Childcare changes on the horizon

There are many changes on the horizon concerning childcare, including:

  • Childcare allowance being increased from 15 to 30 hours a week;
  • Salary sacrifice Childcare Vouchers (CCVs) are due to be abolished;
  • Tax credits are being revised; and
  • Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) is due to be introduced.

 

CCVs and TFC

Employers may see lower productivity and higher absenteeism as employees may be affected by worries about the change in expensive childcare.

The changeover from CCVs to TFC means that salary sacrifice arrangements with the employer will cease and that the employee will be in control of the new system and will need to update their eligibility information every three months.

If you are an employer you may think that you will have less hassle in the long term and yes, you will. However, you have a duty of care to your staff to ensure that they understand the difference between the two schemes.

 

Tax credits

Tax credits will be limited to the first two children for families claiming after April 2017 and will affect families planning a third child.

 

Flexible working

You may find that when these changes come into place, that your employees may make requests for flexible working to accommodate how they manage childcare.

£12.5m to help businesses make the most of superfast broadband

Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James, has today announced a new £12.5m programme to ensure businesses across Wales maximise the benefits of superfast broadband.

 

Wales already leads the way among the UK’s devolved nations with the availability of superfast broadband, with 79 per cent of premises now able to access it.

 

As well as the commercial roll out to a number of business parks and industrial estates across Wales,  superfast broadband will be made available across Wales in 2016.

 

£12.5m will be provided for a five-year programme to ensure businesses take full advantage of the benefits.

 

The project will support primarily small and medium sized businesses to understand, adopt and exploit the superfast infrastructure

 

The main features of the programme will include:

  • Direct business support and advice through Business Wales. Superfast business workshops, clinics and one-to-one sessions at a local level
  • Research and intelligence, including the tracking and of adoption and exploitation of superfast broadband by businesses and providing insight into emerging technologies to ensure new opportunities are included.
  • Training and accreditation for business advisors who are delivering support on the ground.
  • Business Wales have appointed ‘Champions’ for each local authority who will help lead engagement with their authority and local business community.

 

Further details about the superfast broadband programme are available from the Business Wales website: www.business.wales.gov.uk/superfastbusinesswales

 

Sources:

Business Wales

 

Keeping your money safe – avoid identity theft

Experian’s expertise and insight on data security, in a report published recently, has highlighted a gender imbalance. Men are now victims in two out of three ID thefts (63%) across all financial product applications. The report tells us that criminals making bogus current account applications have been targeting men aged between 50 and 59 (up 3.4%), most during the first six months of 2015. This age group now accounts for nearly one in five (17.6%) current account ID thefts attempted against men.

Nick Mothershaw, UK&I Director of Identity and Fraud at Experian, comments:

“Fraudsters are widening their net and we are seeing a growing number of cases involving older members of society. Older individuals in this category often have a good credit rating and have lived at the same address for a long time. Individuals need to be careful of websites and emails asking for personal information, such as confirmation of their date of birth. This information is then used by criminals to apply for new financial products.”

Ten tips from Experian are included in their latest report:

1. Always shred or destroy documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.

2. Never respond to cold phone calls or emails asking for account details, PINs, passwords or personal information.

3. Don’t give too much away on networking websites. For example, pets’ names or children’s names could be used as passwords.

4. Register to vote at your current address. If you don’t, thieves could use your previous address details to open new credit accounts, and run up debts in your name.

5. Monitor your post regularly so you know when to expect important documents — and when to act if they don’t arrive.

6. Redirect your mail via the Post Office if you move house.

7. Always use secure, unique passwords for as many online accounts as possible, and ideally all of them. At the very least have a unique password for each type of service provider such as financial services, retail services and email.

8. Don’t store account names and passwords on your smartphone, either in email, as a note, or to ‘autocomplete’ when you open a website or app. It will be a goldmine for fraudsters if your device is lost or stolen.

9. Read all bank and card statements regularly to check for suspicious transactions.

10. Check your credit report, because it lists your credit accounts and what you owe, so you can spot applications and spending that are nothing to do with you.


Sources: www.experian.co.uk (Published report 2015/09/28)

Zero-hours contracts can benefit employers and employees

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has reported that zero-hours contracts, if well-managed, can benefit both employers and employees.

 

The Office of National Statistics has published new figures showing a rise in zero-hours contracts and that 60 per cent as were satisfied with their jobs as the average UK employee which was 59 per cent.

 

Other results showed that 65 per cent were happy with their work-life balance compared with 58 per cent of UK employees generally and also less likely to think they were being unfairly treated by their employer.

 

However the Trades Union Congress has reported that the UK needs a stronger and fairer recovery that works for everyone as people employed on zero-hour contracts can earn up to £300 less a week on average than workers in secure jobs.

Beware National Living Wage

From April 2016 the national living wage will be rolled out for workers aged 25 and over. The rate will start at £7.20 an hour and rise to £9 an hour by 2020.

It is quite a jump from £7.20 to £9 an hour, especially for those with many employees. The new rate is a significant increase and the ‘sacrifice’ could take some employees’ incomes below the minimum, putting the company in breach of the rules.

