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Companies House caused business to collapse over typing error

The High Court’s preliminary judgment has ruled in favour of business owner, Philip Davison-Sebry, after his business Taylor and Sons Limited was wrongly recorded as being wound up in 2009. He is suing Companies House for £8.8 million. 

The 124-year-old Welsh firm entered administration, putting 250 employees out of work, after customers and suppliers believed the company no longer existed. The similar named company, Taylor and Son, was in fact the insolvent business which Companies House had failed to spot in the mix up. 

The register was corrected after three days but by then, the damage had already been done and the company had lost one of its best customers, Tata Steel. Evidence also suggests that the wrong information had been in circulation for a period of time after the correction.

Mr Justice Edis found Companies House’s mistake had been the sole reason for the company’s liquidation, stating the agency has a duty of care to ensure winding up orders are registered against the correct company. 

This is a very unfortunate case and the business owner will receive compensation for the mistake. In this day and age, information can spread very quickly online, in print and through social media and in this instance, the wrong information was shared. 

Filling in your online tax return

This coming Saturday, January 31st, is the deadline for completing your online self-assessment tax return and paying any tax owed for the 2013–14 financial year.

It is of course an important date for anyone who runs their own business, as most business owners must declare their income to HMRC in order to be taxed correctly. This year, though, is of particular importance to landlords, who have recently been in HMRC’s cross-hairs for special investigation.

The ‘Let Property Campaign’ is a series of special measures employed by HMRC to target UK landlords who owe tax on their rental income. This year will mark the end of the 18-month ‘landlord amnesty’, during which landlords can come forward without incurring the full penalties for underpaying tax1.

Nevertheless, everyone faces a penalty for late payments or delayed returns:

  • Online tax returns: A £100 fine for returns submitted after midnight on January 31st and before midnight on April 31st; larger fines for returns submitted after this date.
  • Paper tax returns: A £100 fine for returns submitted between now and midnight January 31st; larger fines for returns submitted after this date.
  • Full tax payments: larger fines for payments made after midnight on January 31st.

  • Who needs to fill in a self-assessment tax return?

    You will need to complete your own tax return if:

  • You are a self-employed sole trader;
  • You are a partner of a business;
  • You are a company director of a for-profit organisation, or a not-for-profit organisation from which you receive no pay or benefits

If you are unsure whether you need to fill in a self-assessment tax return, use this tool on the government website to check.

Filling in your online tax return

The deadline for filling in your paper tax return for the 2013–14 financial year (October 31st 2014) has passed. If you wish to avoid paying a late fee, you should use HMRC’s online tax return service.
You should already have registered for self-assessment, in which case you will have a user ID and password that will enable you to access your online account.

If you have not already registered for self-assessment, you will need to do so. You can register using an SA1 form. The deadline for registering was October 5th 2014 – if you have not yet registered, you may have to pay a penalty.

Once you have registered, HMRC will provide you with a unique tax reference (UTR), which you can use along with your national insurance number to sign up for the online service. You will be prompted to create a password; once you have done this, you will be given a unique user ID which you can use to access the service.

You will also need an activation code, which HMRC will send to you by post. After using this code to activate your account, you can log in and fill out your online tax return. It may take up to 10 days for your code to arrive, meaning you will likely miss the January deadline. 

Contact HMRC for assistance with your online tax return.

Using GOV.UK Verify

If you are forced to wait for new or missing information and are worried that you may miss the deadline, you can use the GOV.UK Verify service that is currently being trialled across a handful of government departments, including HMRC. Instead of using a single government database, the service uses certified companies to verify your identity.

Be aware that this service is still in its trial stage, and is not equipped to handle large volumes of traffic. If you have registered for self-assessment and have all of the required details to hand, it might be best to use the traditional service.

Find out more about GOV.UK Verify.

Written by Ben Gosling for Commercial Trust Limited.


 References

1. Caldwell, K. “Pay your tax or face the consequences, minister tells buy-to-let investors”. The Telegraph. 19 Sep 2013.

Owner of Walkabout bars proposes CVA

Intertain, owner of 32 Australian-themed bars across the UK, is proposing a Company Voluntary Arrangement to landlords to try and lower debt. 

The company’s debt is owed to Moulton’s Better Capital who wants to halve the current burden of £30 million to £14 million by negotiating a revision of lease terms for a few loss-making sites. Intertain has said stakeholders have agreed to the plans, therefore the approval of the CVA will be the landlords’ decision.  

CEO John Leslie confirmed the plans are to ensure a ‘long-term sustainable future’. Some sites may need to close while others that are not performing well could become viable if rent is lowered. The company and its landlords will be in discussions over the next few weeks. 

A company voluntary arrangement can be a powerful solution for a company in need of a restructure as a CVA can terminate onerous rent leases and expensive contracts. It also protects the company against legal action, ensuring the business can continue running without its reputation being harmed. A CVA is essentially a formal deal between creditors (in this case landlords) and the company whereby a proportion of debt is repaid over a number of years.

