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What will the Autumn Statement bring?

We examine some of the options open to Mr Hunt on 22 November 2023.

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Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has warned of the need to make difficult decisions in the upcoming Autumn Statement. The Chancellor's choices are being restricted by the state of the public finances. However, that isn't preventing business groups from asking for action and Conservative MPs from asking for tax cuts. Here we examine some of the options open to Mr Hunt on 22 November.

State borrowing billions over predictions

The Chancellor's warning came after recent news that there has been a 'sharp worsening' of the public finances over the past six months.

Mr Hunt said state borrowing was on course to be £20 billion to £30 billion higher than predicted at the March Budget.

The Chancellor said: 'The fiscal position has worsened since the spring, and I will have to take difficult decisions in the Autumn Statement.

'The main reason things are more challenging is because interest rate projections for all economies have gone up. The UK is not immune to those changes. We are likely to see an increase in debt interest payments of £20 billion to £30 billion and that's a huge challenge.'

At the time of the March Budget, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said the chancellor had only a £6.5 billion buffer to meet his fiscal rule of having debt as a share of national income falling at the end of five years. Higher borrowing in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed the national debt above £2 trillion.

No short cuts

The government is now expecting the OBR to cut its future growth forecasts for the UK economy, which would pile additional pressure on the public finances.

However, Mr Hunt says he is not prepared to borrow more to finance the tax cuts being demanded by some Conservative MPs. Instead he says he will make savings to pave the way for a more generous Budget next spring as the next general election draws closer.

The Chancellor said: 'I will do everything I can to prevent tax rises and also show how I can reduce the tax burden over time. But I have to be honest – there are no short cuts. Borrowing to finance tax cuts is no tax cut at all. It just passes on the cost to a future generation.

'All western economies have found themselves in a low-growth trap. The Autumn Statement will show how we can get out of it.'

General Election ahead

The Autumn Statement comes with the UK still battling inflation and looking at an uncertain economic forecast. It also comes as the run up to the next General Election is firmly underway.

The Chancellor would no doubt like to go into that election with inflation falling, the economy growing and the ability to make voters feel good with some tax cuts. He also faces pressure from within his own party to cut taxes.

The former PM Liz Truss is planning to release what her allies call a 'Growth Budget' ahead of his Autumn Statement.

Meanwhile, a long campaign by some Conservative MPs to cut inheritance tax is under serious consideration in Downing Street, according to newspaper reports.

Among the proposals under consideration is to reduce the 40% rate paving the way to abolish it in future years. However, this appears more likely to happen in next March's Budget rather than this autumn.

Unleash green markets

Meanwhile, the UK's business groups are also making their pitches for the Autumn Statement.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to 'unleash green markets' to drive long-term prosperity and sustainable growth.

One of the CBI's key proposals is for the government to realise the UK's net zero growth opportunity. It has urged the Chancellor to decrease waiting times to build electricity transmission infrastructure and speed up the process for becoming connected to the grid.

The business group also advocates introducing a targeted 'green' super-deduction for incorporated and unincorporated businesses, with a first-year allowance of at least 120%.

Making full expensing permanent to unlock investment

The CBI is also urging the Chancellor to make full expensing permanent to 'unlock business investment across the economy'. Analysis carried out by the CBI showed that permanent full expensing could help to drive investment by 21% and increase GDP by 2% by 2030/31.

Five key changes

In addition, the Institute of Directors (IoD) has written to the Chancellor Jeremy Hunt with five key policy recommendations for the Autumn Statement.

  • Tax credits for companies that train staff to meet national skill shortages.
  • Stronger incentives for SME net zero transition – such as a differential corporation tax rate.
  • Permanent 100% capital expensing.
  • An export target based on volumes, not values, and the proportion of companies that export.
  • Greater reputational pressure on slow invoice payers.

Ready to help

Whatever the Chancellor's Autumn Statement brings we will be on hand to help. If you need advice on any related matter, please contact us.

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Savers still face challenges despite increase in rates

The challenges facing savers as interest rates increase.

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While the relentless increase to interest rates over the past 18 months has posed challenges to businesses and households, as the cost of borrowing has inexorably risen, there has been a silver lining for savers. Rates on savings returns are finally rising after years in the doldrums.

However, savings rates still lag behind inflation so savings are losing value in real terms, while increased returns mean that many individuals may face a tax bill. Here, we look at the challenges facing savers as interest rates increase.

