Archives For Practices

Anita Brook, Managing Director of Accounts Assist UK Ltd and vice-president of ACCA’s practitioners panel explains how mentoring is good for both the mentee and the mentor

 

We all start somewhere. We’ve all taken the first steps in our careers and at times could have done with some additional support. This is why having a mentor can be an essential link between knowledge, experience and support.

Typically within the accountancy sector a mentor will be a fully qualified accountant with a number of year’s frontline experience. A mentee is normally a student studying for ACCA accreditation, or a degree in accountancy or they are already a practicing accountant at junior level. 

 

The mentor and mentee both gain from the mentoring experience in difference ways. A few are listed below:

Benefits for the mentor:

  • Get to reflect on their own experience and knowledge
  • Gain an insight into the younger side of their own industry 
  • Gain an insight into new/current teaching methods
  • A way of being close to current issues as they happen
  • Recognised at work for getting involved and giving something back in a positive way
  • Can be a great way to spot talent for future recruitment campaigns

 Benefits for the mentee (student):

  • Having a mentor is an important form of learning during the early stages of a professional career
  • Mentors offer real experience and working knowledge that cannot be gained from textbooks or the internet
  • Access technical support. A mentor traditionally has a higher qualification level, typically a qualified accountant with a number of years experience
  • A mentor can provide an independent, yet experienced voice that isn’t work or education focused
  • Can advise how to balance workloads and set priorities 
  • Mentors can share work place do’s and don’ts
  • Provide networking opportunities and other important contacts
  • A mentor can be a positive force to push a mentee forward to achieving professional goals and qualifications
  • A mentor can also become a mentee’s champion. This could be for further opportunities within the business or wider industry

Both mentor and mentee benefit from the relationship, and when undertaken in a business environment it can have a positive effect on the team’s working relationships.

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ACCA student Ali Ryder from Ensors Chartered Accountants guides new accountancy trainees through the early stages of their accountancy career…

Every year accountancy firms take on a new intake of trainee accountants. If you are one of them, congratulations and welcome to the profession. You made it through the interviews but now the hard work really starts! To be successful within your firm, it goes without saying that working hard and passing your exams is essential, but what else can you do to ensure you stand out for all the right reasons? Here are my top tips:

  1. Go the extra mile for your clients. When you are training it is tempting to just follow the work that was done last year but circumstances change and if you think there is a way you can provide a better service to your client, take the initiative and suggest it to your manager.
  2. Take a genuine interest in business. Read a good quality newspaper and keep up to date with what is happening in your local area. In many ways this is just as important as learning your accountancy theory because you need to demonstrate that you understand the economic conditions facing your clients.
  3. Say ‘yes’ to opportunities that arise. Whether it is a transfer to another department or a secondment to a different office, meeting new people and broadening your experience can only enhance your career prospects.
  4. Meet other young professionals in your area. Getting to know the people you go to college with is a good place to start. Then you can move on to networking events such as the Junior Chamber of Commerce. Whilst this may be daunting at first, you will make some valuable contacts for the future. Today’s trainees are the partners of the future so it is never too early to start building these professional relationships.
  5. Make the effort to attend staff social events and charity fundraisers. This may be the best opportunity you get to spend time with your firm’s partners, have a chat about your career aspirations and demonstrate that you have the right personality to do well at the firm.

This may be a lot to take on while you are still training so your work and study commitments inevitably come first. Nevertheless it gives you something to think about if you find yourself with some extra time and want to give your career prospects a boost. I wish you the best of luck!

The Main Event

accawebmaster —  14 July 2011 — Leave a comment

By Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of tax, ACCA

While everyone else was watching the phone-hacking debate in the Commons yesterday, I was at the much more exciting ‘Administration and effectiveness of HMRC: Closing the tax gap’ Treasury Sub-Committee alongside witnesses from the ICAEW, CIOT, and Taxaid.

Here’s a quick summary of some of our evidence.

We all agreed that taxpayers in general do try and be compliant. They are sometimes stifled by paperwork and get things wrong due to the complexity of the tax system. We need to urgently pursue tax simplification in order to facilitate compliance.

We agreed that at the top level of HMRC where we are generally engaged, we’ve [the institutes] been able to provide some constructive criticism and have hopefully helped make the tax system work better. But it is at the coal face, where ordinary members of HMRC deal with the routine tax work of accountants, that things do not appear to be working well and effectively.

One of the lines of questioning the MPs looked at was the NAO report dealing with the HMRC accounts for 2010/11, published on 8 July. The NAO had suggested that when it came to tax settlements with large businesses, we should have a separation of process where any HMRC Commissioner involved in the negotiations with the business should not also be a part of the signing off of the agreed settlement.

I felt that so long as there was no duplication of effort, such an approach would be fine; David Heaton of the ICAEW seemed to agree. The CIOT and Office of Tax Simplification’s John Whiting felt that, for perception reasons, there should be two commissioners involved who had not been a part of the negotiations involved in the signing off process.

The second major discussion point was how exactly the tax gap could be calculated. We agreed that the elements used to compose the tax gap may not be entirely appropriate or easy to quantify. For example, I considered that the inclusion of legal interpretation or avoidance being included would make tax gap calculations a highly subjective process open major differences in interpretation.

 By John Davies, head of technical, ACCA

Until this year, employers have been entitled to compulsorily 'retire' employees at the default retirement age (DRA) of 65. With the abolition of the DRA in 2011, attention is now turning to how businesses of different kinds should adapt to the new situation.

One aspect which understandably concerns many is in what circumstances can businesses still 'retire' people if there is no longer a fixed point at which this can legally be done?

Under the new rules an employer can still 'retire' a person if the action is 'objectively justifiable' by reference to a 'legitimate aim'. This is a very broad test which will fall to be determined by tribunals and the courts on a case by case basis.

In the case of posts which require very high levels of physical and/or mental sharpness, the situation may be clear cut as to whether a set retirement age is justifiable. But how will tribunals and the courts deal with cases involving professional firms and in particular partners (or equivalent)?

The question of objective justification in the professional context was looked at by the Court of Appeal in 2010 in the case of Seldon v Clarkson, Wright and Jakes, a case involving a law firm.

Like many professional firms, the partnership had a deed which specified a compulsory retirement age (CRA) of 65. One of the partners wanted to work beyond that point but the firm objected. Seldon brought a claim for age discrimination to an employment tribunal, and the case ultimately ended up in the Court of Appeal. In upholding the principle that, to be 'justified', a CRA need not be set by reference to the public interest, the court held that the test must be whether the aims of the employer or partnership are consistent with the policy goals which are inherent in the anti-age discrimination legislation, which are, in the employment field, essentially to ensure that age is not used to bar people from obtaining gainful employment.

The court took into account the firm’s claim that a fixed retirement age facilitated a congenial and supportive firm culture which allowed younger staff to advance to partner level and to allow individuals to 'retire with dignity' (as opposed to being expelled as a consequence of performance management action). It also accepted, crucially, that in the case of a partnership deed, a CRA may be agreed by parties of equal bargaining power.

It appears therefore that there will remain scope for partnerships (professional or otherwise) to argue that an internal CRA remains viable at partner level even after the abolition of the statutory DRA.

All such firms should nevertheless consider whether such a rigid practice is necessary or desirable bearing in mind the value to them of the retention of essential skills and experience. It should also be noted that what may be objectively justifiable by reference to partners (or equivalent) will not necessarily extend to the firm’s employees.