Welcome to the April 2021 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on business rates, internet connectivity, workplace testing, cyber attacks, EU exporting and automatic filing.
Business rates relief boosted with new £1.5 billion pot
Business ratepayers adversely affected by COVID-19 are to get a £1.5 billion discount on their bills.
Help is being targeted to businesses who have been unable to benefit from the existing £16 billion business rates relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses. Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have not been paying any rates during the pandemic, as part of a 15 month-long relief which runs to the end of June this year.
Many of those ineligible for reliefs have been appealing for discounts on their rates bills, arguing the pandemic represented a ‘material change of circumstance’ (MCC).
The government is making clear that market-wide economic changes to property values, such as from COVID-19, can only be properly considered at general rates revaluations, and will therefore be legislating to rule out COVID-19 related MCC appeals.
Instead, the government will provide a £1.5 billion pot across the country that will be distributed according to which sectors have suffered most economically, rather than on the basis of falls in property values, ensuring the support is provided to businesses in England in the fastest and fairest way possible.
Allowing business rates appeals on the basis of a ‘material change in circumstances’ could have led to significant amounts of taxpayer support going to businesses who have been able to operate normally throughout the pandemic and disproportionately benefitting particular regions like London.
Business rates are devolved so the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive an additional £285 million through the Barnett formula.
Federation of Small Businesses National Chair Mike Cherry said: "Although there is light at the end of the tunnel, these remain uncertain times for many businesses who won't be functioning at full capacity for a number of months to come.
"That is why small firms will be relieved to hear the announcement of a fresh set of business rates relief targeted at those businesses outside of the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors that have lost trade but have been left to pay business rate bills in full often without revenue to afford them”.
"Many of those businesses such as wholesalers, suppliers and brewers have been hit hard by the pandemic but haven't been able to access the same levels of support. FSB has championed the cause for these businesses at the Budget, and we are pleased that this has landed”
"What is crucial however is ensuring that these funds genuinely reach those who need it most so we look forward to the guidance of which businesses will fall into scope. While at the same time we must see these funds distributed as fast as possible to prevent further small business casualties.”
Read more here: https://bit.ly/3m5PqXT
Firms in England can register to order free rapid lateral flow coronavirus tests for your employees
You can order free rapid lateral flow tests to test your employees twice a week in the workplace.
If you have 10 or more employees, from early April you’ll be able to order tests for your employees to collect from their workplace and use at home twice a week. You can do this if you cannot provide testing in the workplace.
You must register by 11:59pm on 12 April 2021. If your business is closed or you cannot provide tests now, you should still register so you can order tests in the future.
You can register to order tests if:
- your business is registered in England
- your employees cannot work from home
- Your employees can also find out if they can get a rapid lateral flow test from a local test site instead.
Do not use this service if you or your employees have symptoms. Anyone with symptoms should order a PCR test and stay at home.
If your business is registered in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland but you have employees in England, you will need to register by email, here.
Read more here: https://bit.ly/3sDlMf1
Automatic filing extensions granted by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act due to come to an end
The automatic extensions granted by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act will come to an end for filing deadlines that fall after 5 April 2021.
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 received royal assent on 25 June 2020. The Act granted automatic extensions for filing deadlines between 27 June 2020 and 5 April 2021 to relieve the burden on companies during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and allow them to focus all their efforts on continuing to operate. Automatic extensions were granted for accounts, confirmation statements, event-driven filings and mortgage charges.
There will be no further automatic extensions for confirmation statement filings, accounts filings and event-driven filings after 5 April 2021. Any deadlines that fall after this date will revert to normal.
For mortgage charges created up to and including 4 April 2021, those with an interest in the charge will continue to receive an automatic extension of 10 additional days to file the particulars of a charge (31 days). Mortgage charges created after 4 April 2021 will not receive an automatic extension, and those with an interest in the charge will need to file within 21 days as normal. The 21-day period starts the day after the charge was created.
For accounts filing deadlines that fall after 5 April, companies can still apply for a 3-month extension.
Companies that are eligible and cite issues around COVID-19 in their application will be granted an extension.
Companies that have already had their accounts deadline extended may not be eligible, as the law only allows a maximum filing period of 12 months.
