Sunday, 20 December 2009

Are We Making The Most Of The Video Revolution?

Ever wondered if search is important for video?
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In November of last year, YouTube surpassed Yahoo for the first time in total U.S. search queries, making it the second largest search engine, surpassed, only, by its owner, Google.

Since then, YouTube has continued to dominate the search space in respect of the total number of search queries.
When you think that all the searches on Youtube are users looking for video content in particular, there is no doubt that YouTube is THE largest video search / discovery destination.

In October, 2009, there were more than 3.7 Billion search queries on YouTube as measured by comScore. This represents and increase of more than 31 percent year on year (vs 2,580,000.000 queries in Oct. 2008) and an increase of 7% over just last month.

Yahoo, although still the 3rd largest search engine, has now fallen more than 1 billion queries per month behind YouTube.

It stands to reason, then, that anyone not using You Tube as a promotional tool could, possibly, be missing out on a vast potential audience.

This is something we, at 1st Addition, are taking very seriously, and, some time ago, we set up our own channel on YouTube, in order to showcase the key videos we use for both educational and promotional purposes (as well as one or two of our favourite humerous ones). You can check this channel out at; http://www.youtube.com/user/1stAddition

Also, in the spirit of moving with the times, wherever possible, from here on in, the key posts in this blog will now also be in video format. As well as being more user friendly, these videos will also be uploaded to YouTube, thereby increasing both our online presence, and SEO rankings, due to increased incoming traffic.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Pre Budget Report 2009. A Quick Summary

Yesterday saw Mr Darling’s second Pre Budget Report since taking office last year. So, how does it compare with last years, and how will it affect us all?

Some of you may recall that my main concern last year, as it was for most commentators, was the optimistic nature of the Mr Darling’s projections, both in terms of future economic growth and potential cost savings.

In the 2008 Pre Budget Report, the Chancellor predicted 2009 borrowings of £78bn, rising to £118bn in 2010. (Earlier in 2008, he was predicting borrowings of £38bn).

So where are we now? Well, according to Mr Darling, the Government will spend £178bn more than it earns, this year alone, with overall borrowings rising by £789bn in the next 5 years.

The concern at the moment is that these projections are based on assumptions that the economy will start to grow rapidly, and that taxes will rise, after which, the level of debt should fall. Bearing in mind the Chancellor’s ongoing history of extreme optimism, it’s not the most encouraging of plans.

Ok, but why is this Pre Budget Report so important? Well, it’s the last throw of the dice (perhaps a rather unfortunate analogy) for Labour and it will lay down some of the policies that will be used to fight the general election next year. This is particularly important, as we plough our way through the longest recession on record, when employment is on the increase, and Labour are about as popular as a fart in a spacesuit.

The Government really needs to cut spending and increase taxes if they are to tackle our current debt crisis, but that will hardly boost their popularity in the run up to the election.

So that’s where we are, but what’s the plan, and how will it actually affect us?

The Highs

Bankers’ bonuses will, effectively, be taxed at 90%. (Yes, I know that’s not a high, if you’re a banker, but I can’t help feeling it will raise an approving smile from the majority of us) The bankers, themselves, already pay tax of 40% on these bonuses, and, now the banks, themselves, will also have to pay a further 50% of any bonuses in excess of £25,000. Sounds great, but it is only expected to raise around £500 million, a drop in the £178bn deficit ocean expected this year alone.

The 2008 Pre Budget Report announced plans to allow businesses to spread their tax payments in times of financial hardship. This has now been extended “for as long as it is needed” which should avoid too many businesses going bust as a result of a large, unexpected tax demand.

The ‘Access To Credit Scheme” has been extended. This is the scheme whereby the Government guarantees borrowing by businesses, thereby increasing the likelihood of the banks lending to them.

Empty property relief (where empty properties, with a rateable value below £18,000, are not subject to business rates, as long as they remain empty) has also been extended.

The Increase in small company taxation, originally scheduled to kick in from April next year, has been suspended for a second year in a row.

In order to allow more over 65s to claim Working Tax Credits, the hours needed to work, in order to qualify for them, have been reduced.

Currently, any 18-24 year old, who has been out of work for more than 12 months is guaranteed work or training. From next month, this has been reduced to 6 months.

State pension is to increase by 2.5% in April next year.

At the other end of the spectrum, child benefits are to increase, by 1.5%, from the same date.

Interestingly, Mr Darling has given a global guarantee that anyone in work will always be better off than they were on benefits.

One piece of good news for the elderly is the announcement of discounts on new boilers, which will, hopefully, help those who struggle with the rapidly increasing energy prices.

Free school meals were announced for 500,000 children from low income families.

The Lows

VAT will return to 17.5% from 1 January 2010. Not only will this reverse the, admittedly questionable, benefit of reducing the VAT level last year, but those businesses who spent the time and money changing price lists etc must now repeat the process, once again.

As with VAT, the stamp duty threshold reverts to its previous level of £125,000.

Anyone earning in excess of £20,000 will see an increase in tax, and a further 0.5% increase in National Insurance, for both the employer and the employee.

Missed by some, the 40% tax threshold has remained the same. This means that anyone getting a pay rise this year, who is already close to this level, will now fall under the 40% income tax rate for the first time.

Spending will be capped at £32bn (the same as last year) although there are expected to be further ‘efficiency savings’. In the long term though, spending is expected to slow down.

Pay rises for Government employees are to be capped at 1% from 2011 onwards.

Plans to increase the inheritance tax threshold, from £325,000 to £350,000 were postponed until 2011. It is estimated that over 100,000 additional homes will be caught by this, as a result.

Conclusion

On the face of it, there are more highs than lows in this budget, but is it enough? The current economic climate demands immediate and dramatic action.

Unfortunately, the Pre Budget Report has been prepared by a Chancellor who (a) has a history of excessive optimism, and (b) will not want to ‘rock the boat’ too much, in the face of an upcoming general election.

Mr Darling has hinted at future tax hikes and cuts in spending, but ‘not yet’.

There are one or two popular moves, such as the super tax on bankers’ bonuses as well as some of the new greener policies and help for the youth of the country, but, once again, we have to ask; “Is it enough?” The statement that; “anyone in work will always be better off than they were on benefits” is a bold and admirable one, but is it really achievable, and, more importantly, how will it help the expected £178bn deficit this year?

Once again, it remains to be seen.
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For those of you with no life, and loads of time on their hands, we have reproduced the full transcript of Mr Darling's Pre Budget Report Speech on our web site.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Working From Home. What Are The Implications?

If you work at or from home, the part of the property used for work may be liable to business rates (also known as non-domestic rates) whilst the remainder of the property will continue to be liable to council tax (although an alteration may be made to its banding).

To decide whether or not part of your property should be liable to business rates there are a number of things we have to consider, including the extent and frequency of the non-domestic (business) use of the room (or rooms) and any modifications made to the property to accommodate that use.
Each case is considered on its own merits, and normally The Valuations Office Agency (VOA) will visit your property to check the facts before an assessment is made for non-domestic rates.

Business rates

If your property needs to be assessed for business rates, the VOA will work out a rateable value for the part that is used for non-domestic purposes. Rateable values are based in broad terms on the annual rent for a building or part of a building if it was available to let on the open market at a fixed valuation date. Currently this is 1 April 2003

It is important to note that rateable values are a key factor in the calculation of business rates but they are not the rates bill. An increase or decrease in rateable value does not automatically lead to a smaller or larger bill because the final calculation is based on a number of other factors.

These include transitional relief and the multiplier, (rate in the pound) which is set by the Department for Communities and Local Government (for England) and the National Assembly for Wales. Local authorities are responsible for calculating actual rates bills and for collecting rates.

