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The 1982 film Blade Runner is set in 2019 and while we don’t yet have flying cars or pretentious androids reciting poetry on every other rooftop, the future does feel as if it’s quietly arrived.
For example, voice search – for a long time, just a gimmick – is really beginning to work, and devices for using it have wheedled their way into almost every home and office. (Despite privacy concerns.) For many people, Christmas 2018 will have been defined by relatives gleefully yelling instructions at a new Amazon Echo or Google Home device.
Not that any of that makes age-old eternal problems go away. We still have to pay tax, don’t we?
January is, of course, self-assessment season, when everyone who has been putting off their online tax return finally submits to their fate.
It’s nothing like the nightmare it was a few years ago with barely functional websites and a million usernames and passwords to dig up, but it’s still a cause of anxiety for many, as expressed by UKBF user Berzerk: “I have searched here and the internet and read a lot, including the GOV website, but there's so much conflicting information out there that it's really hard to figure out what's actually needed”.
Making Tax Digital for VAT kicks in from April and means that all VAT-registered businesses turning over more than £85,000 will have to keep digital records for VAT and use MTD-compatible software to submit VAT returns to HMRC.
It’s been a touch controversial, to say the least, with delays, confusion and consternation all the way. Right now, with the deadline scarily close, finding the right software is a pressing issue for many.
On Thursday 15 January, the House of Commons will finally get its ‘meaningful vote’ on the terms of our departure from the EU, delayed from December. With a little over two months to go until Brexit Day proper, on 29 March, it’s a crunch moment for British politics.
One potential side effect of all the Brexit uncertainty is that we might well end up with another full budget in spring. In his budget speech in October, Chancellor Philip Hammond made it quite clear that a no-deal Brexit would require the slimmed down spring statement to be upgraded to a ‘full fiscal event’. We can probably assume that most of those purse strings so showily loosened last autumn will get yanked tight again if the Commons shoots down the PM’s deal with the EU.
If you’re not yet sick of hearing, thinking and talking about Brexit, then the debate in UKBF’s ‘Time Out’ forum is well into its second year and more than 220 pages long. Enjoy!
Beyond Brexit, drones look set to be a hot topic for 2019 – will they revolutionise business, or trigger mass hysteria? PwC used drones to help with an audit for the first time, surveying coal reserves at a power plant in Aberthaw in Wales.
At about the same time, just before Christmas, drone sightings shut down Gatwick Airport for several days. Just this week, police were given new powers to address illegal drone use.
In that context, the widespread use of drones for delivery in the UK still seems a long a way off, despite the stated ambitions of global brands such as Amazon, and even though it is already commonplace in countries such as China, with many remote communities and poor infrastructure.
It also feels as if a tipping point has been reached with regard to cashless payments, as covered at length by François Badenhorst for UKBF last year.
You’ve probably noticed yourself that retail staff increasingly approach with card machine in hand by default, regardless of the size of the purchase.
Most of us would never have dreamed of paying for a coffee with a card two or three years ago but now, nobody bats an eyelid.
Perhaps the most surprising consumer trend of the past year has been vegan restaurants and takeaway vegan food.
For some, it’s a matter of animal welfare or the environment, while for others it’s about a sense of well-being – the opportunity to eat out without pigging out.
For all that, however, new-wave vegan food has been turning up in some strange incarnations, from doner kebabs conjured out of wheat gluten, to the headline-grabbing vegan sausage roll from high street baker Greggs.
We can probably expect more of the same in the mainstream in 2019.
If you’ve got any predictions or tea-leaf readings of your own, leave a comment below.