Loan Charge Reporting Requirements – Navigating the Minefield

Loan Charge Reporting Requirements – Navigating the Minefield

You will no doubt be aware the loan charge is upon us, and this article highlights what you need to know.

UPDATE: Since this article was written, Boris Johnson has announced a review into the government’s controversial loan charge following sustained pressure from campaigners, MPs and the House of Lords. As a result, proposed dates and/or details below may change accordingly.

What Is It All About?

An estimated 50,000 workers, mostly contractors, were paid by way of a modest salary, topped up with a loan, as a way to reduce their income tax and national insurance contributions.

Although this has been described as a ‘loan’, in reality the amounts advanced were never intended to be repaid.

HMRC maintains it never approved these schemes, asserting that they do not work, and referring to such loan schemes as ‘disguised remuneration’.

2019 Loan Charge

Effective from April 2019, the tax department, supported by the UK government, introduced a charge (loan charge) on unrepaid loans that contractors received instead of salaried payments.

This loan charge combines all outstanding loans accrued over the course of up to 20 years and taxes them as income in one year.

Those affected will have to pay by the end of January 2020.

Employment-Based Schemes

A UK Based Employer

UK based employers were required to declared outstanding loan amounts by April 15th, 2019 at the latest, via their RTI returns, with all associated income tax, national insurance and student loan repayment amounts paid to HMRC by April 22nd .

Subsequently, assuming the employer operated the scheme in the first place, the employee must ‘make good’ (reimburse) the tax and national insurance to their employer by July 5th, 2019.

Failure to make good will give rise to a taxable benefit in kind, reportable as part of the 2018/19 P11D return.

It is immediately apparent that most those affected would rather incur a P11D benefit charge than repay the amount in full to their employers.

Great Care

There are two instances where great care is needed:

  1. Where not all of the tax has been made good to the employer

The way that the legislation is written (ITEPA 2003 s.222) is as an ‘all or nothing’ scenario. This means an employee who pays back some or most, but not all of their liability will face a P11D tax liability on the full amount paid by the employer.

  1. Where the employer cannot afford to pay

Under Reg 81(4) of the PAYE regulations, the tax liability could get transferred to the employee, where the employer is unable to pay.

While an employee ends up paying all the tax themselves, they still incur an ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Too Late

HMRC maintains that, provided they were advised by July 4th, 2019 that an employee wished to pay the loan charge tax to them rather than to their employer, they would not seek to apply the ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Furthermore, the department promised to refund anything the employer had previously paid over.

Offshore Employer

In the event of an employer either being situated abroad or no longer in existence, beneficiaries of the loan scheme must report any outstanding loans to HMRC by September 30th 2019.

To help, HMRC has established an online process supported by a paper form for those who are less tech-savvy.

Be Careful

Failure to report the details for all outstanding loans by September 30th 2019 may render a person liable to penalties. However, it is anticipated they will only be charged in the most severe cases.

Individuals must also report their outstanding loans as part of the 2018/19 self-assessment tax return filing process. The amount of the outstanding loans should be disclosed in box 21, located under the ‘Disguised Remuneration’ section of form SA101Self-assessment: additional information’.

Do not forget that where an affected person has not previously been required to file a self-assessment tax return, the standard section 7 (Taxes Management Act 1970) requirement to notify chargeability by October 5th following the end of the tax year concerned applies.

Remember also that the loan charge is a one-off charge. Therefore, a claim to reduce future payments on account may be in point

Trade-based schemes

The basic process for dealing with trade-based schemes is similar to the employee scenario.

Where individuals are still trading, they should include outstanding loan amounts from trade-based schemes in box 75.1 under the ‘Disguised Remuneration Additions To Profits’ section of the self-employed supplementary pages (SA103 (full)) of their self-assessment tax return.

For those whose trading activity ceased before 2018/19, they should complete boxes 22 to 24 of form SA101 as appropriate.

Those in trade-based schemes will need to elect for any APNs (accelerated payment notices) to be set against the loan charge liability. At the time of writing, further HMRC guidance on the offsetting of APN’s is expected in due course.

Difficulty in Paying

Anyone who believes they will have difficulty paying the resultant tax must still complete and submit a tax return. They will otherwise be liable for failure to notify and subject to late filing penalties in addition to the loan charge.

Once the self-assessment tax return has been filed, and HMRC is aware of the extent of any loan charge debt, the department should be contacted to agree on a manageable payment plan. Their agreement will depend on an individual’s circumstances, and there is no upper time limit on how long payments can potentially be spread.

If things are left until after the January 31st, 2020 payment deadline, individuals may have to consult with HMRC’s debt management team directly about next steps.

Off-Payroll Working in The Private Sector – The Ticking Timebomb

Off-Payroll Working in The Private Sector – The Ticking Timebomb

While you might have been entertained over the last two years by the IR35-related tribunals involving celebrities such as Lorraine Kelly and Christa Ackroyd, a more significant issue closer to home has been looming large on the tax landscape. HMRC is planning to roll out their public sector version of ‘off-payroll’ working to the private sector.

Although this might risk being blown off course by the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, all medium and large private sector businesses employing off-payroll workers (contractors and freelancers) will feel the impact of the new off-payroll working rules when they become mandatory in April 2020.

As a signal-of-intent, HMRC published a consultation document on March 5th, 2019 aimed at seeking views on how the off-payroll working rules will work. This period of consultation concluded on May 28th, 2019.

Importantly, it proposed some changes to the existing public sector legislation and promised that any resulting amendments would be reverse-engineered into the 2017 public sector legislation.

Relief for Small Businesses

One piece of good news in response to feedback from AAT and other relevant parties is that HMRC has excepted operators of ‘small businesses’ from any requirement to implement the proposed rules.

HMRC has indicated that the definition of a small business will be in line with the Companies Act definition:

  • Annual turnover: less than £10.2m;
  • Balance sheet total: less than £5.1m;
  • Number of employees: less than 50.

While the definition may be apparent for companies, the definition of ‘small business’ for un-incorporated entities still needs to be adequately defined. Moreover, although the wording in the recent consultation document concerning the core deciding-components appears to be the same, what remains unclear is just how they are to be applied.

You Must Decide

According to the consultation document, it will be your responsibility (the ‘engaging party’) to determine whether or not a contractor is an IR35 deemed worker, based on the terms of the engagement.

You will also be expected to set out the reasons for reaching a particular decision, as well as working out the practicalities, how you will be required to share this information with other parties within the supply chain and even directly with the contractor.

A New Improved CEST

To help you determine a worker’s employment status, HMRC is to revamp its much-criticised Check Employment Status Tool (CEST) tool. As part of the revision exercise, it has promised to consult with interested parties to improve the way that CEST currently works.

It will be interesting to see how the department will rise to the challenge of addressing the full range of different concerns about the existing operational shortfalls levelled at CEST. One key area of interest is the Mutuality of Obligation (MOO), and the department’s ability to improve this will be seen by many as a critical test.

Who Is Responsible?

As can be expected, any party in a lengthy supply chain that fails to meet its obligations under the proposed legislation will, at least in the first instance, be held liable by HMRC for any monies due.

However, in a move intended to protect the public purpose, HMRC proposes that any liability will transfer back up the supply chain where HMRC finds itself unable to recover the monies due. This may ultimately fall back on you in some instances. In HMRC’s view, this, therefore, requires that the right incentives are in place so that all parties in the supply chain not only comply but are also ensuring the compliance of others further down the line.

Right of Appeal

HMRC is also promising to introduce a statutory appeal process. The absence of any such process in the 2017 public sector legislation left many workers exposed to inappropriate decisions and even the subject of a blanket employment status decision without a right of appeal. This was seen as a severe oversight in AAT’s opinion.

What Action to Take

You should take steps to ensure that you’re aware of this new change and ask yourself how you might be affected.

As HMRC has only recently closed its consultation response window, the department will still be sifting through a deluge of response, and the final legislation still resembles shifting sands. Consequently, we are issuing a health warning to the effect that nothing is certain until the underpinning legislation has been passed.

Having acknowledged that our advice is built on nothing more robust than the legislative equivalent of these shifting sands, we are outlining the fundaments of what is currently proposed:

  • From April 6th, 2020, medium and large businesses will need to decide whether the rules apply to an engagement with individuals who work through their own company.
  • Where it is determined that the rules do apply, the business, agency, or third party paying the worker’s company will need to deduct income tax and employee NICs and pay employer NICs.
  • HMRC has promised to revamp its CEST tool to help businesses determine whether the off-payroll working rules apply.

Finally

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this challenging IR35 issue and closely monitoring future developments, and if there are any updates, we’ll let you know.

A One Year Tax Break for Zero Emission Company Cars

A One Year Tax Break for Zero Emission Company Cars

The UK government recently announced its intention to exempt newly registered zero-emission company cars from a benefit in kind tax charge for one year from April 2020. This exemption underlines the key role that the company car has to play in helping the government achieve its zero emissions ambitions.

The move is also intended to ensure that company car tax rates are not hiked as a result of the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).

WLTP – What’s It All About?

Effective April 2020, WLTP will introduce a new CO2 emission-linked benefit in kind calculator to be applied to all new cars. It has been developed using real driving data gathered from around the world.

The aim is to introduce a universal global test cycle across different world regions. In this way, pollutants, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption values can be compared. This ensuring a level playing field.

WLTP is divided into four different average speeds: low, medium, high and extra high. Each speed has a variety of driving phases. As a result, it is considered more representative of everyday driving.

Intentionally, the new bands have been made more sensitive to changes in CO2 emissions as a way to nudge companies and their employees to opt for lower emission vehicles in the future.

Why the Change?

The new measure is intended to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by encouraging a move towards lower emission vehicles. Whilst this ambition is to be welcomed, the Treasury has acknowledged that the WLTP measure will have significant impact on company car users.

This was also acknowledged in a recent Treasury document which stated:

“Whilst the government’s view is that vehicle tax rates should more closely reflect the environmental impacts of driving, it is important that the transition to WLTP is managed.”

Carefully Managed

In response to this, and following a period of consultation, the government announced that appropriate percentages of new zero emission models will be as follows:

  • Nil in 2020-21;
  • 1% in 2021-22;
  • 2% rate in 2022-23.

By comparison, the appropriate percentage for most other cars registered from 6 April 2020 will be reduced by the following appropriate percentages:

  • 2% in 2020-21;
  • I% in 2021-22;
  • 1% in 2021-22;
  • 1% in 2022-23.

A small number of company cars with the greatest CO2 emissions (170g/km and over) will

continue to attract the maximum appropriate percentage of 37%.

The Treasury has acknowledged:

“Due to the range of WLTP impacts on CO2 emissions, this approach means some [new] conventionally fuelled cars will be liable to pay an equal amount of company car tax as of today, whilst others will pay more, and a small number of models could pay less.”

The government has promised that it will set company car tax rates in advance of the tax year affected by the proposed change. This has normally been the position in recent years.

In addition, it will continue to use the current NEDC-based measure for road tax (graduated vehicle excise duty, VED) for 2020/21. However, a public consultation is planned for later this year to establish the best approach to changing the wider road tax system, but avoid hikes in VED for the majority of car users.

Legislation

Legislation is to be introduced in the next Finance Bill to amend the Income Tax (Earnings and

Pensions) Act 2003 (ITEPA) in order to reflect the changes to the appropriate percentage(s) that will be applied to the list price of the car.


In Summary

  • A zero rate of BIK tax for ‘zero emission vehicles’ from next April for tax year 2020-21, rising to 1% in 2021-22 and 2% in 2022-23;
  • A 2% reduction in scale charge from next April for cars registered after April 6 2020, with a 1% discount in 2021-22;
  • A freeze on existing 2020-21 BIK rates for the following two years.

The CIS Reverse Charge – Waking the Slumbering Giant

The CIS Reverse Charge – Waking the Slumbering Giant

UPDATE: Since this article was written, HMRC has, in a carefully worded brief, announced the postponement of the introduction of domestic reverse charge for construction services for 12 months to 1 October 2020. As a result, proposed dates below may change accordingly.

There has been much focus in recent months on the delivery of Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV), and the time is now upon us. However, in case you’re thinking about relaxing and just focussing on your standard tax compliance work for the rest of the tax year, be warned.

VAT Domestic Reverse Charge for Building and Construction Services

Otherwise known as the ‘CIS reverse charge’, this will be a significant change to the way VAT will be accounted for in the building and construction industry. Moreover, the change is coming shortly.

Why All the Fuss?

As of October 1st 2019, the responsibility for paying VAT due to HMRC will shift from the supplier to the customer for certain supplies of specified construction services.

The ‘customer’, a VAT-registered main contractor, will be required to withhold the input VAT charged to them by their ‘supplier’, where the supplier concerned is a VAT-registered sub-contractor. The ‘customer’ will then account to HMRC in respect of the VAT withheld, the ‘reverse charge‘.

6 Key Points

  1. The reverse charge applies throughout the supply chain to the point where the customer receiving the supply is no longer considered a business providing construction services.
  1. At the start of a contract, VAT-registered subcontractors should ascertain whether their customer is making payments under CIS rules to establish whether the domestic reverse charge rules apply.
  1. Subcontractors should assume that the reverse charge does not apply if their customer is not making payments according to CIS rules.
  1. Equally, if the customer is applying CIS, then suppliers will be able to use the reverse charge unless their customer has confirmed in writing that they are an ‘end-user’ for reverse charge purposes.
  1. Suppliers’ VAT invoices must outline clearly that their services are subject to the domestic reverse charge, clearly indicate the amount due under the reverse charge, but not include the amount shown as total VAT charged.
  1. For continuous supplies of specified services, invoices with a tax point before October 1st 2019 will be subject to the standard VAT rules, if paid before the December 31st. Invoices with a tax point on or after October 1st 2019 will be subject to the new domestic reverse charge rules.

Why Is HMRC Doing This?

HMRC have implemented the ‘reverse charge’ rule as an anti-fraud measure to prevent potential ‘dodgy’ suppliers from absconding with the VAT they have collected.

HMRC have already deployed the rule successfully in the telecoms industry as a means of preventing carrousel fraud or ‘missing trader fraud intercommunity fraud’ (MTIC).

HMRC and the government have calculated that by the end of the 2023/24 tax year, the new initiative will have collected more than £495m in tax revenues that would otherwise have been lost to the public purse.

When Does It Apply?

The reverse charge will apply all the way along construction industry supply chain up until the point where the customer receiving the supply is no longer considered a business supplying specified services. These businesses/individuals are referred to as the ‘end-user(s)‘.

Services Covered Under CIS

Construction services covered by the reverse charge (the ‘specified services’) are those falling within the definition of ‘construction operations’ under CIS.

GOV.UK provides a list of the following activities that are covered under CIS:

  • A permanent or temporary building or structure;
  • Civil engineering work, e.g. roads and bridges;
  • Site preparation, e.g. the laying of foundations and the provision of access works;
  • Demolition and dismantling;
  • Building work;
  • Alterations, repairs and decorating;
  • The installation of systems for heating, lighting, power, water and ventilation;
  • Post-construction cleaning work inside of buildings.

Services Not Covered Under CIS

Some services are excluded from the reverse charge. For example:

  • Professional work carried out by surveyors, architects or consultants in the building industry;
  • Acquisition and delivery of machinery;
  • Natural gas/oil drilling/extraction activities;
  • Installation of security systems which include closed-circuit television and burglar alarms.

Groups

The reverse charge will not bring businesses that supply specified services to connected parties within a corporate group structure or with a common interest in land within scope.

In such circumstances, standard VAT accounting rules apply.

Definition of ‘Deemed Contractors’

While these obligations only apply to those operating in the construction industry, non-construction businesses can be treated as ‘deemed contractors’. Under CIS rules, deemed contractors will be required to report payments if their average annual construction-related expenditure exceeds £1 million over a three-year period.

The obligations are designed to throw a net around those businesses with a significant spend on construction activities such as large retailers and public bodies.

What Needs To Be Done?

By October 1st, businesses operating within the construction industry will need to establish whether they are affected by the reverse charge.

If they indeed decide they affected, then they will need to consider the following:

  • Are they affected in respect of sales, purchases or both?
  • Are their accounting systems and software ready to deal with the reverse charge?
  • What is the potential impact on their cash flow?
  • Are there any additional training requirements for staff?

When settling an account, the VAT-registered customer must:

  • withhold the VAT element of their liability (the reverse charge);
  • account for the VAT withheld to HMRC on its VAT return.

Note:

The customer retains the ability to recover the associated input VAT incurred on the same VAT return, subject to standard VAT rules.

In summary, by September 30th:

  • Contractors should review their contracts with sub-contractors to decide whether the reverse charge If it applies, then they should notify their suppliers immediately;
  • Sub-contractors will need to contact their customers to establish if the reverse charge applies. They will also need to determine whether their customer is an end-user or intermediary supplier.

End-Users

The reverse charge does not apply to consumers or final customers of building and construction services.

Any consumers or final customers who are registered for VAT and CIS will need to ensure their suppliers do not apply the reverse charge on services supplied to them.

Intermediary Suppliers

Intermediary suppliers are VAT, andCISregistered businesses that are considered connected or linked to end-users.

To be considered ‘connected’ or ‘linked to’ end-users, intermediary suppliers must either:

  • share a relevant interest in the same land, where the construction works are taking place, or;
  • be part of the same corporate group or undertaking, as defined in section 1161 of the Companies Act 2006.

If several connected businesses are collaborating to purchase construction services, they are all treated as if they are end-users, and the reverse charge does not apply to their purchases. For example:

  • A property-owning group may buy construction services through one member of the group and recharge those services to either other group companies, their tenants, or both.
  • All the members of the property-owning group and their tenants will be considered end-users, and the reverse charge will apply.

Don’t Underestimate the Impact

You should be under no doubt that from October 1st, the domestic reverse charge will have a significant impact on cash flow management for sub-contracting businesses that are affected by this new rule.

Smaller sub-contractors should pay particular attention since historically smaller sub-contractors have relied on the VAT element of contract payments received to fund their short term cashflow needs.

While in essence, a business is free to use VAT that it has collected as working capital, HMRC would prefer for it to be ringfenced and held on deposit until payment of the related VAT has been made.

Irrespective of your view on the appropriateness of a business using government monies to fund their working capital requirements, as of October 1st, this interest-free source of funds will be withdrawn.

Calls for Delay

With the emphasis on businesses meeting compliance requirements for MTDfV, until recently, there has been scant information regarding its poor relation, the reverse charge. Consequently, there is an ongoing concern amongst those in the know that the construction industry will not be ready on time.

In an attempt to draw attention to this lack of readiness, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) wrote to HMRC in early August and published a press release calling for the launch to be postponed until April 2020. This would enable the 150,000 affected CIS to prepare for this significant change in accounting for VAT.

Light Touch

In response, HMRC says it recognises the difficulties around implementing the new rules. In response, it has announced that it will apply a ‘light touch’ in dealing with related errors during the first six months.

Invoicing

When supplying a service subject to the domestic reverse charge, suppliers must:

  • show all the information required on a VAT invoice;
  • make a note on the invoice, clearly indicating that the domestic reverse charge applies and that the customer is required to account for the VAT;
  • clearly state how much VAT us due under the reverse charge, or the rate of VAT if the VAT amount cannot be shown, but that VAT should not be included in the amount charged to the customer.

Where software is used to produce invoices and the system cannot show the amount of VAT to be accounted for under the reverse charge, then the invoice should clearly indicate that VAT is to be accounted for by the customer at the appropriate rate, based on the VAT-exclusive selling price for the reverse charge goods or services.

Authenticated Tax Receipt and Self-billing Invoices

Authenticated tax receipts or self-billing invoices must:

  • show the supplier’s name, address and VAT registration number (as well as the usual VAT invoice details);
  • contain the self-billed invoice with the self-billing reference;
  • clearly state the amount of VAT due under the reverse charge, or the rate of VAT if the VAT amount cannot be displayed.

Determining Reverse Charge Treatment of Existing Contracts by The Deadline

In the run-up to the October 1st deadline, businesses with a large number of active contracts that engage sub-contractors at a variety of sites may find it difficult to establish whether or not the reverse charge applies.

For example, a construction group may be considered a property developer on some sites and a building contractor on others, therefore, their status could change.

To avoid uncertainty and delay to payments while each contract is being checked, HMRC has determined that it will be easier for one accounting treatment to be applied to all contracts with a particular sub-contractor.

For example, if a contractor determines that the reverse charge applies to more than 5% of contracts (by volume or value) after examining all its construction contracts with a particular subcontractor, then the reverse charge may be applied to all the contracts.

Switching to Monthly VAT Returns

HMRC acknowledges:

“As a result of the reverse charge, some businesses may find that because they no longer pay the VAT on some of their sales to HMRC, they become repayment traders (their VAT return is a net claim from HMRC instead of a net payment).

Repayment traders can apply to move to monthly returns to speed up payments due from HMRC.”

Asking Customers About End-user or Intermediary Status

If in doubt and where a supplier intends to make a supply, they should ask the customer if they are an end-user or intermediary supplier, ensuring they keep a record of the customer’s answer.

It will be up to the customer to make the supplier aware that they are an end-user or intermediary supplier, and that VAT should be charged in the usual way instead of being subject to a reverse charge.

Sometimes it may be evident that the customer is an end-user. For example, if there is a repeat contract, it will be deemed acceptable for you to charge VAT in the usual way.

Examples of end-users include UK VAT-registered mainstream or deemed contractors. Under CIS rules:

  • They are typically not construction businesses and are found in the retail, manufacturing, utilities and property investment sectors as well as public bodies.
  • Property developers should also be end-users in cases where they do not make onward supplies of building or construction services.
  • Intermediary suppliers can call themselves end-users in all communications and should be in writing (either digitally, or on paper).

