Weekly Digest – 2 December 2020

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. We hope you and your family are safe and doing well. Read on for this week’s updates and some ideas that will help us all move forward.

Preparing to Exit Lockdown

The UK has got COVID-19 back under control, health minister Matt Hancock said as England prepares to exit a national lockdown this week and enter a tiered system of restrictions subject to a parliamentary vote.

Survey: Business Confidence at 4-Month Low, But Signs of Vaccine Boost

Confidence among UK businesses dropped to its lowest level in November since July due to new COVID-19 restrictions, but firms turned less pessimistic after news of a vaccine breakthrough.

In a survey of 1200 firms, Lloyds Bank’s business barometer saw confidence rise by three points to -15 on the back of the 9 November announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech about the effectiveness of their vaccine.

If you are still struggling to keep your business afloat, flick us a message so we can help you bounce back stronger.

Furlough Claim Deadlines Have Changed

There are now stricter time limits for making claims under the Job Retention Scheme (furlough). Claims made from 1 November 2020 must be submitted by the 14th of the following month.

This means furlough claims for days in November need to be submitted by 14th December.

HMRC may accept a claim made after the relevant deadline but only if the employer has a reasonable excuse for failing to make the claim in time. Ask us if you have any questions.

Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Open For New Grants

Be careful of conditions to claim.

To be able to claim for the third grant, you must either:

  1. be currently trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
  2. have been trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus

You must also:

  1. intend to continue to trade
  2. reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits due to reduced demand or your inability to trade

You must also meet all other eligibility criteria to make a claim.

VAT Deferral Payment Extension

For those who deferred their VAT payment for one of the quarters that was in the deferral scheme earlier in the year, the initial guidance was that you have until the end of March 2021 to repay. HMRC have now said that you can pay this off by the end of March 2022 but you must pay it in monthly instalments.

You can pay it off in up to 12 monthly instalments between March 2021 and March 2022 but you will have to opt-in for this scheme, HMRC will release details as to how to opt-in in the new year. You also must have no VAT returns outstanding. Full details can be found here.

For assistance on your VAT or other tax matters, feel free to get in touch with us.

UK Shopper Numbers Down 56.9%

Total shopper numbers across British retail destinations were down 56.9% in the week to 28 November year-on-year, showing the impact of a third full week of the UK’s national COVID-19 lockdown, according to market researcher Springboard.

Do you need expert assistance to get your retail business back on track amid the pandemic restrictions? Contact us today so we can work out a plan.

PM Announces £20 Million Fund for Medicines Manufacturing

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new £20 million fund to expand medicines manufacturing– strengthening the UK’s ability to respond to future pandemics, improving medicine supply chains, and creating thousands of jobs.

The government’s new capital investment fund, the Medicines and Diagnostic Manufacturing Transformation Fund, will open up investment opportunities for medicines manufacturers in England, Scotland, and Wales.

More information will be made available over the coming months, ahead of the fund launching mid-next year.

Survey: UK Factories Show Fastest Growth Since 2017

UK factories recorded their fastest growth in almost three years last month as they stockpiled raw materials and rushed to complete work before new post-Brexit customs rules come into force on 1 January 2021, according to a survey.

The IHS Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 55.6 in November from 53.7 in October, its highest since December 2017.

Make Final Preparations for the Brexit

The UK government is urging businesses to make final preparations for a new trading relationship with the EU from January 1, saying a new centre to monitor goods will help ease what it described as “short-term disruption” after Brexit.

With just a month to go before the end of the Brexit transition period, exporters and importers are reminded that, with or without a trade deal, they must get ready for new paperwork and procedures at the border when the UK leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.

You may check gov.uk/transition to see actions you need to take or get in touch with us so we can provide some expert guidance.

UK House Price Inflation Hits Highest in 6 Years

UK house prices soared the highest in nearly six years in November, as the country’s housing market booms even while the broader economy struggles with COVID-19, according to mortgage lender Nationwide.

In annual terms, prices rose by 6.5%.

Three Households Can Mix Over Christmas in UK

People from up to three households will be able to meet up during a five-day Christmas period of 23 to 27 December. They can mix in homes, places of worship, and outdoor spaces, and travel restrictions will also be eased.

Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December, but otherwise travel to and from bubbles should be done between the 23 and 27.

Further details of the rules can be found in this published guidance for England.

Arrivals in England Will Be Able to Cut Quarantine Time With Negative Test

The UK government has said it plans to reduce its 14-day quarantine requirement for travellers from COVID-19 hotspots to as little as five days if they test negative for COVID-19. This change will take effect on 15 December.

Also, it was announced that England will exit its lockdown on 2 December and return to a multi-tier system to prevent the spread of the virus. Details of the local restriction tier system can be found here.

Government Increases Support for Self-Employed

The UK government will be increasing its support to the self-employed over the coming months through the following ways:

UK-wide Self-Employment Income Support Scheme will allow self-employed individuals to receive 80% of their average trading profits for November.

Grants will be paid faster, with the claims window opening by 30 November rather than 14 December.

The increase means £4.5 billion of support for the self-employed between November and January. Also, more businesses will be able to benefit from government loan schemes, as deadlines for applications for additional support and the Future Fund have been further extended until 31 January 2021.

Is your business still struggling? Let us help you consider your options and apply for funding and government support. Contact us today!

What funding is available for my business?

To cover the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, there are grants made available by the government such as the £1.25b Future Fund and R&D rescue package for fast growth businesses and smaller businesses with a Research & Development focus.

If your business has been severely hit by COVID-19 and you need more support, the government is giving businesses access to financial support through various initiatives such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), where you can get up to £50,000 no-interest loans for the first 12 months.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offers a maximum loan of £5 million made available through commercial banks.

You can also claim for 80% of your employee’s wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions if you have put them on furlough because of COVID-19 under the Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the end of October. You can check your eligibility here.

With all the financial assistance schemes available for businesses, it can be difficult to assess which one is suitable for your business. Get in touch if you need some help.

Do you need help chasing payments and keeping your invoices on track? Get in touch with us today and let’s discuss how we can help you.

Rebuilding Customer Loyalty Post-Pandemic

Given the exciting progress in the development of COVID-19 vaccines, it seems like we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

However, getting your feet back on track may not be as easy as it seems. Businesses which had to shut down during the pandemic may have lost some momentum in their customer relationships. Below are ways to make customers re-engage:

  • Incentivise engaging with your business by offering special offers, discounts, and gift cards.
  • If you increased your social media and email marketing efforts at the height of the pandemic, keep that activity going and stay in touch.
  • Strong customer relationships are built on trust, and the best way to establish this is to stay true to your brand and put your customers first.
  • Know your customers’ evolving needs and adapt accordingly. Those who survived throughout the pandemic are those that have pivoted to meet their customers’ changing priorities.

If you are struggling to keep your business afloat, get in touch with us so we can work out a plan.

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