Monthly Archives: October 2013

Book Review: “Switch – How to Change Things When Change is Hard”

Screen shot 2013-10-08 at 3.23.56 AM“Change is hard.” “People hate change.” Those were two of the most common quotes we heard when we began to study change.

But it occurred to us that if people hate change, they have a funny way of showing it. Every iPhone sold serves as counter-evidence. So does every text message sent, every corporate merger finalized, every aluminum can recycled. And we haven’t even mentioned the biggest changes: Getting married. Having kids. (If people hate change, then having a kid is an awfully dumb decision.)

It puzzled us – why do some huge changes, like marriage, come joyously, while some trivial changes, like submitting an expense report on time, meet fierce resistance?

We found the answer in the research of some brilliant psychologists who’d discovered that people have two separate “systems” in their brains – a rational system and an emotional system. The rational system is a thoughtful, logical planner. The emotional system is, well, emotional – and impulsive and instinctual.

When these two systems are in alignment, change can come quickly and easily (as when a dreamy-eyed couple gets married). When they’re not, change can be grueling (as anyone who has struggled with a diet can attest).

In those situations where change is hard, is it possible to align the two systems? Is it possible to overcome our internal “schizophrenia” about change? We believe it is.

In our research, we studied people trying to make difficult changes: People fighting to lose weight and keep it off. Managers trying to overhaul an entrenched bureaucracy. Activists combatting seemingly intractable problems such as child malnutrition. They succeeded – and, to our surprise, we found striking similarities in the strategies they used. They seemed to share a similar game plan.”We wanted, in Switch, to make that game plan available to everyone, in hopes that we could show people how to make the hard changes in life a little bit easier.” – Chip and Dan Heath

Chip and Dan Heath have once again summoned a lively writing style to present a series of compelling insights that make this book even more interesting as well as more valuable than its predecessor, Made to Stick. As they explain in the first chapter, “In this book, we argue that successful changes share a common pattern. They require the leader of change to do three things at once: To change someone’s behavior, you’ve got to change that person’s situation… [to cope with the fact that change] is hard because people wear themselves out. And that’s the second surprise about change: What looks like laziness is often exhaustion… If you want people to change, you must provide crystal clear direction [because what] looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.” Throughout, the Heaths work within a narrative, best viewed as a “three-part framework,” as they provide countless real-world (as opposed to hypothetical or theoretical] examples and – to their great credit – also provide a context or frame-of-reference for each.
Moreover, the Heaths invoke a few extended metaphors. The most important of these are the Rider (i.e. our rational side), the Elephant, (i.e. our emotional and instinctive side) and the Path (i.e. the surrounding environment in which change initiatives will be conducted). The challenge is to direct the Rider, motivate the Elephant, and shape the Path to make change more likely, “no matter what’s happening with the Rider and Elephant… If you can do all three at once, dramatic change can happen even if you don’t have lots of power or resources behind you.”

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

By Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Hardcover; 320 pages; ISBN-10: 0385528752

http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385528752/ref=pd_cp_b_1

 

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Tide Turns Against Company Tax Avoidance

tax avoidance

The tax arrangements of companies including Starbucks and Google have sparked a global debate about corporate tax avoidance that could have big implications for the revenue and reputations of accountancy firms. [IAB reports]

Multinationals’ have complicated tax structures and follow practices (such as profit shuffling, transfer pricing, and so on) that are legal but increasingly controversial.

Business and many accountants often argue that if governments think tax loopholes are being exploited, they should close them by changing the law.

Critics say corporate tax avoidance is morally wrong and unfair with protests and boycotts against companies such as Starbucks and Amazon becoming news of late. Politicians have also grilled partners at the Big Four accountancy firms about their role in helping companies dodge tax.

Governments are trying to counter tax avoidance and evasion by sharing information about taxpayers and requiring companies to reveal those countries in which they make profits and pay tax.

There is a consensus among politicians and accountants that the global tax system hasn’t kept pace with digital services, and global companies that shift profits between countries to reduce their tax bills.

One of the emerging issues in the tax avoidance debate is over law interpretation.

