Family businesses lobby group calls for £150bn of tax cuts
The International Business Network has called for the abolition of corporation tax and cuts to income tax and VAT to drive a post-pandemic recovery. The group, which represents family businesses, urges the Government to make £150bn of tax cuts, £70bn of which should be permanent while quantitative easing should be abandoned and perpetual “Covid recovery bonds” issued in its place to finance the recovery. “The UK is at an economic crossroads between prosperity and long-term relative decline. It is vital it chooses the right path,” John Longworth, chairman of the network, said. “This package sets out a clear agenda to allow family owned and run businesses . . . the cover they need to drive us out of this economic Armageddon.”
The US president is expected to use his first speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday to outline his proposals for increases in capital gains tax, corporation tax and income tax. The tax raid on America’s wealthy is supposed to fund multi-trillion dollar spending programmes, but Republicans have called the plans “economic sabotage” while business figures said it threatened to “kill the golden goose that is America.” Chris Christie, the former Republican presidential candidate, said it showed Mr Biden was a “far-left president”. He said: “It is nothing more than income redistribution. It’s socialism.” Those earning more than $1m will see CGT rates almost double and when local and state capital tax rates are combined with the new federal level investors will pay up to 58% in some localities, such as New York City. Meanwhile, Mr Biden also plans to give the IRS an extra $80bn to crack down on wealthy individuals and powerful corporations who try to evade his proposed new tax hikes. UK analysts are watching the Chancellor closely to detect signs that he may follow suit with his own CGT rate increase later this year.
PAC issues stinging report on tax and UK’s net-zero vision
A report from the Public Accounts Committee has said that the Treasury and HMRC have no “clear vision” of how taxes could help the UK meet its legal target of net-zero emissions by 2050. Committee chair Meg Hillier said the Government needed to release a clearer plan ahead of Cop26: “The economic revolution required to abandon fossil fuels and reach net zero must be the greatest coordinated ask of governments around the globe in history,” she said. “But the UK Government has been blithely issuing ever more ambitious climate targets for years now, with no sign of a roadmap to reach any of them. The departments in charge seem stuck in a bygone era, with little sign of the innovative thinking needed to achieve all this.”
The Independent Daily Express, Page: 4
French and German finance ministers back US global tax plan
France and Germany have backed the US Government’s idea of a global minimum corporate tax rate of 21% to be negotiated at the OECD. Germany’s finance minister Olaf Scholz said that personally, he had nothing against the US proposal. France’s Bruno Le Maire said: “If that is the result of negotiations, we would also be agreed.” Austrian Finance Minister Gernot Bluemel said the U.S. proposal was constructive. “This tax fairness must also apply above all between digital and analogue business models,” he said.
Venture capital investment into technology start-ups in the UK and Ireland is on track to set a record in 2021, according to data business PitchBook. Technology companies in the UK and Ireland raised £5.3bn in the first quarter of 2021, placing the sector on track to surpass last year’s funding record of £13.4bn. “In this post-Brexit era, UK-based companies have generally been able to attract capital and conduct business as usual,” PitchBook wrote in its new European Venture Report. “In the long run, prominent UK-based start-ups could play a key role in retaining talent and attracting new overseas investment,” the report added.
The latest KPMG Venture Pulse survey reveals that venture capital investment in Scottish businesses cooled in the opening months of the year, with the combined value of deals falling to £64.3m, from £97.6m previously. Amy Burnett, senior manager with KPMG private enterprise in Scotland, commented: “The figures for Q1 are relatively subdued and disappointing, but it’s clear investors still have an appetite for Scottish scale-ups. To some extent, we bucked the global trend towards the end of 2020, with significant deal volume and value, and we’re now seeing that steady off and balance itself out.” Bina Mehta, chair of KPMG UK and head of the firm’s ‘emerging giants’ practice, added: “The fact that the amount of VC investment coming into the UK from overseas increased in this post-Brexit environment is encouraging, as was the continued strength of corporate VC investment”;
The Business Banking Resolution Service finally went live in February after a series of delays, the Times reports, but since its inception in 2019 the body has cost more than £23m without having compensated a single business. The BBRS was set up to give small and mid-sized businesses an independent view on banking disputes. Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Small businesses seeking redress will be looking at these big sums and expecting big results.”
Bloom & Wild has acquired Netherlands-based competitor Bloomon for an undisclosed sum – its first acquisition which quadruples the size of the online flower and gifting platform’s European footprint. PKF advised Bloom & Wild on the deal. Sophia Meadows, finance director at Bloom & Wild, said: “PKF were an invaluable support throughout the entire process. They were flexible with ever moving timelines, totally understood our business and what mattered to us and we relied on their technical expertise heavily to guide us through the process.”
Research from Netwealth suggests the pandemic has made people more engaged with their personal finances, although just one in seven Britons have increased their reliance on financial advice. A February survey of 2,000 adults aged 35-plus found two in five (41%) said they were more engaged with their personal finances throughout the pandemic than in previous years. But the research also found only 15% said they relied more on a financial adviser or wealth manager during the pandemic compared with previous years.
ECONOMY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 28TH APRIL 2021
New Investment Council will advise on post-Brexit reform
The Department of International Trade has announced the creation of a new Investment Council to help advise ministers on how to make the most of Britain’s post-Brexit freedoms. The body, which is made up of private sector businesspeople, will meet at least twice a year to provide strategic advice on how to make regulatory changes to improve the attractiveness of the UK for foreign investors. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said: “Alongside the Office for Investment, this Investment Council led by Minister Grimstone is a major leap towards ensuring foreign investors are heard and fostering a business environment that is fair and drives innovation and economic growth across the UK.”
UK manufacturers’ profitability drops to decade low
Figure from the ONS show UK manufacturers’ profitability fell sharply for a second consecutive year in 2020, dropping to 8.8%, the lowest since 2010.
Opinion: Investors should consider doing a little goodwill hunting
The Telegraph’s Ben Wright considers the treatment of goodwill and warns that a high proportion of listed companies entered the pandemic with the value of the goodwill on their balance sheet exceeding their retained earnings. “The worry is that the pandemic will have profoundly altered some of the assumptions about the future upon which companies were valuing their goodwill.” Adam Leaver, a professor of accounting and society at the University of Sheffield, says: “The big question is how difficult it’s going to be for some companies to sustain the cash flow expectations that underpin the assumptions on which that goodwill is valued in this new world.” He adds: “For acquisitive companies with levered balance sheets, [it] could get very messy if all of a sudden, observers begin to question the cash flow expectations that underlie their goodwill valuations.”
The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 4
Contact Paul Southward
NEWS – TUESDAY 27TH APRIL 2021
NEWS – TUESDAY 27TH APRIL 2021
TAX NEWS – TUESDAY 27TH APRIL 2021
White House says capital gains tax rise will hit only richest 0.3%
Following heavy criticism of new tax plans coming out of the White House, a Biden administration official has said only the richest 0.3% of Americans would have to pay the new levy on capital gains. The Mail reports that wealth advisers in the US are seeing a flood of inquiries as clients rush to sell assets, shift gains into retirement accounts or tax-deferred opportunity zone funds.
New research from Aldermore Bank indicates signs of recovery for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), as they reveal plans to invest in their businesses in the next year, coinciding with the easing of lockdown restrictions. SMEs plan to spend an average of £97,000 to grow their business in 2021 and help kickstart their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next 12 months, one in four (25%) SMEs will invest in their online presence, with one in five (21%) advancing their digital marketing. A further one in four (21%) will spend on new equipment and 20% will invest in their staff through training. “It’s encouraging to see that SMEs are investing in their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, said Tim Boag, group managing director, business finance at Aldermore. “Recent data reveals a vastly improved near term outlook for businesses, with the easing of restrictions. Confidence from SMEs is growing, and this is reflected in plans to invest in the growth of their businesses in order to recover effectively from the pandemic”.
Research by angel network Cornerstone Partners shows that entrepreneurs from black and ethnic minority backgrounds are being excluded from venture capital funding. Just 1% of founders who receive seed funding identify as black, according to the study. Only 3% of VC-funded founders identified as black and only 2.9% were Asian. The report also says that three quarters of founders come from advantaged socio-economic backgrounds and hardly any founders come from families living on welfare entitlements. Cornerstone Partners has made a number of recommendations, including the establishment of schemes that support angel groups and accelerators which invest in businesses led by minority founders. It also called for the introduction of early career development.
