The last-ever Spring Budget: The business impact

Spring

On 8 March, Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his final spring budget. From 2017, the budget will be moving to the autumn, with a spring statement instead. The intention is to allow more time for changes to be made before the next tax year.

Key points

Here are some of the key points that were announced:

  • Growth in the UK economy picked up through 2016, and the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) forecasts that the UK economy will grow by 2% in 2017, at a slightly slower rate in 2018, and then up to 2% in 2021
  • Britain’s debt stands at nearly £1.7 trillion – around £62,000 for every household in the country. In 2009-10 the UK borrowed £1 in every £5 spent. This year it is set to be £1 in every £15. Borrowing is forecast to reduce by nearly three quarters by 2016-17.
  • Employment has reached a record high of 31.8 million people

How the Budget affects SMEs

Here are some of the ways that SMEs and start-ups will be affected by the recent announcements:

  • There is a cut in dividend allowance for company shareholders
  • If you are an unincorporated business with an annual turnover below the VAT registration threshold, Making Tax Digital will become mandatory in April 2019 – after that, you will have to use digital software to keep your tax records and update HMRC every quarter
  • Self-employed people will have to pay increased National Insurance Contributions to bring them closer into line with employed people. From 2018, Class 2 NICs will be abolished. Class 4 NICs will rise to 10% in April 2018 and to 11% in April 2019.
    Update 15 March: The government has announced a U-turn on self-employed VAT, as explained in this BBC report.
  • Small businesses with minimal expenses (less than £2,000 a year) will now have to pay 16.5% under the Flat Rate VAT scheme

Rising business rates

We’ve written about rising business rates before, but here are some of the ways the Chancellor is sweetening the pill:

  • Business rates are increasing for certain sectors, especially the digital economy – but no small business that is coming out of small business rates relief will pay more than £600 more in business rates this year compared with 2016-17
  • Local authorities have been granted £300 million of discretionary relief they can use to help businesses most affected by the revaluation
  • From April 2017, pubs with a rateable value up to £100,000 will be able to claim a discount for of £1,000 on their business rates for one year

Consumer protection

Your business may be fined if you mislead or mistreat consumers. For example, if you charge consumers unexpectedly when a subscription is renewed or a free trial ends, or if your terms and conditions are too long, complicated or jargon-filled.

Investment in innovation

The Chancellor confirmed the government’s support of innovation, highlighting the Research and Development (R&D) tax credit scheme. They aim to improve awareness of the scheme among SMEs, and make administrative changes to increase the certainty and simplicity around claims.

£500 million is to be invested in technical education for 16 to 19-year-olds, with new T-levels being introduced from autumn 2019 covering 15 different subjects including construction, digital and agriculture. Students doing high-level technical courses at National Colleges and Institutes of Technology will be able to access maintenance loans from the government.

£270 million has been allocated to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, to support research and innovation in:

  • Artificial intelligence and robotics that will work in extreme environments
  • Better batteries for electric vehicles that will help improve our air quality
  • Medicine manufacturing technologies to speed up patient access to drugs

£210 million will create new fellowships and programmes to attract top global talent to conduct research in areas such as bioscience and biotechnology, quantum technologies, and satellite and space technology.

£200 million is going towards local projects to build fast and reliable full-fibre broadband networks.

£90 million will provide 1,000 new PhD places, including in science, technology, engineering and maths.

£16 million is being invested into a national 5G Innovation Network to trial new 5G technology.

EIS tax relief

It has previously been indicated that the government will be reviewing existing tax reliefs aimed at encouraging investment and entrepreneurship (such as the EIS) to ensure that they are “effective, well targeted, and provide value for money”, however, Philip Hammond didn’t mention any change to Enterprise Investment Schemes at this stage.

We can only wait and see…

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

How Wednesday’s budget could affect SMEs

Houses of Parliament

The final Spring Budget is on 8 March. From next year the Budget is moving to Autumn, with a Spring Statement. This change gives time for tax changes to be made in advance of the tax year, and provides businesses with more time to plan, if necessary.

