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Protect from Fraud

26th July 2019
26th July 2019

Fraud is so common now – here we look at the main categories, and what you can do to help keep your systems safe and protect from fraud.

Fraud is becoming more widespread, with an estimated 3.6 million fraud cases in 2018 – yet only 276,000 cases were reported to the police.  The estimates show a 12 % increase year on year.

There are 4 main categories for fraud:

  • Online shopping, and online auction fraud was the most reported category
  • Advance fee fraud is where you are asked to pay upfront and never receive what you’ve paid for
  • Computer fixing fraud is most common in Norfolk, nearly double the national average.  What does this say about Norfolk people!
  • Cheque, plastic card and online bank fraud is the fourth most popular category.

Increasingly popular is identity fraud, rising fastest for victims who are over 60 and under 21.  The two most likely sources of information to enable a fraudster to use your identity are the internet, and the individual themselves. 

Latest scams that are reported in large numbers include:

  • Spoof HMRC phone calls, threatening prosecution because of apparently unpaid tax.  Where there is any unpaid tax, HMRC will initially make contact by letter.
  • Talk Talk refunds, with a link to a malicious website
  • TV Licensing scam, asking for you to update your bank records to avoid prosecution.  Over 900 cases have been reported with losses to individuals totalling £830,000.
  • BT scam offering enhanced security, where you are asked to let a technician log into your computer, which they then take control of, and ask you to log into your bank account.

How to protect from fraud

As more services are online, ensuring your computer is secure is ever more critical.  The police Action Fraud website contains useful information on how to protect yourselves, including the free cybercrime protection service Quad9 and DMARC

Quad9 is a free security solution which acts to protect your system against the most common cyber threats, and also improving your system performance and enhancing your privacy.  DMARC is designed to protect your business from email fraud.

The Global Cyber Alliance has developed a CyberSecurity Toolkit specifically designed for small and medium sized businesses.  It offers actionable guidance and tools with clear directions to protect your business from cyber attacks.  If your business isn’t protected – it’s time to act now.

Decline of the Ice Cream Van

12th July 2019
12th July 2019

We like to think that, although we are accountants, we always look beyond the numbers – as it says on our Facebook page here.  We found a fascinating article about the ice cream van business, which explores the reasons behind the decline of the ice cream van.  It’s quite a long read… here’s our summary in 350 words to save you time…

In the 1950s, there were 20,000 ice cream vans in the UK.  Now, the trade body, the Ice Cream Alliance, estimates there are between 2,500 and 5,000, but only 10% do street trading. 

The reasons for this illustrate an interesting shift in society as different factors impact on this once burgeoning business.  Competition from supermarkets, where cheap ice cream is so readily available, is only part of the story.  Children don’t play outside as much as they did, so the chimes of Greensleeves often can’t be heard above the headphones…  And there is also an acknowledgement that ice cream isn’t necessarily seen to be that healthy!

Pricing of the product is also an issue.  The article quotes a price of £2 for a small cone plus flake, £3 for a large 99.  To buy a round of 99’s for a family soon gives little if any change from a tenner.  Increasing concern about the strength of the economy means consumers are reluctant to shell out their hard earner cash, and it is the luxury items that suffer the first chop.

We have often highlighted the trend towards a cashless society – so the forward-thinking ice cream van owner has to provide a contactless payment option.  With changing palates, vegan ice cream also has to be on offer – and even ice cream for dogs!

As with so much of our current life, climate change also crops up as a factor.  The perfect temperature to maximise ice cream sales is 21 degrees centigrade.  Too hot, it melts; too wet, no-one wants a 99.

This, then accounts for the decline in the ice cream van on the streets of Fenland and West Norfolk – as an increasing number either fall out of business, or turn to the corporate and wedding reception market. 

This article makes for a fascinating read if you have the time.

Skills or degrees?

5th July 2019
5th July 2019

What was your careers advice like at school?  Here we look at the future of work, and what it means for businesses and workers.  Are traditional routes through education the way to go? Are we looking at the need for skills – or degrees?

Back in the 1970s, 5% of the population went to university.  Now it’s more like 50% who gain a degree – but also manage to acquire a significant amount of debt alongside it.  In a fast changing work environment, the question needs asking:  how can degrees give the impression of a lifelong stamp of professional competency whilst rapid technological developments change the way people work anyway?

