The Financial Conduct Authority has said tighter controls on crowdfunding platforms are required to protect investors from “complex and often unclear” offerings. The FCA is also worried that some firms have inadequate plans to wind down their loan books following a failure. Around one in five crowdfunded businesses fail and only 22% of investors realise a return through a sale or exit. However, the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA) said it had already asked for regulation and for stronger enforcement of the existing rules but the FCA’s failure to provide this had resulted in the sector “reporting on itself”.
Research by Which? has found that more than 1,000 high street bank branches have closed over the past two years as more customers go online and banking services are offered at Post Offices. Across the UK, some 1,046 bank branches were shut or were set to close between January 2015 and the end of December 2016. Which? said HSBC had cut the most branches, at 321, equating to around a quarter of its network. This was followed by RBS Group closing 191 branches, or 10% of its network. It said Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, had shut 180 branches, or 14% of its network.
Britain now has the highest property taxes in the developed world, according to an analysis by the OECD. It found property taxes accounted for 12.7% of the total tax burden in 2014, compared to an average of 5.6% among the OECD’s 35 members. Property taxes are equivalent to 13% of GDP in the UK, against 3.9% of GDP in France, 2.8% in the US and 1.9% across the OECD. Furthermore, the international average has fallen since 1965, from around 8%, while the UK Government has increasingly relied on property taxes for its income. In 2014, UK taxes on residential and commercial property, including stamp duty, IHT and business rates, jumped to £74.2bn, up from £69.8bn a year earlier.
A report has found the growth of the UK’s SMEs is being hampered by a lack of specialist advice and support from high street banks. According to Banking on Growth: Closing the SME funding gap, 37% of firms had been turned down for finance within their first two years and 25% had been refused when they looked to scale from a small to a medium business. The report also found just 25% of micro-SMEs, companies with 1-9 employees, have used bank loans to grow – a figure that rises to 51% for SMEs with more than 100 employees. More often, business owners rely on personal savings, credit cards or loans from friends and family, with more than 25% opting for overdrafts to fund growth.