the Code in 2020, or report on it in 2021. Taking the steps to apply the six principles of the Code will make its implementation – and, in turn, building the public trust – that much smoother. Luckily, there is a good range of guidance available from the Charities Regulator that can assist, as well as a number of resources from other organisations (e.g. Carmichael, The Wheel, Chartered Accountants Ireland, etc.) that can help charities develop and embed good governance practices. Charities could also consider entering the Good Governance Awards. Investing time and effort in such an initiative can really build the public’s confidence while showing the charity’s commitment to improving its organisation’s accountability and transparency. The charity and not-for-profit sector has long been an important backbone of our society and communities across Ireland. The selfless desire to help others is core to what they do as trustees, volunteers and staff working in the sector. Through good governance and transparency, those within the sector will earn back the trust they deserve. Diarmaid Ó Corrbuí is the CEO of Carmichael. Carmichael established the Good Governance Awards for Charities and Not-for-profits in 2016. The 2019 awards are now open for entries, closing date 13 September. For more information, see the awards website at www.goodgovernanceawards.ie.

Jul 05, 2019
News

While cybercrime tends to hog the headlines in this digital age, low-tech fraud continues to be a risk for most organisations, says Teresa Campbell. Virtually all business owners encounter fraud at some stage. While technology enabled scams like invoice redirection and telecom fraud tend to grab the headlines, traditional low-tech scams have not gone away. Here are some common examples of low-tech fraud, along with some tips on how to guard against them. Payroll fraud Payroll fraud can be very costly, especially if issues go unnoticed for a long period of time. Some examples of payroll fraud include: Staff members lying about hours worked or commissions earned; Payroll operators keeping a former employee on the payroll and diverting the salary to their own account; and Staff members asking for a pay advance and not repaying it. Having good internal controls with robust approval procedures that are consistently applied, along with checking payroll reports to verify payments, can help protect your organisation against payroll fraud. Expense account fraud There are various ways in which a dishonest employee can fiddle business expenses – from submitting forged receipts to double-claiming for expenses, or staying in cheap accommodation but submitting expenses for an expensive hotel. Again, the best way to protect against this type of fraud is to implement appropriate checks and approval procedures before reimbursing employee expenses. Theft Theft doesn’t always involve loss of cash. Misuse of company facilities such as photocopying or taking stationery for personal use, inappropriate use of company vehicles, theft of customer information, stock or intellectual property are all examples of theft that can cost your business money. Regardless of whether it’s situations like these, or stealing from petty cash or messing with accounts, theft by employees can be very difficult and time consuming to deal with. As is always the case, prevention is better than cure. Strong policies and good communication can help prevent problems arising. Employees should be aware of your expectations regarding honesty and integrity, your disciplinary code, and the consequences of failing to adhere to company policies. Supplier fraud This can occur where a supplier invoices for an amount in excess of the agreed price for a product or service. Supplier fraud sometimes involves collusion with an employee. For example, where VAT is paid to a non-VAT registered supplier or an employee accepts an inducement from a potential supplier. Implementing robust procurement procedures is the best way to protect your business against these types of fraud. Customer fraud Customers can attempt to defraud your business by claiming that a delivery has not arrived or that a product is faulty, returning a product that they did not purchase from you or even attempting to return a product that they stole from you. While it is difficult to eliminate these types of fraud, policies such as requiring receipts can help to protect your business. Other ways to protect against low-tech fraud Depending on your business, there are various other tactics you can use to spot problems and defend against fraud. These include: Daily/weekly bank reconciliations; Robust approval/authorisation procedures for payments; Security training for staff; Shredding confidential waste paper; and Controlling visitors entering your premises, e.g. requiring them to sign in at reception. Think about where the fraud opportunities exist in your business as this will help you work out what protective measures need to be put in place. It’s a good idea to seek professional advice as there can be potential pitfalls in areas such as breaching privacy rights or failing to comply with legal requirements. Teresa Campbell is the People and Culture Director at PKF-FPM Accountants Limited.