Figures from NAEA Propertymark show one in six homes sold in March went for more than the asking price – a seven year high – with just a third selling for below the original price. Mark Hayward, chief policy adviser at Propertymark, said: “The imbalance of supply and demand means it’s an extremely strong sellers’ market; properties are selling quickly and for over the asking price, and this is something we expect will continue in the coming months.” Homeowners reconsidering their lifestyle and the stamp duty holiday are seen as the main drivers of the increased demand.
A new report from LCP warns that it will take too long to save into defined contribution (DC) pensions to keep retirement savings steady and offset the loss of defined benefit (DB) income. The report, titled ‘The ski slope of doom – is this the most worrying chart in pensions?’, claims that the incomes of newly retired workers are set to fall at a much more dramatic rate in the coming decades than had previously been thought. The report found that for those working in the private sector, the decline of traditional “final salary” type pensions is more rapid than expected and that the rise of new-style workplace pensions will take longer to make a real impact than previously assumed.
Research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that inheritances are likely to be larger compared with lifetime incomes for younger generations than was the case for their predecessors. For those born in the 1980s, average inheritances compared to lifetime income are projected to be almost twice as large as those born in the 1960s.
ECONOMY NEWS – TUESDAY 27TH APRIL 2021
UK growth forecasts boosted by vaccines rollout and extended state support
Analysis by Consensus Economics puts UK growth at 5.4% this year, up from 4.2% predicted in February. Others believe this remains pessimistic, however, with Oxford Economics going as high as 7.2%. The EY ITEM Club has predicted growth of 6.8% while Goldman Sachs goes as high as 7.8%. A bounce-back is not unexpected considering the UK suffered a 9.8% slump in 2020 – the worst performance among the G7 group of major advanced nations but forecasters are upgrading predictions following the “innovative and flexible” response of UK businesses and consumers to the pandemic.
Investors may have to wait until 2025 for dividend recovery
According to Link Group’s Dividend Monitor, British companies paid out £12.7bn in dividends in the first quarter of 2021, down 27% on the same period last year. Reduced payouts from oil giants Shell and BP were responsible for most of the drop. Link said dividends were down 42% over the last 12 months and its “best-case” forecast for this year was a rise of just 5.6% on last year’s total. Ian Stokes of Link Group said there were signs of recovery but “2025 still looks like the most realistic moment for dividends to match their 2019 high point.”
City bosses want payback after being left on Brexit sidelines
The Telegraph’s Lucy Barton looks ahead to what’s in store for the City post-Brexit as organisations including the Investment Association submit ideas to the Treasury for reform. The lobby group told ministers to consider a fully exempt tax regime for UK funds to keep them competitive with EU rivals. One banking executive who is in regular talks with ministers told the paper: “There will definitely be changes. Banking is completely exposed to politics and political changes – that’s always a huge risk – but I’ve never seen such commitment to change.” But although Rishi Sunak has told the City to brace itself for a “Big Bang 2.0” post-Brexit, TheCityUK’s CEO Miles Celic argues the sector is not chasing a “deregulatory agenda”. He says: “Competitiveness is about much more than regulation – it’s got to look at issues such as access to talent and a stable, predictable, simplified tax regime.” Finally, Barnabas Reynolds at Shearman and Sterling believes big changes are on the way, but it could take three to five years for the rule book to look significantly different.
The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2
OTHER NEWS – TUESDAY 27TH APRIL 2021
Johnson hopeful restrictions will lift on 21st June
Boris Johnson has said Britain had built “some pretty robust fortifications” against another wave of Covid and there is now a “very good chance” of completely ending coronavirus restrictions in England on June 21st, as planned. The prime minister said lockdown had helped get the number of cases down considerably but that did not mean Covid was over.
Tax authorities could seek clarification from PM over flat refurb
Boris Johnson may have to clarify with HMRC where the £58,000 used to refurbish his Downing Street flat came from and whether it should have been declared, the i reports. The Prime Minister would be “treated like any other taxpayer” to determine whether he derived any benefit in kind from any loans or donations for the refurbishment. It was reported last week that Tory donor Lord Brownlow was to chair a charitable trust, set up by Mr Johnson for “preserving Downing Street’s heritage”, and donated £58,000 into it to pay for the revamp. Downing Street says Mr Johnson has now covered all of the costs for the work, but it is unclear whether this was after a loan or donation had been made by Tory party donors. Fiona Fernie, a tax disputes and resolution partner at Blick Rothenberg, said: “HMRC will always look for clarification if there is a chance that money wouldn’t have been received by someone unless it was because of the position they were in. HMRC would not want to be seen not to seek clarification from the Prime Minister when it would from anyone else.”
The i , Page: 6
Investment trade body seeks abolition of taxes on UK funds
Proposals to make the City more competitive post-Brexit include a call from the Investment Association for the Government to apply a zero rate of value added tax to all UK funds.
Analysis shows fees and expenses charged or incurred by insolvency practitioners and lawyers working on recovering assets for bondholders exposed to the London Capital & Finance scandal have contributed to total costs approaching £25m. LCF failed after the Financial Conduct Authority said that it was misleadingly promoting high-risk bonds. Smith & Williamson , which is leading the administration of LCF as well as linked insolvencies of borrowers including London Oil & Gas and Prime Resorts, defended its costs after some bondholders criticised the fees as “exorbitant”. Finbarr O’Connell, partner at Smith & Williamson, said: “Our extensive investigation work … has led to us issuing legal proceedings against a number of parties with a view to recovering substantial funds. This robust action can’t be undertaken without incurring costs and fees.” FRP Advisory and CMB Partners, along with lawyers from Mishcon de Reya, have also worked on the insolvencies.
It is in the EU’s own interests to agree a post-Brexit deal on financial services, says PwC’s global head of financial services John Garvey, who predicts that although an agreement may not transpire in the short term, the Europeans will eventually realise they need access to the London market. An aversion to shouldering the risk is also hampering the EU’s efforts to set up a new financial centre, Garvey adds, as none of their governments, particularly Germany, is comfortable with taking on the responsibility.
A survey of 500 SMEs by Nucleus Commercial Finance finds that small firms believe it will take an average of a year for their business to make up for lost revenue caused by the coronavirus crisis. The study indicated medium-sized businesses are most confident about their recovery while younger business owners are more optimistic about making up lost revenue. Chirag Shah, chief executive of Nucleus Commercial Finance, said: “While the trepidations of the pandemic and subsequent restrictions will have lasting effects for many British businesses, it’s encouraging to see such optimism among SMEs about their projected finances as they return to business as usual.”
The I, Page: 40
Nearly 4,000 businesses repay furlough grants
Research by UHY Hacker Young indicates that some 3,777 businesses have voluntarily repaid over £760m in furlough grants to HMRC. The firm says it is likely that many of these businesses claimed furlough money in the early stages of the pandemic as a precaution in case they ran into financial difficulties.
The I, Page: 42
ECONOMY NEWS – MONDAY 26TH April 2021
Data points to rapid recovery
Tracking data from Apple and Citymapper indicates that movement in cities has almost reached the post-Covid highs of last September, raising hopes of a strong comeback for the UK economy. Figures from Google suggest footfall in retail and restaurant hubs are down 30% compared to the 60% fall seen in February while data from Opentable show restaurant bookings last week were almost 40% down on normal levels. Meanwhile, data from Barclays suggests total spending was 15% above pre-Covid levels in the first week of the latest phase of reopening. Sanjay Raja, UK economist at Deutsche Bank, says he expects a 5% jump in GDP in a “roaring” second quarter compared to the previous three months. Fabrice Montagné, Barclays UK economist, adds that although the consumer-related fast data is heartening, it is labour market improvements that will in time prove much more critical to the sustainability of the recovery.
UK economy is on course for its best year of growth since WW2
Economists at EY Item Club predict GDP growth of 5% to 6.8% for 2021 – the highest rate since the Second World War. The economy is expected to regain its pre-pandemic size by the second quarter of 2022, they add, due to Britain proving “more resilient than seemed possible”. The final three months of this year should also see peak unemployment fall from 7% to 5.8%, EY said. Separately, the Deloitte Consumer Tracker shows every measure of confidence – from the state of the economy to general wellbeing and personal debt levels – improved over the first quarter. “The UK is primed for a sharp snap back in consumer activity,” said Ian Stewart, chief economist at Deloitte. “High levels of saving, the successful vaccination rollout and the easing of the lockdown set the stage for a surge in spending over the coming months.”
