22ndFeb
News article

The cost-of-living crisis

A look at some of the issues households are facing.

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News about the cost-of-living crisis hitting the UK this year has become unavoidable. A toxic combination of soaring energy bills and rising food prices is forcing inflation to levels that haven't been seen for 30 years. Meanwhile, borrowing costs are also increasing, while wage growth is struggling to keep up. Here, we take a look at some of the issues households are facing.

Inflationary pressures

It has been 30 years since inflation ran at the levels seen this January. The start of the year saw fewer January sales and discounts than usual, which pushed prices up by 5.5% January – up from 5.4% previously – as retailers reined in seasonal discounts on clothing and footwear.

Inflation is now outpacing wage growth as energy, fuel and food costs continue to rise, squeezing household budgets. Wage growth in the UK struggled to keep up with increasing inflation between October and December 2021, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

Average weekly pay packets across Britain fell in December by negative 1.2%, reflecting how wages are struggling to keep up with the rising cost of living. Things are likely to get worse as inflation is forecast to climb above 7% this year, putting pressure on the government to offer more support.

Surging business costs

Around threequarters of UK businesses say they are putting up prices in response to surging costs such as wages, energy and raw materials, according to a survey conducted by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The survey of more than 1,000 firms showed that businesses across the country are under intense pressure from a variety of costs. It found that prices were likely to rise as a result, further fuelling the cost-of-living crisis for households.

Rising energy bills were cited as the driving factor by 62% of respondents, rising to 75% for manufacturers. Meanwhile, 63% cited increased wage bills as driving prices rises.

The BCC called on the Chancellor to adopt their five-point plan to address these challenges. These include a temporary energy price cap for small businesses and the extension of the financial support announced for households last week to include small firms.

The base rate and the cost of borrowing

The Bank of England has responded to rising inflation by increasing the base interest rate to 0.5% from 0.25% at the beginning of February. The base rate is used by the central bank to charge other banks and lenders when they borrow money – and influences what borrowers pay and savers earn.

This increase means that lenders may raise standard variable rate (SVR) or 'discount' mortgages, while those on a tracker mortgage will see monthly mortgage payments increase.

Those borrowers on SVRs are close to the end of fixed rate deals should check whether remortgaging to a new deal could save them money in the medium to long term.

The Bank of England is expected to raise the base rate again this year so fixing a mortgage rate before this happens could prove advantageous.

Spiralling energy costs

The recent decision by energy as regulator Ofgem to ever increase to the price cap level on energy bills by the steepest level ever is due to hit household bills in April. Some estimates predict an average increase of £693 a year for energy bills that affects 22 million households.

The increase is down to Ofgem raising the price cap on standard and default tariffs by 54%. On 'typical' energy use, this means the price cap will rise from £1,277/year to £1,971/year from Friday 1 April. More than 60% of households are on these standard tariffs.

Unfortunately, there is little that households can do to avoid those price hikes as no cheap deals are available in the market for those looking to switch supplier.

However, the government announced that over £9 billion in state-backed loans will be made available in England, Scotland and Wales, with households set to be given up to £350 to help with their energy bills this year.

Pressure on pensions

Those already claiming the state pension are expected to find meeting the cost of living a challenge this year. This is because the government dropped its triple lock promise for pensions, even though inflation continues to rise.

Under the triple lock policy, the state pension increased every year by whichever is the highest of inflation, earnings growth or 2.5%. However, earnings growth, which was running at 8%, was dropped to create a double lock. The state pension will now increase in April 2022 by 3.1%, which was September's inflation figure.

However, inflation is now running ahead of this figure, exacerbated by higher energy and food bills, which pushed up the cost of living by 5.5% in January.

Rocky road ahead

The cost-of-living crisis will hit both households and businesses this year, if you need advice on improving your cashflow please contact us .

25thJan
News article

Taking a look at self assessment

A review of the deadlines and process.

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The annual rush to complete self assessment tax returns before midnight on 31 January will not have the same urgency this year after HMRC announced it would waive late filing and late payment penalties for one month. The measure will give those taxpayers affected by the pandemic extra time, if they need it, to complete their 2020/21 tax return and pay any tax due. Here, we take a look at the tax authority's decision and the wider self assessment process.

Deadlines

Although it has granted taxpayers valuable breathing space HMRC is still encouraging them to file and pay on time if they can. It says that millions of the 12.2 million taxpayers who need to submit their tax return by 31 January 2022, have already done so.

