Do you Network – Need help -Some ideas for you.

Ah, networking – the joys of talking to loads of strangers…

I thought this week that those of you who are new to Networking or who are considering starting, it might benefit from a few ideas.

It is daunting.  But here are four things to say, to make it easier:

#1 – “Mind if I join you?” This is the easiest way to start a conversation  Approach someone, and ask it – they’ll welcome you in. Trust me nobody will say “I do mind – go away!”

#2 – “What are you responsible for?” When you ask this question, their reply tells you their main focus – “To generate sales”, “To keep our clients happy” etc. Once you know this, it’s easier to say things you know they’ll find interesting and useful. 

#3 – “That sounds hard!” This one’s a belter. You’ll meet people who do things that you’ve no idea about. And when you say “that sounds hard”, they (1) feel flattered and (2) talk more about what they do.  Two great outcomes!

#4 – “Tell me more?” The more they speak, the easier it is. So, when they tell you something, ask this – and they’ll tell you more!

Action Point
To get more from your next networking event and to reduce your nerves – use some of these phrases. 

Obviously, the more you prepare before you go in, the more you’ll get out after it.

Westerton Male Voice Choir

Just to prove that there is life beyond Financial Services, I thought I would share with you one of my hobbies namely being a member of Westerton Male Voice Choir.

That’s me in the Back Row 2nd from the left and we’re performing “Highland Cathedral”. The clip comes from one of our practice nights. Please click on the Link below and have a listen. A really stirring piece I’m sure you will agree.

Hope you enjoyed it.

How Important will Next Week Be?

As readers will undoubtedly know, it’s all set up to be a very important week in parliament this week with Theresa May’s next meaningful vote scheduled for tomorrow – and subsequent votes on Wednesday and Thursday depending on the outcomes.

All that uncertainty means that there are still a number of different possible outcomes for the UK despite the fact that we’re due to leave the EU on the 29th of March. No news there though, but what might this mean for investors? Bravely – some might even say foolishly – The Sunday Telegraph Money has been trying to work out what might be hot and what’s not when it comes to investment, getting tips from different experts on which investments might do well in different scenarios  such as a softer Brexit, no deal, revoke article 50 etc.

It’s not all negative of course, it’s just a matter of looking for which businesses and approaches might do better under different circumstances. As professional advisers will advocate to clients, investment is a long term process.

However dramatic the short term political, economic and market considerations may be, we need to remember the considerable benefits and value of long term investment and the risk of trying to predict short term movements.

I’m happy to say that the investments we arrange for our clients have been and are all based on a diversified global portfolio, intended to provide growth or income over the medium to long term.

China – a Growing Economy

Ian Cowie, writing his usual Personal Account column in the Sunday Times Money section, has China in his investment sights last weekend. He reminds readers of the value of investing internationally and how China’s growing economy has significant potential despite worries over a trade war. As recent events seem to have increased hopes that such a trade war between the US and China can be averted, Chinese stocks have rallied. Indeed, they’ve had an excellent start to the year. Cowie concludes by saying that “no matter what happens with Brexit, the sun will continue to rise in the east, and so will some economic opportunities”.  

What was pleasing to me about what I saw was that the Portfolios we at ABFM use are generally speaking all Global portfolios and therefore have or potentially have China in their make up.

Paul Lewis: Why HMRC’s latest clampdown goes way too far

I read an interesting article in Money Marketing last week which I thought might be of interest to you. 

It concerns the new loan charge tax that could be demanded from 50,000 people and which sets a worrying precedent.

“No one is more vitriolic about tax “evoiders” than me. Just the other day, I argued with a friend who was getting a four-figure sum out of the bank to pay his builder in cash because “it would be cheaper”.

So how can I – a scourge of contractors who pretend to be companies so they can pay themselves in lightly taxed dividends – be sympathetic to another group – the 50,000 now in HM Revenue & Customs’ sights who paid little or no tax by being remunerated with an interest-free loan outside the income tax scope?

People often say I fail to distinguish between tax evasion, which is illegal – for example, hiding money offshore – and tax avoidance – the use of tax laws in a creative way to pay less tax – which is, they say, legal. But that binary choice is not realistic.

