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Minimising the damage caused by negative online comments


Paul McGarrity and Chas Roy- Chowdhury

Paul McGarrity and Chas Roy- Chowdhury

Paul McGarrity and Chas Roy- Chowdhury

Question: How can my business be damaged by negative online comments, and how should I react to them?

Paul McGarrity, director, Octave Online Communications replies:

Negative online content in the form of videos, blog postings and consumer reviews pose a new PR challenge for some businesses in the internet age.

Because of their viral nature, online comments and material can appear high in the natural search engine results, making them very prominent and difficult to remove. The problems for individuals and companies who attract negative online publicity are also compounded by the fact the information can be preserved for a long time on the internet.

However, by monitoring comments and reacting to negative online content, brands can help mitigate their effects.

The first step businesses need to take is to find out what is being said about their brand online. There are relatively straightforward and free tools such as Google Alerts that are used to monitor key terms in search engines.

For larger companies, there are paid-for monitoring tools used to record online content across multiple media channels.

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The second main step is to establish how you are going to react to user generated comments online.

Businesses who demand the removal of comments can find themselves embarrassed online, or just create more negative comments. If you feel that online comments and material are having a damaging affect on your brand, then it’s worth considering policies and actions on how to deal with them. Because of the complex nature and occasional legal aspects of negative online PR, it’s certainly worth speaking to a specialist in online reputation management for professional advice.

Question: I have an investment property which has significant equity but is part owned by a company which I’m a shareholder in and part owned by myself, the split being 50 / 50. How will the increase in the rate of CGT affect my situation and what course of action would you recommend I take?

Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the ACCA replies:

There are two parallel regimes for capital gains tax (CGT) in the UK. One for income tax purposes and the other for corporation tax purposes.

Whether an individual owns shares in a company makes no difference to the tax. The company gains on a disposal will be subject to the corporation tax rules and the part of the property owned and disposed of by the individual will be subject to the income tax rules. As this is an investment property, the gain on your individually owned share will be subject to capital gains tax.

Under the revised rules for individuals, you would be able to take the first £10,100 of gains in the year free of tax. After that, you would pay tax at a rate determined by your overall income, including the gain.

The gain will be treated as if it is the top slice of your income, and taxed at 18% in the basic rate band, which is effectively income up to £43,875 this year, and at 28% above that (i.e. in your 40% or 50% income tax bands).

The change in the tax rates took effect from Budget day, so there is no immediate planning that you can do to reduce your tax bill unless there are other significant factors coming into play. To work that out you would need to discuss things in more detail with your accountant.