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30th November 2022

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BUFDG Digest, Wednesday 30th November Matt Sisson


BUFDG

The home page of the website is our shop window and like many shop windows at this time of the year, it has been redressed and made more attractive. We hope it’s enough lure you in to look around, fill your basket with goodies and vow to visit again. The BUFDG shelves are stacked with useful stuff, there for the taking and consumption by as many colleagues as are interested in higher education finance. We have worked hard to make all departments accessible – the goods are laid out in the Knowledge Hub making it easy to find resources about financial reporting, taxes, treasury management, and procurement to name a few. You’ll find the training suite with e-learning courses for everyone, many also rewritten and updated for accessibility and a place to chat to like-minded visitors. Like all the best stores, we hope you will tell us what you like and want by updating your personal dashboard but if you haven’t been to the site for a while, there is a guide to show you round.

You can also access our new Polls page here directly or from the homepage (under Resources, titled Poll: Your next big issue). The purpose of this page is to capture what is concerning you now / in the current quarter, allowing you to see what issues others in the sector are currently working on, and allowing us at BUFDG Central to ensure we are directing our resources to issues that really need them. There is a different poll for each ‘area’ within finance, as well as one for CFOs/FDs and one for Deputy FDs, so find the poll(s) relevant to you and vote for your biggest current/upcoming issue! When you vote you also get to see the poll results, so we can all see what is keeping us all awake at night.


SECTOR / FUNDING

The big news over the last fortnight was the new Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – a budget in all but name. Andrea and Julia have been working incredibly hard over the last fortnight to capture all the implications for the sector, and have summarised these in this article. It covers areas such as employee taxes and allowances, vehicles, customs, corporation tax, business rates, energy, and investment. For any questions, get in touch with Andrea or Julia.

The PM spoke to the CBI conference this week, with a big focus on research and economic development. Wonkhe’s James Coe spells out what it might mean for universities, while Tim Fallow and David Marlow write about the challenges of levelling-up. The speech follows an announcement from UKRI on a range of additional research and infrastructure funding while negotiations continue over Horizon involvement.

There has also been much comment over the last fortnight on the cost-of-living crisis for students. A study by the IFS has found that, due to inflation and forecasts, “the real value of maintenance entitlements has fallen substantially and is now at the lowest level it has been in seven years”. This means that students from the poorest families are £1,000 out of pocket compared to 20/21. A major concern is that there is no mechanism to subsequently review and correct any disparities, meaning that the cuts are locked in for future years too. The story is covered in the Guardian, as well as by Jim Dickinson on Wonkhe, who really should be receiving an invite from the Education Select Committee.

Along with the IFS report, UUK has published results of a survey on student concerns about cost-of-living. Half of students were very worried about costs, with more than three quarters worried that the crisis would affect how well they do in their studies. The press release also highlights the steps institutions are taking to help support students – something we look at in the Chair’s Quarterly on Friday.

A new UUK report tracks the growth (and growing importance of) TNE to the UK HE sector, with over half a million students from almost every country in the planet studying at 162 institutions. Meanwhile, there is concern that recent high migration figures could lead the government to seek to place a limit on the number of international students in the UK, despite the complexities / inconsistencies.

HESA has published a finance data release, covering the 56 providers in England with YE dates between 1st August and 31st December. And the government has confirmed an update to the maximum student loan interest rates.


TRAC

The OfS has messaged TRAC contacts at universities in England and Scotland (with HEFCW and DFE (NI) issued equivalent information to institutions in Wales and Northern Ireland), about completing the TRAC return workbook and submitting the return. The bespoke template is now available for institutions to download from the OfS portal, and the annual TRAC return should be prepared using version 2.7 of the TRAC guidance. Please contact the OfS TRAC team if you have any technical questions regarding the process or if you need to update any contacts for your institution. And any queries on the TRAC methodology should be addressed to the TRAC support unit. The deadline for submission is Noon on Tuesday 31 January 2023.


PENSIONS

In case you missed it last week, Mercer and Isio have helpfully created two summary tables setting out some similarites and differences in H E pension schemes. Together the two tables provide a helpful overview of the pensions available in the H E sector. The tables can be accessed by anyone (i.e. you don't have to be a BUFDG member) so if you feel that anyone within your university, or any of your governors etc. would benefit from this information please send them the link to the pensions tables page. With thanks to Mercer and Isio for providing these documents.

There’s a USS update from Chief Executive Bill Galvin that covers the latest funding monitoring report. It’s a snapshot that shows a slightly improved picture, along with plenty of the usual caveats. UCU see it as justification for the reversal of changes to benefits.


TAXES

We've just launched a set of four short videos to help you manage your subsidiary companies. The video series looks at: Whether you need a new subsidiary company (5 minutes); How to set up a new subsidiary company (5 minutes); Whether you could reduce the number of subsidiaries you have (3 minutes), and; How to close down a subsidiary company (5 minutes). You can watch all the videos, or just select one or more covering questions relevant to you. For those who may have difficulty reading the text in the videos (there is no audio/speech, only music), we have created video transcripts you can read/access via a screenreader.  

