13th January, 2022, Melanie Harriss
In response to restrictions imposed, the government have announced Omicron Business Support available to firms in the UK.
Omicron Business Support: Local Authority Grants
The first in a package of Omicron business support is for firms in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors, many of which have seen a decline in footfall and increased cancellations due to the Omicron variant. These businesses are able to apply for one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises depending on rateable value, via their local authority.
Further funds are also being given to local councils to support other businesses impacted by Omicron, such as those that supply the hospitality and leisure sectors as well as personal care services, these will be administered as Additional Restrictions Grants by local authorities.
Businesses eligible for Local Authority Grants are those that offer in-person services, where the main service and activity takes place in a fixed rate-paying premises, in the hospitality, leisure and accommodation sectors.
This includes businesses whose main function is providing a venue for the consumption and sale of food and drink, those that provide facilities linked to recreation and entertainment, as well as businesses whose main premise is used for holiday accommodation.
In the areas that our offices cover, these can be applied for with North Norfolk District Council, Fenland District Council, Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk and Great Yarmouth Borough Council.
Omicron Business Support: Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme
Further Omicron business support comes with the reintroduction of the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme for coronavirus-related absences for small and medium-sized employers.
Businesses could be eligible for support if they employed fewer than 250 employees on 30 November 2021, and have paid Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to employees for coronavirus-related sickness absences.
Up to two weeks SSP can be claimed, if employees have been paid at the relevant standard weekly rate of £96.35, for any eligible periods of coronavirus-related sickness from 21 December 2021. This is a new claims period.
Businesses could claim to cover the costs for up to two weeks of SSP for an employee who takes time off because of coronavirus, regardless of whether they have claimed for that employee under the previous scheme.
Omicron Business Support: Culture Recovery Fund
Additional Omicron business support is a further £30 million of funding being made available through the Culture Recovery Fund. These grants support cultural organisations that have been affected by the Covid-19 crisis to stay afloat, providing them with support to ensure that they can survive and stay open.
The funding is accessed via Arts Council England.
Omicron Business Support: Time to Pay
HMRC still has its Time to Pay arrangement in place. This can be accessed if you are facing difficulty in making a tax payment; you can make an arrangement to pay what you owe in affordable instalments.
In order to access this support you need to contact HMRC, as arrangements are made on a case-by-case basis.
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6th January, 2022, Melanie Harriss
If your business is struggling to recruit, offering an apprenticeship or traineeship scheme might be the answer and could make someone’s New Year!
Part of the government’s Plan for Jobs to help the UK economy recover from the covid pandemic includes support for employers to take on trainees.
There are different schemes available:
The Kickstart Scheme, which has recently been extended to March 2022, aims to create 6-month job placements for young people who are currently on Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. The job placements are aimed at supporting the participants to develop the skills and experience they need to find permanent work after completing the scheme.
For each Kickstart job, the government will cover the cost of 25 hours a week at the relevant National Minimum Wage in addition to pension and National Insurance contributions for a period of 6 month. Employers will also receive £1,500 per placement to cover set-up costs and provide wraparound support for the young person.
Traineeships are skills development programme for people of all ages that includes a work experience placement and gets people ready for employment or an apprenticeship.
Traineeships can last from 6 weeks up to 1 year and may include individual support in various methods of securing employment.
Employers who provide opportunities through a registered traineeship can use the scheme to recruit new talent into the business or help develop the skills of exiting employees. A business can also benefit from an employer incentive of £1,000 when a work experience placement of over 70 hours has been completed. This incentive can be claimed for up to 10 learners per region and employers can decide how to use the money.
Apprenticeships employ people to do a real job while studying for a formal qualification – usually for one day a week either at a college or training centre. By the end of an apprenticeship, most people have gained the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in their chosen career.
There are two ways of accessing government funding to support an apprenticeship.
If an organisation’s wage bill is £3 million per annum or more, the organisation will pay a levy of 0.5% of the wage bill. Levy paying employers get a £15,000 allowance per annum to offset against the amount they have to pay.
If an organisation’s wage bill is under £3 million, you don’t have to pay the levy. Instead, the employer agrees a payment schedule with a registered training provider and pays 5% towards the cost of the apprenticeship training to them directly. The government will pay the remaining 95%.
At Stephenson Smart we believe in nurturing talent within our organisation and have an active apprenticeship scheme. We currently have 24 trainees working across our six offices.
One of our youngest trainees is Bethany Little, who is based at our King’s Lynn office.
Bethany came to Stephenson Smart straight from high school to embark on her accountancy career.
“I came for a week’s work experience while I was at school and really enjoyed it. I am now studying for a joint ACA/CTA qualification which will mean that I will not only be a chartered accountant but also a chartered tax advisor at the end of it.”
One of our newest trainees is Deborah Robinson, who is based at our March office.
Deborah, who grew up in Stevenage, moved over to train in accounting after a successful career in the equestrian industry running a riding school. Deborah said:
“I came to a bit of a crossroads and thought it would be good to try something else and after spending so long working outside an office with a roof over my head seemed quite appealing! I’m really enjoying it and everyone has been lovely and supportive, so I’m looking forward to learning and progressing.”