“Who’s to know what the spirit of the law is?” says Peter Simons, technical specialist, research and development, education department at the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). “The spirit of the law is not documented.”

Simons gives some examples of possible tax conundrums facing tax advisers.

In example one, principals of very small owner-managed companies, including self-employed tradesmen and professionals, are alert to tax advantages in how their income might be treated if taken as dividends rather than salary. Often a SME might be owned 50:50 by a couple. If business income of up to £80,000 is split evenly as dividends rather than as an individual’s salary, this can significantly affect the tax bill.

Will the taxman see this practice as an acceptable loss of tax receipts in order to encourage enterprise, or an abuse of the tax system?

Example two is the Netherlands’ tax treatment of royalties. The reduced tax rate for corporate royalty payments came to the public’s attention because Starbucks seems to have limited the level of profits reported in the UK by paying a royalty to a related company in the Netherlands.

The Dutch tax authority will usually allow such income to be transferred elsewhere, without applying any withholding tax, giving companies more certainty when planning their tax, Simons says.

But in light of the Starbucks tax row could similar tax arrangements be challenged even though the UK ministers signed a new tax treaty with the Netherlands only a short while ago?

Tax advisers could be forgiven for feeling confused, but what about in-house accountants?

Management accountants don’t normally give tax advice, of course. However, they may need to explain to their board the risks of tax advice offered by an external adviser.

“My personal tip [is] if in doubt if rules are being bent, consider if one would be prepared to be transparent,” Simons says. “Disclosure in accounts may not be necessary, but how would customers or other stakeholders react if an advanced tax structure were made public in a newspaper?”

Accountants also need to consider the risk of a customer backlash if a company’s tax arrangements are considered unethical.

Even if it’s legitimate, there may be a risk to a company’s reputation and brand that might outweigh any potential tax saving.

Management accountants often have to say: “Hang on, what about the damage to our brand,” Simons says.

Updating guidelines

The accountancy institutes are updating their ethical guidelines for their members, but how many members stick to them or find them useful?

Also, accountants often moan that journalists and politicians often don’t understand or oversimplify tax. So why don’t the accountancy institutes rebut what they believe are tax myths? Or if they believe the tax system is hopelessly outdated and unwieldy why don’t they lobby governments more vocally?

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) says accountants need to “be much more articulate about tax structures and not hide behind the parapet”, explaining the reasons for companies’ tax arrangements to politicians, the media and public.

But others in the profession are more cautious about accountants’ role in the tax avoidance debate.

Ian Young, a specialist in international tax at the tax faculty of the Institute for Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), says that the tax system is “not working as it should be” but says the ICAEW is not a lobby group.

Companies are under more pressure to publish more information about their tax arrangements and accountants like to talk about the importance of transparency in business. So shouldn’t accountants encourage clients to reveal where they make profits and pay their tax?

Young says he’s not in favour of the G8’s recent proposal for country-by-country reporting.

He says: “If you have lots of information it’ll be picked over by campaigning groups to further their agenda. [Companies] don’t need to have to expose absolutely everything …. it sounds attractive but I’m not sure it will get the results civil society wants.”

Young says that a director of General Electric told him that the industrial conglomerate probably has millions of different pieces of information in its accounts that it has to provide to the US Internal Revenue Service. “If it was produce [publish] all the information we would be none the wiser,” Young says.

But some accountants want the profession to be bolder in shaping the debate about tax avoidance.

CIMA’s Simons says the tax debate should be broadened to look at the value companies generate for society.

He says: “They exist to produce goods and services, to generate employment and wealth, not primarily as corporation tax cash cows.

The debate about tax avoidance has produced more rhetoric than action but it has begun to change the tax system. Governments are trying to making it harder for companies to avoid tax by sharing information and passing new laws.

All this means it’s an interesting time to be a tax accountant. Advising companies on tax avoidance scheme is increasingly risky; too likely to be challenged by tax authorities, plus the risk of damage to the reputation of the client and the accountancy firm.

