Archive for August, 2021

More UK businesses join vaccine uptake drive

Thursday, August 26th, 2021

In a recent press release the government announced that more of the country’s leading businesses from a variety of industries have pledged their support for the UK’s world-leading COVID-19 vaccination programme by offering incentives to vaccinated customers.

Asda, lastminute.com, National Express, FREE NOW taxis and Better leisure centres will be offering discounts to people who get a COVID-19 vaccine, joining the national effort to protect the country as it continues its cautious return to normality.

The companies will be joining Uber, Bolt and Deliveroo, which committed last month to backing the vaccination programme by providing exclusive offers to those who have received a jab.

The new businesses and rewards will include:

  • Asda – will offer £10 vouchers for their clothing brand George to 18- to 30-year-olds who spend over £20. These will be offered at the vaccine pop-up clinics located in Old Kent Road in London, Watford & Birmingham;
  • lastminute.com – will offer over-18s £30 gift cards towards holidays abroad to all young people getting vaccinated through their website;
  • Better leisure centres – will offer over 16s a £10 voucher to use on any Better membership and a free three-day pass at any of their 235 leisure facilities across the UK;
  • FREE NOW – will provide up to £1 million in free taxi rides for over-18s attending their vaccine appointment each way from today [Sunday 15 August] until the end of September; and
  • National Express Buses (Midlands) – will offer 1,000 people 5-day unlimited travel saver tickets which can be used within 90 days. Tickets can be claimed by sharing vaccine booking references in the company’s app.

Deliveroo has also revealed further details of their support, which will include thousands of £5 vouchers to those who get the vaccine, distributed in the coming weeks. Bolt will be offering £10 vouchers for 10,000 rides from next week in Birmingham and Leicester, and Uber will be announcing further details shortly around their drive to help students get vaccinated ahead of term time.

Fewest number of people on furlough since the scheme began

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

Furlough numbers have recently fallen to a record-low since the beginning of the pandemic, government data has confirmed.

When businesses started reopening earlier this year, furlough numbers plunged by three million and have gradually declined ever since.

  1. records show that at the end of June 2021, nearly two million British workers were on furlough, dropping by nine million from the peak of the pandemic in May 2020.

Since June, it is also thought that furlough numbers have plummeted even further to around 1.5 million people, an ONS Business Insights and Conditions Survey reports.

Throughout the pandemic, 28% of employers had staff on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

Recruitment worker, Jane told HR magazine that being on furlough was challenging when more people were going back to work and her job was left hanging in the balance.

She said: “It felt like everyone around me was going back to normal.

“However, I’ve been grateful for the time to take a step back and look at what I like about my role, what I don’t like, and kind of developing from there.”

  1. recent visits to Scotland, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak MP recognised the economic power of the union and applauded the Government’s Plan for Jobs, which will continue to help people and businesses once the furlough scheme ends.

He said: “It’s fantastic to see businesses across the UK open, employees returning to work and the numbers of furloughed jobs falling to their lowest levels since the scheme began.

“I’m proud our Plan for Jobs is working, and our support will continue in the months ahead.”

For the first time since furlough began, young people are no longer the biggest demographic signed onto the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The reopening of hospitality and retail led to more than a million people leaving the scheme, with younger people making up the majority of the workforce in these sectors.

Since April 2021, nearly 600,000 under 25s have come off furlough, double the amount of older people who have left the scheme.

Furlough has been prolonged several times, but it will finally come to an end in September.

Employers currently have to pay 20% of furlough payments until the scheme officially concludes.

According to The Office for Budget Responsibility, the entire furlough scheme will have cost £66 billion by the time it finishes.

To help people moving forward, the Government’s Plan for Jobs project will continue to assist people back into work as the economy starts to bounce back.

Companies closed after abusing COVID loan support

Friday, August 20th, 2021

In what is likely to be the tip of a significant ice-berg, two companies who fraudulently applied for thousands of pounds in grants and loans have been wound up in the courts.

