The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to provide more financial assistance to businesses affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ahead of the Budget on 3 March 2021.
The business group has outlined support measures required to help protect UK businesses through the spring. It has called for:
- an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) beyond April to the end of June
- a lengthening of repayment periods for existing VAT deferrals until June 2021; and
- an extension of the business rates holiday for at least another three months.
The CBI has also called for an announcement of details of the successor of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).
Tony Danker, Director General of the CBI, said:
‘The Budget comes at a crucial time for the UK. The Government’s support from the very start of this crisis has protected many jobs and livelihoods, and progress on the vaccine rollout brings real cause for optimism.
‘But almost a year of disrupted demand and extensive restrictions to company operations is taking its toll. Staff morale has taken a hit. And business resilience has hit a sobering new low.
‘The Government must once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder with businesses to underwrite support for the duration, helping viable enterprises to last the course.
‘Many tough decisions for business owners on jobs, or even whether to carry on, will be made in the next few weeks.
‘The Government has done so much to support UK business through this crisis, we don’t want to let slip all the hard work from 2020 with hope on the horizon.
‘The rule of thumb must be that business support remains in parallel to restrictions and that those measures do not come to a sudden stop, but tail off over time. Just as the lifting of restrictions will be gradual, so must changes to the Government’s sterling support to businesses.’
Internet link: CBI article
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The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has urged the government to raise the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) threshold to avoid it affecting basic-rate taxpayers for the first time in April 2021.
The LITRG stated that this goes against the original policy intent, and is ‘likely to cause the government additional difficulties in raising awareness about the charge among those who do not consider themselves on a high income’.
Tom Henderson, Technical Officer at the LITRG, said:
‘When the HICBC was announced in 2010, the government’s policy intent was that it would only affect higher-rate taxpayers from January 2013. For the 2012/13 tax year, the higher-rate threshold – the point at which an individual is liable to the higher rate of tax – was £42,475. Since then, the higher-rate threshold has risen broadly in line with inflation but the £50,000 threshold for the HICBC has remained static.
‘The government has so far resisted calls to up-rate the £50,000 threshold, but this is no longer tenable now the higher-rate threshold will overtake it from 6 April 2021.’
In its Budget submission, the LITRG calls for the point at which child benefit is fully clawed back to increase from £60,000 to £75,000.
The government will present the 2021 Budget on Wednesday 3 March.
Internet link: LITRG news
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The government has announced that employers can now apply for a £1,000 bonus, a cash boost, to help them take on new trainees.
The new scheme will support young people to gain the skills and experience they need from the start, helping them to get a job, an apprenticeship, or to pursue further study.
The cash boost, which is available until 31 July 2021, will help businesses with the cost of providing a high-quality work placement for a trainee. This includes providing facilities, uniforms or helping with travel costs.
Businesses offering new traineeship opportunities will receive the £1,000 bonus for every trainee they take on, up to a maximum of ten trainees.
Employers can claim the cash incentive for all work placements that have been completed since 1 September.
Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, said:
‘We’re pulling out all the stops to help young people get the skills and confidence they need to progress. This cash boost will help employers of all sizes provide more traineeship opportunities to invest in their workforce so they can rebuild and grow, giving young people a vital route to start their apprenticeship journey, get their first job or go on to further study.
‘I strongly encourage as many employers as possible to apply now and take advantage of this fantastic offer so more young people can gain the skills they need to progress in their careers as we build back better from the pandemic.’
Internet link: GOV.UK news
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HMRC has revealed that more than 10.7 million taxpayers submitted their 2019/20 Self Assessment tax returns by the 31 January deadline.
The remaining 1.8 million whose tax return is now late will not be charged a late filing penalty provided they submit their return online by 28 February.
Taxpayers who did not pay their Self Assessment tax bill by 31 January are now incurring interest on the outstanding balance and should pay their bill as soon as possible.
Taxpayers should pay any outstanding balance, or arrange a payment plan, before 3 March 2021 to avoid a 5% late payment penalty.
Those who are not yet able to file their tax return should pay an estimated amount as soon as possible, which will minimise any interest and late payment penalty.
Karl Khan, HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, said:
‘Thank you to the 10.7 million customers who have sent in their tax returns.
‘We won’t send anyone a late filing penalty if they complete their tax return by 28 February.
‘We know that many individuals and small businesses are finding it harder to pay this year, due to the pandemic. Anyone who can’t afford to pay their tax bill in full can set up a payment plan, once they’ve filed their return, to spread their tax bill into monthly instalments.’
There are several ways that taxpayers can pay their Self Assessment tax bill or an estimated amount. They can pay online, via their bank, or by post.
