Well, not quite. I am having my first baby, due on 7th February, but I’ve already had my orders to bring him into the office for plenty of cuddles. It’s an extremely exciting time for me and my partner and we’re over the moon that we will soon be parents. I would just like to thank the many clients that have wished me well during my pregnancy, I’m sure my colleagues will have great pleasure in letting you all know when he has arrived.
There are so many things to think about when finding out that you’re expecting a baby, especially when it’s your first like me. If I can take this opportunity to highlight a little bit of useful information, then maybe that’s one less thing to worry about for expectant Mom’s.
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)
Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) is paid for up to 39 weeks. You get:
90% of your average weekly earnings (before tax) for the first 6 weeks
£145.18 or 90% of your average weekly earnings (whichever is lower) for the next 33 weeks
SMP is paid in the same way as your wages (for example monthly or weekly). Tax and National Insurance will be deducted.
There is also a useful SMP Calculator on https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents
SMP usually starts when you take your maternity leave. It starts automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.
Tell your employer you want to stop work to have a baby and the day you want your SMP to start. You must give them at least 28 days’ notice (in writing if they ask for it) and proof that you’re pregnant. Your employer must confirm within 28 days how much SMP you’ll get and when it will start and stop. If they decide you’re not eligible, they must give you form SMP1 within 7 days of making their decision and explain why.
Statutory Maternity Leave (SML)
Statutory Maternity Leave is 52 weeks. It’s made up of:
Ordinary Maternity Leave - first 26 weeks
Additional Maternity Leave - last 26 weeks
You don’t have to take 52 weeks, but you must take 2 weeks’ leave after your baby is born (or 4 weeks if you work in a factory).
There is also a calculator to help you work out the dates for your ordinary and additional leave and to work out to the earliest date your maternity leave can start at https://www.gov.uk/pay-leave-for-parents. Usually, the earliest you can start your leave is 11 weeks before the expected week of childbirth.
Leave will also start:
The day after the birth if the baby is early
Automatically if you’re off work for a pregnancy-related illness in the 4 weeks before the week (Sunday to Saturday) that your baby is due.
You must give your employer at least 8 weeks’ notice if you want to change your return to work date.
Employee rights when on Maternity Leave
Keeping in touch days
Employees can work up to 10 days during their maternity leave. These days are called ‘keeping in touch days’. They are optional and both the employee and employer need to agree to them.
Terms and Conditions Protection
The employment terms and conditions are protected, and employees are entitled to any pay rises and improvements in terms and conditions given during the leave. Pension contributions usually stop if a period of leave is unpaid, unless your contract says otherwise. For example, during unpaid periods of maternity leave or parental leave. Employees continue to build up holiday entitlement and can take any holiday they’ve accrued (built up) before or after the leave.
Employees must tell their employer about the pregnancy at least 15 weeks before the beginning of the week the baby is due. If this is not possible (for example because they did not know they were pregnant) the employer must be told as soon as possible. Employees must also tell the employer when they want to start their Statutory Maternity Leave and Statutory Maternity Pay.
Paid Antenatal Care
Employers must give pregnant employees time off for antenatal care and pay their normal rate for this time off. The father or pregnant woman’s partner has the right to unpaid time off work to go to 2 antenatal appointments.
Health and Safety for Pregnant Employees
When the employee tells their employer they’re pregnant, the employer should assess the risks to the employee and their baby.
Risks could be caused by:
Heavy lifting or carrying
Standing or sitting for long periods without adequate breaks
Exposure to toxic substances
Long working hours
Where there are risks, the employer should take reasonable steps to remove them. For example, offering the employee different work or changing their hours.
It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of being pregnant.
See you all soon!
Our office will close for Christmas on Friday 21st December at 1pm and reopen on Wednesday 2nd January at 8.30am. We wish all our clients a very Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!
As it's also the time of year for Christmas parties, just a little reminder of HMRC's rules. Staff entertainment is normally considered to be a taxable benefit in kind, with employees paying tax on the value of the benefit and employers also paying Class 1A National Insurance on the value. However, there is an exception to cover events such as a Christmas Party. The event has to be annual, open to all employees and the cost (including VAT) must not exceed £150 per person. In such circumstances the cost is an allowable expense of the business, VAT is recoverable (but may be restricted if customers are included), and there is no tax charge on the employees or Class 1A charge on the employer. So, enjoy! But, be warned, if the cost goes over the £150 per head limit then the full amount is taxable.
