Author Archives: Michelle Rice

Spring Statement 2019

The Chancellor has presented his Spring Statement announcing that he intends to launch a full three year spending review this summer.  A low key mini budget, the Statement undoubtedly aimed to avoid more potential difficulties for the government, as it struggles to finalise a Brexit deal.


As expected, and widely publicised, Mr Hammond’s Spring Statement did not include any tax changes or new spending initiatives, instead it focused on reviewing Office for Budget Responsibilities (OBR) figures and announcing consultations, in particular:


  • 13 consultations, draft regulations and call for evidence documents which are due to be published in the coming months, including regulations for maturing child trust funds and a consultation on extending private residence relief in capital gains tax (CGT)
  • Plans to clamp down on late payments with a requirement for the audit committees to report on payment performance
  • Making Tax Digital will not be extended to buy-to-let landlords or businesses before 2021 at the earliest
  • HMRC and the Treasury have published a consultation seeking views on draft legislation for non-residential structures and buildings capital allowance


For further details on the announcements in this year’s statement download our PKF-FPM Spring Statement 2019 and if you wish to discuss your specific tax queries, please contact our Senior Tax Manager, Seamus McElvanna at

Setting Meaningful Goals for Your Team

When setting goals for your team, be clear about what you want to achieve, advises Feargal McCormack.


At the start of the new year, many business owners set goals for their business, their teams and themselves. When properly implemented, this process improves focus and helps everyone achieve better results. But goal setting will only add value to your business if goals are aligned with your overall business strategy. So before you set goals for your team, it’s important to be clear about what you want to achieve. Take the time to assess where you are now, where you want to get to and what you need to do to get there. Only when you have clarity about this, can you communicate what needs to be done and empower your team to get on with it.


Leadership and communication are very important in this process. You must be able to clearly articulate expectations and have the listening skills to take on board feedback from team members so that valid objections can be heard and acted upon. Unless you can secure your team’s buy-in, your goal-setting exercise is unlikely to achieve meaningful results.


SMART goals


Many organisations today set SMART goals.  These goals are:


  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

SMART goals are more likely to achieve success than general goals which are often vague. For example, in a restaurant business, an individual goal that says, ‘I will help to increase sales by ten percent in the next three months by offering the dessert menu to every table that I serve’ is likely to achieve better results than a vague goal which says, ‘I will help to increase customer profitability’.


Remember to put in place a system to keep track of the goals that are set so that you can measure results by monitoring key performance indicators and ensuring that your managers hold regular meetings with their direct reports. Building transparency and accountability into your goal setting and performance management in this way will help improve overall business performance. Given the challenges that lie ahead, this will be more important than ever in the coming year.


If you found this article useful and would like more information and/or advice, please contact a member of our business advisory team.

Time to Extinguish Negative Equity!

The Negative Equity Problemnegative equity

As we move out of recession there are still a significant number of people suffering from the after effects of the pre recession property boom.  Negative Equity is having a significant impact on businesses, family life and on the wider local economy in general.

Negative Equity does not discriminate and effects all types of people from Directors of large companies, professionals and the self-employed.

PKF-FPM believe there is a full and final settlement solution for all borrowers from the individual with Negative Equity on their family home to the property investor with the portfolio of property investments.  We have negotiated final resolutions to many Negative Equity situations and believe the time is now right for all the stakeholders involved to deal with Negative Equity problem.

PKF-FPM Solution to Negative Equity

  • We have developed a comprehensive team of experts to deliver a holistic one stop approach to Negative Equity to achieve a full and final debt solution utilising the available formal insolvency procedures and/or informal solutions.
  • The process can be applied to all levels of Negative Equity and property investment from the home owner caught with a late purchase in 2007, the self-employed individual with a small portfolio of buy to lets, right through to the local businessman who had acquired an investment portfolio of 150 properties.
  • No one solution is the same, but all solutions can provide the borrower with a full and final settlement and our team will deal with the entire process by:
  1. Engaging the borrower;
  2. Engaging the lenders;
  3. Agreeing a structured realisation of the properties in conjunction with the lenders; and
  4. Agreeing a Full and Final Settlement of the Debt
  • In order to achieve full and final settlement, on occasion the perspective client may have to consider bankruptcy. However in the main this is due to lack of funds to strike a settlement.  This does involve a structured approach to the bankruptcy, as opposed to a rushed self-adjudication, which can have ramifications for the borrower if not executed correctly.