Read more here: https://bit.ly/3fvUhQT
Businesses urged to act as two in five UK firms experience cyber attacks in the last year
Two in five businesses (39 per cent) and a quarter of charities (26 per cent) report having cyber security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months, according to new figures from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2021 report also shows the cyber risk to organisations is heightened because of the pandemic, which has made securing digital environments more challenging as organisational resources are diverted to facilitating home working for staff.
The government is now encouraging businesses, charities and educational institutions to follow the free help and guidance from the UK cyber security experts at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC). It includes advice on the secure use of video conferencing, secure home working and how to move your business from physical to digital. This week the centre also published new guidance specifically to help educators boost their cyber resilience.
The new data shows fewer businesses are using security monitoring tools to identify abnormal activity which could indicate a breach - suggesting firms are less aware than before of the breaches and attacks staff are facing. The figure has dropped five per cent since last year to one in three firms (35 per cent). Only 83 per cent of businesses have up-to-date anti-virus software - also down five per cent from the previous year.
The most common breaches or attacks were phishing emails, followed by instances of others impersonating their organisation online, viruses or other malware including ransomware.
Where a breach has resulted in a loss of data or assets, the average cost of a cyber attack on a business is £8,460. This figure rises to £13,400 for medium and large businesses.
The figures also reveal nearly half of businesses (47 per cent) have staff using personal devices for work, but only 18 per cent have a cyber security policy on how to use those personal devices at work. Less than a quarter of businesses (23 per cent) have a cyber security policy covering home working.
Read more at https://bit.ly/2QRsHmZ
One in four small exporters halt EU sales
A new FSB survey of more than 1,400 small firms finds that one in five (23%) exporters have temporarily halted sales to European Union (EU) customers and a further 4% have already decided to stop selling into the bloc permanently after new trading rules took affect at the start of this year.
One in ten (11%) exporters are considering halting sales to Europe permanently, according to the fresh analysis. The same proportion have established, or are considering establishing, a presence within an EU country to ease their exporting processes. A similar number (9%) are thinking about securing, or are already using, warehousing space in the EU or Northern Ireland (NI) for the same purpose.
Small importers are also hard hit by new paperwork, though fewer than one in five have temporarily suspended purchases from the EU (17%), and a smaller proportion are using EU or NI warehousing space (6%).
The majority (70%) of importers and/or exporters have suffered shipment delays when moving goods around the EU in recent weeks. One in three (32%) have lost goods in transit, and an even greater proportion (34%) have had goods held indefinitely at EU border crossings. Of those that have experienced delays, a third (36%) have suffered hold-ups that lasted more than two weeks.
More than half (55%) of importers and/or exporters have sought professional advice to help them with new paperwork pertaining to EU business activity, often to assist management of customs declarations, rules of origin paperwork and altered value added tax (VAT) obligations.
You can read more at https://bit.ly/3m4Mk6s
Small firms urge Government to increase ambition for ultra-fast broadband
Small businesses risk being held back by poor broadband connections if the Government does not increase its target for a faster rollout, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) research shows.
This comes as the Government announced this morning (Friday) that the first stages of its ‘Project Gigabit’ plans to get ultra-fast broadband to the remotest homes in the UK. The first areas to benefit will be businesses in Cambridgeshire, Cornwall, Cumbria, Dorset, Durham, Essex, Northumberland, South Tyneside and Tees Valley.
The 2019 manifesto pledged to increase ambition in the UK’s broadband programme, rolling out gigabit capable connections to all homes and businesses in the UK by 2025. But the watered-down target revealed last year stands at just 85 per cent – which risks leaving 15 per cent behind.
Only £1.2bn of the promised £5bn of costs have been budgeted for use until 2025, which means the upcoming Spending Review is important to bring back the ambition and funding required. FSB evidence suggests that the experience of Covid-19 has hammered home to small businesses the importance of reliable and fast broadband connections.
The findings show:
78 per cent of small firms recognise the benefits of faster broadband for the economy, their business or their employees working from home
25 per cent are not happy with their current broadband
32 per cent say they do not have the skills or experience to take advantage of gigabit broadband
56 per cent cannot afford to spend any more than they currently do
Read more at: https://bit.ly/2Pc9rAh