Category Archives: News Roundup




Coranavirus – Support for self-employed

We have posted updated guidance: –



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


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


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


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


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

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Paul Southward's News Roundup





Covid-19: Job Retention Scheme – FAQ

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


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.


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.



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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CORANAVIRUS (Covid – 19)


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.


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:

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

Can be found here:

New reporting rules for CGT on residential property


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


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


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


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


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


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

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Paul Southward's News Roundup





HMRC accepts quality of tax advice must be improved

HMRC has issued a call for evidence on the tax advice market accepting that standards needed to improve following a review into the loan charge. Sir Amyas Morse found that the tactics used by promoters were “reprehensible” – misrepresenting the DOTAS (disclosure of tax avoidance schemes) system to claim that schemes had been approved by HMRC, or providing opinions from Queen’s Counsel suggesting that HMRC would be unsuccessful if they tried to claim the tax. The independent review of the loan charge recommended the Government should improve the market in tax advice, including considering formal regulation, which HMRC has accepted.

Yorkshire Post, Business, Page: 11

New social contract between business and public needed

A report from the Social Market Foundation suggests companies sign up to a new pledge to pay more taxes and to treat workers fairly in exchange for emergency support during the coronavirus crisis or risk a backlash from the public. Those which fail to uphold “standards of good conduct” could be named and shamed and even prohibited from bidding for public contracts, the think tank said. James Kirkup, director of the Social Market Foundation think-tank, explains the proposals in the Times, arguing for a broadening of Section 172 of the Companies Act 2006 to promote more “expansive reporting of how executives promote the interests of employees, suppliers, local communities and wider society.”

The Times, Page: 39 The Times, Page: 41

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:

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

Can be found here:

New reporting rules for CGT on residential property


Working from home? Who’s watching?

The Telegraph runs a piece on how staff working from home may be surveilled by their employers to see if they are working or using their computers for private purposes. The paper notes software firms Time Doctor and Current-Wave as popular monitoring or productivity tools. Time Doctor’s CEO claims KPMG and PwC are among its clients but when approached for comment KPMG said it had no current record of its use, while PwC said it did not use the tool in the UK. Another company popular with firms who have lots of remote workers is Sneek, which came in for flack last year when it emerged that it has the ability to take photos of employees via their laptop webcams every five minutes to share with their team. Separately, a survey conducted by EY found that 41% of business leaders in 45 countries across the world are speeding up plans to automate their businesses as workers are forced to stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 9 Daily Express, Page: 50 The I, Page: 41


Spend savings first, government tell virus jobless

The Department for Work and Pensions confirmed yesterday that people with savings of more than £16,000 will not be eligible to apply for the government’s universal credit scheme. Savings over £12,000 in a Help to Buy ISA will also be considered “capital” under universal credit rules. Anyone with savings over £6,000 will have the amount they are able to claim under universal credit docked. The Resolution Foundation last night called on the government to relax the rules around universal credit and suspend the so-called “capital tests” arguing that this would allow many more better-off families who face steep income losses to get some much-needed support.

The Times, Page: 4

FCA to lead crisis meeting with banks

Chris Woolard, the interim chief executive of the FCA, is to hold a meeting tomorrow with the Bank of England and the heads of the high street banks to figure out how consumers can be helped during the coronavirus crisis. The Times says Woolard will be keen to prove the FCA can move swiftly and ensure bank bosses understand what is expected of them in a national emergency.

The Times City AM


Pubs and restaurants under pressure before COVID-19 hit

A study by UHY Hacker Young found the number of restaurant insolvencies jumped by 10% last year, while the number of pub insolvencies also increased by 10%. Many more insolvencies are likely as a result of the coronavirus shutdown, the firm reports. Peter Kubik, of UHY Hacker Young, said: “Both the pub and restaurant industry feel they need more specific assistance from the Government.” The warning comes as chains such as Carluccio’s and Byron hire insolvency experts to advise on next moves.

Daily Express, Page: 50 The Guardian, Page: 31 The Sun, Page: 9 Daily Mail, Page: 71 The I, Page: 38


Loan defaults threaten £110bn motor finance sector

Nathan Thompson, automotive director at Deloitte, warns that the motor finance trade will have to react quickly to the downturn brought on by the coronavirus crisis as millions who have bought their car through financial products such as personal contract purchase plans (PCPs) find themselves out of work or furloughed on lower pay. “Lenders will need to be flexible including contract extensions, payment deferrals, interim loans and refinancing packages. Some may look to include personalised retention offers for customers coming to the end of their agreement,” says Thompson.

The Times, Page: 43


Bold steps to pump coronavirus rescue funds down the last mile

Agustín Carstens, the general manager of the Bank for International Settlements, proposes a series of measures to pump finance down to businesses, including loans to SMEs equal to the amount of taxes they paid last year.

Financial Times, Page: 23

How UK companies can access state COVID-19 bailout funds

The FT provides guidance on how both small and large UK companies can access funds from the government’s coronavirus aid package and how the state will cover furloughed workers’ wage costs.

Financial Times, Page: 2


UK landlords threaten legal action over non-payment of rent

Retailers and hospitality businesses in the UK are facing legal action from their landlords after many withheld rent to save cash during the coronavirus lockdown.

Financial Times


Deep pain to be followed by rapid bounce back

The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) is predicting a 15% drop in GDP between April and June as the UK reels from the coronavirus crisis. Unemployment is expected to rise to 7% in July to August, from 3.9% in the three months to January. The CEBR also thinks house prices will fall by an average of 13% in the year to next March. However, it believes there will be “a sharp bounce back in the third and fourth quarter of the year” because of the measures put in place by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, leaving the economy down 4% for the year overall.

Daily Mail, Page: 2 The Times, Page: 40

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward's News Roundup






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:



Shake-up of insolvency laws imminent

The government is expected to issue revised insolvency rules this weekend to prevent a slew of company collapses as the coronavirus crisis tears the economy apart. Sources said UK laws could be brought in line with US chapter 11 bankruptcy rules, which enable firms time to pay off their debts over time while remaining in business. Alok Sharma, the business secretary, is expected to amend “wrongful trading” rules, which make it a criminal offence for a company director to keep on trading if they know the business is unable to repay its debts. Roger Barker, head of corporate governance at the Institute of Directors, which has been pushing for changes, said: “A lot of companies will want to carry on and to maintain employment, take out emergency loans with government backing. But if at some future point they could be held personally liable for not putting their firms into insolvency, that may cause them not to carry on. At the current time of emergency we need as many companies as possible to keep going, providing employment and providing goods and services to keep the economy going.”

The Guardian, Page: 7

New guidance for AGMs released

The Financial Reporting Council, the Chartered Governance Institute and a raft of City law firms have published guidance for company annual meetings amidst the coronavirus crisis. Meetings can still go ahead even while the ban on gatherings applies. AGMs can be held with a bare quorum and attendees can travel to the venue because it is “essential” for work, the advice states.

The I, Page: 72


UK to change insolvency rules to protect businesses

The UK government has confirmed that it is to change insolvency rules so businesses unable to meet debts due to the impact of coronavirus are not forced to file for bankruptcy. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the suspension of the rules would allow companies to “emerge intact the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic”. Mr Sharma added that the wrongful trading law would also be temporarily lifted so company directors would not be personally liable for their decisions during the pandemic. Although business groups welcomed the move, R3, the trade association for the UK’s insolvency industry, believes the rule change could be open to abuse. Mr Sharma also announced that red tape would be removed to allow new producers of hand sanitiser to bring products to market “in a matter of days”.

Financial Times BBC News The Sunday Times The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 3 Sunday Express, Page: 6



Two million self ? employed could be excluded from coronavirus bailout

Tory MP David Davis has criticised the Chancellor’s decision to tie future tax hikes with the bailout for the self-employed saying it was wrong to treat the £3bn package to protect them during the Covid-19 pandemic as a “trade-off” for higher taxes. Mr Davis welcomed the Chancellor’s relief for self-employed workers, but added: “Subsidising all parts of the economy while expecting increased repayment from a single sector is not fair.” Rishi Sunak said on Thursday that self-employed workers would be able to claim a government grant of 80% of their profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month to cope with the effect of the virus on their livelihoods. The scheme will be open to those with trading profits of up to £50,000 a year and those who earn the “majority” of their income from self-employment. However, as many as 2m people registered as self-employed could miss out on the scheme, including those who became self-employed after the start of the tax year on April 5, those who made too little money to pay tax, and about one million contractors who work through limited companies. Accountants at Blick Rothenberg point out that a single mother earning £51,000 will re ceive nothing, while a couple with two earners on £49,000 each will be eligible to two lots of support.

Daily Mail, Page: 16 The Times, Page: 2 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 34 Financial Times, Money, Page: 6 The Times, Page: 59

Key workers allowed to carry over holiday

NHS workers, supermarket staff, police and delivery drivers and other key workers who are unable to take their annual holiday entitlement because of the coronavirus crisis will be able to carry it over into the next two years. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said rules will be relaxed to help key industries remain well-staffed as the UK battles the outbreak. The changes will amend the Working Time Regulations, which apply to almost all workers including agency workers, those who work irregular hours and workers on zero-hours contracts.

