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BUSINESS SURGERY
End of life
16 March 2010

  Q: I use Sage Line 50 version 10 and have heard that support is no longer being provided for this. What can I do?

A: Don't worry - Sage are still supporting version 10 if you need it. Support will, however, be dropped at the end of September 2010. For version 11, support will stop on 30th April 2011.

Sage will always give notice of 'end of life' for their products. The current version of Line 50 is called Sage 50 2010 - which is version 16. If you want to upgrade to a newer version, we can implement this for you and help you get the best out of the additional features.

It is worth mentioning that annual support is not compulsory on Line 50 - if you don't use the service you aren't obliged to pay every year. As a Sage Professional Developer, Ultralogic Solutions can offer ad hoc support and advice on all versions of Sage 50 or Line 50. We can help you make the best of your application - regardless of the version you are using. If your existing Sage reports don't match your needs exactly, we can show you how to customise them or will write new reports specifically for your business. We link Sage to other applications and can develop bespoke 'front ends' tailored to your exact requirements.

Data Protection Fees
23 December 2009

  There are now 2 levels of fees for a company registering under the Data Protection Act (1998).

From 1st October 2009, the existing fee of 35 per year for all organisations is joined by a second fee of 500. This larger amount is for businesses employing 250 or more staff and with a turnover of 25.9 million or more.

Charities continue to pay the lower fee. The fee payable by public authorities is dependent on the number of employees only.

National Minimum Wage
10 September 2009

  The new rates from the 1st October 2009 for the National Minimum Wage are as follows:

5.80 per hour for adults (over 21)
4.83 per hour for those aged 18 to 21
3.57 per hour for workers under 18

VAT filing online
1 May 2009

  Q: When does mandatory online filing of VAT commence?

A: This will be compulsory for all businesses with a turnover exceeding 100,000 and for new businesses from 1st April 2010. You should ensure that your financial software applications can cater for online filing - and remember that you can start sending your VAT returns electronically now.

For more alerts about statutory changes, have a look at our members area or sign up for our email alerts (no more than one a month is sent out).

Holiday entitlement
1 April 2009

  Q: What is the new minimum holiday entitlement for full time employees?

A: From 1st April 2009, full time employees should receive a minimum of 28 days holiday per year. Remember that this total may include statutory holidays - depending on the terms and conditions of employment. A pro rata calculation should be applied to part time workers.

Bank of England base rate
5 March 2009

  The Bank of England announced a reduction in the base rate today.

The new rate is now 0.5% (a reduction of 0.5% on the previous rate).

You can find previous rates for the last 4 years in our members area.

Pension forecast
3 February 2009

  Q: I previously applied for a state pension forecast for myself, after seeing your 'website of the month' in February 2004. Is it possible to get an updated forecast?

A: Yes - after a break in service, this is now available again from the Department for Work and Pensions. As long as you live in the UK and are not within a month of retiring, you can apply by phone or letter. If you are over 4 months away from retirement, you can also apply online. Go to www.thepensionservice.gov.uk for more information.

Employees approaching retirement
10 August 2008

  65 is now the default age of retirement for a large proportion the workforce. Whatever the date of retirement however, employers must be aware of the need to send a formal letter to employees nearing retirement.

The employee must be notified in writing of the intended retirement date and their right to request to work beyond this date. Such a letter must be sent between 12 and 6 months before the anticipated retirement date. The employee then has one opportunity to request working beyond the intended retirement date - although this is not always granted and is a matter for individual negotiation and circumstances.

Dependent or dependant?
14 July 2008

  Before you send out a business letter or any other document, have a read through to check that it makes sense - and the grammar and spelling are correct.

You can make the wrong impression by relying too heavily on your word processor's ability to correct any errors made as the document was being entered. Even if a word exists in the dictionary (and remember that someone may have added an incorrect one), you could be using it in the wrong context.

RSS
15 February 2008

  Q: I've heard people talking about RSS but don't know what stands for and don't want to show my ignorance. Can you briefly explain it to me?

A: RSS stands for 'Really Simple Syndication' and is also called 'Rich Site Summary'.

It is used by websites to send you alerts on items such as news updates, changes to information you have expressed an interest in or product launches, for example.

You won't get these alerts unless you opt in - so you can control which information you receive and where it originates. You will need a feed reader to receive the information and should be able to find one free on the internet (often from the website providing the RSS service). Instructions for how to include a website feed in your reader will be given on the site providing the data. You can unsubscribe from any RSS by deleting the relevant feeds at a later date, if you no longer need them.

No smoking legislation reaches England
4 May 2007

  England became the last part of the UK to implement the smoke free legislation on 1st July 2007.

The minimum that businesses need to do (to avoid potential fines starting at 200) is as follows:

- Display appropriate no smoking signs in company premises and vehicles
- Ensure people do not smoke in any smoke free environment
- Check if there are special rules applicable to the organisation

Information is available from national websites (such as www.smokefreeengland.co.uk/ and www.gosmokefree.co.uk/) as well as most local authorities.

Regulatory website information
1 February 2007

  All companies must include certain mandatory information on their websites. The registration number of the company, place of registration and registered office address should be detailed on at least one page of the company's website.

Further details are needed for other types of businesses (e.g. investment companies) and where membership of a professional or trade association is relevant.

These rules were introduced in December 2006, so check that any site you are using has this information - including your own company website.

Employment Equality - Age Regulations
1 November 2006

  From 1st October 2006, the new Employment Equality (Age) Regulations came into force. This has been well publicised in the media and by various organisations supporting both businesses and employees.

