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This morning’s news headlines were as stark as yesterday with regards to deals, bad deals and no deals, tension in Ukraine, shares dropping and the inclement weather has already abetted the cancelling of some trains. Just another day in the life of the UK. Whatever the origin of a company’s misfortunes, hearing negative news stories day in day out can really affect business and consumer confidence, so it’s crucial to continue focussing on your firm, the marketplace it operates in and sparking positivity at any opportunity.

We’ve chosen two recent global, rather downbeat, stories about profit loss and uncovered the positive opportunities that are hiding, in order to inspire you to keep up that good old Dunkirk spirit our nation is so well known for.

Fuel costs or weather cannot be fully accounted for, so start with looking for ways to elevate the ‘experience’ you’re selling

Air Travel

Thomas Cook, one of the UK’s favourite holiday tour companies, confirmed a £53 million loss and this has been attributed to the summer’s heatwave and last winter’s Beast from the East. In the last three months, Cyprus’ Cobalt Air, Denmark’s Primera Air and British carrier Monarch have all gone bust, with Flybe and Norwegian also on the cusp of disaster. While Brexit and the weak pound have certainly impacted the situation (certainly for Cobalt, with 30% of Cypriot air traffic usually coming from the UK), rising fuel costs are the root of many problems. Airlines capitalised on the plunging oil prices from three years ago, but they’re now paying top whack again, and it seems many committed to new aircraft, which has resulted in having more seats than passengers. This highly competitive market faces a future of flux and airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air have even added clauses to their conditions to disclaim liability for any flights grounded due to Brexit after 29 March.

What can SMEs Learn?

> Despite Thomas Cook’s woes it has announced that it will build 20 new hotels and build on its partnership with Expedia – an own-brand offering is risky in some ways, especially to keep its low costs, but profit margins will be higher and a robust affiliation could bring many more opportunities. Look for efficient partners and investigate ways to bring elements of your business in house.

> Identifying areas where you can make a real difference to your customers or clients could spark the loyalty your business badly needs – fuel costs or weather cannot be fully accounted for, so start with looking for ways to elevate the ‘experience’ you’re selling.

> Be wary of big purchases or leases, even when your books have never looked better. Forecasting and planning for the worst is important to ensure you have a sustainable future during turbulent times.

It’s surprising how many SMEs don’t put the correct thought and capital towards future-proofing their digital sales platforms,

Retail

Everybody’s favourite Swedish store, Ikea, which has an outlet not far from Adams Moore, in Wednesbury, has suffered a 26% year-on-year drop in operating profits – a drop from 3.03 billion Euros to 2.25 billion – and 7,500 jobs (circa 350 in the UK) will be lost. However, we’ve chosen this story, as an example to look a little closer into bad news; here there is much more to tell, and it’s a plot that hasn’t yet played out to the finale. Ikea’s turnover in fact increased marginally by 2.1%, retail sales rose 4.7% and that included a 45 per cent jump in online trade. So what’s going on? The retailer has entered into a three year business transformation period that will focus on ecommerce and a city strategy, which has seen a Planning Studio open on London’s Tottenham Court Road. The upfront costs facilitating the brand’s evolution and store revamps has been responsible for the negative figures and 11,500 new jobs will be created, making a total of 4,000 additional roles, and no losses.

What can SMEs Learn?

> Ikea might appear to be moving forwards with an ‘all eggs in one basket’ approach, but it is carrying out tests in the market from an informed standpoint. Without cars, many city-folk can’t make out of town trips so accessible high street outlets will allow Ikea to grow its customer base – adapting and accommodating to changes in living habits, consumer desires and shopping conventions is fundamental to any retailer’s strategy, but undertake research and trials.

> Investing in online resources and technology is a positive move for the majority of businesses – online shopping seem to have been around forever, but it’s surprising how many SMEs don’t put the correct thought and capital towards future-proofing this area. Aim to add value and convenience through digital platforms and channels, but remember this is likely to affect distribution.

> Adding a different type of store in cities and pushing for more online sales puts a spotlight on broader channels of customer services. Businesses must be fully committed to their staff if they want to provide a great service, from initial awareness of products or services, at point of sale, and beyond. Empower employees to be your advocates as they are your business.

If you’re concerned about your businesses profits or what 2019 may bring for your company, please contact us for a free consultation where we can find out more.

Adams Moore are members of the Lichfield and Tamworth Chanber of CommerceAs some of you may know, Adams Moore Partner, Neil Lancaster, was previously President of the Lichfield and Tamworth Chamber of Commerce, which is just one arm of the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. We continue to be members of this valuable organisation and like to support local where we can.

Therefore we wanted to highlight the up and coming awards and dinner for businesses in Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Tamworth, and it’s not too late to submit an entry. The awards are a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on the positive year your business has had, potentially be nominated and gain great exposure from the recognition.

The deadline for award entries is next Friday, 23 November at 5pm. The application form can be downloaded here and entries should be emailed to 2019awards@birmingham-chamber.com.

