Navigating the challenge of late payments

In the world of business, cash flow is king and, for small business owners, it is a lifeline that keeps their ventures afloat and enables growth.

However, in recent times, late payments have been an issue that has been casting a shadow over small businesses across the UK.

Below, we investigate this pressing concern and how it might impact your business finances.

The late payment predicament

Recent data has revealed that late payments to small businesses have reached a concerning three-year high.

On average, small businesses are now waiting for nearly 30 days to receive payments from their customers.

This represents an increase of half a day compared to the earlier part of the year.

September witnessed payments arriving a staggering 7.7 days after their due date.

The impact on small businesses

For small business owners, the repercussions of late payments are multifaceted.

They extend beyond mere financial inconvenience:

  • Cash flow crunch: Late payments can lead to cash flow challenges, making it difficult for businesses to meet their immediate expenses, including supplier payments, salaries, and operational costs.
  • Disrupted planning: Managing a business requires careful planning and budgeting. Late payments disrupt this planning, as businesses struggle to predict when funds will become available.
  • Financial strain: In cases where customers delay payments, business owners may find themselves personally covering expenses or relying on personal credit, leading to financial stress and instability.
  • Professional image: Constantly chasing payments can impact the professionalism of your business, as it reflects poorly on your ability to manage your finances effectively.

The Prompt Payment Code

The Prompt Payment Code (PPC) sets the standard for prompt payments from larger businesses to their small business suppliers.

According to the PPC, 95 per cent of invoices from small businesses with fewer than 50 employees should be paid within 30 days.

However, it’s important to note that adherence to the PPC is voluntary, which has led to concerns about its effectiveness.

Seeking solutions

While the Government has launched a review to address late payment issues, it’s crucial for small business owners to take proactive steps to mitigate the impact:

  • Clear payment terms: Establish clear payment terms and policies with your customers to ensure they understand your expectations.
  • Invoicing efficiency: Streamline your invoicing process to make it easier for customers to pay promptly.
  • Diversify income streams: Consider diversifying your income sources to reduce reliance on a single customer or client.
  • Communication: Open and regular communication with customers about payment expectations can help prevent delays.

Late payments represent a genuine challenge for small business owners and, as such, it is vital to remain vigilant and proactive in managing this issue to safeguard the financial health and sustainability of your business.

By adopting sound financial practices and advocating for timely payments, you can navigate this challenge effectively and ensure the continued success of your enterprise.

To find out how we could help you manage the consequences of late payments, please get in touch. 

Four new investment zones unveiled and how they could help your business

During the 2023 Autumn Statement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made a significant announcement about investment zones that could impact numerous businesses across the UK.

The four new investment zones in Greater Manchester, West Midlands, East Midlands (England), and Wrexham and Flintshire (Wales) signify a concerted effort to bolster economic development and stimulate business growth alongside the previously announced investment zones across the UK.

Extending the investment horizon

One of the standout commitments made by the Chancellor is the extension of the investment programme from five to 10 years.

This extension effectively doubles the financial envelope from £80 million to £160 million.

This significant increase in available funds paves the way for more substantial investments and a more profound impact on the designated regions.

Greater Manchester

The Greater Manchester Investment Zone emerges as a standout player in this initiative.

With an estimated £1.1 billion in private investments anticipated, this region is set to become a thriving hub for advanced manufacturing and materials.

Collaborations with local partners further solidify the strategic focus on fostering innovation and growth.

West Midlands

In the West Midlands Investment Zone, which encompasses Birmingham, Wolverhampton, and Coventry, the potential for business growth is significant.

With plans to leverage £2 billion in investments, the region is poised to drive innovation and economic prosperity.

Private contributions of £70 million, along with an additional £5 million allocated to digital platforms, will fuel entrepreneurial ventures and technological advancements.

East Midlands

The East Midlands Investment Zone, with an allocation of £383 million, is poised to experience a notable economic revival.

Industry giants Rolls Royce and Laing O’Rourke have pledged substantial contributions, amounting to £9.3 million.

This financial injection will play a pivotal role in driving growth and development in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regions.

Leaders and officials across the area have voiced their enthusiasm and support for these initiatives.

Nottinghamshire County Council leader Ben Bradley (Conservative) has praised the scheme as “fantastic news” for his region, echoing the sentiments of many who are eagerly anticipating the positive transformation these investment zones promise.

How these investment zones benefit businesses

The creation of these investment zones holds immense potential for businesses.

Here’s a more detailed look at how businesses stand to benefit:

  • Tax relief: Tax incentives are available for up to 600 hectares across a maximum of three sites, with a duration of five years. In cases where the full 600-hectare tax incentive is not utilised, there’s an option to exchange this for increased spending benefits. Furthermore, locations hosting investment zones may be eligible to retain 100 per cent of the growth in business rates on designated sites, above a predetermined baseline, for a period of 25 years. Additionally, these areas will receive support and guidance from central Government on key policies, including export support, planning, and infrastructure.
  • Increased investment: The infusion of private and Government funds into these regions presents businesses with opportunities for expansion, research and development, and infrastructure improvement.
  • Job creation: The Treasury’s estimates of 66,200 new jobs over the next decade signify increased employment opportunities, leading to economic stability and growth.
  • Innovation hub: The focus on advanced manufacturing and technology within these zones encourages innovation and the development of cutting-edge products and services.
  • Collaboration: Collaboration with local partners and industry leaders opens doors for networking and potential partnerships, fostering business growth.
  • Long-term sustainability: The extension of the investment programme to 10 years ensures a sustained period of financial support, allowing businesses to plan for the future.