After successfully completing her AAT qualification, Deborah has now started the next stage of her study, ACA qualifications through the apprenticeship route.
Chris Goad, partner at Stephenson Smart’s March and Wisbech offices, commented:
“We have always had a strong apprenticeship scheme at Stephenson Smart and find great rewards in hiring new talent and nurturing them to become accounting professionals.”
“If your business, like many others, is struggling to recruit, offering a traineeship or apprenticeship scheme might be the answer.”
16th December, 2021, Melanie Harriss
A group of intrepid accountants have scaled mountains, run marathons and pushed themselves to their physical limits to help Stephenson Smart raise £5,000 for East Anglian Air Ambulance (EAAA).
East Anglian Air Ambulance were the company’s chosen charity for 2021.
During the year many members of staff took part in a number of challenges, including The National Three Peaks, various running events and the 24-mile Trek 24 Norfolk, organised by East Anglian Air Ambulance.
Amongst the competitors were Paul Richardson, Manager at King’s Lynn, who cycled the North Coast 500 around Scotland, completed The National Three Peaks, Trek 24 and the virtual London and Manchester marathons, while Marie Ayers, Manager at the Great Yarmouth office, took on The National Three Peaks, Trek 24 and the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
Jo Pallant, Tax Senior at Great Yarmouth, ran the Marriots Way 10K run in Sheringham, the Adnams 10K, Trek 24 and the Yorkshire Three Peaks, while Associate Director Kerry Bradshaw completed Trek 24 and The National Three Peaks.
IT Manager Andy Doyle ran the Manchester Marathon, GEAR 10K and took part in Trek 24 and The National Three Peaks Challenge.
Staff across the company also contributed to individual events.
Fundraising by the team raised £2,363, which was match funded by the partners to take the total to £5,000.
Kerry, Jo, Marie, Andy and Paul, presented a cheque to Lucy Clarke, Norfolk Fundraiser for the EAAA.
The East Anglian Air Ambulance is a charity close to the heart of Stephenson Smart, especially finance administrator Sally Legge, whose friend Susan Johnson was attended to by the air ambulance in 2019 after suffering a massive seizure relating to her brain tumour diagnosis.
Sally said: “Sue always giggled when recalling this day, she was not in a good way, but remembered the stir it caused in the small village of Boughton (near Downham Market) having the EAAA land on the nearby cricket pitch and the crew running round to her house.
“Sue had a great sense of humour and wit and she said ill or not ill it was quite a day for Boughton. She praised the crew and couldn’t speak more highly of them. She had enjoyed a long career as a senior nurse and fully appreciated the care given to her.”
Sadly Sue passed away in September that year.
Lucy Clarke, Norfolk’s Community Fundraiser for the East Anglian Air Ambulance said the team had made a real difference to people’s lives, having raised enough to fund a mission and more. Each mission on average costs around £3,500.
“It was wonderful to welcome colleagues from Stephenson Smart to our base and say a huge thank you.
“They’ve certainly inspired me for new year resolutions and I can’t wait to see this brilliant team again in future events.”
Mike Andrews, managing partner at Stephenson Smart said he was proud of the team’s achievements.
“We are very lucky in our company that we have lots of budding sports people and some extremely keen and proficient runners.
“I know that some of these events were pretty gruelling for them with some difficult conditions, but the whole team were really determined to make as much money as possible, especially because the last couple of years have been extremely hard for charity fundraising in the current climate.”
4th November, 2021, Chris Goad
The pressure to be eco-friendly impacts every aspect of our lives and is also fast becoming the case with regard to the vehicles we drive.
In addition to helping the planet, and not having to queue at pumps, there are significant financial benefits to driving electric vehicles.
In 2019 Chris Goad, partner at Stephenson Smart’s Wisbech, March and Downham Market offices, made the decision to switch his company vehicle to a Tesla.
“It is most certainly the best decision I have made in terms of my business travel, but also my family travel, said Chris. “I think there’s quite a lot of misconception when it comes to buying electric vehicles. These include the expense of running one, the concern over charging points and the mileage ranges. The reality isn’t confusing or daunting.”
Tax benefits of owning electric vehicles
In April 2020 it was announced by The Treasury that it had introduced a zero Benefit In Kind tax rate for pure electric company cars in 2020/21.
The Government has also committed even further by keeping these rates low for company cars until March 2025, with the Benefit In Kind rate increasing to 1 per cent during 2021/22 and by 2 per cent in 2022/2023 – staying that way until 2025.
Zero emission cars are also exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty until at least March 2025.
These plans form part of a roadmap to end the sale of new diesel cars and vans by 2030, signalling some huge savings for all.
The roadmap also points out that companies and unincorporated businesses are eligible for enhanced capital allowances when buying a new zero emission car for business use.
This means 100 per cent of the cost of the car will be written off against the taxable income of the period in which it was purchased.
The benefits don’t just end with an electric car, there’s also now a taxable benefit for having the private use of a zero emissions van and if you fancy two wheels rather than four an electric bicycle will still qualify for the Cycle to Work Scheme.
