COVID-19 Strike Back.

Now that the dust has settled and we should have digested the support there and how we access this; though some finer details are still yet to be clarified, let’s hit back with all of this rather than feel sorry for ourselves and our business.  If you don’t, you more than likely won’t have a business to return to.

To start with we are ecstatic that we can now share our co-branded document that has been produced alongside one of our software providers that has a walk-through of how best you can do this.  This can be found here.

Following on from this, I am going to run two further 30 minute LIVE work-out webinars without the spandex next week:

  • Understanding and improving your cash flow in such troubled times (register here) – No longer available
  • Pivoting your business to bounce back (register here) – No longer available

Please note that neither of these sessions will be recorded.

Following on from this I am opening up the diary for the team for the week commencing 20 April 2020 for you to have a 30 minute one-to-one free session to discuss anything we cover next week in more detail.

To summarise our four step approach from next week to strike back:

  1. Register for our deep-dive into improving your cash flow
  2. Register for pivot your business session
  3. Schedule a 30 minute on to one session in the diary

Please note that if steps 1 to 2 have not been followed we will not have the meetings as time is of the essence and we need to be best prepared to make the most from the 30 minutes that we have.

Just to stress, now is not the time to stand still, it is the time to strike back!

A friend or contact in need

Never has it been more important to stick together in such times and no more than ever we are here for you to support you however we can.

Can we kindly ask that you listen out across social media, in your circle of friends and contacts, for anybody who too would benefit from the same support that you too are receiving.

Even if they just registered for our newsletter; which they can do by just clicking onto our website here, or if they were to take advantage of our newly introduced and dedicated COVID-19 and Cash Flow SOS page (click here), you would be helping them out.

Together, we can get through this.

Further guidance

Following our previous e-mail people have been asking for further guidance around:
  • Help for the self-employed (to book on click here) – No longer available
  • Furloughing of staff (to book on click here) – No longer available

As a result of this we will be doing two separate 30 minute live webinars next week covering the above two areas and will add access to finance to each of them also.

To book on, click either of the respective links above.

Finally – Client Exchange (APRIL ONLY)

Don’t worry we are not exchanging any clients.

During such unprecedented times we are going to support one another and we won’t always be able to do this for free.

We can however help one another out in exchange for goods/services to the value.

In light of this; and only for the remainder of this month as a trial, if you need some assistance but are struggling financially, can you email what you need to and we will try to see if we can match you up with another customer.

Please note this is not a free advertising tool but instead to help those clients in need so that we can be specific.

If you are looking to advertise, let me know and I will do a separate client-led newsletter with content provided by you so you can advertise your services but by way of a newsletter rather than direct e-mail as I don’t think any of us would appreciate being sold to in the current climate unless we were looking to buy.

Import update on HMRC direct debits

We thought we should send an update out, given how quiet things have been over the past few days.

In short, the detail behind the Government announcements is where there is change hence there has been very few updates and thus our newsletters may become more sporadic again over the coming weeks.  Don’t worry though, if anything new comes to light for us to urgently share we will continue to do so.

One important update though; can you please cancel any direct debits to HMRC in respect of your VAT or self-assessment if you plan to take advantage of the ‘deferring payment’ otherwise money will still be taken automatically. 

As we continue to focus more on the detail and roll out of everything introduced by the Government, we are asking everybody take advantage of any extra time they have on their hands to ask themselves the following:

  • If you could start your business from scratch today; knowing what you have learnt and with the resources that you have accumulated, how would you structure it differently?  What will you do differently going forward?
  • Given the troubled times we are now facing; if you had known in advance that they were coming, what would you have done differently to prepare?

Now that we can start to focus on what changes need to be made, finance accessed etc. we can focus on how we bounce back positively on the other side of this so you will notice a change in direction in terms of being more upbeat again as we take on you the next step of making the best of a horrible situation.

A friend or contact in need

Never has it been more important to stick together in such times and no more than ever we are here for you to support you however we can.

Can we kindly ask that you listen out across social media, in your circle of friends and contacts, for anybody who too would benefit from the same support that you too are receiving.

Even if they just registered for our newsletter; which they can do by just clicking onto our website here, or if they were to take advantage of our newly introduced and dedicated COVID-19 (click here) and Cash Flow SOS page (click here), you would be helping them out.

Together, we can get through this.

Further help on it’s way

Whilst we have provided you all with a deluge of updates and information we acknowledge that we can do more.

Naturally we are stretched significantly as it is so would like to get this help out to as many of you at the same time as possible but appreciate that a newsletter may not always be the best method.