BBC News The Daily Telegraph The Times, Page: 2


Unemployment in Britain set to double

The coronavirus pandemic could lead to a doubling of unemployment at least, economists have warned, with the rise in joblessness in the second quarter expected to be even sharper than during the financial crisis in 2008. Investment bank Nomura forecasts a rise to 8.5% in Q3, equivalent to an additional 1.4m people unemployed and a total jobless level of 2.75m.

The Sunday Times, Business, Page: 1



CBI Scotland in rates call

CBI Scotland has urged the Scottish Government to make more firms exempt from business rates to help combat the economic shock caused by the coronavirus outbreak. It follows a report from the CEBR which warned the economic impact of the pandemic would be worse in Scotland than the rest of the UK. It shows that Scotland’s GDP could drop -17% in the next quarter, and decline by between 5% and 6% this year.

The Sunday Times



Virgin Atlantic set to ask for state aid

Virgin Atlantic is expected to ask for a government bailout worth hundreds of millions of pounds in the coming days, with other airlines also expected to request state aid. The Transport Secretary told MPs he can’t rule out the state taking an ownership stake in UK airlines, but that current shareholders “must be part of the solution”. Elsewhere, aviation services company John Menzies has reduced its workforce by 17,500 worldwide and said it could no longer give financial guidance for this year. The company is attempting to secure emergency government funding to deal with the impact of Covid-19.

Financial Times, Page: 18 BBC News The Times, Page: 52

BrightHouse close to collapse

Rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse is on the verge of collapsing, putting 2,400 jobs at risk. BrightHouse is to appoint Grant Thornton as administrator within days after facing a dramatic surge of compensation claims for selling to people who could not repay. Stricter lending rules had put the business under strain long before shops were closed owing to coronavirus.

BBC News Sky News The Times, Page: 54 The I, Page: 72

Carluccio’s considering insolvency options as coronavirus bites

Italian casual dining chain Carluccio’s has appointed FRP Advisory to look at insolvency options after it was forced to close its restaurants as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Carluccio’s has more than 70 restaurants across the UK but closed around 35 sites last year as part of a CVA.

Financial Times, Page: 18 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 35 The Times, Page: 52 The Guardian, Page: 45 Daily Mail, Page: 17

US investor eyes Laura Ashley

US retail company Authentic Brands has made an offer to buy the Laura Ashley brand out of administration, according to reports. The British retailer hired PwC to find a buyer after collapsing last week, putting 2,700 jobs at risk.

The I, Page: 72


Casual dining sector in freefall

The Restaurant Group, which owns Wagamama, Frankie & Benny’s and Garfunkel’s, has been forced to shelve a £500m debt restructuring as credit markets dry up. The Group appointed RSM last week as administrators to pub business Food & Fuel and is now exploring other options to raise money. Casual Dining Group, which owns high street chains such as Bella Italia and Café Rouge, is also seen by analysts as being vulnerable. Fears for the sector are growing as more companies fold. Chiquito’s and Carluccio’s have both lined up administrators.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Mail on Sunday, Page: 95

Arcadia to suspend pension payments

Arcadia Group, the empire run by retail mogul Sir Phillip Green, is to suspend pension scheme payments. The move has the agreement of trustees and has been done in an effort to preserve cash in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 1

Talks over nationalising Flybe

Flybe administrator EY is in talks with the government about nationalising the regional airline, which collapsed on March 5th after failing to secure a state bail-out.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 1



Treasury to cover employer pension payments for furloughed staff

The government is to cover the employer national insurance and minimum auto-enrolment pension scheme contributions on the wages they pay staff furloughed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Treasury says the extra cover could save firms £300 a month per employee.

BBC News


Pensions schemes face depleted assets, higher liabilities, and less cash

Pensions experts are warning that companies funding defined benefit schemes in the UK have faced a “triple whammy” of cuts to asset values while liabilities increase due to interest rate cuts and quantitative easing, all while businesses run out of cash for day-to-day running let alone pension contributions. Sources tell the Sunday Telegraph that for most pension funds the combination of falling assets and rising liabilities means they are 10% to 15% further from being fully funded than at the turn of the year. At the end of last week, the Pensions Regulator said trustees can grant contribution holidays for up to three months while companies seek longer-term solutions and promised further updates to help companies battling to stay afloat.

The Sunday Telegraph

Experts call for ban on final salary pension transfers

Baroness Altmann, the former pensions minister, has called for a temporary ban on transfers out of final salary or “defined benefit” pension schemes, warning that any valuations would be “unreliable”. She said: “In the current market turmoil, it is impossible for trustees of pension schemes to be sure of the underlying value of a pension.” However, James Baxter of Tideway Investment Group said a ban on transfers would be an “overreaction” and “ill-informed”. It is in the best interest of some people to transfer and invest in a market where stocks are cheap, he said.

The Sunday Telegraph



Complaints persist of unhelpful banks

Some companies have just six or eight weeks of cash reserves left, warns Caroline Stockman, the chief executive of the Association of Corporate Treasurers, as banks continue to face criticism over their provision of emergency state-backed loans. Mike Cherry, the chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “It feels like the information has been handed over to those at the top and is yet to filter down to relationship managers.” Meanwhile, Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest’s efforts have both been thwarted by India’s lockdown with teams there told to stay at home. The Sunday Telegraph’s Lucy Burton talks to businesses that have had swift service from banks, and those who have been told that the schemes do not even exist.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 5

Funding collapses for start-ups

The Enterprise Investment Scheme Association has revealed that overall funding for start-ups through the tax-efficient enterprise investment scheme (EIS) has fallen by 70% since the coronavirus lockdown has been in place. “Start-ups are in freefall as there is no debt or equity support,” said Jasper Smith of Vala Capital, an EIS investor. “If we want the foundation for a recovery to be there after the virus, action has to be taken now.”

The Sunday Times, Business, Page: 1

Insurers to discuss pandemic cover

The Association of British Insurers is set to hold talks with the government about the creation of a state-backed insurance scheme for small businesses to protect them should another catastrophic pandemic occur.

The Mail on Sunday, Page: 95



Virus fears lead to £4bn of dividends being scrapped or deferred

Analysis by online investing platform AJ Bell shows £4.2bn of dividends have been axed or deferred so far this month as hundreds of companies across the economy show prudence in the face of the massive and unpredictable disruption caused by the coronavirus.

Daily Mail, Page: 92

Stocks fall following three-day rally

Major indices in Europe and the United States fell on Friday following a three-day rally. The FTSE 100 in London closed the day 5.3% lower at 5,510 while the CAC in France lost 4.2% and the German DAX was 3.7% off. The Dow was down 4.06% while the S&P 500 shed 3.37% and the Nasdaq finished 3.79% lower.

Sky News CNBC Yahoo! Finance



Insolvency specialist accused

R3 president Duncan Swift is a defendant in a court case where he is alleged to have taken a £30k bung to rig a property sale in favour of Geoffrey Guy, the millionaire founder of GW Pharmaceuticals. Swift is an insolvency specialist and a partner at Moore UK. A spokesman for the accountancy firm said the accusers had an obvious financial interest in making claims about Mr Swift and had done so only after he gave evidence linking them to an unlawful £2m gift.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 1

Contact Paul Southward.

Paul Southward's News Roundup





Sunak reveals financial support package for self-employed

The Chancellor has announced that self-employed workers can apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly profits – up to a maximum of £2,500 a month – to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus. Rishi Sunak said the cash will be paid in a single lump sum, but will not begin to arrive until the start of June at the earliest, due to the complexity of the scheme. The Chancellor has been warned the delay could see millions left unemployed. The scheme will only be open to those with trading profits of up to £50,000 a year, covering 95% of those who earn the majority of their money from self-employment. Mr Sunak said that the 5% who are not covered by the scheme will have an average income of about £200,000 a year.

Financial Times, Page: 1 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 BBC News The Times, Page: 6 The Guardian, Page: 6, 7 Daily Mail, Page: 6 City AM The Sun, Page: 10 Yorkshire Post, Page: 1 The Scotsman, Page: 1, 4-5


Claim a grant through the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme

Use this scheme if you’re self-employed or a member of a partnership and have lost income due to coronavirus.

Covid-19: Support for self-employed

Covid-19: Support for Businesses

Covid-19: Support for Businesses


Unfortunately, there are people that will try to take advantage of the current situation, please be extra vigilant if you receive any communication, and never give out personal information.  Stay safe!