But there are also new opportunities – such as advising clients on how to comply with new tax rules and explaining tax arrangements to sceptical politicians, media and the public. As Roy-Chowdhury says: “In the twenty-first century it’s not just enough to crunch the numbers and be technically proficient. [Accountants] have to go out and explain tax.”

GGI members can now benefit from a 30% subscription discount to The International Accounting Bulletin (IAB) www.internationalaccountingbulletin.com.
An annual subscription can include PDF & online OR Print & online.
If you are not already familiar with the IAB, or if you simply wish to be reminded of its content, as a GGI member you are also welcome to a five day free trial and a complimentary copy of a recent magazine to enable you to make an informed decision.

Interested GGI members can register by contacting Matt Dowsett on +44 (0) 207 406 6617 or at matthew.dowsett@uk.timetric.com.

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GGI Member Firm in Moscow – Official Auditor of FIFA World Cup 2018

FIFA

The main organiser and coordinator of the FIFA World Cup in 2018, the autonomous non-profit (ANO) organisation “Organising Committee Russia 2018”, which operates in close collaboration with the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA; Fédération Internationale de Football Association), has become a new client of ACG DELOVOY PROFIL in the field of auditing and consulting services.

The Group won the competition and will therefore be providing audit services as well as verifying the documents and financial statements of the Organising Committee Russia 2018 in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation.

DELOVOY PROFIL shall pay close attention to the performance of its obligations under the agreement for a comprehensive audit as the project is of great social and public significance.

Delovoy is confident that the results of the audit will make a significant contribution to the successful preparation and execution of such an important world event.

Delovoy is the seventh-largest accounting firm in Russia and has a staff complement of more than 800 professionals. It offers a wide variety of services encompassing audit, accounting, tax and IFRS as well as financial, investment and management advisory services.

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Subscription Discount To International Accounting Bulletin for GGI members

IAB Subscription

GGI members can now benefit from a 30% subscription discount to The International Accounting Bulletin (IAB).

IAB is the only global magazine covering the professional services world, focusing on business issues affecting firms, networks and associations. It is a trusted source for leading accounting news, as well as vital data and analysis provided by its survey features.

The International Accounting Bulletin editorial board consists of sixteen experts from the accounting industry. One of them is Michael Reiss von Filski, CEO of GGI. The board provides feedback on the state of the industry and helps set the tone of the publication, ensuring that it always covers the most important issues.

An annual subscription can include PDF & online OR Print & online.

Visit www.internationalaccountingbulletin.com

If you are not already familiar with the IAB, or if you simply wish to be reminded of its content, as a GGI member you are also welcome to a five day free trial and a complimentary copy of a recent magazine to enable you to make an informed decision.

Interested GGI members can register by contacting Lisa Gambino on +44 (0) 207 406 6583 or at lisa.gambino@uk.timetric.com

Join us on our official GGI social media pages: LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

This article is an excerpt from GGI Insider Issue #66.

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Former President of Bolivia, Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramirez – Keynote Speaker at GGI World Conference | Cancun, Mexico

This year’s GGI Latin American Regional Conference will take place from 29-31 October at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Cancun, Mexico, immediately followed by the annual GGI World Conference from 31 October to 3 November. We have reported on the Latin American Regional Conference in detail in the latest Insider edition (no 66). The keynote speaker at the Cancun World Conference will be former President of Bolivia Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramirez. He will present on the topic of “Economic trends within South & Central America and globally”. More information on this topic, as well as a short biography of Jorge Fernando Quiroga Ramirez, can be found in the latest edition of INSIDER (no. 66).

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Participants will meet other professionals from all over the world to network, forge new friendships, exchange views, knowledge and ideas. They will also be able to catch up with old friends and gain inspiration from top-quality lectures, and by participating in practice group meetings and workshops.

As usual, a colourful mixture of fringe events will round off the conference.

GGI members yet to register for both conferences may still do so. Please use the online registration tool at www.ggi.com (Member Login > Events). The detailed conference programmes are also available on the website.

