The 2021 budget announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday contains more news items for businesses than you’d immediately spot or was expected.
Despite several announcements, there was no change to Capital Gains Tax or Business Asset Disposal Relief (BADR), meaning that there is still time to close a solvent business using a Members Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) and take advantage of the tax benefits before the end of this financial year at the end of March.
The other main headlines that will affect companies include:
The first rise in Corporation Tax since 1974 was confirmed although it has been delayed until April 2023. The rate will rise to 25% for businesses making profits over £250,000 although any company earning less than £50,000 will continue to pay the current rate of 19%. The rate will taper upwards for businesses as they get closer to the £250,000 level.
The CJRS of job furloughs will be formally extended until the end of September 2021. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their wages until then although businesses will be asked to contribute 10% in July and 20% in August and September.
Extended for a fourth time to cover the period from February to April. Will be based on 80% of average trading profits up to a maximum of £7,500. Applicable this time to those who have filed their 2019/2020 tax returns with HMRC.
Hospitality and Leisure businesses will pay no business rates between March and May 2021, then rates will be discounted by two thirds for the remaining nine months of the fiscal year. The 5% reduced rate of VAT will be extended until the end of September. It will then be gradually increased to 12.5% for six months before returning to the standard rate by April 2022.
There will be £5 billion of restart grants available for businesses to apply for once the lockdowns are gradually lifted later in the year. Additionally a new loan scheme will be launched to replace the Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILs). It will run until the end of 2020 and lend amounts from £25,000 to £10 million.
Colin Haig, President of R3, the insolvency and restructuring trade body, said: “The Chancellor’s decision to extend the furlough scheme, to provide further business grants and a new loans scheme, and to continue the business rates holiday will give welcome certainty for many business owners concerned at their prospects over the coming months.
“However, what was missing from the Chancellor’s Budget was detail about the Government’s role once these measures start to be withdrawn.
“As a key creditor in most corporate insolvencies, the Government has a direct role to play in supporting viable restructuring and business rescue proposals. HMRC in particular has not always taken a constructive approach to these proposals, and we would like to see this change sooner rather than later.
“By taking a more active and engaged stance as a creditor, the Government could help to save more potentially viable businesses, thereby safeguarding thousands of jobs, securing future tax income, and giving companies a chance to deal with liabilities resulting from the pandemic.
“There’s no denying the Government’s COVID measures have helped business in the short term, but as the Chancellor pointed out, these can’t last forever.
“Directors of struggling companies now have a few months in which to start making plans and taking decisions to secure the future of their businesses.”
There’s no time like the present to start planning for a better future.
While there is some degree of certainty about pandemic support measures being extended, they will end at some point meaning a cliff edge is waiting for some businesses that don’t take the necessary steps to secure their future now.
We can help explore the support and options available to you and your business and put steps in place so that when circumstances change, which they will, you’ll be in a position to take advantage and literally profit.
For most people, guessing what the Chancellor will announce in his budget and how it will affect them is a diverting parlour game.
Making a couple of pounds here and being offset by losing a couple there is how it usually goes. Online calculators and tools let people try their own hand at opening the red box and making some of the intricate calculations and seeing what the consequences could be.
It can be fun to be a sim Chancellor but if you’re a business owner or director, however, the consequences can be a lot more drastic and expensive in real life.
For instance, one area that will be getting a lot of attention and close scrutiny will be any plans for changes to Capital Gains Tax.
The government already commissioned a report that was published last year recommending a significant increase in rates - doubling them in all circumstances - and also further limiting the scope of Business Asset Disposal Relief (BADR) - the new name for Entrepreneurs Relief.
The report’s tightening recommendations included:-
If any or all of these recommendations are accepted and become law they’ll have a significant effect on any shareholder hoping to benefit from the Members Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) process.
Changes could come into force in a little as a month’s time so if you were considering an MVL to take advantage of BADR then there’s really no time to lose.
One thing we need to point out is that the tax point relates to the time you receive a distribution from the MVL, not when the company enters the arrangements.
So if you want to make the biggest tax saving in an MVL then you need to act before it’s too late.
