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Balance Isn’t Something You Have, It’s Something You Do

768 1024 Caroline Flanagan


“Better work-life balance this year,” said my friend Hannah when I asked about her New Year’s resolutions in January. “Last year was too manic and out of control. I spent the whole year rushing from one thing to the next and it was just exhausting”.

Hannah is not the only one I know looking for better work-life balance this year. “No time to think” and “Life is flying by too quickly” were common phrases on the lips of friends, family and clients throughout last December. Does it resonate with you?

The winter months don’t help, do they? You can’t escape the darkness! Dark and foggy when you leave the house in the morning, dark and rainy when you come home in the evening, and every moment in between spent in the office. It’s hard to feel that your life is well balanced in these conditions.

So whether you’re suffering from the winter blues or still feeling hung over after an exhausting 2015, here are my top tips for getting better balance this year:

1. Treat balance as an action, not an objective
Most people I know talk about balance as something they want to attain, a state they want to reach. When you do this you are short-changing yourself. It means that anything less than a perfectly segmented life divided between equal hours spent working, sleeping, having fun, socialising, relaxing etc., will make you feel as though you are out of balance. As long as ‘work’ is the dominant activity on your list, leaving you less time to spend on your ‘life’ activities, you’ll feel a constant sense of imbalance.

All of this changes when you view balance as an action. In other words, something that you do each day to ensure your life is on the right track and to help you correct your course when it’s not. For example, if you have had a horrendous few weeks working long hours, instead of focusing on how little time you have left for your life stuff, you…

2. Get up an hour earlier
You may not like the sound of this if you feel forever sleep deprived and struggle out of bed every morning, but I assure you from past experience, and the experience of my clients, how effective this can be. The hour before your day typically starts is the one part of your day that you have control over. Every other part of the day is open season for everybody and everything else. Train yourself to get up earlier by starting slowly, and dedicating that time to you, just you and only you. No email, no work. Spend it thinking, meditating, writing a diary or just reading something of interest. In my experience this one hour of quiet time each day spent focusing on myself – what’s working well, what isn’t, what I want to change or do better and who I really care about – has had a greater impact on my work-life balance than any other work-life balance strategy I’ve tried.

3. Declutter
Not the most obvious work-life balance strategy, but it works. When you are surrounded by clutter and stuff, not only does it create a sense of overwhelm and constant busyness, it eats up your time. When your environment (your work desk, your home) is organised, you can find things more easily and focus more effectively, instead of wasting time and energy looking for things you can’t find and feeling as though everything is out of control. Both of these make you more efficient, and with efficiency comes freedom.



4. Say no to friends

Yes, that’s right, friends. Now, I know this sounds like a crazy and counter-intuitive way of trying to get better balance. After all, I hear you ask, isn’t the quest for better work-life balance about having more time for friends? Yes, exactly. But most people have too many friends. By which I mean more friends than they have any hope of building or sustaining quality relationships with. But instead of admitting this to ourselves we put everyone we know and are friendly with into one box labelled “Friends” and spend our limited time spreading ourselves thinly between them. This approach will never help you to feel you have a good work life balance. What you need is to be fiercely selective about which friendships you want to nurture and dedicate to them decent chunks of your quality time. So grab a pen and write down your top 3 most important friends (your VIFs) and make them your absolute priority this year. Say no to invitations from everyone else. NB: You are not giving up on your other friendships, you are simply prioritising those which are most important this year.

5. Say no to extended family
See 4 above.

6. Make regular adjustments
It’s a subject I come back to with clients over and over again, and which I cover in my book, Baby Proof Your Career. Successful living doesn’t mean choosing a straight and narrow path and always staying on it; it means choosing a path and when (rather than if) you stray from it, using the skills and resources you have at your disposal to get yourself back on track. Getting yourself back on track can mean anything from checking you are on the right path in the first place (does it align with your values? Are you chasing the right dream?) to making minor adjustments in your schedule that improve your quality of life. When it comes to getting better balance, these minor adjustments are key. For example, when your diary is full to brimming and your work load is spiralling out of control, it may be time to cancel all non-urgent commitments and/or improve your delegation skills. When you feel it’s impossible to fit exercise into your routine, it may be time to re-evaluate how you exercise and when – if going to the gym at lunchtime doesn’t work, then perhaps it needs to be a run before work.