Frozen Savings Allowance

The frozen Savings Allowance, combined with rising interest rates, will push over one million individuals into paying tax on their savings this tax year, according to research by investment platform AJ Bell. 

In the 2023/24 tax year it is estimated that over 2.7 million individuals will pay tax on interest, up by a million in a year. 

This year's predicted total includes nearly 1.4 million basic rate taxpayers, a figure which has quadrupled in just four years, AJ Bell's research found. 

Tax on savings income

Savings income is income such as bank and building society interest.

The Savings Allowance applies to savings income and the available allowance in a tax year depends on the individual's marginal rate of income tax. Broadly, individuals taxed at up to the basic rate of tax have an allowance of £1,000. For higher rate taxpayers the allowance is £500. No allowance is due to additional rate taxpayers.

Savings income within the allowance still counts towards an individual's basic or higher rate band and so may affect the rate of tax paid on savings above the Savings Allowance.

Some individuals qualify for a 0% starting rate of tax on savings income up to £5,000. However, the rate is not available if taxable non-savings income (broadly earnings, pensions, trading profits and property income, less allocated allowances and reliefs) exceeds £5,000.

Tax bills

Tax bills from savings income are paid either through self assessment or deducted from income through a tax code adjustment. Many won't be aware that they owe the tax until HMRC sends them a letter to change their tax code to deduct the money from their payslip.

That tax hit will compound the fact that cash savings are losing value in real terms, with savings interest lagging well behind the rate of inflation.

Tax-efficient savings strategies

It is vital to review your financial strategies regularly. This includes planning to make the most of the tax-saving opportunities available to you, particularly ahead of the tax year end in April.

Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs)

ISAs are sometimes referred to as a tax 'wrapper' for investments: they allow you to make a tax-efficient investment, rather than dealing directly in the investment market and facing the tax consequences attaching. 

The tax benefits here are considerable. ISAs are free of income tax and capital gains tax and do not impact the availability of the savings or Dividend Allowance.

There are four types of ISA: cash ISAs, stocks and shares ISAs, innovative finance ISAs and Lifetime ISAs. The total you can invest in any tax year is set by the government: for the tax year 2022/23, it is £20,000. This can be allocated across the different types, as you choose. 

Although you cannot hold an ISA with, or on behalf of, someone else, you and your spouse each have an ISA subscription limit: this means you can invest £40,000 between you.

Premium bonds

Premium bonds from NS&I offer a secure way to hold cash. Rather than a set interest rate, prizes of £25 to £1 million are paid monthly. The advantage is that any prizes are free of tax. However, the return on Premium Bonds is not guaranteed and you may never win a prize, so anyone choosing this option needs to be prepared to make no return on their money.

Using your partner's allowance

Every individual is entitled to their own personal allowance (PA), which is £12,570 for the 2022/23 tax year. A key element in tax planning is to make the best use of the PA. If your spouse or civil partner has little or no income, you might want to consider the ownership of income-producing assets.

This may involve redistributing income-producing assets to minimise the couple's tax liability – but be mindful of the settlements legislation governing 'income shifting'. Any transfer must be an outright gift, with 'no strings attached'.

Use your pension

If you've just tipped over into the next tax bracket, and seen your Personal Savings Allowance halved or wiped out you can use your pension to bring you back down into the lower income tax bracket. When you contribute to your SIPP, the gross value of the contribution has the effect of extending your basic rate tax band, meaning that you could avoid tipping into the higher-rate band.

As your accountants, we can work with you to make sure your business and personal finances are in the strongest possible position for whatever the future may hold. Please get in touch to discuss the tax planning opportunities available to you.

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Negotiating interest rate increases

A look at the effect of rising interest rates.

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In the Bank of England's battle against inflation its main weapon has been increasing the base rate of interest. The UK's base rate has risen 14 times in succession from a lockdown low of 0.1% in December 2021 to 5.25% now. These increases are designed to squeeze spending power and cool the economy. However, rising interest rates also impact on borrowers, homeowners, savers and taxpayers. Here, we take a look at the effect of rising interest rates.

Fighting inflation

Interest rates are at a 15-year high as the Bank of England (BoE) continues its fight to bring inflation down to its target of 2%.

The latest official data shows that inflation dropped to 6.8% in July from 7.9% the month prior, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The figure was lower than expected, meaning that the Bank may slow down its rate-rising activity.

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has also pledged to halve the rate of price rises by the end of the year. Mr Hunt described high inflation as 'a destabilising force eating into pay cheques and slowing growth'.

