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Thursday, 16 May 2019

CONSULTATION ON EXTENSION OF IR35 RULES


HMRC has published guidance on the extension of the off-payroll working rules (also known as IR35) to the private sector, a year ahead of its implementation on 6 April 2020.

In the guidance, HMRC state that the responsibility to determine whether the off-payroll working rules apply will fall on the organisation receiving the individual's service. It outlines a four-step process which can be used to prepare for the changes, starting with identifying any individuals who are supplying their services through PSCs.

The consultation closes on 28 May and asks for responses on several matters, including the scope of the reform and its impact on non-corporate engagers; information requirements for engagers, fee payers and personal service companies (PSCs); and how to address disagreements on an individual's employment status.

The consultation also sets out HMRC's plans to provide education and support for those businesses that are affected.

Internet links: HMRC guidance and HMRC consultation

Monday, 8 April 2019

Newsletter 136


THE ROAD TO BREXIT



Those of us who are old enough to have been taught religious education at school may recall that St Jude was often quoted as being the Patron Saint of lost causes. It turns out that this is not quite correct for two reasons;

Firstly St Jude was the Patron Saint of Impossible Causes and secondly there were 4 characters in the frame.

( Above L-R –  St Rita, St Jude, St Philomena & St Gregory – all claimants to be the saint of Impossible Causes)

Whilst I am a religious non participant myself I wonder if perhaps our Prime Minister may by now be seeking some Divine intervention on behalf of UK businesses in order to bring some clarity to the future. My fear perhaps would be that these 4 would individually advise for a “No Deal”, “Short Extension”, “Longer Extension” or “Second Referendum”

Walker Thompson however will continue to listen to our clients, find solutions and be clear with our advice.

Sherod Williams. Director 

REPORTING BENEFITS IN KIND – FORMS P11D

The forms P11D which report details of benefits and some expenses provided to employees and directors for the year ended 5 April 2019, are due for submission to HMRC by 6 July 2019. The process of gathering the necessary information can take some time, so it is important that this process is not left to the last minute.

Employees pay tax on benefits provided as shown on the P11D, generally via a PAYE coding notice adjustment or through the self assessment system. Some employers ‘payroll’ benefits and in this case the benefits do not need to be reported on forms P11D but employers should advise employees of the amount of benefits payrolled.

In addition, regardless of whether the benefits are being reported via P11D or payrolled the employer has to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions at 13.8% on the provision of most benefits. The calculation of this liability is detailed on the P11D(b) form. The deadline for payment of the Class 1A NIC is 19th July 2019 (or 22nd for cleared electronic payment).

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

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

Internet links: HMRC guidance Toolkit 

ADDITIONAL BREXIT ADVISORY DOCUMENTS FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

The government has published additional documents containing advice on Brexit for UK small businesses.

According to the government, the information will help business owners to ‘understand how leaving the EU may affect their business’. The advisory documents cover a range of issues, from changes to UK-EU trade following Brexit, to alterations to how businesses send and receive personal data.

Amidst ongoing Brexit uncertainty the government is urging businesses to ‘prepare now’. Businesses that import or export goods to the EU are urged to apply for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number if they have not already done so, in order to continue trading with the EU post-Brexit.

Businesses that provide services to or operate in the EU may need to comply with new rules following Brexit. A business could be affected if it has a branch or branches in the EU; it operates in a services sector within the EU; it is planning a merger with an EU company; or if its employees have to travel to EU or European Economic Area (EEA) countries for business.

Meanwhile, businesses that hold intellectual property are warned that they may face changes to their copyright, patents, designs and trademarks following Brexit.

The government is urging small firms to utilise the Exit Tool.

Internet link: EU Exit tool 

DELAY TO RISE IN PROBATE FEES

The government has delayed its planned increase in probate fees indefinitely.

The delay has been attributed to ‘pressure on Parliamentary time‘ caused by Brexit debates and votes.

