Four things you didn't know about your ICAS tutor team

You see them in class all the time but how well do you really know your ICAS tutors? In this light-hearted article we’ve unearthed four interesting facts about your teaching team. Some of them may surprise you!

1. They didn’t all qualify with ICAS.

First up – not all members of the ICAS teaching team have walked exactly in your shoes. Although very many of them did qualify as CAs through ICAS, others didn’t. ICAEW, ACCA and CIOT all feature as alternatives. Having this diversity in our teaching ranks means that ICAS tutors know all about what the competition offers, and how to keep on improving the CA qualification to ensure it remains highly credible and highly respected.

Regardless of whether they studied here or not, what all of your tutors bring to the table is a real passion for delivering the CA qualification, as well as an understanding of the knowledge and skills needed to create the best CAs.

2. They have an exciting variety of skills.

At ICAS, your tutor team are a diverse bunch. Their skills and experience have been honed across many different organisations, meaning that wherever you are working, the challenges you face will be familiar to your teaching team. Whether you’re working for one of the big four or in a smaller firm, you can be sure that your tutor team will be on hand with great advice about the organisational culture, working practices and the type of work pressures you face.

3. They’ve travelled the world.

Your CA qualification is your passport to a great career, including opportunities for working abroad if you want to. Many members of the ICAS teaching team have taken advantage of the freedom the CA qualification brings, having worked across Europe and in Africa too.

ICAS CAs work in more than 100 countries worldwide. To help further your career abroad, ICAS has set up reciprocal arrangements with accountancy institutes around the world, including:

  • The Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA)
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in Australia (ICAA)
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants of New Zealand (ICANZ)
  • The South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (SAICA)
  • The Hong Kong Society of Accountants (HKSA)

What's more, ICAS is also a member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide (CAW), a group of leading institutes of Chartered Accountants from around the world. CAW supports, develops and promotes the vital role that CAs play throughout the global economy.

4. They are not couch potatoes!

Contrary to popular opinion, not all members of the tutor team all sit around doing nothing in their spare time! Although some of them might admit to being sofa dwellers and knowing just a bit too much about X Factor, many like to stay on their toes. From walkers, runners and football players to cyclists and hockey players, the teaching team are an active bunch.

They've taken part in numerous charity and corporate events with a sporting twist, from the Caledonian Challenge for Foundation Scotland, the Global Corporate Challenge, the Great North Run, the Kiltwalk and the Loch Ness and Edinburgh Marathons.

April 2017

Have you registered to vote?: Monday 24 April 2017

Got your voter registration sorted? In the week after Theresa May announced a snap election for 8 June, we're taking a moment to remind you to register to vote.

Standing about in a church or primary school may not be the most exciting activity for a weekday evening, but casting your vote in the general elections will go some way to securing the future you want, by the party you want.

From the 1960s to 1992, voter turnout for young people peaked at around 66%, and dropped down to 38% by 2005. At this point in time, voter turnout by young people is at its lowest point in history, and the length of time for voter registration has been cited as one of the deterrents.

There are several ways to vote, and although it's still not possible to do it by text or app - which would most likely be the preferred option for younger generations - we're making it easy for you.

Register to vote here.

If you're not sure about whether you are already registered to vote (although let's face it, there's been so many votes we've probably registered ourselves three or four times in the last few years!), then you can also find that out.

You can choose to cast your vote in person, or if you're quick enough, request a postal vote to do in your own time and way before anyone else; that smug feeling as everyone else traipses to the polls in the rain (British Summer!) safe in the knowledge that you posted your vote a few weeks earlier!

The Independent has produced a checklist and itemisation of what you need to vote and what would preclude someone from voting. What we can't do is tell you who to vote for, so it's in your civic interest to brush up on the parties' policies and cast your chosen vote!

In today's blog:

How many emails do you have in your personal or workplace mailbox? Hundreds? Thousands? And how many are unread?

Staying on top of emails can cause anxiety amongst even the most robust of us, but there a few ways to ensure your digital communications become streamlined and manageable. Check out our article on tackling email anxiety to introduce calm to communications.

And we're keeping in line with our TPE countdown to the May exam, featuring a reminder on how to improve your commercial awareness for TPE and as a CA - find out how to apply your knowledge and analysis to any business situation for a critical and insightful eye.

A critical and studious eye will also come in handy for question practice, so find out the dos and don'ts of how to approach this for any level.

Improving your commercial awareness 

Commercial awareness needs to be advanced over time. During class, we discuss tips to improve your commercial awareness and how it can be applied in any type of business situation to allow you to know your employer / client and their business. Here are five quick-fire tips on how to be commercially aware.

What to do and what not to do for question practice 

Practice questions are an essential part of your studies. Here’s how to get the most from using them.

Tackling email anxiety

What is email anxiety? Ever logged on and felt an overwhelming sense of dread before checking your mailbox? Are you hoarding emails? You may have email anxiety and need these tips.

The TPE Countdown begins: Thursday 20th April 2017

We're counting down to the TPE exam on 9 May, and it's a great time to get acquainted with the various materials and resources available to you through ICAS. You will, of course, have acquainted yourself with CABLE, but have you seen the following helpful articles?

TPE examination FAQ

We speak to the Examinations Manager, Hayley Reid, about the most common questions related to the TPE exam, including what you should take into the exam, appropriate ID, and how you will receive your exam results.

Why chocolate puns matter to TPE and TC students

Module 12 in BM discusses various business improvement techniques that focus on getting the products “right first time” and minimising the cost and indeed reputational damage that large scale recalls can prompt.

Six tips for better business writing for TPE

A successful CA must have excellent communication skills; one of our TPE examiners looks at how better business writing can improve your performance in the TPE exam.

