This week Chancellor Philip Hammond set out changes to the government's taxation income and expenditure in his Budget, many of which will have an impact on the way the UK's small businesses operate in the future.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Autumn Budget this year is that it is in the Autumn, rather than the Spring. The idea is that the various changes can be announced, legislated and understood before 5 April, when most of them come into effect.
The odd thing this time however, is that there isn't really a lot to legislate or understand, at least for most business owners - Philip Hammond seems to have been very keen not to rock the boat at all. When the Chancellor starts talking about a few million here and there for specific projects, you have to suspect he's padding things out to make it up to an hour.
There are a few slightly interesting things in the Budget, but for the most part it's a question of tinkering with existing rules, to soften the impact of over-harsh rules in a few chases, or to block the odd loophole in others.
The big announcements are about housing, with reduced SDLT for first time buyers, more funds for building, and planning changes. For small to medium sized businesses outside the construction industry the headlines are probably:
- Business rates are being eased a little, especially if you run a small pub.
- Indexation allowance for companies is being frozen as at 31 December 2017, so corporate capital gains tax will start creeping up slightly.
- Cross-border sales are being tightened up to reduce avoidance and evasion. This might help level the playing field a little for those who find on-line sales undercutting them by an amount suspiciously similar to VAT.
- HMRC are getting funding to improve their enforcement ability. This includes beefing up the teams looking at mid-sized businesses and wealthy individuals, so there may be more enquiries on their way.
- The changes to public sector consulting (IR35) have apparently been so successful (in only 6 month) that HMRC will be looking at the private sector too. This probably means a lot more people coming into PAYE.
- The construction industry is to be looked at, with a view to shifting the liability for VAT to make sure more of it gets paid.
- The Enterprise Investment Scheme is to be made more available, but with tighter rules.
Non of those headlines really merits anyone stopping the presses, to be honest. Most of it is about improving compliance, so more tax is paid but mostly by people who ought to have been paying it already - although it has to be said that the normal consequence of tightening rules like this is that everyone has that little bit more red tape to think about.
Overall it looks like businesses as usual for most people. Which is quite a nice change.
If you'd like to speak with one of our tax advisers about the Budget please get in touch on 029 2054 6600.