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Untitled Document

Business Briefings by Bob Hutchinson 
Principal Eros Business Consulting


Helpful Business Information for Optical Businesses


April 15th

Subject: Intrastat submissions - Coronavirus (COVID-19) update

VAT registered and buying products from the European Community

As you are aware your Intrastat declarations are due to be submitted by the 21st of the month. Intrastat declarations are important to HM Government, the data is a key indicator on the state of the UK economy. It is critical at this time to monitor and assess the flow of goods for the UK.

However, HMRC understands that current exceptional circumstances may be affecting your businesses and your ability to complete the Intrastat declaration.

If you cannot submit your Intrastat declaration in the normal way, please email our HMRC Intrastat advisors on as soon as possible.

For further information on Coronavirus (COVID-19), please refer to GOV.UK.


Eros Business Consulting and its associates in business management, Kinnaird Hill and Face2Face offer some pointers in the Covid-19 Struggle 
We are entering a very difficult period for business. So we have put together some thoughts and advice that may be helpful, or at least thought provoking. 

We all need to think clearly and act decisively to ensure that we have a business once the crisis is over. If you think you may soon have a cash flow problem, act now!

We will try to keep this information as current as possible but the situation is very fluid as you will understand and we are still waiting for policy changes for the self-employed.

April 15th Further thoughts on lock-down, intermediate and Restart

Both Kinnaird Hill's clients and those of Eros BC have shown a degree of determination to not only survive this painful business and social period but to start considering the future, how to survive, how to regroup and how to prepare for the restart.

On the whole most business owners now have a pretty good idea of how this virus is affecting their business. The lucky few are flourishing but the majority are struggling, with low orders/sales, slow payers and creditors to pay. Let us remember that all of us are business owners, we are capable people, and have developed our businesses using skill and hard work.

In our opinion this period of lock-down we are going through breaks down into 3 phases:

1) Survival of the tsunami like business conditions that hit us all in March

2) The Calm Period, where we are waiting for all the isolation rules and shut downs to be relaxed and finally end, and business activity is slow.

3) The Restart of relatively normal business condition, restrictions are finally relaxed or lifted and we all start to go back to work.

If you are reading this update hopefully you have survived phase 1.

You have chased debtors, you have reduced outgoings, made/are making furloughing decisions for staff, and probably you have worked, and in some cases worried more than ever before.

So, we are now in phase 2. It may be the Calm Period in some ways, but we have got to keep reassessing and checking that we have the right measures in place, keeping an eye on the bank balance and be planning our cash flow.

The calm period means less actual work is being done, but for the business owner/director it is a crucial time. We must start planning for how we are going to come out of this. (see Opchat's Editors statement) The restart of business may well be a month or possibly two months yet, but those months will pass and we must be ready to come out fighting.

So, what should do now:

1) Keep in touch with our clients/customers. Let them know we are still here, and that we will be ready to help them as they too get to The Restart.

2) Let’s see if clients/customers want to talk about how they expect to Restart. We need our clients to realise they need us from day 1. It is no good for us or them if they go back to work say on 1st June and then contact us asking for supplies or services. We need to have them booked in for work in advance. Let’s also make sure our clients, who we are relying upon, also survived.

3) Our regular clients. Let’s make sure they stay as OUR regular clients, we do that by 1) above and by being pro-active. If you disappear for a couple of months someone else may have been busier than you, and who knows who will get that first order you or the more pro-active player?

4) If you think the work will flood in once the restrictions are lifted make sure your supply lines are ready to supply you. You want to be number one on the delivery schedules, remember the supply company may have been quiet as well, so don’t find out when you call for orders that you are number 27 in the queue and they can make that crucial delivery next Tuesday! Also, your regular supplier may go out of business, so keep an eye on them and research new sources of supply.

5) Our regular clients again. If you do get a lot of bookings or orders quickly after the restrictions are lifted, make sure you have capacity to satisfy those important regulars. If they ring in for an order or to make a service booking/appointment we do not want them unhappy at not being serviced because we are too busy with other clients. The work schedule needs to be carefully planned, and those important five, ten or more regulars need to be given preference.

6) If you are going to be ordering a lot of supplies check that your normal credit terms are going to be the same. A change to payment with order for supplies may cause you cash flow issues. By the same token, those people who were always late paying you, perhaps now is the time to think about the payment days you want to give going forward. As we come out of the Calm period into Restart we may find our cash flows are not good, and so again we need to plan. It would be damn annoying to have to turn work away because we have run out of money to process orders.

