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.

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.

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.

Have you used a tax avoidance scheme? If you have, you should seek independent advice about the new APN rules…

There has been significant press coverage about a recent change in UK tax legislation which will impact upon most individuals or companies who have entered into “tax avoidance” schemes.

In July the 2014 Finance Act received Royal Assent and came into force. This introduced new powers for HMRC to collect tax they consider due from any user of a tax avoidance scheme which had been given a “scheme number” under the UK’s Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes rules. For people who have entered into a tax scheme which had been disclosed to HMRC, it is now likely that they will receive a tax demand at some time over the next 20 months, which is known as an Advance Payment Notice (APN).

More than 800 schemes which HMRC consider “tax avoidance” are covered by these new rules and, for example, the new rules will affect users of Employee Benefit Trusts, Contractor Loan Schemes and many Film Investment schemes.

Where an APN is issued to a person (and that person can be an individual or company) the tax will be payable within 90 days of the date of the notice and there will be very little room for challenge or appeal.  However guidance from HMRC has confirmed that it may be possible for an affected taxpayer to be able to enter into a time to pay arrangement so that the tax is paid over a longer period of time. It is likely that HMRC would want to see cash flow information to support the proposal for payment of tax to be deferred.

If the tax is not paid within the 90 days or if any time to pay arrangement is breached, a penalty of between 5% and 15% of the unpaid tax will be added to the amount payable.

The APN is no more than a payment on account of the tax and the taxpayer is at liberty to continue any appeal that is ongoing with HMRC.

In addition if HMRC consider that a judicial ruling means that they will win a hearing, they will have the power to issue a Follower Notice. The notice means that if the taxpayer chooses not to settle any appeal within 90 days of receipt, then if any tax is ultimately payable, a penalty of between 10% and 50% of the tax will be added to the amount payable.

If you have entered into a “tax avoidance scheme” what should you do next? 

Many of the promoters of the schemes covered by these new rules are either suggesting the answer is “wait and see what happens” or are trying to challenge the new rules.  There is still a lot of uncertainty as to the timing of the issue of the APNs, the amount of tax that will be demanded under APNs and the extent to which Follower Notices will be issued. However what we now know is that if a person has entered into a tax scheme, it is when not if a tax demand will be issued.

That change is vitally important because, for companies who could receive an APN in particular, that change of emphasis needs to be properly considered for the potential impact on the individual or business.

And that is why we believe that advice which is independent of the promoter (or any person who referred the individual or company to the promoter) is essential. It is widely expected that in the worst case scenarios these new rules may cause bankruptcies of some of the persons who receive the APNs.

For example, annual accounts may need to include amounts which are subject to an APN as either liabilities where an APN has been received, or contingent liabilities where one is expected.   The companies bankers, or investors, may need to be made aware that a cashflow impact is expected.   If the company is to be sold, a purchaser will want to understand (and probably discount the price by) any potential liability.

If you are likely to be affected by these new rules, you need to understand the impact on you or your business and plan now for what is to come.

 

Do you want to understand the cost of settlement of any outstanding “tax avoidance” schemes which may be subject to an APN?  Do you want to understand and mitigate the potential impact on your business?

If you would like a free consultation on how to minimise the impact of receipt of an APN on you or your business, please contact Alastair Wilson or Chris Hodgson at Tait Walker on 0191 285 0321.

57% of women have no income protection cover…

Worryingly, that’s the result of a recent survey carried out by Aegon UK. According to the survey, the majority of women have little or no protection cover in place. 1 in 3 working mums have no savings at all, while many overestimate the amount of State support they’d receive if they were to fall ill.

Women are becoming increasingly important economically, in public life and in the workplace. Forty years ago, just over half of UK women were in work. Now that figure has risen to over two thirds. Although some women choose to stay at home and look after their children, or decide to do so because of high childcare costs, almost three quarters of all mothers are in work. Women have traditionally looked after the day-to-day money in many households, but research shows they’re taking an increasingly important role in managing the long-term finances, such as savings and pensions, as well.

However, there’s one area where women are falling behind; and that’s thinking about what would happen to their finances if they couldn’t work or couldn’t take care of their children, despite 71% of mums surveyed saying that the financial security of their children is one of their top priorities. Given that more than two in five mothers of children over 18 have no protection whatsoever, there is a serious imbalance between priority and protection.