Self-employed to pay more tax after state bailout

Rishi Sunak has warned that the tax treatment of the self-employed would have to change when the COVID-19 crisis is over. After announcing the coronavirus support package for contractors the Chancellor said: “I must be honest and say that in devising this scheme in response to many calls for support, it is now much harder to justify the inconsistent contribution between people of different employment statuses. If we all want to benefit equally from state support, we must all pay in equally in future.” Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, praised the “hugely ambitious” package but said: “Now is not the time to be talking about major long-term structural reform of the tax system.” But the Resolution Foundation put the cost of the latest support scheme at £10bn and said a review of the tax disparity was “long overdue”.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2, 3 Daily Mail, Page: 8


FRC issues COVID-19 guidance

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Financial Reporting Council (FRC) and Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) have announced a series of actions to ensure that information continues to flow to investors and to support the continued functioning of the UK’s capital markets. London-listed companies will now be permitted an extra two months to publish their audited annual reports, giving them six months from their financial year end, rather than the usual four. The FRC has published guidance for companies preparing financial statements and a bulletin for auditors covering factors to be taken into account when carrying out audits during the current COVID-19 crisis. Because of the “unprecedented level of uncertainty”, more companies would have to qualify their “going concern” statements, it said. Auditors have also been asked to be more sceptical before signing off “going concern” verdicts. David Rule, Executive Director of Supervision on at the FRC, said: “The current COVID-19 pandemic presents very real difficulties to companies and their auditors. The package of measures is designed to give both the ability to consider the impact of COVID-19 more comprehensively in the light of government and other responses and provide markets and investors with the information they need to make informed decisions.” Hemione Hudson, head of audit at PwC, welcomed the changes. “Company directors and auditors will all need to perform more work on going concern judgments, and there is a greater likelihood of modifications to audit opinions during this period of disruption,” she said. The FCA also called on investors and other market participants not to draw “undue adverse inferences” from companies that chose to take advantage of the new rules and delay reporting: “For a great many companies it will be a sensible decision to make in unprecedented times.” The PRA told banks to take “well-balanced decisions” when assessing covenant breaches on loans by businesses. Banks should differentiate between “normal” breaches and those occurring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the regulator said.

Financial Reporting Council Financial Conduct Authority Accountancy Daily Reuters New York Times Financial Times, Page: 3 City AM The Times, Page: 45 The Times, Page: 45 Yorkshire Post, Page: 12

Beancounters, bankers and investors mustn’t sweat the small stuff

The FT’s Cat Rutter Pooley says auditors, directors and shareholders will need to take a “lighter touch” to ensure minimal damage to companies during this crisis, arguing that regulators are united behind them.

Financial Times, Page: 12

Goodwill hunting: accountants in the spotlight

Goodwill in accounting – an intangible asset that is recorded when a buyer acquires a business – has risen up the political agenda in the profession, on both sides of the Atlantic. The London-based International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) was in the spotlight for a time, in the wake of high-profile collapses such as Carillion, with goodwill inaccurately blamed as the basis for such failures, while in the U.S. goodwill has become a priority at the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), due to prominent cases involving GE and Kraft Heinz. In a piece for City AM Mohini Singh, director of financial reporting policy at the CFA Institute, says that one solution, the gradual writing-off of goodwill, will only artificially improve ratios, such as return on assets over the amortisation period. She argues that “delayed write-downs by poor management at several high-profile companies, or in connection with high-profiile corporate failures, should not be seen as widespread evidence of the need to replace impairment with amortisation of goodwill”.

City AM


UK banks pressured to relax bailout loans rules

The government has chided banks for requiring borrowers to provide personal guarantees in order to access new emergency loans backed by the state with Downing Street declaring that no lender was allowed to “take a guarantee against the borrower’s home … We will take all action necessary to ensure that the benefits of the measures are passed on.” But one banker said, “the scheme design obliges us to follow normal credit procedures. They need to rethink it.” Yesterday, Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds Banking Group, Virgin Money and HSBC said they would not ask customers for personal guarantees on loans up to £250,000, but larger loans could require security which may include personal guarantees. Meanwhile, the Chancellor has promised a “workaround” for businesses too small to have an investment grade rating and too big to qualify for the SME-focused scheme.

Financial Times, Page: 2 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Times, Page: 44 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2 Daily Mail, Page: 10

Small business alarm drives steep fall in employer confidence

The latest jobs report from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) shows small businesses are most concerned about the economy as the coronavirus crisis rumbles on. A fall in sentiment among small businesses drove employer confidence down 22 percentage points in March to a net figure of -23%. Neil Carberry, REC chief executive, said: “It’s no surprise that this global pandemic has caused the UK’s labour market to stall…When the storm passes we will bounce back, and quickly.”

The Times, Page: 38

Blackstone promises arches firms rent holiday

Private equity giant Blackstone has agreed to give small businesses renting properties in railway arches a three-month rent holiday, rather than a deferral for three months – a position the firm had been criticised for. The Arch Company, which manages the portfolio on behalf of Blackstone and another investor, Telereal Trillium, said a £10m hardship fund would be used to cover the cost.

The Times, Page: 43


Banks call for freeze on UK housing market

Government ministers are in talks with banks about instituting a full suspension of the housing market after ministers told buyers and sellers to delay transactions because of the coronavirus outbreak. Industry group UK Finance said it had been seeking “urgent clarification from the Government about whether home purchases should continue at the current time, particularly as physical property valuations are no longer possible.” Additionally, UK Finance announced that banks would grant homebuyers who have exchanged contracts the option of the three-month extension to their mortgage offer.

Financial Times The Daily Telegraph The Times Daily Mail

Property companies need debt holiday to survive

Landlords are calling on the government to waive their debt commitments to help them navigate the three-month rent moratorium given to tenants. All commercial property tenants have been allowed to defer rent payments for a quarter without risk of eviction. But Andy Pyle, head of real estate at KPMG, said that had put property companies “under increased pressure to pay interest on their loans” and some risk default. Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said that property owners were “facing the impacts of coronavirus on their own businesses and will need further support if they are going to help as many businesses as possible come through the next few weeks”.

The Times, Page: 43


Industry responds to FCA delay of DB rules

The Financial Conduct Authority’s decision to delay publishing new rules on contingent charging has received a mixed response. Steven Cameron, pensions director at Aegon, welcomed the regulator’s decision to delay its policy statement on reforms to the defined benefit pension transfer market. But Clive Harrison, partner at LCP, said delays to pension transfer rules could jeopardise pension scheme members in the current coronavirus lockdown.

FT Adviser

Pension income falls

Data published by the Department for Work and Pensions shows the average weekly income from pensions has continued to fall as numbers of defined benefit pensions dwindle. In 2018-19, the average income from occupational pensions received by individuals who have reached state pension age was £181, down 10% from £199 in 2016-17. The DWP also found over the past three years the average income from personal pensions received by individuals who have reached state pension age has fallen by 43%, from £30 per week in 2016-17 to £17 in 2018-19.

FT Adviser


Bank of England warns of ‘very sharp’ economic downturn

The Bank of England warned on Thursday that the UK economy would suffer “a very sharp reduction in activity” as the coronavirus outbreak forces businesses to close and sharply reduces consumer spending. Leaving interest rates on hold at the lowest levels in its 325-year history, the Bank said long-term damage to employment and growth was likely as the government steps up its efforts to contain the disease. The Monetary Policy Committee pledged to take whatever steps necessary to prevent disorderly financial markets amplifying the downturn as it warned of longer-term damage to the economy. The bank also published its business condition report, in which the economic situation was described by many of its regional agents as “being worse than the financial crisis in 2008”.

Financial Times The Times, Page: 39 The Times City AM

Consumer confidence in UK plunges

Consumer sentiment dropped 29 points to minus 26 between December last year and this March, the sharpest quarterly fall in more than 10 years, according to a survey by PwC. However it is higher than the minus 51 recorded in October 2008, indicating that stimulus measures are paying off. Lisa Hooker, Consumer Markets leader at PwC, said: “Despite the magnitude of the challenges facing the country, government intervention in the past week does seem to have cushioned the blow for many families […] The question is whether this will be enough to hold up consumer sentiment should the current lockdown measures last longer than expected.”

City AM

IFS predicts £200bn deficit

New analysis from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) project that the national deficit could rise to £200bn or more next year – far higher than the £158bn seen in 2009 and four times the amount forecast by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) two weeks ago.

The Times, Page: 7

Contact Paul Southward or your usual KSK contact.  Please note the new temporary number for contacting our Luton and/or our Letchworth offices.

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Paul Southward's News Roundup





Sunak to reveal package for self-employed workers

The chancellor Rishi Sunak will today announce a scheme to compensate over 2m self-employed workers whose income has been decimated by the coronavirus outbreak. The prime minister Boris Johnson yesterday pledged to give the self-employed “parity of support” with those who are employed, although a spokesman later clarified that this does not mean they would get the same deal. The Telegraph suggests fraud checks could be conducted by HMRC due to the “complex” nature of different types of self-employment which could leave the scheme open to abuse. Meanwhile, nearly half a million people have registered universal credit claims in the last nine days after losing their jobs or seeing a drop in wages due to the coronavirus crisis.  Keep checking our Recent News page for full updates – Keens Shay Keens Ltd

The Times, Page: 2 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 Financial Times, Page: 2 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Guardian, Page: 1, 4-5 The Independent, Page: 8 Daily Mail, Page: 18

Living wage increase should be delayed, thinktank says

The planned increase in the national living wage should be delayed to prevent embattled businesses from laying off workers during the coronavirus crisis, according to a thinktank. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said the proposed above-inflation increase threatened jobs and the rate might even need to be cut during the emergency. IFS researcher Tom Waters suggested that the government might ask the Low Pay Commission for advice on whether there could even be a case for a temporary cut in minimum wages – mirroring the temporary increase in wages in policies announced last week by Rishi Sunak to keep people in work.

