Category Archives: Covid-19

Government launches Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp


CORONAVIRUS GOV.UK – SUPPORT

Government launches Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp

The UK Government has today launched a GOV.UK Coronavirus Information service on WhatsApp.

The new free to use service aims to provide official, trustworthy and timely information and advice about coronavirus (COVID-19), and will further reduce the burden on NHS services.

This will help combat the spread of coronavirus misinformation in the UK, as well as helping ensure people stay home, protect the NHS and save lives.

The GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service is an automated ‘chatbot’ service which will allow the British public to get answers to the most common questions about coronavirus direct from government.

The service will provide information on topics such as coronavirus prevention and symptoms, the latest number of cases in the UK, advice on staying at home, travel advice and myth busting.

The service will also allow the government to send messages to all opted-in users if required.

To use the free GOV.UK Coronavirus Information Service on WhatsApp, simply add 07860 064422 in your phone contacts and then message the word ‘hi’ in a WhatsApp message to get started.

A set of menu options is then presented which the user can choose from and then be sent relevant guidance from GOV.UK pages as well as links to GOV.UK for further information.

Prof Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director, Public Health England, said:

“This service will help us ensure the public has a trusted source for the right information about coronavirus, updated with the latest public health guidance and providing assurance that they are not misled by any of the false information circulating.”

Matt Idema, Chief Operating Officer, WhatsApp, said:

“At difficult times like these, people are using WhatsApp more than ever to connect with and support their friends, family and communities. We are pleased to be able to provide the UK Government with the communications tools to help them answer the public’s questions about the virus with reliable, timely health advice, in order to keep people safe.”

Other recent Government communications include:

“Earlier this week the government texted people across the UK to inform them of the new rules announced by the Prime Minister on 23 March 2020. Details here –Here:

“The Government has also sent text messages to the vulnerable as part of the shielding package announced by the Prime Minister on 22 March 2020. Details here – Click Here:

 

 


NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020


NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

NEWS ROUNDUP

CORONAVIRUS – SUPPORT FOR BUSINESS

Rishi Sunak bows to pressure to revamp rules for the Business Interruption Loan Schemes.  Check back here for full details.

TAX NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

2020 – 21 TAX TABLES

2020 – 21 TAX TABLES

HMRC ‘likely to extend deadlines’ amid crisis

Dawn Register, partner and head of tax dispute resolution at BDO, writes in City AM on the Treasury’s moves to raise an extra £4.7bn through a crackdown on tax evasion and avoidance, advising recipients of letters from HMRC that deadlines for responses are likely to be extended given the ongoing coronavirus crisis. It is also noted that HMRC’s Connect system “can identify individuals who hold assets in multiple jurisdictions.”

City AM

Premier League urged to act on player pay

Julian Knight, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport select committee, has called on the Government to impose a “windfall tax” on Premier League clubs that refuse to impose pay cuts on their players while applying for a public bailout to cover wages for non-playing staff. Voicing concern that clubs are taking advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Mr Knight has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak demanding that top flight clubs “do the right thing.”

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times, Page: 11 The Times, Page: 12 The Guardian, Page: 40 Daily Mail, Page: 77 The Sun, Page: 10 The Independent Daily Express

EMPLOYMENT LAW NEWS

From the 1st April national minimum wage rates have risen as follows:

Year25 and over21 to 2418 to 20Under 18Apprentice
April 2020 (current rate)£8.72£8.20£6.45£4.55£4.15
April 2019 to March 2020£8.21£7.70£6.15£4.35£3.90

 

NB: where you are furloughing employees, we understand that ACAS has advised that the 80% of salary the furloughed employees get will not have to be increased in line with the increase in national minimum wage rates because the furlough reimbursement is based on past hours worked/paid, not what they might earn going forward. Check to make sure that this advice remains current as changes could be made later.

The government’s Good Work Plan:

  • All workers who start work for you on or after the 6th April must be given an employment contract (or written statement of particulars of employment) on or before their first working day. You used to have up to 8 weeks to provide this.
  • Annual leave: How a week’s pay is calculated for holiday entitlement will change from 6 April 2020. For those of your employees who do not have regular hours or regular pay, you’ll need to look at the average pay they received over the previous 52 weeks, instead of 12 weeks, in order to calculate their holiday entitlement.

