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According to the Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), a survey from IHS Markit, private sector growth waned to its weakest in nine months, with the eurozone’s index score dropping to 53.3, down from 55.4 in November. Any score exceeding 50 indicates growth, meaning this decline represents a slowdown instead of a contraction. However, GDP in Germany appeared more concerning, with a PMI of 49.9, suggesting that business activity in the nation may be shrinking. 

Manufacturers in Europe expanded faster than services businesses for the first time since last summer. This suggests a return to the pattern seen at the beginning of the pandemic when physical goods productions and sales were stronger than those involving in-person transactions. Nonetheless, factory bosses remain concerned about the potential of a renewed slowdown. 

In Germany, car manufacturers account for approximately one-tenth of the country’s economy. Those in the industry have reported increasing pessimism, with the ifo Institute warning that the business situation has been worsening for the past five consecutive months. 

Last week, news broke that EY auditors refused to sign off on Wirecard’s accounts for 2019, citing a missing sum of €1.9 billion that documents purported to be held in two bank accounts in the Philippines. CEO Markus Braun claimed that the company was the victim of “the victim in a substantial case of fraud,” and COO Jan Marsalek was suspended, later to be terminated. Braun then resigned from the company on Friday.

Braun turned himself over to Munich police on Monday evening after a warrant for his arrest was issued. He is suspected of recording false transactions to artificially inflate Wirecard’s sales, increasing its value in the eyes of customers and investors. Philippine authorities are also investigating the whereabouts of Marsalek as part of a broader probe into the company.

On Thursday, the company said in a statement that it would apply to the Munich district court to open insolvency proceedings as a result of its “impending insolvency and over-indebtedness.”

The company’s shares were suspended from the Frankfurt Stock Exchange before the announcement was released.

Wirecard was long regarded as a star in the German fintech scene – a DAX 30 company which was once valued at €24 billion. That value has plummeted through the floor as the week of revelations continued, though it saw a brief 27% uptick on Tuesday following the news of Braun’s arrest.

Trading on Thursday saw Wirecard’s value drop by a further 76% once news of its insolvency broke.

US

In the US, all 50 states have declared emergencies with governments at the local, state and federal level taking action to ease the financial burden on Americans. Trump’s administration and Congress agreed on a $2 trillion stimulus package, which includes income support of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child and starts phasing out for individuals who earn $75,000 per annum or $150,000 for couples. Loans worth $367 billion have been offered to small businesses struggling with the immediate drop in revenue due to the pandemic. The government will not expect the businesses to pay the money back if they manage to retain most of their employees over the next six months.

In the form of loans, loan guarantees and purchases of companies’ corporate debt, the legislation provides a total of $454 billion which will help large and medium-sized business access capital during the crisis. $58 billion have been set aside to help American airlines through loans and grants and $17 billion will be provided to help companies that are critical to maintaining national security.

UK

In March, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £350 billion emergency package for the economy[1] which consists of state loan guarantees worth £330 billion along with a further £20 billion of handouts for struggling businesses. He also promised £12 billion in emergency support in the budget, a one-year abolition of property taxes for all companies in affected sectors and suspended business rates for many firms.

The Chancellor also added a generous £9 billion scheme to support up to 3.8 million self-employed workers hit by the impact of the pandemic. 95% of the country’s self-employed people are able to access a grant of 80% of their recent average profit (capped at £2,500).

The government also announced a job retention scheme which offers compensation in full for employment costs of up to 80% of salary bills for workers that companies can’t provide work for, but are kept on payroll.

Germany

The German finance and economic ministers have vowed to make unlimited financing available to individuals and businesses as part of the country’s efforts to immunise Europe’s largest economy from the COVID-19 impact. The government promised that there will be no upper limit on the aid that will be offered to companies that are affected by the crisis.

The government has set aside a “supplementary” €156 billion budget for 2020[2], which includes a €50 billion plan to provide direct grants to small businesses and self-employed people who can’t access bank credit. Businesses with up to five employees are eligible for a one-off grant of €9,000 for three months, whilst those with up to ten employees will receive €15,000.

