Delve into our compilation of the most recent business news tailored for our esteemed clients. Feel free to reach out if you wish to discuss how these updates impact your business. Your success is our priority, and we’re ready to provide the support you need!
Table of Contents
The Autumn Statement:
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt recently revealed the government’s fiscal plans in the Autumn Statement, emphasising 110 measures aimed at fostering the growth of the British economy. Despite the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) noting a “modest” impact on output growth, the economy has outperformed expectations this year, rebounding from the pandemic and weathering energy shocks better than anticipated. However, the OBR predicts prolonged inflation, with a return to the 2 percent target expected in the second quarter of 2025.
The full OBR Economic and fiscal outlook can be seen here: CP 944 – Office for Budget Responsibility – Economic and fiscal outlook – November 2023 (obr.uk)
While most employees welcome the 2% cut in National Insurance Contributions (NIC), it’s crucial to note that the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) labeled this parliament as the highest tax-raising period in history. Tax revenues are poised to reach around 37% of national income by 2024, a level unprecedented in the post-war era. The government attributes this to repaying pandemic and energy shock-related debts.
In response to high public spending, the Chancellor advocated for “a more productive state, not a bigger state.” Aiming for public sector productivity growth of at least 5% per year, he reassured meeting the fiscal rule of borrowing below 3% of GDP within five years of the latest OBR forecast.
Key business and taxation points outlined include:
- A reduction in employee National Insurance contributions from 12% to 10% starting January 6, 2024.
- Permanence of the capital expenditure tax break, supporting corporate capital expenditure.
- Introduction of a simplified research and development (R&D) tax relief.
- Extension of business rate relief and the 75% relief for retail, hospitality, and leisure until 2025.
- A 9.8% increase in the minimum wage to £11.44 per hour from April, applicable to 21 and 22-year olds.
- Consultation on granting pension savers a “legal right” for new employers to pay contributions into existing pensions.
- Abolishment of Class 2 National Insurance contributions for the self-employed from April 6, 2024.
- Reduction in the rate of Class 4 NIC from 9% to 8% on self-employment/partnership profits between £12,570 and £50,270.
- Targeted investments in advanced manufacturing, green energy, and additional funding for apprenticeships.
- Extended financial incentives and tax reliefs for Investment Zones and Freeports.
Other notable statements include mandatory work placements for welfare recipients after 18 months of job searching, a 6.7% increase in Universal Credit and disability benefits, and an 8.5% rise in state pensions in April 2024.
Tobacco duty will rise by 10%, and alcohol duty is frozen until August 1, 2024. The UK commits to maintaining its NATO defense spending target of 2% of GDP. The local housing allowance sees an average increase of £800 for 1.6 million households, accompanied by plans to expedite planning applications.
You can read the Autumn Statement in full here: Autumn Statement 2023 (publishing.service.gov.uk)
Looking ahead to the new tax year starting April 6, 2024, you have four months to consider tax planning options. Beyond this date, many planning opportunities for Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax will cease unless addressed. Consider your situation:
- Change in personal status
- Sale of capital assets
- Child Benefit claims with income above £50,000
- Annual income approaching or exceeding £100,000
- Pending pension contributions for 2023-24
- Self-employed with a March 31, 2024 year-end
- Equipment or vehicle purchases
- Undecided voting dividends or bonuses for 2023-24 as a director/shareholder of a limited company
Should any of these apply, we can assist in discussing your options before the April 2024 deadline. While the list is not exhaustive, our expertise covers all taxes, including Payroll. Contact us for tailored guidance by booking a free meeting with us.
HMRC App Facilitates Threefold Increase in Self-Assessment Payments, Reaching £121 Million:
Since April 2023, nearly 100,000 taxpayers have opted for a convenient and efficient method to settle their Self-Assessment tax bills, collectively contributing £121 million through the HM Revenue and Customs’ (HMRC) app. According to the latest statistics from HMRC, the period between April and September 2023 saw 97,365 taxpayers utilising the app to fulfill their tax obligations for the 2022 to 2023 tax year. This marks a significant increase, surpassing threefold the £34.6 million paid by 36,467 taxpayers in the corresponding period the previous year.
