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Top Cities for Business: London

London has been the top financial, business and cultural centre for almost fifty years and has been the birthplace of business practices that contribute to economic development worldwide.

London is a global financial centre
London hosts the headquarters of 68 companies on the 2014 Forbes Global 2000 list,  in addition to being ranked first on the 2012 Globalization and World Cities (GAWC) Index that measures the power of global cities in terms of international business, sustainability, urban policy, and logistics.  According to a Centre for Cities report published in 2013, in terms of business innovation and expansion, London outperformed many European rivals, while the number of new business startups places the UK capital in high regard worldwide.

London has a prominent tech scene
London’s tech scene has demonstrated a steady growth over the past decade as a result of governmental support and venture capital increases. The UK government has a number of schemes including the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) which aim to attract major tech companies in London. The East London area around Old Street, known as “Silicon Roundabout”, follows the government’s aggressive promotion of London as a tech hub, where more than 3,000 tech start-ups considered the UK capital as the perfect spot to establish their businesses. London has been transformed into the fastest growing European tech cluster with the advantages of an early adopter city, with some of Silicon Valley’s start-ups and giants choosing to open headquarters within the city.  Google’s largest office outside the Valley is situated in London and Facebook has its largest European office in London. Read more »

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Top Cities for Business: New York

As the world’s undisputed financial and commercial hub, New York is considered a prestigious location for businesses in all industry areas. Companies large and small choose to be base their businesses in this thriving US city, which serves as a springboard for further expansion. This article takes a look at some key figures that demonstrate how New York is a top choice for business and startups.

Economic overview

New York’s prosperous economy is characterised by its focus on diversity and innovation. This global business city has a healthy balance between public and private sector jobs and between small, medium, and large-sized companies. In 2015, the state’s GDP was estimated at $1.3 billion.

According to the Economist, New York ranks first in terms of its Global Competitiveness Index, and commercial think-tank Z/Yen lists the city as the number one global financial centre. A United Nations report shows that New York is second in the global prosperity index ratings, whereas the NYCEDC reports that the city’s innovation index is marked by a constant upward trend in six key areas: finance, R&D, human capital, intellectual property, entrepreneurship, and high-tech gross product. Federal Reserve data shows that job growth is slightly below the national average, although still well within an acceptable range at 1.8 per cent. As of March 2015, the local unemployment rate was 5.7 per cent.

Major industries

According to the latest data set released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the most important industry sectors across the state of New York are education and health services, finance, trade, transportation and utilities, professional and business services, the public sector, leisure and hospitality. Read more »

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The Importance of Health and Safety in the Workplace

April 28th, the World Day for Safety and Health at Work, is an International Labour Organisation-recognised day to promote safe and healthy work environments, as well as day to remember casualties of workplace accidents around the world.

Businesses are responsible for the health and safety of their employees, including self-employed people. Health and safety laws protect employees as well as members of the public from workplace hazards. The first step is to select someone with the skills and experience necessary to help manage health and safety. Owners of smaller businesses and owner-operated businesses can general appointed a person themselves. For larger companies, a health and safety expert may be needed.

A written policy will provide information on how health and safety will be managed in the business. A policy lets employees and other people know about your commitment to health and safety, and what procedures are in place. Any business with five or more employees must have a written risk assessment or policy. Smaller businesses with less than five workers do not have to meet this requirement. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has templates to help businesses develop a risk assessment and policy. A risk assessment to determine potential and existing dangers in the workplace will help inform the policy. Read more »

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Top Cities for Business: Birmingham

As the second most populous city in the United Kingdom, Birmingham is a major economic powerhouse and centre for industry. Once known for being the manufacturing capital of the world, Birmingham is now a vibrant and prosperous city that attracts business owners and investors from the UK and beyond. Today, this West Midlands city is firmly committed to supporting economic growth and to promoting ongoing business development. In this article we look at the main facts and figures that demonstrate that Birmingham is one of the top destinations for businesses and startups.

Birmingham’s economy: an overview

According to a report published by Global Metro Monitor in 2014, Birmingham is among the world’s top cities with the highest GDP per capita levels, with Birmingham’s wider metropolitan economy boasting the the second largest GDP output in the UK, estimated at £68 billion. Birmingham has implemented a successful economic policy that has proven effective in terms of fostering growth and innovation, and this is mainly evident in its designated enterprise zones, which are expected to create 50,000 jobs and inject £1.5 billion into the local economy.