HMRC also acknowledges:

“There is no set wording, but this is an example of suitable wording:

We are an end-user for the purposes of section 55A VAT Act 1994 reverse charge for building and construction services. Please issue us with a normal VAT invoice, with VAT charged at the appropriate rate. We will not account for the reverse charge.”

If the reverse charge treatment depends on the customer’s end-user status, and the treatment adopted is found to be incorrect (for example, because the customer is an end-user but has not provided written confirmation resulting in the reverse charge being applied incorrectly) HMRC will expect the customer to notify the supplier that it is an end-user and request a corrected invoice.

In the case of self-billing, a new invoice will have to be issued, and the VAT will have to be paid to the supplier.

Verifying the VAT Status of Customers

Before applying the reverse charge, a supplier must be satisfied that a customer is VAT-registered. Presently, this can be done via the European Commission website.

Verifying a Customer’s CIS registration

It is not necessary to verify the CIS registration of existing customers. If a business holds such evidence, then that evidence should be retained as part of the VAT record. With respect to all new customers, confirmation of registration or a copy of their CIS should be obtained and retained.

Change of VAT Treatment During A Contract

There are occasions during a contract when a customer no longer retains an interest in the land concerned, or a property developer sells a partly completed building but carries on supplying the construction services to the new owner to complete the building.

Where this happens, a customer should notify the supplier that the end-user exclusion no longer applies, and charges for services in future would be subject to reverse charge.

The new treatment will be considered to apply at the point the customer’s circumstances are deemed to have changed.

If this change happens during an invoice period (where there would be one invoice including both reverse charge and standard VAT rules), the supplier can opt to change to the new treatment for the entire invoice period, or wait until the next invoice period before switching to the new treatment.

Transitional Supplies for Authenticated Tax receipts or Self-billed Invoices

For authenticated tax receipts or self-billed invoices, the tax point is usually the date the supplier receives payment.

The transitional arrangements for how the VAT treatment is determined are as follows:

  • For transactions recorded by October 1st, and paid by December 31st, the standard rules apply.
  • For transactions recorded by October 1st, but not paid by December 31st, the domestic reverse charge rules apply.
  • For transaction recorded on or after October 1st, domestic reverse charge rules apply.

Cash Accounting Scheme

The Cash Accounting Scheme cannot be used for the supply of services that are subject to the reverse charge. However, under the reverse charge, no VAT is actually paid by customers to suppliers, so there will be no additional adverse cash flow impact.

The Cash Accounting Scheme can still be used for supplies that are not within the reverse charge. However, as a business will have to pay cash out to make a claim, the scheme may no longer help.

Flat Rate Scheme (FRS)

Reverse charge supplies are not to be accounted for under the FRS scheme. Therefore, users of the scheme will have to consider if it is still beneficial to them when VAT is not being paid to them on some or all of the invoices they issue.

Flat Rate Scheme users who receive reverse charge supplies will have to account for the VAT due to HMRC.

Warning:

This article only provides the key highlights of the change, and you should be aware of the specific details by visiting the HMRC’s site, which has a helpful section dedicated to ‘VAT: domestic reverse charge for building and construction services’ guidance.

Improve task organisation with this simple concept

Improve Task Organisation with this Simple Concept.

The daily grind, for so many, can feel like a constant juggling act. You attempt to balance work, household chores, bills, family – and hopefully some leisure in between if there’s any time leftover. Trying to find time for things we enjoy – or for projects to improve ourselves – can often feel impossible. It is incredibly frustrating to not move forward with things that you truly value. It’s just as frustrating to get stuck under a tower of tasks that never seems to get any smaller. An online poll by the Mental Health Foundation found that in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. A report by ACAS, the workplace experts, had similar findings. These included 66% of poll respondents had felt stressed or anxious about work over the past year – and 35% struggling to balance home and work lives. This encouraged us to look for a helpful way to improve task organisation and to make them seem less disheartening. One example is for you to embrace online apps and tools which are available, as they can support your progress in breaking down into manageable segments an expanding task list. This can prevent you from falling into the pattern of trying to complete multiple tasks simultaneously while considering other items that may need to be started soon. This common mistake can lead to us feel overwhelmed. The effort to move forward becomes mentally taxing and stagnates our progress. Some scheduling style techniques, such as Personal Kanban, and post-it note-style tools like Trello boards, encourage you to condense the mass of tasks that you may currently be working on into a more manageable and visually pleasing format. Both strategies encourage breaking down your to-do list into two main areas – which are followed by a done or complete column.

To Do / Options / Ideas

This column (or two columns if you would like to separate your ideas from the general to-do list) should be used for everything you currently have pending. Trello will allow you to organise this further with handy coloured labels and due dates, etc. This list, when viewed alone, can result in our slipping into the habit of trying to tackle as many tasks as possible and struggle to complete tasks at a standard we are happy with.

Doing / in progress

The In Progress list, according to the Personal Kanban, should be restricted to three tasks. This will allow you to focus on the tasks clearly and will give you the ability to complete them without reaching a mental block. Resist the temptation to add any more than three, or to add tasks that should be broken down into multiple tasks. For example, if your task is to start a new business or write a new business strategy, it will obstruct your progress instantly. These need to be broken down further.

Complete / Done

Although this column may appear self-explanatory, not all tasks are indefinitely complete. For example, self-assessment is an annual business task. Once complete, a due date can be added, and, once relevant, the card can be moved back to the To Do column. For the other completed tasks, it is simply rewarding to see them move over to the completed column. Enjoy the sense of satisfaction as the list grows! We hope this simple concept can help you manage your planning and task lists. For further guidance on business and finance-related issues, please contact us today.

Latest Employer Bulletin

Latest Employer Bulletin

The latest edition of HMRC’s Employee Bulletin was issued in June. Topics covered in the bi-monthly magazine, include some of the following:

Please contact us if you would like further guidance on any of the topics covered in the Bulletin.

Workforce preparations for Brexit

Workforce Preparations for Brexit

The government has advised that EU citizens who wish to continue to work, live, or study in the UK, after it leaves the EU on 31 December 2020, should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

An employer toolkit is available to assist with the application and includes posters, videos, and relevant information on how to apply to the scheme. The government has created the toolkit for employers to share when necessary. However, there is no duty to provide the toolkit information or ensure employees have applied.

A recent HMRC Agent Update includes further guidance on employer obligations and states, “employers have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, both as a prospective and current employer”.

Successful applicants will receive either a settled or pre-settled status. The outcome can be influenced by how long an EU citizen has been living in the UK and, when the application is submitted.

Contact us for more guidance on this matter.

New measures to ensure small businesses get paid on time

New Measures to Ensure Small Businesses Get Paid on Time

A new government measure has been released to target the late payments of large businesses to smaller businesses.

The proposal by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Small Business Commissioner, includes the following points:

  • The government will consult on increasing the powers of the Small Business Commissioner, with a view to target larger companies who fail to make payments on time. The powers could include the ability to impose fines and to request information on payment terms and conditions where necessary. New binding payment plans could also be enforced where the current practice is deemed as unfair for small businesses.
  • Company boards are to be held accountable within their companies for payment practices to small businesses. This will increase accountability and encourage fair practice and transparency.
  • A new Business Basic Fund competition of up to £1 million – which aims to encourage small businesses to embrace new technology, to improve productivity and management practices.
  • The amount owed in late payments has halved over the last five years.

Small Business Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said:

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and, through our modern Industrial Strategy, we want to ensure the UK is the best place to start and grow a business. These measures will ensure that small businesses are given the support they need and ensure that they get paid quickly – ending the unacceptable culture of late payment.

Visit GOV.UK for the full details or please speak with us for more guidance.

New tool launched by the Department for International Trade

New Tool Launched by the Department for International Trade

A new tool has been released, which aims to assist international investors who are interested in setting up or expanding their operations in the UK.

The UK Investment Support Directory tool allows potential investors to locate experts who can assist with their move – for example, in accountancy, law, consultancy, recruitment, and more. The tool will also connect them with over three hundred businesses throughout the UK.

The Department for International Trade states that the International Support Directory has been designed to improve the accessibility of information regarding the investment process. It states that this is part of a wider plan to encourage more foreign investment in the UK.

Mark Slaughter, Director General for Investment, said:

The UK Investment Support Directory is a smart, new digital tool that innovatively connects investors to private sector expertise.This interactive platform allows investors to tailor their searches to find the specific advice they are looking for or generates a range of businesses if they aren’t sure what they’re looking for yet. It is another way DIT is helping support foreign investment by streamlining connections between UK businesses and overseas investors.

Loan charge reporting requirements: Navigating the minefield

Loan Charge Reporting Requirements: Navigating the Minefield

Unless you’ve been operating in a complete vacuum, you will no doubt be aware that the loan charge is upon us. However, you might not be quite so clear on what it is and what you really need to know.

What’s it All About?

An estimated 50,000 workers, mostly contractors, were paid by way of a modest salary topped up with a loan. This was to reduce their income tax and National Insurance contributions.

While it is described as a loan, in reality, the amounts advanced were never intended to be repaid.

HMRC said it never approved these schemes. The department affirmed that it has always said these schemes did not work and it refers to such loan schemes as disguised remuneration.

2019 Loan Charge

Effective from April 2019, the tax department, supported by the UK government, introduced a charge (a loan charge) on unrepaid loans that contractors received instead of salary payments.

The loan charge combines all outstanding loans accrued over the course of up to twenty years and taxes them as income in one year.

Those affected will have to pay by the end of January 2020.

Employment-Based Schemes

A UK-based Employer

UK-based employers were required to declare outstanding loan amounts by 15 April 2019, at the latest, via their RTI returns. This includes all associated income tax, National Insurance and student loan repayment amounts paid to HMRC by 22 April.

Then, assuming the employer operated the scheme in the first place, the employee must have made good (reimburse) the tax and National Insurance to their employer by 5 July 2019.

Failure to have made goodwill give rise to a taxable benefit in kind, reportable as part of the 2018/19 P11D return process.

It is immediately obvious that most of those affected would rather incur a P11d benefit charge than repay the amount in full to their employers.

There are two instances where great care is needed:

Where not all of the tax has been made good to the employer.

The way that the legislation is written (ITEPA 2003 s.222) affirms an all or nothing scenario. This means that an employee who pays back some – but not all – of their liability will face a P11d tax liability on the full amount paid by the employer.

Where the employer cannot afford to pay.

Under Reg 81(4) of the PAYE regulations, the tax liability could get transferred to the employee where the employer is unable to pay.

While an employee ends up paying all the tax themselves, they still incur an ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Too Late

HMRC had said, provided they were advised by 4 July 2019 that an employee wished to pay the loan charge tax to them rather than to their employer, they would not seek to apply the ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Furthermore, the department promised to refund anything the employer had previously overpaid.

Employer is Offshore

In the event of an employer either being situated abroad or no longer in existence, beneficiaries of the loan scheme must report any outstanding loans to HMRC by 30 September 2019.

To help, HMRC has established an online process. This is supported by a paper form – for those who are less tech-savvy.

Be Careful

Failure to report the details for all outstanding loans by 30 September 2019 may render a person liable to penalties. However, it is anticipated that they will only be charged in the most serious of cases.

Individuals must also report their outstanding loans as part of the 2018/19 self-assessment tax return filing process. The amount of the outstanding loans should be disclosed in box 21 found under the Disguised remuneration section of form SA101 Self-assessment: additional information.

Don’t forget that where an affected person has not previously been required to file a self-assessment tax return, the normal section 7, Taxes Management Act 1970 requirement applies. This notifies chargeability by the 5 October following the end of the tax year concerned.

Remember the loan charge is a one-off. Therefore, a claim to reduce future payments on account may be necessary.

Trade-Based Schemes

The basic process for dealing with trade-based schemes is similar to the employee scenario.

Where individuals are still trading, they should include outstanding loan amounts from trade-based schemes in box 75.1 under disguised remuneration additions to profits of the self-employed supplementary pages (SA103 (full)) of their self-assessment tax return.

Those whose trading activity ceased prior to 2018/19 should complete boxes 22 to 24 of form SA101 as appropriate.

Those in trade-based schemes will need to elect whether any APNs (accelerated payment notices) are to be set against the loan charge liability. At the time of writing, further HMRC guidance on the offsetting of APNs is expected.

Difficulty in Paying

Anyone who believes they will have difficulty paying the resultant tax must, nonetheless, complete and submit a tax return. Otherwise, they will be liable for failure to notify or late filing penalties – on top of the loan charge.

Once the self-assessment tax return has been filed and HMRC is aware of the extent of any loan charge debt, the department should be contacted to agree on a manageable payment plan. What they agree will depend on an individual’s circumstances, and there is no upper time limit on how long payments can potentially be spread.

If things are left until after the 31 January 2020 deadline, individuals may have to talk with HMRC’s debt management team directly regarding the next steps.

About the author: Brian Palmer is a tax policy adviser and a UK-leading authority on Making Tax Digital. He advises, blogs, and lectures extensively on this and other important areas of taxation.

It’s that time of year again!

It’s That Time of Year Again!

At this time of every year, HM Revenue and Customs embark on a massive computerised reconciliation process. This is to check that those with PAYE records, but not in self-assessment, have paid the right amount of tax in the preceding tax year.

Where the department determines a taxpayer has not paid the correct amount, HMRC will issue a tax calculation. This can be a P800 or a simple assessment letter.

Reasons for a P800

GOV.UK informs taxpayers of the following:

You might get a P800 if you:

  • finished one job, started a new one and were paid by both in the same month;
  • started receiving a pension at work;
  • received Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

It also states:

You will not get a P800 if you’re registered for self-assessment. Your bill will be adjusted automatically if you’ve underpaid or overpaid tax.

While this might be true for the vast majority, occasionally HMRC’s system fails to match a taxpayer’s PAYE with their self-assessment record. In this case, it will issue a P800 / simple assessment.

Reasons for a Simple Assessment letter

GOV.UK informs taxpayers:

You might get a Simple Assessment letter if you:

  • owe tax that cannot be automatically taken out of your income;
  • owe HMRC more than £3,000;
  • have to pay tax on the State Pension.

Checking the Tax Calculation

The P800 or simple assessment letter will show the taxable income received and tax paid in a tax year.

This includes the following:

  • taxable income from employment (including employee benefits);
  • pensions (state and private);
  • state benefits and savings interest.

Watch Out!

Although it is not made clear, HMRC makes use of estimated figures for bank interest or nominal amounts of rental income. For this reason, as well as best practice, the departments’ figures should be checked against third-party documentation – including P60s, P11ds, P45s, bank statements, or correspondence from the Department for Work.

HMRC will combine, in the calculation, any income of a similar type into a single line.

Where this happens, you may have to contact HMRC to obtain a breakdown or ask your client to check them in their personal tax account.

What if a Calculation is Wrong?

Thankfully, PAYE usually collects the right amount of tax in cases in which you have stable employment that lasts a complete tax year. However, this might not be possible for taxpayers with more complicated affairs.

This might be the case, for example, where taxpayers:

  • have more than one job, pension, or are in receipt of a taxable state benefit or another form of untaxed income;
  • change jobs or retire;
  • draw income flexibly from a pension;
  • are widowed or lose a civil partner;
  • get extra benefits or expenses payments from their employer on top of their cash wages;
  • need to claim extra allowances or expenses against taxable income;
  • leave the UK or arrive in the UK from overseas.

Underpayments

HMRC will usually try to collect any tax due through a PAYE coding adjustment.

If the tax amount owed is less than £3,000, HMRC will attempt to recover the tax due from future income paid via PAYE, rather than as a lump sum.

Where a taxpayer’s income exceeds £30,000, HMRC may seek to collect more than £3,000 via a coding adjustment.

The department must consider whether a taxpayer has sufficient taxable income to enable the extra deduction. Furthermore, the department must be mindful that total PAYE deductions must not exceed 50% of a taxpayer’s wage.

While an underpayment is usually recovered in a single tax year, collection can be spread over more than one tax year. Normally, this happens where a P800 is issued late in a tax year. In such instances, details of how the amount is to be collected should be shown on the form.

If HMRC cannot collect the tax through a PAYE code – for example, because a taxpayer has left the UK or is not working – they will contact the taxpayer to arrange payment another way. Failure to respond, or to reach an agreed method of repayment, is likely to result in HMRC issuing a simple assessment. This letter will contain similar information found on the form P800. It also creates a legal obligation to pay the tax. This means that enforcement action can be used to collect the tax.

What Happens if You Don’t Agree?

If you don’t agree with the simple assessment, it is vital that it is queried within sixty days of receipt, setting out the reasons. This can be done by phone or in writing to HMRC.

At this stage, it is possible to ask for some or all of the tax reported as due to be postponed.

HMRC must respond to the query. If you do not agree with the response, you can appeal. Be careful, however, that there is only a thirty-day window in which to make such a response.

Again, the query can be made by phone, or in writing. You will need to state why you think the assessment is incorrect and provide what you consider to be the correct figures.

While the tax due is in dispute, HMRC might agree not to collect any or all of the tax shown as due.

When to Pay

Normally, the assessed tax is payable by the 31 January following the end of the relevant tax year. However, if it is issued after 31 October following the year of assessment, the due date is three months after the date of issue of the simple assessment.

Payment must either be made online or by cheque.

Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG)

In a recently published LITRG article, the champions of the unrepresented drew attention to the three main things to note in respect of P800s and simple assessment letters:

Firstly, it is an informal calculation, not a tax demand.

A P800 calculation is an informal calculation, not a demand for tax.

If a taxpayer ignores a P800 which reports tax due, at some point HMRC, are likely to issue a formal assessment or even a tax return.

Secondly, do you have underpaid tax?

The 2018/19 tax year was a week 53 tax year. Thus, many of the calculations issued showing 2018/19 underpayments will be correct.

There are still a few things to bear in mind if you receive a P800 that shows you have underpaid tax:

  • If it is for an earlier tax year, HMRC may be too late to collect it.
  • Apart from in cases of taxpayer neglect or fraud, HMRC is not permitted to assess tax that was due more than four tax years previously.
  • Therefore, the earliest tax year that HMRC can view is 2015/16 (which ended on 5 April 2016 and can be assessed until 5 April 2020).
  • In most cases, the P800 will be for a more recent tax year. However, if you believe that HMRC has had the information they needed to calculate your tax correctly, but have simply not used it until now, you should ask them to consider writing off the underpaid tax. This falls under the terms of the extra-statutory concession A19.
  • If you consider the underpaid tax to be an employer or pension provider’s fault – for not operating correctly the code given to them by HMRC or for making some other mistake – then, in strict law, HMRC must first call upon your employer or pension provider to make good the shortfall.
  • The calculation produced by HMRC is not necessarily the full picture of a taxpayer’s situation. They may not have matched all relevant records – for example, they may have missed out a source of income upon which tax was paid.
  • HMRC might also have used estimated figures in the calculation. This will not be immediately obvious, so you need to check all the figures carefully.

Finally, LITRG can help.

The Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has a P800 factsheet. It contains information on what to do if you think a P800 is wrong or if you think a taxpayer might have difficulty paying any tax that is shown as being due.

For guidance on how to pay your P800 bill, including via your tax code or by making a voluntary payment, please see our news piece, How to pay the tax bill shown on your form P800.

About the author: Brian Palmer is a tax policy adviser and a UK-leading authority on Making Tax Digital. He advises, blogs, and lectures extensively on this and other important areas of taxation.

HMRC confirms supplier statements are acceptable for Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV)

It’s good for businesses to know that HMRC expects them to record digitally for every individual invoice, no matter how minor and inconsequential it might be. This stands irrespective of the fact that a business’s clients might make a single monthly payment against a statement. Often, when I’ve broken this news to the audience in one of my many lectures, it goes down like a lead balloon – and at least one Licensed Accountant will utter:

This is ridiculous! It’s going to take much more of my time to digitally record each and every invoice. How am I going to make a living? My clients won’t pay my extra time costs.

Custom and Practice

Historically, accountants and bookkeepers whose clients account for VAT according to VAT cash accounting scheme rules have simply recorded a summary, a one-line entry. This would reflect a single payment made to a supplier, based on the amount recorded as outstanding on a statement covering a myriad of different invoices.

This practice was fair game. It was accepted by HMRC and the profession alike, provided that the source VAT invoices were matched to the statement amount, that they were retained and could be produced if HMRC required.

Commonsense Wins Out

There’s always the customary rash of we’re all doomed articles, appearing in the accountancy press at this point in the implementation cycle of any major change in our interactions with HMRC. But, now, I’m delighted to be the bearer of tidings of good news.

On the 5 May 2019, HMRC updated parts of its go-to online guide for MTDfV, VAT Notice 700/22: Making Tax Digital for VAT. Despite what some might say, I think it’s great. As it’s online, it is a living document. By this, I mean that, unlike its hard-copy antecedents, it is capable of being regularly updated at a minimal cost.

Importantly, on this occasion, tracts of section 4, which cover Digital record-keeping, have been updated.

A newly introduced paragraph 4.3.3.1 starts with an acknowledgement:

Some businesses record the value of each supply from a supplier statement instead of individual invoices….

At this point, it lapses into something more churlish:

In HMRC’s view, it is best practice to record digitally the individual supplies, as this means less risk of invoices either being missed completely or being entered twice – once as an invoice, and once as part of the statement. There is also less risk of the wrong rate of VAT being applied.

The paragraph concludes,

On the other hand, HMRC accepts there may be additional work for a business in capturing individual supplies digitally, and this could lead to data entry errors. Therefore, HMRC can accept the recording of totals from a supplier statement where all the supplies on the statement relate to the same VAT period, and the total VAT charged at each rate is shown. If you choose to do this, you must also cross-reference all supplies on the supplier statement to invoices received, but this can be done outside of your digital records.

