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The number of public Wi-Fi hotspots has grown massively in recent years. One report suggests the UK has one for every 11 people while worldwide there is one for every 150 people. It estimates there will be nearly 47 million public hotspots across the globe by the end of 2014.

While this coverage is a boon for an increasing number of users with smartphones, especially those in urban areas, this new age of open access has brought with it a number of security issues.

The biggest safety concern is that the data being transmitted over these public hotspots normally isn’t encrypted. This means that if someone is monitoring a particular hotspot they will be able to see everything an individual is typing, including valuable information such as usernames, passwords and bank account details.

And while using a reputable Wi-Fi provider, such as BT or O2, shouldn’t cause a problem, users have no guarantees of security.

Another current security concern about the plethora of free Wi-Fi access and public access points is that very little work has taken place to verify the identity of the organisations behind the access points. The reason this is important is because public hotspots are easy to mimic and a growing number of the trusting public are quick to use them. Casual passers-by are now used to finding free and open Wi-Fi and so are more likely to discover they have become the potential victim of criminals and those wishing to capture their information.

If criminals want to set up a scam it is straightforward to install an open wireless connection outside a café or other public space and give it a convincing name. All they then need is some software to monitor traffic and log everything that happens over that connection.

One recent experiment by IT security firm F-Secure saw the company set up a monitored public Wi-Fi hotspot in a busy London location for half an hour. In that time 33 users had connected to the service and 32MB of traffic had been collected including sensitive information from e-mails.

The answer to improving this growing problem is that a joined up approach from all stakeholders is required – device manufacturers need to make phones that are more secure while telecoms providers need to be more upfront about

what data is being taken from a customer‘s device in return for a Wi-Fi service over and above the terms and conditions.

Individual users can protect themselves in a number of ways – by adopting a Virtual Private Network (VPN), turning off the Wi-Fi on handheld devices when on the move and only using trusted Wi-Fi access points secured with a password.

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In what is seen as a surprise, Budget announcement investors who receive more than £5,000 from company dividends held outside tax-efficient plans such as ISAs will pay more tax from April 2016.

At present, dividends paid to basic-rate taxpayers are regarded as taxed already within the corporate tax system so there is no further tax to pay. Under the new rules only the first £5,000 a year of dividend income will remain tax free.

For dividend income above this allowance, basic-rate taxpayers will pay 7.5%, whilst higher-rate taxpayers will pay 32.5% tax and those who pay the additional-rate will face 38.1% tax.

While these rates are below the main rates of income tax, the Government says people who received significant dividend income – for example from very large shareholdings typically of more than £140,000 if a 3.5p% yield is assumed – would pay more than they do currently.

The table compares the current rates with the new ones just announced t:

 

20% taxpayers

40%taxpayers

45% taxpayers

Effective dividend tax rate now

   0%

   25%

30.56%

Rate after April 2016 (after £5,000 allowance)

   7.5%

32.5%

38.1%

Source: HM Treasury

The Budget announcement clearly represents a potentially significant tax increase for people with high incomes. While 1 million people who receive dividends will see an effective £5,000 tax-free allowance, the changes will increase top-rate taxpayers’ contributions by at least 25%. Despite the Chancellor wanting to encourage saving the new tax structure could now do exactly the opposite.  

The Treasury said the changes "will ensure that ordinary investors with smaller portfolios and modest dividend income will see no change in their tax liability – and some will pay less tax".  It added: "Combined with the increases the Government has made to the personal allowance and the introduction of the personal savings allowance [which allows interest on savings accounts to be paid tax-free], from April 2016 individuals will be able to receive up to £17,000 of income per annum tax-free.

By way of a background, the current system of tax credits on dividends was designed over 40 years ago when corporation tax was more than 50% and the total tax bill on dividends for some was more than 80%.  Fortunately since then tax rates including corporation tax have fallen, leaving the dividend tax credit as an arguably arcane and complex feature of the tax system.  Gordon Brown angered investors in 1997 when he stopped pension funds and non-taxpayers from reclaiming the tax credit on dividends; a move blamed in part for deficits later experienced by pension funds.

Alongside further cuts to corporation tax rates for all businesses, the Government is committed to reforming and simplifying the system of dividend taxation, whilst maintaining the extensive tax reliefs for investments held in ISAs and pensions. However the agenda is clear. The changes will inevitably start to reduce the incentive for workers to set up companies through which to be reward themselves by means of dividends rather than national insurance – bearing wages.  “This will reduce the cost to the Exchequer of future 'tax-motivated incorporation' (or TMI) by £500m a year from 2019-20”, the Treasury said, adding that the tax system "will continue to encourage entrepreneurship and investment including through lower rates of corporation tax".

