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Handling food? Wash, those hands

If you are considering any change to your business activities that will involve handling any packaged food or raw ingredients, as you would expect, there are a raft of regulations that you will need to consider and adopt.

The Department of the Environment has published considerable guidance on the GOV.UK website. Simply Google “Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus”. A brief extract from their guidance follows.

Although it is very unlikely that COVID-19 is transmitted through food or food packaging, as a matter of good hygiene practice your staff should wash their hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. This should be done routinely, including:

– before and after handling food ;
– before handling clean cutlery, dishes, glasses, or other items to be used by the customer ;
– after handling dirty or used items, such as collecting used dishes from customer tables ;
– after handling money ;
– after touching high-contact surfaces, such as door handles ;
– when moving between different areas of the workplace
after being in a public place ;
– after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. Coughs and sneezes should be caught in a tissue or the crook of your elbow ;


Food packaging should be handled in line with usual food safety practices and staff should continue to follow existing risk assessments and safe systems of working.


Readers who need more information should research the following:


Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) guidance on personal hygiene and hygienic practices in food preparation ;
Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) processes and
Guidance on risk assessment from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

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Tax Diary November/December 2020


1 November 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 January 2020.

19 November 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 November 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 November 2020.)

19 November 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 November 2020.

19 November 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 November 2020 is payable by today.

1 December 2020 – Due date for Corporation Tax payable for the year ended 28 February 2020.

19 December 2020 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 December 2020. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 December 2020)

19 December 2020 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 December 2020.

19 December 2020 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 December 2020 is payable by today.

30 December 2020 – Deadline for filing 2019-20 self-assessment tax returns online to include a claim for under payments to be collected via tax code in 2021-22.

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Brexit countdown importers

As we have reported previously, the UK government has confirmed that it will neither accept nor seek any extension to the Brexit transition period which expires on 31 December 2020. The EU has formally accepted this position. This means that the process for importing goods from the EU will change from 1 January 2021.

HMRC has published guidance to help those importing goods to prepare.

Some important points to bear in mind from 1 January 2021 are as follows:

– You will need to make customs declarations when you import goods from the EU. These rules currently apply to importing goods from the rest of the world, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
– You will need to make customs declarations when you import goods from the EU.
– The rules for importing some types of goods will change.
– You will need an EORI number that starts with GB to import goods.
– You will need to pay customs duties and VAT on all imports.
– You will need to make customs declarations when you import goods from the EU. Under certain circumstances, it will be possible to delay making a declaration for up to 6 months after you imported the goods.


Note, this guidance applies to England, Wales and Scotland. Separate guidance on moving goods into, out of and through Northern Ireland is expected to be published shortly.

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Brexit countdown exporters

The Brexit transition period is due to end on 31 December 2020 and this means that the process for exporting goods to the EU will change from 1 January 2021.

Current guidance published by HMRC states that from 1 January 2021, businesses will need to make customs declarations when exporting goods to the EU. This is what you currently have to do if exporting goods to any country outside of the EU, including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Businesses, especially those that currently only trade with EU should be making the necessary preparations for how they will trade with the EU next year. Businesses can make customs declarations themselves or hire a third party such as a courier, freight forwarder or customs agent to do the paperwork.

HMRC has published guidance to help those exporting goods to prepare.

Some important points to bear in mind from 1 January 2021 are as follows:

– Make sure you have an EORI number that starts with GB. You will need an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number starting with GB to import/export goods from 1 January 2021.
– Check the rules for your type of goods. For example, check what import/export licences or certificates you need, check the labelling and marketing standards for food, plant seeds and manufactured goods and check the rules for importing/exporting alcohol, tobacco and certain oils.
– Find out if you can charge VAT at 0% on goods exported to the EU.
– Check if the EU business you’re exporting to is ready. The EU business importing your goods will also need to prepare for 1 January 2021 changes.


Note, this guidance applies to England, Wales and Scotland. Separate guidance on moving goods into, out of and through Northern Ireland is expected to be published shortly.

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Starting rate of Income Tax for savings

In the current tax year, anyone with taxable income of less than £17,500 will have no tax to pay on their savings income – interest received. This figure is calculated by adding the £5,000 starting rate limit for savings (where 0% of the interest is taxable) to the current £12,500 personal allowance. However, this £5,000 starting rate limit for savings will be reduced by £1 for every £1 of non-savings income in excess of £12,500. Accordingly, when non-savings income amounts to £17,500 all savings income will be taxable.

There is also a Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) which means that for basic-rate taxpayers the first £1,000 interest on savings income is tax-free. For higher-rate taxpayers the tax-free personal savings allowance is £500. Anyone earning over £150,000 does not benefit from the PSA.

Interest from savings products such as ISA’s and premium bond wins do not count towards the limit. Taxpayers with tax-free accounts and higher savings can continue to benefit from the relevant PSA limits.

Banks and building societies no longer deduct tax from your account interest as a matter of course. Taxpayers who still need to pay tax on savings income will need to declare this as part of their annual Self-Assessment tax return.

Taxpayers that have overpaid tax on savings interest can submit a claim to have the tax repaid. Claims can be backdated for up to four years after the end of the current tax year. The deadline for making claims for the 2016-17 tax year is 5 April 2021.

