NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

NEWS ROUNDUP

TAX NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

One in five calls to HMRC for tax help abandoned

Figures show that almost 400,000 taxpayers, one in five, who call HMRC for help hang up after being left on hold for an average nine minutes. This compares to a rate of just 3% of calls four years ago. The figures come as the helpline is braced for unprecedented volumes of calls with the annual self-assessment deadline barely two weeks away.

The Sun, Page: 2

Paul Southward comments “this is an outrageous state of affairs especially at this time when the public need support more than ever”.

CORPORATE NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

EWM and Ponden Home sold

It has been confirmed that the businesses of Edinburgh Woollen Mill (EWM), Ponden Home and Bonmarché have been acquired in a deal which saves more than 1,450 jobs. Joint administrators Tony Wright and Alastair Massey of FRP Advisory have marketed the pair in recent weeks and a deal has now completed.

The Times, Page: 32 Financial Times, Page: 10 City AM Daily Mail, Page: 75 The I, Page: 41 The Guardian, Page: 31

SMEs NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

Small shops at risk from rule change

The British Retail Consortium and the Federation of Small Businesses have cautioned that a three metre social distancing rule under consideration by government would make many smaller shops unviable. Tom Ironside at the BRC remarked: “Moving to a rule requiring greater distancing would inevitably limit the numbers of customers allowed into stores and could even undermine the viability of some shops,” while the FSB’s Mike Cherry noted that “Many will have spent hundreds if not more, ensuring they are COVID secure and this would be yet another hammer blow to small firms who are vital to getting the national economy back on track once again.”

The Daily Telegraph

FRAUD NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

Ex-ministers urge UK not to extradite billionaire

With US prosecutors seeking to extradite billionaire Mike Lynch after he was accused of presiding over a multi-billion dollar fraud relating to the sale of his firm Autonomy in 2011 for £6.6bn, David Davis, Andrew Mitchell, Lord Maude of Horsham, Lord Deben and Sir Vince Cable, all former cabinet ministers in Britain have urged the government there not to allow the extradition to take place. In a letter they warn that “Any British businessman or woman who finds themselves at odds with a powerful US company could face the same fate. That means facing a system where prosecutors cut deals offering their own witnesses immunity, while those who want to testify for the defendant risk being dubbed ‘co-conspirators’ and prosecuted.”

The Daily Telegraph

BBB hires PwC to probe pandemic loan fraud

The British Business Bank (BBB) yesterday announced it had recruited PwC to examine cases of possible fraud in its COVID-19 business loans programme. PwC has so far received almost £13.4m for its consultancy work on BBB, which has helped distribute loans to smaller businesses impacted by the pandemic.

City A.M.

Paul Southward says “let’s hope that some prosecutions come out of this exercise and that it is not just a bit of journalistic hyperbole from the BBC”.

PROPERTY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

Extend stamp duty holiday to prevent meltdown, Sunak told

Campaigners are calling on Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend the stamp duty holiday amid warnings that over 320,000 current buyers will miss out on savings of up to £15,000 if it ends as planned on March 31st. more than 100,000 of them could subsequently pull out of deals – potentially hammering sales volumes, harming the economy and hitting prices. Chris Etherington, a partner at tax service provider RSM, said: “There is little logic in doing these measures and then pulling the rug out from under the feet of estate agents by having the cliff edge of the stamp duty holiday.”

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 17

Paul Southward asks “does this country put too much emphasis on property prices?  The reduction in SDLT was bound to cause a spike in house prices and the well-publicised date of withdrawal of the reduction should come as no surprise to anyone.  It is likely that prices will stabilise or even drop after the reduction ends, but an extension is only likely to exacerbate the problem when the inevitable correction is made”.

SPORT NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

PFA wants collective response to tax probe

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) has written to all professional footballers to notify them that the Government has launched a wide-ranging tax investigation into players and the fees paid to agents and that they should negotiate collectively with HMRC. Gordon Taylor, the PFA chief executive, said: “It has come to our attention that many elements of these enquiries are very similar in nature and that there are some common themes which may be best addressed centrally and on behalf of the players as a collective.” The PFA says it is seeking a “centralised” approach to dealing with HMRC to resolve “existing/historic matters”.

The Daily Telegraph, Sport, Page: 4

ECONOMY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

Economy faces ‘darkest hour’ warns Bailey

Andrew Bailey, the Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that the economic recovery will be delayed by the third lockdown and surging Covid cases. Although the economy was facing its “darkest hour”, Mr Bailey told the Scottish Chambers of Commerce that a recovery is in sight at last after almost 3m people were vaccinated against COVID-19. The Governor also suggested the jobless rate is probably closer to 6.5% than the current 4.9% shown by official figures. The MPC meets early next month to discuss how the central bank can help to protect the economy during the lockdown, including whether interest rates should be cut to below zero – a move that could ease borrowing costs on households and businesses.

The Daily Telegraph The Times, Page: 34 The Guardian, Page: 31 Daily Mail, Page: 2 City A.M.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

Singapore bourse tightens auditing rules after string of scandals

Listed company auditors face tighter rules in Singapore in the wake of a series of accounting scandals as regulators move to improve the quality of the market and investor protection.

Financial Times

Germany seeks global corporate tax deal with Biden administration

Olaf Scholz, the German finance minister, has said he will seek a deal with the incoming Biden administration on global rules for corporate taxation.

Financial Times, Page: 5

INDUSTRY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 13TH JANUARY 2021

New UK business secretary pledges to target Big Four audit reform

The UK’s new business secretary has said reforming the British audit market is “one of his initial priorities” following repeated delays. Kwasi Kwarteng made clear to officials on Monday that he was determined to push ahead with reforms. “It is back on track,” one industry figure told the FT. The news comes after the ICAEW on Monday said that the Government needed to make audit reform “an urgent priority”. Several government-backed reports have made recommendations on audit reform but ministers have so far failed to act on them. Sir Donald Brydon, John Kingman and the Competition and Markets Authority have all submitted proposals. Mr Kingman’s chief recommendation was to replace the Financial Reporting Council with a more powerful regulator called the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, and he has previously complained about the slow progress in implementing the change. The Telegraph points out that the FRC has gone ahead with some of its own reforms, including a requirement for the Big Four to ringfence their audit divisions from their advisory arms to reduce conflicts of interest and improve audit quality.

Financial Times The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 5 Daily Mail, Page: 75

Contact Paul Southward

Paul Southward