Despite the recent drop in inflation some economists predict that interest rates will need to rise to 7% to tackle the problem.

Squeeze on homeowners

Rising interest rates can significantly affect homeowners, especially those with variable rate mortgages, those looking to remortgage or get a new mortgage. Mortgage lenders often pass on these increases to borrowers, leading to higher monthly mortgage payments.

A typical five-year fixed mortgage deal in the UK now has an interest rate of more than 6%, putting further pressure on borrowers who are hoping to buy a home or reaching the end of their existing deals.

Higher mortgage payments squeeze homeowners' disposable income and reduces their spending power. They can also deter potential homebuyers from the market, which puts downward pressure on property prices.

Silver lining for savers

While rising interest rates can pose challenges for borrowers, they provide a silver lining for savers.

Banks and building societies often take their time to adjust savings account rates in response to rate changes. However, the rate rises are gradually feeding through, and savings rates are at their highest points in years with easy access accounts now over 4.5%, notice accounts over 5% and fixed-term accounts over 6%.

These rates are constantly changing and because they remain below inflation in real terms the money held in savings accounts is shrinking. It is vital to shop around for the best rates possible for your savings.

Late payments and repayments to HMRC

HMRC moves the rates it charges taxpayers for late payments and repayments in line with the base rate.

The tax authority increased interest rates with late payment bills charged 7.75% from 22 August, the highest rate since 2001.

Late payment interest is payable on late tax bills covering income tax, national insurance contributions (NICs), Capital Gains Tax (CGT), corporation tax pay and file, Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), stamp duty and stamp duty reserve tax.

Repayment interest was also increased from the 4% rate to 4.25%.

With rising interest rates, taxpayers who encounter difficulties meeting their tax deadlines may face higher costs due to accumulating interest charges. For businesses, this could result in financial strain, potentially affecting cash flow and profitability.

Shrinking household wealth

The recent hikes in interest rates have caused household wealth to fall by £2.1 trillion over the past year, according to research carried out by think tank the Resolution Foundation.

The report notes that Britain has experienced an unprecedented wealth boom in recent decades, with total household wealth rising from around 300% of national income in the 1980s, to 840% – or £17.5 trillion – in 2021.

However, the Bank of England's rapid rate-rising cycle since late 2021 has caused mortgage rates to rise, house prices to fall and, critically, the price of government and corporate bonds to plummet.

Falling bond prices have reduced the measured value of pension assets (largely in defined benefit schemes, or already in payment), normally the biggest single source of household wealth in Britain.

The Foundation's estimates suggest total household wealth has fallen to 650% of national income in early 2023 – a cash fall of £2.1 trillion over the past year and the biggest fall as a share of GDP since World War II.

Uncertain path

The future path of interest rates is uncertain. Higher rates may be here to stay, or they may return to more manageable levels in the future.

In the meantime, homeowners may find themselves burdened with higher mortgage payments while savers may enjoy better returns on their investments.

It is essential for individuals and businesses to remain vigilant and adapt to the changing interest rate environment, making informed decisions to secure their financial well-being.

Please contact us if you need information or advice on any of the issues discussed in this blog.

News article

ESG rises up the business agenda

Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) has risen up the agenda for modern businesses despite sometimes being misunderstood and occasionally controversial.

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Environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) has risen up the agenda for modern businesses despite sometimes being misunderstood and occasionally controversial. Some believe it is the job of government not business to deal with environmental or social issues. Others are concerned that ESG is too closely associated with political agendas.

However, ignoring ESG is not an option that businesses can afford any longer due to the legal and reputational risks involved. Here we look at ESG and assess some of the factors that businesses must consider.

Rarely considered

A few years ago, it would have been rare for many businesses to consider ESG factors and wider sustainability issues in significant detail.

Now a combination of government policy, increased regulations, industry initiatives and increased awareness of climate change have changed that. This change brings a number of challenges.

There have been concerns around availability and quality of data, effective modelling of outcomes and impacts.

There are also risks around greenwashing and the potential for green hushing – where firms keep quiet about their emissions reduction targets to avoid scrutiny.

Other businesses may consider that addressing the climate and biodiversity crisis is a matter for government and policymakers, not for businesses.

These are legitimate concerns, but they should not be a barrier to firms meeting their legal duties. Especially as the pace of change in relation to data improvements, policy development and guidance has reduced some of these industry challenges in recent years.

Better decisions

Many business leaders believe considering ESG factors helps them to make better decisions for their firm.