For more information, please contact your local Valuation Office - details are in the phone book - or visit www.voa.gov.uk and http://www.businesslink.gov.uk/bdotg/action/layer?r.l1=1073858808&topicId=1074019801&r.l2=1073859221&r.s=tl - both official government websites

Below are some examples of assessments we might make where part of a property is used for both domestic and non-domestic purposes

1. A detached Edwardian dwelling in a residential area owned and occupied by a self-employed solicitor who practices from the property, specialising in matrimonial law. The front room on the ground floor is furnished with sofa and comfortable chairs, has a TV set, and ornaments/photos of a personal nature displayed around the room. It is used on an occasional basis as a waiting room for clients during weekdays, and as the lounge by the solicitor during evenings and weekends.

The former dining room is used as an office equipped with computer, dedicated fax and telephone line, filing cabinets, desk and shelving stocked with law books. No domestic use is made of this room. It is used by a part-time secretary when the solicitor is visiting clients or attending court.

The ground floor kitchen is used for preparation of family meals, but also to make tea or coffee for clients. The first floor accommodation of bedroom and bathroom is wholly used for domestic purposes.

Conclusion: The office is the only non-domestic part and will be assessed for business rates. The main purpose of the front room is to serve as a lounge. In this instance, the non-domestic use is sufficiently minimal so as not to warrant assessment for business rates. The lounge and the remainder of the dwelling will be banded for council tax purposes.

2. An integral garage of an estate house is converted to an office with plastered walls, electric power points, solidfront, suspended ceiling and floor screed suitable for carpeting. A separate telephone line has been installed. Access is through the hallway of the house. All toilet facilities are in the main house.
The room is used by the family in the evenings and occasionally at weekends. During the day the occupier designs computer software. He is employed by a major company to work at home, because of a physical disability. All of the equipment has been provided by his company and is specially adapted for his needs. He visits his employer's office on an occasional basis for meetings with colleagues and customers.

Conclusion: The former garage is no longer domestic property. It has been adapted for office use and should be assessed for business rates. The remainder is domestic.

3.The occupier is employed as a site finder by a major building company, and travels across most of the southern part of the country, using her home as a base, but calling into the company office once a week to pick up new instructions, for meetings, and to leave completed work.
She has a four drawer cabinet in the corner of a dining room, which also functions as an 'office' for the family computer, and there is no dedicated telephone line for business purposes.
The occupier is out visiting sites four days a week, and does 'writing up' at home on the dining room table in the evenings and at weekends. No clients or members of the public visit the house for business purposes.
Conclusion: Dwelling is domestic property, and should be banded for council tax.

4. A doctor uses a room in his house as a consulting room three days a week. The main practice surgery is situated some three miles away near the town centre. The house is more convenient for patients who live locally.

A concrete ramp has been added to the front door and the door opening to the hall and the consulting room has been widened to accommodate a wheelchair. No one in the doctor's family is disabled.

In the room itself there is an examination couch which is essentially a single bed with a cotton sheet thrown over it. A paper sheet is added and removed after use by each patient.

There is no office desk as such but there is a computer, table and chair in a corner of the room, which are used by the doctor during his consultations.
No patients records are held at the house, nor are there any medicines. Basic medical equipment is kept in the doctors medical bag or stored in a drawer after use.
There is planning consent for use as a branch surgery and part of the front garden has been surfaced to accommodate two to three extra private vehicles. There are parking restrictions in the street.

On the walls of the consulting room the doctor has attached pictures painted by his young children, and there are toys in the corner of the room, which belong to his children but can be played with by young patients. There is a brass sign outside the front door to advertise surgery hours.
The remainder of the week the doctor attends surgeries at the main premises, and in the afternoons he makes house calls. Other than for consultations the room is often unused, but when friends come to stay it can be used as a spare bedroom. At weekends, and some evenings the doctor uses the room to read professional papers or watch a portable TV away from the children.

Conclusion: The principal use of this room is as a doctor's surgery, and occasional use for domestic purposes is minor. The room should be separately assessed for business rates, and the remainder of the dwelling banded for council tax.

5. A teleworker formerly employed by a large national company in a call centre now works for the company five days a week at home, using a spare bedroom to house an office desk, telephone consul, computer terminal and chair all supplied by her employer. Her hours are flexible but generally the room is used for the purposes of work at least 40 hours each week. During evenings and weekends it is used by other members of the family for leisure purposes, and by the taxpayer for doing domestic chores such as ironing. No physical alterations have been made to the property other than installation of new telephone lines, and no members of the public or work colleagues visit the house for business purposes.

Conclusion: Rateability will not arise unless equipment of a non-domestic sort is installed or the property is physically adapted for the business use. This is because the character of the room remains as domestic living accommodation, and the purposes of living accommodation may include recreational and leisure use and work. Also the taxpayer uses furniture and equipment of the kinds that are commonly found in domestic property.

OK, so why is this so important, and what are the tax implications of this legislation?

Well, firstly, for most of us who work from home, we are able to claim an element of the household running costs, based on floor area, or, more simply, number of rooms. This will include a proportion of domestic council tax for the whole property. Where a room is deemed to be used exclusively for business purposes, and is, therefore, subject to business rates, those rates will be 100% allowable, for business purposes.

On the down side, there could just be a Capital Gains Tax implication. Contrary to popular opinion, simply claiming part of your property as a business expense will not automatically mean that element of the property is subject to CGT, but you need to be aware of the criteria.

You will still be eligible for Private Residence Relief, providing you keep using all of the house as a home. In other words, if the room or rooms used have dual purpose (office and spare room, for example) or have not been modified in any way, then full PRR will still be available. If, on the other hand, you have converted your garage to a joiner's workshop, including modifications to the power supply etc, this is likely to be subject to both business rates and, ultimately, Capital Gains Tax on the sale of the property.

For this reason, it's always wise to plan your business usage claims properly, especially if there is a private usage of the room, or rooms, concerned.

Remember, there may well be other things to consider, such as notifying your insurers, landlord or mortgage company, as well as being aware of any covenants that may affect the property, and, more specifically, running a business from it.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

HMRC Offers Practical Help For People Affected By Flooding

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has a special Helpline for anyone affected by the recent floods, where, they say, fast, practical help and advice is available.

You can contact the Helpline on 0845 3000 157 between 8am and 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 4pm Saturday and Sunday.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms MP said:

“We want people to be able to concentrate on recovering from the recent events. A quick call to the HMRC helpline will give peace of mind, enabling customers to focus on restoring their homes and businesses.”

Each call to the helpline will be handled on its own merits but HMRC may be able to help by:

agreeing a revised payment schedule when customers are unable to pay due to financial difficulties caused by the flooding

agreeing practical arrangements where individuals and businesses cannot comply with their tax obligations perhaps because their records have been lost or destroyed in the flooding

reviewing any penalties or not imposing additional surcharges that may be triggered where customers have missed deadlines as a result of the flooding

providing help and advice in dealing with other practical, tax related matters arising as a result of the flooding.

The service is available for all HMRC taxes, including VAT, Corporation Tax, Income Tax and NICs (PAYE) and for individuals affected by the flooding.


Tax credit recipients are asked to continue to use the helpline number 0845 300 3900.

Businesses needing to discuss rescheduling payments as a result of the general economic situation rather than issues relating specifically to flooding should continue to contact the

Business Payment Support Service on 0845 302 1435.

Contacts

NDS Enquiries

Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department


Reproduced from NAT 83/09

HMRC Advisory Fuel Rates Change Again

On 3 January this year, we blogged on the new HMRC advisory fuel rates. These are the rates used to calculate the VAT element of any vehicles mileage rates claimed, such as those under the Fixed Profits Car Scheme.

This original article can be revisited at; http://1staddition.blogspot.com/search?q=Mileage+rates if you want to check out the specifics.

