Category Archive: Business

An Employment law overview

Associate Catherine Hope from the Employment Team at Sintons recently recorded a webinar for Founders Friday, where she gave an Employment law overview.

Please click on the play button in the bottom left corner of the below video image to start viewing.

We have also included a podcast version, the link is also below.

Falling Foul of Furlough Fraud?

While the Government has committed billions of pounds to supporting businesses through the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, reports of fraudulent claims around furlough leave are rising. By early January 2021, HMRC confirmed they are currently investigating 21,378 cases of suspected furlough fraud.

Whether this has been a deliberate action, or a misinterpretation of the complex rules around the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), there is an urgent need to rectify matters for any business which has fallen foul of the regulations.

HMRC are looking increasingly closely at claims made through the CJRS, and are performing spot checks on businesses, so it is advisable to ensure that payments are audited now. Any erroneous claims will be found by HMRC, so it is very important that claims and associated information are in order. Businesses must retain all supporting evidence relating to this, including calculations of claims made.

If an error has been made, or the money you received is not to be used to pay wages, tax, NI or pension contributions, you must notify HMRC to avoid a penalty.

The CJRS payments are classified as revenue receipts chargeable either to corporation or income tax and any overpaid amount must be repaid in the relevant time period. The period for sole traders and partners ends on 31 January 2022 and for companies, the period ends 12 months from the end of their company accounting period.

HMRC can recover the full amount by way of a tax assessment, which must be paid within 30 days. A penalty of up to 100% of the CJRS wrongly received can be charged by the HMRC as punishment if they are not told of the over claim within the notification period. The notification period is currently the latest of 90 days after the date of receiving the grant or 90 days after circumstances changed resulting in no longer being entitled to keep the grant.

Repayment and penalties can be sought against any partner in a partnership and officers of an insolvent company.

HMRC can also use the investigation and enforcement powers under the Finance Act 2020 where they suspect deliberate criminal activity has been committed. These can relate to serious offences, including conspiracy to defraud, fraud by false representation, false accounting, cheating the public revenue and money laundering.

Consequences of being found to be in breach of the rules are very serious. Not only is there the reputational damage this could do to a business, but there is also the prospect of a criminal conviction or even imprisonment.

By taking action now to ensure you are entirely compliant with the CJRS rules and in making any claims, you will avert any potential sanctions further down the line.

* Sheila Ramshaw is an associate and regulatory specialist at Sintons. For advice around CJRS compliance, and assistance in preparing for a possible spot check from HMRC, contact Sheila on sheila.ramshaw@sintons.co.uk or 0191 226 3739.

IP specialist hailed as go-to advisor

A specialist IP lawyer at Sintons has been confirmed as one of the leaders in her field in the North of England.

Pippa Aitken is a highly-regarded specialist in intellectual property, advising businesses across the UK on their rights and how to protect and commercially exploit them.

In recognition of her work, senior associate Pippa has been named as an Associate to Watch by Chambers 2021, which confirms her as a leading lawyer in her field while also recognising her future potential.

“Pippa is always really responsive and takes the time to understand what we need. She is all-round brilliant,” cites one testimonial in the independent Chambers publication.

Pippa has, for many years, been known as a leading IP advisor and has led the development of Sintons’ specialist IP practice. The firm has become known as a key name in this area of law, supporting major public and private sector clients with matters including trademarks, licensing agreements, commercial contracts and Software as a Service (SaaS) agreements.

Sintons’ IP team forms part of its corporate and commercial department, which won Team of the Year at the Northern Law Awards 2019.

Karen Simms, head of corporate and commercial at Sintons, says: “For many years, Pippa has been widely regarded as a go-to IP advisor, and has built longstanding relationships with clients across the country during that time. To see her expertise and potential in this field independently recognised by Chambers is fantastic.

“Our IP specialism is well known, and Pippa’s outstanding work has helped develop our reputation as a leading name in this area. IP is a hugely important factor for businesses and protection of such valuable assets is vital, particularly in such a challenging economic climate, and we are pleased to be helping so many clients to do so.”

Leading commercial disputes specialist joins Sintons as partner

A leading commercial disputes lawyer has joined Sintons as a partner.

Hilary Waters, a specialist in tax disputes with over 20 years’ experience, joins Sintons from KPMG.

During her career, she has built a reputation for supporting clients with a variety of complex tax disputes as both advisor and advocate, as well as commercial litigation and regulatory matters.

