Written by Karen Penney, Vice President and General Manager UK at American Express Global Corporate Payments Europe
As 2015 approaches, the economic picture continues to improve across much of the developed world. However despite this continued recovery it seems that many businesses are still plagued by cash flow issues.
The vast majority of businesses across Europe agree with the premise that cash flow continues to be a major priority, suggesting that companies are applying a steady and cautious approach to growth plans this year. While many are finding that access to credit has relaxed, there is a strong sense that this effect has yet to permeate across the entire customer supply chain; the majority of financial decision makers said they are still experiencing delays in getting paid by their customers. This can have a crippling impact on cash flow within a business and its ability to effectively juggle incoming and outgoing payments. It also makes financial forecasting a much trickier task.
Companies are now more focused than ever on identifying the potential of their unmanaged business spending and working capital has a major role to play in giving businesses an advantage. Clearly, better management of working capital can free up much-needed liquidity, which can in turn be re-invested into growth initiatives, enabling companies to benefit from the upturn in the economy. And with almost twice as many UK CFOs anticipating modest to substantial expansion this year as they did in 2013, it is clear that freeing up cash for growth is becoming even more important. Here are some ways in which businesses can manage working capital more effectively.
Free up lines of credit
It can be tempting to become over-reliant on the main line of credit for managing cash flow, rather than using that money to invest in other ventures. However companies can ease cash flow pressures by making simple changes to operational practices. For example, a third party payment provider can pay suppliers on a company’s behalf but does not require payment for up to 58 days. This can significantly help to improve cash flow, and in addition to bringing considerable financial benefits, can also strengthen relationships between the company and its suppliers. Although credit cards and similar solutions have traditionally been viewed as tools for indirect expenses, today they are increasingly being used to manage direct spend, such as raw materials and manufacturing costs.
Westcoast is a privately-owned UK company which has benefited from freeing up lines of credit. It distributes computer and electrical equipment to retailers and resellers and wanted to ensure that it was optimising its cash flow to avoid cash leaving the business quicker than it was going in.
The electronics and computer sector is typically risk averse, so suppliers offer short credit terms which are payable by Direct Debit. With longer payment terms for its customers than those offered by its suppliers, Westcoast was keen to ensure it could steer clear of incurring hefty rates of interest, while still meeting customer demand for stock.
By using simple electronic payment solutions Westcoast was able to pay its suppliers promptly, but not part with the cash for a further 58 days. This significant improvement has had a direct impact on future growth prospects and the improved working capital gives the company the opportunity to buy more and in turn, sell more.
Ensure greater visibility on expenses
A lack of visibility when it comes to expenditure, with unwelcome ‘surprise’ bills or unexpected expenses, makes managing cash flow a huge challenge. By doing something as simple as automating expenses, companies can gain better visibility of incoming and outgoing sums, making cash flow much easier to manage and control.
By improving visibility of outgoings, businesses can gain a better overview of all expenditure, as well as a greater understanding of potential cash pressures in the future. Expense management tools ensure that businesses can track trends, such as potential over-expenditure or excessive ordering. Having accurate information management systems and forecasting in place ultimately leads to tighter financial control resulting, hopefully, in more opportunities for investment and growth.
Travel and entertainment policies
Creating or updating travel and entertainment expenses policies allows businesses to specify preferred suppliers. This not only ensures consistency across all travel arrangements but also ensures that all costs are pre-agreed and closely monitored. Approving incurred expenses during the claims process instead of pre-approving expenditure is also a useful term to include in expense policies, to generate a sense of employee accountability and to ensure there are no unwelcome surprises.
Negotiate with suppliers
As well as giving insights to help long term forecasting, the data from expense management systems can be invaluable for managing cash flow issues in the short term by flagging any areas where costs are too high or inconsistent. This then allows companies to consolidate suppliers and puts them in a stronger position to negotiate preferential rates in the future.
Companies and their suppliers are inextricably linked, and as the global supply chain gets ever more complex, a balance must be sought for both to prosper. It is critical that companies consider their working capital options fully, looking beyond the many available levers that are detrimental to either the buyer or supplier. By taking a more strategic approach to receivables and payables companies will be in a far stronger position to free up cash for investment and gain a broader competitive advantage.
