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Export Growth Plan to help businesses

Friday, October 23rd, 2020

A package of measures to help businesses in England build back better following the pandemic was recently announced by the Government.

The Department for International Trade’s (DIT) Export Growth Plan provides additional financial support and expertise, some of which is targeted towards specific regions that are most in need.

The plan includes a £38 million Internationalisation Fund for small businesses, which will help up to 7,600 SMEs in England grow their overseas trading and strengthen their business.

Additional support for exporters will be provided by 64 new International Trade Advisors (ITAs), many of them working closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), who will lend their expertise to small businesses in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and South West.

A new pilot Export Academy will also be introduced to support smaller businesses in the same areas. The Academy will deliver a series of activities to build the capabilities of smaller

These new measures are the latest in a series of measures already announced by DIT since the Coronavirus outbreak.

Full list of measures included in the scheme are:

 

  1. New £38m Internationalisation Fund from 2020-23 for SMEs in England that will help 7,600 SMEs to internationalise. The fund is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is managed through four regional projects: The Northern Powerhouse Internationalisation Fund, Midlands Internationalisation Fund, South Internationalisation Fund and London Internationalisation Fund.
  2. 64 new International Trade Advisers (ITAs) to provide direct support to SME businesses in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and South West.
  3. A new, pilot, Export Academy to support smaller businesses in the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine and South West who want to export.
  4. 24 new Overseas Champions across the world to promote trade and investment for the Northern Powerhouse, Midlands Engine.
  5. A refreshed cohort of over 100 additional Export Champions across different industries in England, to help promote and support exports.

 

Planning a new business?

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

If you are starting to give serious consideration to setting up your own business one of the issues you will need to consider is the type of business structure that best fits your planned business activity.

How risky is your business?

All business activity involves a certain degree of risk. Many of these risks can be covered by taking out an insurance policy. But some risks carry a degree of personal involvement that cannot be insured against. For example, your bank may agree to a business loan but only if you agree to a charge against your home or some other form of personal guarantee.

What are the main business structures?

The simplest form of business structure is to set up as a self-employed person, otherwise called a sole trader.

Self-employed

Any profits you make are subject to Income Tax and National Insurance.

Any business debts you incur are personal to you and therefore your business creditors may have access to your personal assets to clear any amounts the business cannot afford to pay.

Because of this personal risk, self-employment is not suitable for higher risk enterprises.

Self-employment is also not the most tax efficient structure if your business profits are taxed at the higher rates of Income Tax. If this is likely, a limited company structure may be a better option.

Partnership

If two or more people want to set up a business together they will need to form a partnership. A basic partnership, as with a self-employed person, is taxed on the basis of each partner’s share of annual taxable profits and subject to Income Tax. Similarly, liability is unlimited as for a self-employed person.

However, there is a specialised form of partnership called a Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) which does protect partners’ personal assets from claims by partnership creditors.

A Limited Company

If there are business risks or if a business is planning to make significant profits, a limited company is probably the best option. For two reasons:

  • Company profits are presently taxed at 19% – this compares with Income Tax rates that can be as high as 45% (regional variations may apply).
  • Limited company creditors can only claim against company assets in order to clear their bills unless the directors offer a personal guarantee.

Planning is the key

The best choice for your intended business will rest on the type and scale of your intended activity and an assessment of any commercial risks involved.

If you are considering a new business venture please call so we can help you figure out the best structure for your business, based on risk and tax issues.

New Freeports to complement post-Brexit trade

Friday, October 16th, 2020

The government has outlined new plans for Freeports to turbo-charge post-Brexit trade. Details have been released that assert a number of new freeports are being planned across the UK. The first new Freeport is on track to open by the end of 2021.

Responding to the consultation on the proposals the government confirmed that sea, air and rail ports in England will be invited to bid for Freeport status before the end of the year, with the government aiming for the first of the new sites to be open for business in 2021.

It also confirmed the Freeports will benefit from:

  • streamlined planning processes to aid brownfield redevelopment

  • a package of tax reliefs to help drive jobs, growth and innovation

  • simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods

Designed to attract major domestic and international investment, the hubs of enterprise will allow places to carry out business inside a country’s land border but where different customs rules apply. They have been successfully used in countries around the world to drive prosperity and boost trade.

At the centre of the new Freeports policy is an ambitious new customs model, drawing on international best practice. The flexible model will improve upon both the UK’s existing customs arrangements and the Freeports the UK had previously.

 

The government will also introduce a package of tax reliefs on investment by businesses within Freeport tax sites, new measures to speed up planning processes to accelerate development in and around Freeports and new initiatives to encourage innovators to generate new ideas to create additional economic growth and jobs.

 

A firm can import goods into a Freeport without paying tariffs, process them into a final form and then either pay a tariff on goods sold into the domestic market, or export the final goods without paying UK tariffs.

New rules for debt letters

Thursday, October 15th, 2020

The letters borrowers receive from their lenders when they are seriously behind on repayments will be easier to understand and less intimidating as a result of new rules proposed by the Treasury last week.

The aim is to reduce stress and anxiety that borrowers may experience if they are unable to keep up with repayments and have concerns that they will face legal action.

