More News Roundup Friday 29th March 2019

NEWS ROUNDUP

TAX NEWS

Brexit means loan charge policy left unchallenged

The Government’s controversial loan charge legislation has been allowed to go unchallenged because MPs are distracted by Brexit, campaigners say. The All Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group recently accused the Treasury of producing a report that is not a “genuine review” of the controversial loan charge policy. Now opponents say the Treasury is “simply ignoring the overwhelming evidence that the loan charge is truly retrospective in its effects, strips individuals of any certainty in planning their tax affairs, clearly goes against HMRC’s own statutory guidelines and timelines and, most importantly, the rule of law.” The loan charge is a charge on all payroll remuneration through loans made since 1999, in the form of a 45% charge on all loan payments in that time.

Yorkshire Post, Page: 18

Adnams calls for fairer tax relief

UK family brewer Adnams has urged the Government to reform the Small Breweries Relief tax system, that it claims favours start-ups over larger, more established firms like itself. Sales at Adnams rose 5.6% to £78.9m last year, though it made a loss of £877,000.

Evening Standard The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 7

Google’s UK tax bill creeps up

Accounts for Google UK Limited revealed its corporation tax charge increased from £49.7m to £66.8m last year, after profits in Britain increased from £201m to £246m. The higher tax bill comes ahead of a proposed 2% tax on digital advertising which could come into force next year.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 1

WTO rules US failed to stop unfair tax break to Boeing

The World Trade Organization has ruled that Washington failed to comply with an order in 2012 to halt tax breaks to Boeing that hurt European competitor Airbus. The European plane-maker claims it lost sales worth at least $15bn because of the support Boeing received.

Financial Times, Page: 6 The Daily Telegraph

Five arrested as part of £12m VAT fraud and money laundering investigation

Five people have been arrested and charged as part of an ongoing joint investigation by HMRC and Police Scotland into alleged money laundering and VAT fraud worth £12m.

Press Release

CORPORATE NEWS

LCF’s £70m loans target for administrators

The administrators of London Capital & Finance (LCF) are battling with a property development company that owes £70m to the collapsed investment firm. Smith & Williamson said Prime Resort Development Limited has failed to provide evidence of its ability to repay its debts, showing “no consideration whatsoever for the predicament” of more than 11,500 LCF bondholders. Prime has confirmed that it used the loans to fund the purchase of a series of property companies, which were either owned by or had links to LCF bosses.

The Times, Page: 47

Debenhams to deliver £200m refinancing

Debenhams has been given the green light to press ahead with a £200m refinancing with the majority of its bondholders approving of the move. Debenhams is now expected to look at a debt-for-equity swap or a pre-pack administration. Both options would result in existing investors losing their holdings in the company.

The I, Page: 51 Yorkshire Post, Page: 18

SMEs NEWS

Criticism remains despite rise in apprenticeship numbers

New figures from the Department for Education show that 225,800 people started apprenticeships in the first six months of 2018/19 academic year, a rise of almost 10% on a year ago. However, the latest figures – which cover August 2018 to January 2019 – are still almost a fifth down on the number of people beginning vocational training two years ago, before the apprenticeship levy began. Despite changes to the system, however, industry remains critical with manufacturing and construction companies saying the levy is exacerbating the skills shortage. Anne Milton, skills minister, said the scheme was making “good and steady progress” but the Federation of Small Businesses said that starts were “still worryingly low”.

The Daily Telegraph Financial Times, Page: 4

Industrious mums boost number of women in business

The number of women starting their own companies has reached record levels, boosted by so-called “mumpreneurs”. Business expert Siobhan Freegard, from online community ChannelMum.com, says the idea of “following a passion and fitting work around family” is attractive. She says: “The web has transformed the way we work and allowed kitchen-table businesses to grow globally.”

The Sun, Page: 48

PROBATE NEWS

Probate changes postponed as Brexit consumes parliamentary time

Probate fee reforms will not come into force on April 1st as planned the Ministry of Justice has conceded. An MoJ spokesperson confirmed that the statutory instrument (SI) bringing the revised fee scheme into force would not be laid this week. The spokesperson said the reforms would come into force ‘as soon as possible’ but that Brexit matters were taking precedence. The increases will see the cost of probate rise from the current flat charge of £215 to a minimum of £250. Under the new six-band structure, fees rise to a maximum of £6,000, depending on the size of the estate being administered. Lynne Rowland at Kingston Smith commented: “For executors and bereaved families struggling in some cases to find an upfront payment of £6,000 before making a probate application, this is a welcome pause.”

Financial Times, Page: 4 The Law Society Gazette

INDUSTRY NEWS

FRC’s pay gap widens

The FRC reported a six percentage point rise in its gender pay gap last year to 27.8%, a gap bigger than any firm it supervises, the Times says, bar KPMG.

The Times, Page: 52

ECONOMY NEWS

Firms tell MPs to ‘stop chasing rainbows’ on Brexit

The British Chambers of Commerce has said that MPs need to stop “chasing rainbows” when it comes to resolving the Brexit impasse. Speaking at the group’s annual conference, Adam Marshall, the BCC’s director-general, said Brexit uncertainty was already doing “real world damage” to the UK economy and that Westminster had left business “frustrated and angry”. He warned that business had lost orders to competitors, investments had been cancelled, contracts un-renewed and queries from customers that “simply can’t be answered”. Mr Marshall also said jobs were likely to be lost, due to the slowing global economy as well as the impact from Brexit. His comments echo similar ones from other business groups. The Institute of Directors called on “politicians of all parties to listen to the voice of businesses as they make vital decisions on the path ahead for Brexit”.

BBC News Reuters Financial Times, Page: 2 The Independent The Guardian, Page: 8

UK economic confidence grows amid EU declines

Economic confidence in the UK jumped 1.6 points to 100.8 points this month, according to the European Commission’s latest business and consumer survey, while sentiment in the European Union and the eurozone fell by 0.7 points to 105.5. In the UK, consumer confidence was up 0.2 points, retail trade confidence up 1.5 points, construction confidence up 0.9 points, while financial services confidence soared by 9.2 points.

City AM

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

Auditor at centre of South Africa corruption scandal censured

IRBA, South Africa’s accounting regulator, has struck off former KPMG partner Jacques Wessels after admitting six charges of improper conduct in his work for the scandal-hit Gupta family’s state-funded dairy company.

Financial Times

OTHER NEWS

Corbyn’s nationalisation plans would fail those he wants to help

The CBI has warned that Labour’s nationalisation plans would harm public services, utilities and the railways. A lack of accountability is the main cause for their woes at the moment and shifting control to Whitehall would only make thing worse. The CBI’s director general Carolyn Fairbairn said Labour had tapped into “a sharp-edged sense of unfairness” but nationalisations “would do profound harm to our economy […] and to our country’s finances.” The answer, said Fairbairn, was more competition and better protection for consumers but Labour said such solutions are “clearly a last-ditch attempt to protect the interests of a narrow group of wealthy shareholders instead of creating genuine reform.”

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 3 The Guardian, Page: 40

Contact Paul Southward.

Paul Southward