In light of this, we propose to run a series of live webinars; that will be not be more than say 30 minutes in length; allowing for a 15-20 minute update from us and 10 minutes for questions.

The most popular areas that we are being asked about and that we would look to run a live webinar on include:

  • assistance for those that are self-employed
  • furloughing staff
  • access to finance including government grants
If any of these are of interest, please e-mail us at and we will set up a group live webinar subject to demand.

COVID-19 Summary (28 March 2020)

Wow, it has been quite a week and I appreciate that we have been sending quite a few newsletters with updates so we thought we would summarise where things are here.  In addition, we have provided more detail below this regarding furloughed employees and finally provided an update regarding accessing the government grants.
The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme
  • deferring VAT and Income Tax payments
  • a Self-employment Income Support Scheme
  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for small and medium sized businesses (SMEs)
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses in England
  • small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

More detailed guidance around each of the areas above can be found here

Furloughing Employees Update from HMRC

What is it?

It is a grant for employers to help fund employee wages, where certain conditions are met, that has temporarily been put in place for 3 months initially, but this may be extended.

Note that this is a grant and not a loan, so it will not be repayable.

Which Businesses can claim?

  • It is open to all UK employers who have created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on 28th February 2020
  • Any UK organisation can claim it is not based on profits but business must have a UK bank account
  • Special rules apply to those public sector employers, who are funded primarily from public grant funding, mainly as they are expected to still be delivering a public service.  Please do seek further guidance around this area though if you think it might impact you.

Which employees are eligible?

  • To claim for an employee that you decide to furlough, they must have been on your payroll as at 28 February 2020 and this is includes various types of contract such as full time, part time etc.
  • We understand the furloughing of employees can be done on an individual basis, however, you need to be aware of employment law, particularly around discrimination.
  • The scheme also covers employees who were made redundant after 28 February 2020, as long as they are rehired by their employer.
  • Employees on unpaid leave cannot be furloughed, unless they were placed on unpaid leave after 28 February.
  • Employees on sick leave or self-isolating should get Statutory Sick Pay, but can be furloughed after this, whilst employees who are shielding in line with public health guidance can be placed on furlough.
  • If the employee is on maternity leave and receiving maternity pay, SMP or maternity allowance, this will continue.  However, if you top the statutory payment up this can be claimed back through the furlough scheme as long as both parties agree; this also applies to other statutory payments such as Statutory Adoption Pay

Employee salaries and entitlements

  • During the furlough period the employee’s wages will still be subject to the normal income tax and national insurance deductions etc
  • If your employee reduces their hours, then they are still deemed to be  working for you, so the scheme will not apply.
  • If your employee has more than one employer they can be furloughed for each job. Each job is separate and the cap applies to each employer individually based on current guidance.
  • A furloughed employee can take part in volunteer work or training, as long as it does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation.
  • Employees that have been furloughed have the same employment rights as they did previously.
  • The government has also announced changes to carrying over annual leave, allowing workers up to 2 years to take unused holiday, for more info click here.

Making a claim

  • Employees will have had to have been furloughed before any claim can be made.
  • The reclaim amount which will be repaid into employers’ bank accounts by BACS, that is likely to be in arrears, can be up to 80% of an employee’s regular wage plus on-costs up to a maximum amount of £2,500.  Therefore a maximum amount that can be claimed is £2,500 salary plus on-costs for employer’s National Insurance and the required minimum pension contributions.  Employers will need to pay 80% of normal, regular salary without bonuses, commission etc. included or £2,500 whichever is lower. We are awaiting further guidance from HMRC on the calculation of the NI and pension contributions on the subsidised wages paid, so expect further updates on this one.
  • There are a couple of calculation methods for those on variable pay, either the same month’s earnings in the previous year, or average monthly earnings for the year (pro rata for less than a year)
  • As a worker will have been furloughed National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage will not be relevant unless training is being undertaken whilst furloughed
  • Once the scheme has been closed by the government, HMRC will continue to process remaining claims before terminating the scheme
  • Payments received by a business under the scheme are made to offset these deductible revenue costs and thus will be taxed as income.
  • Businesses can deduct employment costs as normal when calculating taxable profits for Income Tax and Corporation Tax purposes.
  • There are a number of data items that HMRC will require when making a claim via their portal.  It isn’t yet clear what the portal might look like, or the format required for the data.

If you would like to share guidance with your employees to help them understand this legislation, please ask them to visit:

Some further queries you might have

Do employers have to backdate the 80% March payment values in April payroll/tax year 2020/21 or does it all have to be completed on the March payroll tax year 2019/20?