Parental Bereavement Leave (Jack’s Law):

From the 6th April, parents who lose a child under the age of 18, or suffer a stillbirth from the 24th week of pregnancy, on or after this date, will have the right to two weeks’ leave. This leave will be paid at the same statutory rate as other family friendly rights (eg maternity pay), if the employee has 26 weeks service. Don’t forget that parents are already entitled as a day one right to take a reasonable amount of unpaid time off to deal with emergencies involving a dependent, including dealing with a dependent’s death.

INDUSTRY NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Accountants adapt to audits amid lockdown

As the audit season commences for companies in a period where the COVID-19 outbreak has restricted movement amid a Government lockdown, some auditors are turning to cameras to help compile annual accounts. Hemione Hudson at PwC comments: “Normally we have significant teams out counting but we are now looking at different ways of doing this.” Mazars’ Bob Neate says one option is to use cameras already installed in a company’s warehouse to verify its stock levels. Scott Knight of BDO notes that difficulties arise from not being able to discuss issues in person, “and not being able to physically observe the controls that are used to run a company”. The Financial Reporting Council has issued guidance saying auditors should agree what can be done remotely, what can be done using technology and where confirmation depends on being physically present.

Daily Mail

Accountancy can ‘reset’

Recruiters at Core-Asset Consulting have warned that issues in the accounting sector are at risk of intensifying in the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to concerns over succession planning driven by cuts and a lack of graduate opportunities that have led to a shortage of middle management. On issues it feels the sector must address, the firm highlights flexible and home-working, compassionate leave and the importance of supportive workplaces. It says the pandemic gives accountancy firms a chance to “reset” their values.

The Scotsman, Page: 34

CORPORATE NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

RSM: Insolvencies estimate ‘alarmist’

RSM has questioned reports that 800,000 to 1m businesses UK businesses could collapse as a result of the coronavirus crisis, describing the figure as “alarmist at best”. Pointing to the estimate, which comes from an unnamed accounting firm cited by the British Chambers of Commerce, RSM partner Gareth Harris said: “I don’t believe that is a realistic number. That would be genuinely unprecedented and while we are in strange times I don’t believe that is a fair reflection.” He suggested a total in the 70,000-100,000 range was more realistic, adding: “You are going to see a pretty sharp spike in insolvencies for businesses that were struggling before any of this happened.”

City AM

Coronavirus ‘already damaging businesses’ – BCC

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has released the first COVID-19 Business Impact Tracker study, cautioning that small businesses have only three months or less of cash reserves and that there has already been a “sharp and significant” reduction in domestic and overseas revenue. BCC director general Adam Marshall commented: “While businesses have welcomed the unprecedented size and scope of the Government support packages, our findings highlight the urgent need for that support to reach businesses on the ground as soon as possible.”

City AM

SMEs NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Loan scheme revamped

The emergency loans scheme for businesses struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic has been revamped, with Business Secretary Alok Sharma saying changes to the initiative will make it easier for smaller firms to access loans. The Treasury said it had received more than 130,000 loan enquires from firms but fewer than 1,000 had been approved. While government-backed loans for small businesses were only available to firms that had been turned down for a commercial loan from their bank, the rethink will mean applications will not be limited to businesses that have been refused a loan on commercial terms. With concern that support for firms in the middle bracket came up short, the revamped scheme will offer government-backed loans of up to £25m to firms with revenues of between £45m and £500m. Changes set out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak will also see banks banned from asking company owners to guarantee loans with their own savings or prope rty when borrowing up to £250,000. Carolyn Fairbairn, head of the Confederation of British Industry, welcomed the rejigged scheme, describing the changes as a “big step forward”.

BBC News The Times, Page: 13 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 Daily Express, Page: 10 The Guardian, Page: 2 The Sun, Page: 2

Small firms missing out on grants

The Telegraph reports that a number of small firms are missing out on £10,000 grants earmarked to help them through the COVID-19 crisis as local authorities, which are distributing the money through the business rates system, are unable to get in touch. Councils tend not to have financial information on businesses that have never paid rates – including those qualifying for rates relief – so are writing to them. However, some cannot be reached as they are closed due to the lockdown. Commenting on the struggles faced by smaller firms, ICAEW chief executive Michael Izza said: “Businesses are struggling to access the finance they urgently need and that struggle is getting worse.”