I struggle with the logic of that middle section – in particular, its begrudging tone, which serves to undermine the positive impact of HMRC’s acceptance. However, I applaud HMRC for allowing an earlier common-sense practice to continue into tomorrow’s digital future. The department has relaxed its former hardline attitude to the posting of purchase and expenses data by committing to allow those accounting for VAT under cash accounting rules to digitally record supplier statement totals. The alternative is the task of entering every underlying invoice in the majority of instances.

Things to Watch Out For

Would-be exponents of the relaxation will do well to take note of the second 4.3.3.1 paragraph, in which HMRC sets the ground rules for recording transactions via supplier statements.

They are, as follows:

  • All recorded transactions (invoices) must be from the same VAT period.
  • If more than one VAT rate is applicable, summary totals should be prepared for each rate.
  • All statemented items must be supported by the original VAT invoice.

The Force of Law

The third and final paragraph under 4.3.3.1 gives readers all the confidence they need to make use of HMRC’s change of heart:

The following rule has the force of law: where a supplier issues a statement for a period you may record the totals from the supplier statement (rather than the individual invoices) provided all supplies on the statement are to be included on the same return, and the total VAT charged at each rate is shown.

Returning from an Interstellar Journey

For those of you who’ve just returned from an interstellar trip – or are just visiting from Mars:

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is part of HMRC’s ambition to become one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world. It is the UK tax department making fundamental changes to the way the tax system works, with the objective of making it:

  • more effective;
  • more efficient;
  • easier for taxpayers to get their tax right.

Into the Future

This might not have been so obvious back in 2015 when MTD was first launched. However, in the intervening years, a growing number of the Great British Public seem to want to interact with the Revenue in the same way as they do with their bank. This means using:

  • an app, firstly;
  • the internet, secondly;
  • the phone, thirdly; and
  • never by snail-mail (conventionally known as, the post).

MTDfV, which has already been with us for three months, is HMRC’s first tentative step toward delivering on its digital ambition.

What You Need to Do to Comply

MTDfV was introduced, firstly, for all UK businesses making annual VAT taxable supplies of more than £85,000 – for VAT periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019.

You will need to keep your business records digitally, from the start of your VAT accounting period starting after the 31 March 2019. If you already use software to keep your business records, check your software provider’s plans to introduce MTD-compatible software.

If you or your clients are not already digital, you’ll need to switch. To help you, HMRC has published details of the VAT and Income Tax software available for MTD.

About the author: Brian Palmer is a tax policy adviser and a UK-leading authority on Making Tax Digital. He advises, blogs, and lectures extensively on this and other important areas of taxation.

Six Ways an App Can Support Business Growth

The use of the smartphone has changed dramatically over the past decade: it has gone from being merely a gadget to being an increasingly used and increasingly important lifestyle and business tool. A report by Ofcom (the UK regulator for the communications services) referred to this change in our use of this technology as the ‘Smartphone obsession’.

Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence, Ian Macrae, said:

“Over the last decade, people’s lives have been transformed by the rise of the smartphone, together with better access to the internet and new services.”

“Whether it’s working flexibly, keeping up with current affairs or shopping online, we can do more on the move than ever before.”

The report found that 72% of adults say that their smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet; 71% say they never turn off their phone; and 78% say they could not live without it. The amazing thing is that these figures still appear to be rising.

So, most importantly for us, how can mobile phones and mobile apps support and help your business grow? We have six things for you to consider.

1. Access to tools and resources around the clock.

In general, our demands and expectations towards finding information, and towards the length of time it should take to find it, have vastly increased. Information should be readily available, and buffering and tedious searching will often be cut short so we can try something else. Generally, we’re always on the lookout for a better user experience.

Apps provide the opportunity for you to compile your information and resources into one streamlined solution which can be accessed whenever it is convenient – with no wait time.

Apps can provide solutions for downloadable resources, communication requests, client referrals, marketing incentives, video content, up-to-date news, software, secure content sharing, tax updates, tax calculators and so much more.

2. A new marketing and communications channel.

An app can be an additional channel in your current marketing mix. Use it for targeted marketing, with geolocation tools which can filter customers according to where they are based.

The user can also set permissions and personalisations which tailor the app to be suitable to their preferred working methods. Push notifications can be sent to bespoke categories allowing only the most relevant alerts and reminders – for example, a deadline notification, an event RSVP, perhaps a special offer, or new content which is available in the app.

Video content can be added to your app where your clients can access your most recent uploads with business advice, tutorials, and any other content you wish to include.

3. Gather consumer data.

By fully utilising your app to streamline business processes, you can collect data on how your clients engage with the app. What content are they accessing, and how regularly do they use it? Which resources are most popular, and which resources are not used?

You can then investigate what other services your clients require to get them more engaged with your service offering. Naturally, and in line with privacy regulations, this provides a directional view of customer behaviour. In order to get more specific, you will then need to ask for permission from your clients and to store their information securely and in line with GDPR regulation.

4. A new contact and sharing solution.

Today, there are plenty of quick options enabling clients to get in touch with you, and any of them can be featured on your app. It just depends what you would prefer.

To name a few, you could take client referrals via an app module, through meeting requests, and even by video calling.

5. Optimising business workflows.

Whether your business is a complex manufacturing process or whether it manages a sales pipeline, apps can provide a convenient and efficient way to optimise a business workflow.

For example, consider a salesperson taking business cards who later records the client information from them. Through an app, you could streamline this process through an off-the-shelf CRM or through a bespoke module which can take a photo and automatically scan the data into the system.

6. Improved user experience through Smartphone capabilities.

When considering using or developing your own app for your business, consider how you can leverage the technology inherent in the smartphone device – whether that’s Bluetooth, GPS, face recognition, or voice recognition.

A common example is to use the camera to interact with QR Codes. For firms with stock management, this approach can be used so that they can quickly assess product details through a simple scan of the code. In addition, consider how GPS tracking can be used, for example, to indicate where your package is being delivered and the estimated time of arrival.

Lastly, interactions do not need to be limited to typing. With voice recognition, apps can take on more of an “assistant” role, which you can engage with through voice commands and instructions.

In summary, whatever your business, there is an ever-growing need for the mobile workforce to have their office in their hand. Apps provide this capability, and, through bespoke development, your app can take on its own unique form to help accelerate and grow your business.

Companies such as AppTheBusiness Limited can develop a tailored solution and take your business to the smartphone.

New advisory fuel rates for company cars

The new fuel rates take effect from 1 June 2019, although the previous rates can be used for an additional month.

These rates only apply to employees who are using a company car in the following scenarios:

  • When employees are reimbursed for business travel in their company cars; or,
  • When employees are required to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel.

The rates are not applicable in any other circumstances.

The Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric cars is four pence per mile, and electricity is not considered a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 12p
1401cc – 2000cc 15p
Over 2000cc 22p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 8p
1401cc – 2000cc 9p
Over 2000cc 14p
Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 10p
1601cc – 2000cc 12p
Over 2000cc 14p

Ancillary Capital Gains reliefs consultation

The Capital Gains Tax (CGT) consultation on Private Residence Relief (PRR) and on changes to ancillary reliefs is now closed. The consultation ran from 1 April 2019 until 1 June 2019.

Historically, PRR has been a very useful way to reduce the taxable gains arising from the sale of a residential property that has been let but which has, at some point, been occupied by the owner as their primary residence.

In the 2018 Budget, the government announced two relief changes which it claimed would aim PRR at owner-occupiers.

The proposed changes are planned to take effect from the 6 April 2020, and are as follows:

  1. The final period exemption will be reduced from 18 months to nine months. However, owners with a disability and those in care will retain a 36-month final period exemption.
  2. Lettings relief will be reformed so that it only applies in cases where an owner is in shared occupancy with a tenant.

PPR has been an important device to help homeowners mitigate or even eradicate a charge to CGT on a residential property that had been their one-time home. Unfortunately, if the government gets its way, the tax mitigation power available to PRR where it is in point will be greatly diminished.

We will provide more information on the results of the consultation once it becomes available.

Companies House open consultation

HMRC currently has an open consultation on proposals to further improve the role of Companies House, with a view to having businesses submit more information for the purpose of helping to tackle economic crime.

The consultation’s focus is to stop the registered information from being misused and to help business owners become better protected against fraud.

In order to help to prevent the register being misused, the following areas are open to consultation:

  • knowing who is setting up, managing and controlling companies;
  • improving the accuracy and usability of data on the companies register;
  • protecting personal information on the register;
  • ensuring compliance, sharing intelligence, and other measures to deter abuse of corporate entities.

Louise Smyth, Chief Executive of Companies House, said:

‘This package of reforms represents a significant milestone for Companies House as they will enable us to play a greater part in tackling economic crime, protecting directors from identity theft and fraud, and improving the accuracy of the register.’

If you wish to share your views, you can do so online until the 5th August 2019.

Tax code mix up for Welsh taxpayers

From April 2019 onwards, the Welsh Government has devolved powers to decide the rates of Income Tax payable by Welsh taxpayers.

The above means the Welsh Government have the ability to vary the Welsh rates of Income Tax or to keep them the same as those paid by English and Northern Irish taxpayers. However, it should be noted that the responsibility for taxing income from savings and dividends remains with the central UK government.

In the first year of its new powers, the National Assembly for Wales has decided that Welsh rates of income tax for 2019-20 will remain at the same levels as found in England and Northern Ireland.

However, in a recent mix-up, HMRC revealed it had released Scottish tax codes (S codes) to some Welsh employers, instead of the ‘C’ prefix applicable to Welsh taxpayers. A result of the error has been that some Welsh employees have been charged income tax according to Scottish rates and bands instead of Welsh.

The effect of the coding mix up was exacerbated by the fact that, whilst the rates of income tax in England and Northern Ireland match those in Wales, the Scottish income tax rates are higher.

Since the error came to light, HMRC have admitted that they do not know how many taxpayers have been affected, whilst the Welsh tax codes are to be issued this month (June).

Llyr Gruffydd, Chair of the National Assembly for Wales’ Finance Committee, said:

‘We raised concerns about the flagging process for identifying Welsh taxpayers during our enquiries into fiscal devolution and the Welsh government’s draft budget.

‘On each occasion, we were told the matter was in hand, and the lessons from the devolution of income tax powers to Scotland, where there were similar issues, had been soundly learned and would be put into effect. We are seeking an immediate explanation of how this has happened and will be asking representatives from HMRC to appear before this Committee in the near future.’

If you are concerned that this tax code mix-up may affect you, please call us for guidance.

Call for everyday tax to be simplified for small businesses

The Office of Tax Simplification has released a new report that follows on from a previous review of the Business Life Cycle published in April 2018.

The new report, “Simplifying everyday tax for smaller business”, discloses that, of the 5.7 million businesses in the UK, 99% are small owner-managed businesses. Furthermore, as many as three quarters do not engage other employees.

It is these stark figures which have led OTS to strongly recommend everyday tax be simplified for these businesses, and for more guidance to be available for new start-ups.

The recommendations in the report cover five key areas:

  • Simple step-by-step guidance about the key things a business needs to do in its early days to help things run smoothly;
  • Improving the operation of the PAYE system;
  • Implementation of HMRC’s Agents Strategy;
  • Improving the mechanics of the Corporation Tax return process;
  • Ensuring that tax changes are built on an understanding of business processes.

The full report is available to read online. However, should you wish to discuss any of the key areas of the Business Life Cycle, please get in touch.

P11D submission deadline

The HMRC form P11D is the form employers use to report the details of taxable expenses and benefits provided to employees and directors during the course of a tax year, after that year has ended.

Employees pay tax on the benefits disclosed on the submitted P11D via a PAYE coding adjustment or through self-assessment.

If the benefits have been payrolled, meaning that have been reported to HMRC as they arise and included in the operation of the employer’s payroll, they are taxed in-year. As a result, they do not need to be reported after the year has ended via the P11D routine.

HMRC have provided a toolkit which includes a checklist which can be used to ensure the forms are completed correctly.

It could potentially be quite time-consuming to compile all the necessary information for these forms, so we would recommend that you do not leave it to the last minute.

Warning: 2019 P11Ds and their supporting forms must be filed with HMRC by the 6 July 2019.

If you would like assistance with completing the forms, or have related queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Minimum wage regulations

In a recent report by the Low Pay Commission (LPC), it was found that the number of people being paid less than the statutory minimum wage is on the rise.

In April 2018, 439,000 workers were paid less than the National Minimum Wage (NMW), and out of those individuals, 369,000 were employees aged 25 and over. This was an increase from the previous year.

The new rates, applicable from the 1 April 2019 are as follows.

Minimum wage rates effective 1 April 2019 Hourly rate
25 and over £8.21
21 to 24 7.70
18 to 20 £6.15
Under 18 £4.35
Apprentice rate £3.90
Accommodation Offset £7.55 per day: £52.85 per week

The report found women to be more likely than men to be paid below the minimum wage. It also highlighted that the youngest and oldest workers have a higher chance of being underpaid.

Underpayment was also found to be more likely in sectors including hospitality, cleaning, retail, maintenance, and childcare.

In response to the report, Bryan Sanderson, the Chair of the LPC, said:

‘Our analysis reveals a worrying number of people are being paid less than the minimum wage. We recently celebrated 20 years of the minimum wage – it has raised pay for millions of workers, but it is essential that people receive what they are entitled to.

‘It is also vital for businesses to be able to operate on a level playing field, and not be illegally undercut on wages.’

If you are having issues in relation to your payroll, please contact us for more guidance.

5 Top Tips for Successful Freelancing

5 Top Tips for Successful Freelancing

Here we provide some top tips for keeping your freelancing work organised, healthy, and successful! Although it is not possible to provide a one-size-fits-all plan, these tips will certainly help to keep your freelancing affairs in shape.

1. Draw up a contract.

Regardless of your skillset – whether it is graphic design, project management, or writing – every new client project needs to be issued with a contract. While, at the outset, dispute might be far from your mind, this is the go-to document that others will seek to review should any disagreement arise later.

If you’re new to freelancing, then a contract template is a great place to start – to avoid your getting too preoccupied with creating the perfect contract. You can then add more information where necessary and make improvements along the way.

Even the simplest contract should include all of the following key terms:

  • The nature of your engagement and the services that you’ve agreed to perform.
  • Assurances that your client’s information will be kept confidentially.
  • How much you will be paid, and when, throughout the project.
  • Details of any ownership of intellectual property.
  • Once your work has been accepted by the client, the client also accepts full responsibility for any use of the project files moving forward.
  • Details of liability insurance.
  • Cancellation procedure for you and your client.
  • Membership of relevant professional bodies.

2. Agree payment terms before starting a project.

A big issue with freelancing is ensuring that you’re paid enough, that you’re paid on time – and that you actually are paid. Therefore, to ensure that you are going to get paid, it is best to agree the payment terms upfront. This is better than diving into a new project and trying to resolve payment later.

Depending on the nature of the contract under negotiation, a successful payment structure can be to request 50% to be paid upfront, and the remaining 50% upon completion – but before you deliver the completed project files.

In cases in which the contract is of an ongoing nature, you may wish to agree stage payments, whereby money is paid after you have passed milestones pre-agreed in the contract. You may also want to consider regular instalments.

The price you elect to charge as a Freelancer should consider time spent on tasks such as sourcing clients, preparing proposals, sending/managing invoices, meetings, and other items which are required to run your freelancing business. By not considering these tasks in your pricing there is the risk of not be paid sufficiently.

3. Be prepared to say ‘no’.

When in the process of agreeing the terms of the project, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. It’s too easy to get caught up in the moment and to agree to everything your client asks – because you want the project and because you want a happy client.

But promising too much can come with a whole array of problems. It can end with you spending too long on an increasingly unprofitable project and can risk your not being able to deliver the project in the agreed timescale.

4. Create a portfolio.

Create a portfolio of projects in which you specialise to showcase to prospective clients. We encourage including projects specifically in your specialist area – rather than putting together a portfolio of everything on which you have ever worked.

If there is a particular avenue to which you want to stick, then make sure you do. Don’t take on those projects you fear you’re going to struggle to complete or that may take you too long to deliver.

This portfolio will also ensure clients best understand the work you are able to deliver and the expected standard they are going to receive. If a client is asking for work outside of this scope, be transparent about what you are, and are not, able to offer them.

5. Stay on top of your finances!

As a freelancer, it is vital to view your finances as would a small business owner. Make sure you are on top of your numbers, and ask yourself the following:

  • What is my business revenue?
  • What is my monthly living expenditure?
  • How many visits is my website getting each month?
  • What is my most popular service?
  • How much time is spent on each project, and am I providing accurate estimates?

If you are a long-term freelancer, then you may want to consider how you are allocating your earnings. For example, are you saving for VAT, business expenses, and making pension contributions? These are hugely important considerations in the long run.

If you’re unsure how to best plan for these business costs, please reach out to us for more guidance around planning for your business and your personal financial affairs!

VAT fuel charge updates

There are new road scale fuel charges with which businesses must comply effective from 1 May 2019. The updated valuation table includes the new scale charges, and is available to view here.

Off-Payroll working rules guidance (IR35) and consultation

IR35, or the Off-Payroll working rules, has been published by HMRC a year early. The original launch date was the 6 April 2020.

HMRC has published a four-step guide to help businesses to check the cases in which the off-payroll working rules apply. As part of the guidance, HMRC states that those organisations using the individual’s service are responsible for checking whether the Off-Payroll working rules apply or not.

The open consultation closed on the 28th May and HMRC is looking for responses on the following matters:

  • The scope of the reform and the impact on non-corporate engagers;
  • Information requirements for engagers, fee payers and personal service companies (PSCs);
  • How to address potential disagreements regarding an individual’s employment status.

The consultation includes HMRC’s plans regarding education and support for those businesses that may be affected.

Scottish Air Departure Tax plans further delayed

The plans to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) with Air Departure Tax (ADT) have been delayed by the Scottish Government until at least 2020.

As part of the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Parliament can charge travellers tax when leaving Scottish airports. As a result, proposals have been put forward with a view to replace the UK APD with the new ADT.

ADT was scheduled to start from April 2018, but it has now been delayed due to issues regarding exemptions which apply to airports in the Highlands and Islands.

Kate Forbes MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, has commented:

‘The Scottish government has been clear that it cannot take on ADT until a solution to these issues has been found, because to do so would compromise the devolved powers and risk damage to the Highlands and Islands economy.

‘While we work towards a resolution to the Highlands and Islands exemption, we continue to call on the UK government to reduce APD rates to support connectivity and economic growth in Scotland and across the UK.’

Pensions Dashboard Initiative

The Pensions Dashboard is a new Government initiative which will now move forward, it has been confirmed.

The dashboard will be introduced with a view to allow individuals to save for retirement and to view information from multiple pensions on one centralised interface. The dashboard is meant to ‘provide an easy to access online view of a saver’s pension’, and to include the state pension.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will bring forward legislation for pension scheme providers to ensure consumer data is available to them through the dashboard.

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

‘The government’s commitment to compel pension schemes to share data with platforms through primary legislation is particularly welcome. Some urgency is now required, and we question the three to four-year timeframe for schemes to prepare data for dashboards.’

Employer Bulletin

The latest version of the Employer Bulletin is available to view online.

The April edition includes the following topics, and more:

  • Cash Allowances, Flexible Benefits Packages and Salary Sacrifice
  • Unpaid work trials and the National Minimum Wage
  • EU Exit Preparedness and SMEs
  • Diesel Supplement Company Car Tax Changes to meet Euro standard 6d
  • Student Loans
  • Construction Industry Scheme – helpful reminders for contractors and subcontractors
  • Welsh rate of income tax and Scottish Income Tax
  • PAYE Tools
  • Tax-Free Childcare

Tax scams update

HMRC and Action Fraud have warned of high numbers of springtime scams. These tend to target those who may be less experienced with the tax system, such as the young and the elderly.

Between March and May 2018, HMRC received nearly 250,000 reports of phishing, and requested to have more than 6,000 websites taken down.

An Ofcom Communications Market Report in 2018 found that the majority of text and email scams were sent via smartphone. It noted that, at this time, 95% of 16-24-year olds and 51% of those aged 55 and over owned a smartphone.

The following pointers have been issued by HMRC to help you to work out if you are being targeted by a scam:

  1. Have you been asked to provide confidential information?
  2. Genuine organisations, such as HMRC, will not contact you to ask for your PIN, bank details, or even a password.

  3. Is it a text message refund which sounds too good to be true?
  4. HMRC will never inform you of a refund via e-mail or SMS.

  5. Protect your confidential information!
  6. Do not give out private details, respond to suspicious text messages, download attachments from an unknown sender, or click links within emails if you are unsure of the origin or nature.

  7. Report your concerns!
  8. Ensure you forward emails and information regarding any suspicious calls or emails from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk. Forward suspicious text messages to 60599.

If you have suffered a financial loss as a result of these scams, it is recommended that you contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Alternatively, use their online fraud reporting tool for further help.

HMRC have also released a handy guide to help you check if correspondence is genuinely from them.

Angela MacDonald, Head of Customer Services at HMRC, has said:

‘We are determined to protect honest people from these fraudsters who will stop at nothing to make their phishing scams appear legitimate.

‘HMRC is currently shutting down hundreds of phishing sites a month. If you receive one of these emails or texts, don’t respond and report it to HMRC so that more online criminals are stopped in their tracks.’

Improving your Productivity in Three Easy Ways

According to Close Brothers, in terms of productivity – something assumed to be one of the largest challenges facing business – the UK lags behind the rest of the G7 by 16%. Nearly half of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) say new technology would increase overall productivity by 46%, improve staff efficiency by 50%, and help upskill staff by 43%.

In this context, only 45% of UK small business have invested recently in technology, with three out of four businesses having no plans to invest in technology.

Below are three ways to improve productivity for your business.

Take your Accounting to the Cloud

The filing of VAT returns online – under the UK government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative – requires ongoing management of your company accounts, from invoicing and payments to expenses and payroll.