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New cashback scheme proposed

The government has announced plans to allow customers to get cashback from shops without needing to make a purchase. At the moment, cashback is only available to those who buy goods. The new proposals have been put in place to help protect the UK’s cash system following a steady decline in the use of cash. This process has accelerated significantly during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the government proposals, cashback without a purchase could be widely available from retailers of all sizes in local communities across the UK.

Although cash use is declining, with people increasingly choosing cards, mobile and e-wallets to make payments, it remains crucial for at risk groups across the UK – including the elderly and vulnerable. Many find that cash is more accessible than digital payment methods or that it helps them to budget and manage their finances.

Current EU law makes it difficult for businesses to offer cashback when people are not paying for goods and this has been a barrier to widespread adoption. The government is now considering scrapping these rules once the transition period ends on 31 December 2020.

It is not clear what impact such a move would have on retailers who could face additional costs and administrative issues dealing with providing cashback with no clear benefit for them.

The government has also said that it is considering giving the FCA overall responsibility for maintaining a well-functioning retail cash system given its existing regulatory role and consumer protection objective.

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Applying for Green Homes Grants

Home owners and landlords in England can apply for a grant to make their home more energy efficient. The Green Homes Grant will cover at least two-thirds of the cost up to £5,000 per household. For low income households these grants will cover all costs up to £10,000. The scheme runs until 31 March 2021.

The Green Homes Grants provides homeowners, including owner occupiers and social/private landlords, vouchers to install one or more of the following primary measures:

– solid wall, under-floor, cavity wall or roof insulation
– air source or ground source heat pump
– solar thermal
Homeowners and landlords will need to apply for a voucher online. Once the works are agreed, vouchers will start to be issued. HMRC has updated their guidance to confirm that they will start to issue vouchers from early November 2020.

In addition, households can apply for a further voucher to install secondary measures for additional energy saving. Households will need to install at least one of the primary measures above to qualify for further funding for secondary measures. These secondary measures include the following:

– double or triple glazing/secondary glazing, when replacing single glazing
– upgrading to energy efficient doors
– hot water tank/appliance tank thermostats/heating controls
Secondary measures can only be subsidised up to the amount of subsidy provided for primary measures. (e.g. if a household receives £1,000 for primary measures, they can only receive a maximum of £1,000 towards secondary measures).

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New Freeports to cope with Brexit

The government is moving ahead with plans to build free trade zones – known as Freeports – across Britain after Brexit. Freeports are a special kind of port where normal tax and customs rules do not apply. In their place, simplified customs procedures and duty suspensions on goods applies.

The initiative would allow firms to import components and other pre-manufactured goods into a Freeport without paying taxes. The goods would then be processed into a finished product to be built in the UK. In these new Freeport areas, no duties would be charged on goods or materials until they leave the zone as a finished product for the UK domestic market. There should be no UK tariffs payable when the finished product is re-exported directly from the Freeport.

The Freeport bidding process in England is expected to open before the end of the year and the first Freeports on track to be open by the end of 2021. In this opening series of applications, sea, air and rail ports in England will be invited to bid for Freeport status.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said: “Our new freeports will create national hubs for trade, innovation and commerce, regenerating communities across the UK and supporting jobs.

The government is also working with the devolved administrations to establish at least one Freeport in each nation of the UK and will introduce a package of tax reliefs for business investment in the Freeports. This will include speeding up the planning process to accelerate development. We are also told there will be new initiatives to encourage innovators to generate new ideas to create additional economic growth and jobs.

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Last orders please…

From 1 January 2021, UK businesses that export, import or transport goods to and from the EU will need to comply with a number of new regulations.

Inevitably, some will fall short and these will create delays, in your goods reaching EU customers, the goods of EU suppliers reaching you, and transport drivers spending more time than is necessary in queues of traffic as the paperwork threads are resolved.

Leaving aside the obvious need to become acquainted with, and comply with, the new regulations, to some extent the flow of goods – back and forth – will be held back by those businesses who fail to meet the required standards.

Importers and exporters would therefore be advised to consider the following:

– Increasing your stock of goods before the end of the year such that you do not need to make further orders from EU suppliers until say February 2021, by which time – hopefully – there is a better understanding of the new customs clearance processes and other regulatory matters that need to be considered.
– Similarly, see if you can inspire your EU customers to double up on their orders before the end of the year.
In this way you may be able to distance your business from the initial, likely chaos and minimise any additional disruption to your business as we continue to grapple with COVID challenges.

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Paying or refunding transport costs

To ease the financial burden on their employees, some employers may look at paying or refunding transport costs for their employees when they return to work. There are tax implications that should be examined. As a general rule, where an employer pays or refunds an employee the cost of transport from work to home, this is considered to be a benefit as it is classified as a private journey.

In some circumstances there is an exemption from paying tax on this benefit. For this to happen, all of the following 4 conditions must be met:

– the employee has to work later than usual, and until at least 9pm ;
– this happens irregularly ;
= by the time the employee finishes work, either: public transport has stopped, or it would not be reasonable to expect them to use public transport ;
– the transport is by taxi or similar road transport.


Employees may also regularly travel to work in a car with one or more other employees using a car-sharing arrangement. If this arrangement stopped because of unforeseen and exceptional circumstances, which are coronavirus related, and the employer provides transport or reimbursement of the expense of transport from their employee’s home to workplace, this may also be exempt.

HMRC’s guidance is clear that if these requirements are not met, free or subsidised transport is taxable and should be reported through a PAYE Settlement Agreement as a coronavirus related benefit.

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