Need To Know: Your Business Updates for May 2021

  • 01 May 2021

Welcome to the May 2021 'Need to Know' update. You'll find the latest key information on exporting, building regulations, support from Government, HMRC fines regarding SEISS abuse, and the latest developments.

MPs urge Government to level playing field for meat and seafood exporters

The Government must take a 'pragmatic' approach in discussions with the EU to reduce 'considerable' non-tariff barriers—including red tape and checks— that the new GB-EU trading environment has created for British companies, the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Committee has said.

In its new report—Seafood and Meat Exports to the EU— the Committee expressed urgent concerns for exporters of highly time-sensitive fresh and live seafood and meat shipments to the EU, particularly small and medium sized businesses.

Despite overcoming initial "teething problems" the new barriers small seafood and meat export businesses face could render them unviable, and factories and jobs may relocate to the EU.

The Committee's report therefore calls on the Government to ease burdens, including:

  1. as a matter of priority, seeking agreement with the EU on digitising the certification of paperworks such as Export Health Certificates
  2. taking a flexible approach to the compensation fund for seafood exporters—including reconsidering the cap of £100,000 on individual payments, and providing similar support to meat exporters
  3. providing the same help to small meat and seafood businesses with the costs of extra red-tape for exports to the EU as they can receive for moving goods to Northern Ireland
  4. establishing a ring-fenced fund to help create new distribution hubs, which allow smaller consignments to be grouped into a single lorry load, so reducing transport costs.

The Committee criticises the fact that controls on EU seafood and meat imports will not commence until 1 October 2021, with checks at the border only commencing from 1 January 2022.

This has placed British businesses at a competitive disadvantage and reduced the incentive on the European Commission to negotiate measures that would lessen the burdens facing British producers.

The report finds that adhering to the revised timetable will be 'crucial', to ensure food safety and to create a regulatory level playing field.

For more information click here

Consultation launched on new code of practice for external walls

Residents and building owners are set to benefit from a new code of practice for professionals assessing buildings’ external walls and cladding systems.

The government has commissioned the British Standards Institution (BSI) to draft a new code of practice for assessors when examining external walls and cladding.

This will ensure external wall assessments are carried out to a high and consistent standard, giving building owners clarity on the fire risk of the construction of external walls.

The code of practice will help professionals provide consistent, risk-based and proportionate advice on whether remediation of the external walls is necessary.

The consultation closes on 20 May 2021.

Mark Hardingham, National Fire Chiefs Council Chair said: “We welcome this consultation on the new draft code of practice for assessors when examining external walls and cladding.

“To ensure that a wide range of views are considered before it is finalised, we want to encourage interested stakeholders to engage with it over the next few weeks.”

Once finalised later this year, the code of practice will supersede aspects of the consolidated advice note on external wall systems, originally published in January 2020.

View the consultation here.

FSB, BEIS and the Northern Ireland Office partner to deliver key Net Zero event

In response to the recognition of the need for collaborative action on climate, FSB Northern Ireland partnered with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Northern Ireland Office to present ‘Your Business Journey to Net Zero’. This event, taking place on Thursday 29 April, sought to empower SMEs with the knowledge to take their first steps towards Net Zero and embrace the opportunities of clean growth.

At the event, the Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, Paul Scully, and the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, Robin Walker will open proceedings. The UK Government’s Net Zero Business Champion, Andrew Griffith, held a panel session with businesses, and the Northern Ireland Economy Minister, Diane Dodds closed the event in the afternoon.

Commenting, Head of FSB Northern Ireland, Roger Pollen said: “The Climate Crisis has been rightly recognised as the most fundamental challenge of this decade. Successfully combating climate change will require a collaborative effort of large and small businesses, all levels of government, and the wider public. This event is an important step in the right direction, providing SMEs with knowledge about some of the practical steps they can take towards Net Zero, including sharing of best practice from those who have already taken great strides towards being carbon neutral.”

For more information, click here.

Harsh fines for abuse of SEISS

As the fourth self employment income support scheme (SEISS) ramps up for applications, HMRC has confirmed the penalty regime with harsh fines for abuse of the scheme (SEISS).

An overclaimed SEISS grant includes any amount of grant which the self employed were not entitled to receive or was more than the amount HMRC said the applicant was entitled to when the claim was made.

Overpayments must be notified to HMRC within 90 days of receipt of an SEISS grant.

Penalties can be charged up to 100% on the amount of SEISS grant overpaid, but there is a fairly long period for repayment so as long as overpayments are settled by the end of January 2022, fines will not be enforced.

When deciding the amount of any penalty, HMRC will take account whether the taxpayer knew they were entitled to the SEISS grant when they received it, and when it became repayable or chargeable to tax because the individual’s circumstances changed.

The HMRC guidance states: “If you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell us in the notification period, the law treats your failure as deliberate and concealed. This means we can charge a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the SEISS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.

“If you did not know you were not entitled to your grant when you received it, we will only charge you a penalty if you have not repaid the grant by 31 January 2022.”

HMRC is also warning taxpayers to be careful when making SEISS claims as there are a number of scams circulating with fraudsters trying to dupe the self employed into making spurious claims, using emails and text messages. It is important not to click any links before checking the veracity of the message.

Any phishing emails or texts should be notified to HMRC so they can investigate the scam.

Read HMRC’s penalty regime here.

 

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