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2

Start-ups face ruin due to missing support

Researchers and professors from Manchester Metropolitan University and the Enterprise Research Centre have warned that hundreds of new start-ups could be put out of business because of gaps in the Government’s rescue package for the self-employed. The researchers noted that anyone who created their business after April 2019 will not be eligible for help from the self-employment income support scheme. An estimated 750,000 sole traders could miss out, while separate research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies put the figure at almost 2.2m.

Daily Mirror The Daily Telegraph

PROPERTY NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Property market ‘grinding to a halt’

Figures from Nationwide show that house prices rose 3% year-on-year in March, outdoing the 2.3% increase recorded in February, On a month-by-month basis, UK house prices were up 0.8% in March, compared with a 0.3% climb in February. The analysis shows that the average house price in the UK hit £219,583 in March. Nationwide notes that the figures gauge the period just before the coronavirus outbreak started to impact the market, with the bank saying housing market activity is “grinding to a halt” as Government requests to stay at home prevent in-person viewings. Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner said a lack of transactions “will make gauging house price trends difficult in the coming months”. Howard Archer, chief economist at the EY Item Club, offers that while housing market activity “should progressively pick up” once restrictions on movement are lifted, “the housing market looks unlikely to return to the levels seen at the start of 2020 for some time.”

Daily Mail City AM

EMPLOYMENT NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Between-jobs workers penalised in Government scheme

The Treasury is understood to be in talks to fix problems with the coronavirus job retention scheme after it emerged that workers starting new jobs or moving between jobs would be excluded from it. Money Saving Expert’s Martin Lewis has encouraged those who have found themselves in this situation to request that their former employers rehire, and then furlough, them.

The Daily Telegraph

Job losses jump despite rescue package

The FT looks at how 950,000 have applied for universal credit despite Government support for employers, with KPMG’s Yael Selfin saying some firms are uncertain over the help they’ll receive.

Financial Times, Page: 4

LEGAL NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Banks loses inheritance tax appeal

Arron Banks has lost a bid to use European human rights law to overturn a six-figure inheritance tax bill on political donations to UKIP. HMRC assessed the businessman as owing just over £160,000 on almost £1m in donations to the party between October 2014 and March 2015. Mr Banks challenged the decision at the first-tier tribunal, arguing the law on political donations being exempt from inheritance tax breached his human rights and breached EU law.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 13 The Guardian, Page: 22 Daily Mail The Independent, Page: 25

ECONOMY NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Retail sees record lows

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted a record decline in retail sales in the UK, with the fall driven by the closure of non-essential stores and a slide in footfall as the Government rolled out restrictions on movement. BDO analysis shows that like-for-like sales at physical stores fell by a record 34.1% in March, while for combined in-store and online like-for-like sales there was a 17.9% fall. Online like-for-like sales increased by 13.7% with shoppers turning to e-commerce platforms as physical stores locked their doors. Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said “it’s no surprise” that March was the worst month on record for the high street, with uncertainty making consumers more cautious with their money. She added that the outbreak is likely to have “sped up the shift away from in-store shopping as consumers become even more accustomed to buying online.”

The Times, Page: 37 The Daily Telegraph Daily Express, Page: 10 The Sun, Page: 47 The I, Page: 46 Yorkshire Post, Page: 1 City AM

Coronavirus set to trigger deep recession

Ratings agency Fitch has predicted a deep global recession in 2020 following the coronavirus outbreak. It expects worldwide economic activity to decline 1.9% in 2020, with US GDP to slip 3.3% while the eurozone will see a 4.2% decline and UK GDP will fall 3.9%. Brian Coulton, Fitch’s chief economist, said: “The forecast fall in global GDP for the year as a whole is on a par with the global financial crisis but the immediate hit to activity and jobs in the first half of this year will be worse.”

City AM

OTHER NEWS – FRIDAY 3RD APRIL 2020

Weighing the benefits of WFH

James Dean in the Times considers the merits of working from home, including the savings made on office facilities and transport. He notes that KPMG reportedly gives each of its 16,000 employees a £3.50-a-day lunch allowance, calculating that if staff were to eat at home instead the firm would save £13.2m a year.