Forecasts are showing sharp growth with borrowing lower than anticipated, and a £45 billion tax windfall for the Treasury in the next five years. January’s tax receipts are at the highest level since 1999, but Chancellor Philip Hammond is quoted as saying: “There is no pot of money under my desk.”

In this article, we’ve compiled some of the main predictions that will impact you and your business, and look forward to hearing what is announced on Wednesday.

Business rates

According to reports, some firms face increases of up to 400% in the April business rates hike.

The Chancellor has recently indicated that he is “alive” to the impact this have on some High Street shops, and “open” about finding ways to help.

Business rates are a property tax that doesn’t apply in the digital economy, and the Government is trying to ensure that online retailers such as Amazon don’t benefit to the detriment of traditional High Street retailers.

We expect he will announce some immediate measures that will mitigate the worst effects on SMEs (such as transitional relief), with more fundamental reforms to come in the future. No additional help is expected for supermarkets and corporations.

Misleading contracts

Companies that mislead or rip off consumers are to be targeted, because Ministers want to force firms to use plain English and make key terms more obvious. If not, they face a fine.

The Citizens’ Advice service estimates that 2 million consumers per year have problems cancelling subscriptions, and research shows that 42% of people are paying for at least one subscription they don’t use, such as gym membership.

Consumer watchdog Which? found that 90% of people ticked to agree with online T&Cs in the past year but only 16% always read them. For one thing, T&Cs are often very long, for example, contracts for mobile phones can run up to 40,000 words. They also contain acronyms and legal or financial jargon that mean people don’t fully understand what they are signing.

Plans will be therefore be unveiled to fine companies that tie people into long contracts or unexpected fees in their terms and conditions.

There may also be a crackdown on rolling subscriptions that renew automatically after a free trial, with new rules to ensure consumers are offered the chance to cancel the agreement.

Science and innovation boost

The Chancellor is expected to announce a £500 million boost from the National Productivity Investment Fund, to support science and technology.

Around £270 million will be made available for pioneering projects such as:

  • Technology that operates in extreme and hazardous environments
  • Cutting-edge artificial intelligence
  • Robots for off-shore and nuclear energy, space and mining
  • Batteries for the next generation of electric cars
  • Accelerating patient access to new drugs, by developing speedy new ways to manufacture medicine

£200 million will go towards new fellowships for researchers in areas aligned to the government’s industrial strategy.

A further £90 million will fund 1,000 PhD research projects in STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), with extra cash for investment in 5G communications.

Brexit

British businesses are calling for economic stability during the Brexit negotiations. The Confederation of British Industry says that uncertainty dampens investment and higher inflation erodes the growth in consumer spending.

Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General of the CBI, said: “By supporting businesses to invest, the government can promote growth at a critical time.”

Rain Newton-Smith, CBI chief economist, said: “Prioritising stability will inject further confidence in the economy now, and help boost the country’s productivity and prosperity for the future.”

Anything is possible after Article 50 is triggered at the end of March. Bigger measures are likely to be reserved until the Autumn Budget, so the Chancellor can see how the economy reacts. Meanwhile, we know he is aiming to keep a pot of money as a safety net, to ensure the country negotiates Brexit with stability.

As always, Akoni will keep you posted.

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

Business Rates And The Impact On Companies

olu-eletu-38647The increase in business rates that takes effect in April this year will see a steep rise for Small and Medium Businesses in the UK. This is already likely to present a serious problem for enterprises, and it appears the government may be forced to rethink. The negative impact on potential business growth is not welcome, particularly in light of companies dealing with various other uncertainties, which impact consumer spending, as well as considerations for future development and growth plans. SME’s account for 99% of all private sector businesses and are crucial for economic growth in the UK. Many of these may be impacted to the point of threatening their ongoing livelihood.

It is true that some businesses will experience small falls in business rates, among them giants such as Amazon and ASOS. About a third, however, will see sharp increases, some of them even expecting an immediate rise of 40%.

“The Federation of Small Business is warning that half of those facing hikes, will reduce, postpone or cancel investment, with nearly a fifth considering closing down or selling up.”

