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16th September 2020

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BUFDG Digest, Wednesday 16th September Matt Sisson



It’s conference season here at BUFDG, albeit with a difference from the usual! As expected, all forthcoming BUFDG events and conferences are now online. Delegates will miss out on the face-to-face contact but, as there is no physical venue, attendance is cheaper, it’s more flexible and convenient to attend, and there’s no travel or accommodation to book!

First up is the TRAC Conference from 28-29 September. The conference will include a mixture of plenary and breakout sessions and give delegates a thorough overview on the work of the TDG, their activities and of course the latest guidance on TRAC.  We will also facilitate ways for you to network with fellow delegates throughout the conference. It’s £75 incl. VAT for the two days.

Next is the Annual Tax Conference, from 6-8 October. The conference is aimed at tax and payroll managers/staff, and others responsible for tax in their HEI, but would be of interest to FDs and Deputy FDs, and potentially HR staff as well. We’ll be providing the usual mix of fantastic technical sessions from a great range of presenters, and we’ll also be giving you the opportunity to chat with and get to know your counterparts in other universities, though not in the usual way in the bar (so bringing your own pint is optional!). You’ll also have the opportunity to chat with advisers and speakers in one-to-one meetings or groups. And although there will be no bucking bronco or coconut shy this year, there will be lots going on to keep you engaged and give you plenty to think (and talk!) about.

Finally, it’s the turn of Management Accounts and Business Partners, in your many different guises, for the 2020 MA Conference from 14-15 October. We have great speakers lined up who can give insight into the future challenges and opportunities for HE and we will be hearing from those who experienced huge change in other sectors. Of course, we will also have sessions delivered by your fellow members and peers for the breakout sessions as we know you always find these of particular benefit. Going digital this year means we can bring you more content than previously and ticket prices are of course cheaper. One of the huge benefits of the MA Conference has been the opportunity to network and we’ll be working on the best ways to help facilitate digital networking. We also have some good ideas of how to create more longer lasting network groups. 



CUC has published the new version of its Higher Education Code of Governance today. The code draws on the results of the consultation in January, as well as emerging practice in other sectors and a wide range of literature. It also for the first time includes a set of core values which HE governance should be founded on. CUC Chair John Rushforth launched the guide with an article on the HEPI website, while David Kernohan of Wonkhe considers what it means.

For providers in England, the OfS has published guidance on submitting financial monitoring returns. For Scottish HEIs, deadlines for the annual report and accounts and TRAC return are here.

In related news, the government has released a statement on reducing the bureaucratic burden for Higher Education Institutions. It’s a strange piece and, as usual, we can rely on Wonkhe for detailed analysis.

The last few months has seen a huge amount of effort and energy within universities spent on ensuring the safe reopening of campuses and the arrival of students for the new academic year. Comments from colleagues during recent BUFDG meetings suggests this has been aided by excellent cooperation and sharing of ideas across the sector, despite the ‘moving-target’ nature of the challenge, the competition between providers for students, the fallout of the A-level fiasco, and the paucity of official guidance or support. Some of this has been facilitated by our PHES colleagues at AUDE, who have collected a range of materials on the Coronavirus resources page. While managing these risks will now become the day-to-day norm for many staff, others will need to spend some time looking forwards and outwards again. To this end AUDE are hosting a completely free (for university professional services staff) two-week online conference, called COVID-19 and the Future of the University Estate. There’s a programme, booking link, and lots more information available on the AUDE website. If your institution is a subscriber of AUDE, you’ll be able to login using your BUFDG username and password. If you’re in doubt about attendance, then register anyway, as that way you’ll receive access to the recordings afterwards and any subsequent publications.



As the SLC starts to make payments to students, there’s a warning in a blog from SLC Operations Director Derek Ross that they could/will become the target of scammers. Consider sharing some of the key points with your students, as well as circulating the video at the bottom.

UKRI have just launched a new centre to better understand and combat Modern Slavery, among other human rights challenges. The Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre has been created to narrow the gap between “the high-quality academic research and the world of policymaking and law-making, as well as frontline work with people directly affected by modern slavery”.



There are a number of articles in this month’s HEPA newsletter, covering VISA and Mastercard Interchange Refunds, a training session on 20th October looking at Customs ahead of Brexit, and info on Return to Work supplies, among other things.