The free and secure HMRC app has provided taxpayers with a streamlined and secure platform to manage their Self-Assessment tax payments since February 2022. The surge in usage reflects a growing preference for the convenience and accessibility offered by this digital solution. To assist users in navigating the payment process, there is an instructional YouTube video demonstrating the straightforward steps to make a payment through the app.
This notable shift in taxpayer behavior highlights the success and acceptance of digital platforms in facilitating financial transactions. As taxpayers increasingly recognise the benefits of using the HMRC app, the trend is likely to continue, providing a seamless experience for individuals managing their tax responsibilities. If you haven’t explored this option yet, consider the advantages of the HMRC app for a hassle-free approach to settling your Self-Assessment tax bill. Book a free meeting with our expert accountants for personalised guidance on optimising your tax payment process.
Optimise Compliance: File Your Company Accounts Early Online and avoid penalties:
Managing your own company brings excitement and challenges alike. Directors shoulder a myriad of responsibilities, with a crucial aspect being the meticulous upkeep of company records and ensuring timely filing.
Every limited company, irrespective of its trading status, is obligated to submit annual accounts to Companies House (CH) each year, including even dormant companies. To streamline this process, CH offers online services accessible 24/7, equipped with built-in checks to guide you and prevent errors.
Filing your accounts online is a swift procedure, requiring as little as 15 minutes from initiation to completion. To file online, you’ll need your company authentication code. Should you require a new code, anticipate a waiting period of up to 5 days for it to reach the company’s registered office.
The convenience of online filing is emphasised, and paper accounts should only be submitted if online filing is impossible for your company. Elevate your company management experience by embracing efficient online filing, ensuring accuracy and timeliness in your annual accounting obligations. So book a free meeting with us for tailored advice on managing your company’s financial obligations seamlessly.
HSE Provides Guidance for Maintaining Adequate Workplace Temperatures:
As winter sets in, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers valuable guidance on ensuring the well-being of workers in cold conditions. The refreshed guidance is designed for easy access and comprehension, providing advice for safeguarding employees in both low and high temperatures.
In accordance with the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations, employers are obligated to maintain a reasonable indoor temperature in the workplace. The guidance delineates how employers can assess risks to workers and implement controls to ensure their protection.
A workplace temperature checklist is provided, facilitating a basic risk assessment. Additionally, the HSE has updated advice sources, incorporating practical measures for safeguarding workers during heatwaves in the summer months. Prioritise the comfort and safety of your workforce by utilising this comprehensive guidance below:
Practical Tips for Safety During Snowfall: A Guide by the Met Office:
The Met Office offers practical advice and information to ensure safety in snowy conditions. When a snow warning is issued, the guidance encompasses:
- Guidelines for driving in snowy conditions, including what to do if travel is necessary.
- Safe driving practices specific to snow-covered surfaces.
- Preemptive measures and immediate actions to cope if isolated.
- Safety precautions if stranded or cut off.
- Steps to take during a power outage in snowy conditions.
Insights from the ICO: Navigating International Transfers of Data:
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) provides comprehensive guidance on international transfers:
This guidance is designed to assist organisations in safeguarding individuals’ personal information during international transfers. It introduces an alternative approach to transfer risk assessment, distinct from the one proposed by the European Data Protection Board.
Through this guidance and the accompanying six-question TRA tool, the ICO furnishes a framework to help organisations determine an initial risk level for various data categories. The focus is on assessing whether the transfer significantly elevates the risk of privacy or other human rights breaches. The ICO asserts that this approach effectively identifies the key risks to the individuals associated with the data while remaining practical and achievable.
Mastering Cash Flow: Strategies for Resilience in the Face of Rising Costs:
Amidst the continuous rise in supplier prices, effective cash flow management has become indispensable for businesses. Understanding and monitoring the cash flow are now crucial tools for maintaining resilience and implementing flexible strategies for success.
