Section 129(1) of the Companies Act 2014 requires every company in Ireland to have a company secretary. Outlined below is a short description of the role of the company secretary followed by a brief introduction into a company secretary’s duties and obligations.

A company secretary is an officer of a company. The company secretary may also act as a director of the same company, but not act in dual capacity when signing documents on behalf of the company. The role differs from that of a Director of a company, in that the role focuses on tasks delegated by the board of the company.

A day in the life of a company secretary

The tasks for a company secretary can be varied. While the role of the company secretary predominantly consists of tasks delegated by the board of directors, the role of the company secretary goes beyond effectively and, efficiency communicating decisions of the board to the relevant bodies and may take on a much more advisory role within a company.

Often the role of the company secretary can consist of advising companies and boards on the best practices of corporate governance. Corporate governance embodies a wide variety of concepts and guidelines from the leadership involved to achieve a well-functioning board of directors, effectiveness of the board, accountability of officers of a company, inducting new directors and advising them on the board dynamics, remuneration and the importance of maintaining a transparent, functioning rapport with both the stakeholders and shareholders of company through effective general meetings. Thus, it is often the task of a company secretary to ensure that the directors of a company discharge their obligations in accordance with the Companies Act 2014.

A company secretary must also fulfil the more unsung tasks with regards to maintaining statutory registers coupled with the onerous task of attending board meetings in order to preserve and effectively record the minutes of that meeting.

It is important to note that while a company secretary doesn’t have as many codified duties as a director in terms of their common law and fiduciary duties, the role of a company secretary amounts to an officer of a company and thus is still subject to sanctions under the 2014 Companies Act.

In short, the day to day life of a company secretary depends on the need of a company and its board – whether it’s relaying the decisions of a board of the directors to the Companies Registration Office by registering changes in the boards structure, advising the board on a pressing corporate governance issue, attending board meetings or engaging with stakeholders or shareholders with regards to a general meeting or corporate event such as dividends.

For further information on the role of the company secretary, please contact David Morris, Senior Consultant in our Corporate Compliance Department.

Section 160-166 of the Companies Act 2014 (“the Act”) governs both board meetings and committee meetings by laying down guidelines, that can be amended or omitted from a company’s constitution and mandatory provisions, that must be adhered to. For the purpose of this article, board meetings will be the main point of discussion.

Every director is entitled to reasonable notice of the meeting, a meeting can be called by a director alone or by a company secretary at the requisition of a director. The quorum necessary for the transaction of business is fixed as 2 directors. However, where there is a sole director, one director is accepted to meet the requirements of a quorum. A Chairperson of a board meeting can be fixed for a specific period. However if the chosen Chairperson is not present and a period of 15 minutes has elapsed, the directors may choose one of their own to chair the meeting. The majority of votes may pass a resolution. If there is an equal vote, the Chairperson shall be the casting vote.

Section 161 provides for the option to pass a written resolution signed by all the relevant directors (i.e. directors who are entitled to notice of the meeting) in lieu of a board meeting. This has the same effect as physically holding the board meeting with the directors. This section also stipulates the manner in which a board meeting can be held and extends the scope of what it means to attend a board meeting through electronic communication. The section also provides a guide for the location of the board meetings, subject to the company’s constitution:

  • Where the largest group of those participating are assembled
  • If no such group exists, the next suitable location is the where the chairperson is
  • If neither of the above apply, then it falls to any such place that the meeting decides

The Act also covers the requirements for minute taking of the board minutes in section 166. The accurate and efficient recording, drafting and maintenance of minute taking is imperative to ensure administrative compliance. Section 166(1) states that minutes must be maintained for the following purposes:

  • All appointments of officers made by directors
  • The names of all the directors present at each meeting of its directors
  • All resolutions and proceedings at all meetings of its directors

Typically the Chairperson, once approved by the board, signs the minutes at the following board meeting. The board minutes can also be subject to inspection by the Director of Corporate Enforcement. If a company fails to comply with the Director of Corporate Enforcement regarding the request of the company’s minutes, the company and any officer in default shall be guilty of a category 4 offence, i.e. a fine not exceeding €5,000.

For further information, please contact David Morris, Senior Consultant in our Corporate Compliance Department.

The Registration of Business Names Act 1963 (“the Act”) requires individuals, partnerships and body corporates, who wish to trade under a name that differs from their true name, to register that business name with the Companies Registration Office (the “CRO”). The purpose behind the act reflects the position that the legislation doesn’t allow businesses to hide their true name and thus run the risk of defrauding their consumers.

When does a business name need to be registered?

