Nicholsons Showcased Footie Skills at Sincil Bank for Charity


The team played at the HSBC Charity Football Tournament at Sincil Bank, the grounds of the newly crowned National League champion Lincoln City Football Club during the weekends.

Runners-up last year, the team has been looking forward to go one step better and Sincil Bank has been a good inspiration for Team Nicholsons. However, losing the opening and final group meant Nicholsons will not be qualifying for the semis this year.


Nonetheless, the team is happy to have played at Sincil Bank in the name of charity. “We will be looking forward to the tournament next year. We are a bit disappointed but the best team wins and good to see businesses taking time off to play for charity” said Richard Hallsworth, Director of the firm.


Is the lifetime ISA for you?

The government is rolling out a new type of ISA from this April, aimed at supporting people buying a house or saving for retirement – but is it a good option?

Buying a house and building your pension are arguably the two biggest financial challenges of the modern era. With house prices having shot up over the last two decades, getting on the property ladder is a real challenge for first time buyers, while further on in life, achieving a comfortable retirement is becoming even more difficult.

Before Brexit and the great political shake-up within the Government, last April the now ex-Chancellor George Osborne unveiled his latest idea to address these concerns. The Lifetime ISA was born, and from this April people will be able to start using it to save for the future.

What is the Lifetime ISA?

If you’re aged between 18 and 39, the Lifetime ISA will allow you to save up to £4,000 a year tax-free and receive a government bonus worth 25% of your contribution – up to £1,000 a year – until you reach 50. Lifetime ISA savings can be used to buy a first home, or accessed from the age of 60 to help fund your retirement. In the unfortunate event that a terminal illness strikes, you can also use the savings to support you.

Let’s say you’re 29 and save up £4,000 a year in a Lifetime ISA for the next 20 years; when you reach 49, you’ll have saved £80,000 yourself – with the government contributing a further £20,000 on top. Any growth your £100,000 pot of money achieves will be completely tax-free, and this approach could go a long way to funding your desired retirement lifestyle.

What’s the catch?

There are a few, and it’s very important to be aware of what they are before committing down this route.

Firstly, if you’re using a Lifetime ISA to save for retirement instead of a workplace pension, you’ll miss out on employer pension contributions. If you are paying a sizeable part of your salary into a pension and your employer is matching it, this could work out better than the government’s 25% bonus paid in the Lifetime ISA.

And then there are the exit penalties. If you need to use your Lifetime ISA before you reach the age of 60 other than to buy a first home or to fund retirement, you’ll lose 25% of your savings. And 25% isn’t just the government bonus you’ve received, it can be applied to any growth your savings have achieved.

Finally, on using the Lifetime ISA to buy a first home, you can only use it for a property worth up to £450,000. That might sound like a lot, but May 2016 research by Emoov suggests the average UK home could reach £457,433 by 2030. And within areas like London and the South East, this average could prove to be significantly higher.

What should you do?

There is no doubt that the tax incentives offered by Lifetime ISAs make them an attractive option. This approach to saving for the future could be right for many people, but on its own it might not offer the full solution.

Certainly – when it comes to retirement – it might not be time to abandon saving into a pension all together. As with all long-term financial planning, it can really make a difference to sit down with a financial adviser and discuss your options. They can help you to devise a strategy that’s right for your situation and ambitions, including making the most of the tax planning opportunities that are available to you.

The Pedal Pride Trip so far…

Just six more days to the launch of Lincoln Knight’s Trail, our knight known as the Pedal Pride will be unveiled to public at Michaelgate close to the Steep Hill today.

Pedal Pride will be Knight 17 of the Lincoln Knight’s Trail. The cycling-themed knight has since made a few public appearances, touring the Nicholsons’ office, and he of course got to spend some time with the Gelder Knight at the office!

Pedal Pride has also been displayed at the Craftea Café in a reception held earlier in March by the artist herself, Erin Fleming. The event gave the Directors a chance to contribute to the painting of Pedal Pride (Not a lot of course!).

He says “Hi” to everyone and is already looking forward to the Lincoln Grand Prix which will be held this weekend.

Pedal Pride will then be on guard for Lincoln and welcome visitors to the historic Bailgate as the city celebrates the 800th Anniversary of The Battle of Lincoln on the 20th May. Pedal Pride will be displayed until 3rd September.

Visit Lincoln Knight’s Trail for more information.


