HMRC announces new Brexit Support Fund for SMEs involved in imports or exports

HMRC has recently announced an SME Brexit Support Fund which can provide funds of up to £2,000 to assist with professional advice and/or training for the business.

To qualify for this grant the business must:

  • Have up to 500 employees
  • Have no more than £100 million in annual turnover
  • Be established in the UK
  • Have been established in the UK for at least 12 months, or hold a valid AEO status
  • Be involved in imports and/or exports between UK and the EU or Northern Ireland.

The potential VAT and Customs issues surrounding Brexit, particularly following the trade agreement announced in December 2020, is having an impact on many businesses and it is not too late to seek advice to get to grips with this.

If you would be interested in learning more about the grant funding available to you, and having a review undertaken of the potential VAT & Customs implications on your businesses, we would be happy to provide you with a quote for this work and discuss this further with you.

Please contact our VAT Department for more information.

Farmers and consumers need post-Brexit protection

The UK Agriculture Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords last week, with growing concerns raised about the lack of amendments to protect UK farmers and producers from lower quality imports in post-Brexit Britain.

The Bill will replace the EU subsidy system where an average of £2.88 billion was paid out annually to British farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy. While much of this new legislation will be relevant only to England, key measures including those on food security and fair dealing in the supply chain will apply here in Scotland.

The new Bill matters to everyone as it will shape the future of farming and food production across the UK and determine the quality standards available to consumers.

The volume of home-produced food consumed in the UK has fallen significantly in recent years, from 67 per cent in 1988 to around 53 per cent, increasing our reliance on imports. While such imports have been governed by high EU food standards, the Agriculture Bill currently contains no provision to safeguard future food safety, environmental, or animal welfare standards once the UK leaves the single market.

Opposition politicians and campaign groups such as Sustain, say this omission could force down the quality of food that is allowed to be sold in the UK as new trade deals are made with other countries, including the US, which do not share the same standards. Nearly 1 million people have signed a petition supported by the  NFUS which calls on the Westminster Government to amend the Bill to ensure imported foods will meet the same standards as those produced in the UK.

We are all aware of the much-publicised concerns about American chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-fed beef, but these could prove to be just the tip of the iceberg if a suitable food standards structure is not put into place for the UK following Brexit.

At a time when UK farmers are feeling the impact of Covid-19 and facing the growing prospect of a No Deal Brexit, the Scottish and UK Governments need to step up to support the industry and ensure consumers are protected.

Innovative measures to help farmers and food producers could include incentives to encourage shorter food chains, which would also support a green recovery. This will promote a higher level of buying and sourcing from local producers. With the Covid-19 pandemic exposing significant vulnerabilities to food supply chains, this will also help protect the high provenance level of Scotland’s food and drink offering.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government could review procurement regulation for public sector food contracts for schools and hospitals. This could allow a wide range of smaller suppliers, who lack the resources of some of their bigger competitors, to secure a foothold or greater share of this market while also ensuring high food quality standards.

Any gap in standards between UK produced foods and imports provides an additional opportunity for governments to support farmers by continued funding of a high profile ‘Buy Local’ campaign  highlighting  the high quality of home-grown produce. The NFUS proposed country of origin labelling programme, particularly within the catering and food processing industries, would also be a positive measure to reassure consumers.

The Agriculture Bill now goes to committee stage for more detailed examination and further discussion. Let’s hope suitable amendments will be taken on board that will improve the resilience of the UK’s food system and prioritise consumer safety.

How to plan for the future in turbulent times

Moira McMillan, Chiene + Tait Tax Director, writes about how to plan for the future in turbulent times.

When the news is dominated by turbulent events, it becomes harder to plan for the future.

I remember writing an article for Connect newsletter just before the Scottish independence referendum in September 2014 which mentioned the famous Donald Rumsfeld quote about the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. With the ongoing political uncertainties, I could have called on this again but I have turned instead to a quote that is said to be an ancient Chinese curse. ‘May you live in interesting times’ somehow seems appropriate.

Brexit remains the key issue tripping off many a tongue. The snap General Election has failed to provide clarity on anything much, so we know that it will be some time before the Brexit process is complete – and, indeed, whether the UK will remain in the single market, the Customs Union, the European Court of Justice or myriad other Europe-wide institutions. This provides uncertainty for many: for businesses, which will find themselves in a different situation once the UK has left the Single Market, and for individuals, who may find themselves affected by new, harder borders.

Meanwhile, the possibility of another independence referendum seems to have diminished for now but it remains the policy of Scotland’s largest political party and we cannot rule anything out in these days of interest: who would have thought a year ago that Donald Trump would be President of the USA?

