Business News

Business start-ups can take part in four free live tax webinars run by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on 15 February.  HMRC Start-up Saturday webinar programme, between 10am and 5pm, is aimed at new and prospective businesses. Each live webinar lasts an hour and gives the opportunity for questions.

The HMRC webinars are:

Self-Employment and HMRC – What You Need to Know
10am to 11am Saturday 15 February
This session concentrates on the information sole traders or partnerships need when they start. It covers registration, National Insurance, Self Assessment and record keeping.
 Register for Self-Employment webinar
Company Directors – Your Responsibilities to HMRC
12pm to 1pm Saturday 15 February
This webinar is aimed at businesses considering setting up as limited companies. It provides the basics on incorporation and registration with Companies House and HMRC. It also looks at when companies become an employer, and the timetable for paying Corporation Tax online. 
Register for Company Directors webinar

Business Expenses for the Self-Employed
2pm to 3pm Saturday 15 February
Sole traders or partnerships need to know which day-to-day expenses they are able to claim for tax relief. They also need to start keeping records of these as soon as the business starts. This webinar provides an overview of the most common expenses, including motoring costs.
 Register for Business Expenses webinar

What is VAT?
4pm to 5pm Saturday 15 February
New businesses are often worried about VAT, what it is and when they need to register. This webinar answers these questions and explains in simple terms how VAT works.
Register for ‘What is VAT’ webinar

The 'Achieving Finance' Programme
is an 18 month business development programme aimed at assisting SME's to  identify their financial position, undertake an objective financial health check and examine what opportunities exist for financial support. The programme is 95%funded by the Councils of Armagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Newry & Mourne in conjunction with Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland.

In the first phase the programme will involve a series of three specialist 'Masterclasses' for 100 small businesses; 20 from each of the Council areas seeking to understand and access public and private sector financial support.  The second stage of the programme will involve 75 of those businesses, who will be able to access 3 full days of consultancy mentoring to undertake an initial 'Financial Health Check', followed by a bespoke ‘Finance Investment Plan’. The programme will conclude with a series of innovative 'Meet the Investor' events that allows each business to present their plans to an investment panel. The Masterclasses, which will take place across the five Council areas before Christmas 2012, are free to all the SME’s who wish to take part followed by a £100 fee for those that progress to the one to one mentoring and Meet the Investor events. All other costs are covered by the Council/EU funding package.

For further information contact Stacy Young at Lestas Consulting Ltd on 0287032 2900 or speak with your Economic Development Officer in the Councils ofArmagh, Banbridge, Craigavon, Down, Newry & Mourne.

E-Synergy is hosting a “Fund Awareness Seminar & Showcasing Event” to help announce the extra £4 million the NISPO Funds recently received.
The additional monies received will be used for Proof of Concept Grants and for investments from the Invest Growth Fund.
This event will be an opportunity for you to hear from E-Synergy on how the money will be spent by March 2014. You will also meet a number of companies that have already availed of support through the NISPO Fund - to hear about their journey, to see that you can do it too, to see how you may be able to help some of these companies in their next steps . . . 
Guest Speaker – Alastair Hamilton, CEO Invest Northern Ireland
Who Should Attend?

Entrepreneurs, Businesses in the start-up phase, Businesses looking to raise investment finance, Investors, Business Mentors etc

Date:       Tuesday 23rd April2013      
Time:       8.00am -8.30am  Registration / Breakfast /Showcases
               8.30am - 9.00am  Presentations
               9.00am - 9.30am  Networking
Location:  The Pump House, Titanic Docks, Queen's Road, Queen's Island, Belfast, BT3 9DT

Cost: Free
Contact: Kathleen White,
02890 823 684,

Business in the Community has extended the deadline for its 2013 NI Impact Awards and there’s a category for the Most Responsible Small Business.

The award is for companies with fewer than 50 employees demonstrating a sustainable and responsible approach to doing business, which benefits their stakeholders and wider society. Entries now close at 12 noon on 15 April 2013 and you can find out more and download an application pack at

Winners are presented with their award at one of the most exciting and prestigious events in the NI business calendar – Business in the Community’s Gala Awards dinner at the Waterfront Hall, which this year takes place on
6 June 2013.  

Further information can be found at

Want to tender for contracts & sell services globally?
Need support to develop your capability toolkit and expertise?