Time for citizens to take back control, scientists say
In an open letter published today, leading scientists say ministers and Government advisers are exaggerating the threat from COVID-19 and that all restrictions must be lifted on June 21 – the final date in Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown. They argue that with data showing vaccines reduce the risk of death by 98% and hospitalisations by more than 80%, COVID-19 is being turned into a mild disease in Britain. The letter’s 22 signatories include Professors Carl Heneghan and Sunetra Gupta from Oxford University, Emeritus Professor Hugh Pennington from the University of Aberdeen and Professor Robert Dingwall from Nottingham Trent University. “We are being told, simultaneously, that we have successful vaccines and that major restrictions on everyday life must continue indefinitely. Both propositions cannot be true,” the scientists write. They add: “Mandatory face coverings, physical distancing and mass community testing should cease no later than 21 June along with other controls and impositions. All consideration of immunity documentation should cease.”
“It is time to free up businesses and people to start really building back our economy and the nations health.”
TAX NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
Investors in uproar over Biden’s proposed capital gains tax rise
Investors have lashed out at Joe Biden’s plans to double capital gains tax with Scott Minerd at Guggenheim Partners declaring the plans “insanity” while Anthony Scaramucci, founder of SkyBridge Capital, believes the proposals would “have deleterious effects on job creation and wage growth for middle-class workers.” Stocks fell following the announcement and cryptos such as Bitcoin and Ether fell sharply. Although the plans will face stiff opposition in Congress, fund managers warn that investors could dump “momentum” stocks as they seek to crystallise gains ahead of a tax hike. Alasdair McKinnon, manager of the Scottish Investment Trust, said the impact of Biden’s proposals would be felt across America’s stock market. “New capital gains taxes are unhelpful to all asset prices,” he said.
The Express reports on plans touted by the European Commission to harmonise tax rates across the bloc for tobacco products. Pieter Cleppe, a research fellow with the Brussels-based Property Rights Alliance, said in a paper that the Commission is exploring ways to do this without EU Treaty change, “using health concerns as a pretext to obtain more power.”
HMRC deadline extension creates state pension headache
HMRC has warned that small business owners and those with ‘side hustles’ could miss out on state pension benefits if they filed their tax return after January this year.
Conservatives should fight an international tax stitch-up
Hamish McRae asserts in the Mail on Sunday that if Joe Biden gets his tax hikes though Congress other countries would have cover for introducing similar measures too. The new administration wants to tax capital gains as income, raise corporation tax and introduce a global minimum tax rate. McRae says following the extreme pandemic spending by governments, raising taxes on the wealthy is logical and fair and hard to argue against. The Observer’s business leader lauds Biden’s move believing the tax hikes and trillions in stimulus are intended to tackle “deep-rooted inequalities” and that the UK Government should use Washington’s move to inspire its own plans to build back better. But Daniel Hannon contends in the Sunday Telegraph that plans for international tax harmonisation, with legal threats against those who resist, “would mark the birth of a high-tax cartel, and the rate would surely rise”. Socialists have long resented the fact that exorbitant taxes redistribute people rather than wealth, but without international competition this inconvenience would end, he says, as would the right of poor nation states to try and improve their lot through tax cuts. Ultimately, Hannan adds, low taxes improve revenue, employment and economic activity – all things needed to repair shattered post-pandemic public finances, but this seems to have been forgotten by Conservatives in the UK.
The Observer, Page: 56 The Mail on Sunday, Page: 122 The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 20
HMRC sends 18,500 fines to wrong address
HMRC has sent 18,500 fines to the wrong address with a software error said to be to blame for the fiasco, the Sunday Times reports. Accountants have reported finding demands for multiple taxpayers when opening envelops addressed to another taxpayer, with private codes and other reference numbers included in the correspondence. “This is an absolutely astonishing blunder,” said George Bull from RSM. “HMRC makes much of relying on self-employed workers getting their tax bills right, but appears incapable of managing its own data.” In a letter to the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT), HMRC said: “We sincerely apologise and recognise that this is not in line with our Charter standards. We take all aspects of protecting data very seriously so there has been a lot of activity to understand this incident and mitigate future risks.” HMRC said it had taken urgent action to ensure the data breach did not happen again: “If any agents receive any correspondence for incorrect clients, we would ask that they return them to HMRC.”
The Sunday Times, Business, Page: 12
CORPORATE NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
Stanlow refinery reaches with HMRC
Essar Oil, which controls the Stanlow oil refinery in north west England, has struck a deal with HMRC on its tax liability. The refinery produces a sixth of the country’s petrol and diesel and has now been thrown a £400m lifeline by the taxman amid fears it could collapse. Industry sources confirmed the “time to pay” deal reached with HMRC has removed the risk of insolvency. International travel restrictions have reduced demand while poor margins for refining alongside market volatility caused operating losses for the company.
Fundraising experts warn that charities will inevitably have to ration their services after the pandemic left them struggling for cash. Some small operations are suspending services leaving others to pick up the slack. The Sunday Telegraph notes that between April 2020 and February, the Charity Commission saw a 25% increase in concerns being raised by auditors over reports and accounts. The main issue reported was insolvency or financial difficulties.
Tate & Lyle auctions off primary products division
Tate & Lyle has been working with Deloitte for some time to figure out the best way to spin off its primary products division, with Apollo Global Management and Cerberus among the interested parties. City sources say a £1.2bn auction for the division is now underway.
Small firms suffer cashflow woes just as support is withdrawn
The Sunday Times talks to small business owners who, after being devastated by the pandemic, face paying back Covid loans before their cashflow has been repaired. One businessman said: “The speed at which the Government thinks you’re able to start hurling money back at them is crazy.” Craig Beaumont, chief of external affairs at the Federation of Small Businesses said the issue was common, adding: “The Government should be throwing everything it’s got at getting businesses across this ‘unlock’ phase and into the recovery, to avoid businesses falling at the final hurdle because of lack of cashflow.” But Steve Russell, head of restructuring services at PwC, says VAT deferrals, the furlough scheme and emergency loans are “not gifts. They are support schemes that need to be unwound.”
PERSONAL FINANCE NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
Families increasingly using deed of variation
Irwin Mitchell solicitor Sarah Paton says there has been an uplift of families changing the wills of elderly parents after they pass to help younger generations hit hard by the pandemic. “A deed of variation can be used to give a fixed sum or a proportion of the estate directly to the grandchildren of the deceased instead of the children,” she explains. Mike Hodges, partner at Saffery Champness, points out that families often decide it is better to wait until after the death to work together to rejig the will, to save the loved one distress. Using a deed of variation can also reduce inheritance tax liabilities by shifting assets directly to a younger person’s estate.
The Mail on Sunday
PENSIONS NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
Drop in pension income more startling than expected
With the closure of final salary pension schemes looming, Lane, Clark & Peacock believes the drop in pension income is going to be more startling than first thought. Its research suggests that the average man retiring this year will have an annual income of £14,634 and a woman £10,042, including state pensions. But by 2045, a man retiring would have an income of £12,460, and a woman £10,797, in today’s money. Female income improves because more are expected to be able to claim full state pensions. Public sector workers will suffer less because many will still have defined benefit pensions. Steve Webb, a former pensions minister and partner at LCP, commented: “For years, salary-related pensions from private sector jobs have supported the incomes of the newly retired, and men in particular. But these pensions are disappearing much more rapidly than we thought. And new-style workplace pensions are not being built up quickly enough to take up the slack.”
The Sunday Times warns that more needs to be done to close the pensions gender gap and promote equal pay in retirement. The paper reports that research from the Prospect union has found that the gap for pensions stands at 40.3%, more than double the gender salary gap of 15.5% reported by the ONS. The SNP MP Patricia Gibson said it was unacceptable that all types of pension inherently discriminate against women. It is noted that last week, Guy Opperman, the Pensions Minister, said there was a “clear passion” for making women better off in older age.
The Sunday Times
PROPERTY NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
Tax deadline leads to frenzied market
House prices have rocketed over the course of the stamp duty holiday and there is a buying frenzy as the deadline looms, reports the Sunday Times. Figures from HMRC show almost 191,000 homes were sold in March – the highest number in a single month since July 2004. But the savings from the Chancellor’s tax cut have long since been cancelled out by property price rises, the paper’s Carol Lewis claims.
