Technology in care homes – is your website effective?

Technology in care homes – is your website effective?

Are you ready for tomorrow’s service users today?

Have you considered the implications of technology in care homes?

Whether you run a small home in the local area or have a group of homes with a national focus, it is time to start considering the implications technology may have on your care home, before you fall behind. Many care homes have outdated websites and this may be a good time to start thinking about an update, or even a complete redesign.  In this article we talk to Scott Sanderson, Healthcare Partner at Hawsons, to discuss what makes a good care home website and how homes can stand out from the competition.

Q&A – what makes a good care home website?

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How important is a good website for a care home?

“The importance of a well thought-out and carefully designed website should not be overlooked in any sector, and it is becoming particularly important for care homes. Choosing a care home for a loved one is a huge decision and this is a decision which is increasingly – at least initially – being made online. A care home’s website is central to new enquiries and provides operators with an opportunity to attract private fee payers – first impressions count! Care homes must therefore ensure that their websites are up to scratch, both from a technical standpoint and prospective service user’s point of view.”

What makes a good care home website?

“There are a number of things that make a good care home website. In particular, I would look at it from a prospective service user’s viewpoint – what do they want to see? Testimonials from current residents, latest CQC reports, accreditations and awards, pictures of the interior and exterior of the care home, a list of key features the home has e.g. lifts, en-suites and activity areas and contact information should be included on all care homes’ websites.”

What makes a care home website stand out?

“Testimonials should really not be overlooked. Now, as many as 78% of people trust online reviews as much as recommendations from friends – that is an amazing statistic. Going beyond that, I would like to see more care homes include videos on their websites – either providing a tour of the home or further information from the owner or carers – as seeing the people behind the home really can make that vital difference. I would also like to see more websites include a FAQ section. Many people who are looking for a care home have never done so before, so it’s understandable they have so many questions. Make the process as simple and as reassuring for them as possible.”

What do owners need to know from a technical standpoint?

“The technical elements of a website need to also be considered. In this day-and-age your website simply has to be mobile-friendly. By that I mean that your website should work responsively on a mobile or tablet with no sideways swiping to read a page. Google recently confirmed that there are more mobile search queries than desktop – and have recently made changes to their complex algorithms to align with that. If your website isn’t mobile-friendly you won’t rank as well on Google. There are a number of other technical SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) considerations you will also have to make which determine how well you rank on Google. If you outsource the production of your website, the developer will help with these.”

More from our care sector experts

You can also find all of our latest care sector news and newsletters here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

SME tax corner – the good, the bad & the kneady!

SME tax corner – the good, the bad & the kneady!

In this month’s SME tax corner we look at the recent Summer Budget and what’s changed in the world of tax for small businesses.

Tax and the small business – Summer Budget

The recent Summer Budget was a bit hit and miss for small businesses. On the whole, though, it didn’t bring much good news.

The most noteworthy announcements were the:

  • Introduction of the National Living Wage
  • Proposed decrease in corporation tax
  • Big change in how dividend income is taxed
  • Increase in Employment Allowance
  • Certainty given to Annual Investment Allowance

With small businesses dealing with auto enrolment and other rising costs, the timing of the introduction of the National Living Wage will not be welcomed by the small business community. The impact will of course vary from sector to sector, with small shops, hospitality firms, retailers and care providers set to face a real financial challenge.

The cut to corporation tax, from to 20% to 19% in 2017 (and 18% in 2020) is undoubtedly good news for small and large business alike. As we have mentioned in this editions ‘the good, the bad and the kneady…’ the change in the way dividend income is to be taxed is a particularly big blow for entrepreneurs. The change will significantly reduce the tax advantage of taking dividends rather than salary.

In contrast, the certainty given to Annual Investment Allowance is excellent news, particularly as the concern was that the allowance would be cut to £25,000. The government is encouraging investment and that is good news, for all businesses.

Tax will always be an issue, but it will also always bring opportunities. Are you maximising your tax reliefs?

Good: AIA increase

The Chancellor announced that Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) will be set permanently at £200,000 from 1 January 2016.  A welcome piece of news for many small business owners as the relief was due to reduce to £25,000.

