From the rolling out of a digital tax platform to the introduction of an apprenticeship levy, Chancellor George Osborne’s Autumn Statement contained plenty of revelations that will impact British SMEs. Is the next fiscal year looking good?
Since the Chancellor delivered his budget on the 8th of July, there has been fierce debate about the pros and cons of the new measures – but nowhere more so than among SMEs.
Tax and red tape
The biggest boon is the cut in corporation tax, which will fall to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020, the lowest of all the G20 economies. Reforms to dividend tax could mitigate gains for some, however, as a £5,000 tax-free dividend allowance will replace more generous dividend tax credits.
Elsewhere, the annual investment allowance will be permanently set at £200,000. This figure will disappoint the many who called for £500,000, but it is undoubtedly better for businesses than the £25,000 allowance previously scheduled for 2016. This new, fixed, allowance will encourage growth and could add $1bn to the GDP by 2020.
From April 2016, the National Living Wage will be a legally binding minimum hourly rate of £7.20 an hour for over 25s, rising to more than £9 an hour by 2020.
Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) chairman John Allan says the changes “pose significant challenges for many small firms, particularly those in the hospitality, retail and social care sectors’’, and Blick Rothenberg tax partner, Frank Nash, calculates that the changes will push up staffing costs by 4%, which could affect inflation.
The Employment Allowance increase from £1,000 to £3,000 will offset these costs to some extent, although the new rule only allows employers offsetting up to 2,000 hours.
The announcement of new ‘enterprise zones’, where small businesses will pay reduced taxes, should help to create more start ups, particularly in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield where transport links will also be improved by an extra £30m grant to Transport for the North. Elsewhere, a £10m programme will bring broadband to underserved areas in the South West.
We were particularly disappointed to see the issues of business rates and late payments left unaddressed: particularly in light of stronger measures to force businesses to pay their taxes accurately and on time.
With small businesses heavily burdened by late payments from larger rivals, and now facing larger wage bills, ensuring prompt payment and stable cashflow has never been more important.
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