All posts by Richard Hallsworth

Using Snapchat as a marketing tool

Snapchat is a popular video and image sharing app. It has become one of the most popular social media platforms but can it be used by businesses as a marketing tool?  

Originally, Snapchat allowed Android and iOS smart-phone users to send and receive images that could only be kept for a short time, once received.

However, Snapchat has evolved and users can now use the ‘story’ function where your photos and videos can be broadcast among your followers, with the ‘snaps’ staying available for 24 hours.

According to Snapchat, the app enjoys average daily usage of 186 million people globally. The average Snapchat user uses the app over 20 times a day and spends an average of 30 minutes on the app, creating and sharing 3 billion snaps every single day. Aside from providing a gateway to a younger, more mobile savvy audience, Snapchat has created smart marketing tools that extend reach and help businesses connect with audiences in unique ways. Snapchat provides a variety of paid marketing options to meet specific business goals. You can create a smart Snap Ad, a quirky Sponsored Geofilter, or interact with your potential clients through a Sponsored Lens.

Snap ads are paid-for, full screen, three to ten-second vertical adverts that you can create yourself on the Snapchat platform. They appear in between friends’ stories and Snapchat content such as Snapchat’s stories or publishers’ stories. The person watching can swipe up at any time for more info, maybe to read an article, or visit a website. Snap Ads are highly targeted.

Filters and lenses are paid for promotional tools. Filters add images such as your company logo or animations such as cartoon ears to faces in a photo. They are useful tools if you are trying to build brand awareness. Lenses also add content to a user’s photo, in the form of augmented reality elements such as animations. For example, your brand can be set to pop up on the screen during a selfie.

You can also build your brand, for free, using Snapchat. For example, you can build your firm’s story on the platform and tell your audience about your latest products and services. You can also build groups on Snapchat in order to share useful tips with existing customers, demonstrate new features or new products to your client-base, etc.


Building a data-led strategy

Businesses are capturing more information than ever before. The most successful firms are analysing that information and are focused on building their strategy around customer and market data.

Data management strategy

To create a data-driven business, you need to have a data management strategy. This needs to start with your culture and people. You need to encourage the right behaviours among your staff. It might help to create a training programme, which ensures your people are capturing data properly, on the right systems and in a way allows your business to gain useful insights from that data.


There is no point in capturing data if you can’t analyse it. Your business needs to manage data well and it needs to value data analytics. Don’t jump straight into rolling out software and technology. Take the time to define the needs of the business and build your analytics systems around that. Define what you need to know in order to drive sales, increase profitability or retain existing clients. Then feed these questions into your data analytics strategy.

Your analytics should seek to provide answers to these questions in order to add value to your business.

Now that your people and systems are in place, your business will be in a better position to collect data, analyse it and use the outputs to improve company performance with data driven insights.

Look for opportunities to use data

Unless you have data, you are just another person with an opinion. Look out for ways to use data to improve your business. Use customer data to improve your business development and marketing efforts. You can use data to reduce costs or to manage your supply chain more efficiently. You can even use data driven insights to help improve cash-flow by improving your debtor days and cash management across your business.

Remember, most businesses (and therefore, most of your competitors) are not very good at managing their data. If you can capture, analyse and utilise data throughout your business more effectively than they can, you will have a significant competitive advantage


Disguised remuneration loan charge start April 2019

This new charge will apply to certain loans to directors and employees that are still outstanding at 5 April 2019 and new arrangements put in place after that date.

The charge affects arrangements involving loans made via Employee Benefit Trusts (EBTs) and similar disguised remuneration schemes adjudged by HMRC and the courts to be tax avoidance and liable to PAYE and National Insurance Contributions.

There are new reporting and payment obligations that come into force for employers using such schemes from 5 April 2019, where the employer does not pay the tax and national insurance the liability can be passed to the individual who benefited from the loan.

Where the individual concerned had taxable income in the 2018/19 tax year of less than £50,000 they will be able to repay the liability over 5 years, and spread over 7 years if their 2018/19 taxable income of less than £30,000.


Personal Service Company changes from April 2020

In the Autumn Budget the Chancellor announced that the “off payroll” workers rules that currently apply in the public sector would be rolled out to the private sector in 2020. The government have now issued a consultation paper that sets out proposed tax and national insurance changes that will impact on those supplying their services through personal service companies.

End users will be required to determine whether the rules apply to the services provided by the worker via his or her personal service company. This will be a significant additional administrative burden on the large and medium-sized businesses who will be required to operate the new rules. The current CEST (Check Employment Status for Tax) online tool would be improved before the proposed start date.

No change for “Small” Employers

“Small” businesses will be outside of the new obligations and services supplied to such organisations will continue to be dealt with under the current IR35 rules with the worker and his or her personal service company effectively self-assessing whether the rules apply to that particular engagement.

