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Revenue authority launches Land Tax online

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Ready to roll: Wales' first tax for 800 years

THE WELSH R​EVENUE AUTHORITY (WRA) is encouraging law and conveyancing firms carrying out residential and non-residential property transactions in Wales from April 1 to register for its new online tax system.

The appeal comes during the WRA’s first week of registering organisations for land transaction tax, which will replace stamp duty land tax in Wales from​ ​April​ 1​. The WRA was set up by the Welsh Government last October to collect and manage devolved taxes.

Conveyancers and solicitors representing people buying and leasing property and land in Wales will need to register on the WRA website before filing a tax return. The WRA is encouraging businesses to sign-up at least 10 days in advance of the first transaction.

On the first day of registration, around 100 firms registered on the WRA website and a helpdesk team was set up to answer any queries. The WRA is also continuing to host events across Wales in March to offer additional support with registration.

Dyfed Alsop, Chief Executive for the WRA, said: “Opening registration for land transaction tax is a major milestone for the WRA, as we take a step closer towards raising important revenue that will support public services in Wales.

“Making sure the transition to the new taxes goes as smoothly as possible for everyone is a priority for us. That’s why we’re appealing to solicitors and conveyancers to register their organisations on the new tax system in advance of the April​ 1​​.”​

The WRA has been working with representative bodies, including The Law Society and the Chartered Institute of Taxation, to prepare professionals for land transaction tax since last October.

Kay Powell, Wales Policy Adviser for The Law Society, said: “Our members have played a key role in the design and development of the system and their insights and comments have been invaluable at every stage in the process. Our aim has been to ensure the seamless introduction of the Land Transaction Tax.”

The WRA will also administer landfill disposals tax replacing landfill tax. The WRA has already registered more than half of the landfill site operators in Wales, following the opening of registration at the end of January.

WRA ADVICE FOR THE PUBLIC:

For residential/ non-residential property transactions in Wales from April​ 1,​ 2018:

  • Check that your solicitor or conveyancer is registered on the new WRA tax system. You do not need to register for an account.
  • You can look at the new tax calculator on the WRA website to check how much tax you will need to pay.
  • You can find out more about the Welsh rates and bands via the Welsh Government website.

Business

Alarm over construction output fall

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Construction concern: Material prices rise with uncertainty

THE BEAST from the East, rising costs and Brexit are to blame for the sharp drop in construction output, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has said in response to the April 2018 construction ​o​utput figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Commenting on the construction output figures for April 2018, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “The UK construction sector declined by 3.4% in the three months from February to April compared with the previous three months. This is the biggest fall since the latter stages of the recession in August 2012. The Beast from the East has certainly played its part as it forced many construction sites to close in March. Indeed, builders were reporting that it was too cold to lay bricks.”

Berry continued: “Alongside the cold snap, the drop in construction output can also be attributed to rising costs for construction firms large and small. While wages are continuing to rise because of the acute skills crisis in our sector, firms are also feeling the pinch thanks to increased material prices. The depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum has meant bricks and insulation in particular have become more expensive.

“We expect material prices to continue to squeeze the construction industry with recent research by the Federation of Master Builders showing that 84 per cent of builders believe that they will continue to rise in the next six months.”

Berry concluded: “In the medium to longer term, with nine months until Brexit-Day, the future is uncertain for the UK construction sector. The Government is still to confirm what the post-Brexit immigration system will look like. The construction sector is largely reliant on accessing EU workers with more than 8 per cent of construction workers coming from the EU. It is therefore imperative that the sector knows how, and to what extent, it can recruit these workers post-Brexit.”

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Business

Research reveals Tesco’s community role

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Tesco in Wales: Providing 540K meals to those in need

TESCO has published an independent report which outlines how the retail giant works in partnership with colleagues, suppliers and community organisations to create value in Wales.

The report, part of a wider programme of activity called Value in Your Town, sets out the role Tesco plays in serving communities up and down the UK. Specifically, the report highlights Tesco’s role in supporting jobs, supporting businesses in Britain through its partnership with thousands of suppliers, and supporting charitable and community organisations across the UK.

The report estimated that within Wales during the 12 months measured, Tesco made an economic contribution of more than £937m, supported 22,654 full-time equivalent jobs and worked with approximately 200 suppliers in Wales.

The report revealed that out of every £1 spent by Tesco customers, 73p goes back to farmers and suppliers from across the UK, 11p is paid to Tesco colleagues in wages and 3p is paid to the Government in tax to pay for public services like the NHS. Every £1 of direct economic activity at Tesco was also found to generate an additional £5.46 in value to the UK economy as a whole.

For those who are keen to understand the contribution Tesco makes to the local economy, a new online tool will allow residents to do just that by entering their postcode. They’ll be given a precise breakdown of the supermarket’s contribution by individual parliamentary constituencies.

Rhodri Evans, Local Communications Manager for Tesco in Wales, said: “While Tesco is just one small part of the community in Wales, we recognise we have a responsibility to serve the community the best way we can. Tesco exists to serve shoppers, but we’re also a place where people work to support their families and we are an important partner for Welsh businesses too.