Unbelievably, default notices designed to give people who are falling behind on their debts fair warning before lenders take further action, have not been updated in nearly 40 years.

Research from the Money and Mental Health Policy Institute and debt charities has shown that large amounts of capitalised text and legal terms can make the information contained in the letter hard to understand, which has the unintended consequence of confusing and distressing people. This has a negative impact on people’s mental health as well as their ability to effectively manage their debt.

To counter this apparently contradictory result changes are afoot.

As part of the government’s effort to support people in problem debt, it will legislate to change the language and presentation of information in debt letters. The new rules will make debt letters less threatening by restricting the amount of information that must be made prominent and requiring lenders to use bold or underlined text rather than capital letters. Lenders will also now be able to replace legal terms with more widely understood words and letters will clearly signpost people to the best sources of free debt advice.

These new rules are the latest in a wide package of support put in place to help people struggling with their finances, especially through coronavirus. This includes £38 million of extra funding to debt advice providers this year and working with lenders and financial regulators to give people access to payment holidays on their mortgages and a range of consumer credit including credit cards, personal loans, motor finance and payday loans.

The government has also given the Financial Conduct Authority strong powers to protect consumers who borrow money, including cracking down on payday lenders, capping the cost of rent-to-own, and acting on overdraft fees.

The new rules will be delivered through secondary legislation and are expected to come into force in December 2020. All lenders will then be required to make the changes within six months.

Extension of the Job Support Scheme

Tuesday, October 13th, 2020

This extended support will be available to businesses across the UK that are required to close their premises due to coronavirus restrictions.

Businesses required to close as a result of specific workplace outbreaks by local public health authorities are not eligible to claim under this extended JSS scheme.

To make a claim, employers must have a UK bank account and be registered with a UK PAYE scheme on or before 23 September 2020.

Employers will only be able to use the scheme for employees who cannot work (paid or unpaid) for that employer.

Any payments received from government will be taxable.

What are the additional benefits offered?

  • Government will pay two-thirds of employees’ monthly salaries up to a maximum £2,100 per month, per employee.
  • Employers will not be required to contribute to wages and will only have to pay any National Insurance and pension costs.
  • This expanded JSS will be available for six months from 1 November 2020.
  • The scheme will only apply to businesses required to close due to coronavirus restrictions. It will include premises restricted to delivery or collection only services from their premises.
  • To claim, employees must be off work for a minimum seven consecutive days.

 

 

 

When will the additional JSS payment be made?

As with the wider JSS scheme, claims for November will be processed in December via an online portal. Subsequent months’ claims will thus be paid one month in arrears.

HMRC will require to see evidence to check your claims

As with other government grants, HMRC will check claims and demand repayments of any claims made incorrectly or fraudulently. In particular, employers should agree and notify claims in writing with affected employees.

HMRC may ask to see these written agreements.

HMRC have also indicated that they will be publishing the names of employers that have claimed under the scheme.

 

Cash Grants for business required to close in England

Cash grants to businesses required to close in England are also being increased. These cash grants are to support business owners with fixed costs; those costs payable even if the business is closed.

Grants will be linked to rateable values of business premises and will paid every two weeks. This should provide extra financial support to businesses across the hospitality sector that are required to close due to COVID restrictions.

  • Smaller businesses with rateable values at or below £15,000 will be able to claim £1,300 per month.
  • Medium-sized businesses with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000 will be able to claim £2,000 per month, and
  • Larger businesses will be able to claim £3,000 per month.

 

The devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be receiving additional financial support to offer similar measures in the devolved areas, should they choose to do so.

Have you over-claimed for COVID related support grants?

Thursday, October 8th, 2020

Readers who may have inadvertently over-claimed grants, the furlough scheme for example, should remedy the situation before HMRC start pro-actively investigating claims.

The Finance Act 2020, contains an amnesty for notifying HMRC of any errors or overclaims within 90 days of the later of:

  • any tax charge being payable due to the overclaim and
  • the date of Royal Assent of the Act.

As such, the earliest date this amnesty will expire will be 20 October 2020.

Businesses that have made claims – predominantly the furlough scheme – should check claims made and correct any errors within the time limits of this amnesty For example, issues that may have created over-claims are:

  • not being aware that remote staff are working, e.g. work-related emails being generated or line managers asking furloughed staff to carry out some work,
  • technical or computational issues – innocent errors such as where there is misunderstanding of the methods of certain calculations will not be targeted,
  • delays in making payment to staff for the wages due from the furlough grants,
  • deliberate fraudulent behaviour.

This amnesty will be the only chance employers have to remedy their position without any penalties being charged.

Penalties for those who fail to notify HMRC within the ‘amnesty’ period but knowingly received the CJRS grant or overclaimed the grant even though they were not entitled to claim it due to any changes in their circumstances will be based on ‘deliberate and concealed’ behaviour. This could potentially make the client liable to a penalty of 100%.

HMRC will also expect to see documentary evidence of furlough arrangements made with staff and other justifications for making claims. These would include an outline of why businesses consider their firm was or continues to be adversely affected by the coronavirus disruption.

