What the tech sector really thinks about George Osborne's Autumn Statement

Firms discuss SMB tax support, apprenticeships and more
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Today (November 25th), Chancellor George Osborne has unveiled the annual update of the Government's plans for the economy in his Autumn Statement.

The announcement covers a number of areas that are of interests to a host of businesses in the tech and IT sector, from indie retailers to large vendors.

Osborne’s revelations about tax credits, business rates, UK investments, apprenticeships and more has stirred up a lot of conversation amongst PCR readers.

Here are some of the issues and announcements from the Autumn Statement that have got the IT and tech channel talking:

The digitisation of HMRC

"I’m glad to see the government has committed £1.3Bn in investment to the digitisation of HMRC. The result should be a more efficient, streamlined HMRC that is also better able to focus its resources on chasing down genuine tax avoidance,” said Ed Molyneux, CEO of FreeAgent.

“It’ll also dramatically reduce the burden of tax compliance, which is disproportionately shouldered by the very small businesses that we support at FreeAgent. In a world where everything – from shopping to banking – is done online or via smartphone, this is an area which has been long overdue for reinvention.”

Business rates review

“It is encouraging that the Government appears to be taking their time to consider their options for fundamental review of the business rates system,” said BRC director general, Helen Dickinson.

“We have long said that it would be better to take the time to get the solutions right on the first go and design a system that is fit for purpose. How rates reform will fit into the wider Business Tax Roadmap will be a big question in 2016.”

She continued: “The chancellor needs to reduce the disproportionate burden of business rates on the industry and keep going with its review because this is the key to delivering the core of the Government’s reform programme. While we eagerly await the detail behind the plans to devolve rates to local authorities over the next few years it is clear that devolution does not address the key problems of the rates system.”

Investment in UK Enterprise Zones

“MassChallenge welcomes the additional support of £12billion to fund 26 new and expanded Enterprise Zones across the UK and believes this must be matched by a commitment from successful enterprises and the entrepreneurs who built them to nurture and support smaller businesses, startups and aspiring entrepreneurs in their locality,” said Diane Perlman, global CMO at MassChallenge.

“Mentors from the business community are the crucial to helping startups grow and an important part of the MassChallenge accelerator programme. It is vital that entrepreneurs are able to lean on the expertise of more experienced entrepreneurs and business people in order to grow and scale their businesses, thus contributing to growing the economy.

“Businesses working together in this way will help to ensure the right investment, resources, skills and training are made available to local entrepreneurial talent,” she concluded.

Boost in apprenticeships

“The government is absolutely right to want to increase the number of apprenticeships but in doing so it must make sure the quality is increased too. We welcome the decision to establish a new employer-led body to set the standards and ensure quality,” commented the BRC’s Helen Dickinson.

“If left untouched the burdens on business will weigh the retail industry down. We are making a huge contribution to increasing wages and providing training and jobs. If retail is to do this successfully and not lose jobs in the future the Government will have to go beyond the devolution of business rates and deliver fundamental reform of the system early next year.”

Tax support for small businesses

“Small businesses play a huge part in driving economic success but are hit hard by the day-to-day challenges and costs of running the organisation,” said James Blake, CEO of Hello Soda.

“More tangible measures need to be taken to make sustainable growth more attainable for SMEs which will have a knock-on positive ripple across the wider economy.

“If more can be done in the way of tax support, SMEs could give more people jobs, which will boost employment, enhance skills and pour more money back into the economy,” explained James.

Jim Duffy, CEO at Entrepreneurial Spark, agreed: “The small business rate relief scheme being extended for another year is good news for start-ups, but I’d like to see the Chancellor go deeper and provide more tax breaks and support for entrepreneurs. We’d like to see more initiatives to help start-ups recruit, plus easier access to funding for high potential businesses.”

Entrepreneurs’ Relief reform

“As an entrepreneur, I’m glad that reform of Entrepreneurs’ Relief, which some commentators had warned of, has been only minor,” commented FreeAgent’s Ed Molyneux.

“This relief recognises the very considerable personal risks that entrepreneurs take to build businesses, and I would have like to have seen reliefs extended to early employees’ share options as well. Those options represent an important mechanism here at FreeAgent for fostering a sense of genuine ownership among employees."

The Northern Powerhouse

“Since it was branded the ‘Northern Powerhouse’, the north of England has seen significant successes. However, whilst the Chancellor says one million jobs have been created in the last year, the region has also suffered economic setbacks including the closure of the Redcar steelworks and job threats at major employers such as HMRC Preston, the Open University, BAE Systems, Tata Steel and the Boulby potash mine,” said Hello Soda’s James Blake.

“We need to build on the momentum behind the region’s success to date, underpinning it with strong foundations and take action to mitigate the negativity.

“The North needs to be more accessible to networks in London and major hubs across the UK to leverage new business opportunities. The chancellor is handing the baton over to local councils to reduce or raise business rates and if raised the money must be used to fund infrastructure that benefits the business community.

"It will be interesting to see how this comes out in the wash"

What do you think about George Osborne's Autumn Statement? Tell us in the comments section below.

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