New employer’s pack

Q. Having been a single-handed sole trader for a number of years, I feel I know the trade well enough now to expand and take on staff. My initial forays into the world of PAYE, NICs, working families’ tax credits and the like have left me wondering whether I will ever be able to cope. Any suggestions?

A. You can find out all you need to know by getting a special ’New Employer’s Starter Pack’, a weighty, but extremely useful collection of leaflets, specimen forms and information on all aspects of income tax.

The star item in my view is a booklet called Paying Someone for the First Time. It tells you, in very simple language, what to expect as a new employer and how to orga-nise a hassle-free first pay day.

The pack is free and can be obtained via the Inland Revenue orderline (tel: 08457 646 646) or from your local Business Advice Centre (look under HM Customs & Excise in your local phone book).

Misleading advertisements

Q There has been a lot of talk about the authorities clamping down on ’misleading’ and ’comparative’ advertising. As I’m shortly to begin a regional publicity campaign, please explain the meaning of these terms and what will happen to me should I step out of line.

A Very briefly, an advertisement can be misleading if it contains a false statement of fact, creates a wrong impression, makes a promise when there is no intention of keeping it and is, in other ways, something of a ’con job’.

An advertisement is ’comparative’ if, either explicitly or implicitly, it identifies a competitor or goods or services offered by a competitor. The trouble arises when, among other offences, it is misleading or takes unfair advantage of the reputation of a trademark or trade name.

Several bodies, including the local trading standards service, will take court action where necessary, but to read up on the topic, you can get an interesting free fact sheet from the Office of Fair Trading, tel 0845 722 4499 7211.

Selling the premises

Q Like many of us, I am continually in debt to the bank and would do a lot to reduce - or preferably get rid of - my overdraft. A bank official suggested, off the record, that as I own my business premises, I could sell them to raise cash and then agree to pay rent over a set period. Is this really an option?

A Sale and leaseback is a popular way of unlocking the cash in property, and would give you the advantage of getting the bank off your back while allowing you to continue trading without disruption.

However, don’t rush into this without thinking hard and taking professional advice. You may well be able to cock a snook at the bank and be free of paying interest, but the rent you will have to stump up could well be equal, if not more, than the bank charges!

In addition, there will be service and possibly other expenses to pay under the terms of the lease and you will have to get consent to any alterations you may wish to make, inside and out.

longer holidays

Q There are moves afoot to give workers increased holiday entitlements. If these are made law, will we have to give extra paid leave to part-timers?

A The proposals are that all workers currently entitled to an annual leave entitlement should benefit, and this includes the type of wor-kers you mention. It is planned to increase this in two stages, rising from 20 to 24 days on 1 October this year and from 24 to 28 days a year later. n