Want funding for professional advice? Small and medium sized businesses – have you applied for Growth Vouchers? You only have 1 week left!

1 week

In January 2014 the Growth Vouchers programme launched a £30m fund aimed at encouraging small businesses to seek professional advice to help address key business issues such as raising finance, managing staffing costs and implementing company pension schemes in line with new Auto Enrolment rules.

The scheme is open to any business based in England that has been running for over one year, has up to 250 employees and has not sought “strategic advice” in the last three years.

However, the programme closes to new applicants on 31st March 2015 – so you only have 1 week to apply and benefit from the scheme.

Businesses who wish to apply need to:

  • Be registered in England
  • Have less than 250 employees
  • Be actively selling goods and/or services
  • Have a turnover no greater than €50m or £45m
  • Own 75% or more of their business

Why Growth Vouchers?

Statistically, businesses are more likely to grow and succeed if they have a ‘financial business plan’ in place. However, there are many areas in which an equivalent business plan will also help to generate growth and help to focus the direction of the business.

The Growth Vouchers programme recognises this and provides the ability to seek financial support for advice across a range of key business areas. With the Growth Vouchers scheme, you can receive advice for Finance (e.g. business planning, forecasting), IT strategy, HR and Marketing. Please be aware that the project has to be completed within 90 days of the voucher being awarded.

How to apply?

If you have been looking for advice on any of the subject matters covered and would like funding towards your project, please register now before the opportunity expires at the end of March. The Growth Voucher application process is online and can be accessed here.

Following submission you will be contacted and advised on the next steps (if successful).

Tait Walker is an accredited Growth Vouchers adviser and our Growth Vouchers profile can be viewed on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

For further advice and guidance, please contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321 or email alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk.  

How safe is your business?

Could your business be vulnerable if you lost all of your customer information or it found its way into your competitors’ hands?

Recent stories in the media have highlighted that there is an ever growing level of cybercrime. Not only is it on the increase, but it is becoming more intelligent and harder to spot. This type of crime is not only affecting the widely reported multinational companies, but can have a major impact on SME businesses who have less resources and technological intelligence to prevent it, and does not get the media coverage it deserves.

The growth of technology means that business is now transacted on computers, tablets and smart phones. This is great when it works but it is also open to attack by criminals who have been quick to discover the value of this data, how easy it is to steal and how difficult it is for law enforcement to catch, prove and prosecute.

It now has its own classification – Cybercrime.

Cybercrime comes in many forms, attacking both individuals and businesses alike. Some of the types of cybercrime that are out there at present are:

  • Spamming- email users may receive vast numbers of almost identical, unwanted emails containing links to phishing websites or executable file attachments. Clicking on links attached to spam can lead to internet scams or computer viruses. Not filtering spam can cause serious disruption to businesses, particularly if links are used.
  • Phishing- this is often linked to spamming. These emails will attempt to obtain usernames, passwords and financial details by appearing to be genuine emails from institutions such as banks or HMRC.
  • Database theft- theft of company databases can result in terrible consequences. Many companies today keep data regarding their client base in one easy to access database. Not protecting this database can lead to information being leaked to competitors and in some circumstances, breaching of the data protection act. This threat is not just from external parties but is more likely to come from employees.

Cybercrime is becoming so prevalent in the North East that the North East Fraud Forum (NEFF) is focusing their annual conference on it. The North East Cyber Crime Conference is to be held on Wednesday 15th April at Durham County Cricket Club. For further details of how to attend, please see www.northeastfraudforum.co.uk

For further advice and guidance on how to prevent and deal with fraud, please contact David Arthur on 0191 285 0321 or email david.arthur@taitwalker.co.uk

What does the Budget mean for the Digital Sector?

The Budget today was a very mixed bag for the North East’s digital, media and technology sectors, probably with more negatives than positives.

We knew from previous announcements that the corporation tax rate would be reduced to 20% from 1 April 2015 and that tax relief for R&D would be increased from 1 April 2015 also.

We also knew that measures to encourage employment of under 21’s and Apprentices are being introduced via an exemption from employers NIC.

There were helpful extensions to the Creative Sector tax reliefs for High End Television and the introduction of a tax relief for Orchestras (and a consultation to consider how tax reliefs could assist local newspapers). There was also new funding announced for games developers in the form of a Video Games Prototype Fund.

