Gordon Brown revs up for first ever Business Growth Engine event

THE inaugural charity business event, Business Growth Engine, will take place on 18 September at the Jury’s Inn, Gateshead supported by Gordon Brown law firm.

Raising money for the Percy Hedley Foundation – a registered North East charity which provides services for disabled adults and children, including school, college and disability employment – the event will bring together top business experts to set an agenda for economic growth amongst our region’s SMEs.

Fluid Group managing director Oliver Vaulkhard will kick off the proceedings, which are set to feature advice and guidance from a collection of North East business experts in areas such as: finance, funding, accounting, business planning and strategy, IT systems and data centres, employment and HR, business leases and agreements, and marketing and PR.

He will be joined by inspirational guest speaker, Paul Currie, managing director of The Lakes Distillery will also be sharing his journey as he prepares to launch his £5m venture – the first independent whisky distillery in Cumbria.

Taking place from 11am until 2pm, the 12 business advisors will be split into two panel discussions; the first on funding and business strategy whilst the second covers marketing, PR and technology.

Wendy Peffers, marketing manager for Gordon Brown Law Firm, who are helping organise the event for the Percy Hedley Foundation, said: “One of the things always said about the North East is that there is a real sense of community and through the Business Growth Engine we want to use our region’s business success to inspire and help others, whilst also raising money for a local charity.

“Percy Hedley is a cause that deserves endless support and it’s great knowing that through this event we can also give something back to those who really need it. Tickets cost just £5 and all of the money raised will be donated to the charity.”

The Business Growth Engine aims to give power to the North East business sector in the knowledge that starting and growing a business can be difficult without the right support.

For personal advice and sector specific insight on how to expand your business, delegates can also book a free 30 minute consultation with one of the business growth advisors.

Spaces are limited so to book now or find further information, visit www.businessgrowthengine.co.uk.


Online marketing to help Northumberland businesses grow – “A great event”

Tait Walker’s Corporate Finance Partner, Michael Smith and Business Services Manager Stuart Moody attended the iNorthumberland Business Support launch event today, here’s what they thought….


Michael said: “I would like to congratulate the iNorthumberland team for running a very entertaining and informative event about the use of online marketing to grow businesses in Northumberland.

“The speakers were excellent at describing how they had applied the technology to make their businesses attract customers from all over the world in the most efficient ways”.

After a programme overview, the first speech came from All in One Company’s Kate Dawson, who spoke about the company’s experiences of trading online. She was followed by Jon Monks from Shepherds Walks who explained how superfast broadband benefits businesses and finally a speech from Joanna Wake of Raw Marketing about social media and search engine optimization.

Stuart commented “It’s great to see how well some businesses have done in Northumberland given the limiting factor of broadband. But at the same time also worrying how the lack of superfast broadband can impact a business.”

“The iNorthumberland program is certainly making a difference to the roll out of superfast broadband in the county and its good to know there is business support available. I would encourage any business that needs assistance growing their online presence to talk to the iNorthumberland team. They have access to funding and more importantly access to the people that can make a difference.”

Increasingly within the Tait Walker client base we are finding businesses who are embracing technology and our response to this is cloud based accounting technologies which are increasingly becoming a viable alternative to desktop accounting.


For further details on what cloud accounting can do for your business contact stuart.moody@taitwalker.co.uk

Default surcharge – Tribunal accepts poor economic climate as “reasonable excuse”

Scrimsign (Micro-electronics) Ltd succeeded in their argument that the cause of their late VAT returns payment was due to the “insufficiency of funds” caused by the recession. Additionally, the attitude of the banks and existing customers, who were dictating unfair terms and conditions, was also accepted as an explanation.

The tribunal concluded that their temporary lack of funds was not triggered by any carelessness on their own part, but by the struggling economy. This prevented them from meeting their VAT obligations timeously. Scrimsign Ltd believed that the effects of the recession were difficult to predict and could not reasonably be avoided. As all outstanding sums were paid as soon as it was possible to do so, it was accepted that they had a sufficient excuse for their late payment.

