News Roundup: Business and Employment

A roundup of all the latest headlines in UK business and employment.

Companies House Aims to Become 100% Digital

Companies House has pledged to become a 100% digital organisation, offering open data that links with other government data on companies foldersand allowing information to be accessed from anywhere.

The executive agency is part of the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) and is responsible for storing and supplying information on businesses and limited companies under the Companies Act. It is also responsible for incorporating, regulating and dissolving companies.

After recently making executive information on businesses available in digital form, Companies House is now hoping to achieve a 95% digital channel take-up within five years, with joint filing services with HMRC for greater consistency and transparency.

It also says it will deliver improved register integrity and greater efficiencies with the prospect of simplified registration fees.

By April 2015, Companies House says it will have replaced its current digital filing and search services with a single, more reliable and improved service. Also in October this year it is set to launch the first phase of its joint filing accounts service with HMRC.

Other long-term plans for the organisation include eventually simplifying the business registration scheme and to allow all digital registration transactions by 2016.

Irvine Firm Claims Failure to Pay VAT Bill was Due to Recession

An Irvine-based family firm has won a VAT appeal in which it argued that the 2008 recession was the cause of its failure to pay a VAT bill.

Budgeting LoanScrimsign Micro Electronics Ltd was facing default charges worth thousands of pounds due to its late payments of VAT bills in 2012. The company had contacted the HMRC around the time to explain it would not be able to make its payments on time; however, tax officials refused to accept the company’s excuses.

It was only in a recent court hearing in which First-Tier Tribunal judge Gordon Reid ruled that Scrimsign had been hit by financial circumstances out of its control, that the company was given the green light.

[quote]Cash flow was tight, the working week was reduced, he [Keith Scrimshire, managing director] gave up his company car,”[/quote]

Judge Reid said.

[quote]The business was operating from day-to-day and there was no way of predicting whether his customers would pay timeously.

I accept that Scrimsign was placed in difficult circumstances which arose because of a combination of factors flowing from the general effects of the recession. “[/quote]

Scrimsign’s surcharges for late payment were subsequently quashed as the judge allowed the appeal.

North Sea Corporation Tax Revenues Drop by Almost a Fifth

New figures showing tax receipts from North Sea oil and gas show that corporation tax revenues for the region have fallen by 18% – nearly a fifth.

HM Revenue and Customs who supplied the figures said that tax revenue were once £4.4 billion in 2012-13 but have stax-creditsince fallen to £3.6 billion in 2013-14. Experts are concerned for what this may mean for an independent Scotland, with Treasury chief secretary Danny Alexander saying it could have “serious consequences” for the public finances.

[quote]These figures are another body blow to [first minister] Alex Salmond’s credibility on the economy and public services,”[/quote]

Mr. Alexander said.

[quote]They follow on from Sir Ian Wood’s devastating criticism that the Scottish government has wildly overstated oil reserves, and show a significant downward trend in oil-related tax revenues  – a vital part of our public finances.”[/quote]

Figures published in June showed that overall tax revenues from North Sea oil and gas dropped to £4.7 billion in 2013-14 from their previous amount of “6.1 billion in 2012-13. Many claim that this latest announcement is simply further evidence that Scotland will be financially better off by choosing to stay within the United Kingdom.

Self-Employment Numbers Boosted by those Working Beyond Retirement Age

The number of people working self-employed in the UK is said to have been boosted by older workers choosing to work beyond retirement age, according to a recent report.

Thanks to a large portion of older people choosing to work independently after their retirement, the country’s self-employment rate is at the highest it has been in 40 years. It is believed that this is not just a result of a recovering economy but also what will help it to continue to grow and recover over time.

Self-employed helplineAccording to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people over 65 working for themselves has doubled in the last five years. Meanwhile, in Wales, self employment has risen from 13.2% since the economic crisis in 2008 to 14.1% in 2013.

But whilst self employment comes with the perks of being your own boss, it also comes with longer hours, a more vast array of duties and often lower pay.

[quote]Since the economic downturn in 2008, we’ve seen more and more people that are self-employed,”[/quote]

says Jamie Jenkins, a labour market analyst for the ONS.

[quote]But the rate that people are joining self-employment hasn’t really changed – its actually the rate of people leaving self-employment that has gone down quite dramatically.

Fewer people are leaving because its difficult to get a job with another company. But the number of people working beyond 65 has also more than doubled in the last five years, so people are staying on to work beyond retirement age.”[/quote]

An Independent Scotland Could Cause Pension Disaster for Businesses

Large businesses and corporations across the UK could be facing a widespread pensions disaster costing billions of pounds, should Scotland vote to become independent of the UK in next week’s vote.

Due to EU rules that prevent pension funds with members in two different counties from running a deficit, many large-scale employers could be in trouble if their pension scheme includes people from both pension-crisisEngland and Scotland, it was reported.

These companies would need to find a way to plug any holes in their pension system, potentially costing them billions of pounds and even causing disruptions to pension accounts.

Analysts at JP Morgan said:

[quote]If a pension scheme is converted into a cross-border scheme, then any actuarial deficit will have to be removed immediately, in effect accelerating (overriding) any deficit-reduction plan that previous been agreed.”[/quote]

However, as the EU allows two years for pension funds to comply with its requirements, some business executives are showing little concern for the issue.

A spokeswoman from BT Group PLC, on which the EU rules are expected to have the largest impact, said:

[quote]In the case of a Yes vote, its likely to be years before this became relevant. Scotland wouldn’t exit the UK and potentially take up its own EU membership for some time.”[/quote]