Former subpostmasters cleared over accounting scandal
Almost 40 former subpostmasters who were convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting because of the Post Office’s defective Horizon accounting system have finally had their names cleared by the Court of Appeal. The Horizon system, developed by Fujitsu, was first rolled out in 1999 but from an early stage it appeared to have significant bugs that could cause the system to misreport. Horizon-based evidence was used by the Post Office to successfully prosecute 736 people. Lord Justice Holroyde said the Post Office “knew there were serious issues about the reliability of Horizon” and had a “clear duty to investigate” the system’s defects. But the Post Office “consistently asserted that Horizon was robust and reliable”, and “effectively steamrolled over any subpostmaster who sought to challenge its accuracy”, the judge added. In all, 39 of the 42 appeals were allowed on the grounds that the prosecutions were “an affront to the public conscience.” Lawyers for the group said they would be seeking compensation and an urgent criminal investigation into the actions of those at the Post Office.
Talent hunt kicks off as London firms launch hiring sprees
Financial services, legal, PR and construction companies across London are ramping up hiring with recruiters reporting a 349% jump in banking jobs advertised. But tech is driving job creation with KPMG’s quarterly tech monitor revealing that in the three months to March, UK tech sector firms hired staff at the fastest pace seen since the second quarter of 2019. Robert Walters’ UK managing director, Chris Poole, said: “March was incredibly busy for us. It almost felt like a line in the sand – it was incredibly busy across all sectors. Technology has been busy all the way through, but there has been a lot of pent-up demand within legal, within accountancy, within financial services. Even manufacturing, procurement, supply chain – it has been across the board.”
FINANCIAL SERVICES NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
Equivalence or no equivalence, London will stay financial services leader
KPMG ’s head of Financial Services Karim Haji has said if the UK and the EU fail to agree a deal on equivalence it won’t be the end of the world. Although it would “make life easier”, it was not mandatory for a successful financial services sector. “If you take a step back, the UK has been one of the leaders in financial services regulation and infrastructure, it’s one of the key innovators in the space as well, and one of the leaders in the world, and that’s why the UK has been successful in exporting financial services – that isn’t changing as a result of Brexit,” he continued. Mr Haji’s comments come after EU commissioner Mairead McGuinness said there was no pressure to reach agreement with the UK on financial services.
City AM Daily Express
ECONOMY NEWS – WEEKEND TO 25TH APRIL 2021
UK economy rebounds with demand surging
Private sector activity grew at the fastest rate since November 2013 in April, hitting a reading of 60, according to IHS Markit’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI). This is up from 56.4 in the previous month and above the 58.2 forecast by economists. Service sector business activity rose from 56.3 to 60.1, while manufacturing output was up from 56.6 to 59.1. Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “Companies are reporting a surge in demand for both goods and services as the economy opens up from lockdowns and the encouraging vaccine rollout adds to a brighter outlook.” Looking forward, Williamson added: “Business activity should continue to grow strongly in May and June as virus restrictions are eased further, setting the scene for a bumper second quarter for the economy.”
Data from the ONS show retail sales in Great Britain rose 5.4% in March compared with the previous month – a much stronger reading than the 1.5% forecast by economists. Sales of clothes was particularly strong rising by more than 17% while the easing of travel restrictions towards the end of the month led to an 11% increase in fuel sales. Howard Archer, chief economic advisor to the EY ITEM Club, said: “It does appear that many people were intent on having an enjoyable Easter break and this likely lifted retail sales later in the month.” Also commenting, Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “Much though these figures will give cheer to the whole sector, retailers will be hoping that these positive signs translate into a sustained return to the physical stores as they reopen across the UK over the course of April. The real test of whether pent-up demand can be turned into actual sales w ill come with next month’s figures.”
Covid response pushes UK borrowing to highest since second world war
Figures from the ONS show UK government borrowing hit £303.1bn in the year ending in March, a jump of £246.1bn on the previous year when the figure was only £57.1bn. The coronavirus pandemic has driven the UK’s total accumulated public debt to £2.14trn, or 97.7% of GDP, the highest level since the early 1960s. As a percentage of national output, borrowing in the year between April 2020 and March 2021 stood at 14.5% – the highest since the financial year ending in March 1946. KPMG senior economist Michal Stelmach said rising debt was a consequence of shielding the economy from COVID-19.
The deputy governor of the Bank of England predicts “very rapid growth at least over the next couple of quarters” as Britons spend cash accumulated during the pandemic and save less of their forthcoming income. Ben Broadbent is more bullish than most of his Monetary Policy Committee colleagues on whether people will spend their savings but he warns that the year ahead is likely to be bumpy regarding inflation with multiple shifts in demand and supply.
HM Revenue & Customs has cut payments to hundreds of thousands of Universal Credit (UC) claimants during lockdown because they were mistakenly overpaid tax credits as long as 17 years ago. As many as half a million struggling families have been affected. HMRC data shows such deductions have been occurring “at a rate of 47,000 cases per week” since January 18. Figures also reveal that between April and November last year it cut £63m from claimants’ payments. UC architect Sir Iain Duncan Smith said using the benefits system to claw back tax in this way is “a major mistake” that is “causing profound difficulties.”
Wales – Labour vows ‘no income tax rise in Covid recovery’
Mark Drakeford has promised not to increase income tax while the economy is recovering from the impact of coronavirus if his party is re-elected into government at the Senedd election. The Welsh Labour leader pledged to create a “stronger, greener, fairer Wales” if in power after the 6 May vote.
Denmark charges 3 Americans and 3 Britons in tax fraud scandal
Three British citizens and three US nationals have been charged by Danish authorities with defrauding Denmark of $175m as part of a European investigation into dividend tax fraud. The cum-ex trading scheme is also being investigated by authorities in Germany, Belgium and Britain.
Defence contractor Babcock has warned of writedowns totalling some £1.7bn, more than double analysts’ estimates, following a review of historic contracts and future income. In a trading update, the firm noted that the “vast majority” of impairments are one-off in nature and non-cash affecting, with group underlying operating profit expected to be reduced by around £30m annually. Babcock’s annual results are likely to be delayed because of the volume of work needed on the writedowns and write-offs and because the company effectively has two auditors as Deloitte prepares to take over from PwC.
The Times reviews the move by Philip Day’s right-hand man to rescue Peacocks, with the backing of Day himself. The “phoenixing” of Day’s various retail interests in new vehicles fronted by Steve Simpson, his long-term lieutenant, has led to criticism. The Peacocks move infuriated rivals who have accused FRP Advisory, the administrators to Day’s assets, of “merely going through the motions, wishing to create the appearance of a fair and equal bidding process, when in fact they have a settled intention to compete with one particular party — an insider”. FRP insists it ran a full and fair process and rejects allegations that it had frustrated other bidders, such as Frasers Group’s attempts.
Working from home can turbocharge women’s pensions
Former pensions minister Ros Altmann has welcomed the move to flexible working, adding that it will “alleviate” some of the pension discrepancies between men and women. She says: “The more women can combine their caring duties with their careers, the better. It is certainly a good thing if workplaces make it easier for women to continue working full-time hours while balancing their other responsibilities.” But, she adds: “Lots of women are still unable to commit to full-time hours even when flexible working is an option.”
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SMEs NEWS – WEDNESDAY 14TH APRIL 2021
HMRC gives update on SEISS payments
HMRC has issued an update on SEISS grants, stating that the service to claim the fourth grant will be available from late April 2021. HMRC said: “If you are eligible based on your tax returns, HMRC will contact you in mid-April to give you a date that you can make your claim from. It will be given to you either by email, letter or within the online service.” HMRC added that self-employed claimants will need to confirm they meet all the eligibility criteria when making their claim – which has to be made on or before June 1, 2021.
ECONOMY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 14TH APRIL 2021
Positive Covid data pressures Johnson to reopen faster
New official figures show 23% of recorded coronavirus deaths are now people whose primary cause of death was not COVID-19. Additionally, daily death figures by “date of death” reveal that Britain has had no more than 28 deaths a day since the beginning of April while Oxford University has calculated that the number of people in hospital with an active Covid infection is likely to be around half the current published daily figure. Covid deaths now make up just 4.9% of deaths registered in England and Wales, compared with 45% in mid-January, according to the ONS. MPs are now calling on Boris Johnson to take a less cautious approach to lifting restrictions to reduce the other harms caused by lockdown. Prof Carl Heneghan, the director of the Centre for Evidence Based Medicine at Oxford University, commented: “The issue is as we go about our daily lives there will be a slight increase in cases, but the key is not to panic. I think this over-cautiousness c an be overcome by using a data-driven approach.”