Currently, our understanding is that furloughing applies from the date that you notify your employees that they are being furloughed, not the date that you make the payments. Our suggestion would be to notify your employees now that you intend to furlough, with the amount that you intend to pay. Naturally guidance around this might change and we always recommend you take professional HR advice around this.

If a worker is furloughed, can they be brought back into work early if say work commitments change? 

Yes, we believe you can bring back your employees early but again take HR advice around how this is worded to enable the option to be considered at some point during the period of being furloughed.

For owner/Directors who are on the payroll, will they be treated as employees or self-employed?

Legally, directors of a limited company are employees and should be treated as such.  Like employees, any claim will be based in the same way BUT WILL NOT take account of any dividends.

If it is a single director company, are they eligible for this scheme?

Based on the latest ICAEW interpretation of the HMRC guidance; as HMRC are silent on this matter, they too are eligible and can make a claim provided they meet the same eligibility criteria that other employees need to meet.

Will you guys help us out as a business when this scheme is launched fully?

Of course we will and just watch out for further guidance coming but we will coordinate this all as part of the payroll process.

For those clients that handle payroll themselves internally, we will also help you through the same process if you wish so you’re not alone.

Any further questions that you might have which are are not covered above; and any action taken regardless, we always suggest is taken with the sign off of a qualified HR person with the above to act as a guide as to what can be interpreted from what HMRC has issued.  Use this accordingly to plan ahead, we will keep things right with regards to the declaration and reclaiming of amounts from HMRC then; you alongside an HR expert, can ensure the paperwork and implementation side of things can be handled correctly.

Don’t forget, as clients of ours, you have access to unindemnified advice from the HR team at Avensure or you can contact ACAS whose details are here.

As local authorities start to develop varying strategies around issuing the grant funding being provided by the Government, we suggest all businesses who feel that they meet the eligibility requirements contact their local councils through their websites to lodge a claim.

Grant Update

The links for Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Northumberland Council Councils can be found below:

Newcastle City Council click here
North Tyneside Council click here
South Tyneside Council click here
Northumberland County Council click here

The process seems quite straightforward and we have already lodged our claim but any queries around this please direct these towards your local authority.

COVID-19 Update (27 March 2020)

We are going to focus on the announcement for the self-employed yesterday but first want to clarify; before we are inundated with queries; this does not apply those clients who have a limited company.  These measures are aimed at those who act as a sole trader or as a partnership.  There are no known further announcements planned with limited companies but naturally things are moving quite fast so that could change.

So let’s summarise the key points:

  • The scheme will allow you claim a taxable grant worth 80% of trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 per month for the next 3 months; though this may be extended.
  • There are certain conditions; that must be met if you are to apply, which can be found here.
  • To work out the average, HMRC will take 80% of the average profits across the 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 tax years.
  • The grant awarded will be paid directly into your bank account in one instalment.
  • You cannot yet apply for this scheme and instead HMRC will contact you by the beginning of June to apply online so do not yet contact HMRC.

As with all other recent announcements there will be a lot more detail to follow over the next week or so, so watch out for further updates from ourselves.

MAJOR Government Backed Loans Update

As we highlighted the varying approaches being adopted by the banks yesterday; we weren’t overly happy with this inconsistency of the ethics by which some banks might send you down a lending route where they would earn money from factors outside of your control rather than giving you the interest-free option also.

Thankfully we already have invested in a software company that has a lending platform that both encompasses the Government-backed interest-free loan options whilst also includes the normal commercial market and just today agreed our approach to this with them.

We have discussed with a number of you already the option of going down this route and mentioned it in previous newsletters but you must consider; at least, but not only, the following:

  • Can you afford to service the debt beyond the interest-free 12 month term; subject to getting access to the Government-backed loan?
  • What are the costs of taking on the debt beyond the initial interest-free term as over a longer period, a commercial loan might actually work out cheaper?
  • What information have you got behind this application to give lenders the peace of mind that this investment in you and your business is a worthwhile one?
  • What have you already done to mitigate the damage done/likely to be done as a result of the current challenges that we face?

Don’t forget, this option is not just open to limited companies but is also open to sole traders, partnerships and many more.

We can, and are, helping clients with such applications so please contact us if this is of interest to you.

We have also seen clients already go down this path completely independently and that too is fine but please factor in the considerations in the bullet points above.  There are also several other factors as the scary fact is that more often than not we spend less time searching for finance than we do booking a holiday and often rely on Google’s listing which can be led by those that pay the most to advertise.

For those that do this independently, can we just kindly repeat our ask from yesterday that if you are being asked for information that you already have/have had access to can you please ensure that you have this ready rather than ask us to supply this again.

