a2d04999 1381 4086 b331 2ab8fc72d6ce 800x380 - Outcome of EU trade negotiations

Outcome of EU trade negotiations

Despite many expectations to the contrary, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson announced on Christmas Eve that the UK and EU had agreed an EU trade deal after four and a half years of strenuous negotiations. This is the first agreement the EU has ever reached allowing zero tariffs and zero quotas and went into effect at 11pm on 31 December 2020. This means there will be no tariffs or quotas on the movement of goods we produce between the UK and the EU and covers some £660 billion of trade.

The agreement also includes provisions to support trade in services (including financial services and legal services) and helps support the mobility of UK professionals. The UK and EU also finally settled other contentious issues including UK sovereignty over fishing waters and continued co-operation on law enforcement. The agreement also removes the role of the European Court of Justice and means there are no requirements for the UK to continue following EU law. This returns control of legal power to the UK with laws being made by Parliament and interpreted by the UK courts. The details of the 1,246 page agreement continue to be pored over by interested parties.

The government has committed to continue meeting high labour environment and climate standards and to develop a modern subsidy system to replace EU State Aid.

Source: HM Government Wed, 30 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
e3a32b13 917c 4191 8868 fd425ad6880d 800x380 - HMRC crackdown on avoidance schemes

HMRC crackdown on avoidance schemes

HMRC and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have come together to jointly target misleading marketing by promoters of tax avoidance schemes. HMRC and the ASA can jointly issue an Enforcement Notice to companies irresponsibly advertising tax arrangement schemes in a bid to clamp down on those breaking the rules.

The ASA is clear that advertisers are required to ensure that their marketing communications are legal, comply with the law and do not incite anyone to break it.  As such, ads for any arrangements or schemes which are illegal will break the ad rules as well as the law.

HMRC has also launched a new campaign titled ‘Tax avoidance: don’t get caught out’ warning and educating contractors about how to identify if they are being offered a tax avoidance scheme, and the pitfalls of using these schemes. The campaign urges taxpayers to help avoid unwittingly entering into arrangements that HMRC are likely to be seen as tax avoidance.

The campaign is asking the public to:

  • stop – don’t sign anything that you are uncomfortable with or don’t understand
  • challenge – check for warning signs. If you’re unsure, seek independent professional advice
  • protect – if you think you have been offered a tax avoidance scheme, report it to HMRC. Or if you need help getting out of one, contact us.

For example, a number of schemes have targeted workers returning to the National Health Service (NHS) to help respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Source: HM Revenue & Customs Wed, 09 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
39206d74 d7bd 4842 80ac 64ac7595abe9 800x380 - Beware requests from bogus charities

Beware requests from bogus charities

It has been estimated that almost £350,000 of charitable donations last year ended up in the pockets of criminals.

Government recently issued advice to reduce this activity. They said:

The vast majority of fundraising appeals and collections are genuine, however criminals can set up fake charities, or even impersonate well-known charitable organisations, to deceive victims.

Action Fraud has teamed up with the Charity Commission, the regulator and registrars of charities, and the Fundraising Regulator, the independent regulator of charitable fundraising in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to help the public make sure their donations go to the right place this Christmas.

Clearly, this bogus activity represents just a small proportion of overall donations made to reputable charities, but donors should be wary. Further advice to donors included in their press release says:

  • Make sure the charity is genuine before giving any financial information. Look for the registered charity number on their website. You can check the charity name and registration number at www.gov.uk/checkcharity;
  • You can also check if a charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator. All charities registered here have made a commitment to good fundraising practice;
  • If you’re approached by a collector on the street or at your door, ask to see the collector’s ID badge. You can also check whether the collector has a licence to fundraise with the local authority, or has the consent of the private site owner;
  • Don’t click on the links or attachments in suspicious emails, and never respond to unsolicited messages and phone calls that ask for your personal or financial details – even if it’s in the name of a charity
  • To donate online, type in the address of the charity website yourself rather than clicking on a link. If in any doubt, contact the charity directly about donating;
  • Be cautious when donating to an online fundraising page. Fake fundraising pages will often be badly written or have spelling mistakes. When donating to an online fundraising page, only donate to fundraising pages created by someone you know and trust.

After making these checks, if you think that a fundraising appeal or collection is fake, report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

Source: Other Mon, 07 Dec 2020 00:00:00 +0100
5a594638 b8b1 4be0 ac62 ee45c70afa8d 800x380 - Beware tax deadline scammers

Beware tax deadline scammers

Fraudsters are continuing to target taxpayers with scam emails in advance of the 31 January deadline for submission of Self-Assessment returns.  In fact, over the last year, HMRC received more than 846,000 reports about suspicious HMRC contact. 