There are plenty of options in regard to platforms to help you do this, with each platform having the tools to effectively managing accounts. However, not all solutions on the market have been finalised for Making Tax Digital.

Recommended is QuickBooks Online, with the company suggesting that by filing VAT returns online, companies will have a better overview of cash flow in real time and will be able to manage human resources better – thus freeing time for more productive activities such as sales, marketing, and training.

MTD has the power to catalyse an immediate annual £6.9 billion net gain in productivity for the UK economy, or £46 billion over five years, according to Intuit QuickBooks.

Manage your Customer Journey through Customer Relationship Management

Modern businesses need to digitize the customer relationship through CRM, customer-relationship management. This will strengthen their understanding and management of their customers’ journey, so to increase revenues and reduce costs.

Whether this is accomplished by winning new customers, finding new ways to deliver more value to existing customers, or improving efficiency and productivity, it’s crucial to have good visibility of what’s happening in the business – and effective control over the key ways to improve performance.

CRM gives businesses that visibility and control. In addition, CRM provides improved communication and collaboration, automation of everyday tasks, and better reporting capabilities. All of these will be invaluable to upping your productivity – but potentially the biggest boon is centralisation: having all your information in one place.

Lastly, make sure CRM is integrated into your cloud accounting package, to drive a more effective and integrated front office back office approach.

Automate and Socialise your Marketing

Automated marketing amplifies what you’re already doing in marketing. It automates all the digital channels through which you push messages out.

A decade ago, this meant scheduling emails. Today, automated marketing systems have become more sophisticated and broader, handling online marketing campaigns whether it’s through Twitter or email or online advertising.

Marketing automation strengthens customer relationships, scales marketing campaigns, and makes it easy to integrate lead generation efforts into the sales cycle. Through this, it enables the company to be more creative with saved time, harnessing hard-won marketing leads to sales and measuring their campaign’s success. In turn, this allows marketers to quickly and easily profile and target customers, gather business intelligence, and run email campaigns and events.

Applying these three approaches will accelerate your business productivity and help your business survive and thrive.

Structures and Buildings Allowance Consultation

The Spring Statement, delivered in March by Philip Hammond, included an update and open consultation on Structures and Buildings Allowance (SBA).

The relief is available for new commercial structures and buildings – and will also be available where an existing structure or building has been improved or against the cost of renovating existing structures and buildings.

The amount of relief available is limited to the initial cost of building or renovation and can be provided over a fifty-year period at a flat rate of 2%. Only some expenses will qualify for the relief, and the structures or buildings must be used for qualifying purposes, such as trades, professions, vocations and some UK or overseas property businesses or commercial lettings.

The Structures and Buildings Allowance, introduced 29 October 2018, is available to support businesses investing in the UK. The allowance aims to encourage the development of new structural assets and to provide tax relief.

The consultation on draft legislation was open until 24 April 2019.

Making Tax Digital for VAT update

The new Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) rules came into effect on the 1 April 2019. The new rules require businesses with an annual VAT-taxable turnover above £85,000 to keep digital records for VAT purposes, and to submit their VAT return to HMRC using MTD-compatible accounting packages, such as QuickBooks.

The HMRC scheme will ultimately require all taxpayers to move over to digital filing. However, at the moment, there is no proposal to widen compulsory MTD until at least April 2021.

Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has said:

‘In a world where businesses are already banking, paying bills and shopping online, it is important that the tax system moves into the 21st century.’

Although the new rules are now applicable, VAT registered businesses with more complex requirements will not have to comply until the start of their first VAT return period after the 30 September 2019.

The government has also confirmed that there will be no penalties regarding the first year of digital filing and record keeping, in cases where a VAT registered entity has tried to comply with the digital record-keeping requirements and has failed due to software-related issues.

P11D Deadline for Submission to HMRC

P11D forms are due, by 6 July 2019, for the year which ended on 5 April 2019.

The P11D is used to report benefits and some expenses provided to directors and employees. If, as an employer, you report your employee benefits by year, using payrolling, you do not need to complete a P11D.

In addition to payrolling or filing a P11D, employers will also need to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions at 13.8% in respect of the majority of employee benefits they provide. The amount owed can be calculated using the P11(b) form.

Employer’s need to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions by the 19th July (or 22nd, if payed electronically).

HMRC have an expenses and benefits toolkit as well as guidance to support anyone who needs help completing the P11D or the P11(B).

Warning: It can take time to gather the information required, so we would recommend that it is not left until the last minute!

Updates to Income Tax for 2019/20

The new tax year, effective from 6 April 2019, brings changes to income tax allowances and bands. The following updates now apply.

Rates of Tax

While the basic rate of tax will remain at 20%, the 2019/20 basic rate band – the threshold above which income is taxable at this rate – has increased by £3,000 from £34,500 to £37,500.

In addition, the threshold at which the 40% higher rate tax band applies reaches £50,000.

Individuals with taxable income over £150,000 will continue to pay income tax at an additional rate of 45% on their top slice of taxable income.

Personal Allowance

Interestingly, the personal allowance, previously £11,850, increased by £650 on the 6 April to £12,500. However, for individuals with an ‘adjusted net income’ of over £100,000, the personal allowance continues to be reduced by £1 for every £2 of income over £100,000 – until it tapers to nil as a person’s adjusted net income reaches £125,000.

Marriage Allowance

Where one part of a couple, who are either married or in a civil partnership, does not pay income tax – or has a taxable income below their personal allowance – they are entitled to transfer 10% of their unused personal allowance to their partner or spouse. This is provided that the recipient is no more than a basic rate taxpayer.

Welsh Income Tax Updates

From April 2019, the Welsh government now enjoys income tax rate-setting powers. For the 2019/20 tax year, it has been decided that Welsh Income Tax Rates will be kept at a level that leaves Welsh taxpayers in the same position as their English and Northern Irish counterparts.

Scottish Income Tax Rates

The rates of income tax in Scotland are different from the rest of the UK, as follows:

Scottish income tax: 2019-2020

Bands Band name Rate
Over £12,500 – £14,549 Starter Rate 19%
Over £14,549 – £24,944 Scottish Basic Rate 20%
Over £24,944 – £43,430 Intermediate Rate 21%
Over £43,430 – £150,000 Higher Rate 41%
Over £150,000 Top Rate 46%

New Brexit Advisory Tool

The UK Government has issued new advice to small businesses on how they could be affected by the UK’s leaving the EU. The documents contain advice regarding a range of issues, such as sending and receiving personal data and EU-UK trading.

The UK government recommends that businesses ensure they are prepared for Brexit, particularly considering the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome. Businesses which import or export goods to the EU need to apply for a UK Economic Operation Registration and Identification number (EORI), to continue training with the bloc after Brexit.

Service-centred businesses and those that operate in the EU are likely to need to adhere to new rules after Brexit.

Businesses which own intellectual property in the EU are also likely to be affected, with regards to copyright, trademarks, patents, etc. If this affects you, you are recommended to seek advice from the EU Exit tool.

Brexit no deal preparation – HMRC advice

If the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal, many UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world. For instance, they will need to register for an Economic Operator and Registration Identification number, commonly referred to as an EORI number.

HMRC is warning UK businesses that have only ever traded inside the EU that they will need to have an EORI number to continue their EU trading.

Worryingly, the latest figures from HMRC indicate only 17% of potentially affected businesses have registered for an EORI.

If you think that your business could be affected and you do not already have a UK EORI number, you’ll need to get one to import or export goods with the EU from 11pm UK time on 12 April 2019.

Warning: It could take 3 days to get a UK EORI number, so you should apply now.

You/your business should apply, if:

  • you’re a sole trader who is resident in the UK;
  • your company or partnership has a registered office in the UK;
  • your company or partnership has a permanent place of business in the UK where they carry out their business activities.

Businesses that import goods into the UK from the EU may register for (TSP), Transitional Simplified Procedures, to allow import without having to make a full customs declaration at the border and to postpone paying any import duties. For imports using other locations, and for exports, standard customs declarations will apply.

Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, stated, “We want businesses to be able to continue trading with minimal disruption in any scenario, but we also know that people tend to leave things until the last minute and we would urge against that.”

3 Steps to increase your website traffic

To help drive more customers to your website, it is key to maximise the impact from search through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Improved SEO enables your website to be discovered and to rank with relevance, so that it appears at the top of the search engine results. The process of optimisation is not a one-time process – but rather one that requires maintenance, tuning, and continuous testing and monitoring.

The following guide is a three-step strategy to help you achieve this.

Step 1: Target Market Business Analysis

Setting Goals and Objectives

Before you get started, ensure that you can measure the ROI (return on investment) from any changes you implement, deciding what is the expected number of visitors you will need to your site vs the baseline today. This is the measure that you can then track from.

Get specific on the goals to determine and set measures for specific pages visited and product / services reviewed.

Keywords

Keywords are absolutely critical for getting located. These work through setting your “meta sets”, visible text and code.

It is important to examine the content keywords and search engine ranking of competitive websites to assess the impact. There are tools to help such as Semrush.com and Keywordspy.com.

Once you have the list, then look to prioritise the targeted search term related to what you expect your customers to look for. Keep this more in the framing of natural language rather than specific products you have – i.e. “looking for a parasol” rather than “name of brand parasol”. Think what you would type into a search engine. People rarely search to find a specific business – so you need to think of solving a customer problem or meeting a customer need. Test this with your customers and amend accordingly.

Keyword Analysis

Keyword analysis follows, and this helps to further identify a targeted list of key words and phrases. Review competitive lists and other industry sources as well as prioritising keywords and phrases, plurals, singulars, and misspellings.

Step 2: Content Optimisation and Submission

Create page titles

Keyword-based titles help to establish page theme and direction for your keywords.

Create meta tags

Meta description tags can influence click-throughs but aren’t directly used for rankings. (Google doesn’t use the keywords tag anymore.)

Place strategic search phrases on pages

Integrate selected keywords into your website source code and existing content on designated pages. Make sure to apply a suggested guideline of one to three keywords/phrases per content page and add more pages to complete the list. Ensure that related words are used as a natural inclusion of your keywords. It helps the search engines quickly determine what the page is about. A natural approach to this works best.

the past, 100 to 300 words on a page was recommended. Many tests show that pages with 800 to 2,000 words can outperform shorter ones. In the end, the users, the marketplace, content and links will determine the popularity and ranking numbers.

Develop new sitemaps for Google and Bing

Make it easier for search engines to index your website. Create both XML and HTML versions. An HTML version is the first step. XML sitemaps can easily be submitted via Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Submit website to directories (limited use)

Professional search marketers don’t submit the URL to the major search engines, but it’s possible to do so. A better and faster way is to get links back to your site naturally. Links get your site indexed by the search engines.

However, you should submit your URL to directories such as Yahoo! (paid), Business.com (paid), and DMOZ (free). Some may choose to include AdSense (google.com/AdSense) scripts on a new site to get their Google Media bot to visit. It will likely get your pages indexed quickly.

Step 3: Continuous Testing and Measuring

Test and measure.

Analyse search engine rankings and web traffic to determine the effectiveness of the programmes you’ve implemented, including an assessment of individual keyword performance. Test the results of changes, and keep changes tracked in an Excel spreadsheet, or whatever you’re comfortable with.

Maintenance.

Ongoing addition and modification of keywords and website content is necessary to continually improve search engine rankings, so growth doesn’t stall or decline from neglect. You also want to review your link strategy and ensure that your inbound and outbound links are relevant to your business.

A blog can provide you with the necessary structure and ease of content addition that you need. Your hosting company can typically help you with the setup/installation of a blog.

Contributions to Pensions Auto Enrolment to increase

The Pensions Regulator has issued guidance for employers concerning the increase in minimum pension contributions, which took effect on 6 April 2019.

Duration Employer minimum Total minimum contribution
Current contributions 2% 5%
6 April 2019 onwards 3% 8%

Chancellor: VAT MTD is go, but no further mandation until 2021

While not mentioned within Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement, he made in his written response a strong reference to the Government’s commitment to Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV). He also declared himself satisfied with the way the MTDfV pilot is progressing.

The Chancellor’s statement confirmed a light touch (soft-landing) approach to penalties in the first year of implementation: “Where businesses are doing their best to comply, no filing or record keeping penalties will be issued. “

No further mandation before 2021

Hammond’s written response referenced an earlier promise not to extend the mandation of MTD to any new taxes or businesses until the MTDfV system had been shown to work well – and not before 2021 at the earliest.

Given that the immediate focus will be on supporting businesses to transition to the new service, this can only be described as a common-sense move, and one that provides some certainty.

Latest from HMRC

The publication of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement was followed immediately by a statement from Theresa Middleton (HMRC Director, Making Tax Digital Programme):

“Our VAT pilot service is progressing well, with over 46,000 businesses in the pilot and over 200 MTD compatible software products available, including some free products, and over 140 existing subscription products being updated at no cost at all.”

Middleton’s comments also referenced that HMRC “…continues to listen to feedback from business and recognises the importance of supporting businesses through the transition to MTD.”

What is MTDfV?

It is a major change to the way that VAT-registered businesses – only those with a VAT-taxable turnover of £85,000 or more – will keep their VAT records. These will be recorded entirely digitally, and businesses will need to submit their VAT returns using MTD compatible software for VAT periods starting on or after 1 April 2019.

Increase in Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW), the legal minimum wage rates that must be paid to employees increased on the 1 April, with employers liable to be penalised for any failure to comply.

The new rates are:



Rate from 1 April 2018 Rate from 1 April 2019
NLW for workers aged 25 and over £7.83 £8.21
NMW main rate for workers aged 21-24 £7.38 £7.70
NMW 18-20 rate £5.90 £6.15
NMW 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18 £4.20 £4.35
NMW apprentice rate for under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship £3.70 £3.90

Company Car Fuel Rates

HMRC has just published their new company car advisory fuel rates, which are effective from the 1 March 2019.

The rates only apply when, as an employer, you either:

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

You must not use these rates in any other circumstances.

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 11p
1401cc – 2000cc 14p
Over 2000cc 21p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 8p
Over 2000cc 13p
Engine size Diesel
1400cc or less 10p
1401cc – 2000cc 11p
Over 2000cc 13p

 

Employers Update from HMRC

In the February Bulletin, HMRC has included updates on the following:

  • End of year reporting;
  • Reporting expenses and benefits;
  • Student Loan notices and a new type of Student Loan repayment that employers will need to be able to process via payroll (Post Graduate Loans);
  • Updates to the Starter checklist – used for new employees;
  • Reporting the Disguised Remuneration Loan Charge;
  • Updates to P9 Notices of Coding;
  • Payrolling benefits in kind;
  • Scottish Income Tax; and
  • the Welsh Rate of Income Tax and new codes for Welsh taxpayers.

To download the Bulletin, click here.

Start date for Making Tax Digital for VAT is here

Most businesses with VAT return periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019 will need to comply with the regulations mandated for VAT.

For businesses with “more complex” VAT, this date has been deferred to 1 October 2019. This delay applies to trusts, not for profit organizations not set up as companies, VAT divisions, VAT groups, public sector entities such as government departments and NHS Trusts. The latter will have to provide additional information on their VAT return.

The delay also applies to local authorities, public corporations, traders based overseas, those required to make payments on account, and annual accounting scheme users.

For more information visit here for the statement on Making Tax Digital made by Mel Stride, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Five steps to help you set up as self-employed

If you have made the decision to move towards working for yourself, the options to consider are whether to be a sole trader, a shareholding director of a limited company, or to trade as a partnership.

Once you’ve decided, HMRC will need to be informed. If you choose to go self-employed or to enter into a partnership, HMRC will need to be advised so that they can register you to receive a self-assessment tax return. They will also need to know if you form a limited company.

As a self-employed person (including a partner) it is likely that you will be required to pay income tax and Class 2 and 4 National Insurance contributions under self-assessment.

1. Start-up costs

Starting up a new business can be a costly exercise, and you will need to open a new business bank account for all your future work-related expenditure. It is vital to always keep records of accounts to help ensure the correct taxable profit is reported to HMRC after the end of any tax year.

Budgeting and forecasting

When writing your financial forecast for the business, it is recommended that you factor in the following:

  • Do you have access to funds which you can use to start up the business?
  • Do you have savings to carry you through periods of no income or unexpected expenses?
  • Are there any life changing events on the horizon, such as moving to a new house or having a new baby?
  • When employing staff, have you considered sick pay and annual leave?

2. Are credits or grants available?

Understand if you are eligible to claim benefits, tax credits or even grants. You can check this easily by accessing organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau or Gov.UK websites to establish what you might be eligible for.

3. Location

To go self-employed, you’ll need to decide where to locate your new business. It may be possible to run it from the comfort of your own home, or you may need to rent or purchase another property as your place of work.

When renting business premises, it is vital that you verify whether there are any rules in place restricting business activity, and you check if the environment is suitable for the type of work which will take place.

If you are renting an office space, you must ensure that you know the monthly costs, outside of the initial rental payments, such as services, or any upcoming upgrades to the building which may increase the rental costs in the future.

Don’t forget, if you convert part of your home into businesses premises, you may be required to pay business rates on top of any existing council tax commitment. You will also be asked to pay these rates if you convert any part of your property into a shop/workshop or if client visits become a daily occurrence and you have dedicated rooms in your home solely for business purposes.

Please call us, if you’re concerned that you might be affected by what we describe in the article. It is always best to be sure of your position.

4. Insurance

Check your insurance policy and if in any doubt call your broker to see if you need to take out additional cover for any business activity within your household. This is not an expensive addition and most companies will combine additional cover into one domestic and business policy. If your business requires clients to enter your property, you may be advised to take out public liability insurance, another inexpensive addition to your insurance policy.

You may also be required to hold a license, depending on the nature of your business.

5. Business name

When deciding whether you are going to use a trading name for the business, you will need to be aware of any restrictions in place.

If you thinking of forming a company, you can check if your proposed company name is already in use by using the Companies House name availability checker.

If the business will have a website, you will need to check if there are suitable domains available for your business name.

Once everything is in place, you can get to work on your new business and enjoy working for yourself.

For more information on setting up as self-employed, forming a limited company, and selecting the right cloud accounting solutions, such as QuickBooks, then please contact us.

Protect your pensions!

The Insolvency Service has urged individuals saving for retirement to protect their pension pots from criminals and ‘negligent trustees’.

Research carried out by the Service found that criminals use a range of tactics to convince savers to part with their funds, including persuading individuals to access their pension and invest in unregulated schemes.

Pension scam victims lost an average of £91,000 to criminals in 2018, according to Financial Conduct Authority research. Criminals often use cold-calls and offers of free pension reviews to convince their victims to comply.

The Insolvency Service has urged savers to be wary of calls that come out of the blue; to seek financial advice before altering their pension arrangements or making investments; and to not be pressured into making decisions about their pension.

Conservative Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:

‘If you are approached to make an investment from your pension, always do your homework and seek independent advice, if necessary, to help you make an informed decision.

‘The government continues to work closely with the Insolvency Service who are working to clamp down on rogue companies targeting vulnerable people.’

The “Be a smart investor” section of the FCA website has further information about scams, and if you suspect you have been the target of a scam you can report it through the UK’s national reporting Centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Please speak to us if you want to know more about protecting yourself from fraud.

HMRC Voice ID system

The non-profit organisation Big Brother Watch has made a report to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), claiming that HMRC has broken data protection laws by capturing millions of callers’ voice data on the HMRC Voice ID System, and that people have been ‘railroaded into a mass ID scheme by the back door’.

HMRC launched the system in 2017, and it works by having the caller say a key phrase instead of a password to gain access to their accounts.

A freedom of information request found that approximately seven million tax payers are enrolled in the Voice ID database. Around 162,185 individuals have chosen to opt out of the scheme and have their files deleted by HMRC.

An HMRC spokesperson has said:

‘Our Voice ID system is very popular with millions of customers as it gives a quick route to access accounts by phone.

All our data is stored securely, and customers can opt out of Voice ID or delete their records any time they want.’

Spring Statement 13th March 2019

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has announced that the government will respond to the forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in the Spring Statement on Wednesday 13 March 2019.

While Hammond has already stated that the Spring Statement is not a mini Budget, he may take the opportunity to announce consultations concerning future tax changes.

Don’t worry about missing anything. We will keep you posted regarding any important developments.

Post-Brexit Preparations

UK VAT-registered businesses which trade with the EU are being urged by HMRC to be prepared for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. HMRC sent letters to 145,000 firms advising businesses to take three actions ahead of the 29th March 2019 leave date:

  1. Register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
  2. Decide whether a customs agent will be used to make import and/or export declarations, or whether declarations will be made by the business via software which is compatible with HMRCs systems.
  3. Contact the organisations responsible for moving goods (such as haulage firms) in order to ascertain whether the business will need to supply additional information to complete safety and security declarations, or whether it will need to submit these declarations itself.

A report jointly published by HMRC and the National Audit Office (NAO) recently revealed that approximately 55 million customs declarations are currently made by British businesses every year. This figure may rise to 255 million when the UK leaves the EU.

For more information please contact us. We’re here to help.

Making Tax Digital for VAT pilot update

HMRC has extended the Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) pilot scheme to all eligible businesses, on the mandated compliance for VAT return periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019. However, MTDfV for some ‘more complex’ businesses has been deferred until 1 October 2019. This deferral applies to:

  • Trusts
  • Not-for-profit organisations which are not set up as companies
  • VAT divisions, VAT groups, public sector entities such as government departments and NHS Trusts, which have to provide additional information on their VAT return;
  • Local authorities
  • Public corporations
  • Traders based overseas
  • Those required to make payments on account
  • Annual accounting scheme users.

