Tech businesses can benefit from Barclays new fund

Today’s guest blog post comes from Barclays, who are launching an innovative finance product providing businesses loans of up to £5m…

As a global hub, the UK is second only to Silicon Valley, with specialist and sector-agnostic finance houses pouring millions of pounds into early-stage businesses to drive growth.  Fast growth businesses are emerging as a result and entrepreneurship is beginning to flourish.

For instance in the North East the volume of high-growth companies rose by 25.5% in the year to March 2014 – the only region in the UK to report a rise bar Northern Ireland and the overall number of enterprises rose by 5.3% (Source: Barclays and Business Growth Fund Entrepreneurs Index)

Within the UK, fast-growth companies have traditionally relied on equity investment to fund growth. However, there are a growing number of companies for which a modest amount of debt financing at this critical stage in their life cycle would be beneficial.

Businesses typically take 15 years to go through the growth cycle from start-up to large corporate; however a fast-growth technology business for instance can often achieve this in a much shorter time frame with financing rounds occurring at shorter intervals providing Barclays with debt opportunities at earlier stages.

No bank today offers a tailored proposition that attempts to seamlessly deliver a joined-up “micro to IPO” service.  However we intend to change that…

Barclays is launching a fast-growth innovation finance product, providing businesses loans of up to £5m, repayable over a variety of terms provided private equity, venture, or angel capital has already been secured.

The main advantage of bank debt over equity investment is that it supports growth ambitions without having any particular control over the way the company is run, allowing the business to concentrate on its accelerated growth trajectory. It is also a cheaper method of financing (as opposed to equity) which also leads to dilution of share ownership for existing management.

The historic approach for cash flow lending to any business at this stage in the life cycle has been to look for a history of positive EBITDA and strong cash generation. However, rapidly expanding technology companies will reach profitability at the operating line and choose to reinvest this cash back into the business leaving them deliberately running off low EBITDA in order to feed top-line growth.

Typically, they will invest in research and development and sales and marketing, in order to quickly grow their customer base and take market share from competitors. However, this has left conventional European lenders, unable to get comfortable with the risks involved, out of the market, and leaving fast-growing technology companies with a debt funding gap at a critical point in their cycle.


Aaron Clark, Relationship Director
07775 555 413

How to succeed with Public Relations: 5 top tips from Horizonworks

Today we welcome a guest blog post from Horizonworks, a full service strategic marketing company based in Newcastle upon Tyne…


Regardless of whether you’re a start-up or a multi-national company, PR is an essential tool for building credibility, engaging with customers and reaching new markets in the manufacturing sector. Here, we provide our five top tips for great public relations:

Establish key messages

Before engaging in any PR activity, consider what key messages to convey to your customers and prospects. Ensure that your unique selling point and product or service benefits are explained and that these messages are informed by a focused, tailor-made marketing strategy

Tell your story

Don’t be shy! Your company is brimming with fascinating, engaging stories. A good PR practitioner will help you identify these stories and use them to create impact: whether it’s the challenges overcome during the launch of your company, your ground-breaking products and services or the charity and community work you’re engaged in.

Know your customers

What do your customers and prospective customers read, listen to or watch? Where do they go for advice, leads or industry news? Regional press, trade press and national consumer press – including newspapers and magazines – plus radio, TV and online platforms all have something to offer, and a tailored PR strategy will help you get your message out in the right places.

Identify your expert

Identify a spokesperson within your business with a strong knowledge of your company and crucially, your sector – someone with their finger on the pulse. A good PR company can help to position them in the press as an industry expert and can brief them on dealing with media enquiries.

Picture perfect

Rather than grabbing a last minute snap on a smart phone or digging out a photo from an old press shoot, invest in professional photography. A press release with a high quality image is much more likely to get picked up by journalists, and the more eye catching the image, the higher the chances are of securing major coverage.

For information on how Horizonworks can help your business, call 0845 075 5955, email: or visit

Directors’ responsibilities before and after insolvency

As company director, there are a number of duties that apply in your role during the normal course of the company conducting its business. These include the following:

  • Keeping accurate companies books and records including accounting records
  • Preparing and filing accounts or making returns to Companies House
  • Submitting tax returns and paying on a timely basis
  • Ensuring that you are not trading at a time when the company could be deemed to be insolvent
  • Ensuring that you are not trading at the expense of creditors

Your duties as a director must continue in the event of the company entering any form of insolvency procedure. Your integrity and conduct may be questioned if you fail to do so.