The government has also set up a €500 billion bailout fund to recapitalise big companies with more than 250 employees that face struggles due to the crisis. Landlords are also not allowed to evict tenants who fail to pay their rent due to the pandemic.

The country’s also expanding its programme of export credits and other additional guarantees to help struggling companies and has committed to deterring “billions of euros” in tax payments. Germany is also compensating individuals who are sent home by their employers due to the lack of work for them. The government anticipates that the scheme will cost the Federal Labour Office €10.05 billion.

France

Like many of his colleagues from across the globe, French President Emmanuel Macron has guaranteed that the French Government will offer unlimited support for individuals and companies that have been affected by the global pandemic, which will cost the country €45 billion. He’s also committed to offering grants to workers who have found themselves in unemployment due to the pandemic crisis. France’s Minister of the Economy and Finance has also promised €300 billion of French state guarantees for bank loans to companies, as well as €1 trillion of such guarantees from European institutions.

The government has also suggested the possible rescue of companies such as Air France, which have state shareholdings, and has deferred company tax and social security payments. It’s also offered sick leave payments to parents who have to stay at home to take care of their children due to school closures.

Economists have warned that the damage from the coronavirus crisis could be similar to that from the 2008 recession.

Italy

Italy has begun distributing funds from the fiscal rescue package, totalling up to €25 billion, promising that “nobody will be left alone”. €1.15 billion of this has been distributed to their health system and €1.5 billion has been offered to the civil protection agency, which has been working on Italy’s coronavirus response.

Additionally, self-employed people have been promised one-off payments of €500 per person, companies that pay redundancy payments to their employees have been offered support, there’s been a freeze on any worker lay-offs, and people who are still working during this time have been offered bonuses.

Businesses hit by the pandemic have been promised loan guarantees and a moratorium on loan and mortgage payments is expected to be put in place. Financial support will be offered to families with children, as well as taxi drivers and postal workers who have to continue working during lockdown. The government also announced plans to financially support Italian airline Alitalia.

Spain

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has described the government’s coronavirus rescue package as the “biggest mobilisation of resources in Spain’s democratic history”. It includes €100 billion of state loan guarantees for companies aimed at ensuring liquidity, specifically for small and medium-sized companies. The whole package will amount to €200 billion.

Mr Sánchez has also announced a moratorium on mortgage payments for people who have been hit hard by the pandemic and a similar moratorium for utility bills. He’s also suspended some social security payments and has set aside €600 million to help people who depend on social services.

 

[1] https://news.sky.com/story/coronavirus-330bn-of-government-backed-loans-for-businesses-11959156

[2] https://www.ft.com/content/26af5520-6793-11ea-800d-da70cff6e4d3

What is the purpose and objective of a Tax Compliance Management System (Tax CMS) under German law?

Despite the utmost care on the part of any tax department, tax returns can contain errors. The most common cause is a lack of transparency and insufficient data quality for tax declaration purposes. The high complexity of internal processes requires a clear allocation and documentation of responsibilities and persons in charge. Missing or inadequate process and role definitions can lead to tax-relevant information not being passed on and considered accordingly. If an error is caused by inadequate processes or lack of controls, this will be categorised as a tax offence or at least as carelessness. Both could lead to fines, reputational damage and criminal or monetary consequences for the persons responsible, in particular for the management.

Proof of an adequate Tax CMS can refute the allegation of tax evasion or carelessness in connection with an incorrect tax return. With the guideline of the Federal Ministry of Finance dated 23 May  2016, the fiscal administration has paved the way for companies to correct errors in tax returns without being subject to criminal charges. This means that when an error is discovered and disclosed accordingly, the tax authorities will assume that the error was not caused by an organisational deficiency if an adequate Tax CMS is in place.

What are the benefits of a Tax Compliance Management System for companies?

