News in brief: accountants, retail, absences

News in brief
News in brief

One in five struggle to understand their accountants

One in five people who use an accountant have admitted that they find the language they use either difficult or very difficult to understand, according to research from Pulse Accounting.

More than a quarter (26%) of respondents say that they are either still confused -– or even more confused – after their accountant has answered a question they have asked.

Pulse Accounting chief executive Chris Futcher commented: “It’s a real worry that so many people have such trouble understanding what their accountants are talking to them about. This is important information that can have a huge effect on someone’s life if they don’t understand it properly. The consequences of filing with Companies House late, or of missing a deadline with HMRC, can be significant. And these problems can be avoided by clear communication with your accountant.

“Contractors and freelancers have enough to do without getting confused by accountants talking in jargon. It’s really important to find an accountant who can explain things clearly without getting bogged down or hiding behind a whole lot of financial gobbledygook.”

Small retailers across the board see profits rise in December

The value of the Christmas period to small retailers hit £13.9 billion in 2014, according to data analysis commissioned by American Express and undertaken by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

With the exception of 'non-specialised food stores' such as small supermarkets, all small retailers see a notable uplift in the value of their sales in December relative to other months, as shoppers hit the high-street in search of gifts.

The 'other non-food stores' category, which includes stores selling items such as games, jewellery and books, claims the largest percentage of Christmas sales across all small retailers. In 2014, this category accounted for a third (33%) of total Christmas sales made by small retailers, worth £4.6 billion. Food stores made up the second largest sector of small retailers' Christmas sales, with 27% of the total, followed by 'non-store retailing' which includes online and mail order (16%) and household goods (13%).

Nearly a third of SMEs do not properly record employee absences

A survey of 500 UK SME employees conducted by digital group risk insurer Ellipse, found that 22% have had to take a day off to look after their sick child, even when they are well themselves. It comes as the top reason for UK employees calling in sick, with a further 6% admitting to taking a day off to care for an elderly relative.

CEO of Ellipse CEO John Ritchie said: "In a separate Ellipse survey of 250 SME managers, 32% of employers admitted they don't have a good enough process for recording absence. These decision makers may be missing recurring absence patterns which would make it difficult for them to be aware of the reasons their employees are taking sick days."

With 24 per cent of employees believing that their employer doesn't know about every sick day they've taken, this suggests that employers are likely to be missing absence traits.

Accountants comment on rising NLW costs

UK businesses are set to face more than £1bn in costs when the National Living Wage (NLW) is introduced next year. The Regulatory Policy Committee, which advises the government, estimates that the change will cost companies £804.4 million in extra wages and staff costs, and a further £234.3 million of 'spill over' costs will take the total to more than £1 billion.

Members of the UK200Group of independent accountancy and law firms have commented on the news of these rising costs. Whittingham Riddell tax partner Duncan Montgomery said: “The National Living Wage for most robust businesses will have only a marginal impact. It tends to be sector specific, and many sectors just do not have that many employees in those roles.

“Some have coped by moving functions to an outsourced entity that uses self-employed personnel as a way through, however with proper planning and budgeting most businesses should be able to cope, whether through systems that save hours required, or remunerate higher paid staff more efficiently.”

ReesRussell partner Jonathan Russell added: “The cost to business of the National Living Wage is now being more understood and broadcast to Government and hopefully the Government will take these huge increased costs into account when it considers the price it is prepared to pay for services.”