Businesses with a taxable turnover below the £85,000 threshold are also being encouraged by HMRC to sign up for MTD or MTD for income tax on a voluntary basis. They would gain the benefits of MTD, improve their business processes, and gain a better view of how their business is performing via accountancy software.

HMRC has also reiterated that Brexit will not affect the introduction of MTDfV. For more information please contact us. But, remember with VAT mandation coming in from the 1st August, you really can’t afford to delay.

Update letter from The Pensions Regulator

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is beginning to write reminders to all employers that, from 6 April 2019, the minimum amount to be paid to a workplace pension is increasing to 8% – and that they, the employers, must contribute at least 3% of the total contribution.

To be prepared for this increase, TPR have recommended seeking further guidance from their website, and to ensure that the payroll software used is compliant with the changes.

Alternatively, if you want informed, proactive advice, you can talk to us.

Scottish Budget income tax changes

The Scottish Draft Budget took place on 12 December 2018. To assist those of you who might be affected, we have published a table containing the 2019/20 proposed rates and bands (for non-savings and non-dividend income), along with the 2018/19 rates and bands.

Scottish Bands 2018/19  Scottish Bands 2019/20  Band Name Scottish Rates
Over £11,850* - £13,850 Over £12,500* - £14,549 Starter 19%
Over £13,850 - £24,000 Over £14,549 - £24,944 Scottish Basic 20%
Over £24,000 - £43,430 Over £24,944 - £43,430 Intermediate 21%
Over £43,430 - 150,000** Over £43,430 - 150,000** Higher 41%
Over £150,000** 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 personal allowance is currently £11,850 for 2018/19 and will increase to £12,500 for 2019/2020.

  • For UK taxpayers entitled to a full personal allowance, the higher rate is set at £50,000.
  • The tax rates for non-savings and non-dividend income remain at 20%, 40%, and 45% for income over £150,000.

The rate for 2019/2020 will mean that Scottish employees earning approximately £27,000 from employment income will pay the same income tax as the rest of the UK on a similar income. Higher rate earners in Scotland with income of £150,000 and over will pay, approximately, £2,670 of income tax more than those on a similar income in the rest of the UK.

Open Banking: What is it and how can it help your business?

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has mandated that the nine largest current account providers must offer standardized Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for current accounts to Account Information Service Providers (AISPs) and for payments to Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs).

What does this mean? By providing access to this data from third parties and banks, Open Banking provides small businesses with the opportunity, through technology such as QuickBooks Online, to have a real-time view of their banking and transactional data.

This will help to more accurately predict tax liability (VAT payments), to proactively manage cashflow, to more quickly provide credit scores for loan and finance applications, and to offer the ability to analyse spend and buying patterns – all to help small businesses best budget their finances.

The UK is not at the forefront of Open Banking innovation globally, but it is estimated that Open Banking has the potential to create a revenue opportunity of at least £7.2bn by 2022 across retail and SME markets.

List of deliberate tax defaulters published online

HMRC have published an updated list containing details of taxpayers who have been penalised for deliberate errors in their tax returns or have purposely failed to comply with tax requirements.

HMRC are able to publish details where an investigation has been made and where the taxpayer has been charged one or more penalties for deliberate tax evasion on tax of more than £25,000.

Scottish Budget property tax changes

The 2019/20 Scottish Draft Budget includes changes to Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT).

The policy priority for residential Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) continues to be to help first-time buyers and those moving through the property market.

The policy has helped over 80% of taxpayers to pay less LBTT than in England – or none at all.

The current rates and bands are as follows.


  Residential property
  

  Rate
  

  0 - £145,000
  

  0%
  

  £145,001 - £250,000
  

  2%
  

  £250,001 - £325,000
  

  5%
  

  £325,001 - £750,000
  

  10%
  

  £750,001 and over
  

  12%
  

The rates apply to the portion of the total value which falls within each band.

First-time buyers’ relief

Relief is available for first-time buyers of properties costing up to £175,000. The relief increases the zero-tax threshold from £145,000 to £175,000. First-time buyers purchasing a property which is more than £175,000 will also benefit, and the relief will be apportioned only to the price below the threshold.

Higher rates of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax

Certain residential properties, such as buy-to-let and second homes, incur higher rates of LBTT.

From the 25 January 2019, the Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) increased from 3% to 4% and will apply to transactions which occurred before the 12 December 2018. ADS is applicable where an individual owns, or partially owns, a property, or purchases another which is not replacing a main residence. There is an eighteen-month rule which will prevent some purchases incurring the additional rates.

Non-residential rates and bands

The Government has reduced the non-residential LBTT rates from 3% to 1%, and increased the upper rate from 4.5% to 5%, with the starting threshold reduced to £250,000 from £350,000.

These changes will not apply where a transaction was started before the 12 December 2018.

The revised rates and bands for non-residential LBTT transactions are as follows.

Non-residential transactions


  Residential property
  

  Rate
  

  0 - £145,000
  

  0%
  

  £145,001 - £250,000
  

  2%
  

  £250,001 - £325,000
  

  5%
  

  £325,001 - £750,000
  

  10%
  

  £750,001 and over
  

  12%
  

HMRC’s most bizarre excuses for late returns

As the deadline approaches for submitting returns, here are HMRC’s strangest reasons for late or failed submissions, from taxpayers who missed the Self-Assessment deadline last year.

  • My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.
  • I’m too short to reach the post box.
  • I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me, and my third maid was very slow to learn.
  • Our junior member of staff registered our client in Self-Assessment by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses.
  • My boiler had broken, and my fingers were too cold to type.

There were also some dubious expenses claims for unconvincing items like woolly underwear and pet insurance for a dog. Some of the most questionable include:

  • A carpenter claiming £900 for a 55-inch TV and sound bar – to help him price his jobs.
  • £40 on extra woolly underwear, for five years.
  • £756 for a dog’s pet insurance.
  • A music subscription, so someone could listen to music while they worked
  • A family holiday to Nigeria.

None of these excuses and expenses were successful!

Employer tax rates and thresholds for 2019/20

HMRC have updated the online guidance available, now providing a detailed list of income tax and NIC rates applicable to employers for 2019/20. The comprehensive list can be used by employers for 2019/2020 for payroll and employee expenses.

The list includes:

  • PAYE tax and Class 1 National Insurance Contributions
  • Tax thresholds, rates, and codes
  • Class 1 National Insurance thresholds
  • Class 1 National Insurance rates
  • Class 1A National Insurance: expenses and benefits
  • Class 1B National Insurance: PAYE Settlement Agreements (PSAs)
  • National Minimum Wage
  • Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • Student loan and Postgraduate loan recovery
  • Company cars: Advisory Fuel Rates (AFRs)
  • Employee vehicles: Mileage Allowance Payments (MAPs)

Guide to completing P11Ds published

A new online guide has been published by HMRC to aid employers in determining which benefits and expenses need to be declared in the P11D forms.

These forms can be completed online using:

  • the PAYE online for employers’ service;
  • or the online end-of-year expenses and benefits forms.

More details are available in the HMRC expenses and benefits guide.

MTD VAT Pilot is Now… Open to All

MTD VAT Pilot is Now… Open to All

HMRC announced (10/1/2019) that their Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) pilot is now open to all those mandated to keep digitally compliant records and to file MTD-compatible VAT returns for return periods commencing after 31 March 2019.

In an email issued, HMRC stated: “this marks a significant milestone towards our ambition to become one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world.”

HMRC boasts that over one hundred VAT-registered businesses are now signing up to the scheme on a daily basis, with more than 3,500 having already joined.

Testing time

Even though the majority will not need to file their first MTD-complaint return until early August, the department wants “as many eligible businesses as possible to join the pilot ahead of the mandation of the service in April”, as it will provide assurance that the service works for all types of customer.

What does it mean?

This means that all VAT-registered entities with an annual VAT-able turnover in excess of the £85,000 compulsory registration threshold – i.e. those mandated to onboard from April – will now have the chance to test their accounting systems prior to April.

A minority of compulsory registered businesses – those with the most complex VAT affairs – have had their mandation date deferred to their first return period starting on or after 1 October 2019.

VAT groups now able to join the pilot

HMRC has also opened its MTDfV pilot to VAT groups with immediate effect, in order to enable them to start testing the service – even though they are not mandated to join until October.

The department “will continue to update you as we open up the pilot to the remainder of the population who are mandated to join from October.”

Want to know more?

Further details can be found in HMRC’s updated guidance for businesses, updated guidance for agents, and the stakeholder partner packs on GOV.UK.

Marketing considerations for 2019

As we leave 2018 behind, it’s worth taking stock of this period of increased regulation on customer data protection and privacy – in parallel with its acceleration in marketing technology capabilities.

This blog provides an overview of what to consider in terms of the evolving expectations of and demands on customer journeys and the impact they may have on the marketing aspect of your business. The following are the top three marketing trends and strategies to consider for 2019.

Evolving customer experience and journeys

2018 has brought more paths through which customers can satisfy their ideal approach to buying. With the onset of conversational user interfaces through voice search and recognition from the likes of Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, this is adding a key customer touchpoint that many marketing approaches are yet to adopt and adapt to.

Such examples help fuel the customer need for convenience, being able to request what they want, when they want it, and how. As data becomes richer in terms of what we understand about customer behaviour, the personalisation of the customer experience can become deeper – albeit at a time when the use of data is being re-evaluated by companies such as Facebook.

If you are continuing with the over-used approach of marketing to “millennials”, this will limit how your brand or customer experience connects with twenty- to thirty-year olds today – as building your marketing approach will be subject to change in observing this consumer group.

There is a huge opportunity in blending customer data from silos, such as combining what you know from your business data on your customers with that which is coming from social data. Marketing teams will need to best balance the careful use of client data, segmenting based on specific personas and on an experience personalised on how customers wish to interact.

Be more than a service. Be a trusted brand with values

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” (Jeff Bezos)

For companies who have not yet positioned their brand to a set of values, you should do so in 2019. The majority of today’s customers are belief-driven buyers, harnessing their brand loyalty to what the company stands for – whether that is helping others, trust, quality, innovation etc. Although there maybe the danger of alienating some customers, brand values can deepen the customer-company relationship at an emotional level.

Manage your reputation; be prepared for a crisis

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” (Warren Buffett)

“With Google, if a result is based on an established view, it will find its way on to the first page. Taking this approach, if the sentiment about your brand is a bad one, intentionally or accidently, then this may cause significant collateral damage for a long time – if a suitable response is not deployed.

“With the depth of opportunity for brands to advertise on nearly every website and platform consumers use, negative reviews can proliferate rapidly, and it is essential you are able to respond to help mitigate, correct, or address the perception. For example, this might be by listening to what people are saying online and making adjustments accordingly.

“No company is safe from reputation or brand crises and, as such, it is recommended to have a dedicated owner in your team to manage such an unfortunate event.

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

From 1st December 2018, there have been new company car advisory fuel rates published, stating that the previous rates can be used for up to one month from the date the new rates apply. The rates only apply to employees using a company car, and the advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after 1st December 2018.


Engine
size
Petrol
1400cc or less 12p
1401cc – 2000cc 15p
Over 2000cc 22p
Engine
size
LPG
1600cc or less 8p
1601cc – 2000cc 10p
Over 2000cc 15p
Engine
size
Diesel
1600cc or less 10p
1601cc – 2000cc 12p
Over 2000cc 14p

Scottish tax bands diverge further

On the 12 December 2018, Derek Mackay, the Scottish Finance Secretary, unveiled the Scottish Budget for 2019/20 .

You will recall that this time last year he introduced two additional tax bands, which meant that Scottish resident taxpayers would now pay income tax at five different rates on their non-savings non-dividend income. Meanwhile, their income from savings, dividends, and any capital gains were to be taxed by reference to the rates and tax bands effective in the rest of the UK.

The effect of last year’s changes means that, in many instances, it is necessary to perform two parallel tax computations to establish the total income tax due and the applicable CGT rate.

This year, it’s okay – you can breathe a sigh of relief. Mackay has resisted the temptation to introduce further divergence in the rates of income tax this year.

Same allowances

For 2019/20, a Scottish taxpayer will be entitled to the same £12,500 personal allowance as the rest of the UK. The Scottish allowance will also be withdrawn at the same rate of £1 for every £2 of adjusted net income over £100,000.

Band in 2019/20 Name of band Income tax rate %
12,501 – 14,549 Starter rate 19
14,550 – 24,944 Basic rate 20
24,945 – 43,430 Intermediate rate 21
43,431 – 150,000 Higher rate 41
>150,000 Top rate 46

National Insurance

Due to the fact that the power to set NIC rates and thresholds has not been devolved, the rates and thresholds applicable in Scotland are the same as in the rest of the UK.

In her recent AccountingWEB article, Rebecca Cave drew attention to the fact that “Combining the NIC and income tax rates for a Scottish taxpayer produces some very odd marginal rates”.

Land and Building Transaction Tax changes

Mackay is to increase Scotland’s Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) from 3% to 4%, effective from the 25 January 2019. This will take it out of line with the English equivalent Stamp Duty Land and Tax (SDLT) ADS rate of 3%.

The LBTT changes do not stop there. On the same date (25 January), the LBTT rates applicable to commercial property are also set to change:

Thresholds Percentage to
25/1/2019
Percentage from
25/1/2019
Up to 150,000 0 0
150,001 – 250,000 3 1
250,001 – 350,000 3 5
>350,000 4.5 5

The shape of things to come

Unless the Chancellor’s threat of a Spring Budget comes to fruition, we will have to wait until next autumn to see if the changes to LBTT will be mirrored by similar SDLT changes in England and Northern Ireland.

What about Wales?

Many of you reading this article will recall that since the 1 April 2018, the Welsh Assembly replaced SDLT with a Land Transaction Tax (LTT). It is, therefore, entirely possible that Wales might choose to adopt similar rates to those proposed by Scotland, or even to do something entirely different.

Small Businesses warned of “heavy price” of Making Tax Digital

Shortly before Christmas, HMRC started to send out “encouragement letters” to businesses within the scope of Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) and to those who were eligible to join the MTDfV pilot. In total, over a million letters will be sent out before the end of February.

Parliament’s Economic Affairs Committee has warned HMRC that small businesses “could pay a heavy price for the proposed change.” It also stated that HMRC has “failed to adequately support small businesses” ahead of the introduction of MTDfV, set to start from 1 April 2019. The Committee has urged HMRC and the Government to “start listening” to small businesses’ MTDfV concerns.

The legislation affects businesses which have a VAT-able turnover above the current VAT registration threshold of £85,000. Affected firms will need to keep a digital record of their business transactions and submit their VAT returns through third-party software, or spreadsheets, linked to HMRC’s own systems – via an application programming interface (API).

Please contact us for more information about the forthcoming MTDfV and how it may impact on your business.

Inheritance Tax Review by the Office of Tax Simplification

The first of two reports on inheritance tax (the second will be shared in Spring 2019) has been published by The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS).

An unprecedented 3,000 people shared their views about Inheritance Tax with the OTS, far more than in any previous review. Many of the respondents told the OTS that, at what is such a difficult time, they felt they were being asked to fill in complicated forms even when the relative who had died had only left a small amount.

The OTS’s own website stated:

“Too many people have to fill in Inheritance Tax forms, and the process is complex and old fashioned.

“Although Inheritance Tax is payable on less than 5% of the estates of the 570,000 people who die in the UK each year, around half of the families have to fill in the forms. Many also told us that their relative had worried about inheritance tax during their lifetime, even though it was not going to affect them.”

The first report gives an overview of concerns raised by the public and by professional advisors during the review and highlights the benefits of:

  1. Reducing or removing the requirement to submit forms for smaller or simpler estates, especially where there is no tax to pay;
  2. Simplifying the administration and guidance;
  3. Having banks and other financial institutions standardise their requirements;
  4. Automating the whole system by bringing it online.

It will be interesting to see what the second report has to say…

Stamp duty relief benefits 180,000 new homeowners

According to HMRC, more than 180,000 first-time buyers have benefitted from First Time Buyers’ Relief (FTBR) from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT).

Introduced in the November 2017 Budget, FTBR has saved homeowners more than £426 million.

FTBR is a relief from a charge on SDLT for first-time buyers of residential property situated in England and Northern Ireland – where the market value purchase price is no more than £500,000.

If you, and anyone else you’re buying with, are a first-time buyer of a residential property, you can claim relief on purchases:

  • made on or after 22 November 2017;
  • Where the purchase price is no more than £500,000.

You will pay:

  • 0% on the first £300,000;
  • 5% on the remainder up to £500,000.

In the 2018 Autumn Budget, it was announced that FTBR had been extended to cover purchases of qualifying shared ownership properties where the first-time buyers did not elect to pay SDLT on the market value of the whole property when acquiring their initial interest.

The extension of the relief will apply retrospectively from 22 November 2017, meaning that a refund of tax will be payable to those who have paid SDLT after 22 November 2017 in circumstances which now qualify for first-time buyers’ relief.

Note:

  • Scotland replaced SDLT with Land and Buildings Transaction Tax in 2015 and then, in February 2018, brought in its own version of FTBR.
  • In April 2018, Wales replaced SDLT with Land Transaction Tax (LBT). While Wales does not have a version of FTBR, the residential property threshold at which LBT becomes payable (£180,000) is higher than in any other part of the UK.

Please do not hesitate to talk to us if you want to know more about any of the property transaction taxes within the UK.

Brexit: The ‘No Deal’ Scenario

In preparation for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement, the Government has published a collection of documents outlining what a “no deal” Brexit could mean.

They have stated: “The government does not want or expect a no deal scenario. However, it is the duty of a responsible government to prepare for a range of potential outcomes, including the unlikely event of no deal. In the event of leaving the EU without a deal, legislation will be necessary to ensure the UK’s Customs, VAT and Excise regimes function as intended after the UK leaves the EU and so, on a contingency basis, HM Treasury and HM Revenue and Customs will lay a number of Statutory Instruments (SIs) under the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018 (TCTA) and the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 (EUWA).”

As events unfold in the rundown to 29 March, please reach out to us for help to understand how it may impact your business.

Choosing the right location for your business

With Amazon’s recent decision on the new location for their business, here are some aspects to consider when making a similar investment of your own. The location should be consistent with your particular style and image. If your business is retailing, do you want a traditional store, for example? Or would you like to try operating from a kiosk or a cart that you can move from place to place?

Consider who your customers are

Demographics play an important part in your choice of location. Consider who your customers are and how important might be their proximity to you. For a retailer and some service providers, this is a critical consideration. For other types of businesses, however, it might not be as important.

Research and review the community to establish whether there is a sufficient percentage of that population that matches your customer profile. Do however think about communities that are largely dependent on a particular industry for their economy, as a downturn could be bad for business.

In addition, consider the work force skills required. Are there people with these skills in the community, with sufficient housing, schools, recreational opportunities, and culture?

Foot fall, traffic, and parking

If you are a retail business, then consider where shoppers are likely to pass by, rather than being hidden away. Monitor traffic outside of the location at various times throughout the day and assess how accessible the facility will be for customers, employees and suppliers.

If requiring deliverables, establish whether suppliers will be able to easily and efficiently courier. Be sure that there is convenient parking for both customers and employees. As with foot traffic, take the time to monitor the facility at various times and days, to see how the demand for parking fluctuates.

Competition and other services

Are competing companies located nearby? Sometimes that’s good, such as in industries where comparison shopping is popular, as you can catch the overflow from existing businesses. If a nearby competitor is only going to make your marketing job tougher, look elsewhere.

Consider what other businesses and services are in the vicinity, whether there is any benefit from customer traffic, and whether there is a suitable range of places and restaurants for employees. You might also want to think about the location of other facilities nearby, such as child care, convenient shops, etc.

Infrastructure, utilities and costs

Check that the building has the infrastructure – adequate electrical, air conditioning, and telecommunications services – to support your business requirements and to meet your present and future needs. For utilities, check what is included in rent, as this can be a major part of the expense.

Lastly, verify the medium- to long-term rental expectations and commitments, so as to mitigate any rental rise.

HMRC Tax Return Filing Time

The deadline for submitting 2017/18 self-assessment tax returns online is 31 January 2019 with a penalty of £100 if the return is late.

Last year approximately 11 million taxpayers completed the return with 10.7 million being on time. In a statement, Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services:

“Time flies once the festive period is underway, yet the ‘niggle’ to file your tax return remains… We want to help people get their tax returns right, starting the process early and giving yourself time to gather all the information you need will help avoid the last minute, stressful rush to complete it on time. Let’s beat that niggle.”

For help with completing your tax return please contact us.

Changes to Capital allowances

The Budget includes an increase to the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) for two years up to £1 million. This is in relation to qualifying expenditure incurred from 1 January 2019, currently at £200,000 per year. Additional changes to the rules outlined include the following:


  • Reduction to the rate of writing down allowance on the special rate pool of plant and machinery. This includes long-life assets, thermal insulation, integral features, and expenditure on cars with CO2 emissions of more than 110g/km, from 8% to 6% in April 2019.
  • Confirmation and clarification as to the costs of altering land, for the purposes of installing qualifying plant or machinery for capital allowances, for claims on or after 29 October 2018.
  • The 100% first year allowance and first year tax credits for products on the Energy Technology List and Water Technology List will come to an end from April 2020.
  • An extension to the current 100% first year allowance for expenditure incurred on electric charge-point equipment until 2023.
  • The introduction of a new capital allowances regime for structures and buildings will apply to new non-residential structures and buildings. Relief will be provided on eligible construction costs incurred on or after 29 October 2018, at an annual rate of 2% on a straight-line basis.

Changes to Entrepreneurs’ Relief

For disposals on or after 29 October 2018, the Chancellor announced changes to the Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER) rules.

During his October Budget, he introduced a requirement for a person claiming ER to have at least a 5% interest in the distributable profits and the net assets of the company. This stands in order for one to be deemed to have an interest in a ‘personal company’.