This is an interesting decision that could open the door to many similar cases. In this case, Scrimsign Ltd would appear to have been a creditable witness and the Tribunal Chairman has been sympathetic to their genuine trading difficulties.

Whether other traders could present the same strong case remains to be seen. What we can say is that most businesses that have been struck with similar difficulties and have all tried their level best to pay their VAT on time.

If you would like to discuss this or any other VAT issues please feel to contact our experienced VAT Specialist, Nigel Smith, on nigel.smith@taitwalker.co.uk for an initial free consultation.

What does Geordie Pride mean to you?

Thursday evening’s Great North Run opening ceremony was a truly spectacular event – it made us really proud to be from the region. It got us thinking; what does Geordie Pride mean to our team and friends in the North East business community? Here’s what they said…

“What do I love about the North East? That is easy – the people! We are the most honest, caring and generous, humorous and passionate people. They are definitely what makes make the North East so special!” Paul Shields, Associate at Tait Walker

“I moved to Newcastle over 20 years ago and it has grown to become a vibrant city of great shopping, restaurants, culture and sport and only a short drive from beaches, wilderness and stunning history. When I have to go away on business I itch to get back, it’s my adopted home and I love it.” Kari Owers, managing director, O PR

“I’m proud to be a Geordie – we don’t need a translator to understand Ant and Dec, Jill Halfpenny and Tim Healy…Bravo!” Stuart Moody, Business Services Manager at Tait Walker

“I moved here 42 years ago so think I qualify as an adopted Geordie. It was a fabulous Opening Ceremony on the Quayside for the Great North Run!” Gordon Goldie, Turnaround & Insolvency Partner at Tait Walker

“My wife and I moved from Essex to the North East 10 years ago to be near her family but also to take advantage of living in an area where the people are amongst the friendliest in the country. The North East has some of the most spectacular places to visit – we can’t think of a better area to bring up our daughter.”  Ian Marsh Employee Benefits Consultant at Tait Walker

“Having lived in the North East of England for 37 years, I have always enjoyed the fantastic scenery and great places to visit but this has come to my attention even more in recent months whilst I’ve been carrying out my training for the Great North Run.  It is amazing the different perspective you get when travelling on foot and you truly get to appreciate the wonderful countryside around us.” Ian Gott, Director at Gott Technical Services

“Earl Charles Grey – born in Alnwick, Prime Minister and responsible for the abolition of Slavery throughout the British Empire.” Mark Jeffs, Para Planner at Tait Walker

“The North East? There’s nowhere like it. We have beautiful coastlines and countryside, fantastic friendly people and space to move – but don’t tell everyone! Having lived and travelled abroad it’s easy to appreciate what we have, there’s simply is nothing like ‘coming home to Newcastle’”. Nick Swinhoe, Head of Investment Services at Tait Walker

“The view down the River Tyne when you’re driving over one of the bridges – no matter what time of day, it always looks amazing; and the feeling you get to be home when you land into Newcastle airport, even when the weather isn’t great!” Lauren Hedley, Senior Account Executive, O PR

“I’m a Newcastle girl born and bred – I’ve lived and worked all over the world but nowhere comes close to the Geordie Charm. Friendly, fun and full of surprises, you are in an exciting cosmopolitan city a stone’s throw from a beautiful coast and gorgeous landscapes – what more could you ask for?” Laura Barber, Events and Sustainability Manger on Quorum Business Park


Great news for SMEs…

Growth Vouchers

On Tuesday 26th August, the Government is opening up the Growth Vouchers Programme to more small businesses and encouraging them to get strategic advice to help them grow.

From this date, 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

Growth Vouchers Promise

Payment terms (also from 26th August)
Growth Vouchers commit to pay you within 10 days of submitting your claim.
For small businesses, we’re also introducing flexible payment options so they can pay their half of the voucher directly to the provider and no longer need to find 100% of the cash and claim it back. Please see the terms and conditions for suppliers, for more information. If you have any questions, please contact: growthvouchersbis@bis.gsi.gov.uk

Some happy Growth Vouchers Users…..