Just to keep our clients up to date with the 2018 budget which Philip Hammond delivered as chancellor.
Here are the key points of his 72-minute speech.
-The personal allowance threshold, the rate at which people start paying income tax at 20%, to rise from £11,850 to £12,500 in April - a year earlier than planned.
-The higher rate income tax threshold, the point at which people start paying tax at 40%, to rise from £46,350 to £50,000 in April.
-After that, the two rates will rise in line with inflation.
-National Living Wage increasing by 4.9%, from £7.83 to £8.21 an hour, from April 2019.
-Fuel duty to be frozen for ninth year in a row.
-All first-time buyers purchasing shared equity homes of up to £500,000 will be eligible for first-time buyers' relief.
-Lettings relief limited to properties where the owner is in shared occupancy with the tenant
-Annual investment allowance to be increased from £200,000 to £1m for two years.
-Contribution of small companies to apprenticeship levy to be reduced from 10% to 5%.
-Business rates bill for firms with a rateable value of £51,000 or less to be cut by third over two years.
Bye for now.....
On Wednesday 17th October we will be hosting our first, free of charge, training day for our clients. As a result our offices will be closed for the day on Wednesday, and re-open at 8.30am on Thursday. Should you have an urgent query on Wedneday we will still be contactable by telephone on 01543 273830.
I love the changes of the seasons, Saturday brought clear skies over the chase and frost in the valleys, we dropped our youngest off at Springslade Lodge for his first Duke of Edinburgh hike and took the opportunity for a brisk early morning walk towards seven springs. I love this season, the promise of walks on crunching leaves, Chestnut foraging, bonfires… I’m always a bit sad to say goodbye to summer but look forward to the winter.
So the last two weeks have been packing away summer clothes, writing Christmas lists… yep I’m that person… and finding boots, coats, gloves again, to quote Bear Grylls and my father in law there is no bad weather just bad clothing! So are you equipped and prepared for the next few months?
Here at MAS we do our best to equip you in advance, Merv and Alyssia have been beavering away in advance of next years “making tax digital” to source and provide software and training for clients and staff. Scores of engagement letters have been written to comply with GDPR, end of year checklists have been sent to clients and chase up letters for accounts have all been sent out well in advance. This is all part of our ongoing commitment to provide the best for our clients.
So… is there a letter unanswered lurking somewhere in your to do pile, a pile of paperwork to just drop in, a reminder from HMRC that your accounts need filing? January is fast approaching and that dreaded tax return deadline…the sooner it’s bought into us the sooner it’s out the way and it saves poor Alyssia having to write another score of chase up letters… We look forward to seeing you soon.
As part of our continuing commitment to our clients to ensure that they meet all the compliance requirements of making tax digital we have already become recognised FreeAgent experts.
In addition, we are delighted to announce that we are also now officially Platinum ProAdvisors for QuickBooks Online.
QuickBooks Online addresses many of the issues businesses have with their day-to-day running. Amongst other things it's features and functions will help clients improve efficiency (save time), get paid faster and improve the information available to help you stay in control of your business.
QuickBooks features that can help include -
Bankfeeds, integration with other key cloud software, creating recurring transactions, creating banking rules, using the QuickBooks mobile app to create invoices when with clients or logging expenses when traveling.
Raising invoices as soon as possible via the mobile app, linking your invoices to services such as PayPal to get paid as soon as an invoice is issued, linking with Go Cardless to take payments via Direct Debit, Effortlessly sending payment reminders.
Scheduled and regular reports, QBO’s Management report function including fully automated reports, automated debt chasing, secure back ups, access from any device anywhere at anytime.
If you would like more information on how we can help you give us a call on 01543 273830.
April 2019 is not that far away. From that date the way many businesses prepare and submit their VAT returns is changing. You will no longer be able to prepare your sales invoices in one system and re-key them into another that you use for your VAT returns. This link will need to be electronic using API (application programming interface). If your turnover is above the VAT registration threshold you will also not be able to submit your VAT returns through HMRC's portal by typing in the information. These VAT returns will need to be submitted electronically.
Here at MAS Associates we have taken steps to ensure our clients can be compliant with the new requirements with the minimum of fuss. Not only that, but they will also be able to benefit from significant improvements in efficiency and access to information. We will be announcing some exciting news on how we can assist you later this week!
