Euro-nausea and how to survive the white noise

After my last post on the matter, I had intended to let it rest.  There is now so much being said about the Leave/Remain debate that we start to hope for different news.  Then we get different news, and it’s so awful that we would rather focus on Europe.  Maybe there is a lesson on being careful what you wish for.  Maybe that lesson will have some impact on the way we vote.

Despite the volume of words, very little is actually being said.  Each side speculates on the financial effect of a Brexit from opposing perspectives; but no-one knows.  Each side speculates on immigration, defence, security, you name it; but no-one knows.  Each side throws ever more unpleasant (if often truthful) barrages at each other.  The polls are currently weighted toward a Brexit.  The bookies still marginally favour Remain.

I continue to wonder where to put my “X”.  If you do too, you may find some help in EU Referendum FAQ’s produced by the UK200 Group, of which Hillier Hopkins LLP is a member.  The UK200 Group has produced this document under its Campaign for Clarity project.  The Times is trying to do something even more sophisticated.  Laudable as all this is, I am not sure that anything is clearer.

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Someone Sent a Promised Land

In the press this week, was a report that the DVLA thinks that they have lost £200m in road tax revenues since introducing the new disc-free tax system.  It caught my eye because, about a year ago, the Chancellor announced how they will now do away with paper tax returns and replace them with an online tax account.  Many of us wondered at the time how the IT would work.

In the 1970’s (I know I don’t look old enough) I recall how we all thought computers would do away with almost all mundane work, and we would live lives of leisure, and only do the work that humans must do.  It was a Promised Land, delivered by second class post via Royal Mail (like most government mail), it seems.  Is Government trapped in a 1970’s time bubble, desperately doomed to failure, yet hoping to save costs by computerising our lives?  Or does government have a long term strategy?

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Nothing to Hide, Anything to Fear?

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We often hear, “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”?  Were it true, we would not object to the idea that some gentleman from the secret service might listen as we whisper sweet nothings, joke with close friends in a politically incorrect manner, or discuss a private business deal?

Privacy and secrecy are very much a part of business. Confidentiality is fundamental in professional life. Businesses work hard to create contact lists, customer lists, know-how and techniques, and guards them jealously.  Sometimes a non-disclosure agreement is needed to enter into any discussions with companies.  So let us not pretend that transparency in business is widely accepted as beneficial.  It has long been established that there is a need for a balance between the right to privacy, and the public’s right to protection.

But on which side of this balance do the new People of Significant Control Regulations sit?

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In, Out, Any Way the Wind Blows

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You may be expecting some wisdom on how to vote on the EU Referendum.  If I had any to offer, I might be tempted, but I do not propose to advise you on something I do not understand.  I have been itching to write something on the subject, fond as I am of my own verbosity, but quickly realised that the EU Referendum is a roll of the dice.  So I decide to make some observations, and if those observations inform your choice, I apologise, for they have not yet informed mine.

In talking to people on the subject I notice that the Decidedly Inners appear to look with a plaintiff disbelief that anyone could possibly think otherwise than to remain.  It is almost a religious fervour.  Those, on the other hand, who are less sure, tend to look shyly as they tell of a secret immoral desire to vote to leave.  A guilty apologetic pleasure exists among the not-Quite Decidedly Outers, as if theirs is a perversion, an irresistible, anti-establishment mischief.  And this led me to think about the Referendum itself.   For there is sheer dishonesty in the whole process, setting Big-Endians against Little-Endians, as if either actually knew which was right and which was wrong.

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Mother, should I trust the Government?

Houses of Parliament

 

Not for the first time in my professional career, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs appear, in my humble view, to have failed the trust test.  I do not wish to make any false accusations, so I will use words such as “may” and “appear”, and will leave it to the reader to consider the evidence.  The irony though, is that HMRC is an organ of government, yet there seems to be evidence that it is not averse to pulling the odd fast one, however much it may bleat about nasty taxpayers who are happy to use the law to avoid tax.

Today I saw a new notice of coding for a client.  This client, like most entrepreneurs, has a salary from his company and pays out excess profits, if any, by dividend.  He has been doing so for some years – most years he pays a dividend.  Some years he has not made enough profit to do so.  Each year, he files a tax return which takes account of his employment income, other bits and pieces and his dividends.  He has to make payments on account each year in accordance with the rules for self assessment.  I doubt anyone will find this unusual.

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To acquire or to grow organically?

We see much in the financial press about business sales and acquisitions as being an important barometer of economic activity.  I thought it would be interesting to focus a little on this fascinating subject.

The question of how to grow, organically or through acquisition is one which always gives rise to debate among finance professionals, business advisers and businessmen themselves.  Yet the answer to the question lies in the question itself and comes from a mathematical truth: two plus two always equals four (except, according to physicists, in the case of a nuclear reaction – an event that we can safely conclude would be bad for business).  Growth can only ever be organic.  Acquisition may make a business bigger but it is not growth.  Though we should not make the mistake of thinking that it is there bad, and this article invites you to consider why you might acquire another business.
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