The third annual Sutton Coldfield, Lichfield and Tamworth Chambers of Commerce dinner and awards will take place at the Belfry Hotel on 25 January 2019.

Companies should nominate themselves for one of the following four categories:

  • Sutton Coldfield Large Business of the Year
  • Sutton Coldfield Small Business of the Year
  • Lichfield and Tamworth Large Business of the Year
  • Lichfield and Tamworth Small Business of the Year

Award sponsorship packages and tickets for the awards dinner are also still available. Find out more information from c.brewerton@birmingham-chamber.com.

With Brexit a matter of months away, this year’s Autumn Statement was perhaps one of the most crucial in recent history, marking a new chapter for the British economy and departure from the EU – complete with commemorative 50p coin. But silver mementos aside, what does Philip Hammond’s Budget really mean for SMEs of the UK as we batten down the hatches for 2019 and beyond? From revised rates to taxation, we run through its key points for Britain in business below.

 

An End to Austerity

Despite the UK’s economic growth forecast dipping from 1.5% this March to 1.3% (the dismal spring weather said to blame) the future looks bright; next year, it is thought this will increase to 1.6%. With up to 800,000 more jobs predicted by 2022, employment will also be on the rise as wage growth remains the highest in almost a decade. As of April 2019, the National Living Wage will increase from £7.83 to £8.21 per hour. Set to benefit 2.4 million workers, this equates to a £690 yearly pay rise for those in full-time work.

> What this means: With the National Living Wage on the rise, growing SMEs will need to make the appropriate considerations as they continue to invest and evolve their workforces.

 

As bricks-and-mortar brands continue their fight to bounce back, the Chancellor revealed a £675m boost to local high streets.

Small Business Wins

As bricks-and-mortar brands continue their fight to bounce back, the Chancellor revealed a £675m boost to local high streets. This will go towards redeveloping empty premises, restoring old buildings and improving transport links. Where rates are concerned, £900m worth of relief for small businesses was announced. For companies with a value of £51,000 or under, this bill could be cut by a third over two years. So much so that 90% of independent shops, including restaurants and pubs, could have their bills reduced by up to £8,000.

> What this means: SMEs valued at £51,000 and under can take advantage of the reduced business rates and should consider how best to re-invest this annual saving.

 

Support for Apprenticeships

With T-level vocational training already introduced and £100 million invested in the new national training scheme, the Chancellor announced a further £695 million package to help the UK’s apprentices. For larger businesses with an annual payroll of £3 million or more, 25% of the apprenticeship levy can now be invested in these trainee employees (up 15%); for SMEs with funds generated by the levy, the 10% fee they currently pay will be halved to 5%. With full details to be confirmed in April 2019, levy changes will be revisited once again come 2020.

> What this means: At a reduced fee of just 5%, now is the opportune time for small businesses to access the funds generated by the levy for apprenticeship training.

 

Autumn Budget 2018 - With an increase of £650 by April 2019, the Personal Allowance will rise to £12,500 – a year earlier than expected.

 

Tax Changes

With an increase of £650 by April 2019, the Personal Allowance will rise to £12,500 – a year earlier than expected. For basic rate tax-payers, this will mean £1,205 less tax between 2019 and 2020. For those paying tax at 40%, the Higher Rate Threshold will also increase from £46,350 to £50,000 from April next year. A new addition to this year’s Budget includes the digital services tax. Where tech giants are concerned, a 2% tax will come into effect from April 2020, where search engines, social media channels and online will be taxed on UK-linked revenue.

> What this means: For SMEs with a salaried workforce, the Higher Rate Threshold changes could incentivise employees to commit for the long-term, and if investment allows, progress their roles further.

 

Improved Transport Links

With the country’s first advanced railway system – High Speed 2 (HS2) – still firmly on the cards, the Budget certainly remained ample where UK transport was concerned. For train travellers, a new 26-30 Railcard will go on sale across the UK this year. In addition to railroad developments, a huge £30 billion was declared to help improve the roads of Britain, including a £28.8 billion National Roads Fund, and £25.3 billion for motorways, trunk and A roads (the Strategic Road Network). Local roads will also benefit from the new Major Road Network, with £420 million committed to local authorities to renew bridges, tunnels and potholes.

> What this means: For business owners (and their employees) aged 26-30, subsidised rail fares can help keep commuting costs down. Investment in nationwide smart motorways will also continue to smooth out travel disruptions.

 

Facing the nation’s mental health issues head on, this year’s Autumn Budget has, most importantly, earmarked a minimum of £2bn per year towards mental health facilities. 

Addressing Mental Health

Facing the nation’s mental health issues head on, this year’s Budget has, most importantly, earmarked a minimum of £2bn per year towards mental health facilities; this will form part of the £20.5bn (after inflation) promised to the NHS over the next five years. Not only will this mean increased mental health services such as a dedicated 24-hour crisis hotline, but will also include specialised mental health ambulances and nationwide crisis centres in the event of an emergency.

