Are you on course with your regulatory and compliance actions? It can be easy to miss them or let them slip.
31st January - is the deadline for submitting your firm's diversity data to the SRA. You have an obligation to encourage ALL staff in your firm to complete a diversity survey, and to collate the responses for submission to the SRA (using the online facility on MySRA) by the end of the month.
The SRA also sees the exercise as part of firms' own monitoring of how effectively they are 'encouraging equality of opportunity and respect for diversity' in line with Principle 9.
Perhaps more problematically for smaller firms, given the potential sensitivity of some of the data , firms are also expected to publish a summary of their own firm data (whether on their website or otherwise), annually - although there is no fixed deadline for this.
Diversity is one of the risk issues that the SRA have chosen to focus on in their recent reports - and one which the SRA will be following up on. To find out what you need to report and how, visit http://www.sra.org.uk/diversitydata/
Consumer Credit Licence Applications
31st March - If your firm undertakes consumer credit activities (including debt collecting, obtaining credit ratings in certain circumstances - see http://www.oft.gov.uk/OFTwork/credit-licensing/do-you-need/licence-categories/ ), it will need to obtain a Consumer Credit Licence from the FCA, as from 31st March, when the current regime, administered by OFT (allowing group licences such as the one held by the Law Society) ceases. If you do undertake one of the relevant consumer credit activities, you will be in breach if you continue to undertake such activities without a new licence. Ensure you apply to the FCA as soon as possible.
Almost a year on from the introduction of OFR and COLPs and COFAs, and much of the dust has settled, the initial panic over. As people settle back into 'normal practice' it is easy to feel that the pressure is off, that the new regime has not had any impact in reality. That may justifiably be the case for many practices, but for others, it is worth remembering that the SRA will be expecting to see signs of breaches and complaints being reported, and evidence of compliance audits, required in terms of the Code of Conduct. Failure to co-operate or comply with notification and information requirements are high on the SRA's agenda, flagged as a specific risk issue in their autumn Risk Outlook.
Keep on top of your compliance obligations, with the aid of an action tracker with timelines of key tasks you require to undertake to satisfy regulatory requirements.
LLP & Partnerships - tax changes
6th April - is the date that the new legislation whereby members of an LLP/ partners in a 'mixed partnership (ie one with corporate member(s)) may be treated as employees for tax purposes comes into effect. The impact for some partnerships could be significant, and with anti-avoidance measure already having come into effect in December, now is the time to act, if you have not already done so, to ensure that you and you firm are prepared for the changes and understand what impact they will have on you. For more information, read the article by George Bull of Baker Tilly's article in The Lawyer.
Calum MacLean is Risk Manager at Lockton Professions.