NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

NEWS ROUNDUP

TAX NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

US tax plans could prove costly for British businesses

Although UK officials have welcomed moves by the Biden administration to force multinationals to pay more tax, the Treasury is urgently reviewing how the plans might affect UK businesses. The Telegraph reports that there is concern in Whitehall that British companies could end up paying more elsewhere in the world as a result of the proposals, potentially reducing revenues for the Exchequer. Washington’s plans would see a global minimum corporation tax and levies for companies based on the location of their sales. While tax campaigners and the Labour party urge the Chancellor to publicly back the plan – Tax Justice UK estimates the blueprint would bring in an extra £13.5bn a year for the public purse – Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said while a co-ordinated international approach to addressing tax avoidance is preferable to a disjointed nation by nation approach, “significant questions remain on how it would work in practice.” In the FT, DeAnne Julius says Biden’s plans are brave and bold and could save companies a lot of time in tax planning.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 35 Financial Times, Page: 11 The Guardian, Page: 42 The Times, Page: 53

One in ten cheques from HMRC not cashed

HMRC has said that nearly 3.8m cheques sent to taxpayers between 2015 and 2020 have not been deposited in accounts, amounting to a tenth of all tax rebates sent by post over the period. Less than 2% of tax refunds are made by cheque, according to HMRC, which said it pays money into people’s bank accounts directly where possible.

The Times, Page: 57

SUNDAY

Could global tax reform at last be within reach?

Several sources cover news of the Biden administration’s corporation tax proposals with the FT reporting that the political battle lines in the US are being formed with many Republicans on Capitol Hill warning that the changes could harm US multinationals while two of the most influential Democratic lawmakers on tax policy have backed the plans. Elsewhere, the Observer’s business leader argues that the move from Washington has raised hopes of a breakthrough for a global agreement on tax and describes the proposals as a change that could make the world a fairer place and “kill tax havens dead”.

Financial Times The Observer, Page: 56

No IHT for Philip’s bequests, unless you’re a minor royal

The Sunday Times reports that due to a deal struck with former PM John Major bequests from Prince Philip to the Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge will be tax-free. However, anything from the Duke of Edinburgh’s estate which is passed to his other children or grandchildren, including his second son, the Duke of York, and the Duke of Sussex, would be taxed at the standard 40%, above the £325,000 threshold. The “sovereign to sovereign” rule was negotiated with the Conservative government in 1993 when the Queen and the Prince of Wales first agreed to pay income tax.

The Sunday Times, Page: 4

CORPORATE NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

Suspect Sanjeev Gupta invoices used in Greensill loans raise fraud concerns

Several European metals companies have denied doing business with Sanjeev Gupta’s Liberty Commodities, raising questions over invoices purporting sales to the businesses which formed the basis of funding from Greensill Capital. Separately, the collapse of Greensill has led to 440 staff losing their jobs, administrators have revealed. Grant Thornton said 305 redundancies would be made at the firm’s head office in Warrington, with the rest in London.

Financial Times, Page: 1 BBC News

John Lewis chief says no more store closures expected

Pippa Wicks, John Lewis’s chief executive, has insisted there will be no further shop closures, as she defended the partnership’s revival strategy two weeks after shutting eight outlets. The Times cites analysis by PwC which shows nearly 99m sq ft of retail space has closed in the past year while 5,500 out of 30,000 non-essential retail stores remained closed between the three lockdowns and may never reopen.

The Times, Page: 49 The Daily Telegraph

Frasers Group to take £200m Covid hit

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group is anticipating a £200m hit due to coronavirus, warning that further restrictions on retail are “almost certain”. Chris Wootton, chief financial officer, said the additional writedown had not been the result of pressure from RSM, its new auditor, and that the decision had not been reviewed by RSM although the group had informed the firm before telling investors.

The Daily Telegraph The Times, Page: 50 City AM The Guardian

Brooks Brothers UK enters administration

The British division of US clothing retailer Brooks Brothers has entered administration, after suffering from a lack of demand for its products as people worked from home. Begbies Traynor has been appointed as the company’s administrators.

City AM

SUNDAY

Italian consortium to bid for National Lottery

The Sunday Telegraph reports that investment firm CVC Capital Partners is backing a bid to run the National Lottery led by portfolio company Sisal, the operator of Italy’s most popular lottery. The bid will be made in conjunction with children’s charity Barnardo’s, which will provide expertise on raising money for good causes in the UK. The Sisal-led consortium is attempting to displace incumbent operator Camelot, which has run the National Lottery since its launch more than a quarter of a century ago. The auction is being run by Rothschild, EY and Hogan Lovells on behalf of the Gambling Commission and is scheduled to culminate this autumn.

