Wednesday 31 December 2008

UK Euro watch - December 2008

Here are some of the stories regarding possible UK entry to European Economic and Monetary Union from the BBC in December:

01 Dec: Strange times as eurozone woos UK Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the EU Commission, says that the UK is reappraising the euro because of the credit crunch

03 Dec: Mandelson rejects euro talk claim Lord Mandelson denies telling Mr Barroso

04 Dec: Pound hits new low against euro £1 equivalent to EUR 1.148 after the Bank of England cut its official bank rate to 2%

14 Dec: Pound 'buying less than a Euro' Bureau de change offering EUR197.13 for £200

22 Dec: 'Euro tourists' crossing border Northern Ireland shopkeepers enjoying a boom; some offering direct 1.00 EUR = £1 price conversion

and from November:

27 Nov: Are Danes warming to the euro? Prime Minister Rasmussen thinks it's a good idea

Monday 24 November 2008

Implementing 15% VAT

The Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that a new standard VAT rate of 15% will apply from Monday 01 December 2008 to the end of 2009 - and then it will revert to 17.5% from 01 January 2010.

HM Revenue and Customs has made a set of information available on its web site at the Pre-Budget Report 2008 - VAT Rate Changes page including
  • A summary guide for businesses

  • A technical guide for businesses

  • Question and Answers for Businesses

  • Question and Answers for Consumers

  • PBRN26 - Changes to the Standard Rate of VAT

  • This won't affect my prices which are quoted ex VAT, but it will be important to account for both 17.5% and 15% rates during the current VAT reporting period.

    My personal service company has Quickbooks 8.0 as its book-keeping tool. The number of current sales and purchase items is small, a handful at any one time, so it will be messy but possible to cope with this change without acquiring a new software solution.


  • Set up a new standard VAT code (S1) with a rate of 15% and description Standard 1

  • From 01 Dec 2008 to 31 Dec 2009, for sales items, apply the S1 rate for all invoices, instead of the S rate. This can be done by working through the Item List (Lists/Items) and changing the default rate for active items to S1.

  • It will be important to check each invoice received after 01 Dec 2008 to make sure which rate it carries. Initially there will be a mixture of old and new, and so when entering a vendor bill, you'll need to check carefully which rate is used, and adjust the code if necessary. Of course, if you use a rate that doesn't match the invoice, the amounts will/should fail to balance, preventing mistaken data entry on purchases.

  • Soon it will make sense to work through the purchased items in the Item List and change the default VAT code to S1, but after doing this it will still be necessary to take care

  • With the above approach, the VAT 100 and other VAT reports seem to work fine. It's not sophisticated but it works. Obviously for companies that sell direct to the public, or that have a large number of sales and purchase items, this will become very time consuming and unwieldy. Big companies using sophisticated ERP software such as SAP will be able to implement these changes with timed data, but smaller companies won't have this luxury. And of course, the whole thing will have to be reversed in 13 months' time.

    Wednesday 1 October 2008

    Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 beta 2

    This beta version is installed on my Vista Business laptop - the one I don't use for mainstream work because it's Vista, and XP Pro is my company standard. Like IE7, it offers multi-tabbed browsing and RSS feeds - powerful reasons to move from IE6 if you haven't already done so. Some of the changes in IE8 are quite good

    1) separate safety tools

    2) Reopen last browsing session - so if you closed a multi-tabbed page, it will bring them back

    3) developer tools let you look at the structure of the page in HTML, CSS and script, and offer a good bunch of tools

    4) colour-coded tabs - if you Open in New Tab then the parent and child are coloured the same

    and so far the following funnies showed up:

    5) the Stockchart widget on iGoogle doesn't display properly. This seems to be a positioning issue because if you drag the widget slightly, the whole graph will reappear while you keep hold of the widget. When you let go, it's all a bit random

    6) an Amazon a-store widget in a Blogger page isn't positioned properly in its frame - it's a few pixels to the right and down from where it should be. Very obvious as the design has a black background and so there's a white top and left border where there shouldn't be

    Both of these were fixed using IE8's Compatibility mode setting which can be reached either through the Tools or the Page drop-downs(!)

    7) Suggested Sites is a bit of a pest (keeps asking)

    8) if you have multiple home page tabs under IE7, these don't open individually under IE8 from the side drop-down on the Home button (nothing happens). The whole group opens if you click the main part of the Home button.

    9) the Personalise link seems to be broken

    But all in all, it's a very good browser and I'll probably install it on my main laptop as soon as the Release version arrives.

    Work to do:
    List of popular sites that need the Compatibility mode setting. So far these include
    Guido Fawkes, political blogger

    Saturday 2 February 2008

    Microsoft Accounting Express 2008

    Microsoft Accounting Professional is a possible replacement for Quickbooks, which I've used for years. I had a look at the (free) Express version of MS Office Accounting and the conclusions is yes, it's certainly a viable alternative. At £149.95, it's competitive. I need to investigate further on the update policies. Presumably I have to buy a new version each year to receive the Payroll tax updates?

    Here are my impressions so far:

  • It's a 278 MByte download, and requires a whopping 1 GByte to install

  • The usual verbose Microsoft agreement

  • Sample company, try entering a quote: how the hell do I identify the job? Help says: this feature is only availabled in the Pro version

  • Forms are Excel-like with resizable columns - fine

  • The sample company has features that only work in the Pro version

  • A new Window is opened for each form - this can start to get messy

  • Not as operationally neat as Quickbooks; for example, instead of a simple Credit Card Charge form, you use a generalised New Cash Purchase form and have to find the credit card account (each time) on a drop down

  • Foreign currency handling in the Pro version

  • Payroll in the Pro version - though you can maintain Employees and timesheets in Express

  • P&L report looks OK but adverts on the Express version - relevant as this one was for BACS - are intrusive

  • Includes a BACS-linked e-payments service from Albany Software, though there is no clear indication of the costs of set-up and transactions; I'd want a clear indication of these before deciding to use this feature (or whether this feature is a goodreason to buy the product)

  • Invoices can include a status 'watermark'. To turn this off, click through Actions/Manage Word Templates and uncheck the option box

  • Templates can be edited in Word - very flexible xml integration

  • Bank account reconciliation OK, but the form opened the first time with the final balance column too narrow; this happened with the Quotes form too, and is irritating

  • PayPal integration - include a PayPal button in an e-invoice!

  • Other functions that are only available in the Pro version include

  • Sales Order

  • Purchase Order

  • Stock tracking

  • Budgets

  • Recurring documents - so this seems like the only way to enter a standing order or regular monthly payment; it's disappointing that this is only in Pro as it seems a vital feature