Painting a Dedication for Dad

Smells of the freshly brewed coffee lingers through and one lady can be seen making the perfect latte art. Behind the counter of the Craftea Café is Erin Fleming, the artist of two Lincoln Knights. Born in East London, Erin is the artist of Pedal Pride, the knight that Nicholsons Chartered Accountants has chosen to sponsor for this year’s Lincoln Knights Trail.

Moved to Lincoln at the age of 11 as a result of her dad’s love affair with the Lincoln Grand Prix, Erin found her inspiration for Pedal Pride from her former professional cyclist dad, Brian Fleming. As a child, she used to watch her dad train at the Eastway Cycle Circuit (which has since been knocked down to make way for the Olympics). Her dad loves Lincoln, more so after the trip that won him the team prize in the Milk Race for Team GB.

Having a professional cyclist dad meant that the world of cycling revolved around Erin. She recalled having to help her dad with repairing bikes, and joked about how a falling bike went between her and just missed her. She was so little that the she could fit into the bike frame!

Grown up to a young woman she is now, Erin is very proud of her dad and wants to dedicate Pedal Pride to him. “I think Pedal Pride is a way I can combine my love for art, the city of Lincoln and most importantly the significance of the Lincoln Grand Prix as a dedication to my dad”.

“I felt that the race itself has been overlooked for so long, and it deserved more publicity than it currently does. It is a huge event!” Erin hopes to get more publicity for the iconic Steep Hill climb which will be the final stage for the cyclists to the finishing line. She added that the picturesque backdrop and the chance to climb the Steep Hill are the reasons cycling enthusiasts should come and join the race.

Erin did a bit of cycling and triathlons when she was little, but her affections for theatre and acting would see her graduating with a 1st in Theatre Design at the Nottingham Trent University. Her proudest achievement as a theatre designer is her final year project, The Wiz. She will be part of upcoming Jekyll and Hyde play at the Lincoln Cathedral in August.

As for now, her main focus will be climbing the Steep Hill. The competitive young lady will be at the starting line at Lincoln Grand Prix with her dad. Pedal Pride will be there too at Michaelgate and is the 17th Knight of the Knight’s Trail!

Be sure to check out the #LincolnKnights and #PedalPride on Twitter for the latest Lincoln Knight’s Trail news and events

*Our next article will feature Brian Fleming himself. Stay tuned!

Challenging Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

Very often I get asked the question; do I have to pay statutory sick pay (SSP)? My answer is usually (but not always) the same – yes!

If an employee meets the SSP eligibility requirements, in most circumstances it has to be paid. However, there are some situations where entitlement can be challenged.

In normal situations, when an employee is off sick for at least four days in a row and they meet the eligibility criteria, the employer will start paying statutory sick pay (SSP) from the fourth “qualifying day” of sickness absence. The first three days are classed as “waiting days”, and you do not have to pay SSP on these days unless the employee has been off sick and receiving SSP in the last eight weeks.

However, there are a few circumstances where you can withhold SSP;

  1. Where your employee has failed to comply with your sickness absence reporting requirements. Your employee must tell you they are sick within a time limit that you can set, either in the contract of employment, in your staff handbook or by a standalone policy document (or within seven days if a time limit has not been set). Most well-drafted sickness absence policies will require the employee to report their sickness absence on the first day at the earliest possible opportunity but for SSP purposes you cannot insist they tell you in person.


  1. Where your employee was late in telling you about their incapacity, unless there is a good reason for the delay. It is important to note that this relates to reporting sickness absence internally and not providing the evidence to support it, such as a fit note. After seven days off sick you can ask your employee for a fit note from their doctor but you cannot withhold SSP if they’re late sending this to you. They may simply have been unable to get an earlier appointment with their doctor.


  1. Where you have sufficient evidence to doubt that the employee’s incapacity is genuine. This is a tricky one because you must have reasonable grounds for believing this and you cannot rely on gossip. It is possible that there is a genuine explanation as to why they are out and about; going for a walk does not mean they are necessarily fit for work. I have come across cases where an employee has two jobs and they were unfit to do one job but fit to do another. Likewise, being off work with sickness does not always prevent an employee from going to the pub, using a gym or doing their shopping. You have to be sure of the facts.

If you do decide to stop paying SSP to your employee, then advice should be taken and they are then entitled to a written statement from you explaining your decision.

