Happy February

Can you believe that it’s February already? For a 31 day month, January always seems to disappear too fast. I suppose it’s partly because of the Christmas and New Year break and partly because of the dreaded Tax deadline, but January launches straight into the shortest month of the year and before you know it, it will be March! 2018 is certainly going to be full and here at ICB we’re already gearing up for a very busy year putting you at the heart of everything we do.

BOOM time for ICB members in practice

As you will know from previous issues of InVoice, the revised anti-money laundering regulations have brought with them new guidelines and expectations and the bookkeeping and accounting profession now has a new oversight body; the Office for Professional Body Anti-Money Laundering Supervisors (OPBAS), which answers to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

One of the biggest changes is that, as a Supervisor, ICB is required to know more about its supervised population. So if you are a member in practice we shall be sending you a questionnaire asking you to check the details that we hold on file about your practice and also to identify if there is anyone else associated with your practice who could be a ‘BOOM’; a Business Owner, Officer or Manager. The questionnaire will ask you to provide details of any person who has a controlling interest in your practice, or any person who can make management decisions. Control could mean a shareholder, or someone who has perhaps invested money but who wants to stay in the background and have no day-to-day contact with the practice. It could be a spouse or partner. It could be an employee who holds a management role and to whom you delegate authority. Of course, for many of you it will be you and only you. 

Completion of the questionnaire is mandatory but should take only a few minutes to complete and all information provided will of course be confidential.  

What fine Fellows you are

I am delighted to congratulate the more than 200 Members who have achieved the required standard and have been elected Fellows.  A list of those ICB Bookkeepers who have been awarded this high accolade will be published shortly. 

‘A verbal contract is not worth the paper it’s written on’

This might be a misreported quote of the late movie mogul Samuel Goldwyn (1879-1974) but it isn’t far off the mark. His actual quote suggested just the opposite; that no contract was necessary because of the reputation of the man he was discussing.  However, the truth is that any agreement that is only verbal is usually the best part of useless, particularly if a dispute were to arise at some stage. ICB Bookkeepers in practice should have in place a Letter of Engagement with each of their clients.The contents should be agreed at the first meeting and subsequently signed by both parties.  It can always be altered or updated later but waiting to get a better understanding of the client’s business is no excuse for procrastinating.

ICB's Ben Stephens-Brown, has undertaken a review of the LOE guidance ICB provides for members, and the March issue of the newsletter will feature an updated version of the LOE template that takes into account legislative changes about which you and your client should be aware. Your relationship with your client is extremely important and it is better to formally write down everything to which you and they have agreed. Disputes are rare but it is a sad fact, historically, that most disputes brought to the ICB Professional Standards Department are caused by a misunderstanding about who agreed to do what for whom and by when. 

Can I have my ball back

When a client relationship breaks down, the last invoice is almost always disputed, and this often leads to the aggrieved bookkeeper ‘taking his ball home’ and refusing to give back the accounting documents. This is called taking lien. The problem is that these documents are normally the property of the client who, by Law, has to have them to be able to carry out his legal obligation to keep up-to-date financial records of the business. ICB's Ben Stephens-Brown, is preparing up-to-date guidance on this matter for ICB members in practice, to be published shortly.

May the data be with you

The new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes in this May and is going to affect everyone who stores any information on a computer about individuals. There are some very strict new guidelines about what can and can’t be done with the information. As always, the doom, gloom and despondency merchants abound, with horror stories and negative language. Be aware and get your systems ready, but don’t panic!

The truth of the matter is that employers and bookkeepers keep data about their clients and have to do this to be able to do their job properly. Being careful is second nature to an ICB Bookkeeper, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to keep up with legislation and still keep clients happy.  

ICB has once again stepped up to be counted and is providing you with another useful resource.  

Having spent some time in discussion with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), ICB is shortly releasing detailed guidance on how GDPR will affect ICB members. We have created a document that members in practice can use to send to their clients; this will explain what information you are storing and why.  In return, your clients will need to sign the document and return it to you to show that they have read and understood it and that they give you permission to keep their data.