NIC and Levy high jinks

No surprises when the Prime Minister announced a hefty 1.25% increase in NIC Class 1 and Class 4 rates from April 2022. The announcement was widely predicted.

Effectively, this is a tax increase on earnings (employed or self-employed) and on costs for employers. It is odd that a 1.25% increase in Income Tax would have created a virtual storm of protest, not only from Conservative politicians and voters aggrieved by the back-peddling on election promises, but by tax payers generally. Whereas, an equivalent increase in National Insurance sails through parliament with hardly a ripple from back-benchers on the blue side of the room.

The Treasury seem wedded to this belief, that a rise in NIC is to be preferred to a rise in Income Tax.

So how will this increase affect business owners?

Employees will bear the brunt of this increase. Smaller employers may escape liability for employers’ contributions by claiming exemption proffered by the Employment Allowance (EA). The EA exempts employers from their Class 1 contributions if they do not exceed £4,000 in the current tax year.

Unfortunately, employers will have to pay the increase in Class 1A NIC which is payable as a fixed percentage of taxable benefits in kind it has provided to employees and staff. The current rate of 13.8% will increase to 15.05% from April 2022, although this charge is an allowable deduction for corporation tax purposes.

There is no equivalent of the EA for the self-employed. Profits chargeable to the Class 4 NIC charges will be subject to a 1.25% increase in the main rate (from 9% to 10.25%) and the higher rate (from 2% to 3.25%) from April 2022.

Surprisingly, from April 2023 this 1.25% increase is withdrawn from NIC rates, and instead morphs into the new Health and Social Care Levy. Does this mean that the Treasury now have two soft candidates for future tax increases on income?

Employed persons who have passed their State Pension age do not presently pay Class 1 NIC on their earnings. This will continue to be the case but, when the 1.25% increase becomes the Health and Social Care Levy from April 2023, this Levy will be deducted from their earning, presumably based on similar criteria to Class 1 NIC.

What about dividends?

Director/shareholders in private companies tend to take the bulk of their earnings as dividends in order to trim NIC costs (dividends are not subject to NIC). However, dividends are subject to a hybrid form of Income Tax and these hybrid rates will also increase by 1.25% from April 2022.

Is tax going to become less complicated as a result of these changes, clearly not. At a single stroke the government has created extra work for HMRC (to develop systems to calculate and collect the new Levy); created similar activity for payroll software developers and managed to introduced a new tax – something that we have not seen for some time – and that will be earmarked for the NHS and Social Care budgets, a so-called hypothecated tax.

Government backs UK entrepreneurs with six hundred million of Start Up loans

The UK Government’s Start Up Loans scheme has now provided £600 million in loans to small businesses outside London, providing extensive support for entrepreneurs across the UK.

The initiative, run by the British Business Bank, was created in 2012 to provide a wide range of smaller businesses with more opportunities to create jobs, expand and develop.

Businesses and entrepreneurs in the North West of England received the most loans outside of London, totalling over £94 million, with those in the South East receiving over £81 million.

Aspiring business owners receive up to £25,000 through the Start Up Loans Scheme, providing support and mentoring services.

Small Business Minister, Paul Scully, said:

“There is so much creativity and dynamism across the UK, but without access to funding and support it’s difficult to fully unlock the entrepreneurial spirit that makes this country great.

“The Start Up Loans programme has helped a diverse range of entrepreneurs across the UK to get their business off the ground, levelling up the entire country and enabling talented business leaders from all backgrounds to flourish.”

 

Recipient of the £600 millionth pound

The recipient of the Start Up Loans programme’s £600 millionth pound was Will Smith, from Northern Ireland. Taking out a loan of £6,000 in January 2020 to launch a bespoke wooden furniture company – Woodwork by Will – the business owner was able to invest in essential machinery and a table saw.

With his own machinery (he was using a friend’s prior to receiving the loan), a job that would have taken three days can now be completed in less than one, enabling him to produce more high-quality artisan products.

Will Smith, Founder of Woodwork by Will, said:

“The support I have received from the British Business Bank has accelerated my business 12 months beyond where it would have been.

I found the whole process with the Bank very straightforward and would have no hesitation in recommending Start Up Loans to other entrepreneurs.”

What is round the corner?

Having glimpsed the light at the end of the COVID tunnel, many of us will have everything crossed that progress towards normality will continue. The winter months are not a brilliant time for infection and we should expect the usual rash of flu, and now COVID, cases to increase.

In the past two years words such as unprecedented and exceptional have become widely used. But do we need to redefine the new normal to include these uncertainties?

What is round the corner?

Government, apparently, is bending to medical opinion that the October, half-term break should be extended and compulsory mask wearing extended if, as is likely, infections rise and threaten the ability of the NHS to cope.

Regional variations will continue to plague a consistent approach even though the borders can be crossed with impunity.

Business owners – having spent the summer reasonably free of restrictions – will dread the thought that compulsory homeworking will return or that their last-ditch attempts to recover from lockdown closure are about to be reversed.