The Times, Page: 39

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward's News Roundup


NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020


NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

NEWS ROUNDUP

Coranavirus – Support for self-employed

We have posted updated guidance: –

Here:

TAX NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

Treasury faces £5bn stamp duty hit

The Treasury could miss out on up to £5bn in stamp duty as the coronavirus crisis hits property sales. Estate agency Savills forecasts a drop of between £4.78bn and £3.47bn in the levy this year, figures that would mark a decline of between 40% and 56% on the £8.57bn tax take forecast before the pandemic. Analysis shows that 10,197 fewer properties were put up for sale in the first week of the social distancing measures rolled out by the Government when compared with the weekly average for 2019. The data, from View My Chain, a website which tracks UK property sales, also shows that there were 5,072 fewer house sales agreed and 2,078 more agreed sales fell through. Savills expects transactions and prices to improve in 2021, although the stamp duty haul will be down by between £800m and £1.56bn on previous expectations before bouncing back in 2022.

The Times, Page: 2

NHS staff warned over tax dodge schemes

With more than 20,000 former and retired health service staff returning to work to help tackle the COVID-19 outbreak, HMRC has reiterated a warning that rogue firms may target staff with aggressive tax avoidance schemes that promise workers they can take home up to 85% of their pay but risk opening them up to penalties for dodging tax. An HMRC spokesperson said: “It is shocking that unscrupulous promoters of tax avoidance schemes are targeting returning NHS workers during this difficult time.” Heather Self of Blick Rothenberg comments: “It’s an absolute disgrace that when we are relying on thousands of NHS staff to keep this country safe, unscrupulous promoters are offering schemes which put these workers at risk of losing money and falling foul of HMRC.”

Daily Mail, Page: 71

Tech tax comes into force

The UK’s digital services tax has come into force, with the levy to apply to revenues generated by social networks, search engines and online marketplaces. The 2% tax, which affects profitable companies which generate more than £500m a year in global revenues, will apply to any revenues generated through advertising to British users or revenues made through facilitating transactions. Firms liable for the levy will not need to make any payments until 2021, with the Treasury recently telling companies that it does not anticipate any to need to register and pay the tax “for some time”.

The Daily Telegraph

SMEs NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

Fifth of SMEs at risk despite aid package

Some 20% of UK SMEs are unlikely to receive the funding required to see them through the next four weeks, research from the Corporate Finance Network group of accountants claims, with between 800,000 and 1m firms at risk of going bankrupt. While Chancellor Rishi Sunak said a fortnight ago that firms would be able to discuss Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs) of up to £5m with banks, thousands of companies have reported difficulties in contacting lenders or being told they are ineligible for the scheme. Kirsty McGregor, founder of the Corporate Finance Network, has warned that the UK could lose up to a million SMEs within the next month, saying this will be irreversible and “catastrophic” for the economy. Business Secretary Alok Sharma has said it is “unacceptable” for banks to refuse small businesses emergency coronavirus loans and said the financial sector should be doing “everything they can” to help companies. Chance llor Rishi Sunak is tomorrow expected to announce an overhaul of the bailout scheme for businesses, banning banks from asking small firms for personal guarantees on loans and removing a requirement for businesses to demonstrate that they have no other means of accessing funding.

BBC News Daily Mail, Page: 12 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Guardian Daily Mirror, Page: 9 The Independent, Page: 50 The Sun, Page; 10 The Times, Page: 7 The I, Page: 7 The Scotsman, Page: 11

Owner-director support call

Blick Rothenberg has warned that owner-directors have fallen between the cracks in regard to Government support for the economy during the coronavirus pandemic. The firm’s Richard Churchill said: “Protecting these owner-director microbusinesses now is essential if we want to ensure our economic recovery once this crisis is over.”