The deadline to file and pay remains 31 January 2022. The penalty waivers will mean that:

  • anyone who cannot file their return by the 31 January deadline will not receive a late filing penalty if they file online by 28 February; and
  • anyone who cannot pay their self assessment tax by the 31 January deadline will not receive a late payment penalty if they pay their tax in full, or set up a Time to Pay arrangement, by 1 April.

However, interest will be payable from 1 February.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC's Deputy Chief Executive and Second Permanent Secretary, says: 'We know the pressures individuals and businesses are again facing this year, due to the impacts of COVID-19. Our decision to waive penalties for one month for self assessment taxpayers will give them extra time to meet their obligations without worrying about receiving a penalty.'

The self assessment cycle

Under the self assessment regime an individual is responsible for ensuring that their tax liability is calculated, and any tax owing is paid on time.

Tax returns are issued shortly after the end of the fiscal year. The fiscal year runs from 6 April to the following 5 April. Tax returns are issued to all those whom HMRC are aware need a return including all those who are self-employed or company directors. Those individuals who complete returns online are sent a notice advising them that a tax return is due. If a taxpayer is not issued with a tax return but has tax due, they should notify HMRC who may then issue a return.

A taxpayer has normally been required to file his tax return by 31 January following the end of the fiscal year. The return must be filed by 31 October 2022 if submitted in 'paper' format. Returns submitted after this date must be filed online otherwise penalties apply.

Late filing penalties

For those that fail to file their returns on time there is an automatic £100 penalty (even if there is no tax to pay or the tax due has already been paid). This year that date will be 28 February due to the reasons set out above.

The full penalty of £100 will always be due if your return is filed late even if there is no tax outstanding. Generally, if filing by 'paper' the deadline is 31 October and if filing online the deadline is 31 January.

Additional penalties can be charged as follows:

  • over three months late – a £10 daily penalty up to a maximum of £900
  • over six months late – an additional £300 or 5% of the tax due if higher
  • over 12 months late – a further £300 or a further 5% of the tax due if higher. In particularly serious cases there is a penalty of up to 100% of the tax due.

Calculating your tax liability

The taxpayer does have the option to ask HMRC to compute their tax liability in advance of the tax being due in which case the return must be completed and filed by 31 October following the fiscal year.

Whether you or HMRC calculate the tax liability there will be only one assessment covering all your tax liabilities for the tax year. 

Changes to the tax return

HMRC may correct a self assessment within nine months of the return being filed in order to correct any obvious errors or mistakes in the return.

An individual may, by notice to HMRC, amend their self assessment at any time within 12 months of the filing date.

Enquiries

HMRC may enquire into any return by giving written notice. In most cases the time limit for HMRC is within 12 months following the filing date.

The main purpose of an enquiry is to identify any errors on, or omissions from, a tax return which result in an understatement of tax due. Please note however that the opening of an enquiry does not mean that a return is incorrect.

If there is an enquiry, we will also receive a letter from HMRC which will detail the information regarded as necessary by them to check the return. If such an eventuality arises we will contact you to discuss the contents of the letter.

Keeping records

HMRC wants to ensure that underlying records to the return exist if they decide to enquire into the return.

Records are required of income, expenditure and reliefs claimed. For most types of income this means keeping the documentation given to the taxpayer by the person making the payment. If expenses are claimed records are required to support the claim.

How we can help

We can prepare your tax return on your behalf and advise on the appropriate tax payments to make.

If there is an enquiry into your tax return, we will assist you in answering any queries HMRC may have. Please do contact us for help.

15thDec
News article

What the first TAM Day means for business

A review of the implications for business.

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The inaugural Tax Administration and Maintenance (TAM) Day probably passed most businesses by. The name rather leaves the impression that this is a day that has been set aside for tax advisors and accountants. However, closer inspection by business will have been rewarded by some welcome announcements.

The aim of TAM Day is to continue simplifying the UK tax system. Documents released to mark the first one included a range of topics, including modernising the UK tax system so it is fit for the 21st Century; research and development (R&D); business rates; updates to Making Tax Digital (MTD) for companies; and capital gains tax (CGT) administration. Here, we look at some of the key announcements.

