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With fears still looming over the cyber-attacks that started on Friday it would appear that they are slowing with few reports of new attacks in Asia and Europe.

Many firms have employed experts over the weekend in attempt to prevent new infections however Microsoft have warned that these attacks should serve as a wake-up call.

A total of 200,000 computers in more than 150 countries were affected, with the attacks preventing access to a computer or its data. The WannaCry ransomware has demanded money to release the data and if no payment is made within seven days it threatens to delete the files.

It also demands £230 ($300) to restore access to the data however, the ransomware warning said that the price will double after three days but organisations are being advised to not pay any ransoms.

It has been said that the US delivery company FedEx has been affected along with 61 of the UK’s NHS organisations. Renault had to halt production in France had to be halted and Russia’s interior ministry also reported 1,000 of its computers infected, according to the BBC.

So What Really is WannaCry?

It is the programme used in the global cyber attacked, known now as WannaCry, ransomware or Wanna Decryptor. It was spread through phishing emails and on systems without up-to-date security patches.

The attack could infect more systems, according to experts from the National Cyber Security Centre. However, the National Crime Agency (NCA) along with investigators from around the globe are trying to find those responsible for the attacks.

Top Tips for Avoiding Infections

  1. Make sure that you keep your software up to date to ensure any bug fixes are made to your computer.
  2. Be wary of emails with attachments where you are unsure of the original source.
  3. Avoid dodgy websites and downloads so that your computer is at lower risk of infection.
  4. Back up any of your important files so that you always have a spare copy.

havelock place hastingsCompanies can now get top quality new offices in East Sussex on ultra-flexible terms in a pioneering move to address the Brexit market.

As part of the economic development programme for the area, Sea Change Sussex has introduced a three-month notice period in its leases which, innovatively, can be served by occupiers at any time. This is designed to provide an exceptional degree of flexibility for companies facing unknown market conditions as the UK plans its EU withdrawal.

These new terms are available as part of three-year leases for Sea Change’s small and medium offices in:

  • Havelock Place, Hastings: the high-quality development in the Priory Quarter town centre business district, with eligible units from 541 to 1,659 sq ft
  • Pacific House, Eastbourne: the contemporary new business centre in Sovereign Harbour, with units available from 627 sq ft upwards
  • A forthcoming business centre on the Bexhill Enterprise Park, with units from 600 sq ft upwards pre-letting now.

John Shaw, CEO of Sea Change Sussex, says: “Companies are telling us they still want to invest and grow following the EU referendum, but they feel the economic road ahead will be less certain for some time. So we’ve introduced new leases which means they can have the quality of new premises they want along with an extremely high level of flexibility to react to market conditions as they unfold.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about Sea Change’s offices and its new ultra-flexible leases should contact one of the company’s agents:

Or visit:

 

Inheritance tax can cost loved ones hundreds of thousands in the event of your death, yet it’s possible to legally avoid some if not all of it. Here are some ways to reduce your Inheritance Tax Bill. 

What is Inheritance Tax (IHT)? 

When you die, the Government assesses the value of your estate (property, cash etc.) and deducts any debts owing by you. If the remaining amount exceeds the threshold  (£325,000 until 2018), you must pay tax at 40% on the extra amount. This is reduced to 36% if you donate at least 10% to charity. 

What about Assets left to my spouse?

If your spouse is UK domiciled, any assets left to them are exempt from IHT. In addition, your partner’s IHT allowance is increased by the amount you didn’t leave to others. This means a couple can leave £650,000 tax free. Being UK domiciled will mean all overseas assets are subject to IHT. 

How can I reduce my Inheritance Tax bill?

GIFTING – Money you give away before you die is normally counted as part of your estate. However, it is not counted if you live for 7 years after giving the gift.

This is why it is important to plan as early as possible. However, gifts to charities are inheritance tax free.

REDUCED CHARGE ON GIFTS WITHIN 7 YEARS OF DEATH 

Years before death 0-3 3-4 4-5 5-6 6-7
% of death charge 100 80 60 40 20

ANNUAL GIFT EXEMPTION – The first £3,000 gifted each year is ignored. If you don’t use it, it can be carried into the next year (no more than this though).

THE £250 ‘PRESENTS’ – You can give £250 to as many people as you like and this is not counted in the £3,000 referred to above. For example, if you have 10 grandchildren, you can give each of them £250 each year and this would be exempt from inheritance tax.

GIFTS ON CONSIDERATION OF MARRIAGE – Each parent can gift £5,000, grandparents/bride/groom £2,500 and anyone else £1,000. However, it is not a wedding gift, it must be conditional, for example, “If you marry my daughter, I’ll give you £5,000!” 

