Welcome to our round up of the latest business news for clients. Please contact us if you want to talk about how these updates affect your business. We are here to support you!
Smarter working: a remote working strategy for Wales
The way we work has changed since the pandemic and the Welsh Government is keen to do all it can to help lock in the positive benefits experienced by many and encourage more businesses to adopt this new approach to working.
In a strategy published on 25 March 2022, the Welsh Government sets out its plans to work with businesses, trade unions and key stakeholders to help more employers to adopt a more agile and flexible approach within their workplace, so that employees can make a choice on the way they work, whether that’s locally from a shared work space, from home, or a mixture of both.
Plans to develop an online platform that helps people find workspaces local to them is being explored, alongside best practice guidance that can be shared with businesses to help them make the move.
To help employers better understand their workforce and track trends for future development, data will be collected.
Consultation on the splitting of non-domestic properties in Wales for valuation purposes
For over 50 years, ratepayers who occupied more than one unit of property in a building shared with other businesses and organisations were assessed for non-domestic rates (NDR) based on the following premise:
- Where their units of property were contiguous (touching), they received one rates bill.
- Where their units of property were separated by another business or an area in shared use, they received a rates bill for each unit of property.
For example, this meant:
- Where a business occupied two adjoining floors of a building or two rooms separated by a wall only, they received one rates bill.
- Where the business occupied two floors separated by another floor used by another business, or they occupied two rooms on either side of a common corridor, they received two rates bills.
In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled, in the case of Woolway (VO) v Mazars  UKSC 53 (“the Mazars decision”) that the test should concern the geographical nature of the property and, as a result, the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) has changed its practice.
Since the Supreme Court ruling, separate units of property in a shared building are treated as separate rating units and a rates bill is issued for each unit, irrespective of whether they are in the same occupation and are contiguous. As a result, some ratepayers who were previously receiving only one rates bill now receive two or more. In some cases, they have had to pay more in non-domestic rates as a result of this change, while in other cases bills have fallen.
A new consultation seeks views on the Welsh Government’s proposal to reinstate the relevant elements of the VOA’s practice prior to the ruling. You have until 1 June to comment.
Denbighshire Urdd Eisteddfod 2022
This year’s Urdd Eisteddfod takes place in Denbighshire from 30 May to 4 June 2022.
There are nearly 500 competitions to choose from for children and young people up to the age of 25 at the Urdd Eisteddfod. These range from singing and dancing to cooking, art, fashion and beauty, as well as competitions for Welsh Learners.
The Urdd Eisteddfod attracts around 90,000 visitors and hosts hundreds of stalls each year, providing fantastic opportunities for companies and organisations wishing to promote their brand, products, services and good reputation.
Would your company or organisation like to offer sponsorship, apply for one of the tenders or rent a stall at the Eisteddfod?
For further information visit Information for Businesses | Urdd Gobaith Cymru
National Forest for Wales
The National Forest for Wales is a unique venture to establish a nationwide network of publically accessible woodlands and forests.
- stretch the length and breadth of Wales, making it accessible to everyone
- be a real community venture with new woodland being planted by communities, farmers and landowners right across Wales
- create new areas of woodland as well as restoring and maintaining Wales’ unique and irreplaceable existing woodlands
- protect nature and address biodiversity loss, also supporting the health and wellbeing of communities
This is your opportunity to tell the Welsh Government where you would like more trees planted so they can work together with landowners to see how they can grow the National Forest for Wales.
For further information visit Where should we grow our National Forest for Wales | DataMapWales (gov.wales)
Two main Coronavirus protections to continue
From Monday 28 March 2022, face coverings were no longer required by law in retail settings and on public transport, though they continue to be recommended in public health advice.
The requirement to self-isolate also moved into guidance. A £500 self-isolation payment to support people will continue to be available until June.
Two key legal protections remain in place as coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, driven by the BA.2 sub-type of the omicron variant:
- Face coverings will remain a legal requirement in health and social care settings; and
- Coronavirus risk assessments must continue to be carried out by businesses, with reasonable measures put in place in light of those assessments.
The next 3-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 14 April 2022, when the remaining legal measures will be reviewed.
Changes to testing and care homes
A timetable for changes to Wales’ Test Trace Protect service was published last week as part of wider plans to gradually move beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.
A new Social Care Transition Plan was also published, which sets out new arrangements for care homes between April and June.
New tax year ahead
Employers running payroll need to report to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on the previous tax year (which ends on 5 April), give their employees a P60 and prepare for the new tax year, which starts on 6 April.
HMRC have published important information for employers on gov.uk, which includes:
- help finishing the tax year 2021 to 2022;
- help starting the new tax year 2022 to 2023, by using their form P9X (2022) to find out which tax codes to change from 6 April 2022;
- information on the rates, limits and changes for 2022 to 2023 (and this includes the increase in National Insurance rates for the 1.25% Health and Social Care Levy); and
- their Employer Bulletin from February 2022 – this edition contains information about sending in the final payroll submission for the tax year 2021 to 2022.