We live in uncertain times and to survive we need to react and reshape our business plans based on current challenges. Strategies need to be developed and implemented that acknowledge the disruption of the past two years and plan, albeit reluctantly, for their unwelcome return.

We recommend that business owners keep an eye on the following in order to minimise any exposure to these disruptive influences:

  • Staffing – now is not a good time to operate with surplus capacity.
  • Cash flow – you should have forecasts for at least six months to a year ahead so you can see when dips in funding require action.
  • Investment – are there investments in IT, software, equipment or other assets that will improve your ability to trade in a stressed market?
  • Financials – are you profitable? Can you sustain loss-making periods? If so for how long? Are you solvent? How long can you sustain loss-making activity before you become insolvent?

We can help you create and maintain vigilance in these areas. Call if you need more information.

Aside from COVID issues, supply lines continue to be stretched due to transport delays – not enough drivers – and locally grown crops may become food for the birds if “pickers” cannot be found at harvest time. The transfer of goods back and forth from the EU continues to be an issue as border controls struggle to deal with the Brexit enforced end of free movement.

There is much in the “uncertainty” pot to consider. To quote yet another cliché, we are not out of the woods, just yet.

Hundreds of business names dismissed by Companies House during pandemic

Over the last two years, Companies House has disallowed more than 800 business names for being ‘too offensive’.

Building That Fought Hitler Limited, Cambridge Cannabis Club Limited, Fancy a Bomb Ltd and Fit as Fork Ltd are among the company names that have been rejected by the executive agency and trading fund for the government.

Other names to be turned down include Go Fudge Yaself Ltd, Just Weed Ltd, Meow Meow Cooking Studio Ltd, Pandemic19 Ltd and The Great Big Corrupt Company.

However, some of these rejected names can later be approved if an adequate explanation is given.

Some words that are deemed as ‘sensitive’ have to be authorised by the Secretary of State in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy before an incorporation can use it in its name.

The approval list is made up of 134 words, such as benevolent, British, commission, inspectorate, licensing, parliamentary, Senedd, standards and Windsor.

Words that indicate a potential link with a government department, a devolved administration or a local authority also have to be checked.

Using certain words and phrases in a business name could be classed as a criminal offence.

Architect, building society, credit union, physician, social worker, solicitor, and surgeon are examples of words and expressions that are legally protected.

A representative for Companies House said: “It is important that the register is not abused by recording offensive names.

“We have a statutory responsibility to ensure that the names we register do not have the potential to offend. All applications are carefully considered but we will not register a name which is considered to be offensive.”

Companies House is responsible for manging the UK’s register of businesses, their executives and other stakeholders who help run the company.

  1. they analyse and record business information to then make it accessible for the public.

More than 500,000 limited businesses are newly registered each year, equalling around four million in total.

Between April and June 2021, 190,639 new companies and 115,554 dissolutions were recorded in the UK.

This data highlights that the number of new incorporations has continued to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many businesses had to temporarily close.

Registrations for English and Welsh businesses take place in Cardiff, whereas Scottish and Northern Irish companies are listed in Edinburgh and Belfast.

Tax-free childcare costs

Families are reminded that they may be able to claim for tax-free childcare costs to help pay for breakfast and after school clubs as children go back to school.

In a recent press release HMRC confirmed that Eligible families can save money on their childcare and benefit from a government top-up worth up to £2,000 every year, or up to £4,000 a year if a child is disabled. In June 2021, about 308,000 families across the UK benefited from using Tax-Free Childcare, but thousands are missing out on this opportunity.

Tax-Free Childcare is available to parents or carers who have children aged up to 11, or 17 if their child is disabled. For every £8 a parent or carer deposits into their account, they will receive a £2 top-up, up to the value of £500 every three months, or £1,000 if their child is disabled.

HMRC recognises that families’ personal circumstances have changed since March 2020 as more parents and carers are preparing to return to their workplaces. The 20% top-up is paid into the Tax-Free Childcare account and is ready to use almost instantly, meaning parents and carers can use the money towards the cost of childminders, breakfast and after school clubs, and approved play schemes.

Tax-Free Childcare is also available for pre-school aged children attending nurseries, childminders or other accredited childcare providers. Parents and carers, who are returning to work after parental leave, can apply for a Tax-Free Childcare account for that child before they need to start using it. Families can start depositing money 31 days before they return to work, maximising the potential government top-up saving.

Childcare providers can also sign up for a childcare provider account via GOV.UK to receive payments from parents and carers via the scheme.

Each eligible child requires their own Tax-Free Childcare account. If families have more than one eligible child, they will need to register an account for each child. The 20% government top-up is then applied to deposits made for each child, not household.

Account holders must confirm their details are up to date every 3 months to continue receiving the government top-up.

SMEs can enhance business performance by joining Peer Network scheme

A government-funded Peer Networks scheme is offering support to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the UK.

The programme, which is free to join, helps organisations tackle common business challenges through interactive action learning.

Additionally, the scheme’s trained mentors help small and medium-sized businesses handle new opportunities and build a strong support network.

