“Following the announcement of an interest rate cut of 0.5%, to promote public spending and reduce the cost of borrowing, the Chancellor has announced measures providing a much-needed ‘bridge for businesses’ during the coronavirus pandemic.
These include a pledge to shoulder the cost of statutory sick pay for businesses with less than 250 employees, the scaling-up of time to pay arrangements and most significantly, a promise to suspend business rates completely this year for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in properties with a rateable value up to £51,000.
Commenting on temporary measures to support businesses affected by the coronavirus, Richard Godmon, tax partner at Menzies LLP, said: “Just a few months ago, we were promised a Budget that would put an end to austerity and kickstart public spending. The onset of coronavirus threatened these plans – requiring temporary fiscal support for businesses – but on the face of things, the Government has achieved both.
“Suspending business rates for the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses this year will mean that businesses with properties with a rateable value of less than £51,000 per annum will see their business rates bill drop by a third.
“Scaling-up time to pay arrangements will also create greater leg room for businesses concerned about cash flow pressure due to the impact of workers’ inability to attend work and supply shortages.”
The Government will review the EMI scheme to ensure it provides support for high-growth companies to recruit and retain the best talent so they can scale up effectively, and examine whether more companies should be able to access the scheme.
Richard Godmon said: “This is the most attractive share incentive scheme for rewarding key employees and it is good that the Government is considering reviewing its scope.
“In particular it would be beneficial to make it applicable to companies with more employees and to remove some of the complexity.”
The Chancellor has scaled back Entrepreneurs’ Relief, which costs the Treasury £2.6bn each year and has failed to boost entrepreneurship as intended.
Rather than abolishing the relief altogether, Government has opted to scale back the lifetime allowance from £10 million to £1 million.
Richard Godmon commented: “As hoped and expected, ER has been restricted rather than abolished. This is welcome news for entrepreneurs across the country who have risked their personal capital to establish businesses, employ people, and to stand on their own feet.
“That said, the restriction of the lifetime limit from £10m to £1m is a substantial reduction and will impact serial investors who use the sale proceeds to establish new businesses.”
The Chancellor announced a 2% Stamp Duty surcharge on non-resident buyers of UK property. Other property-related measures included a pledge to cut costs for social housing and an extension of the affordable homes programme.
Commenting on the Stamp Duty surcharge, Richard Godmon said: “It is of little surprise that Sunak has delivered on the manifesto promise to increase SDLT for non-UK resident buyers of UK residential property.
“While it will be disappointing for overseas buyers, it is an expected change and non-residents are unlikely to be deterred but will need to factor it into their decision-making.”
The Chancellor has confirmed that the Annual Investment Allowance, currently set at £1 million, will revert to £200,000 from 1 January 2021.
Richard Godmon reflected: “It’s disappointing that this wasn’t expended to 2025 or until the end of the Parliament, but this could come later this year. Businesses need greater certainty with regards to the cost of investing in plant and machinery so they can plan ahead.”
After toying with the idea of pushing it up for the first time in 10 years, the Chancellor has announced a continuation of the fuel duty freeze until at least April 2021, along with incentives for cleaner motoring.
The Chancellor also announced a £500 million package to support rapid charging hubs for electric vehicles and plans to extend the ‘plug-in grants’ to a wider range of vehicles.
Richard Godmon said: “With plans to abolish internal combustion engine vehicles by 2035 looming, this additional funding for infrastructure, combined with further incentives to encourage a switch to electric vehicles were vitally needed to supported the Government in achieving its net-zero emissions target by 2050.””
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