Last week we completed our look back on 2023 with a review of the final annual business insolvency statistics for the UK and how the numbers from the previous 12 months compared to the previous four years.
Now we’re looking ahead to the rest of 2024 and what this year could bring in terms of legislation, changes, predictions and potential unseen but not impossible events that could affect your business and your clients.
As any gambler would tell you, there’s no such thing as a sure thing but we can look at various indicators available to us now and extrapolate the likely next destinations.
If you’ve got any business predictions of your own (although if you’ve already pinned down the Grand National winner we’ll be happy to listen) or think we’ve missed something obvious that you’d like us to correct – email us at email@example.com and we’ll happily update the blog with your feedback!
Insolvency practitioners (IP) regulation
An important change from our point of view will be an overhaul of insolvency regulation in 2024 with the government confirming new reforms designed to “modernise the framework, increase transparency and bolster confidence” in the industry.
One change that will not be implemented was an idea to introduce a new central government body to regulate IPs, which would have been similar to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority for solicitors.
So what is going to be brought in this year? Well as far as we know we can expect to see:
- Legislation being introduced to designate the power to create an independent single insolvency regulator (if required in the future).
- The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) being given overall responsibility to set ethical and technical standards for the insolvency profession.
- A single public register of authorised IPs and firms (like BusinessRescueExpert) offering insolvency services will be created.
- A new regulatory framework which will require all firms offering insolvency services to be authorised and registered with appropriate regulatory bodies with firms appointing a named senior compliance officer.
- Reforms to the IP bond scheme to cover potential losses in the event of dishonesty or fraud including increasing cover levels to better protect creditors and their interests.
Changes to the Insolvency Rules 2016 (IR16)
In 2022 the Insolvency Service identified two key areas for reform of IR16 which are yet to be implemented but are expected to progress before parliament rises for the forthcoming General Election. These are:
- A review of the creditors’ voluntary liquidation (CVL) regime, as it is the most frequently used insolvency procedure. The review will consider whether the procedure remains fit for purpose as currently construed and whether there should be amendments to certain issues such as the approval of pre-appointment costs and creditor notice periods.
- Clarification on which types of court applications should be made as an insolvency application under IR16 or under Part 7 of the Civil Procedure Rules 1996 to avoid wasted time and increased costs.
Increasing business insolvencies
Although inflation fell in 2023 this was matched by interest rates rising to make borrowing and servicing existing debt more expensive.
Corporate insolvencies exceeded pre-pandemic numbers and were at their highest levels since 2008.
Insolvent businesses continue to cite the pandemic as one of the key reasons for the failure. We can reasonably expect to see insolvencies continue to climb as we work through the remaining financial hangovers from 2020 and 2021.
HMRC continues to take a more aggressive approach to recovering outstanding debts which we saw with an increase in winding up petitions last year which will only add to the overall monthly and annual figures.
The Bank of England has a difficult balancing act in 2024 as they attempt to guide inflation back to their mandated target of 2.0%.
Inflation had fallen towards the end of 2023 from 4.6% in October to 3.9% in November but ticked up slightly to 4% in December. Falling fuel prices were the largest driver behind the overall reduction while slowing inflation on food and household goods also helped the downward pressure on the headline rate.
So while the economy itself could be boosted by lower inflation, this will be counterbalanced by lower customer demand and business investment from the lagged impact of previous interest rate rises with the latest decision to pause breaking an unprecedented streak of 14 consecutive rate rises.
Up to 1.6 million homeowners will see their mortgage deals expire this year and will face a jump in their borrowing costs which will act as a drag on disposable income. Job vacancies are reducing slightly while unemployment has ticked up slightly to 4.8% which could also be a warning sign of an economy struggling to achieve growth if not actively in recession.
If inflation continues to slow in 2024 then this will be an incentive for interest rate cuts this year which will make borrowing cheaper. However this has to be balanced by no great leap in living standards for customers.
The UK economy could also find itself influenced by external geopolitical factors including the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, attacks on cargo ships in the Red Sea necessitating longer import times and negatively affecting logistic chains as a result.
The aforementioned UK general election is 99% certain to take place in 2024 and a US election in November could also generate unforeseen factors that will influence the environment businesses face this year.
Eamonn Wall, Managing Director of BusinessRescueExpert, thinks that some of the most important issues facing businesses and accountants in 2024 will be revealed in March.
He said: “March will be a pivotal month this year for many reasons.
“Firstly you have the Spring budget on March 8th – in an election year – which means that tax changes are almost certainly coming and probably by the end of the month too.
“This could be an additional cut to National Insurance for employers; a reduction in the income tax rate or any of several other possible changes.
“There could be changes to BADR and/or IR35 legislation as well as R&D Tax Credits and other investment incentives.
“Retailers could also have to contend with changes to fuel, alcohol and tobacco duties as well as a potential outlawing of certain types of vapes.
“The end of March also sees the ending of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS) with no replacement lined up as well as new business rates effective from April 1st.
“No matter what is announced in the budget, it will affect every business in the country and directors need to be aware and prepared for it.”
If a week is a long time in politics, football or business then a year can seem a lot longer (or shorter) than the allotted 52 weeks.
Even the best run businesses with proven plans and roadmaps will come up against unforeseen surprises – both good and bad – throughout the coming months. .
How they handle these, and their existing situation, will colour whether they will be able to judge the year as a success or not.
So why not help improve the chances of having a happy new year by consulting a professional advisor about what you can do, right now, to make your business better?
We offer a free initial consultation to any owner or director who wants to discuss the current circumstances of their company and how they can be strengthened, depending on their individual goals.
Get in touch with us today to arrange your session and start the new year in the best way.