The Times, Page: 36 The Guardian

Unemployment rate to hit 6% but 900,000 jobs will be saved

Capital Economics predicts that 700,000 jobs could be lost should the UK economy shrink by 15% in the three months to June due to the coronavirus crisis. However, the measures taken by the government will have saved 900,000 jobs.

The Times


Banks told to do more to help struggling companies

The Chancellor, the governor of the Bank of England and the CEO of the Financial Conduct Authority have written to banks in the UK urging them to do more to save struggling businesses from collapse. Rishi Sunak, Andrew Bailey and Chris Woolard also told lenders not to damage customers’ credit ratings if they exceeded overdraft limits or missed loan repayments. The letter was an intervention welcomed by Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Business, who said businesses had been telling the FSB that banks had not been as cooperative as they should be. Banks are also under pressure to revisit the terms of emergency coronavirus loans after lenders including Barclays and HSBC were reportedly asking some directors to sign personal guarantees, as well as to pledge business assets as security. Royal Bank of Scotland has pledged to not ask for personal guarantees to secure the loans.

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times The Times, Page: 35

Blackstone’s refusal to waive rents comes under fire

Blackstone is refusing to waive rents for tenants forced to shut owing to the coronavirus lockdown, leading to accusations that the private equity giant is putting thousands of small businesses in the UK at risk.

Financial Times, Page: 12 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3


UK eyes insolvency law reforms

The BEIS is looking to rapidly reform insolvency rules so businesses unable to meet debts due to the impact of coronavirus are not automatically forced to file for bankruptcy. The Institute of Directors has called for a moratorium on the offence of wrongful trading and a temporary suspension of the ability of creditors to present winding-up petitions. Jonathan Geldart, its director-general, said: “Directors are facing unprecedented challenges and need to see urgent temporary measures to avert entirely preventable corporate collapses. We’re calling on government to prioritise jobs and business survival by relaxing existing insolvency obligations put on directors. We should not allow a single viable business to go to the wall.”

Financial Times, Page: 3 The Times, Page: 43 City AM, Page: 1


Accountancy firms plead for rules respite because of coronavirus

Unprecedented challenges thrown up by the coronavirus outbreak have spurred accountancy firms to ask the Financial Reporting Council for the temporary revision of a range of rules, particularly stock checks and accounts filing deadlines.

Financial Times, Page: 12


Coronavirus set to halt rise in house prices

Howard Archer, chief economic adviser to the EY Item Club, has warned that the coronavirus outbreak will bring UK house prices to a “juddering halt” in the coming months. He was speaking after data from the ONS showed that UK house prices fell by 1.1% between December and January, although they were up 1.3% on the previous year. Meanwhile, demand from UK property buyers dropped by two-fifths last week, according to property website Zoopla, which predicts a decline of 60% in the number of sales over the next three months.

City AM Financial Times The Times Daily Express, Page: 49

Chancellor agrees extension of rates holiday to more businesses

Rishi Sunak announced that bingo halls will not pay any business rates for a year after the Bingo Association warned that the future of Britain’s 343 halls was under threat following the shutdown. Estate agents and letting agents have also been exempt.

The Times, Page: 42 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 7


Hundreds of thousands of retail jobs under threat

The Centre for Retail Research (CRR) predicts that 20,620 shops will close permanently this year, with the loss of 235,714 jobs, as the coronavirus breaks the backs of already struggling retailers. Restructuring experts expect many big names to leave thousands of stores closed even after the COVID-19 disaster passes.

The Times, Page: 2


Falling petrol prices push inflation down

The collapse in global oil prices, resulting in steep falls in the price of petrol and diesel at the pumps, combined with a 0.5% fall in costs for manufacturers, has seen inflation in the UK fall from 1.8% in January to 1.7% last month. Samuel Tombs, of Pantheon Macroeconomics, predicts a drop to well below 1% over the summer. Howard Archer, chief economic adviser at EY Item Club, added: “The recent plunge in oil prices to a 16-year low will bring inflation down, along with sharply weakened economic activity in the near term at least.”

The Daily Telegraph The Scotsman, Page: 35


Marketing bosses jailed for £5m fraud

Gareth Donald Onions and David Ronald Webb, the bosses of a Midland marketing company, have been jailed after cheating HMRC out of £2.6m and £1.6m respectively by repeatedly closing their operating company before purchasing the assets again.

The Birmingham Post, Page: 13

Contact Paul Southward.






Government’s coronavirus plan: Case-by-case mitigation over tax

The Government has published a 28-page coronavirus action plan warning that workplaces could have one in five of their staff off sick at any one time. The Prime Minister’s action plan states: “In a stretching scenario, it is possible that up to one fifth of employees may be absent from work during peak weeks. This may vary for individual businesses.” In a bid to support businesses there will be a “case-by-case” mitigation for small firms unable to pay their taxes or other duties due to cash flow issues. This will be run through HMRC’s “Time to Pay” system.

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times The Times, Page: 39 The Independent, Page: 3 Daily Express

High street calls for reform of business rates

Retail businesses and lobby groups have written to the Chancellor ahead of his first Budget, calling for an urgent review of a business rates system that British Chambers of Commerce director-general Adam Marshall describes as “broken”. Mr Marshall added: “It’s time for the Government to deliver on its manifesto pledge to review and reduce business rates so firms can invest in their people and prospects instead.” Traditional retailers say they shoulder an unfairly high burden from business rates, which are based on a property’s estimated value, with online rivals paying lower rates as they operate from vast out-of-town warehouses. The letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak was signed by representatives of groups including the British Chambers of Commerce, the Federation of Small Business and the British Retail Consortium.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3 Daily Mail, Page: 70 Financial Times, Page: 2

Government confirms 2020/2021 van and car benefit fuel charges

In a Written Ministerial Statement, Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman, has confirmed details of van and fuel benefits charges, which will take effect from 6 April 2020.

The van benefit charge and fuel benefit charges for cars and vans will be uprated by the Consumer Price Index from 6 April 2020. The uprate will take effect as follows:

  • the van benefit charge will uprate from £3,430 to £3,490;
  • the car fuel benefit charge multiplier will uprate from £24,100 to £24,500; and
  • the van fuel benefit charge will uprate from £655 to £666.

The Government will lay the statutory instrument to uprate these charges before Parliament.


HMRC investigations into footballer tax affairs reaches record level

A record number of footballers, clubs and agents in England are being investigated over tax payments. HMRC is investigating the tax affairs of 330 footballers, 55 clubs and 80 agents, up from 173 players, 40 clubs and 38 agents in January 2019. The department said it expected “more compliance than previous years” after its “proactive handling of tax risks”.

BBC News

BCC to call for business rate rethink

Dr Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), will today call on ministers to deliver a cut in business rates. He will use the BCC’s annual conference in London to say the Government “must stop tinkering around the edges and finally tackle the drag anchor of business rates, which undermine investment and risk-taking and suffocate our high streets.”

The Independent, Page: 51

Chancellor urged to scrap entrepreneurs’ relief

The Guardian calls on the Chancellor to use his Budget to scrap entrepreneurs’ relief, saying that while Treasury officials originally costed it at £200m a year, it “now sucks an annual £2.7bn from the public purse” – and what the public gets for that is “highly debatable”. It notes that the Resolution Foundation calls it “the worst tax break” in the UK and points to Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis showing that three-quarters of the relief benefited just 5,000 individuals.

The Guardian, Journal, Page: 2



More fraudsters pose as the taxman

Figures reveal an increase in the number of fraud attempts where criminals pose as the taxman, with more than 1.5m fake emails, calls and texts recorded in the last two years. The number of phone scams reported to HMRC jumped from 58,538 in 2018 to 195,720 last year, and while email-focused fraud attempts dipped from 841,805 to 333,857, the number of fraudsters using text messages in an effort to con victims rose from 36,950 to 57,579.

Daily Mirror



Chinese group confirms British Steel takeover

Chinese firm Jingye Group has confirmed plans to invest £1.2bn in British Steel, which collapsed in May last year. A spokesperson for the Chinese company, which will pay approximately £70m to buy British Steel, said the deal was due to be completed on March 9. The Mail says EY has reportedly been making £1m a week for running British Steel on behalf of the Official Receiver.

