Don’t let this happen to you!

I was recently visited by a potential client, who had enquired about the possibility of using our services.  We had the usual discussion about the type of business, what was needed and the current situation.

The first alarm bell rang when they told me that they had been disengaged by their previous advisor, due to non payment of fees, but then things got a whole lot worse!

There were issues with VAT registration, PAYE registration, P11D issues, current accounts being overdue by nearly six months, previous accounts submitted late and outstanding tax returns, amongst many other things.  The potential for penalties and interest were becoming very large at this stage.

This got me thinking, how on earth does one get into this mess?  I might argue that a previous accountant might shoulder part of the blame, for not picking up the lack of VAT registration, due to the amount of turnover, but I only had the potential clients word for that!  And, why did he leave it so long to try to get it sorted?

So – how can you avoid this happening to you?

  • Engage an accountant that has been recommended to you BEFORE you start out in business.
  • Discuss with the accountant ALL of the relevant facts relating to your business and your personal tax affairs – make sure they have ALL of the information they require.
  • Make sure you are clear from the outset as to what is required from you and what the accountant will be doing – this is usually done in the form of an engagement letter, if not, make sure you clarify.
  • Make sure you are clear about your VAT, PAYE, corporation tax and personal tax requirements.
  • Make sure you keep accurate and up to date records, from day one.
  • Make sure you keep your accountant notified of ANY correspondence from HMRC, Companies House and any other Government bodies – do this on the same day that you receive it – IGNORE NOTHING!
  • Keep in regular touch with your accountant, if you’re thinking of doing anything with the business, ask your accountant first, just to make sure it won’t affect anything that you are unaware of.
  • Make sure you are aware or made aware of ALL of the deadlines that are applicable to your business (there will be many!), if in doubt either ask for a list or ask your accountant to remind you – BEWARE, there are more and more penalties now for late or incorrect submissions and there will soon be more scope when PAYE Real Time Information and Pensions Auto-Enrolment kicks in!
  • Make sure your accountant is aware if you need something urgently for any reason, so that they can factor this into their workload.  Above all – PLEASE DON’T LEAVE ANYTHING UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE

Don’t forget there is also lots of FREE advice on the web, such as DirectGov, HMRC, Companies House, BIS and many more.  These can’t and shouldn’t  replace the accountants advice, but can help for further understanding or maybe even give you more questions to ask your accountant!

Once you have done all of the above for a while, it will become second nature – you will have a much less cluttered mind, fewer worries and will be able to concentrate on what you do best – running your business, let your advisors do the rest.  And finally don’t forget to consider what other advisors you might need – Legal, HR etc.

You know where we are when you need us!

 

 

Newsletter – July 2012

In this month’s enews we update you on the changes to payroll reporting procedures for Real Time Information.

Please do get in touch if you would like more information on any of the articles.

 

The Tax Return Initiative

Higher rate taxpayers who have failed to submit tax returns are being offered the opportunity to come forward and pay up under a time limited HMRC campaign. The Tax Return Initiative is aimed specifically at people liable to pay higher rate tax that have been told to submit a self assessment tax return for 2009/10 or earlier, but have failed to do so. The Tax Return Initiative is also open to any individual who has tax returns to submit to HMRC for these years.

Individuals have until 2 October 2012 to:

  • let HMRC know that they want to take part,
  • submit completed returns, and
  • pay the tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) that they owe.

By coming forward voluntarily through the initiative, taxpayers will receive better terms and any penalty they pay will be lower than if HMRC comes to them first.

Where taxpayers fail to take advantage of the initiative, HMRC will use its powers to pursue outstanding returns and any unpaid tax and NIC together with significant penalties of up to 100% of tax due.

Marian Wilson, head of HMRC Campaigns, said:

‘This campaign is part of a wider HMRC initiative to provide support and guidance to the public on tax obligations and is aimed at people who fail to submit their tax returns on time and pay what they owe.’

‘The campaign provides a three-month opportunity for those who want to get their tax affairs up to date to come forward. Our aim is to make it easy for them to contact us and send in completed tax returns, putting their affairs in order. Penalties will be higher if we come and find people after the opportunity and some could face a criminal investigation. I urge people to come forward and disclose unpaid tax voluntarily.’

Internet links: Press release Tax Return Initiative Campaign

Pensions Auto Enrolment

From October 2012 the largest employers will have to comply with Pensions Auto Enrolment. Employers will have to identify eligible jobholders and advise them of the employer’s obligations under the legislation. The staging date for those with more modest workforces may be some years off. Staging dates for all employers can be found by visiting the link below.