Snuggle Sacs

“The process to apply for a Growth Voucher was incredibly simple. The [face-to-face] meeting delivered a lot of focus and positivity about how we should invest in advice and really helped me to narrow down the brief.”

Banners and Mash

“In a matter of days, I had spoken to an adviser from the Marketplace and scheduled a follow-up call to discuss our business plans. The Marketplace was very easy to follow and it was very clear which businesses were Growth Voucher approved suppliers.”

10 Reasons why we love Xero

Xero Silver Partners

With a huge number of cloud-based accounting software on the market, we have compiled a list of the top ten reasons why Xero is the best choice for your business:

  • Automatic bank feeds – This allows you to update your bank quickly, easily and regularly. Xero will even help you to match your invoices to your bank statement lines.
  • The app is free – Xero Touch can be downloaded from the App Store or Google Play and makes keeping up to date with your finances easy wherever you are.
  • Customisable invoices – Using Xero’s template you can create great looking invoices complete with your organisation’s logo.
  • Safety and Security – Your organisation’s data is stored safely in the cloud and maintenance is carried out automatically.
  • Collaborate with your accountant – The single ledger means that you or your accountant can log in and view your data 24/7.
  • Full support provided – Online help-guides and videos are provided to help you use Xero effectively, as well as email support with any queries.
  • Cost-effective for small businesses – Xero is paid for via monthly subscription so no there are no up-front costs. Multiple users can also be added at no extra cost.
  • Tracking – Tracking Categories can be used to create meaningful management information and reporting at the click of a button.
  • Discount for charities – Charitable organisations love Xero as it enables multiple stakeholders to view data from various geographical locations. There is also a discount to the monthly subscription charge.
  • VAT filing online – You can file your VAT online and track transactions using the Audit Report function to ensure everything is in the correct place on the VAT return.

If you would like to find out more about Xero, please get in touch by emailing Stuart Moody at stuart.moody@taitwalker.co.uk or call 0191 285 0321.


What do workplace pension changes really mean for your business? Why not ask the Pensions Regulator…

What do workplace pension changes really mean for your business? Why not ask the Pensions Regulator…

We are delighted to welcome The Pensions Regulator to the North East and invite you to join us at our free auto enrolment seminars, taking place on Thursday 2nd October at Newcastle Racecourse and The Wynyard Rooms.

Together with The Pensions Regulator we will guide you through the maze of workplace pensions and share our experiences of dealing with Auto Enrolment and the challenges businesses face.

Whether you’re approaching your staging date and need to understand the best way to comply, or you’re already in the process and want to know how to make cost efficient decisions going forward, these seminars are for you.

We’ll be sharing best practice and will answer some of the key questions:

  • What is Auto Enrolment all about and how do I comply? The Pensions Regulator
  • How do I mitigate the cost of Auto Enrolment and how can I save money through salary sacrifice for an existing scheme? Tait Walker
  • What are the legal implications of automatic enrolment and what are worker rights? – Ward Hadaway (Newcastle Event) and Endeavour Partnership (Teesside Event)
  • What have you learned from helping others through the process and how can I do things differently? Tait Walker
  • As rates increase what can I do to make sure my scheme is as efficient as possible? Tait Walker

We’ll end the sessions with some questions and answers for the panel, so come along and don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to ask The Pensions Regulator your questions.

Locations Details

2nd October – Newcastle Event – Newcastle Racecourse

  • Registration and Breakfast – 8.30am
  • Presentations – 9.00am
  • Roundup and Questions for the panel – 11.00am


2nd October – Teesside Event – The Wynyard Rooms

  • Registration and Lunch – 1.00pm
  • Presentations – 1.30pm
  • Roundup and Questions for the panel – 3.30pm


To find out more or reserve you place please contact Claire Blake on 0191 285 0321 or email Claire.blake@taitwalker.co.uk

Connecting businesses with the alternative finance sector

Reports in last week’s press highlighted the issue of businesses who are unable to obtain banking finance and discussed how they could be connected with the alternative finance sector, which includes crowd funding. We asked Norm Peterson of North East based Growth Funders to comment on the proposals.

Proposal: Small businesses that are rejected for bank funding are to be offered access to an “SME dating agency” that will connect them with independent lenders who are willing to back them.