No-one now expects to have a job for life, and many people are actively rejecting the notion of working for someone else.  More flexible working patterns, increasing numbers of freelancers, and more self-employed, with people often balancing more than one job – all these factors point to the need for workers to be very flexible about how they work. 

Getting a degree now may actually be restricting opportunities later.  Technological advances mean that new jobs and specialties will emerge.  The World Economic Forum found that 65% of children entering primary school will end up in jobs that don’t actually exist at present. 

There is a strong trend which indicates that the future of work may not be about degrees – but rather, it will focus on skills.  Education won’t end with a graduation, but re-skilling throughout one’s working life will become essential if workers want to be relevant. 

Employers can reap the benefits of this flexibility, but will also need to recognise the importance of allowing workers to develop skills within their employment.  We’re looking here at not just upskilling, but re-skilling as technology progresses and disruption spreads. 

Will your business be able to adapt to this fast-changing workplace environment – or be left behind? 

Celebrating 10 years in business!

21st June 2019
21st June 2019

We are celebrating 10 years in business – Nickie looks back over the past decade…

In many ways it seems only 5 minutes ago since I decided to venture out of my position in an accountancy practice and set up in business on my own. In the 10 years I have had many great experiences, new challenges and sometimes difficult moments along the way, and I have learnt so much while taking the business from a small start up to an established practice with a team of employees by my side.

My career began 23 years ago as a trainee working in Kings Lynn where I studied and sat my Chartered Certified Accountancy exams and completed the training required to become qualified and then to gain my practicing certificate. After 13 years of working in King’s Lynn I decided to take the step and set up my own business.

I started with a small handful of clients who have been with me since the business began and I would like to thank them for their continued support and business. The client base has grown over the years covering a wide variety of business sizes and industries. This mixture of clients is always a great challenge.

I have many memorable moments over the 10 years. I clearly remember the first six months on my own and enjoyed the initial steps in working for myself, taking on new clients and learning to be in business for myself after years of working in practice and advising businesses every day. I feel that the experience I have had in setting up my own business is invaluable, and I pass on and share my experiences with all clients I have now going through similar steps.

Some of my highlights

Employing my first team member……. to my 6th

Very soon after starting up I soon realised I had to employ someone to help me support our clients. Such a daunting step and one not taken lightly. I was now going to be responsible for someone else’s earnings. Having said that from the first to our most recent appointment I have always embraced the steady growth.

Moving into a bigger office, and again, and again

Similarly, as the team grows the space required grows. Another challenge in the moving and the extra running costs. We have moved four times over the 10 years, always within the same building but into bigger offices or bringing two offices together to create the large open plan space we now use. The Boathouse has worked well for us and our clients.

Taking part and winning local business awards

Two years after starting I was approached to enter the Fenland Business Awards and I was surprised but very pleased to win Small Business of the year 2011 and Woman in Business the following year. Sometimes when you are the boss there isn’t anyone to tell you well done so this is a good feeling that you are doing something right.

Barwell Babies

Over the 10 years we have welcomed several babies in the team. Some more eventful than others with team members going into labour in the office….

Staff meals and days out

We always try to get out for a lunch a couple of times a year and have had day trips to London as well. This is always a favourite for us and a good way to spend time as a team without it being all work related.


Many people know I have a hobby outside work of baking, frequently trying to pull of whatever has appeared on this weeks’ Bake Off and sharing cake in the office is always on the agenda. Who doesn’t like tea and cake!!

Meeting with customers

Every day I get the most out of meeting or talking with current and new customers, its why I wanted to do this, I wanted to have that relationship with my customers and really feel part of their businesses and work with them to support their current needs. I am passionate about building good relationships with them to ensure I can provide the best service possible.

None of this would have been possible without the support of my family and team of staff. I am truly grateful for everyone’s input in this journey and look forward to sharing the next 10 years with you all.

The team and I would like to thank all our customers past and present and look forward to the next 10 years.

Is a three day working week the future?