NWUPC is holding a webinar at 2pm on 24 September that covers the NWUPC Financial Services Framework, and will be led by PwC. It is open to all consortia Members who the agreement is open to (NWUPC, NEUPC, LUPC SUPC and HEPCW). To sign up for this webinar please use this link. A calendar invite with joining instructions will then be sent 24 hours beforehand. If you have any questions, contact Natasha.



HMRC have brought together EU Exit legislation, regulations and notices for Customs procedures applicable to UK Transition in one place.  A the moment there are only two links, but Andrea assumes that more will be added as time goes on.

HMT has issued a Policy paper entitled "VAT and the Public Sector: Reform to VAT Refund Rules". This is predominantly aimed at a review of the Contracted-out services rules with one option being that Government Departments, the NHS, etc will be able to reclaim all VAT incurred on goods and services. BUFDG will be responding to this paper and Andrea would like to pull together a group to discuss this topic ahead of drafting a response.  Please contact her if you would like to be involved. 

HMT have issued the following consultation: VAT Grouping - Establishment, Eligibility and Registration Call for Evidence. Andrea strongly recommends that you read this if your university has subsidiaries, as the concept of compulsory VAT grouping is under consideration. BUFDG will be responding to this paper and Andrea would like to pull together a group to discuss this topic ahead of drafting a response.  Please contact her if you would like to be involved. Responses are due before 20 November.

The Compliance checks: alternative dispute resolution - CC/FS21 factsheet has been updated for legislative and policy changes. Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) involves an HMRC officer trained in mediation skills and techniques who acts as neutral third party without forming a view on who is right or wrong. This factsheet is one of many. The full list of topics covered can be found here.

HMRC have issued a policy paper entitled: UK Transition: The Customs (Bulk Customs Declaration and Miscellaneous Amendments) (EU Exit) Regulations 2020. This is a technical paper that "introduces a number of targeted legislative changes that will allow customs procedures to continue to operate efficiently at the end of the Transition Period and to make it easier for businesses to access a duty deferment account." The main point of interest for the HE sector is that the legislation changes enable a duty deferment account is set up without the need for a business to provide a guaratee, provided that certain eligibility criteria (which is not set-out in detail in this document) are met in relation to "compliance and solvency".

If you have registered for the Eat out to Help out scheme, the deadline is 30 September 2020.  Further information can be found here.

Read the latest TaxHE newsletter for more updates.



Universities (and any organisation) can now sign up to the Kickstart scheme, whether individually or grouped together with other employers. The scheme applies for job placements given to people aged between 16-24 who currently claim Universal Credit.  Where conditions apply, the Government will pay 100% of the NMW, NIC and pension contributions for 25 hours per week, up to six months for placements. For more information, read Julia’s article here.

A quick reminder to all that the financial support offered by the Government under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme reduces again as at 1 September. As at 1 August, employers were responsible for paying all pension contributions and NIC due on payments to furloughed employees.  From 1 September, the Government will only pay up to 70% of a furloughed employees earnings with their employer having to pay the remaining 10% (if they are only paying up to the minimum 80% of salary) or up to 30% (if paying at normal salary levels).

Home Office immigration and nationality fees for all applications made from outside and within the UK have been published to reflect upcoming fee changes from 5th October.  Spoiler alert - majority of costs have not changed, just a slight decrease in some contact fees. In addition, a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules was published on 10 September 2020.  It will of course include Tier 4 student visa applications.

Read the latest TaxHE newsletter for more updates.



Senior management at HEIs are currently grappling with how to respond to the recently published USS consultation on the 2020 valuation technical provisions. Wonkhe editor Debbie McVitty has an accessible summary for those who want to keep abreast of the story.  

The BUFDG discussion boards have been busy over the last few weeks. There are dozens of topics on the go at the moment but, to pick a few, you may be interested in Business Interruption Insurance, restrictions (or not!) on paying cash direct to banks, deferred tax figure  in annual accounts, or LGPS assumptions for year end. If you haven’t done so recently, remember to update your interests and notification preferences so that you don’t miss out on the latest discussions in your area of work.

Finally, our Job of the Fortnight is for a Finance Manager (Operations) at Leeds Trinity University. The university is “seeking an accomplished Finance professional with the expertise, skills and personal attributes to manage a critical University service. Reporting to the Head of Finance, the successful candidate will manage the operational (transactional) processes within the Finance Office on a day to day basis.” The deadline for applications is 21 September. As usual, there are lots of other jobs listed on the BUFDG website.




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