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.
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.
TOUCH-FREE AUTHENTICATION FOR ALL: WHY WE NEED A SAFER PAYMENT METHOD IN THE ‘NEW NORMAL’
David Orme, SVP, Sales & Marketing, IDEX Biometrics ASA
Ever since March, when the World Health Organization encouraged people to not use cash, coronavirus has made touch-free shopping a necessity for all consumers. However, as economies across the world begin to reopen, we are seeing in-person shopping and payment via touch-pads return. So, with payments beginning to return to ‘normal’, the global payments industry must now consider an important question: how can we protect consumers from the pandemic and potential future health crisis’ during the transaction process?
During the pandemic, touch-free payments began to gain international traction across the world, changing behaviour during the payment process. While previously, consumers were happy to key in a PIN, or even provide a signature for a purchase, they are now familiar with more convenient and safer touch-free methods, and they’re not likely to let them go.
In Europe, high street chains have rapidly shifted to contactless payments, often refusing to accept cash. Meanwhile in the USA, levels of contactless payments have rocketed since the pandemic, after a slow initial adoption of the service – US banks only adopted contactless cards in 2019 compared to 2007 in the UK. According to Visa, overall contactless usage in the USA has grown 150% year-on-year as of May 2020.
Even mega-retailer, Walmart, has recently introduced contactless options for in-store shopping and delivery to protect its customers during the pandemic – showing there is growing demand for a touch-free and convenient way to pay across the world. This has raised awareness of touch-free payments among consumers looking to reduce contact-based interactions and time spent at the checkout during the pandemic.
Mobile payments are growing
Mobile payments are growing, again showing the desire for touch-free authentication among consumers. According to Forbes, the US mobile payment market – currently only sixth in the world – has increased 41% and is worth more than $98 billion.
To respond to the growth of touch-free payments among small vendors, PayPal has launched a new QR code-based payment app that allows market stall holders or businesses without a PoS machine to accept payment through a code. This means even the smallest of merchants, from small stores and farmer’s markets to craft sales, can now go cash-free and use touch-free payments for everything.
Meanwhile, China has long been using QR code-based apps, such as WeChat Pay from tech giant TenCent and AliPay from Alibaba. The apps are so widely used that street vendors display QR codes for payments and together the two fintech giants control about 90% of China’s digital payments market.
But card is still king
At the same time, payment cards are still consumers preferred way to pay. Of course, we only need to look to Apple and Google, who recently have launched physical payment cards despite running mobile payment apps for further proof that payment cards are far from dead.
So why aren’t cards on their way out, given the growth of mobile payments?
We know that consumers still look to payment cards for security and a sense of familiarity while shopping. According to IDEX Biometrics’ research carried out in the UK, only 3% of consumers choose to use mobile payments, while nearly two-thirds (65%) state that carrying their debit card provides a sense of security. And when it comes to touch-free payments, only biometric payment cards can provide the most secure level of validation with an easy digital experience for shoppers.
Despite the popularity of WeChat as a payment app, China’s biggest card provider China UnionPay has recognised that its customers aren’t ready to give up on physical payment cards either. China UnionPay has recently certified the first biometric fingerprint card technology in the country as they look to the use of biometric technology in cards to provide an extra layer of security, with added convenience and hygiene during a payment transaction.
Secure touch-free card payments
Biometric fingerprint payment cards provide end-to-end encryption – securing the user’s card and data. A fingerprint biometric card allows the user to authenticate their ID by touching their finger to the card’s sensor while holding it over the contactless card machine. Therefore the shopper only has to hold their own card over the PoS system and the entire transaction process is free of public PIN pads or checkout counters – making it no different to how consumers currently use contactless payments cards. This touch-free payment technology provides the consumer with the convenience of contactless or a mobile payment but with far greater security, as the card is personally tied to the owner.
Biometric identification is already firmly incorporated into our everyday lives. Thanks to unlocking our phones and authenticating payment apps, we are increasingly using our fingerprint to verify our identity. Now that consumers are familiar with the technology, biometric identification in payment cards will become essential to help consumers navigate the shopping and transaction process safely, speedily and securely.