As of 1 December 2009, these rates have, once again, changed. The revised rates are now available on the HMRC web site, at the following link; http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/cars/advisory_fuel_current.htm

Monday, 19 October 2009

New Minimum Holiday Entitlement

October has been a busy month for changes in legislation. One of these is the increase in holiday entitlement from 24 to 28 days (5.6 weeks) including bank holidays.

The 28 day entitlement applies to those of us working a full 5 day week. This is applied pro rata to those on part time hours. (For example, 22.4 days, for anyone on a four day week).

Other holiday pay basics are as follows:
  • Holiday starts to accrue as soon as an employee begins work.
  • The employer can control when the holdiay is taken.
  • Employees are entitled to normal pay whilst on holiday.
  • When an employee leaves, they are entitled to be paid for holiday accrued but not taken.
  • Bank & public holidays can be included in the annual entitlement.
  • An employee continues to be entitled to their holiday leave throughout their ordinary and additional maternity leave, paternity leave and adoption leave.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

New National Minimum Wage From 1 October 2009

The National Minimum Wage has increased, again, from the beginning of this month.

New rates from that date are as follows;
  • For workers aged 22 or over: £5.80 per hour
  • For workers aged 18 - 21, inclusive: £4.83 per hour
  • For workers aged under 18 (but above compulsory school age): £3.57 per hour

Almost all workers are entitled to NMW, but there are some groups who are not.

  • Self employed people
  • Apprentices under the age of 19
  • Apprentices aged 19 years or over, but only for the first year of their apprenticeship
  • Children who are still of compulsory school age.
So, if you're an employee, you should now be paid at least these hourly rates. As an employer, you need to be aware of the rates, to ensure you are keeping up with your legislative responsibilities.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Companies Act 2006, Introduces Complete Set of New Companies House Forms

From 1 October 2009, the Companies Act 2006 has introduced a set of new forms for conducting day to day company business.

These new forms cover everything from Annual Returns to changes in directors, registered office, accounting reference date etc.

Those of us familiar with the completion of a Form 363 (Annual Return) will now be doing so on a Form AR01. The original Form 288(a) (Appointment of Director / Secretary) has now been replaced by a Form AP01 (Director), AP02 (Appointment of Corporate Director), AP03 (Secretary) and AP04 (Corporate Secretary). (Good to see, another Government Department helping to simplify administration. Hmmmm).

A full list of the new Companies Act 2006 forms is available on the following link (including details of the original 2005 Act forms they are replacing).:


Full details of the new Companies Act implications can be found at:


Tuesday, 6 October 2009

VAT Changes For Online Payment & Filing

In a bid to move ever closer to the phasing out of paper filing, HMRC have announced new Government proposals as follows:
  • From 1 April 2010, all VAT registered businesses with an annual turnover of £100,000 or more (excluding VAT) must file their tax returns online and pay electronically.
  • From that same date, all businesses newly registering for VAT, whatever their turnover, must file their returns online and pay electronically.

Paper returns will still be an option for the remaining VAT registered businesses, but this will be reviewed More information can be found on the HMRC web site, at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/vat/start/register/signup-online.htm

Changes To Banking Services And Making Payments To HMRC

During 2009, H M Revenue & Customs are moving over to new banking arrangements.

The banking details are as follows:


Current Bank Account Details:

Account Name: HMRC VAT

Sort Code: 10 00 00

Account Number: 52055000


New Bank Account Details:

Account Name: HMRC VAT

Sort Code: 08 32 00

Account Number: 11963155


If you use online banking, and have stored templates or transactions, that you use when making your current VAT payments, you may need to update these to reflect the changes.

More information or guidance can be found at http://hmrc.gov.uk/payinghmrc/

Sunday, 27 September 2009

HMRC Introduces Standard 'Benchmark' Scale Rates For Subsistence

On 2 April 2009, HMRC issued Brief 24/09 covering the new scale rates for day subsistence. (Day rates only, overnight allowances are unaffected).

Their aim is to cover allowable travelling expenses, paid to employees, free of Tax & NI.

Introduction

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has introduced an advisory system of benchmark scale rates which employers can use to make subsistence payments to employees who incur allowable business travel expenses free of tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs). The new advisory system was implemented from 6 April 2009.
The advisory system only covers benchmark scale rates for day subsistence payments. If an employer wishes to pay subsistence to employees who have to stay overnight they can either reimburse the actual cost incurred by the employee or agree a tailored scale rate to cover meals and other expenses in a dispensation with HMRC.

The brief sets out the framework for the system.
Overview

Under the current rules an employer is required to notify HMRC of all expenses paid to an employee, even where those expenses would be allowable, unless they have a dispensation. A dispensation is an agreement between HMRC and an employer which allows the employer to pay an agreed rate for allowable expenses without the need to report the expenses to HMRC. An employer may apply for a dispensation by submitting a completed form P11DX. As part of this process, where business travel expenses are paid, the employer often agrees scale rates for travel and subsistence expenses with HMRC that broadly match the allowable expenditure incurred by its employees on business travel.

HMRC currently expects employers to conduct a sampling exercise before it will agree to a particular rate being included within a dispensation. The aim of the exercise is to identify a reasonable level of allowable expenditure that reflects the most common level of spending.
HMRC recognises that a sampling exercise can be burdensome and expensive for employers. It has therefore introduced an advisory system of benchmark scale rates for day subsistence payments that an employer can use without having to carry out a sampling exercise.
As part of this new approach, in response to concerns from some employers and professional advisers about consistency between what is agreed for different employers, HMRC also proposes to standardise the different scale rates that it will agree with employers.

Benchmark system/rules

Under the benchmark system, HMRC has set advisory scale rates for particular day subsistence expenses that it will accept for all employers. As long as the employee has incurred subsistence expenses while travelling on an allowable business journey, employers will be able to make tax and NICs free subsistence payments up to the advisory rates without agreeing them with HMRC. Employers wishing to use the benchmark scale rates for subsistence payments will simply need to notify HMRC of their intention by ticking the appropriate statement/box on form P11DX before starting to use the system.

The rates that can be used will be:

Breakfast rate (irregular early starters only) - A rate of up to £5.00 may be paid where a worker leaves home earlier than usual and before 6.00 am and incurs a cost on breakfast taken away from his home. If the employee regularly leaves home before 6.00 am because, for example, he works an early shift he would not be entitled to use the breakfast benchmark scale rate.

One meal rate (Five hour rate) - A rate of up to £5.00 may be paid where the worker has been away from his home/normal place of work for a period of at least five hours and has incurred a cost on a meal.

Two meal rate (Ten hour rate) - A rate of up to £10.00 may be paid where the worker has been away from his home/normal place of work for a period of at least ten hours and has incurred a cost on a meal or meals.

Late evening meal rate (irregular late finishers only) - A rate of up to £15.00 may be paid where the employee has to work later than usual, finishes work after 8.00 pm having worked his normal day and has to buy a meal which he would usually have at home.
If the employee is paid an allowance under the five or ten hour rule, the late meal allowance could still be paid if he finishes work after 8.00 pm and buys a meal that he would usually have at home. However, if the employee regularly finishes work late because, for example, he normally works the afternoon or evening shift, he would not be entitled to use the late evening meal rate.

Particular issues and exemptions

Payments in excess of the benchmark rates

The benchmark rates are the maximum tax and NICs free amounts that could be paid by employers who choose to use this system. An employer could pay less than this rate if it wants to do so. If a higher amount is paid without agreeing a tailored scale rate with HMRC, the excess should be subject to tax and NICs.

Qualifying conditions

Benchmark scale rates must only be used where all the qualifying conditions are met.