The following is a list of responsibilities which should not be taken as being exhaustive:-

  • In the period prior to the formal insolvency taking place, the Directors remain responsible for the Company and must continue to comply with all government and other statutory regulations.
  • Immediately prior to insolvency, any acquisition of assets of the company or any proposed transactions in which a director or party is connected may require disclosure to the board under the Companies Act 2006.
  • Following insolvency, the Directors may be required to identify any assets belonging to the company and may possibly be required to assist the “Official Receiver” (OR) or “Insolvency Practitioner” (IP) to dispose of and collect in assets. The Directors have an ongoing duty to cooperate and to provide information to the OR/IP.
  • There is an overriding obligation for directors to act in the best interests of creditors. Failure to do so may expose Directors to a claim for misfeasance or breach of duty.
  • If you are a Director of the company and the company enters liquidation you will be prohibited from using any name by which the company was known or similar names suggesting an association with the company. However, it is possible to use such a name if the correct procedure is followed.
  • Directors will be required to deliver a complete record of the company’s accounting records.
  • Directors should be aware that any personal guarantees given on behalf of the company may be called in.
  • You can act as a Director of another company unless you are disqualified from doing so.
    If you have misapplied or misappropriated company funds at the expense of creditors, this could result in disqualification proceedings being taken.

For further information regarding the director’s role during insolvency, please contact Lynn Marshall on 0191 285 0321 or email

End of life notification – Sage Instant Accounts 2012 and Sage 50 Accounts 2013


Instant Accounts 2012 & Sage 50 Accounts 2013

End of life notification – A note from Sage re your software

We’re writing to inform you that from April 2015, Sage will begin withdrawing support for Sage Instant Accounts 2012 and Sage 50 Accounts 2013.

What does this mean?

The software will continue to work as normal. Once support has been fully withdrawn, you won’t be able to upgrade your software at the lower upgrade price, instead software will need to be purchased at the full RRP for the latest version. So, if you’re considering upgrading, now is the time to do it to take advantage of great deals.

It also means that updates will no longer be supported for your current version and your software support from Sage will be withdrawn.

How will this affect me? – A note from Sage

As technology continues to change so rapidly it is standard practice in the industry for technology companies to withdraw support from older versions of software to focus on new technology.

This will enable us to focus investment on development to increase the frequency and scale of improvements to our more recent versions.

We will also continue to invest in ensuring legislative compliance for UK businesses, particularly during this period of significant legislative change. Since the tax year starting 6 April 2013 the government has introduced wholesale changes to payroll reporting (Real Time Information), new pensions legislation (Automatic Enrolment) and two significant changes to VAT rules (VAT MOSS and Prompt Payment Discounts). It is likely this level of legislative reform will continue, and by focusing development on more recent versions, we can better support our customers through these changes.

What should I do next?

Getting up to date couldn’t be easier; we currently have some great subscription propositions available and until the end of May you can upgrade your 50 Accounts 2013 customers to the latest version at the July price points, Tait Walker can offer excellent discounts on Sage RRP.

If you have any questions or would like to upgrade your software, please contact Claire Richardson on 0191 285 0321 or email

Palliative Care and Search and Rescue Charities – HMRC Guidance on reclaiming input VAT



It was announced in 2014 that charities carrying out certain care and rescue operations would not be disadvantaged by the cost of incurring VAT on their non-business activities.  However it has taken HMRC until now to release details of how this would work.

On a notice from HMRC dated 28th April 2015, the long awaited guidance has been issued.

The notice explains which charities are eligible to use the refund scheme to claim a refund of VAT incurred on goods and services used for their non-business activities*, what to do when circumstances change, what falls within the scope of the refund scheme and how to make a claim.

*Non-business activities relate to those activities carried out by the charity which are funded by income which is not within the scope of VAT i.e. typically grant income, donations etc.  Ordinarily, it is not possible to recover the VAT incurred on goods and services purchased to support non-business activities.

