Newsletter – January 2018

eNews January 2018

In this month’s eNews we report on the government’s proposals on auto enrolment, the Scottish draft budget and their plans for five income tax rates and changes to Land and Buildings Transaction Tax. We also include an announcement from the Welsh Assembly on the proposals for Land Transaction Tax.

With details of an HMRC iTunes scam and the withdrawal of options to pay HMRC at the Post Office and via personal credit card there is lots to update you on.

Scottish Draft Budget

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay delivered the 2018/19 Scottish Draft Budget on Thursday 14 December 2017 setting out the Scottish government’s financial and tax plans.

The Scottish government has the power to set the rates and bands of income tax (other than those for savings and dividend income) which apply to Scottish resident taxpayers.

Since 6 April 2016 the rates and bands of Scottish income tax have been frozen at 20% and the Scottish higher and Scottish additional rates at 40% and 45% respectively. For 2017/18 the higher rate threshold in Scotland is £43,000 whilst the threshold in the rest of the UK is £45,000. This means that a Scottish higher rate taxpayer will pay £400 more tax in 2017/18 than a UK higher rate taxpayer, being £2,000 at the marginal rate of 20%.

For 2018/19 the rates and tax bands applicable to Scottish taxpayers on non-savings and non dividend income will be as follows:

Scottish Bands Band name Scottish Rates
Over £11,850* – £13,850 Starter 19%
Over £13,850 – £24,000 Basic 20%
Over £24,000 – £44,273 Intermediate 21%
Over £44,273 – £150,000** Higher 41%
Over £150,000** Top 46%

* assuming the individual is entitled to a full UK personal allowance

** the personal allowance will be reduced if an individual’s adjusted net income is above £100,000. The allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 of income over £100,000

The UK higher rate tax point for 2018/19 has been set at £46,350 (for those entitled to the full UK personal allowance) and the tax rates for non-savings and non-dividend income have been maintained at 20%, 40% and 45% respectively.

For 2018/19 Scottish taxpayers with employment income of £26,000 will pay the same amount of income tax as those with the similar income in the rest of the UK. For higher earners, with pay of £150,000, a Scottish taxpayer will pay an extra £1,770 of income tax than those on similar income in the rest of the UK.

Internet link: GOV.SCOT publication

Land and Buildings Transaction Tax and First-Time Buyer Relief

The Scottish government announced that they will introduce a new Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) relief for first-time buyers of properties up to £175,000. The relief will raise the zero tax threshold for first-time buyers from £145,000 to £175,000, and according to the Scottish government 80% of first-time buyers in Scotland will pay no LBTT at all. The Scottish government also announced that first-time buyers buying a property above £175,000 will also benefit from the relief on the portion of the price below the threshold.

The Scottish government announced that they will launch a consultation on the policy before introducing the first-time buyer relief in 2018/19. The relief for first-time buyers paying Stamp Duty Land Tax on first homes in the rest of the UK was introduced from 22 November 2017.

Internet link: GOV.SCOT publication

Welsh Land Transaction Tax

The Welsh Parliament have announced changes to proposed rates and bands for Land Transaction Tax which is to be introduced in Wales from 1 April 2017.

The rates and bands will be confirmed in January 2018 but details of the proposed rates and bands are included in the following statement.

Internet links: GOV.WALES land-transaction-tax GOV.WALES statement

Proposals to extend pensions auto enrolment to younger workers

The government has announced proposals to extend pensions auto enrolment to include younger workers and to amend the way in which contributions are calculated.

According to the press release:

The review’s recommendations, which will now be progressed and legislated for where necessary, will see:

  • automatic enrolment duties continuing to apply to all employers, regardless of sector and size
  • young people, from 18 years old, benefiting from automatic enrolment, introducing 900,000 young people into saving an additional £800 million through a workplace pension
  • workplace pension contributions calculated from the first pound earned, rather than from a lower earnings limit – this will bring an extra £2.6 billion into pension saving, improving incentives for people in multiple jobs to opt-in, and simplifying the way employers assess their workforces and calculate contributions
  • the earnings trigger remaining at £10,000 for 2018/19, subject to annual reviews
  • contribution levels reviewed after the implementation of the 8% contribution rate in 2019
  • the government testing a series of ‘targeted interventions’ – including through opportunities to work with organisations who act as ‘touch points’ for the 4.8 million self-employed people, such as banks and those who contract labour – to explore how technology can be used to increase their pension saving.’