The increase in fees had been set to take effect from 1 April 2019, but HMRC recently made the decision to postpone the rise. Under government plans, the proposed probate fees are as follows:

 Value of estate Proposed Fee
 Up to £50,000 or exempt from requiring a grant of     probate  £0
 £50,000 – £300,000  £250
 £300,000 – £500,000  £750
 £500,000 – £1m  £2,500
 £1m – £1.6m  £4,000
 £1.6m – £2m  £5,000
 Above £2m  £6,000
While the changes are pending, a temporary process is in place for applying for probate, and estates will not incur the higher fees if applications are made before the fee changes take effect.
A spokesperson for HMRC said:

‘Probate registries will accept applications before processing by us as long as they are assured the inheritance tax (IHT) forms from us will be coming shortly.

‘Our processes aren’t changing, it’s just that probate registries will be willing to accept applications before our processing is done when normally it would need to be after.’

Internet link: Gov.uk news  

UPDATE ON STRUCTURES AND BUILDINGS ALLOWANCE

Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered the Spring Statement on Wednesday 13 March 2019 amidst all the Brexit debates.

In his speech the Chancellor provided an update on the economy and responded to the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts. In addition he launched consultations on various aspects of the tax system together with updates on earlier consultations.

One area subject to consultation is the Structures and Buildings Allowance (SBA). The SBA gives relief for expenditure on certain structures and buildings. The allowance is available for new structures and buildings intended for commercial use, and the improvement of existing structures and buildings. The SBA will be also available on the cost of converting or renovating existing premises to qualifying use. Relief is limited to the original cost of construction or renovation and given across a fixed 50-year period, at an annual flat rate of 2% regardless of changes in ownership.

Only certain expenditure will qualify. The structures or buildings must be brought into use for qualifying activities. These include trades, professions or vocations and certain UK or overseas property businesses – essentially commercial property lettings.

Relief will be given on eligible construction costs incurred on or after      29 October 2018. Where a contract for the physical construction work is entered into before this date, relief is not available. The consultation on draft legislation is open until 24 April 2019.

Internet links: WMS and Consultation 

MTD FOR VAT

HMRC is phasing in its landmark Making Tax Digital (MTD) regime, which will ultimately require taxpayers to move to a fully digital tax system. Under the new rules, businesses with a taxable turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) must keep digital records for VAT purposes and provide their VAT return information to HMRC using MTD functional compatible software.

The new rules have effect from 1 April 2019 where a taxpayer has a ‘prescribed accounting period’ which begins on that date, or otherwise from the first day of a taxpayer’s first prescribed accounting period beginning after 1 April 2019. For some VAT-registered businesses with more complex requirements the rules will not have effect until              1 October 2019. Included in the deferred start date category are VAT divisions, VAT groups and businesses using the annual accounting scheme.

The government has confirmed that a light touch approach to penalties will be taken in the first year of implementation. Advising that where businesses are doing their best to comply, no filing or record keeping penalties will be issued as the focus will be on supporting businesses to transition to MTD. The government has confirmed that it will not be mandating MTD for any new taxes in 2020.

Figures published by HMRC show that almost 1.2 million businesses are affected by MTD for VAT.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride MP, 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.’

Internet link: GOV.UK  

CALL FOR TAX ON SOCIAL MEDIA BUSINESSES

A group of MPs has called on the government to tax the profits of social media businesses.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing recently published a report which outlined the impact of social media on the health of young people.

The APPG has suggested creating a Social Media Health Alliance, which would be funded by a 0.5% tax on the profits of social media companies. MPs hope that the money would be used to fund research and help ‘draw up clearer guidance’ on the impact of social media on health and wellbeing.

Internet link: Royal Society for Public Health  

CHANGES TO INCOME TAX FOR 2019/20

The new tax year brings changes to income tax bands and allowances.

The personal allowance is £11,850 for 2018/19 and increases to £12,500 for 2019/20. There is a reduction in the personal allowance for those with ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000. The reduction is £1 for every £2 of income above £100,000. So for 2018/19 there is no personal allowance where adjusted net income exceeds £123,700. For 2019/20 there is no personal allowance available where adjusted net income exceeds £125,000.