It seems this reform will have impact on SMEs and their remuneration strategy particularly.  We recommend that between now and April 2016 people consider (with our advice) the tax impacts of the change on company shareholders.  The change is so significant that under the new system a person with no other income would be able to extract only £15,600 tax (and NI) free from their company, compared to nearly £39,000 currently - which explains the fact that around £2bn is expected to be raised overall by the change.

Larking Gowen is registered to carry out audit work in the UK and Ireland by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Regulated for a range of investment business activities by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. A member of MHA.

Tagged in: Small business
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Holidaymakers are being warned to expect a summer of car hire disruption. The DVLA is to scrap the paper counterpart of driving licences from 8 June, drivers will need to obtain a special online code before heading abroad – or they may be refused a rental car.

The DVLA is abolishing the paper counterpart that accompanies all UK photocard licences which will no longer be legally valid. All endorsements will be held electronically on a web-based service called “Share Driving Licence”.

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When was the last time you took some time to truly step back from the day to day running of your business and considered how the world around you has changed? The problem is that we are all so engrossed in what we are doing that we simply don’t have the time for such luxuries.

I don’t believe this sort of exercise is a luxury. I believe it’s an absolutely essential activity for any responsible business owner. The consequences of not doing so can be catastrophic as many very well known High Street names can attest.

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Top 5 Tips to Limit the Risk of Being an Employer

 

Employment law is notoriously complex and uncertain with huge risks of tribunal action when things go wrong. Here are my top 5 tips to manage the risk of being an employer to allow you to move your business in the direction you want:

 

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How many times have you thought “I wish I could clone myself, then I could get <some task you don’t want to do> done at the same time as <this business critical task>”?

 

A common growing pain with small businesses is not having the resources or inclination to do certain tasks that are required of you because you’re too busy ‘in the business’.  Often this is a point where outsourcing is considered, and it can be incredibly helpful - or an absolute disaster.  Choosing to outsource should not be done through a fear of missing out because everybody else seems to be doing it - outsourcing should be driven by a clear business need.

 

Here are my top three tips if you are considering outsourcing as a way to enable you to grow your business.

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East Anglia’s fastest growing accountancy firm, Aston Shaw has continued its expansion strategy with the acquisition of well established Norwich based competitor, Roger Hopkins - as of Friday 1st May 2015.

 

The deal has been backed by Owner, Roger Hopkins who handpicked Aston Shaw to take over their clients in his retirement, stating that the firms “share the same ethos” and “commitment to increase client profits”. Roger Hopkins Chartered Accountants was established in 1980 and has grown to become one of Norwich’s most reputable small accountancy practices, with a portfolio of over 300 clients. The incorporation of Roger Hopkins will see the 6 existing staff members retained by Aston Shaw and the existing office will remain at 18 Princes Street, Norwich.

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It’s here! The Ipswich Half Marathon has opened its doors to 2015 entries. Sponsored by Larking Gowen, Ipswich Jaffa Running Club and Ipswich Borough Council, this race takes place on 20th September at 10am from the renowned Christchurch Park. In addition to the 13.1mile pursuit around Ipswich town centre, the event also offers a series of other activities - including a Business Challenge and Fun Run - to create an action-packed day for both beginners and elite runners alike.
Enter here! http://www.ipswichhalfmarathon.com/

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TV advertising and TV programme sponsorship go hand-in-hand as elements of an effective high-profile campaign, but they are very different animals. To understand both the potential and the restrictions of sponsorship from the outset is to make both deliver even better results.

 

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Video on Demand (VOD) has become an integral part of almost every household’s viewing experiences. The term has developed a number of meanings to different people. Watching a friend’s video on YouTube is a world away from watching the final of The X-Factor on a catch-up service via your iPad or Smart TV. They are both very different scenarios, yet they both rely on the same underlying process. The would-be viewer requests a video located on a remote server via a user interface on their device. On receiving the playback request the server queries basic information about where the viewer’s device is located, its specifications and whether the viewer has made any previous requests. The server then opens a stream and the video begins to play. 

 

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Imagine being able to insert a television commercial for your local business into a carefully selected group of Sky channels with specific appeal to your target demographic, without having to buy a traditional national campaign. Imagine being able to show a commercial for a special local offer to selected postcodes, age-brackets, or household incomes. How about only showing a commercial advertising dog food to homeowners who own a dog; or an insurance ad only to homeowners whose policy is due for renewal? Now imagine the cost-savings associated with such targeted advertising.