COVID-19 Update (26 March 2020)

Can we first of all say a massive thanks for all of the positive comments that have been shared with the firm and the team regarding the support we have provided so far and the support we have discussed that is still to come.  We will continue to work effortlessly to support you in these troubled times.

Two things first which we are commonly being asked and for which we can just give up an update (kind of):

  • We are still awaiting further guidance regarding the 80% funding towards furloughed staff and are hoping we get this imminently and as soon as we do we will share this rather than just share the various interpretations that are currently circulating over the internet.
  • There is expected to be a big announcement today for which we will share tomorrow once we have interpreted this with regards to the self employed but we know no more than you do at the current time.

Now what we can update you on today is the banks apparent stance when it comes to the Government-backed lending and that is what we wanted to share.

The key messages are:

  • Certain backs will force you to first apply for normal commercial funding and only if this is unsuccessful will they signpost you down the Government-backed route.
  • We do know of at least one bank; which is Barclays, who as of yesterday were first sending people down the Government-backed route.
  • From having spoken with a number of senior guys within the banks; we’re told banks are currently being allowed to decide their own approach with regards to the approach they take.
  • If you are going to try and suddenly jump ship in terms of banks to try and increase your chances of accessing the Government-backed loans then good luck as this transition process appears to be more lengthy than ever and in the meantime banks will naturally and understandably prioritise their own customers ahead of others.
  • Following the global issues that COVID-19 it is causing the banks;who are already massively under-resourced as we would expect, to be even more stretched, and the fact that call centres in India have been closed down due to the service not being deemed ‘essential’ across there will only slow down the application process further.

Our recommendation to clients is contact your bank the best you can and try to establish what information is needed.  Also, try to understand which approach they will be adopting.  Then fill in this short questionnaire that can be found here and liaise with us so that we can best support you should your first option not come through.

Alongside the rush to get this Government-backed funding from the banks and the soon to be announced measures to support the self-employed, we are soon expecting a deluge of requests for information from clients.

As mentioned above, and ask acknowledged by clients already, we face the same battles as a lot of clients and continue to go over and beyond existing letters of engagement for no additional charge.

However, can we kindly ask that if you are being asked for information that you already have/have had access to can you please ensure that you have this ready rather than ask us to supply this again.

We haven’t yet; but if we are regularly asked for information already supplied and repeating work, then this will only stretch us further and side tracks our efforts where they would be better spent that could subsequently be to the detriment of the long-term future of other clients including yourself. 

If this is ever the case we would have to consider revisiting how we are supporting clients including potentially charging for work that we repeating as we will not stand by and allow this to happen.

Let’s continue to work together in the best interests of one another.

We thank you for you your patience, support and kind words to date and we look forward to this time passing.

Stay safe and stay healthy!

COVID-19 Update (19 March 2020)

As of today we thought we would provide you with the latest Government update but please note there is a scheduled further update planned for tomorrow and we continue to await further detail behind some of those proposals outlined below:

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

This includes a package of measures to support businesses including:

  • a Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs
  • a 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England
    small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief
  • grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000
  • the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank
  • a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans
  • the HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

I’m a sole trader or have employees that are struggling so what options are available to me?

HMRC have a dedicated page in respect of this there now where you may be entitled to the Universal credit. For more information click here.

Client’s who have already benefited from above

We have already had a client call the HMRC helpline number and be offered the opportunity to postpone the payment of their VAT liability for three months; even though they acknowledged that they could pay this but wanted to be cautious. They were also advised that over and beyond this postponement they could thereafter agree a 12 to 24 month interest-free payment plan; depending on the size of the liability.

A client of a client has been able to access £60k extremely quickly from their bank without any fees or charges and been given an initial 6 month interest-free window. This same loan was even 80% backed by the Government. Naturally some banks are moving faster than others but this is consistent with the assistance we are told should be forthcoming from mainstream banks.

Please be warned that this advice is changing daily but take above as an indication of wheels slowly getting in motion.

COVID-19 virus

There is a lot of panic and scaremongering in the press at the moment and the first thing that we are asking clients to do is to remain calm but naturally some steps do need to be taken and that does not include panicking which is going to do no good whatsoever and we are here to guide you through these uncertain times.

First of all, all any planned price increases that had previously been communicated to you; due to come in from 1 April 2020, have been postponed indefinitely, as we look to support clients through these troubled times.