This was the conclusion of an Institute of Directors (IoD) survey. In addition, the 42% of business leaders polled by the IoD said that all three aspects of ESG were of equal importance. Of those remaining, 26% highlighted 'governance' as the most important component, whilst 17% chose 'environment' as the most important factor and 9% selected 'social'.

The IoD survey also highlighted that a solid governance framework is a pre-requisite for success in the other aspects of ESG. So, getting governance right should be the starting point for the directors of all kinds of organisations.

Rules and oversight

ESG governance refers to the implementation of decision-making, board oversight, rules, policies, and procedures throughout an organisation relating to environment social and governance.

Key governance topics include:

  • board diversity
  • business ethics and conduct
  • tax transparency and strategy
  • risk management
  • anti-competitive practices
  • data protection, privacy, and cybersecurity
  • ESG data controls
  • ESG reporting and disclosure.

Stewarding nature

Environmental relates to how firms perform as a steward of nature, and how they utilise natural resources in the course of doing business. It also takes into consideration environmental concerns and is often the most watched element by members of the public.

Common environmental factors include:

  • carbon emissions and energy usage
  • water usage and management
  • waste management and reduction
  • biodiversity and habitat conservation
  • pollution and toxic chemical usage
  • supply chain sustainability
  • climate change adaption and resilience.

Managing relationships

The final part of ESG is a broad topic that covers a wide range of social issues. It covers the business's relationships with everyone from the shareholders and employees to tenants, neighbours and partners. How a business interacts with these stakeholders is very important to potential investors, and managing these social relationships should be at the heart of any ESG strategy.

Common social factors include:

  • diversity and inclusion
  • fair pay
  • education
  • flexible working hours
  • employee turnover
  • company relationships
  • company hierarchies
  • tenant relationships
  • company ethics
  • reputation.

Improved understanding

It is vital that businesses of all types improve their understanding of climate, ESG and wider sustainability issues. They will also need to improve the quality of their policies and disclosure, move away from boilerplate wording and ensure action follows intent.

In the past not enough firms focused on ESG issues in any significant detail, now they can no longer ignore the elephant in the room.

Implementing ESG successfully means changing budget priorities but can also open up new opportunities for your business. Please contact us if you want to discuss any of the financial aspects related to this area.

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Avoiding minimum wage shame

We take a look at the rates and what to do to make sure you comply.

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The rates of pay set by the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) increased on 1 April 2023. Those employers that flout the NMW laws now risk more than just being fined and forced to repay underpayments. HMRC keeps a public 'name and shame' list of offenders. Here, we take a look at the new rates and what to do to make sure you comply.

Naming and shaming

This year the government named and shamed 202 employers for failing to pay their lowest paid staff the minimum wage.

Together these firms were found to have failed to pay their workers almost £5 million in a breach of NMW law, leaving around 63,000 workers out of pocket.

The companies named by the government ranged from major high street brands to small businesses and sole traders. The government reiterated that no employer is exempt from paying their workers the statutory minimum wage.

The NLW and the NMW

Anybody working aged 23 or over and not in the first year of an apprenticeship is legally entitled to the NLW.

Despite its name, this rate is essentially a NMW for the over 22s. The government is committed to increasing this every year.

The NLW rate changes every April, while the NMW rates have traditionally been revised in October. However, since April 2017 the NMW and NLW cycles have been aligned so that both rates are amended in April each year. Employers will need to make sure they are paying their staff correctly as the NLW will be enforced as strongly as the NMW.

The table below shows the NMW and NLW rates applying from 1 April 2023:

  Apprentices* 16 and 17 18-20 21-22 23 and over
NMW £5.28 £5.28 £7.49 £10.18 -
NLW - - - - £10.42

*Under 19, or 19 and over in the first year of their apprenticeship

Who does not have to be paid the National Minimum Wage?

  • The genuinely self-employed.
  • Child workers - anyone of compulsory school age (i.e., until the last Friday in June of the school year they turn 16).
  • Company directors who do not have contracts of employment.
  • Students doing work experience as part of a higher education course.
  • People living and working within the family, for example au pairs.
  • Friends and neighbours helping out under informal arrangements.
  • Members of the armed forces.

Workers on government employment programmes such as the Work Programme.

  • People working on a Jobcentre Plus Work trial for up to six weeks.
  • People on the European Union Programmes: Leonardo da Vinci, Youth in Action, Erasmus+ and Comenius programmes.
  • Share fishermen.
  • Prisoners.
  • Volunteers and voluntary workers.
  • People living and working in a religious community.

