Solent 250 webinar: Making your business fit for purpose in the new normal

    Are you ready for the new normal? The second in our series of Solent 250 webinars explored some of the tax, HR and legal matters for managing in a post-lockdown world. The in-depth webinar focused on a range of topics from the indirect tax impacts on Covid-19 induced business model changes, workforce management and making your business more sustainable to Brexit.

    The webinar was hosted by Solent 250 sponsors CMA and HSBC, with speakers from sponsors Irwin Mitchell and RSM.

    VAT with that?

    Laurent Doggett, indirect tax associate director at RSM, kicked off the webinar by giving an update on Covid-19 VAT changes and the payment deferral, highlighting how HMRC has been accommodating in supporting businesses. He discussed the temporary reduction in the rate for hospitality and tourism and the complications this causes. “A business could have three rates – 0% on cold takeaway food, 5% on hot food and alcohol at the standard rate,” he noted, adding that business opportunities include encouraging customers to buy vouchers for services while VAT is at the lower rate.

    Laurent Doggett

    He also briefly focused on Brexit and the paperwork burden businesses will face. “For companies moving goods to or from the EU, now is the time to appoint a customs intermediary, apply for a duty deferment account and an Economic Operators Registration and Identification number,” he recommended.

    Back to work

    The discussion moved on to post-lockdown workforce planning. RSM’s Andrew Timpson, employer solutions partner, and HR specialist Deborah Payne, an associate director, looked at issues around transitioning from furlough to ‘flexi-furlough’ and other work alternatives.

    Andrew Timpson

    Timpson highlighted expenses and benefits considerations in the ‘new normal’. “Employees purchasing more holiday could bring cash into your business,” he suggested. “While employee equity schemes can link productivity to rewards, plus you can exchange cash for equity, which also maintains money into your business.”

    Deborah Payne

    Payne covered the practicalities of returning to work. “It’s all about being reasonable and listening to employees’ concerns,” she said. “Companies are amending their policies and procedures to be Covid-secure. The role of line managers is important in engaging everyone, so employees know what’s expected of them.”

    Legal challenges

    The session closed with Rob Coleridge, senior associate at Irwin Mitchell, giving a lawyer’s view of coronavirus implications for companies’ technology, supply chains and real estate. Despite the apparent online dominance of tech and retail giants there are opportunities. “The big players can struggle meeting demand peaks and the drive towards localism, and there is new regulation giving B2C businesses a helping hand in developing their e-commerce infrastructure” he observed. “But care should be taken in areas like sharing data and consumer terms and conditions.”

    Shifting from Just In Time to Just in Case supply chain models could be permanent for some businesses. “Diversifying supply chains and using local suppliers to minimise distances goods travel will help mitigate the risk of further lockdown disruptions,” he said. “But make sure you are on top of supplier contracts, paying particular attention to any clauses that deal with force majeure, termination or limitation of liabilities.”

    Rob Coleridge

    He thought the decline of the high street at the hands of e-commerce may not be as terminal as some predict. “Now is the time to revisit leases, including rent provisions to help cashflow. A major new opportunity is the new Service Use Order, which will allow commercial real estate to be used for a much wider range of activities and will therefore enable tenants to diversify their business activities.”


    James Tetley, tax partner at RSM, hosted the online question and answer session. Questions from participants included getting VAT returns right and company cars. Doggett said businesses may be able to adjust over-declarations of VAT following the rate reduction in their next return or make a formal disclosure to HMRC. For company cars sitting idle on employees’ drives, Timpson explained: “The car benefit is based on availability, not usage. If you want to remove the benefit while the car isn’t in use, then perhaps take back the keys and cancel the insurance.”

    More information

    The session highlighted a range of detailed topics on how to adapt to the new normal, if you would like further information about the webinar contents please contact Laurent Doggett, Andrew Timpson, Deborah Payne or Rob Coleridge.

    Next webinar: Dame Kelly Holmes on employee wellbeing

    Date: Monday 7 September at 11am

    She has inspired millions with her sporting achievements and her openness about the importance of mental health. Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes will share what she has learned and experienced from her time in the British Army and as a world-class athlete. She’ll also give an exclusive look at her new app to help employers support employees in areas of health, fitness and wellbeing.

    Webinar registration details will be available soon.