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 2011

eNEWS – July 2011

In this month’s enews we report on the late issue of taxpayer statements and penalty notifications. Please contact us if you would like any further detail on any of the issues.



HMRC late issuing statements

HMRC have advised that there are apparently more Self Assessment statements than usual to issue this year. Normally these would be issued in July but this year some will be issued later. The majority of statements have been sent on time.

However, many taxpayers wait for the statement to confirm what they need to pay. More importantly, if HMRC have asked taxpayers to make a second payment on account in July, they normally have to pay this by 31 July. However, due the delays in issuing some statements HMRC have advised:

‘If you receive your statement in August, you should still pay the tax due as soon as you can. You’ll only be asked to pay interest on the tax due on the second payment on account if you still haven’t paid it more than 30 days after you receive your statement.’

If you have any concerns regarding payment please do get in touch.

Internet link: Press release

Tribunal criticises HMRC for delay in issuing penalties

In a potentially wide-ranging case, HMRC have been criticised for deliberately issuing penalties for late forms P35 (Payroll end of year forms) several months late, which generated more penalties than were necessary. A summary of the case is reported below.

This case has potentially wide ranging implications for other employers. Please do get in touch if you would like further guidance in this area.

The case (TC01286: Hok Ltd) concerned an appeal against a penalty of £400 for late filing of the 2009/10 P35. The penalty was calculated at £100 per month for four months. In October 2010 a further penalty of £100 was issued, given that the filing had taken place on the 15 October 2010 once the company had been alerted to its default.

The company argued that it thought it did not need to file the appropriate returns because its only employee had ceased employment part way through the year. It acknowledged that it was wrong and that HMRC was entitled to levy a penalty. However, the company argued that, if HMRC had notified it of its default, it would have been remedied it a far earlier time, thus avoiding ongoing penalties.

During the Tribunal HMRC stated that it runs a:

‘…structured programme to enable penalties to be issued regularly throughout the year, rather than waiting for the late return to be submitted and then issue a final penalty. These penalties, although aimed at encouraging compliance and having the effect of reminding are not designed to be reminders for the outstanding return.’

The Tribunal was amazed by this and stated that:

‘….HMRC deliberately waits until four months have gone by and does not issue the first interim penalty notice until, as in this case, September of the year of default.’

‘There can be no logical reason whatsoever for HMRC to delay sending out a penalty notice for four months so that, in effect, a minimum penalty of £500 will be levied unless the taxpayer has unilaterally realised that it has failed to undertake the necessary filing.’

‘In our judgement it would be a very simple matter for HMRC to set its computer settings so that a default or penalty notice was sent out immediately after the 19 May in any year, instead of some four months later. That might generate less penalty cash for the State, but it would be fair and conscionable as between the taxpayer and the State (acting by HMRC).’

‘As, in our judgement, HMRC has neither acted fairly nor in good conscience, in the manner described above, we do not consider that any penalty is recoverable over and above the £100 penalty for the first month unless HMRC proves (the onus being upon it) that even if such a penalty notice, which would have acted as a reminder, had been issued, the default would nonetheless have continued. It has proved no such thing.’

Internet link: Tribunal

Online Olympics advice

Small and medium-sized companies hoping to win Olympics contracts are invited to take advantage of a free HMRC online advice seminar which is available to download by following the link below.

According to the press release HMRC:

‘….it is estimated that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will involve more than 50,000 contracts, worth about £6 billion. The sectors affected range from construction, engineering and manufacturing to creative, merchandising and retail, and contracts will be available at or near the 34 Games venues around the country.’

‘The seminar will cover issues such as talking to a bank about financing, ensuring that the right systems are in place to comply with procurement policies and how firms go about making a bid for an Olympic contract. It will also explain how businesses can get support and guidance on any tax obligations and entitlements.’

Internet link: Press release

Payments Council to keep cheques

The Payments Council has announced that cheques will continue for as long as customers need them and the target for possible closure of cheque clearing in 2018 has been cancelled.

This change is as a result of public concern about the proposed phasing out of cheques by 2018. The issue has been of concern to many small businesses who continue to make payments by cheque and charities which receive substantial amounts of donations from the public by cheque.

According to the press release the:

‘The Payments Council Board will continue to focus on security, efficiency and encouraging innovation in all types of payments to ensure customers have options best suited to the 21st century.’

Richard North, the Chairman of the Payments Council said:

‘It’s in the DNA of the Payments Council to consult and listen to all those people who actually make payments and use cheques. Listening to over 600 stakeholder groups, working with the banks and following our appearance before the Treasury Select Committee, we have concluded we should reassure customers that the cheque is staying.’

‘Over the last two years we have learnt a great deal about what is important to our many stakeholders and we are really grateful to all of those groups and individuals who took the time to talk to us and help us reach this decision. We will use what we’ve learnt to keep improving existing systems, as well as introducing innovation, so that customers benefit from 21st century ways to pay. Innovation must be at the heart of what we do.’