The Pensions Regulator together with the Department for Work and Pensions have developed a set of template letters which include all the details employers are required to communicate with their employees.

The comprehensive letters can be tailored to suit an organisation and employees’ circumstances.

If you would like more information on your obligation as an employer please do get in touch.

Internet links: Pensions Regulator News Staging dates

Real Time Information

HMRC are advising that over 1,300 employers will join the Real Time Information (RTI) pilot between now and September 2012.

Stephen Banyard, Acting Director General for Personal Tax, said:

‘RTI is on track and the pilot is going very well. We started in April with just 10 employers and now we’ve successfully received over 1.7 million individual records from 338 PAYE schemes.’

‘Following the success of the first pilot stage, more PAYE schemes will join the RTI pilot, as planned, and by the end of September up to 1,300 employer schemes will be reporting PAYE in real time.’

‘We are also seeing external confidence in the pilot and we’ve responded to that by offering more large employers, payroll bureaux, new employers and software developers the opportunity to join the RTI pilot or to expand existing involvement in advance of the launch date in April 2013.’

HMRC expect most employers to begin RTI reporting in April 2013. All employers will be routinely reporting PAYE in real time by October 2013, in time for the introduction of Universal Credit.

HMRC have updated their frequently asked questions on RTI and also published information on RTI for payrolls involving ‘expat’ employees.

Internet links: Press release RTI FAQs RTI expats

Guide to importing and exporting

HMRC have updated their information pack ‘Guide to importing and exporting: Breaking down the barriers’.

The information pack is a guide for those importing or exporting goods. It acts as a guide to help anyone getting started with importing / exporting and gives details of the procedures involved in these activities.

If you would like any help in this area please do get in touch.

Internet link: HMRC information

Online starting in business tax guide

HMRC have been working with interested parties to produce a ‘Starting your own Business’e learning tutorial.

To access the tutorial, visit the link below.

Internet link: HMRC e learning tutorial

Olympics and business

With the Olympics upon us, Acas are advising employers to be aware of a number of issues the most likely of which is employees requesting more flexible working arrangements. Employers need to consider how they are going to minimise potential disruption so that businesses run smoothly whilst managing employee expectations.

Acas expect employees to fall mainly into two groups:

  • those planning to take time off during the Games because they are spectators or volunteers.
  • those not planning to take time offbut who:
    • hope to watch on the television or via the internet whilst at work – wanting flexible working arrangements
    • get fed up with all the fuss and any perceived favouritism shown to those with sporting interests and want to take annual leave during the school holidays.

Acas has published guidance to help you plan ahead and ensure your business runs smoothly. The guidance considers such issues as:

  • managing attendance
  • working flexibly
  • dealing with performance issues, and
  • understanding the legal rights of volunteers.

Sunday Trading

Sunday Trading restrictions are suspended during the Olympic and Paralympics Games. These rules limit Sunday opening hours for some shops to six continuous hours between the hours of 10am and 6pm and are to be suspended during the Games.

The suspension is for eight consecutive Sundays commenced on 22 July and runs until 9 September 2012. This is a temporary measure and applies to England and Wales. No Sunday trading restrictions apply in Scotland.

For more details about Olympic events visit the London 2012 website.

Internet links: Acas article Acas quick tips www.london2012.com

Fuel duty

The government has announced that the 3.02 pence per litre (ppl) fuel duty increase that was due to take effect on 1 August 2012 will be deferred to 1 January 2013.

‘In the Autumn Statement 2011 it was announced that the 3.02ppl fuel duty increase that was due to take effect on 1 January 2012 would be deferred to 1 August 2012, and the inflation increase that was originally planned for 1 August 2012 would be cancelled.’

The effect will be to maintain the duty liability on all fuels at current levels until 1 January 2013.

Internet link: HMRC fuel duty

HMRC announce new taskforces

HMRC expect the new taskforces they have launched to recover over £30m from tax dodgers.

The latest round of taskforces to be announced will target traders who do not pay the right amount of tax in:

  • Scottish pubs and nightclubs
  • hair and beauty businesses in Northern Ireland
  • the motor trade in South Wales, South West, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East
  • restaurants in South Wales and South West.

The taskforces are specialist teams that undertake intensive bursts of activity in specific high risk trade sectors and locations in the UK. The teams will visit traders to examine their records and carry out other investigations.

The Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, said:

‘At a time when we are trying to rebalance the public finances and most hard-working people are making a contribution by paying the right tax, it is just not fair that a small minority try to dodge their responsibilities.’

