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Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grants - Scheme Closing Shortly

 The second and final taxable grant is worth 70% of an individual’s average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

Applications for the second and final grant is closing shortly, taxpayers must make a claim on or before
19 October 2020. 
The grant is only available to businesses that have been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020.

HMRC will work out businesses’ eligibility for the second grant in the same way as the first grant.

Taxpayers are able to make a claim for the second grant if they are eligible, even if they did not make a claim for the first grant.

HMRC have confirmed that taxpayers can:

  • continue to work
  • start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work and duties as a military reservist

The grant does not need to be repaid if a taxpayer is eligible but will be subject to both income tax and self employed National Insurance.

Internet link: GOV.UK SEISS guidance

Friday, 9 October 2020

IMPORTANT

Companies House have today announced that from tomorrow
10 October they will re-commence actions to compulsorily strike off companies which in their opinion are no longer trading or no longer required.

This will be prompted in most cases by a failure to file either accounts or annual confirmation statement. Directors and shareholders should be aware that if a company is struck off the register and it has any assets, those assets will become Bona Vacantia and become the property of the Crown.  Please contact us if you have concerns regarding this.

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Newsletter 148

 

COVID-19

As we are all only too aware, the rules around the current pandemic seem to change faster than it takes to implement the previous changes.

Of course, having heard about the changes, there is the tiny matter of interpreting the latest rules, not to mention a geography lesson required to discover whether you are in local lockdown or not and whether indeed you can enjoy a drink with 5 friends down at your local pub.

We have made our office as Covid secure as we believe possible and we have been working back here for some
8 weeks now.

Unfortunately as case numbers have seemed to rise once again, we find ourselves in the same category of business as shops where visitors are required to check in and to wear a face covering during their visit.

The easiest way of finding out about working arrangements is therefore online at www.walkerthompson.co.uk

It is of prime importance to us that all staff and visitors stay safe and that transmission of the virus within the office environment here is minimised as far as is possible.

Job Support Scheme

The existing job support scheme, the furlough scheme, comes to an end on 31 October. As part of the Winter Economy Plan the government announced it will be introducing a new Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020.

For employers to participate in the scheme:

  • employees will need to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours
  • for every hour not worked, the employer and the government will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay
  • the government contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month.

Employees using the scheme will receive at least 77% of their pay, where the government contribution has not been capped. The employer will be reimbursed in arrears for the government contribution. The employee must not be on a redundancy notice.

The scheme will run for six months from 1 November 2020 and is open to all employers with a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme. It will be open to such businesses even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme.

All small and medium-sized enterprises will be eligible. Large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by COVID-19. The government also expects that large employers will not be making capital distributions, such as dividends, while using the scheme.

The Job Support Scheme will sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus which was announced by the Chancellor in July. The Bonus will provide a one-off payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed through to the end of January 2021 and who earns at least £520 a month on average between
1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021. Businesses can benefit from both schemes.

Internet link: Gov.uk Factsheet

Winter Economy Plan support for the self-employed

As part of the Winter Economy Plan the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended under the name SEISS Grant Extension. The grant:

  • will be limited to self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the SEISS, and
  • will be available to individuals who are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to COVID-19.

The scheme will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021, and will consist of two grants. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January. This initial grant will cover 20% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £1,875 in total. The second grant will cover a three-month period from the start of February until the end of April. The government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.

The amount of the first grant under the SEISS grant extension will be significantly less than the grants made under the SEISS. The initial SEISS grant was based on 80% of profits (capped at £7,500) and the second SEISS grant was based on 70% of profits (capped at £6,570).

Internet link: Gov.uk factsheet

VAT deferral and enhanced Time to Pay for self assessment

Over half a million businesses deferred VAT payments, which were due in March to June 2020, with these payments becoming due at the end of March 2021.

As part of the Winter Economy Plan the government has now announced the option for such businesses to spread their payments over the financial year 2021/22. Businesses will be able to choose to make 11 equal instalments over 2021/22. All businesses which took advantage of the VAT deferral can use the spreading scheme. Businesses will need to opt in and HMRC will put in place an opt-in process in early 2021.

Enhanced Time to Pay for self assessment taxpayers

Taxpayers were able to defer the income tax self assessment payment on account for 2019/20, due by 31 July 2020, to
31 January 2021. There are also other amounts due on
31 January 2021 – a balancing payment for the 2019/20 tax year and the first payment on account for the 2020/21 tax year.

Taxpayers with up to £30,000 of self assessment liabilities due will be able to use HMRC’s self-service Time to Pay facility to secure a plan to pay over an additional 12 months. This means that self assessment liabilities due in July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will not need to be paid in full until January 2022. Any self assessment taxpayer not able to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, can continue to use HMRC’s Time to Pay self assessment helpline to agree a payment plan.

