Newsletter – February 2018

Enews – February 2018

In this month’s Enews we report on the roll out of Tax-free Childcare and the reduction in HMRC scam texts. We also consider the latest list of deductible subscriptions and rejected Self assessment expenses claims and excuses. With revised income tax bands for Scottish taxpayers there is lots to update you on.

HMRC rejected Self Assessment expenses and excuses

HMRC have released the latest list of imaginative excuses made by individuals who failed to submit their self assessment return by 31 January deadline in 2017. Excuses include alien sightings and being too busy touring with a one-man play.

HMRC’s annual list of outlandish excuses is used to publicise the self assessment deadline of 31 January following the end of the tax year. An automatic £100 penalty applies to those who have the obligation to complete a return and miss the filing deadline, regardless of whether the individual has a tax liability to pay or not.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general of customer services, said:

‘Each year we’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return, but each year we still come across some questionable excuses, whether that’s blaming a busy touring schedule or seeing aliens.’

Here are some of the recent excuses:

  1. I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house.
  2. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play.
  3. My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it.
  4. My business doesn’t really do anything.
  5. I spilt coffee on it.

HMRC have also released details of some of the weirdest expense claims which include:

  1. A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts.
  2. Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub.
  3. Vet fees for a rabbit.
  4. Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco.
  5. £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days.

If you have any queries on tax matters please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Tax-free childcare roll out

The implementation of Tax-Free Childcare, the new government scheme to help working parents with the cost of childcare, is being rolled out to eligible parents in stages.

The scheme first made its debut in April 2017 and although there have been initial systems problems, HMRC’s aim is to have the scheme open to all eligible parents by 14 February 2018. Application is made online through the Childcare Choices site and applications can be made for all eligible children at the same time.

Under Tax-Free Childcare, for every £8 the parent pays, the government provides a £2 top-up, to a maximum of £2,000 per child each year – with a higher limit of £4,000 for disabled children. This gives a total childcare pot of £10,000, or £20,000 for disabled children. To be eligible, parents must generally have minimum weekly earnings of at least £120 each. There is also an upper earnings limit of £100,000.

Compensation may be available in certain circumstances where a parent:

  • is unable to complete an application for Tax-Free Childcare
  • is unable to access their childcare account
  • or doesn’t get a decision about whether they are eligible, without explanation, for more than 20 days.

Those employing a nanny should be able to use the childcare account to pay their PAYE tax and National Insurance. Delays in getting this system working may also give grounds for compensation. Application is made online GOV.UK childcare-service-compensation

Internet link: GOV.UK childcare under 9s

HMRC halts thousands of scam text messages

HMRC have announced that they have stopped thousands of taxpayers from receiving scam text messages ‘with 90 percent of the most convincing texts now halted before they reach their phones’.

HMRC’s press release states:

‘Fraudsters alleging to be from HMRC send text messages to unsuspecting members of the public. In these messages they will make false claims, such as suggesting they are due a tax rebate. Messages will usually include links to websites that harvest personal information or spread malware. This can in turn lead to identity fraud and the theft of people’s personal savings.’

HMRC have confirmed that they will never contact taxpayers who are due a tax refund by text message or by email.

HMRC’s Director of Customer Services, Angela MacDonald, said:

‘HMRC is focused on becoming the most digitally advanced tax authority in the world, and a big part of that relates to keeping our customers safe from online scammers.’

‘As email and website scams become less effective, fraudsters are increasingly turning to text messages to con taxpayers. But as these numbers show, we won’t rest until these criminals are out of avenues to exploit.’

‘We have made significant progress is cutting down these types of crime, but one of the most effective ways to tackle it is still to help the public spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.’

To read details of the measures taken by HMRC and other advice on spotting fraud visit the link below.

Internet link: GOV.UK scam-text-messages

Updated list of professional subscriptions

Employees are allowed to claim tax relief on their annual professional fees or subscriptions to some HMRC approved professional organisations. The costs are tax deductible generally where the individual must have membership to do their job or it is helpful for their work. Where the fees are paid by the individual’s employer this will not generally result in a benefit in kind charge.

HMRC have updated the list of approved bodies which also includes not only details of the professional bodies that are approved but details of qualifying annual subscriptions for journals.

Internet link: GOV.UK/professional-bodies

What will the Spring Statement bring?

We had two Budgets in 2017 and the Spring Statement is planned for Tuesday 13 March. The Chancellor Philip Hammond has previously stated that at the Spring Statement he will respond to the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast, consider longer-term tax challenges and start consultations on how they can be addressed. The government has the option to make immediate changes to tax policy at the Spring Statement if the economic circumstances require it.