This means it can be provided without Benefit In Kind arising, providing the rules are followed to comply with the scheme.
Charging electric vehicles
Mileage ranges have now increased with many new models offering a range approaching around 300 miles, putting any fears of not having enough fuel in the tank to bed.
To date there are more than 42,000 charge point connectors across the UK in over 15,500 locations, which equates to more public places to charge than petrol stations.
With the steady rise of charging points, more EV (electric vehicle) users are also choosing to install their own charging points at home.
After initial installation, it’s proving to be the cheapest time to recharge, and the most convenient.
Chris said: “I don’t ever worry about charging the car because I have a home charging point in my garage. If we are going on holiday I can easily find somewhere to charge using an ap called Zap Map, which is so easy to navigate.
“It can help you plan journeys and search for charging points so you haven’t got to worry about when or where you can stop. We have been to Cornwall in our EV and also into France and we just charged up along the way.”
Businesses can also do their bit for the grid too by signing up for Vehicle to Grid (V2G) technology, allowing an EV to be charged to store excess renewable energy production, which can be discharged to feed energy back to the electricity network when it is most needed.
And if you switch to a specialist electricity tariff while charging up at home off-peak, you could reduce your electricity bill from 12p-15p/kWh to 4.5p-5p/kWh at night.
Chris said: “A lot of people don’t initially consider the savings they could make with their electricity bills. As we charge up at home we switched to a new tariff, which gave us some massive savings.
“I think being educated and aware about electric vehicles is really important as we are moving towards a greener future. There are so many advantages to a business by making this type of investment, I certainly wouldn’t go back to diesel or petrol now.”
If you would like guidance on how switching to electric for company vehicles can help the environment, and your balance sheet, please get in touch.
Profile: Chris Goad BFP FCA
27th October, 2021, Dan Jastrzebski
Autumn Budget 2021: Response by Dan Jastrzebski
Today’s Autumn Budget 2021 announcement and Spending Review by the Chancellor focused on economic recovery and investment.
Dan Jastrzebski, partner at Stephenson Smart, analyses the main changes that will impact upon our clients and local businesses.
Business groups have been lobbying for the government to support the high street and ‘brick and mortar’ businesses by looking at business rates in this Budget.
In response, the Chancellor announced three new measures that will directly affect business rates:
Firstly, a new temporary 50 per cent business rates relief for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure industry in the financial year 2022/23. This is alongside freezing the business rates multiplier for a second year, from 1 April 2022 until 31 March 2023, keeping the multipliers at 49.9p and 51.2p.
The government will also look to introduce a 100 per cent improvement relief for business rates from 2023. This will provide 12 months relief from higher bills for occupiers, where eligible improvements to an existing property increase the rateable value.
Also introduce targeted business rate exemptions for eligible plant and machinery used in onsite renewable energy generation and storage, and a 100 per cent relief for eligible heat networks, to support the decarbonisation of non-domestic buildings from 1 April 2023 until 31 March 2035.
There was very little mention of tax changes in the Autumn Budget 2021 announcement. However, there are tax changes afoot that are already in progress.
The Health and Social Care Levy is due to come into effect in April 2022; the income generated from this is due to be ring-fenced for spending on health and social care. Alongside this, it was also announced that there would be a 1.25 per cent increase to dividend tax rates.
We also already know that the main rate of Corporation Tax will rise from 19 per cent to 25 per cent from April 2023.
However, the main changes to the tax system that the government are forecasting to bring in income to the Treasury are aimed at how the self-employed pay income tax.
From April 2024 there will be three main changes to income tax for the self-employed:
Sole traders and landlords with annual business or property income over £10,000 a year will be eligible for Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment from 6 April 2024. This means that those businesses who are eligible will be required to submit their income and expenses via digital software, in a more timely, quarterly manner. Read more here.
From the same date, the government are looking to reform income tax basis periods so businesses’ profit or loss for a tax year will be the profit or loss arising in the tax year itself, regardless of its accounting date.
Lastly, the government are reforming penalties for late submission and late payment of tax for Income Tax Self Assessment, again from April 2024, for those taxpayers required to submit digital quarterly updates through Making Tax Digital.
Just these changes to tax strategy are forecast to bring in an additional £440 billion to the Treasury by 2026/27.
A surprising amount of the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget 2021 announcement was taken up by talking about alcohol duty. The main change worth mentioning is the reduction in duty on draft alcohol by 5 per cent – another welcome hand of support to the hospitality industry. However, increases to the living wage of 6.6 per cent for over 23 year olds from April 2023 could offset the reduction in duty meaning no decrease in prices for the consumer.
Our teams will look forward to further direction from the government on the announcements made today, and in the run up to the Budget, so that we can ensure our clients are compliant with any changes and managing their tax liabilities accordingly.
If you would like more detailed, one-to-one advice on any of the issues raised in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget 2021 speech, please get in touch.
Profile: Dan Jastrzebski ACA CTA
Related Pages: Budget 2021 & Making Tax Digital
Related Articles: Autumn Budget Predictions
Further Reading: Autumn Budget and Spending Review 2021
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