Business rates review

In response to a long campaign by business groups, the government has opened a technical consultation setting out further detail on the conclusions to the government's review of business rates in England. This has promised more frequent revaluations, improvement relief, exemptions for green technology and administrative reforms.

R&D reform

Another Budget announcement promised that R&D tax reliefs will be reformed from April 2023 to support modern research methods. The consultation around these changes has now been completed and the report published. This will expand qualifying expenditure to include data and cloud costs. The objective is to more effectively capture the benefits of R&D funded by the reliefs by refocusing support towards innovation in the UK. It is also intended to target abuse and improve compliance. 

CGT time limits

As already revealed during the Autumn Budget, the time limit for making a CGT return and associated payments on account when disposing of UK residential property by UK residents and UK land and property by non-UK residents has been extended from 30 to 60 days.

MTD for Corporation Tax

The government also confirmed its plans to extend MTD to corporation tax (CT) following a consultation with businesses. It confirmed the timeline, which will see the rules applying for companies from April 2026.

The government says it is committed to ongoing collaboration with stakeholders to help shape a service design that works for all and will provide sufficient notice ahead of implementation following any decision to mandate MTD for CT, to allow businesses time to prepare.

A point to note is that there is no de minimis exemption for smaller businesses. A pilot is expected in April 2024, allowing practice before the system is mandatory.

Small Beer

An update on reforms to Small Brewers' Relief will see the government invest around £15 million of additional funding into the craft brewing sector. This will enable small breweries to expand without losing tax relief and addresses concerns raised by stakeholders that the current scheme fails to incentivise growth.

Ten-year plan

The government says its aim is to deliver a modern, simple and effective tax system which helps taxpayers get their tax right the first time. This is all part of the ten-year plan, which was published in July 2020, to modernise the tax administration framework; make better use of real time and third-party information; and progress MTD to improve the experience for taxpayers and businesses, thereby helping to reduce the tax gap and increase resilience.

How we can help

The issues raised here may have implications for your business. To discuss any related matter, please contact us.

23rdNov
News article

Cryptoassets - the view from HMRC

A review of cryptoassets and their treatment by the taxman.

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Although cryptoassets are still a relatively new asset class and they remain mysterious to many people, there is no doubt they are becoming ever more mainstream.

They continue grow in popularity with investors appearing to overlook pricing volatility in the hope of gaining a profit if valuations soar. Cryptoassets are not just an asset class for investments either, increasingly they can be used as a form of currency too.

However, HMRC takes an interest when trades and gains are made. The tax authority can access data from crypto exchanges, so it is important to ensure that all activity is fully compliant and reported where appropriate. Here, we take a look at cryptoassets and their treatment by the taxman.

What are cyrptoassets?

Cryptoassets – it's a broad term, encompassing cryptocurrency and tokens. HMRC defines cryptoassets as cryptographically secured digital representations of value or contractual rights that can be transferred, stored, traded electronically and use some form of distributed ledger technology (DLT).

HMRC guidance recognises four main types of cryptoassets: exchange tokens (which include cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin), utility tokens, security tokens and stablecoins. Exchange tokens are the main focus of its guidance.

HMRC's view of crypto

HMRC aims to cut through to the underlying transaction, rather than getting hung up on crypto terminology. And it reserves its right to amend its guidance as cryptoassets themselves evolve.

It's important to be clear that there are no bespoke rules for cryptoassets: the existing tax provisions flex to accommodate them. In practice, this means that depending on the circumstances, the sale or purchase of cryptoassets could bring any of a number of taxes into play. For individuals, this could include capital gains tax (CGT), income tax and national insurance contributions (NICs). For businesses carrying out activities involving exchange tokens, it could mean corporation tax, corporation tax on chargeable gains, payroll taxes and VAT.

Businesses may increasingly need to consider the tax position where they receive occasional payment in cryptoassets in the course of an existing, non-cryptoasset trade: the glamping site owner who accepts a one-off payment in bitcoin, for example. If a business accepts exchange tokens as payment from customers or uses them to pay suppliers, the tokens should be accounted for within the taxable trading profits.

An asset class

HMRC does not consider cryptoassets to be money or currency. This means, for example, the corporation tax foreign currency rules don't apply. HMRC's view is that cryptoassets don't create a loan relationship for corporation tax purposes.

HMRC does not consider buying and selling cryptoassets to be gambling. This has implications for how proceeds are treated. With gambling winnings, profits are not taxable, and losses are not relieved. This is not the case with cryptoassets.