The qualifying conditions are:

• the travel must be in the performance of an employee’s duties or to a temporary place of work

• the employee should be absent from his normal place of work or home for a continuous period in excess of five hours or ten hours

• the employee should have incurred a cost on a meal (food and drink) after starting the journey
Early starter and late finisher ratesThe early starter and late finisher rates are for use in exceptional circumstances only and not intended for employees with regular early or late work patterns.

Tax and NICs free scale rate payments must be limited to three meal rates in one day (or 24 hour period). A meal is defined as a combination of food and drink.

Where employees are required to start early or finish late on a regular basis, the over five hours or over ten hours rates could be paid provided all the other qualifying rules are satisfied.

Working Rule Agreements

Benchmark scale rates would not apply to employees covered by Working Rule Agreements, for which separate specific rates are already set for particular occupations.

Friends and Family Allowance

Some existing dispensations also include a tax free scale rate for staying with family and friends when employees are required to stay overnight on business. HMRC has reviewed this policy and concluded that there is no legal basis for giving tax relief because it is not linked to any specific underlying expense. Therefore, a scale rate for staying with family and friends will not be included within the advisory system or given in any new dispensations. All agreed tax and NICs free scale rates in existing dispensations covering such an allowance will be withdrawn when the dispensation comes up for review.

Questions and answers

What you have to do if you want to pay scale rates to your employees?

You should apply to HMRC for a dispensation. You need to complete a form P11DX, which is the form used by employers to apply for a dispensation, and submit it to HMRC. On the form you need to indicate with a tick against the appropriate statement under 'Travel and Subsistence' that you intend using HMRC’s benchmark scale rates to reimburse your employees’ subsistence payments. By ticking this box you would be merely notifying HMRC that you intend paying HMRC’s benchmark scale rates for day subsistence and that you have adequate management processes in place to ensure that payments are only made where all the qualifying conditions are met. If you want to apply to include other items of allowable expenditure in a dispensation for example fees and subscriptions, laundry, telephone charges, etc, you need to tick the appropriate boxes and supply the requested information on the form.

When can you pay a scale rate?

Scale rate payments may be made to employees who necessarily travel in the performance of their duties or have to travel to a temporary place of work. The statutory rules are in Section 336 to 342 of Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003. Where the employer agrees a scale rate in a dispensation, the scale rate may also be taken into account for NIC purposes.
Guidance on how the employment income travel expense rules work can be found in HMRC’s Booklet 490. This booklet will be updated shortly to reflect the new scale rates system available to employers from April 2009.

When must you not pay tax and NICs free scale rates?

Tax and NICs free scale rates must not be paid where the employee is not travelling on a qualifying business journey. For example, when on a journey that involves ordinary commuting (or similar to ordinary commuting), or private travel.
Additionally, no tax and NICs free payment should be made if an employee does not incur an expense on meals after leaving home or his normal place of work, even if the journey was a qualifying business journey. This means that employees who do not buy a meal or who take a packed lunch from home are not entitled to a tax and NICs free payment.

Do employers have to use the benchmark scale rates?

Employers do not have to use the benchmark rates. They can reimburse their employees’ actual expenditure or apply to HMRC to agree a scale rate appropriate for their business needs in a dispensation. However, where an employer wants to use a higher scale rate, it will have to undertake a sampling exercise to show the higher rates are in line with what its employees’ typically spend on subsistence and agree the rate with HMRC.

What records would an employer need to keep?

An employer will need to keep sufficient records to be able to demonstrate that the employee was entitled to the payment. An employer also needs to be able to demonstrate that routine checks are undertaken to ensure that the travel expenses rules are being followed.

What happens to existing dispensations?

Existing dispensations will remain in force until they come up for review in accordance with HMRC’s rolling review programme, usually on a five year cycle. When the existing dispensation comes up for review the employer can choose to switch to benchmark scale rates or apply to continue to use a tailored rate. Where a new dispensation is requested the employer will have to go through the process of undertaking a statistically valid sampling exercise.

Uprating benchmark scale rates

HMRC will review the rates annually and consider revising them when there has been a change in the scale rate of plus or minus 10 per cent based on the Consumer Price Index from when it was last revised.

How has HMRC arrived at the benchmark scale rates in question?

HMRC reviewed the scale rates agreed for a number of employers, both large and small, and based the rates on the most commonly agreed rates.
Why not have higher benchmark rates for London or other locations where prices are more expensive?The benchmark rates are linked to what employers typically reimburse their employees and it would not be possible to break this down between different locations. Personal expenditure on subsistence varies significantly between employees even when working at the same location.

If an employer typically reimburses more than the benchmark rates then it will remain open to them to agree a higher rate with HMRC or to reimburse actual expenditure.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Companies Act 2006 Kicks In From 1 October 2009

The Companies Act 2006 has made a number of changes, many of which will affect us, as small businesses, and some of which have already been actioned.

Where Are We Now?

The following changes have already taken place. (Some are optional, others are not).

You Must:
  • be aged 16 or over to be appointed a director.

You Do Not Need To:

  • appoint a company secretary, if you are a private company (though you can still do so, if you wish).
  • hold an annual general meeting, if you are a private company, again, unless you opt to do so.
  • have a unanimous vote for resolutions. Subject to articles, if you are a private company. Members may agree in writing to resolutions.
  • get a court order to make capital reductions as a private company - they can be supported by a solvency statement instead.

What We Can Look Forward To:

  • Directors address protected from disclosure. From 1 October, each director will have a service address, and a usual residential address. The former will be in the public domain, with the latter only being available to public authorities and credit reference agencies. Initially, the director's residential address will automatically become the service address, though you will be able to specify an alternative address (such as the company's registered office) on the Companies House website.
  • Also, there will be an alternative address for the company to specify where its registers can be made available for public inspection. This can either be the registered office, or a single alternative inspection location (SAIL).
  • A number of changes have been made to make it easier to set up a limited company..
  • There will be changes to company articles for new companies. They will include the company's objects and liabilities - which were previously in the memorandum. Copies of model articles are available on the Companies House website.
  • Any ammendments to the company's articles must be notified to Companies House, within 15 days. Failure to do so is a criminal offence, carrying a civil penalty of £200.

Also remember; all Companies House accounts filing deadlines have been reduced, by one month to 9 months (private companies) and 6 months (public companies). This applies to all accounting periods beginning on, or after, 6 April 2008.

Failure to comply will result in a fine of up to £1,500.

From 1 October 2009, all original Companies House forms are being replaced. Watch this space for a future blog post on this particular change.

In the interim, you can check out the new provisions of the Act on the following link, including transitional provisions, and downloadable versions of the new forms.:

http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/companiesAct/companiesAct.shtml

Companies House has produced guidance notes, in a variety of formats, giving step by step instructions on how to form a limited company.

Monday, 31 August 2009

Blackberry Users 'Work An Extra 15 Hours A Week'

New research finds that staff with mobile technology such as Blackberries work an extra 15 hours a week as they constantly check emails even out of the office.

A survey of over 600 employees revealed many were turning into workaholics because of the ability to receive and send messages and work online even when they were at home.
Employment law firm Peninsula said the working week was being extended to around 55 hours for many people and urged employers to make sure their staff were not breaching working time regulations.

Managing director Peter Bone said: "It is important for staff to spend quality time away from the office, spending time with the family, or undertaking recreational activities rather than tapping away responding to client emails or deadlines so that they keep a healthy work/life balance.

"Bosses should encourage staff not to work from home unless necessary. Inform staff that they should limit working from home. If they are happy to work away then ensure they agree to opt out of the maximum working week and have this signed. Limit the extent to which employees are using their devices when they choose to do so; unrested employees will be less productive during the working day."

"The recession has forced everyone to become more productive and for those with access to work at home, this is an opportunity for them to catch up or get ahead. With email on tap, employees with smartphones are able to respond a lot quicker and also get themselves prepared for the working day ahead by checking their email first thing.

