Helping my Clients through the Pandemic
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2020 was an odd year!
January…the start of the new decade, industry was bracing itself for Britain’s tumultuous exit from the European Union. But then all of a sudden, this flu-like epidemic started making big waves in China. Little did we know it would change the world as we knew it.
In March, the Prime Minister announced an unprecedented set of measures. We were told to “Stay Home, Stay Safe”. The new Chancellor announced a set of economic lifelines to help Industry see it out. Personally, this wasn’t an issue, as I was already home-based…but it did mean having to share my small workspace with my other half, who was lucky enough to also be able to continue working from home. Many domestics ensued!
By April and May, most of the UK population was sitting at home in Lockdown. The sun shone brightly. But the economic forecast was very dull.
For my business, the inbound referrals and enquiries stopped virtually overnight. But, worse still, clients whose claims I was already working on were just not responding to my messages. The feedback I was getting was that they were reluctant to pay consultant fees until this “all blew over”. This was very frustrating indeed. Having worked in R&D tax relief for so long, I have seen first-hand how people use their relief to help their businesses survive and thrive. With turnover plummeting, a cash injection would be desperately needed. The great thing about R&D tax relief is that it’s basically a reward for work you have already carried out. With new clients, my first task is to commence a review of work carried out in their previous 2 financial periods. This usually will generate some much needed cash due to overpayment of Corporation tax in a matter of weeks.
Then, sometime around late May, early June, people started to realise this was not just a blip, and we were potentially in this for the long run (how right we were). Enquiries picked up. Communication with clients started to resume. I do a lot of work in the brewing and distilling industries. With hospitality venues closed or at very limited capacities, drinks manufacturers had little to no income. Most Furloughed staff and stayed closed. Some repurposed their equipment to produce sanitiser. I was able to advise on the types of government reliefs that were suitable for their company and how resources like CBILS and other Grants would impact on their ability to claim R&D relief.
HMRC have always been very efficient with turning claims around. Rarely can you receive a large sum of money from anyone after only 30 days of asking. And given the pressures and challenges HMRC themselves were experiencing by having a remote workforce, the service level did not suffer terribly. So, being able to boost a business’s cash flow in such a short time frame has really been a huge benefit to many of my clients.
As we start to return to normal, the biggest question I receive nowadays is how bounce back assistance impacts on a claim for R&D tax relief. Thankfully there are many facilities available to industry to help them out of the slump. But the fact that these businesses are still trading after the year we experienced is testament to the nature of business in the UK and that “overcoming uncertainties” seems ingrained in us.