B2L no April’s fools joke, Brexit triggers run on the £, Zero interest rates, and Neymar’s assets frozen!

Tax

April Fools’ Day deadline for B2L  – Smith & Williamson’s Chris Springett warns buyers of buy-to-let or holiday properties to ensure they have time to complete purchases by midnight on March 31 or they’ll be stung by the Chancellor’s new surcharge on stamp duty. Buyers need to remember the changes come into effect on April 1st, rather than the start of the new tax year on April 6, he said.

HMRC approved RBS film investments  – HMRC allowed Royal Bank of Scotland to shelter over £1bn from tax through investments in films, according to the Times. Investments made by the bank between 1999 and 2005 were approved despite HMRC challenging similar deals by wealthy individuals. HMRC also approved claims where RBS had “double-dipped” by claiming relief as producer and “first acquirer”. Tim Levy, the founder of Future Capital partners, commented: “HMRC and the Treasury seem to have one set of rules for individuals and another for RBS.” A statement from RBS read: “These leases were compliant with tax law, including the use of tax allowances established to help boost the UK film industry during that period.”

UK public angered by tax avoidance and believes it is widespread  – A survey by HMRC suggests people’s willingness to pay their own tax bills will be affected by a widespread belief that tax avoidance is endemic and that tax avoiders would escape justice.

Small and medium size enterprises

Green Investment Bank losing purpose? – Ministers are planning to remove a clause requiring the Green Investment Bank to invest in renewable power and other green projects. The £3.8bn bank was established in 2012 to “accelerate the UK’s transition to a greener, stronger economy”, but campaigners say the rule changes proposed by small business minister Anna Soubry will remove the bank’s green credentials. Officials said the clause has to be removed from legislation in order for the bank to be privatised and that a special share structure will be put in place to protect its green mission. However, critics say this can be removed under company law at a later date without public scrutiny.

Business rates set to deliver huge haul for councils  – Just days after the CBI warned that the system risks undermining the economic recovery, councils across England are forecasting a bonanza £23.5bn income from business rates. Fresh government figures show the amount raised will increase by £400m in 2016/17, which local government minister Marcus Jones attributed to a rise in the number of new businesses across the country. However, the CBI has claimed the burden of rates payments, coupled with the apprenticeship levy and the living wage, could severely compromise both companies and the wider economy. Under the current rules, The Telegraph notes, councils are allowed to keep half of the income themselves, paying the other half to the Treasury, and government figures suggest 90% of local authorities have already increased their income from business rates since the rates retention policy changed in 2013. Business rates expert Paul Turner-Mitchell said: “It is particularly insensitive to the 278,000 SME shops, pubs, restaurants and cafes who will lose £1,500 retail relief in April adding an extra half a billion to their tax burden raising their rates bill by on average 20% this year”.

UK economy, finance and markets

Carney: BoE could cut rates to zero – Mark Carney has said that Bank of England policymakers stand ready to cut interest rates to zero if the UK enters another downturn.

Brexit triggers a run on the pound – Sterling fell by as much as 2.4% against the dollar on Monday, the steepest one-day fall since 2009, partly driven by concerns from Moody’s and Fitch over the disruption a Brexit would cause to the British economy. Both agencies predicted a drop in the UK’s credit standing following a vote to exit. JP Morgan estimated the pound could dip to $1.38 in the run up to the vote, while UBS suggested Sterling would likely “track the ebb and flow of the polls” in the coming months. Sterling ended around 1.8% down in the end at $1.4144.

British manufacturing lags – Factory orders weakened further in February, following a fall in January, with manufacturers expected to cut their prices in the coming months, according to the CBI.

House prices climb 6.7% in 2015 – House prices in the UK rose by 6.7% in 2015, according to the Office for National Statistics. Prices increased fastest in England, at 7.3%, and slowest in Scotland, where they fell 0.2% during 2015. Halifax, the UK’s largest mortgage lender, said prices rose by as much as 9.5% in 2015, while the Nationwide Building Society put the increase at just 4.5%. The Land Registry of England and Wales said the annual inflation rate was 6.4% and the Council of Mortgage Lenders confirmed the amount being borrowed had risen from £112bn in 2014 to £118bn in 2015, an increase of 5.3%.

UK inflation rises in January – UK inflation edged up to a 12 month high in January, as a fall in petrol prices eased. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Prices Index, rose by 0.3%, helped by smaller falls in food and fuel prices than a year ago. Food prices fell by 0.6% between December and January as opposed to a 1% fall a year earlier.

Other

NAO issues warning over pension reforms – A report from the National Audit Office (NAO) has highlighted concerns that pension reforms introduced last April, which allowed pensioners to cash in savings, could lead to the widespread exploitation of “vulnerable and unsophisticated” consumers.

PwC’s blockchain link – PwC is amongst the companies partnering with Digital Asset Holdings as the New York start-up seeks to widen the use of blockchain technology

Neymar’s assets frozen – A court in Brazil has frozen assets of football star Neymar. The federal court in Sao Paulo announced it was issuing warrants to freeze almost $50m (£34.5m) worth of assets belonging to the Brazil and Barcelona striker. They include a yacht, a jet and several properties. Neymar, 23, is accused of tax evasion between 2011 and 2013 and faces legal proceedings. He has denied any wrongdoing.

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