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GGI Italian Business Summit, 11-13 October 2013, Rome, Italy

ImageThe first Italian Business Summit will be held in Rome from 11-13 October 2013 at the Radisson Blu Hotel, and will be kindly hosted by GGI member firm S4B Solutions for Business. This new event will be conducted in English in order to give attendees from abroad the chance to discuss business opportunities in Italy. Themes of the conference will be re-evaluating the Italian market, real estate opportunities, tax benefits for foreign investors and other interesting tips provided by various speakers.

The conference programme will start on the afternoon of Friday 11 October with different Practice Group meetings (International Taxation, International Dispute Resolution, Business Development & Marketing and Governmental Affairs & Public Procurement), which will be held at the headquarters of S4B. In the evening, the delegates can enjoy a cocktail on the Radisson Blu Hotel Terrace, an elegant venue which offers a night-time view of the Eternal City. The day’s official programme will then continue with dinner in a typical Roman Trattoria before attendees return to the hotel.

The Saturday 12 October session will be held at S4B and will feature presentations from various experts – notaries, accountants and lawyers – in several fields, who will provide delegates and clients with a great deal of practical information in order to increase awareness of business opportunities in Italy. Delegates will also attend a “Trip to the Italian Justice System: an overview of civil and criminal procedures”, presented by Dr Patrizia Giannini, and a session on contingency fee agreements. This session will be chaired by Arlene Rochlin, an American lawyer who collaborates regularly with S4B. This presentation will address the history of contingency fee arrangements, types of cases where contingency fee arrangements are permitted, various types of contingency fee contracts, the “pros and cons” and the practical application of this special payment arrangement between lawyers and clients today, including warnings to an attorney when it may not be a good idea.

Further themes of the session on Saturday 12 October will be the rules for investing in Italy, the profitability of investing in culture, certified online education, the peculiarity of the civil trial in attracting and rejecting investments and the constellation value of 4changing.

In the afternoon, the delegates will attend an Ancient Roman law lecture held at the famous Foro Romano, which was for centuries the centre of Roman public life. This will be a rare occasion to experience Ancient Rome and its historical locations.

The conference programme will close with a dinner at a typical Roman restaurant, but all delegates are also invited to attend the optional “WalkFastThroughThePast” tour on the morning of Sunday 13 October, a team-building experience consisting of a two-hour brisk walk through the streets of Ancient Rome, enjoying the main sites and the general beauty of the city.

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Smart Devine Named One of the Fastest-Growing Firms in the USA

Smart Devine has just been named as a 2013 All-Star Firm and one of the top 10 fastest-growing firms in the USA by INSIDE Public Accounting (IPA), a national publication for the accounting profession. In fact, it was ranked fourth overall nationwide and first in the Northeast region. Furthermore, Smart Devine’s litigation practice was ranked as the third fastest-growing in the nation.

“These firms, selected solely on their performance in specific areas, are compared with more than 500 participating firms in the IPA Annual Survey and Analysis of Firms. We explore profitability from several perspectives to provide a view of how firms at the top of the profession are performing,” says Kelly Platt, principal of the Platt Group and Managing Editor of INSIDE Public Accounting. “The IPA All-Star Firms are the best at what they do, be it healthcare consulting, litigation support, employee benefits or another specialty niche.”

This is excellent recognition from a respected accounting industry survey and publication. Jim Smart, President of Smart Devine, is currently serving as a Chairman on the GGI North American Regional Council and his firm was one of the hosts of the GGI Best Practice & Developing Leaders Conference in Philadelphia at the end of September 2013.

Smart Devine, headquartered in Philadelphia, is led by Jim Smart and Rich Devine. The accounting firm employs around 100 professional staff and has enjoyed significant growth over the last three years, which has led to such well-earned recognition. When asked for further comment, Mr. Smart explained that further growth is expected through new hiring, and that there may be acquisitions in the pipeline.Image

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GGI EasyMeet in Zurich: Dr Daniele Ganser will be Keynote Speaker

The 2013 winter EasyMeet will be held from 4-6 October 2013 in Zurich, Switzerland, hometown of Geneva Group International. GGI is pleased to host this event and welcomes all attendees from our member firms who will be coming to this beautiful city, which last year was once again acclaimed for having one of the highest qualities of life in the world. The event will start on Friday 4 October with a welcome cocktail and dinner at the Swissôtel, a very convenient venue located directly in front of Oerlikon train station, a mere seven minutes away from Zurich Hauptbahnhof.

