How was 2015 for you? The year in review for small business

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What happened this year? If you’re rushed off your feet in the run up to Christmas you might just need a refresher. Among other things, 2015 was the year that scientists found water on Mars, the year that Cuba and the United States agreed to restore full diplomatic relations after 54 years of hostility, and the year that the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris was attended by leaders from 147 nations. Oh, and a film called Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released making some people very, very happy.

And there was plenty of good news for small businesses too. Overall, the numbers of small firms grew this year. According to the department of Business, Innovation and Skills 1,000 new small and medium sized enterprises, employing between 50 and 249 people, were set up. These are not only a boon to the economy, but a boon to outsourcing too, as many firms use freelancers to help them with a variety of tasks, from accounting to running social media.

The government say they are committed to small firms, and their Autumn Statement in November contained some choice titbits

Firstly, enterprise zones – areas where small companies pay reduced taxes and receive business support – are to be extended, including 15 new ones in smaller towns and rural areas.

There will be an extension on small business rate relief which helps the smallest companies pay less tax on their premises.

No more piles of paper… the tax return is going digital. By early 2016, all of the UK’s five million small businesses will have access to their own digital tax account. The move is supposed to make tax less taxing. However, from 2020 firms will be required to report quarterly. Best not to worry about that now, though.

The rumours that entrepreneurs’ relief, which allows business owners to apply for tax relief on a lifetime allowance of up to £10m, was to be scrapped proved untrue … although watch out forchanges to the rules in the future.

It was also a great year for science. Not only did scientists find evidence of liquid water on Mars, make controversial advances editing the human genome, and carry out the world’s most extensiveface transplant in New York, but small UK science and technology firms also caught a break this year.  George Osborne cemented the government’s commitment to scientific research, protecting the £4.7bn funding pot in real terms for the rest of the Parliament, and promising a capital commitment of £6.9bn between now and 2021.

The freelance workforce is growing in the UK, and this year the self-employed were celebrated in style on National Freelancers Day in November. Chris Bryce, the chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed said the day was all about “celebrating and embracing those brave individuals who strike out on their own.”

And finally, Small Business Saturday held in December, went from strength to strength. This year, customers spent £623m with small businesses, an increase of £119m or 24% on 2014, and over 75% of local councils supported the campaign, including organising free parking, Christmas fairs and networking events.

Not bad for 2015, here’s to 2016!

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