Based on the current economic climate, and with multiple uncertainties including Brexit, our team at Akoni are hopeful that the government will complete a full review prior to implementing any further policies that could negatively impact businesses.

Article from BBC News @BBCNews

Posted on 27th of February 2017

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-39098801

HRH, The Duke of York, visits Akoni’s new home at Accenture’s fintech lab, the Trampery Republic!

The Trampery is a new shared workspace for creative and tech start-ups, which Akoni has the pleasure to be part of due to being selected amongst Accenture’s top 5 in the Retail banking stream for the Innovation Lab. Akoni is an innovative platform for ensuring SMEs are making the most of their cash, in an easy and simple manner, and was selected as a technology driver to improve financial returns for businesses.

As patron of the Trampery, HRH The Duke of York, came to meet some of the young businesses that are now based there. Among these are the various creative sectors as well as participants from Accenture’s largest fin tech innovation lab yet, including Akoni.

HRH was very impressed and said: “it’s fantastic to see fin tech alongside Art-Tech and so many other things. The number of skills melted in an organisation like this is hugely beneficial not just to the companies who are inside the building but to those outside too.”

Akoni is excited to be part of this project and we are maximising our time working with other innovative entrepreneurial start-ups as well as the incredible professional lab team.

See the full article in The Warf http://bit.ly/2kScHPg

 

 

 

Akoni selected for the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab

 The Akoni team is excited to announce we are one of five Retail Banking fintech startups selected for the Accenture Fintech Innovation Lab in London, amongst the cohort of twenty across categories including CIB, Insuretech and Tech4Tech.    The Lab is a three month accelerator and mentorship programme uniting fintech startups with global financial services institutions, including HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Lloyds Banking Group, Citibank, Santander, Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, amongst others.      The programme focuses on meeting the top execs and decision-makers at partner banks as well as legal, pitching and proof of concept mentoring.

Further information on the programme and the other startups selected can be found at https://newsroom.accenture.com/news/fintech-innovation-lab-london-kicks-off-largest-programme-in-its-five-year-history.htm

The Akoni team is ensconced in our new offices, and surrounded by an awesome environment and passionate teams, with the bonus of incredible London views.    We are looking forward to the acceleration of the experience!    Our team is working on several product releases and collaborating with various new partners over the next few months, aiming to deliver value for the UK’s 5.3 million businesses!   We are already thoroughly enjoying the shared experiences with other startups, the awesome Accenture lab team and our mentors and banks.

About Akoni:

Akoni is an innovative fintech startup which aims to improve financial outcomes for businesses while at the same time providing banks with benefits including customer loyalty and increased margin through Basel III LCR reductions.

The Akoni platform is a digital cash treasury manager and uses technology and data science to provide customers a cash portfolio manager, business marketplace which is updated daily, and personalised cash report and dashboard, as well as innovative cashflow projection tools including algorithm-based allocations, automated monitoring and utilising statistical techniques and neural networks for projection outcomes.

Akoni’s chairman and lead investor, Duncan Goldie-Morrison, is a seasoned banking CEO and Chairman. Mr. Goldie-Morrison  was previously CEO of The Americas Credit Agricole CIB, Head of Global Markets and Asia, Bank of America, Chairman of Newedge Group SA and Newedge UK, President Ritchie Capital Management and Director Kleinwort Benson Bank. The business is further supported by the Deputy Chairman, Yann Gindre, previously CEO of Natixis UK and the Americas and financial services veteran.

Founder and CEO, Felicia Meyerowitz Singh, explains: “Scientific tools are changing the way we work in financial services, right down to conventional cash management activities that are traditionally based in Excel.  Akoni plans to be a key leader and driver in delivering these changes. At last, corporates and SME businesses have access to similar cash management facilities to institutions with in-house treasurers and Treasury management systems. We are delighted to be part of the Accenture fintech lab, working with people and organisations of such calibre and looking forward to the programme innovation drive for our business.” 

