News in brief: digital, Employment Allowance, sole-traders, finance

News in brief
News in brief

SMEs slow to embrace digital future

Just one third of European companies are planning for a digital world, according to IDC, commissioned by OKI Europe.

Many companies would reportedly like to digitise documents to reduce physical storage in premium office or offsite space. One of the key benefits of business process automation is in providing the ability to archive documents in one place. By providing access to scanning functionality, users can digitise information for searchable access and scan direct to a specific destination, eliminating the need for a paper trail and moving towards building a digital footprint.

One solution put forward by IDC is the investment in multi-function printers, which it claims can lay the groundwork for document digitisation, including the ability to scan direct to email, to a specified folder that may be on a network or cloud-based for further utilisation or archiving. This meets the needs of the 66% of European companies who say that one of the key benefits of automating business processes is having archived documents in a single location.

Initiative to ban sole traders collecting Employment Allowance too easily dodged

The Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) has warned that a bid to exclude one-person businesses from claiming the national insurance Employment Allowance will be too easy to dodge.

HMRC want to exclude limited companies where the director is the sole employee from claiming the Employment Allowance that reduces a company’s national insurance bill from April 2016. However, the CIOT has told a consultation that the planned curbs are easily avoided, either by appointing another director, such as a spouse, civil partner, other family member or friend, and paying that person a token wage; or by arranging payments of earnings so that the worker is not a director when at least one of the payments is made.

CIOT tax policy director John Cullinane said: “We strongly suggest that the legislation should include a connected person’ test to prevent any limited company where there are two directors who are connected persons, and no other employees, from benefiting from Employment Allowance.”

SME financier increases funding to Liverpool-based businesses

SME financier Bibby Financial Services (BFS) has increased its funding to Liverpool businesses by 172% as it looks to bolster its funding in the city. In the year to December 2015, the specialist finance firm increased funding to businesses in Liverpool from £3.6m to £9.8m.

Head of sales for BFS in Liverpool Mike Calvert claimed that SMEs in the city are increasingly seeking financing outside of the mainstream channels and added that the firm is excited to help bolster businesses in the city.

For example, one company that BFS has supported this year in the Liverpool area is Turtle Wax, a global car-care product manufacturer. Founded in Chicago, Turtle Wax moved its EMEA headquarters to Bootle, Liverpool in 2014. Earlier this year, Turtle Wax secured £6m in funding from BFS to support the company’s growth aspirations in the EMEA region.

Too few SMEs are changing their banks despite bad service

Only one quarter of SMEs would recommend their bank to others, according to research from Business Banking Insight on behalf of the Treasury. Despite this, there are only four banks involved in representing around 85% of all small business accounts.

MarketInvoice co-founder and CEO Anil Stocker argues that too few businesses like their bank, too few are helped by their bank, but far too few change their bank as a result.

“This is a badly broken market, it's been terrible for years and nothing has changed, until now. The rapid growth of peer-to-peer lenders demonstrates that smaller businesses see that the cheaper, more effective alternatives are provided not by challenger banks, who in many cases are indistinguishable from the major banks, but by new agile tech companies,” said Stocker.

In the coming years, Stocker claims that we should expect to see bank market share increasingly eroded as more and more smaller businesses turn to new ways of managing their finances.

LGA to host a conference for local businesses

The Local Government Association (LGA) is to host a conference later this month entitled‘Supporting local businesses, sustaining regulatory services’, for councillors to showcase the work of local authority regulatory services in supporting community businesses.

Regulatory services are responsible for a huge proportion of businesses’ contact with councils (and are often the sole face-to-face contact) and the conference will hear about what councils have done to promote an ethos of business support through these services.

The conference will hear from business representatives about the positive impact that regulators can have in helping local businesses to thrive and grow and what councils can do to support individual companies and work with the wider business community.

It will also hear about the work of the Better Business for All programme. More than 200 councils are now involved in this programme, which brings together businesses and local regulators to shape best practice in their areas.