 89% – According to an American Express survey of financial decision makers in 500 companies across the UK, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands in May 2014
 American Express/CFO Research Global Business and Spending Monitor, April 2014
Five features that decrease the value of your home
When you’re preparing to sell your house or flat you might think of various steps you could take that might increase its value, such as converting unused space to a new room. But another important factor you need to consider is how certain existing features might actually decrease the value of your home, making it harder to find a buyer at the price you’re seeking.
Several features large and small can have a negative impact on your home’s value
Homeowners looking to sell their properties need to make sure that their house or flat looks as best as it can before potential buyers come to visit on viewings. A tidy and well-maintained house will help increase the overall perceived value of the property.
But there are sometimes issues with homes that can decrease the total value of your home, at least as far as prospective buyers are concerned. And as the home buying experts at LDN Properties know, some of these features might not be immediately obvious as the reason why you’re not able to find a buyer at your current asking price.
When you’re ready to sell your house or flat, check the list below to see whether the property has any of the features that might be lowering its value below what you’d like to get in a sale.
Five features that can decrease the perceived value of your property
Some features at a home will be incredibly unique, such as the recent story about a house that’s struggling to sell because it’s located next to a graveyard – and the plan for trying to finally secure a buyer is to give the buyer a free burial plot. There’s not much that particular homeowner can do to solve their issue, but it’s also a problem very specific to their home.
In contrast, there are a number of common features at houses and flats that can reduce their vale. The following list includes five property features that can decrease the total value of your home, making it harder for you to sell at the price that you might want or need:
Outbuildings in poor condition
Although a well-kept greenhouse, garage or shed can be attractive to buyers, they can also be major turnoffs if they are in poor condition. If you have an outbuilding on your land that is in such a bad state that demolition is the only solution, this will detract from your home’s value.
Cluttered and dirty rooms
If the rooms in your house are cluttered with furniture and other items, or they are dirty, or both, this will be a turnoff to many buyers who come to see the house on viewings. If your house is full of clutter it will make the rooms look smaller than they actually are, which will make visitors think the space is worth less than what you are asking.
Having a swimming pool is not a common feature at many homes, but it is one that can be a significant negative attribute despite some people seeing it is a luxury perk. That’s because the cost of maintaining a swimming pool is very high, and it’s something many people don’t want to take on when they’re looking at buying a property.
First impressions always matter, and that’s the case when selling your home. If you have a garden and it is overgrown with weeds and other mess, it will not be appealing to buyers who come to visit on viewings. Having an untidy garden can make people think that your home is worth less than it actually is, making it harder for you to secure a sale.
If your home has a structural problem it can devalue your house, possibly by thousands of pounds depending on the scope of the problem. Among the various features that would be considered structural problems are leaks, subsidence, the presence of the invasive species Japanese knotweed, and other issues that will lower your property’s overall value.
Make changes to your property if you have any of the listed negative features
If your house or flat has any of the above features, you should consider ways that you could address them in order to prevent the value of your property being impacted.
For some projects that might be relatively easy, for example by tidying up the garden or by removing clutter from rooms around the house. Other larger-scale fixes will cost you significant time and money, such as removing a swimming pool if there’s one at your home.
Only do the corrective work for which you have the time and money, and don’t overextend yourself. But do make changes to your home if you have any or all of the listed features, because your priority should be getting as much money for selling your home as possible.
This is a Sponsored Feature.
Do you know where the tax risks are in your business?
By Simon Crookston, Corporate Tax Partner at Crowe UK
Many tax and finance professionals will have noted a trend in recent years, whereby there is greater emphasis on the processes and controls in place to ensure good tax governance.
As a consequence, many large and owner managed businesses are increasing their focus on tax governance, ensuring robust processes and controls are in place; the emphasis is now on ‘how’ tax compliance is dealt with and making sure the right amount of tax is paid at the right time.
The on-going COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this process, as finance teams have been forced to proactively manage their cash flows, while also reassessing the robustness of their working practices, systems and controls. In some instances, processes and controls based around physical proximity of staff have been shown to be out of date and in need of re-designing.
