Vale & West Chartered Accountants Blog

Category Archives:SMEs / Business

How small businesses can navigate the festive period

For most small businesses, Christmas is the busiest time of the year, which has a large impact on yearly revenue.

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Autumn Statement 2022

The message from the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, in the days before he rose to the despatch box in the House of Commons to deliver the Autumn Statement was clear; he would be outlining billions of pounds of tax rises and spending cuts.

These spending cuts and tax rises, he said, would affect everybody and were necessary to re-establish the markets’ trust in the future health of the public finances.

What was less clear was exactly who the announcements would affect the most and how they would be impacted.

Of course, the challenges for the Chancellor extended well beyond winning the trust of the markets in relation to his stewardship of the public finances. He will also have been thinking about inflation, the cost-of-living crisis, interest rates and promoting economic growth, not to mention the political optics.

These are competing but intricately related pressures; action to address the cost of living carries with it the risk of further inflation; action to reassure the markets brings the twin dangers of not addressing the cost-of-living crisis or promoting economic growth. Different economic considerations do not exist in a vacuum.

Further underscoring the scale of the challenge, just a day earlier, the Office for National Statistics announced that inflation had reached a 41-year high of 11.1 per cent.

This followed warnings from the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, as it increased interest rates to three per cent in early November, that the UK faces a “prolonged” recession.

The only real questions concerned the detail of what the Chancellor would do. Which taxes would be affected? Will they rise now or in the future? Would tax rates rise? Would the focus be on freezing thresholds? How much pain would there be? Who would bear the brunt?

And, most importantly, would it work?


Public finances

Addressing the Office for Budget Responsibility’s (OBR) economic forecasts, the Chancellor said that the economy is now in recession and is expected to shrink by 1.4 per cent in 2023/24 before growing in 2024/25.

Meanwhile, he said unemployment is expected to rise to 4.9 per cent in 2024, up from 3.6 per cent now, before falling to 4.1 per cent the next year.

Borrowing this year stands at 7.1 per cent of GDP, according to the OBR. Debt as a percentage of GDP is expected to peak at 97.6 per cent in 2025/26 before falling to 97.3 per cent in 2027/28.


Personal tax

Beginning with personal tax, the Chancellor said that the threshold for the additional 45p rate of Income Tax will fall from £150,000 to £125,140 from April 2023.

At the same time, National Insurance, Inheritance Tax and Income Tax thresholds and Allowances will be frozen at their current levels for a further two years to 2028.

He said the Dividend Tax Allowance will fall from its current level of £2,000 to £1,000 in 2023/24 and then to £500 in 2024/25.

Turning to Capital Gains Tax, the Chancellor said the current Annual Exempt Amount will fall from £12,300 to £6,000 in 2023/24 and then to £3,000 in 2024/25.

He then turned his sights to electric vehicles, saying that a road tax will apply to them from 2025.

Finally, on personal tax measures, he said that the Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) cuts announced by his predecessor, Kwasi Kwarteng, in September 2022 will end on 31 March 2025 and will not be permanent.


Business Tax

Turning to business taxes, the Chancellor said he would reduce the enhanced deduction rate for Research & Development (R&D) Tax Relief for SMEs from 130 per cent to 86 per cent of qualifying expenditure from April 2023. The tax credit for loss-making SMEs will fall from 14.5 per cent to 10 per cent.

On Business Rates, he said that the revaluation exercise will go ahead as planned in April 2023. £13.6 billion of support will be provided over five years to help businesses transition to the new bills.

He said the Business Rates multipliers will be frozen in 2023/24 and there will be extended and increased relief for businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors. That relief will increase to 75 per cent.

The National Insurance Secondary Threshold will remain at £9,100 until April 2028.


National Living Wage, Energy and Pensions

Turning to the National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW), the Chancellor announced he would increase the rates for those aged 23 and over by 9.7 per cent to £10.42 an hour from 1 April 2023.

Meanwhile, the rate of NMW for those aged 21 and 22, 18 to 20, and 16 and 17 will rise to £10.18, £7.49, and £5.28 an hour respectively. The apprentice rate will also rise to £5.28 an hour.