Beware the family company trap

Although there is an exemption for family members working in the family business and residing in the family home of the employer, the Regulations specifically refer to the employer's family. If the family business (i.e., the employer) is a limited company, then it does not have a family. Even if the family business operates as a sole trader or partnership, the only family members exempted are those who actually live in the home of the employer.

Breaching NMW laws

The government can impose penalties on employers that underpay their workers in breach of the minimum wage legislation. The penalty can be as much as 200% of arrears owed to workers. The maximum penalty is £20,000 per worker.

The penalty is reduced by 50% if the unpaid wages and the penalty are paid within 14 days. 

Periodically the government publishes a list of employers who have not complied. The reasons employers fail to comply vary and include topping up pay with tips and deducting sums for uniforms, among others.

The employers named by the government fell foul of the following NMW laws:

  • 39% of employers deducted pay from workers' wages
  • 39% of employers failed to pay workers correctly for their working time
  • 21% of employers paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.

Calculating the NMW and NLW

Calculating the NMW and the NLW can prove to be complex. Please contact us to discuss any concerns you may have over this or any other payroll matters.

News article

Staying safe from impersonation scams

A look at the threat posed by scams and steps to protect against them.

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The fight against scammers and fraudsters continues for both businesses and individuals. Modern technology has helped to create new ways for fraudsters to target and bombard individuals with texts, calls and emails. Fraudsters often use impersonation tactics to pose as a trusted organisation.

It is vital that businesses and individuals are on their guard against potential scams. Here, we take a look at the threat posed by scams and consider some steps to protect against them.

Millions of pounds lost to scams

£177.6 million was lost to impersonation scams in 2022, according to data from UK Finance.

The data showed that there were 45,367 cases of impersonation scams in 2022. It also revealed that just 51% of individuals always check whether a request for personal data or money is legitimate.

Impersonation scams take place when a criminal pretends to be a trusted organisation such as a bank, the police, a delivery or utility company, or even a friend or family member. The scams can be very sophisticated and often start with a call, text, email or direct message with an urgent request for money or personal and financial information.

The research found that younger adults are particularly at risk. Just 38% of 18–34-year-olds always check a request for their money or information is genuine – the lowest of any age group. This age group was also the most likely to believe that they had been contacted by a criminal after they had responded to an initial request for information from what they thought was a trusted organisation.

UK Finance says individuals should stop and take a moment to think before parting with money or information; challenge any unsolicited communication; and protect themselves and their finances by contacting their bank immediately if they think they've fallen for a scam.

Take Five

The Take Five to Stop Fraud campaign urges people to take a moment to stop and think before parting with their money or information.

The campaign brings together law enforcement, government to encourage members of the public to be more vigilant against fraud, particularly about sharing their financial and personal information, as criminals seek to capitalise on the cost-of-living crisis.

Criminals are experts at impersonating people, organisations and the police. Take Five advises:

Stop: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe.

Challenge: Could it be fake? It's ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you.

Protect: Contact your bank immediately if you think you've fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud.

Too good to be true

The cost-of-living crisis has provided another avenue of attack for fraudsters with a rise in fake fuel vouchers, phone bill discounts and supermarket offers being reported.

These scams use tactics like phishing emails and fake ads in order to encourage people to handover their personal information over the phone or by registering on a bogus website.

If you see an offer that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Always check the brand's official website or social media channels to verify whether an offer is authentic.

Devastating pension savers

Pension savers have long been a target of scammers. 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 a 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 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 changing pension arrangements. 

Anyone and every business 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 contact, please do get in touch.

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The changing labour market

A look at what employers can do to help attract and retain talent amid the ongoing people and skills shortages crisis.

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Prompted by the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic many of those in the UK workforce re-assessed their priorities, including their work/life balance, a process that has altered the UK's labour market. Some opted for early retirement, while others pushed for more flexible working arrangements. A considerable number dropped out of the labour market due to the lack of available childcare, whilst mental health difficulties caused some to withdraw from the world of work. Here we look at what employers can do to help attract and retain talent amid the ongoing people and skills shortages crisis.

Changed perspectives

The pandemic changed perspectives on the balance of work in our lives and the way we lead them. It prompted many in their 50s and 60s, particularly individuals with private pensions and property wealth, to take early retirement. Those still in the workforce are demanding businesses adopt new values of work.

A report published by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee has warned that the UK's shrinking workforce is restricting economic growth.

