HIGH PEAK BUSINESS CLUB - Report on December Meeting

by Edwina Currie

You wouldn’t think a breakfast talk to the High Peak Business Club by Manchester tax expert Ian Bingham FCA of BDO could be riveting, but it was. Ian was on a family holiday when the Chancellor made his recent Autumn Statement – “I must have been the only person in Vietnam watching,” he joked. But the devil’s in the detail, not in the headlines.

In the last 12 months we’ve effectively had four Budgets. This time, with a £27bn windfall from lower interest costs and healthy revenues, George Osborne was generous over political hotspots like tax credits and police numbers. But he’s pushing hard for more to fill the coffers. Take the new “Apprenticeship Levy” on big companies, worth £11bn to the Treasury. “It’s not called a tax, but of course it is,” said Ian; “Do you get it back if you have apprentices? No.”

Buy-to-Let and second homes will face higher Stamp Duty after that date, another £3bn; landlords relying on rental incomes will find their tax bills soar (furnished holiday lettings are treated a bit better). Make no mistake, there are many such in the High Peak, often retired people not much better off than their tenants. You wouldn’t be the first to wonder what kind of capitalist government it is which lays into people with capital.

The Chancellor’s hot on tax avoidance, closing loopholes with gusto. There’ll be a new criminal offence for failure to prevent dodgy practice – until recently HMRC would settle a tax bill rather than go to court, but the public want more miscreants to go to jail. Not everyone is happy. It’s a long tradition that business owners pay themselves through dividends rather than income, thus avoiding National Insurance payments. In future there won’t be much point – but who’s going to feel sorry for a company boss who does PAYE for his staff and not for himself? Osborne’s got you by the goolies, and he knows it.

Ian was gently scathing about the many new rules which emanate from the ivory tower of Whitehall, dreamed up by individuals who have never run a business in their lives, ignorant of all the risks and sweat that entails. More red tape, mostly, not less. Some changes look good on paper but nowhere else. For example, next year it’s planned that most assessments will be done quarterly online, but “the Government record on big IT projects is poor,” said Ian (I’d say abysmal) so whether it will work or drive us all crackers is anybody’s guess.

Still, the Club’s own IT was functioning smoothly, thanks to Ben of Trusted IT in Whaley Bridge. Next meeting is Thursday January 21st 2016, 7.30am at Chapel Golf Club, on the Manchester Airports Group. We wish you all a Happy Christmas, and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.