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SMALL FIRMS WARNED to keep HMRC up to date

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) is urging business owners to inform HMRC of all changes to their details, after a small firm was handed a £10,000 fine for changing its name without updating the tax authority, despite the fact that HMRC did not lose out on any tax. Andrew Needham, tax adviser at the FPB, expressed concern that this could indicate a change in HMRC’s long-standing policy of waiving fines of this type. He added: “If this is carried through and sets a precedent it could result in huge fines being imposed on small businesses which, in reality, have done very little wrong.”

GROCERY AND RETAIL the latest target for HMRC

A new HMRC taskforce will target tax avoidance in the grocery and retail industry in South Wales, North Wales, the North West and the South West. Some 30 taskforces have been launched by HMRC since May 2011 to carry out investigations into the records of businesses in specific high-risk sectors and regions. Mike Eland of HMRC warned: “HMRC can and will track you down if you choose to break the rules. We are on target to collect more than £50 million as a result of taskforces launched in 2011/12.”

COUNCILS KEEN to contract out more services, survey finds

Four in ten local authority leaders think all services should be contracted out, according to a survey of 73 councils conducted by Localis and Capita Symonds. Despite this, many respondents said they believed certain services, including planning, children’s social care and licensing should continue to be provided in-house. The report predicted that in coming years local authorities would form more partnerships with the private and voluntary sectors to supply services. The report urged the Government to help local authorities improve their commissioning skills in order to contract out more services.

MORE FIRMS working with competitors in tough times

Many small businesses are collaborating with competitors in their industry or local area to help grow their business, a survey by Just Eat has found. The research revealed that 30% of small firms believe working with competitors could help their business grow, compared with 21% who believe that an improvement in the economic situation would help. Despite this, 22% of respondents said they would be less likely to co-operate with competitors if the economy improved.

32 B

oth and will be closed on 17 October to be replaced by a new, centralised Government information website, The £1.7 million project was launched

following a 2010 review of the Govern- ment’s online services by Martha Lane-Fox, founder of At the moment it is unclear as to how

much of the information on the existing Business Link website will remain in place once the new site is fully operational. According to an e-mail sent to registered users of the site in September, anyone using old links will be redirected to a page on the new site. Explaining the rationale behind the

move to a single Government website back in February, Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude said: “Digital public services should be easy to find and simple to use – they must also be cost-effective and SME-friendly”.

The Business Link website has been subject to criticism from many business owners and professionals in terms of its usability, accessibility and relevance. The latest Business Barometer survey

commissioned by the Department for Business (BIS) revealed that has only been used by 7% of respondents to access finance information, up from 5% recorded in the previous survey in February. In both surveys just 1% had used the website’s new growth and improvement services. Responding to Cobweb’s coverage

of the change in September, Jean McNeil at enterprise agency NWES commented: “I am assuming the BETA site is not ready for launch. I certainly hope so, as it is a very poor substitute for the existing site.” She added: “Micro and small businesses need something a bit different and it appears that this change is a step backwards when we should be making strides forward to encourage and support enterprise during these challenging economic times.” Neil Davey commented: “Is this the

Government bowing to the inevitable, seeing sense, or merely trying to disguise the total waste of money setting up a website that has hardly been accessed?” He added: “How can anyone without any experience of self employment under- stand and disseminate the information which is suitable to meet their needs?”. ❖

Better Business No 189

Business Link website to close in October

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