GIFTS FROM INCOME – This is referring to gifts from pensions or other earnings. You can’t give it all away though, you must show that giving it away does not affect your lifestyle.

GET ADVICE FROM AN ACCOUNTANT/TAX ADVISOR – This is the most effective way of finding the best solution for you. After all, you’ve already paid tax at the time of earning your money, why should you pay more than you have to on what you leave your beneficiaries?

What is the £1 million homes allowance?

This is based on parents or grandparents passing on a home that’s worth up to £1million (or £500,000 for singles). It will be phased in gradually between 2017 and 2020, starting at £100,000 from April 2017, rising by £25,000 each year until it reaches £175,000 in 2020.

CALCULATION FOR COUPLE

£175,000 x 2 = £350,000 plus £325,000 x 2 = £650,000

£650,000 + £350,000 = £1,000,000

Need more help? This feature aims to give some informal hints and McPhersons are offering free advice so get in touch now to arrange your meeting info@mcphersons.co.uk or call 01424 730000.

 

World IP Day graph

United Kingdom businesses are the third biggest filers of trade mark applications with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), new stats issued by Eurostat revealed on 26th April, which was World Intellectual Property Day, which is probably not widely celebrated outside of my profession, but was established to promote discussion of the role intellectual property plays in encouraging innovation and creativity.

In 2015 the UK filed 12,527 trade marks – which makes up 14% of the total filings with the EUIPO. In total there were 89,420 applications for trade mark protection received by the EUIPO during the year. This figure is four times higher than it was in the mid-1990s, and has risen every year with the exception of a slowdown during the economic and financial crisis in 2008.

Germany accounted for 23% of applications, UK 14%, Italy 11%, Spain 11%, France 9%, the Netherlands 5%, and Poland 4%. The stats were issued by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Further afield the United States accounted for 41% of the filings (16,881) at the EUIPO from the rest of the world, they were followed by China 10%, Switzerland 10%, Japan 6% and South Korea 5%. A substantial number of these applications would have been handled by UK practitioners for language reasons and our generally high professional standards.

European Union trademarks are very important for our clients based here in the UK and abroad as they offer comprehensive protection for the entire EU market with one single registration, and the ability to enforce those registered rights with one action.

International cooperation in intellectual properties (IP) predates the creation of the Common Market, indeed the two world wars (arguably the end to over 1,000 years of war in Europe is the most cogent argument for the European Union) have been cessation between belligerents. That cooperation would undoubtedly continue if we vote to leave the EU.

However, intellectual properties are a complex and fast moving area of law, driven mainly through the courts. Whilst we are partners in the EU we are around the table (or in a judicial capacity) contributing to the development of this law – which is important, because we are a common law jurisdiction and need to state our case in the harmonization of EU law. If we are not partners in these deliberations, we will still find ourselves bound by them, because Europe is our biggest market, and countries like Turkey who want to trade with the EU are constantly tweaking their IP law and practice to meet the ongoing developments of European court decisions. I should add that I generally have nothing but praise for the British judges who sit in European courts; we have our differences from time to time, but usually on minor points.

The regulations around an EU Trade Mark (formerly Community Trade Mark) changed last month. These changes should streamline the register. A business’s IP is one of its most important assets and we always advise people to consult an intellectual properties professional as early as possible on matters relating to their brands to ensure they are properly protected and enforceable. We are happy to advise on such matters.

 

Stewart Rayment

Lockhart & Hastings Ltd, IP consultants.

In the fourth quarter of 2015 the UK economy grew 0.6%, which is higher than the previous estimate of 0.5%.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the economy grew by 2.3% for the whole of 2015. This is higher than the 2.2% previously thought. Analysts forecast that the figure would remain unchanged.

The figures for the UK’s current account deficit were at a record high in the final quarter of last year. In the three months to December it was £32.7 billion, which is the equivalent of 7% of GDP.

Considering the whole of 2015, the deficit was £96.2 billion or 5.2% of GDP. Since records began in 1948, both figures were the highest since. As a result, the deficit means that the UK imported more goods and services than it exported.

The Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee stated that uncertainty over the UK’s membership of the EU could put financial stability at risk. This includes the current account deficit.

Workers on a zero-hours contract as their man job stood at 801,000 at the end of 2015, which is up by 104,000 from the year before the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

Since the ONS began monitoring the number of zero-hours contracts, this is the highest report and means that 2.5% of the employed UK workforce is on this type of contract.

In November, there were around 1.7 million contracts that did not guarantee a minimum number of working hours, which means that workers may have had more than one zero-hours contract.