Moving to address energy costs, the Chancellor said the current Energy Price Guarantee (EPG) will remain in place until April 2023, limiting typical energy bills to £2,500 per year. From April 2023, the EPG will rise to £3,000 for the typical household.

Concluding his speech with pensions, the Chancellor said that the State Pension Triple Lock will remain in place, meaning the State Pension will rise in April 2023 in line with September 2022’s rate of CPI – 10.1 per cent.


Conclusion

The economy is a complex and dynamic system, and there are limits to what can be known about how it will respond to any particular intervention – it is the sum of the ever-changing actions of millions of individuals.

What is more, the Chancellor only has his hands on some of the levers of economic influence, not all of them, and moving one of the levers he controls can stop him from moving another.

Mr Hunt will be hoping he has pulled the right levers by the right amount and that the factors out of his control move in the direction he wants them to.

For businesses and business owners, the impact of the changes is likely to vary considerably and a renewed focus on tax planning is likely to be needed.

Link: Autumn Statement 2022

Supporting staff through the cost-of-living crisis

Many UK employers are topping up pay packets of valued employees with a cost-of-living payment when they are unable to offer a pay rise.

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How SMEs can avoid becoming victims of fraud

With SMEs throughout the country struggling to grow and maximise profits, given the economic headwinds, fraud could be a major problem.

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UK set to review foreign worker visa conditions to ease labour shortage

As the UK labour shortage continues, it has been reported that Prime Minister Liz Truss is to launch a review of the UK’s visa scheme.

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Will the falling pound help boost tourism?

Acting as a silver lining amidst a storm of uncertainty, the crashing pound is likely to attract more US visitors to the UK, it has been suggested.

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33,000 new loans available for small businesses

An £884 million loan scheme for new businesses is to be expanded, it has been revealed.

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Fiscal Statement

With a new King at the Palace and a new Prime Minister at Number 10, it was no surprise that the new Chancellor at Number 11 used his first statement to the House of Commons to signal a “new era” for fiscal policy.

It turned out to be a striking change of direction, as the Chancellor opened his speech, saying: “We will be bold and unashamed in pursuing growth, even where that means taking difficult decisions”.

Gone was the Sunak era’s post-Covid emphasis on fiscal responsibility. Instead, in what the Government dubbed its ‘Plan for Growth’, Kwasi Kwarteng set out an approach prioritising tax cuts for individuals and businesses over immediate repairs to the public finances.

The Chancellor’s assumption is that cutting tax rates will boost economic growth and so increase the overall tax take.

This was Mr Kwarteng’s first real test as Chancellor, 18 days into the job, with inflation sitting at 9.9 per cent and energy prices spiking, interest rates rising, a weakened pound, plus the economic recovery from Covid by no means complete.

Only a day earlier, the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee had raised interest rates sharply by half a percentage point to 2.25 per cent – the highest level in eight years – in a bid to stave off spiking inflation.

Despite being a Fiscal Statement rather than a Budget, the policies trailed in the days and weeks running up to the speech suggested that it might prove to be more significant an event than many full Budgets.

  • Income Tax
  • National Insurance/ Health and Social Care Levy
  • IR35 Off-payroll Working Rules
  • Corporation Tax
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)
  • Annual Investment Allowance and SEIS
  • Investment Zones
  • Energy Bills
  • Conclusion

Income Tax

In a speech full of significant announcements, perhaps the most notable related to Income Tax.

The Chancellor announced that the Additional Rate of Income Tax, which is currently 45 per cent on income over £150,000 will be scrapped entirely from April 2023.

He then moved to bring forward the cut in the Basic Rate of Income Tax to 19 per cent planned for April 2024 to April 2023.

National Insurance Contributions/ Health and Social Care Levy

Another landmark policy of the Johnson Government was the 1.25 per cent Health and Social Care Levy paid by employees and employers to help meet the cost of social care.  

 

The current tax year is a transitional year in which the increase has been applied to National Insurance Contributions and it was to have become a standalone tax from April 2023.  

 

Now, the Chancellor has announced that the charge will be scrapped and will no longer apply from 6 November 2022.  

 

He said the reason for the move was to support smaller businesses, help households and boost economic growth.  