TPE in practice: Product recalls

Are you familiar with how to analyse business issues and what you should look out for in terms of skills practice? 

The Test of Professional Expertise resource pages

Everything you need to know for exam dates, laptops, prizes and support for completing the TPE level. 

In today's blog, we look at how we are improving the TPS course for students, based on your feedback, because we take your ideas and suggestions seriously! Read on to find out what's changing and why. 

And for those based in the Scotland, discover the impact of the new Scottish Income Tax and what it means for Scotland and the wider UK. (Note - it's essential reading for anyone working in the UK!)

And for those of you with an entrepreneurial spirit, check out the top 3 TED talks on how to reach your goals and bolster startups for success.  

Happy reading!

What you need to know about Scottish Income Tax, even if you don’t live in Scotland

In April 2016, the "Scottish Rate of Income Tax" (SRIT) was introduced for ‘Scottish taxpayers’. Since then, some of the Income Tax paid by Scottish taxpayers goes directly to Holyrood and from April 2017, the SRIT has been replaced by Scottish Income Tax. But what does this mean? 

Improving TPS through feedback

Noticing some changes to our Test of Professional Skills course? We're putting your feedback and suggestions into action! Here is how we measure up and what we're going to improve.

Three inspiring TED Talks for entrepreneurs 

TED Talks feature some of the best and brightest speakers from the worlds of business, academia and beyond. Here’s our pick for entrepreneurial CAs looking for success.

Fake news! Or is it?: Monday 17th April 2017

Google is fighting back against fake news with a new measure to tackle misinformation; ‘fact check’ tags are being rolled out to articles in news results, calling on partners and publishers to mark out the truth.

It’s impossible for Google to single-handedly take control of the internet and monitor all information on the internet, not without employing thousands (or millions) of staff to do so. But now Google will be working with Snopes, PolitiFact and similar fact-checking organisations to bring a new level of clarity to internet searches.

The new ‘checked’ search results list will identify the person or organisation reporting the fact, but newspapers are also going to be included in the tagging system – including The Washington Post and The New York Times.

This will certainly be interesting in practice – would rival newspapers cast doubt on the facts of another publication through the process? Publishers can write labels on search results (news items only, not opinion pieces), and apparently, that includes the tag ‘pants on fire’!

"These fact checks are not Google’s and are presented so people can make more informed judgments," Google said. "Even though differing conclusions may be presented, we think it’s still helpful for people to understand the degree of consensus around a particular claim and have clear information on which sources agree."

Google Brings Fake News Fact-Checking to News Searches: Bloomberg Technology

We've also produced guides and a call to action for all CAs in the search for reliable truths and avoiding the tide of fake news in a digitised world.

  1. How to spot fake news
  2. Searching for the truth: the CAs mission

In today's blog, we highlight a real-life case of how attention to detail can avoid hefty financial costs later down the line, and deliver the tips you need for completing the TPE exam on 9 May.

Hopefully, you will have carefully read our eight quick tips on preparing for the exam, but this next article will lead you through what to do on the day.

We also look at the changes to personal tax and finance after the implementation of the Finance Act 2017 - alcohol, cigarettes and room relief are all up for changes!

Happy reading.

The cost of not paying attention

It's the little things that matter, especially when it comes to writing and reading legal documents. This became very clear to a dairy company in Maine, USA when the lack of an Oxford comma won a case for their delivery drivers.

8 tips to conquer the TPE exam

You have done the study work and practised your case studies, but what about tackling the TPE exam on the day? TPE level controller Cat Devaney shares her timely advice on how to tackle questions and pick up extra marks.

Ups and downs of Finance Act 2017

Not sure about wading through all 726 pages of the Finance Act 2017- the longest Finance Bill ever published - to find out rates that relate to you? Here is our summary of changes that may affect your everyday life.

The rise of own brands to beat inflation: Thursday 13th April 2017

As inflation continues to climb and the side-effects of Brexit are felt, the daily costs of food and snacks are moving in an upwards trajectory faster than wages. Indeed, grocery prices rose by 2.3% from the end of December to 26 March (Kantar Worldpanel), and in turn, this has caused shoppers to look at discount options.

The slightly sad-looking 'value' packaging of the supermarkets is being embraced by people at all socio-economic levels to stem the tide of rising weekly shops, as well as looking towards discounter brands and supermarket own-brand.

The winners in this battle for achievable food costs are Aldi, Lidl and Iceland, who are seeing a steady rise in footfall and sales.

Shoppers are turning to budget supermarkets and own-brand labels as the cost of butter, fish, tea and other staples rise, delivering a 15% sales growth for Lidl, and increasing their market share from 0.5% to 4.9%.

The foodstuffs witnessing a sales growth include gluten or dairy-free products, as evidenced by 54% of the UK population purchasing a specialist product over the last three months.

The supermarket was closely followed by Aldi, who saw a 14.3% sales growth going resulting in a 6.8% market share. What does this mean in practice? An extra 1.1 million shoppers for the German discounter duo in just three months.

Fraser McKevitt, head of retail and consumer insight at Kantar Worldpanel, said: 'Inflation shows no signs of abating. Rising prices have cost households an additional £21.31 on average during the past 12 weeks. We expect inflation to continue to accelerate, and as a result we're likely to see consumers looking for cheaper alternatives.

"Despite rising prices, we've seen shoppers' minds turn to healthy eating after the excess of the festive period and before the temptation of Easter.'

The foodstuffs witnessing a sales growth are gluten or dairy-free products, as evidenced by 54% of the UK population purchasing a specialist product over the last three months.