However, there were several notable disappointing elements for North East businesses in the digital and creative sectors.   Firstly, there was no announcement of the extension of the Annual Investment Allowance which would have provided certainty for companies with plans to invest in new hardware or production studios after 31 December 2015.

More importantly, the concept of the Northern Powerhouse entirely missed the North East when it came to investment announced of £11m for Tech Incubators, which have instead been established in Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield to foster incubation of start-up businesses in the tech sector.

For our regions companies in the media, tech and creative sector, rather than the Budget hitting the bullseye, it was more an example of “here’s what you could have won” when we compare ourselves to our regional neighbours.

What the 2015 Budget means for the manufacturing sector

This year’s Budget was very much focused on individual finances, a budget for ‘the people’. For the manufacturing sector the announcement didn’t hold any great surprises, but did confirm some positives and missed opportunities…

Tax News

We knew from previous announcements that the corporation tax rate would be reduced to 20% from 1 April 2015 and that tax relief for R&D would be increased from 1 April 2015.

National Insurance

Measures to encourage employment of under 21’s and Apprentices are being introduced via an exemption from employers NIC from April 2016.

Helpful Announcements

There were helpful announcements for energy intensive industries. The long term review of business rates will be positive, provided it carries through the intention of assisting those who invest in energy efficient equipment within their sites (for example by investing in energy efficient plant and machinery).

There were also helpful extensions to a number of Enterprise Zones (including one in Tees Valley) and two new Enterprise Zones on a national level. It is instructive to local policy makers that the Chancellor applauded the councils of the new Enterprise Zones for lobbying for their creation, an illustration of what you can achieve by asking loudly enough.

Boost for Export

The Budget has announced a near doubling of funding for UKTI activities in China, including a focus on regional strengths such as advanced manufacturing, healthcare and life sciences. The Budget also announced funding for additional trade missions to ensure that the UK makes the most of the forthcoming International Festival for Business which is being held in Liverpool.

Missed Opportunity

Plans to encourage investment in plant and machinery were missing. The Chancellor did not announce any extension in the Annual Investment Allowance for plant and machinery, which will cause uncertainty for businesses as to whether they have to accelerate investment to ensure it occurs before 31 December 2015 (when the current AIA expires).

A Pre-Election budget which was focused on individuals rather than business was not a surprise, but the lack of encouragement or certainty for investment by business and in particular some additional support for manufacturing was the biggest missed opportunity by the Chancellor.

To discuss any of these updates in further detail, please contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321 or email alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk

What the 2015 Budget means for Charities

The Chancellor delivered a number of announcements in Budget 2015, but what impact do these have for the third sector?

It is clear that whilst the economy is getting stronger, pressure on budgets will continue, which means that Council funded charities will continue to face downward pressure on income.

Headlines for the sector:

  • Review on the use of Deeds of Variation to avoid Inheritance Tax

Leaving money to charities, as part of a will, currently has significant advantages for reducing the amount of tax paid by the deceased’s estate.  Might this review, scheduled for the autumn, have unintended consequences for charities, particularly those charities which receive legacies?

  • Pensions lifetime pot reduced

With the lifetime limit being reduced from £1.25m to £1m, will wealthy individuals seek alternative ways to reduce their tax liabilities?  In the past they might have used pensions as a means to do so.  Given that this route has been reduced, could those wealthy individuals seek to make more charitable donations as a means to reduce their annual tax liability?

  • National Minimum Wage increased

The NMW is to rise by 20p an hour to £6.70 from October 2015.  This rise will put further pressure and financial burden onto charities, particularly those employing staff that are in generally lower paid sectors, such as the care sector.   This comes on the back of the already increased employment costs in relation to the Auto Enrolment Pension Scheme.  Larger charities will have already staged, whilst those with less than 58 employees have started staging in 2015 and this will continue through to 2017 for the very smallest charities.

  • National Insurance Contributions

On the other side, good news for charities which employ under-21s is that employers National Insurance is to be abolished from April 2015, which could help to make a small saving in payroll costs. A similar provision will also apply to apprentices under the age of 25.

  • Church Roof Appeals

The Chancellor has trebled the relief available for church roof appeals from £5m to £15m for any church which is a listed building.