The Sunday Telegraph, Business, Page: 4

Day accused of manipulating Peacocks rescue

The Sunday Times reports on claims that Philip Day engineered the administration of his Peacocks business so it ended up being bought by Steve Simpson, his closest lieutenant. The paper’s Sam Chambers says the deal has ensured the key components of Day’s Edinburgh Woollen Mill Group have ended up being controlled by Simpson and that other suiters had no chance, leaving questions for advisers from FRP Advisory and RSM.

The Sunday Times, Business, Page: 5

SMEs NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SUNDAY

Scotland’s entrepreneurs need vision and investment

Gillian Bowditch says in the Sunday Times that Scotland’s small businesses need investment from the Scottish government and leadership from Scottish Enterprise – an organisation she says, “has proved to be a bloated and inefficient body that ought to be disbanded.” SMEs are the key to economic growth and instead of dreaming about unicorns, Nicola Sturgeon’s government should recognise that uncertainty over independence makes business leaders nervous and red tape ties up entrepreneurs: what’s needed is “vision, courage and calculated risk” or there is little hope for economic growth.

The Sunday Times

Optimism returns for small businesses

A report from Hitachi Capital shows confidence among small businesses has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with 36% of business owners predicting they will grow during the second quarter, up from just 14% a year ago. The percentage fearing collapse has also fallen from 29% over the past year to 7%.

Sunday Express, Page: 59

FINANCE NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SUNDAY

Banks prepare to claw back billions in Covid loans

HSBC, NatWest, Barclays and Lloyds have begun writing to businesses warning them that repayments on emergency support loans will soon be expected. Banks have handed out more than £75bn to 1.6m firms under a number of schemes set up by Rishi Sunak, the Chancellor, and are expected to spend millions on recovery. One senior banker warned that lenders could go in hard to recover debts after a recent court case found banks do not have a duty of care to borrowers who fail to repay.

Daily Mail

PENSIONS NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

Pension schemes take legal action over reformulation of inflation measure

Trustees of the Ford, BT and Marks and Spencer pension schemes are seeking a judicial review of the decision to change the calculation of inflation, which they say will leave millions of retirees with lower annual payouts. The Government’s recent decision to align the Retail Prices Index (RPI) with the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) will have “far-reaching implications” which have not been “fully considered” by officials, the trustees argue. The reform is also seen as likely to lead to an increase in scheme funding shortfalls because it reduces the value of RPI-linked assets. This in turn would add pressure on sponsoring employers, the trustees pointed out.

Financial Times Pensions Age Investment & Pensions Europe

SUNDAY

How to get your own £7,000 state pension bonanza

The Telegraph reveals how pensioners were able to recoup thousands of pounds of pension underpayment after reaching out to Sir Steve Webb, the former Pensions Minister. Figures released last week by the Office for Budget Responsibility revealed the average arrears payment for the first time. More than 74,000 married women are to receive up to an average of £23,000 over the next five years, while widowed retirees are owed an average £17,000. Sir Steve, who has led the campaign resulting in thousands of women applying for back payments, said: “While it is good news that some married women will now be contacted and awarded an increased pension as part of the DWP’s exercise, even this group may have to wait up to five years to be put on the right rate.”

The Daily Telegraph

Britons may have to work an extra four years before retirement

Experts have suggested a recent study concluding that the average retirement age has risen from 64 to 66 may be off the mark by four years or more. Neil Moles, CEO of financial advice firm Progeny, says his research indicates “people are expecting to work for up to two years more, however, we could be looking at three, four or more years longer than this for many people.” Moles suggests this is a result of fears over high levels of government debt and future tax hikes, as well as concerns over looking after other family members after they retire.

Sunday Express

PROPERTY NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

House prices expected to continue rising

Figures from Halifax on Friday show house prices rose 1.1% during March, the biggest increase in six months. In annual terms, prices rose 6.5%, the strongest reading in four months and taking the average house price to a record high £254,606, Halifax said. The lender added that it expected the upturn to persist in the next few months as consumer confidence grows on the back of Britain’s swift COVID-19 vaccine rollout. “However, with the economy yet to feel the full effect of its biggest recession in more than 300 years, we remain cautious about the longer-term outlook,” Halifax added.

Daily Mail

Property developer boss says workers must return to the office

Land Securities CEO Mark Allan is urging the Government to change its guidance that states people should continue work from home if they can until June at the earliest. A safe return to the office should be accelerated if we are to see economic activity in Britain’s cities revived, Allan said. His comments come as employers including HSBC, Lloyds, Grant Thornton and PwC have said they will slash office space after the pandemic recedes.