17th June 2019
17th June 2019

How does a three day weekend sound?  Would you take Friday or Monday off?  Or how about a four day weekend?  Richard Branson thinks a three day working week is a good idea – read on to find out why…

Many of us benefit from flexible working arrangements, which helps us achieve a better work/life balance.  Richard Branson’s proposals push this a step further though, as he claims that new technology should enable us to work fewer hours and be equally, if not more, effective. 

He puts this into practice with the Virgin staff he employs, where they are offered unlimited leave and a work from hone option.  His argument is simple: “it’s easier to attract top talent when you are open and flexible.  It’s not effective or productive to force them to behave in a conventional way”, he argued in a blog.

It is advances in technology which is driving this transition.  Innovation should make it possible to do more work in less time, freeing up employees to have more personal time.  Branson has always advocated for more fun, but increased time off would also enable families to spend more time together.  It may also take pressure off parents who often have to choose between pursuing their career or devoting more time to their family – to the cost of their work future.

He argues that flexible working has to be built into people’s jobs, rather than bolted on – just giving someone a laptop so they can work from home won’t achieve the goals for employee and employer.

What is not disputed is that happy workers make better workers, with a high degree of job satisfaction being reflected in higher productivity.  There is also the option for reduced costs, for example where staff work from home instead of in an office. 

There is no doubt that the pattern of working will change in the future as increased automation alters traditional work roles.  But is a three day working week a step too far, too fast?  It clearly won’t work in some sectors, but might just be a way forward in some.  After all, Fridays and Mondays off does sound very tempting…

What is the future for High Street gift cards?

6th June 2019
6th June 2019

How many of you have Topshop or Miss Selfridge gift cards or vouchers?  Read on as we explore what is the future for High Street gift cards…

The Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Miss Selfridge, Burtons, and Dorothy Perkins amongst other well know High Street brands, is in crisis talks about its future.  It’s just the latest retail group to run into trouble, and many are predicting it will collapse into administration.

what is the future for high street gift cards

Gift cards and vouchers are still popular, especially for presents with a gift card being an easy option for the elderly relative, particularly around Christmas and birthdays.  Last year, sales of gift cards and vouchers amounted to more than £6billion in the UK.

A large proportion of that is effectively lost though, as cards get lost, they expire, or a balance is left on them that can’t be spent. 

What is most worrying, though, is when the business goes into administration.  In recent years, other high street retail failures have included HMV, House of Fraser, Maplin, Toys R Us and Evans Cycles, all of which were popular with the gift card market. 

When a business does go into administration, these gift cards become effectively worthless, as the business can legally stop accepting gift cards.  So the message is clear – use your Topshop or other Arcadia group gift card now, or risk losing its value completely. 

If you have bought something already but want to exchange it or ask for a refund, it’s the same message – act quickly.  It would be sensible to not accept a credit note but ask for a replacement item instead.

So whilst gift cards have never represented that good value for money, with the High Street in crisis, it makes sense to cash them in quickly rather than run the risk of losing them completely. The future for High Street gift cards looks bleak…

Is the restaurant sector in crisis?

31st May 2019
31st May 2019

Who doesn’t enjoy eating out?  But who would want to be a restauranteur these days?  In the week that Jamie Oliver’s chain of restaurants, the Jamie Oliver Restaurant Group goes bust, we ask ‘is the restaurant sector in crisis’, and why this is the case…

Over the past year or so, several big-name brands have entered rescue schemes – including Prezzo, Carluccios and Gourmet Burger Kitchen.  The restaurant trade is suffering – 37 of Britain’s top 100 restaurants are loss-making.  Why is this?  As always, there are a number of contributing factors:

  • Rents on property have shot up, particularly since 2015 
  • Business rates have gone up
  • Other costs are increasing – such as food, utility and wage costs

The demand side has been hit too, with weak consumer confidence reducing spending, as well as an increasing interest in more imaginative and diverse foods. 

restaurant sector in crisis

With a local presence in Cambridge and Norwich, many of us will have eaten at one of Jamie’s restaurants, so why did the business fail? Experts have identified 5 things that went wrong with Jamie’s chain:

  • It proved difficult to translate his personality into a chain of restaurants – personal branding isn’t enough to guarantee success
  • The food offering wasn’t interesting enough
  • Customer reviews pointed to a lack of quality in the food offering
  • Instead of bringing in established, experienced management, he promoted his brother-in-law who had no experience of running a chain of restaurants
  • Poor timing – as the factors identified above combined to put pressure on the business.

