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Need To Know: Your Business Updates for March 2020

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Welcome to the March 2020 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on IR35, data regulations, intellectual property, business rates and Brexit

IR35 reforms will have soft landing, assures Chancellor

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has indicated that IR35 tax changes, affecting tens of thousands of companies and 230,000 freelance contractors, will not be enforced in a heavy handed manner by tax officials

Changes to the off-payroll working rules, known as IR35, are due to come into effect in April this year, but thousands of freelancers and businesses have been concerned at the impact the reforms will have.

The new law will require all companies — apart from those with fewer than 50 employees or less than £10.2m annual turnover — to assess the employment status of any person they hire, who works through a limited company.

Companies and their recruitment agencies will be liable for unpaid tax if HM Revenue & Customs finds that a worker has been wrongly classified.

But speaking at the end of February, Mr Sunak reassured the business community by promising that the policy would have a soft landing.

“I’ve spent time with HMRC to ensure they are not going to be at all heavy handed for the first year to give people time to adjust as well, which I think is an appropriate and fair thing to do,” he said.

He also added that an ongoing government review into the implementation of the policy, which is due imminently, “will have some tweaks and improvements to make sure that the transition is as seamless as possible”.

The Treasury said: “We recognise that this is a significant change for businesses, and as the chancellor has said, HMRC wants to take a supportive approach to help businesses to apply the rules correctly going forwards.”

To read more about this story see: http://bit.ly/392j2y9

ICO issues warning to businesses about data protection fee

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), recently launched a campaign to remind organisations of their legal responsibility to pay a data protection fee.

If you received a letter from the ICO, you should pay your fee or advise them you are exempt. You can check if you are exempt by taking an online self-assessment.

Anyone holding, recording, storing, updating or sharing personal data for business purposes on any electronic device is likely to need to pay a fee. If you are exempt, complete the ICO’s online form. For advice and guidance on data protection compliance for SMEs, visit the ICO hub.

There’s more information and some FAQs about the campaign here.

Intellectual property insurance

Intellectual property insurance may not be appropriate for every business however you may find that IP insurance has numerous benefits.

All businesses have IP and it may well be your most valuable asset. Like other business assets you can get insurance to protect against risks associated with your IP. Much of this insurance (but not all) is aimed at businesses who have already secured IP rights. However, you can also protect yourself against inadvertently infringing the rights of others.

To decide if your business could benefit from investing in IP insurance you firstly need to recognise, understand and if appropriate, protect your IP. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has a range of free online tools to help you understand more about trade marks, designs, patents and copyright.

Insurance products can cover one or more rights and a variety of IP risks including:

  • opinion only: covers legal costs of you obtaining an opinion on the likelihood of successfully enforcing or defending an IP claim (see also IPOpatent and proposed designs opinions)
  • enforcement and defence: covers legal costs of you taking action to stop others infringing IP rights and defending allegations of infringement. Can cover enforcement and defence either separately or together
  • damages: covers any damages payable if you lost an infringement action
  • validity: covers legal costs of defending challenges to validity of your rights

Other products which you might consider include:

  • lost revenue: covers revenue lost as a result of you losing IP rights
  • indemnity: covers liabilities arising under guarantees you give to third parties
  • cyber: covers losses from a variety of cyber incidents, including IPRbreaches

Some of these products may be more relevant and appropriate to your industry or sector than others. A broker will provide you with advice on this.

Domestic cover will be cheapest followed by cover for Europe, Worldwide cover excluding USA, Worldwide cover including USA. The premiums you pay will reflect the geographical cover you need. Taking out domestic cover early and expanding the cover as your markets grow could be cheaper than taking initial cover for a large geographical area.

For more information see http://bit.ly/395M1B8

Government launches business support campaign

The Government has launched a business support campaign, designed to help businesses to find the right support.

All of the Government’s business support schemes will be accessible via a new Business Support site, making it easier for businesses in England to find out about the full range of support available to them. (Business support in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is provided by the devolved administrations so this site covers business in England only.)

Further information on the business support campaign can be found at http://bit.ly/2To12aT

MSPs vote in favour of business rates relief

MSPs have voted to support the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill at stage three, which means that businesses across Scotland will continue to benefit from business rates relief put in place by the Scottish Government.

The Bill will implement the changes to business rates recommended by the independent Barclay Review, such as three year revaluations and improved anti-avoidance and debt recovery powers for councils.

For further details, see http://bit.ly/385Z1p8

FCA provides Brexit implementation period update

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed there will be no changes to the reporting obligations for firms, including those for MiFIR transaction reporting, under EMIR, and for CRAs, during the Brexit implementation period.

During the implementation period, which is due to last until 31 December 2020, procedures will continue in line with existing EU regulatory requirements.

For further information, see http://bit.ly/394LFKR

Data breach by the Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has suffered a data breach, with the details of 1,600 individuals being disclosed online

The FCA referred itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) following the discovery of a data breach resulting in the publication of confidential details of individuals on its website.

They said it had been made aware that, in a response to a Freedom of Information Act request published on its website in November 2019, certain underlying confidential information may have been accessible.

The response related to the number and nature of new complaints made against the FCA and handled by the complaints team between 2 January 2018 and 17 July 2019. Around 1,600 individuals had details disclosed.

The regulator has admitted that the publication of this information was a mistake by the FCA.

It has now removed the relevant data from its website, and has undertaken a full review to identify the extent of any information that may have been accessible. It has also referred itself to the ICO, and could face a substantial fine.

You can read more about this story here

Support issued to minimise potential disruption from coronavirus outbreak

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has issued advice to small businesses and FSB members about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 alongside benefits and services that will help small businesses to prepare for and recover better from any disruption from an outbreak of COVID-19 novel coronavirus.

FSB National Chair Mike Cherry said: “Small businesses contribute £billions to the UK economy and are a major source of employment. I’m pleased that we’re able to offer them practical advice and services to help them prepare and recover more quickly from a potential outbreak, including help with cashflow.

“At times like this, I think being a member of FSB really comes into its own. We’re seeing increased calls to our contact centre and our legal advice line and it is good that we are able to offer small businesses a strong package of advice and services, along with support. Being prepared is key and we urge businesses to prepare a business continuity plan as FSB research showed that just one in three small businesses have one.”

FSB says that small businesses should be informed of and follow official Government advice. In addition, it is offering them help to create a business continuity plan. Other advice and support include advice about business insurance should a business have to close due to an outbreak of the coronavirus; access to 24/7 legal advice line; a health and medical advice service; and help with cashflow.