Archived blog from the developer, Mike Towle . . . . . . . . . . .
Nothing to do with accounting or finance I know, but topical: who'll leave the European Union first? Greece or the United Kingdom? Is there really any benefit to being a member of the European Union? It's expensive, it forces countries to work with one hand tied behind their backs, and it looks like the brakes could be applied to the free movement of labor.
Many years ago I was a big supporter of the EU. I thought all these countries coming together to act in concert. Pooling their resources. Helping each other out. Making it easy to do business across borders. There were almost no borders! Here in the United Kingdom I felt connected to people in other countries. It was one big happy family. OK, I admit, I was more than a little naive.
I've since had any notion of a unified Europe knocked out of me. Bit by bit at first, then in big chunks over the last few years. The banking crisis, followed by the sovereign debt crisis, and of course Greece in particular, has left the EU looking fragmented and lame. Some members of the EU had been doing very nicely, thank you. And weathered the financial storm well. But other members have not been doing well, and the financial crisis has plunged them into despair. Where is their support? I thought one of the fundamental principals of the EU was that it was supposed to bring countries ever closer together. Yet when things got tough, what did the stronger members do? Did they offer cash, no strings attached, as one friend might do to another who's in trouble? No. Did they offer to increase trade by favoring businesses in the struggling country for government contracts or offering their own businesses tax incentives to place business there? No. Did they come up with some other ideas for boosting the economies of these struggling countries? No. In fact, as far as I'm aware, they did nothing. Oh wait, that's not quite true. What they did is they offered to lend money at unaffordable interest rates in order to a) make a few Euro, b) keep the 'victim' in the EU so as to maintain the size of the market they could export to and maintain their considerable and increasing influence.
Europe at sovereign level is not a friendly place.
In 2017 if not sooner, the United Kingdom is going to vote on whether to remain a member of the European Union. I don't know which way I'll vote. If the United Kingdom stays in, we'll just get more of the same. More crazy VAT legislation, more crazy laws on stuff that doesn't matter much, and few or no laws on the important stuff. If the United Kingdom exits, and we want to continue trading with the European Union we'll still have to put up with whatever comes out of the European Parliament, only we'll have no say in it. At least as part of the European Union we do have some
influence. A UK exit might prompt some other countries to head for the exit too. I'm not sure that's a good thing. The idea of a breaking down and fragmenting Europe makes me feel uneasy. A lot of people have a very tough decision ahead.
Is there any hope for my dream of a truly friendly, united, and prosperous Europe? One day perhaps. But the changes required to the Euro Zone, to the European Parliament, and to the way governments in each member state view each other are so profound, it could take decades. If those changes are too slow in coming, the EU could be torn apart. But I guess sometimes you have to tear something apart before you can fix it.
Just when I thought EU VAT legislation couldn't get any worse, along comes the new rules on trading digital products across the EU. This will have PROFOUND implications for many micro/small businesses, possibly including Adminsoft!
I didn't even know the rules were changing! I discovered it by accident, today. But apparently, as from 1st January 2015 any business that sells digital content to customers in the EU has to account for VAT at the rate in the customers country of residence
! There are 28 countries in the EU, mostly with different VAT rates on different services/products. This only applies if the sales are to consumers, not businesses. But how can anyone tell? Well apparently your customer is supposed to provide a VAT registration number to prove they are a business. If they can't do this, perhaps because they're below the VAT threshold in their country, they're supposed to provide you with some other evidence they are a business, such as a web site. Then you have to make a judgment call, I don't know what happens if you get it wrong? How many business have the time to jump through all these hoops?
I certainly don't have the time. As Adminsoft sells accounting software, which is aimed squarely at business users, Am I safe to assume that all my customers are businesses? Some will be other organizations such as churches, charities, or clubs. Are they considered to be consumers? Who knows.
In the United Kingdom, where I am, there are two options for accounting for these EU transactions, register for VAT in every country, or register for VAT in the United Kingdom and file a quarterly 'MOSS' return. If your business turnover is below the VAT threshold, tough. You have to register for VAT anyway in order to file the MOSS return. Even if you never actually collect any VAT. Though, at some point the rules have been modified, and now registering for VAT no longer means you automatically have to charge VAT to your UK customers. Whether it means you have to charge VAT in other countries I don't know. I guess that's down to the VAT legislation in each individual country. Confused? I know I am.
The new rules do seem to be orientated towards digital content that is available automatically after payment. They do not cover services where the content has to be manually emailed. In the case of Adminsoft, although the software itself is downloadable, at any time, if some one purchases a Software Registration Key, that key has to be manually emailed to the customer. So does this mean Adminsoft is exempt? For now, I'm assuming it is.
This must be one of the worst pieces of EU legislation to appear in some time. The administrative overhead involved in managing this madness will stop a lot of small businesses from selling into the EU. It will stifle innovation, it will stop many micro businesses run from a back bedroom dead in their tracks. Some of these businesses might have gone on to become big businesses.
It seems these new rules were brought about to stop companies setting up in one country where the VAT rate is low, and from there selling to the rest of the EU. But what happened to the common market? Aren't we doing that anymore? What happened to making it easy to sell to our EU partners? To be fair, it was never easy selling to our EU partners, the rules and regulations have always been onerous. But that's no excuse for making them even worse.
2015-01-01 Thursday: Happy New Year! I can't believe 2014 is over and done with, and now we're into 2015. Where does the time go? I often find I don't have time for this, or I don't have time for that. I miss something important to some one and I'm told I have to 'make time'. But if I could do that, I'd be richer than Bill Gates!
My 'to do' list is VERY long. I know there's no way it'll ever be completed. Which sometimes makes it hard to find the motivation to get through some of the important stuff that's on it. I'm not alone here. Time management is a big problem for most people. All over the world.
The secret, I think, is to know what's important and what is not. Then work through the important stuff first. Not the stuff you like to do, or the stuff some one else is putting you under pressure to do (which often isn't that important to you or to your job). These last two points are important. They sound straightforward, but a lot of people do exactly the wrong thing. Which means important stuff sometimes doesn't get done. Often with ramifications. Which then causes stress.
I've been in business for over 30 years. I've learnt the above the hard way. I see other people struggling, and I know their biggest problem isn't usually lack of time, but prioritizing properly. Some of the most successful people are successful partly because they prioritize well. They don't waste time doing things that aren't important.
This is starting to sound like some sort of motivational speech! It's just intended as a thought for the new year.