The revised timetable of an Autumn Budget followed by a Spring Statement means changes to the legislative timetable which are set out in the link below.

We will keep you informed of pertinent Spring Statement announcements.

Internet link: GOV.UK new budget timetable

Scotland revise income tax bands

Derek Mackay, Scottish Finance Secretary, has made a change to the proposed Scottish income tax bands for 2018/19 which he announced in December 2017 in the Scottish Draft Budget.

The change is being made to ‘remove an anomaly that meant some higher rate taxpayers saw their bills fall while others on slightly lower incomes saw a rise, due in part to changes in the personal allowance’.

Scottish taxpayers income tax rates on income other than savings and dividend income are now expected to be as follows:

Scottish Bands Band name Scottish Rate
Over £11,850 – £13,850 Starter 19%
Over £13,850 – £24,000 Basic 20%
Over £24,000 – £43,430 Intermediate 21%
Over £43,430 – £150,000 Higher 41%
Over £150,000 Top 46%

Confirming the changes during the Stage 1 of the Budget debate, Mr Mackay said:

‘As a parliament of minorities, we must work across the chamber to find compromise and consensus in order to give support, sustainability and stimulus to our economy and to our public services …. Our changes to tax ensure Scotland has a progressive tax system – with 70% of taxpayers paying less next year than they do currently and 55% paying less than they would across the rest of the UK – while businesses benefit from support for investment.’

Internet link: GOV.SCOT/news

Newsletter – October 2017

Enews – October 2017

In this month’s eNews we update you on the latest government announcements on Making Tax Digital for Business (MTDfB). We also include the announcement of the Budget dates by Philip Hammond and Derek Mackay. With HMRC offering a new support service for growing businesses, a new Trusts Registration Service, updated phishing guidance and the ‘paper’ tax return deadline looming, there is lots to consider.

Making Tax Digital for VAT

The government have issued information on how Making Tax Digital for Business (MTDfB) is expected to work for VAT once the rules are introduced in April 2019.

Under the proposed rules, which have been issued subject to consultation, VAT registered businesses with turnover over the VAT registration threshold will be required to submit their VAT return digitally using software. Businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will have to:

  • keep their records digitally (for VAT purposes only) and
  • provide their VAT return information to HMRC through Making Tax Digital (MTD) functional compatible software.

This software will either be a software program or set of compatible software programs which can connect to HMRC systems via an Application Programming Interface (API). The functions of the compatible software include:

  • keeping records in a specified digital form
  • preserving digital records in a specified digital form
  • creating a VAT return from the digital records and providing HMRC with this information digitally
  • providing HMRC with VAT data on a voluntary basis and
  • receiving information from HMRC via the API platform that the business has complied.

Businesses will need to preserve digital records in the software for up to six years. Further information on the required information can be found in Annex 1

The government will make the final detailed requirements available to the software providers by April 2018 to allow time for the software to be developed and tested prior to the rules coming into effect from April 2019.

VAT is the first tax to be reportable under MTD and businesses within the scope of MTD will need to keep their records digitally, using approved MTD functional compatible software, from 1 April 2019. The software will create the return from the digital records and this will need to be submitted under MTD for return periods starting on or after 1 April 2019.

We will keep you informed of developments in this area and ensure we are ready to deal with the new requirements. Please contact us for more information.

Internet link: GOV.UK MTD VAT legislation overview

Budget on Wednesday 22 November and 14 December

Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced that he will deliver the Autumn Budget on Wednesday 22 November.

The Autumn Budget will be the second Budget to be delivered this year, and will outline the government’s proposed tax changes and spending plans in response to forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The 2017 Autumn Budget will be the first of its kind under the government’s new fiscal timetable. During the 2016 Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced that the annual Budget will now take place in the Autumn, as opposed to Spring.

Going forward Philip Hammond will make a Spring Statement each year, responding to a forecast produced by the OBR. The first Spring Statement will be delivered in 2018.

Meanwhile Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has confirmed the Scottish Draft Budget 2018/19 will be published on 14 December, three weeks after the Budget for the rest of the United Kingdom.

We will update you on pertinent announcements from the Autumn Budget and Scottish Budget in due course.

Internet links: GOV.UK News GOV.SCOT News

Deadline for ‘paper’ self assessment tax returns

For those individuals who have previously submitted ‘paper’ self assessment tax returns the deadline for the 2016/17 return is 31 October 2017. Returns submitted after that date must be submitted electronically or they will incur a minimum penalty of £100. The penalty applies even when there is no tax to pay or the tax is paid on time.

If you would like any help with the completion of your return please do get in touch.

Internet link: GOV.UK deadline

HMRC offer tax support to growing businesses

HMRC have announced the introduction of a new service to directly help mid-sized businesses as they expand and grow. This is to be known as the Growth Support Service.