Fund flows serve as a reflection of all cash movements within a business, offering insights into the health of specific products, services, and overall market trends. While certain businesses may be more susceptible to cash flow challenges, others exhibit greater resilience. As a business owner, determining where your business stands is essential. Regardless of the complexity or simplicity of your business model, cash flow issues can arise. Here are our insights on effective cash flow management:
- Conduct a health check:
Initiate a comprehensive examination of your accounts by reviewing the latest profit and loss statement. Ensure that your income adequately covers expenses. If profits lag behind expenses and cash flow slows down, prompt action may be necessary. Prepare a funds flow statement to track the movement of money.
- Develop an annual budget:
Create an annual budget, identifying potential cash constraints and planning for months where savings can offset quieter periods. Consider implementing flexible work schedules, introducing new products or services, or engaging in other activities to navigate through lean months.
- Accelerate receivables collection:
Speed up the collection of outstanding payments. Encourage customer loyalty by offering early settlement discounts. Establish credit limits and payment terms, ensuring customers adhere to regulations. Conduct credit checks for new customers and institute penalties for late payments. Request upfront deposits or payment.
Navigating cash flow challenges requires a proactive approach. For personalised guidance and strategies tailored to your business, consult our cash flow management experts and book a free meeting with us to enhance your cash flow resilience and optimise your financial strategies.
Understanding the Essence of Working Capital Finance:
Working capital finance solutions present a valuable opportunity for businesses to enhance their cash flow. Navigating the world of commercial finance and asset-based lending (ABL) can be intricate, with diverse products, terminology, and contractual nuances among lenders.
Key Benefits of Arranging Working Capital:
- Receive up to 90% of outstanding invoice value within 24 hours.
- Flexible lending that aligns with your growth, both domestically and for exports.
- Maintain confidentiality with lenders offering a discreet service, keeping your facility undisclosed to customers.
- Retain control over your funding with the ability to manage it at all times.
- Explore sector-specific finance options tailored to your industry.
- Access structured ABL for management buy-outs or buy-ins.
- Trade Finance and Supply Chain Finance Solutions.
Specialists in this field can provide expert advice on:
- Invoice Finance: Quickly access a significant portion (up to 90%) of your invoice value, allowing you to ‘sell’ invoices to the lender for immediate cash when products and services are sold. Tailored sector-specific offerings are available.
- Structured ABL: Unlock maximum value from combined business assets, including Debtors, Inventory, Plant & Machinery, and Property. Additional funding forms, such as top-up loans, can be structured to drive growth.
- Trade Finance: Explore supply chain finance options to purchase goods from overseas, especially when conventional credit from suppliers is challenging.
To explore these opportunities, your management accounts should be up to date, detailed lists of debtors and creditors should be made available, and up-to-date projections should also be ready for appropriate decision-making. Our experts specialise in management accounts, with extensive experience and a track record of success. So book a free meeting with us and let our seasoned professionals guide you through the process of preparing meticulous management accounts tailored to your business needs
Revolutionising Digital Markets: The Implications of the Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill:
The proposed Digital Markets, Competition, and Consumers Bill are set to introduce a new regulatory framework specifically designed to address concerns surrounding competition in the digital industry. The primary aim is to ensure the UK remains an attractive hub for technology investment and innovation while effectively regulating the digital market.
At its core, the Bill adopts an innovative approach to digital market regulation, granting the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) the authority to intervene swiftly and adaptably in order to promote healthy competition. Recent government-proposed amendments to the Bill maintain the appeals process for regulatory decisions (excluding fines) based on judicial review principles. This implies that eligible tech firms have the opportunity to challenge regulatory decisions concerning proportionality through this established process.
This refined approach is strategically crafted to encourage influential firms in dynamic digital markets to collaborate proactively with regulators, fostering ongoing competition. By retaining the appeals process, the system aims to avoid potential legal delays that could impede the regulatory regime’s effectiveness, while also incentivising the CMA to consistently act with proportionality, prioritising interventions that serve consumers’ best interests.
Within the Bill, certain firms may face substantial fines, potentially reaching tens of billions of pounds. To introduce checks and balances, the revised legislation permits firms to challenge fines based on both substantive and procedural grounds.