Yorkshire Post, Business, Page: 5

CORPORATE NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

Finablr appoints CEO while CFO stands down

Finablr has appointed a new chief executive, with Bhairav Trivedi taking the role. The firm, which owns Travelex, also announced that CFO Rahul Pai has quit. Former CEO Promoth Manghat stepped down last month as the firm sought to accommodate requirements laid down by EY, its auditor. EY has since resigned over concerns about the composition of the board, corporate governance, related-party transactions and off balance sheet debt. The Times notes that Finablr last month discovered about $100m of cheques that may have benefited third parties and appointed an accounting firm, believed to be PwC, to prepare for “a potential insolvency appointment with a view to maximising value in the group”.

The Times, Page: 47

EMPLOYMENT NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

Employers using Zoom could be sued over privacy

Employees working from home who use Zoom to attend virtual meetings could sue their employers if they object to how the web conference tool handles their personal information. Workers who have to use the software, which shares personal data with other companies, may be entitled to a payout. James Castro-Edwards, partner at law firm Wedlake Bell, said: “There is a big risk an employee could ask for compensation… If a workforce was forced to use Zoom to communicate and it transpired that personal data was going to places that they hadn’t agreed to they could claim they had been distressed.”

The Daily Telegraph

ECONOMY NEWS – THURSDAY 2ND APRIL 2020

Manufacturing activity contracts

The IHS Markit / CIPS purchasing managers’ index has revealed that in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, new orders in the manufacturing sector were down to 47.8 points in March, representing a three-month low on an index where a score of below 50 indicates contraction. Duncan Brock, group director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, commented: “The manufacturing sector was knocked sideways by the impact of COVID-19 and into contraction territory, experiencing some of the most challenging trading conditions since PMI records began.” Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at consultancy Pantheon Macroeconomics, commented: “The PMI likely greatly understates the pace of the downturn now underway in the manufacturing sector,” adding that with consumers clamping down on discretionary spending due to ongoing uncertainty, the manufacturing sector “inevitably will struggle further.”

The Times, Page: 40 Financial Times City AM

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward's News Roundup


NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020


NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

NEWS ROUNDUP

CORONAVIRUS LATEST SUPPORT AND LINKS

Covid-19: Job Retention Scheme – FAQ

Here is a useful note of frequently asked questions about the emergency Job Retention Scheme.

Here

Link to new guidance on the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

HM Treasury (HMT) has published new guidance on the coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.

The new guidance confirms that the government will cover employer NIC and pension contributions for furloughed workers on top of 80% of salary, and that those furloughed can volunteer for the NHS without risking their pay.

Here

Guidance on avoiding scams and phishing emails

HMRC have updated their guidance on examples of HMRC-related phishing emails and bogus contact to include details about a coronavirus (COVID-19) SMS scam that tells customers they have been fined £250 for leaving the house.

Here

TAX NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

Returning NHS workers warned over tax avoidance schemes

Former doctors and nurses returning to the health service to help the NHS amidst the coronavirus crisis have been warned to avoid tax-saving schemes designed to disguise their earnings. HMRC has warned that complex tax arrangements that see staff working via umbrella companies and taking home up to 85% of their pay resemble other disguised remuneration schemes that have seen workers hit by substantial tax bills under the Revenue’s loan charge policy. Dawn Register of BDO comments: “In the taxman’s view they do not work and anyone who enters into them can expect to be subject to investigations and financial penalties.” HMRC has advised staff offered such a scheme to use its online tax calculator to check the level of income tax and National Insurance they should be paying.

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times

CORPORATE NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

Laura Ashley places 1,700 staff on furlough

The administrators of Laura Ashley have made 268 staff redundant and placed 1,669 on furlough, with redundancies across head office and back office functions. All 147 Laura Ashley stores closed last week, with 70 shut following a review of their long-term viability and the rest closed due to COVID-19. Rob Lewis and Zelf Hussain of PwC anticipate reopening all stores for a period of time, either because they form part of the sale of the business or to sell through existing stock. The administrators continue to operate the retailer’s online business, with employees working from home where possible.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3 City AM

SMEs NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

CBI calls for support for medium-sized businesses

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has called for support to be given to “stranded middle” businesses who are not eligible for the Government’s coronavirus relief package. While companies with revenue of less than £45m can turn to the £330bn business interruption loan scheme and large investment grade companies can access the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility bond-buying programme, the CBI warns that a number of firms cannot access either initiative. CBI chief economist Rain Newton-Smith says there are “a lot of distressed businesses that are very big employers around the UK,” adding that a number of medium-sized businesses are going unsupported. “We feel it’s an issue that needs to be addressed at speed and at scale”, she added.