> What this means: With 1 in 6 workers affected by mental health, wellbeing in the workplace should be a priority for SMEs moving forward. Investment in mental health services will make resources more readily available, with not only dedicated charities but the government now in full support.

 

And what of the elephant in the room? With £1.5 billion already announced to help departments prepare for Brexit, the government will provide an additional £500 million of additional funding from 2019-20. With over £4 billion set to be invested in this transition, it would seem that for this year’s Budget, our departure from the EU is of tantamount importance.

The winter months can be a slow for a number of sectors, August can be a drag for others and freelancers often feel the pinch during February and March when budgets are depleted. While it might be nice to take it easy for a few weeks, taking it lying down shouldn’t be an option – there are a number of ways to prepare for lulls in business, many creative avenues to explore and opportunities to utilise your extra hours.

There are a number of ways to plan for quiet periods in business.

 

Create Personalised Offers

Utilise your sales data to evaluate what has sold well or what hasn’t and, if possible, transpose this onto your customer base or markets. From here you can make bespoke offers, which could include packages of services or products at reduced costs; for example, a customer who purchases the same items month in, month out may be tempted with an add on at the right price, thus boosting income when it reduces elsewhere. Alternatively, you might attract a previous customer to come back with a deal they can’t refuse.

Sell Your Story

Whether a seasonal dip on its way or you’re planning ahead ‘just in case’, creating stories to use within the context of public relations activities is smart thinking. Look at the forward features lists of target publications to find topics on which you can provide comment. For example, a hotel that tends to be lacking guests in November could look at what the target media are covering in October’s issue, and could advise on any number of things; what to do in the area on a rainy day, what are the city’s best kept secrets, to how to cook the perfect hotel breakfast or how to have an Autumn shopping break on a budget. Also, product launches can be planned for a time when you want the additional interest that media coverage can generate.

Flash Sale

If you sell products you may have items left from old ranges or excess stock of products that didn’t fly of the shelves. Not only is a flash 24 or 48 hour sale a great way to make room for new lines in your stock room, but it can generate income when you need it most. Of course, your margins are significantly reduced, but a sale is a psychological trigger that allows you to cleverly market your full price items, and push for additional sales.

Flash sales are a way of getting rid of old stock as well as increasing your income in a quiet period.

 

Price Comparisons & Structures

Undertaking an audit of your competitors and their price points for the same services or items could mean you can show customers or clients how much they could save. The findings and messages can be used in any number of marketing and PR activities, and it could form the basis of a campaign. Alternatively, could your pricing structure be amended to bring in so called ‘useless’ price points. Offering service A at £100, B at £200 and C at £210 appears to make the middle option quite ‘useless’; however, it helps to turn ‘bargain hunters’ into ‘value seekers’. Making such changes during a fruitful period may keep you front of mind when customers’ money is tight and value is essential.

Plan a New Product Range or Service

Consider the period when your business is at its quietest while also reflecting on the bigger picture of growth, ask yourself these questions:

> What skills do you have at your disposal?

> What are your most profitable products or services?

> What are your most profitable markets or sectors?

> What markets or sectors could you expand in?

> What does your industry’s future look like?

> What is your passion?

Just because your business has always serviced multiple sectors, made blue widgets or sold in the UK, it doesn’t mean that’s how it has to be forever and a day. Being adaptable is crucial in business, and re-evaluating your market position, company focus and vision can offer ways to survive slumps, branch out to increase annual profits and flourish in locations and sectors you didn’t dream of before.

Having complementary product lines or creating a second business can offset seasonal business slumps.

 

Start a Second Business

We all know you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, time and tide wait for no man and a little of what you fancy does you good. Depending how you answered the first and last questions above, an ambitious and creative thought may have flashed through your head, but if not? Seriously think about it! It is common for company owners to have multiple streams of business income – through the ups and downs of months, years, austerity periods and Brexit deals, fingers in pies can offer holistic stability. From a second company that will complement your current one to a different sector you personally love, if the real aim is to keep busy and have a consistent income stream, maybe you should broaden your horizons.

 

To speak to an expert business adviser about your venture’s forecasting, growth and market planning, or if you are considering starting a new company, call us to arrange an initial free consultation.

Whatever stage your business is at, staff turnover is always a worry; when someone hands in their notice, it may feel like you’ve wasted money and resource and now you have to put in more to find a suitable replacement. Retention of a workforce is an area that we have advised on a number of times, and a review of the company’s culture and employee benefits can shed light on your hiring rates. People often need to feel valued by their colleagues, managers and those on high as well as having options to progress, learn and gain financially, so here are five ways in which your business could turn resignation letters into loyal team members.

People often need to feel valued by their colleagues, managers and those on high as well as having options to progress.

