Welcome to our latest business news roundup for our clients in England. If you require guidance on how these updates may affect your business, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team is here to support you.

What can we expect from the Budget on Wednesday?

The upcoming budget announcement on Wednesday is highly anticipated, and Chancellor Jeremy Hunt has made it clear that he will not be offering significant tax giveaways, given the current weak forecasts for economic growth and the need to address double-digit inflation. Alongside the budget, an economic forecast from the Office of Budget Responsibility (OBR) will also be announced. Mr Hunt has indicated that he plans to initiate the process of business tax cuts later this year in his Autumn statement, subject to the OBR’s forecasts for the UK.

There are reports that the government will allocate approximately £3bn to protect UK households from higher energy bills for the three months from April, and that the freeze on fuel duty will remain. Given the ongoing war in Ukraine, we can also expect an increase in the Ministry of Defence budget over the next two years to purchase equipment and weapons. As government ministers struggle to resolve a series of public sector strikes, the chancellor has stated that any additional money for pay deals should come from existing departmental budgets.

Furthermore, there is speculation that the budget will include a range of measures to incentivise employers to hire more workers and encourage older employees to return to work, including a potential relaxation of pension contributions for those aged over 55. Some commentators anticipate an announcement on raising the state pension age as well.

Tax Planning opportunities ahead of the new tax year

The approaching start of the new tax year on 6 April 2023 means that time is limited for individuals and businesses to consider their tax planning options. It should be noted that once this date passes, the majority of tax planning opportunities for Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax purposes will cease unless actioned this month.

It may be beneficial to consider your tax planning options if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • If you have recently undergone or are planning to undergo a change in your personal status, such as getting married, separating, joining or dissolving a civil partnership;
  • If you are thinking about selling a capital asset such as shares or a property, as the Capital Gains Tax annual exempt amount will reduce from £12,300 to £6,000 from 6 April 2023;
  • If you or your child’s other parent claims Child Benefit, and either parent’s income is likely to exceed £50,000 for the first time during tax year 2022-23;
  • If your annual income is approaching or above £100,000;
  • If you have not yet topped up your pension contributions for tax year 2022-23;
  • If you are self-employed with a 31 March 2023 year-end;
  • If you are self-employed and are thinking about purchasing equipment or vehicles; or
  • If you are the director and/or shareholder of a limited company and have not yet considered voting final dividends or bonuses for 2022-23.

If you fall into any of these categories, we can help you discuss your options ahead of the April deadline. It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive, and our services extend to assisting clients with all types of taxes, including PAYE, NIC, VAT, Corporation, Capital Gains, Income, and Inheritance tax. Please feel free to book a free consultation now for more information.

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Extension of the Deadline for Voluntary National Insurance Contributions for Taxpayers

The UK government has recently announced an extension to the voluntary National Insurance deadline, moving it from 5 April 2023 to 31 July 2023. The purpose of the extension is to provide taxpayers with more time to fill any gaps in their National Insurance record, allowing them to increase the amount they receive in State Pension. The deadline extension was implemented due to public concern and was announced through a Written Ministerial Statement. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is advising taxpayers to take advantage of the extension to avoid missing out.

Taxpayers who have gaps in their National Insurance record from April 2006 onwards now have additional time to decide whether to fill the gaps, which would boost their new State Pension. Contributions made during this period will be based on the lower 2022/23 tax year rates. To help increase the amount received when they retire, taxpayers have been able to make voluntary contributions to any incomplete years in their National Insurance record between April 2006 and April 2016 as part of transitional arrangements to the new State Pension. Due to an increase in customer contact, the government has extended the deadline to ensure people have time to make their contributions.

See: Taxpayers given more time for voluntary National Insurance contributions – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

The Little Book of Net Zero

The British Standards Institution (BSI) has created a concise guide called ‘The Little Book of Net Zero’ to assist businesses in initiating their sustainability journey. When you first started your business, climate change may not have been a concern. However, we all bear the brunt of climate change, and everyone can contribute to combating it. To tackle this issue, the UK has set a target to achieve ‘Net Zero’ greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which will require the cooperation of businesses.

For UK businesses, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises, ‘The Little Book of Net Zero’ provides an opportunity to view the UK government’s 2050 climate objective as a mutually beneficial proposition.

Committing to achieving net zero in your company will have the following benefits:

  • Enhance sustainability and social responsibility.
  • Take charge of energy expenses.
  • Enhance efficiency.
  • Increase resilience.