According to HMRC there are approximately 170,000 mid-sized businesses registered in the UK. The businesses with either a turnover of more than £10 million or more than 20 employees, that are undergoing significant growth, can now seek help from HMRC to access the services they need.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said:

Mid-sized businesses make vital contribution to the UK economy and I want to see them grow, succeed and prosper.

The Growth Support Service will help these expanding businesses access tailored tax assistance so that tax administration doesn’t stand in the way of their growth and ensures businesses can focus on finding new opportunities.

Businesses who meet the eligibility requirements can apply online; they will then be contacted by their dedicated growth support specialist at HMRC, to discuss their requirements. The bespoke service will generally last between three to six months.’

Smaller business can access the Small Business Online Forum.

Please do contact us for help and support.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Trusts Registration Service

HMRC have launched a new Trusts Registration Service (TRS), so that trustees can register their trust online and provide information on the beneficial owners of the trust. The new service launched in early July for trustees and replaces the 41G (Trust) paper form, which was withdrawn at the end of April.

Under the existing self assessment rules, the trustees (or their agents) must register details of a trust with HMRC by 5 October of the year after a liability to Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax (CGT) first arises. The registration process, which will need completing via TRS, includes providing information about the beneficial owners of the trust.

In subsequent years, or where the trust is already registered for self assessment, the trustees (or their agent) of either a UK or non-UK trust that incurs a UK tax liability are required to provide beneficial ownership information about the trust, using the TRS, by 31 January following the end of the tax year.

The new service is not currently available to agents. HMRC have advised that agents will be able to register on behalf of trustees from October 2017 and agents and lead trustees can enter updates for changes of circumstances from early 2018.

HMRC have also confirmed that in this first year of TRS there will be no penalty imposed where registration is completed after 5 October but before 5 December 2017.

A Self Assessment Trust and Estate Tax Return (SA900) must still be submitted after the end of each tax year, reporting any income and gains.

If you would like help or guidance on trusts please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK trusts-and-estates

HMRC phishing and scam advice

HMRC have updated their list of examples of websites, emails, letters, text messages and phone calls used by scammers and fraudsters to obtain individual’s personal information.
The guidance can be used to help you decide if a contact from HMRC is genuine, this guidance provides examples of the different methods that fraudsters use to get individuals to disclose personal information.

You can also read about how to recognise genuine contact from HMRC, and how to tell when an email is phishing/bogus.

Internet link: GOV.UK phishing-and-bogus-emails-HMRC

Newsletter – June 2016

Henry Cooper is walking 2016 km in the year 2016!

Henry is walking 2016 km in the year 2016, to raise some funds for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance.

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Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published which took effect from 1 June 2016. The guidance states: ‘You can use the previous rates for up to one month from the date the new rates apply’. The rates only apply to employees using a company car.

The advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after 1 June 2016 are:

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 10p
1401cc – 2000cc 13p
Over 2000cc 20p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 9p
Over 2000cc 13p
Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 9p
1601cc – 2000cc 10p
Over 2000cc 12p

The guidance states that the rates only apply when you either:

  • reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars
  • require employees to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel

You must not use these rates in any other circumstances.

If you would like to discuss your car policy, please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

PAYE 3 days grace and risk based penalties to continue

HMRC have confirmed, in their updated guidance, that the three day easement and risk assessed approach to issuing penalties will continue to apply for 2016/17. As a result employers will not incur penalties for delays of up to three days in filing PAYE information during the 2016/17 tax year.

Late filing penalties will continue to be reviewed on a risk-assessed basis rather than be issued automatically.

Employers are required to file a Full Payment Submission (FPS) on or before each payment of wages is made to employees. Limited exceptions apply to this deadline which are set out at’.

HMRC will not charge a late filing penalty for delays of up to three days after the statutory filing date, however employers who persistently file late, will be monitored and may be contacted or considered for a penalty.

If you would like help with payroll matters please do get in touch.

Internet link: GOV.UK Penalties

VAT Flat Rate Scheme guidance updated

HMRC have issued updated guidance on the operation of the VAT Flat Rate Scheme which allows taxpayers to calculate the VAT payable by applying a flat rate percentage to their VAT inclusive turnover, rather than netting off output and input VAT due on sales and purchases.

The revision in the guidance follows a number of unsuccessful visits to the First Tier Tribunal (FTT). HMRC has issued a revised version of VAT notice 733 Flat Rate Scheme to update their guidance in accordance with the FTT decisions.