 

Shares

Larger businesses could consider offering employees shares, which is one key way of persuading a member of staff to remain with the company, but if shares are sold the individual may have to pay Capital Gains Tax. Also, there are added tax incentives if the shares are offered through on of the following schemes:

> Share Incentive Plans (SIP) – Individuals are not required to pay Income Tax or National Insurance on Free, Partnership, Matching or Dividend Shares through a SIP, as long as they remain in the plan for 5 years.

> Save As You Earn (SAYE) – Individuals can save up to £500 a month and at the end of the three or five year contract, the money can be used to buy shares at a fixed price. Any interest on the savings is tax free and the difference between the cost and worth of the shares is omitted for tax and NI purposes.

> Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) – Individuals don’t have to pay Income Tax or National Insurance on shares are purchased in this plan, as long as they paid least the market value they had when the person was granted the option. Companies can grant options up to the value of £250,000 in a 3-year period and have £30 million or less of assets.

> Company Share Options – Individuals can be given the chance to buy up to £30,000 worth of shares at a fixed price and no NICs or tax will be paid on the difference between what was paid for the shares and what they’re actually worth.

 

Training and Development

People working in any sector at any level should be able to continue developing their career, if they wish, and to learn new practical and interpersonal skills. Those who feel bypassed of opportunity or generally stagnant in their role are the first to start looking on the job sites, and business owners or department managers may not see the problem until it’s too late. From a one day course to better use a piece of software to completing a first aid at work course, from lessons to facilitate a change in career to a Master’s Degree, most of us will benefit from studying. Adams Moore has advised companies to look carefully at prospects being offered to staff, and holding consultations is a way of positively engaging with people, listening to their needs and developing training pathways.

From a one day course to better use a piece of software to a Master’s Degree, most of us will benefit from studying.

 

Professional Body Membership

Membership to organisations that set, and sometimes enforce, standards for a particular field or profession is often beneficial for the individual associate as well as the company that employs them. Staff who are members are illustrating they have excellent sector knowledge and aptitude, and they can access a wide range of information, documentation, training and peer support; businesses who employ people who are members are illustrating their company’s worth through having a highly skilled workforce. Paying for such membership or Chartership is another way of showing your business understands the importance of personal and career development, which can help in nurturing loyalty.

 

Away Days

All work and no play made Jack a dull boy who started looking for a new job. Giving something back to your staff in the form of a fun day or night out can really lift morale, help new friendships blossom across different teams and show that you’re thankful for everyone’s hard work. Christmas parties or annual dinners are the highlight of many people’s years, but there a wide variety of activities that can get people out of the office to bond and let their hair down. From hiring narrowboats and go-kart tracks to completing a scavenger hunt or escape room, events are a great way to say thank you. Business also get an added bonus in the way of a tax exemption on food, drink, tickets, accommodation, venue costs and more; if the event or events recur annually and is open to all staff or a specific department, £150 per-employee is tax-deductible. If a partner is invited, the exemption applies to their costs of up to £150 also. The amount can be spread across more than one event but even one pence over the allowance will mean no costs can be offset.

Giving something back to your staff in the form of a fun day or night out can really lift morale and foster loyalty.

 

Tax Efficient Benefits

A salary sacrifice is a popular way of helping employees to reduce their tax or NICs; instead of cash in the bank, they receive something else of benefit, and it is this that is exempt from tax, or comes with a more advantageous tax bill. If what your business can clearly explain what the benefits mean for them, they may think twice about filling in that other job application. Childcare voucher, cycle to work and pension schemes are fairly standard, and gaining academic qualifications, buying extra holidays or purchasing phones or tablets are becoming more common. With workplace pension contributions now compulsory, businesses should consider if putting more into employees’ pension pots will be favourable on the tax bill. However, it is also important to understand if it will influence an employee’s choice to stay or move onto another company and if the cost is less than the burden of re-recruiting.

 

If you’re looking for advice on tax efficient benefits for your business or employees, please contact us to discuss the options available.

Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School (BVGS) Corporate Partnership has continued its recent growth, securing the support of experienced accountants and business advisers Adams Moore.

Adams Moore is one of Bishop Vesey Grammar School's Corporate Partners.

Becoming the partnership’s 33rd member, the Tamworth-based firm, which provides a range of services to companies, sole traders and individuals, including tax returns, payroll and fixed-fee Board Support, brings a forward-thinking attitude and passion for business growth to the initiative.

Having built its reputation for delivering a comprehensive range of accountancy and business advice services on a national scale, Adams Moore will have the opportunity to collaborate with fellow partners while supporting the school moving forward.

Designed to encourage and facilitate local working relationships, the Corporate Partnership boasts a diverse range of organisations, offering members a networking forum to meet and collaborate with other businesses.

Hosting regular high-profile networking events throughout the year, the Bishop Vesey’s Corporate Partnership is one of the fastest growing local initiatives of its kind.

Neil Lancaster, Partner at Adams Moore commented: “Offering support and guidance to local schools and businesses is extremely important to our firm and we’re delighted to achieve this by becoming an official member of the Bishop Vesey’s Corporate Partnership.