Internet link: Gov.uk news

Changes to the Bounce Back Loan and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has provided support to many UK-based small businesses. Loans are between £2,000 and £50,000, capped at 25% of turnover, with a 100% government guarantee to the lender. The borrower does not have to make any repayments for the first 12 months, with the government covering the first 12 months’ interest payments. Under a Pay as you Grow scheme businesses will have options to:

  • repay their loan over a period of up to ten years
  • move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times)
  • pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments).
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme provides loan facilities to UK-based businesses with turnover under £45 million. The scheme provides loans of up to £5 million with an 80% government guarantee to the lender. The government does not charge businesses for this guarantee and also covers the first 12 months of interest payments and fees.

The government has announced that as part of the Winter Economy Plan it intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years.

The government is also extending the CBILS and BBLS to
30 November 2020 for new applications.

Applications for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Future Fund will also be extended.

Internet link: gov.uk publications

The VAT reverse charge

HMRC has issued detailed guidance on the domestic reverse charge changes scheduled for 1 March 2021.

The reverse charge represents part of a government clampdown on VAT fraud. Large amounts of VAT are lost through ‘missing trader’ fraud. As part of this type of fraud, VAT is charged by a supplier, who then disappears, along with the output tax. The VAT is thus lost to HMRC. Construction is considered a particularly high-risk sector because of the potential to make supplies with minimal input tax but considerable output tax.

The reverse charge does not change the VAT liability: it changes the way that VAT is accounted for. From 1 March 2021 the recipient of the services, rather than the supplier, will account for VAT on specified building and construction services. This is called a ‘reverse charge’.

The reverse charge is a business-to-business charge, applying to VAT-registered businesses where payments are required to be reported through the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). It will be used through the CIS supply chain, up to the point where the recipient is no longer a business making supplies of specified construction services. The rules refer to this as the ‘end user’.

Broadly then, the reverse charge means that a contractor receiving a supply of specified construction services has to account for the output VAT due – rather than the subcontractor supplying the services. The contractor then also has to deduct the VAT due on the supply as input VAT, subject to the normal rules. In most cases, no net tax on the transaction will be payable to HMRC.

The charge affects only supplies at standard or reduced rates where payments are required to be reported via CIS and not to:

  • zero-rated supplies;
  • services supplied to ‘end users’ or ‘intermediary suppliers’.

Under the scheme a VAT-registered business, receiving a supply of specified services from another VAT-registered business, for onward sale, on or after 1 March 2021:

  • should account for the output VAT on supplies received through its VAT return
  • does not pay the output VAT to its supplier on supplies received from them
  • can reclaim the VAT on supplies received as input tax, subject to normal VAT rules.

The supplier should issue a VAT invoice, indicating the supplies are subject to the reverse charge.

An end user should notify its end user status, so the supplier can charge VAT in the usual way.

Internet links: Gov.uk guidance gov.uk technical guidance

Ministers announce new grants for businesses affected by local lockdowns

Businesses in England that are required to shut because of local interventions will now be able to claim up to £1,500 per property every three weeks.

To be eligible for the grant, a business must have been required to close due to local COVID-19 restrictions. The largest businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks they are required to close. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000.

Payments are triggered by a national decision to close businesses in a high incidence area. Each payment will be made for a three-week lockdown period. Each new three week lockdown period triggers an additional payment.

Internet link: gov.uk news

New trade arrangements with the EU from 1 January 2021

HMRC has sent letters to VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain trading with the EU, or the EU and the rest of the world. They explain what businesses need to do to prepare for new processes for moving goods between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021.

Measures explained in the letter include:

  • making sure they have a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number
  • deciding how they will make customs declarations
  • checking if their imported goods are eligible for staged import controls.

Internet link: gov.uk letters

House sales rise following the introduction of stamp duty holiday

The government has announced that residential property transactions rose 15.6% in August following the introduction of a stamp duty holiday.

The government has announced:

  • a rise in sales supports nearly three quarters of a million jobs in the sector – with new homeowners also spending extra cash on decorating, furniture and appliances
  • a 30% boost in output in July for the construction sector.

New figures show that house sales rose 15.6% in August following the introduction of the stamp duty holiday, helping to protect nearly three quarters of a million jobs in the housing sector and wider supply chain.

The increase follows a 14.5% rise in July. Residential property transactions in August rose a further 15.6% as more people decided to buy a new home or move house. The increase in transactions came after the Chancellor announced a stamp duty holiday at the start of July that will last until March 2021.

The move has helped to protect nearly 750,000 jobs, benefiting businesses across the housing supply chain and beyond, with the Bank of England estimating that households who move home are much more likely to purchase a range of durable goods, such as furniture, carpets or major appliances.

It is expected that, among others, housebuilders, estate agents, tradespeople, DIY stores, removal and cleaning firms could all benefit from the increased activity.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

‘Every home sold means more jobs protected – helping us to deliver on our Plan for Jobs.

‘But this isn’t just about the housing market. Owners doing up their homes to sell and buyers reinvesting stamp duty savings to make their new house feel like a home are also firing up local businesses, supporting, creating and protecting jobs across the country.’