Investments: CGT

According to HMRC, most individuals hold cryptoassets as a personal investment, with a view to capital growth. This means there is the normal CGT regime to consider, with its annual exemption (currently £12,300) and rules on taxation of gains above this threshold.

With many crypto investors taking their first steps in the world of CGT and self assessment, it's important to be alert to the possibility that there's a liability to CGT any time assets are disposed of. Details should always be recorded and may need to be reported to HMRC in due course.

Trading in cryptoassets

If purchases and sales of cryptoassets are considered to amount to a financial trade, profits or losses come under income tax rules, with income tax and NICs potentially due. But to constitute trading, HMRC expects considerable frequency, organisation and sophistication in the activity, and treatment as a trade will be the exception rather than the rule.

VAT

Where goods or services are sold for exchange tokens by a VAT registered business, VAT is due in the normal way. The value of the supply on which VAT is due is the pound sterling value of the tokens at the point the transaction takes place. Exchange tokens received for mining are generally outside the scope of VAT. This, however, is an area to watch. HMRC flags up the possibility of change, pending other regulatory developments.

How we can help

If you trade, invest or accept cryptoassets as payment for services then there may well be tax implications. Please don't hesitate to contact us to discuss any matters related to cryptoassets and tax.

28thSep
News article

What will the 2021 Autumn Budget have in store?

A review of what the Chancellor may have in store.

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Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver the 2021 Autumn Budget on 27 October. The Budget will follow the Spending Review and is expected to set out how the government will deliver on its promises to the British public. These include leading the transition to net zero across the country; ensuring strong and innovative public services; levelling up across the UK to increase and spread opportunity; and delivering its Plan for Growth.

Here, we take a look at what the Chancellor may have in store in the Autumn Budget.

The UK's trajectory

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says the decisions made this autumn at the Budget and Spending Review will 'define the UK's trajectory for the decade ahead'. These will bring an opportunity to generate higher investment and growth with lower carbon emissions and provide UK leadership in new markets.

According to the CBI, corporate cash reserves are now over £900 billion, creating 'a wall of investment waiting to be invested'. However, it says the government must create the right environment to unleash it.

The CBI's recommendations

Smart taxation that rewards investment:

  • 'Greening' the tax system and pledging no further increases to the business tax burden to safeguard UK status as a leader in attracting global investment
  • Introduce full expensing for capital expenditure beyond 2023 and targeted 'green' investment-focused capital allowance mechanisms
  • Reform outdated business rates to reflect green ambitions and reward decarbonisation efforts
  • Boost the structures and buildings allowance to incentivise sustainable construction

New skills for new markets:

  • Turn the Apprenticeship Levy into a Lifelong Learning Levy to unlock business investment in training
  • Turn Job Centres into regionally autonomous Jobs and Skills Hubs to encourage more people to take up lifelong learning and enable closer alignment with changing local jobs markets
  • Introduce individual training accounts for unemployed individuals
  • Address skills shortages by removing barriers to recruitment

Catalytic public investment:

  • Prioritise the UK establishing itself in new and emerging markets by speeding up the development of major infrastructure projects, new industries, and cutting-edge tech 
  • Designate energy efficiency and heat as a national infrastructure priority
  • Provide long-term funding to decarbonise UK transport systems and develop a UK electric vehicle market
  • Commit to a new Gigafactory plan to deliver increased capacity by 2040

Government as market maker:

  • Deliver on commitments to invest £22 billion in direct domestic R&D funding by 2025
  • Grow investment in business-led innovation, while requiring regulators to prioritise innovation, net zero and investment as part of core remits

Once-in-a-generation opportunity

The CBI says the Autumn Budget is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to change the UK's productivity and growth trajectory, so the government must do what it takes to rapidly unlock private sector investment.

However, failure to act will impact the UK's recovery and ability to level-up. In addition, inaction risks seeing the UK fall behind competitors, lose international investment, and miss out on its global commitments on net zero.

So, all eyes will be on the Chancellor on 27 October to see what he delivers.

How we can help?

The Budget may bring significant changes to the taxation system or bring new opportunities for investment. As your accountants we can help your business through these changes: please contact us.

24thAug
News article

The path to net zero

A review of what businesses could be doing.