If there are any changes announced in the Budget on Wednesday and you instruct us and provide the necessary required information no later than Friday 12th March 2021 then we guarantee* to facilitate the liquidation within this tax year, allowing any distributions to be made before Monday 5th April 2021 - when any new rules and changes would take effect.
We’ll show you how easy it can be to proceed swiftly and take advantage of an important benefit before it’s cut back or removed altogether.
*subject to demand and correct information being supplied in time
The government announced their roadmap to recovery this week with lots of excitement and anticipation from businesses - especially in the restaurant, pub and nightlife sectors.
Many will have been scouring the pre-announcement reports looking for hints that they might be able to throw open their doors to clamouring customers within weeks and might have already been making inquiries with their suppliers about when they could resume their regular orders and in what quantities.
The news that the Covid roadmap would allow for more gradual opening than anticipated will have come as a disappointment for some who would have been banking on an earlier lifting of restrictions.
Under the current plans, pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open indoors no earlier than May 17th.
This follows some “outdoor only” venues that could be allowed to open five weeks earlier from April 12th.
There are no planned reintroductions of 10pm or 11pm curfews but the Rule of Six will still apply to any indoor dining that takes place.
The news that they can eventually reopen is welcoming but again, hospitality will be among the last sectors allowed to trade as the country reopens.
This is scant consolation to businesses, many of whom spent hundreds of pounds last year making their businesses Covid compliant and haven’t been allowed to put any of these improvements to the test in any meaningful way yet.
Kate Nicholls, the CEO of UKHospitality, the industry representative body who have been amongst the most vocal in speaking up for their members interests during the pandemic is still combative on their behalf.
She said: “The sector is obviously devastated that its reopening will be so far away.
“From the start of November, the sector will have been closed for nearly 200 days, with just a couple of weeks of heavily restricted trading in December. A major package of financial support is imperative if hospitality is to survive.
“The Prime Minister says that the reopening schedule is driven by data, yet all the data points to hospitality being relatively safe and linked to only a tiny number of cases.
“Vaccinations and the fall in infection rates has de-risked our reopening even further. Over the past year, the Government has repeatedly miscalculated the risks posed by hospitality.
The Hospitality sector is not just made up of customer-facing venues like pubs, bistros, coffee shops or restaurants.
It employs thousands more in supply chain businesses that make sure these businesses can be quickly stocked and restocked with fresh ingredients, whenever they need them and quickly.
UKHospitality have identified this relationship as one that will be under the severest pressure before and during any phased reopening and is calling for additional support for suppliers now to ensure that no gaps open up in the system as suppliers fail through no fault of their own.
Katie Nicholls said: “The totality of hospitality is dependent on its supply chain.
“If supplier businesses fail, then the entire sector grinds to a halt and we’re at risk of the whole thing collapsing. We’re hopeful that hospitality businesses can lead the recovery of the UK’s economy this year.
“This cannot happen if businesses are not supplied to do the job. The supply chain is everything and it must be supported. Otherwise, our sector will rapidly become a house built upon sand and the terrible damage that has been felt over the past twelve months will only be compounded.”
A lot of companies will be keeping everything crossed for some relief and help in the forthcoming Budget on March 3rd.
Hoping for some certainty that support measures will be extended until they can reopen and begin trading again, but if the year of lockdown has collectively taught us one thing it’s that nothing is certain either with the pandemic nor the response.
Regardless of what is announced by the Chancellor next week, many restaurants, pubs and bars will still have some big questions marks over their future in the coming weeks and months if they are determined to try and reopen.
That’s a big if.
Unfortunately, for many businesses owners and directors, once emotion and wishful thinking are removed, their future direction will be clear.
Closing the business may not only be the right option for them and the company’s immediate future but also for the longer term too.
Once the country is further along the roadmap and the lockdown lifting becomes permanent, the conditions to relaunch a new business with no debt burdens holding it back will be far more advantageous.
But before any new venture can be launched, the existing business has to be closed properly with a minimum of fuss and any creditors have to be dealt with properly and professionally.
Whether the right solution would be closing a company or some other options such as using an insolvency moratorium to provide previous breathing space while you work out what your next step should be, we’ll be able to talk you through your options and what you need to do next.
We can also advise you on any changes you can make if you’re planning to roll the dice and reopen when you’re allowed to.