Besides providing protection against consequences for the management and other tax responsible employees, a Tax CMS also protects companies against penalties, late payment interest, and non- budgeted tax payments. From an organisational point of view, a well-implemented Tax CMS also provides high transparency and efficiency in all tax-related processes. The implementation of a Tax CMS is furthermore a great opportunity for further standardising and automating processes and moving the tax department and the entire tax function to the next level. In the near future, the role of the tax department will be to organise, manage and control processes inside and outside the tax department instead of being reactive and wasting time and resources on the collection of poorly structured data. There is a significant outcome in freeing up resources within the tax function to generate additional value not only in terms of tax optimisation but also in terms of supporting management decisions with current and well-substantiated information and data.

Does the use of a Tax Compliance Management System provide advantages when dealing with the tax office in Germany?

Currently, German tax authorities start tax audits with the question of whether a Tax Compliance Management System is implemented in the company or not. If the answer is yes, the tax auditor usually requests a description of the Tax CMS. However, this does not currently trigger any direct consequences. In the near future, the expectation is that the existence of an effective Tax CMS will greatly influence how the tax auditor will deal with findings. Companies which can prove an effective Tax CMS might not undergo further criminal investigations by the tax authorities in the case of tax audit findings. The existence of a Tax CMS will also support the company and its representatives in negotiations with the tax auditor. The reason for this is that more substantial data and transparency provide an improved basis for argumentation. Furthermore, in this case, it becomes very unlikely that the tax auditor tries to support his position by threatening the negotiators of the company with criminal consequences.

From an organisational point of view, a well-implemented Tax CMS also provides high transparency and efficiency in all tax-related processes.

How can companies structure an effective Tax Compliance Management System?

A Tax CMS consists of three levels.

The first level is the conception of the Tax CMS. It includes the entire guidance and all principles for all personnel dealing directly or indirectly with tax matters, such as a group tax policy, single specific policies for all relevant taxes, documentation of tax-related processes and last but not least a training concept concerning relevant tax matters.

The second level is supervision. This includes risk management driven by a dedicated person or a team, the so-called Tax Compliance Officer or Tax Compliance Office.

Another key element is the risk assessment, providing a complete directory of all potential risks of error and all mitigating measures and controls belonging to these risks. Other elements of the supervision level are monitoring of processes, defined controls and an internal audit ensuring that all tax guidelines have been adhered to. The core of the supervision level is to link the level of execution with the level of conception.

The third level is the execution. All guidance and principles are worthless if they are disregarded in daily business. It is the main challenge of a Tax CMS implementation project to go live with the conception. With regard to limited resources and budgets, the digitalisation of processes and integrated controls has become a critical success factor. A greater share of manual work will lead to a higher density of the control framework and hence more money and resources are required.

What is the best way to start a Tax CMS Project?

Generally, this depends on the individual situation and the individual level of maturity of the tax function in a company. In tax fields in which robust processes are already in place, the first step should be a risk assessment including the review of the adequacy of measures and controls. In fields where nothing or nearly nothing is in place, the project should be started with the conception and implementation of the required elements.

Refugee crisis, political turbulences, economic struggles brought on by austerity and Brexit. Katina Hristova explores the crisis that the European Union has found itself in.

 

"The fragility of the EU is increasing. The cracks are growing in size”, warns EU Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker. With Italy’s Government crisis finally being resolved and the country’s shocking rejection of NGO migrant rescue boats, it has been easy to detract from the political earthquake that the third largest EU economy experienced and the quick impact that it had on the Euro. But Europe’s problems go deeper than Italy’s political turbulences. A month ago, Spain, the fourth biggest Eurozone economy, was faced with a very similar crisis and even though the country now has a new leader, analysts believe that the Spanish instability is not over yet. With the shockwaves of both countries’ political uncertainty being felt on Eurozone markets, on top of migration pitting southern Europe against the north and as the UK marches on towards Brexit whilst Trump abandons the Iran Nuclear Deal, which could mean the end of the transatlantic alliance between the US and Europe, is the EU in serious trouble?

 

Why is it so serious?

