Chris Hill
By Partner Chris Hill

 

This afternoon it has been announced that government scheme that is keeping millions of furloughed people in jobs will be extended for a further month.

Following on from the recent announcement to keep the social distancing measures in place, Rishi Sunak said the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) would now be open until the end of June – providing businesses with the certainty they need.

The scheme, which allows firms to furlough employees with the government paying cash grants of 80% of their wages up to a maximum of £2,500, was originally open for three months and backdated from the 1 March to the end of May.

 

Alison Watts
By Corporate Finance Director Alison Watts

 

Following significant lobbying by business organisations the government announced they would set up a CBIL plus scheme and this has now been officially launched and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS) will open on Monday 20 April 2020.  This will be available for mid-sized and larger businesses with a turnover above £45 million.  This scheme fills the gap between the existing CBILS (for sub £45m turnover businesses) and the Bank of England’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility (CCFF) and covers approximately 3,000 companies; a lot of whom will be part of the wider supply chain trading with the smaller SME’s.

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Mark Tibbert
By Partner Mark Tibbert

 

After a quiet Easter Break in terms of governmental announcements the last few days have seen the government continue to give some much needed additional clarification on how some of the previously announced business support measures will operate. We are updating our factsheets on these areas for the changes, however, the main clarifications have been:

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1 May 2020

  • Payment of corporation tax liabilities for accounting periods ended 31 July 2019 for small and medium-sized companies not liable to pay by instalments.
  • £10 daily penalties apply to late online self-assessment tax returns for the year ended 5 April 2019 to a maximum of £900.
  • New VAT fuel scale charges apply.

3 May 2020

  • Filing date for printed form P46(Car) for quarter ended 5 April 2020.

7 May 2020

  • Electronic filing and payment of VAT liability for quarter ended 31 March 2020 (payment deferral possible see Covid-19 guidance (link to Small Business Factsheet)).

14 May 2020

  • Quarterly corporation tax instalment for large companies (depending on accounting year end).
  • EC sales list for quarter ended 31 March 2020 due (paper form).
  • 19 May 2020
  • Payment of PAYE/NIC/construction industry scheme/student loan payment liabilities for month ended 5 May 2020 if not paying electronically.
  • File monthly CIS return.

21 May 2020

  • File online monthly EC sales list.
  • Submit supplementary intrastat declarations for April 2020.

22 May 2020

  • PAYE, NIC and student loan liabilities to clear HMRC's bank account.

31 May 2020

  • Employees at 5 April 2020 and from whose pay tax was deducted should have received form P60.
  • Companies House should have received accounts of private companies with a 31 August 2019 year end. (Potential to get a 3 month filing extension if impacted by Covid-19)
  • HMRC should have received corporation tax self-assessment returns for companies with accounting periods ended 31 May 2019.

 

Peter Brown
By Agricultural Consultant Peter Brown

 

The outbreak of the Coronavirus is starting to impact on farms and the situation is changing daily. When the outbreak first occurred many thought that farming would be relatively safe, with milk contracts having performed well in recent times and indeed some buyers putting prices up.

What this time should teach us all is that businesses of all kinds are  reliant on all parts of the supply chain; from primary producer through to the end consumer to work well. Major changes at any point will impact on those both up and down the food chain.

In a crisis there is usually a ‘knee jerk’ reaction before markets settle at a less extreme position. However, the big problem for farming is that the commodities produced are often perishable and part of a long production chain that cannot be sped up or slowed down quickly, meaning that produce once it is ready needs to be sold.

Looking at individual commodities;

Milk is a huge part of the South West farming landscape. A number of local buyers have lost their markets at this time as a result of the service sector, café and restaurant trades all being forced to close. Whilst it could be assumed that the milk would be consumed elsewhere we are seeing a significant shortfall in demand. With milk production normally beginning to run up to peak production there is a real issue for many farms. Some dairies have decreased their milk prices and some have also delayed payment taking payment terms to 45 days to try and cope with this to avoid unsold milk. 