According to a recent government press release the two separate companies submitted false documents to at least 41 local authorities and the Government’s Bounce Back Loan scheme to secure £230,000 worth of grants; grants that were offered to support businesses across the UK during the pandemic.

The Insolvency Service proved that neither company ever traded.

Investigators uncovered that one company had registered their offices in Whitchurch, Shropshire, but had provided false lease documents and utility bills to 14 different local authorities to fraudulently claim they traded out of premises in their respective areas.

The companies fraudulently secured business grants from local authorities, as well as Bounce Back Loans. Investigators uncovered that the premises that the companies falsely claimed to operate from were either unoccupied, up for rent or occupied by a different company.

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said:

“This decisive enforcement action shows that we will not tolerate shameless attempts to defraud the taxpayer and falsely claim public money intended to help businesses through the pandemic.

“We are cracking down on Covid fraud across the board and those who have tried to take support they were not entitled to, which was given in response to the worst crisis of our lifetimes, can expect to face heavy consequences.

“The lengths that fraudsters went to as they tried to falsely claim grants surprised even our most experienced staff, but by using national counter fraud networks, concerns could be raised quickly and trends and patterns were shared with other authorities.

“We are very proud of the way our teams supported so many businesses in extraordinary circumstances, and we are also pleased that they foiled attempts by a small minority to exploit the misery that Covid-19 has brought to so many.”

Could you benefit from additional tax relief?

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

Couples may be eligible to reduce their Income Tax by up to £252 a year by sharing their Personal Allowances.

HMRC has announced that nearly 1.8 million married couples and those in civil partnership are using Marriage Allowance to save up to £252 a year in Income Tax.

Marriage Allowance allows married couples, or those in civil partnerships, to share their Personal Tax Allowances if one partner earns below £12,570 a year, and the other is a basic rate taxpayer.

Couples can transfer 10% of their tax-free allowance to their partner (£1,260 for 2021 – 2022 tax year), significantly reducing the amount of annual tax they pay. They can also backdate their claims for the past four tax years, potentially receiving up to £1,220.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Deputy Chief Executive and Second Permanent Secretary said: “Marriage Allowance lets eligible couples share their Personal Allowances and reduce their tax by up to £252 a year. Nearly 1.8 million couples are already using the service – it is free, quick and easy to apply.”

If a married couple have experienced a change in their circumstances, it may mean they are now eligible for Marriage Allowance. This includes:

  • A recent marriage or civil partnership
  • One partner has retired and the other remains working
  • A change in employment due to COVID-19
  • A reduction in working hours which means their earnings fall below their Personal Allowance
  • Unpaid leave or a career break
  • One partner is studying or in education and not earning above their Personal Allowance

If a spouse or civil partner has died since April 5th 2017, their partner can still claim by contacting the Income Tax helpline.

While Marriage Allowance claims are usually automatically renewed each year, couples should notify HMRC if their circumstances change.

Help to Grow Scheme

Thursday, August 12th, 2021

It is still possible to register for one of two schemes under the Help to Grow banner.

 

Help to Grow Management

Help to Grow: Management is an Executive Development programme accredited by the Small Business Charter, with 1:1 business mentor support throughout. The 12-week practical curriculum has modules spanning financial management, strategies for growth and innovation, and approaches to digital adoption. You can book your space with a business school near you today.

Designed to be manageable alongside full-time work, this programme will support small business leaders to develop their strategic skills with key modules covering financial management, innovation and digital adoption. By the end of the programme participants will develop a tailored business growth plan to lead their business to its full potential.

30,000 places will be available over 3 years. The programme is 90% subsidised by government – costing only £750.

UK businesses from any sector that have been operating for more than 1 year, with between 5 to 249 employees are eligible.

The participant should be a decision maker or member of the senior management team within the business e.g., Chief Executive, Finance Director etc.

Charities are not eligible.

 

Help to Grow Digital

Help to Grow: Digital is launching this Autumn. It will offer businesses access to free and impartial advice on how technology can help their business. Eligible businesses will also be able to get a discount of up to 50% on the costs of approved software, worth up to £5,000.