Update: 10/02/2015 - the CVA has been approved by creditors, with Zolfo Cooper supervising. The company's debt will be cut from £30 million to £14 million and certain lease terms will be revised, enabling a restructure of the business. Great news!

Third of government small suppliers are paid late

According to the government's own report from the National Audit Office (NAO), a third of its small suppliers are being paid late with dates of some invoices not recorded properly.
 
It had pledged to ensure 80% or more suppliers would be paid within five working days, however the government now admits it has been unable to do so - many were paid after 30 days. The report also reveals that four departments (including Ministry of Defence and Home Office) are failing to keep records of when invoices have been received. 

£4.5 billion is paid for small business services each year out of a total of £40 billion. 

Head of the NAO, Amyas Morse, said "We are also seriously concerned about the prompt payment performance figures publicly reported by departments. These were overstated by the four departments we looked at".

"It remains to be seen whether the changes proposed in the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill and secondary legislation will be enough to bring about improvements, not just in public sector payment practices but the private sector as well.”

The government's actions set a poor example for small businesses that rely on payments coming in on-time to help with cashflow. They should be leading the way to combat late payments, yet the government has fallen short on this occasion. Let's hope there are improvements over 2015. 

Number of retailers in administration down 35% in 2014

Despite several large retailers going into administration last year (and most recently Bank Fashion), it’s nice to see that the number of retailers entering the insolvency process is in fact falling year-on-year. 

According to figures from Deloitte, the number of retail administrations fell from 183 in 2013 to 119 in 2014 (a drop of 35%). 

Interestingly, the overall number of businesses in administrations last year also fell, but only by 20%. Meanwhile, there is not so good news for financial or IT firms as 2014 saw an increase of 3.9% between them. 

Restructuring Partner at Deloitte, Lee Manning, said “After a few turbulent years, we saw fewer casualties in the retail sector in 2014. As the economic situation improved, consumer confidence increased and the retail industry benefited”.

Perhaps the fall in retail administrations is also due to more companies securing negotiations with landlords about rent as well as considering a CVA as a solution. A Company Voluntary Arrangement avoids the administration route and allows the directors to stay in control while paying back debt in affordable instalments. 

Read our Retailer Rescue page for details on how a CVA can terminate rent leases and help a struggling retailer improve cashflow. 

Phones 4 U stock in public auction

Since the phone company went into administration last year, a lot of its stock has remained untouched until now. The asset management firm, John Pye & Sons, has taken on the stock to sell in a public liquidation auction in Marchington, East Staffordshire to help recover losses. 

While iPads, Beats headphones and game consoles will be selling for cheap prices, the successful bidder will have to pay VAT and buyers premium on top of the price and must collect the stock from Marchington. 

The auction ends today at 2pm. Visit their page for more details, including a list of over 600,000 items up for auction. You can contact John Pye & Sons on 0870 910 9000. 

Business rates – an introduction

It is the responsibility of the occupant of a non-domestic (or commercial) property – whether they are the owner or the tenant – to pay a tax on their occupation of that property. This tax is known as business rates.

You will likely need to pay if you use some or all of a property to run a business, or for any other commercial purpose. How much you have to pay is dependent upon your property’s value and where your property is located:

  • England and Wales: The amount you have to pay is your property’s rateable value multiplied by the business rates multiplier (or small business rates multiplier).
  • Scotland: The amount you have to pay is your property’s rateable value multiplied by the current poundage rate.
  • Northern Ireland: The amount you have to pay is your property’s net annual value (NAV) multiplied by the sum of the non-domestic regional rate poundage and the non-domestic district rate poundage.

If you know these figures, you can estimate what your rates bill will be.

When do I need to pay?

Rather like with council tax, you will receive your business rates bill just before the beginning of the tax year (typically sometime in February or March) and will pay it in 10 instalments throughout the year.
If you would prefer to pay it in 12 instalments, or wish to discuss any other aspect of your bill, you should contact your local council.

Relocations and start-ups

If your premises or the type of your business change, you will need to notify the relevant authority, as your business rates bill might also change.

  • In England and Wales, you will need to contact the VOA (Valuation Office Agency)
  • In Scotland, you will need to contact your local assessor
  • In Northern Ireland, you will need to contact LPS (Land & Property Services)

If you have started a new business, you will need to contact your local council. They will then send you a rates bill for the period that you have owned or rented your commercial premises.

Home businesses

If you work from home, you may need to pay rates on the part of your home that you work from; council tax will be payable on the rest. It is more likely that you’ll need to pay business rates if you’ve modified your home somehow, such as by turning a room into a workshop.

To see if you need to pay business rates, contact:


Relief and exemptions

Not all businesses need to pay the full rates amount at all times, and some are exempt from paying rates altogether.

Whether you qualify for a full exemption depends on where you live and what type of business you run; contact your local council to see if you might be exempt.

Relief schemes in England


Relief schemes in Scotland


Relief schemes in Wales


Relief schemes in Northern Ireland


Written by Ben Gosling for Commercial Trust Limited.



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