Ok, I’ll admit it – I am the worst at opening my post. I am forever in trouble with the other half for leaving an ever-growing pile of unopened post in the kitchen. He on the other hand, opens all his post as soon as he receives it, deals with everything immediately, file’s what is important and shreds what is not. However, the years of him nagging me are finally starting to pay off, I’m becoming a little bit more pro-active with my post and not burying my head in the sand any more. I must admit, although its easier to ignore it I have learnt one valuable lesson – it’s never as bad as you think it’s going to be!
If you are already a client of MAS Associates, you may have already met me, we may have had a few conversations on the phone, but you will have certainly received something in the post from me. Recently, I was tasked with the rather large job of renewing our engagement letters to allow for the new GDPR laws that were made effective 25th May 2018. If you’re one of the lucky ones, this will have been an envelope with just a few engagement letters, schedule of services and terms and conditions. For companies that we provide a large amount of services too and that have a number of directors that we act for as an individual, you will have received quite a few letters. All of which have been sent with duplicate copies, one for your files and one for you to return to us signed.
We have already received many of these back signed – fantastic! But a few of our clients have asked questions about the letters like “Do I really need to sign these?” & “What even is GDPR?”
These letters are important, engagement letters are the contract between you as a client and MAS Associates Ltd that defines the scope of work, responsibilities and obligations of each of the respective parties. By signing and returning these you are agreeing that you have understood the scope of work that we will carry out for you, our company policies and terms and conditions.
GDPR is the new EU "General Data Protection Regulation" and is the most significant shake-up in data privacy and data security in 20 years. It has replaced the "Data Protection Act". The biggest change to our engagement letter is the “Privacy Notice” section. As MAS Associates Ltd is both a Data Controller and Data Processor, the Privacy Notice section explains purposes for which we intend to process personal data, how long we will retain records for and your rights regarding the information we hold about yourself.
If you have not yet returned the engagement letters to us because you have questions that need answering or any concerns, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Alternatively, if you’re like the old me and you’re currently storing the large unopened envelope with a MAS Associates Ltd stamp on, underneath a pile of washing that you should probably see too as well – get proactive! Give it a read, sign where prompted and return to me as soon as possible. You can always pop in with the letters and we’ll be happy to help you through them.
England’s World Cup campaign brought a feel-good factor to football fans up and down the country. Whilst football didn’t quiet make it home, it got a lot closer than in many previous attempts!
Now that the World Cup is over, the attention of football supporters will be returning to their domestic leagues. For many, this will involve following the multi-million-pound professional game. For others, it will be supporting the local non-league team.
Here at MAS Associates we have been supporting several local non-league clubs for a number of years and look forward to continuing to do so for the years ahead.
In recognition of England’s run to the World Cup semi-finals we are making a special offer to new clients that will benefit both you and the non-league team of your choice.
If you become a client of ours before the end of the 2018/19 football season we guarantee to save you 10% on your accounts fees for the first year you are with us, AND, we will also donate a further 10% of the fee you pay us to your chosen non-league club for each of the first three years.
Who knows, this may just help a potential star of the future, and possibly even England bring football home in 2022!
We have seen a number of clients receive bogus calls, supposedly from HMRC, informing clients that a warrant is about to be issued against them and they should contact the number in the message urgently to prevent this. In one case a client was told they owed £4,000 from several years ago. These calls have all originated from Manchester based numbers, but be aware that they could come from anywhere.
HMRC have confirmed that they are aware of this and that this is a scam. If you receive one of these messages do not respond, and most certainly do not make any payment over the telephone.
If in any doubt please check with us first!
Being the mother of two teenagers, every month seems to be expensive, but especially this time of year – what with the summer holidays just around the corner, July can be one of the most expensive of the year!
Not just for parents though, as this month, those of you who are self-employed will be digging deep into your pockets to pay your second payment on account for the tax year 2017-18.
If you have increased your income for 2017-18, your payments on account January and July 2018 may not cover your actual liability for the year. In this instance, your payments will not automatically be increased but it would be more than prudent to identify this possibility early on so that provisions can be made for your January 2019 payment in advance.
Equally, talk to your accountant if you now have evidence that your income is falling, as you can lodge an application with HMRC to reduce payments on account. Your July payment may be reduced, and dependent upon the circumstances perhaps significantly.
Just a reminder that the deadline to avoid late payment interest and penalties is 31 July 2018.
Time goes to quickly, I moved house last year, it’s almost been a year, I just can't believe how quickly the time has gone, changes happening all the time, especially with HMRC, making tax digital, make sure you look at digital software now, so you know which one works for you, time goes so fast, you don't want to be leaving it to the last minute.