“It’s no secret that the initiative has enjoyed substantial growth in recent months which is always a reassuring sign for new businesses who are looking to join.

“Having the opportunity to meet Development Director Brian Davies, I am aware of all the hard work that has gone into developing the initiative and transforming it into a successful networking forum for local businesses.

“We know the partnership has facilitated a number of working relationships between its partners so we’re very much looking forward to meeting the other members, collaborating on ideas and helping local firms achieve their business and financial goals.”

Development Director, Brian Davies said: “Over the past few months we have experienced substantial growth, with a lot of high-profile businesses joining the partnership and showing their support to the school.

“This is testament to the time we have invested arranging insightful networking events that are relevant to all industries and help local businesses to network and secure more work.

“We’re delighted to add Adams Moore to our extensive portfolio of partners, and I’m certain that our other members will benefit from the expertise Neil, Martin and their team have to offer.”

Those people in Tamworth and Birmingham who are self-employed might have been looking forward to the scrapping of Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs). However, the Treasury’s analysis of the Coalition pledge found that around 300,000 people who make profits of less than circa £6,000 a year would be five times worse off with regards to voluntary contributions. The policy should have come in to effect in early 2018, but as a solution to this issue has not been found, the policy will not be put in place at all. Clearly some will be winners and some losers, but is this recent announcement good or bad for you?

What does the government's change on Class 2 NICs mean for the people of Tamworth and Birmingham?

 

What Was The Cut To Class 2 Contributions All About?

> Class 2 NICs were going to be be completely abolished, meaning sole traders that are currently required to pay these by earning up to £8,500 a year would no longer need to make payments in order to receive a state pension. They would therefore have saved them around £150.

> Those who are self-employed, earn less than £6,205 and want to receive a state pension currently must voluntarily pay the Class 2 amount. The change in policy would have meant that these people would have to pay Class 3 contribution amount (for those earning more than £8,424 annually), which is 5 times more.

 

The Ins and Outs

The reversal on the £150-a-year tax cut for self-employed people was announced through a written statement on Thursday. National Insurance Contributions (NICs) would have been no more for over three million workers, but ministers cited concerns about the effect on low earners as the reason why it would not be right for the policy to be effected during this Parliament.

George Osborne announced the cut to Class 2 NICs in his last Budget in 2016, and when the implementation of the policy was delayed last year, the current Chancellor said the government was “committed to abolishing Class 2 NICs to simplify the system”; Hammond, however, has admitted a no-deal Brexit will force government cuts. While the written statement to MPs said – “This change was originally intended to simplify the tax system for the self-employed. We delayed the implementation of this policy in November to consider concerns relating to the impact on self-employed individuals with low profits.” – abandoning the policy will save the government £350 million a year for the next 3 years.

Reading between the lines, the uncertainty of a Brexit economy certainly looks to be an influencing factor and it’s not an insignificant sum to save when the NHS requires an extra £20 billion a year from 2023. The Chancellor will announce how the coffers will be spent in the Autumn budget, on 22 November, and it appears no other plans to implement a cut are in the pipeline.

Not changing the tax system for self employed will save the government £350m

 

On the positive side…

“Having listened to those likely to be affected by this change we have concluded that it would not be right to proceed during this parliament, given the negative impacts it could have on some of the lowest earning in our society.”

Treasury Minister, Robert Jenrick

If you’re one of the circa 300,000 self-employed who are earning less than £6,205 a year and voluntarily paying Class 2 NICs – in order to access a state pension – then this is good for you. The implementation of the new policy would have meant a move to Class 3 contributions (voluntary) for you and your weekly payments would have been increased from £2.95 to £14.65. That’s an extra £608.40 out of your pocket, a whopping 10% of a £6,000 income.

The changes to self employed National Insurance will be a positive for those earning under £6k

 

And the negative…

“The self-employed community has been let down today, missing out on a promise to reduce their tax burden. This raises serious questions once again about the government’s commitment to supporting the self-employed.”

Federation of Small Businesses Chairman, Mike Cherry

Millions of self-employed workers who earn profits of between £6,205 and £8,424 a year would have saved around £150 a year by not having to pay Class 2 National Insurance, at £2.95 a week. Already branded as a ‘stealth tax’, the u-turn is being seen by some as a betrayal on the self-employed, the ‘engine of the economy’, while the corporate giants receive perceived (or otherwise!) tax breaks.

Those self employed people earning between £6-8.5k will now lose out after the policy u-turn

 

Clearly, £150 would be a more modest gain compared to the £600 loss that the lowest earners would suffer, in order to gain access to the state pension. Nevertheless, whether this about turn on NICs has affected you positively or negatively, we don’t anticipate there will be any changes from the current system anytime soon. When the Chancellor dared to raise Class 4 NICs rates for self-employed people who enjoyed more than a £8,424 profit, he was accused of breaking the Party’s manifesto pledge and the angry reaction ensured those plans were ditched. Chancellor’s play a lose / lose game!