This new rate should see businesses, small and large, continue to invest in equipment, plant and machinery, and should lead to increases in productivity and output. We have more details here.

Bad: Dividend income changes

One of the biggest announcements in the recent Summer Budget was a shake-up in the way income is taxed from April 2016.

The announcement has added complexity to the current dividend system and the reaction has been, unsurprisingly, one of the confusion.  What many small businesses owners do know, however, is that they will be hard hit by the change in regime. For example, if an owner makes £55k a year and pays themselves 30k as a salary and 25k as a dividend, they will see their tax liability rise by just over £1,600.

Not good news for many entrepreneurs! We have more details, including FAQs and examples.

Kneady:  When dough means dough!

R&D tax reliefs are available to those in the food industry throughout the supply-chain, whether its storing, packaging and preservation. Don’t miss out!

More from our tax experts

You can find all of our latest tax articles and tax resources here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Auto enrolment – bigger costs for those that wait

Auto enrolment – bigger costs for those that wait

Auto enrolment – bigger costs for those that wait

The law on workplace pensions has changed with the recent onset of auto enrolment. There are hundreds of thousands of smaller companies across the UK approaching their staging date, and between now and April 2017 millions of workers will be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension. Auto enrolment is the law and you must act now. As an employer, you’re responsible for enrolling all eligible employees into your scheme (and contributing to it), providing they meet certain criteria.

We would advise you start talking to your pension adviser as soon as possible, preferably with more than nine months to your staging date (ideally twelve), to build a timescale and agenda to make sure it all falls in to place. Those that wait may face bigger costs.

Costs (including fines) will soon build up…

A key point to note here is that pension solutions are not necessarily free and some of the large insurance companies will charge employers a service fee to have their pension scheme. The ability of pension providers to provide solutions is becoming a real issue of capacity and if you delay your auto enrolment preparations you will likely be charged a more expensive service fee.  The difference in fees can be quite high.

Watch out for big fines too. The Pension Regulator is clamping down on businesses who fail to comply so any delay is risky. Regardless of their size, firms can be fined £400, with the possibility of further escalating fines.

Free auto enrolment seminars – be fine, not fined!

The law on workplace pensions has changed, but there are still many cloudy areas surrounding the regulation, particularly eligible employees and employer duties. We would therefore like to invite you to one of our seminars on preparing for auto enrolment, by Erica Dietsch, Independent Financial Adviser at Hawsons Wealth Management Limited.

  • Does my existing scheme meet minimum criteria?
  • Are there enough schemes left for me?
  • Will I be able to get a scheme at short notice?
  • I am a new business, when is my staging date?
  • What if I am a sole director, do I have duties?
  • What if I do not have any staff?

If you have any questions regarding auto enrolment, including those mentioned above, then please come to one of our free seminars in September and October – Sheffield (29 September) – Doncaster (1 October) – Northampton (8 October).

The seminars will provide an overview of auto enrolment and employer duties, covering who the new law applies to and what you need to do as an employer. You will also have the opportunity to ask our Hawsons Wealth Management Limited experts any additional questions.

For more information on how one of the leading firms of small business accountants can help you, please contact Hawsons today.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Small business outlook 2015/16

Small business outlook 2015/16

Welcome to our small business outlook 2015/16.

Although not all small businesses have seen an improvement in their financial performance in the last 12 months, the picture is largely positive. The UK economy thrives on small businesses and, generally speaking, they are performing well regionally and internationally. There are, however, a number of financial and strategic challenges facing many and it is essential owners understand the potential implications each may have on their small business. Some of those challenges also bring opportunities – big opportunities, as you will see.

Managing rising costs

Rising costs is arguably the challenge that preoccupies most small business owners’ minds, particularly those in sectors with very tight margins, such as dairy farming and e-commerce. While certain costs – like the onset of auto enrolment – are out of your control, there are other areas where you can make savings. The starting point must be to look at tax. Are you maximising available reliefs and minimising liabilities? There are a large number of generous tax reliefs which are widely available to small businesses, but they are often overlooked because owners do not necessarily know they are there or that they even qualify, such as R&D tax credits.