IR35 off-payroll working rules

In an unexpected move, the Chancellor announced that the reforms to the IR35 off-payroll working rules in 2017 and 2021 for individual contractors operating via personal service companies in the public and private sectors respectively would be scrapped.

The change means that it will no longer be the responsibility of the organisation engaging contractors’ services to determine whether a contractor should pay tax on the same basis as an employee. Instead, that responsibility will revert to the contractor, as was the case previously. 

Cancellation of planned Corporation Tax increase

The last Chancellor but one, Rishi Sunak, had announced a plan to increase the rate of Corporation Tax from 19 per cent to 25 per cent from April 2023 for companies with profits of more than £250,000. Those with profits of between £50,000 and £250,000 would have benefitted from tapered relief, while there would have been no increase for those with profits of £50,000 or less.

In a striking change from the previous Government’s policy, and consistent with the Prime Minister’s leadership campaign pledge, Mr Kwarteng announced that the planned increase will no longer go ahead and Corporation Tax rates will remain at 19 per cent.

He said that the rationale for the change is to encourage the investment needed to help the economy grow.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

In what might prove to become a tug of war between the Treasury and the Bank of England, just a day after many homeowners learned of a painful interest rate rise, the Chancellor offered substantial consolation in the form of a cut to Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).

Indeed, just yesterday, the Governor of the Bank of England wrote to the Chancellor to warn him that tax cuts might mean even sharper interest rate rises.

Undeterred, the Chancellor pressed ahead with a move to double the SDLT threshold from £125,000 to £250,000 with immediate effect. For first-time buyers, the threshold will rise to £425,000 on properties of up to £625,000. The measure will apply permanently. 

Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) and SEIS

In another surprise move, the Chancellor announced that the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) would not fall back to £200,000 in 2023 but would instead remain at its current £1 million level permanently.

Meanwhile, he said there would be a two-thirds increase in the amount companies can raise through the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) to £250,000 from April 2023. At the same time, the Annual Investor Limit will rise to £200,000.

Investment Zones

The Chancellor also announced the launch of up to 40 Investment Zones. In England, he said the Government is considering time-limited tax incentives for 10 years, including 100 per cent Business Rates relief, 100 per cent first-year allowances for qualifying expenditure of plant and machinery and an enhanced Structures and Buildings Allowance.

He said the Government is also considering zero-rate Employer National Insurance Contributions (NICs) on salaries of new employees in Investment Zones up to £50,270 a year, as well as full Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) relief on land and building bought for commercial or new residential development.

The Chancellor said he will work with the Devolved Administrations to offer similar incentives in Investment Zones across the UK.

 Energy Bills

Following on from the Prime Minister’s announcement on 8 September of the Energy Price Guarantee and the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, Innovation and Skills in relation to business energy costs, the Chancellor reiterated the support being offered.

He said that the Energy Price Guarantee, alongside the £400 credit already announced will cut bills by around £1,400 for a typical household in comparison to the levels they were expected to reach without Government action.

Meanwhile, he confirmed that businesses, charities and public sector organisations will benefit from equivalent relief if they had not locked into a fixed-rate tariff by April 2022. That measure will last for six months from 1 October 2022.

The Chancellor said that the Government’s intervention will reduce inflation by around five percentage points.

 Conclusion

The speech was a dramatic statement of the fiscal philosophy being pursued by the new occupants of Number 10 and Number 11 Downing Street. They hope that by reining in energy bills and cutting taxes, consumers will be prompted to spend and businesses will be more likely to invest, ultimately benefitting the public finances through increased tax receipts.

Whether that’s likely to be the case will be a point of serious contention amongst economists and various factions of the Conservative Party, especially given rising inflation and the possible impact on interest rates. Many will see the measures as a serious gamble.

What is certain, however, is that businesses will be more interested in what actually comes to pass than any abstract debate about whether the Government is taking the best course of action.

Link: The Growth Plan 2022

How a ‘fiscal event’ differs from a Budget

A ‘fiscal event’ is to be delivered on Friday, setting out what help is to be made available to get people through the winter and the cost-of-living crisis.

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Late payments: A big cost for small businesses

Late payments are costing small businesses £684 million per year, in addition to rising inflation, data has revealed.

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