"Employees should be encouraged to take appropriate rest breaks if they do choose to continue working out of hours. Having a well rested employee with a good work/life balance is a lot more useful than a tired employee that put one too many hours in the night before."

Source: Business Matters Magazine

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Home Business Uncovered


Home business website, Enterprise Nation, is going on a national road trip to produce a documentary on the rise of home business in the UK.

Starting in Scotland on Monday 14th September, a crew of three will travel south to interview home business owners and talk to experts and politicians, with the team expecting to meet over 400 businesses at events and meet-ups over the course of the week.

More than 2 million businesses are run full time from home but the documentary will also take a closer look at what Enterprise Nation has termed the ‘Working 5 to 9’ trend that is seeing millions of people hold down a day job and build a business at nights and weekends. It’s a way of easing out of insecure employment, into self-employment.

Founder of Enterprise Nation, Emma Jones, says:
‘Streets are buzzing with people starting and growing their own business. Amazing businesses that utilise the best of technology to make and sell niche products and services. We’ll be revealing the stories of people turning business dreams into reality and showing that home business is truly the bright spot of the UK economy. Yet we don’t think enough is being done to allow home business to flourish – and it remains almost a hidden sector - so we’ll be calling for action from policy makers and politicians and recording their response.”

The Enterprise Nation team will visit home business hotspots in Scotland, North East, London, South West and return home to the West Midlands on Friday 18th September. They will film by day and at night host get-togethers for anyone starting and growing a business from home. They will also show how to work whilst on the move in a trip that’s sponsored by communications company, Orange.

The documentary will be aired on Friday 20th November – a date that marks the UK’s first ever Home Enterprise Day, held as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week. The first people to see footage will be delegates at the Enterprise Nation Conference.

As Jones says:
“Visitors to the conference may not be surprised by what they see as they are living and breathing home business owners but for those in Government and large organisations this documentary will uncover the incredible entrepreneurial activity underway. It will also call on them to act. Home business is Britain’s best-kept secret and its story needs to be told!”

Over 60% of new businesses were launched from home in 2008. The attraction is lower costs, no commute and being on hand for friends and family. Sectors range from fashion design and food production through to IT and business services with whole families coming together to make these businesses a success and growing profits through outsourcing and sub-contracting.


Media notes

Full details of the roadtrip and registration for meet-ups is online at http://www.enterprisenation.com/

Updates are being posted to Twitter at www.twitter.com/e_nation

The Home Business Roadtrip starts in Scotland on Monday 14th September and travels south. Dates and locations are:

Monday 14th September – Scotland
Tuesday 15th September – North East
Wednesday 16th September – London
Thursday 17th September – South West
Friday 18th September – West Midlands

The trip is being sponsored by Orange, supported by One North East, Business Link for London and Enterprise HQ, with accommodation generously provided by Malmaison Hotels

The crew will be:

Emma Jones, Founder, Enterprise Nation
Tim Sargent, Mint Video
Nick Clark, 1st Class Travel

The documentary will be aired at the Enterprise Nation Conference on Home Enterprise Day, Friday 20th November. Home Enterprise Day is part of Global Entrepreneurship Week http://www.gew.org.uk/

For media enquiries, please contact:

Marisa Harrison, Tadpole PR
Marisa@tadpolepr.co.uk
Tel: 01743 741161 Fax: 01743 741161 Mobile: 07767608563

Emma Jones
emma@enterprisenation.com
0789 9871698

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Last Chance To Be Ex Directory On Your Mobile Phone

As many of you may have heard, there is a new mobile phone directory being introduced shortly, called; '118 800'.

Many will welcome this, but others are concerned that their mobile number will now be available to anyone looking to use it, which could mean being swamped by unsolicited messages and calls.

It is extremely easy to unsubscribe, but it must be done before the begining of next week, to make sure that you are ex directory.

Removal has been recommended by the BBC;
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/working_lunch/8091621.stm and you may wish to pass this on to friends, family and colleagues.

To remove your number from the directory, click on the link below. You will need your mobile number with you, as they will text you a code.

http://www.118800.co.uk/

Click on; 'Ex Directory' on the top right hand side, and follow the straight forward instructions.

**Update** Looks like people are registering in droves. Shortly after posting this, the 118800 site posted a 'Service Suspended' notice, as follows:

"The 118 800 service for mobile phone connections is currently unavailable - from this website and by phone - whilst we undertake major developments to our 'Beta Service' to improve the experience for our customers. We'll be back as soon as possible with the new improved service.

All ex-directory requests made by people in our directory to date are being processed. There will be no need to resend these requests. And we will take further ex-directory requests when the service resumes. We will not be taking ex-directory requests by phone or text whilst the service is not operational.

Please do not call us on 118 800 for anything other than landline directory enquiry requests as you will be charged for the call.

Sorry for any inconvenience caused"

Coincidence? I doubt it. What's the odds the service will be restored 5 minutes before deadline, thereby preventing many people from registering as ex directory? Let's hope they prove me wrong, but I wont hold my breath.

Tax Credits Renewal Pack Due At The End of This Month

Your tax credits are awarded for a tax year. You are required to renew your claim after the end of each year so that your payments will continue. HMRC need to check whether they have paid you the right money during the year and whether they will carry on paying you the same amount of money going forward.

The Tax Credits Cycle

When you first make a claim for tax credits, any payments you get are based on your income from the last tax year, and your current personal circumstances. A tax year runs from 6 April one year to 5 April the next. So if you're making a claim because you've just had a baby, HMRC will take this into account along with your income for the year that ended on 5 April 2009.
The tax credit payments you get throughout the year are temporary or 'provisional' until you confirm your actual income and circumstances as part of the renewals process.
It is important that you tell HMRC about any changes to your circumstances straight away as it could affect the amount of money you should be getting. For example, you must tell them within one month if you split up from your partner, or if you start working fewer hours. Otherwise you might not get all the money you should - or you may end up getting too much and may have to pay it back.
When you tell them about a change, they will send you an award notice confirming the new information provided by you, and any changes to your payments. It is important that you check each award notice you get carefully using the checklist that came with it, and let them know if anything is incomplete, missing or wrong within one month.
After the end of each year they ask you to renew - or in some cases they will automatically renew your claim. This helps them to check that the payments we've made to you are correct, and to set your payments for the coming year.
Sometimes they will have paid you too much (an overpayment) or not enough (an underpayment). If this happens, they will either make an adjustment to your payments, or if you have been paid too much but you're no longer getting tax credits, they will ask you to make a direct payment - a one off payment for the full amount.

Why Is It Important To Renew?

It's important to renew so that you can:

· check that we have the right information
· make sure your income is still within the limits for getting tax credits
· tell HMRC if anything has changed
· continue to get all the money you're entitled to

If you don't renew your tax credits, you may only receive payments for a limited period after the end of the tax year and you'll have to repay any overpayment from the previous year as well as any money paid to you since 6 April.

How To Renew

HMRC will send you a renewal pack between April and June which you must respond to. You don't have to complete any paperwork if you don't want to, you can renew by phone.
The renewal pack includes an Annual Review notice which tells you what to do to renew your tax credits. Most people will also get an Annual Declaration form in their pack as well.
It's important you read the Annual Review notice carefully - it will tell you how to renew your tax credits.

You must:

· check the information provided on your Annual Review notice
· tell HMRC if anything has changed

You may also be asked to give details of your income in the last tax year on the Annual Declaration form.

You can return the information by either:
· calling the Tax Credit Helpline on 0845 300 3900
· completing the Annual Declaration form - if you were sent one, and returning it in the envelope provided.

If you've only got an Annual Review notice, you don't need to do anything if:

· nothing has changed in your personal situation
· your income is still in the limits shown in the notice
· there are no mistakes or missing details in the notice

Your tax credits will be automatically renewed.