The new ‘tests’ are in addition to the existing tests and they must be met throughout the specified period in order for relief to be due.

The existing tests require a 5% interest in the ordinary share capital and 5% of voting rights.

In addition to the new tests, the Chancellor extended the minimum qualifying period from one year to two years. For this, certain conditions must be met by the claimant.

The measure will take effect on disposals on or after 6 April 2019, except where a business ceased before 29 October 2018.

Draft legislation has been issued which, if enacted, will ensure that, where an individual’s qualifying holding is reduced below 5%, they can elect to exercise their entitlement to ER by claiming a deemed disposal. Furthermore, where there arises a charge to capital gains tax, a further election can be made to defer the payment of the tax due until actual disposal.

The relief will only apply where the reduction below 5% occurs as a result of the company raising funds for commercial purposes by means of an issue of new shares wholly for cash consideration. The new rules will apply for share issues which occur on or after 6 April 2019.

Autumn Budget 2018

In the Autumn Budget, the Chancellor Philip Hammond stated that “austerity is coming to an end, but discipline will remain”. He outlined a promise for a “double deal dividend” from Brexit and referenced that there is likely to be a full-scale Spring Budget if Brexit negotiations don’t go well.

Making Tax Digital for VAT pilot

In the middle of October, HMRC opened the Making Tax Digital for VAT pilot. This is now available for nearly 70% of those mandated to file MTD-compliant VAT returns for all future VAT-return periods starting after the 31 March 2019.

The requirement to join VAT-MTD applies to all VAT registered entities with a VAT-able turnover of above the £85K compulsory VAT-registration threshold. This applies whether they file their returns on a monthly or quarterly basis.

Businesses wishing to join HMRC’s pilot must complete an online registration process, they must keep their VAT records digitally from the first day of their next VAT Return period, and they must submit subsequent VAT returns using MTD-compliant software such as QuickBooks Online.

There is a six-month deferral of mandation for the approximately 3.5% who have complex requirements. These include trusts, not for profits, VAT divisions and groups, local authorities, overseas traders, and annual accounting scheme users. Pilot testing for these groups is expected to open in Spring 2019.

HMRC have released a timeline with more details on Pilot eligibility, which you can view here.

The Budget 2018

The end is nigh.

During what one could be forgiven for thinking was a pre-election budget, the Chancellor confidently stated that ‘austerity is coming to an end – but discipline will remain’.

He then went on to promise a ‘double deal dividend’ if Brexit negotiations turned out to be successful and he warned that there would be a full-scale Spring Budget in 2019 if not.

This budget Newswire focuses on the tax measures which may affect you.

Main Budget Tax-Related Proposals

  • Increases to the Personal Allowance and the Basic Rate Band.
  • An extension of Off-Payroll Working (IR35) for the private sector.
  • A temporary increase to the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA).
  • VAT registration threshold is frozen for a further two years.
  • Changes to Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER) and Private Residence Relief (PRR).
  • Measures to tackle the plastic problem.

Note

Budget proposals are often subject to amendment during their passage through Parliament or in the subsequent Spring Statement.

Personal Tax

Allowances

In a welcome, but surprise, move the Chancellor announced he would accelerate his delivery on the government’s manifesto promise of a £12,500 personal allowance (currently £11,850) in April 2019, instead of 2020.

Note

  • There’s a reduction to the personal allowance for those with ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000.
  • The reduction is £1 for every £2 of income above £100,000.
  • Once adjusted net income exceeds £125,000 (currently £123,700), personal allowance is extinguished.

The marriage allowance

The marriage allowance enables couples, whose income does not exceed the basic rate, to transfer 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

The marriage allowance reduces the recipient’s tax bill by up to £238 a year in 2018/19.

Rates and bands

Hardly had Hammond dispensed the personal allowance good news before he revealed a significant increase in the basic rate band from its current £34,500 to £37,500, also from next April. Thus, he delivered another manifesto promise a whole year early.

Taking into account the personal allowance and the increase to the basic rate tax ceiling, the threshold at which the 40% band will apply will be £50,000 from the 6 April 2019.

The basic rate and additional rate of tax remain at 20% and 45% respectively, with the additional rate payable on taxable income above £150,000.

Note

  • In the 2018/19 Scottish Budget, the Finance Secretary for Scotland introduced five income tax rates ranging between 19% and 46%.
  • The Scottish income tax rates and bands for 2019/20 will be announced on 12 December 2018 as part of the Scottish Draft Budget.
  • Scottish taxpayers are entitled to the same personal allowance as individuals in the rest of the UK.
  • From April 2019, the Welsh Government has the right to vary the rates of income tax payable by Welsh taxpayers. The UK government will reduce by 10 pence each of the three rates of income tax paid by Welsh taxpayers. In turn, the Welsh Government has provisionally set the Welsh rate of income tax at 10 pence which will be added to the reduced UK rates. This means the rates of income tax paid by Welsh taxpayers will continue to be the same as those paid by English and Northern Irish taxpayers. The Welsh Government will need to confirm this proposal prior to their final Budget.

Tax on dividends

The UK Dividend Allowance will remain at £2,000 for 2019/20.

Dividends received above the allowance are taxed at the following rates:

  • 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers
  • 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers
  • 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers.

Note

  • Dividends within the allowance still count towards an individual’s basic or higher rate band and so may affect the rate of tax paid on dividends above the Dividend Allowance.
  • To determine which tax band dividends fall, dividends are treated as the last type of income to be taxed.

Tax on savings income

The Savings Allowance, introduced for the 2016/17 tax year and applied to savings income, remains unchanged.

  • Individuals taxed at up to the basic rate of tax have an allowance of £1,000.
  • For higher rate taxpayers the allowance is £500.
  • No allowance is due to additional rate taxpayers.

Some individuals qualify for a 0% starting rate of tax on savings income up to £5,000.

The starting rate is lost where taxable non-savings income exceeds £5,000.

Rent-a-room relief

In an interesting U-turn, the Chancellor announced that he will not be introducing a shared occupancy test as he previously indicated he would.

The current £7,500 relief is to remain in place.

Gift Aid – donor benefits

Draft legislation has been issued to simplify the donor benefits rules that apply to charities who claim Gift Aid tax relief on donations.

National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW)

The government is adopting the Low Pay Commission (LPC) recommendation to increase the NLW by 4.9% from £7.83 to £8.21 from April 2019.

It is also accepting all other LPC recommendations for next April’s NMW rates:

  • 21-24 year-olds up by 4.3% from £7.38 to £7.70 per hour.
  • 18-20 year-olds up by 4.2% from £5.90 to £6.15 per hour.
  • 16-17 year-olds up by 3.6% from £4.20 to £4.35 per hour.
  • apprentices up by 5.4% from £3.70 to £3.90 per hour.

Business Tax

Corporation tax rates

The main rate of corporation tax, currently 19%, will remain at this rate for another year. It still looks set to fall to 17% in April 2020.

Class 2 and 4 National Insurance contributions (NICs)

We had already been told that Class 2 NICs will not be abolished during this Parliament. After the embarrassing U-turn in March 2017, we have been told that there will not be any increases to Class 4 NICs rates either.

UK property income of non-UK resident companies

Confirming a pre-Budget announcement, from 6 April 2020, non-UK resident companies that continue with a UK property business, or have other UK property income, will be charged corporation tax. This will be charged rather than income tax, as at present.

Capital Allowances

Annual Investment Allowance

In a surprise move – which may be considered to be mainly a hollow gesture, due to the fact that few businesses will be in the position to take advantage of the offer – Chancellor Hammond increased the Annual Investment Allowance for two years starting from 1 January 2019. The allowance will change from £200,000 to £1,000,000 in respect of qualifying expenditure.

Note

In common with similar moves in the past, complex calculations may apply to straddling accounting periods.

Other changes

  • Writing down allowances on the special rate pool of plant and machinery – including long-life assets, thermal insulation, integral features, and expenditure on cars with CO2 emissions of more than 110g/km – will reduce to 6% from April 2019. Currently it is set at 8%.
  • 100% first year allowance and first year tax credits for products on the Energy Technology List and Water Technology List are set to be abolished from April 2020.
  • 100% first year allowance for expenditure incurred on electric charge-point equipment is to be extended to 2023.
  • There will be a new capital allowances regime with an annual rate of 2%, on a straight-line basis, for structures and buildings. This will be applicable to new non-residential structures and buildings on eligible construction costs incurred on or after 29 October 2018.

Change to the definition of permanent establishment

From 1 January 2019, the exemption will be denied if they are part of a ‘fragmented business operation’.

Preventing abuse of the R&D tax relief for SMEs

HMRC is said to have identified and prevented £300 million worth of R&D tax relief fraud.

To help prevent abuse of the Research and Development (R&D) SME tax relief by artificial corporate structures, the amount that a loss-making company can receive in R&D tax credits is to be capped at three times its total PAYE and NICs liability from April 2020.

Around 95% of companies currently claiming the payable credit will be unaffected.

HMRC preferential creditor

From April 2020, HMRC will have greater priority to recover taxes paid by employees and customers – namely, PAYE and VAT in the case of the insolvency of a debtor.

Note

Existing rules will remain unchanged for taxes owed by the business.

HMRC will remain below other preferential creditors such as the Redundancy Payment Service.

Other measures

  • Corporate capital losses claims will be restricted to 50% of annual capital gains that can be relieved by brought-forward capital losses. This will apply as of April 2020.
  • Changes to the Diverted Profits Tax have been introduced as of 29 October 2018.
  • There will be an increase in the small trading tax exemption limits for charities, as of April 2019 it will be £5,000 per annum or, if the turnover is greater than £5,000, 25% of the charity’s total incoming resources. It is subject to an overall upper limit of £50,000, to £8,000 and £80,000 respectively.
  • An income tax charge will be introduced on amounts received in a low tax jurisdiction in respect of intangible property. it will apply to the extent that those amounts are referable to the sale of goods or services in the UK, from 6 April 2019, and includes targeted anti-avoidance rules for arrangements entered into on or after 29 October 2018.

Digital Services Tax

In response to growing public disquiet, the Chancellor announced he will introduce a Digital Services Tax (DST), but only if agreement on an international way forward cannot be reached.

Hammond predicted that the new tax would raise £1.5 billion over four years from April 2020.

  • DST is to be set at 2% on the revenues of search engines, social media platforms, and online marketplaces, where their revenues are linked to the participation of UK users.
  • Businesses will need to generate revenues of at least £500 million globally to fall taxable under the DST.
  • The first £25 million of relevant UK revenues are also not taxable

Intangible fixed assets

The Intangible Fixed Assets regime introduced on 1 April 2002 is now more than fifteen years old. The Chancellor announced that the government will seek to introduce targeted relief for the cost of goodwill in the acquisition of businesses with eligible intellectual property from April 2019.

With effect from 7 November 2018, the government will also reform the de-grouping charge rules, which apply when a group sells a company that owns intangibles, so that they more closely align with the equivalent rules elsewhere in the tax code.

VAT

Interestingly, in a nod towards Making Tax Digital, Mr Hammond announced a further freezing of the £85,000 registration, now until 2022.

While not a total shock, it is fair to say that it lays to rest, at least for the time being, any scope for the adoption of the Office of Tax Simplification proposals to greatly reduce the registration threshold.

VAT fraud in the construction sector

In a reannouncement of a 2017 commitment, Hammond confirmed that the government will pursue legislation to shift responsibility for paying VAT along the supply chain. This comes with the introduction of a domestic VAT reverse charge for supplies of construction services, with effect from 1 October 2019.

VAT treatment of vouchers

Draft legislation has been issued to introduce a new tax code for the VAT treatment of vouchers, such as gift cards, for which a payment has been made and which will be used to buy something.

The legislation separates vouchers with a single purpose (e.g. a traditional book token) from the more complex gift vouchers, and it sets out how and when VAT should be accounted for in each case. The new legislation is not concerned with the scope of VAT and whether VAT is due. Rather, it is concerned with the question of when VAT is due and, in the case of multi-purpose vouchers, the considerations upon which any VAT is payable.

VAT collection – split payment

The government wants to combat online VAT fraud by harnessing new technology. It is consequently consulting on VAT split payment.

The intention is to utilise payment industry technology to collect VAT on online sales and transfer it directly to HMRC.

In the government’s view, this would significantly reduce the challenge of enforcing online seller compliance and offer a simplification for businesses.

Interest harmonisation

Draft legislation has been issued to change the VAT interest rules so that they will be similar to those that currently exist for income tax and corporation tax.

This will mean:

  • Late payment interest will be charged from the date the payment was due until the date payment is received.
  • HMRC will pay repayment interest when it has held taxpayer repayments for longer than it should.
  • The provisions are expected to take effect for VAT returns from 1 April 2020.

Employment Taxes

Off-payroll working in the private sector

In what can hardly be described as a surprise move, the public sector changes to IR35, commonly referred to as off-payroll working, introduced in April 2017, are to be extended into the private sector from April 2020.

The thrust of the proposal is that responsibility for operating the off-payroll rules will be transferred from the contractor to the private organisation, agency, or third party engaging the worker.

One crumb of comfort is that the rule will only apply to large and medium-sized employers.

Employment Allowance

The Employment Allowance provides businesses and charities with up to £3,000 off their employer NICs bill.

From April 2020, the Employment Allowance will be restricted to employers whose employer NICs bill was below £100,000 in the previous tax year.

Employer-provided cars

Most cars are taxed by reference to bands of CO2 emissions, multiplied by the original list price of the vehicle. The maximum charge is capped at 37% of the list price of the car.

The scale of charges for establishing the taxable benefit in respect to an employer-provided car is announced well in advance. This tax year there was generally a 2% increase in the percentage rate applied to each band.

This applies to all diesel cars (unless the car is registered on or after 1 September 2017 and meets the Euro 6d emissions standard), but the maximum is still 37%.

A new development for the current tax year is an increase in the diesel supplement from 3% to 4%.

There is no change to the current position in which the diesel supplement does not apply to hybrid cars.

For 2019/20, rates will increase by a further 3%.

Charging facilities for electric and hybrid cars

A new, backdated, exemption from a taxable employment benefit is being introduced, for those employers providing charging facilities for employee-owned all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles at or near the workplace.

When introduced, the exemption will be effective from 6 April 2018.

Note

Employer-provided cars and vans are already exempt from this benefit.

Exemption for travel expenses

Legislation that will be effective from April 2019 will remove the requirement for employers to check receipts when making payments to employees for subsistence when they use benchmark scale rates.

Exemption will apply to standard meal allowances paid in respect of qualifying travel and overseas scale rates. Employers will only be asked to ensure that employees are undertaking qualifying travel.

The legislation puts existing concessionary accommodation and subsistence overseas scale rates on a statutory basis.

Self-funded work-related training

After consulting on extending the scope of tax relief for employees and the self-employed for work-related training costs, the government has decided not to introduce any changes to the existing rules. The National Retraining Scheme is being launched to help those in work, including the self-employed, to develop further skills.

Capital Taxes

No changes to the current Capital Gains Tax (CGT) rates were announced

Annual exemption

The CGT annual exemption, currently £11,700, will increase to £12,000 from April 2019.

Entrepreneurs’ Relief

For disposals on or after 29 October 2018, two new tests are to be added to the definition of a ‘personal company’. These will require the claimant to have a 5% interest in both the distributable profits and the net assets of the company.

The new tests must be met, in addition to the existing tests. The existing tests already require a 5% interest in the ordinary share capital and 5% of voting rights.

ER – minimum qualifying period

From 6 April 2019, legislation will be introduced to extend the minimum ER qualifying period from one year to two years.

The measure will have immediate effect, except where a business ceased before 29 October 2018.

ER – dilution of holdings below 5%

Following consultation, draft legislation has been published to provide a potential entitlement to ER where an individual’s holding in a company is reduced below the normal 5% qualifying level.

The relief will apply where the reduction below 5% occurs as a result of the company raising funds for commercial purposes by means of an issue of new shares, wholly for cash consideration.

Shareholders will be able to make an election treating them as if they had disposed of their shares and immediately reacquired them at market value just before dilution.

To avoid an immediate CGT bill on this deemed disposal, a further election can be made to defer the gain until the shares are sold.

ER can then be claimed on the deferred gain in the year the shares are sold, under the rules in force at that time.

The new rules will apply for share issues which occur on or after 6 April 2019.

Gains for non-residents on UK property

Draft legislation has been issued to charge all non-UK resident persons, whether liable to CGT or corporation tax, on gains arising on disposals of interests in any type of UK land (whether residential or non-residential).

Certain revisions are likely to be made, following a further technical consultation, when the full legislation is introduced. However, the key points are covered here:

  • All non-UK resident persons will also be taxable on indirect disposals of UK land.
  • The indirect disposal rules will apply when a person has made a disposal of an entity that derives 75% or more of its gross asset value from UK land. There will be an exemption for investors in such entities who hold a less than 25% interest.
  • All non-UK resident companies will be charged to corporation tax rather than CGT on their gains.
  • There will be options to calculate the gain or loss on a disposal by using the original acquisition cost of the asset or by using the value of the asset at the commencement of the rules in April 2019.
  • The CGT charge relating to the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings will be abolished. The legislation will broadly have effect for disposals from 6 April 2019.

The main effect of the new legislation will be to extend the scope of UK taxation of gains to include gains on disposals of interests in non-residential UK property.

Payment on account and 30-day returns

As previously announced, draft legislation has been issued to change the reporting of chargeable gains and their associated CGT liability arising from the disposal of property.

From April 2020, UK residents will be required to make a return and a payment on account of CGT within thirty days of their completion of a residential property disposal. This applies not only in the UK, but on a worldwide basis.

The requirements will not apply in cases where the gain on the disposal is not chargeable to CGT – for example, where the gains are covered by private residence relief.

CGT private residence relief

The Chancellor announced his intention to make two changes to Private Residence Relief:

  • The final period exemption will be reduced from 18 months to 9 months.
  • Lettings Relief will be reformed so that it only applies in circumstances where the owner of the property is in ‘shared-occupancy’ with a tenant.

The government will consult on the details of both changes, as well as on other technical aspects.

The proposed changes are intended to be effective from April 2020.

There will be no changes to the current 36 months that are available to disabled persons or those in a care home.

Inheritance tax (IHT)

The nil rate band, at £325,000, is set to remain frozen until April 2021, the same level at which it has been since April 2009.

IHT residence nil rate band

On the 6 April 2017 a new nil rate band, called the ‘residence nil rate band’ (RNRB) was introduced, meaning that the family home can be passed more easily to direct descendants on death.

The RNRB is being phased in:

  • For deaths in 2018/19 it is £125,000.
  • Rising to £150,000 in 2019/20.
  • Finally reaching £175,000 in 2020/21.

Thereafter it will rise in line with the Consumer Price Index.

Note

  • There are a number of conditions that must be met in order to obtain the RNRB, which may involve redrafting an existing will.
  • The RNRB may also be available when a person downsizes or ceases to own a home on or after 8 July 2015 – where assets of an equivalent value, up to that of the RNRB, are passed on death to direct descendants.
  • Amendments are to be introduced to the RNRB relating to downsizing provisions and the definition of ‘inherited’ for RNRB purposes.
  • The amendments are to clarify the downsizing rules and are to provide certainty over when a person is treated as ‘inheriting’ property. They will have effect for deaths on or after 29 October 2018.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

First time buyers’ relief

The relief for first time buyers is to be extended to purchasers of qualifying shared ownership properties who do not elect to pay SDLT on the market value of the whole property when they purchase their first share.

Relief will be applied to the first share purchased, where the market value of the shared ownership property is £500,000 or less.

Note

The relief is to apply retrospectively from 22 November 2017 and means that a refund of tax will be payable for those who have paid SDLT after 22 November 2017 in circumstances which now qualify for first time buyers’ relief.

Higher rates for additional dwellings (HRAD)

A minor amendment will extend the time allowed to claim back HRAD, where an individual sells their old home within three years of buying their new one.

The measure also clarifies the meaning of `major interest` in land for the general purpose of HRAD.

Consultation on SDLT charge for non-residents

The government will publish a consultation, in January 2019, concerning a SDLT surcharge of 1% for non-residents buying residential property in England and Northern Ireland.

Other Matters

Extension of offshore time limits

Draft legislation, intended to increase to twelve years the assessment time limits for offshore income and gains and the recovery of inheritance tax, has been issued.

Where an assessment involves a loss of tax brought about deliberately, the assessment time limit remains twenty years from of the end of the year of assessment.

The legislation does not apply to corporation tax, or where HMRC has received information from another tax authority under automatic exchange of information.

The potential extension of time limits will apply from the 2013/14 tax year, where the loss of tax is brought about by careless behaviour, and from the 2015/16 tax year in other cases.

The amendments will have effect once Finance Bill 2018-19 receives Royal Assent.

Note

  • The current assessment time limits are ordinarily four years (six years in the case of carelessness by the taxpayer).
  • The legislation cannot be used to go back earlier than 2013/14.
  • If there has been careless behaviour, HMRC can make an assessment for up to twelve years from 2013/14 in respect of offshore matters, but HMRC cannot raise an assessment for 2012/13 or earlier (unless there is deliberate error by the taxpayer).

Penalties for late submission of tax returns

A new points-based penalty regime for late return submission is to be introduced.

Depending on the frequency of the filing obligation, a defined number of penalty points will accrue. Once a triggering threshold has been reached, a fixed penalty will be charged.

Further late submissions will attract a fixed penalty, until the taxpayer meets all submission obligations by the relevant deadline for a set period of time.

Once this happens, and a taxpayer has provided any outstanding submissions for the preceding 24 months, the points total will reset to zero.

Points will generally have a lifetime of 24 months after which they expire, so if a taxpayer accrues points but does not reach the threshold, the points will expire after 24 months.

Taxpayers will have a separate points total per submission obligation.