This could still be the year when everything changes for the better - but only if you act now while you’ve got time.
The UK-wide scheme launches on November 1st and aims to provide support to eligible businesses by paying two-thirds of an employees salary - 67% - up to a maximum of £2,100 per month. Companies will still be required to pay their employees pension and National Insurance contributions if they receive this support.
The scheme will initially run for six months with a review period in January built in to monitor its effectiveness.
In order to be eligible for the new assistance, a business will be legally required to close for some period over the winter specifically as part of local or national coronavirus restrictions as ordered by the government or their relative local authority.
This also includes businesses that are forced to close their premises but that continue to provide delivery-only or collection services or are offering food and drinks in an outdoor setting. Employees must be off work for a minimum of seven consecutive days to be eligible.
Businesses that choose to close - that aren’t forced by law but see no compelling reason to remain open - will not be eligible at the moment. Therefore, it will only currently benefit those under tier 3 restrictions, which has been confirmed to include wet bars, but not those who serve substantial meals.
It’s important to point out that this is a new scheme, not an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which is closing on October 31st.
The CJRS allowed companies to furlough their workers from July and had 80% of their wages covered although this later reduced to 60% and they were required to pay pension and National Insurance contributions from July onwards.
The new JSS expansion does not require any additional wage contributions from employers as they will be paying 55% of wages under the already announced JSS which will pay a further 22% of wages for workers in “viable” jobs on reduced hours.
Payment will arrive after two weeks of closure rather than three and companies can also apply for cash grants based on the rateable value of their properties.
A company with a property rateable value of £15,000 or under can claim £1,334 per month (£667 every two weeks); properties between £15,001 and £51,000 can get up to £2,000 (£1,000 every two weeks) while properties over £51,000 can get £3,000 every month (£1,500 every two weeks).
Companies will also remain eligible to claim the £1,000 job retention bonus paid per worker and designed to encourage firms to keep workers on their payroll.
It would be easy to roll your eyes and exhale thinking “another new announcement” but each one might be the difference between your company surviving the winter and New Year period.
Another great choice to give your company a real fighting chance of seeing the end of this awful contagion is to get in touch with us.
During a free initial consultation we can tell you about all the temporary support measures you’re entitled to and the many existing options there are to help protect and strengthen all the fundamental areas of your business.
The best thing to do would be to contact us quickly because in these fast moving times, the sooner we can work with you, the more options you’ll generally have to choose from.
The businesses that recognise and act at the start of a tightening situation are usually the ones that emerge from it stronger and ready to go when the circumstances let them.
He said that Britain was entering the second phase of the government’s economic response but the job of responding to the Covid-19 crisis had only just begun.
VAT is being reduced from 20% to 5% for the hospitality and tourism sectors for six months so businesses offering food and accommodation as well as attractions he hopes are already more attractive to customers.
To further encourage eating out an inventive new scheme was also announced offering a 50% discount per person up to a maximum of £10 to a meal if enjoyed at an establishment from Monday to Wednesday from August 1st 2020.
He also confirmed that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) would definitely be closing on October 31st but sought to alleviate any potential job losses by offering a £1,000 bonus to companies for every staff member they brought back into regular employment.
He hailed the scheme as a success noting that 1.1 million companies had made use of it and 9.4 million positions had been furloughed as a result which could otherwise have been lost outright.
He said: “Leaving the furlough scheme open forever gives people false hope that it will always be possible to return to the jobs they had before.”
There was some action on creating new jobs by promising to double the number of Jobcentre work coaches and the announcement of the Kickstart job creation scheme which would see 350,000 fully-funded six-month job placements for 18 to 24 year olds.
This is part of his announced three point strategy to support, protect and retain jobs.
Additionally, apprenticeship would be supported with bonuses for companies. Firms would receive a £2,000 payment for every apprentice they took on (£1,500 for apprentices aged over 25).
As usual with any attractive financial offer, it pays to read the small print as there are one or two speed bumps along the road to recovery.
It emerged that a brief 15-day consultation on draft legislation to introduce rules on the taxation of coronavirus business support grants closed in June and is being carried forward.
What this means is that it grants HMRC powers to tax the Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme, the Small Business Grant Scheme and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme along with the Coronavirus self-employment Income Support Scheme (CSISS).