Internet link: Press release

HMRC target businesses not registered for VAT

HMRC have launched a campaign aimed at VAT rule-breakers. As part of this campaign they have confirmed that they will be sending letters informing certain businesses how to register to pay what they owe. The campaign is focusing on individuals and businesses trading above the VAT turnover threshold of £73,000 but who have not registered for VAT.

HMRC have advised that they will be sending in excess of 40,000 letters over the next few weeks. Those who come forward that have not registered to pay VAT have up until 30 September 2011 to let HMRC that they want to take part. If they make a full disclosure, most face a low penalty rate of 10% on VAT that has been paid late.

They will also be invited to disclose any other tax arrears. Where they have to pay a penalty on undeclared tax other than VAT, this will be lower than the customary penalty of up to 100% charged to those who fall outside the opportunity.

HMRC are warning that after 30 September 2011, using information pulled together from different sources, they will investigate those who have failed to come forward. Substantial penalties or even criminal prosecution could follow.

Mike Wells, HMRC’s Director of Risk and Intelligence, said:

‘This is our third campaign, raising more than £500m from voluntary disclosures and a further £100m so far from follow-up activity. Our campaigns are designed to ensure tax is paid so that the money is available to spend on public services used by everyone.’

‘The aim is to make it easy for individuals and businesses to contact us, make a full disclosure of their income and face a reduced penalty on any tax owed.

I urge people who have not registered their businesses for VAT to get in touch with HMRC and get their tax affairs in order simply and on the best available terms.’

Internet link: Press release

Tax credit fraud

Following an HMRC investigation a West Midlands woman, Kerry Melia, a mother of six, has been send to prison for eight months for tax credit fraud. She wrongly claimed in excess of £62,000 in tax credits by fraudulently claiming for nine fictitious children. The woman first claimed tax credits for her five children in 2005 (she subsequently had another child).

From 2007 onwards, she began adding fictitious children to her claim, stating that she was their foster mother. She then unsuccessfully attempted to add another six non-existent children.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘The government will not tolerate dishonest people stealing public money which pays for vital services. This sentence shows that those who think they can cheat the benefits system should think again. The extra £900m we have invested in HMRC will allow them to carry on the fight against benefit cheats and tax fraudsters.’

Internet link: Press release

Holiday entitlement

With many thinking of their summer holidays, the Business Link website offers help in calculating minimum statutory entitlement.

An employee’s holiday entitlement is generally set out in their contract of employment. The legal minimum entitlement is 5.6 weeks, which can include bank and public holidays. The calculator includes help on calculations for part-time work and other working patterns.

Internet link: Business link holiday calculator

Real Time Information

HMRC have issued some further guidance on Real Time Information (RTI) which may be useful to employers with regard to the introduction of RTI. RTI is a system of monthly/weekly PAYE returns which will replace the annual end of year forms.

The new web page entitled ‘Improving the operation of PAYE: Real Time Information (RTI)’ can be reached using the link below and the link includes access to some new Frequently Asked Questions which, HMRC advise may be added to from time to time.

HMRC have confirmed that employers who are not part of the pilot will have to join RTI in the period from April 2013 to October 2013. All employers will be using the RTI service by October 2013.

HMRC will pilot the RTI service with volunteer software developers and employers for a year, starting in April 2012 as part of a trial to ensure that the software is fully tested.

Internet link: Real Time Information

Newsletter – April 2011

In this month’s enews we report on many employer related issues including the announcement of the new National Minimum Wage rates. Please do get in touch if you have any queries.

Real Time Information

HMRC are planning to introduce significant changes to the way in which PAYE information is submitted to HMRC. Currently employers send details of employees pay, tax and national insurance deductions at the end of the tax year (forms P35 and P14). The deadline for the submission of this year’s forms is 19 May 2011. There are penalties, which apply to broadly all employers, for failing to submit the forms on time and electronically, so please get in touch if you require any help in this area.

HMRC are planning to introduce Real Time Information (RTI) a system of monthly/weekly PAYE returns which would replace the annual end of year forms.

As detailed in the HMRC consultation document:

‘RTI will collect information about tax and other deductions automatically each time employers run their payroll. This information will be submitted automatically to HMRC at the same time the employees are paid. Where employers pay their employees via BACS, the RTI data will form part of the BACS submission.’

HMRC hope that this change to the system should mean that employees pay the right amount of tax and are paid the correct amount of state benefits where appropriate.

Following a consultation by HMRC, it has been confirmed that a pilot scheme will run from April 2012. The introduction of the scheme will be phased in and it is expected that all employers will move to RTI by October 2013. Large employers will be expected to use the system from April 2013.

The start date is slightly later than had been originally announced following a consultation with interested parties.

If you would like further information or guidance on payroll issues please do get in touch.

Internet link: Press release

Cheque Guarantee Card Scheme to end

It has been announced that the Cheque Guarantee Card Scheme will come to an end.