Hilary becomes the 30th partner in Sintons and the latest senior addition to the firm’s fast-growing dispute resolution team, which is renowned regionally and nationally for its capability and expertise.

She has extensive experience of advising on a wide range of tax issues for both individual clients and groups of taxpayers, including the formation and management of litigation funding groups. She has experience in litigating matters at all levels of the UK Courts and Tribunals, from the First-tier Tribunal to the Supreme Court, as well as referrals to the European Court of Justice.

Her clients include FTSE 100 companies to SMEs in a wide range of sectors, including retail, leisure, pharmaceutical, manufacturing, tech, property, universities and sports clubs.

Angus Ashman, head of the dispute resolution team, said: “We are delighted to welcome a lawyer of the calibre and experience of Hilary. During her career, she has become known as a leading name in her field, handling commercial disputes of the highest complexity on behalf of major businesses and fighting hard to secure the very best outcome for her clients. Her absolute commitment to achieving excellence is an ideal fit for our approach at Sintons.

“As a team, we are known for setting and achieving the highest standards and continue to be appointed regionally and nationally in matters by both new and existing clients. Our ongoing growth is testament to the quality of our legal advice and client service, which is what continues to make Sintons stand out in the marketplace. We are confident Hilary will help us to achieve even greater successes as a team and look forward to working with her to make that happen.”

Historic mill handed over to community ownership

An historic Cumbrian mill has been brought into community ownership following a £2m restoration project which protects the site for future generations.

The corn mill at Warwick Bridge dates back to 1170 and flour has been made at the site for over 800 years, although has not been in use in recent years. It was largely rebuilt in 1845 and its recent restoration has equipped it for the future.

New and restored buildings and machinery has come at a cost of £2m, including a £1.34m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and further funding from Historic England, the RDPE LEADER programme, and others including the Headley Trust, one of the Sainsbury family trusts.

To ensure the mill continues to thrive and can serve future generations of the community, Cultura Trust, the owner of the site, has leased the mill to Warwick Bridge Corn Mill Limited, a community benefit society, which will oversee the running of the mill.

Through a community share issue, which has seen over 200 people become shareholders in the venture, locals will be living, breathing, baking and eating the fresh straight-out-of-the-oven results of their efforts.

Warwick Bridge Corn Mill Limited has engaged a community enterprise based in Edinburgh, Breadshare, to run the operation. This will include flour production, baked products and courses in traditional breadmaking. In addition, volunteers will be able to lend a hand learning some of the skills in milling to keep the mill turning, which will keep the flour flowing.

The unique lease was prepared by law firm Sintons, longstanding lawyers to charity Cultura.

Graham Bell, director of Cultura Trust, said the handover marks 20 years of the trust’s determination to save this piece of living history and pass it into the hands of the community to run.

“We looked at options including creating a microbrewery, which back then were rare, but really, this mill has flour dust engrained in its walls and floorboards – we couldn’t ignore that call to revive the life it was made for,” he said.

Phil Healy, a neighbour of the corn mill who watched the mill sit idle, became the founding chairman of Warwick Bridge Corn Mill Limited.

“Receiving the sluice-gate key as a symbol of the lease is in character with this wonderful, powerful, longstanding “member of our community” that we’ll be taking care of. Every one of over 200 people who have bought shares feel strongly about this mill – their mill, their neighbour, their investment,” he said.

Paul Liddle, partner in the real estate team at Sintons, added: “This is a much-loved community site with a proud history stretching back hundreds of years. To revive its flour making past in the hands of local people who are so passionate about its purpose is a fantastic achievement. The corn mill can now serve this community for generations to come and we are delighted to have supported Cultura in enabling this benevolent handover.”

Tech startup wins second global contract with Sage

A startup business established 12 months ago to disrupt the corporate training market has won its second international contract with technology giant Sage.

SUB10 has been appointed by Sage to develop its anti-bribery and corruption training programme, which will be used by 14,000 colleagues across 24 countries around the world and translated into six languages.

It comes only months after SUB10 won its first major contract with Sage, the market leader in cloud business management solutions, to design and deliver its Code of Conduct training, which is currently being implemented across Sage’s international operation.

Both contracts centre around SUB10’s core premise of revolutionising the traditional corporate training market through its methodology that workplace learning can be delivered in a more accessible and technology-driven way.