Ensuring that there is tax integrity within your business is now critical and reflects the wider changing climate in which businesses and tax advisors now operate. Factors influencing this trend include:
- significant amounts of change in the tax regime, both domestically and internationally
- digitisation and new technologies leading to new business models and ways of selling goods and services to customers
- tax authorities focussing on the use of technology to provide real time reporting, for example Making Tax Digital for VAT and Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claims to HMRC
- finance departments being tasked with providing certainty over the integrity of all taxes
- the implementation of the corporate criminal offence regime, which potentially carries an unlimited fine for all businesses that fail to implement reasonable procedures to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion
- the recent DAC 6 EU regulations requiring the reporting of tax schemes
Tax has also become a reputational risk to businesses. Organisations now operate in a world where tax is considered a moral issue and is front page news. Consequently, many boardrooms and owner managers are focused on ensuring that they do not face negative publicity from their tax affairs.
This trend is expected to continue with increased scrutiny by the media of the taxes paid and claims made by companies in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the punitive measures being taken by HMRC to challenge tax evasion and difficult economic times.
Robust processes and controls can also make it easier for your business to adapt to change. This could be change within the business such as new supply chains or entering new markets, or it could be change driven by external factors, such as changes in tax legislation or events such as Brexit.
The impact of poor governance
Over the last few years HMRC’s powers have increased with the introduction of new information and data gathering powers and with the greater use of technology to identify those people and organisations who are understating and underpaying their tax liability.
As well as receiving information from overseas tax authorities, HMRC’s Connect Computer System, which is essentially a supercomputer, draws huge amounts of data and information from numerous sources including tax records, online platforms, social media information, government departments and websites, bank data and web browsing information to build up a complex ‘tax picture’ on organisations and individuals.
With such a rich source of data HMRC have the ability to evaluate and determine if there are inconsistencies in the tax information which is declared as part of return filings.
As a consequence, those businesses that have received HMRC enquiries over the last couple of years which lead to adjustments, enter into tax planning schemes or take a more aggressive approach to minimising their tax are generally considered to be of higher risk from a tax authority perspective.
Where an enquiry is opened this will typically lead to additional management time being required to justify to HMRC the tax positions taken. If HMRC are successful at arguing that tax adjustments are required then this could lead to the organisation suffering penalties and late payment interest.
We are consequently seeing an increasing number of businesses recognising the merits of keeping a “risk register” of known tax risks that the business is managing. This can help to mitigate or negate the risk of unexpected tax costs, as well as demonstrate to HMRC that the business is proactively assessing and complying with its tax obligations.
As HMRC’s internal machinery and enquiries in relation to corporate criminal offence start to further bite, this will become of increasing importance. Areas of particular focus may include those organisations which have overseas employees, operate in different countries, operate in high risk sectors, have sales teams with lots of discretion or have sales based reward structures.
Some recent examples
A starting point to undertaking a tax governance risk assessment is typically to assess the business’s overall tax risk covering a number of areas. These will typically consist of looking at the business’s: inherent, corporate, vat, employee and international tax risk, to build up an overview profile of the business’s main areas requiring further attention and consideration.
Over the last couple of years we have assisted a number of clients across various sectors with their governance, systems and processes reviews. Some examples of recent reviews include:
|Business overview||Steps and benefits|
|Vehicle equipment manufacturer
· Expanding rapidly in Europe and globally with 70% of the businesses sales from overseas.
· The rapid expansion led to some tax integrity concerns around the business’s VAT, corporate tax and employment tax obligations being able to keep pace with commercial expansion of the business.
|· A supply chain review was undertaken to identify and document where potential VAT supply chain problems existed so action could be taken.
· Identification and rectification of permanent establishment issues that had potentially been created.
· Business education programme on how to proactively identify and manage tax integrity matters for future expansion opportunities.
|Independent boarding and day school
· The school required an employer compliance review to get comfort that the organisation had appropriate processes and controls in place to correctly account for all employment taxes due.
|· Identification of risk areas and establishment of a remediation plan as to how the organisations processes and controls could be improved.|
· Had concerns over its UK VAT and employment taxes position.
· Required an independent review of their processes and controls to ensure the group was correctly accounting for the taxes due.
|· Identification of potential risk areas.