As part of its Plan for Jobs, the government introduced a temporary stamp duty holiday for residential properties worth up to £500,000, effective from 8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021. The holiday means nine out of ten people getting on or moving up the property ladder will pay no SDLT at all. This measure delivers an average saving of £4,500 in SDLT.

Internet link: gov.uk news

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Newsletter 147

 

Plastic bag tax charge to be doubled and extended to all retailers

The fee for plastic shopping bags in England will be doubled to 10 pence and extended to all shops from April 2021.

Small retailers, those employing 250 people or fewer, will no longer be exempt, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

According to Defra, since the charge was first introduced in 2015 it has successfully prevented billions of plastic bags being sold and ending up in the ocean and environment.

Government data shows the current levy, which stands at
5 pence per bag and applies to any retailer employing 250 or more people, has led to a 95% cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015.

Commenting on the announcement, Environment Secretary George Eustice, said:

‘We have all seen the devastating impact plastic bags have on the oceans and on precious marine wildlife, which is why we are taking bold and ambitious action to tackle this issue head on.

‘The UK is already a world-leader in this global effort, and our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation. But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener.’

Internet link: GOV.UK

More than £30 million lost to pension scams

Over £30 million has been lost to pension scams since 2017, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

A total of £30,857,329 in pension savings has been lost to scammers since 2017, data published by the FCA and the TPR revealed. Reported losses ranged from under £1,000 to as much as £500,000. The average victim was a man in his 50s, the FCA and the TPR found.

65% of pension savers said they felt confident they could spot a scam. However, four in ten would put themselves at risk unknowingly by engaging with a common scam tactic, such as being told it’s a time-sensitive offer.

The FCA and the TPR have advised savers not to be pressured into making any decisions about their pensions, and to reject unexpected pension offers, whether these are made online, via social media or over the phone.

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:

‘During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to defend your lifetime savings from scammers.

‘Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much or how little you have saved.’

Internet link: FCA news

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published which take effect from 1 September 2020. The rates only apply to employees using a company car. The guidance states:

‘You can use the previous rates for up to one month from the date the new rates apply.’

The advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after
1 September 2020 are:

Engine sizePetrol
1400cc or less10p
1401cc – 2000cc12p
Over 2000cc17p
Engine sizeLPG
1400cc or less7p
1401cc – 2000cc8p
Over 2000cc12p
Engine sizeDiesel
1600cc or less8p
1601cc – 2000cc10p
Over 2000cc12p

HMRC guidance states that the rates only apply when you either:

  • reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars or
  • require employees to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel.

You must not use these rates in any other circumstances.

The Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric cars is 4 pence per mile. Electricity is not a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

If you would like to discuss your car policy, please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

Eat Out to Help Out – over 64 million meals

The government has announced that more than 64 million meals were enjoyed by diners across the country during the government’s Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme. The scheme closed on 31 August 2020.

Government figures show that restaurants had claimed for more than 64 million discounted meals as Eat Out to Help Out entered its fourth week.

This continues the upward trend in the scheme’s popularity, with 10.5 million meals claimed for in the first week, growing to a total of 35 million meals in the second.

The upward trend in meals claimed for shows that millions continued to flock to eat out to support 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector, which has been hit hard by coronavirus (COVID-19). The government has confirmed that 87,000 claims have been made by restaurants taking part in the scheme.

Data from OpenTable shows that during Eat Out to Help Out’s third week the number of customers at UK restaurants was 61% higher than the same days last year on average for Monday to Wednesday. The average level across Monday to Wednesday in the first and second week were 12% and 41% respectively. The data also shows that the number of customers at UK restaurants was up 17% compared to the same week in 2019.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

‘Today’s figures continue to show that Brits are backing hospitality – with more than 64 million meals discounted so far, that’s equivalent to nearly every person in the country dining out to protect jobs.

‘This scheme has reminded us how much we love to dine out, and in doing so, how this is helping to protect the jobs of nearly two million people who work in hospitality.’

Internet links: GOV.UK news HMRC guidance

Self assessment deadlines

Two self assessment deadlines are approaching:

  • 5th October 2020

For those individuals who have not previously completed a tax return but need to report a liability for 2019/20.

  • 31st October 2020

For those individuals who have previously submitted ‘paper’ self assessment tax returns the deadline for the 2019/20 return is 31 October 2020. Returns submitted after that date must be submitted electronically or they will incur a minimum penalty of £100. The penalty applies even when there is no tax to pay or the tax is paid on time.

If you would like any help with the completion of your self assessment tax return, please do get in touch.

Internet link: HMRC deadlines

HMRC latest guidance for employers

HMRC has published the latest edition of the Employer Bulletin. This guidance for employers, and their agents, includes articles on:

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and what employers need to do from August onwards
  • making sure you are paying the correct workplace pension contributions
  • new laws to ensure furloughed employees receive full statutory redundancy payments
  • the deadline to report the disguised remuneration loan charge – 30 September 2020
  • COVID-19 – are you due a repayment?
  • off-payroll working rules (IR35)
  • applications for the £50 million customs grant scheme
  • the delay to the VAT reverse charge on building and construction services
  • the end of the VAT payment deferrals period
  • Student Loan repayments
  • Finance Act 2020 changes to company car tax.