If you are self-employed and require advice on your taxes, assistance with your Self Assessment return – next due 31 January 2019 – or strategies to grow and improve your business’ profits, please contact us to book a no obligation, free consultation.

 

The summer of 2018 will be remembered as a time of searing heat, when the country was united over the greatest competition in the world. Eventually, Dani and Jack would go on to lift the Love Island trophy, while England players also managed to restore pride in the national game, even though they couldn’t quite bring football home. But now the summer holidays are over and one thing at the back of many minds, nagging away like a dripping tap, will be the often-painful tax return.

We ask all the people of Birmingham and beyond – are you ready to get stuck in to your accounts?

Don't panic about your tax return, just yet, but September is the time to quickly get prepared.

 

While HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) reported it surpassed its record of completed tax returns for last year – with 10.7 million submissions in on time – almost 750,000 people missed the deadline, running the risk of a £100 fine. So businesses, sole traders and individuals who are required to complete a self-assessment can avoid any nasty frights down the line by getting their affairs in order now while there are still five whole months to go to the online returns deadline. However, should you use a paper return the deadline for 2017/18 is coming up as early as 31 October, Halloween – scary, right? Furthermore, if you haven’t registered for Self Assessment, you have little over a month. Don’t leave it too late to prepare or file the return – mistakes are made when you rush.

 

Tax Return Deadlines

> The deadline to register for Self Assessment is October 5 2018;

> The paper tax returns deadline is midnight on October 31 2018;

> The deadline for online returns is midnight on January 31 2019.

Electronic tax returns for the 2017/18 year are due on 31 January 2019.

 

Your First Tax Return

If the 2017/18 financial year is the first in which you were trading, and you have never submitted a tax return before, you might be feeling more anxious. You might not even be self-employed, but are required to provide a Self Assessment due to other income. Whatever your situation, Adams Moore can take you through the process, and help you be sure the i’s have been dotted and t’s crossed, but the first thing you must do is register for Self Assessment for 2017/18, by visiting the gov.uk registration page and submitting your details. Once registered, you’ll be given a UTR (unique taxpayer reference), which you will need to fill out and file your tax return. Keep a note of it somewhere safe so you can find it when needed. You will find further information about being prepared for your first tax return, here, in a previous article.

 

What Will you Need to Complete a Tax Return?

To fill out your return, you’ll need to know your earnings for the tax year (from 6 April to 5 April the following year) and details of any expenses you want to deduct. It’s important to keep a record of your income and expenses, to make filling out the return easier when the time comes. There are apps or software that can help with this, such as Xero, which keep digital records, allow your accountant to access the data directly and have other features such as invoicing, purchase order and quotes.

Allowable expenses include staff, office services and equipment and travel costs – including the cost of salaries, stationery, internet, phones, fuel, parking and train or bus fares. Advertising and marketing, such as website costs, are also included, along with anything you buy to sell on, such as raw materials. The cost of your business premises is also an allowable expense, including the heating, lighting and business rates. If you work from home, you can still claim business premises costs, but only a set amount which offsets your mortgage or rent, heating, electricity and council tax.

 

What Should you Quickly Collate?

> Details of your income – which might be your P60, P11D or your payslips;

> Interest statements from banks and building societies, details of pension contributions and any information about student loans or Gift Aid donations. If you need information from banks or building societies, you should contact them straight away;  it may take them time to get it back to you, but most people should be able to access old statements online;

> Other personal financial records to support claims of how much you spent – such as bank statements, cheque stubs or receipts.

Gather all the paperwork required to complete your tax return for maximum efficiency.

 

What Should you Do if you Have Records Missing?

> Try to get as many copies of lost or destroyed documents as soon possible – for example by asking banks or suppliers for duplicate statements or invoices;

> Use ‘provisional’ figures if you can’t recreate all your records, which means you’ll be able to get paperwork to confirm your figures later. You must use the ‘any other information’ box on the tax return to say this is what you are doing;

> Use ‘estimated’ figures if you will not be able to confirm the exact amounts at a later date, and again use the ‘any other information’ box to give details.

 

Who Else Needs to Complete a Tax Return?

Some individuals are required to fill out and file a Self Assessment tax return. You’ll need to complete one if, in the last tax year (6 April 2017 to 5 April 2018):

> You got more than £2,500 from renting out property;

> You got more than £2,500 in other untaxed income, such as tips or commission;

> Your income from savings or investments was £10,000 or more before tax;

> You were a company director – unless it was for a non-profit organisation and you did not get any pay or benefits, like a company car;

> You made profits from selling things like shares or a second home and need to pay Capital Gains Tax;

> Your income (or your partner’s) was more than £50,000 and one of you claimed Child Benefit;

> Your taxable income was over £100,000;

> Your State Pension was more than your Personal Allowance and was your only source of income – unless you started getting your pension on or after 6 April 2016.