Who Will Receive A Renewal Pack?

You will receive a renewal pack even if you claimed tax credits but didn't get them because your income is too high (a nil award), and even if you only got tax credits for part of the year.
If you have made more than one tax credits claim during the year, you will be sent a separate renewal pack for each claim. You must fill in each one separately.

What Happens If You Don't Renew?

If you don't renew, your payments will stop and you will have to pay back any overpayment from the previous year as well as any money paid to you since 6 April.
The deadline for all replies is shown on your Annual Review form - usually 31 July. Don't wait for the deadline. The sooner you check your details and tell HMRC of any changes, the sooner they can make sure you get the money you're entitled to.

Why You Need To Tell HMRC About Changes

You should tell them about changes in your personal circumstances straight away. You could lose money if you don't as tax credits can only be backdated by up to three months. For example if you have a baby on 12 June, but do not tell us until 12 October, we will only backdate your payments until 12 July.

Contact the Tax Credit Office

If you need more help you can call the Tax Credit Helpline, which is open from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year's Day. The numbers you can ring are:

· telephone 0845 300 3900
· textphone 0845 300 3909 - if you are deaf or have a hearing or speech impairment.

If you’re calling from overseas you can also contact the Tax Credit Office on Tel + 44 289 053 8192.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

P11D Deadline is Upon Us Again

Don't forget, tomorrow, 6 July is the deadline date for submission of 2009 Forms P11D and P11D(b) for all companies who pay qualifying benefits in kind to their directors and higher paid employees (including, of course, MPs. Wouldn't we all like to see one or two of those?)

Left it to the last minute? Don't worry, you can pop on and do it online to speed things up.

It's also worth bearing in mind that the Class 1A National Insurance arising on any benefits in kind is due by the 19th of this month, when you pay your normal monthly PAYE / NI bill for June.

As usual, fines can run to £100 a month, per 50 employees, so, if you still haven't done so, get yourselves straight to it, and get those forms in.

Thursday, 18 June 2009

New Online Tax Help For Small Businesses

For those of you just starting out in business, or thinking of doing so, there's a new online resource, set up by HMRC, via Business Link, to help you through a few of the basics, such as starting out in business, National Insurance, record keeping and employing other people.

This help takes two main forms. There are 10 brief, bite sized videos, providing an overview of each topic, as well as a downloadable guide, entitled; "Giving your business the best start with tax".

It's not going to answer every question, and as usual, I would always suggest seeking specific business advice from an expert, however, it's a useful start for those wishing to answer a few of the more common questions.

.
Definately worth a quick look.
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**Update** These videos have now been updated to our own web site. You can also check them out there. http://www.1stadditions.biz/30920/info.php?p=9&pno=0

Monday, 15 June 2009

New 'Ask Alan' Spot For Enterprise Nation TV

Always keen to help the small business person wherever I can, I have been involved with Enterprisenation.com for a litle over a year now, providing articles and features for the site as and when required, and answering questions in the Forums, as they arise.

It seemed a logical next step to take this to the small screen, and I have agreed to host a fortnightly 'Ask Alan' slot on Enterprise Nation TV, starting with a trip to Redbrick House this Wednesday (17 June) to film the first of these slots.
Enterprise Nation is an invaluable and free resource for anyone running, or thinking of starting, a home based business, and I'm really excited to be involved with this new project.

OK. Two days to find a clean shirt and get it ironed. Best get cracking.
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**Update** Enterprise Nation has been taking suggestions for alternatives to coffee in the workplace. They are running a taste test tomorrow, looking at some of these ideas. No prizes for guessing who will be doing the taste test. Should be interesting.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

New 2009 Tax Amnesty

What can I say? We've only just all surrendered our weapons in the latest knife amnesty, and now HMRC have re introduced the Tax Amnesty.

Announced in the 2009 Budget, there is one last chance to review any irregularities in your tax affairs, and take advantage of the new disclosure facility, before the window of opportunity closes in March 2010.

Although penalty rates have yet to be published, they are likely to be lower than under normal penalty legislation.

1 April this year saw the introduction of higher penalties for incorrect Tax Returns, making it even more important to assess any potential tax risks and, where appropriate, make a disclosure to HMRC.

An interesting decision then. Do we keep quiet and risk having both of our children seized and sold into slavery, or do we 'fess up and guarantee that only one child is sold?

The decision is yours....

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Extra 7 Days Concession For P35s / P14s

Today, 19 May 2009, as we all know, is the deadline day for submission of our P35 and P14 end of year returns to HMRC.

Ideally, we should all try to make this deadline, but, if you can't, don't panic.

Thanks to Extra Statutory Concession number B46, you can actually file your returns by midnight on 26 May 2009 (up to 7 days beyond the deadline) without incurring a penalty.

For those who have not yet done so though, you should also bear in mind that employee P60s must be with them no later than 31 May 2009.

Monday, 11 May 2009

UK's First Home Enterprise Day Announced

At 1st Addition, we're happy to announce our involvement with the UK's first ever Home Enterprise Day, which will will be held on Friday, November 20th.

The celebration forms part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, for those interested in getting involved.

Global Entrepreneurship Week
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Global Entrepreneurship Week is a week long celebration of enterprise that's been running since 2004, albeit under a different guise in the UK ('Make Your Mark: Enterprise Week').

Over 644,000 people took part in last year's events and this year looks set to be even bigger.
This is the first year to include a day on which to celebrate home business - so let's make it a good one!
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Home Enterprise Day
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Global Entrepreneurship Week runs from November 16th - 22nd and our day will be on the Friday, November 20th.

Our friends at Enterprise Nation are leading the celebrations and recognising the millions of people in the UK who are starting and growing a business from home.
The highlight of the day will be the Enterprise Nation annual conference. At the event, you'll hear from inspirational speakers, meet other home business owners and be the first to congratulate winners of the 2009 Home Business Awards, announced on the day.

How you can get involved

More details about the conference are on their way - and Enterprise Nation members will hear first, so don't forget to register. The whole process is free and simple - and you can get started n the link below:


Also, for regular updates, prior to the event, you can follow Enterprise Nation on Twitter:


As events unfold, and our own involvement is finalised, we will continue to keep you updated as well.

Watch this space.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Judge Freezes Credit Claims

Consumers overwhelmed with debts are unlikely to be able to write of credit card debt due to unenforceability.

A judge has frozen more than 100,000 claims by indebted borrowers attempting to write-off credit and loan debt by using a loophole in the law which could make the contracts unenforceable.

In a hearing last Friday in Chester County Court, Judge Derek Halbert announced that all cases have been put on hold pending the outcome of "a few carefully selected" test cases in the Commercial Court in London.

The ruling means that over-indebted borrowers will have to carrying on repaying loans until a judgement is made.

In the meantime, consumers have been warned not to fall for adverts by claims handlers promising to wipe out credit card debt alleging that agreements put in place before April 2007 are potentially unenforceable.

Daniella Lipszyc, a solicitor at Ultimate Law, a law firm, said: "The ruling by His Honour Judge Halbert is a landmark decision that will have massive implications on cases involving the enforceability of credit agreements.
“After a number of early wins, many claims management companies have jumped on the band wagon, promising desperate consumers that they can write off credit card balances.
"In reality, cases have simply ground to a halt as banks and lenders up their game and become more clued up on the Consumer Credit Act and subsidiary legislation. It’s now extremely inappropriate and misleading for any company to promise to write off balances in light of this judicial move.”
Last week the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced that it was investigating ten claims management firms for misleading customers over the prospect of writing off debts.

It also warned consumers to be wary of statements suggesting that 80 per cent of credit agreements and unenforceable.

Antony Townsend, chief executive of the SRA, said: "These ads appear to offer an easy way out of difficulty to people who have debts they are struggling to pay. But many credit agreements do meet the legal requirements and, therefore, can't easily be challenged as unenforceable."