Who does it apply to?

The scheme applies to palliative care charities (mainly hospices and such), air ambulance charities, search and rescue charities and medical courier charities.  Further definitions of these charities are included in paragraph 1.7 of the notice.

If you are a qualifying charity, you can claim a refund of VAT you incur on most goods and services supplied to you on or after 1 April 2015 and which relate to your non-business activity.  It does not apply to supplies made to you before 1 April 2015.

How to claim

Importantly, whilst the refund is also available to those charities which are not already VAT registered, critically the charity must be recognised by HMRC as a charity for tax purposes.  This means that the charity must have set themselves up with HMRC, registering as a charity.

Usual rules apply to claiming VAT, such that in order to recover the VAT on goods and services you use or intend to use for your non-business activities, the charity must;

  • Place the order
  • Receive the supply
  • Receive a tax invoice addressed to the charity
  • Pay from the charity’s own funds.

Charities already registered for VAT

If the charity is already VAT registered, you need to claim your refund in Box 4 of the VAT return (including the net value in Box 7).  The VAT return will be processed in the same way by HMRC.

Charities not registered for VAT

If the charity is not VAT registered, there is a VAT claim form (VAT 126) to complete.  The claim can be made as often or as infrequently as required, from at least one calendar month to a maximum of 4 years after incurring the expenditure (only expenditure from 1/4/15).

Note that if the claim is for less than £100 then the minimum claim period is 12 months.

HMRC will process the claim form and make a BACS refund of payable order.  They will also give you a unique number to quote on all claims, but this does not mean that HMRC has registered the charity for VAT.  HMRC will then from time to time select claims for verification.

Further Details

If you would like further details on this VAT scheme or in general then please contact Simon Brown who is Head of Not for Profit who would be delighted to speak to you.

T: 0191 285 0321

Why do businesses fail?

There are many reasons why businesses fail and for lots of business owners its things that are out of their control – such as cash flow issues arising from unpaid debts and difficulty raising finance for new projects.

Whilst it’s not possible to plan for the unexpected, businesses can plan for some of the situations they may face and some of the difficulties that can arise from late planning!

We asked our debt specialist Lynn Marshall to give us her top planning tips, to help your business stay above water.

Plan for increased staff costs

Planning your staff costs correctly is key for every business, even if you expect your staff levels to remain static.

  • Recent changes to paternity flexibility could leave employers having to cover maternity pay and the work of father employees who are taking shared parental leave. Covering employee leave could drastically reduce productivity and increase costs, especially where skills’ training is required.
  • If you want to retain staff, you may need to consider promotions and pay rises. It’s an employee’s market and staff satisfaction is key to the success of your business. Or you may be looking to grow the team or bring in new skills. You need to plan ahead and factor staff retention and recruitment into your budgeting.
  • Recent changes to workplace pension law means that employers must pay into pension funds for all eligible employees. The set up fees, administration time and ongoing scheme costs can be detrimental to businesses if not carefully planned and budgeted for.
  • RTI rules can also mean increased costs for your business. The rules don’t change the way PAYE is calculated, but it does mean more regular submissions to HMRC. PAYE information needs to be submitted every time an employee is paid rather than just once a year. Changes to office procedures may result in increased costs due to the setting up and ongoing monitoring of the system, which need to be factored into the cash flow of the business.

Debt recovery Procedure

Businesses need to ensure that they have a robust debt recovery procedure in place, whereby debts are chased regularly and efficiently. Paperwork must be kept up to date and payments must be sought for overdue debts.

Raising Finance

Due consideration should be given to both the type and terms of the finance on offer. Ask if the business can afford the ongoing payments, if the terms of the borrowing are too onerous or if the funds can be raised from alternate sources. Does the business truly need the finance or can it survive and grow without it?

Plan for the unexpected

Ensure that the business has a contingency fund available for any sudden or unplanned circumstances that could hit your business.

Seek early advice

Commonly, business owners affected by financial problems do not seek professional advice quickly, there is often that hope that the problem will go away on its own.

We always suggest seeking early advice, whether it is from an accountant or a solicitor. By making a third party aware of the problem, they can suggest possible steps to take and can recommend potential contacts that may be able to offer help if they can’t. If the problem is caught early enough, it can often be resolved more easily than expected.

