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Need To Know: Your Business Updates for November 2019

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Caution advised over HMRC’s latest announcement on IR35

HMRC has promised to only use information gained as a result of the Off-Payroll rules prospectively, unless it suspects fraud – but one expert has warned that the claim should “be taken with a large pinch of salt”.

Following the publication of a new report from HMRC on IR35 (which can be read here; http://bit.ly/31Y73NG ), the department stated: “HMRC have taken the decision that they will only use information resulting from these changes to open a new enquiry into earlier years if there is reason to suspect fraud or criminal behaviour.”

However, two tax experts have warned contractors not to take the words at face value. Saleos Consultancy Services director Matt Hall said: ““In the very same policy paper, HMRC estimates that only one in 10 private sector contractors who should be paying tax under IR35 are doing so correctly. So, the legal basis for HMRC suggesting that it will turn a blind eye to perceived historical, long-term non-compliance is unclear.

“Many, myself included, will be sceptical of such assurances,” adds Hall.

Gordon Berry of Business Oxygen said: “What HMRC is telling us is that engagement with tax strategies understood to be a solution to the uncertainty of IR35 is punishable with a new law which can be applied to actions undertaken 20 years ago, but those who HMRC say simply refused to comply with IR35 are told there will be no retrospective action. Many will rightly ask, is this what HMRC means by ‘fair’?”

You can read more here; http://bit.ly/2Wvv1i9

Action on business rates is priority, as latest retail sales fall flat

Responding to ONS figures showing monthly retail sales were flat (0.0%) in September, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said:

“The latest retail sales figures reflect a difficult year for the sector, and demonstrate the struggles our high street firms are currently facing. Confidence among small retailers remains low, with pressure from employment costs, high rents and competition from large, exclusively online brands.

“It is vital that in the upcoming Budget, the Chancellor prioritises business rates to help lessen the pressure on struggling small firms.

“While the retail rates discounts this year have been welcomed, these will soon come to an end – leaving us with a system that remains regressive and is not linked to a business’ ability to pay.

“Given the pressure on small businesses, improving the relief by increasing the 33% discount to 50% or more, making it permanent – and indeed extending it to include small firms across the economy, would help revitalise and reform town centres.

“The ball is firmly in the Government’s court when it comes to coming up with ways to improve the current business rates system and prove they are on the side of small businesses.”

You can read the retail report here; http://bit.ly/2N4VIHm

 

 

Shared Rural Network would give boost to half of small firms struggling with mobile signal

Responding to the Government’s announcement on a Shared Rural Network, FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “Small firms are still being blighted on a daily basis with poor mobile phone signal, which can be hugely problematic - particularly in rural areas.

“Our research shows that more than half (57%) of small businesses in rural areas in the UK say they receive unreliable connection on their mobile phones. Along with poor broadband, this is crushing the growth and productivity of small business owners, with more than one in three (32%) saying it prevents them from contacting or being contacted by existing customers – or even potential new clients.

“Targeting these mobile ‘not spots’ in rural areas by creating a shared network would go some way to help bridge the widening communication gap in the countryside. It would allow mobile phone users to connect, regardless of what network they are on. We are now keen to see more detail on the plan to see how it would be rolled out.”

Selling services to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein after Brexit

The UK will no longer operate under the European Economic Area (EEA) regulations for the cross-border trade in services if there’s a no-deal Brexit, at the end of January 2020.

This means that the rights and protections provided by the EU Directives and EU Treaty rights of freedom of movement and freedom of establishment will no longer apply to the UK.

If you’re a UK business or professional providing services in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you’ll need to check the national regulations of the country you’re doing business in to understand how best to operate.

You can get a comprehensive rundown of what you may need to do here; http://bit.ly/36q5c7Y

 

Changes to trade mark law after Brexit

After Brexit, EU Trade Marks (EUTM) will no longer protect trade marks in the UK. On exit day, the IPO will create a comparable UK trade mark for all right holders with an existing EU trade mark.

Existing EUTMs will still protect trade marks in EU member states. UK businesses can still to apply the EU Intellectual Property Office for an EUTM.

There will be no changes to UK-registered trade marks as a result of Brexit.

If you have a pending EUTM application, you’ll be able to apply to register a comparable UK trade mark in the 9 months after exit day. You’ll keep the earlier filing date of the pending EUTM.

You can read more here; http://bit.ly/2WxawBz

Firms call for swift appointment of new Small Business Commissioner as late payments czar steps down

Responding to the announcement that Paul Uppal has stepped down as Small Business Commissioner, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chairman Mike Cherry, said:

“We’ve made some genuine progress on the late payments front since the Small Business Commissioner first took office back in 2017. We’ve welcomed his efforts to name and shame larger companies, including Holland and Barrett, Bupa and Zurich, for poor payment practices. He also led efforts to reform the toothless Prompt Payment Code.  

“This is a disappointing development, one that will put the brakes on our efforts to date.  

   

“The appointment process needs to be efficient and thorough. We lose 50,000 business a year to late payment at a cost of at least £2.5 billion to the economy. We can’t delay further action to tackle this crisis, especially in such an uncertain climate.”