Jul 05, 2019

Chartered Accountants Ireland today, 20 June, launched its inaugural programme of Pride celebrations. Over the summer, the Institute will be running a range of events and online resources in Dublin and Belfast. The programme commenced with the unveiling of building branding in the Dublin office and a staff event on diversity & inclusion. The Institute was delighted to welcome Chartered Accountants Ireland member Brendan Byrne, Finance Director and LGBT Network Lead at Accenture Ireland, along with Sara Philips, Chair of TENI who was the Grand Marshall of this year's Pride parade. Though members and member firms have a long history of supporting Pride, this is the Institute’s first participation, and the activities build on the wider remit of the Institute and its Diversity and Inclusion Committee. To mark the occasion, Diversity and Inclusion Committee member John McNamara shares his thoughts on Pride celebrations and how people can be allies all year round. Importance of LGBT+ allies all year round Each year, June sees a month-long global celebration of Pride and it’s a time for everyone to recognise and celebrate the importance of diversity and inclusion both in and out of the workplace. Why June? June was chosen to commemorate the Stonewall riots in New York, which occurred at the end of June 1969 and therefore this year marks its 50th anniversary. The riots grew from police raids on the Stonewall gay bar which in turn led to wider demonstrations and is now recognised as the birth of the modern LGBT+ rights movement. Pride was born out of the struggle for the gay community to be seen. The purpose of the commemorative month is to recognize the impact that LGBT+ individuals and groups have had on society and highlight areas where further progress is required. Very appropriately, the theme for Dublin Pride in 2019 is ‘Rainbow Revolution’. Notwithstanding the rapid and important hard-won recent achievements in this country, Pride won’t magically make everybody comfortable enough to come out at work, and it won’t encourage everyone to think twice about the discriminatory language they use in and out of work often disguised as ‘banter’. A recent UK study showed 62% of LGBT+ graduates who are already out to their friends and family feel they have to go back into the closet when they get their first job. The Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion committee plays a role in drawing attention to the importance of business strategies ensuring an inclusive environment for LGBT+ employees. We understand that when we can be ourselves at work and are able to live our values every day, we are empowered to reach our full potential. We also know that when people from different backgrounds with different points of view collaborate together, they create the greatest value - for our business and our customers. The role of LGBT+ Allies is vital in this regard. An ally is a term used to describe someone who is supportive of LBGT people and includes non-LGBT allies as well as those within the LGBT community who support each other. How can you be an ally? Here are 4 basic ways: EDUCATE YOURSELF: Make time to learn about the issues. Go away, do your research and give yourself a good idea of what it all means. BE VISIBLE: From simple things like wearing Pride badges or lanyards, taking part in Pride activities in your work to talking about experiences of your own, about gay family-members or friends you have. Be natural. If you are a leader, people will watch you and take cues from your behaviour. INFLUENCE OTHERS: Use whatever platform you have to share your perspective and to share other people’s stories. Have those conversations. Being an ally goes beyond just LGBT and you can show your support in other areas equally as well. LISTEN: When someone confides in you, listen. Reassure them. Ask open questions. If someone has come to you as a trusted ally, that is a great thing. So, while we celebrate Pride this month it’s important to remember why it’s important that we do so. We equally need to carry that understanding and commitment past June and through to the rest of the year. John McNamara is Managing Director of Canada Life International Assurance (Ireland), a member of the Institute’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Chairperson of the organisation behind SpunOut.ie and Crisistextline.ie. Related links: Institute diversity statement - https://www.charteredaccountants.ie/about-us/what-we-do/Diversity-and-inclusion-statement Member and students event – Pride in our profession https://www.charteredaccountants.ie/prideinprofession Featured story: Broad parental leave policies help families and organisations thrive https://www.charteredaccountants.ie/News/broad-parental-leave-policies-help-families-and-organisations-thrive FLICKR photos from the Chartered Accountants Ireland Pride festivities https://www.flickr.com/photos/irishcharteredaccountants/albums/72157709174395818