Banking sector undergoes disruption

The UK banking sector is already facing a range of issues, including ‘banking as a service’, ongoing cost reduction pressures, opportunities and challenges as a result of CMA requirements, open APIs and PSD2, and the Challenger Banks bringing a new approach to services and customer solutions. Businesses are part of this change, with the latest Accenture 2020 SME Banking report showing that 70% of businesses are prepared to pay non-banking customers for financial services.

To date, fintech innovation has been focused primarily on consumer banking for B2C and lending for B2B. Now, for the first time, Akoni brings technology benefits to UK SMEs and businesses for cash treasury management, with further business products planned in future roadmap.

For more information, please contact Felicia@akonihub.com

Happy New Year!

A new year presents new opportunities – for a business and for us as individuals.   Provide the time and reflection relating to your plans for the upcoming months ahead and start with enthusiasm and focus.

Reflecting on the wellbeing of your enterprise as well as yourself and your team – can your strategic thinking also include a healthier work life balance ?  Have a read of our recent blog “10 Quick tips on juggling Parenting and Business” – there are tips for everyone, even if you are not a parent.

Engagement and inspiration, from yourself and within your company, starts with communication.   Sharing your business plan with employees and ensuring they are involved in the planning and ongoing decision-making ensures buy-in for the company goals., where they dedicate most of their time.

Start with renewed energy after the festive break.  Stay focused on your goals, get to know your employees, be passionate and open to the experiences of the year ahead. Enjoy both your professional and personal life and dream big – embrace 2017 with excitement!  Happy New Year!

Akoni Hub provides SME focused cash management tools and solutions. Follow us on twitter @helloakoni or Connect with us here

Merry Christmas from Akoni

December is a wonderful and festive time of the year.   The excitement of the season  – meeting up with family and friends and taking time out from our busy schedules.

For our team at Akoni it is also a time to reflect on a busy and exciting year.

It can also be a difficult time of year for those of us who run small businesses. Staff shortages due to annual leave, increased product demand with seasonal customer expectations, and where not managed appropriately, stress remains until Christmas Eve.

Grab this opportunity  to enjoy your festive season with loved ones, sit back and reflect on your year as a business , how far you have come and look forward to the New Year ahead.   This time of the year encourages everyone, whether you celebrate Christmas or simply enjoy the festive season, to absorb the emotion and wonder of the season.   Our entire year is spent moving forward, progressing and actioning a long to-do list.    If we stand still a moment, we hear the cold winter chill beckoning to slow down, reduce our workload, take a deep, relaxing breath, and take care of the important aspect of life.

We would like to say thank you to everyone who has been involved in our journey this year at Akoni.    We have much in store for next year, kicking off in early January. We look forward to 2017 and what it holds for us as a business.

We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings, and a great start into the New Year!  We are ready to embrace our exciting year ahead, and eagerly working towards our next phase of inspiration and innovation for businesses.

akoni-christmas-card

Akoni Hub provides SME focused cash management tools and solutions. Follow us on twitter @helloakoni or Connect with us here

10 tips to avoid late payments and improve cashflow

Here at Akoni we are aware that late payments are really stressful for small businesses trying to keep the cash flowing. Late payments hinder a company’s ability to expand, even when sales are high, as they spend their valuable time chasing money owed. SMEs are sometimes nervous to chase payments for fear of jeopardizing their relationships with clients. Here are 10 tips on how to reduce late payments and help ensure a healthy cash flow.

  1. Know your customers

Credit checks are valuable and can save you a lot of time and money in the future. Checks can be made easily and quickly online. You can also use credit checks on long term customers where you suspect they may have issues paying their bill.

  1. Always be clear about your payment terms and conditions

Make sure these terms are clearly printed on your invoice to avoid any ambiguity, easily available on your website and readily available to email out to a client when needed. Check with your trade association for typical terms and conditions used in your industry. Before entering into the contract ask your legal team to review the conditions

  1. Have a payment remind process in place

Once payment has not been received on the date due, call the customer and follow up with a written reminder that payment is due within a reasonable timeframe.   If the customer still does not pay then send out a warning.   Eventually you will need to send out a formal written warning asking for payments within two days before legal proceedings are followed.