‘These new taskforces are funded by the Government’s investment in HMRC of over £900m to crack down on avoidance and evasion. Their dedicated teams are on track to collect more than £50m from tax avoiders and evaders through the taskforces launched last year and expect to collect £30m in unpaid taxes through those launched today.’

 

Internet link: Press release

Newsletter – February 2012

eNEWS – February 2012

In this month’s enews we report on guidance which has been issued on cookies together with several HMRC announcements. Please contact us if you would like any further information.

 

 

EU Cookies

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published guidelines on the business use and storage of cookies.

The law which applies to how businesses use cookies and similar technologies for storing information on a user’s equipment such as their computer or mobile device changed on 26 May 2011. The ICO guidance on the new cookies Regulations sets out the changes to the cookies law and explains what steps businesses need to take to ensure they are complying.

Following an EU Directive, businesses are now obliged by law to obtain the explicit consent of each of their websites’ visitors before storing any data on their device. Websites must also provide ‘clear and comprehensive information’ about the purposes of the storage.

The UK actually introduced the amendments on 25 May 2011 through The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2011. However, website owners have been given until May 2012 to make their websites compliant with the new legislation.

It remains to be seen how strictly this law will be enforced, but the ICO have already introduced a maximum penalty of £500,000.

Internet link: ICO cookie guide

Pensions Auto Enrolment Dates deferred for smaller employers

The timetable for the introduction of Pensions Auto Enrolment has been revised for smaller employers.

Employers have been aware for some time now that the government is to introduce legislation designed to encourage more people to save for their retirement.

Under the rules employers must:

  • ‘auto-enrol’ eligible employees into a pension scheme
  • make employer pension contributions for them, and
  • make deductions of employee pension contributions from the employees pay.

The rules come into force from October 2012. However they only impact on the largest employers from that date, as few employers have a workforce of more than 120,000. For those employers with a more modest number of employees the start dates have been amended. This was previously announced and has been confirmed in a written ministerial statement.

Steve Webb, the Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions confirmed:

‘On 28th November 2011, the Government announced that the timetable for the implementation of automatic enrolment will be adjusted so that small businesses are not affected by the reforms during this Parliament. This will provide them with some additional breathing space to prepare for the reforms whilst operating in tough economic times.’

‘I can now confirm that under the revised timeline, all employers with an existing staging date of on or before 1st February 2014 are unaffected. This means that no large employer will have to make any changes to their plans – which are in many cases already advanced.’

Medium sized employers will be re-allocated automatic enrolment dates between 1st April 2014 and 1st April 2015. This means that the implementation dates of some of these employers will be up to nine months later. However, this still means that around 70% of eligible workers will be automatically enrolled before the end of this Parliament compared with around 75% under previous arrangements.’

‘Small employers will be allocated automatic enrolment dates between 1st June 2015 and 1st April 2017.’

The guidance contains a table of revised implementation dates for small and medium employers, by size. We will keep you informed of further announcements.

More information on employers’ obligations is available on the Pensions Regulator website or please do contact us.

Internet links: Pensions Regulator website Statement

New approach to records checks from HMRC

HMRC have announced that they intend to make changes to their business records checks programme following a review of the pilot scheme.

HMRC will now postpone making any new business records check appointments until the revamped approach is launched early in 2012/13. The delay is to allow further consultation with representative bodies on the implementation of the recommendations in the review and on some details of the new approach.

HMRC’s Director of Local Compliance, Richard Summersgill, said:

‘Four out of ten businesses had an issue with their business records, and of those that required a follow-up visit, we found that some 90% subsequently improved their record-keeping.’

‘However, after reviewing the pilot programme and listening to the views of businesses and representative bodies, we acknowledge the need for a fresh approach to business records checks.’

Internet link: News Release

Pay up on time

A new guide ‘Get Paid!’ has been published. The guide which is aimed at smaller businesses contains tips and advice from both suppliers and customers. The guide covers advice on invoicing and developing a robust credit policy.

The government is asking businesses and public organisations to pay suppliers on time and for small businesses to pursue those who put them at risk by delaying payment.

Prompt payment is vital for SMEs, with many businesses not able to survive the cashflow problems that late payments create.

The government is encouraging SMEs to:

  • proactively agree payment terms before delivering orders.
  • sign up to the government’s Prompt Payment Code, run by the Institute for Credit Management
  • raise complaints over late payment from Code signatories and use legislation already in place to help companies pursue late payers
  • use electronic invoicing where possible.

Internet links: BIS press release Get Paid guide

HMRC latest targets

HMRC have announced that they will turn their attention to those involved in home improvement trades and direct selling (online market sellers) in their next round of Tax Catch Up Plans.