BBC News Financial Times, Page: 17 The Times, Page: 42 Daily Mail, Page: 73 The Guardian, Page: 33 The Sun, Page: 43


Flybe faces collapse

Airline Flybe is on the brink of collapse after a bid for fresh financial support failed. The airline, which had been hoping for a £100m state lifeline and changes to Air Passenger Duty taxes, narrowly avoided going bust in January. As part of a rescue deal at that point, it agreed an arrangement to defer tax payments of “less than £10m” with HMRC. Sky News reports that EY staff have been sent to airports across the UK where Flybe has bases in anticipation of it going bust, with insolvency laws saying airlines in administration must immediately ground all aircraft.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1 The Times, Page: 7 The Guardian, Page: 10 The I, Page: 40 Daily Mirror, Page: 6 Daily Express, Page: 45 The Sun, Page: 47 BBC News

Firm rescued

Metal forging specialist George Dyke has been rescued out of administration, having been snapped up by RB Forgings (UK). Raj Mittal and Tony Barrell, from FRP Advisory, were appointed joint administrators at the end of January after the firm faced severe cash flow issues.

The Birmingham Post, Page: 61



2020 set to see record start-ups

Research from financial management firm Intuit QuickBooks suggests 2020 could see a record number of new start-ups, with 1.8m people planning on launching a business. If they all do so, it would mark a 30% increase on the 1.4m new limited company and self-employed registrations recorded in 2019. Chris Evans, vice president and UK country manager at Intuit QuickBooks, said: “Our research shows there’s optimism across the country … particularly for those keen to either start or grow their own business.”

Daily Mirror, Page: 33


Bailey: BoE will need to support firms

Addressing MPs on the Treasury Select Committee, incoming Bank of England (BoE) governor Andrew Bailey has said the Bank would need to play a role in providing finance for firms who are impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, saying: “It’s reasonable to expect we are going to collectively have to supply some supply chain finance in the not too distant future to ensure the shocks from the virus are not damaging to many firms … in particular to small firms.” Philip Aldrick in the Times looks at measures that may help protect small firms from the threats posed by the outbreak, with EY head of tax Chris Sanger saying Britain could use “time to pay” guidance to allow businesses to roll up tax bills and pay them late, with it suggested business rates could be deferred for six months.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 4 The Guardian The Independent The Times, Page: 38

MPs and SMEs concerned over fuel hike

With Chancellor Rishi Sunak potentially set to deliver the first fuel duty rise in ten years in the Budget, the Federation of Small Business has warned of the impact on SMEs. Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Nine in ten small business owners say cars or vans are crucial to their firm’s success. They already pay more than 50p in tax for every litre of fuel … Raising that further would hurt millions.” He added: “Not every small business has the luxury of being based in a big city with lots of transport options. Many simply have to use local roads to get around.” His comments came after 53 Conservative MPs wrote to Mr Sunak to voice concern at the prospect of overturning an election pledge not to hike fuel duty.

The Sun, Page: 2



Coronavirus may delay audits

The Financial Reporting Council says it will deal with requests to delay company audits due to the coronavirus outbreak pragmatically and sympathetically, adding it is “plausible” it will face such requests.

The I, Page: 41



Buying activity slows property fund outflows

Property funds are enjoying their best performance since September last year, according to Calastone’s Fund Flows Index, as net outflows slowed to just £18m in February – down from £80m in January. The reduction was caused by an increase in buying activity, as selling activity remained close to the 16-month low experienced in January, marking the seventeenth consecutive month of outflows.

City AM



TPR launches consultation on new DB rules

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) yesterday launched a consultation on tougher new rules on the funding of defined benefit pension schemes, with the regulator proposing a twin-track approach that would see trustees able to choose either a fast track or a bespoke approach to completing and submitting a valuation of their scheme. Those that can demonstrate their valuation meets TPR’s guidelines can follow the fast track approach, while the bespoke path requires greater supporting evidence on how they will manage risk and may attract greater regulatory scrutiny, but will be more flexible.

City AM



Study shows minimum wage hike did not harm jobs

The Low Pay Commission has concluded that increases in the minimum wage have not resulted in a cut in jobs or higher prices for consumers. The research by the Government’s low-pay watchdog found that employers tended to absorb higher costs from the increase in the pay floor “through a reduction in profits”. The report says: “The labour market for National Living Wage (NLW) workers is generally positive. There has been stronger employment growth for groups of workers who are more likely to be paid the NLW”. The commission has recommended an even faster rise in the minimum wage for 2020, which it said would be “the largest cash rise” in the history of the policy.

The Independent

National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage – update

NMW & NLW updates


Coronavirus sick pay boost

Statutory sick pay is to be made available from the first day of illness under emergency legislation to help tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We will take every step that we can to ensure that businesses are protected, that the economy remains strong and that no-one, whether employed or self-employed, whatever the status of their employment, is penalised for doing the right thing”. Current laws dictate workers are not entitled to minimum statutory sick pay of £94.25 a week until they have taken four or more days in a row off work.

City AM Evening Standard

London lags for female staff

PwC ’s Women in Work Index says London is the worst UK region for female staff, pointing to poor female labour force participation and a high female unemployment rate. The south-west of England took the top spot, with Northern Ireland and Wales taking second and third places, respectively. The PwC report also suggests female staff in the technology sector are continually side-lined from technical roles into more admin-focused positions. The index shows that, across G7 countries, 30% of the tech workforce are women. The UK ranks 16th for female representation, with Iceland, Sweden and Slovenia taking the top three slots.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 7 City AM, Page: 9 The Scotsman, Page: 35 Yorkshire Post, Business, Page: 10



Coronavirus prompts US rate cut

The US central bank has cut interest rates in response to concerns over the economic impact of the coronavirus. The Fed lowered the benchmark rate by 50 basis points to a range of 1% to 1.25%. With shares falling as the cut seemingly spooked investors worried about the outbreak, George Lagarias at Mazars commented: “Rate cuts don’t stop viruses or mitigate demand and supply damage.”

BBC News Financial Times Daily Mail, Page: 70 The Independent



Carney: Policymaker response to coronavirus ‘powerful and timely’

Bank of England (BoE) governor Mark Carney says policymakers around the world are working on a “powerful and timely” response to the potential economic hit from the coronavirus. With the outbreak prompting fears of a global recession, Mr Carney said the lines of communication between central banks are “wide open”, adding that it is “reasonable to expect a response that reflects a combination of fiscal measures and central bank initiatives.” Comparing the potential economic damage to that seen in the financial crisis, Mr Carney said: “The 2007-2008 crisis caused some lasting scarring effects on the economy. The prospect with this situation is that we will have disruption, not destruction.” On the shock coronavirus may have on the UK economy, he suggested it could be “large but temporary”. Meanwhile, Mr Carney has suggested the BoE would be prepared to cut interest rates and let banks use “rainy day” funds to soften the impact of the outbreak on the economy.

Reuters Financial Times


Exports dip amid coronavirus worries

Coronavirus is starting to hit the UK economy, with exports to Asia dipping in February. The IHS Markit/CIPS export index was down last month, from 50.4 to 47.7 on an index where a score of above 50 indicates growth on the month and a figure below 50 shows contraction. Growth in the services sector, which accounts for four-fifths of private sector activity, slowed slightly as the PMI slipped from 53.9 to 53.2. The all-sector PMI rose to 53 in February, up from 52.8 in January to its highest level since September 2018. Chris Williamson at IHS Markit said that survey data suggested the British economy will grow by 0.2% in the first three months of this year, after stagnating at the end of 2019, but warned that a downturn could be on the cards, saying: “Whether this expansion can be sustained in coming months is starting to look increasingly at risk.” “The survey data leaves policymakers juggling between current signs of both improved economic growth and rising prices, while risks to the outlook have clearly intensified,” he added.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 4 The Times, Page: 40 Daily Mail, Page: 82 The Independent, Page: 55 Daily Express, Page : 45 The Sun, Page: 47



Wall-sized TVs on the way?

Analysts predict that living rooms will have to be redesigned to make space for larger TV screens in the next 10 years, with a Deloitte study saying screens have grown each year as streaming technology develops. Suggesting screens will reach 100 inches, Deloitte’s Paul Lee said: “Every year people will say screens can’t get larger. When they are the size of the wall, that’s when they can’t get larger.”

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 22 Daily Mirror, Page: 25 Daily Star, Page: 21

Contact Paul Southward.

Paul Southward's News Roundup






Business concerned over plans to scrap entrepreneurs’ relief

Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s plan to scrap entrepreneurs’ relief in the Budget has been criticised by businesses, with it suggested that removing the £3bn of tax breaks could harm start-ups. Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said cutting the incentive would see the majority of firms who benefit losing around £15,000 each year. He said: “Scrapping entrepreneurs’ relief would make a mockery of the idea that it’s ever sensible to build up a business rather than invest in property, land or secure a gold-plated pension.” Mr Cherry added: “Everyday entrepreneurs throughout the country who are about to retire will be left permanently poorer by this change.” Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said abolishing the relief – which lets entrepreneurs sell parts of their business and pay a 10% tax on any profits instead of the normal 20% levy – would be a “negative signal to businesspeople who take risks and invest upfront to grow a business over time.” He added: “It’s one thing to make the relief more targeted, but quite another to scrap it altogether.” The FT says the issue was raised in WhatsApp groups involving Conservative MPs, with one asking: “If we aren’t backing entrepreneurs, then who are we for?” Matt Kilcoyne, of the Adam Smith Institute think-tank, comments: “The entrepreneurs’ relief is a policy that is based on good, solid Conservative values, so it seems strange for Rishi Sunak to put a tax on ambition.”