Please contact us for help with employment matters.

Internet link: Employer Bulletin

Kickstart Scheme opens for applications

On 2 September 2020, the government’s £2 billion Kickstart Scheme opened for employer applications.

The scheme is part of the Plan for Jobs announced during Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s July Summer Economic Update.

The Kickstart Scheme 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. Funding is available following a successful application process. Applications must be for a minimum of 30 job placements.

Businesses that are unable to offer this many job placements can partner with other organisations to reach the minimum number.

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 stepping stone to further employment.

Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage (NMW) for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer national insurance contributions (NICs) and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions.

Chancellor Sunak said:

‘This isn’t just about kickstarting our country’s economy – it is an opportunity to kickstart the careers of thousands of young people who could otherwise be left behind as a result of the pandemic.

‘The scheme will open the door to a brighter future for a new generation and ensure the UK bounces back stronger as a country.’

Internet link: GOV.UK

Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grants

HMRC are inviting those individuals that are self employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by coronavirus to claim a second grant under the Self Employed Income Support Grant.

Applications for the first grant under the scheme closed on 13 July 2020.

The second and final taxable grant is worth 70% of an individual’s average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

Applications for the second and final grant are now open. The grant is only available to businesses that have been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020. Taxpayers must make a claim for the second grant on or before 19 October 2020.

HMRC will work out businesses’ eligibility for the second grant in the same way as the first grant.

Taxpayers are able to make a claim for the second grant if they are eligible, even if they did not make a claim for the first grant.

HMRC have confirmed that taxpayers can:

  • continue to work
  • start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work and duties as a military reservist.

The grant does not need to be repaid if a taxpayer is eligible, but will be subject to both income tax and self employed National Insurance.

Internet link: GOV.UK SEISS guidance

Friday, 14 August 2020

Newsletter 146

In this month’s E News there is an emphasis as we might expect upon the measures linked to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The UK economy is now officially in recession and unemployment continues to rise within a number of major sectors across the country. There is increasing concern regarding  potential changes in tax policy and we are hearing from more and more SME business owners that are concerned as to whether they will be bearing the brunt of re-financing the costs of lockdown and furlough. We hope that you will find some of the articles thought provoking.

HMRC outlines Job Retention Bonus criteria

HMRC has outlined the eligibility requirements for the Job Retention Bonus (JRB) that follows the furlough scheme as part of the government’s measures to support the economy through the COVID-19 lockdown.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October 2020 and the JRB aims to provide additional support to employers who keep on their furloughed employees in meaningful employment.

The JRB is a one-off payment to employers of £1,000 for every employee who they previously claimed for under the scheme, and who remains continuously employed through to
31 January 2021. Eligible employees must earn at least £520 a month on average between the 1 November 2020 and 
31 January 2021. Employers will be able to claim the JRB after they have filed PAYE for January and payments will be made to employers from February 2021.

All employers are eligible for the scheme including recruitment agencies and umbrella companies. They should ensure that they have complied with their obligations to pay and file PAYE accurately and on time under the Real Time Information (RTI) reporting system, maintained enrolment for PAYE online and have a UK bank account.

Employers will be able to claim for employees who were furloughed and had a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim submitted for them that meets all relevant eligibility criteria for the scheme.

They must have up-to-date RTI records for the period to the end of January and not be serving a contractual or statutory notice period, that started before 1 February 2021, for the employer making a claim.

HMRC will publish further details about this process before the end of September 2020.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Treasury sets out next steps for Making Tax Digital

On 21 July, the Treasury set out the next steps in its plan to extend Making Tax Digital (MTD) to all businesses and those taxpayers that file self assessment returns.

Currently, businesses above the VAT threshold of £85,000 are required to comply with Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTD for VAT).

From April 2022, the initiative will be extended to all VAT-registered businesses including those with turnover below the VAT threshold. From April 2023 MTD will apply to taxpayers who file income tax self-assessment tax returns for business or property income over £10,000 annually.

According to the Treasury, the MTD changes will affect the way that taxes are reported, not the level of tax that is collected. They will help to minimise avoidable mistakes, which cost the exchequer £8.5 billion in 2018/19.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘We are setting out our next steps on MTD… as we bring the UK’s tax system into the 21st century.

‘MTD will make it easier for businesses to keep on top of their tax affairs. But it also has huge potential to improve the productivity of our economy, and its resilience in times of crisis.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Government announces review of business rates scheme

The government has published a call for evidence on the overhaul of the business rates system that applies in England.

The government announced at the 2020 Budget in March that it would conduct a review of the business rates system in England. It is seeking views from businesses, business representative organisations, local authorities, rating agents, others involved in the operation of the system and anyone interested in the business rates or wider tax system.

The call for evidence seeks views on how the business rates system currently works, issues to be addressed, ideas for change and a number of alternative taxes.