Norm’s Response: It makes sense to signpost rejected applications to alternative finance providers.   We are already receiving introductions from traditional banks.   However, there is a more fundamental change emerging in the market.   The early alternative finance players are developing what’s being referred to as an “online marketplace”.   By creating an online marketplace structure where borrowers and lenders can connect, marketplace lending makes it possible for lenders to achieve higher rates of return on their “deposits” and for borrowers to gain access to capital at lower rates, in far less time, than they would with retail banks.   These marketplaces are experiencing exponential growth which is now being fuelled by institutional money.   Indeed, some banks are now using these marketplaces to lend their own money into the market.


Proposal: The plans are being drawn up by the UK’s alternative finance sector after confirmation from the government last week that banks which turn small and medium-sized companies away would be forced to refer them online to other sources of funding. George Osborne said on Wednesday that legislation would be implemented to force banks to “signpost” unsuccessful applicants for bank loans to other providers.

Norm’s Response: Rather than force banks to refer SMEs to the alternative finance sector, we feel that the banks will see this as the route to market for better deals.   Instead of playing the role of intermediary, retail banks can become borrower lead generation sources and institutional investors.   Other banks are already starting to bring their own borrowers and capital to the likes of Funding Circle’s marketplaces to more profitably facilitate loans to their own customers.


Proposal: Alternative Business Funding, which represents non-bank finance firms, is in advanced talks with the Treasury about how the measures would be implemented. Adam Tavener, of ABF, a group whose members lend to about 40,000 small businesses, said: “What we are seeing is the first steps of a journey which will permanently change the way small business owners access finance for growth.”

Norm’s Response: The forecast is that this market can be a £1TRN market by 2025.   As the marketplaces grow, the SMEs will use these as their preferred choice.   Marketplace lending’s potential doesn’t mean that retail banks will be pushed out of business.   Instead, retail banks that choose to participate in the marketplace revolution will use their capital to fund loans on marketplace platforms.  


Proposal: ABF wants banks to capture key information about businesses who are rejected for finance, before passing them on to alternatives ranging from online lenders to local community-based backers and equity finance platforms. He said that the approach his group was proposing had the advantage of not requiring companies to contact the appropriate alternative. “This will see lenders reach out to borrowers rather than the other way around.”

Non-bank lenders would be passed key information, about each business, but not the names of the company, directors or other sensitive details. The system would remain anonymous until a small business decided it wanted to speak to an alternative funder that had indicated interest in backing them, in an approach Mr Tavener said would be similar to that of a dating website.

Norm’s Response: The savvy marketplace operators are already capturing this data and introducing credit and risk scoring methods which are more advanced than the retail banks, so we would not be concerned about banks capturing information and passing this over to marketplace operators.   The operators can capture this information online and through external agencies with a much more streamlined process and user experience.   In addition, these marketplaces offer “tiered risk opportunities” for lenders to match the more riskier loans using sophisticated risk scorecards.   This would provide lenders with the opportunity to develop their own portfolios with low, medium and higher risk loans, something the banks would not develop.


Proposal: The British Bankers’ Association said it supported the idea “in principle”. Irene Graham, the BBA’s executive director, said: “Any new process should give customers as many options as possible so that they can get the right finance. It is equally important that the customer’s consent and choice is kept at the centre of any scheme.”

Norm’s Response: We feel that banks will embrace the alternative finance sector and start to work in partnerships to offer a better service and wider choice to customers. Marketplace lending is not a radical concept – it’s a more efficient one.   As new companies and marketplaces form, we expect options for marketplace lending will develop for all manner of consumer and business loans, including consumer unsecured, real estate, education, purchase finance, business loans, and business working capital. And this transformation is only beginning.

How Xero can help start-ups to prosper

Xero Silver Partners

Funding, marketing and hiring staff are just a few of the issues that new businesses face.

The aim of small business accounting software is to alleviate some of the stress of these challenges and to ultimately ensure that they are conquered as easily and as quickly as possible.