The Life Sciences Supply Chain project will work with micro and SME’s in the following areas:

Knowledge, analysis & decision making techniques to assess growth opportunities.
Understanding of the global Life and Health Sciences sector and development of a market entry strategy.
Strategies to navigate regulatory pathways& enhance procurement/purchase of products and/or services.
Knowledge to access product innovation supports internationally.
Development in your business model, uncovering new innovative solutions & accessing new opportunities & markets.
Assistance in gaining the accreditations required by the Life Science sector.

For further information please contact Louise Cushnahan on 02838312408 or Ann McIlroy on 07745988265

Authentic Leadership Masterclass
The Management & Leadership Network (MLN) and Invest NI are holding a Free Management Month Breakfast Masterclass. The event will focus on Leadership and will feature an address from Kate Marshall from KM Consulting. The Masterclass will look at Authentic leadership that starts with leading self creating focus and energy to drive your success. This Management Month event is free to attend and further information can be found here.

The Craigavon Borough Council Meanwhile Space Project
is open for applications. Run in partnership with Lurgan Chamber of Commerce and Trade and the Portadown Chamber of Commerce this is an initiative to activate vacant town centre properties. The Meanwhile Space Project seeks to identify aspiring local entrepreneurs and project developers and provide them with a town centre shop unit to test their new business or project idea.
Further information can be found here.

The Invest Northern Ireland Innovation Vouchers July call for applications is now open. The programme provides a voucher of up to £4000 to enable eligible businesses to engage with one of the 41 universities, colleges and other publicly funded research organisations throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The call closes at midnight on the 31st July 2012 and more information can be found here.

Nesta has launched a third year of the Creative Business Mentor Network. The Network gives creative companies the opportunity to receive one-to-one mentoring with some of the most successful business people in the creative sector. As part of the Network companies receive:

• An induction workshop at the start of the programme.
• One-to-one business mentoring in the form of ten, two-hour sessions over a 6-12 month period.
• Workshops and events designed to meet other members of the Network
• Coaching support.

Applications close on 26 July 2012 (at 3pm). Further information can be found here.
The UK has slid into a Double Dip Recession.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released figures today showing that GDP has shrunk  by 0.2% in the first three months of 2012.  This follows the economy shrinking by 0.3% in the fourth quarter of 2011. The ONS figures show the production industries decreased by 0.4%, construction decreased by 3% with  output of the service sector bucking the trend and  increasing by 0.1%.   Further information can be found here.

The STEM Project is delighted to announce the launch of a new environmental programme in early 2012 and are seeking early expression of interest. This INTERREG IVA funded project will work with 220 SME’s over 3 years of the programme.

The STEM Project is offering local business the opportunity to.

· Save Money – Achieve financial savings in Energy, Water and Waste.
· Be more competitive and successful with tendering applications.
· Address Environmental Issues.
· Comply with Legislation.
· Avail of 5 days confidential onsite support, advice and training worth min £2500.
· Network with like minded businesses.
· Gain Environmental Certification (ISO 14001 / BS 8555).

In order to ensure your company has the opportunity to participate in this exciting new project
Log on to or complete the attached form and return via Email.
Alternately contact the STEM Office Directly 02837 515800 on or before Friday 16th December 2011.

* Participating Areas : Armagh, Ards, Banbridge, Craigavon, Dungannon, Down, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Newry and North Down

The NISPO Accelerator Applications close on the 11th of November 2011.  Companies must be early stage with high growth potential and the ability to demonstrate that circa £50k of investment will take them to a quantifiable milestone that accelerates the growth of the business.  Further information can be found here.

Entries are now open for the Nokia Digital Media Awards.  This year there are 23 categories including Best Mobile Website, Best Digital Game, Most Useful App and Best in Social Media.  Entries close on 21st November and the awards ceremony will take place on 30th March 2012.  Further information can be found here.

Google updates it's algorithm.  The algorithm is a system for ranking web pages used by the Google search engine and the latest update, Panda 2.5, seems to have had an impact of the way web pages are found on Google.  An interesting blog by web design company Chooboo can be found here.

BBC 3 and  Radio 1 are running a week long series of features and programmes featuring youth unemployment.  The week includes a series of programmes on BBC3  including an episode on 20th October focussing on starting a business.  More information can be found here or take the "Get yourself Hired Test" here.

Quantatitive Easing, 6th October 2011 - The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee today  voted to inject a further £75bn into the economy through quantitative easing.  They also voted to hold the official Bank Rate paid on commercial bank reserves at 0.5%.  In a letter from the govenor of the Bank of England to the Chancellor, Mervynn King stated that the reasons for QE included as follows " The pace of global expansion has slackened, especially in the United Kingdom's main export markets. Vulnerabilities associated with the indebtedness of some euro-area sovereigns and banks have resulted in severe strains in bank funding markets and financial markets more generally. These tensions in the world economy threaten the UK recovery." 