Penalties for late payment of tax

Draft legislation has been issued to harmonise the late payment penalty regimes for income tax, corporation tax, and VAT.

The penalties will consist of two penalty charges, one charge based upon payments and agreements to pay in the first thirty days after the payment due date, and another charge based upon how long the debt remains outstanding after the thirty days.

Plastic tax

As part of the government’s response to tackling plastic waste, the following announcements were made:

  • Single-use plastics will be addressed in the Resources and Waste Strategy, later in the year, for situations in which recycling rates are too low and producers use too little recycled plastic.
  • The issue of excess and harmful packaging will be addressed with a tax on the production and importation of plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic.
  • This tax will be implemented in April 2022.
  • The Resources and Waste Strategy will also consider ways to reduce the environmental impact of disposable cups.
  • Although the government does not believe that a levy would be effective at this time, it will return to the issue if insufficient progress has been made by those businesses already taking steps to address the matter.

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Five Steps to a Successful Business Strategy

When setting out on a new venture or business idea, so many businesses do not succeed. This could be down to a combination of factors. Yet, one common factor is the challenges associated with executing the idea and establishing it in the market.

To ensure your idea or business has the best start, or if you are reviewing current plans and progress, you must first develop an effective business strategy to support you. To help, here are five steps to guide you.

  1. Build up your data and knowledge
  2. To know where you want to go is first to understand where you are today. The best way to do this is to investigate the past. This could be through data from your market, so you understand the size of the opportunity at stake. Investigate the total market size, the number of potential customers, and the growth rates of similar projects. Using the SWOT framework helps you identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, both internally and externally.

    You might want to use the PESTLE model to explore deeper into external factors that may affect your business. This looks into the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental aspects of your business and market. It is key to make sure you involve the right people in this process to help you build up your data and knowledge.

    Once you understand the market, begin to narrow down your idea, exploring the unique business problem you are looking to solve, and the market opportunity associated to it.

  3. Build Your Vision and Mission Statement
  4. Your vision should be used to describe the future direction of the business and its aims in the medium to long term. It’s about describing your organisation’s purpose and values. This should be built in parallel to your mission statement, which defines the organisation’s purpose and outlines its primary objectives.

    In simple terms, organisations summarise their goals and objectives in mission and vision statements. These serve different purposes but are often confused with each other. While a mission statement describes what a company wants to do now, a vision statement outlines what a company wants to be in the future.

    The mission statement focuses on what needs to be done in the short term to realise the long-term vision. So, for the vision statement, you are asking where do you want to be in three to five years’ time. The mission statement, alternatively, asks: what do we do? how do we do it? for whom do we do it? what value do we bring?

    Examples:

    Amazon’s Corporate Vision Statement: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

    Google’s Corporate Mission Statement: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

  5. Define your Strategy and Tactical Plans
  6. At this stage, the aim is to develop a set of high-level objectives for all areas of the business. These need to highlight the priorities and inform the plans that will ensure delivery of the company’s vision and mission. By reviewing your work in step one across the SWOT and PESTLE analyses, you can layer these into your SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related).

    Your objectives must also include factors such as KPI’s, resource allocation, and budget requirements. It is key to align your resources and structure according to the strategy, so to clarify everyone’s role and accountability.

  7. Track and Manage Performance
  8. All the planning and hard work may have been done, but it’s vital to review continuously all objectives and action plans – to ensure you’re still on track to achieve that overall goal. Managing and monitoring a whole strategy is a complex task, which is why many directors, managers and business leaders are looking to alternative methods of handling strategies. Creating, managing and reviewing a strategy requires you to capture the relevant information, break down large chunks of information, plan, prioritise, and have a clear strategic vision.

  9. Execute, Learn and Review
  10. Firstly, execute your business strategy with excellence and, throughout, capture learning so that it can be reapplied or used to adjust the plan if necessary. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, but make sure each mistake is an opportunity to apply learning to the strategy. Executing at the highest level is key: anyone can have a good idea, but those who can execute make a lesser idea into a successful business.

Remember always to celebrate your team and business successes. It can be quite easy to get dragged into the here-and-now and forget to reflect on the great achievements of the organisation.

A daunting prospect

If after reading our article, you feel daunted by what you need to do, don’t worry. We are here to help you every step of the way. Simply give us a call and we will guide you through the challenging start-up maze.

Self-employed Class 2 National Insurance remains

The government has decided not to abolish Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from April 2019. This is today paid at a rate of £2.95 per week by self-employed individuals with profits of £6,205 or more annually.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury stated, “We delayed the implementation of this policy in November to consider concerns relating to the impact on self-employed individuals with low profits. We have since engaged with interested parties to explore the issue and further options for addressing any unintended consequences.”

He added, “Having listened to those likely to be affected by this change, we have concluded that it would not be right to proceed during this parliament, given the negative impacts it could have on some of the lowest earning in our society.”

Helping businesses and individuals prepare for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit

The government has issued notices that aim to help both businesses and individuals prepare in the event of a UK-EU agreement not being realized. The notices cover passports and driving licenses, together with data protection and mobile phone roaming charges. With concerns surrounding the possibility, on 29 March 2019, of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed:

  • 14% of small businesses have started planning for a No Deal Brexit. Another 41% believe that a No Deal Brexit will have an impact on their business but have not yet started planning for the possibility.
  • 10% believe that a No Deal Brexit will have a positive impact on their business. 48% believe a No Deal scenario will have a negative effect.

Reflecting on the research, FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry, stated:

“It is obvious that our small firms are not prepared or ready for a chaotic no deal Brexit and the impact that it will have on their businesses. If you sell your products to the EU, buy goods from the EU or if your business relies on staff from the EU, you now see this outcome as a clear and present threat to your business.”

To see the FSB survey press release visit here.

It’s coming.

It’s coming whether we like it or not. But don’t worry! We can help you navigate your way through the uncertainty that is Brexit.

VAT Making Tax Digital – A Giant Step

Growing confidence

It’s official. Sole traders and companies with up-to-date VAT affairs are now able to join HMRC’s test phase for VAT Making Tax Digital (MTD). While testing of VAT-MTD started last April, until now it has been on a limited, controlled, invitation-only basis.

In what can be taken as a clear indication of the department’s confidence, the VAT MTD pilot has now been opened to accept everyone.

New guidance

In support of the public test phase, a suite of new and updated guidance is available to help VAT-registered businesses and their agents get to grips with the new requirements.

The newly published guidance covers:

  • Use of software to submit VAT returns. A guide outlining how to sign up a business for the MTD-VAT pilot and how to join.
  • For agents: use of software to submit VAT returns. A guide outlining how an agent and their clients can sign up for the MTD-VAT pilot.
  • Find software suppliers for sending VAT returns and Income Tax updates. This lists third-party HMRC-recognised software packages that support the Income Tax and VAT-MTD pilots.

HMRC has also published a series of videos on its Help and Support page:

  • How to sign up for Making Tax Digital for VAT.
  • How does Making Tax Digital for VAT affect you?
  • Making Tax Digital for VAT – what software is compatible?
  • Digital record-keeping for VAT.
  • Creating an Agent Service Account.

Can everyone join?

As of last month, provided they haven’t incurred a default surcharge in the last two years, just over 40% of the approximate 1.1 million VAT-registered entities, who are required to keep digital records and file MTD-compliant VAT returns from April next year, will be able to apply to onboard early.

A further 100,000 will be able to join the public pilot by the end of this month.

Those who can’t join

There’s a small but significant list of VAT registered entities who yet remain unable to join the pilot. These include those who:

  • trade with the EU;
  • are based overseas;
  • submit VAT returns annually;
  • make payments on accounts;
  • use the flat rate scheme;
  • are newly registered and have not yet filed a return;
  • are members of VAT groups or VAT divisions;
  • have received a Default Surcharge notice in the last 24 months. However, they will be allowed in by the end of this month;
  • are unincorporated not-for profit organisations;
  • are trusts;
  • are Local Authorities who complete VAT form 21;
  • Public Corporations;

Timetable

To help them plan, HMRC has published a timetable indicating when each of the embargoed cohorts will be able to join the pilot.

3.5% to get a deferral

HMRC has reported that 3.5% of those mandated will not be able to onboard before the end of December.

This cohort will have their mandation date pushed back to October 2019.

Those affected include:

  • VAT groups or VAT divisions.
  • Overseas traders registered for VAT.
  • Trusts.
  • Local Authorities.
  • Public Corporations.

All of those in the deferral group will be written to by HMRC.

What is Making Tax Digital?

Making Tax Digital is a key part of the government’s plans to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get their tax right and to keep on top of their affairs. This will ultimately result, for millions of people, in the end of the annual tax return.

As the first stage of a wider roll-out process, VAT-registered businesses with VAT-able turnover above the compulsory £85,000 registration threshold will be mandated to join the VAT Making Tax Digital for Business regime. To meet their VAT return obligations, this will apply to all return periods commencing April 2019.

As a minimum, they will be required to maintain their VAT records digitally and to file MTD-compliant VAT returns using third party software. Those mandated to join will no longer be able to log on to HMRC’s portal to complete and file their online return.

Those businesses who voluntarily registered for VAT, with a VAT-able turnover under £85,000, will not be required to use the system, although they can choose to do so voluntarily.

Confused?

Contact us if you’re confused about what MTD will mean for your business. We’re here to help.

Latest guidance from HMRC in Employer Bulletin

HMRC Employer bulletins are magazines published every two months, giving up-to-date information on payroll topics for employers and agents.

The latest edition has useful information on reporting payroll information, information on the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage, and also information on fully electric company cars. There are also articles on Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) webinars and Welsh Rates of Income Tax. The Employer Bulletin is used to inform you about new products and any changes which may affect your employees. This information provides information on the following:


  1. Reporting your payroll information accurately and on time.
  2. Irregular payments and your completion of Full Payment Submissions.
  3. Starter Declaration on a Full Payment Submission (FPS).
  4. PAYE Settlement Agreements and Scottish Income Tax.
  5. National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage.
  6. Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric company cars.
  7. Welsh Rates of Income Tax.
  8. Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) webinars.
  9. Postgraduate Loans.
  10. Benefits and Expenses: Company cars.
  11. Tax avoidance loan schemes.
  12. Completing an EYU in respect of employee’s National Insurance Contributions
  13. Employment Income: Draft Legislation
  14. Deadline for post-16 Child Benefit.

5 Steps to Resilience

Running and managing your own business can be one of the hardest challenges of your life. The ups, the downs, the cash flow challenges, finding the right people – the list is endless. Likewise, though, are the ups in terms of success: winning the next deal, finding the best employees to help you.

However, one common trait business leaders possess is their ability to battle through the hard times, by way of resilience – a heroic struggle that is not for all. Resilience is not something we are born with, but instead is something we develop during our lifetimes. Below are the five essential tips on how to become more resilient.


  1. Keep a positive attitude.
  2. This is key to deflecting stress scenarios, to restructuring your pessimistic or negative thoughts. You need to ask yourself whether there is any rational basis to feel negatively about a situation.

    It is also important to recognize that you are in control as to whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. Reframing your thoughts can also help you to be positive, so that you can alter the perceived value of the challenging event by accepting it and recovering from it.

  3. Develop your moral compass.
  4. Altruism is strongly related to resilience – and strengthening your set of core beliefs can help. The authors note that there is a strong correlation between faith and religious or spiritual beliefs and resilience.

  5. Find a resilient role model and develop your coping skills.
  6. Consider taking a resilient role model, such as a world leader or a successful business or sports star, so that you can consider how they would respond to stress. Also consider how spiritual beliefs help towards a deeper management of challenging times.

    Rather than withdrawing and surrendering to your stress situations, the most resilient individuals use active rather than passive coping skills. You could minimise the self-questioning caused by the stress situation by creating positive thinking and in turn facing the fear directly.

  7. Build your social network and physical fitness.
  8. Rather than going solo, it is important to build a safety net of friends and family to help cope with stress situations. Regular exercise is one of the keys to cleansing your mind of stress – as it has been linked to improvements in mood, cognition, regulation of emotion, immunity, and overall self-esteem. Try to think of exercise as a welcome reprieve rather than a task, framing your mindset in a positive way.

  9. Remember the 8-8-8 rule.
  10. On a typical day, many people are over-worked, with lack of sleep and limited social or personal time. By breaking the day into thirds – eight hours for work, eight hours for personal / family time and eight hours for sleep – is recommended as a suitable routine to help you keep on top of the mental daily stresses.

Hold tight for Brexit! Business guidance in the event of no deal

With less than six months to go until the UK leaves the EU – and with no post-Brexit deal yet on the table – there’s no doubt that we are entering unchartered waters. So, what should we do?

Chequers statement

The UK’s Government insists that preparations for a no-deal scenario are part of its overall Brexit preparation strategy. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Chequers statement, issued after her cabinet’s infamous July away day, included a pledge to step up preparedness for all possible outcomes to the negotiations, including a no deal scenario.

August technical notices

On the 23 August, a little over a month after May’s statement, the Department for Exiting the EU published 25 ‘technical notices‘.

The documents covered such diverse areas, as:

  • Applying for EU-funded programmes
  • Driving and transport
  • Farming
  • Money and Tax
  • Importing and exporting
  • Regulating medicines

The notes were supported by guidance entitled “UK government’s preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario”. Its aim was to put the technical notices in context by explaining the Brexit negotiation’s progress to date and what might happen if the UK were to crash out of the EU.

September White paper

In early September, the House of Commons joined the party by publishing a briefing document (white paper) called “What happens if there’s no Brexit deal?”

At 172 pages, it’s not exactly a bedtime read. Nevertheless, its fifteen chapters cover all areas from “how could no deal happen?” through to “external relations”, and it is an excellent source of no-deal Brexit information.

HMRC publish a letter

In an unprecedented move, HMRC wrote to 145,000 businesses across the UK about the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, should Britain crash out of the EU and the Customs union on the 29 March 2019.

The letter, written by HMRC’s Deputy Chief Executive Jim Harra and published on the 17 September, started positively by acknowledging:

“The UK government has reached agreement with the EU on the vast majority of withdrawal issues, including the terms of an implementation period. Full agreement on this will mean that trading with the EU during the implementation period would broadly stay the same until 31 December 2020.”

It then sought to give a degree of reassurance by stating “The approach of continuity does not mean that everything will stay the same, but the priority is maximising stability at the point of departure.”

After referring to the government’s focus “on securing a future partnership with the EU following the end of the implementation period in December 2020”, the letter’s tone changed. Harra referred to a no-deal eventuality being unlikely and continued to reassure readers: in the event of no-deal, the government is committed to prioritising stability for businesses.

He added that:

“we will continue to work closely with industry to ensure that interventions in a no deal scenario are conducted in a way which minimises delays and additional burdens for legitimate trade, while robustly ensuring compliance.”

If a disorderly exit happens there would, of course, be immediate changes to the way British businesses trade with the EU. Jim’s letter set the position out very clearly:

“If we leave the EU without a deal in March 2019, there would be immediate changes to the way UK businesses trade with the EU that impact on your business.

This includes:

  • UK businesses having to apply customs, excise and VAT procedures to goods traded with the EU, in the same way that already applies for goods traded outside of the EU.
  • Trading partners in the EU having to apply customs, excise and VAT procedures to goods they receive from you, in the same way that they do for goods received from outside of the EU.

In particular, if your business currently trades only with the EU then you’d have to start completing customs declarations from March 2019 and customs checks would apply to your business for the first time.”

The letter concludes by saying, “there is no need to contact HMRC at this stage”. However, it suggests, “If you’re a member of a trade body, they might have useful information on their website. VAT advisers, customs agents, freight forwarders and other businesses also have services to help you to follow customs rules”.

There are many sources of information on Brexit, from listening to the TV and radio through reading newspapers to searching the web. However, some are more reliable than others. To get a balanced and informed view of what is going on, it is wise to access information from more than one source.

Government sources of information

  • GOV.UK “Brexit” pages – you can sign up to receive regular updates.
  • Government has published technical notices across a range of topics on GOV.UK to explain what will apply if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, including:
  • The House of Commons published a white paper in early September
  • HMRC’s Jim Harra’s “advice and guidance” letter

To discuss how this may impact your business, please contact us.

New Fuel Rates published for Company Cars

New company car advisory fuel rates were published, on September 1st, with the guidance indicating that the previous rates may be used for up to one month from the date the new rates applied. This only effects employees using a company car. The listed rates are shown below.



  Petrol
  

  Engine size
  

  12p
  

  1400cc or less
  

  15p
  

  1401cc – 2000cc
  

  22p
  

  Over 2000cc
  

  LPG
  

  Engine size
  

  7p
  

  1400cc or less
  

  9p
  

  1401cc – 2000cc
  

  13p
  

  Over 2000cc
  

  Diesel
  

  Engine size
  

  10p
  

  1600cc or less
  

  12p
  

  1601cc – 2000cc
  

  13p
  

  Over 2000cc
  

HMRC warns: Declare offshore assets

As of 1 October, the new Requirement to Correct (RTC) rules are upon us. Previously, under HMRC Offshore Disclosure Facilities, taxpayers had been encouraged to come clean with an offer of lower penalties than would have been incurred if “the error” had been discovered by HMRC.

All that has now changed. Failure to Correct rules, introduced alongside RTC, leave non-compliant taxpayers facing penalties of up to 200% of the resultant tax liability – or even more. Where the tax involved exceeds £25,000 per tax year, an additional penalty of up to 10% of the value of the asset concerned may be charged.

RTC only applies if HMRC is able to raise an assessment to recover the tax unpaid on 6 April 2017. Normal assessing rules apply to decide whether HMRC is able to raise such an assessment.

The most common reasons for failing to declare offshore tax are in relation to foreign property and holiday homes, investment income, and moving money into the UK from abroad.

HMRC have said the following:

“Offshore non-compliance occurs when there is tax owed to HMRC as a result of tax non-compliance and that non-compliance involves either an offshore matter or an offshore transfer.

The tax non-compliance involves an offshore matter if the unpaid tax is charged on or by reference to:

  • income arising from a source in a territory outside the UK
  • assets situated in a territory outside the UK
  • activities carried on wholly or mainly in a territory outside the UK, or
  • anything having effect as if it were income, assets or activities of a kind described above.

The tax non-compliance involves an offshore transfer if it is not an offshore matter, but the income (or sale proceeds in the case of a capital gain), or any part of the income, was either received abroad or was transferred abroad before 6 April 2017.

For inheritance tax, the tax non-compliance involves an offshore transfer if it is not an offshore matter, but the disposition that gives rise to the transfer of value involves a transfer of assets, and after that disposition, but on or before 5 April 2017, the assets, or any part of the assets, are transferred to a territory outside the UK.

In all cases, references to the income, proceeds or assets transferred includes any assets derived from or representing the income, proceeds or assets.


If the non-compliance meets these definitions, the RTC rule applies and failure to correct the position will result in the new tougher FTC penalties.”

Mel Stride, The Financial Secretary said, “Since 2010 we have secured over £2.8 billion for our vital public services by tackling offshore tax evaders, and we will continue to relentlessly crack down on those not playing by the rules.”

RTC is supported by the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), an international legal framework permitting the automatic exchange of information, between different country’s tax authorities, regarding financial accounts and investments held by non-residents, in order to help stop tax evasion. CRS came into force in the UK in 2016. In excess of one hundred countries are already signed up to CRS and are starting to share information. It has already significantly increased HMRC’s ability to detect UK taxpayers’ overseas non-compliance.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other matter further, then please contact us.

The stamp duty cut that has helped first-time buyers save

Since November 2017, more than 120,000 first-time buyers have saved £284,000 following the introduction of first-time buyers’ relief from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). SDLT is a tax on properties in England and Northern Ireland. It is estimated that, over the next five years, this relief will help over a million people get onto the property ladder.

The relief ensures that first-time buyers purchasing homes valued up to £300,000 do not incur a SDLT charge at all – with those paying up to £500,000 also benefiting from a reduction.

Mel Stride, MP, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said, “once again, we can see that our cut to stamp duty for first-time buyers is helping to make the dream of home ownership a reality for a new generation – exactly as we intended…”

He added, “In addition, we’re building more homes in the right areas, and have introduced generous schemes such as the Lifetime ISA and Help to Buy.”

Scotland and Wales

Those buying property in Scotland pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), whilst those in Wales (since 1 April 2018) pay Land Transaction Tax (LTT). Earlier this year, Scotland introduced its own version of a new LBTT relief for first-time buyers of properties up to £175,000.

The Scottish relief raised the zero-tax threshold for first-time buyers from £145,000 to £175,000. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of first-time buyers in Scotland will pay not LBTT at all.

Furthermore, Scottish first-time buyers acquiring properties above £175,000 will also benefit from relief on the portion of the price below the threshold – meaning all first-time buyers will benefit from the relief by up to £600.

In Wales, where SDLT has been replaced by a LTT from 1 April 2018, the starting rate will be £180,000, benefiting not just first-time buyers but all home buyers in Wales.

Marriage Allowance- 1 million couples eligible for £900 tax boost

Three million UK couples have claimed their Marriage Allowance. However, it is estimated that a further one million have not.

The Marriage Allowance allows married couples or those in a civil partnership, where neither pay beyond the basic tax rate, to transfer 10% of their unused personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner. This, in turn, can reduce their tax bill by up to £238 a year in 2018/19. The allowance was introduced in April 2015, and appropriate claims can be back-dated to prior years.

Tax legislation next round published

For the Finance Bill 2018-19, the government has published draft legislation that could affect a range of taxes, from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) to Income Tax. This is now open for consultation and is aligned to the commitment from the government for a ‘competitive and fair tax system’.

The payment of taxes is also outlined, with businesses and individuals who do not pay their taxes on time potentially facing a penalty.