In today's blog, we take your (potentially high-cost) lunch and demonstrate 10 ways to use your break for mind, body and soul; no more eating at desks and dripping mayonnaise into the keyboard! We also want to prepare you for the upcoming TPE exam, so carefully read over Cat Devaney's tips for structuring your practice periods.

Happy reading!

10 ways to use your lunchbreak

You need a break. It’s not lazy to take a little time out of the day to regroup, refresh and regenerate. Research in the UK and USA has shown that a majority of workers do not take lunch: in fact, up to two-thirds of staff in Britain are failing to take a break and this impacts on productivity. Is lunch a leisurely activity for you, or a mad rush to eat and catch up on work? We’ve compiled a list of 10 things to do on your lunchbreak.

Preparing for the TPE exam

Success is just around the corner for our students and we know that you will do your utmost to achieve your qualification at every turn. If you have finished block 2 of TPE and wondering what to do next, then take some time to digest these tutor tips on preparing for the TPE exam.

Corporate tax measures in the spring budget 2017

The Chancellor said that ‘a strong economy needs a fair, stable and competitive tax system, creating the growth that will underpin our future prosperity’. He confirmed that the corporation tax rate will reduce to 19% from April 2017 and to 17% in 2020.  This continues the trend of recent years which has seen the rate for large companies fall from 28% in 2010.

Monday 10th April 2017

Millennials are slightly more likely to spend their hard-earned cash on holidays than save up their pennies for a house... and no one should be surprised.

Research from YouGov has shown that a higher percentage of young workers in London are saving for upcoming holidays than putting money away or a downpayment on their first home.

As a result, millennials have been branded as the 'vacation generation' and, at first glance, the title seems appropriate. However, this trend actually highlights a much deeper financial issue.

House prices have been rising faster than wages everywhere in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The City, in particular, has seen the average house price climb by 68%, almost a third more than the rest of the country.

When you also consider that rising rental prices have been far ahead of wage growth in London since 2011, it becomes clear why short-term goals may be a priority.

On the bright side, following the implementation of Article 50, house prices in the UK have begun to fall for the first time since June 2015. Maybe you could buy your dream home sooner than you think?

What are millennials saving for in 2017?

House deposit30%
No specific goal19%
Not saving13%
Mortgage payments10%
Property repairs/improvements4%

Source: City A.M.

Young people are also saving for clothes, cars, technology and their weddings. Nearly a fifth of those polled admitted to not having a particular goal in mind and 13% said they weren't saving at all.

In today's blog, our tutors share their best advice for business writing in the TPE exam. Do you think enough about your structure and tone?

We also look at the impact the 2017 Finance Act will have in the near and long-term future, and how it will impact ICAS notes. In addition, your comments on the quality of the TC course have been addressed by the ICAS Education team.

6 tips for TPE business writing

A successful CA must have excellent communication skills; one of our TPE examiners looks at how better business writing can improve your performance in the TPE exam.

The Finance Act decoded

The Chancellor recently gave his 2017 Budget Statement to Parliament, announcing several changes to the tax system for the coming years. These changes will be brought into law as part of the Finance Act 2017 and many of them will be incorporated into the ICAS course notes for TC classes beginning from August 2017 and for TPS, TPE and ITP classes in 2018.

Putting your feedback into action for TC

What happens with your feedback, and how does it influence your course? Find out how we action your issues and suggestions.

Thursday 6th April 2017

Fans of the TV series, Mr Robot, may have already been 'fangirling' / 'fanboying' over FBI agent Dominique's Alexa, a voice-controlled robot designed by Amazon, so you'll be excited for the launch of Google Home, which is arriving in stores today.

The Alexa 'home assistant' can control your music, tv, the internet and smart devices, and is content to answer any question you may have in mind (CA qualification questions most likely excluded!), but now Google is ready to move into the market with their own version.

The assistant is one of the major steps of introducing artificial intelligence devices into everyday life for ordinary people and provides yet another opportunity for us to relinquish use of our hands when communicating with machines.

"A combination of our natural language processing, machine learning and voice-recognition expertise allow users to interact naturally with the assistant," said Suveer Kothari, director of product planning at Google.

"And of course, we've hidden a few British treats for you to discover. Just try asking Google Home about its hobbies or favourite foods."

The device will launch in stores today (6 April), and coincidentally features the same four colours as ICAS (red, green, blue, yellow), but there's no word yet on whether TPS information is hidden inside its databanks!

In today's digital-but-not-voice-commanded blog

We've taken a detailed look at tax, including the personal changes you need to know about and go inside NIC - how does it connect with tax, and what should you know for studies?

And don't forget the five blogs you should follow as a student CA - valuable information, insight and a great introduction to the community!

Happy reading!

6 personal tax changes for 2017

The new budget is in effect, and it means more cash in your pocket or savings: find out the six key personal tax changes that will affect your pay.

5 blogs you should follow

Blogs can be a great source of news, insight and opinion on the topics of the day, and provide a fitting companion to your future CA role. Read our picks for the best blogs that CA students should follow.

NICs: A tax, or a cost of welfare

NIC, The topic of National Insurance Contributions (NIC) is covered in Principles of Taxation and also in the ITP Taxation of Individuals materials. As a topic, it remains examinable in TPS Taxation and TPE.

Students can find NIC to be a confusing subject, as the names of the various classes of NIC give no clue as to their applicability to taxpayers; the lack of the word 'tax' in the titles often means this is an area that students forget to consider altogether!

In this article, Donald Drysdale discusses some of the recent publicity surrounding NIC whilst also giving an insight into the origins of the system.

Monday 3rd April 2017

A new tax year is upon us: 6 April marks the beginning of a new tax year in the UK, but have you ever wondered why it lies on that particular date?