Additionally, the amendments underscore that the regulator cannot impose a conduct requirement or pro-competition intervention unless it is proportionate and backed by a robust evidence base. This alignment brings the digital markets regime in line with the approach applied to decisions under the CMA’s Mergers and Markets regimes, enabling appeals on the merits concerning the level of fines.
Launch of the UK’s Electronic Travel Authorisation Program:
The inauguration of the UK’s electronic travel authorisation (ETA) scheme marks a significant development for Qatari nationals, who are now required to obtain an ETA for travel to the UK. This milestone underscores the UK government’s commitment to modernising and digitising its border operations, setting the stage for a smoother and more efficient customer experience in the future, catering to the millions of legitimate visitors to the UK.
Commencing from October 25, 2023, Qatari nationals have had the opportunity to apply for their ETAs, with the majority opting for the convenience of the mobile app, streamlining the application process for a swift and straightforward experience.
Looking ahead, nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan will also need an ETA for visits to the UK starting from February 22, 2024. Applications for their ETAs can be submitted from February 1, 2024.
The introduction of ETAs marks a departure from the Electronic Visa Waivers (EVW) currently utilised by the majority of Gulf nationals. Offering a more economical alternative at £10, ETAs grant the flexibility of unlimited visits to the UK over two years or until the passport’s expiration, whichever comes first. This transition to the ETA scheme removes the visa requirement for short stays in the UK for nationals from the Gulf and Jordan.
When applying for an ETA, applicants are required to furnish biographic and biometric information and respond to inquiries regarding suitability and criminality. The stringent application process serves as a safeguard, ensuring that individuals posing a threat to the UK’s security, such as criminals, are barred from entry. Successful applicants have their ETA digitally linked to their passport.
Despite a standard processing time of 3 working days for applications, the majority of cases have witnessed expedited decisions, often within a matter of hours. This efficient process adds to the overall convenience and accessibility of the ETA system for travelers.
The 2024 StartUp Awards: Recognising Innovation and Excellence:
Explore opportunities for recognition and acclaim in the business realm as the StartUp Awards open their doors to a diverse array of categories, including Creative StartUp of the Year, Technology Services StartUp of the Year, Global StartUp of the Year, and Innovative StartUp of the Year. Irrespective of the industry or services provided, businesses stand a chance to secure the title of regional StartUp of the Year.
Participating in the StartUp Awards not only offers businesses the prospect of winning but also serves as a platform for gaining visibility, making industry connections, and networking with potential investors. It’s a celebration of the remarkable accomplishments of StartUps in their early years, acknowledging their journey and contributions to the business landscape.
Mark your calendars as applications for the StartUp Awards kick off in December 2023. This prestigious opportunity comes at no cost, offering businesses an entrance into a supportive community of peers, experts, and advocates. Embrace the chance to showcase your achievements, connect with like-minded professionals, and propel your StartUp journey to new heights.
Exploring Smart Data: The Discovery Challenge:
In our contemporary lives, there are scarcely any aspects untouched by the influence, information, or impetus of data. Our daily activities, from spending and saving to energy usage, TV watching, shopping, travel, and internet use, consistently generate data. However, a significant portion of this data is confined within individual companies and organisations, not fully accessible to consumers.
The Department for Business & Trade (DBT), Challenge Works, the Open Data Institute (ODI), and Smart Data Foundry are extending an invitation to individuals, innovators, entrepreneurs, academia, and civil society to explore inventive ways in which Smart Data can bring about positive changes for consumers, small businesses, and broader society.
This open call seeks not only fully-formed solutions but also cross-sector Smart Data use case ideas. These ideas should leverage data from at least one of the following sectors: Financial services, Home buying, Energy, Transport, and Retail.
Post the Discovery Challenge, the objective is to launch a Smart Data challenge prize later in 2024. Participants in this prize stand to benefit from a share of up to £750,000 to prototype and test solutions showcasing a diverse range of promising cross-sector Smart Data use cases in action.
The deadline for submitting entries is 4 pm on December 8, 2023.
