The UK’s Christmas debt hangover
Editor | 13 January 2017
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Pre-Christmas debt figures suggest that more of us Brits are taking on unsustainable levels of debt which may mean tough times lie ahead for many.

The latest debt figures released by the Bank of England show that unsecured credit, including credit cards, car loans and second mortgages, grew by nearly 11% to £192.2bn in the year to November 2016.

Taking into account pre-Christmas shopping days like “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” November saw the sharpest month by month increase in debt for 11 years.

With debt levels now approaching “2008 financial crash” levels, debt charities and other organisations have issued warnings about debt.

Ways contractors can combat rising VED and fuel prices in H1 2017

The dawn of the New Year took on a somewhat bum note for business drivers and other motorists thanks to a double whammy of cost increases to swallow, with a headline from the BBC1 reporting that ‘fuel prices hit 18-month high after OPEC production cuts’ and ITV News stating ‘drivers face most expensive petrol prices in two years’. The 24% jump in the price of oil seen from mid-November to the end of December contributed to petrol and diesel prices increasing by over 3p per litre during the festive month.

Editor | 6 January 2017
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The latest figures from a recruitment body might be discouraging for any contractors that made ‘getting a new job’ one of their New Year’s Resolutions.

The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo), whose latest figures cover November last year, found that the number of contract vacancies for jobseekers fell by five per cent compared with figures from the previous year.

Public Sector Contractors: Top tips for avoiding IR35
Editor | 16 December 2016
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From April, contractors working in the public sector will lose the right to determine their own IR35 status. As a consequence, thousands of PSC contractors could see their take home pay reduced.

In many cases it is feared that the legitimate contractors will be caught out by the reforms and unfairly end up on inside-IR35 contract and paying a heavy price for it.

There are, however, some ways that contractors can try to avoid IR35 and, if inevitable, mitigate the impact of an imposed inside-IR35 contract.

Following last week’s Autumn Statement the government’s position on public sector IR35 reform is clear. But Britain’s judges could block the plans if they are shown to contradict employment law.

Set to be introduced in April 2017, the public sector IR35 reforms will lead to many public sector contractors losing some of their take home pay and the changes could have some nasty unintended consequences for public services too.
 

What info does the taxman’s super computer have on you?
Editor | 13 January 2017
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Ahead of the January 31 deadline for 2015/16 tax returns, HM Revenue and Customs has released some details about its £100m ‘snooper computer’ that can tell if you aren’t paying enough tax.

The powerful super-computer known as ‘Connect’ draws information from lots of different sources, including some places you might not have thought about.

If the computer thinks that you have underpaid on your return then it will flag your account and prompt further investigation.

All this means that HMRC no longer needs to rely solely on information supplied by individual taxpayers. If you, accidently or otherwise, misreport your income then it could only be a matter of time before you get caught in the taxman’s web.

HMRC is already using the system to warn users that that they may have underpaid on previous tax returns.

Umbrella Accountants to attend FreeAgent Premium Partner Summit
Editor | 10 January 2017
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Representatives from Umbrella Accountants will be joining other accountancy professionals from across the country at the FreeAgent Premium Partner Summit in February.

We have attended the summit for the last two years and found it informative and a chance to provide feedback to the team at FreeAgent regarding future developments. It’s also a chance to meet other accountants in the same industry and exchange ideas and solutions which we have also found extremely useful.

If any clients have any suggestions for FreeAgent for future development or improvements then we encourage you to email accountancy@umbrella.co.uk and we will put them to the team while we are there.

In the first Scottish budget since the country gained more wide-ranging power to control income tax, the SNP’s finance minister has announced plans that will put a squeeze on middle and higher income tax payers in the country.

The first Holyrood budget, announced earlier this month, includes plans for a £190 million raid higher earners that will see some contractors paying £300 more than their English counterparts.

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The government has published a new policy document detailing the changes to IR35 and off-payroll working rules for public sector contractors.

Although there weren’t any major shocks in the changes, which come into effect for personal service company (PSC) contractors next April, we thought it beneficial to publish a full preview of the rules so that customers can start to prepare for the changes.
 

How the Autumn Statement affects contractors who drive
Editor | 29 November 2016
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Starting with the more positive news for business motorists to come out of Phillip Hammond’s debut Autumn Statement, fuel duty has been frozen for the seventh consecutive year, meaning that contractors aren’t faced with having to dig deeper in order to put fuel in their vehicles, and nor are the firms some of them work for, such as couriers or construction companies.

The lamentable state of UK roads often results in delays along with damage to vehicles’ wheels, suspension and other components, so additional welcome news for contractors who drive is that an extra £1.1 billion will be provided by the government by 2020-21, aimed at relieving congestion and upgrading key roads. £220 million will also be spent on alleviating notorious pinch-points, helping the self-employed make more efficient use of their valuable time.

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