A number of these scams purport to tell taxpayers they are due a tax rebate or tax refund from HMRC and ask for bank or credit card details in order to send the refund. The fraudsters use various means to try and scam people including making contact by phone calls, texts or emails. In fact, fraudsters have been known to threaten victims with arrest or imprisonment if a bogus tax bill is not paid immediately.

HMRC’s dedicated Customer Protection team to identify and close down scams but is advising customers to recognise the signs to avoid becoming victims themselves. For example, genuine organisations like HMRC and banks will never contact customers asking for their PIN, password or bank details.

If you think you have received a suspicious call or email claiming to be from HMRC you are asked to forward the details to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and texts to 60599. If you have suffered financial loss you should contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use their online fraud reporting tool.

Source: HM Revenue & Customs Wed, 25 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
af2700e3 7a14 4217 bb86 8a308f7a7e44 800x380 - Spending Review 2021/22

Spending Review 2021/22

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak delivered the government's spending plans for the coming year to Parliament on 25 November 2020. The Spending Review usually covers 3 to 4 years but given the many unknowns as a result of the pandemic the review will only cover the period from April 2021 to April 2022.

The Chancellor said his immediate priority was to protect people’s lives and livelihoods as the country continues to battle the outbreak – allocating £55 billion to tackle the virus next year.

Plans were also announced for increased infrastructure spending with £100 billion of capital spending next year and a £4 billion Levelling Up Fund. As expected, it was also announced that there will be a public sector pay freeze with an exemption for the NHS and for public sector workers who earn below the median wage of £24,000.

The Chancellor also used the Spending Review to confirm that increased National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage rates will come into effect on 1 April 2021.

From 1 April 2021 the National Living Wage will increase by 19p to £8.72. This represents an increase of 2.2%. The National Living Wage currently applies to those aged 25 and over but from next April will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time. There will also be increases to the National Minimum Wage and other wage rates for younger people. The new rates mirror the recommendations made by the Low Pay Commission which have been accepted in full by the government.

Source: HM Government Wed, 25 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
d50774f5 803d 406f a9fa 2458c58c283d 800x380 - Scottish Budget 2021

Scottish Budget 2021

Scotland’s Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes, has announced that the Scottish Government’s Budget will be published for 2021-22 on 28 January 2021. The date has been selected in order to allow the Scottish Government time to prepare for the new tax year.

This is the second time that Scotland has held a Budget before the rest of the UK. The announcement follows the UK Government’s decision to postpone its Autumn Budget until an unspecified date in the new year.

The Finance Secretary commented that:

‘Coming amidst an unprecedented global pandemic, the forthcoming Scottish Budget will be one of the most important since devolution.

It is my task to prioritise our resources as effectively as possible to drive the country’s economic recovery from coronavirus (COVID-19) while also managing the ongoing impact of the virus.

The Chancellor’s decision to delay the UK Autumn Budget until next year causes significant difficulties for the Scottish Budget process. Although we expect to receive some funding information from the UK Spending Review on 25 November, the absence of a UK Autumn Budget means we will have to make decisions based on partial and provisional information, with no indication of potential changes to UK tax policies.

In these circumstances, and to allow us to take account of the emerging position on any EU exit deal and also the evolving situation with COVID-19, I believe it is necessary to publish the Scottish Budget 2021-22 in early 2021, rather than later this year.’

The Scottish Parliament sets the Income Tax rates and bands for non-savings and non-dividend income in Scotland. Scottish taxpayers therefore pay Income Tax at separate rates and bands to the rest of the UK on their non-savings and non-dividend income.

Source: The Scottish Government Wed, 18 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
f5163a55 d384 4522 83eb 1d67a518b689 800x380 - Protection for landlords and tenants

Protection for landlords and tenants

The government guidance for landlords and tenants as a result of the coronavirus pandemic has been updated. The Coronavirus Act 2020 provides protection to social and private tenants by delaying when landlords can start proceedings to evict tenants. 

To give tenants greater protection from eviction, landlords are required to provide tenants with 6 months’ notice period before they can start possession proceedings. This applies except in cases raising other serious issues such as those involving anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse, false statement and where a tenant has accrued rent arrears in excess of 6 months’ rent.

The stay on possession proceedings expired on 20 September 2020 and landlords can now progress their possession claim through the courts. The most egregious cases will be prioritised by the courts ensuring landlords are able to progress the most serious cases.