  • Gift Aid Small Donation Scheme (GASDS)

GASDS, which has been around for a couple of years, allows charities (with a good history of Gift Aid claims) to recover the effective Gift Aid on small donations collected by way of ‘bucket collections’ or for small (<£20) one-off donations.  Previously small donations totalling up to £5,000 per annum could be claimed under GASDS.  This has now increased to £8,000 per annum.

  • Armed Forces Charities

The Chancellor announced that charities supporting British service-men and -women would receive £75m, funded by the fines levied against the banking industry for the Libor (interest rate fixing) scandal.

  • Refunds of VAT to Search and Rescue Charities

The Chancellor followed up his Autumn Statement announcement  by confirming an improved VAT recovery position for charities whose main purpose is to search for and rescue people at risk of death or injury. This would include mountain rescue and air ambulance charities amongst others. The measure will allow recovery of VAT incurred on non-business activities (i.e. activities which are funded by voluntary income, donations etc).

The measure is effective from 1 April 2015. As there is currently no special provision in the legislation to allow recovery, the existing section 33 will be extended to 33C and 33D. This section has been used to allow VAT recovery in the newly formed Academies; in their case if they had the choice of VAT registration or claiming input tax back on a VAT 126. It is likely that HMRC will follow claims for Search and Rescue charities in a similar format.

  • Refunds for Palliative Care charities

Again mentioned briefly in the Autumn Statement, the announcement was confirmed and will be effective from 1 April 2015. The government agreed to support palliative care charities through the introduction of a new refund system.  HMRC are proposing to extend section 33, again, to allow the refund of VAT incurred for the purpose of the charities non-business activities (i.e. activities which are funded by voluntary income, donations etc).   This will be via an existing VAT registration or a VAT 126 (or similar) form.  It is anticipated that it will benefit around 200 palliative care charities.

On the flip side, the raising of the personal tax allowance to £10,800 in April 2016 (and then to £11,000 in April 2017) will take more employed people out of PAYE, meaning that they would be ineligible to tick the ‘Gift Aid box’ when giving money to charities directly or via sponsorship.  This could impact on certain types of charities more than others, for example religious groups or churches.

Whilst the budget has had little positive effect on the overall charity sector, some parts of the sector will benefit.  The whole charity sector will need to deal with increased employment costs, as well as the pension costs under Automatic Enrolment.  However, the general improvement in the economy overall, which has fewer austerity constraints, might benefit the sector in increased charitable giving. Previous budgets have made charitable investments an option for some and with general economic growth figures encouraging more confidence and making giving easier, the sector will be able to benefit from these changes and can continue to rebuild a stronger third sector.

For further guidance, please contact our Head of Not for Profit, Simon Brown on 0191 285 0321 or email simon.brown@taitwalker.co.uk

Budget Wish List

1

In preparation for tomorrow’s Budget Announcement, our tax team are sharing their Budget Wish Lists…

Andrew would like to see a number of changes that would benefit the North East, including:

  • More funding for graduate placements in the North East
  • Regional NIC holidays to boost employment in the region. This would make it cheaper to employ and would make a real difference to the North East if it was to last a considerable period.
  • Extension of EIS and Seed EIS to give income tax relief for those using their own savings to set up their own business.

Our team will also be providing key summaries and reactions throughout the week – follow us @TaitWalker for live tweets and updates and use the hashtag #Budget2015.

Budget 2015 Predictions

1

Prior to Wednesday’s Budget Announcement, our Tax Associate Chris Hodgson shares his predictions…

  • A further increase in the personal allowance from £10,600 to £11,000 for 2015/16
  • An extension of the Annual Investment Allowance to incentivise investment in plant and machinery
  • No change to the rates of Income Tax and Value Added Tax
  • Extension of the Pension Freedoms to people who have already purchased an annuity
  • A reduction in the Lifetime Limit of £10 million for Capital Gains qualifying for Entrepreneur’s Relief

Our team will also be providing key summaries and reactions throughout the week – follow us @TaitWalker for live tweets and updates and use the hashtag #Budget2015.

Want funding for professional advice? Small and medium sized businesses – have you applied for Growth Vouchers? You only have 2 weeks left…

1

In January 2014 the Growth Vouchers programme launched a £30m fund aimed at encouraging small businesses to seek professional advice to help address key business issues such as raising finance, managing staffing costs and implementing company pension schemes in line with new Auto Enrolment rules.