Countries in Europe began to move away from the Julian calendar between the 16th and 18th centuries. Pope Gregory XIII devised the new system in 1582 to correct the length of the year by 0.0002% as the original calendar miscalculated the solar year by 11 minutes, therefore resulting in errors every 128 years.

The start of the tax year in the Julian calendar was 25 March, also known as 'Lady Day', which was the earliest Christian holiday of the year, commemorating the day that the Virgin Mary was told by angel Gabriel that she would be the mother of Jesus Christ.

Collecting debts on religious holidays

All debts and rents had to be settled by this date and similarly by three other religious days spread out to each quarter of the year. Presumably, because people were more likely to be at home or at church on these days, and therefore it was easier to make collections.

The Gregorian calendar was implemented in the UK in 1752 by the Calendar (New Style) Act 1750. The populace rioted for 11 days under the belief that their lives would be shortened as they had gone to bed on Wednesday 2 September and woken up on Thursday 14 September.

This would have seemed especially maddening as other adjustments in 1751 meant the year only lasted 282 in days in England.

After the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, the beginning of the tax year moved from 25 March to 5 April in 1753 to avoid losing 11 days of tax revenue. This was adjusted again to 6 April in 1800 due to a leap year and one day of revenue loss.

And that, dear CA Students and pub quiz enthusiasts, is why the new tax year will starts on 6 April!

In today's blog 

We have more nuggets of knowledge for you in this week's blog as we go back to basics with audit risk and buy-to-let property income. Keep on top of the key points ahead of your next exams!

Tutor Graham Foster (and pub quiz enthusiast) also tells us all about why the CIPFA qualification was worth the hard work for him.

Back to basics: Audit Risk

Have you got to grips with the Principles of Audit and Reporting (PAR)? Anna Cameron takes us back to basics on audit risks to make sure you’re on PAR for success!

Back to basics: Buy-to-let property

Using the practical example of a buy-to-let property is a great way to see the interaction of taxes that are studied at TC and TPS levels. In this short article, we remind you of the key tax points relating to an individual with a buy-to-let property.

Tutor Profile: Graham Foster

Outdoorsman and tutor Graham Foster shares his pathway to CIPFA qualification from philosophical studies at university to exploring the full impact of financial decisions for public services, and why it doesn't stop at the bottom line.

March 2017

Thursday 30th March 2017: Lessons in finance from the US Treasury Secretary of 1789

The creator and star of smash-hit Broadway musical Hamilton spoke to Morgan Stanley about the financial advice he wishes someone had given him in his 20s.

"There is so much I wish I knew about money when I was first starting out my adult life," said Lin-Manuel Miranda in an interview with professional services firm Morgan Stanley.

The writer and actor is thought to have earned $6 million from his show depicting the life of the first US Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in the last year alone. However, he admitted his financial literacy wasn't always top-notch.

"I was so nervous about incurring debt that I didn’t open my first credit card until age 28, after my first show had opened on Broadway. As a result, even though I had enough money in the bank, I didn’t have sufficient credit history to purchase my first apartment. My father had to help me buy it by co-signing the mortgage."

This experience [with Hamilton] taught me first-hand how important it is to educate yourself about the basic principles of financial planning.

Lin soon learned and had a much more in-depth introduction to the financial system while writing from the view of its founder in the US. He now believes that understanding the world of money - and especially your own personal finances - is a key part of achieving your goals in life.

"To educate yourself about personal finance is to empower yourself with the resources and tools needed to help you achieve your goals: whether it be owning your own home, starting a business, making a living off of your passions, providing for a family, having a healthy relationship with money, or paying it forward," he said.

"This experience [with Hamilton] taught me first-hand how important it is to educate yourself about the basic principles of financial planning. When you are focused on doing what you love, it can be easy to brush aside the need to understand the monetary implications of upcoming milestones.

"However, regardless of who you are and what you are most passionate about, everyone should master the fundamentals in order to find and fulfil your own greater purpose."

As we approach the end of the financial year, now is as good a time as any to tie up end-of-year loose ends. 

Review our financial checklist below to make sure you've stayed on top!

  • Consider opening a ‘Help to Buy ISA’ before 5 April or a 'lifetime ISA' after 5 April. 
  • Check your new PAYE code as you will be entitled to a greater personal allowance in April and therefore your net pay may increase.
  • Be aware of the new different basic rate bands in Scotland versus the rest of the UK.
  • Check the current level of your student loan as you may wish to notify the Student Loans Company that you want to pay the outstanding balance and stop the collection of repayments via PAYE.
  • Check the level of your pension contributions for the year ahead.
  • If you're a buy-to-let landlord, remember that the restriction on mortgage interest relief is being phased in, reducing the available mortgage interest relief for higher-rate taxpayers.
  • Find out if you can earn some tax-free cash in 2017/18 – by using the rent-a-room limit of £7,500, the trading allowance of £1,000 or the property income allowance of £1,000.

Today's blog also features some tips on how to successfully execute a working lunch with important colleagues and peers, as well as a few habits you should pick up to help ease anxiety. 

Surviving a business lunch

Business and networking lunches a la Mad Men-style activities have decreased in popularity due to a) the need to be sober in the workplace, and b) the volume of work handled in-house through meetings, emails and phone-calls. 

If the idea of a ‘business lunch’ is completely alien to you, make sure you don’t look to film culture for explanation – they are highly unlikely to play out in a Wolf of Wall Street manner! Instead, read our tips for lunching with style.

5 skills to calm your nerves

Work, exams and the pressures of everyday life can unexpectedly wear you down. Stress and anxiety lead to sleepless nights, a lack of focus and even illness, but there are methods to treat yourself well - read our nerve-calming skills for a zen-like attitude!