 

What Should you Do if you Can’t Pay your Tax Bill?

HMRC may offer you extra time to pay your bill if they think you can settle the outstanding amount in the future and they will set up a plan for you to pay in instalments by Direct Debit, on the agreed dates. We would advise you speak to an accountant, business adviser or personal adviser if you find yourself in any financial difficulties; there may be funding or operational changes that you hadn’t considered, which could turn your business round.

If you can't pay your tax bill it would be wise to speak to an accountant to discuss funding.

 

Need Help?

If you need help with Self Assessment, you can appoint someone to fill in and send your tax return, such as an accountant, friend or relative. We offer a free initial consultation if you’d like to discuss your requirements, and don’t forget that accountancy services are tax deductible for businesses and sole traders. Alternatively, you can contact the HMRC helpline on 0300 200 3310.

 

Whether it’s your breakfast paper or the 6 o’clock news, there’s no denying the one subject that won’t budge from the nation’s headlines – despite the EU referendum now having taken place over two years ago. Since the term ‘Brexit’ was so aptly coined, the world has witnessed Donald Trump inaugurated as the President of the United States and the death of David Bowie – yet whether you voted ‘leave’ or ‘remain’, it’s been business as usual for the UK economy.

Our very own Birmingham, regardless of what some may view as tumultuous times ahead, has continued on its journey of regeneration to rival the likes of London by 2027, now less than a decade away. With construction work ever on the horizon, the 2017 Crane Survey also revealed unprecedented levels of expansion. Yet, city-centre developments and high-speed railways aside, can cities like ours hope to flourish should Theresa May’s post-Brexit trade deal spark economic downturn?

Despite what SME owners may come to assume, the future for SMEs doesn’t necessarily mirror that of the UK’s wider economy in a post-Brexit Britain.

 

Survival of the Fittest

Hard Brexit or not, businesses need only look to a multitude of corporations already feeling the pressure this year. BMW, Nissan, Airbus and now JLR of the automotive industry have recently revealed the potential rise in trade tariffs should a ‘harsh’ Brexit ensue, costing JLR an additional £1.2bn per year to keep its plants open. From Solihull to Slovakia, the firm has gone so far as to hint Discovery upheaval to Eastern Europe if access to the Single Market was lost. With JLR supporting some 300,000 jobs via its supply chain, this not only threatens to damage UK production, but for the West Midlands – a huge number of employees.

In the face of a fragile sterling and wavering consumer environment, paired with the inability to compete with online rivals, high street retailers are also poised to do battle against the invisible enemy of an unknown trade deal. From BHS to Toys R Us to House of Fraser, it would seem that even the most regarded of household names are not equipped to compete within a post-Brexit landscape. Though Scottish-established House of Fraser’s journey may not be over yet (courtesy of Sports Direct’s Mike Ashley), the consolidation and closure of other high street gems – including 100 M&S branches – across the nation are a warning to other retailers currently rethinking their strategy to improve profitability should they hope to weather the storm.

 

Small Business, Small Fry?

Despite what small business owners may come to assume, the future for SMEs doesn’t necessarily mirror that of the UK’s wider economy in a post-Brexit Britain. Almost 100% of the private business sector is made up of SMEs, now with 5.7m trading on home soil, with a staggering annual turnover of £1.9 trillion combined in 2017.

A well-oiled machine, it would seem. However, if SMEs really do symbolise the ‘backbone’ of the British economy, how could they hope to remain stable as looming negotiations threaten to damage trade in the UK?

 

With cities like Birmingham that are both business and cultural hotspots, SMEs could look set to benefit from Brexit Britain in a number of ways.

The Post-Brexit Advantage

With cities like Birmingham that are both business and cultural hotspots, SMEs could look set to benefit from Brexit Britain in a number of ways:

> Domestic workers – when we do exit the EU, almost half of the UK’s skilled workforce have expressed plans to leave the country within five years – a cause for concern within any business. While this may not have impact in the short-term, SMEs should view this as an opportunity to grow their offering by upskilling existing employees. Not only would this better fill immediate knowledge gaps with training – and thus improve staff retention – but small businesses could also invest more time and energy into local emerging talent.

> International expansion – at a time like this, overseas expansion may seem more unachievable than ever before. Yet thanks to ever-shifting exchange rates, UK SMEs saw international sales increase by 34% in the six months following the EU referendum. In fact, up to 1 in 4 SMEs continue to bolster their exporting efforts with improved returns, as international buyers are lured not only by world-famous British quality, but the affordability of goods. By evolving an online presence to better serve international customers, the world is an SME’s oyster while the pound remains undervalued.

 

Up to 1 in 4 SMEs continue to bolster their exporting efforts with improved returns, as international buyers are lured by the affordability of goods.

