Prepare for the euro, Year 2000, and master the latest legislation
Everyone starts the New Year with the best intentions - but the gym membership usually falls into disuse after a few visits. Reverting to old ways is as unhealthy for companies as it is for people and in 1999 it could bring real penalties.
Most importantly, find out how your business will be affected by the euro, the millennium bug, the working time and minimum wage legislation or family-friendly policies. Talk to professional advisers and read any literature you can lay your hands on. The Treasury has a series of factsheets on the euro, available on the web at www.euro.gov.uk or call 0845 01099.
Talk to your systems providers, landlord and suppliers about the millennium bug. Action 2000 has a Y2K helpline on 0845 6012000. For employee legislation, carry out an audit of your workforce, and review all employment contracts and the company's record-keeping systems.
On the financial side, corporate tax self-assessment and the Inland Revenue's 'spend to save' initiative herald a new payment-on-account regime. Payments will be based on anticipated tax liability for the current year. If a business' tax profits are over £1.5 million, it will be making quarterly payments. If the estimate is wrong, interest will be payable on those payments. Bear in mind that, under the transitional rules, businesses will pay five years' tax in a four-year period. Avoid costly mistakes by carefully examining stock provisions, entertaining costs and the revenue/capital split.
Where businesses have transactions with overseas affiliates, they will need written evidence that the transactions were at 'arm's length' - or adjustments and potentially significant penalties could follow.
Any business owner thinking of transferring his shares in, say, a private company could be nobbled by inheritance tax changes. When in Opposition, the Government threatened to do something about 'potentially exempt transfers'. As yet, nothing has happened but the March Budget beckons. Whether the rules change or not, a transfer now could save money.
The 40% allowance on capital expenditure for small companies is due to expire on 1 July 1999. If it is not extended in the Budget, businesses that are going to incur capital costs should spend their money now.
Tim Porter is a partner with Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, 0171 583 5000.