There are interesting times ahead too for the accountancy profession with the Government’s ‘Making Tax Digital’ (MTD) programme looming on the horizon (see pg 10 of our Summer 2017 Connect newsletter). This will radically and permanently change the way tax submissions are made to HMRC and will be the biggest change to the tax system since the introduction of Self-Assessment. Certain elements of MTD have been delayed but VAT compliance in 2018 is still necessary, and HMRC is pressing ahead with a bigger roll-out in subsequent years. This is despite ‘glitches’ in the HMRC software for the 2016/17 tax returns which will mean that some individuals will be forced to file paper returns this year. A cynic might wonder if the HMRC systems will be robust enough to cope with MTD.

Technological developments are an unavoidable feature of this interesting age. New systems and processes bring amazing benefits but also new challenges. The NHS, in common with many other organisations worldwide, recently suffered a phishing attack – basically, a criminal implanting a virus on their computers in an attempt to extort money or gather sellable data (see pg 5 of our Summer 2017 Connect newsletter). This sort of attack is ever more common, and will become increasingly difficult for organisations to prevent. Meanwhile, British Airways had a catastrophic collapse of its IT systems over one weekend that cost the company tens of millions of pounds. The new EU data protection legislation, the General Data Protection Regulations, or GDPR – to which the UK will still be subject when it is launched in May 2018 (see pg 8 of our Summer 2017 Connect newsletter) – is doubtless intended to add a layer of protection but it also adds a burden to businesses to ensure that they comply.

The way we shop and the way we travel has already been changed thanks to technology. What will be next? Driverless cars could threaten professional drivers – of taxis, lorries, delivery vans, buses – within 10 years. Even human interaction can be replaced by technology, so we can’t rely on the common fall-back defence that customers prefer face-to face service: Amazon’s size and growth shows that this isn’t always the case. It’s a big question: in 10, 20, 30 years, what jobs will have been automated?

 

What can you do?

The framework of the world will continue to be shaped by politicians and tech entrepreneurs. There will continue to be unpredictable events, uncertainties, debates, annoyances and hold-ups. The world will also continue to turn. The only battle you can’t win is the one against change. Fighting against change is a waste of energy: the best you can do is to understand change, help make it better, and have a plan.

The sensible course of action is to take control of your own destiny, as far as possible. It’s impossible to mitigate every risk but it’s sensible to take care. Making sure you have IT protection to ward off fraudsters is a good practical example; other problems might require more careful, thoughtful and tailored planning to address – ensuring flexibility in your skills as job roles are re-defined, for instance, is a longer and trickier project.

At Chiene + Tait we believe that our clients see us as their trusted advisers who can be relied upon to provide the right advice in turbulent times. We believe that we have the expertise across our various sectors to ensure that we can continue in this role during the interesting times ahead.

Iain Masterton in Business Insider Magazine: Crowdfunding is a grey area for HMRC

‘Iain Masterton, director of VAT and indirect tax at Chiene + Tait , says that businesses looking to raise finance via the crowdfunding route should carefully consider the VAT implications before going ahead.

He says that if the crowdfunding pitch includes the funders getting a product in exchange for their funds then the business might be liable to VAT – something that should be taken into account when working out the funding requirement.

Masterton says: “There is a problem because there is no definitive guidance on offer from HMRC, something that people could refer to without going to an advisor so it does make it a bit of a grey area.”

He says that if the product provided in exchange for the funding is something that would have been liable for VAT on the sale of the good then VAT will be levied. This will not be the case on VAT exempt products such as food and children’s clothes.

“It’s a fact for a lot of these businesses that they haven’t taken VAT into account and they are suddenly faced with a bill from HMRC for 20 per cent of the value of the VAT-able goods sold.”

He says: “We worked for a company that was crowdfunding a board game they were developing. They were trying to put together a Dungeons and Dragons type board game and they had commitments from the UK, EU and non-EU funders.

“They had commitments of £90,000 from the UK which meant that they immediately went over the £85,000 turnover threshold and they were liable to VAT. HMRC were very good about it and didn’t give them a penalty payment but it meant that they were due to pay 20 per cent and that was something they hadn’t taken into account in the financial calculations.”

Masterton says that if the crowdfunding is set up as a loan or if the investor received equity in return for their investment then VAT would not apply; only if goods are exchanged for the investment that are liable to VAT.

Despite recent uncertainties, including Brexit and the triggering of Article 50, alternative lending has seen a sustained period of growth in recent years. For example, peer-topeer lending by volume reached over £100m by the start of 2017 according to alternative funding news website altfi.’

To read the full article in Business Insider, visit their website here.