It would also empower HMRC to recover payments from recipients of CSISS or CJRS if it deems them ineligible to have received them or if CJRS payments hadn’t been used to pay employees, make pension contributions, pay PAYE or NICs. This will be extremely easy to check on their side. If you have claimed the furlough grant, but then not made the scheduled PAYE/NIC payment on time, they may look to open an investigation.
They also threaten further penalties for deliberate non-compliance and state that further provisions may be included in the final legislation when tabled.
The first examples of this were announced yesterday with the first arrests made in alleged Furlough fraud investigations in the West Midlands.
Richard Las, acting director of the HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service said: “The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is part of the collective national effort to protect jobs. The vast majority of employers will have used the CJRS responsibly, but we will not hesitate to act on reports of abuse of the scheme.
“This is taxpayer’s money and any claim that proves to be fraudulent limits our ability to support people and deprives public services of essential funding.
“As usual, we have built steps in to prevent mistakes and fraud happening in the first place, but anyone who is concerned that their employer might be abusing the scheme should report it to HMRC online.”
If the last few months have been rough then the rest of 2020 and into 2021 look just as stormy even with temporary support measures.
There is always an opportunity within a crisis and this might be the chance to reconfigure your business’s financial situation to withstand an even bigger storm than the one that’s currently blowing down every high street and shopping centre in the UK.
Get in touch with us today and one of our experienced team of expert advisors will arrange a FREE, convenient initial consultation whenever you want one.
They will quickly get appraised of your situation, your circumstances and the issues you’re facing and can work with you on the best way to deal with them.
We don’t know what the future holds or what’s going to happen economically but we do know that the earlier you look for advice, the more options and maneuverability you’ll have.
Initially, the government announced that there would be a Business Rates Retail Discount of 100% to apply in the remainder of the 2019/20 financial year and the whole of the 2020/21 financial year.
When further measures were announced to limit the spread of the virus, some businesses were excluded and closed as a result of this and other factors.
In the time since, the government has now published further revised guidance which acknowledged that some of these exclusions had been removed and the affected properties would now be eligible for the relief.
The mechanism for the operation of the scheme is that it will be administered and run by local authorities who will forgo collecting the rateable value due and will then be reimbursed this value by the government so they can continue to provide other services at a local level.
The guidance outlines several categories of venue (or hereditament as described in the publication) which it considers qualified:
While quite extensive in scope, a line has to be drawn somewhere so there will be some companies that just miss out and just make it.
Among the venues used for a provision of services to visiting members of the public that are not eligible for relief include:
The discount will be calculated and applied on a day-to-day basis so an accountant that opened a guest house would then become eligible whereas a guest house that decided to offer accountancy services would lose their previous relief.
The appendices go into significant detail and examples on specifically what different properties worth different amounts will gain under the various rates relief being applied so you should read these if you want to see precise examples.
The Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic is an existential crisis for many otherwise profitable and well-run small businesses.
Through no fault of their own, many companies could be facing insolvency in a matter of weeks.
There is some help and advice available for them however.
You can contact us right now to arrange a free initial consultation with one of our experienced, expert advisors.
They will work with you as you outline your main concerns for your company and look at your available options and plot a path back to stability and strength.
We’ve also produced a new infographic, written in plain English, that outlines the latest help and support provided by the government to help tackle the economic damage the virus has spread.
The new helpline number is 08000 159559 and is open from 8am to 8pm Mon to Fri and 8am to 4pm on Saturdays. It will be closed on Sundays and Bank Holidays.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: “HMRC will scale up the time to pay service to allow businesses and the self-employed to defer tax payments”.
Up to 2,000 experienced HMRC call handlers have been seconded to the service to help support businesses and individuals in the forthcoming days and weeks virus infection is expected to escalate.
The existing HMRC helplines will remain in operation as this one is specifically for COVID-19 related enquiries. Time to Pay was also used in response to previous extraordinary circumstances including the financial crisis and flooding of various communities and offers a guaranteed time-limited deferral period on HMRC liabilities owed and a pre-agreed time period to pay these back.