For further advice regarding corporate recovery, please contact Lynn Marshall on 0191 285 0321 or email

Exit planning: lock in value

Landscape LLP Logo White - 300 dpi

Today we welcome a guest blog post from leading law firm, Watson Burton, who explain the importance of effective planning when selling a business…

Most entrepreneurs think about plans for the sale of their business, but few make the time to plan effectively. Experience shows that effective planning for exit can help “lock in” and increase value, and can also ensure the actual process of selling the business goes more smoothly. Reducing tension and stress points in a process will prevent value leakage and price chips.

Here, Duncan Reid, head of corporate at law firm Watson Burton sets out what entrepreneurs should consider, and how early they should start to think about preparing for sale.

Reid Duncan

Plan early

When should the exit planning process begin? It is never too early. Decisions taken in the formative years of a company will have a significant impact on the sale process. For example:

  1. Are you incentivising key staff? Getting an appropriate option scheme in place can be essential. However, value will suffer if the tax advantages of HMRC approved schemes are lost – this is guaranteed to reduce the cash in your pocket.
  2. Tax advice is invaluable for any company to make sure that you can take advantage of the available tax reliefs such as Seed EIS relief and entrepreneurs’ relief. This can really improve the level of cash proceeds you can retain by virtue of eliminating or mitigating the tax take.
  3. Is your IP protected adequately? For example:
  • If you are employing consultants, are they on terms that assign all IP to the company? A loss of value here is particularly common where there are ‘holes’ in a company’s IP protection.
  • Are you relying on third party licenses which require the licensor’s consent to the sale of your business?
  • Are you currently infringing (or at risk of infringing) another’s IP?
  1. Are your commercial contracts robust? You must include limitations on the company’s liability, resist ‘change of control’ clauses (which provide a right to terminate on the sale of a business), and ensure that provisions around pricing and royalties are watertight; any uncertainty in this area can be a determining factor in securing the best price.
  2. It is important to get your housekeeping done. It is much more effective (and cost-effective) to keep your shareholder register and Companies House records up-to-date on a continuous basis rather than paying to remedy the position much further down the line.

What other issues should you watch out for?

Management team – Have you developed a strong management team so that the business can still operate after you have left? If all customer, employee and other key relationships are dependent upon the entrepreneur, then any purchaser will be concerned about a loss of value following its purchase of the business. In addition, a strong management team may actually be the best buyer of the business.

Positioning for sale – If you are contemplating a sale, you should start to identify the most likely buyers early and then start trying to shape your business to make it look most attractive to the most likely suitors. If a buyer can see the synergies and a deal looks easy both in terms of the process and post-deal integration, then the business will look more attractive and a premium price more likely.

Get professional advice – Classic problem areas on a sale are usually down to when an entrepreneur has taken matters into his own hands rather than engaged a professional. The share buyback and reduction of capital, the lease and the key contract negotiated without a lawyer are extremely common areas where deal costs are increased (and prices chipped by buyers). Resist the temptation to be your own lawyer or accountant, particularly in respect of key contracts or structural changes.

Tax structure – If your exit plans involve the sale of a division of your business or a subsidiary it is imperative that tax advice is taken, at a minimum 12 months before the sale process is even likely to commence. The correct structure, put in place early, can be the difference between securing an exit or losing it.

Carry out a health check – Employment claims can be a source of value leakage on an exit. Consider taking out an insurance policy that can protect a business from the cost of tribunal claims and which can be a useful and cost-effective ‘health check’ for employment policies and procedures. This will ensure that a buyer is confident that proper procedures have been followed when dealing with employment matters.

For an informal discussion about any of the issues mentioned in this post, contact Duncan Reid, head of corporate at Watson Burton at, or call 0845 901 0954.

Click here to visit the Watson Burton website.

For any of your other corporate finance needs, please contact the Tait Walker Corporate Finance team on 0191 285 0321.

This material is provided as a guide only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of issue, Watson Burton LLP can accept no responsibility for actions taken based on this information.

