Category Archives: government

Guidance protects against ‘ransomware’ attacks

The National Cyber Security Council (NCSC) has published guidance for small businesses about how they can prevent, detect and respond to ransomware attacks following the widespread ‘WannaCry’ ransomware attack in early May.

Further guidance has been produced by the Charity Commission for England and Wales for charity trustees on this issue.

Internet links: https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/guidance/ransomware-latest-ncsc-guidance

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ransomware-threat-keep-your-charity-safe

5p carrier bag charge comes into force

Carrier bag charges will begin in England on 5 October 2015. For a large retailer the minimum charge is 5p for single-use plastic carrier bags. For small or medium-sized businesses no charge is required but can be made on a voluntary basis.

A business that employs 250 or more full-time equivalent employees, in all roles not just in retail roles, will be treated as being large and must charge the 5p. The number of employees is calculated at the start of each reporting year. The first reporting year will start on 5 October and run to 6 April 2016. Subsequent reporting years will start on 7 April.

When calculating full-time equivalent employees a business that is operated under a franchise needs to only include employees in that business, not the whole franchise.

The type of bags that will carry the charge will be:

  • unused
  • plastic
  • with handles and
  • 70 microns thick or less.

Where deliveries or online sales are made to customers any plastic bags used will also have to be included in the total cost. It may be that the amount of bags to be used is unknown when the order is placed. In this situation an average number of bags can be used in the charge as long as 5p or more is charged per bag overall.

There are a number of specific exemptions on the types of bags which would not be subject to the charge. These include bags for:

  • uncooked fish and fish products
  • uncooked meat, poultry and their products
  • prescription medicine
  • free promotional material given away.

Retailers will need to maintain reporting records and also make a report to Defra on or before 31 May following the end of the reporting year. The first report should therefore be sent to Defra by 31 May 2016.

The details to be sent to Defra are as follows:

  • number of bags distributed
  • the amount of money received from selling the bags
  • any VAT paid from the money received from selling bags
  • what the business did with the proceeds from the charge
  • any reasonable costs (see below) and how they break down.

Reasonable costs include costs to comply with the legislation and do not include the costs of the bags. Examples would be:

  • costs of changing till systems
  • training staff
  • communicating the policy to staff.

Once reasonable costs have been deducted, the remaining proceeds should all be donated to good causes.

The local authority, where the shop is based, is authorised to make inspections to ensure the law is being followed. Where there is non-compliance, they will have the authority to issue a notice to the retailer to correct the non-compliance or issue a fixed fine of up to £200 or a variable penalty of up to £20,000. In additional the local authority can order the retailer to advertise that they have broken the law.

Internet link: GOV.UK Guidance

Autumn Statement date announced

The government has announced that the date of the Autumn Statement will be 25 November 2015.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has announced that there will be an Office for Budget Responsibility forecast alongside the Spending Review on Wednesday 25 November 2015. The government will therefore publish a joint Autumn Statement and Spending Review on this date.

We will keep you informed of key announcements.

Internet link: GOV.UK News

National Living Wage – The impact on small businesses

The government has announced the introduction of a new National Living Wage (NLW) for working people aged 25 years and above.

The NLW is effectively another higher age band of the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Initially the NLW is set at 70p above the current NMW, although this will fall to 50p when the NMW increase comes into effect in October 2015.  Further increases are to be recommended by the Low Pay Commission in order to achieve the government’s objective of reaching 60% of median earnings by 2020. This means that NLW increases will be independent of the NWM wage increases for each age band that are made annual in October.

The impact on small businesses

Ian Bryan, Head of Business Services, said: “The additional funding needed to cope with increases in wages with the introduction of the National Living Wage is likely to preoccupy many small business owners, particularly in conjunction with the recent onset of Auto Enrolment.”

“The impact of the National Living Wage will vary significantly across different sectors, with small shops, hospitality firms, retailers and care providers, in particular, facing real challenges in affording the additional expenditure. It is therefore vital that, in a time of increasing costs and pressures to maintain margins, that you seek sound and proactive financial advice.”

For more information on how Hawsons can help, please contact Ian Brian at ib@hawsons.co.uk or visit our Business Services page.

Changes to the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS)

The government has announced that it will implement a package of improvements to the CIS. The stated aim of the changes is to reduce the administrative and related cost burden on construction businesses. The measures should result in more subcontracting businesses being able to achieve and maintain gross payment status so improving their cashflow. These changes are to be implemented in stages.

From 6 April 2015 the following amendments will be made to the system:

  • The requirement for a contractor to make a return to HMRC even if the contractor has not made any payments in a tax month will be removed. Contractors may make a voluntary nil return but will no longer be obliged to do so.
  • The requirements for joint ventures to gain gross payment status will be relaxed where one member already has this status and that firm or company has a right to at least 50% of the assets or the income or holds at least 50% of the shares or the voting power in the joint venture.
  • Earlier repayments can be made to liquidators in insolvency proceedings. Currently where a subcontractor is a company, no repayment of any amount deducted and paid over to HMRC by a contractor can be made to the subcontractor until after the end of the tax year in which the deduction was made. These rules will be amended so that in certain cases where the amount deducted by the contractor is excessive, a repayment can be made during the tax year.

From 6 April 2016 further changes are proposed:

  • Mandatory online filing of CIS returns will be introduced with the offer of alternative filing arrangements for those unable to access an online channel by reason of age, disability, remote location or religious objection.
  • The directors’ self assessment filing requirements will be removed from the initial and annual compliance tests.
  • The threshold for the turnover test will be reduced to £100,000 in multiple directorship situations.

From 6 April 2017 mandatory online verification of subcontractors will be introduced.

Internet link: CIS

Autumn Statement

The Chancellor George Osborne delivered his Autumn Statement on 3 December and said:

‘…to improve the productivity of our economy, we back business and we build infrastructure and we will support growth across the whole UK.’

‘But in the end, Britain’s future lies in the hands of its people and their aspirations.

The aspiration to save, to work, and to buy a home. Today we support each one.’

We have included details of some of the major announcements.

Internet link: gov.uk