Further information can be found here.  

The National Minimum Wage Rates will change from 1st October 2011

The NMW rates are reviewed each year by the Low Pay Commission and from 1 October 2011:

  • the main rate for workers aged 21 and over will increase to £6.08
  • the 18-20 rate will increase to £4.98
  • the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18 will increase to £3.68 
  • the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship will increase to £2.60

Further information can be found here

HMRC issues reminder on new tax return penalties

The changes introduced by HMRC will affect self assessment returns from 2010/11.

The new penalties for late filing of a self assessment return are as below:

  • An initial £100 fixed penalty, which will now apply even if there is no tax to pay for the year, or if the tax due for the year has already been paid on time;
  • After 3 months, additional daily penalties of £10 per day, up to a maximum of £900;
  • After 6 months, a further penalty of 5 per cent of the tax due or £300, whichever is greater; and
  • After 12 months, another 5 per cent or £300 charge, whichever is greater. In serious cases, the penalty after 12 months can be up to 100 per cent of the tax due.

New penalties for paying late are 5 per cent of the tax unpaid at:

  • 30 days;
  • 6 months; and
  • 12 months.

Interest will also be charged on top of these penalties.  The tax return deadlines remain unchanged - 31 October for paper returns and 31 January for online returns. The deadline for paying any tax due also remains the same at 31 January

Further information can be found here 

HMRC urge Business to disclose if they are ready to register for VAT. 

The VAT Initiative campaign is an opportunity for businesses to tell HMRC, between now and 30 September that they should be registered for VAT. The campaign is aimed at businesses that have  passed, or expect to pass within the next 30 days the current VAT threshold of £73,000 or who passed the VAT threshold in a previous 12 month period but did not register for VAT.  Not registering for VAT when you have exceeded the threshold is an offence and, in addition to the VAT due, there may be penalty charges. If you tell HMRC voluntarily under the VAT Initiative before 30 September you will incur a lower penalty than if HMRC have to enforce your registration

For further infomation can be found here

The Arts Council for Northern Ireland has launched the Creative Industries Innovation Fund.  The Fund is administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and supported by Northern Ireland Screen and Digital Circle.

 There will be one funding round under the Creative Industries Innovation Fund programme in each financial year from 2011/12 to 2014/15.

This first funding round for 2011/12 is open to digital content development projects only, particularly those in areas of:

  •  Digital animation
  •  Mobile and web content
  •  e-learning and serious gaming
  •  Film
  •  Television
  •  Music (where activity is focused on the use of music in the areas above)

100 per cent grants up to a maximum of £10,000 are available to cover eligible costs for successful projects.

Further information can be found on the Arts Council website.

IntertradeIreland has announced the launch of the 2011 All Island Seedcorn Business Competition. Seedcorn is a business competition for early stage / high growth companies in any sector on any part of the island. The competition, aimed at companies who have a new equity funding requirement, has a prize fund of €280,000 and offers  the opportunity to:

  • Develop your business idea
  • Improve your business plan
  • Make your concept investor ready
  • Gain exposure to venture capitalists & other equity providers
  • Increase the profile of your business

The closing date is 1pm on Friday 16 September 201.  For full details about the competition click here

NISP connect has announced the open application window for Pitchfest 2011. Eligible companies must be based in Northern Ireland and must not have raised in excess of £500,000 in seed or institutional venture capital funding.  Each application is reviewed by a screening committee of established local angel investors. Up to twelve companies will advance to final night, where they make in-person presentations to all attendees at Pitchfest 2011. There, the audience votes for the one company they think has the best chance of making it big, and the winner is presented a £1,000 cash award that night! Pitchfest is very different from a Halo investor evening in that you will not be pitching to an investor audience for money. This means that your company will still be eligible to pitch at Halo at a later date. First Prize: £1,000 & 2 runners up prizes of £500.  For more information go to

Default Retirement Age to be phased out. The Government has said that the default retirement age of 65 is to be phased out between 6 April and 1 October 2011. This means employers will no longer be able to let employees go simply because they have reached the male state retirement age.

New Fire Safety Regulations in force in Northern Ireland. As of the 15th November 2010 the legislation regarding the fire safety regulations in don-domestic premises have changed. Under the new legislation workplaces will no longer need a fire certificate but must have a 'suitable and sufficient' risk assessment in place to include all matters relating to fire safety. For more information E-mail:

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