Keep looking on the bright side of life…
The Chancellor’s Autumn statement was small-business friendly in a modest sort of way. There’s no need to dwell on the revised forecasts for UK economic growth or government spending cuts – we all knew they were coming – but the good news is the extension of the Small Business Rates Relief scheme. Extending this for another 12 months until April 2014 is doubly-welcome at a time when HM Treasury and the District Valuer insist on individual business rates assessments for Market hall stalls, despite it being of dubious legality.
Business premises with a rateable value (RV) of £6,000 or less (i.e. most stalls in a Market hall) will now continue to enjoy complete exemption from business rates, i.e. 100% relief. Those with RV’s between £6,000 and £12,000 will continue to enjoy between 50% and no relief according to where they sit on a sliding scale. If you haven’t done so already then now is the time to contact your Council rating department to find out what your RV is and if you can apply for small business rates relief. The RV records and an application form can usually be found on your Council website.
But before you do so, get out your tape measure and check the floor area of your stall. This is used to calculate the RV and it’s surprisingly common for the assumed area to be anything up to 20% out. That can mean the difference between half-rates payable and none payable at all. If you find your stall is smaller than records suggest then you can appeal against the assessment. If you find it’s bigger than they think then it’s usually best to stay shtumm.
The Chancellor shelved the increase in fuel duty planned for January which is good news for your delivery costs.
Now might also be a good time to replace some capital equipment. The Chancellor increased the annual investment allowance for small businesses from £25,000 to £250,000. Talk to your accountant as this may allow you to claim tax relief on plant and machinery and be a good time to treat yourself to that replacement van, display counter or computer with all those Christmas takings. You can then set-off the capital cost off against your tax bill. And finally, the Chancellor shelved the increase in fuel duty planned for January which is good news for your delivery costs. Overall then, not a bad budget statement for small businesses – just try to avoid looking at the UK economic growth forecasts.
Starbucks paid only a paltry £8.5 million in corporation tax on £3 billion of sales over 14 years.
On an equally cheerful note the tax affairs of Starbucks, Amazon and Google continue to entertain. What with the Chancellor’s tough statements on the economy and reaction to news that Starbucks paid only a paltry £8.5 million in corporation tax on £3 billion of sales over 14 years, their MD Kris Engskov tried to avoid a PR train crash.’We’ve listened to our customers and we know we are not perfect’ he announced before closing down the Customer Comments section of their website and volunteering to make an additional payment of £10 million.
Tax experts described the offer of £10m as ‘commercially gob-smacking’
It’s just as well he did close the feedback section because at this point the wheels fell off his wagon. Tax experts described the offer of £10m as ‘commercially gob-smacking’ and politicians waded-in to protest at his treating the UK tax system as ‘a complete joke’. Several Starbucks shops were occupied by members of UK Uncut – a grassroots direct action network well-known for targeting corporate tax avoiders.
Activist Sarah Greene said: ‘It is an outrage the government continues to let multinationals dodge millions in tax while cutting vital services like refuges, creches and rape crisis centres. Women – in families, homes, communities and jobs – bear the brunt of austerity. They could easily bring in billions by clamping down on tax avoidance’. She and her sisters then demonstrated how several Starbucks shops could be converted into a childrens creche or refuge for the homeless. Mr Engskov now says he is in discussion with HM Revenue and Customs to rearrange their corporate tax position. Very sensible, Kris.
Online sales are great for sales and profits but equally good at holding you to account.
All of which goes to show how the internet works both ways. Online sales are great for sales and profits but equally good at holding you to account. Step out of line and social media such as Twitter quickly create mass movements that kick back against tax dodgers, interest rate fixers and phone hackers.
There is no suggestion that Starbucks have, technically-speaking, broken any UK tax laws but they did build their business around being a good corporate citizen – ethical purchasing from third world coffee producers etc. The Company is an easy target for protestors because of it’s High Street shops so a threatened boycott and a few occupations was a real spur to offering the Treasury a cheque.
Now that Starbucks is being fixed is the mighty Amazon next in line? One way to achieve that is to use the German tactic of occupying Luxembourg. But in the UK there are no Amazon shops on the High Street so that means no picket lines and protest occupations. Should the public resort to boycotting Amazon online sales and if they do so will they be shooting themselves in the foot? Many independent retailers have come to rely on the Amazon sales platform for a large proportion of their turnover and they still need public support. If you want to be nasty then be selectively nasty – use the ‘Seller information’ tab on the Amazon website to select an independent instead of Amazon.
And don’t forget to tell them why in the Customer feedback section. They’ve not closed that yet.