Making Tax Digital (MTD) is now mandatory for VAT-registered businesses
MTD became mandatory for all VAT registered businesses on the 1 April 2022.
The government states that MTD helps taxpayers get their tax returns right by reducing common mistakes as well as saving time managing their tax affairs and is a key part of the overall digitalisation of UK tax.
Evidence shows MTD is succeeding in its central aims of reducing errors, while also making it faster to prepare and submit returns and boosting productivity for businesses. New research, conducted by HMRC and peer reviewed by independent academics, shows MTD is likely to have generated increased revenue for the Treasury, through reducing errors in both 2019 and 2020.
Nearly 1.6 million taxpayers had joined MTD for VAT as of December 2021 with more than 11 million returns successfully submitted.
VAT-registered businesses that have not yet signed up to MTD for VAT should do so now. All VAT-registered businesses must use MTD for VAT for their first VAT return period that starts on or after 1 April 2022. For any business concerned about this, we can help to choose the software that is right for you, whether that is one of the simple free options available, or a more advanced product for those with more complex affairs.
Please contact us about MTD – we are here to help!
Changes to VAT rates from 1 April 2022
Many in the hospitality sector were hoping that the Chancellor would extend the 12.5% reduced rate that has applied since 1 October 2021 but, as scheduled, the rate has reverted to 20% from 1 April 2022.
The increase will apply to hospitality, visitor attractions and catering services including restaurants and takeaways.
This has a consequential effect on the VAT Flat Rate Scheme percentages from 1 April 2022 as set out below:
Type of Business
Before 15 July 2020
and from 1 April 2022
15 July 2020 to 30 September 2021
1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022
Catering services including restaurants and takeaways
Hotel or accommodation
Affected businesses should ensure that their pricing policies and internal systems and processes are updated for the 1 April 2022 change in VAT rate. Please talk to us if you need any assistance with your VAT affairs.
HMRC are closing CHIEF and moving to a new single customs platform
Over the past few years, HMRC have been working with businesses on the Customs Declaration Service, a replacement for the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, which is now nearly 30 years old.
Last year, HMRC announced the UK will move all customs declarations from CHIEF onto the Customs Declaration Service. They are now ready for declarants to start moving to the new system, and below are more details to help affected businesses (and their agents where relevant) prepare. The CHIEF system will close in two phases:
Phase one – after 30 September 2022: the ability to make import declarations will end.
Phase two – after 31 March 2023: the ability to make export declarations will end.
The Customs Declaration Service will serve as the UK’s single customs platform, with all businesses needing to declare all imported and exported goods through the Customs Declaration Service after 31 March 2023.
HMRC have sent a letter to 242,000 traders who need to start preparing for the change.
Preparing for the Customs Declaration Service: Preparing for the Customs Declaration Service – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Temporary insolvency measures are ending
The remaining temporary insolvency measures are being lifted and the insolvency regime is returning to its pre-pandemic operation.
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 introduced various temporary measures to help protect companies affected by the lockdown restrictions during the pandemic.
Most of these measures expired at the end of June and September 2021, except for restrictions on winding up companies, which were extended until 31 March 2022.
This remaining insolvency restriction will not be extended further, allowing the insolvency regime to return to its pre-pandemic operation.
Business leaders are being advised to seek professional insolvency advice to protect their business.
Live Events Reinsurance Scheme
The Live Events Reinsurance Scheme will support live events across the country (such as music festivals, conferences and business events) that are at risk of being halted or delayed due to an inability to obtain COVID-19 cancellation insurance. Cover will be available to purchase alongside standard commercial events insurance for an additional premium.
The full scheme rules, as published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS), can be found on the webpage below.
The Scheme will run to 30 September 2022. Cover will be available to purchase through participating insurers. A number of prominent insurers in the Lloyd’s market, including Arch, Beazley, Dale, Ark and Munich Re are supporting the scheme, and more are expected to follow. Event organisers can now start approaching these insurers to discuss their cover.
Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS) – new guide for bringing safe products to market
In recent months OPSS has been working with consumers and businesses to support the development of a Code of Practice that will help businesses understand their responsibilities to supply safe products to consumers.
The UK National Standards Body, the British Standards Institution (BSI) has been sponsored by OPSS to publish a Code of Practice to support businesses with bringing products to market safely. PAS 7050:2022, Bringing safe products to market, published on 25 March 2022, helps businesses meet their obligations under products safety law that requires new and used consumer products placed on the market to be safe.