The stated aims of both schemes is to support business owners in their efforts to learn new skills, reach more customers and boost profitability.

All businesses will be able to benefit from free online advice on the platform.

The voucher is expected to be available to UK business that:

  • employ between 5 and 249 employees and are registered at Companies House
  • have been trading for more than 12 months
  • are purchasing the discounted software for the first time

Full details on the businesses and software eligible for the voucher will be published this summer.

 

Register your interest online

You can register interest in applying for either grant online at https://helptogrow.campaign.gov.uk/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwoXI8KSZ8gIVlh6tBh3BKgkvEAAYASAAEgLdnPD_BwE

UK to reduce unnecessary red tape for British businesses

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Ministers have revealed bold plans to reform and modernise the way regulations are made and implemented in the UK.

Following Brexit, the UK has the freedom to make and implement regulations that place British businesses and consumers first – freeing firms from excessive formality and reducing costs, while boosting competition, innovation and economic growth.

 

Unnecessary bureaucracy

To reduce unnecessary red tape following the UK’s exit from the EU, the consultation looks at implementing regulations such as the ‘One-In-Two-Out’ method. Literally, this means that if the government introduces new regulation, alternative ones would need to be removed.

To enable innovative companies to trial ground-breaking ideas safely, the government could also look to make more use and impact of ‘sandboxes’, where certain regulations are lifted to test new products in a real-world setting, under the regulator’s supervision – this was another reform recommended by the independent Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR).

The TIGRR aims to move away from the EU’s excessive use of the ‘precautionary principle’ and adopt a ‘proportionality principle’ in our regulatory framework. If adopted, this would mean that regulation focuses more on outcomes, rather than processes, and proportionate to impacts on businesses and people.

 

Introducing a ‘nimble approach’

Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, said: “Taking back control means setting regulation in a way that works best for British businesses, workers and our wider economy.

“By taking a nimble approach, suited to our national interest, we can maintain our high standards and cement the UK’s status as an attractive place to start and grow business.”

The consultation sets out five principles, underpinning the Government’s approach, to ensure it benefits the British people:

  • A sovereign approach: following Brexit, the UK will take a tailored approach to setting rules in a way that boosts growth and benefits the British people.
  • Leading from the front: working nimbly to support the development of new technologies.
  • Proportionality: where possible, the Government will use non-regulatory options, allowing markets to move dynamically, while acting decisively to place strong rules where needed.
  • Recognising what works: thorough analysis of regulations to ensure they work practically.

Finally, high standards: the UK will pursue robust regulatory diplomacy and help to solve global problems.

Making use of under-utilised resources

Thursday, August 5th, 2021

Many businesses will have seen a reduction in activity as a direct result of the COVID pandemic. Assets and resources previously fully employed now lie idle or are under-utilised.

In this post today we have listed a few ideas that may help you create new income streams from these resources. For example:

 

Premises

Do you have storage, office or shop-floor space that is empty? If your lease or landlord is willing to sanction this idea, why not sub-let to businesses that need more space but may not want to commit to a long-term lease or outright purchase?

In this way you can recover costs that would otherwise be a continuing drain on your profits.

 

Vehicles

If you have vehicles that are no longer fully employed in your business, rather than selling them, and then being obliged to buy new vehicles when your activity levels recover, why not lease these resources to businesses that need them for short periods.

This will help you fund fixed running costs, insurance and road fund tax, and when your business levels return to normal, you will have assets that can be returned to internal utilisation.

 

Staff

When the furlough scheme comes to an end at the end of September 2021, many businesses will face the unwelcome task of considering redundancy.

If you are in this position, could you consider retaining staff but hiring them out for a short period until trade improves and yo0u can bring them back in-house?

In this way you can keep teams together, long-term, and if you organise appropriately, provide team members with a useful outsourced training experience.