Recently, a multitude of accounting software products has hit the market, with a particularly large jump in the number of start-up businesses using cloud-based products and utilising add-ons. These provide all-encompassing solutions that help such businesses take some of the more mundane bookkeeping functions in house to reduce costs.

Some of the major problems that businesses face can include:

  • Cash Flow – There are enough good ideas and leads for the business to launch, but sometimes a shortage of cash to see these ideas through to fruition.
  • Time – With so many tasks to complete and not enough hours in the day, prioritising is key. Bookkeeping and finances should fit around the business owner without necessarily dictating how they spend their time.
  • Geography – New businessmen and women often need to follow where the work is and cannot always be chained to a desktop computer with software installed on the hard drive.

Xero is designed to look great and to, more importantly, save time and money.

So, looking at each of these issues in turn, how exactly does Xero alleviate these problems and allow the business owner to concentrate on running their company?

  • Cash Flow – Xero’s prices start from £9 per month for businesses with fewer than 20 bank statement lines and five invoices per month. Exceeding these limits for one month will mean a price increase only for that month; the price will fall again once the transactions reduce back below the limit. Xero employs a monthly subscription model, therefore costs can be managed with no unexpected or hidden price hikes. The pricing compares favourably against competitors, both cloud and desktop based.
  • Time – Their design ensures that many of its functions are available at the click of a button. For example, Xero’s automatic bank feeds can be set up in a matter of minutes and can be refreshed in an instant to allow bank transactions to flow into the account. Xero then helpfully suggests invoices to match the bank statement line. Finally, bank rules can be set up to deal with recurring items quickly on the bank statement.
  • Geography – The Xero Touch app is available from the app store and allows the business owner to view invoices, bank balances and expense claims on their mobile devices wherever they are. These cloud-based products have progressed with the modern world and are largely available on multiple platforms. This massively relieves the pressure in regards to working from different locations when starting up a new business, particularly if you’re a Freelancer or Contractor.

As soon as Xero is set up and implemented within a business, the efficiency savings can be seen almost immediately.

For more information on how Tait Walker can help you implement Xero within your business, contact Stuart Moody on 0191 285 0321 or stuart.moody@taitwalker.co.uk.

Have you considered a Relevant Life Policy?

Following the changes to the pensions system in April 2006, also known as “A-day”, the way that death in service benefits are received and dealt with has changed. Previous to A-day, death in service provided four times salary at death, plus a widows pension, with the salary for post-1989 employees subject to the earnings cap. However, now any lump sum payments on death through a registered scheme will form part of the lifetime allowance (£1.25million for the 2014/15 tax year) with anything above that value subject to a 55% tax rate. This could cause big problems, particularly for high earners who are likely to exceed the lifetime allowance.

A solution to this is in the form of non-registered schemes referred to as ‘Relevant Life Policies’ (RLPs). These schemes have a much more generous tax treatment and aren’t taxed under P11D. The benefits are paid through a discretionary trust, and are free of income tax, as well as usually being free of inheritance tax too.

The good news for higher earners is that the benefits/premiums don’t count towards the annual or lifetime pension allowances.

A further benefit of RLPs is that they can be written on a single life basis, whereas most group providers are reluctant to cover less than five lives. This can be particularly useful for smaller companies who may not have enough employees to warrant a group scheme, or companies who may only want to cover one or two directors and not every member of staff.

There is no statutory limit to the amount of benefit that can be provided, but providers will set their own limits. There are however some restrictions on the form of the policy laid down in the legislation. These are:

  • Benefits are payable as a lump sum, no dependant’s pension can be provided.
  • Only life cover can be provided, no other benefits can be included.
  • Benefits must cease at age 75.
  • There can be no significant surrender value
  • Benefits must be payable to an individual or a charity, and as indicated above this can be through a trust. Most providers will probably insist on there being a trust set up
  • The main purpose of the policy must not be tax avoidance. Assuming the policy is set up for the benefit of genuine dependant or family beneficiaries this is unlikely to be a problem.

For more information on Relevant Life Policies, and whether they would be suitable for you, please contact one of our advisors on 0191 285 0321, or email phil.griffin@taitwalker.co.uk.

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


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