 

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I was privileged to be able to give a talk about the benefits of mediation at ISSBA’s first networking event of the year at the New Wolsey Theatre.

As the managing partner of Kerseys Solicitors and a qualified civil mediator, I have found the practice of mediation is five times more popular than it was five years ago.

Today around a quarter of clients avoid court trials to mediate instead.

Mediation is a way of resolving disputes without the need to go to court. It involves an independent third party, a mediator, who helps both sides come to an agreement.

It is an assisted, confidential negotiation, which enables people to find their own solution.

It can be much quicker and more cost-effective than going through the court. It can also help to maintain relationships.

I have 30 years' experience of solving Property, Commercial and Public Law disputes. But it was thanks to two ISSBA members coming forward as volunteers that I was able to demonstrate how mediation works.

Chris Watson and Roger Barcham acted out a dispute, while I showed how mediation would help resolve it.

Roger, from BMS Imaging Ltd, said: “I think this is a subject that should be expanded at a later date. Anthony gave a concise and understandable presentation.”

A complex land or commercial dispute could cost between £25,000 to 30,000 if it goes to trial, whereas mediation with legal representation can start from as little as £2,000.

Even if someone goes part way through the litigation process, which may put them in the best position before mediating, the total legal costs are still likely to be half that of going to trial.

People prefer it because it is also a confidential process, unlike a court hearing, and they do not have to air their dirty laundry in public.

I have mediated on a boundary dispute and landlord and tenant cases and find mediation allows people to have a final say in the outcome and protect their assets.

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Just booking my quiz team in - come on Jackamans - you've got some competition this year!

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Christmas is always a time of high consumption and I'm not just talking about mince pies and mulled wine. Businesses consume vast amounts of energy through heating and lighting through the winter months, and for many there's additional travel involved. This Christmas, it might be worth examining your environmental impact and identifying ways of trimming the fat. Why not make it your business New Year's resolution.

 

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Adding a little movement to your emails will draw your reader's attention

There are two main objectives to an email campaign:

 

1. Get your email opened

2. Get your recipient to click a link

 

A well placed, tasteful animated gif in your email marketing encourages a second look and increases your chances of your recipient clicking through to your website.

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Marketing is vital to any business and can be the difference between succeeding, surviving or failing.  Getting it right can make a huge difference to your profits but it can be a daunting area to many small businesses.

There are lots of definitions of marketing out there but in essence it is simply the process of understanding customer requirements and addressing them in order to satisfy your customers and make a profit.

Getting Started

If you are running any business, you should have a business plan – if not, that is the best place to start.  During the business planning process you will look in detail at your market place, products/services, customers etc. as well as future plans.  By this point you should have a full understanding of who your company is, what you do, who your target market is and why they will buy your product or service from you.

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As many will now be aware, Google advised that they would be adding a new ranking signal to their algorithms - they would begin to favour (if only a small amount) encrypted sites using https over those which weren't using encryption - creating a lot of phone calls to web developers around the world I have no doubt!  But how do you implemented the forcing of SSL on your site, and what should you be aware of if you do?  

This article explains how to properly redirect your site to the encrypted version - assuming you have an SSL certificate set up and correctly configured - using an .htaccess rewrite.  It assumes you are running an Apache server with mod_rewrite enabled - if you're not sure about any of this, just send the link to your web developer and let them implement it!

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I'm off to Rachel Sloane's workshop on Writing for Business. I know I have loads to say most of the time, however, I feel I should say it better, so looking forward to learning something.

Even if you employ copy writers or a PR company, quite right to, I feel it's good to know a bit on the subject.

Book your place from the ISSBA web site for the event at Shelley's at Suffolk College on 17th September.

Tagged in: Ipswich Top tips
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People often ask me as soon as I mention that we employ apprentices how I found the right person, and how we balance the time needed to train up a school-leaver with the benefits they bring to our business.  

I came to apprenticeships much by accident during the process of growing my business, but have learned some valuable lessons along the way.  Here are some of the points which I've found useful to bear in mind - both through my own experience and having learned from other businesses who employ apprentices.

 

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I'm actually finding that work is getting busier now. It's not getting vertical yet, but I'm beginning to feel more and more confident. I have to say it's been a while coming and I have felt the achievement over the last few years was staying in business, but my expectations are rising by the month. This is sure to put the kybosh on it tho'.

Not sure what it is, but clients are more interested in looking different than they are about the cost. It seems businesses are a bit more happy to pay for a good service than just getting cheapest option.

Anyhow, just wanted to share this and to see if others are finding the same thing.

Roger

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