The government stated that it welcomes views on the multiplier and reliefs sections of the call for evidence by
18 September 2020, to inform an interim report in the autumn.

Internet link: TM Treasury consultations

Eat Out to Help Out now up and running

On 1 August, the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme began operating at eateries across the country.

The scheme was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Summer Economic Update. It provides a 50% reduction of up to £10, for sit-down meals in participating cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August 2020.

Those establishments taking part in the scheme will display stickers and posters in their windows. Diners can take advantage of the offer as many times as they like during the month and do not need to present a voucher.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

‘Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme’s number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8 million chefs, waiters and restaurateurs by boosting demand and getting customers through the door.

‘More than 72,000 establishments will be serving discounted meals across the country, with the government paying half the bill. The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy and it’s been hit hard by coronavirus, so enjoy summer safely by showing your favourite places your support – we’ll pay half.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Scottish government cuts LBTT to help home buyers

On 15 July, the Scottish government reduced the rate of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) following a similar reduction to the rate of residential Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the recent Summer Economic Update.

LBTT is payable by the purchaser in a land transaction occurring in Scotland. SDLT applies to land transactions in England and Northern Ireland.

The threshold at which residential LBTT is paid has been raised from £145,000 to £250,000 in order to help homebuyers following the coronavirus lockdown. Announcing the change, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said that 80% of homebuyers will be exempt from paying LBTT.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

‘Overall, increasing the LBTT threshold will help increase housing market activity, boost the construction sector and stimulate our economy.

‘Alongside this distinctive Scottish approach to raising the starting threshold for LBTT, I am also targeting further support in other areas. For example, we are injecting £50m into our First Home Fund, which provides first time buyers with up to £25,000 to buy a property. This will help an estimated 2,000 first time purchases.

‘To mitigate the immediate adverse impact on the housing market in Scotland as a result of the Chancellor’s announcement, we are now working at pace on the necessary legislation and to ensure Revenue Scotland is ready to collect and manage the tax.’

Internet link: Scottish government LBTT

Wales reduces LTT rate

On 27 July, the Welsh government reduced the rate of Land Transaction Tax (LTT) following the cuts made to SDLT and LTT across the rest of the UK.

LTT is payable by the purchaser of residential or non-residential property occurring in Wales.

From 27 July 2020, the starting threshold for residential LTT rose from £180,000 to £250,000. This applies until
31 March 2021. The tax reduction does not apply to purchases of additional properties, including buy-to-let and second homes.

The Welsh government predicts that around 80% of homebuyers in Wales will pay no tax when purchasing their home, and that buyers of residential property who would have paid the main rates of LTT before 27 July will save £2,450 in tax.

Rebecca Evans, Welsh Minister for Finance, said:

‘These rates and thresholds have been set so they more closely reflect the property market in Wales and will ensure that we retain a progressive regime that expects those with the broadest shoulders to contribute a larger share in tax.’

Internet links: Welsh government website written statement

Chancellor asks OTS to review capital gains tax

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has asked the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) to carry out a thorough review of capital gains tax (CGT).

In a letter to the OTS, the Chancellor requested that the independent office review CGT and aspects of the taxation of chargeable gains in regard to individuals and small businesses.

Mr Sunak requested that the review identifies and offers advice on the opportunities to simplify the taxation of chargeable gains to ‘ensure the system is fit for purpose’.

In the letter, the Chancellor said that he would be interested in proposals from the OTS on the regime of allowances, exemptions, reliefs and the treatment of losses within CGT, in addition to the interaction of how gains are taxed compared to other types of income.

The OTS has published a call for evidence in the form of an online survey, which seeks views on CGT. The OTS wants to hear from businesses, individuals, professional advisers and representative bodies about which aspects of CGT are complex and difficult to get right, as well as suggestions on how the tax can be improved.

Internet links: GOV.UK publications letter

Overclaimed COVID grants

Taxpayers who have received CJRS or SEISS grants are urged to doublecheck their entitlement as the 90 day period to inform HMRC of any overclaimed amounts is now law.

Finance Act 2020 includes legislation that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and coronavirus business support grants are taxable. As well as including HMRC powers to recover grant payments to which the taxpayer is not entitled and penalty provisions.

HMRC has published guidance on how to repay overclaimed grants. This guidance confirms that the onus is on the taxpayer to notify HMRC if they have overclaimed a CJRS or SEISS grant and this must be done by 20 October 2020 or 90 days of receipt of the grant, whichever is the later.

Internet links: CJRS guidance SEISS guidance

Chancellor unveils three-point plan for jobs

On 8 July, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a three-point plan to support jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic when he delivered a Summer Economic Update to Parliament.

Mr Sunak confirmed the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will end as planned this October. The Chancellor said furloughing had been the right measure to protect jobs through the first phase of the crisis. The second phase will see a three-point plan to create jobs, support people to find jobs and to protect jobs.

The CJRS will be followed by a Job Retention Bonus, which will be introduced to help firms keep furloughed workers in employment. This will see UK employers will receive a one-off payment of £1,000 for each furloughed employee who is still employed as of 31 January 2021. To qualify for the payment, employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average between the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the end of January 2021.