This blog post is reproduced directly from an article in TimesOnline, dated 7 May 2009

Monday, 4 May 2009

Companies House Deadlines Cut By One Month

The Companies Act 2006 has brought about many changes in recent months. One of these is the reduction of filing dates for accounts from 10 months to 9 months for private companies and from 7 months to 6 months for plcs.

These new deadline come into effect for accounting periods beginning 6 April 2008 (so, for most of us, that means years ending on or after the 30th of last month).

This change, coupled with the dramatic increases in late filing penalties, means that companies have to be extra vigilant with their filing deadlines, in order to avoid undue extra expense.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Budget 2009. What Does It Mean To Us?

Another highly anticipated Budget comes and goes, so what are the key points in this one?

The Chancellor used the Budget speech to cut his growth forecasts. The economy is now expected to contract by 3.5% this year, but grow 1.25% in 2010. If he's correct, this would mean growth starting towards the end of this year
  • Public sector net borrowing will be £175bn this year, 12.4% of GDP. From 2010, it will be £173bn (11.9% of GDP), then £140bn (9.1%), £118 bn (7.2%) and £97n (5.5%).
  • National debt as a percentage of GDP, including the cost of stabilising the banking system, will increase from 59% this year to 68%. It will rise to close to 80% by 2013/14 - twice the level Labour inherited in 1997. The Chancellor expects underlying current budget deficit to come back into balance two years later. RPI inflation is forecast to remain negative, falling to minus 3% by September, before moving back above zero next year. Inflation is expected to continue falling sharply, reaching 1% by the end of this year. The Bank of England inflation target remains unchanged at 2%.
  • The UK's current deficit is expected to halve within four years

So that's all the numbers out of the way. How does this affect most of us?

Personal taxation

The following changes have been announced which will come into effect from April 2010:

  • an additional Income Tax rate of 50 per cent will apply to people earning over £150,000
  • the income tax personal allowance will be reduced for those with incomes over £100,000

Pensions and Savings

The Budget announced the following changes to pensions:

An increase of £100 to over-80s households and £50 to over-60s households in 2009/10, alongside their Winter Fuel Payment.

Tax relief on pensions contributions will be reduced for those earning £150,000 and over

The overall annual investment limit for ISAs rises to £10,200 of which £5,100 can be saved in cash.

These higher limits will be available to over-50s from 6 October 2009 and to everyone from 6 April 2010.

Housing and Homeowners

The Stamp Duty land tax threshold on residential properties costing £175,000 or less will be extended until 31 December 2009.

As a result of this 'holiday', some 60% of UK homes are currently exempt from Stamp Duty.

Local Housing Allowance (LHA) is being reformed - households will no longer be able to keep any surplus LHA if it is higher than their rent.

Budget 2009 announced a £600 million fund to kick-start housebuilding, with the aim of delivering an additional 10,000 homes in England over the next two years.

This package includes £100 million for local authorities to build new social housing at higher energy efficient standards. The current economic climate continues to have a significant impact on housing supply. Additional, short-term, spending during the downturn is planned to stimulate housing development as well as boost the capacity of the house building industry in the long-term.

Motoring and Transport

The Government has announced a temporary vehicle scrappage scheme - it offers consumers a £2,000 discount when buying a new vehicle to replace a vehicle more than 10 years old, provided they have owned the vehicle for at least a year.

Budget 2009 confirmed the fuel duty increase announced in the 2008 Pre-Budget report, and further increases from 2010 to 2013.

Alcohol and Tobacco

Alcohol duty rates increase from 23 April 2009. The duty will increase by 2 per cent, adding one penny to the price of a pint of beer, 13 pence to the price of a bottle of spirits and four pence to the price of a bottle of wine.

Duty on tobacco will increase by 2 per cent from 22 April 2009.

Employment and Training

The Budget announced that 18 to 24 year olds who have been unemployed for 12 months will be guaranteed a job, training or a work placement.

An extra 54,500 places will be created in the next academic year for 16 and 17 year olds who wish to take them up.

Other Changes

  • Statutory Redundancy Pay is to increase from £350 to £380 a week.
  • Help is to be extended to allow loss making companies to reclaim taxes on profits made in the last 3 years to November 2010.
  • Businesses main Capital Allowances Rate has been doubled to 40%, giving enhanced tax relief for capital expenditure of up to £50bn this year.
  • The intention is to raise £1bn of extra revenue, by closing a number of tax loopholes and schemes.
  • From April next year, the child element of Child Tax Credit will increase by £20.
  • Pensioners' Winter Fuel Allowance is to be kept at the higher level of £250 for over 60-s, and £400 for over 80-s for another year.

For a link to the full Budget report, click on the heading of this feature, or you can check out a pdf of it from the 1st Addition web site.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

G20 Summit Agrees Trillion Dollar Boost To World Economy

The G20 countries are to make available an additional one trillion dollars through the International Monetary Fund to boost the world economy, Gordon Brown has said today.

In a news conference to mark the end of the London summit, the Prime Minister said the funding formed part of a package that would shorten the recession and save jobs.
Other measures included action to "clean up" the banks - with new rules on pay and bonuses - and measures to tackle tax havens.

"We believe that global problems require global solutions," he said.

Mr Brown said the leaders agreed a "new consensus" to do what was necessary to restore growth and jobs and to rebuild confidence and trust in the financial system.

"This is the day that the world came together to fight back against the global recession, not with words but with a plan for global recovery and reform," he said.

Mr Brown said new rules on pay and bonuses "at a global level" that reflected actual performance not failure would "encourage corporate responsibility in every part of the world".

A new "financial stability board" would "ensure co-operation across frontiers and to stop risk to the economy" and provide an early-warning mechanism, he said. For the first time, there would be a "common global approach to how we deal with impaired, or toxic, assets".

The "unprecedented fiscal expansion" already under way would mean a five trillion dollar injection by the middle of next year, he said, helping save or create millions of jobs.

Central banks had agreed to "maintain expansionary policies as long as they are needed using the full range of options available to them". But there would also be an additional one trillion dollars "made available to the world economy through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other institutions".

How Feng Shui Is Your Office?

Feng shui? So what’s that all about then? Isn’t it just a load of foreign mumbo jumbo?

Well, actually, no!

Whilst it is understandable that many of us might be a little sceptical that tying three coins together with red ribbon (let’s face it, not that easy with UK currency, anyway) and placing them in the back of your accounts book, will bring you good luck, there are a lot of basic, common sense principles that many of us simply ignore in both our domestic and working environments.

The overriding purpose of feng shui is to create an environment where, through a variety of components, we are able to maximise our physical and mental wellbeing. Let's face it, we could all do with a bit of that.

We’ve all walked into a room and felt uncomfortable, and, likewise, there are places we go where we feel totally relaxed and ‘at home’. Feng shui is the 'science' that explains why this happens.

Basically, it’s all about balance. Most of us have heard of the yin and the yang, the concept of positive and negative energies, conflicting with each other to obtain dominance. Sounds like we’re heading back to mumbo jumbo land, BUT we can apply this to any real world situation.

For example, imagine a slow moving yin river, when it hits rocks, it drops, speeds up, and creates turbulence. It is now yang. As it reaches a lake, it becomes yin again. A boat travelling on this river will be at its optimum speed when the energies are balanced. Too much yang, and it could be damaged by the currents. Too much yin, and much more work is needed to paddle it.

So what about our own working environment? What can we do about that?

It’s all about creating a balanced and harmonious environment. Common sense really, but we experience our environment through our five senses, so we need to make sure they’re all accounted for.

Some of the key factors we need to think about are:

Sight

Lighting will play a key part in how we feel. Our bodies are in tune with the sun and its natural cycles. Just ask anyone who suffers with SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder) caused by changes in lighting conditions in the winter months.