The Office for National Statistics has released figures showing that UK trade with the EU recovered in February, with exports increasing by £3.7bn, or 46.6%, after a £5.7bn decline a month earlier. AJ Bell financial analyst Danni Hewson commented: “There is small comfort to be had in February’s trade figures. Exports to the EU, which dropped so dramatically off a cliff in January, have bungeed back up, though they are still £2bn down on pre-Brexit levels. Notably imports from the EU were less resilient and remain more than £5bn down.”
SEC says warrants issued by blank-check companies may be liabilities
The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued guidance indicating that the warrants issued to early investors in SPAC deals should not be classified as an equity, but rather “a liability measured at fair value, with changes in fair value each period reported in earnings.” In a statement late Monday, SEC officials said: “The evaluation of the accounting for contracts in an entity’s own equity, such as warrants issued by a SPAC, requires careful consideration of the specific facts and circumstances for each entity and each contract.” Forbes reports that uncertainty over how the SEC will treat warrants has stopped all new SPAC offerings as accounting firms will not sign-off on any financial statements or company audits until they receive clarity from the government.
US should require crypto-trading to be reported to help close tax gap
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig estimates that the US now has a $1trn tax gap – up from the last official estimate of a $441bn annual average from 2011 to 2013. Rettig reckoned trading in cryptocurrencies was escaping taxation, as was rising foreign-sourced income and abuses of business income passed through as personal income. Among his recommendations Rettig suggested new legislation requiring transactions in cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin be reported.
OTHER NEWS – WEDNESDAY 14TH APRIL 2021
Katie Price owes £3.2m to creditors
Former glamour model Katie Price reportedly owes more than £3.2m to her creditors after accountants submitted a report raising concerns about her financial conduct. Price allegedly owes the cash from her company Jordan Trading Ltd, despite being declared bankrupt in 2019 and vowing to pay back £12,000 a month through an individual voluntary arrangement. The reality star was once worth more than £45m.
Daily Mail The Sun Daily Mirror
Bank of England’s chief economist to run Royal Society of Arts
Andy Haldane is leaving the Bank of England after a 30-year career to join the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) as chief executive in September. The Bank of England’s chief economist has been among the most optimistic forecasters throughout the pandemic. “Haldane’s departure means the Bank of England is losing its major – and maybe only – current hawk,” said James Smith, economist at ING. “In theory, at the margin this tilts the committee towards a more favourable view on negative interest rates if more stimulus were needed, though we still think this is unlikely.”
American CEOs say Biden’s tax hikes will slash wages, hiring and profits
A majority of CEOs in the US have said the Biden administration’s plans to hike corporation tax from 21% to 28% would have a “moderately” to “very” significant adverse effect on their company’s competitiveness. A Business Roundtable Survey found 98% of American CEOs believe the rate increase will stunt wage growth, weaken expansion, innovation and hiring. Raytheon Technologies CEO Gregory Hayes said: “The tax system needs to support innovation, R&D, capital investment and economic growth.” He continued: “As we look toward recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping competitive tax policies in place is needed to help reinvigorate the U.S. economy and lead to more opportunity for Americans.” Meanwhile, writing in the FT, Richard Murphy says Biden’s plan for international tax reform would need robust country-by-country reporting if it’s to stop international tax arbitrage. Finally, Conservative MP Sir John Redwood has warned that a new global minimum corporation tax rate of 21% would seriously harm investment flows into Ireland, which has used a 12.5% tax rate to build its economy.
UN chief calls for wealth tax on rich boosted by pandemic
United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has urged governments to impose a “solidarity or wealth tax” on rich people who profited during the coronavirus pandemic. “We must make sure funds go where they are needed most. Latest reports indicate that there has been a $5trn surge in the wealth of the world’s richest in the past year,” Guterres told a UN meeting on financing for development. “I urge governments to consider a solidarity or wealth tax on those who have profited during the pandemic, to reduce extreme inequalities,” he added. The call from Guterres follows a similar plea from the International Monetary Fund which has advocated a “temporary COVID-19 recovery contribution” to be levied on those companies and individuals that have benefited financially during the pandemic.
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SMEs NEWS – TUESDAY 13TH APRIL 2021
City to boost Square Mile’s recovery with fund for SMEs
Catherine McGuinness, Policy Chair of the City of London Corporation, details in a piece for City AM a new Covid Business Recovery Fund to help underpin the Square Mile’s economic recovery. “The scheme is designed to support SME businesses which contribute to the Square Mile’s vibrancy at street level and directly provide services to returning City workers, visitors and residents.” McGuinness adds that most workers are keen to return to the Square Mile while City leaders have stressed their commitment to central London office space. She concludes: “The vibrancy of our unique ecosystem relies on each part of the City community – multinational businesses to domestic SMEs, international workers to local residents – working in partnership. Together we can bring back the buzz of life in the Square Mile.”
SMEs should use delays to customs changes to implement new systems
Experts are warning Britain’s small businesses to get systems in place so they can export smoothly to the EU whilst the rollout of new border procedures are delayed. Management consultant Neil McEvoy said: “Businesses need systems in place that provide scheduling and planning tools, in order to ensure every shipment is compliant when sent to the EU.” He added: “If SMEs get their selling systems ready for May they will survive, because Europe offers ‘low-hanging fruit’, with lots of people looking to spend. There will be many businesses that don’t and they will go to the wall. For those that get it right, the market is huge.”
Research from Hargreaves Lansdown shows the gap in peoples’ retirement plans has widened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The investment platform found the number of people who wanted to give up work between the age of 50 and state pension age had more than doubled from 4% before the pandemic to 10% after. Conversely, for those that wanted to carry on working full time, the figure increased from 38% to 42%. Hargreaves’ Sarah Coles said the pandemic had forced people to make decisions about their retirement. “While a fifth of people still plan to gradually ease out of the workplace, it has fuelled a rise in all-or-nothing retirement plans,” she said. Meanwhile, Darren Dicks, head of wealth management at Age Partnership, said: “Since February we have seen a marked increase in the volume of clients getting their retirement plans back on track.”
A study of more than 7,000 women aged 55 to 65 out of King’s College London warns that raising the retirement age as a means to reduce pension costs would mean a reduction in in-family care resulting in more pressure on the NHS. Research fellow Ludovico Carrino said longer working hours cut the probability of women providing “intensive” or “meaningful” care and urged officials not to consider policies in institutional silos. Sir Steve Webb, former pensions minister and partner at consultants LCP, said: “If governments are going to raise pension ages, much more needs to be done to support people who will be working longer as a result.” The Telegraph notes that the state pension age for men and women will rise to 67 by 2028 with recent increases saving the Government billions of pounds every year.
Liberty Steel has failed to file accounts for some of its biggest British businesses in time. Sanjeev Gupta is urgently seeking finance to shore up his industrial empire after its main backer, Greensill Capital went bust. Credit Suisse, a lender to Greensill, is trying to recover money lent to Gupta’s companies via court action in the UK and Australia. An insider said most of the companies had not filed audited accounts for the year ending on 31 March 2020 because they would no longer represent an up-to-date view of the businesses.
The Guardian, Page: 26
Taxpayers on the hook for Monarch airlift
papers released by KPMG show Greybull, the owner of collapsed budget airline Monarch, lost £25m from the administration process, which was completed last month. The Civil Aviation Authority was forced to charter planes to fly customers back to the UK after Monarch went bust in 2017 and it was hoped some of the costs of the airlift could have been recouped, but tax payers will have to foot the entire £60m bill.
Daily Mail, Page: 79
ECONOMY NEWS – TUESDAY 13TH APRIL 2021
North West business leaders optimistic
With coronavirus restrictions lifting across the country allowing hospitality and non-essential retail to open up again, leaders from across the North West are looking ahead with optimism. Neil Sturmey, a senior partner at Grant Thornton in the North West, noted that it had been “the longest winter” for high street retailers and the hospitality sector, with both “overdue some good news”. “That is coming,” he said. “Most of us are desperate to go out again and many businesses are hoping that we are heading for a golden summer.”