“This independent research shines a light on our role and responsibility here in Wales. It provides us with a clear picture of the opportunities and jobs we help create, the local businesses that we help support, and critically, how we play an active role, on the ground, supporting local communities.”

In the 12 months measured, Tesco provided 539,986 meals to those in need in Wales via its Community Food Connection initiative, which reduces food waste by redirecting unsold food towards community groups who can use it. The initiative has now been rolled out to Tesco Express stores to enable even more groups to access food that might otherwise have gone to waste.

And shoppers who voted in the Tesco Bags of Help scheme in stores across the Wales helped to channel more than £1.4m raised from carrier bag sales towards community projects that have benefitted their area directly. Since its launch, the scheme has evolved to make voting areas smaller, so that projects voted for are even more local to shoppers.

One group that has benefitted from the Bags of Help scheme is Green Meadow Riding for the Disabled Association. With a history spanning 40 years, it’s one of the largest Riding for the Disabled groups in Wales. The organisation relies on volunteers to deliver more than 60 riders a week with horses and ponies to provide therapy, achievement and enjoyment.

Sally Williams, who heads up the Green Meadow RDA, said: “We were delighted to receive £5000 as part of the Tesco Bags of Help scheme. The money was used to build a path across grassland which was proving difficult to cross by riders, carers and instructors.

“By providing this non-slip path, we created a safe passage for riders, who range from four to 60 years old, to get to designated riding areas whilst avoiding any accidents or getting caught in the bogged areas when weather conditions are bad. We used to be restricted by bad weather frequently, but the path has enabled us to provide riding year round.”

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Materials’ price rise squeezes SME builders

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Price up: Building material price is harming SMEs

MORE THAN half of small building firms say that rising material prices are squeezing their margins and the same percentage have had to pass these price increases onto consumers, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Small and medium-sized (SME) building firms were asked which materials are in shortest supply and have the longest wait times. The average results were as follows (in order of longest to shortest wait times):

  1. Bricks were in shortest supply with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  2. Roof tiles were second with the longest reported wait time being up to six months;
  3. Insulation was third with the longest reported wait time being up to four months;
  4. Slate was fourth with the longest reported wait time being up to six months;
  5. Windows were fifth with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  6. Blocks were sixth with the longest reported wait time being up to four months;
  7. Porcelain products were seventh with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  8. Plasterboard was eighth with the longest reported wait time being up to two months;
  9. Timber was ninth with the longest reported wait time being up to two months;
  10. Boilers were tenth, with the longest reported wait time being more than one year.

SME building firms were also asked by what percentage different materials have increased over the past 12 months. On average, the following rises were reported:

  • Insulation increased by 16%;
  • Bricks increased by 9%;
  • Timber increased by 8%;
  • Roof tiles increased by 8%;
  • Slate increased by 8%;
  • Windows increased by 7%;
  • Blocks increased by 7%;
  • Plasterboard increased by 7%;
  • Boilers increased by 7%;
  • Porcelain products increased by 6%.

The impact of these material price increases includes:

  • More than half of construction SMEs (56%) have had their margins squeezed, this has gone up from one third (32%) reporting this in July 2017;
  • Half of firms (49%) have been forced to pass material price increases onto their clients, making building projects more expensive for consumers, this has gone up from less than one quarter (22%) reporting this in July 2017;
  • A third of firms (30%) have recommended that clients use alternative materials or products to those originally specified, this has gone up from one in ten reporting this in July 2017;
  • Nearly one fifth (17%) of builders report making losses on their building projects due to material price increases, this has gone up from one in ten reporting this in July 2017.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Material prices have rocketed over the past year. The reason for this could include the impact of the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum still feeding through. High demand due to buoyant international markets could also be contributing to price increases. What’s particularly worrying is that when prices have increased mid-project, almost one fifth of builders have absorbed the increase and therefore made a loss. Also, if material price increases weren’t enough of a headache for building firms, they are also experiencing material shortages with wait times ticking up across a range of materials and products. Worst case scenarios include firms waiting for more than one year for a new order of bricks.”

Berry continued: “The rise in material prices is not just a problem for the country’s construction firms – it is also a problem for home owners. Half of firms have been forced to pass these price increases onto their clients, meaning building projects are becoming more and more expensive. This problem has worsened recently with more than twice as many firms passing material prices on to their clients now compared with nine months ago. What’s more, home owners should be prepared to have to use alternative materials or products to their first choice. One third of firms have recommended that their clients should use alternative materials or products to those originally specified. Now more than ever, it’s important that builders and their clients keep the lines of communication open in order to stay within time and within budget. Specified products or materials may need to be swapped for alternatives or clients will need to accept the additional cost.”

Berry concluded: “We are calling on builders merchants to give their customers as much advance warning of forthcoming material price increases or wait times as possible so that firms can warn their customers and plan ahead. We are also advising builders to price jobs and draft contracts with these material price rises in mind. The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey shows that almost ninety per cent of building firms are expecting further rises over the next sixth months. This makes quoting for jobs difficult but if builders flag the issue to their client from the outset, and include a note in the contract that prices may be subject to increases, they shouldn’t be left short. What we don’t want is for the number of building firms making losses on projects to increase as this could result in firms going to the wall. A large number of collapsing construction companies will have a terrible knock-on effect in the wider economy.”

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