7. Question your assumptions
My work as a Coach is all about questions, and the question that usually brings the greatest revelation is: What are you assuming? When you feel your life is out of balance and you’re stuck for a solution, this question will bear all kinds of fruit. Are you making assumptions about how you will be judged if you leave the office early? About what others expect of you? About what is acceptable? About what it means to have work-life balance?

Which of these tips will you adopt this year, in your quest for better balance? If you’ve got any questions or would like to talk about how you can improve your balance, then please get in touch.

Double exposure businessman

Non-Domiciliary Reform: Where Are We Up To And What Action Can Be Taken Now?

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HMRC and the UK Government are in the middle of a balancing act: weighing up media and political pressure to ensure everyone pays their “fair share of tax” with the economic benefit of a competitive tax regime.

It is crucial to the UK economy that Britain remains “open for business” and maintaining a competitive tax regime plays an integral part in attracting new business. The potentially favourable tax regime available to non-UK domiciliaries has historically played its part in attracting wealthy individuals and business owners to the UK.

The rules on the tax treatment of non-UK domiciliaries are currently in a state of flux and it would perhaps be understandable to be of the view that any changes are likely to be unfavourable from the taxpayer’s perspective. However, HMRC appear to acknowledge the importance of non-UK domiciliaries to the UK economy. This acknowledgement was evident in the foreword by David Gauke, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, to HMRC’s consultation document setting out the proposed changes which stated:

The government wants to attract talented individuals to live in the UK who will help to contribute to the success of this country by investing here and creating jobs. The long-standing tax rules for individuals who are not domiciled in the UK are an important feature of our internationally competitive tax system, and the government remains committed to that aim.

So what are the changes to the taxation of non-UK domiciliaries and is it all bad news?

HMRC published a consultation document setting out their proposed reforms to the taxation of non-UK domiciliaries back in September 2015. The new regime will be effective from 6 April 2017 and legislation was to be included in Finance Bill 2016. Publishing draft legislation has been pushed back to 2017; however, it would appear that HMRC continue to be committed to a new regime being in place in April of next year.

Numerous articles have been written on the technicalities of the new proposals and how they may impact on taxpayers depending on their current and historic UK residence and domicile position. Explaining the possible changes and potential implications requires an article by itself and once you have ploughed through the possible implications it is easy to miss the fact that these changes potentially present opportunities for certain taxpayers. Whilst we do not have published legislation (and therefore, the position continues to be uncertain), HMRC have confirmed certain matters and this may allow taxpayers to take action now before the new rules are introduced. Such action could present long term tax benefits.

Long term non-UK domiciled individuals

One of the main changes is that, with effect from 6 April 2017, individuals who are non-UK domiciled will be deemed to have a UK domicile for tax purposes if they have been resident in the UK for more than 15 out of the past 20 tax years. Once the individual has become deemed UK domiciled, they will no longer be able to claim the remittance basis and, consequently, will be subject to UK tax on their worldwide income and gains. Furthermore, all of the individual’s worldwide assets would be within scope of UK inheritance tax.

What are the potential benefits?

If you anticipate becoming deemed UK domiciled under the new regime from 6 April 2017, now is the time to act in order to benefit from an offshore trust structure. If you set up an offshore trust now (ie before you become deemed UK-domiciled under the new regime) you should not be taxed on foreign income and/ or chargeable gains which are retained in the trust. Furthermore, the trust should also provide an effective shelter from UK inheritance tax (even if you subsequently become UK deemed domiciled under the new regime in the future). There are, of course, certain asset types that would need to be excluded, UK residential property for example. However, an effective deferral of income and capital gains tax could potentially be achieved with the added benefit of protection from UK inheritance tax.

What action should I be taking now?

Timing is crucial. If you anticipate becoming deemed UK domiciled under the new regime, any steps to establish an offshore trust in order to potentially benefit from tax savings must be taken before the new rules are introduced. We would recommend taxpayers in these circumstances take action now to establish their offshore structure.

If you would like to discuss either the proposed new rules for non-domiciliaries or any practical aspects of establishing an offshore trust structure feel free to contact one of our team.

Kevin Loundes, Senior Tax Manager –

Stewart Fleming, Group Managing Director –

Stephen Colderwood, Business Development Manager –