City AM

SMEs pushed toward more expensive loans

The Federation of Small Businesses has warned that some lenders are pushing SMEs seeking to get interest-free loans offered as part of the Chancellor’s COVID-19 support package toward more expensive alternatives that carry large interest rates and other charges. Federation chairman Mike Cherry said: “While the big banks have ruled out the use of personal guarantees where smaller interruption loans are concerned – a very welcome development – there is, at this point, nothing to stop them pushing those inquiring about these loans towards conventional products where personal guarantees are needed, and high interest rates are applied.”

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1

Banks pushed to waive personal guarantees for SME coronavirus loans

Ministers are pushing for an agreement with the banking sector that would mean small companies need not provide personal guarantees to access interest-free loans designed to ease coronavirus-related pressures.

Financial Times, Page: 2

EMPLOYMENT NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

Think-tank: National living wage hike justified

The Learning and Work Institute think-tank says an increase in the minimum wage is right, despite the pressure the coronavirus crisis is putting on employers. As of today the national living wage for those 25 and over increases by 51p to £8.72 an hour. The Resolution Foundation and the Institute for Fiscal Studies have suggested that the increase should be delayed due to the financial stress brought about by the pandemic, with many economists warning an recession is on the cards. However, Joe Dromey of the Learning and Work Institute says that the increase is “the right thing to do”, despite it being “a difficult and uncertain time for employers.” He says: “Employers will have long planned for this pay rise,” adding: “Reversing the increase would deny a pay rise to hundreds of thousands of low paid workers”, including many “who are on the front line in the national effort to tackle the virus .”

The Independent

PROPERTY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

London office investment plunges 74%

The amount spent by property investors on office buildings in London fell by 74% in March amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Just £534m of City and West End office purchases were agreed as travel restrictions made viewings and the signing of deals difficult, according to a study from property agent Avison Young. Around £2.4bn of purchases were agreed in Q1, a 13% decline, according to the research.

Evening Standard

PENSIONS NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

TPR warns of scams during COVID-19 crisis

The Pensions Regulator has warned that pensions savers could be exploited by scams amid the coronavirus crisis, In updated guidance, it said: “Pension trustees should give greater attention to the heightened risk of members being targeted by scammers and unscrupulous financial advisers.” The regulator last week issued guidance to trustees saying that all transfer activity could be halted for three months, with former pensions minister Baroness Ros Altmann among experts who had called for a pause over concern that valuations of pension pots would be inaccurate due to market turbulence caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Daily Telegraph

ECONOMY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

Treasury trebles spending plans

The Treasury has trebled its Budget plans to raise cash from markets in April as it looks to support the economy through the coronavirus pandemic. The Debt Management Office says it will seek to raise £45bn in April – a record cash issuance of UK government bonds. The figure compares with an anticipated £16bn set out at the time of the Budget in March. Former Bank of England deputy governor and member of the Office for Budget Responsibility Sir Charles Bean has suggested Government borrowing could hit the same level as during the financial crisis, saying: “Together with the costs of the measures, the budget deficit could easily top £200bn this year according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. That is nearly 10% of GDP, the same level reached in the Great Recession.”

BBC News

Social distancing measures to hit GDP

Analysis by PwC suggests that, while half of workers can carry out their job from home, social distancing measures designed to slow the spread of coronavirus will contribute to a fall in GDP this year. PwC’s report suggests that at least 11% of the economy will be directly affected by the social distancing measures, which include the closure of pubs, restaurants and a swathe of shops. Jing Teow, senior economist at PwC, said that many businesses will have introduced remote working and “with the right technology more could follow suit, mitigating some of the loss to output and business activity”, but noted that this is “less feasible for sectors that require a physical presence.” For these entities, she added, “making full use of government support such as the job retention scheme will be critical.” While PwC previously forecast economic growth of +1%, this has been revised to between -3% and -7% since the outb reak.

