Weekly Digest – 16 December 2020

Welcome back to our Weekly Digest. We hope you and your family are safe and doing well. Read on for this week’s updates and some ideas that will help us all move forward.

New Coronavirus Strain Spreading in UK, Scientists Downplay Concerns

British scientists are trying to establish whether the rapid spread in southern England of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is linked to key mutations they have detected in the strain.

The new variant, which UK scientists have named “VUI – 202012/01” includes changes to the important “spike” protein that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells.

However, it is important to note that there is currently no evidence that the variant is more likely to cause severe COVID-19 infections or that it would render vaccines less effective. Mutations or genetic changes arise naturally in all viruses as they replicate and circulate in human populations.

Rollout of Pfizer- BioNTech Vaccine Slows Due To Allergic-Reaction Monitoring

Rolling out of the Pfizer- BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine beyond hospitals will take longer than expected because of logistical challenges and complications of allergic reactions after the injection.

After two severe allergic reactions on 8 December 2020, doctors were told to monitor patients for 15 minutes after each injection. Logistical hiccups and the additional time required to monitor patients after a shot have added friction to the immunisation program.

The U.K. became the first country in the West to begin vaccinating its general public last week, with the first shots of the Pfizer vaccine given in dozens of British hospitals.

UK Reduces Quarantine Period to 10 Days

Travellers arriving into the UK from high-risk destinations will see their enforced self-isolation period reduced from 14 days to 10 days. This change started to take effect in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from 14 December 2020, and applies both to contacts of people with confirmed coronavirus within the UK, and arrivals from destinations not on the travel corridor list.

UK’s GDP Growth Hits 6-Month Low

The UK’s GDP in October was 7.9% lower than it was in February, before the pandemic struck Britain’s economy, the Office for National Statistics said, and 8.2% weaker than in October 2019.

Gross domestic product rose 0.4% on the month after expanding 1.1% in September, representing the weakest growth since output collapsed in April during the first lockdown. This comes as a surge in coronavirus cases dealt a blow to the hospitality sector.

Self Assessment Deadline is On 31 January 2021

Every year, self-employed individuals need to complete a tax return and pay their tax bill. The deadline for the Self Assessment is 31 January.

If you haven’t done yours yet, we can help you get it out of the way.

Also, if you think you’ll struggle to pay your tax bill before the deadline, you can come to a Time to Pay arrangement with the HMRC to settle it in instalments over the next 12 months.

The HMRC has eased the rules this year to make it easier to apply online without needing to call. You can use this service if you owe up to £30,000. If you owe more, you’ll have to call the HMRC.

You can read more about it here.

Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Open For New Grants

Be careful of conditions to claim.

To be able to claim for the third grant, you must either:

  • be currently trading but are impacted by reduced demand due to coronavirus
  • have been trading but are temporarily unable to do so due to coronavirus

You must also:

  • intend to continue to trade
  • reasonably believe there will be a significant reduction in your trading profits due to reduced demand or your inability to trade

You must also meet all other eligibility criteria to make a claim.

VAT Deferral Payment Extension

For those who deferred their VAT payment for one of the quarters that was in the deferral scheme earlier in the year, the initial guidance was that you have until the end of March 2021 to repay. HMRC have now said that you can pay this off by the end of March 2022 but you must pay it in monthly instalments.

You can pay it off in up to 12 monthly instalments between March 2021 and March 2022 but you will have to opt-in for this scheme, HMRC will release details as to how to opt-in in the new year. You also must have no VAT returns outstanding. Full details can be found here.

For assistance on your VAT or other tax matters, feel free to get in touch with us.

The Transition Period with the EU is Almost Over

The UK government is urging businesses to make final preparations for a new trading relationship with the EU from 1 January 2021, saying a new centre to monitor goods will help ease what it described as “short-term disruption” after Brexit.

With just several days to go before the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December, there are new rules to follow if you are:

  • Importing or exporting goods from the EU
  • Moving goods to or from Northern Ireland
  • Travelling to the EU
  • Living and working in the EU
  • Staying in the UK if you’re an EU citizen

Exporters and importers are reminded that, with or without a trade deal, they must get ready for new paperwork and procedures at the border when the UK leaves the European Union’s single market and customs union.

You may check gov.uk/transition or use this free online tool to check what actions you need to take. Alternatively, you may get in touch with us so we can provide some expert guidance.

Aside from preparing you for changes, we can also help you identify opportunities for businesses through new free trade agreements or regulation updates.

Three Households Can Mix Over Christmas in UK

People from up to three households will be able to meet up during a five-day Christmas period of 23 to 27 December. They can mix in homes, places of worship, and outdoor spaces, and travel restrictions will also be eased.

Anyone travelling to or from Northern Ireland may travel on the 22 and 28 December, but otherwise travel to and from bubbles should be done between the 23 and 27.

Further details of the rules can be found in this published guidance for England.

What funding is available for my business?

To cover the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, there are grants made available by the government such as the £1.25b Future Fund and R&D rescue package for fast growth businesses and smaller businesses with a Research & Development focus.

If your business has been severely hit by COVID-19 and you need more support, the government is giving businesses access to financial support through various initiatives such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), where you can get up to £50,000 no-interest loans for the first 12 months.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offers a maximum loan of £5 million made available through commercial banks.

You can also claim for 80% of your employee’s wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions if you have put them on furlough because of COVID-19 under the Job Retention Scheme, which has been extended until the 31st March 2021. You can check your eligibility here.

With all the financial assistance schemes available for businesses, it can be difficult to assess which one is suitable for your business. Let us help you consider your options and apply for funding and government support. Contact us today!

Boost Holiday Sales Amid the Pandemic

2020 has been an unprecedented year for businesses. Retailers are among the most hardly hit by the COVID-19 crisis, and many are still struggling to bounce back despite the easing of social restrictions and lockdowns.

So here are some tips on how to boost sales this holiday season amid the pandemic:

  • Offer limited contact shopping options– Many are still hesitant about the idea of shopping in-store due to fears of being infected. With this, it is important to offer limited contact options such as drive-up, where customers can choose items online and park at designated areas outside your store to pick up their purchased items.
  • Increase your digital efforts– Online shopping has increasingly become the preferred platform during the pandemic. So ensure you have strong digital presence by updating or launching your website and creating engaging social media content to attract more customers.
  • Prioritise sanitation– Make sanitation a priority to create a safer shopping experience and encourage people to shop in your store.
  • Offer different shipping options– Be versatile enough to offer different shipping options, including free shipping promos and express shipping for last-minute shoppers.

We hope these tips can help you enjoy a profitable holiday season! Get in touch with us for more personalised business tips.

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