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24th June 2020

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BUFDG Digest - Wednesday 24th June Matt Sisson

 

GENERAL

As the government continues to ease the lockdown, and signals that we may soon be able to go back into pubs (even if we’re not yet sure we want to), a UUK survey finds that almost all universities are planning in-person teaching from the start of term in the Autumn, while Home Office guidance for Tier 4 sponsors confirms that overseas students will be able to distance-learn.

There is progress in the right direction, but it’s still an incredibly challenging time for students and new graduates. Whilst the worst-case scenarios on deferrals may not materialise, there is a decline in students’ perceptions of VfM of their courses, ahead of the new term starting. And those who have graduated this summer will find a 43% reduction in available vacancies compared to a year earlier.

Nottingham registrar Paul Greatrix has an excellent article in Wonkhe expressing his pride in how the sector has responded to the crisis, though it has not been perfect. Most who work in Higher Education will be able to relate – even while there is still so much more to do.

There is growing hope that the University Research Sustainability Taskforce may have convinced the Chancellor that investment in research funding is a good idea. An article in the Financial Times last week describes the Chancellor of the Exchequer as “a “modern supply-sider”, who is expected to stress that investing to improve productivity and growth is the only sustainable route out of the crisis...” Fingers’ are crossed for good news for HE research very soon.

 

FINANCIAL REPORTING

The Financial Reporting Group met this week to discuss a variety of issues, including the OfS clarification of the reporting requirements around APP (Access and Participation Plans) and audit opinions. Although this will be covered in the forthcoming FRG newsletter, you can download it from, and add your thoughts to the Discussion Board.

The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) has published a revised edition of its Audit Committees Code of Practice. The code is identifies key principles and elements that form an effective committee, and helps ensure that institutions have the most effective audit arrangements in place.  

The OfS has published its summary and analysis of 18/19 annual TRAC data. The report highlights “a sector aggregate deficit of £1,448 million for higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland, with 96.1 per cent of TRAC full economic costs recovered”. Here’s a reminder of Andrew Connolly’s excellent article in Wonkhe earlier this year, on what Costing is and how it can be improved.

Grant Thornton has published an in-depth report on the impact of COVID-19 on financial reporting in HE. It looks at the key challenges, as well as the regulatory impact and the audit process, and identifies practical advice on communication with key stakeholders, among other things.

 

TAX

It’s another bumper fortnight for Tax and Payroll Taxes news, most of which you can find in detail in last week’s TaxHE newsletter. For more of a summary;

Frazer Holmes at Loughborough has offered to hosting two Teams meetings to update members on recent discussions he has been having with HMRC regarding charitable status, corporation tax and sports facilities. These are on Wednesday 8 July at 2pm and Thursday 9 July at 10am. Both sessions will cover the same content so you will just need to book onto one. Once you are booked onto the meeting, you will receive the MS Teams Meeting link in your booking confirmation.

There are still rumours circulating of a potential change in the standard rate of VAT. If it does happen, it will likely be at very short notice, and so Andrea and Julia have put together a useful checklist of all (we think!) the areas you might need to consider. Of course, if a rate change is made BUFDG will provide further detailed guidance.

HMRC have updated their guidance on Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus (COVID-19) to remind tax payers that the VAT payment deferral period ends on 30 June 2020. This means that businesses will need to: set-up cancelled direct debits in enough time for HMRC to take payment; submit VAT returns as normal, and on time; pay the VAT in full on payments due after 30 June. Any VAT payments you have deferred between 20 March and 30 June should be paid in full on or before 31 March 2021. HMRC have said that you can make additional payments with subsequent returns.

Further to the announcements in May, HMRC has just announced a further temporary change to the time limit and rules for notifying an option to tax land and buildings.  For decisions made between 15 February and 31 October 2020, (instead of 30 June 2020) businesses now have 90 days (instead of the normal 30 days) to notify. There’s more information in this website article.

There is an interesting article on the Charity Tax Group website regarding relaxation of some of the Gift Aid rules during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Paul Knight and Paula Willock of BDO will be hosting a Time to Talk session on Monday 29 June at 11am. The session covers a range of tax and accounting issues for universities and subsidiaries. It’s a free event, and you can book here.

 

PAYROLL

More updates were announced to the Job Retention Scheme on 12 June 2020, and the “Changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” policy paper was released. HMRC’s “Check if you can claim for your employees’ wages through the Coronovirus Job Retention Scheme” guidance has also been updated, along with its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme: step by step guide for employers on the 22nd June. If you’re struggling to keep track, all the details are available in this article. CTG has also issued a useful update note, and the slides from the BUFDG/KPMG ‘Time to talk’ session on the latest developments are now on the website.

HMRC has issued the June 2020 version of a bi-monthly magazine for employers and agents giving up-to-date information on payroll topics. This edition includes information about COVID-19 related issues, Short-Term Business Visitors and The UK's new immigration system, amongst other things.

 

PENSIONS

Paul Hamilton at Barnett Waddingham hosted a webinar on the 17th June, looking at the basic principles of Pension Scheme design, what the different options are for HEIs, and how they might work. If you're currently considering changes to your schemes and you missed the webinar first time around, then you can watch it again via the BW website.  

 

PROCUREMENT

There’s a new HEPA Digest to tell you about. It includes news of all the Time to Talk sessions - the recent Legal Direct Award event  and G-Cloud & DOS, plus new events on Planning for the future in uncertain times and Fraud. As always, bookings are free of charge and there is no limit on places.

There’s also a request to HEPA members for your thoughts on the HEPA learning and development programme, now that face-to-face delivery is on hold. Read the article, and please feel free to reply to Ashley with your answers and any thoughts by the end of the week.

 

OTHER

Our colleagues at HESPA have been busy. They’ve produced a fantastic guide on the first release of Graduate Outcomes survey data, for those outside planning who need to understand more about what it is in order to work more effectively with planning teams.

Secondly, there’s a joint BUFDG/HESPA Time to Talk session on the 1st July on Planning for Uncertain Times. The webinar looks at how to lead your organisation through this crisis by providing better financial planning and management, and by understanding the impact of internal and external factors that will affect your future finances.

Barnett Waddingham held a webinar on ESG risks. It looked at how Climate Change and Covid-19 concerns have impacted HE, and how institutions can consider the crucial ‘what next’ questions on climate and non-climate factors. You can find more information and view the webinar on the BW website

In related news, NETPositives is holding two free webinars in the next two weeks. The first on the 30th June looks at What social value looks like in a coronavirus context, while the second on the 7th July addresses the question: Social value and sustainability; are they really that different? To attend, email NETPositives stating which session(s) you would like to book on to and they will send you the appropriate link.

A lot has happened in the last three months. One of the results is that the issue of climate change has taken a back seat. Here’s what the education sector’s Climate Commission has been up to.

Finally, our Job of the Fortnight is for a Finance Business Partner at University of the Arts, London. The successful candidate will “have experience of preparing management accounts, budget setting, forecasting and variance analysis as well as preparing management information to support strategic business decision making”. The deadline for applications is 28th June.

 

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