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Making good fuel provided for private motoring

Where an employee with a company car is provided with fuel for their own private use by their employer, the default position is that the employee is required to pay the car fuel benefit charge. The charge is determined by reference to the CO2 rating of the car, applied to the car fuel benefit multiplier, currently £24,500.

The car fuel benefit charge is not applicable when the employee pays for all their private fuel. This is known as ‘making good’. Private fuel includes the fuel used commuting to and from work. Employees should keep a log of private mileage and use the published advisory fuel rates to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. The advisory fuel rates are intended to reflect actual average fuel costs and are updated quarterly.

If private fuel costs are repaid to the employer, HMRC will accept that there is no car fuel benefit charge. It will usually be cheaper to repay your employer for private fuel than to pay the Income Tax charge, especially if private mileage is relatively low.

The car-fuel benefit charge will still be payable if it cannot be demonstrated to HMRC that the driver of the car has paid for all fuel used for private journeys, this includes commuting to and from work. To ensure that this does not occur, employees will need to keep a log of private mileage and ensure that they make good the cost of all fuel provided for private use.

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Funding to get young people into work

Employers can now apply for a £1000 cash boost to help them take on new trainees.

The new scheme will support young people to gain the skills and experience they need from the very start, helping them to get a job, an apprenticeship, or pursue further study. The cash boost – which is available until 31 July 2021 – will help businesses with the cost of providing a high-quality work placement for a trainee. This includes providing facilities, uniforms or helping with travel costs. Businesses offering new traineeship opportunities will receive the £1,000 bonus for every trainee they take on with up to a maximum of 10 trainees. Employers can claim the cash incentive for all work placements that have been completed since 1 September.

The programmes last between 6 weeks and 12 months, and focus on developing vital employability skills, alongside additional English, maths and digital skills, combined with a work placement lasting a minimum of 70 hours. Young people have completed work placements in a range of exciting industries including construction, education and health and social care.

The launch of the incentive scheme follows the announcement in July 2020 by the Chancellor, as part of his Plan for Jobs, of an additional £111 million investment to support the largest-ever expansion of traineeships so more young people have the skills and confidence they need to get on in life.

This new cash boost is in addition to the apprentice scheme announced last year, which offers employers £2,000 for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and £1,500 for apprentice aged 25 and over. This includes taking on an apprentice who has been made redundant. More than 10,000 employers have already taken up the offer, which is available until March 2021.

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New IPO search facility

The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is the official UK government body responsible for intellectual property (IP) rights including patents, designs, trademarks and copyright.

The IPO has launched a new service that allows users to search for the goods and services they intend to use their trade mark on before they apply.

Intellectual Property Offices worldwide use a trade mark classification system that groups together similar goods or services into 45 different classes. This is referred to as the Nice Classification.

While a member state of the EU, the IPO contributed to and shared a common classification system called TMClass. TMClass is a classification search tool provided by the EUIPO. With the transition period relating to the UK’s exit from the EU ending on 31 December 2020, a new UK specific database was required.

The search UK trade mark classes service is available from the GOV.UK website.

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Government help for people in debt

New government proposals have been published that look at further extending debt solutions to help more people suffering from problem debts. The proposals specifically look at increasing the financial eligibility criteria for debt relief orders (DROs), helping more people deal with financial difficulties to get a fresh start.

A DRO is a special way of dealing with debts aimed at those with minimal assets and low income. If an application for a DRO is accepted, the claimant will usually make payments over a specified period (usually 12 months) after which any remaining debts will be written off. An application for a DRO must be made using an authorised debt adviser.

Research has shown that demand for debt advice could increase by up to 60% by the end of 2021.

The government is publicly consulting on changing the eligibility criteria to enter a DRO to:

increase the total amount of debt allowable to £30,000 (from £20,000)
increase the value of assets owned by the individual to £2,000 (from £1,000)
increase the level of surplus income to £100 (from £50) per month
The consultation will run for 6 weeks and, subject to the consultation, any changes are anticipated to be put in place in Spring 2021.

Those who currently meet the conditions can apply for a DRO through an authorised debt adviser, from organisations such as Citizens Advice and StepChange who submit applications on-line to the Official Receiver on their client’s behalf.

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Tax and duties for goods sent from abroad

Following the end of the Brexit transition period new rules regarding tax and duty apply to goods sent to the UK from the EU. These changes are to ensure that goods from EU and non-EU countries are treated in the same way and that UK businesses are not disadvantaged by competition from VAT free imports.

For goods sold directly to customers in the UK from overseas with a value of £135 or less (which aligns with the threshold for customs duty liability) the point at which VAT is collected has moved from the point of importation to the point of sale.

Online marketplaces that are involved in facilitating the sale are responsible for collecting and accounting for the VAT. Business to business sales not exceeding £135 in value will also be subject to the new rules, but VAT can be accounted for by way of the reverse charge process.

In addition, from 1 January 2021, low value consignment relief (LVCR), which was an import VAT exemption for goods valued at £15 or less, has been removed.

Normal VAT and customs rules on consignments valued at more than £135 will apply on the import of goods into Great Britain from outside the UK or into Northern Ireland from outside the UK and EU.

There are different rules if you sell goods to Northern Ireland from the EU or move goods between Northern Ireland and the EU.