Billionaire Investor George Soros is one of those people that can sense when social change is needed and when the current cultural and political processes are about to collapse. A month ago, in a speech at the European Council on Foreign Relations, Soros claimed that: “for the past decade, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong”, believing that the European Union is already in the midst of an ‘existential crisis’. The post-2008 policy of economic austerity, or reducing a country’s deficits at any cost, created a conflict between Germany and Greece and worsened the relationship between wealthy and struggling EU nations, creating two classes – debtors and creditors. Greece and other debtor nations had sluggish economies and high unemployment rates, struggling to meet the conditions their creditors set, which resulted in resentment on both sides toward the European Union. Back in 2012, the European countries that struggled with immense debt, malfunctioning banks and constant budget deficits and needed help from other member countries were Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. In order to help them the creditors countries set conditions that the debtors were expected to meet, but struggled to do so. And as Soros points out: “This created a relationship that was neither voluntary nor equal – the very opposite of the credo on which the EU was based”.

Although Italy finally has a government, after nearly three months without one, the financial markets are apprehensive about what to expect next, considering the country’s €2.1 trillion debt and inflexible labour market. On 29 May, fearing the political crisis in the country, the Euro EURUSD, +0.6570%  slid to a six-month low, whilst European stocks ended sharply lower, with Italy’s FTSE MIB I945, +1.43%  ending 2.7% lower, building on the previous week’s sharp losses. Bill Adams, senior international economist at PNC believes that: “The situation serves as a reminder that political risk in the Euro area hasn’t gone away. Italy is not on an irrevocable road to anything at this point,” he said. “I think what is most likely is another election later this year, and what we’ve learned is that outcomes of elections are very unpredictable.”

Spain on the other hand has made huge progress since being on ‘EU life support’ when ‘its banks were sinking and ratings agencies valued its debt at a notch above junk, on a par with Azerbaijan’. Since receiving help, the country’s economy has been growing, unemployment is not as high and its credit rating has been restored. However, with the Catalonia separatism, and the parties, Podemos and Ciudadanos who have emerged to challenge the old duopoly between the Popular Party (PP) and the Socialists, the political uncertainty in the country is set to continue.

Greece has been in a permanent state of crisis for a decade now, with its current debt of 180% of its gross domestic product (in comparison, Italy's is 133%). In less than two months, on 20 August, the country is due to exit its intensive care administered by the European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund. The EU will then have to come up with a new debt relief offer on the $280 billion Greece still owes – which could be challenging, as the ‘creditors’ are not in a charitable mood.

In contrast, Poland and Hungary are financially stable, however, both countries seem to be in opposition to the EU with regards to immigration, the independence of the judiciary, ‘democratic values’ and freedom of the press. Both governments have dismissed EU plans to share the burden that the Mediterranean region carries in terms of migrants arriving into these countries. In addition to this, Hungary’s Prime Minister is promoting an ‘illiberal’ alternative to European consensus, whilst Poland has sided with the US and against its European partners on a range of subjects, including the Iran sanctions and Russian gas pipelines.

And of course, let’s not forget the EU’s list of unsolved issues – the main one being Brexit. With nine months until its deadline, the terms of Britain’s exit from the EU are nowhere near finalised.

 

Make the EU an association that countries want to join again

Today, young people across the continent see the European Union as the enemy, whilst populist politicians have exploited these resentments, creating anti-European parties and movements.

Since its establishment, the EU, an association that was founded to offer freedom, security and justice without internal borders, has survived many turbulences. Although the current crisis is based on a number of deep-rooted problems, odds are that these challenges will be overcome. To save the EU, Soros believes that it needs to reinvent itself via a ‘genuinely grassroots effort’ which allows member countries more choice than is currently afforded.

"Instead of a multi-speed Europe, the goal should be a 'multi-track Europe' that allows member states a wider variety of choices. This would have a far-reaching beneficial effect."

And even though he isn’t offering a proposition for a bill that someone needs to draft and pass as soon as possible, he has opened a conversation - a conversation about moving away from the EU’s unsustainable structure. “The idea of Europe as an open society continues to inspire me”, says Soros. And in order to survive, it will have to reinvent itself.

 

In light of Donald Trump’s dramatic withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal, Katina Hristova examines how the pullout can affect the global economy.