Too often, the larger restaurant chains are too slow to adapt to changing trends, and are left behind as more imaginative independents deliver new eating and dining experiences.  The rise in popularity of vegan and vegetarian diets is one indicator of changing consumer habits. Far from this signalling the end of eating out, perhaps it’s just offering more of an opportunity for independents?

Accountancy Job Vacancy

19th April 2019
19th April 2019

Due to business growth, we are looking for a new member to join our established team in the accounts and tax department.

The candidate must be experienced in practice, and an accountancy qualification is desirable but not essential.

We are offering a part time position with flexibility.

If you are interested, please email you CV, or any questions about the position, to

Data Breach – how to avoid one

5th April 2019
5th April 2019

The new phrase to send a shiver of anxiety down any business owner’s back is ‘data breach’ – but what can you do to reduce the risk of it happening to you?

A data breach occurs as a result of a cyber attack.  Criminals are then able to gain unauthorised access and steal private, sensitive or confidential personal and financial data.  Usually, the crims are wanting to steal data such as names, email addresses, usernames, passwords and credit card details. 

The way that the crims get access to your systems tend to be:

  • Spyware – malicious software that infects your PC or mobile device and gathers information about you, your browsing and Internet usage habits, as well as other data;
  • Phishing – where people are deceived into sharing sensitive information like passwords and credit card numbers; and
  • Broken or misconfigured access controls which let people into parts of the system they shouldn’t have access to.

Best practice now is to be proactive about data security.  The top 3 tips are:

  • Segment your data:  whilst this may not stop the crims, it will slow them down and make their lives more difficult.
  • Use the Principle of Least Privilege, or PolP, where each user only has enough access to the system to do their job.  If one user account gets attacked, then anyone using that account won’t have access to the whole system.
  • Use a strong cybersecurity programme which can detect threats, prevent downloads, and stop malware from getting onto your network.

If, as an individual, you think you’ve been the victim of a breach, here’s a quick check list of some things you may need to do:

  • Reset passwords – you may want to consider using a password manager app
  • Check your credit cards for any suspicious activity
  • Think about putting a freeze on your credit limit on your cards
  • Check your inbox carefully, including your spam folder for any dodgy looking phishing activity
  • Use multi-factor authentication, where you need your password plus another form of ID

Personal Tax changes 2019 – 2020

29th March 2019
29th March 2019

Next week sees the start of the new tax year 2019 – 2020, so we have summarised the key personal tax changes that will come into effect.

Personal Allowance:  this goes up from £11,850 to £12,500.  For most people, this will give a reduction in tax of about £130 per year.

Higher rate income tax threshold (the 40% tax rate) increases from £46,350 to £50,000.

Income tax rates are as follows:  Basic, 20% rate is income up to £37,500; Higher, 40% rate is £37,501 to £150,000; and the Additional, 45% rate, is all income over £150,000

Other allowances are increasing as well, as follows:  the married / civil partners allowance goes up to £8,915; the minimum married/civil partners allowance is now £3,450; the married/civil partners transferable allowance is £1,250; the income limit for married/civil partners allowance becomes £29,600; and the blind persons allowance is £2,450.

Inheritance Tax changes are limited to the Residence nil-rate band, which goes up to £150,000.

Student Loans:  the Plan 1 threshold increases to £18,935, Plan 2 goes up to £25,725.  The 9% rate of reduction stays the same.

ISAs: there is a small adjustment to the annual Child Trust Fund and Junior ISA savings limit, up to £4,260.

Workplace Pensions: The minimum contributions into the auto-enrolment workplace pension increases, with the total amount from both employer and employee must be a minimum of 8% of the qualifying earnings.

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) annual exempt amount increases to £12,000.

Non resident CGT:  non UK residents will be brought into the CGT scheme for the first time if they dispose of UK land and property.

Property Tax:  the gradual removal of interest relief for buy to let mortgages continues, down to 25% with a complete removal scheduled for 2020.

Company Cars:  the benefit in kind tax rates are increasing for company cars, dependent on whether the car is petrol or diesel, and also dependent on CO2 emissions.  For full information go here.

If you need any further help, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

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