The marriage allowance permits certain couples, where neither pays tax at more than the basic rate, to transfer 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

The basic rate of tax is 20%. In 2018/19 the band of income taxable at this rate is £34,500 so that the threshold at which the 40% band applies is £46,350 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance. In 2019/20 the basic rate band increases to £37,500 so that the threshold at which the 40% band applies is £50,000 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance.

Individuals pay tax at 45% on their income over £150,000.

Scottish residents

The tax on income (other than savings and dividend income) is different for taxpayers who are resident in Scotland to taxpayers resident elsewhere in the UK. The Scottish income tax rates and bands apply to income such as employment income, self-employed trade profits and property income.

In 2018/19 and 2019/20 there are five income tax rates which range between 19% and 46%. Scottish taxpayers are entitled to the same personal allowance as individuals in the rest of the UK. The two higher rates are 41% and 46% rather than the 40% and 45% rates that apply to such income for other UK residents. For both 2018/19 and 2019/20, the threshold at which the 41% band applies is £43,430 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance.

Welsh residents

From April 2019, the Welsh Government has the right to vary the rates of income tax payable by Welsh taxpayers. The UK government has reduced each of the three rates of income tax paid by Welsh taxpayers by 10 pence. The Welsh Government has set the Welsh rate of income tax at 10 pence which will be added to the reduced rates. This means the tax payable by Welsh taxpayers continues to be the same as that payable by English and Northern Irish taxpayers.

Internet links: GOV.UK  GOV.SCOT income tax  GOV.WALES income tax   

HMRC WINS DISGUISED REMUNERATION AVOIDANCE CASE

HMRC has won a legal case over a contractor loan scheme endorsed by Hyrax Resourcing Ltd. As a result, HMRC will now be able to collect more than £40 million in unpaid taxes.

The scheme in question was a disguised remuneration avoidance scheme, which paid users in loans, rather than salaries, to avoid paying income tax and national insurance contributions on earnings.
Hyrax Resourcing Ltd will now be required to disclose details of the tax avoidance scheme, including the names and addresses of 1,180 individuals who used it. Failure to provide the relevant information could result in Hyrax Resourcing Ltd becoming liable for substantial penalties.

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

‘HMRC is cracking down on the unscrupulous promoters who sell these highly contrived tax avoidance loan schemes.

‘Promoters need to take note of this decision and make sure they contact HMRC urgently about schemes they haven’t yet disclosed.’

Internet link: HMRC news

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Newsletter 135


HMRC ADVICE - PREPARE FOR NO DEAL

HMRC is urging business owners to make sure they are ready for a potential no deal Brexit.

Business owners are being urged to prepare now and take steps to ensure their businesses can continue to trade with the EU if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

HMRC advise:

           Businesses should register for an Economic Operator and Registration Identification (EORI) number. UK businesses that have only ever traded inside the EU will not have an EORI number. HMRC are advising that in the event of a no deal exit, businesses will be unable to continue trading with the EU without an EORI number. HMRC figures show that only 17% of potentially affected businesses have registered so far.
           Businesses also need to decide how they intend to make the required customs declarations. HMRC advise that most businesses with customs obligations choose to use a customs agent to do this for them.
           Businesses that import goods into the UK from the EU using roll on, roll off locations, may also wish to register for new Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP). HMRC advise that 'TSP will allow businesses to import without having to make a full customs declaration at the border, and postpone paying any import duties. For imports using other locations, and for exports, standard customs declarations will apply.'

Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride MP said:

'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.'
Contact us for help in this area.

Internet link: HMRC news

START DATE LOOMING FOR MAKING TAX DIGITAL FOR VAT

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, has made a statement to the House of Commons setting out HMRC's progress on delivery of Making Tax Digital (MTD). He confirmed there would be no further delays in implementation.

For most businesses, compliance with the regulations is mandated for VAT return periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019. However, MTD for VAT for some 'more complex' businesses has been deferred until
1 October 2019. This deferral applies to trusts; not for profit organisations 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.