Daily Mail, Page: 91

SUNDAY

NCP’s landlords gear up for battle over restructuring plans

Landlords are fighting back against demands from Japanese-owned car park operator NCP that substantial rent arrears are written off. Sky News reports that a group of landlords is said to be lining up AlixPartners and Hogan Lovells to advise them in a bid to overturn NCP’s proposals. Melanie Leech, the chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “This Restructuring Plan, if approved, will signal to businesses that they can use this new business rescue procedure to simply walk away from debt owed to property-owners […] who represent local authorities and millions of pensioners and savers invested in commercial property, to a business’ shareholders.” NCP, which is being advised by Deloitte, has warned that it is likely to collapse unless the restructuring is implemented.

Sky News

EMPLOYMENT NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

Furlough fraud cases rocket

The Express reflects on the creation of a taskforce to claw back cash lost to furlough fraud during the pandemic. Official figures from HMRC show reports of furlough themed fraudulent activity have risen to just over 26,000; at the time of the Budget HMRC had 10,000 live inquiries. Iskander Fernandez, Head of White Collar Crime and Investigations at BLM, said of the Chancellor’s £100m funding for the taskforce that it may be considered “a conservative sum given the potential scale of fraud.”

Daily Express

SUNDAY

MPs call for fairness as IR35 changes rolled out

The All Party Parliamentary Loan Charge Group has called for off-payroll reforms currently being rolled out to be re-examined during the passage of the Finance Bill this year. A report from the group stated that: “All ‘inside IR35’ workers should get full rights under all legislation dealing with agency workers, with a clear and transparent right to holiday and sick pay.” The APPG recommended an alignment of tax and employment law to ensure fairness, declaring: “We call on the Government to accept it is unfair for workers who are taxed as employees to be denied the rights and benefits of an employee or recognition in employment law. Anyone who is taxed as an employee should also receive the corresponding benefits; thus, by aligning tax and employment law, certainty for both contractors and hirers will ensue.”

Sunday Express

ECONOMY NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

Consumers chomping at the bit

Experts are predicting a spending spree next week as shops reopen on what is being dubbed as “Bounceback Monday”. Analysts predict £4.5bn could be spent in the first seven days of post-lockdown shopping with Lisa Hooker, head of consumer markets at PwC, saying: “You will see a big bang, particularly if the weather is good. There is enormous pent-up demand. Retailers were quite cautious when we came out of lockdown last year but this time there is far more excitement.”

Daily Mail, Page: 43

Trade with France returns to pre-Brexit levels

March saw trade between the UK and France return to pre-Brexit levels raising hopes of a swift recovery as businesses get to grips with customs arrangements. Analysis by French customs officials shows imports from Britain climbed to 107% of typical levels after taking Covid effects into account, the research found – with exports back at 96%.German figures for February also showed improvement with the sharp slump witnessed in January shrinking markedly. However, trade experts said Anglo-German trade is still struggling badly with exporters hit particularly hard.

The Daily Telegraph

SUNDAY

Take care of emerging markets, your future depends on it

The International Monetary Fund warned last week that the multi-speed recovery from the pandemic was leaving developing nations behind. The worst-hit countries will be emerging Asian economies which could suffer a near-8% loss in GDP by 2024 compared to pre-Covid projections. The US, by comparison, will be larger by 2024 than it would have been if Covid had never hit. “Last year, everyone spent like crazy, it was a big widening of fiscal deficits everywhere in advanced economies and in emerging markets,” explains Marcelo Carvalho, head of global emerging markets research at BNP Paribas. “The difference is the room for manoeuvre; the fiscal space is more limited for emerging markets. In advanced economies, you can print your own hard currency, it’s not the case for emerging markets.” The Telegraph’s Tom Rees concludes: “Advanced economies could soon put Covid in the rear-view mirror but for many poorer countries a longer, rougher road to recovery lies ahead.”

The Sunday Telegraph

INTERNATIONAL NEWS – WEEKEND TO 11TH APRIL 2021

SATURDAY

Wall Street investors look warily at gathering tax ‘storm’

While many laud President Joe Biden’s corporation tax plans, analysts are warning they pose a serious risk to profit margins for US companies and could derail hiring plans. As if to illustrate the point, the Times reports on an exodus of millionaires from New York to Florida and Texas as tax rises threaten a drastic reduction in the city’s tax receipts.

Financial Times, Page: 17 The Times, Page: 44

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Paul Southward