Pre-election – potential changes to tax relief on pension contributions…

It may have escaped people’s attention but there is a General Election on 7 May 2015 and, depending on the result of the election and the result of any subsequent negotiations in the event of a hung Parliament, changes could be on the way. This blog focuses particularly on potential changes to tax relief on pension contributions.

Labour Party policy is to remove higher rate tax relief on pension contributions paid by any person with income of more than £150,000. They have also indicated that there will be a mini Budget if they form the next government. This is a policy which the Labour Party sought to introduce in 2010, but which was reversed after the 2010 election. It is likely that the policy could be introduced with almost immediate effect to apply to any contributions after the date of the announcement. In addition the annual allowance for pension contributions would be reduced to £30,000.

The Conservative Party wish to reduce Inheritance Tax payable on your home and to pay for that policy, they are also going to limit higher rate tax relief on pension contributions for persons with income of over £150,000. This will be done by restricting the annual allowance if your income is over £150,000, with the annual allowance falling to only £10,000 if your income is over £210,000. The timing of this change is not so clear but it may not be with immediate effect.

If the opinions polls are accurate, the most likely result at the time of writing is a Labour minority government; therefore individuals with income of over £150,000 should be planning for this restriction of tax relief.

For those affected, one option to consider is that if you have the available cash, you could bring forward the payment of your contribution for 2015/16 to try to lock in higher rate tax relief on the contribution. If you have not fully utilised your available contributions in previous years, you may also want to make use of the carry forward facility.

The exact date of implementation of the new rules cannot be known with certainty, but if the contribution is paid on or before 7 May 2015, it seems likely that you would still benefit from higher rate tax relief on the contribution. Taking the effective date for the new rules back to 6 April 2015 cannot be entirely discounted, but this would involve an element of retrospection, which is not common apart from with particularly aggressive tax planning. However in the current environment, higher rate tax relief could not be guaranteed.

The second option to consider is that where you are the owner of a company, you do have the ability to control the timing of your income. The new rules are to apply to persons with income of more than £150,000, so if your income happened to be £149,000, you would still secure higher rate tax relief on your pension contributions. Given the proposed increase in the Additional Rate of Income Tax from 45% to 50%, the limiting of income to no more than £150,000 is likely to be of interest in any event.

The final point to make is that these changes affect contributions made by individuals into their pension policy. If you own a company, the other possibility is that instead of the individual contributing, that person’s company will make an employer contribution.

In conclusion, there are a number of options that can be considered if these proposed changes to pension tax relief are introduced. For now, the action point is to consider bringing forward your contributions for 2015/16 to before the Election if you make individual contributions and your income is more than £150,000.

If this article is of interest to you, please contact Chris Hodgson or your Wealth Management contact at Tait Walker.

Tait Walker Wealth Management is a trading style of Tait Walker Financial Services Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Is your business under threat from Cyber Crime?

The annual conference of the North East Fraud Forum focused on the issue of Cyber Crime in the region, with several reoccurring themes presented by IT experts and police officers:

  • Cyber Crime is global and is on the increase in the North East.
  • Crimes are becoming easier to commit by less technologically savvy fraudsters and serious organised criminals alike, with guidance on how to hack being readily available on the internet.
  • The types of crime are ever evolving and vary hugely in degree of severity. Disruption to businesses from Cyber Crime has unfortunately forced some businesses into insolvency.
  • Many businesses have been the subject of Cyber Crime and may be unaware of it. This is not limited to large multinational organisations, but affects businesses of all sizes. A lack of commitment to minimise these risks makes businesses a sitting target over their more cautious competitors.
  • Often the biggest threat to a business comes from within. Cyber Crimes committed by staff are not uncommon and less easy to spot before it’s too late.

There are of course some relatively simple steps that businesses can take to reduce the risk of a cyber-attack. It could be considered that the cost of not taking these steps is greater than the costs to implement changes.

  • Consider the permissions allowed to staff. Do all staff members have access to the full database within the business, regardless of their needs to carry out their work?
  • Consider a disaster recovery plan. Would your business survive if the computer systems were down for a significant length of time?
  • Consider implementing the UK Government’s Cyber essentials scheme. This initiative lists five basic controls which can help to protect against relatively unskilled attackers.
  • Consider the adoption of ISO 27001. This is an international standard which sets out the best practice requirements of an information security management system.