See: The Little Book of Net Zero | BSI (bsigroup.com)

UK Export Academy

The UK Export Academy, established by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), aims to equip businesses with the necessary skills and expertise to sell their products and services globally. The academy offers a platform for businesses to learn from international trade specialists and gain a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

The UK Export Academy caters to businesses of all levels of experience in exporting, from novice to experienced exporters seeking to expand their global sales. By joining the academy, businesses can overcome common challenges that arise when operating internationally.

The UK Export Academy offers the following benefits for businesses:

  • Foundation course: For novice exporters or those interested in learning how to commence exporting, the academy offers a foundation course. This course provides comprehensive knowledge and confidence-building exercises, concluding with an export action plan that is tailored to your business’s specific needs.
  • Sector faculties: Experienced exporters can enrol in sector faculties, which offer webinars, masterclasses, and virtual missions that are specific to their industry. These sector faculties provide invaluable information on how to operate effectively in foreign markets or sectors.
  • Market access events: Businesses can learn about new market opportunities and the benefits of free trade agreements by attending the academy’s market access events.

By joining the UK Export Academy, businesses can enhance their exporting capabilities, access new markets, and gain a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

See: Home – UK Export Academy (great.gov.uk)

UK Tradeshow Programme

The UK Tradeshow Programme provides UK businesses with government support to improve their effectiveness in attending or exhibiting at overseas trade shows. The programme offers an opportunity for UK businesses that are currently exporting to apply for support to attend or exhibit at approved overseas trade shows and conferences. The programme also offers the possibility of receiving grants to cover some costs.

UK businesses that are considering exporting but are not currently doing so can also apply for support from the UK Tradeshow Programme. Participating in overseas trade shows can be beneficial for businesses, as it enables them to gain valuable market knowledge, enhance their brand recognition among overseas buyers, and expand their customer base by securing new clients.

The UK Tradeshow Programme provides the following benefits for businesses:

  • Exhibition and attendance support: The programme offers support for businesses to attend or exhibit at approved overseas trade shows and conferences.
  • Financial assistance: Eligible UK businesses may receive grants to cover some costs of participating in overseas trade shows.
  • Export advice: Businesses that are considering exporting can receive guidance and support from the UK Tradeshow Programme.

Participating in overseas trade shows can be an effective way for businesses to increase their international exposure and access new markets. By providing assistance to UK businesses in attending or exhibiting at trade shows, the UK Tradeshow Programme contributes to the growth and success of UK businesses in the global marketplace.

See: UK Tradeshow Programme – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Bus, coach and HGV drivers – proposed reforms to training rules

Proposed reforms to driver training rules could potentially increase the numbers of Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV), bus, and coach drivers in the UK. The proposed changes are intended to make it more affordable and efficient for drivers to renew their qualifications or return to the industry.

The reforms proposed in a new consultation document aim to modify the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (DCPC), a professional qualification required by lorry, bus, coach, and minibus drivers in addition to their driving licence. The proposed changes include offering more flexibility to drivers through e-learning and a shorter “new periodic test” in parallel to the existing lengthy training format, which will also undergo reforms. The new periodic test is estimated to save companies up to £460 per test and employees’ time.

Reforms to training, as well as the new cheaper and shorter periodic test, will also provide an accelerated route for former drivers to return to the industry more easily. These changes aim to improve the efficiency of the driver training system and support the growth of the HGV, bus, and coach industries in the UK.

See: Boost for bus, coach and HGV driver recruitment with proposed reforms to training rules – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Apply for £400 payments towards energy bills through new portal

Households living in park homes and care homes, as well as those without a direct relationship to an electricity supplier, can now apply for a one-off, non-repayable lump sum under the Energy Bills Support Scheme (EBSS AF) through a secure online portal.

The UK government is offering this support as an alternative funding route to eligible households. For those who do not have online access, a dedicated customer helpline is available to provide assistance. It is important to note that the government will never provide any links to the application portal or directly ask individuals to apply for the £400 support. Eligible households are encouraged to apply for the support as soon as possible, but should also remain alert to potential scams and report them to the relevant authorities if suspected.

To apply for the support, individuals need to search for “Apply for energy bill support if you do not get it automatically” in the search bar on GOV.UK or in an internet search engine. If additional assistance is needed when applying for support, individuals may seek help from a trusted family member or friend.

See: Help with your energy bills: If you live in a park, mobile or care home, or off the electricity grid – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Safety net for Horizon Europe applicants extended

The UK government has announced an extension to the Horizon Europe Guarantee Scheme, which provides support to UK applicants of Horizon Europe. The scheme will now cover all Horizon Europe calls that close on or before the end of June 2023.

Successful applicants will receive the full value of their funding at their UK host institution for the duration of their grant. This extension aims to ensure that eligible awardees will continue to receive funding, enabling them to pursue their research and innovation work with sustained support.