Business leaders can learn from like-minded individuals on the scheme and put practical solutions into place together to overcome common issues.

Virtual workshops on the Peer Network scheme normally take place in small group sessions, but one to one mentoring and coaching is also available.

Trained facilitators are always on hand to help organisations develop and grow.

Head of Operations at Mastercall Healthcare said: “The one-to-one tutor session really helped me work on some long-standing obstacles.

“I’m so glad to have taken part and feel more confident in my own skills and attributes.”

SME leaders on the scheme can share their business concerns with fellow company owners who experience the same challenges.

Jason Thorpe, Managing Director at The Voiceover Gallery said: “By sharing experiences and issues, it enables you to step back from business, and look at things from a different perspective whilst benefitting from the experience of others that may have faced similar challenges.”

Founder and CEO at Datacentreplus, Mashukul Hoque said: “Engaging with other businesses through Peer Networks has been an invaluable experience for me.

“There is a lot to learn from other businesses, particularly in these challenging times.”

He added: “It is an opportunity to share ideas, tips and good practice that others can benefit from as well.”

Any SMEs that have been in business for at least 12 months, employ five or more staff members and make £100,000 or more in revenue can join the scheme.

The programme, which has been created by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is held at local growth hubs across the UK.

 

 

Supply chain issues gaining traction

News broke in recent days that McDonalds were running out of supplies. As a direct result of these supply chain issues their iconic milk shakes are being dropped from menus together with other bottled drinks. These particular shortages will apply to outlets in England, Scotland and Wales. Supplies in Northern Ireland are holding up, so far…

Is this further evidence that the delivery driver shortage is affecting retailers’ ability to supply goods to consumers?

According to the Road Hauliers Association, 30,000 HGV driving tests were unable to proceed last year and that the driver shortage was exacerbated by changes to the rules following Brexit.

Price inflation

One consequence of supply shortages – aside from goods being unavailable – is that if demand remains high, but in limited supply, prices tend to rise. Witness the incredible price rises in basic building materials in recent months.

If these trends continue and prices for commodities start to rise inflation will rear its head.

The Bank of England are forecasting inflation at almost 4% at the start of next year. It will not require much in advance of this figure before the bank will need to increase interest rates in an attempt to take the heat out of future price increases.

It is difficult to see how these fiscal measures will impact McDonalds and many other retailers if their problem is delivery difficulties, not money supply.

 

What to do?

If your business is being affected by delivery problems you will be sympathetic to McDonalds’ plight.

Aside from the physical need to get goods delivered, affected businesses could consider increasing stocking levels in affected goods, if this is feasible. And then triggering reorder levels at an earlier point in the production process.

This would have the added advantage of buying at lower prices for longer production runs and keeping manufacturing costs down.

The difficulty is that firms are stripped of working capital in the past eighteen months and may be unable to find additional funding or storage space.

We may have to content ourselves with a brew to accompany our next take out. Unfortunately, the driver shortage may take longer to resolve as drivers point to bad working conditions and low pay as further issues facing their industry.

Can you claim the marriage allowance?

In a recent news story published on the GOV.UK website, HMRC confirmed that nearly 1.8 million married couples and those in civil partnerships are claiming the Marriage Allowance to save up to £252 a year in Income Tax.

The allowance enables married couples or those in civil partnerships to share their personal tax allowances if one partner earns an income under their Personal Allowance threshold of £12,570 and the other is a basic rate taxpayer.

They can transfer 10% of their tax-free allowance to their partner, which is £1,260 in the 2021-22 tax year. It means couples can reduce the tax they pay by up to £252 a year. Couples can also backdate their claims for any of the four previous tax years, which could be worth up to £1,220.

If you are eligible, and still not making a claim, you can complete an application online at https://www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance.

Furlough figures continue to fall

Almost three million people have moved off the furlough scheme since March as the economy began to bounce back and businesses reopened, according to new statistics.

This is unsurprising as employers are now expected to cover 20% of any hours not worked with government providing 60%.

It will be sobering to see how the final closing of the furlough scheme on 30 September will affect unemployment rates.

Readers who are still undecided how to respond to these changes will need to make possibly agonising decisions in the coming month.

We can help. Please call so we can help you consider your options.

Tax collection options

If you do not pay your tax bill on time and cannot make an alternative arrangement to pay, HMRC can take ‘enforcement action’ to recover any tax you owe.

You can usually avoid enforcement action by contacting HMRC as soon as you know you have missed a tax payment or cannot pay on time.

They may agree to let you pay what you owe in instalments, or give you more time to pay.

Otherwise, there are a number of enforcement actions HMRC can take to get the tax you owe. They can:

  • collect what you owe through your earnings or pension
  • ask debt collection agencies to collect the money
  • take things you own and sell them (if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland)
  • take money directly from your bank account or building society (if you live in England, Wales or Northern Ireland)
  • take you to court
  • make you bankrupt
  • close down your business

If you do not pay your tax on time, you’ll probably have to pay interest on the outstanding amount. You may also have to pay a penalty or surcharge.