Jon Holt has been voted in as KPMG UK’s new chief executive with partners overwhelmingly backing the appointment, although he was the only candidate put forward by the board. The vacancy was created by the resignation by Bill Michael as chair and chief executive after a staff backlash in February over comments he made at a virtual town hall meeting. Mary O’Connor, who took over the day-to-day running of KPMG on an interim basis after Michael left, will now step aside. The firm’s chair Bina Mehta commented: “I’m delighted that Jon received the overwhelming backing of the partnership. Jon’s extensive experience and inclusive leadership style means he is well placed to deliver the next stage of our growth strategy and support our clients as the country emerges from the pandemic.”
An associate director at investment management company Smith & Williamson Corporate Services was sacked fairly, a tribunal has heard, after he gave a colleague a “seven out of ten” rating on a night out. Tom Skinner asked his junior colleague Jessica Lennox what would happen if they were the last people left alive and had to “repopulate the Earth.” During the same evening, he also made inappropriate comments to a woman named as ‘Ms J’ and twice followed her into the toilet and refused to leave. After he was sacked for gross misconduct, he launched an unfair dismissal claim, saying he had been discriminated against because he suffered from anxiety. His case was dismissed by a central London tribunal that ruled his “inappropriate behaviour” meant his sacking was justified.
How will Biden’s tax plan affect investment in Ireland?
The BBC’s John Campbell talks to experts about the possible impact of the Biden administration’s global corporate tax proposals on Ireland, which has famously lured multinationals to its shores with a 12.5% tax rate. This tax advantage could be wiped out with a global minimum rate which could be set at 21%, according to a suggestion from US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. But Peter Vale, tax partner with Grant Thornton in Dublin, thinks a figure in the teens is more likely, adding that another key issue will be exactly how what rate a company is paying is worked out.
Supply chains will fight for tougher regulation if corporates fail them
Rashmi Dube asserts in the Yorkshire Post that it is small businesses that pay the price for corporate governance failings at large businesses, along with Big Four conflicts of interest. Companies such as Carillion and BHS are forced into insolvency by board-level failings and suppliers want to know how they are going to be protected going forward. “It’s time for regulation and legislation to become stronger and better.”
SME confidence soars
A survey of over 1,500 firms by the Federation of Small Businesses found that confidence was at its highest since 2014 with 51% expecting their revenues to grow over the next three months, the highest proportion since the summer of 2015. Only 24% expected sales to fall.
The Daily Telegraph profiles how savers have started hunting for £40bn in lost pension savings ahead of Government proposals to use forgotten pensions and other dormant assets to launch £800m of funding for charities and social enterprises in a bid to help local economies bounce back from the pandemic. Duncan Stevens of Gretel, an asset tracing firm, said there had been an increase in the number of people inquiring about lost savings during lockdown. “People have more time on their hands and financial concerns are at front of mind,” he said. The firm estimates that 20m people have a share of around £50bn in lost savings of some kind today.
Prospects improve as Brexit-related uncertainty wanes
New research from BDO indicates that employment prospects are improving amid the success of the vaccine rollout and extension of the job retention scheme. Although the pandemic has seen the number of payroll employees go down by 693,000 on a year ago, the absence of Brexit-related uncertainty has also helped to fuel renewed optimism, BDO said.
The Times, Page: 33 The Guardian, Page: 27 The I, Page: 8 Daily Express, Page: 43 The Sun, Page: 13
INDUSTRY NEWS – MONDAY 12TH APRIL 2021
Shared audits will not provide market resilience – Herbinet
David Herbinet, the head of audit at Mazars, has called for the eventual introduction of joint audits as part of a shake-up of the industry. He told the Telegraph that managed shared audits, which have been proposed in the Government’s white paper on audit reform, do not go far enough to increase competition and choice and he would only support them as a stepping stone to joint audits. These were proposed in a 2019 review by the Competition and Markets Authority and would mean two or more firms are appointed to take equal responsibility for an entire group. Mr Herbinet said: “The main concern is that, fundamentally, managed shared audits are not going to have any meaningful impact on the market’s resilience, which I think has got to be one of the key objectives in all of this.” Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng’s proposals for reform also include a requirement for Big Four firms to ringfence their audit and consulting arms to reduce conflicts of interest and the creation of the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority, which will replace the Financial Reporting Council and could have power over large unlisted companies as well as those on the stock market.
A poll of FTSE 350 finance directors by Deloitte has revealed that the proportion expecting a reduction in capital spending over the next three years has fallen to 19% from 65% last summer. Additionally, 29% now expect to reduce hiring, down from 74% last summer. Hiring expectations have increased markedly while two-thirds of bosses expect the bulk of their workforces will return to the office by the third quarter of the year.
Letter: Mid-tier auditors fear the scrutiny of big mandates
Kingsley Napley’s Julie Matheson says not all mid-tier auditors want the extra regulation that comes with auditing listed companies, as per proposals for shared audits, and the prospect of significant sanctions.
Kwarteng makes concession on new UK takeover regime
The Business Secretary has revised the Government’s National Security and Investment Bill so fewer takeovers of British companies will need to be scrutinised by the state. Kwasi Kwarteng has revised the stake threshold at which the business department must be notified about a deal, from 15% to 25%. It follows a move last month when Mr Kwarteng narrowed the list of which type of foreign investments will fall foul of the new takeover regime. The business secretary will still have the power to call in deals below the 25% threshold if there is a suspicion that a minority stake could give the foreign investor material influence over a company. But the Henry Jackson Society think tank, said the change “risks very real security risks being allowed to sail by without scrutiny,” adding: “The Government must urgently explain its justification for this reversal.”
EY ‘s latest IPO Eye report shows the UK had the strongest first quarter for initial public offerings in 14 years with 12 main market and eight Aim IPOs raising a total of £5.6bn. This is more than half of the £9.4bn raised in the whole of 2020. The same period in 2020 saw just three IPOs on the main market and two on Aim, which raised a combined total of £615m. EY said confidence in the UK’s IPO markets as an exit route had been reinforced by significant private equity activity in the quarter. The report also showed that the UK has maintained both its position as the leading listing location in Europe and its third place position globally behind the US and China.
The Telegraph considers the fate of Bonmarché as administrators try to decide how many stores will reopen when Covid restrictions are lifted on Monday. Just over 70 of the chain’s stores were taken over four months ago and are set to reopen today but some or all of the remaining 148 stores may never reopen. Administrators at RSM have been reviewing the options but declined to say how many stores will reopen this week.
Full extent of pandemic’s high street casualties yet to be revealed
More than 17,500 chain store outlets disappeared from British high streets last year as the pandemic drove the worst decline on record. As the survivors prepare for reopening, figures compiled by the Local Data Company and PwC show fashion retailers were the hardest hit, followed by betting shops, pubs and bars and restaurants. Lisa Hooker, the head of consumer markets at PwC, commented: “The full extent will be revealed in the coming months as many of the [company restructures] and administrations in the early part of 2021 still haven’t been captured, including department stores, fashion retailers and hospitality operators that will leave big holes.” Separate figures from the British Retail Consortium show the closures wiped out 176,000 retail jobs at a rate of 484 jobs a day with a further 11,986 jobs were lost through CVAs.
Consumer confidence returns
New analysis by YouGov and the Centre for Economics and Business Research shows consumer confidence has risen to its highest level since August 2018. Employment security is close to pre-pandemic levels, the research found, and for the first time since the start of the pandemic, more households than not believe their finances will improve in the year ahead.
Washington has suggested multinational companies to pay levies to national governments based on their sales in each country as part of proposals for a global minimum tax. The Biden administration’s plans would subject about 100 of the world’s biggest multinationals, including the tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon, to a regional tax settlement while a global minimum tax rate would mean reduced tax competition between states. Pascal Saint-Amans, head of tax administration at the OECD, welcomed the US proposals. “This reboots the negotiations and is very positive,” he said. The Telegraph reports that Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Singapore and the Caribbean will be the biggest losers from the plan. Goldman Sachs economist Jan Hatzius says the move illustrates how much Biden plans to rely on taxing foreign profits for new tax revenue while Chris Sanger, head of tax policy at EY asserts that any policy that ends profit shifting is likely to be good for the UK as it “benefits those countries with a large consumer base”.