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Government tackles late payment to small firms

The Government has announced an overhaul of the Prompt Payment Code (PPC).

Under the new reforms, companies that have signed up to the PPC will be obliged to pay small businesses within 30 days – half the time outlined in the current Code.

Despite almost 3,000 companies signing the Code, poor payment practices are still rife, with many payments delayed well beyond the current 60-day target required for 95% of invoices. Currently, £23.4 billion worth of late invoices are owed to firms across Britain, impacting on businesses’ cash flow and ultimate survival.

To help tackle the problem, business owners, Finance Directors or CEOs will be required to take personal responsibility by signing the Code, acknowledging that suppliers can charge interest on late invoices under the Code and that breaches will be investigated. Those signed up to the Code will redouble their efforts to ensure payments are made on time and breaches will continue to be publicised by the Government in order to encourage compliance.

The move comes as the Government seeks to strengthen the powers of the Small Business Commissioner (SBC) to ensure larger companies pay their smaller partners on time. New powers proposed in a recently closed consultation include legally binding payment orders, launching investigations and levying fines.

If these new regulations are observed they will make “financial bullying” by larger firms less prevalent and help to improve the cashflow prospects of smaller suppliers as they grapple with COVID disruption and EU exit changes.

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Have you paid your Data Protection Fee?

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is the independent regulatory office in charge of upholding information rights in the interest of the public. Under the Data Protection Act 2018, all organisations that process personal information must register with the ICO.

By law, every organisation or sole trader who processes personal information needs to pay a data protection fee to the ICO, unless they benefit from a very limited exemption. There are currently more than half a million fee payers

The cost of the data protection fee depends on the size and turnover of the business / organisation. There are three tiers of fee ranging from £40 to £2,900, but for most businesses / organisations it will be either £40 or £60. Some organisations only pay £40 regardless of their size and turnover. These are charities and small occupational pension schemes.

Payment can be made by direct debit, credit or debit card, cheque or BACS. The ICO sends an email reminder six weeks before the annual fee expires.

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CJRS guidance on who can be furloughed

HMRC’s guidance on which employees can be placed on furlough using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been updated. The scheme will continue until at least 30 April 2021.

The updated guidance includes new information about employees who are unable to work because they have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19). This guidance confirms that employers may furlough employees with caring responsibilities arising from COVID-19 who are unable to work or are working reduced hours.

The guidance for employers’ states that your employee is eligible for the grant and can be furloughed, if they are unable to work, including from home or working reduced hours because they:

are clinically extremely vulnerable, or at the highest risk of severe illness from coronavirus and following public health guidance
have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household
This guidance covers those who are unable to work due to childcare responsibilities following the closure of most schools across the UK. Whilst this guidance provides some useful clarification it should be noted that employers are still not compelled to furlough those that qualify.

Employees who are being furloughed for the above reasons can be fully or flexibly furloughed. If they are flexibly furloughed, they are not allowed to work any hours that are recorded as being on furlough. Please do not hesitate to call if you need any assistance with any of your furlough-related obligations.

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Rogue employers named and shamed for failing to pay minimum wage

139 employers, including some of the UK’s biggest household names, have been named and shamed in a government press release for failing to pay £6.7 million to over 95,000 workers in breach of the national minimum wage (NMW) legislation.

This is the first time in over two years that the government has named and shamed employers for failing to pay the NMW, as the naming and shaming scheme was paused in 2018 so that an evaluation into its effectiveness could be carried out. The scheme has now resumed but one key change is that the press release includes a new educational bulletin which sets out the most common reasons for NMW underpayment among employers in this naming round, together with a summary of NMW guidance on paying workers.

The press release highlights that one of the main causes of NMW breaches was workers being made to cover work costs, which would take their pay below the NMW, such as paying for uniforms, training, meals or parking fees. In addition, some employers failed to raise workers’ pay after they had a birthday which should have moved them into a different NMW bracket. Two other common reasons for underpayment were failing to pay the correct rate to apprentices and failing to pay workers for working time, such as for additional work before and after their shifts or rounding clock-in time to the nearest hour.

All the employers named in the press release have now paid back their workers and were also forced to pay financial penalties.

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Testing for international arrivals

Passengers arriving from all international destinations will be required to present a negative COVID-19 test result before departing for England to help protect against new strains of coronavirus circulating internationally.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced that inbound passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in, to help protect against the new strains of coronavirus such as those seen in Denmark and South Africa.

This action is in response to the changes seen in the transmission of the virus both domestically and across the globe. Pre-departure testing will protect travel and will provide an additional layer of safety from imported cases of coronavirus on top of the mandatory 10 day self-isolation for arrivals, helping identify people who may currently be infectious and preventing them from travelling to England.

A negative pre-departure test reduces the risk of someone travelling whilst infectious, acting as another safeguard to prevent imported infections. Passengers arriving from countries not on the government’s travel corridor list must self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their pre-departure test result to provide further robust protection from those travelling from high-risk countries.

Prior to departure passengers will need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test result to carriers, as well as their passenger locator form. The UK Border Force will conduct spot checks on arrival into England to ensure that passengers are fully compliant.

The move further bolsters existing protective measures which helped to safely enable international travel last year, with self-isolation for new arrivals and travel corridors remaining critical in reducing the risk of imported cases from high-risk countries.

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