Contact us for help and advice on MTD for VAT.

Internet link: Hansard debate MTD

ADVISORY FUEL RATES FOR COMPANY CARS

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published which take effect from 1 March 2019. The guidance states: 'You can use the previous rates for up to one month from the date the new rates apply'. The rates only apply to employees using a company car.

The advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after
1 March 2019 are:

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
1600cc or less
10p
1601cc - 2000cc
11p
Over 2000cc
13p

HMRC guidance states that the rates only apply when 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.

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

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

SCOTTISH INCOME TAX BANDS CONFIRMED FOR 2019/20

The Scottish Parliament has confirmed the income tax bands that will apply to Scottish taxpayers for 2019/20. The bands confirm the announcement made in the Draft Scottish Budget last December.

The 2019/20 income tax rates and bands for Scottish taxpayers on income (other than savings and dividend income) are as follows:

Scottish Bands £
Band name
Scottish Rate
0 - 2,049
Starter
19%
2,050 - 12,444
Basic
20%
12,445 - 30,930
Intermediate
21%
30,931 - 150,000
Higher
41%
Over 150,000
Top
46%

Scottish taxpayers are entitled to the same personal allowance as individuals in the rest of the UK which for 2019/20 is £12,500. The allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 of adjusted net income in excess of £100,000.

The UK higher rate tax point for 2019/20 is set at £37,500 and the tax rates for non-savings and non-dividend income are 20%, 40% and 45% respectively. The additional rate of 45% is payable on income over £150,000.

Internet link: GOV.SCOT income tax

MINIMUM WAGE INCREASES

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) are the legal minimum wage rates that must be paid to employees. Employers are liable to be penalised for not complying with the NMW and NLW rules.

There are different levels of NMW and NLW, depending on age and whether the employee is an apprentice. The rates are due to increase from 1 April 2019 as shown in the following table:


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 *
£3.70
£3.90

*for apprentices under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship

There are no exemptions from paying the NMW on the grounds of the size of the business.

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

Internet link: GOV.UK NMW

PENSIONS AUTO ENROLMENT CONTRIBUTIONS TO RISE

Minimum pension contributions are set to increase from 6 April 2019:

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

The Pensions Regulator has produced guidance for employers on dealing with the increase including a letter template to advise employees of the change.

Contact us if you would like help with auto enrolment.

Internet link: TPR increases

TAX EFFICIENT INVESTMENTS AHEAD OF THE TAX YEAR END

With the end of the tax year looming there is still time to save tax for 2018/19.

           Make full use of your ISA allowance - ISAs can offer a useful tax free way to save, whether this is for your children's future, a first home or another purpose. Individuals may invest up to a limit of £20,000 for the 2018/19 tax year. Savers have until 5 April 2019 to make their 2018/19 ISA investment.
           Pensions provide significant planning opportunities. The annual allowance (AA) which is the maximum you can contribute to a pension and still get tax relief, is generally £40,000. Exceeding this can result in an AA clawback charge. However, in many circumstances you may have unused AA from the three previous tax years which can be used in 2018/19, providing the means of making a significant contribution without incurring a charge. Please contact us for advice specific to your circumstances.

These are only a couple of options that you may wish to consider as part of your tax planning strategy. Contact us for more information.


LATEST UPDATE FOR EMPLOYERS

HMRC has issued Employer Bulletin (February 2019) which includes a number of interesting articles on:

            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

For help and advice with payroll matters please contact us.

INTERNET LINK: EMPLOYER BULLETIN

HOUSEHOLDS WITH LANDLINES SHOULD BE VIGILANT

Over recent years HMRC has increasingly cracked down on email and SMS phishing,  and a number of criminals are turning to cold-calling publicly available phone numbers to steal money from taxpayers. These calls are often made to landline numbers. According to Ofcom, nearly 26 million homes have a landline, many of which could be at risk from scams, especially if they are not ex-directory.