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The recent assessment of the planet's future by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a group of scientists whose findings are endorsed by the world's governments, made for sobering reading. The first major review of the science of climate change since 2013 revealed a number of worrying statistics. Its release came in the lead up to the UK's hosting of a key climate summit in Glasgow, known as COP26.

The report and conference have pushed the UK's drive to reach net zero by 2050 back up the agenda. However, the route to net zero appears far from clear to both the UK government and businesses.

Although the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) acknowledges the urgency of the problem, a recent survey from the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) shows that many businesses still don't measure their own carbon footprint. What do businesses need to do to make themselves fit for net zero?

Here, we take a look at the latest climate science and ask what businesses could be doing.

Code Red

The IPCC's report has been described as 'a Code Red for humanity' as it highlights how human activity is changing the climate in unprecedented and sometimes irreversible ways. The landmark study warns of increasingly extreme heatwaves, droughts and flooding and a key temperature limit being broken in just over a decade.

But scientists say a catastrophe can be avoided if the world acts fast.

There is hope that deep cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases could stabilise rising temperatures. The CBI says that the report must put to bed any remaining doubts as to the scale of the climate crisis.

It called for COP26 to be the trigger for more urgent action from countries around the world and says joint efforts by governments, businesses and consumers are required.

The CBI says that while the UK government must take the lead, by establishing the policy and tax frameworks to make it possible, businesses must play a vital role.

The carbon footprint mystery

However, a worrying recent survey conducted by the BCC found that carbon footprints remain a mystery to the vast majority of UK businesses. In fact, only 11% of businesses are measuring their carbon footprint.

The research also showed that only 13% of businesses have set targets to reduce their emissions – down from 21%, when firms were surveyed before the pandemic in February 2020.

The findings also show that 22% of businesses don't fully understand the term 'net zero,' and almost a third have yet to seek advice or information to help them develop a net zero roadmap or improve their environmental sustainability.

Similarly, a survey carried out by resource management firm Veolia has revealed that 83% of businesses polled were not aware of the Plastic Packaging Tax, which is due to take effect from April 2022.

The Plastic Packaging Tax is a new tax that will apply to plastic packaging manufactured in or imported into the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. The government states that the aim of the tax is to 'provide a clear economic incentive for businesses to use recycled plastic in the manufacture of plastic packaging'.

The BCC described its research as a 'real eye-opener' and says change must come as climate challenge affects everyone.

Low carbon economy

The good news for businesses is that the UK's low carbon economy is now worth more than £200 billion according to research by kMatrix, and is continuing to grow.

Experts say the sector not only has the potential to help tackle the climate crisis but also create sustainable jobs and improve people's quality of life – with cleaner transport, reduced air pollution and better insulated homes.

But they warn that if the UK is to make the necessary rapid and fair transition to a low carbon economy, the government must mobilise all sections of society behind a national programme of transformation.

The kMatrix reports how low carbon schemes and projects around the UK are not only helping reduce emissions but also improving communities and creating jobs.

How we can help?

As the push towards net zero takes shape, tax laws may change, while new funding streams become available for eligible businesses and projects.

As your accountants we can help with both your tax and finance requirements: please contact us.

29thJul
News article

Turnover tests and reasonable belief ? applying for the fifth SEISS grant

The fifth instalment of the grant opened for applications in late July

Click or touch to read the full article..

The fifth instalment of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant opened for applications in late July. This is scheduled to be the last instalment of the SEISS grants and unlike its predecessors it introduces a turnover test, which will determine the amount of grant awarded to self-employed workers whose businesses have been hit by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

As well as meeting the turnover test, applicants will also need to show that they have a reasonable belief that there is a significant reduction in trading. Here, we take a look at the application process for the fifth SEISS grant.

How much is the grant?

Unlike SEISS grants one to four, the amount of the fifth grant available is determined by how much a self-employed individual's turnover is reduced.

The fifth grant is 80% of three months' average trading profits, capped at £7,500 for those self-employed individuals whose turnover has reduced by 30% or more. Those with a turnover reduction of less than 30% will receive a grant based on 30% of three months' average trading profits, capped at £2,850.

HMRC began contacting taxpayers in mid-July and claims opened in late July. Claims must be made by 30 September 2021. It is the taxpayer who must make the claim: an accountant or agent cannot submit the claim on their behalf.

Who is eligible?