A poll commissioned by the Committee revealed that whilst many workers took early retirement, some individuals would consider returning to work if flexible roles with adequate protections allowed them to continue a semi-retirement.

In addition, the march of technology is leaving many without the requisite skills for the modern workplace leaving many potential workers in need of retraining.

New realities, new approach

Business groups say that new realities demand a new approach. They are calling on the government to play its part in getting people back to work through support with childcare, healthcare and skills.

However, they also acknowledge that businesses must play their part in a revolution in childcare; flexible working policies becoming mainstream; embracing automation; wellness becoming an employer's job; and skills and immigration policies being brought together.

Childcare revolution

The UK has some of the highest childcare costs in the OECD, with public funding for childcare comprising less than 0.1% of GDP – the second lowest investment in the OECD.

In England, the cost of a part-time nursery place for a child under two grew by 60% in cash terms between 2010 and 2021 – twice as fast as average earnings. This prevents parents from working, especially women who continue to carry the burden of caring responsibilities. However, the Spring Budget saw significant reforms to childcare. Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced 30 hours of free childcare for every child over the age of nine months with working parents by September 2025.

The funding paid to nurseries for the existing free hours offers will also be increased by £204 million from this September, rising to £288 million next year.

According to Mr Hunt, these measures will remove barriers to work for many parents, reducing discrimination against women and benefit the wider economy in the process.

Rising costs

However, there is still uncertainty about whether these changes will be enough. A recent report carried out by recruitment firm Indeed Flex has suggested that rising childcare costs are keeping mothers from returning to the workplace.

The report found that one third of working mothers spend over 30% of their wages on childcare. Two in five mothers polled said that the government's free childcare expansion will be enough to allow them to go back to work. However, a similar sized proportion of mothers believe that childcare costs are still too high, despite additional government help.

Flexible working to go mainstream

Research from think tank Timewise, shows that nine out of ten people want flexible work, but only three out of ten job adverts offer it.

These numbers put the issue into stark relief for employers who need to embrace the merits of flexible working. Those that do will stand a far better chance of attracting those who have left the workplace, and are now economically inactive, back into the workforce.

Embracing automation

According to the business groups, wider use of artificial intelligence (AI) across the UK economy and the adoption of digital technologies by SMEs could create add billions to the country's Gross Added Value (GVA).

They say the UK needs more robotics and AI to help firms deploy the people they have more effectively, as well as take the place of people they are struggling to hire. Those firms that fail to review their use of such technologies will be in danger of getting left behind.

Employers to lead on wellness

Over a quarter of those who are now economically inactive are out of the workforce because of long-term sickness, according to the business groups.

It says that employer-led health interventions, to prevent common physical and mental health risks, could help save £60 billion every year – reducing the impact of ill-health on the UK workforce by up to 20%.

Skills and immigration brought together

Business groups say that the UK needs to work smarter in upskilling and reskilling existing workers and attracting the best talent in the world.

This means migrating the Apprenticeship Levy into a new Skills Challenge Fund, where businesses can invest in accredited training for the variety of skills they know their people need − working alongside a cross-departmental approach to immigration policy.

Clearly, this is a matter for the government, but as shown by the childcare measures in the Spring Budget, the authorities do sometimes listen to businesses and make the necessary changes.

Updated relationship

Businesses must think progressively to meet the other requirements discussed in this blog.
To attract and keep the best talent, employers need to update their relationship with their employees. This means constantly evaluating and evolving their offer to their employees and wider talent.

Business groups means a mutual value exchange of what the employee gives and gets that goes way beyond terms and conditions. The return for firms is greater loyalty, discretionary effort and leadership, rather than employees who merely clock in.

Businesses that look to the future must invest wisely using the available government support to develop a skilled and motivated workforce.

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

News article

Using the Bank of Mum and Dad to pass down wealth

A look at how long-term objectives for family finances can be met.

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Recent research has highlighted the importance of The Bank of Mum and Dad in helping young people start their adult lives, marriages and, most commonly of all, get themselves on the property ladder. However, passing down wealth through the generations takes careful planning. Here we look at how long-term objectives for family finances can be met.

Billions of gifts and loans

Parents in the UK gift or loan their children an estimated £17 billion each year, mostly to help with buying a house or as a wedding present, according to recent research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS).

Most transfers come from parents aged over 50 to children in their late 20s and early 30s. Around 30% of young adults receive at least one substantial transfer (of £500 or more) over any eight-year period.