Achieve your career goals: top five tips for aspiring new members

TPE-qualified moving to full member? Here's how to achieve and amplify your career goals with a great head-start on refining your talents.

Monday 27th March 2017: Britain bids adieu to the EU later this week

Prime Minister Theresa May has stated her intention to officially trigger Article 50 on Wednesday 29 March. Brexit is about to happen, so we're looking back at the history of the 28-nation bloc before it becomes 27. 

The European Union (EU) was established by the Maastricht Treaty on 1 November 1993, replacing the common market of the European Economic Community (EEC).

Founded by France, West Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands in 1957, the EEC was a purely economic alliance that allowed for free trade of labour and goods among the 12 member nations.

However, while trade did indeed improve dramatically among these countries, difficulties in decision-making and policy management became apparent by the early 1960s. This led to the creation of several internal international bodies: a court, a commission, a Council of Ministers and a Common Assembly, which we now call the European Parliament.

European integration began to be seen as an attractive alternative to the growing powers of Russia and the United States. The purpose and responsibilities of the EEC thus began to evolve to have influence in foreign policy and legislation.

On 7 February 1992, the Treaty on European Union - or Maastricht Treaty - was signed, coming into effect the following year and creating the modern EU.

Over the years, the union has expanded to include the 28 nations we are familiar with today:

  • 1957: Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
  • 1973: Denmark, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.
  • 1981: Greece.
  • 1986: Portugal and Spain.
  • 1995: Austria, Finland, and Sweden.
  • 2004: Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.
  • 2007: Bulgaria and Romania.
  • 2013: Croatia.

The UK will be the first ever nation to voluntarily exit the EU.

Also this week, we hear from incoming ICAS President-Elect and Chairman of Stagecoach, Sir Brian Souter CA, on his plans for 2017 and how the CA qualification has benefitted his career.

We catch up with a few of the CAs taking up volunteering opportunities with Accounting for International Development (AfID) and go over Activity Based Costing for Business Management students.

Sir Brian Souter CA: Transport mogul shares his experiences

Globally known for his successful transport enterprises, Sir Brian Souter CA will join ICAS as President in April 2017. Alex Burden caught up with him ahead of his new role to talk about his career experiences and the benefits of qualification.

Infographic: Activity Based Costing - as easy as ABC 

Business Management students can find it hard to get to grips with the various types of costing methods the course covers. This infographic will be very useful to any BM student still to sit their BM exams, especially once they have covered BM Module 10.

Inspirational AfID volunteers changing the world

Eleven inspirational ICAS members were placed on exciting overseas volunteer assignments by Accounting for International Development (AfID): find out what opportunities were available to them, and could be available to you.

Thursday 23rd March 2017: ONS - Unemployment down but wages stagnant

It's been a great news week for the UK's unemployment rate, which witnessed a slow to 4.7% over November to January, meaning that it's the lowest level since 1975.

There are now 1.58 million people categorised as unemployed, a decrease of 31,000 people over three months. This could be attributed in part to the flurry of Christmas-only roles with retail, distribution and postal services, so we will await the stats for February to April.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revealed that zero-hour contracts rose by 101,000 from October to December, which may play a part in job rises. 

The unemployment decrease was not matched by rising wages, however, as the ONS revealed that growth slowed to 2.3%, compared to 2.6% in the previous three months.

On a more positive note, wages are still outpacing the rate of inflation (1.8%), but not galloping ahead as ordinary workers would prefer.

Fifteen years without a pay rise. I’m rather lost for superlatives. This is completely unprecedented. - IFS

"March's labour market release reported a solid performance on the jobs side, but included worrying signs of weakness with regards to wages," said Martin Beck, senior economic advisor to the EY Item Club.

"We remain cautiously optimistic that this trend will reverse... but with a high proportion of annual pay settlements coming in the early part of the year, the next few months are crucial."

There was a similar sentiment from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), who decried the stagnant wage levels.

"On current forecasts, average earnings will be no higher in 2022 than they were in 2007," said Paul Johnson, director of IFS. "Fifteen years without a pay rise. I’m rather lost for superlatives. This is completely unprecedented.”

Pantheon Macroneconomics' chief UK economist, Samuel Tombs, added that the slow in growth was partly related to a 'moderation' of pay in the financial and business sectors.

The slow has also meant that the Bank of England decided to hold interest rates at 0.25%, resulting in an instant jump in the British pound.

"All told, the combination of meagre wage growth despite very low unemployment supports the MPC's view that enough slack remains in the labour market to warrant keeping rates on hold during the imminent period of high inflation," said Samuel.

In today's not-so-stagnant blog, we deliver the tips on how to remember names - essential for large workplaces and frequent client meetings, as well as mastering mortgage basics (part 2).

How to remember names

Ever been stuck for words when introducing someone at work or a conference? Their name becomes a fleeting memory and dances on the tip of your tongue, despite only meeting them five seconds previously. If this happens to you, then you need these tips for perfecting the art of remembering names.

Mastering mortgage basics: part 2

In the second part of our feature on mastering the mortgage basics, we investigate all the kinds of mortgages that are available, where to get one and just how much deposit you should save.

Changes to tax - make your voice heard

ICAS and the University of Dundee are collaborating on a three-year project of a UK-wide study to determine the awareness of the changes to Scottish income tax amongst ICAS members and students.

This survey is anonymous and will take around 10 minutes to complete. ICAS will use the results from the survey to provide insights into the awareness of Scottish income tax. The University of Dundee will use the results to contribute to the academic debate on tax devolution and accountability.

We would be most grateful if you could complete the survey by 4 April and make your contribution to the debate on Scottish tax devolution. Please check your email from ICAS, dated 20 March 2017.