The unveiling of these investment zones marks a pivotal moment for businesses across the UK.

The increased funding, strategic focus, and regional collaborations present an unprecedented opportunity for growth and prosperity.

By tapping into these investment zones, businesses can position themselves for long-term success, innovation, and economic sustainability.

To find out how you could benefit from these new investment zones, please contact one of our team. 

An essential financial opportunity maximising your State Pension

In retirement planning, you may encounter a multitude of options and strategies to increase your pot, but some have a catch.

However, some prospects are more valuable, and one such opportunity is currently presenting itself to individuals aged 40 to 73 in the United Kingdom.

If you fall within this age bracket, it is imperative to consider purchasing missing National Insurance (NI) years from the period between 2006 and 2016, a move that could significantly enhance your State Pension.

The deadline: Act before 5 April 2025

The deadline for seizing this opportunity is set at 5 April 2025.

While the primary focus is on those aged 40 to 73, even individuals under 40 can benefit from assessing whether it’s worth topping up their NI record.

Recognising the overwhelming demand for this opportunity, the Government has extended the deadline not once but twice.

Initially scheduled to conclude on 5 April 2023, it was then extended to 31 July 2023, and subsequently, to 5 April 2025.

Moreover, the cost of making voluntary NI contributions remains frozen until the latter date.

The significance of National Insurance years

At present, the ‘new’ State Pension stands at £203.85 per week.

However, the precise amount you receive hinges on the number of qualifying full National Insurance (NI) years in your record.

While most individuals accumulate NI years through employment and NI contributions, it’s essential to note that claiming benefits or providing care for others can also count towards your qualifying years.

Generally, around 35 full NI years are required to attain the maximum State Pension.

Nevertheless, some individuals may require more years in employment, contingent on their age and NI record up to this point.

A rare opportunity to buy back years

Ordinarily, individuals are allowed to buy back up to six years of missing NI contributions.

However, when the ‘new’ State Pension was introduced, transitional arrangements were established to enable individuals to fill gaps all the way back to 2006.

The initial deadline extension now grants individuals until 5 April 2025 to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

In conclusion, for individuals aged 40 to 73 in the UK, the option to purchase missing National Insurance years is a financial opportunity that should not be overlooked.

Given the potential for significant financial gain and the extended deadline until 5 April 2025, it is advisable for you to evaluate this option as a vital component of your retirement planning strategy.

Your State Pension could be substantially enhanced, ensuring a more secure and comfortable retirement.

To discuss this with a qualified and experienced accountant, please get in touch. 

The future of payments – Cards, cashless and beyond

Alongside measures designed to support growing businesses and workers, the Chancellor’s 2023 Autumn Statement saw the publication of the Future of Payments Review.

Chaired by former HSBC Chief Executive, Joe Garner, the review comes as many retailers are struggling with the shift to digital and card payment exclusively.

The past few years have seen many larger retailers prefer card payments or refuse cash payments outright – and recovery of cash has been slow.

As a result, consumers are also moving towards cashless spending – both through the expectation of needing to use a card, and the convenience of card payments.

A cashless solution?

Only 1.5 per cent of the UK population use cash as their main form of payment, according to a UK Finance study in 2023. In contrast, almost one-third of people use cash once per month or less.

What these figures reveal is a general trend towards cashless spending. But is this right for small businesses?

Many independent business owners struggle to operate a card-only payment system because many card providers charge a small percentage of the total payment as a transaction fee.

For most providers, this is between one and four per cent, which can have a huge impact on profitability for a business with low-profit margins and small sales volumes. Very small businesses may also operate without a buffer fund to cover these additional costs.

Alternatively, operators have to pass this cost onto the customer, which many are not willing to do as the cost of living remains high and consumers seek good value.

An alternative vision

The Future of Payments Review has made 10 recommendations to the Government to improve the payment landscape for consumers and business operators. It seeks to provide retailers with a wider range of options for accepting customer payments.

Primarily, it recommended the creation of a National Payments Vision and Strategy, which prioritises customer experience, retailers and security.

Open banking, which enables consumers to share certain financial details with retailers in order to make a direct bank-to-bank payment, has been central to the review.

The benefit to consumers is clear, with a straightforward payment option that rivals card payments in convenience. Retailers, too, may be able to reduce card payment costs and streamline their finances.

However, the current climate has made the adoption of open banking challenging.

Traditional banks currently have a virtual monopoly on card payments – which the review has found the current system to be too reliant upon – and not enough is being done to incentivise open banking alternatives.

This monopoly makes it hard for retailers to actively choose which payment methods to accept based on their associated costs because consumers are most comfortable with the ‘journey’ of card payments.

The idea is to create a ‘customer journey’ for open banking, making it as familiar and viable a choice for consumers as a credit or debit card.

This will give retailers a larger choice of payment methods to accept, meaning they can take payments without additional costs or losing business from consumers who do not use particular payment methods.

Safeguarding your operation

We understand that you want to provide your customers with the best possible experience, which may mean offering a variety of payment options.

You will also want to review which payment options provide the most benefit and the least cost to your business as more payment options become available.

As Government policy evolves, it is likely that retailers will face uncertainty as well as reaping the benefits of innovation.

For advice on covering the costs of card payments and planning for new payment methods, please contact our team today.