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Times, Page: 36 The Guardian, Page: 29 Daily Mail, Page: 78 City AM, Page: 1

Firms would accept tax rise for clearer rules

A pre-Budget poll by BDO shows that two-thirds of businesses would accept a tax rise in exchange for a simpler tax system. Of more than 600 people polled, 66% indicated they would accept a rise in taxes in exchange for simplification of rules – an 18% increase on a poll ahead of the 2018 Budget. The survey saw just 12% of respondents say they did not find tax cumbersome. Paul Falvey, tax partner at BDO, said: “It is promising that businesses are looking to the future and appear to support our view that tax simplification is needed to help organisations tackle the challenging landscape.” The survey also gauged opinion on how best to boost investment, with a third of firms saying making equity investment tax deductible for individuals would help, while more than a quarter said up-front income tax relief could encourage business investment.

City AM, Page: 7

Freelancer rules prompt confusion

James Hurley in the Times looks a forthcoming change to tax rules designed to tackle disguised employment. He notes that while HMRC’s CEST tool is meant to help businesses ascertain whether contractors are genuinely self-employed or not, “it is not trusted.” James Poyser, chief executive of Inniaccounts, says: “We expected the government to announce further updates to the tool, but they have done nothing to resuscitate its reputation. It’s a root cause of so much of the harm being done. It’s a shambles.” Mr Hurley says there is also confusion over IR35, highlighting the cases of TV presenters Eamonn Holmes and Lorraine Kelly, with the former losing an appeal while the latter was successful, despite their cases being similar. Paul Falvey, a tax partner at BDO, said: “For many, it is hard to understand why it appears that a totally different set of tax rules apply to similar cases. ”

The Times, Page: 41


UK points to climbdown on tech tax

The Government has suggested it could back down over a tax on large tech firms to help secure a free trade deal with the US, saying it will consider criticism of the mooted digital services tax. The tax, which would see a 2% levy on tech firms with revenue of more than £500m, was expected to be imposed in April in a bid to address concern over foreign tech firms’ low tax bills in the UK. Highlighting the matter in a negotiating mandate for trade talks with the US, ministers said they “note comments regarding digital taxation and will consider this as part of our policy development.” The digital tax, if it does come into force, could raise £275m in its first year. The Telegraph notes that the OECD is currently developing global rules for taxing large digital companies and plans to present them by the end of 2020.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 5

Britain’s ‘worst tax break’ an easy target

With Chancellor Rishi Sunak said to be considering scrapping entrepreneurs’ relief in the Budget, Philip Aldrick in the Times looks at the tax break, suggesting that as “few giveaways have had worse PR”, the £3bn benefit is “an easy target for politicians on the hunt for savings.” He notes that the Resolution Foundation has branded it the UK’s “worst tax break” and points to official figures showing that the gains are focused among 5,000 people a year, who benefit to the tune of £1m or more each. Mr Aldrick says scrapping entrepreneurs’ relief “does not make the Government anti-enterprise.” Russell Lynch in the Telegraph offers a similar opposition, but says that rather than scrapping it altogether, the Chancellor should cut the relief to a previous level, making it cheaper and “pitching it back at the small businesses it was first aimed at before it barrelled out of control.”

The Times, Page: 37 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2

Budget can boost business

Tim Wallace in the Telegraph considers ways the Chancellor can offer a boost to UK businesses via his Budget. He suggests a review of business rates would be welcomed, noting that the CBI has warned that the current business rates burden often means certain investments are not economically viable. Mr Wallace cites the Adam Smith Institute, which argues that the tax system discourages investment in building and machinery, saying there is an “effective tax on factories.” He also moots the idea of zero-tax zones where trade duties and tariffs can be deferred, delayed or scrapped in areas around ports or airports.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 4



Insolvency bosses owe taxman £3m

The directors of insolvency firm Wilson Field, which says it can help struggling businesses to “write off company debt and start again”, are being pursued for £3m said to be owed to HMRC. The directors are likely to be sued by liquidators from Grant Thornton on behalf of creditors after it closed one of its own companies, leaving “no assets” to pay its debts. Companies House filings show that Grant Thornton said that legal advice was that “there were good claims against the directors in respect of losses … arising from the operation of the schemes, the sale of the business and the payment of dividends”. The audit firm says it is “likely that it will be necessary” to sue to recover money owed to the taxman.

The Times, Page: 35

Account concern over banking app

Pockit, a company that provides financial services to vulnerable people, has been hit by complaints, with some clients saying that they cannot get to their money. Questions have also been raised as to why its accounts are five months late. Pockit said that its accounts were late because its “audit process this year has been more involved than usual”. Grant Thornton says the overdue accounts are expected to be filed this month.

The Times, Page: 33

Salary Finance may snap up Neyber assets

Goldman Sachs backed lender Neyber will reportedly sell its assets to rival Salary Finance and is expected to appoint administrators this week. The firm was last month reported to be in talks with BDO about a range of options, including a pre-pack sale.

City AM, Page: 3

Challengers move into marketing

Alex Daniel looks at the climate for the Big Six marketing firms, saying that while “until recently, it was unthinkable that new kids on the block could disrupt the status quo … new challengers are coming from unexpected directions.” He says the consultancy arms of PwC and Deloitte are among those to have “muscled in”, using data analytics to solve business problems which traditional advertising cannot.

City AM, Page: 23


NMC asks creditors not to call in their loans

Private hospital operator NMC has appealed to lenders not to call in their loans while it tries to stabilise the business. The company is facing a major cash crunch having admitted last week to finding discrepancies in its balance sheet. In June, it declared it had £500m of cash, but that figure is now seriously in doubt among analysts and lenders to the group. PwC, financial adviser Moelis and law firm Allen & Overy have been appointed to help the company. Meanwhile, the Times offers an overview of NMC Health, noting that Deloitte was among those who handled its £390m initial public offering.

The Times, Page: 41 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2 Daily Mail, Page: 70 The I, Page: 42 The Sun, Page: 43 Evening Standard

Amazon fights against $277m tax order

Amazon will on Thursday seek to overturn an EU order to repay about €250m in back taxes to Luxembourg at Europe’s second-highest court, one of a series of high-profile cases marking the bloc’s crackdown on unfair tax deals. The European Commission said in its 2017 ruling that the tax deal, which covered the period from May 2006 to June 2014, meant almost three-quarters of Amazon’s business went untaxed. The EU competition watchdog said the Grand Duchy allowed the online retailer to shift a significant portion of its profits from a subsidiary to a holding company without paying tax, giving the company an unfair advantage.


JLR rejects bigger tax bill claims

Jaguar Land Rover has rejected claims that it has taken a blanket approach to new rules on the tax status of contractors, insisting it has followed HMRC guidelines on IR35 legislation.

Financial Times, Page: 13



Mortgage approvals hit four year high

UK banks approved 70,900 mortgages in January, according to the Bank of England, up 4.4% from December’s 67,930 figure to the highest number in four years. Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “As a result, we now think that the Bank of England will cut bank rate to 0.5% this month, from 0.75%. The recovery in approvals likely has further to run.”

City AM



Big employers will be given six years to clear pension deficits

A consultation document from the Pensions Regulator has suggested that defined benefit pension schemes backed by stronger employers may be required to clear any deficits within six years.

Financial Times, Page: 2



More employers offer mental health support

A study by jobs site shows an increase in the number of jobs offering mental health support. Nearly one in 200 jobs advertised in January provided support, compared to nearly one in every 5,000 five years ago. A recent report from Deloitte suggested that poor mental health costs employers up to £45bn a year, up 16% since 2016. Deloitte also said that for every £1 spent on mental health support, firms make £5 by cutting absenteeism, presenteeism and employee turnover.

The Times, Page: 10 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 6 Financial Times, Page: 16



Italy unveils €3.6bn stimulus to tackle coronavirus

A look at how different countries are responding to coronavirus notes that EY last week asked employees in Düsseldorf and Essen to work from home after an employee tested positive.

Financial Times



Coronavirus threat may require Budget plan B

Experts have suggested that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will have to rethink his Budget over concerns that the spread of the coronavirus will trigger a global economic downturn. Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, said economic forecasts drawn up by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) may not paint a true reflection of the climate, saying: “Whether the OBR has had time to include the likely impact of the virus into its forecasts or not, the Chancellor will need to say how it creates further uncertainty.” Former Treasury minister David Gauke comments: “Given the uncertainties, the OBR is likely to qualify its economic forecasts,” adding that the “health crisis … makes all short-term economic forecasts a matter of guesswork.” Lord Wood, who worked on six budgets as an adviser to Gordon Brown, offers that the Treasury “may have to rip up the plans its budget has been based on and hastily assemble a new plan B, to ensure the Chancellor’s statement on 11 March fits the situation we are in.”