The Chancellor also launched a £2 billion Kickstart Scheme that will aim to create subsidised six-month work placements for young people aged 16-24 who are claiming Universal Credit. Funding available for each placement will cover 100% of the National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer national insurance contributions (NICs) and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions. Employers will be able to top this wage up.

In order to support the UK’s tourism and hospitality industry, the Chancellor announced a cut in the rate of VAT from 20% to 5% for the sector. This applies to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, caf├ęs and similar premises, as well as supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions, including theme parks and zoos, across the UK.

Additionally, the Eat Out to Help Out scheme will entitle every diner to a 50% discount of up to £10 per head on their meal at any participating, eligible food service establishment from Monday to Wednesday. Participating establishments will be fully reimbursed for the 50% discount.

Mr Sunak said:

‘Our plan has a clear goal: to protect, support and create jobs. It will give businesses the confidence to retain and hire. To create jobs in every part of our country. To give young people a better start. To give people everywhere the opportunity of a fresh start.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Stamp duty temporarily reduced

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a temporary cut in the rate of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) in order to boost confidence in the flagging housing market in his Summer Economic Update.

Property transactions fell by 50% in May this year and house prices have fallen for the first time in eight years. In response, the government will temporarily increase the nil-rate band of residential SDLT in England and Northern Ireland from £125,000 to £500,000. This will apply to purchases from 
8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021.

Additionally, the Chancellor announced a £2 billion Green Homes Grant, providing at least £2 for every £1 homeowners and landlords spend to make their homes more energy efficient, up to £5,000 per household. The scheme aims to upgrade over 600,000 homes across England, helping to reduce energy bills and support the green economy.

Eric Leenders, Managing Director of Personal Finance at UK Finance, said:

‘The Chancellor’s announcement on stamp duty should give a welcome boost to the housing market and in turn have positive knock-on effects for the wider economy.

‘This measure designed to re-boot the housing market builds on the wide package of support put in place by mortgage lenders, working with the regulator and HM Treasury, to help customers through these tough times.

‘The industry has a clear plan to help homeowners whatever their financial situation and is committed to providing ongoing support to those customers who need it.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications and UK Finance press release.

Flexible furloughing starts on job retention scheme

On 1 July, changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) saw flexible furloughing introduced, so employees will no longer have to be furloughed for a minimum period of three weeks.

Following the change the CJRS has more flexibility to allow claims on a pro rata basis. Employers will be able to permit employees to work some of the week and be furloughed for the rest.

An employee needs to have been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March and 30 June to be eligible for furlough from 1 July. Additionally, after 1 July, employers may be subject to a cap on the number of employees that can be claimed for in a CJRS claim they are able to make.

The CJRS changes have effect from 1 July until the closure of the scheme on 31 October.

Parents returning from statutory maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, shared parental leave and bereavement leave are broadly exempt from the CJRS furlough changes. So parents who are returning to work over the coming months will be eligible for the CJRS despite the scheme closing to new entrants on 30 June.

Additionally, from 1 August, the level of the grant will be reduced each month. From August the employer will need to pay employer national insurance and pension contributions for the time the employee is furloughed. For August, the government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to a maximum of £2,500 proportional to the hours the employee is furloughed. For September, the government will pay 70% of wages up to £2,187.50, and for October, the government will pay 60% of wages up to a maximum of £1,875. During these months employers will have to top up employees’ wages to ensure they receive 80% of their wages up to the £2,500 cap.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Government expands aid for start-ups and innovators

The government has expanded its COVID-19 support for start-ups and innovative companies with the launch of a new fund.

On 27 June the government announced the Sustainable Innovation Fund (SIF), which is aimed at helping businesses to keep ‘cutting edge’ projects and ideas alive during the pandemic.

The SIF will make almost £200 million available to UK companies that are developing new technologies in certain areas. These include making homes and offices more energy efficient, creating ground-breaking medical technologies, and reducing the carbon footprint of public transport.

The government is asking research and development-intensive businesses to apply for the funding.

Internet link: Sustainable Innovations Fund

Bank of England increases stimulus package for UK economy

On 18 June, the Bank of England increased the stock of purchases of UK government bonds by an additional £100 billion to help boost the UK economy following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.The £100 billion in additional quantitative easing funds takes the total to £745 billion.

The MPC also voted to cut the cost of borrowing to a record low of 0.1%. The Committee admitted it is ‘hard to draw conclusions about the UK’s recovery prospects’ and stated that extra stimulus is needed to help boost the UK economy and push inflation.

The MPC said:

‘The unprecedented situation means that the outlook for the UK and global economies is unusually uncertain.

‘It will depend critically on the evolution of the pandemic, measures taken to protect public health, and how governments, households and businesses respond to these factors.

‘Inflation is well below the 2% target and is expected to fall further below it in coming quarters, largely reflecting the weakness of demand.’

Internet links: Bank of England’s Market Notice.