HMRC have previously offered Tax Catch Up Plans to Plumbers, Dentists and Tutors amongst others. According to the press release their latest campaigns will target:

‘Missing returns. This will contribute to wider HMRC activity tackling failure to complete tax returns. It will initially focus on those who fail to complete tax returns and who are liable to pay tax at the highest rates.’

‘Home improvement trades. This will build on campaigns aimed at plumbers and electricians, and will include several 100,000 tradespeople in construction and building work such as roofing, window fitting, bricklaying, carpentry and joinery.’

‘Direct selling. This will target customers who ought to be paying tax on income they earn from buying and selling goods direct to others, or from the commission on these sales.’

‘As with previous campaigns, the focus of the new campaigns will be on providing those in the selected groups, who may not be paying the tax they owe, a chance to put their affairs in order on the best possible terms.’

HMRC have announced that they will be using new technology to identify traders in both sectors with unpaid taxes.

Marian Wilson of HMRC said:

‘We are offering all the people targeted the opportunity to come forward. Penalties will be higher if we come and find people after the opportunity.’

Please do get in touch if you have any concerns in these areas.

Internet links: News release HMRC website

Clean up your payroll data

HMRC have launched a new online video to help employers reduce the problems caused by inaccurate employee data.

Every year HMRC receive thousands of employer returns which contain the details of millions of employees, including their names, dates of birth and National Insurance numbers. HMRC are keen to point out that whilst the vast majority of the employee data is correct, in some cases dummy, incomplete or incorrect information is included. According to the press release:

‘…a recent study of employer returns found that 128 staff were entered as Mr, Ms or Mrs Dummy, while 824 employees had the surname ‘Unknown’.’

‘Another 40 employees, according to their dates of birth, were aged over 200.’

The short YouTube video discusses how inaccurate employer returns can affect employees, employers and HMRC and offers advice on how employers can help reduce errors.

Jim Harra, HMRC’s Director of Customer Operations, said:

‘It’s really important that employers get their employees’ information right, so that HMRC can match it to the right tax records. Otherwise, it can lead to more contact from staff, trying to sort out their tax, and from HMRC, trying to sort out the data issues.’

‘So, if you’ve got a spare few minutes, watch the video and see what you can do to help your organisation get things right, for you, your employees and HMRC.’

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

Internet links: Press release Video

Self Assessment statistics

According to HMRC a record 9.45 million self assessment tax returns were filed on time this year and a record 7.65 million (80.9% of them) were filed online.

Although the 31 January 2012 deadline was unchanged, HMRC announced that no penalties would be issued for online returns received by midnight on 2 February, due to industrial action at HMRC contact centres.

The busiest day for online returns was 31 January, when HMRC received nearly 445,000 returns. Apparently the ‘rush hour’ occurred between 4pm and 5pm on 31 January, when 37,460 returns (more than one every 6 seconds) were received by HMRC.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘I’m delighted so many people filed their tax returns online this year. The record number proves that it’s quick, easy and secure to do.’

‘HMRC have always been clear that they want returns not penalties, so it is good news that over 90% of all returns were submitted on time.’

If you have not yet completed your self assessment tax return and would like some help please do get in touch.

Internet link: Press release

Budget for growth

The CBI is calling for a Budget to help businesses. To read more information on the CBI’s recommendations visit the link below.

‘The CBI called on the Chancellor to use his March Budget to score the growth and investment policy goals he put forward in his Autumn Statement and give the UK economy and jobs a real boost.’

‘In its submission to the 2012 Budget, the CBI also urged changes to the UK tax system which it believes could help persuade businesses to invest in the UK and further stimulate growth.’

The Chancellor will present his Budget on Wednesday 21 March 2012. We will update you with significant announcements.

Internet link: CBI

Penalties for failing to file payroll forms online

HMRC have confirmed in the latest Employer Bulletin that they intend to impose penalties on all employers who fail to send their payroll starter and leaver forms online from April 2012.

During the 2011/12 tax year HMRC issued penalty notices to employers with 50 or more employees when they submitted more than two paper forms in a quarter. The penalties issued ranged from £100 to £3000 depending on the number of paper forms received in the quarter.

Since April 2011 small employers (with 50 or less employees) have been required to file their in year starter (P46) and leaver (P45) forms online. However, small employers who submitted paper forms between 6 April 2011 and 5 January 2012 were only issued with warning letters. This action was taken to try and help small employers to get this right.

From 6 April 2012 penalties will be issued when the employer fails to file their starter and leaver forms online in the period 6 January 2012 to 5 April 2012 and onwards.

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

Internet link: Employer Bulletin