As with anything that he isn’t fond of, US President Donald Trump hasn’t been hiding his feelings towards the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the five permanent members of The United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Pulling the US out of the agreement on the nuclear programme of Iran, which was signed during Obama's time in office, is something that Trump has been threatening to do since his 2016 election campaign. And he’s only gone and done it. Earlier this month, he announced America’s immediate withdrawal, saying that the US will reimpose sweeping sanctions on Iran’s oil sector and that “Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States”. And as if this isn’t alarming enough, President Trump has also said that the US will require companies to ‘wind down’ existing contracts with Iran, which currently ranks second in the world in natural gas reserves and fourth in proven crude oil reserve, in either 90 days or 180 days. This would hinder new contracts with Iran, as well as any business operations in the country.

Since Washington’s announcement, signatories of the Iran Nuclear Deal, still committed to the agreement, have embarked on a diplomatic marathon to keep the deal alive. On 25 May, Iran, France, Britain, Germany, China and Russia met in Vienna in a bid to save the agreement.

 

So how will this hurt the global economy?

Deals worth billions of dollars signed by international companies with Iran are currently hanging by a thread. The main concern on a global scale is that the US’ decision threatens to cut off a proportion of the world’s crude oil supply, which has already resulted in an increase in oil prices, with crude topping $70 a barrel for the first time in four years.

Additionally, European companies like Airbus, Total, Renault and Siemens could face fines if they continue doing business with Iran. Royal Dutch Shell, who is investing in the Iranian energy sector, is potentially one of the biggest companies to be affected by Trump’s withdrawal which could put billions of dollars’ worth of trade in jeopardy. As The Guardian points out: “In December 2016, Royal Dutch Shell signed a provisional agreement to develop the Iranian oil and gas fields in South Azadegan, Yadavaran and Kish. While drilling is still a long way off, sanctions are likely to put any preparations already being made on ice.”

French company Total, who’s involved in developing the South Pars field, the world’s largest gas field in Iran, is in a similar situation.

Airbus and Boeing, two of the key players in the international aviation industry, have signed contracts worth $39 billion to sell aircraft to Iran. As The Guardian reports, the most significant deal is an agreement by IranAir to buy 100 aircraft from Airbus.

A spokesman from Airbus said that jobs would not be affected. “Our [order] backlog stands at more than 7,100 aircraft, this translates into some nine years of production at current rates. We’re carefully analysing the announcement and will be evaluating next steps consistent with our internal policies and in full compliance with sanctions and export control regulations. This will take some time”. Rolls Royce is also expected to be indirectly affected if Airbus loses its IranAir order, as the company is the key engines provider to many of those aircraft models.

Another European company that will be hurt by the sanctions announcement is French Renault and PSA, who owns Peugeot, Citroën and Vauxhall. When sanctions were lifted back in 2016, Renault signed a joint venture agreement with the Industrial Development & Renovation Organization of Iran (IDRO) and local vehicle importer Parto Negin Naseh, worth $778 million, to make up to 150,000 cars in Iran every year. This is one of the largest non-oil deals in Iran since sanctions on the country were lifted. Last year, local firm Iran Khodro also signed a deal with the trucks division of Mercedes-Benz, with car production scheduled for this year.

Iranian firm HiWEB has been working alongside Vodafone to modernise the country’s internet infrastructure, but it looks like the partnership will have to be reconsidered.

The consequences

The White House and President Trump appear aware of the danger that a rise in oil prices on an international level pose to the economic growth of the Trump era, however, they also seem ready to embrace the economic and geopolitical challenges that are to follow. Although the consequences of US’ Iran Deal pullout are not perfectly clear in the short term, they will undoubtedly become more visible as sanctions take effect. The deal has its flaws, however, completely withdrawing from it and threatening the US’ closest allies can only compound those issues and create new ones. It is hard to predict what will unfold from here and where Trump’s strategy will take us. The one thing that is certain though is that the world doesn’t need more hostility.

Investors should expect an increase in market volatility and ensure that they are properly diversified, warns the senior analyst at deVere Group.