The closure of the Scheme means that it will no longer be possible to guarantee a ‘domestic’ cheque using a card after 30 June 2011. The decision to close the Scheme was taken by the Payments Council as guaranteed cheque use is in decline. The end of the Cheque Guarantee Scheme does not necessarily mean the end of cheques as businesses may continue to accept them if they choose to do so. However businesses that currently accept cheques with a guarantee card may wish to look into alternative payment methods.

Internet link: UK Payments article

Penalties on late payment of PAYE

HMRC have been warning employers for some time that they may have to pay a penalty if they do not pay their PAYE deductions on time. The penalties apply to PAYE deductions due for a period starting on or after 6 April 2010 include PAYE, Student Loan deductions, Construction Industry Scheme payments, Class 1 NICs, annual payments of employers’ Class 1A NICs and annual PAYE Settlement Agreements payments.

Deductions of PAYE, NICs, Student Loan deductions and Construction Industry Scheme payments are generally due by 19 of each month (or 22 if paid by electronic means and cleared into HMRC’s bank account). Small employers are able to pay quarterly.

Although the penalties apply from April 2010 notices will not be issued until after the end of the tax year and are expected to be issued in April or May 2011. For the majority of late payments the penalties start at 1% increasing to 4% depending on the number of late payments in the year. Extra penalties will be added where liabilities are outstanding for a further six and then 12 months.

Internet links: HMRC guidance on late payment HMRC alert

National Minimum Wage rates

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is a minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK are entitled to be paid. The rates are reviewed each year by the Low Pay Commission and from 1 October 2011:

  • the main rate for workers aged 21 and over will increase to £6.08 (currently £5.93)
  • the 18-20 rate will increase to £4.98 (currently £4.92)
  • the 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18 will increase to £3.68 (currently £3.64)
  • the apprentice rate, for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship will increase to £2.60 (currently £2.50).

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

‘More than 890,000 of Britain’s lowest-paid workers will gain from these changes. They are appropriate – reflecting the current economic uncertainty while at the same time protecting the UK’s lowest-paid workers. I would like to thank the LPC for doing a good job in difficult circumstances.’

Chairman of the LPC David Norgrove said:

‘We welcome the Government’s acceptance of our recommendations. The Commission was again unanimous, despite all the economic uncertainties. We believe we have struck the right balance between the needs of low-paid workers and the challenges faced by businesses.’

Penalties for non compliance

Since April 2009 HMRC have been able to charge penalties to those employers found to be in breach of the NMW rules.

Automatic penalties are levied on employers where HMRC officers find NMW arrears. The penalties range from £100 to £5,000 with 50% prompt payment discounts for employers who settle within 14 days of notification.

The penalty is payable in addition to arrears owed to the workers.

In serious cases of non compliance the employer may be tried in a Crown Court and in those cases the fines are unlimited.

If you have any queries on the NMW please do get in touch.

Internet links: Press release BIS NMW guidance

P11D deadline looming

The forms P11D, and where appropriate P9D, which report employees and directors benefits and expenses for the year ended 5 April 2011, are due for submission to HMRC by 6 July 2011. 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 12.8% (for 2010/11) on the provision of most benefits. The calculation of this liability is detailed on the P11D(b) form.

If you would like any help with the completion of forms P11D or the calculation of the Class 1A liability please get in touch.

Internet link: HMRC P11D guidance

Online VAT returns

HMRC have confirmed that all businesses will have to complete online VAT returns and pay their VAT liabilities electronically from April 2012. Currently many businesses have to comply with these rules. However smaller businesses, registered prior to 1 April 2010 with an annual turnover of less than £100,000, can currently complete paper VAT returns and pay by non electronic means.

If you would like any help with VAT matters please do contact us.

Internet link: HMRC VAT guidance

Implementation date announced for the Bribery Act 2010

At the end of March 2011, the Justice Secretary, Kenneth Clarke announced that the Bribery Act 2010 will come into force on 1 July 2011. The new Act replaces, updates and extends the existing UK law against bribery and corruption. This important new legislation:

  • introduces a corporate offence of failure to prevent bribery by persons working on behalf of a business. A business can avoid conviction if it can show that it has adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery;
  • makes it a criminal offence to give, promise or offer a bribe and to request, agree to receive or accept a bribe either at home or abroad. The measures cover bribery of a foreign public official; and
  • increases the maximum penalty for bribery from seven to 10 years imprisonment, with an unlimited fine.

The introduction into law of the new corporate offence of failure of commercial organisations to prevent bribery is an important development that essentially requires all businesses to consider the requirements of the new Act. This new corporate offence is coupled with a defence where, if the business can show that it had ‘adequate procedures’ in place to prevent bribery, it can be protected from committing the new criminal offence.

All businesses should now familiarise themselves with the statutory guidance and begin to assess the risk of bribery occurring in the business. The extent of any further action will be dependent on the results of this risk assessment.

The Act also requires the government to produce guidance on what constitutes ‘adequate procedures’ and the Ministry of Justice has produced this. This can be found using the links below.

Internet links: Bribery Act 2010 guidance Quick start guide