The Guardian


Global growth may halve

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned that an escalation in the coronavirus outbreak could cut global economic growth in half and plunge several countries into recession this year. The OECD said that global GDP growth could plunge this year to as little as 1.5%, almost half the 2.9% rate it forecast before the outbreak took hold. The reduction in demand and world trade could “push several economies into recession, including Japan and the euro area,” the OECD’s report added.

The Times, Page: 9 The Guardian The Independent, Page: 48 The Daily Telegraph Financial Times The Independent, Page: 48

Manufacturing grows but coronavirus disrupts supply chain

IHS Markit has reported that whilst manufacturing continued to grow in February, supply chains have been hit by the coronavirus outbreak. The IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index measured 51.7 last month, well above the 50 mark separating growth from contraction but slightly weaker than the previous “flash” reading of 51.9 for February, after supply chain disruptions emerged. However, the index showed orders increasing at the fastest pace in eleven months and business optimism hitting a nine-month high.

The Times

Contact Paul Southward.

Paul Southward's News Roundup






Freelancers given a year to get used to tax shake-up

The Treasury will not punish freelancers facing tough new tax avoidance measures for any mistakes on their returns for 12 months. With IR35 rules due to come into force on April 6 set to make medium and large businesses responsible for setting the tax status of contractors they hire, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said that businesses and contractors would not have to pay penalties for errors in compliance in the first 12 months “except in cases of deliberate non-compliance”. Julia Kermode, the chief executive of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, says that with the general election delaying HMRC’s education programme, “a number of businesses are only finding out about the reforms and their new liabilities now, weeks before they take effect.” An inniAccounts study looking at the potential impact of the new rules, which are designed to tackle disguised employment, shows that 70% of 350 organisations polled – including Deloitte – were no longer willing to use contractors.

The Times, Page: 61 Financial Times, Money, Page: 2

Javid planned to cut income tax

Former Chancellor Sajid Javid has revealed that he wanted to cut 2p from the basic rate of income tax, adding that he also hoped to reduce stamp duty. On plans to deliver the first to the basic rate of income tax for 15 years, he says he intended to reduce the basic rate from 20p to 18p in the pound from April and cut it to 15p by the end of the parliament.

The Times, Page: 1

PM urged to overhaul tax system

Andrew Griffith, the Prime Minister’s chief business tsar, believes Britain would see “huge benefits” in fundamentally overhauling the tax system, urging ministers to seize “tantalising and tangible” opportunities as Britain leaves the EU. Mr Griffith said: “It is my belief that, in the 21st century, huge benefits would flow from unifying the income tax and national insurance regimes, and from clarifying once and for all the ambiguities that lie around employment status.”

The Times, Page: 2

Doctor claims to be highest-taxed for pension growth

A paediatrician handed a £125,000 tax bill for 2017/16 says that, having paid nearly 80% of his salary in tax, he has “worked for the NHS for free”, adding: “I’m in the red and I think I am the highest-taxed NHS doctor for pension growth.” Dr Nicholas Grundy, of campaign group GP Survival, said the doctor, who opted back into the final salary pension scheme after a five-year break, during which his salary had doubled due to a promotion, would have been better off staying in the scheme in previous years. Kevin Walker, of BW Medical Accountants, suggests the doctor’s bill will likely be smaller as he can use any spare allowance from the previous three years and reduce his liability.

The Daily Telegraph, Money, Page: 4

Teachers face pensions tax taper woes

The Telegraph says teachers face the same issues as doctors when it comes to the pensions tax taper, with 3,465 people in the Teachers’ Pension Scheme breaching their annual allowance in the 2018/19 and 6,000 doing so the year before. Mary Bousted of the National Education Union said unexpected tax bills were taking too much valuable attention from teaching, adding: “We should try to avoid these issues causing the same problems in teaching as they have in the NHS. They are affecting growing numbers of senior leaders, in part because the annual allowance has been frozen since April 2014.”

The Daily Telegraph, Money, Page: 4

Insurance tax raises twice as much as gambling

The doubling of insurance premium tax in the past five years means it now generates twice as much as gambling duty, a report by the Social Market Foundation shows. The tax is expected to raise £6.2bn this financial year, while betting and gambling duty will raise £3.14bn.

The Times, Page: 4

Tax implications of property gift

A Times reader asks for advice on the most tax-efficient way of transferring ownership of a property, with Chris Etherington, a tax partner at RSM, advising that gifting a share in the reader’s holiday flat may trigger a 28% capital gains tax liability, while Paul Falvey, a tax partner at BDO, offers insight on whether stamp duty would be a factor. Elsewhere, a Telegraph reader seeks advice on capital gains tax in relation to a property they bought for their parents in 1968, with Stefanie Tremain, a private client adviser at Blick Rothenberg, providing guidance.

The Times, Page: 65 The Daily Telegraph, Property, Page: 12


Budget set to abolish entrepreneurs’ relief

Chancellor Rishi Sunak is set to abolish entrepreneurs’ relief, which taxes owners who sell their businesses at a reduced rate of 10% – rather than the standard 20% – up to a threshold of £10m. The Resolution Foundation have described the relief as “the UK’s worst tax break”, arguing that scrapping the “expensive, regressive and ineffective” tax would generate £2.7bn that could be spent on the public sector. It is noted that the relief costs five times as much as it did when introduced 12 years ago, rising from £427m in 2008/09 to £2.7bn in 2018/19. The Sunday Times says plans to abolish entrepreneurs’ relief have “already led to a backlash from business champions”, with a group of 150 prominent business owners writing to the chancellor on Friday urging him not to scrap the relief. The paper warns that the Government “needs to be careful” and must show business that ministers are on its side, adding that cancelling a planned and costed cut in corporation tax from 19% to 17% “jarred with its ambitions to make Britain the preferred post-Brexit location for international businesses.”

The Sunday Times, Page: 2 The Sunday Times, Page: 22 The Mail on Sunday, Page: 29

MP warns over scrapping IHT exemption

With Chancellor Rishi Sunak believed to be considering scrapping the 100% inheritance tax exemption for farmers passing on land in his Budget, John Stevenson MP has warned that doing so could lead to an increase in aggressive avoidance schemes. Mr Stevenson, head of the all-party parliamentary group on inheritance tax and intergenerational fairness, commented: “Just cutting the exemption and leaving the rate unchanged would be quite harsh and farmers wouldn’t take it lying down.” Mr Stevenson has called for a full-scale review of the death tax. George Bull, of RSM, comments that the regime is ripe for review and suggests Mr Sunak may well announce a consultation on overhauling the tax in the Budget.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business and Money, Page: 14

Opinion: Budget should see self-assessment scrapped

James Coney in the Sunday Times proposes that the tax return should be scrapped. He says that the autumn Budget will “provide a much greater opportunity to set out changes to taxation” as the UK’s economic position and relationship with Europe should be much clearer, so the Chancellor should use his upcoming Budget to axe the tax return. He suggests advances in technology and the advent of the digital tax account means annual tax returns could be redundant.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 12

Taxpayer urges HMRC to accept tax payment

The Mail on Sunday’s Tony Hetherington helps a reader tackle a tax issue which saw her unable to pay a final corporation tax bill, with HMRC unable to accept payment as the company is closed. He highlights that the matter stems from the fact that since the company no longer exists, neither does its tax reference number. Mr Hetherington quips that the case “really does come under the heading of ‘You Just Couldn’t Make It Up!’”, with a taxpayer “fighting with the Revenue, not to pay no tax or less tax, but pleading to be allowed to hand over £2,232.”

The Mail on Sunday, Page: 108

Professor questions farmers’ tax breaks

Dr Tim Leunig, an associate professor at the London School of Economics and a senior economic adviser to Chancellor Rishi Sunak, has suggested farmers should not be given tax breaks denied to other industries. He said: “We know that supermarkets also make very little, and that lots of restaurants go bust … Not sure I buy a ‘life is tough for farmers, easy for restaurateurs’ approach.”

The Mail on Sunday, Page: 10

Brady hits out at IHT

Writing in the Sun, Karren Brady says that with the Chancellor said to be looking to make changes in the law to stop people from taking advantage of the loopholes in inheritance tax, scrapping the tax would be a better idea. She says IHT is “double taxation and it is grossly unfair.”

The Sun on Sunday, Page: 25



NMC shareholders ‘could be left with nothing’

Analyst James Vane-Tempest of Jefferies says NMC Health investors could be left with nothing if an accounting and governance scandal escalates, saying the possibility of a restructuring of the capital structure cannot be ruled out. The Times notes that questions have been raised about the audit of NMC Health by EY, while a spokesman for the Financial Reporting Council has said: “If there is evidence to suggest non-compliance or audit failures, we would review in accordance with our usual procedures.”