As our economy gradually reopens, financial services providers must protect consumers during the transaction process. In stores, on transport systems – even in stadiums – a fingerprint biometric payment card will provide touch-free payment authentication for all.
THE BASICS OF BUSINESS FINANCE
When you’re starting your business, you’ve got a lot to be thinking about. You need to find affordable suppliers, market your business effectively, bring in paying customers, and perhaps even hire staff to get your fabulous idea off the ground.
Although they’re not the most exciting of these topics to think about, your business finances and how to best manage them should be at the top of your list. Get them right from day one and you can worry less about those smaller details and focus on making your business a success. Get them wrong, and you could be creating unnecessary stress and worry that could potentially harm your business.
With this in mind, here’s a useful introductory guide to business finance that can help you navigate the basics.
Find the right business bank account
Choosing a business bank account is a key decision that could either save or cost your business money. It will help you keep your personal and business finances separate, budget effectively, manage your accounts and complete your tax returns more easily, even if you’re just a sole trader. You may also be able to access financial support that has been specially tailored to your business needs.
However, business banks offer different services and charge different fees compared to your personal bank account. That’s why it’s worth finding out which account would be best for your business needs.
According to leading small business advisors Informi, “The high street banks (Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest) have all upped their game in order to keep up with the digital-only offering of the so-called challenger banks (Monzo, Starling, Tide Business).”
Keep track of everything
Whenever your business spends money or earns money, you should make sure you’re making a note of it and keeping the information somewhere safe.
Getting organised early will simplify your bookkeeping and accounting process, form great business habits and help you stay financially in the black. Depending on your business structure, this may also be a legal requirement.
This should include, but not be limited to:
- Incoming and outgoings
- Invoices sent (including invoice dates, numbers and full client information)
- Inventory details including dates purchased, stock numbers, purchase prices, dates sold, and sale prices.
Understand your tax obligations
Starting a brand-new business is an exciting time and the last thing you want to think about is taxes. However, you also don’t want to be hit with a large, unexpected tax bill at the end of the year. That’s why you should always be clear what your obligations will be and budget for it accordingly.
What you need to pay depends on whether you’ve registered as a sole trader or as a limited business:
Sole traders (self-employed): You’re liable to pay tax on all your income after your personal allowance is deducted. You’ll also need to pay your own national insurance contributions.
Limited companies: You’ll need to pay corporation tax and make employers’ national insurance contributions. Any employees must pay tax and national insurance on their income via a PAYE scheme. If you’re hiring freelancers, they may need to take care of their own tax.
This needn’t be confusing if you’ve kept financial records from the beginning and you’re clear on what you need to pay. For more information on UK government business taxes, visit their website.
Consider whether you need finance
Paying for your new equipment, premises, advertising, wages and other overheads can soon add up when you’re in the initial stages of starting your business.
If you don’t already have enough funding, you could get extra support from the government or bank. This may be in the form of a loan or grant such as the UK government StartUp loan.
However, be careful about taking on too much debt, especially during these unpredictable times of the coronavirus. Consider how much you can repay and make your decision accordingly.
Take care of your business finance basics and it will be much easier to start and sustain your new business during these challenging times.
Make sure that you choose the best bank for your needs, keep detailed records, understand your tax obligations and consider whether you need extra finance to help get your business off the ground.
But most of all, have fun! This is the start of an exciting new era in your life.
‘Choosing the best business bank account’ – https://informi.co.uk/business-administration/choosing-best-business-bank-account
‘6 Small Business Finance Basics You Must Understand’ – https://smallbiztrends.com/ – https://smallbiztrends.com/2016/01/small-business-finance-basics.html
‘Business finance and support’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/finance-support·
‘Apply for a Start Up Loan for your business’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/apply-start-up-loan
‘Business tax’ – https://www.gov.uk/ – https://www.gov.uk/browse/business/business-tax
‘Finance Your Startup Business’ – https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/ –https://www.startupdonut.co.uk/financing-a-business/start-up-funding/finance-your-start-up-business
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