· Formulation of an implementation plan.
· Implementation of changes and submission of appropriate disclosures to HMRC.
What should I do now?
As all businesses are different and dynamic unfortunately there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing tax risk and the development of robust processes and controls. However, from our experience, here are few example areas for consideration to ensure your processes and controls are robust:
- Do you have a process in place to identify changes in the tax regime that are relevant to your business? Similarly, what is the process whereby the finance/ tax team find out about new developments within the business?
- What systems are used in your tax compliance and is the output provided ‘fit for purpose’ or does it require significant manual manipulation?
- How robust are your accounting and tax processes and procedures and where are the risk areas if the finance team is operating from home or remotely?
- Is remote working increasing your organisation’s vulnerability to cyber-crime?
- What training are the staff involved with taxes given? How often is their knowledge refreshed / kept up to date?
- Who has review and sign-off responsibilities for tax returns to ensure that the numbers to be submitted are accurate and that any payment due is made on time?
- What links are in place with the commercial teams that develop new products or win new business to ensure that new sources of revenue are treated correctly for tax purposes?
- New overseas activities can commonly lead to unexpected tax consequences. What processes are in place to consider the corporate tax, VAT and employment tax implications of undertaking activities abroad? This review should ideally be undertaken before the activities commence.
Clearly, these are just examples and in order to get a good overview of the tax risk areas across your business – a more thorough and detailed review is required.
A starting point is to consider the main tax areas of your business (these are typically corporate tax, VAT, employment tax and international matters) and to undertake a high level risk review of these areas. This can be done by way of a manual review or by the use of a technology tool, such as a Tax Integrity Scorecard, to provide an assessment of the level of tax risk from low – high in each tax area.
A Tax Integrity Scorecard can help businesses understand their UK tax risks and assist them in prioritising where to focus their resources to guard against unexpected tax costs, adverse publicity and to improve tax process efficiencies.
PayPal launches ‘Pay in 3’ buy now, pay later loans to UK in time for Black Friday and Christmas
- PayPal expands its consumer credit solutions through the introduction of PayPal Pay in 3 to UK market
- In the lead up to the busiest shopping season of the year, PayPal supports businesses of all sizes to drive sales, loyalty and increase payment choice for their customers
– all while getting paid upfront
- The latest in a series of steps taken by PayPal to enable UK businesses to adapt to changing consumer demands
PayPal today announced the launch of PayPal Pay in 3, enabling UK businesses of all sizes to offer buy now, pay later payments without taking on additional risk or paying additional fees.
Through PayPal Pay in 3, businesses can offer their customers the option of making purchases between £45 and £2,000 by paying over three, interest-free payments, with seamless automatic re-payments each month. PayPal Pay in 3 will also appear in the customer’s PayPal wallet, so they can manage their payments online or via the PayPal app.
PayPal Pay in 3 will help businesses drive checkout conversion, revenue and customer loyalty, with the option included in the business’s existing PayPal pricing, paying no additional fees to enable it for their customers. PayPal will pay the business or retailer upfront for the full cost of the purchase.
In 2019, there was a 39% year-on-year increase in the proportion of buy now, pay later payments in the UK. This trend is expected to double by 2023.
PayPal Pay in 3 allows companies from start-ups to globally recognised retailers to adapt to this changing consumer behaviour and offer a greater range of payment options. Retailers including Crew Clothing, French Connection, Robert Dyas and Ryman are integrating PayPal Pay in 3, which is available in the UK from late October 2020.
Rob Harper, UK Director of Enterprise Accounts at PayPal, said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, we have seen the number of people in the UK shopping online increase dramatically. At the same time, many more consumers are looking to spread the cost of those purchases. We have developed PayPal Pay in 3 to meet that need, building on our heritage as a responsible lender through PayPal Credit, which we launched in the UK in 2014, and has served more than two million customers to date.
“We will continue to support for UK retailers and businesses through these challenging times by helping them adapt to changing consumer behaviours around how they shop and pay – especially in the lead up to Black Friday and Christmas. PayPal Pay in 3 offers a flexible way for over 24 million PayPal users to shop while providing companies with a tool that helps drive sales, loyalty and customer choice.”
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