The Times, Page: 53

Gupta-owned bank launches independent review after regulatory heat

Wyelands Bank is launching an independent review of its lending practices, issuing a tender to forensic accountants after the Prudential Regulation Authority reviewed lending to businesses controlled by its owner.

Financial Times, Page: 18


BrightHouse on the brink

The rent-to-own retailer BrightHouse has put Grant Thornton on standby to handle an administration that would put 2,400 jobs at risk. The company has been hit by mis-selling claims and in 2017 was ordered by the Financial Conduct Authority to pay £14.8m to 249,000 customers after persuading them to take out unaffordable debts. Sky News notes that other advisers including EY have been working with BrightHouse to explore alternative options in recent months. A spokesman for the retailer said: “BrightHouse is exploring a range of options to cap its exposure to claims for historic mis-selling.” A source added that while an insolvency is not inevitable, it has become more likely in recent weeks.

The Mail on Sunday, Page: 101 The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 3 Sunday Mirror The Sun on Sunday Sky News

‘Material uncertainty’ for Temperley

Auditors have warned over the financial health of fashion brand Temperley London, where losses more than doubled to £3.5m during 2018. RSM has warned a “material uncertainty exists that may cast significant doubt on the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”. This comes despite the luxury womenswear label raising £1.9m in funding during 2019, with RSM saying its net liabilities totalled £4.6m in 2018, compared with £1.2m in 2017.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business and Money, Page: 3

Poundstretcher exploring restructuring options

Poundstretcher is exploring restructuring options that could see store closures and job losses. Sources say the retailer is assessing options with BDO, which already works as its auditor, and that while plans have not been finalised, the chain may pursue a CVA or a pre-pack administration.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 3

Debenhams demands rent cuts

Debenhams has told landlords its lenders may not sign off a critical debt restructuring unless they consent to further rent cuts. The Sunday Times’ Sam Chambers suggest the cuts “will be a tough sell to landlords”, noting that they have already seen rent reductions of between 25% and 50% through a CVA that led to 22 store closures in May 2019.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 3



Looking at the leap year

The Telegraph’s Adam Williams looks at how February 29 means self-employed people and contractors can boost their earnings, while employees paid an annual wage will effectively spend the day working for free. Analysis of Office for National Statistics data by HW Fisher shows that paying for an extra day of food, gas, electricity, water and running a car would cost an average person £16.60, while non-variable costs – such as accommodation, memberships, subscriptions and phone and broadband bills – equal a gain of £26.

The Daily Telegraph

Spotlight on employee share schemes

The Investment Association has urged the Government to set targets to boost the level of employee ownership of quoted companies, with the proportion of UK shares held by individuals having dipped from 28% in 1981 to 12%. Research by the Social Market Foundation shows that only 13,000 companies out of 1.4m run one of the four types of share scheme that offers tax breaks.

The Times, Page: 62

163k join Help to Save

HMRC data shows that around 163,000 people have signed up to the government’s Help to Save saving scheme – depositing more than £4m. Help to Save offers working people on low incomes a 50% bonus, offering 50p for every £1 saved with a maximum bonus of £1,200 over four years.

Press Release


ISAs and IHT

The Sunday Times looks at tax issues in relation to ISAs, noting that while there is no liability to pay income tax or capital gains tax on any withdrawals from Isas, they provide no protection from inheritance tax unless the assets are being left to a spouse or partner. Alex Davies, founder of investment specialist the Wealth Club, explains how some shares listed on the junior AIM market can keep an Isa IHT-free.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 13



Age for cashing in pension set to climb

The Mail reports that plans being drawn up by the Treasury could see savers forced to wait another two years to dip into their pensions, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak “under pressure” from pensions firms to raise the minimum pension age from 55 to 57 amid fears many households have been cashing in their retirement funds too quickly. The Association of British Insurers has warned that more than 350,000 savers cashed in their entire pension pot last year, adding that many are in danger of falling into poverty in retirement.

Daily Mail, Page: 24

Letter: Flat-rate tax relief would encourage pension saving

In a letter to the FT, John Ralfe of John Ralfe Consulting calls for a 30% flat rate of tax relief on annual pension savings, saying the current system is unfair.

Financial Times, Page: 12



Stamp duty cut would not sink Treasury revenues

The Centre for Policy Studies claims that removing nine in 10 homes from the stamp duty regime would have almost no impact on Treasury revenues as property transactions would increase. While such a tax cut would cost £3.7bn, it is calculated that the additional transactions would allow between 65% and 95% of lost revenue to be recouped. The think-tank has proposed raising the threshold at which stamp duty is payable from £125,000 to £500,000 and cutting the rate to 4% for properties valued at between £500,000 and £1m and to 5% for properties worth more than £1m.

The Daily Telegraph, Money, Page: 10

UK house price growth at highest rate for 18 months

UK house prices rose at the fastest annual rate for 18 months in February after December’s decisive election buoyed the market, according to Nationwide. The 2.3% annual increase is the best since July 2018 and outdoes January’s 1.9% climb. Nationwide’s chief economist Robert Gardner said the conclusive election result in December may have pushed buyers back into the market. However, the outlook for house prices will depend on the UK’s economic performance over the coming months, which could take a hit depending on the outcome of Brexit trade talks and the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. “There are still significant uncertainties that threaten to exert a drag on the economy in the coming quarters,” Mr Gardner warned.

The Daily Telegraph The Times, Page: 58 The Guardian


London leads on ATED take

Ali Hussain looks at Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings, a charge levied on private homes owned via a company. It was launched in 2013 to make indirect ownership of homes less attractive. Data for the tax year 2017/18 analysed by law firm Boodle Hatfield shows that London boroughs Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster receive 75% of the £138m take from the tax – which has fallen 28% since 2015.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 11

BTL deals increase

Figures from UK Finance show there were 5,700 new buy-to-let mortgages completed in December 2019, marking a 3.6% year-on-year rise, while remortgages were up 2.3% to 13,300. The Sunday Telegraph says that while landlords have been hit in recent years by fewer tax breaks, rising costs and a market slowdown, the figures for December suggest “the tide could finally be starting to turn”.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business and Money, Page: 10



Small firms urge EU deal

A poll of small businesses by finance specialist iwoca has seen many warn that their future rests on ministers clinching a trade deal with the EU. Almost two-thirds said exporting to Europe is more important than any other part of the world. The study also found that more than a half of bosses want a review of business rates.

The Mail on Sunday, Page: 29 The Sun on Sunday, Page: 6



OECD seeks international guidelines for DSTs

Business adviser Irwin Stelzer looks at plans for digital services taxes, with Austria, Italy, Hungary, Turkey and France having enacted such levies while Belgium, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Spain and the UK have published proposals to adopt such a tax. He says that a regime in which digital services taxes vary from nation to nation places a “huge administrative burden” on the companies liable for them. Mr Stelzer highlights that the OECD is trying to broker a deal that would set international guidelines for the taxation of online activity and for a global minimum tax.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 4



University adds £100,000 but not worth it for a fifth of graduates

Institute for Fiscal Studies analysis for the Department for Education shows that a university education increases lifetime earnings by at least £100,000 on average, while the Government is boosted by the additional taxes graduates pay. However, the study found that a fifth of people who go to university would be financially better off if they had not. Each year an estimated 70,000 graduates end up losing money over their lifetime because they did an undergraduate degree.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 8 Financial Times, Page: 2 The Guardian, Page: 2 The Independent, Page: 12 Daily Express, Page: 23



Mark Carney warns coronavirus will hit the UK economy

Bank of England governor Mark Carney has warned that coronavirus is likely to slow economic activity, with it “hard to be precise about the magnitude and, very importantly, the duration”.

Financial Times


Markets expected to fall further

World stock markets, which have already been hit by the coronavirus outbreak, are expected to fall further next week. This comes as the first surveys of China’s economic health since the outbreak show factory output has plunged to record lows and the service sectors have contracted. Global stock markets fell 11% last week, marking the worst seven-day period for stocks since the 2008 financial crash. The MSCI all-country index shows that markets globally lost about £3.9trn of value last week.

The Observer



Educators lead on adult searches

Research by MyJobQuote shows that an average of 577 Google searches for adult content containing the word ‘accountant’ are made each month. Teachers are the most searched for profession on adult websites, with 40,556,200 average monthly Google searches, with maids and nurses the next most popular professions.



Ministers to review business grant system

The Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy is to review how business grants are handed out following a rise in fraudulent claims. Sources claim ministers have approached accountancy firms including KPMG to carry out the review, although no decision been made on which firm to appoint. Peter Evans in the Sunday Times says the review is likely to examine the system for awarding grants, pointing to criticism that it is “opaque and fails to track the progress of companies awarded cash”.

The Sunday Times, Business and Money, Page: 2

Bitcoin transaction equal to 2 months of household electricity

A single Bitcoin transaction uses the same amount of electricity as a British household would over nearly two months, analysis shows. Alex de Vries, a blockchain specialist at PwC, says the carbon footprint of a single transaction is the same as 782,718 Visa transactions or spending 52,181 hours watching YouTube.

The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 8

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