 

New measures to sort late payers

Tuesday, October 6th, 2020

New proposals have been outlined by government to ensure small businesses in the UK are paid on time. Currently £23.4 billion worth of late invoices are owed to small firms across Britain, impacting on businesses’ cash flow and ultimate survival.

The proposals, as part of a new consultation launched 1 October 2020, look to give new powers to the Small Business Commissioner including:

  • the power to order companies to pay their partners, either as a lump sum or agreed payment plan, when a complaint against them for late payment has been investigated and upheld. Companies which do not do so could face further penalties, including fines. This will give a clear incentive for companies to pay their partners on time.
  • the power to compel companies to share information during an investigation by the SBC. This will ensure cooperation with SBC investigations and provide more information about company payment practices.
  • the power to launch investigations into suspected bad payment practice, without the need to have first received a complaint from a small business.
  • expanding the scope for complaints to the SBC, to allow the Commissioner to investigate complaints about other businesses relating to payment matters in connection with the supply of goods and services.
  • to review and report on wider business practices outside of payment matters, on instruction of the BEIS Secretary of State. This could be a practice unrelated to payment matters specifically impacting small businesses such as supply problems, or broader issues like barriers to the adoption of payment technology.
  • the power to claim investigation costs from an investigated company when there are adverse findings against them.

The consultation opens 1 October 2020 and will run until 24 December 2020. Businesses are invited to share their views.

Tax Diary October/November 2020

Monday, October 5th, 2020

1 October 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 December 2019.

19 October 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 October 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 October 2020.)

19 October 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 October 2020.

19 October 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 October 2020 is payable by today.

31 October 2020 – Latest date you can file a paper version of your 2020 Self-Assessment tax return.

1 November 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 January 2020.

19 November 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 November 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 November 2020.)

19 November 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 November 2020.

19 November 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 November 2020 is payable by today.

Annual Christmas bash?

Monday, October 5th, 2020

Trying to double guess the social distancing rules is rather like placing bets on a throw of the dice. The current exhortation from the Prime Minister – to observe the rule of six – is yet a further change in the endless attempts at controlling coronavirus by manipulating social distancing regulation.

But we all need respite; we need to be able to look forward to a cheery Christmas. Unfortunately, based on current progress to control COVID-19, this is looking an increasingly remote possibility.

However, if an annual Christmas bash is on the cards we have outlined below the rules to observe from a tax point of view to ensure that the cost of your annual staff party will not create unintended tax issues for you or your staff.

  1. The event must be open to all employees at a specific location.
  2. An annual Christmas party or other annual event offered to staff generally is not taxable on those attending provided that the average cost per head of the functions does not exceed £150 p.a. (including VAT). The guests of staff attending are included in the head count when computing the cost per head attending.
  3. All costs must be considered, including the costs of transport to and from the event, accommodation provided, and VAT. The total cost of the event is divided by the number attending to find the average cost. If the limit is exceeded then individual members of staff will be taxable on their average cost, plus the cost for any guests they were permitted to bring.
  4. VAT input tax can be recovered on staff entertaining expenditure. If the guests of staff are also invited to the event the input tax should be apportioned, as the VAT applicable to non-staff is not recoverable. However, if non-staff attendees pay a reasonable contribution to the event, all the VAT can be reclaimed and of course output tax should be accounted for on the amount of the contribution.

Perhaps you could book a local restaurant and break up your party into tables of six?

Additional grant aid for local lockdown businesses

Monday, October 5th, 2020

Last month the Treasury announced further support for businesses adversely affected by lockdown in local areas to control local outbreaks.

Local Authorities will be funded to pay the grants now offered.

Businesses in England required to close

Businesses in England required to close due to local lockdowns or targeted restrictions will now be able to receive grants worth up to £1,500 every three weeks, To be eligible for the grant, a business must have been required to close due to local COVID-19 restrictions. Grants will be paid out every three weeks businesses are required to close. During each three week period:

  • Largest businesses will receive £1,500
  • Smaller businesses will receive £1,000.

H M Treasury also released the following notes:

  • any businesses still closed at a national level (e.g. nightclubs), will not be eligible
  • if a business occupies premises with a rateable value less than £51,000 or occupies a property or part of a property subject to an annual rent or mortgage payment of less than £51,000, it will receive £1000
  • if a business occupies premises with a rateable value of exactly £51,000 or above or occupies a property or part of a property subject to an annual rent or mortgage payment of exactly £51,000 or above, it will receive £1500
  • Local authorities will also receive an additional 5% top up amount of business support funding to enable them to help other businesses affected by closures which may not be on the business rates list. Payments made to businesses from this discretionary fund can be any amount up to £1500 and may be less than £1000 in some cases.
  • Local authorities will be responsible for distributing the grants to businesses in circumstances where they are closed due to local interventions
  • further eligibility criteria may be determined by Local authorities
  • as with other COVID-19 business grants, local grants to closed businesses will be treated as taxable income

Making a claim

Contact your Local authority to see if you are eligible. And please note, the eligibility of businesses not on the business rates list will likely be discretionary so an early call to clarify your position may be beneficial.