Who Benefits

Both the borrower and the lender benefit from the PKF-FPM Solution to Negative Equity.

Benefits to the Individual

  • Relief from the stress associated with Negative Equity;
  • Can move on with life;
  • Achieve a full and final settlement solution;
  • Can refocus on their core business, work and/or family life;

Benefits to the Bank / Lender

  • The bank obtain full engagement from the borrower from the outset;
  • The bank get a clear and concise picture of the borrower’s financial affairs and have the knowledge that this is presented by a leading firm of accountants and insolvency practitioners.
  • Solution is a structured, consensual, advisor led process which will achieve the maximum return possible for the financial institution and will reduce costs associated with recoveries;
  • No need for formal repossessions;
  • Specific timeframe and deadline for the realisation of the assets;
  • Can include contribution from unencumbered assets, income and/or third parties towards the shortfall on these assets;

Benefits to Local Economy

PKF-FPM believe that resolution of the Negative Equity problem is key to helping the local economy get moving again.  It enables people to focus on what they do best.  Entrepreneurs and business leaders can get back to growing the local economy and creating jobs.  Banks can focus on lending to businesses.

Take the first steps to achieving a Final Resolution to Negative Equity

We do not believe that people should continue to suffer the stress and strains associated with Negative Equity.  We believe it is possible to formulate a FULL & FINAL SETTLEMENT SOLUTION to NEGATIVE EQUITY.  If you wish to resolve a Negative Equity scenario, please feel free to contact Seamas Keating or Gary Digney for an initial consultation on your options.

Facts about Negative Equity

  • In 2007 house prices in Northern Ireland were surpassed only by London, the South East and the East regions of the United Kingdom. From a position at the higher echelons of UK house prices, Northern Ireland is now the least expensive region of the UK and house prices remain 50% below their 2007 peak (source Nationwide, 2014).
  • 41% of borrowers with mortgages advanced since 2005 are in Negative Equity in Northern Ireland (Source: research completed by HML on behalf of the BBC).
  • Negative Equity within Northern Ireland is concentrated on a particular profile of borrowers. Single people, couples with no children, borrowers with one or two bedroom properties, those who purchased after 2005, borrowers who re-mortgaged and those in intermediate or professional occupations have found to be the most affected (Wallis, 2014).
  • Soaring prices in Northern Ireland excluded many first time buyers from entering the housing market. The subsequent increase in demand in the private rental sector spurred the markets appetite for buy to let loans.  Northern Ireland now has the highest rate of buy to let arrears in the UK (Source Wallis & Rug cited in Wallis, 2014).

Tax Relief on Childcare

Question: I have read recently in the newspaper that the rules in respect of tax relief on childcare are changing. Do you know what the new scheme is and when it will be rolled out?


The government is launching a new tax-free childcare scheme.  The scheme, is scheduled to be phased in from early 2017 starting with those parents with children at the lower end of the age range, being the first to join, with all eligible parents signed up by the end of the year.

It will eventually replace the existing relief for employer supported childcare and childcare vouchers, which will be phased out.

The new scheme will be available in respect of children up to the age of 12, or, 17 if the child is disabled.  To be able to take advantage of the scheme, both parents must be working and earning at least £15,000 a year but not more than £100,000 a year.

To benefit from the scheme, parents must open an online account into which they deposit money from which to pay their child care costs.  The Government will top up the account by adding £2 for every £8 paid in by the parents.  The maximum top up, which is tax-free, regardless of the parent’s marginal rate of tax, is £2,000 per child per tax year or, where the child is disabled, £4,000 per child per tax year.

Only regulated and approved childcare providers will be able to receive the tax-free childcare payments and providers that meet the criteria will need to sign up online.  Parents will be able to see if their childcare provider has signed up to receive tax-free childcare payments.