Tait Walker is hosting a seminar on Cyber Crime in conjunction with Watson Burton LLP and Security Risk Management Limited on 16 June 2015. We will be working through a case study which highlights the threats posed to SMEs by Cyber Crime and what to do in the event that your business is the victim of such a crime.

To book a place at our seminar please email:

For further advice and guidance on how to prevent and deal with fraud, please contact David Arthur on 0191 285 0321 or email

Video Games Tax Relief v R&D Tax Relief for SMEs

Some video games companies are in the enviable position of being able to choose between claiming Video Games Tax Relief (VGTR) or R&D tax relief – both of which can generate loss making companies a cash tax credit.

For one client we recently worked with, we were able to claim both in one period on different games, after calculating on a project by project basis which would give the best result. This client benefitted from cash VGTR credits amounting to £70k, and an R&D tax credit of £59k!

R&D tax relief v Video Games tax relief

It’s possible that the development of a video game could incorporate activities which would qualify for both R&D and VGTR; however legislation prevents a company from claiming both reliefs on the same “project”. It is therefore important to consider which relief would give the best result for the company. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always obvious.

On the face of things, it would seem that R&D tax relief would give the greatest benefit…

R&D tax relief

SMEs can claim a 230% deduction in relation to qualifying expenditure on R&D – namely staff costs, consumables and subcontracted R&D. If the SME is loss making it can surrender the loss up to 230% of the qualifying expenditure for a tax credit at 14.5%.  For example if a loss making SME incurred qualifying expenditure of £100,000 the maximum tax credit which could arise would be:

R&D tax credit: £100,000 x 230% x 14.5% = £33,350

Video games tax relief

VGTR was introduced on 1 April 2014 and only “core expenditure” incurred on or after that date spent in the EEA can qualify. Core expenditure is expenditure on designing, producing and testing the video game. Companies can claim an additional deduction of 80% of Core Expenditure. If the game (which must be treated as a separate trade) is loss making the company can surrender a maximum of the 80% additional deduction for a 25% tax credit. For example, if core expenditure amounted to £100,000 the maximum tax credit which could arise would be:

VGTR credit: £100,000 x 80% x 25% = £20,000

Real life example

The client that benefited from a total of £129k in tax worked on the development of nine video games within their accounting period (which straddled the 1 April 2014). An element of the development works on all nine games qualified for R&D tax relief, however  a number of the games might also have qualified for VGTR.  Whilst working through the comparison calculations and the process for claiming VGTR, we made the following observations:

  • We found that across the different projects the average qualifying “Core Expenditure” for VGTR amounted to double the amount which would have qualified for R&D tax relief. This might indicate that VGTR on the whole would give the best result (however, this wasn’t always the case).
  • Where VGTR was claimed, the taxable profit/loss for that specific game for the period was deducted/added back to the results of the “main trade”. This therefore impacted on the losses available to surrender by the company for an R&D tax credit.
  • VGTR could not be claimed in relation to games for which SME R&D tax relief had been claimed on in earlier periods.
  • To maximise a cash tax credit in a particular period it may be necessary to consider a number of different claim combinations.
  • To be able to make a VGTR claim the company must apply to the British Film Institute (BFI) for certification that the video game is culturally British. We found that the BFI were extremely approachable when we contacted them to clarify a few points. However, where possible this application should be made early to avoid delays.

For our client, generating the cash benefit of the tax credit was the most important consideration and we found that the optimum result for the period was generated by claiming VGTR on two games only. The answer may have been different if their priority was to maximise the cash benefit over the whole development period. Also, had VGTR been available for the whole period the answer may have been different again!

In summary, the new VGTR rules are not straightforward and there are lots of different elements and interactions to consider. However, we successfully guided our client through the BFI certification process for the two games, with the client receiving the cash tax credits within two weeks of the certificates being sent to HMRC.

Client feedback: “Thank you for all your help with the BFI applications, you’ve been super quick and efficient and a pleasure to work with. It’s very much appreciated.”

If you would like to discuss VGTR or R&D tax relief, please do not hesitate to call Louise Barker, Peter Tindale or Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321.


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