On 25th November, George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement. As ever, this statement was a good mix of rhetoric, reminders of past policy changes and a hint towards April 2016. It is rare that major policy is announced in the Autumn and this was certainly the case in 2015 for interested SME spectators.
Unlike previous years, we avoided the rush to put out our own commentary, as for many clients there is little or no significant change taking effect imminently. For those of you affected by the announcements around housing – development and rentals – we will be in touch directly to discuss the implications, if we have not done so already.
So just in case the Autumn Statement passed you by, we thought we would offer a summary and review of the few announcements of note for SME’s:
Small Business Rate Relief
The small business rate relief was extended for a further twelve months. This will mean that smaller firms will pay less or no rates on their premises until March 2017 at the earliest. This has been a popular policy and has undoubtedly helped SMEs to grow or start up during the recession. As a reminder, there is to be a wider review of business rates including where and how they are charged, accounted for and spent which may mean this scheme is extended or a higher entry threshold introduced in the future.
Penalties have increased to 60% of tax due for all cases that were challenged successfully by HMRC under the recent General Anti-Abuse Rule. A clear sign that the Chancellor sees taxation and the recovery of taxes as a key revenue raiser.
Digital Tax Accounts
The Chancellor announced that tax returns will be modernised and become completely digital. Smaller businesses are expected to receive their digital identity by 2017. However, this could also become more of a burden on smaller businesses by 2020 as it is proposed that tax accounts be submitted quarterly.
HMRC has stated that they will be making free apps available to reduce the burden of the task as well as providing support to those that will need assistance in adapting to the new technology.
This will be an interesting one to watch. For those that have gone through the HMRC gateway and RTI you will understandably have concerns when you see the Government introducing another new scheme – but on the flip side, our experience is that many of you enjoy using banking apps and accounting tools like Kashflow because it allows you to stay in control on the move.
In a bid to “raise the skills of the nation”, the apprenticeship levy is due to come into effect in 2017 at a rate of 0.5% of an employers pay bill. A £15,000 allowance for employers will mean that the levy will only be paid on employers pay bills over £3 million. At Evans Weir we are big supporters of learn as you work and vocational training schemes such as apprenticeships and so we welcome this move. It is highly unlikely to affect most of our clients but as with other government policies there is the chance that this becomes the thin end of the wedge and once introduced, future announcements may lower the threshold.
Start Up Loans
It was announced that the government is set to hit the target of funding 75,000 Start Up loans by 2020. As per our opening statements, a good helping of rhetoric – but worth remembering that there are a range of funds out there for start-ups and SMEs who are keen to grow and employ.
If you have any queries regarding the changes in the Autumn Statement and how they might impact you and your business please do not hesitate to contact us.