The definition of “small” has been widely awaited and the Government have confirmed that it intends to use the existing Companies Act 2006 definition. That is where the business satisfies 2 or more of the following features:

  • Annual turnover of £10.2 million or less
  • Balance Sheet total of £5.1 million or less
  • 50 employees or less

The new obligations to determine whether the rules apply, deduct tax and national insurance, and report payments under RTI will apply to the agency or intermediary making payments to the personal service company where the end user is large or medium-sized. There will be an obligation to pass details of the status determination up and down the labour supply chain.

The liability for tax and national insurance will be the responsibility of the entity paying the personal service company, however if HMRC are unable to collect the tax from that entity the liability will pass up the labour supply chain thus encouraging those entities further up the supply chain to carry out due diligence to police compliance.

Please contact us if you would like to discuss how the proposed changes are likely to impact on your business.


Tax changes bought forward by a year

As already announced, the personal allowance and the higher rate tax threshold increased on 6 April 2019. The personal allowance went up to £12,500 and the basic rate band to £37,500, which means that for most taxpayers the higher rate tax threshold is now £50,000. These thresholds were due to come into effect from 6 April 2020 but the Chancellor announced that the start date would be brought forward by one year.

Note that the limits will then remain the same for 2020/21.

Nicholsons and St Barnabas Hospice cement partnership

Fifty employees from Nicholsons were asked to nominate a Charity of the Year and then cast their votes. In a closely contested internal poll St Barnabas Hospice came out top. The charities nominated are often charities that staff, their families or someone they know have been involved with.

Gail Paton, a Director at Nicholsons, says

“We feel it is important for staff to have a say, and by asking for nominations gives everyone the chance to put their favoured charity forward This year we are looking forward to working in partnership with St Barnabas Hospice and to raise money to help them maintain this vital service across Lincolnshire. I have personally benefitted from the services offered by this charity and fully support our choice this year.”

Corporate Fundraiser for St Barnabas Hospice, Caroline Swindin says

“Fundraising is so rewarding, but it is also lots of fun and great for staff moral and brand awareness. I am really looking forward to seeing the team at Nicholsons’ do various fundraising. They have committed to dress down days, quiz nights and cake baking.

St Barnabas Hospice is a local independent charity that supports more than 10,500 people across Lincolnshire affected by life-limiting or terminal conditions. Not only do they offer high quality, compassionate end-of-life care and support to patients, but support to their families and carers too. Without support from Corporate Sponsors, such as Nicholsons the Hospice simply would not be able to do the work to the standard and capacity they do.

Purchasing additional holidays

Andrew Tomlinson – HR Broadcast – the purchase of additional holidays.

An employee benefit that is becoming increasingly popular, especially in larger organisations, is the buying or selling of annual holidays.

Please allow me to explain the current requirements as regards holidays. All employees who work five days per week are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ holiday under the Working Time Regulations 1998. This equates to 28 days’ leave per annum. Those who work fewer days per week are entitled to statutory holiday on a pro rata basis.

Many smaller employees only offer the statutory minimum holiday entitlement and for some employees this will be sufficient. For others it will not be enough. This might be because an employee has travel plans or other commitments etc. This is where the purchasing of additional days holiday may be a useful benefit to offer.

If you did this, how would this work in practice and why might it be a good idea to implement such a policy? In the event of an employee buying extra holiday from you, as opposed to you just giving them some extra days off, it will be something like a salary sacrifice arrangement. That means their annual salary will temporarily go down, but they will be taking more time off.

If you did implement such a scheme, the good news is that you, as the employer, will have plenty of discretion in how you allow employees to buy extra holiday. For example, you could have a one-off arrangement with an employee, or you could roll out a scheme to all staff. The latter has financial advantages for you; for each day of leave that you allow an employee to buy, you can save yourself one day of gross pay along with the employers’ NI that would have been payable. 

It is also good for the employee who buys additional holiday who will also benefit financially because they will save tax and NI on this perk. This is particularly advantageous for higher rate taxpayers. If you want to introduce a “buy extra holiday” scheme, I strongly recommend that you do not grant an open-ended entitlement and the amount of extra days that can be purchased on top of existing holiday entitlement is limited, e.g. to five or ten days.

You can also make this type of perk subject to a strict qualifying period of service, such as two years. That being said, bearing in mind the financial benefits, you can make it a day one perk if you wish but be careful with that.

As this scheme should suit you, there is no reason why you cannot set restrictions on when any extra leave purchased can be taken, e.g. you can prohibit additional leave during peak business and holiday periods. You can also still limit the maximum of amount of holiday that an employee can take at any one time.

To make your life easier, do not allow last minute or same year requests. Instead, require employees to submit a request to buy holiday say no later than one month prior to the end of your current holiday year in respect of the following holiday year. This will ensure you have adequate staffing levels plus you will only have to deal with applications once per year.

Ensure you have a robust policy in place to cover this subject. In the opening line I mentioned buying and selling. If your current entitlement is more than the statutory minimum you can allow employees to sell annual holidays back to you, provided they take at least the statutory minimum of holidays outlined above.

Head of Human Resource at Nicholsons Chartered Accountants Lincoln HR