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13th December 2017

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News of Moves Karel Thomas

The University of Dundee has announced that after six years as their Director of Finance, Andrew Hewett will be leaving them in March to join Manchester Metropolitan University. He succeeds John Cunningham, who is retiring at the end of this year. Congratulations to both colleagues, to whom BUFDG is grateful in so many ways, but as staunch supporters of the Learning & Development Group, we are especially grateful.

Taxation of Employee Expenses Mike Edwards

Members may recall that HM Treasury (“HMT”) launched a Call for Evidence regarding the taxation of employee expenses earlier in the year.  BUFDG submitted a response based on a survey of members.  HMT have now released a report on the basis of the contributions made by stakeholders that can be accessed via this link together with proposals for action announced with the Budget a couple of weeks ago.  The main message that HMT have taken from the exercise is that the rules are still fit for purpose and continue to reflect the expenses employees incur so that a fundamental reform to the tax relief for employee expenses is not warranted or necessary at this time. Therefore, the government has no plans to do so.

However, as announced at the Budget, the government has decided to introduce changes in certain areas where respondents raised specific concerns:

  • Self-funded training – The government will consult in 2018 on extending the scope of the tax relief currently available to employees and the self-employed for work-related training costs, to support lifelong learning and retraining.
  • Subsistence benchmark scale rates – To reduce the burden on employers, from April 2019 they will no longer be required by HMRC to check receipts when reimbursing employees for subsistence using benchmark scale rates. From the volume of queries that I have received around this topic from members recently, I would infer that this change will be particularly welcome.  However, it does not apply to actual amounts reimbursed, or reimbursements made under agreed bespoke scale rates and industry-wide rates.
  • Subsistence overseas scale rates – From April 2019 the existing concessionary accommodation and subsistence overseas scale rates will be placed on a statutory basis, to provide greater certainty for employers.

Guidance and claims process for employee expenses – HMRC say they will work with external stakeholders to improve the guidance on employee expenses, particularly on travel and subsistence and the process for claiming tax relief on non-reimbursed employment expenses. Although I will be joining in as a BUFDG representative, there is an opportunity to get involved in this work should individual members wish to do so; expressions of interest may be made to: employmentincome.policy@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk    

TRAC Development Group bulletin for December Matt Sisson

The TRAC Development Group (TDG) has published its latest bulletin this week. The newsletter reviews September’s annual practitioners conference (and links to the slides), provides updates on workload planning and other current projects, the margin for sustainability and investment (MSI), TRAC guidance, links to lots of other helpful resources, and lots more. 

For previous bulletins, and other useful TRAC bits, visit the TDG page on the HEFCE website.

Further tax-related budget documents Amanda Darley

As well as HMRC's consultation response on reverse charge VAT on construction services (which will affect university development/design and build companies) mentioned in last week's article here, HMRC has also published these other budget follow-up documents:

For our summary of the tax announcements in the Budget likely to affect universities, see our previous article here.

FRS102 / New SORP Workshops Rachel McLone

Following the success of last year’s workshops, the FRG together with the Audit Firms will once again be hosting a series of regional workshops.  The workshops will cover FRS102 amendments and the new HEFE SORP 2019. They'll provide an opportunity to review best practice, ask questions, and to network with other members. The workshops are aimed at practitioner level and are free to attend. For more details and to book, please click on the links below:

If you have any topics you would like to see covered at the workshops, please add these into this discussion board link. For any queries on the workshop, please contact Rachel

Intro to university funding, and the FSSG Matt Sisson

For those new to the sector, the Financial Sustainability Strategy Group is a high-level forum that considers the strategic, policy, cultural and technical issues relating to the financial sustainability of HE in the UK. It has recently published an information sheet, formed from information originally presented at the All Party Parliamentary University Group session ‘Financial sustainability of the university sector’ by the Chair of FSSG, Professor Mark E. Smith (Vice-Chancellor, Lancaster University).

The brief report outlines the UK higher education sector’s key funding model and structures, provides facts and figures on its financial sustainability, and explains the role and aim of the FSSG. It’s a useful introductory document for anyone wanting to gain a little more understanding of the various elements of university funding, and it also contains links for further reading.

For further information and resources from FSSG, please visit the website here.

Making counter-fraud connections Matt Sisson

Following the last few years’ counter-fraud conferences, members fed back to us that, while the content was good, what they most appreciated were the real-life HE case studies as well as the opportunities to network with colleagues from across different professional services.

In response, we’ve produced an alternative format for this year’s conference event. Instead of a single, national conference, we’re running three smaller regional ‘Counter-Fraud Connections’. These are afternoon-only events focused on bringing colleagues from different professional services together, with an emphasis on networking to share best practice and discuss how to keep ahead of the counter-fraud threat.