The warning from Tom Elliott, International Investment Strategist at deVere Group, comes as US President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the United States will exit the Iran nuclear deal and impose “powerful” sanctions.

Mr Elliott comments: “Investors should expect an increase in market volatility following Trump’s announcement that he is quitting the Iran nuclear deal.

“There will be global stock market sell-offs as the world adjusts to the news.”

He continues: “Due to the severity of the US President’s approach, in the shorter term at least it is likely gold and the US dollar may rally on growing fears of further conflicts in the Middle East breaking out; and risk assets, namely stocks and credit markets, may weaken. Oil may rally strongly.

“We will need to wait for the full Iranian response. However, I expect that they will try to continue to appear the reasonable partner and work with Russia and the Europeans, playing them off against the US If they take a more aggressive stance, oil, gold and the dollar will go considerably higher.”

Mr Elliott concludes: “Geopolitical events such as these underscore how essential it is for investors to always ensure that they are properly diversified - this includes across asset classes, sectors and geographical regions – to mitigate potential risks to their investment returns.”

Since the fall of its world-renowned Wall, Berlin has become one of the most popular creative and cultural hubs in Europe. An abundance of historic sights, art galleries and funky nightlife venues draw hundreds of thousands of tourists each year from all over the world. With its ideal location near Potsdamer Platz and next to a metro (S-Bahn) station, Mövenpick Hotel Berlin is the perfect hotel for your stay in Germany’s capital. Housed in a historic factory building, the four-star hotel promises all the contemporary comforts of a major chain, including a restaurant, a snazzy Lobby Bar, 12 meeting rooms, as well as a gym and a sauna where you can unwind after a day of sightseeing or meetings.

 

Style & Character

Staying true to the Swiss Mövenpick brand, Mövenpick Hotel Berlin combines excellent service with a personal touch and modern interiors. The hotel offers classic and superior rooms, as well as deluxe rooms and suites. With their high ceilings, wooden furniture and amenities such as wireless phones, LED TVs, minibars and safes, the 243 comfortable rooms and suites have a genuine feel-good factor.

Breakfast is served in a spacious glass-roofed restaurant that during the rest of the day serves seasonal Swiss and Mediterranean à la carte meals. The expansive breakfast buffet offers an impressive selection of cold cuts, breads and pastries, fresh fruits and vegetables, Go Health shots and warm dishes including scrambled eggs and omelettes, French toast, Swiss rosti, sausages and bacon.

SLEEP Individually Different

To us, the highlight of our stay in Mövenpick Hotel Berlin was undoubtedly their recently introduced SLEEP Individually Different room concept, that guarantees what all busy people value the most – a good night’s sleep. Selected hotels across Europe, including Berlin, Zurich and Amsterdam, now offer customized SLEEP rooms that come with beds with adjustable firmness, window blinds, blackout stickers, sleeping masks, ear plugs and a relaxing Lavender scent infusion for a soothing sleep experience. To create the ideal environment for rest, these rooms are located in quiet areas of the hotel and are also kitted out with high-quality natural bedding, whilst neck pillows and allergy-free bedding are available too.

Priced at just €15 more than a standard room, the SLEEP rooms create the optimal conditions for ultimate comfort and much-needed relaxation after a day of exploring the streets of Berlin.

Website: https://www.movenpick.com/en/europe/germany/berlin/hotel-berlin/overview/

 

Based in Germany, Westphal+Partner offers a wide range of independent tax, accounting and audit services, specialising in small and medium-sized foreign-owned enterprises doing business in Germany. Besides that, the firm acts as a controlling unit for the investor ensuring oversight. As CPAs, Westphal+Partner’s accounting operates risk-oriented detecting and avoiding misstatements during the accounting process, preventing changes at the annual financial statement. Finance Monthly speaks to Partner Ingrid Westphal-Westenacher, who tells us what clients expect from an accountant and shares the challenges that her firm faces.

 

From your experience, what do clients actually want from an accountant?

