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WHAT WILL A POTENTIAL CUT IN VAT MEAN FOR BUSINESS OWNERS?

The big question on everyone’s lips right now is will the Chancellor Rishi Sunak cut VAT to stimulate spending and boost the post-Coronavirus economy? Steve McCrindle, VAT Partner with Haines Watts discusses some of the implications for business owners.

During the last economic recession, we saw reductions in the standard rate of VAT and that could well happen again post-Covid19. It is something that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already recommended. Some articles in the Press are predicting that the rate of UK VAT may even be cut to as low as 15%.

We have already seen various countries bringing in measures to stimulate the economy through VAT reductions. There have been VAT reductions in a number of countries including Germany, Austria, Norway, Moldova and Kenya, usually temporary reductions with some aimed at stimulating parts of the economy those countries are renowned for.

For example, Germany has announced an intended €130billion COVID-19 stimulus package, including a cut in the standard rate of VAT from 19% to 16% and the reduced VAT rate of 7% to 5% both from 1 July to 31 December 2020. This measure will cost Germany €20billion.

Germany had already announced a cut in the VAT rate on restaurant and catering services from the standard rate of 19% to the reduced of 7% between 1 July 2020 and 30 June 2021, and which will now additionally benefit from the reduction to 5% for the last six months of 2020.

Steve McCrindle

There are predictions that a potential reclassification of the VAT rate in the UK could be introduced for those sectors which have been hit the hardest, such as hospitality with a reduced rate for hotels, restaurants and cafes.

In the UK, the Government has already brought in other reliefs for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and similar goods to help stop the spread of Coronavirus.

More recently I helped a client with these particular reliefs. My client had bought PPE from China and was to supply this on to an NHS Trust. In normal circumstances, that PPE would have been potentially subject to Customs duty as well as Import VAT, the duty being an irrecoverable cost.

The PPE would also have been subject to VAT on the onward supply to the NHS Trust, which in turn would likely not have been able to recover that VAT so charged. However, a further relief meant my client was also able to supply the PPE to the NHS Trust at a zero rate, i.e. VAT free, meaning the NHS Trust did not incur an irrecoverable VAT cost.

These are temporary reliefs implemented by the Government to enable PPE to be brought into the country with the least economic and physical barriers, in order to get it to where it is needed soonest.

So, if you use this and the German examples, it’s easy to see how a VAT rate cut could stimulate spending power and profit, and get the economy rolling again quickly. I believe the Government will do it.

We’ve already seen things starting to move in the construction industry after the Government allowed the sector to return to work earlier than the rest of us. There was a new VAT measure which was due to come into force for the construction industry on October 1st this year. That has now been postponed for five months to allow the sector to focus on getting itself going again.

 

What do businesses need to consider if the VAT rate changes?

There are a number of things that business owners need to consider if the rate changes suddenly. This includes, amongst others, how they will calculate the new rate if prices are already inclusive of VAT, as is the case for most retailers. They will also have to decide whether they pass on any benefits to customers.

Changes to accounting software will also need to be made as well as working out how deposits paid prior to the rate change, but invoiced after will be dealt with. The same goes for any sales made prior to the rate change but invoiced afterwards.

One thing is certain, the VAT rate change certainly needs to be substantial for it to significantly impact consumer spending and buying habits, and stimulate the economy.

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Business

GOING GLOBAL: 7 TIPS TO GET STARTED

The idea of selling your products or services to new markets across the globe is an attractive prospect for any business, large or small. But while reaching new customers and unlocking the potential for further growth can seem exciting initially, adapting your business to foreign markets is no small feat. Factors such as cost, communication and cultural differences can all affect your business’ success when going global. This guide will explore some of the key considerations to make when you’re thinking of expanding your business overseas.

 

Evaluate Your Finances

One of the main questions to ask when looking to go global is whether or not your business can afford to do so. Crossing borders can be a complicated and expensive process which can take away time and resources from other opportunities at home. Growth for businesses abroad is often a slow process; establishing products and services in other countries takes time, so you will need to factor this into your planning. Thorough analysis of domestic and international markets should always be undertaken before making the decision to expand your business overseas.

 

Location, Location, Location

Choosing the right location is crucial to the success of your business expansion. International business network Going Global Live says that taking your business to the right countries initially can save you money on excessive marketing and advertising, putting you face-to-face with your target market from the outset. You should weigh up the pros and cons of potential locations, such as the likelihood of being able to fill your new HQ with prime, homegrown talent, as well as access to desired markets aided by foreign investment bodies. It is also important to consider the relevant laws and regulations laid out by national and regional governments.

 

Ensure You Have the Right Infrastructure

Making sure your business has the right infrastructure to handle expansion abroad will put you in a good place going forward. Implementing a clear management strategy, both locally and centrally, will set your business up for a smooth and successful launch overseas. Having up-to-date IT and communications systems at the centre of your business will allow you to share information and data securely. When it comes to shipping, choosing the best – and most efficient – transport and storage providers will give you the peace of mind that your products are safe in transit. Companies such as S Jones are ideal for businesses looking for more information on storage solutions for shipping overseas.

 

Build a Strong Team

Appointing a strong team to oversee your expansion is crucial to your company’s success in new markets. Hiring people with a good knowledge of your target market, as well as a focus on your business’ interests, is key when establishing your overseas HQ. Working with local partners can help you to communicate your business’ unique selling point in a meaningful way. Having an experienced partner or mentor that you can trust to oversee the expansion will allow you to stay focused on the bigger picture and ensure that your attention isn’t taken away from your core customer base.