Monday 20th March 2017: What's in the inflation basket?

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has updated the contents of their annual shopping basket, providing insight into the evolving spending habits of UK shoppers.

The ONS 'basket of goods' is an annually-changing group of products that are used as an indicator for inflation measurement. Items like popular foodstuffs, hobby equipment and regular financial expenses are collated from the price movements of 700 goods and services in 20,000 UK outlets. 

The intention is to reflect the spending of an average consumer over the course of a year, incorporating contemporary habits and technology to calculate an accurate estimate of the cost of living.

Council tax has been included for the first time this year while products like specialty gin and cycle helmets are making a comeback after more than a decade since they last made the list.

ONS Senior Statistician Phil Gooding said: “The annual basket review enables us to keep up to date with all the latest trends, ensuring our inflation measures reflect the changing costs experienced by consumers.

“The addition of council tax to CPIH will ensure it remains our most comprehensive measure of consumer inflation."

So what does this year's basket look like?

'In' for 2017

'Out' for 2017

  • Council tax bills
  • Mobile phone handsets that are not smartphones
  • Cough mixture
  • Menthol cigarettes
  • Half-chocolate coated biscuits (a VAT headache?)
  • Brake pads
  • Jigsaws
  • Single drainer sink
  • Canned apple cider and bottled flavoured cider
  • Apple cider
  • Children's scooters
  • Children's swings
  • Gin
  • Fees for stopping a cheque

The full basket can be found on the ONS website.

We are also looking to the year ahead in ICAS with a comprehensive guide to the benefits available for new members, due to be inducted this weekend on 25 March. 

Keep an eye out for for the CA Student Blog team at the 2017 Admissions Ceremony on Saturday - we want to hear from you!

Meanwhile, tutor Fiona Winter tells us about her journey with ICAS and BPP explain their training relationship with us and how it works for students.

What can ICAS do for you?

With the 2017 Admissions Ceremony just around the corner for a whole host of new CAs, we round up some of the benefits that come from being an ICAS member after you qualify.

Tutor profile: Fiona Winter

Fiona Winter seemed destined to be a tutor with ICAS, but she didn't know it at the time. Here's how she turned a life-long love of numbers and teaching into a satisfying and rewarding career with the CAs of tomorrow.

Inside BPP: How we work with ICAS

At 9am, every morning in every BPP centre across the UK, the curtain goes up and the “performance” begins. For almost 40 years now, BPP has delivered accountancy exam training and has done so by trying to make the difficult become easy, the complicated become simple and the technical become entertaining. Martin Taylor, CEO of BPP Professional Qualifications, explains how ICAS and BPP work in partnership to deliver the CA qualification.

Thursday 17th March 2017: Knowledge is global power

Ever wanted to know where poll and survey information comes from and how you can use the findings for business decisions and identifying trends?

Polls are a great way to analyse the ‘mood’ of a nation or event and can even be used to spot trends in markets for business. 

Finding pollsters who use large base sizes (the number of people interviewed) helps with deciding how closely the data matches with the general population – for instance, a poll of 50 people is not likely to be representative of the population of Wales, but a poll for 5,000 people is likely to give a high ‘confidence’ level.

The Gallup global poll, for example, is often used by academia and organisations to find answers to their own questions, or cross-analyse their own data with that collected in global surveys.

As a CA, you’ll be called upon for your excellent analysis skills and ability to determine trends to follow for financial success, so think about all the resources that will be available to you when in practice.

Projects include the Global Findex, which is “the world’s most comprehensive database on financial inclusion”, utilising data from 150,000 adults from over 140 countries to help inform decisions about how people spend, save and borrow: the poll found that by 2014, 62% of the world’s adult population held a bank account, which tells banks that there are still around 2 billion adults who do not have an account.

Data can be refined down to specific areas, and this helps with determining where a company should focus its efforts, such as increased provision and access in third world countries.

As a CA, you’ll be called upon for your excellent analysis skills and ability to determine trends to follow for financial success, so think about all the resources that will be available to you when in practice.

In today's blog we examine what makes an ethical workplace - do you embody the values and encourage others to do so? Especially prescient for our Business Ethics students!

And we help you get your first foot on the property ladder, with a helpful guide to mastering the basics of mortgages: why you should choose your mortgage type carefully and think twice about how much money you offer above the market value.

Mastering mortgage basics

Home ownership is in decline, indeed The Guardian reported that home ownership in England was at its lowest level in 30 years; gone are the days of no deposit mortgages and lower prices, but when you have enough money saved, you then face the decision of tracker versus fixed, multiple interest rates and little explanation of how they work for your individual situation.

What are the next steps; which type of mortgage is better than the others? Have no fear, here’s our simplified guide on how they work and where to go for help.

What makes an ethical workplace?

Most people consider that they know the difference between right and wrong, that it’s a matter of instinct. However, as with many things in the real world, ethics is sometimes far from straightforward and can be even downright tricky...

Four finance trends that are transforming business lending

It’s no secret that it’s becoming increasingly tough for small businesses to raise capital from traditional lending routes. But there are other ways for businesses to borrow. Colin Swanston, Managing Director of the Transport Division of Close Brothers Asset Finance, discusses a range of alternative finance options and ‘runs the rule’ over each of them.

Monday 13th March 2017: Spring (Budget) is here! 

Did you catch the awaited Spring Budget for announcements on how things will change with Brexit? ICAS took to Twitter to live-tweet the news nuggets under #Budget2017, and the policy leadership team have neatly summarised the major (or not-so-major) changes ahead. 

