Archive for September, 2020

Travel corridors

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

It is almost impossible to keep up with changes to overseas territories that require us to self-isolate when returning to the UK from a holiday or business trip.

The government have coined the phrase “travel corridor” to provide a focus for countries that are considered COVID hot spots – and therefore exempt or removed from the safe travel corridor list.

Up-to-date information on these shifts in guidance can be accessed in detail from the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-travel-corridors.

Well worth book-marking this URL if you are travelling abroad and returning to England.

This page only applies to overseas adventurers returning to England, other regions of the UK may have different restrictions in place.

These restrictions apply even if you only made a transit stop in an affected area. A transit stop is defined as:

A stop where passengers can get on or off. It can apply to coaches, ferries, trains or flights. Your ticket should show if a stop is a transit stop.

If your journey involves a transit stop in a country, territory or region not on the travel corridor list, you will need to self-isolate when you arrive in England if:

  • new passengers get on
  • you or other passengers get off the transport you are on and mix with other people, then get on again

You don’t need to self-isolate beyond normal timescales if, during your transit stop in a non-exempt country, territory or region:

  • no new passengers get on
  • no-one on-board gets off and mixes with people outside
  • passengers get off but do not get back on

Travelling abroad in your own car?

One further consideration. You don’t need to self-isolate if you travel through a non-exempt country, territory or region and you don’t stop there. If you do make a stop, you don’t need to self-isolate if:

  • no new people get into the vehicle
  • no-one in the vehicle gets out, mixes with other people, and gets in again

You do need to self-isolate if you make a stop and:

  • new people get into the vehicle, or
  • someone gets out of the vehicle, mixes with other people and gets in again

Obviously, these restrictions rely heavily on the integrity of travellers to be effective…

HMRC put their case

Tuesday, September 15th, 2020

HMRC has been at the forefront of the government’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the extraordinary challenges being faced by millions of individuals and businesses.

According to HMRC:

The department successfully developed and implemented schemes at unprecedented speed to deliver financial support to more than 12 million employed and self-employed workers via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme. In addition, it has implemented more than 60 provisional policy changes or easements to help respond to the impact of coronavirus.

The operational priority has been to deliver the government support that aims to protect people’s livelihoods and help businesses get through this difficult time financially. Now the department is seeking to build on what it has learned during the pandemic about large scale delivery and the citizens and businesses it serves as the country emerges from the pandemic. The IT which underpinned the coronavirus support schemes was designed, built and delivered from kitchen tables and spare bedrooms; busy customer service staff answered queries remotely from their own homes for the first time; and 90% of HMRC’s 60,000 workforce were able to immediately work remotely to help stop the spread of the virus when the country went into lockdown.

Now that the initial government support response to coronavirus is coming to an end – for example, the closing down of the furlough and self-employed support schemes – it will be interesting to see what other support schemes HMRC may be required to create.

Much will depend – not only on the ability of HMRC to deliver – but the Treasury’s willingness to endorse the required government funding for such schemes.

In their closing remarks HMRC concluded:

HMRC’s primary purpose is to collect the money that pays for the UK’s vital public services and pay out the correct financial support to those who are entitled to it, and as we emerge from the pandemic, the department will carry out this vital work in a way that is sensitive to customers’ altered needs and the challenges they face.

Hopefully, this can be interpreted as a tread-lightly approach; much of the UK business sector is already walking on eggshells.

Employer obligations to employees working at home

Thursday, September 10th, 2020

It may surprise many smaller employers with staff working from home that they still have health and safety responsibilities. The following notes published by ACAS should be considered:

Employers should:

  • talk to their employees and workers about how they might improve working from home arrangements
  • continue to consider which roles and tasks can be done from home – this might involve doing things differently and not assuming a role cannot be based at home
  • support employees to adjust to remote working
  • consider individual employees' needs, for example anyone with childcare responsibilities, a long-term health condition or a disability
  • write down the arrangements that have been agreed so everyone's clear

Health and Safety concerns

By law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of all employees, including those working from home.

Employer responsibilities:

During the coronavirus pandemic, it's very unlikely that employers can carry out usual health and safety risk assessments at an employee's home. However, an employer should still check that:

  • each employee feels the work they're being asked to do at home can be done safely
  • employees have the right equipment to work safely
  • managers keep in regular contact with their employees, including making sure they do not feel isolated
  • reasonable adjustments are made for an employee who has a disability

If changes are needed, employers are responsible for making sure they happen.

Employee responsibilities:

Employees also have a responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety.