Our customers have decided to hire experts to solve a problem that has nothing to do with their core business. They want to focus on their business idea without losing sleep thinking about tax payments and accounting. Once entrepreneurs decide to outsource bookkeeping or get help from a tax advisory, they expect viable solutions enabling long-term success. And they are right to do so. An outsourced bookkeeping must be objectively and legally correct at any time, while also being up-to -date. Since corporate tax in Germany tends to be quite complex, especially for people with scant knowledge of the local tax codes, clients should expect their tax adviser to explain tax issues in a comprehensible manner, so they can make the right decisions.

 

How do you make sure to keep up with you clients’ expectations?

Communication - not just with the business owner, but with the management and the staff too.

 

What challenges would you say you and your firm encounter on a regular basis? How are these resolved?

One challenge that we face is knowing our clients’ business, plans, expectations, and needs. Only by knowing all of them, you are truly able to advise clients on a rational basis. One way to resolve this issue is to build a relationship of mutual trust. In order to do so, we firstly articulate what customers can expect from us, clearly defining our services and explaining our proceedings. With this certainty, customers know what to expect from us, so they can focus on their businesses without worrying about taxation or accountancy standards.

Foreign clients add a cultural dimension to the customer relationship - an aspect often underestimated and frequently resulting in underlying frictions. People from different parts of the world have different cultural preferences and backgrounds; i.e. some people from China have a different attitude when it comes to taxation, when compared to people from Germany. The essence of it is to avoid pointing out the differences, but instead, to make sure that both sides fully understand how the other side’s processes and systems work. To avoid any kind of misunderstandings, we not only pay close attention to these differences, but, for example, we also have colleagues in our team who are Chinese or have lived in China and are familiar with the culture.

 

How are these challenges set to change, in conjunction with the advent of technologies and the potential future needs of clients?

Both challenges will persist, even with the advent of technologies. However new technologies are already disrupting audit and bookkeeping. Today, clients can check the books at the end of the month online and see how their business performed. In the future, bookkeeping will be a fully automated process with real-time results, by the day, enabling better oversight and steering and even fewer costs due to AI-powered accounting software.

As a long-term former Chairwoman of the working group Quality Assurance SME at the Institute of Public Auditors in Germany (IDW), I’m convinced we will see significant changes in the field of auditing. Tool-based data analytics will enable us to read out process data and check them by sophisticated data algorithm. This will put auditors in an unrivalled position to consult the client on strategic decisions.

 

What’s your piece of advice to our readers?

When the decision to outsource bookkeeping has been made, try to hire an accounting firm run by CPAs. Accounting firms with a pure background in tax sometimes tend to disregard the code of commercial law, focusing narrowly on tax law; thereby causing problems with the mandatory preparation of the balance sheet under the German commercial law, and insofar causing unnecessary trouble and costs. Finally, trust your gut feeling when hiring an accounting company - it is very important to feel at ease and understood by your adviser. Be cautious of people hiding behind technical jarring.

 

Website: https://www.westphal-wp.de/

 

Germany is no longer the most popular destination for commercial real estate investment, according to BrickVest’s latest commercial property investment barometer. Formerly the most popular location in Q3 2017, Germany has now fallen in favour among investors behind the UK, US and France.

Germany saw a drop in popularity from 34% to 23% in the last quarter, marking its lowest rating since Q2 2016. The UK, however, rose from 27% to 29% in Q4 2017, managing to sustain its favourability by consistently ranking above 25%.

Both the US and France have also gained popularity with investors, with nearly one in five (19%) preferring the US over other regions and 18% now selecting France as their location of choice (up 4% since Q2 2016).

The Barometer also revealed that the hunt for income ranked highest (38%) as the primary investment objective of BrickVest investors this past quarter. This has risen by 6% from 32% in Q3 2017.

Notably, interest in secondary cities as target markets continues to steadily increase (from 37% in Q3 2017 to 41% by the end of 2017). These include Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol etc.)

Emmanuel Lumineau, CEO at BrickVest, commented: “Our latest Barometer reveals that Germany is no longer the favoured destination for commercial real estate investment, contrary to its position in Q3 2017. Rather, the UK has once again become the most popular region for our investors.”