Under auto enrolment, employers are required to automatically enrol all eligible workers (generally employees) into a workplace pension scheme and pay a minimum contribution into their pension. Employees do, however, have the right to opt out of auto enrolment.

Currently workers who are aged between 22 and the State Pension Age with earnings of £10,000 per annum are eligible to be auto enrolled. Younger employees and those who do not meet the minimum income requirement can opt to make pension contributions.

The government plan to reduce the lower age limit to 18 by the mid 2020s, in order to encourage younger workers to get into ‘the habit of saving’.

David Gaulke, Work and Pensions Secretary said:

‘We are committed to enabling more people to save while they are working, so that they can enjoy greater financial security when they retire. We know the world of work is changing, so it is only right that pension saving does too. This ambitious package will see more people than ever before helped onto the path towards building a secure retirement.’

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), stated:

‘Requiring employers to contribute from the first pound of earnings will mean that, by 2019, hundreds of thousands of small employers will have to pay up to £180 more per employee each year. ‘For employers in certain sectors, such as care and hospitality where margins are tight, this will really add up.’

Contact us if you would like help with payroll and auto enrolment.

Internet links: GOV.UK news FSB press release

Paying HMRC? Not at the post office or by credit card

With many individuals having tax payments to make at the end of this month it is important to be aware that HMRC have announced that they will no longer accept payments made at the Post Office or by credit card.

HMRC have announced that with effect from 15 December 2017 it will no longer be possible to make payments to HMRC at a post office. The reason for this change is that contract with Santander, which allowed this method of payment, has expired. HMRC are advising that where electronic payment is not possible, payments can still be made at bank branches using a payslip and payments for self assessment income tax can still be posted to HMRC.

From 13 January 2018 it will no longer be possible to pay HMRC using a personal credit card. The timing of this change coincides with the date from which HMRC will no longer be permitted to charge fees for payment by credit card.

Internet link: ICAEW blog

HMRC warning about iTunes gift card scam

HMRC are urging people to stay safe from a phone scam that is conning elderly and vulnerable people out of thousands of pounds.

The scammers are preying on victims by cold calling them and impersonating an HMRC member of staff. They advise the victim that they owe a large amount of tax which they can only pay off by digital vouchers and gift cards, including Apple’s iTunes vouchers.

The scam victims are told to go to a local shop, to purchase vouchers, and then read out the redemption codes to the scammer. The conmen then sell on the codes or purchase high value products, all at the victim’s expense.

According to HMRC the scammers frequently use intimidation to get what they want, threatening to seize the victim’s property or involve the police. The use of vouchers is an attractive scam as they are easy to sell on and hard to trace once used.

HMRC have confirmed that they would never request the settling of debt through such a method.

According to figures from Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, between the beginning of 2016 and August this year there have been over 1,500 reports of this scam, with the numbers increasing in recent months. The vast majority of the victims are aged over 65 and suffered an average financial loss of £1,150 each.

HMRC is working closely with law enforcement agencies, Apple and campaign groups to make sure the public know how to spot the scam and who to report it to.

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

These scammers are very confident, convincing and utterly ruthless. We don’t want to see anyone fall victim to this scam just before Christmas. That’s why we’re working closely with crime fighters to ensure taxpayers know how to avoid it.

These scams often prey on vulnerable people. We urge people with elderly relatives to warn them about this scam and remind them that they should never trust anyone who phones them out of the blue and asks them to pay a tax bill. If you think you’ve been a victim you should contact Action Fraud immediately.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Newsletter – November 2017

Enews – November 2017

In this month’s eNews we report on Budget announcements and the introduction of new taxes in Wales and Scotland of Land Transaction Tax and Air Departure Tax. We also consider HMRC’s new method of Simple Assessment for certain taxpayers, the Criminal Finances Act, proposals for Help to Save Accounts and new guidance for employers.