However, publicity usually concentrates on the headlines only such as restrictions on retiring staff under the age of 65 and removal of many age limits when recruiting.

The legislation is complex and affects areas of employment such as terms and conditions, training, statutory sick pay, transfers of workers, adverts for vacancies etc. The more complex your business, the more likely it is that you need professional advice to ensure that you are compliant with these latest regulations. Alternatively, Business Link or your local Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be able to point you in the right direction.

Royal Mail pricing in proportion
1 August 2006

  From 21st August 2006, there are 3 categories of post - letters, large letters and packets.

Letters have a maximum size of 240mm by 165mm, with a maximum thickness of 5mm and may weigh up to 100gm
Large letters are up to 353 mm by 250mm in size, up to 25mm thick, weighing up to 750gm
Packets include items exceeding the above dimensions
New prices came into effect at the same time, so make sure that you have an up to date list of these - together with a size guide from the Royal Mail for speedy checking of individual items.

Lone working
5 June 2006

  The HSE defines lone workers as those who work by themselves without close supervision.

Risk assessment is needed for lone workers, in the same way as for all other employees. However, additional factors need to be taken into account, such as:

- Should the job only be undertaken by one person
- Is that person fit and qualified to work by themselves
- How will supervisions be carried out
- What happens if an emergency arises

The HSE leaflet "Working Alone In Safety" expands on these issues and gives details of where information can be obtained.

Annual filing at Companies House
3 February 2005

  Companies House revised its pricing structure from the 1st February 2005. Although most changes will affect a relatively small number of companies, one amendment is relevant to all.

The cost of filing a statutory annual return has doubled from 15 to 30 - if your company continues to file by post. Electronic filing will continue to attract the previous fee of 15.

This may not sound significant, bur there are nearly 2 million companies registered at Companies House.

This move has been designed to attract more income - so don't belong to one of the businesses where inertia results in more money being paid to a government agency - especially when you can avoid the increase.

Website presence
1 July 2004

  Most organisations now have a website to promote and inform people about their operations. Opinions differ on what a site should look like and the actual content, but there are a few considerations that can be checked on a regular basis.

- Are any of the details out of date or incorrect
- Will the website reach its target audience
- Is the marketing information on the website consistent with the current strategy
- Does the website comply with current legislation
- Am I happy with the overall effect and content

B2B marketing
3 May 2004

  From 25 June 2004, any direct marketing approach made by telephoning other businesses is subject to new rules - along the lines of those that already apply when calling individuals.

Before using the phone to make any cold calls, a business must check the outgoing telephone number against a list compiled by the Telephone Preference Service (TPS).

If the phone number has been registered as one where direct marketing is not wanted, you must not make unsolicited calls to that number.

This applies to both land lines and mobile phones.

Housekeeping
19 April 2004

  Q: I find it difficult to organise my folders efficiently for ease of locating files that I have created over a period of time. Do you have any tips that could help me?

A: There are many way and methods of organising folders - the best advice is to set your own standard in naming folders and files; stick to this standard ; and tidy up unwanted files regularly (or archive them for reference into a separate area).

If you keep each folder or sub-directory to a reasonable size, it should be easier to find your information - just imagine a filing cabinet with drawers and files in and you can picture your own system.

Remember, if you are familiar with Windows Explorer, you can change the view displayed to a format that helps you keep your folders tidy. I personally prefer the Details view, as I can easily sort my files into different sequences.

One feature I have found useful (using the View feature of Explorer) is the 'Show in Groups' facility in the 'Arrange Icons by' option. For example, if the files are sorted by size, the system splits them into sub-headings such as tiny, small, medium, large etc. This is then very helpful if I want to reduce the amount of disk space in use.

Content of VAT invoices
1 February 2004

  From 1st January 2004, there are some small changes to the contents of VAT invoices, as a result of an EU standard. Businesses should ensure that these changes are in force.

The only mandatory change is that a VAT invoice should show a unit price for goods or services that can be counted. Whilst this is normal commercial practice in most cases, it can mean a change where services are involved. For example, an hourly or daily rate should be given where this is the basis for arriving at a price.

Additional, non-mandatory information on invoices can still be shown.

Other changes to VAT invoices include new conditions for the raising of self-billing invoices; defined rules for electronic invoicing and the electronic storage of VAT invoices; and the translation of invoices into English.

Most organisations will probably not be affected by these changes, but if in doubt, advice should be sought.

More details can be found in VAT Information Sheet 16/03 (from HM Customs & Excise).

Accident book
12 December 2003

  Q: I have heard that the Health & Safety legislation has been changed and that our existing accident book is now out of date. Is this correct?

A: The accident book format was changed from 1st December 2003 - but this is as a result of the Data Protection Act.

Since information entered into an accident book (which is required to be kept by law) identifies named individuals, this information is subject to the Data Protection Act (1998).

To ensure that your accident recording meets this Act, each incident must now be recorded on a separate page. Once completed, the details should be removed from the accident book (or its equivalent) and filed in an appropriately secure place. Only authorised staff (e.g. the Health and Safety Officer, HR director etc) should have access to completed accident forms.

A unique reference number of the recorded accident is logged in the book as an indication that a separate record has been filed elsewhere, for audit purposes.

Dividend query
30 September 2003

  Q: What is the difference between an interim dividend and a final dividend?

A: The basic difference is who authorises the dividend to be paid.

An interim dividend is one that is voted for by the directors of a company. A final dividend has to be approved by the shareholders - usually at a general meeting.

For more information on the timing of interim dividends for income tax purposes, log into the members area. (If you are not a member, it is free to join - simply email us with your address and request a password).


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Tel: 01543 496885