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Brexit talks

On 11 May 2020, the UK and EU started their penultimate series of trade talks before hitting the deadline of 30 June 2020, the latest date for agreeing any extension to the transitional period. Reports suggest that little progress has been made and many sticking points remain. Prime minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly ruled out extending the 31 December 2020 deadline. [20.05]
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Smaller companies may have £105 bn debt

Smaller companies may have between £90 billion and £105 billion in unsustainable debt by March 2021, according to TheCityUK, a body that promotes the country's financial sector. It was giving evidence to the Bank of England on 11 May 2020. Small and medium-sized businesses employ 16 million people and generate turnover of more than £2 trillion. Many have had to close during the lockdown. It ...
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Coronavirus and tax-free child care

On 7 May 2020, some changes were made to the rules for tax-free child care in relation to coronavirus. These changes are temporary until it is announced that they have been ended. For a worker on furlough, entitlement continues if either: the worker or partner earns the national minimum wage (NMW) for at least 16 hour a week, or they would so earn if their normal income meets the child ...
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SSP guidance

On 7 May 2020, the government revised its guidance on statutory sick pay (SSP) in relation to coronavirus. The main change is that SSP may be made from the first day for employees who are shielded because they are at particular risk from the virus. This applies from 16 April 2020. SSP is paid from the first day of sickness, with no waiting days. For coronavirus-related absence, including sel...
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Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill is about to go through Parliament. The Bill will include restrictions on: issuance of statutory demands presentation of winding-up petitions, and making winding-up orders if the company's debt problems only arise because of coronavirus. Details have yet to be given. It is believed that the Bill will negate statutory demands issued...
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Coronavirus and fraud

On 13 May 2020, the Fraud Advisory Panel said it had set up a COVID-19 Fraud Watch Group to document frauds based on the pandemic and lockdown. Its website with details of frauds detected so far, and facilities to report frauds, can be accessed from here. [20.05]
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Coronavirus and reasonable excuse

On 11 May 2020, HMRC updated its guidance on what it considers to be reasonable excuse. The main change relates to coronavirus. HMRC expects the taxpayer to: show how the virus has affected them so that they cannot make payment, and make payment as soon as they are able. It should be noted that tribunals have many times held something to be reasonable excuse when HMRC has not. The...
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Furlough scheme extended

On 12 May 2020, the Chancellor extended the time limit for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) by four months to the end of October 2020. The scheme, originally to the end of May 2020, has already been extended once to the end of June 2020. For July 2020, the existing arrangements will continue. From August 2020, the arrangements will change. Employers will be expected to make a c...
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£60,000 for careworkers who die

On 30 April 2020, the government announced a £60,000 payment in respect of every NHS or care worker who dies from coronavirus from their work. The press release does not say whether this is subject to income tax or national insurance. (When GCHQ staff were given £1,000 compensation for not being allowed to joining a trade union, there was a court case that held this sum was taxable.) The off...
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Tax consultation deadlines extended

On 30 April 2020, the government extended the deadlines for some consultations. Many are extended by three months. The call for evidence in raising standards of tax advice has been put back to 28 August 2020. Other consultations include addressing abuse in the construction industry, and research and development tax relief for smaller businesses. There is no delay for consultations on duty-fr...
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