The business focuses on devising functional training units – underpinned with learning methodologies and proven neuroscience to support how people learn – of ten minutes or less which are offered in accessible multi-modal formats including games, quizzes and interactive videos.

Fast-growing SUB10, which last year became one of a handful of UK businesses to be accepted onto the prestigious global Microsoft for Startups programme, is now planning further expansion on the back of its developing partnership with Sage.

A key step forward for the business is the development of its SaaS cloud-based Learning Sphere system, a unique learning platform designed and developed on the Azure cloud, which is being created at its headquarters at PROTO in Gateshead, Europe’s leading centre for emerging technology.

SUB10 – founded by Peter Stephenson and Angela Ross, both highly-experienced and well-known names in training and e-learning – is also creating new jobs as it builds its team.

“To be awarded the Code of Conduct contract by Sage only six months after we were established was a phenomenal achievement for us, but to secure a second international partnership with one of the world’s biggest names in technology within our first year of business surpasses anything we could have hoped for,” said Peter.

“Our methodology is to redefine how corporate training is delivered and consumed within businesses. The initial feedback from the Code of Conduct training we have developed for Sage has been fantastic, and creating something so bespoke and innovative has been a huge learning process for both Angela and I, even though we’ve worked in this area for many years.

“We are now working hard on the delivery of our second contract through the development of this bespoke anti-bribery and corruption training, and are delighted to build our relationship with Sage even further.”

Carl Lovett, senior business integrity consultant at Sage, said: “We opted to work with SUB10 for a second project based on their core belief and supporting methodology that workplace learning can simply be better and more integrated. This was evident in our collaboration on Sage’s new Code of Conduct education.

“With their unrelenting flow of ideas, ability to tackle the hard-to-solve questions and desire to partner with Sage rather than just develop training content – opting to work with them again was an easy decision. We’re really excited to see what we can accomplish together in an ever-shifting environment.”

Lucy Carlin, senior associate and Sintons and one of the region’s leading specialist tech lawyers, has advised SUB10 since pre-launch.

“As a business which was once itself a North East startup, it is fantastic to see Sage now investing in the success of ambitious and growing new ventures in its home region. SUB10 was founded to revolutionise the traditional world of corporate training and the achievement of such successful results for a company of the scale of Sage shows they are delivering on that,” she added.

Double Dealmakers shortlisting for Sintons

Law firm Sintons has been shortlisted in two categories of the North East Dealmakers Awards 2019.  

Sintons has been named as a finalist in Corporate Law Firm of the Year, and Partner Adrian Dye has securing a shortlisting for Corporate Lawyer of the Year.  

The Newcastle-based law firm is widely recognised as one of the regions leading corporate advisers, and regularly acts in many of the most significant deals in the North East and beyond.  

Over the past year, Sintons has again completed a host of major high-profile transactions, with some recent examples including the rescue of one of the regions oldest retail brands, The Pen Shop, from administration; the acquisition of Team Valley-based TDX by an Italian counterpart; and the acquisition of car sharing pioneer Cowheels by a major European car sharing club.  

Adrian has been shortlisted in recognition of his expertise in completing many major transactions over the past year, as well as his client-focused approach and commitment to securing the best outcome for them. Many of his clients have been with Sintons for many years, which is indicative of the quality of advice and service Adrian and the team offer.  

Dealmakers, run by Insider Media, are highly-esteemed annual awards which recognise and reward the outstanding work of individuals and organisations within the corporate sphere in the North East. The winners are decided by an independent judging panel of leading names within the North East business community, and are revealed at a dinner on Thursday, September 26, at the Hilton NewcastleGateshead.  

Karen Simms, head of the corporate and commercial team, at Sintons, said: For many years, we have been rightly regarded as one of the leading corporate advisors in the North East and beyond for the depth of expertise and capability we have here, and our ability to advise on the most complex of matters which often require completion against the tightest of deadlines. We have the breadth of specialist knowledge at Sintons that few can rival, which is why we are the trusted long-standing advisor to so many clients, and the reason we are regularly instructed to act in many of the biggest deals in the North East.  

We have a deserved reputation as one of the leaders in our field, and we are delighted this has again been recognised through our shortlisting as Corporate Law Firm of the Year at Dealmakers 2019, and Adrian being named as a finalist in his own right is further evidence of the strength we have here at Sintons.