IHS Markit’s construction Purchasing Managers Index for March registered 61.7, as construction output increased at the fastest rate in six and a half years. Steve Plaskitt, partner at MHA, commented: “The spring budget was a boon for both house buyers, who stand to benefit from the extension and phased ending of the Stamp Duty holiday, and house builders, who will hope that the government’s guaranteed support for 95% mortgages until the end of 2022 will drive demand.” Elsewhere, Howard Archer from EY ITEM Club noted that civil engineering’s return to growth was particularly impressive following three consecutive months of contractions.
Car dealer Lookers said it would smash profit forecasts following a lockdown sales boom. The Mail notes that the Financial Conduct Authority has closed an investigation into the group – but the Financial Reporting Council is looking into Deloitte’s audits of the company. Mark Raban, chief executive of Lookers, said: “The events of the last year have highlighted the inherent strength of our franchised dealership model and the importance of an integrated customer experience which fully embraces both digital and physical channels.”
The Times, Page: 40 Daily Mail
SMEs NEWS – FRIDAY 9TH APRIL 2021
Small businesses supported by venture capital fundraising
Ian Sayers, chief executive of the Association of Investment Companies has spoken out on how the coronavirus crisis has affected fundraising for smaller companies, noting that “It’s really positive that during the pandemic 11% more was raised to support the UK’s most innovative and fast-growing businesses than the year before.” With venture capital trusts raising £685m last year to support such firms, he remarked: “This investment will support healthcare, science and technology businesses which have helped in the battle against coronavirus and supported us to adapt to life in lockdown. It demonstrates that demand for VCTs and the benefits they bring investors remains high at an extremely difficult time.”
City offers support for SMEs
The City of London Corporation will on Monday launch a £50m Covid Business Recovery Fund designed to support SMEs which directly provide services to returning City workers, visitors and residents. Grants will be based on individual requirements after a financial evaluation but will not exceed £100,000 per business. Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, Catherine McGuinness, said: “Many City businesses are preparing to reopen their doors next week and start welcoming back customers. This will be a welcome return to a semblance of normality but inevitably some SMEs that have struggled during the pandemic will need support to get back on their feet.”
The Times, Page: 40 City AM
PROPERTY NEWS – FRIDAY 9TH APRIL 2021
House sales surge after stamp duty extension
House sales picked up in March after signs that the extension of a stamp duty holiday had an immediate impact, the strongest surge since last August. Half of property professionals reported an increase rather than a decrease in agreed sales, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) said. Simon Rubinsohn, of Rics, said: “All key activity indictors rebounded in March. Demand is outstripping supply so prices go upwards.” The pick-up also boosted expectations that sales activity will increase over the next three months, with 35% of surveyors predicting an uptick – the most upbeat reading on this measure since January 2020.
The I follows up on the news that thousands of married women could be owed by millions by the DWP because of underpayment. Former pensions minister Sir Steve Webb, who has been investigating this issue, said that the “scale of these underpayments is shocking” and urged the Government to repay women as a “matter of urgency”.
ECONOMY NEWS – FRIDAY 9TH APRIL 2021
Fashion retail sales soared in March
Total like-for-like fashion sales jumped 57.5% in March – from a base of minus 25.9% in the same month last year. Sophie Michael, head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “Sales have improved, without a doubt, as retailers have found ways to adapt to lockdown. From virtual assistants to live video sales appointments, retailers have found technological solutions to drive sales, instead of simply shutting down like they did last year. However, as last March’s result was so disastrous, these results simply look better on paper as they’re set against such a poor base.” Separately, according to a survey by Deloitte, 56% of shoppers will feel safe about coronavirus risks when heading out to the high street next week, a 16 percentage point increase compared to last month.
City AM The Sun, Page: 47
FTSE rebounds to new post-pandemic high
Growing optimism as the economy reopens pushed the FTSE 100 to its highest level since the beginning of the pandemic on Thursday, rising 56.9 points to 6,942.22. The FTSE 250 rose to another all-time high following a top performance on Wednesday. Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets commented: “While other major indices have led the way in posting record highs in recent weeks, UK stocks appear to be finally finding favour with investors as an economic reopening beckons.”
An end to ECB bond buying poses risk to weaker eurozone economies
Experts warn that heavily indebted eurozone countries such as Italy and Greece face mounting debt costs after the pandemic – a situation that could unnerve investors and drive up interest rates. M&G fund manager Eric Lonergan said: “Europe is ironically vulnerable to recovery because it seems you only get temporary elimination of credit risk in European sovereigns when you are in an emergency, in which case the ECB underwrites your bond market. The problem is that when you come out of an emergency, you are back to market forces in the bond market, and some of these numbers look really, really bad.” Italy was particularly exposed, Mr Lonergan added, because the interest rate on its debt was higher than its rate of GDP growth.
UK businesses consulted on prolonged social distancing in offices
The Government has been consulting with professional services firms and other businesses over the long-term use of masks in offices and six months more social distancing as they make arrangements for the economy to reopen.
Accounting bodies in Scotland have called on the country’s political parties to improve public understanding of the devolved tax system. The plea comes as a new poll reveals that a third of Scots don’t know the Parliament has changed their taxes. The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS) have also called for increased scrutiny of tax by MSPs with the introduction of an equivalent to the Westminster Finance Bill, which would make changes to the tax system easier and more visible. The organisations make the call in a new paper, Building a Better Tax System, after a recent poll found that 33% of Scots said they were unaware that the Scottish Parliament had made changes to the tax system since 2015 and 26% said they were “not aware” the Scottish Parliament even had the power to make changes to income tax rates.
IMF proposes ‘solidarity’ tax on pandemic winners and wealthy
Companies that prospered during the coronavirus crisis and wealthy people should pay a temporary additional tax to show solidarity with those who were hit hardest by the pandemic, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The idea of a wealth tax has been revived by growing intergenerational inequality and the blow dealt to public finances by the pandemic, with the IMF warning that average government debt will hit 99% of GDP in 2021. But Helen Miller, deputy director at the Institute for Fiscal Studies, warned that although there was a case for a one-off wealth tax but cautioned it would not help tackle a higher structural deficit caused by Covid.
A global minimum tax on corporate profits is being considered by G20 finance ministers after the Biden administration made the case for an international base rate this week. According to Reuters, France and Germany have signalled support for the US approach, which could pave the way for a landmark agreement on global tax changes this summer. Sky News points out that may countries will not be keen on the idea, with the Republic of Ireland likely one of them. Ireland currently has a corporate tax rate of 12.5% and has attracted more than 700 companies from the US alone as a result of the policy.
Women could be owed ‘lottery-winning’ pension sums
The BBC has learned that women on £1-a-week state pensions could be owed tens of thousands of pounds. A case study highlights the case of Carole Davies. Ms Davies is among 5,000 women entitled to potentially huge refunds, many of whom will not be captured by the DWP’s search, due to a rule change in 2008. Steve Webb, a former pensions minister said under a little-known rule, the women who qualify for this concession are those who are getting a tiny amount of what is known as “graduated retirement benefit” (GRB) under the old state pension system, which ran until 1975. The average amount they are receiving is around £1.24 per week, but this is enough to qualify for a married woman’s pension. They can backdate their claims to their husband’s 65th birthday and could be in line for tens of thousands of pounds. “It is incredible that there are thousands of women getting such tiny pensions, but even more incredible that many could potentially be entitled to tens of thousands in back payments,” said Mr Webb.
Solid rebound will attract foreign workers back to Britain
International workers could flood back to Britain if the vaccine rollout encourages a more rapid reopening of the economy, Steffan Ball, an economist at Goldman Sachs said. “If jobs open up sooner in the UK than in the home countries of migrants who have recently left, then this would act as a strong force for them to return.”
Serco practice of moving profits within group ‘legitimate’, lawyer says
A court hearing a case brought against Serco alleging fraud heard the company’s lawyer argues that transferring profits between its business units was “not very admirable” but “lawful … legitimate accounting”.
BDO ’s latest Rethinking the Economy survey reveals that some 40% of North West businesses are planning major investment and hiring activities this year. Ed Dwan, partner and head of BDO in the North West, remarked: “It’s clear that as government restrictions start to loosen and the UK’s COVID vaccine programme continues to help suppress the virus, North West businesses are gaining the confidence needed to make key strategic decisions in the months ahead. Mid-sized businesses will play an integral role in the UK’s overall economic recovery.”