Self-employed individuals (and members of a partnership) are potentially eligible for the fifth SEISS grant where the taxpayer:

  • submitted their 2019/20 self assessment tax return by 2 March 2021
  • traded in the tax years 2019/20 and 2020/21
  • is currently trading but is impacted by reduced demand due to COVID-19, or has been trading but is temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus
  • intends to continue to trade; and
  • reasonably believes there will be a significant reduction in their trading profits due to the impact of COVID-19 in the period from 1 May 2021 and 30 September 2021. HMRC has not provided a definition of 'significant reduction'.

The taxpayer's trading profits must be no more than £50,000 and at least equal to their non-trading income. If there is no eligibility based on the trading profits for 2019/20, then previous years will be considered.

The turnover test

Before making a claim, taxpayers must:

  • work out their turnover for a 12-month period starting from 1 April 2020 to 6 April 2020
  • find their turnover from either 2019/20 or 2018/19 to use as a reference year.

HMRC advises taxpayers will need to have both figures ready when they make their claim. 

A taxpayer can calculate their turnover for 2020/21 in several ways: 

  • by referring to their 2020/21 self assessment tax return if this has already been completed
  • by checking the figures on their accounting software
  • by reviewing their bookkeeping or spreadsheet records that detail their self-employment invoices and payments received
  • by checking the bank account they use for their business to account for money coming in from customers
  • by asking their accountant or tax adviser for help in calculating the figures. However, accountants and agents are unable to make the claim on the taxpayer's behalf.

HMRC has confirmed that the turnover figure should not include anything reported as any other income on the taxpayer's tax return. Also, do not include any COVID-19 support payments. For example:

  • previous SEISS grants
  • Eat Out to Help Out payments
  • local authority or devolved administration grants.

HMRC's guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/work-out-your-turnover-so-you-can-claim-the-fifth-seiss-grant.

Turnover for the previous year

In most cases, a taxpayer must use the turnover reported in their 2019/20 self assessment tax return as a reference year. The figure needs to be based on a 12-month period and include the total turnover for the taxpayer's businesses.

In certain limited circumstances where 2019/20 was not a normal year for the taxpayer's business, they can use the turnover reported on their 2018/19 tax return. HMRC gives examples of the circumstances where this would apply. For example, if the taxpayer:

  • was on carers' leave, long term sick leave or had a new child
  • carried out reservist duties
  • lost a large contract
  • is eligible for the fifth grant but did not submit a 2019/20 return.

For further guidance on how an individual's circumstances can affect eligibility visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/how-different-circumstances-affect-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme.

Getting ready

Claiming the fifth SEISS grant is not straightforward. Please contact us for advice on determining your turnover figures or eligibility.

22ndJun
News article

Staying safe from scams

It is vital that businesses and individuals are on guard against potential scams.

Click or touch to read the full article..

Scammers and fraudsters thrive on confusion and instability, so the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and ongoing economic repercussions of Brexit have created opportunities for them to attack businesses, taxpayers and savers. Online scams rose 15-fold last year as criminals exploited national events, according to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

It is vital that businesses and individuals are on guard against potential scams. Here, we take a look at some of the most common methods used by criminals and highlight the steps necessary to protect against them.

Impersonating the taxman

There has been a significant rise in scam texts, emails and phone calls claiming to be from HMRC. These messages are increasingly sophisticated so it can be difficult to tell the real from the fake. 

Self assessment tax return season is always a time to be alert, and the pandemic has given scammers many inviting opportunities to prey on confusion.

Emails mimicking HMRC, with invitations to apply for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant, and texts offering refunds or funding because of lockdown are among those in circulation. In the case of the SEISS, it can be even more confusing as HMRC has been contacting some claimants to carry out pre-verification checks. However, if this is the case, HMRC should notify you by letter in advance.

HMRC warns that if a message is unexpected; offers a refund, tax rebate or grant; is threatening; asks for personal information; or tells you to transfer money, it could be a scam.

Sometimes there are tell-tale signs to watch out for, bad grammar and spelling mistakes being two of them. HMRC is not likely to start its emails with a 'hello' or end with a chatty 'thank you for your co-operation'. It will not use WhatsApp or emails to tell you about a tax refund.

Don't click

Most scams invite you to open an attachment or click on a link. Don't. They are likely to take you to a misleading 'phishing' website in order to get you to enter personal details that can then be exploited, or expose you to malicious software.

