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Money Talk: Could a fuel retailing revolution be on its way?

T here have been several news stories from the petroleum retailing sector in the past few weeks that at first glance appear unrelated. There was Esso confirming its move towards a wholesale supply mode. Then major supermarket chains admitting that their fuel operations are hurting their bottom line. And now rumours of a possible major new player poised to enter the UK market this year. In the background, we have heard from several retailers currently operating oil company-owned sites that those sites have quietly been put up for sale (again). No wonder many individual site operators are wondering what the implications will be for their own businesses and whether there's a major upheaval about to hit the industry.

Money Talk: It's no time to withhold your financial secrets

January is always a very busy month for accountants, dominated primarily by the need to ensure that clients' personal self-assessment tax returns (SATRs) all get filed by the 31st at the very latest.

Money Talk: 'Tis the season to be wary

The scam email problem is so common that it's almost become a cliché. You receive an email from some individual in a far-flung country, offering a sizeable chunk of their 'lottery winnings'. All you need to do is give them a bit of help to get the money into the UK, and to do so, they just need your bank details. It's an oldie-but-goodie, although that doesn't stop the scammers from trying variations on it even now. But some more recent attempts have been a bit more subtle, and not so immediately recognisable for what they are.

Money Talk: Latest forecourt hourly pay rates revealed

There are several ways of trying to establish average pay rates in an industry or area. You can ask employers what they pay their staff; you can ask employees what they receive. Or you can do what we've been doing every year since 1998 examine the payroll data that PAYEPeople processes on behalf of hundreds of forecourt operators across the UK, and work out the real hourly pay rates that are being paid to thousands of individual employees. Bear in mind that with the advent of 'real time' reporting to HMRC, these figures are based on the same information that HMRC is seeing.

Money Talk: Big Brother is watching you, now more than ever

Think back just a few months to the global news story about US and UK electronic snooping on email and other internet traffic. The revelations at least served to illustrate just how vast the data capture and information processing abilities of government agencies have become. Of course, there were the usual reassurances that this was all necessary for our protection, and the standard secret policeman's line of 'Why worry if you've nothing to hide?'. So we stopped worrying and went back to business as usual.

Money Talk: Card merchant fees are not the real issue

It's been a little odd to watch the whole card processing cost saga increasingly dominate the news pages in Forecourt Trader over the past few months. At EKW (and particularly through this column), we have been pointing out the effect of retail percentage merchant fees on rising fuel prices for many years, and were warning about the current situation a long time ago in fact from a time when pump prices were less than half of the prices typical at the moment!

Money Talk: Being limited... part two

When you trade as a sole trader or as part of a partnership, strictly speaking you do not have to prepare or send a copy of your business accounts anywhere! That may surprise some operators who've always assumed that they were paying their accountants to do just that, and we'd be the last people to recommend trying to run a business without preparing annual accounts (at the very least). However, the accounts are only used to establish the owner's income. Obviously if HMRC questions the income that is declared by an individual, it is useful (to say the least) to have a proper set of accounts to support what you're telling them.

Money Talk: Limited knowledge of running a company

As accountants specialising in several retail sectors (forecourt, convenience, hospitality and even opticians' practices) we're involved in a great many new business start-ups. In recent years, a large proportion of these new businesses have come under the generic heading of franchises, and it's quite routine for franchise-type businesses to be operated through limited companies. Naturally, many people taking such franchises have already been running small businesses of their own for some time usually as sole traders. But we find that there's a considerable amount of confusion, and many misapprehensions, concerning the practical differences between working as a sole trader (or in partnership), and suddenly being a 'director' of their own company. So if you're in the position of considering a 'franchise'-type operation, or are about to start trading in a limited company set up, here are some of the basic distinctions to be aware of:

Money Talk: A very thin line between trading and disaster

Readers who occasionally watch any of the documentary channels on TV might be familiar with the warnings that our highly-automated and interlinked society is really rather fragile. One large solar flare or a heavy ice-storm, and power supplies and communications links suddenly fail, bringing normal activities to a grinding halt. It doesn't necessarily take a global catastrophe to prove just how much we rely on technology for things to work smoothly, the lack of immediate alternative fall-back positions and the consequent chaos if the technology fails. A recent incident at one client's place was far less dramatic, but still provides a small-scale illustration.

Money Talk: Whatever happened to our 'flexible friend'?

Every retailer reading Jac Roper's page in last month's issue should have been horrified by the prospect of a major electronic funds transfer (EFT) processor changing their debit card handling fees from a 'per transaction' cost to a percentage of turnover. That's because this was an attack on one of the few payment options available to fuel retailers which wasn't subject to the punitive 'turnover tax' based on pump prices levied by the card companies, or the high costs of cash-handling charged by the High Street banks.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 20 January 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East133.4167.40141.10128.52
East Midlands132.93141.67128.44
London133.0565.90142.23128.80
North East131.55139.57126.67
North West132.1066.90140.54127.58
Northern Ireland129.82134.61125.46
Scotland132.65139.08127.50
South East133.80141.93129.03
South West132.9567.90139.13128.12
Wales132.1064.90137.03127.13
West Midlands132.7866.57142.07128.26
Yorkshire & Humber131.9963.90141.14127.34

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