Running until 31 August 2018, the consultation will conclude on the final contents of the Finance Bill 2018-19, which will be subject to confirmation expected in November at the Budget 2018.

Relief for first-time buyers in Scotland

Around 80% of first-time buyers will pay no Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT).

30 June 2018 saw the introduction of the First-Time Buyers tax relief. The change has meant that the zero-rated LBTT threshold has increased from £145,000 to £175,000 for first-time buyers.

It is expected that this initiative will benefit 12,000 first-time buyers per year.

Rising interest rates from Bank of England

The recent Bank of England 0.25% interest rate increase (to 0.75%) sees UK interest rates at their highest since March 2009. This change will have an immediate impact on interest costs, such as mortgages for those on variable or tracker rates, whilst the rise may take a little longer before it benefits savers.

In response, CBI Principal Economist Alpesh Paleja stated ‘The Monetary Policy Committee has signaled further rate rises over the next few years, if the economy evolves as they expect’. He added, ‘These are likely to be very slow and limited, particularly over the next year, as uncertainty around Brexit takes its toll on business investment.’

Raising finance for your business: Where to start

To help you kick-start your business, there are several ways in which to raise finance to get your idea underway or to further accelerate your growth.

At the time of writing, these are the most common routes to explore for finance. However, new offerings for finance are constantly evolving in line with financial innovations – so it is recommended to keep a close eye on what is happening. For now, these are the recommended routes, meaning that you don’t have to rely exclusively on traditional avenues, such as banks, to raise funds:

Keep it in the family

When transforming a new idea into a business, many people first go to their friends and family to help raise funds. Whilst many start-ups do this to help fund their new venture, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure that you capture all aspects of the agreement in writing. This could be a simple contract between parties, including a detailed business plan and financial forecast for their review.

This will help to prevent challenges that may appear in the future, protecting your business and the investments of your friends and family. Most importantly, it will help you to maintain your personal relationships.

Business Angel investment

Angel Investments is a means for private and industry investors to explore opportunities to use their personal finance in exchange for shares in your business. Their expectation is usually for a return on their investment between three and eight years.

The good news here is that Angel Investors typically play an active role in your business, offering support and guidance to your strategy and plan. Obviously, then, an investor familiar with your industry would in most cases be the best choice.

For more information, the UK Business Angels Association, here, is a good place to start.

Crowdfunding

One option, rather than asking a few people to contribute large sums, is to ask a large amount of people to each invest smaller amounts. This is known as Crowdfunding and can appear in different forms:

  • Equity is when the investment is exchanged for shares or for a stake in the business.
  • Debt is when the money is provided with the view to receive money back with interest.
  • Donations are for when people believe in your idea and base their contribution on their belief in that cause. Donors will expect nothing in return for their provision of funds.

Grant and Loans for Start-Ups

The government aims to accelerate the UK economy and as such provides grants and loans for businesses.

Grants are where a portion of taxpayers’ money each year is saved to drive new business ideas. With the money offered nationally, you will need to apply so that the government can assess whether you are eligible for the grant.

Start Up loans are provided through a government scheme aimed at entrepreneurs, with the average loan estimated at £6,000. Applications can go to £25,000 however, supported by twelve months of business mentoring. The loan must be paid back within five years, typically with an interest rate of 6%.

Cold calling ban requested on pensions

HMRC recently issued a consultation concerning draft technical regulations to ban pension cold calling

The consultation document sets out the policy intentions behind the proposed ban and invites comments on the draft regulations to implement the ban set out at Annex A.

Since the government has already consulted on the policy, this consultation is a technical consultation intended to seek final views on the draft regulations to ensure they meet policy objectives.

This draft also outlined the ban on cold calls promoting retirement income products. The consultation ended on 17 August 2018.

Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV)

HMRC has published a new VAT Notice (700/22), ‘Making Tax Digital for VAT’.

The new notice provides information on the new rules with which VAT-registered entities will have to comply.

For VAT return periods commencing after 31 March 2019, VAT-registered entities with annual VAT-able turnover above £85,000 will legally be required to keep digital records for VAT purpose, using MTD compatible software and providing the data of the VAT return to HMRC through an API application programming interface.

This will take effect from 1 April 2019, for taxpayers who have a ‘prescribed accounting period’ which begins on that date, or from the first day of a taxpayer’s prescribed accounting period beginning after 1 April 2019.

Summer holidays and Tax-Free Childcare

Throughout the summer holidays, the government has been reminding parents seeking help for childcare costs that they can use Tax-Free Childcare (TFC). This is worth up to £2,000 per child per year, to pay for regulated holiday clubs. Findings from a recent survey by YouGov suggest that:

  • 31% of parents feel stressed about arranging childcare for the school holidays.
  • 30% of parents are concerned about balancing their job and school holiday childcare.
  • 54% of parents indicate that they look forward to their children returning to school in September.

Becoming self-employed? Here are five recommended rules to help you.

1. Have clear goals and be realistic about what you want to achieve.

Consider what you want to achieve, whether this be the dream of building your business, eventually having staff, or giving something back to society. Do you want to work less hours, have a better work / life balance, or just be your own boss?

Once you decide, make sure you make your goals realistic and ensure you determine your process goals – the things you will need to do to get you to your overall goal.

Have your goal and objective clear and written down at the start, and keep referring to it to avoid straying off course. Building a business takes time and any distraction is time you will not get back.

2. Be brutal with your time and leverage support around you.

Be strict about working hours, as this may be one of the main reasons you went self-employed in the first place. Don’t be tempted to waste your time: balance your working hours between building your new prospect base, networking for business, and delivering to your customers.

Make sure you have a support network around you. It can be lonely working alone and it is great to have others with whom to share ideas and thoughts to help you and your business improve. These can be colleagues, networking groups, or industry bodies.

3. Have professional standards.

Consider all you do to put the customer at the heart of your business and be professional at all times. Be on time for all appointments and be dressed appropriately, acting professionally on the clients’ premises and following appropriate business etiquette.

Balance what you do as a professional off-line with that online. Make sure your website, invoices and methods of payment are all to a high professional standard. With cost effective business solutions such as QuickBooks Self-Employed, you can easily manage all aspects of your business process in a professional way.

4. Keep close and connected to your industry.

Whatever industry you are in, it will be constantly evolving, and it is key to keep connected, staying close to new developments, compliance, regulations, and best practices. This will help you get the training and certifications you need, as well as remaining an expert in your industry.

5. Maintain your work / life balance.

Focusing only on work is not good for anyone, so do consider what other hobbies or family activities you might enjoy. Maintain your social and family balance and avoid being over-worked.

HMRC publish list of software providers for Making Tax Digital

HMRC has published the Making Tax Digital for VAT Guide, the Software Suppliers Supporting Making Tax Digital List, and HMRC Stakeholders Communication pack on the GOV.UK website. All can be found on the MTD for VAT collection page.

The notice gives guidance on digital record keeping and should be read in conjunction with other VAT notices.

  • HMRC notes that more than 150 software suppliers have stated their interest in providing software for Making Tax Digital for VAT. Currently, there are just over twenty developers with VAT-MTD ready products.
  • Of the 150, over forty have said they’ll have software ready during the first phase of the VAT-MTD pilot.
  • The pilot will be opened to allow more businesses and agents to join later this year.

There is also the MTD for Business – Stakeholder Communications pack, which is intended to support businesses that need to make the transition to digital VAT business record keeping as well as the submission of VAT returns using MTD-compatible software from 1 April 2019.

If your business is above the VAT turn-over threshold of £85,000, please discuss with your accountant how QuickBooks Online can help get you ready to file for MTD for April 2019.

HMRC proposes new VAT rules for construction services

Subject to consultation, HMRC proposes to introduce new VAT rules for construction services, which have been published in a draft statutory instrument for consultation. It suggests, under the draft legislation, that supplies of standard or reduced-rated construction services between construction or building businesses will be subject to a domestic reverse charge. The result would mean that the customer will be liable to account for VAT due rather than the supplier. This legislation is expected from the 1st October 2019.

Latest edition of Employer Bulletin for employer guidance

In the latest edition of the Employer Bulletin, published by HMRC, there are a number of articles, including:

  1. P11D and P11D(b) filing and payment deadlines.
  2. Benefits in kind with cash allowances, flexible benefit packages, and salary sacrifice.
  3. National Living and Minimum Wage increases.
  4. Student Loans – to update payroll if you receive an SL1 for an employee.
  5. Fitness at Work – to help employers cut these costs and take advantage of the significant tax savings.
  6. Childcare voucher information and contracted childcare schemes.
  7. The Apprenticeship Levy – Levy-paying employers can then create an account on the apprenticeship service to spend levy funds on apprenticeships.
  8. CIS – Construction Industry Scheme with key pointers for subcontractors.

Fraudsters stopped by HMRC, saving the public £2.4m

Fraudsters have been tackled by HMRC, with a focus on the use of premium rate phone numbers for services HMRC provide for free. The reported fraudsters create fake websites for HMRC and then look to charge for what are actually free services from HMRC, through re-direction to premium rate phone numbers. HMRC has confirmed that its genuine 0300 numbers are mainly free, or at least charged only at the local landline rate.

Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said, ‘We know that HMRC is the most spoofed government brand, as criminals try to take advantage of the fact that everyone has some involvement with the tax authority. In this particular case, scammers try to dupe the public into paying large sums for services that are available for free or low cost.’

She added, ‘This is a brazen con, charging premium rates whilst simply redirecting calls to the real HMRC numbers that are available at low or no cost. It is a testament to the hard work of HMRC that they have prevented criminals extracting £2.4 million from the public.’

RTI filing extended by HMRC until April 2019

The payroll Real Time Information (RTI) late filing easement has been extended by HMRC until April 2019. For the RTI payroll, it is a requirement for employers to submit details of payments made to employees on or before the day that salaries/wages are paid. The new amended easement applies when a Final Payment Submission (FPS) is late but is completed within three payment days of the employee’s pay day.

The easement applies from 6 March 2015 to 5 April 2019, but it must be noted that HMRC has clarified that employers who persistently file after the payment date but within these three days may be contacted or considered for a penalty. This could range from £100 to £400, depending on the size of the company.

HMRC confirms UK ‘tax gap’ fall to 5.7%

The tax gap for 2016 – 2017 has fallen to 5.7%, HMRC has confirmed. The “tax gap” relates to the tax that should be paid and the actual tax paid to HMRC.

In a statement, Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘These really positive figures show that the tax gap is the lowest in the last five years, which reflects the hard work that HMRC and I have been doing to ensure we support businesses to pay the right tax at the right time and clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance.’

She added, ‘Collecting taxes is essential for funding our vital public services such as the NHS. Indeed, had the tax gap remained at its 2005/06 level the UK would have lost £71 billion in revenue destined for public services, enough to build 200 hospitals.’

It is understood that HMRC considers the improvement to be linked to the department’s sustained efforts to tackle evasion and avoidance. From the findings in the Tax Gap publication, it was noted that small businesses made up the largest proportion of unpaid tax of £13.7 billion.

Additional findings include:

  • 9.2 billion of unpaid taxes were due to errors and failure to take reasonable care.
  • £5.4 billion made up by criminal attacks.
  • £7.9 billion from income tax, national insurance contributions, and capital gains tax, equivalent to 16.4% of self assessment liabilities.
  • The VAT gap indicates an improving trend, falling from 12.5% in 2005/06 to 8.9% in 2016/17.

GDPR – so, what does it mean now for selling and your sales teams?

Are you asking, how can you continue to prospect for new sales without breaking the new General Data Protecting Regulations (GDPR)?

From May 2018, the way you used to prospect will have received a major update, due to the EU data protection regulation. Failure to comply with GDPR can result in fines of up to €20 million or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater. Will GDPR affect your sales team?

If you still rely on purchased leads to fill up the sales pipeline, or if you automatically add business card contact data to mailing lists and ask existing customers for referrals and recommendations, then GDPR has an impact on you and your business.

This is because GDPR provides EU citizens with greater control over personal data regardless of where the data is processed. Such personal data is in several forms – such as name, email, phone number, and interests, as well as IP address, social media posts, bank details, and medical information.

The resolution to this is to request and obtain permission from customers and prospects to collect, store, and use personal data, as well as clearly to outline the company privacy statement. Under GDPR, individuals have the right to be informed about what data you collect, why you are collecting it, and how you intend to use it.

So, what does this mean for sales prospecting?

Here are three key points you can adopt:

  1. Stop automated emails to prospect lists without getting their permission first.
  2. If this is the first contact with a prospect, then you will need to indicate that you have tried to contact them by phone prior to emailing them.

    That being said, you can continue to send cold sales emails to prospects, if the email is sent to an individual and not to a group of recipients. You will need to include a link to your privacy statement explaining why you are contacting them in the first place (i.e. you have a legitimate interest). Be cautious about purchased lead lists.

    If you acquire leads that contain personal data from third-parties, they will need to have consent to share that information with you. But you will also be required to get specific consent to use the email addresses on the list – unless they have given their consent to be approached by associated partners.

  3. Leverage social media platforms.
  4. The new legislation does not stop sales agents finding and connecting with potential customers on social media, be it for a recommendation, or for reaching out to new prospects directly.

    Examples include Twitter, LinkedIn, etc, which can help to get the discussion underway. Once connected, consent must be given for future emailing contact.

  5. Pick up the phone.
  6. This is the most effective way to build new relationships with potential customers, as this approach – cold calling – is not under the same regulation as the GDPR. Once connected with a new prospect, you will need to have their consent to add their information to your CRM database – before any promotional emails can be sent.

    You can formally record their consent by sending an email summarising the discussion and establishing consent for future email contact.

    Other options to consider are networking events and asking customers for referrals, reaching out to their contacts on your behalf. Once again, if there is agreement to partner, this requires their consent for future prospecting emails.

The main message to take away from our article is that GDPR is not about being restrictive. Instead, the discipline it introduces around the handling of client and prospect data, combined with a more personal approach to building networks – over the phone and through social media – will enable you to build deeper and more targeted relationships.

If you find GDPR challenging, talk to us. We can guide you through the maze.

Supporting the Self-Employed through Universal Credit

A recent report published by the government,“Universal Credit: supporting self employment,” considered the impact of the Monthly Income Floor (MIF) earnings requirement. To be eligible for Universal Credit (UC) claimants must earn the at least the MIF.

The MIF is aimed at the self-employed, who have been in business for more than twelve months. It assumes a level of earnings based on what an employed person might receive in similar circumstances.

It is calculated through multiplying National Minimum Wage rates with the number of hours a self-employed person is expected to look for and be available for work. It also includes a notional deduction for tax and National Insurance.

Where a self-employed person’s earnings are below the MIF it will be used to calculate an entitlement award instead of the actual self-employed earnings.

Recent growth in self-employment means that there are now five million self-employed persons in the UK. This equates to 15% of the workforce.

The Department for Work and Pensions rightly wants to support, through Universal Credit (UC), low-paid people to work and to progress in work. In doing this for the self-employed, it must balance its support of entrepreneurship with its protection of the public purse. The DWP’s key means of doing this is UC’s MIF: an assumed level of monthly income for calculating benefit payments.

The Department hopes the MIF will incentivise business owners to increase their earnings and develop their business, while ensuring that the Government does not subsidise unsustainable low-paid self-employment indefinitely. Given the growing importance of self-employment, getting this balance right will be a key determinant of the success of UC.

This does, however, assume self-employed individuals aiming to make a UC claim are earning a regular income at least equal to the National Minimum Wage. The report identifies that the problem with MIF is that it has been designed with monthly paid employed individuals in mind rather than the self-employed – many of whom may have more volatile earnings.

It also considers that the current system, which allows self-employed individuals to be exempt from meeting the MIF for the first 12 months of self-employment, is insufficient. The report urges the Government to extend the exemption period.

If you are just starting self-employment or you are on a low income, talk to us. We can help you to understand the UC maze.

IR35 Update

Who would have thought that the Intermediaries Legislation – commonly known as IR35 – is almost twenty years old? Despite the passage of time, issues regarding employment status are less clear than ever.

This is certainly no less true in the last few months, which has seen three IR35 related cases pass through the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) – with conflicting outcomes…

Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd

The BBC engaged (contracted) Christa Ackroyd through her Personal Service Company (PSC), Christa Ackroyd Media Limited (CAM), to co-present their Look North Program on a seven-year contract. In 2013, after a three-month period off air, Ackroyd was sacked. It was reported at the time that the sacking was because of an alleged dispute concerning her employment status and payment of tax. This was later supported by documents produced to the Courts, revealing that the BBC terminated CAM’s contract after HMRC issued to Ackroyd’s company a formal demand for unpaid tax.

Employed or not?

Despite Ackroyd’s insistence to the contrary, HMRC successfully argued before the FTT that she was engaged under a contract of service (employed contact), rather than one for services (a self-employed contract).

The FTT’s ruling stated that she was “economically dependent on the hypothetical contract with the BBC,” which took up most of, if not all of, her working time and that a “hypothetical contract of that length […] terminable only for a material breach points towards a contract of employment.”

The First-Tier Tribunal ruled that the TV personality’s contract was caught by IR35, and they landed her company with an eye-watering £420,000 bill.

Mark Daniels – MDMC Limited

A few weeks later (March 2018), a second IR35-related case came before the FTT, and with it came further layers of complexity and uncertainty. Mark Daniels provided his services to Structured Tone Limited (SLT) though a PSC (MDMC Limited) – which in turn was engaged by Solutions, a recruitment agency.

In 2016, HMRC determined that the contract to provide services on large construction projects should have been caught by IR35, and that the service company should have paid PAYE and NIC. In effect, there had been a contract for service.

Daniels successfully appealed, with the FTT finding that the engagement was for services, not for service, and that Daniels should not be treated as an employee.

Lack of rights

An absence of rights under the hypothetical contract – the lack of a notice period, holiday pay, or any employment benefits – proved to be a key factor influencing the FTT. All of these would have had to be present if Daniels had been engaged directly as an employee.

Interestingly, the FTT dismissed “control” as a factor by concluding that, in a large project, there is a clear structure to the work which had to be done, and that an individual working within that structure was not being controlled by the end user; they were merely working within the structure.

Ian Wells – Jensal Software Limited

Details of an October 2017 case have recently received publicity. Its focus was on weak Mutuality of Obligation (MOO).

Wells worked on a project concerned with DWP’s Universal Credit (UCs) rollout.

It involved him attending a DWP office and travelling to different sites. He had the use of a secure DWP laptop and the tribunal heard evidence of meetings between Wells and DWP managers involved with the project.

HMRC concluded that there been a direct contract between Wells and the DWP during the period of engagement – a contract of service, not a contract for services. Wells was asked to pay £14,658 in income tax and £12,011 in respect of Class 1 NICs.

At the FTT stage, the judge examined in detail three conditions determining employment status.

  1. Mutuality of obligation (MOO),
  2. The degree of control,
  3. Sufficient mutuality of work-placed obligation.

On the question of MOO, the judge stated: ‘The essence of the relationship was that there was no continuing obligation on the part of the DWP to provide work; if it chose to abandon the project there was no contractual basis upon which Mr Wells could demand further work…” The MOO was too weak, and, as a result, the relationship did not go far enough to be classed as one of employment.

Lack of control

When he turned to degree of control, the judge said ‘The level of control exercised did not go beyond that which was usual for an independent contractor…”

He concluded that Mr Wells was not subject to a degree of control to an extent that would constitute a contract of employment.

Off-payroll working for the public sector

New IR35 rules concerning “Off-payroll Working” in the public sector came into effect on 6 April 2017.

The effect has been to shift responsibility for decisions on whether IR35 is applied – from the intermediary-worker providing their services via a PSC, to the public-sector engager.

Where an engagement is deemed to fall within the new IR35 rules, the person paying the PSC (that is the public-sector body or third-party-agency) is responsible for deducting tax and NICs under PAYE.

In many instances, public-sector bodies have made blanket decisions. In these cases, workers providing their services through an intermediary have been caught under the new rules even when they clearly are not.

New Off-payroll consultation

Things could become even more complicated if Phillip Hammond’s stated intention to widen the reach of Off-payroll working legislation to the private sector becomes reality.

On the 18 May 2018, HMRC and HM Treasury published a consultation document called “Off-payroll working in the private sector”.

Where does this leave us now?

The recent flurry of FTT cases, combined with last year’s legislative changes and the recently published private sector worker consultation, only serve to underpin how difficult it is to navigate the intermediaries’ taxation legislation.

If you are concerned that you might be caught by IR35, or if you are considering working through a PSC, contact us for the right advice.

HMRC expands its Making Tax Digital tax pilot to residential landlords

Residential landlords with simple tax affairs will now be accepted into quarterly updates with the HMRC’s expansion of the Making Tax Digital (MTD) income tax pilot.

This is not a total surprise. Indeed, it was predicted back in March, when the MTD business-related Income Tax side emerged from a near yearlong controlled go-live phase. While this is another step in the right direction, the list of software developers with Income Tax MTD-compliant software remains low (four, at the time of publication).

The low availability of MTD-compatible Income Tax products is due to Financial Secretary Mel Stride’s Ministerial Statement (July 2017), in which he reversed early HMRC policy by mandating for VAT-MTD ahead of income tax.

Since the announcement, most software companies have refocused their resources to ensure that their delivery of MTD-compliant VAT products comes well before next April’s deadline.

The MTD Income Tax pilot is open to the self-employed and residential landlords (or their agents) with simple tax affairs, who wish to opt out of the current self-assessment regime.

To join the pilot, they must be willing to keep digital records of their business transactions and commit to sending Income Tax updates to HMRC at least on a quarterly basis – using MTD-compliant software, instead of filing a self-assessment return. At this stage, those with income from furnished holiday lets are not included.

If you are interested in joining HMRC’s MTD pilot, or if you would just like to know more about what it will mean for your business, contact us for the right advice.