Anyone who cannot pay their bill in full can apply to spread the cost. Taxpayers can set up a payment plan, in up to 12 monthly instalments, online via https://www.gov.uk/pay-self-assessment-tax-bill/pay-in-instalments provided they meet the following requirements:
Taxpayers need to have no:
- outstanding tax returns
- other tax debts
- other HMRC payment plans set up.
The debt needs to be between £32 and £30,000.
The payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date for payment. Taxpayers should set up the payment plan as soon as possible, and certainly before 3 March to avoid a 5% late payment penalty.
Those who do not meet these requirements, or who need more than 12 months to pay their bill, can apply for a payment plan by speaking to one of HMRC’s debt advisers.
Interest accrues on all outstanding balances, including those in payment plans.
Self Assessment taxpayers who are required to make Payments on Account, and know their 2020/21 tax bill is going to be lower than in 2019/20, for example due to loss of earnings because of COVID-19, can reduce their Payments on Account. More information is available at https://www.gov.uk/understand-self-assessment-bill/payments-on-account.
Internet link: GOV.UK press release
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A number of reports have indicated that the Chancellor wants to raise taxes in the upcoming Budget to deal with the mounting costs of Covid-19.
Among the suggestions rumoured is a rise in corporation tax from 19% to as high as 23%, which would raise almost £14bn a year for the Treasury, while only affecting those businesses who have received profits during the difficulties of the last year.
The Chancellor has disclosed that he thinks a corporation tax rate of up to 23% is reasonable given that the OECD’s average rate for developed nations is 23.5%.
The questions then for many businesses, who are still yet to recover from the impact of Covid-19, is whether a corporation tax rate rise is on the horizon?
We are still very much in the depths of the national lockdown, with many businesses having taken out additional borrowings under CBILS and the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.
Any increase in the corporation tax rate is going to be a difficult sell at present, especially when businesses are still reeling from the combined pressures of the pandemic and Brexit.
When announcing the Budget date last year, the Chancellor insisted that his speech would focus on measures to protect jobs and businesses. A sudden hike in corporation tax would seem to go against this pledge.
Of course, the counter argument is that such a tax would only affect profitable businesses. Unfortunately, such an argument misses the point that many companies will need time to recover from recent economic shocks and may be saddled with new debt, despite reporting a profit.
In fact, many economists have said that the actual impact of the current pandemic will not truly be felt until the country is in recovery and the current levels of government support are reduced or removed entirely.
Raising rates by up to 4%, as has been suggested, could entirely scupper the recovery of some businesses and for those with greater profits, it will reduce their ability to invest in new equipment, infrastructure and people, at a time when they are likely to need it the most.
Additional corporation tax bills will also reduce a company’s ability to pay dividends. For many businesses, this will reduce their ability to seek outside investment from shareholders, who may be less willing to invest their money into a business with a lower chance of returning dividend payments.
The Chancellor must also consider, that for many owner-managed businesses, government support for company directors has been scant.
Typically, owner-managers have extracted a low salary under PAYE and higher dividends, to ensure that their remuneration was tax efficient. Unfortunately, this meant that they were unable to take advantage of furlough payments in any meaningful way, and their personal income has been put under a lot of pressure.
The Chancellor has been under pressure from various groups of MPs, including the powerful cross-party Public Accounts Committee, to clarify how he intends to help the significant group of individuals who have effectively been excluded from government support to date.
Any increase in corporation tax is likely to be poorly received by SME businesses, who may have returned to profit but are in a pretty fragile state.
Following Brexit, the UK also has an opportunity to ensure that its economy, labour market and tax system, is attractive for external investment and job creation on the world stage.
Low corporate tax rates are one means of attracting inward investment, and a sudden increase in corporation tax is likely to do little to settle post-Brexit nerves among the international business community.
Whilst pandemic support measures undoubtedly need to be paid for, we are still some way from emerging from the economic shock caused by the pandemic. If a corporation tax increase is needed, many have speculated that it would be far better delayed until an economic recovery is well underway.
A rise in corporation tax is just one of a number of speculative measures that the Chancellor is believed to be considering at this time.
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The joint administrators of Arcadia Group Ltd, Deloitte, have negotiated the deal with boohoo to acquire the three brands, including the associated intellectual property rights, including customer data, related business information and inventory. The brands had over two million active customers in 2020.
Boohoo will pay £25.2m in cash, funded from existing cash resources, on completion.
The deal will exclude the brands’ 214 shops which means that up to 2.500 jobs are at risk.
The group said this was a significant opportunity to grow boohoo’s market share across a broader demographic.