As an employer you will need to be vigilant to avoid any inadvertent breaches. It would be advisable to review your employee benefits offering as early as possible so that you are able to accommodate and plan. There will be employees who have several arrangements such as childcare vouchers and have their pension contributions deducted and this is where employees may fall below the threshold.

Planning as early as possible is prudent to ensure that you comply with the new legal minimum wage landscape.

Farmers’ Averaging

It is a long time since a government has brought in special legislation for farmers therefore it would be very welcome news that in response to lobbying by the NFU and others that the special rules for farmers’ averaging would be reviewed.

 

It has been suggested that the period over which self-employed farmers can average their profits for income tax purposes will be increased from two years to five.

 

This may be seen by farmers as a valuable relief, particularly in this era of price volatility. Until recently questions were being posed regarding whether or not this relief would be abolished altogether. Therefore it comes as rather a surprise.

 

There will be a consultation later this year on the detail of the new relief, which currently still only applies to individuals and members of partnerships (i.e. not farming companies). The measure will come into effect from 6 April 2016 and be legislated for in a future Finance Bill.

 

Paper self assessment returns

If you are a taxpayer and intend on submitting a paper Self Assessment return, then please take note that the deadline for submitting the 2014-15 return is 31 October 2015.

If you submit it late then you will be liable to a £100 late filing penalty. The penalty will apply even if there is no liability or if any tax due is paid in full by 31 January 2016.

There are benefits of submitting your return electronically rather than paper format: An additional three months (until 31 January 2016) in which to submit a return.

Taxpayers with certain underpayments in the 2014-15 tax year can elect to have this amount collected via their tax code (in 2016-17), provided they are in employment or in receipt of a UK-based pension. The coding applies to certain debts and the amount of debt that can be coded out ranges from £3,000 to £17,000 based on a graduated scale. The maximum coding out allowance only applies to taxpayers with earnings exceeding £90,000.

 

Deadline reminders:

 

31 October 2015 – to have tax collected through your tax code is for a paper return.

30 December 2015 – for electronic submissions.

Taxpayers that received a letter informing them that they have to submit a paper return after 30 July 2015 have an extended deadline which runs for three months from the date they received a letter to submit the paper return.

 

Your tax return need not be scary

You are probably aware or should be, that your 2014-2015 tax return, if submitted electronically, needs to be submitted by 31 January 2016. It may seem far away but it’s only 3 months away and time flies. However paper based returns need to be submitted by 31 October!

Your liability of taxes needs to be paid this date also.

 

Avoid the rush

Many of us use our ‘down time’ – weekends and public holidays, to complete our self-assessment tax returns and end up getting more stressed and not enjoy time off with family and friends, fighting with time to complete returns on time and time to spend with our nearest and dearest.

 

Plan well ahead and avoid both the rush and stress by getting it in early!

If you would like to talk to me about your situation and would like help with planning to get your submission in well in advance, then please get in touch on slathwood@clayshawthomas.com or on 01656 867167.

Xero reaches a milestone

Xero, the online small business accounting software has reached a significant milestone – 100,000 UK subscribers!

Xero are continuously improving their software. For example they have released 500 new features and updates in the current financial year, including billable expenses and invoice reminders.

Research commissioned earlier this year by Xero showed that more than a quarter (27%) of small business owners believe accounting issues, such as slow or late payments, are the biggest obstacles to the success of their business. The same number says chasing payments is one of the most difficult parts of running a business. The new feature should help with this ongoing issue to make business life a little smoother.

Xero are rolling out the phases in three stages:

 

1. Small businesses will be able to use Billable Expenses to recoup costs and protect profit margins by recording expenses in bills and other transactions that need to be on-charged to a customer: Available immediately.
2. Billable Expenses will allow bank account transactions to be tagged as billable expenses while Xero’s library of reports will be updated to allow for reporting of billable expenses: Available over the next few weeks.
3. Xero will make Invoice Reminders widely available: In the next few months.

 

The adoption of cloud- and mobile-centric products like Xero has now become the norm amongst small businesses in the UK.  It has enabled them to harness the power of tech –something that PC-era products never achieved. Xero has also recently redesigned their App for Android.

I believe that Xero’s popularity is evidence of the increasing need for small businesses to access their accounts in real time, hassle free and indeed want more from their accountancy service provider. Small business owners are smart and I’ve noticed that more and more our clients are taking full advantage of a tech-savvy alternative to traditional accounting.

At Clay Shaw Thomas we are a Xero-accredited training provider and truly believe that it’s an online small business solutions package that delivers. If you would like any more information or a demonstration of the software then please get in contact with me on lauras@clayshawthomas.com or 01656 867167.

Holiday leave year

There have been changes to the calculation of holiday pay this year following a number of tribunal cases in the press. For example an appeal in Lock v British Gas is due to be heard by the end of the year.

 

Please note that if a company does not have a set holiday year, it defaults to 1 October to 30 September under the Working Time Regulations.

 

The Government has some useful information on its website about holiday entitlement that you may find useful.

 

It covers entitlement for different types such as 5 days, part-time, irregular hours. Visit https://www.gov.uk/holiday-entitlement-rights/entitlement for further information.

 

 

Sources:

 

www.payandbenefitsmagazine.co.uk October 2015

www.gov.uk