Jun 20, 2019
News

For most, figuring out parenting and your career is difficult. It can be even more so if you are an LGBT parent. Peter Keenan-Gavaghan explains how the support from his organisation enabled him and his husband to make the leap into parenthood while growing his career. Balancing a career and a family is always a juggling act. However, when your family does not fit the traditional model, it can also prove to be a minefield for all concerned, especially at work. Societal expectations of parental roles, parental names and second glances are only a few of the factors that need to be thought about before LGBT people become parents. Despite having made the decision to have children early in our relationship, it took my husband and I eight years before our son arrived into the world. With both of us being working professionals, the process of family planning started in the traditional way: how do we balance parenthood, careers and our relationship? We quickly realised that we also needed to consider society. In the end, some of it came down to practicalities, and some came down to our own values, preferences and external supports.  Parental leave One area we had to consider was managing early childcare. My firm gives enhanced paid parental leave regardless of gender and this played a big part in our decision that I would be the stay at home dad for the first seven months of our son's life, with my husband returning to work on a reduced work week. Without the seven-month paid parental leave from my firm, our family would be much different position starting out – and certainly disadvantaged compared to mums going on leave. It’s important that not only the people in an organisation are supportive to LGBT families, but that the support is reflected in the HR policies and procedures. Creating a network We always knew we would need to navigate the potential assumptions from colleagues and clients that there is a ‘mum’ at home. We quickly realised that if social assumptions were to change, we needed to be proud of our family, and not place each other back in the closet. Having same-sex parents is nothing new in Barclays. Indeed, when we were investigating how we would become parents, one of the first ports of call was Barclays LGBT network, Spectrum. There we got a greater understanding of fostering, adoption and surrogacy. The network also holds regular talks on ‘non-traditional' parenting to educate colleagues on how they can become parents and continue to build their career. While nothing would have stopped my husband and me from having our son, the information and support gained from the LGBT network in my organisation eased the process for us (as much as to-be parents can be eased when planning for their first) and normalises families like ours to colleagues and clients. Before going on paternity leave, my team did the traditional baby gift presentation and I was invited to expectant parents’ events. This not only showed support but also demonstrated inclusivity. Talent retention What I have found since going back to work is that I have become more focused and flexible. Because Barclays gave me the information on parental leave, the precious first months with my son, and the flexibility to alter my working hours to the typical parent’s life without judgements or assumptions, they have retained a committed employee and have helped create a happy family. Peter Keenan-Gavaghan is Vice President of Barclays Internal Audit – RFT & Functions Technology.

Jun 17, 2019
Press release

Give landlords reasons to stay in the residential market: Accountancy Profession’s pre-Budget submission calls for sustainable tax reforms If many of Ireland’s homeless are finding themselves without a home because of landlords selling up their rental property, something urgently must be done to keep landlords in the rental market. Speaking at the launch of CCAB-I’s pre-Budget 2020 submission to the Department of Finance, Public Policy Manager at Chartered Accountants Ireland, Cróna Clohisey said “Landlords are an essential feature of a fully functioning residential property market.  But many are part-time, accidental landlords, are heavily indebted and face crippling tax bills which they cannot afford to pay.  Faced with a choice between a 52% tax burden and rising property prices, many are choosing to exit; leaving their tenants in a stark position.  This problem was highlighted further by the Focus Ireland research published this week”  This exit puts unprecedented strain on the housing market where rising house prices also mean would-be purchasers are at the same time being pushed into the rental market.  Chartered Accountants Ireland recommends changing the tax system to keep these landlords in the market and have asked the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe, T.D. to consider proposals in the profession’s pre-Budget submission. The Institute is very clear that it does not want to see a return to an era of “Section 23” type reliefs. “The problem with property reliefs is that the market became flooded with small property investors who were average earners and purchased houses and apartments on the back of tax reliefs which were not sustainable.  Instead we want to see a more measured approach to tax reliefs. For example, allow Local Property Tax as a deduction against rental income. Encourage landlords to repair their properties by giving a tax write off for expenditure incurred over 4 years rather than the current 8 years. Enable landlords to offset rental losses against other income like the self-employed can,” said Ms Clohisey.   Back in April 2017, the Department of Finance had a public consultation on the tax treatment of landlords and in the two years since, with no response from the Department, calls for change seem to have gone unheard.  “In order to have an effective consultative process, we need to see tangible evidence that suggestions are being listened to and are being considered. We haven’t seen this when it comes to the rental market. With over 10,300 people homeless in Ireland and with current building levels not even close to the 51,724 units built in 2008, we are calling for urgent action.  Reforming the tax system for landlords would be a good start for citizens.” said Ms Clohisey. ENDS Notes to editors Reference: Claire Percy, Chartered Accountants Ireland, M: 086 216 4393, claire.percy@charteredaccountants.ie About Chartered Accountants Ireland Chartered Accountants Ireland is Ireland’s largest and longest established professional body of accountants founded in 1888.  The Institute, which is an all-island body, currently represents over 27,000 members around the world. Chartered Accountants Ireland under the auspices of the Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies Ireland (CCAB-I) submitted its pre-Budget 2020 submission to the Department of Finance this week.  Copies of the submission, which also covers ideas to boost the Irish SME sector, are available here.    

Jun 13, 2019

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