 

Have Faith

Once you’ve made the move to globalise your business, be sure to have faith in your ideas and don’t be deterred by slow progress. Dr Shai Vyakarnam of the Cranfield School of Management says that while there is a fine balance between faith and stubbornness, you’ll need “incredible levels of self-belief and faith in your idea” to succeed, and that you “only need to be able to turn a few key people in your favour and the others will follow”. Making well-informed decisions quickly will allow you to stay on track and will nullify the threat of any lingering self-doubt. While progress may be slow at first, be sure to remain patient and be prepared to build personal relationships to gain the trust of your new partners and customer base.

 

Consider the Impact of New Ideas

When implementing new ideas for your business as whole, consider how they will be received by your new international customers, as well as by your existing customer base at home. What might be seen as a positive idea in your home country could be perceived as offensive or alienating by your customers abroad. Factors such as differing time zones, languages and cultural appropriateness should always be taken into consideration when making key decisions to eliminate the risk of alienating foreign customers and damaging your reputation overseas.

 

Be Adaptable

While it is important to have faith in your business and be patient initially, you should also be willing to make changes as things develop. Acting on the advice of experts is key to navigating new markets successfully. It may be that your products and services require innovation to meet demand, or that cultural differences lead you to make changes to your marketing strategy. Being adaptable will give you the best chance of meeting consumer demand on a global scale.

When trying to expand your business to an entirely new customer base, try to bear in mind some of the above points. As long as you remain patient and open-minded, then you should have little difficulty in marketing your business globally.

 

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Banking

REDUCING FRICTION ONLINE HAS BECOME BUSINESS CRITICAL

Andrew Shikiar, Executive Director at the FIDO Alliance

 

The global pandemic has pushed the importance of remote access and authentication right up the agenda for many businesses. All those occasions where people would normally show up in person to open a bank account or pick-up some high street essentials were simply not possible for large parts of the year. Even as restrictions have eased across the country, these kinds of face-to-face transactions remain an unappealing prospect or a last-resort to many.

Not surprisingly, this has led to unprecedented demand for online and remote services. This brings with it a host of challenges and opportunities, and we have seen many examples of companies brilliantly adapting and reacting to this new way of life. But one issue that businesses and individuals have been grappling with for years – that of frictionless transactions and authentication – has now been put under a brighter spotlight as it is increasingly critical to get right.

 

Friction impacts the bottom line

The core challenge facing businesses is how to strike the right balance between giving customers the best possible experience of online service, and the necessary regulatory and security implications that directly affect – and often contradict – that ideal user experience.

We’ve all likely experienced the very real kinds of friction I’m talking about – it’s the account you gave up on registering for, or the purchase you abandoned because the process was just too frustrating.

Friction like this has direct bottom line impacts through the loss of sales and/or disaffected customers –  and it is substantially more pronounced in the current climate. People have less money to spend, they are spending a greater proportion of this reduced pot online, and businesses are competing for their livelihoods to claim their share. Providing a frictionless experience can be the difference between success and failure.

 

Banking and retail lose out

Nowhere is this problem more keenly felt than in the retail and banking industries. Countless transactions simply don’t happen each year due to issues with passwords or mobile One Time Passwords (OTPs) at the point of signing-up or checking-out.

Data from Statista shows that 69.57% of digital shopping carts and baskets are abandoned and the purchase not completed. And Mastercard’s analysis estimates that up to 20% of mobile e-commerce transactions are abandoned or otherwise fail (e.g., from undelivered SMS OTPs) mid-way.

In addition, independent web usability research institute Baynard found that one out of five consumers abandoned their online shopping carts citing the checkout process as “too long and complicated”. That means 20% of customers taking their custom elsewhere, likely to a competitor, because the process presented too much friction.

 

Passwords are a major part of the problem

Organisations have struggled to strike that balance between frictionless yet secure online log-ins in large part because of historical dependence on passwords – which simply aren’t fit for purpose in today’s online economy. Passwords were designed to be simple but, as we can all likely attest, they have become incredibly cumbersome and difficult to manage.

The demands placed on consumers to remember and keep track of the array of different passwords they need, and the different requirements of password complexity which varies from provider to provider, is proving to be untenable.

Not only are passwords a major cause of consumers giving up on purchases or preventing them from signing up for new services, but they also fail in delivering on their primary objective: to protect accounts and sensitive data. All too often the password has proven to be a single point of failure, and one that is all too easy for hackers and fraudsters to get hold of – a trend accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Reducing friction

There has been a move toward developing and adopting open standards that enable any online service provider to authenticate users in a way that is both highly secure and almost completely frictionless – with all major platform and cloud service providers coalescing around a common approach.

It’s clear from the way consumers have embraced using their fingerprints and FaceID to unlock their devices that simple, natural gestures work – and that they are often preferred over using a password. By adopting the latest authentication standards, organisations can enable their customers to use these same easy gestures on their every-day devices to prove their identity and approve even the most sensitive of transactions.

The standards also improve security by moving away from the traditional model where your password or similar piece of ‘secret’ information is stored on a server, to one where credentials are stored on an individual’s device. This means they cannot be phished or divulged through other means of social engineering, while also inherently stopping the large-scale breaches that impact millions or billions of users in one go.

Due to these developments, the kind of poor user experience that leads to abandoned shopping carts and lost customers during the sign-up process is completely avoidable. There is now nothing stopping banks, retailers, and a range of other businesses from offering a superior, and low-friction user experience while also maintaining the safety and integrity of the networked economy.

 

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