Accounting and Taxation advice in Hexham, Northumberland

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Thoughts Friday 8th January 2021

Hi folks,

Americans storming the Capitol building - not only are our freedoms under threat due to COVID-19 but democracy is under threat when an outgoing US president is fomenting riot! I think Revelation needs to be essential reading!

Where to start? – no sooner had we come to grips with Tier 4 than we are in total lockdown again!

Just to let you know that the office will remain manned with the staff we need in completing your tax return obligations. Other members of staff will be working from home but will be contactable via the office. So hopefully we will manage to continue to provide the service you expect and require, particularly at this time of year.

I’ve got rather absorbed in statistics over Christmas and it occurs to me that the method the Government has for reporting the virus in terms of cases per hundred thousand actually understates the position in cities and overstates the position in rural locations.

Vis: as of 3rd January in the ward of Hexham West where the office is situated we had 17 cases. This however extrapolated itself to 431 cases per hundred thousand. Whilst on 1 January (the nearest comparable date I could find) in a ward in which my son lives in Manchester the rate of infection was reported as 325 per hundred thousand, apparently therefore much better than Hexham West. However, in that Manchester ward on 1 January there were actually 1,798 cases so that means walking around in an approximately similar geographical area you were 100 times as likely to meet someone with COVID-19.

To ‘quote’ a conservative prime minister of over 150 years ago, Benjamin Disraeli’s view was ‘there are lies, damned lies and statistics’!

What it does it show though is that whatever the situation we are still better off living in a sparsely populated rural location than we would be in an urban setting.

I’m getting increasingly irritated over the months with the media’s complete negativity to everything - it appears that whatever the Government does the media thinks they should have done the opposite! And I think that, given the current very difficult circumstances. they are doing the best they can. The media want consistency so the Government closed the schools when we went into alert level five according to the medical officers advice, a previously set measure which did not happen until Monday but that was too late apparently!

So in an attempt to combat the media, some good news: I have a godmother who is now 87. During her life she worked mostly in London and moved to Sheffield to be closer to one of her sisters on retirement. About five years ago she had a stroke and ended up in a care home in Sheffield and then, at the beginning of 2020, the care home closed and she moved to another care home in Durham to be near her other sister. This godmother was the first lady I ever went to a London show with. Her presents to me were always the most beautiful books and I have still a superbly illustrated version of Alice in Wonderland which I think I had for my fifth birthday. You will gather therefore that I have kept in touch with her over the years. Sadly I failed to manage to visit her in Sheffield, (the logistics being too difficult in relation to the care home access), but I had intended to go and see her in Durham at the point at which lockdown hit.

When I opened my cards, which I did on Christmas Day, I found amongst them a letter from her sister which was obviously dictated by my godmother. Apparently during that horrible period in April when the media were telling us that being in a care home was effectively a death sentence my godmother who, having had the stroke, is in a very vulnerable category and as I say she is 87, had Covid 19 and was very ill but is now better and back with her health much as it would’ve been if she hadn’t had Covid at all. All I can say is well done to the care home and to the many care homes where I’m sure elderly relatives have received equally good care even during the times when life was very difficult for them! Wouldn’t it be good if the media could pick up on a few stories like this?!
Or even the fact that Italy are on their 4th lockdown whist we are only on our third - why can’t some reporter focus on that?!

Vaccination Good News!
The two elderly relatives of staff members who had their first Pfizer vaccine before Christmas have now had their second jabs, and I have heard today that a local care home has now vaccinated the whole of their residents against Covid, so it is really happening.


On to the technical stuff:

Self-assessment tax return deadline – 31 January 2021

As I mentioned above, despite the fact that we are into a new national lockdown we are continuing to work in the office to meet the needs of our clients, including the timely submission of 2019/20 tax returns. The Treasury is making absolutely no concessions about either the timing of filing of returns nor in respect of penalties for late filing – so if your return is not submitted by the 31 January 2021 deadline, and any tax due paid by that date, immediate penalties will apply. Whilst the penalties can be appealed, and citing Covid reasons should get the penalty waived, you only have three months to do this and it is not automatic.

New lockdown grants

On 5 January the Chancellor announced one-off top up grants for the retail, hospitality and leisure businesses worth up to £9,000 per property depending on rateable value.  Any business that is legally required to close, and which cannot operate effectively remotely, is eligible for a grant.  The amounts are as follows:
     - £4,000 for businesses with a rateable value of £15,000 or under
     - £6,000 for businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000
     - £9,000 for businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000.
To apply for a grant you should go to your local council’s website.

Coronavirus Job retention Scheme (CJRS) or furlough. 

This is still available to employers where they do not have the work for employees as a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Employees can still work some of their usual hours, but you can claim up to 80% of their usual wages up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee from the CJRS.  This scheme now runs until 30 April 2021.  Claims are by calendar month, and you have until the 14th of the following month to make your claim.  So for claims covering December 2020, you have until 14 January 2021 to make the claim.

HMRC have also added to their guidance this week that employees are eligible for furlough if they “have caring responsibilities resulting from coronavirus (COVID-19), such as caring for children who are at home as a result of school and childcare facilities closing, or caring for a vulnerable individual in their household”

More details on CJRS can be found on the following link:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wage-costs-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

We are now on the 3rd grant period of this scheme running from 1 November 2020 to 29 January 2021.  We have covered this quite a lot in ‘Thoughts’ but briefly: eligible self-employed people can claim 80% of their average monthly trading profits, covering 3 months’ worth of profits, capped at £7,500 in total.  As well as the financial criteria relating to 2018/19, you must have a new or continuing impact from Coronavirus between 1 November 2020 and 29 January 2021 and reasonably believe that you will have a significant reduction in your profits.

You must make your claim for the 3rd grant on or before 29 January 2021.  More information on SEISS and how to claim can be found on the following link:
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-coronavirus-covid-19-self-employment-income-support-scheme

The Gov.uk website has a Business Support Finder to help businesses to find what support they are entitled to.  It asks a series of questions (e.g. are you self-employed, are you employed, etc) and at the end it gives a list of support available. It can be found at https://www.gov.uk/business-coronavirus-support-finder

Our Christmas fundraising has been a great success so thank you to everyone who has donated to our charities. I’m delighted to report that the Salvation Army now have £1,351.88 and the MS Trust have £3,617.51 thanks to you. There is still time to add to the totals if you would like to either at

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patricia-j-arnold-co-ltd1

or https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/patricia-j-arnold-co-ltd

or alternatively you could make a cheque out either direct to the charity or to ‘Patricia J Arnold & Co Ltd’ charity account.

Finally:

I had deferred my Christmas to Mothering Sunday but now I think that was slightly optimistic so, maybe, the first May bank holiday instead?

Take care and keep safe.

That’s all for now,
Tricia

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