Fraudsters often target the elderly and vulnerable using HMRC name as it is well known and adds credibility to a call. HMRC received more than 60,000 reports of phone scams in the six months up to January 2019 (an increase of 360% when compared with the previous six months).

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

'We have taken major steps to crack down on text and email phishing scams leaving fraudsters no choice but to try and con taxpayers over the phone.'

'If you receive a suspicious call to your landline from someone purporting to be from HMRC which threatens legal action, to put you in jail, or payment using vouchers: hang up and report it to HMRC who can work to take them off the network.'

Head of Action Fraud, Pauline Smith, said:

'Fraudsters will call your landline claiming to be from reputable organisations such as HMRC. Contact like this is designed to convince you to hand over valuable personal details or your money.'

'Don't assume anyone who calls you is who they say they are. If a person calls and asks you to make a payment, log in to an online account or offers you a deal, be cautious and seek advice.'

'The tax authority will only ever call you asking for payment on a debt that you are already aware of, either having received a letter about it, or after you've told us you owe some tax, for example through a Self Assessment return.'
During the last 12 months, HMRC has worked with the phone networks and Ofcom to close nearly 450 lines being used by fraudsters.

Internet links: GOV.UK news HMRC examples



Wednesday, 6 March 2019

OFF PAYROLL WORKING IN THE PRIVATE SECTOR


Since 5 April 2017, people working in the public sector through intermediaries, agencies and their own companies have been subject to specific rules on “off-payroll working”.

This, coupled with IR35 legislation was designed to ensure that those working within the NHS and other public organisations essentially pay the same level of tax and NI as those employed directly by the organisation concerned.

The writing was on the wall that if successful at collecting in tax, HMRC would seek to extend the procedure into the private sector and it comes as no surprise that they have recently launched the first part of this in a consultation document.

Initially this will affect medium and large private sector companies from April 2020. We believe that those companies should be starting to plan for compliance now. For small companies there seems little doubt that they will be brought into the regime soon afterwards so we suggest that they may need to consider their strategies going forward and the possible adverse cash flow effects.

Making Tax Digital (MTD)


The MTD deadline of 1 April 2019 is fast approaching.

From that date, VAT registered businesses will need to have in place a mechanism whereby they can report transactions in a digital format directly to HMRC.

Our experience suggests that many businesses have invested in compliant software already and are well trained and supported in using it. We are however increasingly aware that some businesses are adopting the “head in the sand” ostrich approach in the hope that if they do not comply then what could possibly happen? Well, HMRC have said that they will provide a soft landing for the first twelve months of operation without imposing fines or penalties for late submissions which arise from technical issues. Our understanding is that this will not be in any way a charter for habitually submitting Returns  late. We are also finding that some smaller businesses are unhappy with the costs associated with this imposed system but moreso there seems to be a wider problem with those adopting new software and requiring training before it can be used. If you are in any doubt whatsoever as to how MTD will affect your business please get in touch.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Newsletter 134

We are pleased to report that by 5.30pm on 31 January 2019, all Self Assessment Tax Returns which were capable of being submitted to HM Revenue had been duly despatched.


This year we processed  206 Tax Returns during the month of January. Of these, over 50% resulted in tax repayments and whilst there are often delays in providing information to us, it seems in a way slightly bizarre to leave things to the last minute when a refund could possibly have been received over 6 months earlier, if only the Return had been submitted in May or June.

Nevertheless it is nice to see the back of this annual chore and get back to the client services which we believe to be more important in adding value to individuals and businesses than the compliance services for the benefit of the Treasury.

We are also pleased to welcome two new members of staff to the firm. Dan Ferrar who joins our accounts & tax team and Jenny Beaufoy who will be dealing with client payrolls, bookkeeping & VAT. 


Dan joins us from another Coventry practice and we hope that he will bring the knowledge and skills learned already to enable him to finish his qualifications and for the benefit of our clients. Jenny has until recently worked in a commercial car dealership and we hope that her knowledge of Sage software will be invaluable to us in the future. We are delighted to have them working alongside us.