Preparing for auto enrolment

The law on workplace pensions has changed and by 2017 every organisation in the UK must automatically enrol their employees into a company pension scheme. The ability of pension providers to provide solutions is becoming a real issue due to large numbers of small businesses being enrolled in a short period of time. The fourth quarter of 2016/17 will see approximately 215,000 small businesses enter into auto enrolment alone! Our advice is to prepare early, which could reduce your costs.

Getting paid on time

Late payments are still a big concern for many small businesses in the UK. Research shows that a third of businesses in the UK say that at least 20-30% of their debtors are constantly overdue. The impacts of this are considerable, particularly on cash flow, which makes the day-to-day running of the business much more challenging. A proactive credit control system is a must.

Not enough hours in the day

Running a successful small business usually means you are focused on looking after your customers, growing sales and improving profitability. It also means you are on top of your finances with up-to-date, accurate information so you can make well-informed decisions, improve profits and manage cash flow. There’s a lot to keep track of and it is no surprise that one of the biggest challenges many small business owners face is simply not having enough hours in the day. There are opportunities here though, particularly through technology, in terms of cloud accounting, bookkeeping and outsourced payroll. Outsourcing such roles is simple and cost-effective, giving you more time with customers and freeing up time for you to grow your business.

Embracing digital change (from accounting to marketing)

There are many instances where technology can help a small business enhance performance and grow, whether it’s through attracting new clients, having access to real-time data or improving operational efficiencies. Investing in technology should certainly be high on the agenda and, in particular, you should be considering the huge benefits that cloud accounting can bring and the effectiveness of your website – do you attract new clients online? The world is Googling and you need to have an online presence.  Other big technological opportunities may be sector specific, such as 3D printing in manufacturing or precision farming in agriculture. Some key challenges within this are a reluctance to redesign traditional methods, a lack of digital and technical expertise and funding capacity.

In summary

As you can see, there are challenges and opportunities aplenty for small businesses in 2015/16. Now, with the drama and uncertainty of the General election behind us, we can focus on the future. With innovation and technology set to continue to drive small business development – with considerable time and financial savings – let’s hope growth continues on an upward trend.

For more information on how one of the leading firms of small business accountants can help you, please contact Hawsons today.

Scott Sanderson

Scott Sanderson Partner

Scott Sanderson began his career with Hawsons and trained as a Chartered Accountant, becoming a partner in 2015, specialising in the healthcare sector and small businesses. For more details and advice, please contact Scott on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.[/author_info]

Owning a property via a company – big tax changes!

Owning a property via a company – big tax changes!

Owning a property vis a company – big tax changes 

Last month, at the annual HLB International Audit & Tax Conference in Amsterdam, I spoke to member firms about the current real estate developments in the UK from a tax perspective. There have been some big changes recently, including Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED) and ATED-related Capital Gains Tax (CGT); all of which have led to many with high value residential properties questioning: am I structured in the most tax-efficient manner? It is important that you look at the key tax considerations if:

  • You are looking to buy a home and are considering the pros/cons of buying it in your company or taking money out and buying it personally (scenario 1)
  • You have a company-owned home and are considering whether it is still tax-efficient to hold it in the company (scenario 2)

First, let’s look at the various property taxes you need to consider.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

As it now stands, SDLT is payable at the rate of 15% when a company (i.e. non-natural person) acquires a UK residential property valued at more than £500,000. In contrast, when the purchaser is an individual the rate of SDLT is tiered with a 12% rate only applying over £1.5m

Benefits in Kind (BIK)

BIK are benefits you receive from your company which are not included in salary/wages, such as a company car, medical insurance or use of a home. Some BIK are tax-free, but accommodation is not, and it could lead to a significant tax liability. The amount of BIK tax due on a home depends on a number of factors, including the rent the occupier pays (if any), the value of the property and the cost of the property if bought by the employer.

An Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED)

ATED is not a new tax, but it has changed considerably since its introduction in 2013.  Essentially, ATED is payable by companies that own UK residential property (a dwelling) valued above a certain amount, as the below table shows. This tax is payable each year.