The Times, Page: 40

OTHER NEWS – WEDNESDAY 1ST APRIL 2020

Contactless limit raised to £45

Measures to help tackle coronavirus have seen an increase in the maximum spend for contactless payments fast-tracked. As of today, the limit increases from £30 to £45, although UK Finance says the process of updating software in sale terminals may mean the new limit will not be active across all stores immediately. On the use of contactless payments, KPMG’s Linda Ellett comments: “There are those who aren’t perhaps as adaptive to these new technologies and need to be front of mind.”

Daily Mirror, Page: 2

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward's News Roundup


NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020


NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

NEWS ROUNDUP

CORANAVIRUS (Covid – 19)

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT

Here are the links to the KSK information on Government Support

Government support for business

Support for Business

Support for self-employed

Support for self-employed

Sick pay for employees

Sick pay for employees

Links to useful Gov.UK websites

Coronavirus – Government Support Links

Contact Paul Southward or your usual KSK contact.

TAX NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

Supermarkets boosted by rates exemption, despite surging sales

Research from think-tank Tax Watch UK suggests food retailers are in line for a £3bn tax break at a time when sales are strong due to the coronavirus outbreak and increased demand as shoppers stock up on supplies. It says food retailers will be some of the biggest beneficiaries of a one year exemption from business rates which aims to help companies to survive a nationwide shutdown. George Turner, director of Tax Watch UK, has suggested that with superstores and hypermarkets paying £2.7bn a year in business rates, this money could be used to support distressed businesses, food banks, self-employed workers ineligible for support or charities. Looking at the rate relief, he suggested: “It may be a better idea for the Government to take a more targeted approach, with support being directed towards businesses forced to close, while those that remain open and thrive continue to pay business rates in the normal way.” Dominic Curran, property policy adviser at the British Retail Consortium, commented: “To single these stores out for additional taxes at a time of national crisis would set a terrible precedent.”

The Times, Page: 37

Do you have any queries regarding your tax affairs?

In these unprecedented times there are many who may have queries of how their tax affairs may be impacted.  We can answer all of your queries whether they concern the special Covid-19 support measures, or any other matter.

Don’t forget, the end of the tax year is approaching – time for some year-end planning  

Check out our guide to some of the year-end planning tips here: –

2019 – 2020 Year-end tax planning

Contact Paul Southward:

tax@ksk.co.uk

New rules for capital gains tax reporting on sales of residential properties

Can be found here:

New reporting rules for CGT on residential property

CORPORATE NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

BrightHouse and Carluccio’s enter administration

Carluccio’s has fallen into administration, blaming “challenging trading conditions” exacerbated by the corona virus. Administrator FRP is “urgently looking at options” for the future of the Italian restaurant chain, including mothballing the business using government support, as well as trying to sell all or parts of it. It also confirmed that most of the company’s 2,000 employees will be paid through the Government’s job retention scheme while these options are explored. Meanwhile, rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse has also collapsed into administration, putting 2,400 jobs at risk. Grant Thornton says BrightHouse will not be making new rent-to-own or cash loan deals but added that existing clients should continue to make payments in the usual way. Considering the collapse of BrightHouse and Carluccio’s, Julie Palmer of Begbies Traynor said: “Coronavirus was the final nail in the coffin”.

The Times, Page: 38 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 7 The I, Page: 39 The Independent, Page: 19 The Guardian, Page: 10 Financial Times, Page: 12 Daily Express, Page: 9 The Scotsman, Page: 15

Monsoon mulls sell-off

Monsoon Accessorize, the retail group which runs the Monsoon and Accessorize chains, has hired advisers to assess options, including a potential sale, in a bid to protect the company’s long-term future. It has drafted in FRP Advisory to work on possible scenarios.

Daily Mail, Page: 70 The I, Page: 39 The Sun, Page: 41 Daily Express, Page: 50

Energy suppliers seek backing for bills holiday plan

Electricity and gas suppliers have urged ministers to back a £100m loan scheme to fund payment holidays for those struggling with bills, a move PwC’s Steve Jennings described as “perfectly sensible”.

Financial Times, Page: 12

Blackmore in cash warning

Savings firm Blackmore Bond has warned investors that a property market crunch on the back of the COVID-19 crisis will hit cash flow. Separately, KPMG is to produce a report on the business for bondholders.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1

Jefferies CFO dies of coronavirus complications

Investment bank Jefferies has announced that CFO Peg Broadbent has died from coronavirus complications, with chief executive Rich Handler and president Brian Friedman confirming the news in a joint statement.