The previous version of the notice listed a number of trades and professions (at paragraph 4.4 of the guidance) and indicated the relevant sectors and percentages that these types of business should choose. These had a higher percentage than the 12% rate which applies to ‘business services not listed elsewhere’.

The FTT was critical of HMRC in their rigid interpretation of their own guidance. Although this section of the guidance has not been removed, taxpayers are now advised to ‘use ordinary English’ and choose the sector which ‘most closely describes what your business will be doing in the coming year’. The new guidance confirms that HMRC will not change a business’s choice of sector retrospectively as long as the choice was reasonable.

Please contact us if you would like any advice on VAT matters.

Internet link: VAT Notice 733

NAO report says HMRC’s customer service quality ‘collapsed’

According to a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) the quality of service at HMRC ‘collapsed’ over an 18 month period between 2014 and 2015.

The report found that average call waiting times tripled in 2014/15 and in the first seven months of 2015/16. Call waiting times for self assessment tax returns peaked at 47 minutes last autumn, which resulted in HMRC having to bring in 2,400 extra staff for their tax helpline.

Using HMRC’s own criteria, the NAO valued people’s time at an average of £17 an hour, and, as a result, calculated that callers would have wasted a total of £66 million while waiting on the phone, £21 million while actually talking to HMRC and £10 million on the cost of the call itself.

The NAO report blames the poor performance on HMRC’s decision to cut 11,000 staff between 2010 and 2014 in the move to persuade more people to complete their tax returns online. The report claims that HMRC ‘misjudged the cumulative impact of its complex transition and released too many customer service staff before completing service changes’.

In other words, it greatly underestimated how many call centre staff would still be required to help taxpayers with self assessment queries.

Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said:

‘HMRC’s overall strategy of using digitally enabled information to improve efficiency and deliver service in new ways make sense to the NAO. This does not change the fact that they got their timing badly wrong in 2014, letting significant numbers of call handling staff go before their new approach was working reliably.

This led to a collapse in service quality and forced a rapid expansion of headcount. HMRC needs to move forward carefully and get their strategy back on track while maintaining, and hopefully improving, service standards.’

HMRC said its service levels had improved since the period analysed in the NAO report, and that, over the last six months, call waiting times had averaged six minutes.

Ruth Owen, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said:

‘We recognise that early in 2015 we didn’t provide the standard of service that people are entitled to expect and we apologised at the time. We have since fully recovered and are now offering our best service levels in years.’

Internet links: NAO press release HMRC news

HMRC update phishing scam advice

HMRC have updated their guidance to taxpayers on how to spot phishing scam emails.

Phishing is the fraudulent act of emailing a person in order to obtain their personal/financial information such as passwords and credit card or bank account details. These emails often include a link to a bogus website designed to encourage the unwary to enter their personal details.

The HMRC guidance is designed to help taxpayers to recognise genuine contact from HMRC, and how to tell when an email/text message is phishing/bogus.

Internet link: HMRC guidance

HMRC urges claimants to renew tax credits online

HMRC are urging people to renew their tax credits claim well before the 31 July deadline.

HMRC have made improvements to the online renewal service and recommend claimants renew their claim online once they receive their renewal pack which is issued between April and June. The online service can now accommodate all changes in circumstances (working hours, childcare costs or income) which affect the amount of someone’s entitlement.

Nick Lodge, HMRC’s Director General, Benefits and Credits, said:

‘Our online service means that you can renew at any time of the day or night, and on any device, without having to call us. Online help can also answer most queries you may have and a web chat facility will be available to support people renewing online. We urge everyone who can to go online.

Our customers should check their details and renew early to ensure they get the right money. The sooner people renew their claim, the sooner we can check payments are correct, meaning we avoid paying too little money, or too much, which claimants then have to pay back.

This year, claimants renewing online will be able to access further information, including viewing their next payment, through their own online Personal Tax Account.

Internet link: Press release

P11D deadline approaching

The forms P11D, and where appropriate P9D, which report details of expenses and benefits provided to employees and directors for the year ended 5 April 2016, are due for submission to HMRC by 6 July 2016. The process of gathering the necessary information can take some time, so it is important that this process is not left to the last minute.

Employees pay tax on benefits provided as shown on the P11D, either via a PAYE coding notice adjustment or through the self assessment system. In addition, the employer has to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions at 13.8% on the provision of most benefits. The calculation of this liability is detailed on the P11D(b) form. The deadline for payment of the Class 1A NIC is 19th July (22nd for cleared electronic payment).

HMRC produce an expenses and benefits toolkit. The toolkit consists of a checklist which may be used by advisers or employers to check they are completing the forms correctly.

If you would like any help with the completion of the forms or the calculation of the associated Class 1A NIC please get in touch.

Internet links: HMRC guidance Toolkit