Updated: Aug 5
Positive cases are rising, the R number is increasing, test and trace is to be renamed sink or swim and uncertainty is ruling. Reading the mainstream media, we could all get terminally depressed, sounds like time you heard from your Positive Accountant.
I don't know about you but I've struggled to keep up with what the socialising rules are. I was delighted therefore to hear that the Education Minister couldn't answer what should have been a simple question on the Today programme this morning (although at least she was honest and said she didn't know).
I was even more pleased to hear a little later that the Prime Minister got the answer spectacularly wrong.
And then enlightenment hit me - that when people talk learnedly about the R number, what they are actually measuring is how many politicians looked like an R's today.
And if you score it that a Prime Minister is 1, a cabinet minister 0.5 and a normal MP 0.1 that makes today's R number at least 1.5.
I understand that higher than 1 is bad - which makes it all start to look a good deal clearer.
What are my positives today ?
1. Simon's Identity Wasn't Hacked
A fraud that has been around for a while now revolves around someone hacking a Companies House record. It goes something like this...
ABC Ltd is a successful company, has a strong Balance Sheet and is creditworthy. A fraudster identifies this, changes the registered office of the company to his own (temporary) address and appoints himself as a director. These are able to be done by completing paper forms with limited checking done at Companies House. He then applies for a credit card. The credit card company send the card to the registered office. After a quick spending spree, our Villain exits stage left leaving a debt. .
Simon, director and company secretary of XYZ Ltd, was therefore a bit concerned when he went onto the Companies House website to complete his Confirmation Statement to find that it had already been done....Duh duh duh....
- Was it his super-efficient and proactive accountant who had done it without his knowledge - No !
- Was it his colleague who has taken over some of his duties recently - No !
The thick plottens...who could it be ? Was he uncovering a potential fraud.
And the answer was.....
...That a man who spends a great deal of his life working on date critical expiry dates had forgotten that we were in 2020, the one he was looking at having been completed was one originally due in September 2019.
A huge relief.
With fraud on the rise, here are a couple of tips for companies to help prevent a fraud of the type I've outlined above:-
- Sign up to 'Proof' with Companies House - which stops paper forms being able to be filed. Then only those with a secure authentication code can make changes. (All clients for whom we deliver Company Secretarial services are signed up to this)
- Every now and again check on the Companies House website that your registered office is still where you expect it to be.
2. HMRC are going for a world record
About fifteen years ago HMRC substantially re-wrote their web access for agents. It was pretty cutting edge at the time.
Understandably it was released as a Beta. As those with an interest in IT will recognise, a Beta is an advanced form of test software, where it is released to help debug it. Commonly Beta versions exist for 3 - 6 months before the real thing is rolled out.
I've got used to what the screen looks like. But I noticed last week that the screen still shows the words 'BETA - this is a new service your feedback will help us improve it'. And looking back at some historic screenshots, it has always said that. The longest running Beta of all time ?
3. We have a new scheme to replace Furlough
But there are going to need to be some tricky numbers.
As outlined in my 'breaking news' last week, the scheme is very simple. If any employee works at least a third of their normal hours they get paid for what they have worked. Of the unpaid element, the employer pays a third of it, the government pays a third and a third is unpaid.
Leaving aside the fact that there are too many thirds in there for my liking, there are going to be some odd results.
For example I've been talking to my good friends Sam and Ella who run an outside catering business. They employ two loyal, long standing and hardworking staff, Winifred Ner and Louisa Ser and at the moment they can see they have enough work for one whole person. At the moment they are both on part time furlough.
Under the new scheme Sam and Ella could split the job into two halves, Win and Lou would each lose 1/6th of their total pay, but otherwise would keep their job.
Except their accountant has pointed out that with the business paying for the half hours that they are working, plus 1/3rd of the shortfall, the business is paying for 1 and one sixth of a person's cost - i.e. more hours are being paid for than are being worked.
To add to the mix, Win has been with the company eight years, Lou for ten, there is therefore a sizeable redundancy cost of getting rid of either of them.
And, of course, we still have the prospect in January of the bonus being promised for employers who have retained furloughed staff.
As ever there are going to be Win Ner's and Lou Ser's everywhere, and some careful number crunching is going to be needed.
And on that note,
Stay safe, stay positive
'Winter is coming' - as Lord Stark told us.
A picture to remind you of the summer.