7) This brings us onto the possibility of needing to borrow money at the Restart point, or when getting ready for Restart. Most people are thinking we may need to borrow to survive and that may well be true, but let’s remember when we restart we could have cash flow. problems then, after all if you normally give 30 day’s credit on invoices you may not have any cash coming in for that first month or so! We need to make sure we borrow before any restart, the banks are inundated with loan / mortgage applications, and so asking for a loan too late in the process could be a major error.

8) Deferred payments. The fact that VAT, Corporation Tax, Rents, Mortgage payments, Loan payments etc have been deferred will have been a great assistance in maintaining cash. BUT all these people/companies will be looking to get their money back plus normal payments. We must think about when these payments will hit the cash flow. For example, The July personal income tax payment will now be collected in January 2021, that could mean a very large payment heading your way six months after Restart. Vat, I believe, will be collected over the following 12 months, thus each VAT payment will be increased by at least 25% above normal. What this tells us is that demands upon our cash will be higher than usual in the 12 months from Restart, at a time when cash may be very tight. The bank loans are on offer now, they may not be after restart, we do not know. Talk to people who have deferred being paid, find out what they are expecting and try to arrange a good term over which catch up can happen. So again, plan for your cash flow. needs.

9) It may be that as the economy Restarts you realise that for your business it may take another month or two for your industry to get going. The problem that could crop up is that the Government stop the 80% furlough payments, but you do not need all the staff back yet, indeed you probably will not have the cash to pay the wages. So, you need to plan who will restart at day one, day seven and so on. You need to consider how you are going to pay the wages and how to deal with the people you do not need yet. The options are much the same as before; Redundancy, reduced
hours, unpaid leave, or even working temporarily for much reduced wages. Remember to ask your HR adviser, if you are changing contracts of employment that can lead to awkward situations. Whichever option you think works best it must mean a cash flow. benefit. No point making people take paid holiday, as you will still have to pay them! Thus the 80% furloughing could just be a respite before hard decisions really have to be made.

10) Staff, we need to keep in touch with them as well. They too may be worried about the future. Will they still have a job? Touching base with them will give them reassurance. We want them with us when the time comes.

11) Finally, there is the subject of Holidays. Staff on furlough are still accumulating their holidays. Assuming we are going to Restart around 1st July (earlier please!) the last thing we as businesses need is to have people wanting to have 2 weeks off on paid holiday. Think carefully about this, I would suggest July and August, the normal mass exodus from work, may be the exact time we need everyone working hard. But will people want to take their holidays in September, November etc. Possibly if you are cash rich you could pay people for their holidays. But for most of us I would suggest perhaps spreading some of this years’ holiday entitlement over the next couple of years? Tricky one but needs thinking about.

When we finally move onto the Restart.

If you have done the points above, and no doubt made many other sensible business decisions, you will get to Restart.

As said in my statement on Opchat News last week we should be using our extra spare time usefully to consider how we want to be seen by our customers and patients when Restart begins.

Other competitors are considering the same and we need to attract with a new look or a new deal visible on the high street and in community settings that we are open for business. Many will need Optical care and will be pleased to have a full health check. Prepare leaflets, letters and window displays> Tidy up your PMS Px details and search for Patients who have not been seen for some time or have missed their appointments during lock-down

Make sure you have plenty of optometric capability and that your glazing houses have the same ability.

After lock-down you will need to show you care and can make a difference.

Final general points:

1) The HMRC portal for furloughing opens on 20th April, so we can expect to start receiving money for furloughed staff mid-June
2) Remember to be a recognised furlough period, the staff member must be furloughed for at least 3 continuous weeks.
3) The Government backed Loans are finally being correctly dealt with by the banks, so if you think you may need one do not wait, apply now. It could take a month to six weeks to be processed
4) The business rates related Grants are being paid, you should get a letter from the local authority, this tells you how to apply. If you do not hear anything ring them.
5) Has working from home worked well for you? Is this something you could consider as an option going forward?
6) It is a good time to assess your staff, who is good, who is being carried, who needs training, who has really shown commitment over this period. Come to Restart with the staff you need, perhaps its time to shed the ones that are not really cutting the mustard.
7) Terms of credit for our customers and given to us by our suppliers, are they good enough? Have we been too easy going for too long?

To sum up, even when the restrictions are lifted the key point to achieving Restart is just the same, look after the CASH, now and for the future.

If you wish to progress ideas, need asistnace in budgets and cash flow, advice on Optical Partially Exempt VAT or advice on finance email or call 01787 326468

March 20th Chancellor's Statement, thoughts from Eros Business Consulting and associates Kinnaird Hill (St Ives Cambs)

The Chancellor, this evening,(20th March) announced further measures to support people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.