  1. Introduce Flexible payment options

Pre-agreed instalments are an excellent way to introduce flexible payment options to your customers.

  1. Make a courtesy call

If they have had a rather large order, call them before payment is due to make sure everything was received and there are no issues. This should prevent any delays in payment and is seen as good customer service.

  1. Incentivise customers with early payment discounts and late payment charges

Supplier invoice payment terms often include an incentive to pay early by offering an early settlement discount if the invoice is paid before its due date. For example a 1% settlement discount if paid within 10 days. The full amount must be paid within 30 days. The late payment of Commercial Debts (interest) Act 1998 allows small businesses with less than 50 employees to claim interest on overdue payments.

  1. Deliver all invoices and statements electronically

This will ensure that the customers receive the invoice in the quickest time. There is a record of when the invoice was sent, received and read by the customer. Electronic delivery also frees up staff to work on chasing late payments instead of printing, writing, stamping and posting the invoice.

  1. Make sure your invoice is going to the correct place

Always ask for a purchasing order number or a name where the invoice can be sent directly to, to avoid it being lost in the mailroom, or work mailbox.

  1. Always get your customer to sign receipts

In the first instance ask for a company stamp on the receipt, then a signature from the customer. This verifies that the customer was in agreement with the order.   Ensure that they have the correct authority to place the order.

  1. Bill quickly after delivery

To avoid any delay in payments, don’t forget to include all important information on the bill, your company payment details and the customer’s full details.

Whether you are a new startup company or a company that has been running for years, its good practice to review your late payment procedures regularly, to get on top of recurrent late payment offenders and avoid new ones. 

It’s important to be better organised as a company- to control cashflow and avoid late payments and bad debts.

– Akoni Hub provides SME focused cash management tools and solutions. Follow us on twitter @helloakoni or Connect with us here

Heard about Small Business Saturday?

Apples

Small Business Saturday has been taking place on the first Saturday in December since 2013. The campaign provides free training workshops, celebrates small business successes, and encourages consumers to support small businesses in their community by ‘shopping local’. Although it focuses on one day, the aim is to change mindsets so people choose small businesses all year round.

This year’s figures are not yet announced, but on Small Business Saturday in 2015, customers spent £623m with small businesses – an increase of 24% on the previous year. #SmallBizSatUK trended at number one all day, with over 100,000 tweets sent, reaching over 25 million people. And over 75% of local council supported the campaign, for example, by providing free parking.

100 small businesses were highlighted in the 100 days running up to this year’s event on 3 December. They attended receptions at Downing Street and The Treasury Drum with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and benefited from exposure on social media and in the local press.

One of the featured businesses in 2016 was Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet! – a pop-up disco for people who love soul, funk and disco music from the 70s and 80s. Founded in 2010, they have performed in South East London and Birmingham, with vinyl DJs, dance line-ups, retro sweets and fancy dress prizes. Ad agency, JWT, called them a “trailblazer” for targeting the under-served 50-something market.

Spice Kitchen in Walsall is a mother-and-son team producing home-ground spices and spice mixes sold online via Etsy and Not On The High Street. They were also finalists in the Guardian Small Business Showcase competition, won a Great Taste Award in 2015 for their garam masala, and received the BBC Producers’ Bursary Award 2015 for up-and-coming food producers. The owners say customers love the products, and the fact that they are a family-run business.

Marvel Plumbing was one of the first businesses to be highlighted in 2016, and organised a fun event on Small Business Saturday to bring other businesses together and expose them to the local community. The company has grown from one man-and-van in 2012 to eight vans and four full-time office staff. They have also been asked to write and deliver part of the gas course for Southgate and Barnet College, so training future gas engineers to meet their high standards.

Small Business Saturday is a non-commercial initiative headed by Director Michelle Ovens MBE. It covers all types of small business, and is free to join. The campaign is supported by high-profile sponsors including American Express, Federation of Small Business, and Vistaprint.

