The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has announced that the government will publish the Budget on Wednesday 3 March 2021.  The Budget will set out the next phase of the plan to tackle the virus and protect jobs and will be published alongside the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).

Four key tax changes to prepare for

The Express talks to Hillier Hopkins about possible tax changes in 2021 with the firm suggesting there are four significant changes in the pipeline as the Government tries to bolster public finances. Debbie Wilson, a director at Hillier Hopkins, suggests there will be new restrictions on inheritance tax with lifetime giving rules an easy target. Pension tax relief is an “obvious target” adds Wilson. Agricultural Property Relief (APR) could also be subject to change, she continues, as many suspect the relief is being abused by investors buying land with little or no intention of farming it simply to avoid Inheritance Tax. Her colleague Antony Smith says HMRC could adopt increasingly aggressive measures on residential landlords and property investors and he advises them to “make sure their affairs are fully in order well before the Spring Budget.”

Daily Express

UK tax evasion prosecutions fall by half in 5 years

The number of people charged for tax evasion has halved in the past five years, leading to questions over whether HMRC’s criminal investigation strategy is working.

Financial Times


Amigo touts restructuring to stop insolvency

In an attempt to avoid insolvency, Amigo Loans is asking borrowers to back a restructuring that will result in lower compensation payouts for customers sold unaffordable loans by the firm. Boss Gary Jennison said: “The counterfactual to a scheme of arrangement, we think, is insolvency. And that means that creditors [would] get nothing.” Mr Jennison went on to accuse claims management firms of launching a slew of spurious claims and said the Financial Ombudsman had been less than supportive of the company.

The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 30

City Chic buys Evans following Arcadia collapse

The administrator to Philip Green’s Arcadia empire, Deloitte, has confirmed that the Evans clothing brand has been bought by Australian company City Chic for £23m. Evans’ five bricks-and-mortar stores are not included in the deal which is just for the Evans brand and its online business. Arcadia – which also owns Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Wallis and Burton – crashed into administration at the start of this month.

The Times, Page: 45 The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 31 The Sun, Page: 43 Daily Mail Daily Mirror, Page: 44 The I, Page: 44

Director at easyJet quits over Wirecard board role

EasyJet board member Anastassia Lauterbach has resigned following scrutiny over her role as chair of the risk and compliance committee at Wirecard, the collapsed German payments company.

Financial Times, Page: 12


House prices ‘unlikely to be sustained’

UK house prices are expected to fall next year when the stamp duty holiday ends and unemployment levels rise, according to the Halifax housing market outlook for 2021. The latest predictions from the lender reveal that prospects for next year look weaker compared to this year. House prices could drop as unemployment levels rise and the furlough scheme comes to an end. Russell Galley, Managing Director at Halifax said the market this year has remained buoyant despite the coronavirus pandemic having a detrimental impact on the economy. This year has seen house prices rise at their fastest rate since 2016, with mortgage approvals also at their highest levels for over 10 years. Mr Galley explained that the property market boom has largely been driven by the stamp duty holiday, with people bringing their transactions forward to 2020, rather than waiting until next year. More people working from home has also led to a “shift in demand”, according to Mr Galley, as more people desire space. He added: “Unprecedented government support for furloughed workers and the self-employed has prevented a sharp fall in earnings for many households.”

The Daily Telegraph Daily Express


Scotland’s financial sector ready for Brexit, says trade body

The head of Scottish Financial Enterprise, Sandy Begbie, says Scotland’s financial services industry is well prepared for Brexit, adding that SME fintechs north of the border have doubled between 2019 and this year.

Financial Times, Page: 2


FCA publishes climate-related disclosure rules

The Financial Conduct Authority says its new disclosure rules for listed firms should help reduce the risk of consumers buying unsuitable and mis-sold products. The FCA has confirmed it will enforce a rule for premium listed companies, including advice firms, that mandates better disclosure around climate-related risks and opportunities. The new rules will require firms to include a statement in their annual financial report setting out whether they have made disclosures consistent with the recommendations made by the Taskforce on Climate-related Financial Disclosures.

FT Adviser


New Covid virus strain triggers market slump, double dip predicted

The pound slumped on Monday along with global markets amid concern over the new strain of coronavirus identified in Britain, which has led to tighter restrictions, and the continued failure of the EU and the UK to agree a Brexit trade deal. Ruth Gregory, senior UK economist at Capital Economics, said the new lockdown measures “raise the chances that the economy stagnates, if not contracts, in the first three months of 2021.” Ms Gregory continued. “If the economy is heading for a double-dip, at least the second leg down will be much smaller than the first. But this is only because activity in some sectors never fully recovered and therefore cannot fall as far this time.” Howard Archer of the EY Item Club concurred, stating: “If there is no free trade agreement, then I believe first quarter contraction will be inevitable and there would be a formal double-dip recession.”

The Daily Telegraph The Times

Close to 40,000 retailers in significant distress

Begbies Traynor has found that 39,232 retailers were experiencing severe financial problems in the three months to 9 December. The research included both online and bricks-and-mortar operations. Julie Palmer, a partner at the firm commented: “While many industries have been hit hard, retail, which was already suffering a crisis of confidence, has been shaken to its foundations. High-profile administrations such as Arcadia Group and Debenhams not only threaten thousands of jobs, they also raise questions over the future of the high street as we know it, and I expect there to be more as we enter the new year.”

The Guardian, Page: 36


Harrods mega-spender must reveal source of wealth

An attempt by a woman who spent £16m in Harrods to overturn the UK’s first Unexplained Wealth Order (UWO) has been rejected by the Supreme Court. Zamira Hajiyeva, wife of a jailed banker, may now lose her £12m London home – and a separate golf course – if she can’t explain her riches. The court said her challenge to the UWO raised no arguable point of law. Mrs Hajieyva’s husband is in jail in Azerbaijan for embezzling millions of pounds from a state bank.

BBC News

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Paul Southward