But Birmingham also has an outstanding reputation for fostering economic growth in the international arena. In 2012, the Globalization and World Cities Research Network listed this UK city as a Beta World City, along with important metropolitan economies like Geneva, Abu Dhabi, and Stuttgart. Nearly 30,000 companies are based in the city of Birmingham, including 900 international firms such as Deloitte, Kraft, Jaguar, JCB, and Land Rover.

With all this in mind, it is hardly surprising that Birmingham has been voted as one of the most dynamic metropolis in Europe and been listed as having one of the best business environments in the continent. Read more »

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Registering your Business in the UK

Setting up a new business is an exciting process. For entrepreneurs dreaming of selling a new product or providing an innovative service, there are several steps they must take in order to lawfully register their business.

When setting a business, owners must first choose the structure of their new company. The structure of the company will affect how the business is registered and how it operates. Businesses are generally categorised as a sole trader, a limited company, or a business partnership. Sole traders are self-employed owners, while limited companies must have a registered office and at least one director in the UK. A business partnership is where partners share responsibility for running a company.

To register a business in the UK, a sole trader who is the only owner of the company and either works alone or employs staff must register for self-assessment tax with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This means the owner or his/her accountant will calculate the applicable tax. Sole traders must have a National Insurance (NI) number. Sole traders can trade under their own name or choose a business name. Read more »

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3 Cheers for Happiness Day 2015

Happiness Day does just what it says on the tin, celebrates what makes for happiness in 2015. Promoted by the UN General Assembly since 2012, International Happiness Day on March 20th is celebrated each year all over the world.

An Injection of Fun
As with most UN days, businesses, governments, non-government organisations and charities are encouraged to invent a way to celebrate the theme of happiness. How much a business buys in to International Happiness Day depends on how clever the PR department can be!

Read more »

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The Importance of a Happy Workplace

A happy workplace has such a significant effect on workers that it simply cannot be overlooked. The International Day of Happiness falls on the 20th of March, which is dedicated to ‘the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal’. There are a lot of benefits in keeping your staff happy including financial returns. While it is great to dedicate a day to being completely happy, it is imperative that every company does what it can to create a happy and content workplace throughout the year if it wants to find success.

Happy Workers Are Productive Workers

When you do research on Happiness Day, you will find data that backs up some of the oldest corporate clichés around. For example, statistically happy workers are more productive workers. A staff that feels content with its company and work is much more likely to achieve, or exceed, productivity goals, which puts a lot more money on the bottom line.

Read more »

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Advice for Online Retailers in the UK

Online retailing is rapidly expanding. Major online retailers like Amazon and eBay are achieving high sales, bringing more and more retailers online. According to The Centre for Retail Research, in 2014, online retail sales in the UK increased by 15.8 percent, whereas the estimate for 2015 is a 16 percent increase. British consumers spend on average GBP59 for online shopping, mostly on tablets (82 percent).

Here is some online retail advice.

Tips for online retailers

a) The basics
An online business does not have a physical address. You should not neglect to list some basic information like your phone number and/or an email address. Customers should feel that they can contact you anytime with questions about your products or services.

Write straightforward, accurate and easy to understand product and/or service descriptions, including prices and any extra fees. Over-complicated descriptions will confuse your customers, who, most likely will prefer another online retailer.

Include nice, colorful pictures of your products so that customers can actually see what they are buying. Don’t forget that your business is not brick-and-mortar, so customers trust your product descriptions, but they also need a visual communication of what they are shopping for.

Create a user–friendly website where visitors can navigate with easiness. Check out eBay or Amazon to see what makes them so easy to function. Don’t forget that your website is, in fact, your shop window, the entrance to your business. Make it attractive, but, above all, efficient. Read more »

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Consumer Regulations Guide: What You Need to Know

Online sales are booming across the UK, and everything suggests that this trend is here to stay. The United Kingdom tops the list of European countries in terms of online sales, as during 2014 alone online transactions generated revenues for the value of nearly £45 billion. In only six years, the volume of online sales in the UK has tripled, especially since more and more consumers are using their mobile devices (like tablets and smartphones) to make purchases online.