  • Lamb deadweight prices have fallen dramatically from a high on 21st March of 551ppkg to 456.2ppkg on 4th April. To keep it in perspective though the price at the same time last year was 456.2ppkg.
  • Whilst it is worrying to see these sorts of falls it does need to be kept in perspective. Keeping the lamb on farm is not an option for most with grass and forage being managed with a normal year usually expected. Keeping animals longer will not help the quality of the animal nor will it help forage production for next winter.
  • Beef will be affected by the virus as much as other commodities but it may taken longer for the impact to be seen. Again with people unable to eat out the issue with may well be the cuts of beef that are being chosen. Most people tend to treat themselves when eating out but not so when eating at home. As a result we could see significant price changes, although so far the market has been following reasonable prices in the last few months.
  • Cereals will be affected, in particular by the brewing industry’s demand for malting barley. Consumption is likely to be much less as people stay at home. There was panic buying of bread in the early stages of the virus giving a spike in demand but as matters settle the market will come back into equilibrium. For many it is not a time of year when much grain is physically sold off farm and the impact will be more likely felt on next year’s crop and will depend on world stocks as the new harvest season starts.

Given difficult markets, what actions should individual farmers be taking to minimise the disruption to their farms?

  1. Quantify the impact – revise forecasts and budgets to consider what the loss of 1 milk cheque or £40 per lamb would have on the cash position of the farm.
  2. Revise purchases of livestock – is it worth the risk to buy now when milk prices are very volatile?
  3. Check through milk contracts to understand what the legal position is.  
  4. Check insurance- is there potential for a claim for unsold milk?
  5. Capital projects will have been put on hold for the time being – perhaps they should be delayed into another year?
  6. If there is likely to be a cash problem talk to your lenders. Remember individual bank managers are under pressure at present too so they will need time to assess your position.
  7. Capital projects will have been approved by lenders before the virus. It is worth revisiting these to ensure they will still be affordable.
  8. Talk to your families and your advisors. These are all issues that are being faced every day and speaking to someone with the experience of similar situations can be a big help.
  9. There is well publicised Government help and we have looked to collate this in our summary factsheets  and we can help you access any reliefs you are entitled to.

We are here to support you during these unprecedented times. If you have any queries or need any advice, please do not hesitate to contact me or your local Thomas Westcott representative

 

If you are a buy-to-let landlord, you may experience rental income problems this year. 

If your tenant is unable to pay their rent you should speak to your tenant and follow the emergency government guideline procedures on tenancies.

If you have a buy-to-let mortgage and are worried about making payments, speak to your lender about payment holiday options related to the Coronavirus disruption. 

If you are using a property to help you with your income in retirement, you may also be considering your options especially if you are unable to extend your buy-to-let mortgage past a certain date in the future. 

You may not wish to sell the property, you may have a large unreleased capital gain to pay on the sale proceeds.

Those over 55 may therefore be eligible to release a tax-free lump sum from their buy-to-let property. 

You can still use the property as a buy-to-let investment and the loan will sit as a first charge on the property until you either sell or pass away in the future. 

You can choose to pay the interest on the loan or it can be rolled up (compounded) over time. Some lenders may also allow you to repay the entire loan penalty free after a certain number of years have elapsed. The interest rate is typically fixed for the loan’s lifetime. 

  • You will therefore continue to own the property during your own lifetime. 
  • The money released from the equity release exercise is tax-free.

We always deal with lenders who are members of the Equity Release Council (ERC); their products will come with a ‘no negative equity guarantee’; this means that applicants will never owe more than the value of the property.

This is a big decision so you should instruct independent financial and legal advice on the matter. We can help you identify the potential risks with this exercise such as:

  • How entitlement to state benefits might be affected by taking out a lifetime mortgage.
  • The equity in your property will reduce by the size of the outstanding loan. 
  • A lifetime mortgage could end up being more expensive than selling your property in the long run.

We are here to support you during these unprecedented times. If you have any queries or need any advice, please do not hesitate to contact me.

By Simon Lake, Chartered Financial Planner 

 

Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage. Early repayment charges may apply. 

We offer all enquiries a free initial consultation where we can explore your objectives and your needs. 

