22nd October 2014

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HEFCE's hot on cold spots Karel Thomas

It was a privilege to attend HEFCE’s Annual meeting last week at the Royal Society and to hear presentations from HEFCE colleagues, including an excellent demonstration of Higher Education Cold Spots. Finance, planning and marketing colleagues can have hours of fun with the maps, graphs and figures, so if you haven’t seen them yet take a look and see what conclusions you can draw from the myriad variables and imagine what business decisions could follow... I also talked to quite a few governors, who were all enthusiastic supporters of their respective Finance Directors (phew!) I was especially pleased when one governor gave me some very positive feedback about the Weekly Digest and suggested that all governors should read it. If you haven’t already done so, please encourage your governors to click on the subscribe box and enter their email address – it doesn’t have to be a university email address as anyone can read the digest. Thank you to that very kind governor who followed up in an email saying, “It is much the best source of financial information about the HE sector.” 

HMRC launches a dedicated team to look into RTI problems Amanda Darley

HMRC has recently launched a ‘dedicated team’ to look at RTI issues, with the promise of updating the taxpayer with a conclusion or general update within 3 months of the taxpayer receiving a letter from HMRC. If you are still having problems reconciling RTI then see the copy of the letter from HRMC and contact HMRC to find out if your issues can be passed to the new team for review. 

In other news, as a result of the recent national Tax Group meeting, we’re looking for some information and feedback on several issues - International Trade, NHS invoices and the HE Partial Exemption Framework. If you have anything to share or contribute about these issues, then head on over to the Tax discussion boards.

HE's huge contribution to the economy Karel Thomas

Colleagues in Finance, Fundraising and Estates departments will be interested in the value that donors put on having a building named after them, with news in the Financial Times of the generous £15M donation by Lord Alliance to the Manchester Business School. Manchester’s President and VC, Dame Nancy Rothwell said, “[T]he timing is perfect as the School embarks on its next 50 years, bolstered by a visionary new building for the School, which Lord Alliance and his Trustees are helping to make possible.” The University of Manchester is only one of many HEIs spending to enhance facilities for current and future generations of students and researchers. The recently published AUDE Higher Education estates statistics report revealed that the capital expenditure on estates, excluding residential, was £2.0bn in 2012/13 and that the revenue costs of supporting the University estate amounted to £1.9bn per annum, which is an impressive contribution to the economy. That also sounds like lots of buying going on in estates departments, with procurement professionals helping to deliver value for money, so if your university is busy building, have a look at the HEPA training schedule and e-learning modules which could help deliver even more for those precious grants and donations.

In related news, HEFCE has welcomed the final report of the City Growth Commission, which has a specific focus on the role of universities in economic development. David Sweeney, HEFCE Director Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange, said “It is particularly valuable when those external to universities confirm that we are on the right track in supporting the development of universities as economic and societal anchors. I hope that the evidence from the projects we support through our Catalyst Fund can help universities to play a more effective role, cities to see the opportunities to work more closely with higher education – and policy-makers to see the wonderful potential of these close university-city partnerships".

Subsidiary Company Gift Aid Payments Amanda Darley

The ICAEW is currently considering some legal advice recently received in relation to Gift Aid payments from charity subsidiary companies to the parent charity.  Currently, the level of profits for corporation tax purposes sometimes exceeds the cumulative reserves (which are made up of retained accounting profits) and the subsidiary company can still make a Gift Aid payment out of subscribed share capital, providing the objects of the company authorise such gifts and doing so would not make the company insolvent. This is the current position of the Charity Commission in the current version of its guidance (CC35 para D5).

However, it appears that this position may not be correct under company law and we are expecting ICAEW to issue new guidance on this in the light of recent legal opinion.  We are currently investigating this further to find out when the guidance might be issued (we do not believe it to be imminent, although some HEIs are already having questions from their auditors about this). If the position on timing of the new guidance changes, we will notify members immediately.

Harriet Latham, from the Open University, has produced a helpful guide to this issue, including suggestions on how to deal with it.

Enhanced disclosure of V-C remuneration Matt Sisson

We suspect most HEIs are in the final stages of finalising their accounts, and many will have been signed off by now, but HEFCE has asked BUFDG to remind members of the opportunity to improve disclosures for 2013-14 by adopting the enhanced disclosures of Vice-Chancellor remuneration. While it is optional this year, it will become mandatory next year, so this is a chance to get in the groove ahead of time.

Full details of HEFCE's accounts direction to HEIs for 2014-15 financial statements can be found on the HEFCE website

Two recent VAT case decisions Amanda Darley

The Court of Justice of the European Union has published its decision in the Welmory Sp z.o.o. case, regarding fixed establishments for VAT purposes, and highlights (rather than answers) the question of whether using your supplier’s human and technical resources in another country to make your own supplies to customers could create a fixed establishment there for you.  See the news article on the BUFDG website for more detail.

The Upper Tribunal has now issued its decision (which has also been via the European Court of Justice) in the University of Huddersfield case.  The case relates to a historic lease and leaseback arrangement the university first put in place in 1995 and which has not even been in existence since 2004, and serves mainly to highlight the difference in how tax planning is operated in the university sector today compared to twenty years ago (as well as just how long it can take for a case to work its way through the courts – this case was first heard by the VAT and Duties Tribunal twelve years ago).  It deals with abuse of rights, and the Upper Tribunal overturned the First-tier Tribunal’s decision.  For more information, see the full news article on the website.

A number of fraud alerts Matt Sisson

There has been an increased number of phishing emails and text messages going to students from fake Student Finance Services, and some look very authentic. Phishing scams are very common around this time of year, so please remind your students to be extra cautious. To read more about phishing please go here. There is also a useful film about Phishing that you can view here. The Student Loans Company also advises a number of steps students can take to stay safe online. For more information go here

In addition to phishing, and the usual spate of mandate frauds, there has been a specific sector attack impersonating V-C email addresses to request urgent wire transfers. More information is on the BUFDG discussion board

Other bits Matt Sisson

The minutes of the recent national meetings of the Tax Group and the Payroll and Expenses Group have been uploaded to the BUFDG website. 

The confirmation of the proposed changes to USS have provoked a good deal of media comment, particularly in the Times Higher, with the viewpoints of employers, unions, and universities given column space. In an attempt to improve clarity, the THE has also published a blog on ‘busting pension reform myths’, whilst UCEA want to bring together HR, pensions, and communications experts for a conference on how to meet the communications challenges inherent in the changing pay and pensions landscape.

Labour’s shadow Universities Minister Liam Byrne has called on universities to be more vocal in making the argument that Britain leaving the European Union would be a “disaster for British Universities” the THE reports. Speaking to the THE, he added that the party is “ambitious for tuition fees to be lower in the years to come, but we’re also determined not to short-change the sector. Therefore we’re not going to announce anything on tuition fees until we are in a position to be crystal clear about where the money is going to come from.”

UKIP would seek to remove students from the migration figures, leaving the Conservatives as the only party not advocating a policy switch, according to the THE. A party spokesman recently told the paper that it believed “that students from around the world should be encouraged to come here to study in our first-class facilities. We do not feel the need to add student numbers into the country’s migration figures because they are usually here on student visas, unless they are from within the EU.”

Finally, our job of the week is for an Assistant Procurement Manager at Southampton Solent University. All other jobs are available on the BUFDG website jobs page. If you’d like to advertise a job with us, then please email a URL link to where the role is advertised to Gill Birch

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