  • Where an individual uses a business name which differs in any way from their surname.
  • Where a partnership uses a business name which differs in any way from the true names of all the partners who are individuals.
  • Where a company uses a business name which differs from its corporate name.
  • Where a person having a place of business in Ireland carries on the business of publishing a newspaper.
Please note the following:

  • The chosen name for the registered business is not final until approved by the Companies Registration Office.
  • Only residents in the Republic of Ireland can register a business name as a sole trader. If you are not a resident in the Republic of Ireland, a letter of business permission form would need to be sent to the Department of Justice.
  • Registering a business name does not protect the name from being used by someone else – as a company name registration would. There can be multiples of one business name in the Republic of Ireland.
  • A registered business name does not automatically mean the name will be an appropriate and acceptable company name due to their different requirements.
Where does a registered business name need to be displayed?

  • When the certification of registration is granted by the Companies Registration Office, a copy of the certification must be displayed in a noticeable position in the business. If there are multiple locations it would need to be displayed in the prominent place of business along with every branch office, or place where the business is carried out.
  • A company needs to show its registered business name on all corporate documents e.g. letter headings, stationary, resolutions etc.
  • If the business is a body corporate, additional information needs to be disclosed on documents such as the full name of the company, the registered number and the address of the registered office.
Sanctions for a breach of the Act

Section 11 of the Act requires a body corporate or a person to disclose their true name on business documentation, failure to do so can result in a summary conviction.

For assistance in registering your business name, please contact David Morris, Senior Consultant in our Corporate Compliance Department.

The Data Protection Commission have published an information note on data breach trends identified by their Breach Assessment Unit in the first year of GDPR.

Some of the trends and issues identified by the Breach Assessment Unit include:

  • Late notifications;
  • Difficulty in assessing risk ratings;
  • Failure to communicate the breach to data subjects;
  • Repeat breach notifications; and
  • Inadequate reporting.

You can view the full information note here.

At Crowleys DFK, we are dedicated to helping you achieve GDPR compliance. Our Data Protection Support Services’ team offer the following services:

  • Preparing a Gap Analysis between current practices and those required under the current legislation and regulation.
  • Ensuring Data Protection, Records Management and Retention Policies and Procedures are in line with current legislation and regulations.
  • Conducting Data Mapping exercise.
  • Developing Privacy Notices/Disclosures for your organisation.
  • Determining if a Data Protection Impact Assessment is required by your firm and provide assistance in implementing.
  • Providing support to your appointed Data Protection Officer/Privacy Officer and ensuring their roles and responsibilities fully include the requirements under the GDPR.
  • Providing GDPR workshops/training to Board members and staff.

For assistance or advice on Data Protection, please contact Pamela Nodwell, Manager in our Governance, Risk & Compliance Department.

Cloud Computing Advice Note Public Service Organisations Crowleys DFK Xero Cloud Accounting

In October 2019, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published the Government’s Cloud Computing Advice Note. The Note sets out the Government’s view that public service organisations must now take a more proactive and progressive approach to embracing cloud computing.

Specifically, public service organisations are encouraged to take a “cloud-first” approach for all new systems. Likewise, they are encouraged to review all existing systems for cloud capability.

Crowleys DFK have recently been awarded a Platinum Partner status by Xero, a leading cloud accounting software. This recognition confirms that our cloud accounting offerings to our clients is accredited to the highest level.  We are best placed to offer public and private sector clients of all sizes in implementing cloud accounting solutions for their business.

Our team of cloud accounting experts provide the following services:

  • Identify the most appropriate accounting system for your business.
  • Implement the chosen solution for you, tailoring it to your unique requirements.
  • Provide ongoing training and support to you and your staff.

For assistance or advice on cloud accounting, please contact David Coombes, Partner, Public Sector Services.

On 6 September 2019, the Central Bank issued guidelines to help firms meet their anti-money laundering (AML) and countering the financing of terrorism (CFT) obligations.

Money laundering and terrorist financing is a large global issue. An estimate of between 2% (€715 billion) and 5% (€1.87 trillion) of global GDP is laundered each year.

These guidelines aim to help firms to understand their obligations under the Criminal Justice (Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing) Act 2010-2018.

Speaking at the launch of these guidelines, Director General, Financial Conduct, Derville Rowland said,

“Firms must adopt a risk-based approach to fulfilling their obligations and ensure that their controls, policies and procedures are fit for purpose, up-to-date, tested and kept under constant review and scrutiny.”

“Effective regulation in this area strengthens the integrity of the financial sector and contributes to the safety and security of citizens by preventing drug dealers, and those engaged in human trafficking, terrorist attacks and organised crime, from using the financial system to support these activities,” she said.

“Financial institutions must know their customers, understand their customer profiles, monitor the way accounts are used and make reports of suspicions to An Garda Síochána, and the Revenue Commissioners where appropriate,’’ she added.

You can find a copy of the guidelines here and view the Central Bank’s press release here.

If you are a designated person for AML purposes and require assistance with your requirements under the legislation, please contact Tony Cooney, Partner in our Governance, Risk & Compliance Department.