Import/export red tape

According to the NCSC, Brexit-themed UK government phishing was low during 2020. However, attempts to clone part of the gov.uk website were identified in December. In addition, the increase in red tape being experienced by importers and exporters this year is expected to create opportunities for scammers.

Devastating pension savers

Pension savers have long been a target of scammers, and losses from pension fraud rose to £1.8 million in the first three months of this year, according to figures from Action Fraud.

Pension scams often include free pension reviews, 'too good to be true' investment opportunities and offers to help release money from your pension, even for under 55s, which is not permitted under the pension freedom rules.

Pension fraud can have a devastating impact, both financially and emotionally, but anyone can fall victim to fraud if they are not careful.

Protecting your pension

Although a ban on cold calling in the UK, including emails and texts, was introduced at the beginning of 2019, the problem continues. Cold calls are a major red flag for scams and unsolicited offers should be ignored or rejected. Cold callers will often offer a free pension review. Professional advice on pensions is not free – a free offer out of the blue is probably a scam.

It is crucial that pension savers know who they are dealing with, so checking the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) FCA Register is imperative. Dealing with an authorised firm gives access to the Financial Ombudsman Service or the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which can hold firms to account and give financial protection.

A common scam is to pretend to be a genuine FCA-authorised firm (called a 'clone firm'). The contact details on the FCA Register should always be used, not the details the firm gives out. 

Pension savers should never allow themselves to be rushed or pressured into making a decision. They should not be afraid to miss out on an 'amazing deal' because of artificial deadlines, and if promised returns sound too good to be true, they probably are. Impartial information, financial guidance and advice are all key to making a good decision before altering pension arrangements. 

Individuals and businesses are potential targets for fraudsters and scammers, so always check before you respond to messages, even if they appear genuine at first sight. If in any doubt about suspicious communications, please do get in touch.

25thMay
News article

Upskilling to level up

We consider some of the solutions being proposed.

Click or touch to read the full article..

The UK's longstanding skills gap has proved a headache for both the government and employers for a number of years now. Employers often struggle to find potential employees with the required skills for the roles they need to fill. Consequently, the skills shortage has accentuated the divide between London and the south east of England and the rest of the country.

The government recently announced its Lifetime Skills Guarantee, which will create a post-16 and adult education and training system. It is the latest of several schemes aimed at closing the skills gap and levelling up the UK's economy. Here, we consider some of the solutions being proposed.

Damaged labour market

The coronavirus (COVID-19) recession has caused significant damage to the UK labour market and has led to fears of a 'brittle' and 'rigid' UK workforce that lacks the vital skills the economy requires in order to forge a recovery.

This was highlighted recently by research carried out by manufacturers' organisation Make UK, which revealed that a record level of Apprenticeship Levy funds expired in 2020 without being spent by businesses.

The research revealed that £1,039 million in Levy funds expired in the nine months from May 2020 without being spent by firms. Expired funds cannot be used.

Make UK has urged the government to extend the lifetime of the funds from 24 to 36 months for a period of one year in order to help businesses recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Business groups say that apprenticeships and training schemes are key to unlocking the recovery and building a strong industrial base in the UK.

The Lifetime Skills Guarantee

As part of efforts to upskill the UK's workforce and meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson's levelling up agenda the government is introducing the Lifetime Skills Guarantee. This will create a post-16 and adult education and training system that aims to provide opportunities to train throughout a lifetime.

It includes:

  • a new student finance system, which will give every adult access to a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college, useable at any point in their lives
  • employers will have a statutory role in planning publicly-funded training programmes with education providers, through a 'Skills Accelerator' programme

These build on schemes already underway to update the skills and training offer across the country, including the introduction of new T Level courses and access to free, job-relevant 'bootcamp' courses.

The government says the restructured skills system will put local employers at the centre of skills provision through the 'Skills Accelerator programme'.

The programme will build stronger partnerships between employers and their local Further Education colleges, or other local training providers, ensuring that provision meets local needs in sectors including construction, digital, clean energy and manufacturing.

The Kickstart Scheme

The government's £2 billion Kickstart Scheme opened last year for employer applications.

It aims to create work placements for young people who are at risk of becoming unemployed for the long-term. Businesses can join the scheme, with the government paying employers £1,500 to help set up support and training.