Thomas Westcott Chartered Financial Planners is authorised and regulated to provide independent advice on equity release mortgages, for a main residence and second homes. 

 

Chris Hill
By Partner Chris Hill

 

HMRC have announced that claims for funding under the Job Retention Scheme, where employers can claim 80% of furloughed staff wages (up to a maximum of £2.500 per employee, per month), can be made from Monday 20 April. 

The claims will be managed via an online portal, which will no doubt be put to the test on the launch date as it will be inundated with applications from employers up and down the country. However, HMRC are currently beta testing the system, and have provided assurances that it can handle up to 450,000 claims an hour. 

Fundamental to the system working is that it will be a “self-serve” service, so claimants shouldn’t need to contact HMRC by phone to deal with the process – in fact HMRC have stated that were employers to contact them by phone they would not be able to handle the volume of calls as it would be beyond their capacity.

HMRC will be contacting businesses shortly to advise exactly what the process will be to make claims.

The key to be in a position to make a prompt and successful claim when the portal is available is to get prepared now. Information in respect of the employer that will be required includes:

  • PAYE reference number
  • Number of employees being furloughed
  • Start and end date of claim period
  • Amount claimed
  • Bank account and sort code
  • Contact name and phone number

The following information will be needed in respect of each furloughed employee:

  • National Insurance number
  • Salary, National Insurance and pension contribution information that allows the business to calculate the claim amount

At Thomas Westcott we are here to provide whatever assistance you may need to make these claims. If we are authorised to act as your agent for PAYE matters we will be able to make the claim on  your behalf. In situations where we are not your authorised PAYE agent, we can still assist you with pulling the claim together, but you will need to actually process the claim via the portal.

We are here to support you during these unprecedented times. If you have any queries or need any advice, please contact me or your local Thomas Westcott representative. 

 

 

Mark Tibbert
By Partner Mark Tibbert

 

After what has been a few quiet days within the governments daily briefings yesterday (8 April) saw Rishi Sunak take the briefing and with this came a welcome announcement of specific support for charities across the UK. The details of the announcement can be found HERE and in brief the measures announced were;

A £360million package of grants to be provided direct by government. With the support aimed at frontline charities providing vital services and helping vulnerable people. These were broadly noted as including;

  • hospices to help increase capacity and give stability to the sector
  • St Johns Ambulance to support the NHS
  • victims charities, including domestic abuse, to help with potential increase in demand for charities providing these services
  • vulnerable children charities, so they can continue delivering services on behalf of local authorities
  • Citizens Advice to increase the number of staff providing advice during this difficult time
  • A further £370million will be made available to smaller charities who are at the heart of local communities in providing support; and
  • A matching of any money raised on BBC’s Big Night In charity appeal on 23 April, with a minimum of £20million donated to the National Emergencies Trust. 

We await details of how claims can be made and how quickly the grants will be issued. 

During the day HMRC have also started to send out correspondence on what information will be needed to make claims under the Job Retention Scheme and we understand that the scheme will be going live on 20 April for employers to start submitting claims for repayment. 

For further announcements as we get them, please check our Coronavirus Updates page and look out for our webinar events where our Covid-19 team will be looking to address your questions live. 

 

We are here to support you during these unprecedented times. If you have any queries or need any advice, please contact me or your local Thomas Westcott representative. 

 

 

As the Coronavirus continues its disruption across the world, you may be tempted to consider looking at your retirement funds to ease your short-term cash flow woes. 