BUSINESSES URGED TO PREPARE FOR POST-BREXIT CUSTOMS DECLARATIONS

HMRC is urging VAT-registered UK businesses which trade exclusively with the EU to be prepared for a no deal Brexit.

In a letter sent to 145,000 affected businesses, HMRC explains changes to Customs, Excise and VAT procedures in the ‘unlikely event’ that the UK leaves the EU without a Brexit deal.

HMRC’s letter advises businesses to take three actions ahead of ‘Brexit Day’ on 29 March 2019:

         Register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
         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.
         Contact the organisation responsible for moving goods (for example, the haulage firm) 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.

HMRC intends to write to businesses in the future in order to instruct them on any additional actions they will need to take, and when. We will keep you informed of developments.

MTD FOR VAT – PILOT EXTENDED TO ALL ELIGIBLE BUSINESSES

HMRC has extended its Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) pilot scheme to all eligible businesses.

For most businesses, compliance with the regulations is mandated 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 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.

Commenting on the pilot scheme, Clare Sheehan, Deputy Director for MTD for Business, said:

'The MTD pilot is now available to all businesses who will need to use the service from April. This marks a significant milestone towards our delivery of a modern tax administration.’
'We encourage all eligible businesses to join and try out the service before they are mandated to use it.'
HMRC has also confirmed that Brexit will not affect the introduction of MTDfV. In a recent letter, Jim Harra, Deputy Chief Executive of HMRC, wrote:

'Our system is already live and by the end of February we'll have written to every affected business, encouraging them to join the thousands of others who have registered.'
Please contact us for help with MTDfV.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications 

HMRC’S VOICE ID DATABASE

Since 2017, HMRC has captured millions of callers’ voice data on its Voice ID system by encouraging the caller to say a key phrase instead of the conventional password to gain access to their accounts.

However, non-profit organisation Big Brother Watch warns that people have been ‘railroaded into a mass ID scheme by the back door’ and has reported HMRC to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on the grounds that it has ‘broken data protection laws’.

A Freedom of Information request revealed almost seven million taxpayers are enrolled in HMRC’s Voice ID database of which 162,185 individuals have opted out and had their biometric data deleted by HMRC.

A spokesperson for HMRC 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 DATE ANNOUNCED

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.

The Chancellor may take the opportunity to announce tax changes and consultations.

We will update you on pertinent announcements.

Internet link:  GOV.UK news  

‘UNBELIEVABLE EXCUSES’ FOR LATE FILING OF TAX RETURNS

HMRC has revealed some of the most ‘bizarre excuses’ taxpayers have given for failing to file their self assessment tax return on time.

Excuses included ‘I’m too short to reach the post box’, and ‘my boiler had broken and my fingers were too cold to type’. One taxpayer claimed that a junior member of staff ‘forgot to wear their glasses’, and accidentally registered a client for self assessment. Another told HMRC that their mother-in-law was a witch, and that she had put a curse on the taxpayer, which prevented them from filing their tax return on time.

In addition to these excuses, HMRC also stated that, every year, they receive some unconvincing expenses claims.

One individual attempted to claim £40 for ‘extra woolly underwear’, whilst another taxpayer tried to claim £756 for pet insurance. Meanwhile, a carpenter attempted to claim £900 for a 55-inch TV and sound bar, which he claimed would ‘help him price his jobs’.
HMRC Director General of Customer Services, Angela MacDonald, said:

‘Help will always be provided for those who have a genuine excuse for not submitting their return on time, but it’s unfair to the majority of honest taxpayers when others make bogus claims.’
HMRC stated all these excuses and claims were unsuccessful.

The deadline for sending 2017/18 Self Assessment tax returns to HMRC, and paying any outstanding liabilities, was 31 January 2019. If you have not yet filed your return please contact us for assistance.

Internet link: GOV.UK news 

PROTECT YOUR PENSION POTS

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 (FCA) 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; seek financial advice before altering their pension arrangements or making investments; and not be pressured into making decisions about their pension.

Consumer 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.'
Internet link: GOV.UK news