Free Training: Ethical AI in the Creative Industries:
As a part of the Innovate UK BridgeAI program, the Alan Turing Institute is presenting a series of complimentary virtual courses aimed at integrating ethical principles of artificial intelligence (AI) into the systems design process.
The initial course is specifically available for applications from small and medium businesses within the creative industries. Titled ‘Operationalising Ethics in AI in Creative Industries,’ this live training program spans two online sessions scheduled for:
- Thursday, December 7, 2023 (10 am – 1 pm)
- Thursday, December 14, 2023 (10 am – 1 pm)
Participants in this course will delve into real-world case studies and thought-provoking experiments, challenging and enriching their understanding of ethical considerations in AI. The learning experience offers ample opportunities for discussions with both experts and peers, exploring how these concepts are applicable within the creative industries sector.
Open exclusively to creative industries SMEs, participants should be actively involved in developing or using AI solutions, or exploring their implementation within their organisations. While no prerequisite skills are necessary, having an interest in or basic understanding of AI and the existing regulatory landscape could prove beneficial.
Enhancing Dispute Resolution: A Modernised Framework:
The proposed Arbitration Bill holds the potential to offer advantages to businesses and individuals worldwide who consider the UK as the preferred destination for dispute resolution, spanning diverse matters such as family law, rent reviews, international commercial contracts, and claims brought by foreign investors against entire nations.
This bill represents the first substantial update to the arbitration framework in the country in 26 years, aiming to streamline the process, reduce costs, and enhance efficiency. Such advancements could solidify the standing of this high-value sector, particularly in light of increasing competition from alternative hubs like Singapore and Paris.
Given that arbitrations in England and Wales contribute £2.5 billion annually to the British economy solely in fees, the enactment of this bill is poised to support the continued prosperity of the UK’s globally renowned legal services sector.
North-East England Investment Secured Through UK Export Finance Deal:
UK Export Finance (UKEF) and South Korea’s export credit agency, Korea Trade Insurance Corporation (K-Sure), have played a pivotal role in facilitating SeAH Wind UK’s acquisition of £367 million in financing from Standard Chartered Bank and HSBC UK. This funding is earmarked for the construction of the world’s largest wind monopile manufacturing facility.
The financial support not only ensures the realisation of the ambitious project in Redcar but also attracts significant inward investment, resulting in the creation of 750 jobs in Teesside. UKEF, in a groundbreaking move, issued its inaugural ‘Invest-to-Export’ loan guarantee, marking a commitment to securing foreign investment in the British industry.
This collaborative effort by UKEF and K-Sure empowers SeAH Wind UK to fund the construction project, valued at nearly £500 million. The facility, recognised as a ‘Clean-Growth’ initiative, benefits from extended and more adaptable repayment terms.
Wind monopiles, serving as the foundation for a majority of offshore wind turbines, play a crucial role in advancing the global renewable energy sector. The financial support provided by UKEF and K-Sure propels the growth of this vital industry, marking a significant milestone in sustainable and clean energy initiatives.
Funding Initiative to Mitigate Water and Air Pollution from slurry:
The government has announced an additional £74 million to support farmers in enhancing slurry infrastructure, addressing water pollution, enhancing air quality, and optimising organic nutrient utilisation. The second round of the Slurry Infrastructure Grant, now open for applications, is part of a broader £200 million investment aimed at tackling agricultural pollution from slurry during the agricultural transition period.
This new round significantly increases funding compared to the initial phase, responding to heightened demand. In response to farmer feedback, several enhancements have been introduced, including adjustments to the storage capacity eligible for pig farms, grants for slurry separators, and the option to retrofit covers onto existing stores.
Farmers can now apply for grants ranging from £25,000 to £250,000 under the Slurry Infrastructure Grant. These funds can be utilised for replacing, expanding, adding extra capacity, and covering slurry stores, as well as acquiring equipment like separators, reception pits, and agitators.
The grant is a crucial component of the government’s Plan for Water, which outlines increased investment, strengthened regulation, and more rigorous enforcement to address all sources of water pollution. It aligns with key commitments in the Environmental Improvement Plan, focusing on reducing air pollution, halting biodiversity decline, and supporting the recovery of protected sites.