Anyone working from home should keep in regular contact with their manager. They should also tell their manager about:

  • any health and safety risks
  • any homeworking arrangements that need to change

Clearly, there is more to consider than simply agreeing that an employee can work from home. The concerns discussed in this article are focused on health and safety issues. Employers and employees will also need to consider tax, internet security and other resourcing issues. We may well consider these additional matters in further posts to this blog.

Are taxes on the increase?

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

There has been the usual political speculation that taxes will be increased in the forthcoming budget to pay for COVID grants and support.

Leaving aside the economic arguments for and against, what planning adjustments can we make now assuming that business taxes will increase?

Corporation tax

It has been rumoured that corporation tax (CT) will be increased from the present 19% to 24%. If implemented this will be a significant increase.

An increase in CT is usually effective from the beginning of the next fiscal year, accordingly, any announcement in the Autumn Budget 2020 is unlikely to apply until 1 April 2021, at the earliest.

If an increase is announced, what sensible planning opportunities could we undertake now to mitigate this rise in company taxation?

The following strategies might be considered:

  1. Advance income streams. If you can organise work-flow to advance the billing and completion of billable projects and supplies before 31 March 2021 – assuming CT rates do not increase until 1 April 2021 – then any profits created by these supplies will be taxed at the lower rate.
  2. Defer revenue expenditure. If you can defer expenditure that you would normally treat as a business cost – without prejudicing your overall business plans – then it makes sense to incur these costs after 1 April 2021, if and when CT rates increase.
  3. Defer capital expenditure. As with the previous tactic, if you can defer capital expenditure on new plant, vehicles or other equipment then it makes sense to incur these costs after 1 April 2021, when you can write off up to 100% of allowable costs and reduce CT liabilities at the higher rate.

Income tax

Increasing income tax (IT) rates is less likely and if this turns out to be the case self-employed and employed persons may have to accommodate minor changes to National Insurance and tax allowances, but no significant changes – if at all – in IT rates.

Taxpayers may experience variations across the UK as IT rates are now set on a regional basis.

 

Capital Gains Tax (CGT)

It has been suggested in the national press the Chancellor is considering alignment of CGT rates with income tax rates. If this change did occur it would have a significant impact on the amount of CGT payable.

As with corporation tax changes, there may be an argument to bring forward disposals subject to CGT to anticipate these changes.

 

Planning is imperative

However, basing tax planning decisions on speculative announcements, especially as these may be motivated by political considerations, is clearly unwise unless there are compelling reasons for doing so.

We all have unique business and personal financial circumstances, and these must considered before undertaking any tax saving strategy. We therefore advise readers to seek professional advice before acting on any matters discussed in this article.

Government support for certain self-isolating cases

Thursday, September 3rd, 2020

Government is to implement a new payment for people on low incomes in areas with high rates of COVID-19, who need to self-isolate and can’t work from home. Payments of up to £182 to be made to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 and their contacts.

The scheme will start in Blackburn, Darwen, Pendle, and Oldham.

People on low incomes who need to self-isolate and are unable to work from home in areas with high incidence of COVID-19 will benefit from this scheme from Tuesday, 1 September.

The initial trial in Blackburn, Darwen, Pendle and Oldham will be undertaken to ensure the process works.

Eligible individuals who test positive with the virus will receive £130 for their 10-day period of self-isolation. Other members of their household, who have to self-isolate for 14 days, will be entitled to a payment of £182.

Non-household contacts advised to self-isolate through NHS Test and Trace will also be entitled to a payment of up to £182, tailored to the individual length of their isolation period.

The new benefit is designed to support people who are unable to work from home while self-isolating, either after testing positive, or after being identified by NHS Test and Trace as living in the same household as – or coming into contact with – someone who has tested positive.

It will be available to people currently receiving either Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit.

If the initial approach is successful, the scheme will be applied in other areas of high COVID-19 incidence.

This will not reduce any other benefits claimants receive. Further payment details published confirm:

  • £130 if an individual has tested positive for coronavirus and has to self-isolate for 10 days (from the point they first developed symptoms).
  • £182 if a member of an individual’s household has tested positive for coronavirus and they are asked to self-isolate for 14 days (from the point the member of their household first developed symptoms).
  • £13 per day (up to a maximum of £182) if an individual is identified as a non-household contact of another person who has tested positive for coronavirus and is asked to self-isolate up until 14 days after they were most recently in contact with the person who tested positive.