I explained the word evoidance in my Money Marketing Column last April as “the grey hinterland where something thought to be legal avoidance turns out to have been outside the law all along”.  Unlike more complex tax evoidance wheezes, the loan schemes I want to talk about used the simple fact that, if I lend you money which you repay, that loan is not counted as income and so is not taxable.

Instead of paying people for the work they did, the employer or engager paid a third-party company – usually offshore – which lent that money to its clients interest-free. Those payments were considered to be non-taxable. Loans were due to be repaid in, say, 10 years but the idea was that would never be enforced.

Instead of losing 32 per cent or 42 per cent of their pay to tax and National Insurance, contractors paid a much smaller amount – 5 per cent or 10 per cent – by way of a fee to the scheme operators. Some of those who joined such a scheme tell me the charges were higher – almost as much as the tax that would have been due.

Stunning in its simplicity, the scheme was sold to people as passed by tax QCs and accountants. Indeed, even HMRC seemed to accept them for a while – at least I am told that, for many years, it did not raise any queries when people put the details on their self-assessment tax forms and in the declaration of tax avoidance schemes.

However, the taxman did raise major questions when the football club Rangers started disguising the pay of its players by putting their money – or a big chunk of it – into a trust which then lent them that cash interest-free.

The case went through the courts with one judgment agreeing with HMRC and another supporting Rangers. Finally, in July 2017, the Supreme Court ruled the scheme was artificial and the employer – Rangers Football Club – was liable for the tax that had been evoided. RFC is now in administration.

The case gave little clarity to thousands of smaller cases and HMRC would face a long and expensive battle to take numerous schemes through tribunals and the courts where winning was not guaranteed.

So even before the judgment, the government decided to cut through the Gordian knot by passing a law which allowed HMRC to recover the equivalent of the tax evoided. This is the notorious loan charge scheme in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017.

The people affected will, in theory, have to pay all they owe on 5 April. Jolly good, some say. They thought they would avoid the tax paid by other colleagues who were employed in the normal way. Now they have to pay. However, there are very worrying aspects of this law.

First, it recovers tax HMRC says was due back to 1999. Normally, unpaid tax can be recovered for four years or six in some cases. The 20-year recovery is normally confined to deliberate and criminal acts of evasion.

Second, the law is retrospective. Treasury minister Mel Stride denies that is the case, saying on Money Box that “these schemes have always been ineffective. They have never worked. They have always been tax avoidance”.

But I cannot see how a law passed in 2017 allowing HMRC to recover money back to 1999 is anything but retrospective. If HMRC can get away with that, it can do it again in other areas, forcing people to revisit tax they thought was settled back to the last century. If these deals never worked, why does HMRC not just pursue people through the normal means? Why pass a special law?

Third, many of those affected have told me they had no choice. The employers and engagers loved these schemes which saved them employers’ NI contributions and the cost of workers’ rights so they forced them on their hapless workers.

Finally, although HMRC claimed in November that the average charge of those who have settled is £23,000, the reported size of the sums demanded from others who cannot afford to settle is so big they could bankrupt them, forcing them to sell their homes and live in poverty for the rest of their lives.

I hate tax evoidance. But this goes too far.”

Paul Lewis is a freelance journalist and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Money Box. You can follow him on Twitter @paullewismoney

FCA warns of copycat site offering investments

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has issued a warning over an unauthorised firm moonlighting as an investments branch of the regulator.

The firm is using the name FCA Investments and has used the FCA’s logo on its website along with that of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) which it says covers its investors.

The website associated with the faux firm encourages investors to inquire about regulated bond and fund opportunities offering annual up returns of up to 11.4 per cent.

The site says: “We offer a wide range of FCA-backed investments featuring market-beating annual returns, in-built capital protection and a broad range of investment terms.”

The firm also claims it works in partnership with “secure government-backed schemes” and has worked with Hargreaves Lansdown, JP Morgan, Jupiter Asset Management and Barclays.

The FCA says customers should double check firms’ authorisations on its site.

“We believe this firm has been providing financial services or products in the UK without our authorisation. Find out why to be especially wary of dealing with this unauthorised firm and how to protect yourself from scammers.

“If a firm does not appear on the register but claims it does, contact our consumer helpline. You should also be aware that if you give money to an unauthorised firm, you will not be covered by the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) or FSCS if things go wrong.”