Welcome to our latest business news roundup, designed to keep our clients informed. If you’d like to discuss how these updates impact your business, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. We’re here to support you!
Table of Contents
Is Your Business Prepared for Winter?
Weather-related disruptions can strike at any time and in any location. Taking proactive steps to plan and prepare for adverse conditions can save your business time and money when the unexpected occurs. Here are some practical measures all businesses can implement to ensure they’re ready for inclement weather:
- Register for flood warnings.
- Invest in flood protection systems.
- Review your insurance policy to confirm it covers weather-related property damage. Make sure it’s the right coverage for your needs; the Association of British Insurers offers valuable information. Commercial property insurance is especially pertinent.
- Develop a business continuity plan.
- Maintain copies of your insurance documents and essential contact information.
- Prepare a grab bag with crucial items that can be easily accessed in case of an evacuation.
Businesses should also be aware that severe weather conditions may hinder employees’ ability to commute to work. It’s crucial to evaluate these risks and devise solutions to address potential understaffing during such periods.
Beware of Self-Assessment Scams
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is cautioning Self-Assessment customers to be vigilant against scam texts, emails, and phone calls from fraudsters. As a significant number of individuals are expected to submit their 2022-23 tax returns before the January 31, 2024 deadline, scammers are likely to impersonate HMRC. These scams can take various forms, such as offering tax rebates, requesting updates to tax details, or threatening immediate arrest for alleged tax evasion.
If you suspect a scam, treat any unexpected communication claiming to be from HMRC with skepticism. Take your time to verify its legitimacy and consult HMRC’s guidelines on identifying tax scam phone calls, emails, and text messages. Suspicious communications can be reported to HMRC by:
- Forwarding suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599.
- Forwarding emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Reporting tax scam phone calls to HMRC.
When filing your Self-Assessment tax return for the 2022-23 tax year, make sure to meet the deadline of midnight on Wednesday, January 31, 2024.
Welcome to Business Finance Week 2023
From November 6 to 10, the British Business Bank, in collaboration with various partners across the UK, will host Business Finance Week 2023. This event offers a series of free nationwide and regional in-person events, webinars, and more, aimed at helping small businesses explore the diverse finance options available to meet their unique needs.
Some of the events featured include:
- An introduction to angel investment.
- Demystifying early-stage equity finance.
- Founder Fables and Investor Tales: Common mistakes and how to avoid them.
- How to start your business and avoid costly mistakes.
- Making sense of start-up funding: Where do I start?
- Starting up the right way: How to supercharge your start-up with investment.
- Growing your business: An interview with a founder.
- Meeting the experts in finance for business growth.
- Investment for innovation.
- Inspiring inclusive entrepreneurship.
New Online Form for the VAT Flat Rate Scheme
The amount of VAT a business pays or claims back from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) typically depends on the difference between the VAT charged to customers and the VAT paid on the business’s purchases.
The Flat Rate Scheme offers an alternative approach where:
- You pay a fixed rate of VAT to HMRC.
- You retain the difference between what you invoice your customers and pay to HMRC.
- You cannot reclaim the VAT on your purchases, except for specific capital assets over £2,000.
- To join the scheme, your VAT turnover must be £150,000 or less (excluding VAT), and you must apply to HMRC.
The key advantages of this scheme are simplified record-keeping (as detailed sales and invoices aren’t necessary), lower fixed-rate percentages compared to the standard rate, and improved cash flow management.
HMRC has introduced a new online form for businesses to apply for the VAT flat rate scheme: Form VAT600FRS. However, it’s essential to note that this scheme may not be the best fit for all businesses. Depending on your industry, it may lead to paying more VAT compared to standard VAT accounting. Book a free consultation with us for comprehensive information to make an informed decision.
Manufacturing Energy Toolkit
As winter approaches, energy costs become a pressing concern for all businesses. The High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult has introduced a pilot scheme to help small manufacturers reduce their energy consumption. The Manufacturing Energy Toolkit involves a guided assessment conducted by HVM Catapult experts to gain a better understanding of energy usage and sources. This initiative can potentially cut energy costs and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 46%.
Latest HMRC Tax Webinars for the Self-Employed
The following live HMRC webinars provide valuable insights for self-employed individuals on key tax matters:
- Business expenses for the self-employed – Tuesday, October 31 at 9:45 am.
