Shares in NatWest to the general public

The sale of shares in NatWest to the general public could happen as early as June, UK Government Investments (UKGI) has confirmed. 

The Treasury still owns 39% of the bank since it bailed it out to the tune of £46bn during the 2008 financial crisis. But UKGI, the company responsible for Government investments, has been exploring a share sale since the Chancellor announced the plan to sell last year.

The Government said early in 2023 that it wanted to sell its remaining stake in the bank by 2025 or 2026, and in his Autumn Statement in November Mr Hunt said he wanted to explore options for a share offering aimed at the general public. The chancellor referenced the 1986 “Tell Sid” advertising campaign, in which characters urged each other to “tell Sid” about the chance to buy shares in British Gas. will we see a stampede as we did in the 1980s, or will it be a Damp Sid? (sorry squid) Only time will tell.

As eight million people on means tested benefits receive their final £299 instalment of their £900 cost of living allowance, the Prime Minister has claimed that the burden on hard-pressed households is “starting to ease”. No further payments of this kind are scheduled and charities are urging the Government to consider more support.

The UK registered its one millionth electric car last month, despite a big drop in sales, new figures suggest. New EV registrations by private buyers fell by a quarter in January, threatening to undermine the UK’s net zero promises.

More than 20,000 battery electric cars (BEVs) were registered in January, up by a fifth year on year and helped by generous tax incentives for company car users. It means that since 2002, one million of these cars have reached the road. Companies purchasing a fleet of more than 25 units in one go have been entirely behind the increase, with demand for BEVs growing by more than 40%.

NEW COMPANIES HOUSE LAW CHANGES APPROACHING

Before Christmas I warned of changes coming at Companies House following the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act coming into law. This is a tightening of what is a somewhat lax current system. Well the first raft of changes are coming as soon as 4 March, subject to secondary legislation being in place in time. The key changes are as follows:

There will be new rules for registered office addresses which mean companies must, at all times, have an ‘appropriate address’ as their registered office.  An appropriate address is one where any documents sent to the registered office should be expected to come to the attention of a person acting on behalf of the company and any documents sent to that address can be recorded by an acknowledgement of delivery. These changes mean you will not be able to use a PO Box as your registered office address in the future. In addition, a registered email address will be required for Companies House to contact.

There will be a new requirement when you register or ‘incorporate’ a company. The subscribers to the company will need to confirm they’re forming the company for a lawful purpose.  A company will also need to confirm its intended future activities are lawful, on their annual confirmation statement.

The registrar will have greater powers to query and challenge information that appears to be incorrect or inconsistent with information held.  In some cases, they will also be able to remove information more quickly, if that information is inaccurate, incomplete, false or fraudulent. There will be stronger checks on company names which may give a false or misleading impression to the public.  This will help  improve the accuracy and quality of the data held and help to tackle the misuse of company names.

For new companies, all directors and People with Significant Control (PSCs) will need to complete identity verification.  Identity verification will also apply to other registration types. For example, any members of a limited liability partnership (LLP) will also need to verify their identity.

For existing companies, all directors and PSCs will have a transition period to verify their identity with Companies House. Anyone acting on behalf of a company will also need to verify their identity before they can file information. You can verify directly with Companies House, or through an authorised agent, known as Authorised Corporate Service Providers (ACSPs). These are organisations that undertake anti-money laundering (AML) supervised activity, such as company formation agents, solicitors and accountants.

HMRC TARGETS UNDECLARED DIVIDENDS

Company directors suspected of earning dividends without declaring their taxable income are being contacted by HMRC. In the latest letter campaign, HMRC has been writing to company owners informing them that they may need to declare dividend income.

Now if we prepare both your company accounts and your personal tax returns as well then there is nothing to concern yourself with as our systems ensure all dividends are declared. However, please let us know should you receive such a letter from HMRC so we can deal with it as I am not expecting agent copy letters to be issued.

HMRC has been investigating company reserves identifying companies that have made a profit but have depleted reserves, alluding to a dividend payment. The owners are being given the option to disclose information on any dividends that have not been declared or inform HMRC if they believe there is nothing more to declare. Taxpayers will be given 30 days to notify HMRC if there is nothing to declare.

There is an online disclosure facility available for companies to register anything owed, but registration needs to be completed first. Interest and penalties can also be paid through this service once a payment reference number (PRN) has been received in the post. There is a 90-day deadline after receipt of the PRN.

If this is not met HMRC can open a compliance check and charge higher penalties if undeclared dividend payments are found. Penalties charged can be as much as the same amount of tax due if wrong amounts have been submitted, plus interest charged per day for any late payments.

If your company year end is not 31 March then HMRC will not be able to clearly check and so may issue a letter as a precaution. I can also foresee checks as to compliance of the timing of the dividend, again something our systems and compliance audit trail clearly cover. (we don’t send out the additional paperwork purely for the sake of it). We know there are many accountancy firms who take short cuts in this area. Maybe now they will be taken to task for their failings.

The cut in the dividends allowance to £500 from April 2024 will affect 3,250,000 people in 2023, increasing to 4,405,000 for the 2024-25 tax year. This is expected to raise £450million in 2024/25 rising to £810million in 2025/26.

FUNDING TO TRAIN IN CYBER ESSENTIALS

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) is providing a funded Cyber Essentials programme to help small businesses in certain sectors across the UK implement essential security controls. While all businesses face cyber threats, some that hold sensitive information or that are seen as an easy target can face increased risks. The focus of the funded programme is to help these additional risk businesses protect themselves.

The Cyber Essentials programme covers how to control firewalls, secure settings, access controls, malware protection, and software updates. These controls can help a business protect itself from the most common types of cyber threat. The funding will provide 20 hours of free remote support from an NCSC-assured cyber security advisor.

The advisor will focus on implementing the controls and ensuring they are effective. Micro or small businesses, up to 49 employees, registered in the UK and working on the development of fundamental AI technologies are eligible to apply for the funded Cyber Essentials Programme. However, businesses that have previously participated in a funded Cyber Essentials programme or that already hold or have recently held (since January 2023) Cyber Essentials Plus certification are not eligible.

When a UK organisation with a turnover under £20million, and whose scope covers their whole organisation, achieves basic level Cyber Essentials certification, they are entitled to Cyber Liability Insurance (terms apply). with ever more clever scams going around and Artificial Intelligence (AI) becoming stronger, covering yourself against Cyber Security issues is critical.

For more details click here

AND FINALLY …..

Today I pay tribute to the last member of the Home Guard from Warmington On Sea as Private Pike (Ian Lavender) died on Monday. As with the Two Ronnies and Four Candles and Del and Rodney and the chandelier, there is only one iconic clip I could choose from ze list!