We provide the following services:

  • AML business risk assessments
  • Update AML polices and procedures for new legislative requirements
  • Provide AML training to Directors and staff
  • Independent AML function audits

Analysis of Budget 2020

Minister Donohue delivered his “no surprises” Budget 2020 in the shadow of Brexit. Despite our economy being in a strong position and with a general election on the horizon, this was no give-away Budget. Both Minister Donohue and the Taoiseach had managed expectations in advance with talk of “safe choices in relation to taxation” and “modest, targeted welfare increases”.  Prudence seemed to be the order of the day.

There will be no deposit to our rainy day fund this year as the Government expects to have to borrow in 2020 to deal with a potential hard Brexit. A package of over €1.2 billion, excluding EU funding, was announced in the Budget to respond to Brexit.

Climate change was the other main influencer of Budget 2020. Increased carbon tax and other changes to vehicle-related taxes were all designed to support our transition to a low carbon economy. The balancing act for the Government was to ensure that the cost of these changes was distributed fairly. An increase to the weekly fuel allowance and allocations of €3 million to pilot new Agri-environmental schemes and €2.7 billion to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in 2020 were some of the responses to this.

This Budget must have been a difficult one for the Government and partners to agree upon. It makes no moves towards the Taoiseach’s pledge to raise the 40% tax rate threshold to €50,000 and contains minimal social welfare increases. It looks like the possibility of a no-deal Brexit will haunt Irish politicians on the doorsteps long after Halloween and the current proposed Brexit date has passed!

For more information, please contact Eddie Murphy, Partner and Head of Tax Services.

Highlights from Budget 2020

Budget 2020 was delivered by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe today. Below we highlight the main changes that could affect you.

Climate Measures and Carbon Tax

  • Benefit-in-kind on commercial vehicles to be linked to emissions from 2023.
  • Emissions thresholds in respect of capital allowances and VAT reclaim on commercial vehicles to be reduced.
  • 0% benefit-in-kind on electric vehicles will be extended until the end of 2020.
  • A Carbon tax increase of €6 per tonne likely to result in an increase of about 2c per litre of petrol and diesel immediately and about €15 per tank of home heating oil from May 2020.
  • Relief to be provided to hauliers through the Diesel Rebate Scheme for the increased cost of fuel.
  • A new nitrogen oxide (NOx) surcharge will replace the 1% diesel surcharge and will apply to all passenger cars registered from 1 January 2020.
  • VRT relief for hybrid vehicles will be extended until the end of 2020.
  • The weekly fuel allowance will increase by €2.

Brexit Package

  • A package of over €1.2 billion announced, excluding EU funding, to respond to Brexit. This includes:
    • €220 million immediately on October 31st if a no-deal Brexit occurs.
    • €110 million for the agriculture sector
    • €40 million for the tourism sector
    • €365 million for extra social protection expenditure in the event of a rise in unemployment
    • €390 million for Brexit contingency expenditure

Personal Tax

  • The reduced rate of Universal Social Charge for medical card holders to be continued until the end of 2020.
  • Income tax bands and rates remain unchanged.
  • The Home Carer Credit will increase from €1,500 to €1,600.
  • The Earned Income Credit will increase from €1,350 to €1,500.
  • Help to Buy Scheme will be extended until the end of 2021.
  • Living City Initiative will be extended until the end of 2022.

Corporation Tax

  • Confirmation of the 12.5% rate of tax.
  • Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) and Foreign Earnings Deduction will be extended until the end of 2022.
  • Enhancements to the Key Employee Engagement Programme (KEEP) and Employment and Investment (EII) programme announced.
  • For micro and small companies:
    • R&D Tax Credit to increase from 25% to 30%.
    • R&D Tax Credit will now be available for certain pre-trading expenditure.
  • The qualifying spend limit for R&D outsourced to third level institutions to be increased from 5% to 15% for R&D Tax Credit purposes.
  • New Anti-Hybrid Rules will be introduced, in line with the Anti-Tax Avoidance Directive (ATAD).
  • Transfer Pricing rules to be brought in line with OECD standards with effect from 1 January 2020.
  • Anti-avoidance measures to be introduced to the IREF and REIT regimes with immediate effect.

Agri Measures

  • Farm Restructuring Relief will be extended until the end of 2022.

Capital Gains Tax and Capital Acquisitions Tax

  • Capital Acquisitions Tax and Capital Gains Tax remain at 33%.
  • The threshold for capital acquisitions tax that applies to children receiving gifts or inheritances from their parents will increase by €15,000 to €335,000.