Natural light is important, and we should position our furniture and arrange our activities to make the most of it.

Ordinary bulbs produce light which is towards the red end of the spectrum, with little blue or green light. Fluorescent light is the opposite. It emits higher electromagnetic fields, and its flicker can cause headaches

Colours will also play an important part in how we feel too:

White represents a clean canvas, and black symbolises a clean slate. Both provide a base on which we can create a picture, from the main colours below:

RED: Red is stimulating and dominant. It reduces the size of a room, and increases the size of objects. It is associated with warmth, prosperity and stimulation, but also with anger, shame and hatred.

YELLOW: Yellow is associated with enlightenment and intellect. It stimulates the brain and aids digestion. Its positive qualities are optimism, reason and decisiveness, whilst its negatives are craftiness, exaggeration and rigidity.

GREEN: Green symbolises growth, fertility and harmony. It is restful and refreshing. Its positive associations are optimism, freedom and balance, and its negative ones are envy and deceit.

BLUE: Blue is peaceful and soothing and is linked with spirituality, contemplation, mystery and patience. It’s positive associations are trust, faithfulness and stability. Negatives are suspicion and melancholia.

PURPLE: Encouraging vitality, purple is impressive, dignified and spiritual. Positive associations are excitement, passion and motivation, negatives are mournfulness and force. Can’t quite see it in our office somehow!

ORANGE: A powerful and cheerful colour, orange encourages communication. Its positive qualities are happiness, concentration and intellect, and its negative is rebelliousness.

BROWN: Brown suggest stability and weight (good one for me then). Its positives are safety and elegance, while its negatives are dinginess, depression and aging. Good for studies / offices, but not for bedrooms.

Sound

Pleasant sounds, in the right place, at the right time can really add to the ambiance. Wind chimes, water features, etc or even a little background music can make a real difference to our mood.

Smell

We all know that smells can influence the way we feel about a place. Who hasn’t popped on a pot of coffee or wafted some fresh baked bread around when trying to sell a house? At 1st Addition’s offices, we always have scented oils and air fresheners in the office (even when none of us have had a curry the night before. That’s how feng shui we are)!

Electrostress

We are becoming increasingly aware of the negative effects of electromagnetic radiation on the human body. The effects of exposure to ionising radiation in X rays and ultraviolet rays in sunlight are well known. Also, the low frequency radiation which surrounds power lines has been linked to childhood illnesses

Despite our awareness of the effects of radiation, we are so dependent on the equipment that produces it, that we are unwilling, or unable, to live without it. We should, therefore, take precautions, where possible:

+ Laptop computers should never actually be used on our laps.

+ Mobile phones should be used as little as possible

+ Screen filters should be fitted to all unfiltered VDUs

+ It helps if we can sit as far away as possible from the computer, when not actually using it.

+ For those of us that use a microwave in the office, we should keep as far away from it as practical whilst it is on. Microwave ovens have been found to emit low frequency radiation far in excess of that known to cause lymphatic cancer in children.

Clutter

Clutter is a state of mind, not just the state of our physical environment. It can be all the things we haven’t done, like unreturned phone calls and appointments not made. It’s everything we do not use or wear, inherited objects and things given to us as presents that we don’t like, but feel guilty about parting with.

We may stay in a job, thinking we are indispensable, or due to a misguided sense of loyalty, but, often it is because we are afraid to take a leap and change direction.

It is this fear of change that can cause us to stagnate. We need to clear our homes, our work places, and even our minds. This may not be something we do in one go. Often it is the little things that add up. Clutter represents stagnant energy, and the list is endless – blown light bulbs we keep forgetting to replace, dead wasps on the window sill and that squeaking door we never get round to fixing. All just a minute or two each to fix, but their accumulated affect can have a significant impact on the pace and quality of our lives.

Plants

Plants will have a variety of uses in an office environment. As well as their obvious aesthetic charm, they have a number of uses, including hiding a jutting corner, draining excess water energy from a room, breaking up long corridors and bringing life into an office environment. Some will even clean the air for you.

We should remember though that cut flowers may look beautiful in a vase, but, like dried flowers, they are, technically, dead. Potted plants are much better as they bring life to the environment.

Furniture.

The positioning of our desks and other furniture can also play a vital part in the feel and energy of a room. (See Below).

To finish, we have a few top tips to feng shui up your office. These are split between the workplace office and the home office. Why not give one or two of them a try?


Office Feng Shui In A Workplace Office

Here are few tips to keep the energy flowing in your office.

  1. According to office feng shui guidelines, your desk should be placed at a diagonal to the doorway, or directly facing it, rather than with your back to it.

  2. If there's more than one desk, place two on a diagonal facing towards the door and any others on a diagonal facing into the centre of the room. They should not be placed in rows in a traditional classroom layout, or back to back.

  3. If the doorways of offices that face each other across a hallway are not exactly aligned, place a mirror in front of each door.

  4. If you face a partial wall or partition, when entering an office, place a mirror on the partition.

  5. Soften jutting walls with plants.

  6. Break up dull walls with mirrors or paintings.

The feng shui elements that are easiest to blend into an office decor are pictures and photographs. Look out for pictures that represent the various aspects and display them in the appropriate areas. Very obvious feng shui symbols, though, might invite unwelcome questions from visitors or co workers.

Office Feng Shui In A Home Office

Use office feng shui, if you're working from home, to maintain a professional approach to your business.

  1. Use a separate entrance to your office, if at all possible

  2. Otherwise, chose a room near the front or back door of the house or flat.

  3. Separate your office from living areas, to keep your business and personal lives separate.

  4. If your office space is part of another room, divide it from the rest of the room with a screen or large plants. Even a large mat will help to define the spaces.

  5. Take a short walk before entering your office to work each day, and another one at the end of the working day. This separates the business and personal aspects of your life.

  6. Place your desk on the corner, diagonally opposite the doorway.

  7. Don't place your desk under a window, but let the light reflect on it from the side. Some people prefer to have their desks facing east.

  8. Leave space between your furniture (bookshelves etc) and the walls. Feng shui experts suggest leaving a 7-9 inch gap.

  9. An important aspect of office feng shui is to keep your work space tidy, to allow a free flow of energy throughout the room.

  10. Differenciate between clutter and storage. Stored items don't have to be catalogued and labeled but they should be stacked neatly in a cupboard or in binders, so as not to impede energy flow.

So why not give it a try. You never know, you might just notice a difference.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

1st Addition Sign Up For Utility Warehouse Distributorship

As part of our drive to assist clients with the minimisation of their operating costs and, therefore, the maximisation of their profits, 1st Addition Accountancy have signed up for a distributorship with Utility Warehouse.

Utility Warehouse have won a whole range of awards in recent months, for both their prices and levels of customer support.

For example, The April edition of Which? magazine features a follow-up to the survey of energy suppliers they conducted last year.

The new survey has found that; "customer satisfaction with suppliers has got worse."

With one exception - the Utility Warehouse!

Utility Warehouse's customer satisfaction rating has actually increased - to an amazing 83%! The closest any of the 'Big 6' come to that is SSE - with just 53%, placing Utility Warehouse miles ahead of the oposition!
Utility Warehouse received:
  • billing accuracy: 5 stars!
  • clarity of bill: 5 stars!
  • customer service: 5 stars!
  • telephone support: 5 stars!
  • value for money: 5 stars!

This is a further improvement on the ratings achieved in the previous survey.

With Utility Warehouse, customers value taking the 'total package', not just their energy, but their phone and broadband too.

Once more, Which? spells it out: for service, value and all-round customer satisfaction, the Utility Warehouse is number one.

To find out more, and see how much you could save, why not give us a call, for free, on 0800 061 2441.