Employers stepped up their recruitment plans last month as companies prepared for the national lockdown to ease. A survey on employers by the Recruitment and Employment Confederation and KPMG found hiring activity picked up at its fastest pace in almost six years in March. Permanent starting salaries increased while temporary salaries also rose at the fastest rates since December 2019. Neil Carberry, chief executive of the REC, said: “This is the first month that we have really seen things getting better for most firms. We are at the bottom of the mountain and starting to climb up again.” The survey showed that the strongest growth in vacancies was for nursing and care jobs, and in the IT sector while hospitality businesses were starting to hire again. There was, however, weaker demand in the retail sector.
Business optimism is at its strongest since late 2006 according to the latest IHS Market PMI survey, with just 8% of companies predicting a fall in activity over the next twelve months. Britain’s overall PMI rose to 56.4 in March, reflecting a resurgence in services sector activity after several months of slowdown. Separately, high street footfall was up 134% over Easter weekend compared to this time last year despite non-essential shops not being open yet. Meanwhile, figures from PwC show that consumer confidence is now at its highest level since the tracking of the data began in 2008. PwC says the figures show there are consumers with more disposable income and “a pent-up demand to spend after a year of lockdown restrictions”.
The Daily Telegraph, Business, Page: 2 BBC News Daily Express
OTHER NEWS – THURSDAY 8TH APRIL 2021
Malaysia ex-PM served with bankruptcy notice
Najib Razak, the former prime minister of Malaysia, has been served with a bankruptcy notice for failing to pay more than $400m in unpaid taxes, a move that the ex-premier described as an attempt to destroy his political career.
Contact Paul Southward
NEWS – WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL 2021
NEWS – WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL 2021
TAX NEWS – WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL 2021
Global corporate tax deal edges closer after US backs minimum rate
European countries have backed US plans for a global minimum corporation tax, but UK and EU leaders have reiterated that the taxation of digital services would need to be linked for a deal to succeed. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund’s chief economist Gita Gopinath has stated that the organisation has long favoured adoption of a global minimum tax on corporate profits. Gopinath said on Tuesday that current disparities in national corporate tax rates had triggered “a large amount” of tax shifting and tax avoidance, reducing the tax base on which governments could collect revenues to fund needed economic and social spending. Chris Sanger, head of tax policy at EY, points out that if lots of countries to agree to a global solution then “there will be an advantage to any headquarter location that does not implement a global minimum tax.” Meanwhile, Eamonn Butler, director of the Adam Smith Institute, warned the plans would “represent the creation of a cartel designed to minimise competition and disadvantage consumers”.
New laws have come into force meaning around 170,000 self-employed workers are set to pay more tax. The change to off-payroll working rules – IR35 – hits those working in the private sector who pay less tax by setting themselves up as private companies. For now, contractors who work for small businesses will continue to determine their own employment status. However, contractors providing services to medium or large-sized private sector clients will need to get an employment status determination from the client. Ed Molyneux, co-founder of accounting software firm FreeAgent, told The Sun he is worried the change will “come too soon” for many contractors. He said: “This is the most significant tax change in the freelance and contracting economy for years. It essentially pushes many people who are contracting within the private and private sectors into quasi-employment, albeit without any of the protections that they would receive if they were actual employees. But those who will be most impacted are the same freelancers and contractors who have been worst affected by the pandemic, and who are still dealing with the ongoing economic fallout from it.”
The Sun Daily Express
EMPLOYMENT NEWS – WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL 2021
Pandemic turns finance professionals on to more flexible working
New research indicates that 54% of financial services employees want alternative working patterns offered to them, such as flexible hours or the option of remote working. The study by Deloitte of 2,000 financial services employees found half (52%) wanted their employer to let them work from wherever they liked in the UK, and a quarter (24%) wanted their employer to enable them to work outside the UK post-pandemic. However, 34% felt that remote working had made their relationships with colleagues more superficial, although 45% felt their sense of autonomy had increased during the same time. Payal Vasudeva, financial services future of work partner at Deloitte, said: “Changes to how people work need to be reinforced by meaningful employee experiences. This could be a sense of belonging, purpose or greater flexibility in the hours they work and where they work from. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The new world of work is not about presenteeism but empowerment. Employees should be able to make some choices in how and where they work that makes them their most productive.” Separately, Grant Thornton’s CEO David Dunckley reveals that 88% of the firm’s staff want to spend less than half of the working week in the office after the pandemic.
Peacocks bought out of administration by consortium of investors
All 1,850 store staff currently on furlough at Peacocks, as well as 150 head office and support roles are to be retained after it was announced that the chain is to be bought out of administration by a group of international investors, led by Peacocks’ former chief operating officer, Steve Simpson. Former owner Philip Day is providing the financial backing for the management buyout in the form of a deferred loan, while a group of unnamed investors are injecting cash into the business to allow it to restart trading. Tony Wright, joint administrator of the business from FRP Advisory, commented: “Jaeger and Peacocks are attractive brands that have suffered the well-known challenges that many retailers face at present. We are in advanced discussions with a number of parties and working hard to secure a future for both businesses.” Meanwhile, Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group said that it was frustrated with the unwillingness of administrators at FRP “to engage substantively” or “to provide key financial information” so it could make an informed offer for the chain. Frasers is to raise its concerns with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking which is conducting an in-depth investigation into standards in the UK insolvency profession, in response to claims that some practitioners are prioritising lenders’ interests over those of business or other creditors.
The recovery loan scheme is now open to applications, with the aims of supporting smaller businesses with additional finance to manage cashflow, growth and investment as they steer a path towards a sustainable recovery. The maximum amount of a facility provided under the scheme is £10m per business and £30m per group. Minimum facility sizes vary, starting at £1,000 for asset and invoice finance, and £25,001 for term loans and overdrafts. Businesses can choose from term loans, overdrafts, asset finance and invoice finance, subject to the lender being accredited for each of these finance types. Businesses that have taken out a CBILS, CLBILS or BBLS facility are able to access the new scheme, although the amount they have borrowed under a previous scheme may in certain circumstances limit the amount they may borrow under RLS. Interest and fees will be paid by the business from the outset and the annual effective rate of interest and upfront and other fees cannot be more than 14.99%.
FT Adviser reports that Pimfa has issued a warning to advisers on new regulations being introduced post Brexit, in particular the Investment Firm Prudential Regime. The warning comes as the Financial Conduct Authority, Prudential Regulation Authority and the Treasury are all bringing forward regulations which Pimfa says will have significant impacts on UK wealth managers and large advisory firms.
ECONOMY NEWS – WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL 2021
UK economy expected to outperform US and Europe next year
The UK’s economic growth will outpace that of the US and Europe next year due to the Treasury’s vast spending programme and the successful rollout of vaccines, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In its World Economic Outlook, the IMF predicted UK growth of 5.3% in 2021 and 5.1% next year, after taking one of the biggest GDP hits from the pandemic. Global growth is expected to bounce back to 6% this year, followed by a 4.4% rise in GDP in 2022. This comes after a 3% contraction in 2020. Despite its vaccine struggles, the eurozone will still enjoy growth of 4.4% in 2021, the IMF predicts. However, the organisation did warn of “multispeed recoveries” with the developing world lagging behind and growing financial risks from booming markets and high-levels of business borrowing.
Optimism rises for manufacturers as sales and orders improve
The manufacturing industry lobby group Make UK has revealed that almost half of businesses in the sector had seen sales and orders improve since the start of the year. Investment is also set to rise in direct response to the Chancellor’s “super-deduction” tax cut. However, Verity Davidge, policy director at Make UK, said: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer and, with the economy at a crossroads, there is an urgent need to consider how we make a structural change to permanently increase investment in the future.” The growing confidence of manufacturers is echoed by research from BDO, which said 86% of mid-sized businesses are planning to hire more staff in the next six months.
OTHER NEWS – WEDNESDAY 7TH APRIL 2021
Billionaires buoyed by crisis while businesses languish in debt
Despite the hit taken by corporates form the pandemic the wealth of the world’s billionaires has only risen, with the 10 richest people on the planet now worth a combined $1.15trn (£830bn) having grown their fortunes by around two thirds over the past year. According to Forbes’ annual world billionaires list, there are a total of 2,755 billionaires in the world whose fortunes add up to $13.1trn, a big jump on the year before when there were 660 billionaires worth a combined $8trn. For most businesses, however, the pandemic has led to increased debt with the Telegraph pointing out that Europe is now facing €1.8trn wall of debt, maturing in the next four years.