ATED figures

At first, ATED only really caught London properties, but with the properties valued between £1m – £2m now included from April 2015 (and with properties valued between £500,000 – £1m to be included from April 2016) the tax has been given a much wider scope and will affect many more companies north of the capital. Companies in the North and the Midlands really need to take note.

As well as its scope, the annual chargeable amounts for ATED have also increased significantly from April 2015 – by 50% above the usual yearly increase in line with the Customer Prices Index (CPI).

ATED-related Capital Gains Tax

Thinking of selling your company-owned property?

If your company falls within the ATED rules and pays annual tax, then you will need to watch out for ATED-related capital gains on the sale of the property. High value UK residential properties that are subject to ATED are also subject to 28% UK capital gains charged on profit (overriding the normal 20% corporation tax) when the property is sold.

Review your property structure after ATED

ATED capital gains only applies to a property’s growth in value between 6 April 2013 (or the date on which the property first comes within the ATED regime) and the date of the sale.

Scenario 1: You have made some money in your company following the recession and now you want to buy a second home. Do you take the money out and buy it personally or buy it in the company?

With the changes to various property taxes and, in particular, the substantial increase in the ATED annual chargeable amounts, each situation must be carefully considered in its own right.

There are quite a few considerations you will need to make in addition to the ATED annual charge. You will be subject to a flat rate of 15% SDLT when purchasing the property into a company, as opposed to a much lower rate when purchased personally. This will make a big difference if your property is valued under £1.5m. For example, a property valued at £850,000 will be subject to under 5% SDLT.

As well as those points, you may also find that buying the property personally may be more beneficial when it comes to the sale of the property, particularly if this is your only residence and would be exempt from capital gains tax. Even if you are only just purchasing the property, thinking ahead early on could save you a big headache in the future! Those properties that are subject to ATED are also subject to 28% ATED-related capital gains charged on profit, rather than the usual 20% corporation tax, when the property is sold.

All of this seemingly points towards always buying the property personally. However, if you decide to take the money out of the company to do so – whether that is as a salary or dividend – you will be subject to income tax, which could be as high as 45%. Recent changes to the way dividend income is taxed will, from April 2016, also significantly reduce the tax advantage of taking dividends rather than salary, particularly for those extracting large sums from the company.

Scenario 2: You have a company-owned home and you are now considering whether it is tax-efficient.

You will also need to consider all of the above points, including ATED, SDLT, BIK, ATED-related capital gains if you currently have a company-owned home.

In particular, your annual tax charges are now likely to rise, whether that is due to an increase in your existing charge or a new charge as you become subject to ATED. The increase in ATED for the higher end of residential properties is particularly noteworthy and will make a considerable difference year-on-year. Because of this you may be looking to take the property out of the company, either by selling it to a third-party or selling it to yourself.

If you choose to sell the property to a third-party you may be subject to ATED-related capital gains, depending on the value of the property. If the property is valued between £500,000 – £1m then you could save 8% tax on the sale of your property if it is sold before that threshold comes into the ATED regime in April 2016. If your property is already subject to ATED then you will have to sell at the higher ATED-related capital gains rate.

If you choose to take the property out of the company by selling it to you, you have two options. Firstly, you may wish to do this as a dividend, although, as mentioned earlier in scenario 1, the recent announcement of planned changes to the way dividend income is taxed will significantly reduce the tax advantage of this form of remuneration. Taking it as a dividend should avoid any SDLT. The second option would be to take remuneration in the form of the property, but this is not usually as tax efficient.

In summary – is your structure right?

Now is the time to think ahead and plan strategically if you have, or are thinking about having, company-owned property. As properties valued between £500,000 – £1m are to be subject to ATED annual charges from April 2016 and the fact that the forthcoming changes to the way dividend income is taxed will significant reduce its tax advantage, it is essential to start thinking now.

The changes are likely to have a substantial impact on how you structure things. As the two scenarios above have shown, there are a number of options available to you, each of which needs to be carefully considered. We recommend you take advice as soon as possible.

More from our tax experts

You can find all of our latest tax articles and tax resources here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.