The Chancellor’s statement can be found at GOV.UK.

Updated guidance for employers, businesses and employees is available at:

COVID-19: support for businesses

We will continue to share the most up to date information directly with you as it becomes available. This followed some of our earlier advice on staffing in our content below.

The Government wants us to retain our staff wherevr the situtaion allows and the above measures will help. Good staff are difficult to find and retrain and those you look after will pay you back in dividends.

If you need advice let EROS and our associates point you in the right direcetion. Email or


Call +44 (0) 1787 326468 (pm Only)

Latest information on Self Employed Support March 26th

The Chancellor, on March 26th, announced a new Self-employment Income Support Scheme to support self-employed people who have been adversely affected by COVID-19.

GOV¯.UK has further details about who is eligible for the scheme and how it will work

Self-employed people do not need to get in touch with HMRC as the scheme isn’t yet open for applications. HMRC will contact eligible customers by the beginning of June, inviting them to apply.
Deferral of Self Assessment Income Tax payments due in July 2020 and VAT payments due from 20 March 2020 until 3¯0¯¯ June 2020

VAT … Get on the phone
There is a deferment procedure, the situation is very fluid and so could change. If you are having financial difficulties due to the coronavirus then you can apply for a deferment of VAT. Currently they are not checking the validity of any information received. Also bear in mind, better to defer it early than realise too late that you have a cashflow problem.
The HMRC telephone number is 0300 200 3853. You will need the following information to hand.
1 VAT number
2 Date of VAT registration
3 Details of the last VAT returns box 5 figure.
4 Name address and post code of the business.
You will then need to explain that your income has been severely depleted/ceased due to the Coronavirus and that you will not be able to pay the VAT debt/liability. Ask for a deferment of 3 months and when this is agreed you will need to cancel the DD if one is set up. HMRC will not chase the debt if this action has been completed but if the DD is not cancelled then they will proceed as normal and take your money regardless of any agreement.
The specialist unit hasn’t yet been set up yet so any calls on the specialist number are just going through to the normal teams.  They are very short staffed.


Tax ….. Get on the phone
All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support from HMRC through the Time to Pay arrangement. This will be viewed on a case by case basis. HMRC’s dedicated helpline number is 0800 0159 559.
When talking to HMRC do not understate your predicament. You are in dire trouble and emphasise that. Let’s not have any stiff upper lip, ‘oh its not too bad’, or they might just believe you and you will end up with no help!

Creditors… Get on the phone.
We all have monthly payments to make. We are talking about Rent, Suppliers, Utilities, Wages, Bank loans.
People we have spoken to are concerned about their image/ credit score, they are worried suppliers will think they are not going to pay. Let us remember, EVERYONE is in the same boat.
So we want to do the following:

  1. Make sure we are taking advantage of all the days of credit on offer. If you normally pay after 20 days, but actually have 30 days to pay…. You pay on 30 days…. Or perhaps 35
  2. Discuss with suppliers a longer credit term. If you are currently on 30 days, tell them you now pay on 45 or 60 or even 90. We must spread our payments, make our money last.
  3. If you pay Rent, contact the landlord and explain that you need to halve your rent for the next three months. If you think you can get a rent holiday, then go for that. Negotiate hard.
  4. Suppliers, remember they want to supply us, and we want a discount. For the next three months we want to carry on trading with them but we are looking to cut the cost, we want a 5, 10, 15 or 20% reduction in pricing. You know your suppliers, you know how much they can shave off the price.
  5. Utility bills, Gas, Electricity. They could be trickier, but contact them and advise them that you need a payment schedule. Aim to cut the payments to them by 50%. They will not want to do so, but hold firm and explain that you will catch up but it is impossible to maintain current payments. Come to an arrangement. If they refuse, then consider simply reducing the payments to them anyway.
  6. The Bank. As they are continually reminding us, they are here to help, they have an understanding ear, they are the friend of business. So again, ask for a repayments holiday for business loans. 3 months non-payment would be very good for cashflow.
  7. Let’s review what else we spend our money on. It might be a good time to stop all capital expenditure plans, put on temporary hold new employees, expansion, or any other business activity that needs money now. Are we employing temporary staff? do we have temporary consultants? Can we halt those projects? Keep the old van or car for a few more months.
  8. How much are we spending on leases, be they cars, vans, photocopiers, printers etc. Let’s get on the phone and negotiate a payments holiday. 1, 2 or 3 months not paying could amount to thousands of pounds. We can catch up by adding 1, 2 or 3 months at the end of the lease.
  9. Staffing. Obviously anything we do in this area must take into account the HR rules but for many businesses the monthly wage bill is a significant outlay. Let us also remember that Good staff are often the foundation of the business. So consider the staff you have, who is most crucial, who sadly do we not really need at all.