The three events will feature:

  1. A technical update – on changes to anti-money laundering regulation, and the implications for universities of the Criminal Finances Act 2017 (CFA), and the new Corporate Criminal Offence (CCO).
  2. University case-studies – university colleagues will talk about how they are embedding counter-fraud practice within their own institutions by working across professional services, including finance, procurement, estates, IT, HR, and beyond.
  3. Discussions and Q&A – specific time allocated for topical issues, including fraud prevention, training, and assessing risk
  4. Networking – an hour’s dedicated networking toward the end of the event, with wine, cheese, beer, or just another cup of coffee

The events start at 2.30pm (registration from 2pm), with the main programme finishing at 5pm, followed by the hour of networking until 6pm. There are no limits on the number of colleagues that can attend from a single institution, so please circulate news of the event to colleagues across your professional services. The cost is just £99 (incl. VAT) per delegate.

The final details of the agenda will be confirmed early in the new year. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the event, please get in touch. To book, click on the relevant links below:

GDPR as an opportunity? Emma Keenan

In an excellent article from Supply Management Magazine, a range of contributors talk about GDPR and how waking up on the 25th May next year and saying “‘It’s GDPR day! Everything works differently now.” is just not an option! The piece explains the impact on businesses and their supply chains, as well as the need to recognise the differences in suppliers’ resource capabilities for such an intensive process. 

It also confirms that GDOR presents a real opportunity to demonstrate how a well-managed and structured approach to procurement adds value to an organisation above and beyond mere savings.

Management Accountants Conference 2018 Rachel McLone

We are pleased to confirm we will be running two Management Accountants Conferences in 2018.  One in London on the 4th October and one in Leeds on the 11th October.  The conferences will once again be packed full of a variety of plenaries and breakouts and, following your excellent feedback, more opportunity to network on the day.  Please keep the date in your diary and look out for further details next year.  For any queries, please contact Rachel.

PHES/BUFDG are recruiting! Matt Sisson

Professional HE Services (PHES) is an umbrella company for membership organisations in the UK Higher Education sector. PHES is the corporate “parent” to four Special Interest Organisations (SIOs); the Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE), the British Universities Finance Directors Group (BUFDG), the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) and Universities Human Resources (UHR). Between them, these organisations support UK university staff who work in the areas of estates, facilities management, finance, procurement, strategic planning, and HR. We are recruiting for the following roles:

AUDE Events Manager

AUDE is looking for an enthusiastic, imaginative and organised colleague with the right skills to join our small team and perform this crucial business development role. This role would suit a driven, dynamic individual who is highly motivated with an ability to engage and communicate with a professional membership. You will have experience managing events, sourcing speakers and securing sponsorship. We need someone with exceptional interpersonal skills, self-confidence and who is a good listener. It is vital that the post-holder understands the value of AUDE to its members and how the association will meet these needs. The full time Events Manager will play an important role in bringing additional income into the association. The focus of this role will be the running of events and conferences for our members, and where appropriate use sponsorship and exhibition opportunities to create revenue. 

Membership Officer (2 posts – between 0.5 and full time)

We are looking for 2 Membership Officers to join our small team (approx. 13 staff) during this exciting period of expansion and perform a crucial business support role. We are looking for candidates who can work anywhere between half- and full-time. The successful candidates will become an essential part of the PHES team, providing administrative support to other team members at the four SIOs. Working closely with colleagues, you’ll need to work efficiently and with attention to detail, display excellent customer service skills, and relate well to members. You will help organise and run events, manage the database and update the website, and undertake other support tasks as required. We encourage candidates who wish to grow in the role, and who will be willing to take on more responsibility as skills are demonstrated.

AUDE / UHR Communications Officer (1 x full time or 2 x 0.5fte) - Grade 6 £25,023 - £31,656 pro rata

The successful candidate will proactively position the SIOs in the media looking for opportunities to showcase good news stories and celebrate sector success. You will act as public relations manager between the SIOs, their stakeholders, local and national press and trade publications. You will write innovative and informative communications to members via our digital platforms and social media. You will also take the lead on public consultations collating members views and draft collective responses that speak on behalf of the association.

To find out more about all of these posts, visit the recruitment page.

Other bits... Matt Sisson

Analysis on Wonkhe points to institutional subscriptions for the OfS are likely to be much higher than initially outlined in the OfS consultation document. After crunching the numbers, it believes that OfS could start life with an £8m deficit, and it will be HEI subscriptions that will make up the shortfall.

The government has introduced a consultation on the provision of accelerated (2-year) degree courses. The commentary focus has been (isn’t it always?) on the maximum headline fee amount, but there are more considered thoughts from Wonkhe and HEPI.

Friday’s National Audit Office report on university VfM was unfortunately narrowly drawn around student fees, and the responding press coverage isn’t positive. Here’s the Guardian’s take, while the Telegraph and others have called it a ‘mis-selling’ scandal. If only universities did other things with their income, such as working towards curing terminal diseases

Finally, our Job of the Week is for a Head of Finance at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh. The successful candidate will, among other things, “support the Director of Operations & Finance in delivering a high quality, proactive financial management and management information service to managers across the institution and to the University Court and its committees and to external stakeholders.” The deadline for applications is the 8th January, 2018. There are lots of other vacancies listed on the BUFDG site here