Manufacturers are calling for an emergency, pre-recess package of business support measures including extension of temporary tax reliefs to support companies from escalating costs
The call comes on the back of the Make UK/BDO Q2 Manufacturing Outlook survey which shows growth and orders slowing significantly, exports almost at a standstill and, investment falling as companies cut or postpone their plans in order to maintain cashflow.
According to Make UK, the seriousness of the situation and, the prospects for the next six months, means that industry cannot wait for the promised help in the autumn which the Chancellor made in the Spring Statement. It is calling for urgent actions before MPs go on their summer break.
Make UK has made a number of recommendations for measures government can introduce now to address rising business costs including the following:
- waive or reduce business rates for the next 12 months;
- implement VAT deferrals for larger businesses and waive completely for SMEs;
- temporarily freeze the Climate Change Levy and, if energy costs continue to rise, remove it completely;
- Review the efficacy of the business interruption loan schemes introduced during the pandemic and deploy a successor scheme by Q3;
- Extend the 130% super-deduction tax break, due to end in March 2023; and
- make the increase in the Annual Investment Allowance permanent.
In addition to immediate measures, Make UK also stressed that the government must move away from short-term, gesture politics. Instead, it must focus on demonstrating to business and, foreign investors, that it has the capacity to operate in a serious manner with a long-term strategy.
Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, said: ‘Whilst industry has recovered strongly over the last year we are clearly heading for very stormy waters in the face of eyewatering costs and a difficult international environment.
‘Clearly some of the factors impacting companies are global and cannot be contained by the UK government alone. However, given the rate at which companies are burning through their balance sheets just to survive, it must take immediate measures to help shield companies from the worst impact of escalating costs and help protect jobs.’
Richard Austin, head of manufacturing at BDO, added: ‘Manufacturers have shown their ability to overcome a wave of challenges over the last couple of years to remain competitive. The question is when fatigue will overcome resilience. The tipping point where the shorter term need to retain cash outweighs investment is starting to be reached and could have significant implications for future growth.
‘Rapidly rising input costs, ballooning energy bills and in some cases inflation-busting pay settlements have hit margins and frozen investment plans. There is now a strong case for government action to help UK manufacturers weather the immediate storm and incentivise investment for long-term growth.’
According to the survey, investment intentions dropped sharply from +27% in Q1 to just +5% as companies cut or postpone their plans in response to rapidly escalating costs.
Two thirds of companies (67.8%) said rising energy costs were causing major disruption, almost three quarters (71.9%) cited increased raw material costs posing a similar threat and, two thirds (66.8%) cited rising transport costs.
Manufacturers expect to continue to increase their UK and export prices substantially in the next quarter to +69% and 63% respectively, with both these figures dwarfing previous record levels in the survey’s 30-year history.
The UK government has unveiled a £20 million Brexit support package to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with changes to customs and tax rules when trading with the EU.
The SME Brexit Support Fund aims to help businesses prepare for the implementation of further import controls which come into force later this year.
Businesses who trade only with the EU and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £2,000 for each trader to pay for practical support, including training and professional advice, to ensure they can continue trading effectively.
Businesses must meet certain criteria, including having been established in the UK for at least 12 months, having fewer than 500 employees and no more than £100 million in turnover.
The closing date for applications is 30 June. HMRC states that the fund may close for applications earlier if the full £20 million is allocated.
Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:
‘We have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference.’
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
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