Waltons Clark Whitehill have warned that looming pension auto-enrolment deadlines could leave many North East businesses facing criminal proceedings and daily fines.
The Hartlepool-based firm of chartered accountants and business advisers has warned that the number of businesses entering the auto-enrolment process this year, around ten times the number that had to enrol last year, could cause them to miss the deadline if they leave compliance to the last minute, due to the increased pressure on accountancy firms who will be asked to assist with the process.
This is due to Government regulations, which require all employers to provide a workplace pension scheme, coming into force this year for businesses employing fewer than 50 people. Each business is given a staging date, when they must comply with the legislation, and a declaration date, five months later, when they must submit a declaration stating how they have complied.
In each quarter of this year between 100,000 and 200,000 businesses across the UK reach their staging date, including tens of thousands in the North East. In a move to avert the potential gridlock Waltons Clark Whitehill is offering a discount on audit enrolments services to clients who take action to comply with the new rules well in advance of the staging date, and are calling on other accountants to do the same.
Heather O’Driscoll, Managing Director of Waltons Clark Whitehill, said: “If they don’t take action now hundreds of North East businesses could find themselves facing fines and even criminal proceedings. If they leave compliance with auto-enrolment to the last minute they might find their accountant is effectively gridlocked and that they’ve left it too late.
“More businesses reach their staging date in every quarter of this year than in the past two years combined, including the smallest. This exacerbates the problem as the large volume staging at the same time contains those who are least likely to be prepared for it.
“At Waltons Clark Whitehill we’re offering a discount to clients who comply early, and in order to avert a potential crisis we implore other firms of accountants to do the same.”