You may have been saving into your pension for years with your eventual long-term retirement years in mind; whilst you may be able to access these funds if you are over 55, there are many pitfalls to consider with this action. Here are some examples:

  • If you are in business, your pension funds should be protected from insolvency creditors; by releasing excess funds early you could risk losing these valuable retirement funds especially if your business fails. You would then have no retirement savings to fall back on in the future.
  • The 25% tax-free lump sum is only available once; all further withdrawals are subject to income tax at your highest marginal rate. Combined with earned income or self-employed profits you could be paying far more tax on your retirement funds than necessary. 
  • If you access pension savings ‘flexibly’, take taxable withdrawals from a drawdown plan for example, this may severely restrict your ability to rebuild your pension funds in the future when times improve. Once your pension is spent, it is spent. A tax charge may apply on future money purchase pension contributions over £4,000 a year; this is called the ‘money purchase annual allowance’ or MPAA.
  • If your pension savings are in the right place, they could be exempt from inheritance tax in the hands of the next generation. By bringing the funds into your estate now, this could unwind years of prudent planning.
  • Investment markets have been impacted by the recent wave of coronavirus disruption; you may not receive the best value from your pension fund now; by taking withdrawals, you could miss out on the future ‘bounce back potential’ of these investments. 
  • If you go directly to your pension provider i.e. an insurance company, they may be unable to offer a flexible, tax efficient choice on any withdrawals and you could trigger the MPAA unwittingly. 

It is therefore sensible for you seek independent advice on this matter; you need to consider the long-term repercussions of short-term cash flow needs. We offer all enquiries a free initial consultation and we can advise you on your objectives and needs. 

By Simon Lake, Chartered Financial Planner

 

Thomas Westcott Chartered Financial Planners is authorised and regulated to provide advice on pensions and investments.

 

Ian Pring
By Partner Ian Pring

 

On 4 April further guidance has been issued on the gov.uk website and this additional guidance is summarised below. 

Eligible individuals under the scheme have been clarified to include office holders, including company directors, salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships, limb (b) workers on PAYE, Apprentices, nannies and other domestic staff.

In addition to employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance, it has been confirmed that employees who need to stay with someone who is shielding can be placed on furlough if they are unable to work and would otherwise be made redundant. Employees unable to work because of caring responsibilities, such as looking after children, can be furloughed. 

It has also been clarified that Apprentices can be furloughed and continue to train.  Apprentices on furlough must be paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage as appropriate, for all of the time they spend training, even if this is more than 80% of their normal wages and therefore not recoverable under the scheme.

It has now been confirmed that, where the employment contract allows, a furloughed employee can start work for another employer whilst on furlough.  The guidance also now extends the scheme to employees that left employment on or after 28 February and are re-employed by the same employer, not just those that were made redundant.

It is now a requirement that employers retain a record of the written communication, confirming to employees that they have been furloughed, for 5 years.

The calculation of an employee’s regular wage for the purposes of the scheme has now been clarified to include past overtime, fees and compulsory commission payments that the employer is obliged to pay. However, discretionary bonus and commission payments, tips, and non-cash payments must be excluded.

Non-monetary benefits, including taxable Benefits in Kind, should not be included in the employee’s reference salary.  Benefits provided through salary sacrifice schemes, such as pension contributions, that reduce an employee’s taxable pay should also be excluded.  HMRC is treating COVID-19 as a life event to allow changes to be made to salary sacrifice contractual arrangements.

The scheme does not cover the Apprenticeship Levy or Student Loans, which should continue to be paid as normal.

In order for company directors, including directors of owner managed businesses, to claim under the scheme where a director is furloughed, this decision should be formally recorded in board meeting minutes and communicated in writing to the director(s) concerned. Furloughed directors can continue to undertake their statutory duties as a director (filing accounts etc.) but should not do any other work of a kind that provides services or generates revenue to or on behalf of the company (as for employees). Personal service company directors subject to the public sector off-payroll rules would not appear to be covered under the scheme as they are not employees of the public sector engager. 

Disappointingly, there has still been no clarification on what happens with staff who take annual leave during a period of furlough, but given that a bank holiday weekend is almost upon us and staff holidays are anticipated at Easter, it seems reasonable to assume that staff taking annual leave or a bank holiday will not break the 3-week furlough period otherwise we would expect the guidance to state this.  Clarification is still awaited as to whether holiday pay should be paid as normal remuneration at the regular salary level or at 80% of base salary.

  • CLICK HERE to view and download our updated Job Retention Help Sheet 

We are here to support you during these unprecedented times. If you have any queries or need any advice, please contact me or your local Thomas Westcott representative. 

 

 

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