Anton Colella, Chief Executive of ICAS, said: “The Brexit budget and forecasts of robust growth, record employment and a reduced deficit, may provide a ray of light, but uncertainty is still significant and the test for the Chancellor is whether he has done enough to weather any storm.

“It was a mixed bag for small business but one announcement which gets a standing ovation from ICAS is his decision to delay the introduction of Making Tax Digital for businesses below the VAT threshold. 

"ICAS supports the overall objectives of Making Tax Digital, but has long been concerned with the unrealistic timescale for the project. This shows a Chancellor who has listened.”

Chancellor Philip Hammond made several references to building up enough cash reserves for "gas in the tank".

The self-employed face a raise in taxes, but this is likely to be countered by the abolition of Class 2 NICs - freelancers and contractors can now pay tax according to their profit level and do not have to pay into a weekly flat-rate.   

There's also been plenty of fears about who is likely to be subject to quarterly digital tax returns, but a sigh of relief could be felt when it was announced that 'Making Tax Digital' will only apply to businesses registered for VAT. 

Chancellor Philip Hammond made several references to building up enough cash reserves for "gas in the tank"; a hint towards the potential costs of Brexit, but these were not fully laid out in the speech. Just how much 'gas' will be needed to trigger Article 50 and smooth through any rippling effects, remains to be seen. 

Meanwhile, in today's blog, we provide you with the resources to maximise your learning experience in a larger group of people, with excellent tips for learners who prefer one on one interactions. We also look at the recent Rolls-Royce bribery case and reflect on how this relates to ethical issues you may face in your working life. 

And we continue our countdown to the Admission Ceremony, which happens in less than two weeks! There is still time to become a member if you have submitted your logbook, so find out how. 

Happy reading!

How to tackle learning in a large class

Our class sizes vary throughout the country, but each individual is sure to have a preferred learning style and setting to make the most out of their time - here are our tips for taking on any learning environment, whether it's with ICAS or in-house company training. 

Rolls-Royce and Bribery

Rolls-Royce has been back in the news for agreeing, under a deferred prosecution agreement, to pay a record-breaking £671m fine. Lecturer Jenifer Cloke reveals the ethical issues behind this fine. 

Admissions Ceremony 2017

ICAS is delighted to invite newly qualified CAs and their family and friends to celebrate becoming a world-class business professional and joining the global ICAS community.

Date: 25 March 2017

Time: 9.30am for 10.30am, concluding by 2pm

Location: Edinburgh International Conference Centre

Join us to acknowledge and celebrate the hard work and level of achievement each newly qualified member has undertaken and to discover how ICAS can further support you throughout your lifetime as a CA.

Important booking information - please read: Newly qualified members can bring three guests to the ceremony free of charge.

The final admission deadline for logbooks was 10 March 2017, but you can be admitted to membership up until the day before the ceremony. If your logbook is awaiting approval please contact the Education team to ascertain the status of your approval.

Thursday 9th March 2017: Are we witnessing the homogenisation of high streets?

Bookstore chain Waterstones recently came under fire for opening a small number of 'unbranded' stores, as consumers begin to fear the homogenisation of UK high streets.  

Franchises and franchisees are an all too common sight in the shopping centres of most towns. Many coffee shops, fast food restaurants and independent retailers take the opportunity to move under the corporate umbrella of a big brand without losing ownership of their store.  

However, the impact of this increasingly popular practice is that large franchised companies like Starbucks, Pizza Hut and Subway are largely outnumbering more 'traditional' shops.

Waterstones have somewhat distanced themselves from this aspect of the idea, by opening small branches in Rye, Southwold and Harpenden under different names - with only small signs in the windows indicating their true owners.

We are coming into quite sensitive high streets with predominantly independent retailers on them and we wish to behave as they do. Waterstones

This approach somewhat controversially eliminates the need for a local business owner to choose the franchise but also avoids what might be called the 'stigma' of being a well-known corporation in a small town.

Waterstones' Managing Director, James Daunt told BBC Radio 4: “The vast majority [of people] have welcomed them greatly. They are very small shops in towns that had independents and very much wish they still had independents but don’t.

“We can’t open up great big Waterstones here but we can open up small ones. We are coming into quite sensitive high streets with predominantly independent retailers on them and we wish to behave as they do.”

Local shopkeepers, however, have accused the chain of subterfuge. The arrival of national chains on high streets is often blamed for pushing up rents and therefore affecting business rates, which are due to rise sharply in many places over the next few years.

This is a topic that the TPE examiners have touched on before, requiring students to think strategically about the advantages and disadvantages of such a model.

So, is franchising and this new subverted version of it bad for business overall?

Being a franchisee offers a level of financial security, defined borders with your competition and ongoing support. But it also comes with fees and a lack of control over decisions made about your business.

What do you think? This is a topic that the TPE examiners have touched on before, requiring students to think strategically about the advantages and disadvantages of such a model.

In today's blog, we line up your weekend viewing with our recommendations for a night in front of the TV for our top five accountant-affiliated shows; we promise they're only a little educational!

We've also put together a quick refresher on how to find content or access student resources on and highlight superb hacks for getting the most out of Excel.

The top TV shows for CAs and students

In the downtime between exams, performance reports and spreadsheets, there's nothing like a good old TV binge. Whether you like a series founded in clever satire, glossy drama, action-packed crime or all of the above, we have put together a list of the must-see shows featuring accountants and finance professionals.

How to navigate

Not sure how to find content or resources on Familiarise yourself with this great guide on getting the most out of our online facilities.

How-to Handbook: 10 excel hacks

Spreadsheets are an essential tool in any CA's arsenal. Microsoft Excel is undoubtedly the forerunner in its field with a huge global user base. What follows is a rundown of some simple tricks and shortcuts to help you become even more of an Excel pro.

