The FreeAgent Blog

Autumn Budget 2017: business as usual for small businesses

Posted on 22 November 2017 by Emily Coltman - Jump to comments

The biggest change that the Autumn Budget 2017 presented for small business owners was simply that a Budget happened in the autumn as well as the spring! There was remarkably little in today's announcement (or the accompanying full Budget report) for freelancers, contractors or other small business owners who do not have their own business premises - but here is what we did learn.

No change to the VAT registration threshold for two years

Since the Office of Tax Simplification published its report on VAT earlier this month, various rumours have been circulating about whether the Chancellor would change the threshold for VAT registration in the Autumn Budget. In the event, he opted to freeze the VAT registration threshold at its current level of £85,000 for two more years from April 2018. While this isn’t the big change that some people were expecting it is a departure from the norm, as the VAT registration threshold usually rises every year.

Potential reduction in rates

If you run your business from rateable premises, then you’ll find your rates rising by the lower Consumer Prices Index as opposed to the Retail Prices Index. And if you were affected by the so-called “staircase tax”, which meant that businesses using office spaces separated by communal stairs, lifts or hallways were charged higher rates, you will be able to apply to have that rate assessment lowered.

Making Tax Digital (MTD) plans unchanged

The Chancellor did not mention MTD at all in his announcement and, digging deeper into the full Budget report, it’s apparent that the plans for rolling out the initiative haven’t changed. MTD will not become compulsory until April 2019 and then only for VAT and for businesses with annual sales over the VAT threshold.

Diesel tax increases to affect cars only

From April 2018, any new diesel cars that do not meet the “clean diesel” criteria will be subject to increased car tax. This will apply only to cars, not to vans, so if you own and use a diesel van in your business, you will not have to pay any additional tax on it.

In summary, while there were a few points of interest for small business owners, this Budget can be described very simply as “business as usual, no major changes”.

Customer stories - Village by Village

Posted on 22 November 2017 by Roan Lavery - Jump to comments

I’m always interested to hear the different ways in which FreeAgent is being used by our customers, but when Neil Kerfoot got in touch I was amazed by his story.

For his 40th birthday back in 2006, instead of throwing a fancy party Neil decided to build a well in a remote rural village in Ghana. That act of altruism took on a life of its own and Neil now runs Village by Village, a grassroots charity working with communities in Africa to provide education, healthcare and other basic human rights.

Many of these villages do not have electricity but most have 3G network capability, so all Village by Village staff are issued with cheap smartphones and use the FreeAgent Mobile app to record expenses and projects costs. It also allows local workers to capture receipts of items (like bags of cement) and upload them to FreeAgent via the app.

The Village by Village team learning how to use FreeAgent
The Village by Village team learning how to use FreeAgent

This means that Village by Village can see charity money being spent on funded projects in real time, with real proof of purchases, in some of the most remote parts of the world - all thanks to an ingenious application of FreeAgent.

Village by Village are always on the lookout for donations and volunteers so take a look at their website for more details.

Autumn Budget 2017: what you need to know about the second Budget of the year

Posted on 15 November 2017 by Emily Coltman - Jump to comments

Hang onto your hats: the Budget is just around the corner! Got a case of déjà vu? Thanks to a change announced last year, 2017 has transpired to be a bumper year for Budgets. We had the final Spring Budget back in March and now the first Autumn Budget is due on Wednesday 22nd November. Confused? Don’t worry - here’s what you need to know about the change.

2017: a tale of two Budgets

Traditionally, the government has issued two sets of big changes to financial legislation each year: once in the Spring Budget and once in the Autumn Statement. This has made the UK the only major advanced economy in the world to make two major changes a year to its tax system.

In response to calls from bodies such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) to address the uncertainty created by this system, the Chancellor announced in 2016 that the UK would move to a single fiscal event a year - a Budget held in the autumn - starting from 2018.

In order to make the transition, both the final Spring Budget of the new system and the first Autumn Budget of the new system are being held in 2017, resulting in the very unusual situation of the UK having two Budgets in one year!

2018: enter the Spring Statement

From 2018 onwards, the Budget will be held in the autumn - but there will still be an event in the spring: the Spring Statement. Unlike the Autumn Statement of previous years, this should simply be a response to the bi-annual forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility and shouldn’t include any major changes to tax legislation. However, it’s worth noting that the government has said it will “retain the option to make changes to fiscal policy at the Spring Statement if the economic circumstances require it”.

What does all this mean for small business owners?

The Budget will continue to include updates to tax legislation that may affect small business owners and contractors. While the Spring Statement from 2018 onwards may prove less significant, it could still serve up news that has an impact on the self-employment sector. Here at FreeAgent, we'll continue to report on any legislative changes that affect small business owners and contractors and will be publishing our response to next Wednesday's Budget announcement here on our blog.

Autumn Statement to Autumn Budget - a timeline

Date Event
8 March 2017 Final Spring Budget was announced
22nd November 2017 First Autumn Budget will be announced
Spring 2018 First Spring Statement will be announced
Autumn 2018 Second Autumn Budget will be announced

Do workers dream of electric bosses? 31% say they would be happy to work for a 'robo-boss'

Posted on 13 November 2017 by Jessica Farmer - Jump to comments

Would you work for a robot? With the Bank Of England projecting that up to 15 million jobs could be at risk of being automated, the prospect of people and machines working side by side is no longer restricted to the world of Blade Runner: it could become a reality. We surveyed 1,000 people working in the UK* to find out how they felt about the notion of working for a boss who is “more human than human”.

The results revealed that nearly a third of working people in the UK (31%) would be happy to work for a robot boss, with 11% of respondents even predicting that a ‘robo-boss’ would be more efficient than a person. Meanwhile, one in 10 said they thought working for a robot boss would be “just the same” as answering to a person, and four out of ten (42%) also said that they would be “comfortable” taking orders from a robot.

We spoke to our CEO and co-founder, Ed, about the results of the survey and what the rise of the ‘robo-boss’ could mean for the self-employment sector:

“Although it might be many years before we see physical robots taking over the workforce, many workers are already anticipating the changes that automation will bring in the years ahead.

“The shifting landscape of AI and new technology will have a major impact on people in employment, but I don’t think that this is a gloomy outlook for the workforce. Previous research we’ve carried out has suggested that many employed people are keen to quit their jobs and start their own businesses. So as automation takes a more prominent role in the workforce, it’s likely we could see a self-employment boom in the future.

“In this scenario, automation will actually be a major benefit for these new businesses, as technological advances will make business admin and data management much easier to manage than ever before.”

*The survey was carried out by 3Gem in August 2017.

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