Callers to the helpline will be able to agree an instalment payment arrangement; suspend pending HMRC debt collection proceedings and cancel any due penalties and interest where they have experienced administrative difficulties by contacting or paying HMRC immediately.
The NHS maintains an up-to-date website where you can find out the latest information on the virus including what to do if you think you have symptoms or if you think you have been exposed to the virus while travelling.
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating a unique set of challenges for government and business to overcome.
If you’re worried about your business in the short and medium term then you should get in touch with us.
We have a team of expert advisors available to arrange a convenient free initial consultation with you to discuss where you are now, what areas of your business you need to protect first and where you can strengthen elsewhere too.
We can then look at working on the most efficient and effective plan going forward to both protect your business and let you build on your foundations no matter what the future may hold.
If you’re new to this hip scene, let us clue you in on one of our recurring topics - the general health of the UK high street and in-town retail spaces that often act as a wider barometer for local economic activity and affluence.
The final figures are in for the first half of 2019 and despite recent positive monthly economic growth figures, they show a picture of overall decline.
Research from the Local Data Company concentrated on chain stores or brands with more than five or more branches and demonstrated that if nine new stores opened every day from January to June this year then 16 would close. This is a net decline of 1,234 which is greater than the 1,123 closures recorded in the same period last year and the highest since their research began in 2010.
Fashion chains have been the hardest hit so far this year with a net decline of 118 units as the likes of New Look, LK Bennett and Greenwoods either restructured or were liquidated. Restaurants and estate agents also saw three figure reductions in capacity.
The retail store crisis saw household retail names such as Karen Millen, Jack Wills, Bathstore and Debenhams entering administration this year with analysts predicting more to follow before 2020.
Shopworkers Union USDAW have launched a Save our Shops petition and they’ve joined a consortium of UK retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Greggs to ask chancellor Sajid Javid to review high-street business rates as a matter of urgency.
The signatories point out that while retailers only account for 5% of the British economy, they pay 10% of all business taxes and 25% of business rates.
Dr Liliana Danila, economist with the British Retail Consortium outlines the stakes: “high streets are undergoing a fundamental change in response to changing shopping habits, new technologies and rising costs of doing business, so it is vital that the government supports the industry to make the necessary investment to adapt.
“The business rate system holds back investment, reduces productivity and increases regional disparities. The government must address the much-needed reforms to this broken tax system before more jobs are lost and stores are closed.”
Inflexible business rates may be an annoyance for many chain retailers but they can potentially be the final straw for many other small and medium enterprises all over the UK.
Every business has peaks and troughs but if you’re struggling with fundamental payments like this then it could be a sign of bigger difficulties.
Contact one of our expert advisors to arrange a free initial consultation where we can look at what immediate short-term options you have and hopefully what you can do in the medium and longer term to get your business back on a firmer footing for the rest of 2019 and beyond.
We got an interesting email from the government the other day.
Specifically the HMRC which should make anyone sit up and take notice - once you’ve checked it’s genuine.
It reiterates that the UK will be leaving the EU on 31 October “whatever the circumstances” - their words, not ours - and sets out some of the things that a business should do to prepare itself for the changes to the current customs situation.
The stand-out news is that HMRC are automatically issuing VAT-registered businesses with a UK EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number.
This will allow companies to move goods in and out of the UK after October 31 and theoretically it will be impossible to do so without one although interestingly it states specifically that an EORI number is not required to move good between Northern Ireland and The Republic of Ireland.
In order to apply a company will need:
So far, some 72,000 companies have already registered for an EORI number while HMRC have written to the remaining 88,000 to inform them and encourage them to apply.
Chancellor Sajid Javid said: “The move will help ease the flow of goods at border points and support businesses to trade and grow.”
Dr Adam Marshall, Director General at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) welcomed the auto-enrollment but stressed it was only a first step.
He said: “For many firms, it will trigger more questions. Businesses still need clarity on many other cross-border trade issues, such as customs procedures at borders following a no-deal exit and when the Government will launch an official database to provide ease of access to information on tariffs and quotas.”
There are also other recommendations to get a business Brexit ready including:
While there will be more updates to follow as the Brexit situation clarifies (or not), this is the first official communication received directing businesses to act in a specific way.
It’s probably not going to be the last.