Monday 6th March 2017: Consumer confidence down but budget could be up

It's potentially good news for the Chancellor this week, with an expected £29bn 'windfall' for the UK budget. 

The Resolution Foundation think-tank estimated that public borrowing could fall to £56bn in 2016-2017, which could have a positive knock-on effect for public finances, as well as potentially reducing the first reduction in an OBR forecast in the last three years. This hasn't changed consumer confidence, however, as Brexit has impacted upon spending across households - pessimism is riding high. 

GfK, who produce the UK's major purchase index found that consumer confidence dropped a point in February to -6. 

Joe Staton, Head of Market Dynamics at GfK, said: “Against a backdrop of rising food and fuel prices, sterling depreciation, nominal earnings growth and a burgeoning fear of rapid inflation, concern about our personal financial situation for 2017 has contributed to a drop in UK consumer confidence this month (to -6).

Consumer spending continues to drive economic growth in the UK so any further fall in confidence could support forecasts for a slowdown of the overall economy this year.

"Any momentum behind the post-Brexit, debt-fuelled, consumer-spending boom now appears to be softening. Mounting pressures on disposable income are starting to bite as witnessed by two months of falling retail sales (ONS) and a further drop in the Major Purchase Index (this month down by five points). 

"Consumer spending continues to drive economic growth in the UK so any further fall in confidence could support forecasts for a slowdown of the overall economy this year.” 

For all you newly-qualified students set to become official members at the 2017 Admission Ceremony, keep an eye out for our Brexit Tracker Survey released later this year. The survey, produced in association with law firm Brodies LLP, will be open during two-week periods from 9 May, 5 September and 30 November, and will chart the experiences of ICAS members during this period of transition. 

In today's blog we explore tips for newly-qualified members, and those who will qualify within the next year - check out our partner piece on achieving your aspirations for your career and top tips to meet your goals. 

And for our financial accounting students, you will want to read our five-step process to conquering long-form questions. Read and absorb these brilliant steps from tutor Stephanie Pentland. TPS students can rejoice at our handy hints on tax penalties too!

Tutor tip: Financial Accounting long-form

Sitting Financial Accounting (FA) long-form, and wondering how to tackle the questions? Stephanie Pentland shares the five key steps that you should use for success. 

Achieving your career aspirations - top tips for NQs

Will be you qualifying next year or have just qualified? You need these tips on what to do next. Sophie Randles, Head of Practice at Rutherford Cross, shares her advice for newly-qualified professionals.

Eight tax penalty tips for TPS

Understanding how HMRC tax penalties work are an essential part of the Principles of Taxation course. There’s lots of information to take in, so we’ve developed these handy tips to help you remember the key details. This is especially helpful for those studying TPS as you will often meet these penalties in future questions.

Thurs 2nd March 2017: What is shrinkflation and why is it increasing?

'Shrinkflation' is the reduction sensation that's sweeping the nation, much to the chagrin of consumers. 

Fluctuations in currency values, particularly in the post-Brexit result pound (GBP), have led to several retailers and consumer goods companies compensating for losses by cutting the size of their products without reducing the price.

The practice has helped avoid major price increases being passed on to customers while the cost of raw materials and imports rises.

However, while some slimmed-down snacks have undergone a fairly subtle transformation, others are a little more on the nose. Here are some of the well-loved food brands that you may have noticed looking a little lighter:

  • Mr Kipling Angel Slices: Nine-pack boxes are now missing a slice.
  • Tropicana: The family-sized 1.75 litres carton has been reduced to 1.6 litres. 
  • Maltesers: Mars has cut the size of shareable pouches from 121g to 103g.
  • Bulmer’s flavoured cider: Replacing the 568ml bottle is a slightly less refreshing 500ml one.
  • Birds Eye Fish Fingers: The traditional 12 finger box now only contains 10.
  • Morland Old Speckled Hen Ale: 500ml bottles in a 12 pack have been reduced to 440ml.
  • Toblerone: The 170g chocolate bar has shed 10% of its weight with a new, controversial design.

Speaking to Channel 4's Dispatches, the British Retail Consortium, said: "Major supermarkets have worked with Government and public bodies to make pricing clearer and simpler for customers, such as improving the way that unit price is displayed.

"Sizing and pricing of products are regularly reviewed and are impacted by a number of factors, including: the cost of raw materials, commercial negotiations with manufacturers and changing portion sizes. Prices and sizes of all products are clearly labelled so that customers can make informed decisions about their purchases."

Staying on the subject of food, in today's blog we look at how the distinction between chocolate bars, biscuits and cake affects the complex world of VAT - is it a philosophical issue?

In other news, we examine the rising popularity of cybersecurity insurance in the wake of several high-profile data breaches and malevolent hacks - how do you insure the intangible?

We also offer some advice on how to avoid being fooled by the 'fake news' headlines that may be filling up your online life.

Assessing the intangible: cybersecurity insurance

One of the fastest growing insurance products in recent years is cybersecurity insurance, and research shows that it’s only going to increase even further. We find out how this affects financial institutions and organisations who handle client money, and what should be done to prepare.

Sweet nothings: Zero-rated cakes

To cake or not to cake: it's a frequent taxation question. The multi-layered tax system in the UK means that particular food groups are afforded different levels of VAT; find out how a biscuit can make all the difference and where the inspiration for 'giant' Jaffa Cakes started.

How to spot fake news

Telling the real from the fake is now a major challenge in the digitally-connected information society - and just how can you tell if a news report is false? Talk of 'fake news' is increasingly cropping up in discussions and debates, with everyone from Mark Zuckerburg to Vladimir Putin accused of spreading rumours, gossip and outright 'alternative facts' in the media.


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