To be eligible for the funding, individuals must meet the following criteria:

  • Have tested positive for Covid-19 or received a notification from NHS Test and Trace asking them to self-isolate
  • Have agreed to comply with the notification from NHS Test and Trace and provided contact details to the local authority.
  • Be employed or self-employed. Employed people will be asked to show proof of employment. Self-employed will be required to show evidence of trading income and that their business delivers services which the local authority reasonably judges they are unable to carry out without social contact
  • Be unable to work from home (checks will be undertaken on all applicants) and will lose income a result
  • Be currently receiving Universal Credit or Working Tax Credit

E-commerce eases COVID disruption

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2020

Online sales soared by 800% for London-based start-up, OLLY’S, after losing 40% of its monthly revenue overnight due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The following was reported on the GOV>UK website recently:

Founded in his parents’ kitchen three years ago, a love of olives inspired Olly Hiscocks to create the world’s first unpasteurised olive snack pouch. He quickly went from selling them at Richmond’s Duck Pond Market to supplying major airlines and over 8,000 global stocking points.

Due to growing demand for nutritional snacks, Olly had just decided to expand his company’s portfolio to include nuts and pretzels when the pandemic hit.

Forced to furlough staff in order to stay afloat, OLLY’S sought advice from the Department for International Trade about sourcing new exporting opportunities to compensate for the loss of business. This resulted in the company pivoting its effort towards e-commerce with impressive results.

Government sources also confirmed that in June 2020, the proportion of retail sales made online in Britain reduced slightly to 31.8%, following the record 33.3% seen in May, up considerably from the 20.0% reported in February.

Food for thought for those contemplating an online sales initiative for their business.

Tax Diary September/October 2020

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

1 September 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 30 November 2019.

19 September 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 September 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 September 2020)

19 September 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 September 2020.

19 September 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 September 2020 is payable by today.

1 October 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 December 2019.

19 October 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 October 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 October 2020.)

19 October 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 October 2020.

19 October 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 October 2020 is payable by today.

31 October 2020 – Latest date you can file a paper version of your 2020 self-assessment tax return.

Tenants protection under the Coronavirus Act 2020

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

From the 26 March 2020, the following rights of landlords and tenants regarding eviction apply. A summary of the provisions is set out below:

  • The Coronavirus Act 2020 protects most tenants and secure licensees in the private and social rented sectors by putting measures in place that say where landlords do need to issue notices seeking possession, the notice period must be for three months. Landlords can choose to give a longer notice period. Any claims in the system or about to go into the system will be affected by the stay of possession hearings and orders. Court actions to evict a tenant will not be progressed before 20 September 2020.
  • At the expiry of the three-month notice, a landlord cannot force a tenant to leave their home without a court order. When the three-month notice period expires, a landlord would still need to take court action if the tenant was unable to move.

The government strongly advise landlords not to commence or continue eviction proceedings during this challenging time without a very good reason.

Redundancy pay

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

If you are faced with making employees redundant, the terms that determine the amount payable may be written into your staff contracts of employment.

Otherwise, employees will normally be entitled to statutory redundancy pay if they have been working with you for two years or more.

Entitlement is usually based on:

  • half a week’s pay for each full year you were under 22 years of age,
  • one week’s pay for each full year you were 22 or older, but under 41
  • one and half week’s pay for each full year you were 41 or older

Length of service is capped at 20 years.

Your weekly pay is the average you earned per week over the 12 weeks before the day you got your redundancy notice.

 

Coronavirus furlough scheme

If an employee was furloughed prior to being made redundant the average weekly pay is their normal wage rather than any reduced amount they may have been paid during furlough.

According to HMRC sources, if you were made redundant on or after 6 April 2020, your weekly pay is capped at £538 and the maximum statutory redundancy pay you can get is £16,140. If you were made redundant before 6 April 2020, these amounts will be lower.

Also, please note that employees are not entitled to statutory redundancy pay if you offer to keep them on or if you offer suitable alternative work which an employee refuses without good reason.

Take advice

If you are faced with making staff redundant you should consider taking advice to ensure the process is dealt with correctly.

VAT deregistration strategy

Tuesday, September 1st, 2020

If you are presently registered for VAT but your turnover has dropped below £83,000 you could deregister for VAT. However, you do not have to deregister.

Disadvantages and advantages of deregistration

  • If you buy significant amounts of goods and services that include a VAT charge, then if you deregister you will not be able to recover any VAT charged.
  • If most of your sales are zero-rated or most of your customers are registered for VAT and can recover the VAT you charge, deregistering means you will lose any recovery of input VAT on purchases and your customers will gain no advantage.
  • If, however, you sell to the general public who cannot reclaim the VAT you charge, and if the VAT on your purchases is not significant, then deregistering could provide an opportunity to reduce your prices and regain a competitive advantage.

The process of deregistration is quite straightforward, but it is worth considering any knock-on effects before taking this option. Please call as we can help you crunch the necessary numbers.