Be careful, do not think to lose too many staff, you do not know who is going to be hit by the virus, at the moment you may not have enough work for everyone, but you may need them all by the time the crisis passes.
So consider pay reductions, job sharing, cutting hours, putting people onto half pay for a week or two and send them home, even unpaid leave. What we want to achieve is a reduction in our costs but maintain our staff resource.
It may seem harsh, but frankly people will need their job, and so a reduction in pay will hurt, but will seem much more preferable to the other option…redundancy.
Remember making staff redundant can be expensive, especially if they have worked with you for a few years.
IR35 Private Sector
The Government have announced that they are now delaying the rolling out of the new private sector IR35 regime until 1st April 2021.
This could release those large companies who have not yet or are in the throes of issuing Status Determinations from having to do so.
If you have any IR35 queries contact your relationship partner or one of our managers.
Sick Pay
Those employees who follow the Government advice on self-isolating and have to stay at home and cannot work as a result, will be eligible for Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) from day 1.
Anyone not eligible to receive sick pay, including those earning less than the average of £118 per week, some working in the gig economy, or self-employed, the Government state they may be able to claim Universal credit and/or contributory Employment and Support Allowance. If someone needs money urgently due to the COVID-19 crisis they can apply for an advance.
SME businesses (fewer than 250 employees) will be refunded up to 2 weeks SSP for eligible employees who have been off work due to COVID-19. The Government will be working with employers to set up a suitable repayment mechanism.
Business rates
There is a 12 month business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for the 2020/21 tax year in England.
A £25,000 grant will be provided these businesses operating from small premises with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £51,000.
There will be additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBRR) by way of a grant of £10,000.
On the surface the above looks good, and for anyone it applies to, in one of the three categories, then it could be a great help. However some of us do not work in these categories, and so we must wait to see if the Government are going to expand their grants to others.
Business insurance  CHECK!
Businesses that have cover for both pandemics and government ordered closures should now be covered, on the grounds that the government and the insurance industry have confirmed the advice given on 17th March would make the claim valid. Businesses should check to see if their insurance policy covers this as many will not.
The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme
This will be launched next week by the British Business Bank to support businesses to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan to give lenders the confidence to continue to provide finance for SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee. Businesses can access the first 6 months of this finance interest free.
Mortgage holiday
Those affected by COVID-19 will be able to have a 3 month mortgage holiday. Lenders should be approached on this matter immediately if affected. It is not clear if this applies to corporate mortgages as well as personal. The best answer is to ring and ask. If you do ring, be prepared to ask for a payments holiday, even if you are told the new regime does not apply.
Further announcements
Further announcements are likely for the self-employed, we expect the current grants to include many more business sectors
Human Resources, health and safety and employment issues helpline
If you are a member of our fee protection insurance scheme you are entitled to use the free advisory helpline from Markel. The number is 0345 250 0762
If you are not sure contact us and we will check for you.
You will also find below a link to a help sheet put together by the company we use for HR. Face2face are in our opinion a good advisor.
COVID-19 Update from face2face
The official guidance is evolving in these unprecedented times, and each day we have a new take on the issues we are currently facing.   So I thought I would share our latest article with you around driving the right behaviour with your workforce, and what do you do if you have staff refusing to self-isolate.  
See attached link to my article which may give you some assurance that we are striving to support you and your business at this time, any questions do not hesitate to contact me:
It is early days, the Government are still making policy and in reality it will take them a week or so to really understand the help that could be considered.
Our advice is to tighten belts now.
We have put this list of hopefully useful ideas together with the help of my colleagues at Kinnaird Hill, in St Ives Cambs and with HR assistance from Face2Face.
We do appreciate that all businesses, a few days ago were running good, successful, well managed businesses, and they are now going to have a very hard time for the next few months.
The paper was put together for Eros Business Consulting specialists in Optical and Primary Care Business Strategy and Indirect Taxation for Opticians, by Kinnaird Hill (St Ives, Cambs) specialist account in SME’s and GP Practice.

Call us for an assessment of your needs and a discussion of how we can help with practical ideas.
Eros Business Consulting Ltd, Hall Barn, The Street, Preston St Mary, Suffolk C010 9NG, 01787 326468

Email or


Call +44 (0) 1787 326468 (pm Only)



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