“There have been similar changes in other aspects of the data, including the greater emphasis placed on the hunt for income and the growing popularity of secondary cities as target markets. As the year progresses and we continue to conduct our Barometer, it will be interesting to see how the industry adapts to these underlying factors affecting the real estate market.”

(Source: BrickVest)

From the current situation in the US to oil and gambling stocks, Rebecca O’Keeffe, Head of Investment at interactive investor, shares some thoughts on this week’s news.

The huge importance of politics to equity markets might have led one to conclude that the US shutdown would be a negative factor for markets, but the bullet-proof nature of current markets, combined with limited economic impact on stocks that a shutdown delivers, has seen global markets shrug off any major concerns. The last US government shutdown in 2013 lasted sixteen days, during which the S&P 500 rallied 3.1% and the two prior shutdowns to that in 1996 and 1995 also resulted in gains for equity markets, so there is certainly precedent for investors to ignore these events. It is only if a protracted shutdown starts to impact consumer confidence and spending that investors are likely to sit up and take notice.

Gambling stocks have tumbled in early trade, after the weekend press suggested that the current government consultation might cut the fixed odds betting limit to just £2. Gambling companies have made hundreds of millions of pounds a year from fixed odds betting terminals and were hoping that the minimum stake would be towards the middle of the £2 and £50 consultation range. Although the consultation does not end until tomorrow, the suggestion that the response to the survey has been overwhelmingly in support of a cut to the minimum £2 means that this is indeed a significant threat to bookmakers.

In Germany, it looks like the stalemate that has afflicted German politics since September may finally be reaching a resolution, after the SPD voted to engage in coalition talks with Angela Merkel and her party. This vote will hopefully ensure that a repeat election can be avoided and should allow Chancellor Merkel to retain her place as a key lynchpin of the European Union and a major player in any Brexit talks.

Oil prices are on the rise this morning, as Opec and Russia have signalled their intent to co-operate on supply beyond the current deal terms. However, OPEC and Russia are just one half of the supply story, as producers in the US, Canada and Brazil are all expected to ramp up output in response to higher oil prices. With these new dynamics in the oil market, the possibility of higher supply is a major downside risk for the oil price.

The German stock market crash is a timely reminder of the need to broadly invest, affirms one of the world’s largest independent financial services organisations.

The comment from Tom Elliott, deVere Group’s International Investment Strategist, comes as the DAX, Germany’s top stock index, was nearing the red after shares in the country’s largest car makers dropped over a fresh probe into the diesel emission scandal.

Mr Elliott observes: “Eurozone stock markets have felt the pain of a strong currency in recent weeks, as investors think that improving economic data will force the ECB to curtail its bond-buying program prematurely and - if inflation picks up - lead to interest rate hikes.

“But the DAX 30, the key German stock market index, now has an additional problem that has contributed to recent falls. Its motor sector – led by BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen- is under a cloud as more jurisdictions line up to fine the companies over diesel emissions. Last week, the Mayor of London announced plans to seek compensation from Volkswagen after the true scale of the company’s diesel-fuelled cars’ contribution to the city’s air pollution became known. The sector is at risk of punitive fines across the world.”

He continues: “A further risk is that the ‘Made in Germany’ brand suffers more generally.

“However, while this is embarrassing for the German auto sector, and for German exporters more generally, it is likely to be a passing phase. The fines will be absorbed by shareholders, and meanwhile the German auto sector will return to the real long-term battle: is there a durable market for high quality, driver-driven, private cars?

Mr Elliott goes on to say: “German - and European autos’ biggest threat comes from technology from the US – in the form of driverless cars and battery cells, amongst other factors – as well as changing social habits, which include car pooling and young adults driving less in developed economies.

“The German stock market crash is a timely reminder of the need to broadly invest so that portfolios will have exposure to the young companies likely to benefit from driverless cars for example.”

He concludes: “Diversification of portfolios across sectors, asset classes and regions will ensure investors are best-placed to take full advantage of the present and future opportunities and to mitigate the risks.”

(Source: deVere Group)

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