Seasonal factors could have affected the previous estimate but the ONS said they should not be directly compared. Workers on zero-hours contracts were likely to be young people, part-time workers and students in full-time education opposed to other people in employment.

The ONS has also said that those on the contract, on average, worked 26 hours a week but a third of those wanted to work longer in their current job, rather than more hours in a different job. Only 10% of people in other types of jobs wanted more hours.uk employment

Sussex is on the map for delivering great customer service. Paul and Louise Matthews, the Regional Directors for Shopper Anonymous Sussex, have been recognised for working with Sussex businesses at the National Shopper Anonymous Awards Dinner, which was held in Liverpool in early December.

Shopper Anonymous works with more than 900 independent UK businesses, from legal firms to farm shops to opticians, to help them improve their customer service and their sales and profitability.

Jonathan Winchester, Chief Executive, said: “Paul and Louise began their journey with Shopper Anonymous in January and have, over just a 10-month period, developed it into an extraordinary business.  Gaining a silver award out of 18 Regional Directors was a fantastic achievement. I am delighted for all the Sussex businesses that gain so much value from the services Paul and Louise offer.”

With almost 100 Sussex clients engaged with the mystery shopping, customer feedback and training programmes, Shopper Anonymous Sussex has offered more than 1000 Sussex staff members the opportunity to receive feedback and development on the service standards they personally offer.

“This process has not only seen individuals grow with confidence but it has also made a significant difference to each business’ bottom line, as they retain and delight their customers,” said Paul.

Working with local firms such as Jempsons, Barraclough and Stiles, Fuzion4, Birchwood Motor Group, The Sovereign Centre and Motcombe Pool to name a few, Paul is finding that many local businesses are genuinely keen to raise their standards as far as customer service goes, as they are recognising that customers expect loyalty, respect and quality in their relationship.

“We have big plans for Sussex in 2016, including developing our world class mystery shopper team from 50 to 120 members as we engage with more clients,” said Louise.

If you want to learn more about the services Paul and Louise offer to improve your customer service, or to join their team, please click here.

Official figures have shown that the UK economic growth for the second quarter of the year was unrevised at 0.7%. The figure that was released in July was increased because of a sharp rise in oil and gas production.

On Friday, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) did not change the reading for the three months to June. The figure was higher than the 0.4% growth recorded for the first quarter of the year.

The biggest contribution to trade in four years came from net trade boosting GDP by one percentage point in the second quarter as exports jumped. However, economists believe that this could be temporary because the strength of sterling means that British goods are more expensive abroad.

Business investment is on the rise as it rose 2.9% in comparison with the first three months of 2015. In the first quarter, household spending had a 0.9% rise whereas it only increased by 0.7% recently.

Last year the UK economy expanded by 3% and the Bank of England has forecast a 2.8% growth this year.

UK inflation rose in July with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure rising to 0.1%. In June, the percentage stayed at 0% and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated that the main reason that inflation rose is because of the lower prices of clothing.

However, the Retail Prices Index measure of inflation has stayed the same at 1% and this will be used to calculate rail fare increases. The fares will remain the same until next year.

For the last six months, CPI has been almost flat and turned negative in April. This is the first time since 1960. CPI inflation strips out increases in energy, food, alcohol and tobacco. In addition to this, the underlying measure of CPI inflation rose to 1.2% in July, which is a five-month high. The ongoing supermarket price war could be the reason that CPI was held back, with a 2.7% year-on-year fall in the price of food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Taking all this into consideration, there has been question over when the Bank of England might raise interest rates. The Bank has a target inflation rate of 2%.

In the past two months, the drop in the price of oil has fallen by nearly a quarter, which is why analysts have said that the inflation rate could fall back again.

Some airport shops are keeping the extra money they earn when passengers show their boarding passes and are being urged to pass VAT savings on.

Customers show boarding passes so that retailers in the UK can avoid paying 20% VAT on purchases made by people who fly outside of the EU.

Buying without having to pay VAT is supposed to be for the benefit of travellers, said the treasury minister David Gauke. He also stated that it was not meant to provide a windfall gain for shops.

However, passengers do not legally have to show their boarding passes when they buy products at the airport. Passengers usually think that they have to show their passes but it is a request by shops so that they can avoid paying the VAT.

Boots is one of many retailers who operate in the UK airports and a spokesman said that the company did not claim back some VAT for non-EU passengers. This was to follow the rules that the government set out.

WH Smith on the other hand, said that having different pricing for travellers to EU and non-EU destinations would be impossible because it would mean distinguishing between each traveller.

Many shops were found to have some discounts in airports but still kept most of the savings.