The UK government’s Autumn Statement brings some long-awaited and welcome news for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In a bold move aimed at strengthening the economy, the Chancellor unveiled a comprehensive plan prioritising growth, resilience, and productivity. Here’s a breakdown of the key takeaways from the Autumn Statement that SMEs need to know.
Historic Tax Cuts for Business Investment
The standout feature of the statement is the launch of Permanent Full Expensing. This significant policy means that businesses can fully deduct the cost of qualifying investments in plant and machinery from their taxable income. Companies can receive up to 25 pence in tax savings for each pound invested. This policy represents an extraordinary £10 billion annual incentive, marking it the most substantial permanent tax reduction in recent British history. This move sends a positive message about the government’s commitment to encouraging investment and fostering growth within the business sector.
Business Rates Support Package
Recognising the challenges businesses face, especially on high streets, the government has introduced a £4.3 billion business rates support package spread over the next five years. This package includes a continuation of 75% relief for retail, hospitality, and leisure properties and a freeze on the small business multiplier. These measures are expected to benefit around 90% of ratepayers, providing much-needed relief and stability.
Embracing the Green Transition
To align with environmental goals, the Climate Change Agreement Scheme will be extended. This offers approximately £300 million in tax relief annually until 2033 to energy-intensive businesses like steel and ceramics. The aim is to encourage investment in energy efficiency and aid in the transition to Net Zero, an important step towards a sustainable future.
Focused Support for SMEs
The Autumn Statement sets out a series of measures designed to support SMEs. These include extended access to growth funding through the Future Fund: Breakthrough and management training via leading business schools through the Help to Grow scheme. What’s more, the expansion of Made Smarter will aid manufacturing SMEs in adopting advanced digital technologies. These initiatives are aimed at improving productivity and growth potential for SMEs.
The tax rate for unprofitable firms in the merged scheme will drop from 25% to 19%, and the support threshold for R&D-centric, loss-making SMEs will lower to 30%, aiding 5,000 more SMEs. SMEs will also benefit from regulatory changes, including tougher regulations on late payments and improved price transparency for consumers.
Recognising the importance of strategic sectors, the government has set aside £4.5 billion, including £960 million for clean energy, and a further £10 billion-a-year tax break for companies that invest in equipment and technology. Through the Advanced Manufacturing Plan, more than £2 billion over the next five years has been set aside for the automotive industry. The allocated funding is set to support the UK’s manufacturing industry and its supply chain, particularly focusing on the advancement of zero-emission vehicles. What’s more, two British Business Bank programmes will receive further funding, focusing on long-term investments in the science and technology sectors.
Assistance for Hospitality
In a welcome move for the hospitality sector, alcohol duty will be frozen for six months until August, offering relief to pubs, breweries, and distillers. This temporary measure will support these businesses as they recover from recent challenges.
Extending Freeports Tax Relief
The government has also announced an extension of Freeport tax reliefs in England from five to ten years. This extension until September 2031 is set to provide a more stable investment environment, promoting growth and job creation and contributing to boosting the economy.
Launch of the Growth Fund
A new initiative, the Growth Fund, will be established within the British Business Bank. With a permanent capital base of over £7 billion, this fund aims to attract pension scheme capital into the UK’s most promising businesses. This move could significantly boost investment and growth prospects.
Support for Employees
In a move that will impact many SMEs, the National Living Wage will increase by over a pound an hour from April 2024. This substantial increase, the largest in over a decade, extends eligibility to 21-year-olds for the first time. This hike represents a significant uplift in earnings for many workers and could have broad implications for SMEs in terms of wage bills and employee satisfaction.
Navigating the New Era of Opportunities
The Autumn Statement presents a mix of ambitious policy shifts and targeted support measures aimed at creating a more resilient and dynamic SME sector. From historic tax cuts to sector-specific support and employee wage increases, these initiatives reflect a coordinated effort to stimulate economic growth and productivity. As we navigate these changes, SMEs stand at the forefront of a new era of opportunity and innovation in the UK economy.
Unlock your SME potential
If you’re inspired to explore how these changes can benefit your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch. Let’s start a conversation and work together to utilise these new opportunities. With our expertise and your vision, we can unlock the full potential of your business in this new economic landscape.