The acquisition will strengthens boohoo’s position as a leader in the global fashion e-commerce market with over 15 brands across the group’s scalable multi-brand platform. It will strengthen boohoo’s menswear proposition as Burton is an established brand which will enhance boohoo’s menswear portfolio in addition to boohooMAN and the recently acquired Maine and Mantaray brands.
It will also bring on board additional own label brands to support the Group’s new Debenhams marketplace, providing two routes to market across pureplay websites and the Group’s marketplace.
John Lyttle, CEO, said: ‘We are delighted to announce the acquisition of the assets associated with the online businesses of the three established brands Burton, Dorothy Perkins and Wallis.
‘Acquiring these well-known brands in British fashion out of administration ensures their heritage is sustained, while our investment aims to transform them into brands that are fit for the current market environment. We have a successful track record of integrating British heritage fashion brands onto our proven multi-brand platform, and we are looking forward to bringing these brands on board.’
Mahmud Kamani, executive chairman, said: ‘This is a great acquisition for the Group as we extend our market share across a broader demographic, capitalising on growth opportunities as more and more customers shop online.
‘We continue to grow our portfolio of brands and customer base, strengthening our position as a leader in global fashion e-commerce.’
The deal will only cover brands and will not include high street stores, adding to city centre shop closures.
Boohoo was founded in Manchester in 2006 by Mahmud Kamani and Carol Kane. The group today is home to a portfolio of innovative fashion brands targeting style and quality conscious consumers with up-to-date and inspirational fashion. What started as one brand, growing extensively in the UK and internationally, is today a platform of multiple brands servicing customers globally, generating sales in excess of £1bn.
The acquisition follows the sale by administrators Deloitte of the Topshop, Topman, Miss Selfridge and HIIT brands to online specialist ASOS, in a deal which will generate £330m but left thousands of jobs at risk as high street stores are all set to close.
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Bounce Back Loan borrowers will now have the option to tailor payments according to their individual circumstances with the option to delay all repayments for a further six months.
Pay as You Grow will be available to over 1.4 million businesses, which collectively took out nearly £45bn through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.
The Treasury’s Pay as You Grow repayment flexibilities enable borrowers to tailor their repayment schedule, with the option to extend the length of their loans from six to 10 years (reducing monthly repayments by almost half), make interest-only payments for six months or pause repayments for up to six months.
The Chancellor has now extended the flexibility of the third option, which will now be available to all from their first repayment, rather than after six repayments have been made. This will mean that businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out.
These Pay as You Grow (PAYG) options will be available to more than 1.4 million businesses which took out a total of nearly £45bn through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. Businesses first began to receive the loans in May 2020 and the first repayments will become due from May 2021 onwards.
This is in addition to the government covering the costs of interest for the first year of the loan.
Pay as You Grow’s additional support, first announced by the Chancellor in September, will give borrowers the option to tailor repayments to their individual circumstances.
This will provide more time and greater flexibility to repay the loans.
The government has confirmed that lenders will reach out to borrowers to provide information on repayment schedules and how to access flexible repayment options.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘Businesses are continuing to feel the impact of extended disruption from Covid-19, and we’re determined to give them the backing and confidence they need to get through the pandemic.
‘That’s why we’re giving Bounce Back Loan borrowers breathing space to get back on their feet, through greater flexibility and time to repay their loans on their terms.’
Lenders will proactively and directly inform their customers of Pay as You Grow, and borrowers should only expect correspondence three months before their first repayments are due.
It will provide businesses with the following options:
- extend the length of the loan from six years to 10 at the same fixed interest rate of 2.5%;
- make interest-only payments for six months, with the option to use this up to three times throughout the loan; and
- pause repayments entirely for up to six months. This option is available once during the term of the Bounce Back Loan.
Business secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng, added: ‘The comprehensive and generous financial support package we have delivered across the UK has protected jobs, saved businesses and kept local economies on the move.
‘While our vaccine rollout is moving at an incredible pace and the end is in sight, we know times are still tough for many companies and extra support is needed.
‘These flexible repayment options will give businesses the time they need to recover from the pandemic before paying back loans, giving them the breathing space and confidence to build back better.’
The British Business Bank runs the Bounce Back Loan Scheme. The government has made clear that lenders are expected to offer pay as you go options to all borrowers under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme.
Richard Bearman, managing director, small business lending, British Business Bank, said: ‘Pay As You Grow will provide tangible benefits to Bounce Back Loan recipients, many of whom may have accessed the Bounce Back Loan Scheme to borrow money for their business for the first time.
‘The scheme offers greater flexibility to businesses who may need flexibility in paying off their Bounce Back Loan and enables them to manage their repayments more effectively.’
Under the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, no repayments or interest are due from the borrower during the first 12 months of the loan term.
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