However, as you might expect, where you refuse to pay SSP to an employee and they disagree with your decision, they do have an appeal mechanism. This is the form of seeking a formal decision on their entitlement to SSP from HMRC. The employee must phone HMRC’s Statutory Payment Disputes Team. You need to be aware that HMRC has the power to impose a civil penalty on you of up to £3,000 for a refusal or failure to pay SSP where it was properly due. Therefore please take great care before you withdraw SSP, make sure you have a very good reason for taking this action, make sure that you have your facts correct and ensure that you send a well-documented letter to your employee stating your reasons.

The Profitability of Spring Cropping

With the publicity surrounding blackgrass and the effectiveness of herbicides, spring cropping is at the top of the list of measures to provide up to 80% effective control, but can it work financially?

Spring cropping has always been seen as a financial gamble, with lower variable costs but equally a potentially much lower yield. The anticipated 17% increase in area of spring barley grown in 2017, means there is no denying the perception that the risk appears to be reducing.

There has been a run of positive press promoting spring crops; in December, Farmers Weekly reported that premium seed varieties such as Planet were in short supply, with prices rising. Mulika, the spring milling wheat has been promoted to yield up to ten tonnes per hectare; even achieving close to this makes it comparable the with poorer autumn drillings harvested last year where black grass was a problem.

With the hype for the near record 799,000 hectares of spring barley growing in the fields this year, it should be remembered that in 2013 the area grown was 903,000 hectares after a wet autumn, but in the following year there was a big swing back to winter crops.

On paper, the national statistics show winter barley yielding 23% more than spring barley, which is to some degree backed up by the Savills benchmarking survey data, where the 2015 harvest of winter barley exceeded spring plantings by 22.3%, but the 2014 harvest achieved only a 10% difference. The price achieved for the spring crops has been £5 to £10 per tonne ahead, but in looking at 2015 income per hectare for both crops and taking yield into account, we have to assume at least £100 per hectare less income for the spring crop.

The advantage of spring cropping has always been the lower variable costs. Looking at the 2015 harvest, the government’s rural business research shows a £97 per hectare lower cost for spring barley, making little difference to the gross profit margin between winters and spring crops.

The big factor to consider, but specific to each field is the scale of the blackgrass problem and the impact on the income of the autumn drillings, to make the costing comparison fair.

Fertiliser and sprays are estimated to make up just under 75% of variable cost, so with the anticipated price increases expected for this harvest and a good yield it may be possible that a spring crop becomes a real contender for the better margin.

With so many variables, it seems that spring cropping will remain a gamble but the odds of it being a wildly wrong financial decision may be coming down, as blackgrass becomes more prevalent and the main variable costs are set to rise.

Considering Business Acquisition for Business Growth

Want to grow your business fast? Considered a business acquisition?

Most business owners see the benefit in adopting a growth strategy. Sometimes though market forces make organic growth difficult and expensive. A much faster method of achieving growth targets is to bolt on other businesses through an acquisition.

You may choose a competitor whose sales you can absorb and strip out overheads. Your target might be complementary in that it offers something of use to your customers or vertically/ horizontally in your supply chain. Irrespective of the type for most a business acquisition offers the hope of growth. Many owner managers however, find the thought of an acquisition not appealing; too many problems, too much risk, too difficult to fund and too expensive.

At Nicholsons we partner with clients looking to acquire to help guide them through the purchase process every step of the way.

One piece of advice I often give is that deals don’t need to be Richard Gere in Pretty Woman style massive deals. I’ve recently worked on two acquisitions both with values of less than £25,000 but deals with values up to £100,000 can still generate good value.

Both of these recent deals offered integration benefits; sales and profit growth, customer cross selling opportunities, channel integration, economies of scale and a less than 3 year payback.

Smaller deals like this are often easier to complete. There are often smaller ego’s amongst the sellers (& their advisors) and whilst Due Diligence other pre purchase checks and legal documentation are still needed it can often be really focused on key areas which helps keep costs proportional to the deal size.

Sometimes buyer burnout in the deal process means that integration and day one planning is not effective. Smaller deals don’t drag on and there is plenty of energy left for integration planning. This is a real benefit of completing small deals because you can integrate them easily whilst keeping on top of the day job. Post purchase integration is where excellent business owners generate value and make acquisitions work so having more time on this area is a benefit.

So my advice would be. Don’t discount acquisitions as a means of achieving growth, but think smaller.

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