In this newsletter we are going to cover:

  • the quickest and easiest way to not have HMRC liabilities adding to any current cash flow concerns
  • how information is more critical than ever
  • some new software you will get access to for no charge to help you make better decisions sooner
  • quick access to finance both through the banks and other parties at favourable rates
  • the latest government announcements

For clients we are recommending the following actions be considered; as appropriate, and in this order:

  1. If you have outstanding liabilities with HMRC, contact the HMRC hotline that has specifically been set up to assist in light of the COVID-19 virus. As a matter of principle we are urging clients with any concern to even just set up some form of arrangement in principle; even if they believe they should be able to make payment, as it will just ease the stress and hopefully the payment arrangement will not even be needed.

The main caveat to the above is that naturally this helpline has just been opened and we are yet to see the results from this so you’ll have to bear with it.

  1. Information is critical at this point in time and this alone will help you and us; alongside one another, to make the best possible decision as soon as possible. For those clients already on Xero we are plugging in two extra bits of software that we were initially going to just launch in April but are doing this early that you have the following key benefits:
    • This will enable us and you to best predict your cash flow in the future based on historical trends that in turn helps pin point financial concerns within your business together with the financial impact of certain decisions being made along before they have to actually be made.
    • You will also gain a better understanding of the cash flow position of your customers and have access to unlimited credit searches that will better allow you to anticipate issues before they become issues and this can even be automated to the point at which you receive an e-mail when any of customer credit ratings change.

We will as a firm starting issuing these licenses as soon as we can over the course of the next couple of days but the main caveat with either of the two above bits of software is the data that comes out is only as good as the data that goes in so work with us to ensure that this is as accurate as possible.

I appreciate that not all clients are on Xero and this will be a concern to you. The above process can be replicated manually and; though not quite as accurate or as timely, is still a valuable exercise that needs to be completed.

  1. Access to finance naturally has to be a consideration and once the above two options have been exhausted we will explore this option ALONGSIDE YOU; so please do not go and do anything without our involvement first and foremost. We have excellent relationships with the banks and Natwest and RBS have already publicised ‘mortgage holidays’ for customers along with offering quicker and cheaper access to finance (see here).
  2. Government announcements; yes there were some last week but they were vague to say the least and lacked detail behind them so are still awaiting information around these and do expect more information over the coming days and weeks but the latest guidance can be found here.

The main thing we want to reiterate though is to remain calm and explore each of the above steps.

Now we have already had a number of phone calls and e-mails to us over the course of the weekend and today and expect many more and ask that you do please get in touch if you have any concerns as we would do any other time.

In addition to ensuring that we continue to support you either here in the office or remotely we are also running daily group webinars from 12pm until 1pm up until and including Friday 27 March starting from Wednesday of this week whereby we ask that you attend one of these live chats so that Graeme can run through some of the features of the software above and he can field any questions that you have which I’m sure many others might have also.

It is just that; us a firm, we feel that this is first and foremost the quickest way to put your minds at ease as naturally we don’t have the resource to have one to one meetings with everybody. We will however, follow up these sessions with one to one calls with any clients that wish to discuss things in more detail following the webinars as appreciate some matters may not want to be shared in a group environment.

The links for these live webinars can be found below:

Wednesday 18 March [No longer available]

Thursday 19 March [No longer available]

Friday 20 March [No longer available]

Monday 23 March [No longer available]

Tuesday 24 March [No longer available]

Wednesday 25 March [No longer available]

Thursday 26 March [No longer available]

Friday 27 March [No longer available]

Some further additional/immediate points to note

  1. Post – please only post things to us that can not be transmitted via other means. As most of you already know, we are almost completely paperless so let’s work towards making our means of communicating with you and vica versa much slicker. Similarly; unless we have no option otherwise or you insist upon it, we will no longer be using the postal service in the interim to ensure that there is no break in service.
  2. Meetings – all meetings will go ahead until further notice as we all need to proceed as normal. Should circumstances drastically change we will still hold meetings but do these remotely via the internet so again there is no break in service.
  3. Cloud software – if you are not already on cloud software then this is the time to venture down this path and a lot of the software companies offer 30 day free trials for which we can organise for you.
  4. Social media – please monitor our feeds with regards to additional information being shared as we use all channels possible to keep clients informed but don’t worry we will still be e-mailing but social media and newsletters will often be the quickest; particularly when sharing regular and more generic updates from third parties.

Also, note that updates are naturally coming all of the time so keep an eye for these.

Together we stand the best chance of getting through this but by being calm, collective and maintaining control is critical with all information consolidated and centralised in one place so that we are best positioned to tackle this together head on.

Let’s not forget the budget.

For an excellent summary of the budget announcements there last week please click here and these can be downloaded and shared.

Mark Anderson

"We have developed a great working relationship with Graeme and the team over the year and their priority is always to go beyond simple accountancy practices"

Mark Anderson – Managing Director of Cobalt Scaffolding Limited

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