 

We can help with planning

Please call if you would like to discuss the possibilities of making use of these or other under-utilised resources for your business.

New reforms to protect consumers hard-earned cash

Wednesday, August 4th, 2021

The UK Government’s Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, has revealed an arsenal of planned reforms to boost competition and protect the public from rip-offs, fraud and exploitation as the pandemic restrictions lift.

Plans set out in a new consultation will deliver on the manifesto commitment to ‘give the Competition and Markets Authority enhanced powers to tackle consumer rip-offs and bad business practices.’

Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK’s economic recovery relies on the strength of our open markets and consumers’ faith in them.

“By delivering on our commitment to bolster our competition regime, we’re giving businesses confidence that they’re competing on fair terms, and the public confidence they’re getting a good deal”

 

Protecting consumer rights

In an increasingly e-commerce consumer environment, customers are facing a relentless stream of tricks, designed to make them spend more money than they can afford.

The consultation proposes initiatives to update consumer rights to keep pace with market developments:

  • To strengthen protection for consumers investing in prepayment schemes such as the Christmas savings club, being mandated to safeguard customers’ money.
  • They also outline plans to clamp down on subscription traps, requiring businesses to be explicit on what exactly it is customers will be signing up for, and allowing them to cancel without any difficulty.
  • The consultation highlights the issue of misleading online ratings and commits to criminalising the act of paying someone to write or host a fake review.

Enforcement

Tougher penalties for non-compliance will see increased authority for the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to implement fines for businesses who don’t comply.

The CMA will be able to enforce consumer law directly rather than going through the court processes which can take a considerable amount of time.

They also plan to support consumers and businesses to resolve disputes more independently by improving consumers’ access to arbitration and mediation services, without having to go to court. This includes a proposal to make arbitration compulsory in sectors where large, one-off payments are made, for example in the used car and home improvements sectors.

 

Promoting competition

The Government aims to create a competitive, open and fair market, thus achieving its goal of enabling businesses to build again, driving investment and creating more jobs after the pandemic.

Which? Director of Policy and Advocacy, Rocio Concha said: “The pandemic has highlighted weaknesses in UK consumer protections that have allowed unscrupulous businesses to exploit customers.

“The government must now ensure that these proposals are swiftly implemented, and are underpinned by the right resources, so that consumer protection is strengthened.”

Tax Diary August/September 2021

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

1 August 2021 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 October 2020.

19 August 2021 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 August 2021. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 August 2021)

19 August 2021 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 August 2021.

19 August 2021 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 August 2021 is payable by today.

1 September 2021 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 30 November 2020.

19 September 2021 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 September 2021. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 September 2021)

19 September 2021 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 September 2021.

19 September 2021 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 September 2021 is payable by today.

Tax-free property and trading income

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2021

You can claim up to £1,000 each tax year in tax-free allowances for property or trading income. If you have both types of income, you will qualify for a £1,000 allowance for each.

If your annual gross property income is £1,000 or less, from one or more property businesses you will not have to tell HMRC or declare this income on a tax return. You may be required to complete a tax return for other income.

Likewise, if your annual gross trading income is £1,000 or less, from one or more trades you may not have to tell HMRC.

If your annual gross trading or property income, from one or more trades or businesses is more than £1,000 you can use the tax-free allowances instead of deducting any expenses or other allowances.

This would be useful if your actual expenses were lower than the £1,000 allowances. However, you cannot use the allowances to create a trading loss. You can deduct up to £1,000, but not more than the amount of your income. This is known as ‘partial relief’.

If your expenses are more than your income it should be beneficial to claim expenses instead of the allowances.

You cannot use the allowances in a tax year, if you have any trade or property income from:

  • a company you or someone connected to you owns or controls,
  • a partnership where you or someone connected to you are partners,
  • your employer or the employer of your spouse or civil partner.

You cannot use the property allowance if you:

  • claim the tax reducer for finance costs such as mortgage interest for a residential property,

deduct expenses from income from letting a room in your own home instead of using the Rent a Room Scheme.

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