HMRC has published a calculator to help you work out how much interest and penalty you may have to pay for underpaid taxes. The form uses Adobe Reader and may not work for all universities, however HMRC has added  ‘problem with the form’ actions that may alleviate these issues.

The Office for Tax Simplification will cease work after publication of the Hybrid and distance working report.  It will formally close when the next Finance Bill receives Royal Assent. For further details, see the OTS news story (17 November 2022).

We understand that many universities are offering salary advances to their employees who may need financial assistance, which should usually be treated as payments of earnings, requiring an additional Real Time Information (RTI) return. In a move to reduce these administrative burdens, HMRC has been pragmatic. They will amend legislation so salary advances can be reported via RTI on the employee’s contractual pay day, rather than the date of the salary advance. This means a monthly-paid employee will still only require one RTI submission. Until this legislation is live, employers will still have to report salary advances via RTI, on or before the date of payment.

On 23 November, Kerry Sykes from Big for Tax presented a Time to Talk session on the Sharing of Costs, considering where costs can be shared without the addition of VAT and the use of Cost Sharing Groups. You can find a link to the recording and slides here.

HMRC has updated the section within VAT domestic reverse charge technical guide that covers end users and intermediaries. Members will recall that universities and their subs are usually exempt from having to apply the domestic reverse charge, but must notify suppliers. See this section of the guidance.

Please remember that you can sign up to receive TaxHE, our fortnightly newsletter of all things tax. To get it directly, go into “My Dashboard” on the new website, click on ‘edit profile’ and then, under ‘preferences’, tick the TaxHE newsletter box.


PROCUREMENT

The final set of HEPA Head of Procurement group meetings for 2022 will take place in December. The sessions are scheduled as follows and bookings are open. The links for making a booking are in this article.

HEPA are thrilled to be hosting a webinar with Michael Flagg of LUPC to provide an overview of the Higher Education Supply Chain Emissions Tool (HESCET) and scope 3.  The session will provide: a general overview of carbon emissions reporting; a brief history and explanation of where the figures are derived from; an overview of the HESCET tool; a show & tell / demo of the tool; Q&A - please submit these in advance! The event takes place on 6 December at 14:00 via Teams - you can book your place and find out more about the session here.

Following on from an interesting thread on the HEPA discussion board we are hosting a round-table for colleagues to discuss waiver processes within their institution. As always, please do come to the session prepared to discuss challenges, successes and share best practice. The session will take place on 13 December at 09:30 via Teams and bookings can be made here.

We will be launching the Procurement Value Survey (PVS) soon. We are in the process of launching a new HEPA website (similar to the new BUFDG site) and, as the PVS system sits within the HEPA website, once we are a little further along the development of the website HEPA will contact all PVS users and update them with a firmer date for the opening of the survey.


FRAUD / SANCTIONS

Thanks to all those who attended the VWV session on sanctions compliance last Friday, and to Tom and Thomas at VWV of course for their insight. We now have a page set up with the recording of that session, available to all members. In relation to the session, members can also access the original sanctions note (loads of useful gov.uk links at the end, and the CPNI guidance), the discussion board post for further chat with colleagues, VWV’s earlier session on the NS&I Act, the Oslo case mentioned in the chat, and the session slides.

After the recent introductory session on open banking, we’re running a second webinar to provide insights on the benefits and challenges of implementing open banking with presentations from Lloyds Bank, the University of Sheffield and the Open Banking Implementation Entity. This session is for those member organisations considering the use of open banking technology and wanting to find out more. It builds on the first session with an in-depth implementation journey and looks at uses of open banking beyond the sending and receiving of funds. The event is free to attend, and you can book your place here


OTHER BITS

Following a six-month consultation, FE has been officially reclassified by the ONS as public sector, with a considerable list of implications. The AOC have responded.

OfS has updated its methodology for grouping OfS registered institutions. It’s always a fascinating topic and might get the ‘wonks’ excited – yet, as OfS points out, “typologies have no regulatory status, they do not imply… judgement of regulatory risk for providers in one group rather than another, and they will not inform our regulatory decision making”.

Coinciding with the PM declaring the end of the ‘golden era’ of relations with China, Wonkhe has a number of articles examining the risks and opportunities of continued links in the HE sector, as well as student recruitment.

Our job of the fortnight is for a Head of Financial Accounting and Systems at the Open University. The successful candidate will take responsibility for “Leading the management and development of the University’s financial ledgers and finance related systems”, and “Managing the co-ordination and production of the University’s formal statutory and regulatory consolidated financial statements”, among other things. The deadline for applications is 14th December.

For all other vacancies, visit the BUFDG jobs page.



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