Selected out-of-work young people will be offered six-month work placements for at least 25 hours a week to help them gain experience, skills and confidence. The scheme is designed to be a steppingstone to further employment and runs until December 2021.

However, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to extend the Kickstart Scheme to help young people who are bearing the brunt of the subdued job market.

The CBI says the extra lockdown at the beginning of the year means it needs to stay open for longer to allow businesses the time to deliver opportunities for young people.

Levelling up

In creating a skills system which is fit for the future, the government needs to ensure that the ambitions to drive up the quality of post-16 education and training to meet employer needs are made a reality.

International skills benchmarking shows the UK needs to catch up on other major global economies in valuing high-quality skills to help drive economic competitiveness and productivity.

By raising standards for young people and employers to not only help attract more inward investment to boost job creation and economic recovery but also support the government's levelling up agenda.

Providing opportunities

As we continue down the roadmap out of lockdown businesses are looking to the future. It is vital they invest wisely, using the available government support, to develop a skilled and motivated workforce.

We are happy to advise on the best approach to suit your circumstances. Please contact us for more information.

26thApr
News article

Making use of the super-deduction

Reviewing the new tax break for companies.

Click or touch to read the full article..

The super-deduction is a £25 billion tax break that is intended to spur business investment, aid post-pandemic economic recovery and give a boost to the UK's productivity levels. It was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in this year's Budget as 130% first-year relief on assets. The super-deduction is described by some as the largest tax cut in UK history and by the Chancellor himself as 'bold and unprecedented'.

For two years from April 2021, companies' investments in plant and machinery will qualify for a 130% capital allowance deduction, providing 25p off company tax bills for every £1 of qualifying spending on plant and machinery.

Here we take a look at the super-deduction: what are the terms and conditions? How does it sit alongside the usual rules on capital allowances, and are there any pitfalls?

Who is eligible for the super-deduction?

It is important to note that the super-deduction is not available to every business. It is targeted at companies, not unincorporated businesses. These will have to continue to look to the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA), with its temporarily extended higher £1 million limit, for major capital spending up to 31 December 2021.

How does it work?

It works by giving first-year tax relief in the form of capital allowances for expenditure incurred between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023. For assets that would normally qualify for 18% main rate writing down allowances, the super-deduction gives first-year relief of 130%. Assets normally qualifying for 6% special rate writing down allowances (such as integral features in buildings, like lifts and long-life assets) can qualify for a first-year allowance of 50%. But this 50% allowance is likely to be relevant only to companies that have used their AIA. Unlike the AIA, there is no cap on eligible expenditure. The rate of the deduction will be apportioned for a business making eligible expenditure in an accounting period straddling 1 April 2023.

What are the exclusions?

Plant or machinery must be new, not used or second hand. Expenditure incurred on contracts entered into before the Budget on 3 March 2021 does not qualify. The general exclusions that are in existing legislation relating to first-year allowances apply. For example, expenditure on cars and assets for leasing are excluded – the latter point meaning that commercial landlords may benefit less than the initial publicity of the proposals might have led them to expect.

Leasing exclusions

Assets purchased with a view to leasing to third parties do not qualify for the new super-deduction or special rate first-year allowance for capital allowances purposes.

Leased assets make up a significant proportion of plant and machinery used in trading activities and their exclusion would reduce the impact that these temporary allowances have on incentivising commercial investment and growth.

The Construction Plant Hire Association estimates that the UK's plant hire industry is worth £4 billion per annum. Meanwhile, the Construction Equipment Association estimates that between 60% and 65% of all construction equipment sold in the UK goes into plant hire.

However, at a time when some businesses can ill-afford to make large capital expenditures, leasing or short-term hire are particularly attractive routes to acquiring newer and more productive plant and machinery. For others, these options make good business sense because the assets will only be used for limited periods or need to be updated regularly.

Good record-keeping is essential

Rules on what happens when the assets are disposed of make the picture more complex. Disposal proceeds will be treated as a taxable balancing charge. So, companies that dispose of the assets before the end of the regime could find that it ends up costing more in tax than the super-deduction originally saved them. It will be important to keep records of assets on which the super-deduction is claimed so they can be correctly treated on sale.

Whether the super-deduction significantly benefits your company will depend on the forecast level of capital expenditure, the type of asset, financing method and your expected corporation tax rate. 

This is complex area, and the right decision for your business will be unique to your firm. Please contact us for further advice.