The majority of this transfer comes in the form of gifts while £3.3 billion is in the form of loans, although these are frequently lent with very favourable terms and low expectation of them being repaid.

The property ladder

Half of the value of gifts received was used for property purchases or improvement. Those using transfers for this purpose received over £20,000, on average. Those in the least wealthy third are relatively more likely to report using gifts for the purchase of a new car, to pay off debts or for educational expenses.

Whatever the purpose of a gift or loan, it can attract the attention of the tax authorities with the potential for inheritance tax (IHT) or capital gains tax (CGT) liabilities.

Lifetime gifts

Many smaller or regular lifetime gifts are exempt from IHT, while larger gifts may become exempt after seven years, so a strategy of making gifts in your lifetime can substantially reduce your taxable estate on death.

You can also take out life insurance to cover any IHT which might be due following your death within seven years of making larger gifts. However, potential CGT must be taken into account with this option.

Inheritance tax

IHT is currently payable where a person's taxable estate is in excess of £325,000. Therefore, if you own your own house and have some savings, your estate could be liable. 

The good news is that there are a number of allowances and strategies that may help to reduce your liability to IHT. This may include utilising the residence nil-rate band, which was introduced with the intention of enabling a 'family home' to be passed tax-free on death.

It could be said that the art of IHT planning is to give away as much as possible during your lifetime, while still keeping enough to ensure that you and your spouse can live a comfortable and fulfilling retirement. 

Full rate

The full rate of tax is 40% on the estate value in excess of £325,000. Taxable gifts made up to seven years before death are added back into your estate and tax is calculated on the inclusive value. But to the extent that such lifetime gifts made between three and seven years before death exceed the tax threshold, the associated tax is discounted by up to 80%.

In addition, the 'residence nil-rate band' (RNRB) applies where a residence is passed on death to direct descendants, such as a child or a grandchild. The RNRB is set at £175,000 for 2022/23. 


Trusts allow you to make gifts without giving the recipient complete control over the asset and/or the income it generates. Gifts into trust may result in an IHT liability, depending on the nature, timing and terms of the gift and the value of other chargeable gifts in the preceding seven years. Ten-yearly and exit charges may also arise.

You can also create a discretionary trust in your Will to allow your trustees to decide how your assets should be distributed, giving a (non-binding) letter of wishes and taking into account all relevant circumstances at the time. This option has the advantage of deferring all CGT charges.

How we can help

It is important to remember that planning to minimise your IHT liability is a team effort. The scope for making substantial savings may be missed unless professional advice is sought. Please do not hesitate to contact us for assistance with planning your family's financial security.

News article

How does careless differ from deliberate?

A review of some of the terms used and take a look at the self assessment process.

Click or touch to read the full article..

A key issue in a recent high profile tax dispute centred around a penalty issued by HMRC for an error that was described as 'careless and not deliberate'. This phrase has caused many to ask questions about how HMRC categorises mistakes on tax returns and when penalties and interest payments might apply. Here we explain some of the terms used and take a look at the self assessment process.

Reasonable care

A plain English reading of the phrase 'careless and not deliberate' implies a simple error was made. However, UK tax law is more complicated, and the phrase is more likely a designation settled on by HMRC if it concludes it cannot prove deliberate behaviour.

A more thorough explanation was later given by HMRC's Chief Executive Jim Harra, who appeared before MPs on the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) in Parliament.

Mr Harra said: 'There are no penalties for innocent errors in your tax affairs. If you take reasonable care, but nevertheless make a mistake, whilst you will be liable for the tax, and for interest . . . you would not be liable for a penalty.

'But if your error was as a result of carelessness, then legislation says that a penalty could apply in those circumstances.

'Carelessness is a concept in tax law. It can be relevant to how many back years that we can assess, can be relevant to whether someone is liable to a penalty and if so, what penalty they will be liable to for an error in their tax affairs.'

While these words will come as a relief to many, it is still vital that care is taken to file tax returns in a timely and accurate manner.

Tax returns

Tax returns are issued shortly after the end of the fiscal year. Tax returns are issued to all those whom HMRC are aware need a return including all those who are self-employed or company directors.

This year saw a record 11.7 million self assessment taxpayers submitted their returns by the 31 January deadline.

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, and it may then issue a return.

If you are not asked to complete a tax return, it remains your responsibility to advise HMRC if there is a new source of untaxed income, a capital profit that could lead to a tax liability, or your savings or dividend income is significant enough to result in tax being payable at the basic, higher or additional rates of tax.