The scheme is open to any business based in England that has been running for over one year, has up to 250 employees and has not sought “strategic advice” in the last three years.

However, the programme closes to new applicants on 31st March 2015 – so you only have 2 weeks to apply and benefit from the scheme.

Businesses who wish to apply need to:

  • Be registered in England
  • Have less than 250 employees
  • Be actively selling goods and/or services
  • Have a turnover no greater than €50m or £45m
  • Own 75% or more of their business

Why Growth Vouchers?

Statistically, businesses are more likely to grow and succeed if they have a ‘financial business plan’ in place. However, there are many areas in which an equivalent business plan will also help to generate growth and help to focus the direction of the business. The Growth Vouchers programme recognises this and provides the ability to seek financial support for advice across a range of key business areas.

With the Growth Vouchers scheme, you can receive advice for Finance (e.g. business planning, forecasting), IT strategy, HR and Marketing. Please be aware that the project has to be completed within 90 days of the voucher being awarded.

How to apply?

If you have been looking for advice on any of the subject matters covered and would like funding towards your project, please register now before the opportunity expires at the end of March.

The Growth Voucher application process is online and can be accessed here. Following submission you will be contacted and advised on the next steps (if successful).

Tait Walker is an accredited Growth Vouchers adviser and our Growth Vouchers profile can be viewed on the Enterprise Nation Marketplace.

For further advice and guidance, please contact Alastair Wilson on 0191 285 0321 or email alastair.wilson@taitwalker.co.uk.

Budget Wish List

In preparation for next week’s Budget Announcement our tax team will be sharing their ‘Budget Wish List’. They will also be providing key summaries and live tweets throughout the week – follow us @TaitWalker.

Alastair would like to see a number of changes that would help to benefit the North East, including:

  • An extension of the Annual Investment Allowance to encourage investment in plant and machinery
  • Re-introduction of tax relief for corporates for investment in other corporates (this used to exist as the Corporate Venturing Scheme)
  • Reduction in business rates, in particular for empty property
  • Relief from employers National Insurance for “new” jobs, in particular in sectors such as the technology sector
  • Better use of Enterprise Zones locally to create genuine hotspots of SME growth (e.g. have a “tech sector” enterprise zone)
  • Localised reductions in corporation tax for specific sectors – e.g. reduction in corporation tax in the North East for companies in the offshore supply chain
  • Reduction in employment tax reporting red tape

Spring Sage hints and tips…

Sage

Today we are bringing you some hints and tips to help you get the most from your Sage accounting software.

  • Tip 1 – Use the import option to speed up the process of entering a lot of data
    To save a lot of time, you can import data from Comma Separated files and Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. The process varies depending on the version of Sage that you have – full instructions can be found here: http://bit.ly/1CUGw5n

  • Tip 2 – Use keyboard shortcuts to get around your software quickly
    There are lot of different keyboard shortcuts that you can use. Here are some of the most useful ones:Tab key = jumps between options within a window
    Arrow keypad = scrolls a list when highlighted
    Alt + F4 = closes Sage accounts
    F1 = opens the online Help system
    F2 = opens the calculator
    F8 = deletes the whole line of information entered
    F9 = activates the Calculate Net Amount option

    For a full list of keyboard shortcuts, click the following link: http://bit.ly/1CUGw5n

  • Tip 3 – To save time, memorise transactions and set up recurring items you post regularly
    The Memorise and Recall options are a great time saving feature, and a useful option if you struggle to post your journals each month. To read the steps guiding you through memorising and recalling invoices and payments, click here: http://bit.ly/1HmnWlr

  • Tip 4 – View Sage’s online video demos
    Sage have a range of helpful video demonstrations available to help you get the most from your software. Click here to see their videos: http://bit.ly/1Aak0Qa

  • Tip 5 – Use the scheduled backup option to save time
    Rather than waiting for your backup to complete, you can use the scheduled backup option (in new Sage Accounts v21) to save time. You can schedule them to run automatically and you don’t have to stop processing in Sage Accounts while they are running. For further information, click here: http://bit.ly/1AVCRNK

If you would like any further advice or have any questions regarding your Sage software, please contact Claire Richardson on 0191 285 0321 or email claire.richardson@taitwalker.co.uk

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