Autumn Budget wishlist

With the Chancellor’s first Autumn Budget due to be presented on 22 November, professional bodies and business groups are setting out their Budget wishlists. Recommendations include changes to Business Rates, a ‘Brexit ready’ Budget, incentives for business and an appeal for changes to the Apprenticeship Levy. The ICAEW is urging that the government give sufficient attention to Making Tax Digital to ensure a successful roll out and making the necessary changes to accommodate Brexit.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has urged Philip Hammond to deliver a ‘Brexit-ready’ Budget, which rules out any new business tax increases and maintains investment incentives.

We will update you on pertinent announcements.

Internet links: CBI FSB ICAEW autumn budget

Simple Assessment

HMRC have changed the way in which they will assess some taxpayers removing the need for these individuals to complete a Self Assessment Tax Return. These changes took effect from September 2017.

The affected taxpayers fall into one of two categories:

  • new state pensioners with income more than the personal tax allowance (£11,000) in 2016/17; and
  • employees or pensioners with PAYE tax codes who have underpaid tax and who cannot have that tax collected through their tax code because it is too high to code out.

HMRC have also confirmed that all existing state pensioners who complete a tax return because their state pension is more than their personal allowance will be removed from self assessment in 2017/18. This may mean that some clients are dropped out of self assessment and issued an assessment instead based on the information which HMRC hold. Of course, whether the assessment is actually correct will be a different matter.

HMRC state:

‘HMRC will write to customers from September 2017 with a tax calculation. This could be a P800 or a Simple Assessment letter (PA302).

The letter will show their:

  • income from pay
  • pensions
  • state benefits
  • savings interest
  • employee benefits.

Customers just need to check the information is correct, and if it is they can pay their bill online or by cheque by the deadline in the letter.

If a customer thinks any information is incorrect they have 60 days to contact HMRC. For instance, if they think amounts used are wrong or HMRC didn’t act on information received.

Should customers miss the deadline they should contact HMRC to discuss their circumstances or financial penalties will be applied in line with current policy.

If customers are not happy with the follow-up response from HMRC, they have 30 days to appeal against the decision.’

If you would like help with your personal tax affairs please get in touch.

Internet link: GOV.UK briefing policy paper

Welsh Land Transaction Tax

The Welsh Assembly has announced the proposed rates and bands for land transaction tax (LTT) which is to be introduced for land and property in Wales on 1 April 2018, replacing Stamp Duty Land Tax.

Under the new rates for LTT, Wales will have the highest starting threshold for the property tax in the UK. The proposed rates are as follows:

Residential Non-residential
0% £0 – £150,000 £0 – £150,000 0%
2.5% £150,001 – £250,000 £150,001 – £250,000 1%
5% £250,001 – £400,000 £250,001 – £1m 5%
7.5% £400,001 – £750,000 £1m plus 6%
10% £750,001 – £1.5m
12% £1.5m-plus

Announcing the rates and bands, Professor Mark Drakeford, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government, said:

‘From April, Wales will introduce the first Welsh taxes in almost 800 years, supporting first-time buyers and boosting business.

The devolution of tax powers provides us with the opportunity to reshape and make changes to improve existing taxes to better meet Wales’ needs and priorities. I have always been clear that we will use these powers to help improve fairness and support jobs and economic growth in Wales.

These new progressive rates and bands for land transaction tax and landfill disposals tax will make a real difference to people’s lives; help change behaviours and deliver improvements to communities across Wales. We are being bold but balanced and leading the way in creating a fair and progressive tax system.’

Internet link: GOV.UK Wales

Scottish Budget proposals

On 14 December, the Scottish Budget will set out the Scottish Government’s financial and tax plans.

Currently taxpayers who are resident in Scotland pay income tax on their non-savings and non-dividend income at rates and thresholds determined by the Scottish Government. Scottish higher and additional rate taxpayers may pay more income tax than those with similar income in the rest of the UK. The Scottish Parliament is considering plans to radically revise the bands and possibly to introduce some further income tax rates so that middle and higher earners pay additional tax.

The Scottish Parliament are also expected to announce the details of Air Departure Tax which takes effect for flights from Scotland from April 2018.

We will keep you up to date with pertinent announcements.