Top 5 priorities for womenSource: Aegon UK, June 2014

A final interesting finding from the report shows that women are underestimating how heavily they will need to rely on family, friends and the State in the event that they become ill or unable to work, and even with State support there is likely to be a serious shortfall. With the current average annual income at £23,589 (ONS, 2013), and the current statutory sick pay set at £2,451.50 for the 2014/15 tax year, there is a pre-tax shortfall of £21,137.50, which would have to be met using savings and family support, as well as most likely requiring some cutbacks.

Deborah Trelease is a financial adviser with Tait Walker Wealth Management. Contact deborah.trelease@taitwalker.co.uk or phone 0191 2850321 to discuss your options when planning for the future.

 

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

The purpose of this blog is to inform and should not be interpreted as a personal recommendation or advice.

Two-thirds of Brits worried about a lack of money in retirement

According to recent research conducted by YouGov on UK adult’s attitudes towards and preparations for retirement, a top concern is poverty in retirement, with 63% worrying about having a lack of money. Other top concerns identified in the research include:

  • 38% worry about a lack of funds to achieve their retirement ambitions
  • 29% worry about not having enough to cover essential costs, such as food and heating
  • 25% are worried about having to be financially reliant on others

These worries and concerns about retirement are likely to be due to a lack of planning and preparation, with 30% of respondents admitting that they don’t know how much money they will need to live off during retirement.

In order to feel better prepared and ease any worries that they’re having, consumers could consolidate their pension pots and wealth from across a variety of assets to maximise tax allowances or investigate the option of pooling assets with a partner in a family self-invested personal pension.

Nick Elphick, managing director of specialist products at AXA Wealth, said “Ultimately, none of us want to be dependent on others in retirement, but to achieve this people need to be supported in putting in place realistic and achievable steps to build the retirement pot they need.”

With only 7% of adults in their 50s having no financial worries about retirement, there is plenty of room for improved planning.

If you would like to speak to someone for assistance in planning your retirement, please call one of our advisers 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.

Launch of the second Let’s Grow Campaign

Let's Grow Fund

I recently attended the celebration / launch of the second Let’s Grow Fund in Durham.

This is a £30 million grant for the North East which is run by The Journal and Evening Gazette and for which details may be found on www.be-group.co.uk.

The grant fund will be run on very similar lines to the first one:

  • A quarterly competition
  • 1 August 2014: first date for Expressions of interest
  • 29 August 2014: first date for the full applications
  • Future dates will be found on the BE Group website

As a trained statistician myself, I find the facts surrounding the first fund make for interesting reading:

  • There were 270 Expressions of interest, 186 of which were considered and 102 awards were made…so two thirds were good enough to be considered and 54% of those were awarded grants.
  • Surprisingly there were very few grants awarded in Northumberland (5%) whilst Teesside arguably got a little less than its fair share (22%).
  • £190m of private sector support was unlocked by the £30m of grants i.e. the grant typically represented 14% of overall investment.
  • 3,700 jobs were created or safeguarded at an average salary of £29,000, which equates to a grant per job of £8,100 and is better value for money than the £10,000 expected originally.

Going forward the best tips from yesterday’s event for anyone considering future applications was:

  • Get advice from your accountants and consult with BE Group throughout the process to increase your chance of your bid being acceptable.
  • Make sure you meet State Aid requirements (check out www.ukassistedareasmap.com) for guidance, or speak to an adviser.
  • Make sure you create or safeguard sustainable jobs without causing loss of jobs elsewhere in the UK.
  • Large companies can only apply for new activities which is a change to the previous rules.
  • Have a watertight argument to support the need for grant assistance.
  • The icing on the cake for the judging committee would be if the grant supported innovation, increased competitiveness or was seen to create apprenticeships.

Sadly the amount available to Teesside SMEs for each grant could be 5% lower than that available in the previous fund due to changes in State Aid regulations, however there is also another option available through Tees Valley Unlimited’s Compass Fund for those businesses.

Let’s Grow is a great source of grant funding for the North East but there are many others available, some of which may fit better. If you have any queries or would like to discuss a grant application or the funding required to go alongside your investment plans then please feel free to contact me.

Author: Steve Plaskitt, Corporate Finance Partner

steve.plaskitt@taitwalker.co.uk                                0191 285 0321

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