Unlike the current scheme the new scheme does not rely on employers making the option available, and it will also benefit self-employed parents.  The scheme will also be available to parents on paid sick leave and paid and unpaid statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave.

The advice above is specific to the facts surrounding the questions posed. Neither PKF-FPM nor the contributors accept any liability for any direct or indirect loss arising from any reliance placed on replies.

Tax consequences of lifetime giving

Question: My wife and I are in our mid 60’s and we have recently retired. We are considering giving our adult children gifts of assets as we are concerned about our inheritance tax liabilities should we die. What are our options for making gifts and inheritance taxwhat are the tax implications?



Inheritance Tax is a tax on the estate (the property, money and possessions) of someone who’s died. Lifetime planning is a vital tool in the tax planning of an estate. Since the current nil rate band has not increased since April 2009 and house prices are slowly increasing, more and more estates are coming within this tax.

There is normally no Inheritance Tax to pay if the value of your estate is below the £325,000 threshold or if you leave everything to your spouse or civil partner, a charity or a community amateur sports club. If you’re married or in a civil partnership and your estate is worth less than £325,000, you can transfer any unused threshold to your partner when you die. This means their threshold can be as much as £650,000.

Some of the most effective planning tools for inheritance tax purposes are small, simple changes that can enhance the overall tax efficiency of your estate. There are various exemptions provided for gifts which, when used to their full potential consistently over many years, can add up to a significant estate reduction.

Firstly, there is usually no Inheritance Tax to pay on small gifts you make out of your normal income, eg Christmas or birthday presents. These are known as ‘exempted gifts’.  You can give as many gifts of up to £250 per person as you want during the tax year as long as you haven’t used another exemption on the same person.

Secondly, you can give away £3,000 worth of gifts each tax year (6 April to 5 April) without them being added to the value of your estate. This is known as your ‘annual exemption’. You can carry any unused annual exemption forward to the next year – but only for one year. You can also give away wedding or civil ceremony gifts of up to £1,000 per person (£2,500 for a grandchild or great grandchild, £5,000 for a child).

Thirdly, a further type of exemption gift covers those that are made out of income, as opposed to capital. These are exempt at the time they are made and there is no seven year rule to apply. This exemption only applies to gifts made from your surplus income.

It is also worth noting that a gift of any type to a registered charity is exempt from Inheritance Tax.

Finally, there is also no Inheritance Tax to pay on gifts between spouses or civil partners. You can give them as much as you like during your lifetime – as long as they live in the UK permanently.

Other gifts count towards the value of your estate. There may be Inheritance Tax to pay if you’ve given away more than £325,000, but only if you die within 7 years. Inheritance Tax on gifts is paid by the person who received the gift (the ‘beneficiary’) – not the estate. If there’s Inheritance Tax to pay, it’s charged at 40% on gifts given in the 3 years before you die. Gifts made 3 to 7 years before your death are taxed on a sliding scale known as ‘taper relief’.

Inheritance Tax planning has no fixed form and can be highly emotive but a mixed approach of exempt giving and well planned lifetime giving can significantly mitigate the tax you pay on your estate.

The advice above is specific to the facts surrounding the questions posed. Neither PKF-FPM nor the contributors accept any liability for any direct or indirect loss arising from any reliance placed on replies.


PKF-FPM Welcomes Finance Minister

Finance Minister, Mairtin O Muilleoir, was in Newry on Thursday 25th August 2016 to meet the East Border Region Group, which includes Council representatives from both sides of the Border, to discuss the impact of the EU Referendum on EU funding Programmes. PKF-FPM hosted this gathering which allowed attendees to outline their concerns about the future of projects should they not be able to access Interreg VA and Peace IV funding.

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Feargal McCormack welcomes Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir to the PKF FPM Newry Office.

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Chairperson Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Gillian Fitzpatrick, Feargal McCormack Managing Director PKF-FPM, Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, Conor Murphy MLA and Teresa Campbell Director PKF-FPM, at PKF-FPM Newry Office.

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Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoirvisits PKF FPM Newry Office to attend East Border Region Meeting.