FCA confirms further support for consumer credit customers

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed further support for users of certain consumer credit products if they are experiencing temporary payment difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The measures outline the options firms will provide for credit card, revolving credit and personal loan customers who are coming to the end of a payment freeze. They also outline options for customers who have agreed an arranged interest-free overdraft of up to £500.

In addition, customers yet to request a payment freeze or an arranged interest-free overdraft of up to £500 will have until
31 October 2020 to apply for one.

According to UK Finance, its members have offered over 27 million interest-free overdrafts, provided 992,400 payment deferrals on credit cards and 686,500 payment deferrals on personal loans during the pandemic.

Christopher Woolard, Interim Chief Executive at the FCA, said:

‘Since the coronavirus crisis began, we have made support available for those borrowers financially affected by the pandemic.

‘For those who are now in a position to restart payments, it will be in their best interests to do so. But for those who still need it, the package we are confirming today ensures there is help and further support.’

Internet link: FCA press release

Private sector off-payroll reforms given go ahead for April 2021

The introduction of off-payroll rules to the private sector will go ahead as planned next April after an attempt to delay them failed in the House of Commons.

The reforms of the off-payroll rules to the private sector, which are known as IR35 and have applied to the public sector since 2017, was reviewed earlier this year.

They will shift the responsibility for assessing employment status to the organisations employing individuals.

The rules would have applied to contractors working for medium and large organisations in the private sector and were due to come into effect on 6 April this year. Due to the disruption caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus, the decision was taken in March to delay the introduction until
6 April 2021.

An amendment to the Finance Bill, brought by a cross-party group of MPs, was designed to delay the IR35 changes until 2023, but was defeated by 317 votes to 254.

The move to introduce new IR35 rules to the private sector has proved highly controversial, amid claims that the regulations are too complex and that HMRC’s online tool Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST), used to determine whether they apply, is flawed.

Internet link: Parliament website.

Late payment crisis has worsened during coronavirus lockdown

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has found that the UK’s late payment crisis has worsened during the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown.

62% of small businesses have been subject to late or frozen payments during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to research carried out by the FSB. Just 10% of small firms have agreed changes to payment terms with their clients. In addition, 65% of small businesses that supply goods or services to other businesses have experienced being paid late or having payments frozen.

The FSB has called on policymakers to give the Small Business Commissioner additional powers to investigate and fine repeat late payment offenders.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said:

‘Before the COVID-19 outbreak struck, many small firms were already under immense financial pressure because of late payments.

‘Cash is still very much king for small firms, and withholding it has pushed many to the brink at a time when they’re at their most vulnerable. Our endemic culture of treating small businesses as free credit lines against their will must be brought to an end.’

Internet link: FSB press release.

COVID-19: delay to VAT reverse charge on construction services

On 5 June 2020, HMRC announced a five-month delay to the introduction of the domestic VAT reverse charge for construction services, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.

The change will now apply from 1 March 2021 and will overhaul the way VAT is payable on building and construction invoices as part of moves to reduce fraud in the sector. Under the domestic reverse charge, the customer receiving the service must account for the VAT due on these supplies on their VAT return, instead of paying the VAT to the supplier..

The change was originally scheduled to come into effect from
1 October 2019, but was then deferred for 12 months, after industry bodies highlighted concerns about lack of preparation and the impact on businesses.

Now the start date has been put back from 1 October 2020 to
1 March 2021.

There will also be an amendment to the original legislation. Businesses are excluded from the reverse charge on relevant supplies where they are end users, or intermediary suppliers. If so they must inform their subcontractors, in writing, that they are end users or intermediary suppliers.

HMRC says the additional amendment is designed to make sure both parties are clear whether the supply is excluded from the reverse charge. It reflects recommended advice published in HMRC guidance and brings certainty for subcontractors as to the correct treatment for their supplies.

HMRC says it will continue to focus additional resources on identifying and tackling existing perpetrators of fraud in the construction supply chain. It will also work closely with the sector to raise awareness and provide additional guidance and support to make sure all businesses will be ready for the new implementation date.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Changes to insolvency and company law going through Parliament

The government is making changes to insolvency and company law as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill outlines that struggling companies will be given extra time to consider rescue plans presented to them. As part of the changes, companies will have 20 business days to consider a rescue plan, which can be extended to 40 days at the discretion of creditors or the Court.

The Bill stipulates that a company will remain under the control of directors; however, the insolvency process must be overseen by a licensed insolvency practitioner.

Additionally, restructuring plans have been introduced in the Bill, which will bind creditors and allow the insolvency process to adjust as the COVID-19 pandemic changes.

Colin Haig, President of insolvency trade body R3 said:

‘This Bill represents the biggest change to the UK’s insolvency and restructuring framework for almost 20 years.

‘The measures contained in this Bill will support the profession’s efforts to help businesses navigate the enormous economic damage caused by the pandemic.’

Internet link: Parliament website

UK sets out post-Brexit tariff regime

The UK government published its plans for a new import tariff regime following the end of the Brexit transition period.