This year, they have even launched a free cookbook containing recipes inspired by small businesses.

Find out more at smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.

What the Autumn statement means for your business

Autumn

Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has delivered his first Autumn statement. Most announcements came as no surprise, with core messages about continuity of financial stability and control of public spending.

The statement was considered and concise, which is encouraging at a time of uncertainty. However, business groups interviewed by the Guardian didn’t consider the statement bold enough, and were disappointed that it didn’t tackle business rates or provide support following the Brexit vote.

Here are some of the headlines:

Impact on business

To reinforce Britain’s competitiveness while negotiating Brexit, Hammond confirmed he will stick to the business tax roadmap that was announced in March, with Corporation tax reducing to 17% and a reduction to business rates worth £6.7bn.

Funding

In an effort to boost the long-term economy and reduce the ‘productivity gap’, £23bn is going into a new National Productivity Investment Fund, including:

  • £7.2bn to tackle congestion and transport
  • £7.bn to support house-building (including £3bn Home Builders Fund to unlock finance for over 200,000 homes)
  • £4.7bn towards science and innovation
  • £2bn to accelerate construction on public sector land
  • £1.1bn for local infrastructure
  • Over £1bn for digital infrastructure (to encourage the private sector to roll out more full-fibre broadband and support trials of 5G mobile telecoms. What’s more, full-fibre infrastructure will benefit from 100% business rates relief for five years from April 2017.)
  • £27m development funding for the Cambridge-Oxford growth corridor (as recommended by the National Infrastructure Commission)

To make Britain the ‘go to’ place for science and innovation, these sectors will also benefit from an extra £2bn of funding per year for business research and development.

£400m is being invested into Venture Capital Funds from the British Business Bank, to:

  • Unlock up to £1bn of investment in innovative firms planning to scale up
  • Review to identify barriers to access to long-term finance for growing firms
  • Funding from the Department for International Trade for FinTech specialists

Benefits in kind reformed

Tax will become payable by employees who sacrifice salary to receive ‘benefits in kind’, except:

  • Cycle to work scheme
  • Ultra-low emission cars
  • Pension savings
  • Childcare

HMRC expects to gain approximately £2m through this measure.

Economic forecasts downgraded

As a result of the EU Referendum decision, economic growth is predicted to be 2.4% lower than previously expected. Here are the revised OBR forecasts:

  • 2016: 2.1%
  • 2017: 1.4%
  • 2018: 1.7%

Borrowing increased

Hammond made a distinction between borrowing to cover the deficit and borrowing to invest, and at £122bn, Government borrowing will increase significantly.

New fiscal rules

To protect against bumps during Brexit, Hammond announced three new rules:

  1. Cyclically adjusted borrowing to fall below 2% by the end of this Parliament, and public finances to return to balance as early as possible during the next Parliament
  2. Public sector net debt to fall as a share of GDP by 2020
  3. Welfare spending to be capped

Just About Managing (JAM)

Due to the state of the economy, Hammond avoided this phrase coined by Theresa May, but did announce:

  • Freeze in fuel duty
  • Offset the rising cost of foreign holidays
  • Ban on letting fees being charged to tenants
  • Income tax threshold rising to £12,500
  • Higher rate threshold rising to £50,000
  • Minimum wage rising to £7.50 (in 2017)
  • Possibility of removing the pensions triple-lock (after 2020)

Budget moved to Autumn

To allow time for tax changes to be made in advance of the tax year, the Budget is moving to Autumn. That means no more Autumn Statements – from 2018, there will be a Spring Statement instead. At least that means major changes will only happen once a year.

If legal hurdles are overcome and Article 50 is triggered at the end of March 2017, the final Spring Budget will be a significant measure of the nation’s fiscal position.

Going forward

Although there are many challenges and changes to the economic climate, the Government is committed to boosting business in the UK.

Philip Hammond said: “My priority is to ensure that Britain remains the number one destination for business – creating the investment, the jobs and the prosperity to protect our long-term future.”

Akoni helps businesses make the most of their cash. Follow us on Twitter @helloakoni or connect with us here.