2018 has been an incredibly productive year for the Public Affairs & Policy team at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT). Below is a quick rundown of a few of the highlights providing a flavour of the work that has been undertaken on behalf of members.
The results of a YouGov survey of Members of Parliament was published in January, demonstrating a substantial increase in awareness of AAT amongst politicians. The following month, three AAT apprentices gave evidence to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee about their experiences of the Apprenticeship system.
In March, an AAT Working Group comprising Labour, SNP and Conservative MPs as well as representatives from the savings industry and national media, published Time for Change: A Review of the ISA regime in the UK, gaining a wealth of cross-party, industry and media support. The Office of Tax Simplification subsequently recommended the Treasury review of the ISA landscape.
Economic Crime consultation
The month of May was a busy one, AAT’s Economic Crime consultation response to the Treasury Select Committee was praised by RUSI and led to our Director of Strategy & Professional Standards (Adam Harper) being called to give evidence, our response on the future of Cash & Digital Payments received a note of thanks from the Chief Cashier, Victoria Cleland (check any of your bank notes for her signature) and our submission on “Tackling the plastics problem” led to parliamentary questions from Lord Alton of Liverpool.
AAT was represented at the world’s largest AI conference, held in London on June 11, where topics covered included ethics and AI, the impact of big data, deep learning, robotics, automation and of course government policy and investment.
AAT’s comprehensive response to the Sir John Kingman review of the Financial Reporting Council was covered in The Times in July and the Financial Times in August. This led to global interest with AAT subsequently being referenced in publications in Holland, Russia, South Africa and Australia.
Alternatives to Tax Rises
In September, AAT published Time for Change: AAT Alternatives to Tax Rises, another well-received report that helped stimulate debate about how increased investment in public services can be achieved without necessarily having to resort to higher taxes or higher borrowing.
October saw the Prime Minister announce the Government’s intention to levy an additional Stamp Duty charge on overseas residential investors. This had been an AAT recommendation following a member survey in 2017, which revealed 78% of members wanted an additional tax to be paid on property purchases by overseas investors (there’s an AAT Comment article on the subject too). On 13 October the Bank of England confirmed they would keep the £50 note and that it would join other bank notes in being produced in polymer following another successful AAT campaign utilising member survey data. The Budget on 29 October confirmed the Government was scrapping plans to restrict rent-a-room relief following AAT’s campaign against the introduction of a “shared occupancy” test.
As the year drew to a close, AAT made three key recommendations to tackle late payments: 1) to make the Prompt Payment Code compulsory for companies with 250+ employees 2) to halve maximum payment terms from 60 to 30 days and 3) to introduce a financial sanctions regime for persistent late payers enforced by the Small Business Commissioner. In addition, to support from the recruitment and construction industries, an array of SMEs, the Liberal Democrat, Labour, SNP and Green parties, several senior individual Conservatives also gave their public backing to our recommendations.
Finally, in November, AAT responded to the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) call for evidence on Ethnicity Pay reporting with recommendations that generated significant political and media interest.
2018 saw us respond to almost 70 public consultations from a range of Government departments, Select Committees, regulators and others. We engaged with over 150 MPs and Peers who have provided help, support – and occasionally constructive challenge. We have also built, enhanced or maintained relationships with over 500 organisations including membership bodies such as the British Chambers of Commerce, Federation of Small Businesses and CBI; accountancy firms from the Big Four to high street accountants, think tanks including Onward, IPPR, Resolution Foundation and SMF; multi-nationals from Amazon to Barclays; magic circle law firms and many, many more.
It’s been a great year, a productive year and one where the value of AAT and our member’s views and experience across a breadth of areas have really come to the fore in the media, within the industry and with regulators, politicians and civil servants.
Phil Hall is AAT's Head of Public Affairs and Public Policy.