Other Measures

  • The rate of stamp duty on non-residential property will increase from 6% to 7.5%.
  • A new stamp duty charge of 1% will apply where a scheme of arrangement, in accordance with Part 9 of the Companies Act 2014, is used for the acquisition of a company.
  • The rate of Dividend Withholding Tax to be increased from 20% to 25% from 1 January 2020 with further changes to the DWT regime to follow from 2021.
  • The excise duty on a packet of 20 cigarettes is being increased by 50 cents with a pro-rata increase on other tobacco products.
  • A new relief from betting duty and betting intermediary duty up to a limit of €50,000 per calendar year to be introduced.

Social Welfare

  • The 100% Christmas bonus will be paid out in 2019.
  • The Living Alone Allowance to be increased by €5 in 2020. Increases announced in the Qualified Child Payment of €3 for over 12s and €2 for under 12s.
  • Free GP care will be extended to under-eights and free dental care to under-sixes.
  • Prescription charges for the over 70s are to be reduced from €1.50 to €1 per item.
  • There will be a reduction in the monthly threshold for the Drugs Payment Scheme from €124 to €114.
  • Medical card income threshold for the over 70s to be increased by €50 to €550 for a single individual and by €150 to €1,050 for a couple per week.

For more information, please contact Eddie Murphy, Partner and Head of Tax Services.

The Companies Act 2014 (the “Act”) places requirements on companies and their officers to display information on company stationery and websites. The requirements set out in the Act are summarised below.

Letterhead

The following particulars must be shown on all business letters:

  • the full name of the company
  • the forename (or initials) and surnames and any former forenames and surnames of the directors and their nationality, if not Irish.

In addition to business letter and company order forms, all limited liability companies must disclose the following, in paper or any other form:

  • the legal form of the company
  • the number under which it is registered with the Registrar of Companies
  • address of the registered office
  • if the share capital of a company is mentioned on letterheads or order forms of a company, the reference must be to the issued share capital

Websites

Companies are required to disclose the following information on their homepage or on an accessible webpage:

  • the legal form of the company
  • address of the registered office
  • if the share capital of a company is mentioned on letterheads or order forms of a company, the reference must be to the issued share capital

This publication is intended only as general guidance and should not be used as a substitute for professional advice.

For further information, please contact David Morris, Senior Consultant in our Corporate Compliance Department.

Do you trade with the United Kingdom, or transport goods to/from Europe via the UK? Then you will need to consider the impact of Brexit on your organisation and put in place an action plan to ensure you are best prepared for whatever outcome on the 31st October 2019.

Supply Chain
Review your supply chain. Map the movement of goods into and out of the UK and goods going to and from Europe via the UK, to understand the potential for disruption caused by Brexit (possible delays, clearance requirements, additional checks on goods etc.) Consider actions you can take to prevent this disruption.

Customs Clearance
If you intend to import/export goods to and from the UK, you will need to be registered with Customs. Customs declarations will be required in order to move the goods through the border.

  • Ensure you have an Irish Customs registration number- ‘EORI number’ beginning with IE
  • You will also need a UK EORI number beginning with GB
  • Engage with a customs clearance agent/broker to lodge Customs declarations on your behalf.

Customs Duty
Customs Duty will apply to the import of many goods from the UK into Ireland and vice versa. It is non recoverable and is an additional cost to the business.

  • Ensure you correctly assign the correct commodity codes to the goods imported/exported. The codes will be needed in customs declarations and will determine the amount of duty to be paid.
  • Consult with your agent/broker to see if any reliefs are available.
  • Establish whether you need to obtain a ‘Deferred Payment Account’, this will allow you to import goods into Ireland from the UK and defer the payment of Customs Duties and Import VAT to the month following import.

Vat on Importation
The Irish Revenue passed a bill allowing for the “Postponed Accounting” for VAT on importation where businesses would no longer pay VAT at importation. You can instead account for VAT through the normal monthly VAT return resulting in a significant cash flow saving.  However, they will introduce qualifying criteria for this provision over time. If you do not qualify, VAT (currently 23% for ROI) will apply to the import of many goods from the UK into Ireland and will be payable at the time of import of the goods into Ireland.

Product Certification
The area of product certification will change post-Brexit. UK notified bodies will lose their status as EU notified bodies and will not have any legal status in the EU. This means they cannot provide EU certification. If you rely on UK notified body, you must source an alternative notified body in the EU.

  • More detailed information is available at www.nsai.ie/brexit

Exchange Rates
Currency/exchange rate exposures are a risk for businesses trading in foreign currency. You can take steps to help reduce your exposure.

  • Consider Dual Invoicing
  • Currency Hedging/Forward contracts

ERP Systems
Companies should assess the changes required to be made to their ERP/Finance systems and the time/cost that it will take to implement these changes.

For further assistance, please contact Edward Murphy | Partner | Head of Tax services.

For further information you can visit the below websites or call your local enterprise office.

www.gov.ie/brexit

www.revenue.ie/brexit

www.localenterprise.ie/brexit

www.prepareforbrexit.com