Self assessment timetable

  • Income tax and capital gains tax are both assessed for a tax year which runs from 6 April to the following 5 April.
  • Shortly after 5 April - SA returns or a notice to complete a return are issued by HMRC.
  • 31 October following - non-electronic returns need to be submitted to HMRC by this date.
  • 31 January following - final date for submission of the return and all outstanding tax to be paid.


Late filing penalties apply for personal tax returns as follows:

£100* penalty immediately after the due date for filing (even if there is no tax to pay or the tax due has already been paid)

*The full penalty of £100 will always be due if your return is filed late even if there is no tax outstanding.

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.

Interest rates

HMRC will charge interest on late payments.

The current late payment and repayment interest rates applied to the main taxes and duties that HMRC currently charges and pays interest on are:

  • late payment interest rate - 6% from 6 January 2023
  • repayment interest rate - 2.50% from 6 January 2023.

Correcting the tax return

HMRC may correct a self assessment in order to correct any obvious errors or mistakes in the return.

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

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

If HMRC does not enquire into a return, it will be final and conclusive unless the taxpayer makes an overpayment relief claim or HMRC makes a discovery.

It should be emphasised that HMRC cannot query any entry on a tax return without starting an enquiry. 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.

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.

News article

What does 2023 have in store?

Here we outline the key measures that will take effect from April 2023.

Click or touch to read the full article..

January is a time when many businesses look to the future and plan for the year ahead. Later in the Spring, the new tax year will bring a number of changes that will impact on those businesses. Here we outline the key measures that will take effect from April 2023.

Income tax rates

At the Mini Budget in September, the government announced a plan to abolish the 45% additional rate of income tax from April 2023. It was announced on 3 October 2022 that the government would not proceed with this plan.

From 6 April 2023, the point at which individuals pay the additional rate will be lowered from £150,000 to £125,140. The additional rate for non-savings and non-dividend income will apply to taxpayers in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The additional rate for savings and dividend income will apply to the whole of the UK.

The income tax personal allowance and higher rate threshold were already fixed at their current levels until April 2026 and will now be maintained for an additional two years until April 2028. They will be £12,570 and £50,270 respectively.

Reduction in the Dividend Allowance

The government will reduce the Dividend Allowance from £2,000 to £1,000 from April 2023 and to £500 from April 2024.

Additionally, from April 2023, the rates of taxation on dividend income will remain as follows:

  • the dividend ordinary rate - 8.75%
  • the dividend upper rate - 33.75%
  • the dividend additional rate - 39.35%.

As corporation tax due on directors' overdrawn loan accounts is paid at the dividend upper rate, this will also remain at 33.75%.

Capital gains

The government has announced that the capital gains tax annual exempt amount will be reduced from £12,300 to £6,000 from April 2023 and to £3,000 from April 2024.

Research and Development

For expenditure on or after 1 April 2023, the Research and Development Expenditure Credit (RDEC) rate will increase from 13% to 20% but the small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) additional deduction will decrease from 130% to 86% and the SME credit rate will decrease from 14.5% to 10%.

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme

From April 2023, companies will be able to raise up to £250,000 of Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) investment, a two-thirds increase. To enable more companies to use SEIS, the gross asset limit will be increased to £350,000 and the age limit from two to three years. To support these increases, the annual investor limit will be doubled to £200,000.


From 6 April 2023, car and van fuel benefits and the van benefit charge will increase in line with inflation.

National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage uprating

The government will increase the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) from 1 April 2023. The rates will be as follows:

  • £10.42 an hour for those aged 23 and over
  • £10.18 an hour for workers aged 21-22
  • £7.49 an hour for 18–20-year-olds
  • £5.28 for 16-17-year-olds
  • £5.28 an hour for apprentices.


The Government has protected businesses this winter from these high energy costs through the £18 billion Energy Bill Relief Scheme.

However, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has made it clear that this level of support is 'unsustainably expensive' and that the current scheme was always time limited to six months.

The Chancellor has said that any future support, while at a lower level, would be designed to help them transition to the new higher price environment and avoid a cliff edge in support.

For consumers, the Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will be maintained through the winter, limiting typical energy bills to £2,500 per year. From April 2023 the EPG will rise to £3,000.

Whatever 2023 has in store, we will be on hand to keep you up to date with changes to the tax system. We are available to help with any matters related to taxes, tax reliefs and grants. Please contact us if you have any queries.