See: Apply for Horizon Europe guarantee funding – UKRI

Digital Catapult: SONIC Labs showcase

The SONIC Labs programme aims to facilitate and expedite the entry of new solution providers into the UK telecoms supply chain by offering them the opportunity to test and integrate their Open RAN (Open Radio Access Networks) products and solutions. An upcoming showcase event in London on Wednesday 29 March 2023 will allow interested businesses to learn more about SONIC Labs and its role in driving 5G innovation and telecoms diversification.

The event will feature the participation of vendors in SONIC Labs and the UK telecoms ecosystem, as well as opportunities for potential end users of Open RAN products to speed up adoption. Attendees can expect to witness live demonstrations of Open RAN products in operation, gain insights into leading-edge telecom innovations, and connect with other organizations in the telecoms industry.

SONIC Labs is a joint initiative between Digital Catapult and Ofcom, financed by the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology, as part of their 5G supply chain diversification strategy. This event will be of interest to mobile network operators, vendors of Open RAN products, start-ups and innovators (including those with interests in artificial intelligence and machine learning), other Open RAN labs and international testbeds, system integrators, neutral hosts and private network operators, and potential customers for Open RAN private networks.

See: SONIC Labs Showcase – Home (force.com)

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The Great British Entrepreneur of the Year awards

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards is currently accepting entries for this year’s edition. The awards recognise and celebrate the exceptional achievements of entrepreneurs in various industries.

The categories for this year include:

  • Creative Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Disruptor of the Year
  • Entrepreneur for Good Award
  • Family Business Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Food & Drink Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Health & Beauty Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Scale-Up Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Service Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Start-Up Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Sustainability Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year
  • Great British Entrepreneur of the Year

The awards aim to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation, and to recognise the hard work and dedication of British entrepreneurs. Entries are welcome from entrepreneurs across the country, and winners will be announced at a ceremony later this year.

See: Home – The Great British Entrepreneur Awards & Community

Vehicle tester and traffic examiner strike: March 2023

Some Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) staff who are members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) and Prospect unions are planning to take industrial action during March 2023.

It’s part of national industrial action by the PCS and Prospect unions over pay, pensions, jobs and redundancy terms.

When the strikes will be held:

Strikes will affect different parts of Great Britain at different times.

Dates Areas affected Unions taking strike action
Wednesday 15 March All areas of Great Britain PCS and Prospect
Monday 20 March and Tuesday 21 March East of England, East Midlands, West Midlands, and parts of London PCS
Thursday 23 March and Friday 24 March North-west England and Yorkshire and the Humber PCS
Monday 27 March and Tuesday 28 March North-east England and Scotland PCS

The strike action on Wednesday 15 March 2023 is likely to affect vehicle services, including:

  • MOTs for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), buses and trailers,
  • MOT demonstration tests (specialist tests for people qualifying as an MOT tester), and
  • vehicle approval tests.

DVSA does not expect the strike action on other days to affect MOTs for HGVs, buses, and trailers, but will not know for certain until the strike action takes place.

MOTs for cars, vans, and motorcycles

MOTs for cars, vans, and motorcycles are not affected by the strike action. They will be taking place as planned.

Services for MOT testers

If you’re an MOT tester with an MOT demonstration test booked on the dates of the strike action, you should still go for your appointment, unless DVSA contacts you to tell you not to go.

Not all vehicle examiners are union members, and even if they are, they might choose not to take part in the industrial action.

DVSA will automatically rearrange your demonstration test if it cannot go ahead because of the industrial action.

MOTs for HGVs, buses, and trailers

You should go to your MOT appointment as planned.

See: Vehicle tester and traffic examiner strike: March 2023 – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

New climate change hub launched for forestry sector

The Climate Change Hub – which centralises the latest resources, information, and guidance on climate change adaptation to support landowners, woodland managers, and forestry practitioners in addressing climate change threats was launched by Defra, Forest Research, Scottish Forestry, and Welsh Government recently.

Forest Research centralises and distils the latest information and UKFS (United Kingdom Forestry Standard) guidance on climate change adaptation to encourage uptake of adaptive practice by forest and woodland owners and managers. It provides concise information about risks from the changing climate, how to identify suitable adaptation measures and examples of how other managers are implementing adaptive practice.

There is no single recommended approach to climate change adaptation, as each woodland has different objectives and conditions. To enable managers to make informed decisions for their own woodlands, the Climate Change Hub also includes detailed guidance through the decision-making process, step-by-step, including information about the online tools available to support risk management and species choice.

See: New climate change hub launched for forestry sector – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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