Financial Times

SMEs NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

A fifth of SMEs may fold

A report from Be the Business and research firm Opinium suggests one in five SMEs may have to close down permanently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A poll of 500 businesses shows that 7% of small businesses have stopped trading, while a further 12% of respondents are likely to close within a month. Almost a quarter of respondents had made or were planning to make redundancies, while almost 40% expect to close temporarily because of coronavirus. Tony Danker, chief executive of Be the Business, said: “Coronavirus has impacted almost every business in the country and many are finding it difficult to know what to do next.” He added: “Businesses owners we’ve spoken to aren’t just concerned about the financial implications. They are also focusing on the wellbeing of their employees who have been furloughed or are having to work in completely new ways.” James Endersby, chief executive of Opinium, said the coronavirus crisis has forced many businesses into “uncharted territory”, adding: “It’s an unbelievably challenging time for so many, and the Government measures to support businesses are clearly much needed.”

The Times, Page: 40

REGULATION NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

Concern over concessions

The Times’ Patrick Hosking says the decision to suspend the “wrongful trading” rules for directors of companies being rescued or undergoing restructurings is “one of the most eye-catching” of a “slew of concessions proffered to businesses” made in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. He says that the aim of the suspension “looks pragmatic and commendable” – to stop struggling businesses “throwing in the towel prematurely” – but warns that “no one should be in any doubt that these concessions may have serious unintended consequences”, saying the suspension “might backfire if it sows additional doubts about the creditworthiness of business customers generally”. Duncan Swift, president of insolvency industry trade association R3, has “serious concerns” about the suspension of the wrongful trading rules due to the risk of damage to creditor confidence and the danger of abuse by companies which could rack up debts they have no hope of paying.

The Times, Page: 41

PROPERTY NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

Landlords need a reality check over rent

Surveyors have warned that commercial landlords expecting retailers to start paying full rent once a moratorium comes to an end are in need of a “severe reality check”. Knight Frank, which advises retailers and landlords on lettings, said landlords would be “naive in the extreme” to think rental payments will have returned to normal by the next quarter, saying those expecting a double payment in Q2 need “a severe reality check” and adding that “some are in denial as to the depth of the issue.” In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Government has granted tenants a three-month guarantee that they will not be evicted if they delay paying rents.

The Times, Page: 44

INDUSTRY NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

Firms may withhold partner payouts

In an attempt to mitigate the financial impact of coronavirus, the Big Four of KPMG, Deloitte, PwC and EY are reportedly considering withholding partner payouts, as are BDO and Mazars. Such a move is among strategies said to be being considered among accountancy and law firms as they look to preserve cash amidst uncertainty triggered by the coronavirus crisis and forecasts of an economic crash. City AM says it is understood that no decision on partner payments has been taken by Deloitte, with a spokesperson saying: “We’ve been closely monitoring and managing the COVID-19 situation and continue to stay focused on supporting our people and clients and maintaining our economic resilience.”

Daily Mail, Page: 69 Financial Times, Page: 9 City AM, Page: 5

ECONOMY NEWS – TUESDAY 31ST MARCH 2020

52% of Britons expect recession within 12 months

A poll from YouGov shows that 52% of Britons expect the economy to fall into recession within a year due to the coronavirus outbreak. A fifth expect a depression, while just 1% expect the economy to be booming within 12 months. Oliver Rowe, director of reputation research at YouGov, comments: “With unprecedented Government measures to crackdown on the spread of COVID-19 shutting small and large businesses across the country and confining Britons to their homes, it’s unsurprising that consumer confidence has been knocked.” Meanwhile, YouGov’s tracker of consumer confidence has fallen 4.2 points to 103.3, the biggest monthly decline since that seen following the Brexit referendum in 2016. It said the gauge of how households feel about their finances over the coming year fell by more than any previous month on record, slipping 9.9 points to 93. Elsewhere, the Centre for Economics and Business Research has predicted that the coron avirus pandemic will cause UK output to slip 15% in Q2.

City AM The Scotsman

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward's News Roundup