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The Saturday 5 October conference will feature several presentations from GGI representatives and members: Michael Reiss von Filski, CEO of GGI, will deliver a presentation on everything you need to know about etiquette, providing the audience with useful hints on this interesting and subtle matter. Further representatives from GGI will be Dr László Tunyogi and Bernadett Csusz, who will explain the new role that GGI will have in the decision-making process of the European Parliament: this role will allow GGI to participate in the public consultations that shape the future of Europe and which will also prove important to GGI as an organisation. This admittance allows participants to voice their opinions regarding the policy issues on which the European Parliament passes decisions. For GGI members and their clients, this provides the opportunity of advocacy, which is only awarded to a limited number of alliances and institutions.

Keynote speaker for this event will be Dr Daniele Ganser, who will discuss “Europa im Erdölrausch: Die Folgen einer gefährlichen Abhängigkeit (Europe and its addiction to oil: the consequences of a dangerous dependency)”. Energy consumption is constantly increasing, whereas our supply of fossil fuels will come to an end within the foreseeable future. “Peak oil”, the point at which production of oil reaches its absolute maximum rate, has already been reached for ordinary crude oil. Supplies are rapidly depleting in Norway and the UK, while we still manage to shrug off this fact and consume more energy than ever before. After the “peak” stage, crude oil is still available, but the supply decreases from year to year. The threat of resources becoming scarce is an issue that concerns us all. Will there be energy wars? What are our options now, and just how long do we have?

Dr Ganser already impressed a GGI audience at the European Conference in Lisbon. He is a Swiss historian who specialises in international relations and international history from 1945 to today. His research interests include peace research, geostrategy, secret warfare, resource wars, globalisation and human rights. He teaches at Swiss universities and is Director of the Swiss Institute for Peace and Energy Research (SIPER) in Basel, Switzerland. Dr Ganser has undertaken research at the Military Academy (MILAK) of the ETH Zurich University. He has been invited by the Swiss Parliament and Swiss national television to offer his expertise on matters of foreign and security policy on a number of occasions. His book on NATO’s secret armies was translated into ten languages, and his latest publication, entitled “Europe and its addiction to oil: the consequences of a dangerous dependency”, deals with the topics of “peak oil” and dwindling oil resources.

The next speaker will be Andri B. Gunnarsson, Head of Business Development at DealMarket (www.dealmarket.com), a private equity platform with which GGI is constantly collaborating. DealMarket enables private equity buyers, sellers and advisors to maximise opportunities around the world. It is the first port of call for private equity and corporate finance professionals who are looking for simplicity, choice and greater speed in how they access the marketplace. Andri joined DealMarket in early 2011, shortly before the platform went live. He heads the Business Development activities for DealMarket and has been heavily involved in developing the platform from the start, organising various collaborations and shaping the business for future growth. Prior to joining DealMarket, Andri was Relationship Manager for Scandinavian Retail and Institutional Clients at Man Investments in London and Switzerland. He is an Icelandic national and studied International Business at the European Business School in London.

The conference session will also feature further contributions by GGI delegates Sonal Shah and Prodipta Patel from Lawrence Grant Chartered Accountants, London, UK. They will deliver a presentation on conducting business in the UK. Claudia Mattig, Partner at Mattig-Suter & Partner, Schwyz, Switzerland, will discuss “Switzerland as a business hub” and lastly, Thorsten von der Heyde and Philipp Kieffer will give a presentation on voluntary declaration in Germany

Following the conference session, all attendees can enjoy a guided Tour of Zurich’s Old Town. This will finish with a dinner at the Restaurant Le Dézalay, where attendees can enjoy typically Swiss dishes as the conference comes to an end.

[Article from GGI Insider #67 – http://press.ggi.com/insider/67/%5D 

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