- Car expenses for the self-employed – Thursday, November 2 at 9:45 am.
- Construction Industry Scheme for contractors – Thursday, November 9 at 9:45 am.
- Construction Industry Scheme for subcontractors – Monday, November 13 at 11:45 am.
- How to apply the VAT reverse charge for construction services – Tuesday, November 14 at 1:45 pm.
- Company directors – payroll and you – Tuesday, November 21 at 1:45 pm.
- Capital allowances and vehicles – Wednesday, November 22 at 11:45 am.
- Wednesday, December 13 at 11:45 am.
Real Living Wage Rates for 2023/24
By paying the Real Living Wage, employers voluntarily ensure that their employees earn a wage sufficient for a decent standard of living. There is a growing body of evidence highlighting the business benefits of being a Living Wage employer. The Living Wage rates are independently calculated based on the real cost of living in the UK and London.
The new rates for 2023/24 are:
- £12 per hour UK rate.
- £13.15 London rate.
Funding for AI in the Music Industry
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is investing up to £1 million in collaborative innovation projects focused on artificial intelligence (AI) in the UK music sector. This funding is part of Innovate UK’s Creative Catalyst initiative.
Projects eligible for funding should:
- Support the growth of the UK music industry.
- Utilize artificial intelligence or enable its use.
- Demonstrate innovation and ambition.
- Address market challenges and changing conditions in the global music industry.
- Be market-ready within 12 months of receiving support.
- Show value for money.
To be eligible, applicants must collaborate with industry stakeholders to unlock the full potential of AI applications across the value chain, supporting and uplifting the music industry, and driving long-term creative and commercial success. Collaborators can be international, but organizations outside of the UK cannot receive funding. Industry stakeholders can also come from the traditional music industry supply chain (e.g., music labels and music venues). The application deadline is 11 am on Wednesday, November 22, 2023.
Air Travel Guidance for Passenger Rights
The Department for Transport (DfT) has updated the Air Passenger Travel Guide to provide passengers with clearer information on their rights and responsibilities when traveling.
Formerly known as the Aviation Passenger Charter, this guide outlines what passengers can expect from airlines, travel agents, tour operators, and airports, as well as what to do in case of travel-related issues, such as flight cancellations, lost baggage, and the rights of disabled passengers.
The travel guide also offers general advice on various aspects of the journey, including passport control, UK customs regulations, and managing connecting flights. Passengers are also encouraged to regularly check the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO) website for the latest security and safety advice before booking travel. The guide also specifies what qualifies as an extraordinary circumstance when compensation is not available.
The guidance emphasizes that while security checks are evolving, passengers should be prepared to remove electronics and small liquids from their bags when traveling by air.
Government Funding to Promote Zero Emission HGV Trucks
The UK government is investing £200 million to decarbonize freight vehicles, with the goal of having more zero-emission trucks on the road. Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) alone contribute 20% of all transport emissions in the UK.
The funding will support four green projects, aiming to introduce up to 370 zero-emission HGVs. This initiative is delivered in partnership with Innovate UK and includes around 57 refueling and electric charging sites, which are essential for the haulage sector’s decarbonization efforts.
International Stress Awareness Week 2023
The International Stress Management Association (ISMAUK) is a registered charity and the leading professional body for workplace and personal stress management. It supports good mental health, wellbeing, and performance.
International Stress Awareness Week 2023, taking place from October 30 to November 3, is a significant annual event that focuses on stress management and aims to combat the stigma associated with stress and mental health issues. Stress Awareness Day falls on Wednesday, November 1, midway through the week.
Student Loans – Update on Repayment Contact Services
The Student Loans Company has issued important information to assist customers in contacting them to discuss their eligibility for a repayment. They acknowledge that call waiting times are currently longer than usual and advise customers to first check if they’re due a refund using their dedicated page Repaying your student loan: Getting a refund – GOV.UK.
Customers who believe they may have made a repayment in a previous tax year but earned below that tax year’s annual repayment threshold can check their previous year’s statements on their online account at this link.
Repayment thresholds vary depending on the customer’s loan plan type. You can check your plan type by visiting this page.