From April 2019 businesses above the VAT threshold will be mandated to keep their records digitally and provide quarterly updates to HMRC for their VAT.
In the meantime, business can start researching which bookkeeping software might suit their enterprise. For instance, a business that is VAT-registered will need digital tools that have VAT capabilities. If another firm spends a lot on business travel, it could look at apps that allow employees to record expenses on their smartphones. The key is to match the needs of your business with the features of a product. Somebody who does jobs on their own, like a gardener or window cleaner, may need to get smartphone software which they can enter financial information into as they go along.
At MAS we are looking at two digital bookkeeping software packages, FreeAgent and Quickbooks. All staff have experience in FreeAgent, we as a team are qualified in FreeAgent and we are currently updating our qualifications in Quickbooks, all staff will be able to help with any queries, we will be able to login to the cloud, if we have permission and help with any queries. MAS has chosen these two because FreeAgent is at the moment free to NatWest customers, and we have also chosen Quickbooks because we have found this to be very popular will our clients.
If you have concerns or any queries, then please do not hesitate to contact the office, to speak to one of our friendly staff, we are always happy to hear from you and deal with any queries you may have
Bye for now
There will be various changes to pay, tax, National Insurance and pensions all taking effect from April. The most relevant ones are -
1. Minimum Wage - From 1st April 2018 the hourly rate will rise to £7.83 for those aged 25+. For 21-24 year olds it will be £7.38. For 18-20's it will be £5.90 and £4.20 for 16-17 year olds. The apprentice rate will be £3.70.
2. Tax codes will change from 6th April. For 2018/19 L codes will increase by 35, M codes by 39 and N codes by 31. The personal allowance will be £11,850, giving a basic tax code of 1185L.
3. Also from 6th April the National Insurance Primary Threshold will be £8,424 per year (or £702 per month / £162 per week).
4. Minimum pension contributions under automatic enrolment also increase from 6th April to 5% (3% employees and 2% employers).
Our offices will close for Easter at 5.30pm on Thursday 29th March and reopen at 8.30am on Tuesday 3rd April.
Bob Dylan told us so back in the 1960’s. What was true then is certainly true now and in the coming months.
Here at MAS Associates we have seen a few changes over the last year. Our new website is finally active, having lay dormant for too long. We have two new staff members who have joined us this year. Michelle officially joined us at the beginning of January, following a three-month temporary assignment. She is responsible for payroll, bookkeeping and VAT returns. Alyssia also joined us in January as Administrator. She’s usually the person you will hear answering the telephone and, amongst other things, will be responsible for ensuring clients meet their filing deadlines – or at last giving them plenty of reminders!
Over the next few months we’ll tell you more about our staff, as well as keeping you up-to-date on significant changes in accountancy, tax and other areas that may affect your business.
From 25th May this year the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force in the UK. This will give people more control over personal data that is held about them and also aims to have identical data protection law throughout the single market (I know, only we can vote to leave the EU and then bring in EU regulations!). Under the new legislation Data Controllers must ensure personal data is processed lawfully, transparently, and for a specific purpose. Data should be deleted when it is no longer required, or when the purpose it was obtained for is complete. There are requirements to obtain consent from individuals to use their data, and Data Controllers must record how and when this consent was obtained. People have the right to access their data, correct any errors, and also have the data removed – the ‘right to be forgotten’. Any breaches of security have to be reported to the Data Protection Authority within 72 hours of becoming aware, where peoples’ rights are at risk. The individuals should also be notified. More information can be found on the Information Commissioners Office website at https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-the-general-data-protection-regulation-gdpr/. Organisations should review their data protection policy and data security systems, including file encryption, as there can be significant fines for non-compliance.
Another significant change on the horizon will affect all VAT registered businesses that are above the VAT threshold. From April 2019 ‘Making Tax Digital’ will start to apply. We will cover this in more detail in a future post; but for now, from that date VAT returns will need to be submitted electronically to HMRC. In addition, the records from which they are prepared will need to be digital records. Where more than one system is used, these will need to link together via an Application Programming Interface (API). So, no more preparing invoices in excel or word and keying in your VAT return via the HMRC website.
And, of course, from March 2019 we will be leaving the EU and the single market. Whilst many see this as a major disaster, others will see it as a great opportunity. It waits to be seen how this will impact on tax legislation and reporting requirements.
We will keep you informed of significant developments along the way. If you don’t do so already, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and/or Linkedin to be kept up-to-date. You can also subscribe to our e-mail newsletter to ensure you get the latest information.