Online retail sales (also known as e-tailing) offer consumers the convenience of purchasing their favourite goods from the comfort of their homes. This new way of conducting commercial transactions also benefits business owners, who can now easily reach a wider consumer base and multiply their income exponentially. Whether you are a consumer who shops online or the owner of an online business, it is important that you are aware of the new consumer regulations that apply to online commercial transactions since June 2014. Read through our summary below to familiarise yourself with your rights and responsibilities.

What type of transactions are included?
The new consumer regulations apply to online transactions used to purchase both goods and services. This includes the purchase of digital content (music, movies, software, etc.) but excludes things like the purchase of foodstuffs, gambling transactions, and transactions that involve residential accommodation.

What information are retailers obliged to provide?
Retailers must make the customer aware of the following information before any contract is signed and before orders are placed: the characteristics of the goods on offer; the final price including any relevant taxes; clear delivery information; the seller’s name and contact details; and the duration of the contract where applicable.

How do the changes affect the ‘cooling off’ period?
Previously, consumers had a seven-day ‘cooling off’ period that allowed them to cancel a contract or purchase without needing to have any specific reason. Under the new consumer regulations, this period has been extended to 14 days. The 14-day period also applies to other parts of the transaction, such as returns and refunds, which must be processed within 14 days of receiving the returned goods.

What about delivery terms?
Under the amended consumer regulations, online retailers must deliver goods or services without delay and within a maximum of 30 calendar days from the date in which the order was placed.

The following infographic, courtesy of Waterfront Solicitors, provides a detailed visual overview of the regulatory changes that every e-tailer in the UK should be aware of.

Guide For Online Businesses

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Business Tax Changes for the UK 2015

You may have heard the news that the way VAT (Value Added Taxation) is charged to companies based in the UK is changing. Those earning revenue through online trading need to pay VAT to the EU member state where the customer lives, as opposed to the previous system where the company paid the VAT from the country they chose to supply the goods or services from.

It is worth deciding if your firm needs to make a note of any new requirements. The government introduced changes specifically applying to anyone supplying telecommunications, broadcasting products and e-services. Below is a short summary of what to look out for, courtesy of HM Treasury and Customs.

VAT Changes – new supply rules and the introduction of the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS)
The new VAT rules apply to UK businesses from 1 January 2015. Some compliance issues worth considering are:
• Compliance option 1 – the main compliance issue each business will need to ask itself, is does it want to register for VAT, separately, in each Europe member state. This applies if they have a consumer, or non-VAT registered customer that is resident in that state.
• Compliance option 2 – Businesses can choose to apply for the mini one-stop shop (MOSS) option, which means the scheme simplifies VAT responsibilities into customer groupings by EU member state.

Under either scheme, a business will need to know the individual EU VAT rates in each member state they are trading in, and the particular rules that apply there.

Businesses need to be aware they are subject to an audit from that member state.

Systems and Processes Will Change for Business Account-keeping and VAT
Businesses will need to identify exactly where their customers are located. For many, this will mean a complete overhaul of record keeping systems. How customers are managed, means improved technology systems, which can take hold of large amounts of data. Part of the process of doing business may mean a business needs to enable more server space, for example.

New ways of storing customer information, and the increased details needed, mean a business will need to get this checked out by a legal team. If working in a B2B environment, this could lead to needing to negotiate new trading terms with suppliers.

Ways of invoicing customers will need to change. Member state invoices need to be in the language of the customer’s country, and with the corresponding local taxation and VAT information clearly displayed.

Commercial Issues around Pricing
For a business, deciding how to apply VAT in the past would mean adding a percentage value wherever the VAT applies. Obviously, each product or service will attract a different percentage VAT addition, depending on where the customer lives.

Pricing can be applied on an individual member state level, known as dynamic pricing, yet a business will need a good technology algorithm to apply the variations needed for auto-calculations to be accurate every time. It may be the case, a business will need to think about their customers at the point-of-sale. Do they need to fill out a bit more information, and if so, do contact and order forms need adjustment?

Another option is to go for a blended rate, or universal pricing, which gives uneven margins, but to the business provides an acceptable level of profit. This may be the preferred method of pricing.

Issues over pricing may cause a business to relocate, if many customers are in a certain EU state where VAT is lower than their current location.

Click here for a list of Accounting Services in the UK.


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