Following its departure from the EU, the UK has the ability to set its own rules and charges.

The scheme includes the abolition of tariffs on imports worth over £30 billion, although economists say the impact on the cost of living will be small.

Some tariffs will be maintained on imported items such as beef and cars to protect British producers. Other items will have tariffs simplified, and expressed in pounds instead of euros.

Josh Hardie, Deputy Director General at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said:

‘The new tariff scheme will provide businesses with much-needed clarity on post-Brexit trade.Simplifying the system, scrapping tariffs under 2%, reducing duties on sustainable products are all things firms can work with.

‘Sticking closely to many existing tariff levels will give other countries incentive to agree trade deals with the UK.

‘However, businesses will need time to assess the detail, and ensuring there’s a system in place to address issues as they arise will be critical. Crucially, firms’ number one priority is for the government to strike a deal with the EU and ensuring continuity of existing trade deals.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

MPs open inquiry into £155 billion of tax reliefs

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has opened an inquiry into the UK’s management of £155 billion of tax relief.

The inquiry follows the February publication of a National Audit Office (NAO) report that identified over 300 such tax interventions, totalling £155 billion per year.

The NAO raised concerns about the effectiveness of management of tax expenditures by the Treasury and HMRC.

It found that there is no formal framework governing the administration or oversight of tax expenditures.

The NAO said that although the Treasury and HMRC have begun steps to increase their oversight of tax expenditures and more actively consider their value for money, these will not be enough on their own to address concerns.

Commenting on the inquiry, John Cullinane, Tax Policy Director at the Chartered Institute of Taxation, said:

‘We greatly welcome the PAC taking up this important issue.

‘Governance of tax reliefs in the UK is not systematic or proportionate to their value or the risks they carry. There is a mismatch between the significant effort in government and to an extent Parliament that rightly goes into new tax measures, and the relative lack of attention to how effective those measures prove over time. This is particularly the case with tax expenditures.

‘Unless HMRC and the Treasury actively monitor the use and impact of tax reliefs, and act promptly to analyse increases in their costs, we cannot assume that these reliefs will be value for money.’

Internet link: Parliament website

Get ready for 30-day returns and payments for residential property gains

Legislation has been enacted to change reporting obligations for residential property gains chargeable on UK resident individuals, trustees and personal representatives. Also introduced is a requirement to make a payment on account of the associated capital gains tax (CGT) liability. For disposals made on or after 6 April 2020:

  • a standalone tax return is required if there is a disposal of UK land on which a residential property gain accrues
  • CGT is required to be computed on the reported gain in the tax return
  • the return needs to be filed and the CGT paid within 30 days of the completion date of the property disposal.

The new requirements do not apply if a chargeable gain does not arise, for example where the gains are covered by Private Residence Relief.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

New tests and new car benefit percentages

As part of its drive to encourage green motoring, the government has introduced a new emissions test, as well as new car benefit percentages. The scale of charges for working out the taxable benefit for an employee who has use of an employer provided car is computed by reference to bands of CO2 emissions multiplied by the original list price of the vehicle. The maximum charge is capped at 37% of the list price of the car.

In 2017, the government announced that cars registered from April 2020 will be taxed based on the Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). Legislation has now been passed to amend the previously planned benefit percentages for 2020/21 through to 2022/23.

  • All zero emission cars will attract a reduced percentage of 0% in 2020/21 and 1% in 2021/22, before returning to the planned 2% rate in 2022/23.
  • For cars registered before 6 April 2020, the current test procedure will continue to apply and there are no further changes to percentages previously set for 2020/21. These rates will be frozen at the 2020/21 level for 2021/22 and 2022/23.
  • For cars first registered from 6 April 2020, most rates will reduce by 2% in 2020/21 before returning to planned rates over the following two years, increasing by 1% in 2021/22 and 1% in 2022/23.

The WLTP aims to be more representative of real-world driving conditions, compared to the current test known as the New European Driving Cycle. The government estimates that reported CO2 values may be, on average, about 2 – 25% higher under the WLTP when compared to the current test.

Contact us for advice on car benefits.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Rise in contactless card payment limit

From 1 April the spending limit for contactless card payments rose from £30 to £45.

The decision to increase the payment limit was reached following consultation between the retail sector and the finance and payments industry, and echoes similar increases in other European countries.

UK Finance stated that the change had been under consideration before the outbreak of COVID-19, but has been brought forward in order to support consumers during the pandemic.

Commenting on the increase, Stephen Jones, CEO of UK Finance, said:

‘The payments industry has been working closely with retailers to be able to increase the contactless payment limit to help customers with their shopping at this critical time for the country.

‘This will give more people the choice to opt for the speed and convenience of purchasing goods using their contactless card, helping to cut queues at the checkout.’

UK Finance said that, given the pace at which the change is being rolled out, the new payment limit will take ‘some time’ to be introduced across all retailers.

Consumers spending more than £45 will be able to make use of many other ways to pay, including Chip and PIN, cash and mobile payments.

Internet link: UK Finance press release