To protect against coronavirus transmission, bailiffs have been asked not to enforce evictions during the national restrictions in England except in the most serious circumstances. Together with pause on enforcement of evictions starting in December that has been agreed with bailiffs, this means that evictions in England will not be enforced until 11 January at the earliest, except in the most serious circumstances. 

Landlords can continue to carry out repairs and safety inspections during the English lockdown period provided this is done in line with public health advice.

The guidance is clear that tenants should continue to pay rent and abide by all other terms of their tenancy agreement to the best of their ability. Tenants who are unable to do so should speak to their landlord at the earliest opportunity.

Source: HM Government Wed, 11 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
00231478 edf8 4bdd afcd 1f69c11d2dc3 800x380 - Further support for mortgage borrowers

Further support for mortgage borrowers

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced new proposals to ensure that lenders provide tailored support to mortgage borrowers who continue to face payment difficulties due to the COVID-19 crisis. This follows the additional government measures announced over recent weeks to control the spread of coronavirus.

Payment holidays to support mortgage borrowers who are experiencing payment difficulties because of coronavirus will be extended. These measures were due to come to an end on 31 October 2020.

This means that:

  • those who have not yet had a payment deferral will be eligible for 2 payment deferrals of up to 6 months in total
  • those who currently have an initial payment deferral, will be eligible for another payment deferral of up to 3 months 
  • those who have resumed repayments after an initial payment deferral will be eligible for another payment deferral of up to 3 months 

Under the FCA’s proposals, borrowers would have until 31 January 2021 to request a payment deferral. A payment deferral under these proposals would not be reported as missed payments on a borrower’s credit file.

The FCA is also proposing that no one will have their home repossessed without their agreement until after 31 January 2021.

Some borrowers would not be eligible for a payment deferral because they may already have had 2 payment deferrals (of up to 6 months in total), and tailored support will be more appropriate to their circumstances. Tailored support may be reported on a borrower’s credit file, and lenders should inform borrowers where this will be the case.

Source: Other Wed, 11 Nov 2020 00:00:00 +0100
e918c6e1 1d96 40a2 8254 e951e7e103c8 800x380 - Temporary extension to the Help to Buy scheme

Temporary extension to the Help to Buy scheme

The Help to Buy equity loans scheme is open to both first-time buyers and home movers on new-build homes in England with a purchase price up to £600,000. The Help to Buy equity loans provide a low-interest loan towards the deposit. The loan is interest free for the first 5 years. New home buyers need a 5% deposit, and the government lends up to 20% of the value of the home (up to 40% for London).

The deadline for the homes to have been finished in order to comply with the equity loan scheme has been extended from 31 December 2020 to 28 February 2021 to ensure home buyers do not miss out if there has been a delay in construction due to the pandemic. The deadline for the legal completion of the sale will remain the same – 31 March 2021. The completion of sale deadline may be extended further to 31 May 2021 if a reservation was in place by 30 June 2020. These changes apply to the equity loans scheme in England and not to similar schemes in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales.

The government’s new Help to Buy scheme, which will replace the current scheme, will come into place from 1 April 2021 and run for two years until March 2023. There are no plans for further extensions. The new scheme introduces regional property price caps and will only be available to first time buyers.

Source: HM Revenue & Customs Wed, 28 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100
e1d3f8d3 289c 4d21 ae2d 960c62493572 800x380 - Venues required to enforce rule of six

Venues required to enforce rule of six

Since 18 September 2020, many designated venues in England have been required to enforce the rule of 6. The 'rule of 6' bans any social gathering of more than 6 people, except under limited circumstances such as if a single household or support bubble includes more than 6 people.

Services included within the legal requirements to enforce the rule of 6 include:

  • hospitality, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cafés
  • tourism and leisure, including gyms, swimming pools, hotels, museums, cinemas, zoos and theme parks 
  • close contact services, including hairdressers
  • facilities provided by local authorities, including town halls and civic centres (for events) and libraries

Children’s centres run by local authorities were included on the original list but were removed on 21 October 2020.

These reporting requirements mean that affected businesses and organisations are legally required to log details of customers, visitors and staff for NHS Test and Trace. Failure to enforce the rules could see businesses face fines of up to £4,000.

Businesses are also required to display the official NHS QR code posters to make it easier for people to check-in at different premises once the app is rolled out nationally. If individuals choose to check-in using the QR code poster they do not need to log in via any other route.

The rule of 6 applies in outdoor and indoor settings in England. There are further restrictions for Tier 2 (High Alert) and Tier 3 (Very High Alert) areas.

Source: Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Wed, 28 Oct 2020 00:00:00 +0100