Internet links: BBC news

Criminal Finances Act

The Criminal Finances Act 2017 took effect on 30 September 2017. It makes companies and partnerships, a ‘relevant body’, criminally liable if they fail to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion being carried out by an employee, anyone acting on their behalf or someone acting as an agent. If found guilty, the business could face unlimited fines and potentially further consequential sanctions within their industry or profession.

This Act has the effect of creating an offence at corporate and partnership level which does not require the directors/partners to have had any knowledge of the offence in question. Broadly, the offence is the failure to prevent the crimes of those who act for or on behalf of the corporate body or partnership instead of the need to attribute criminal acts to that body.

For a firm to be criminally liable under the new Act, there are three elements of the offence:

  • There must be the execution of a criminal act of tax evasion.
  • The crime must have been facilitated or carried out by a person associated with a relevant body.
  • The relevant body failed to initiate adequate prevention procedures in relation to the act carried out by the associated person.

A defence is available when it can be shown that ‘reasonable prevention procedures’ were in place to prevent the associated person from committing or facilitating the crime; or that it would have been unreasonable or disproportionate to expect such procedures to be in place.

The government advises that any reasonable prevention procedures should be based on six guiding principles:

  1. Risk assessment – the relevant body should assess the nature and extent of its exposure to the risk of an associated person committing a criminal act;
  2. Proportionality – the procedures should take into account the nature, scale and complexity of the relevant body’s activities;
  3. Top level commitment – the management of the relevant body should be committed to preventing illegal acts and should foster a culture that tax evasion and its facilitation is never acceptable;
  4. Due Diligence – with appropriate procedures put in place with respect to all people who perform services for the relevant body;
  5. Communication – training staff and ensuring the message effectively gets across to all employees and agents;
  6. Monitoring and reviewing – ensuring that whatever procedures are put into place are regularly reviewed and updated and amended where necessary.

Please contact us if you require further information on this issue.

Internet link: GOV.UK Tackling tax evasion corporate-offence

Help to Save Accounts

The government have announced details of a new Help to Save saving scheme. The scheme is government backed and designed to support working people on low incomes build up their savings.

The scheme, administered by HMRC, will be open to working people who receive Working Tax Credits, and those who receive Universal Credit with a household income equivalent to at least 16 hours a week at the national living wage (currently £120 a week).

Over a four year period, savers can deposit up to £50 per month.

At the end of two years, savers will get a 50% bonus based on the highest balance achieved. Savers can then carry on saving for another two years and get another 50% bonus on their additional savings.

Over four years those saving the maximum amount of £2,400 will receive bonuses of £1,200.

Money paid into the account can be withdrawn at any time but will affect the final bonus payment.

The government has confirmed that all transactions, including checking the balance and paying in savings, will be managed in an online account available through GOV.UK and that further information will be available from early 2018.

Internet link: GOV.UK help to save

New guidance for employers

HMRC have issued the October 2017 Employer Bulletin which contains a number of articles relevant to employers on payroll related issues.

HMRC are advising that following the changes to the valuation of benefits in kind (BiK) where there is a cash option available, they will consult and then issue the necessary amendments to the PAYE Regulations. The guidance will also clarify the taxable amounts that need to be reported under Optional Remuneration and salary sacrifice arrangements.

Where a BiK is taken rather than the alternative cash option, the taxable value of the benefit is the higher of the cash foregone or the taxable value under the normal BiK rules. Transitional provisions apply for arrangements entered into before 6 April 2017.

The Bulletin also includes articles on:

  • Changes to Business Tax Account for employers, including new data on the Apprenticeship Levy and the introduction of monthly and annual statement pages
  • Data matters – ensuring RTI returns are submitted on or before the date the wages are paid, that the returns are accurate, cover all employees, including those that earn less than the National Insurance lower earnings limit
  • Paying HMRC at the Post Office – via transcash. This option will be withdrawn from 15 December 2017
  • Construction Industry Scheme – clarification of when CIS deductions should be reported via the Employer Payment Summary (EPS)
  • Student Loans – new income thresholds from April 2018 for Plan Type 1 and 2 loans
  • Apprenticeships benefit your business – includes links to help on finding apprenticeship training and recruiting an apprentice.

For help with payroll matters please get in touch.

Internet link: Employer Bulletin