£1.2 billion share sale sees Government stake in NatWest Group reduced to below 50% for the first time since the financial crisis
For the first time since the financial crisis, NatWest Group plc (formerly Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc) is no longer under majority public ownership following a £1.2 billion sale of part of the government’s shareholding back to NatWest.
This is the government’s fifth sale of its NatWest shareholding bringing its level of ownership down from 50.6% to 48.1%. This is a landmark in the government’s plan to return to private ownership the institutions brought into public ownership as a result of the 2007-2008 financial crisis.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury authorised the sale of approximately 550 million shares in NatWest at 220.5p per share raising a total of £1.2 billion. The shares were bought back by NatWest and the process was managed by UK Government Investments.
UK entrepreneurs given cash boost to help drive greater clean energy independence
Energy entrepreneurs driving forward innovative ways of cutting the UK’s reliance on expensive fossil fuels have the chance to make their plans and ideas a reality, thanks to £10 million in government funding.
The ninth round of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF), which seeks to promote new clean technologies across all sectors of the UK economy, is opening for applications as the government drives forward plans to secure greater clean energy independence in the UK.
This includes innovations to boost energy efficiency in people’s homes and develop green transport – as well as sourcing cleaner ways to generate power and heat in the UK.
Funding is expected to support between 15 and 20 projects across the country. Successful projects could create hundreds of green jobs and kickstart millions-of-pounds-worth of private sector investment across the UK.
UK FinTech Week 2022
UK FinTech Week runs across the UK from 4 April to 8 April 2022 and will showcase innovation in financial services on a global stage.
UK Fin Tech Week is returning as a brand new hybrid concept and we can expect five days of important content delivered by some of the biggest names in finance, government and tech.
FinTech founders, bank ex-cos, technologists, entrepreneurs, investors, regulators, policy-makers, politicians, academics and media from around the world will come together to learn, discuss, debate and network.
For further information visit UK FinTech Week 2022 – Innovate Finance – The Voice of Global FinTech
Consultation on developing the UK Emissions Trading Scheme
The UK Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Authority – made up of the UK government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) in Northern Ireland – is seeking stakeholder views on proposals to develop the UK ETS which operates across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This consultation is open to all, but it will be of particular interest to:
- individual companies and representatives of industrial, power and aviation sectors with obligations under the UK ETS
- environmental groups
- individual companies and representatives of maritime, waste, greenhouse gas removals and agricultural sectors
Note, this consultation does not apply to NI electricity generators who participate in the EU ETS by virtue of the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol.
Consultation: Subsidy Control Bill
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) is seeking views on proposed regulations under the Subsidy Control Bill. The Bill provides the framework for a new, UK-wide subsidy control regime.
This regime will enable public authorities, including devolved administrations and local authorities, to deliver subsidies that are tailored and bespoke for local needs to deliver government priorities such as levelling up and achieving net zero carbon, as well as supporting the economy’s recovery from COVID-19.
It is crucial that the new subsidy control regime can identify subsidies and schemes that have the potential to cause negative effects on competition or investment within the UK or in relation to the UK’s international trade, so that these can be subjected to additional scrutiny and review.
To achieve this, the Bill provides for two distinct categories of subsidy or subsidy scheme that could potentially have a distortive effect:
- Subsidies or Schemes of Interest (SSoI)
- Subsidies or Schemes of Particular Interest (SSoPI)
BEIS intend to develop criteria that are clear and easy for public authorities to interpret and apply.
Energy Entrepreneurs Fund phase 9
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has launched phase 9 of the Energy Entrepreneurs Fund (EEF9) supporting the development of technologies, products and processes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and security of supply.
The competitive funding scheme supports the development and demonstration of state of the art technologies, products and processes in the areas of energy efficiency, power generation, heat generation, energy storage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and security of supply.
The scheme seeks the best ideas, irrespective of source, in these areas from the public and private sector. In particular it aims to assist small and medium sized enterprises, including start-ups.
Successful applicants will receive Acceleration Support alongside their grant to help them progress towards commercialisation.
Up to £10 million in grant funding is available in EEF9. Of this, £1 million has been allocated to projects based in Cornwall, to reflect the important part played by Cornwall in the 2021 G7 and aiming to create a positive legacy.
New law to resolve remaining COVID-19 commercial rent debts now in place
A new law is now in place to help resolve certain remaining commercial rent debts accrued because of the pandemic. The ‘Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022’ received Royal Assent last week. This means that a legally binding arbitration process will be available for eligible commercial landlords and tenants who have not already reached an agreement. This will resolve disputes about certain pandemic-related rent debt and help the market return to normal as quickly as possible.
The law applies to commercial rent debts of businesses including pubs, gyms and restaurants which were mandated to close, in full or in part, from March 2020 until the date restrictions ended for their sector. Debts accrued at other times will not be in scope.
The law came into force last week in England and Wales.