 

> European sales – it may be surprising to hear that Western Europe, as opposed to the US, is favoured by SMEs as the top export market this year. When it comes to trading with our EU neighbours, small businesses are proving bolder, embracing the challenge of what a post-Brexit landscape could look like. With goals closer to home, 45% and 20% seek to export to Western and Eastern Europe respectively, small businesses are less likely to target the US and Commonwealth markets, with ambitions remaining firmly in Europe.

> Inward investment – while small business owners may seek expansion to distant shores, SMEs should also look to invest within. Despite the financial difficulties faced by entrepreneurs when turning to banks for funding, a weaker pound has prompted the backing of private equity firms. It is well recognised that, during times of economic uncertainty, an entrepreneur’s ‘lean’ approach has helped SMEs adapt quickly to unsteady environments that their larger counterparts simply cannot; undoubtedly, this is of huge appeal to investors.

 

By taking these opportunities into consideration, regardless of the anxiety felt in the run-up to May’s post-Brexit deal, SMEs across the nation, including those in the Midlands, should remain proactive and reactive in the face of the unknown. Small businesses continue to show resilience against an uncertain economic backdrop, proving that as a nation of shopkeepers, anything is possible.

Depending on the products or services your company offers and the associated production costs, having access to a little bit of cash can make all the difference when you want to create more lines, reach new markets or expand to meet demand. Start-up businesses often face barriers to accessing finance because there is no proof that the model will work and a potential lack of success is a risk big banks might not be willing to take. If your small business loan has been rejected, the bank is legally obligated to refer you to an alternative provider but it is important to understand the reason why you weren’t successful to see if the issue can be addressed.

 

Alternative Lenders

Independent or alternative financing is often more specialised and so there are a wider number of products to choose from, such as VAT loans, equipment loans and franchise loans. As with any form of purchase it is worth shopping around for lower interest rates but be sure of what you are signing up to; it may be secured or unsecured and there may or may not be flexible repayment terms or overpayment penalties. It is also possible to borrow against your company’s assets but we would advise you speak to your accountant prior to applying for any loan so you can be sure your figures are sound and the lending choice will not damage your business. If you are looking to appoint an accountancy firm to assist you with the right financing option, please call us to arrange a free new client consultation.

Peer-to-peer Lending

Individuals and businesses can borrow money via this method, regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which operates very much like a regular bank loan but often interest rates are more favourable. Funding Circle, Folk 2 Folk and Lendinvest are examples in the UK. Each funder has a minimum capital amount set aside and this is available to as many or as few people as they wish to fund, for any amount requested. Those wishing to borrow have to specify how much they would like and for how long, and they are matched to suitable investors to choose from.

Individuals and businesses can borrow money via peer-to-peer lending, which is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

 

Crowdfunding

This financing method is a sound measure of the market and potentially a more reliable marker of future business success than the thoughts of sector leaders, so you and your ‘amazing’ idea can get a harsh reality check. In some ways, crowdfunding is a natural progression from the group validation which social media brings. The financing method allows for ‘positive feedback loops’ in a similar way social networks do; the start-up receives instant feedback and funds and the funders enjoy the emotional journey that engagement tactics can generate. Momentum can easily build from a small team of passionate advocates, but often you require excellent marketing skills, and ironically funds, to obtain interest in the first place. One option is looking at design, marketing and PR service providers who offer underwriting solutions, whereby they provide support when the business needs it the most in the crowdfunding period and cover the costs.

Bridging Loans

This form of short-term financing has exploded during the current decade, growing from £1 billion in 2011 to £7 million last year. These loans are predominantly used by those looking to buy a property on a tight deadline and don’t need the money for very long, for example to make a purchase while waiting for a sale. Property development companies often opt for bridge finance as monies can be accessible within a couple of weeks, which allows refurbishments to go ahead quickly. If you have equity in an existing mortgage or bridging loan, you utilise this money for your business, whatever its focus. It would be remiss if we didn’t highlight that bridging loans are secured against the value of a property and you run the risk of repossession if repayments aren’t made on time.

Bridging loans and merchant cash advances are a finance option for those wanting to undertake improvement work, and pay back once another property is sold or when seasonal custom returns.

 

Merchant Cash Advances

This funding option is aimed at established businesses and it particularly suits seasonal firms or services, but it can be a sensible option for some fast-growth start-ups. The quiet season provides the opportunity to make improvements, purchases or other changes, but this is when cash flow is usually a problem. The amount you are able to borrow on a MCA is linked to the average amount that you usually take in card payments, there are no restrictions on what the funding can be spent on and then repayments (the total is agreed in advance) are made as a percentage of the future debit and credit card sales. Essentially, until you have money coming in you don’t pay the money back, but the repayment amount increases along with any increase in sales.

Whether you are looking for a reputable accountancy firm to prepare your accounts for a loan application or require business advice for any aspect of your start-up or SME, please contact us to arrange a consultation. While we are based in Tamworth, we service businesses and individuals nationally and offer cloud accountancy software for effortless bookkeeping.