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Wednesday, 10 November 2021

Newsletter 161


Chancellor delivers Budget to lay foundation for a strong economy

On 27 October, Chancellor Rishi Sunak delivered a Budget to ensure the UK economy bounces back following the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Chancellor announced that total departmental spending will grow by £150 billion per year in cash terms by 2024/25, marking the largest real term increase in overall departmental spending for any Parliament this century.

Public research and development (R&D) investment will increase to a record level of £20 billion by 2024/25. Combined with R&D tax reliefs, which the government intends to modernise and refocus, total government R&D support as a proportion of GDP is forecasted to increase from 0.7% in 2018 to 1.1% in 2024/25.

The Chancellor unveiled a new temporary business rates relief in England for 2022/23 for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties, worth almost £1.7 billion. The government stated that the reform of business rates will make the system fairer, more responsive and more supportive of investment.

Mr Sunak also announced significant changes to fuel duty and alcohol duties: fuel duty will be frozen at 57.95p per litre for 2022/23, and drinks will be taxed in proportion to their alcohol content, making the system 'fairer and more conducive to product innovation in response to evolving consumer tastes'.

Meanwhile, the government will give £11.5 billion to help build up to 180,000 affordable homes, whilst an additional £4.7 billion will be invested in the core schools budget in England.

The Chancellor also confirmed that the government will increase the National Living Wage to £9.50 per hour from April 2022 and cut the Universal Credit taper rate from 63p to 55p.

Internet link: GOV.UKspeeches

Business groups give mixed response to Budget

Business groups gave a mixed response to Chancellor Rishi Sunak's 2021 Autumn Budget speech.

Responding to the speech, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said that the Chancellor had shown a willingness to listen to business with measures that will help firms innovate and the economy grow.

However, Tony Danker, Director General of the CBI, warned:

'This Budget alone won't seize the moment and transform the UK economy for a post-Brexit, post-Covid world. Businesses remain in a high-tax, low-productivity economy with concerns about inflation.'

Meanwhile, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) also voiced concerns over the Chancellor's Budget announcements.

Mike Cherry, National Chair of the FSB, said:

'This Budget has delivered some measures that should help to arrest the current decline in small business confidence.

'But against a backdrop of spiralling costs, supply chain disruption and labour shortages, is there enough here to deliver the government's vision for a low-tax, high-productivity economy? Unfortunately not.'

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) welcomed the changes to the business rates system in England. Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, commented:

'The Chancellor has listened to Chambers' long-standing calls for changes to the business rates system and this will be good news for many firms. This will provide much needed relief for businesses across the country, giving many firms renewed confidence to invest and grow.'

Internet links: CBI press release BCC press release FSB press release

IFS predicts millions to be worse off next year due to tax rises

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has predicted that millions of people will be worse off in 2022 as a result of spiralling costs and tax rises.

Responding to the Autumn Budget, the IFS predicted that low-income families will be squeezed by a rise in the cost of living. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) recently warned that the cost of living is set to rise at its fastest rate in 30 years.

The IFS stated changes to income tax and National Insurance, alongside rising household bills, will mean slow growth in living standards.

Paul Johnson, Director of the IFS, said:

‘With, in the words of the OBR, inflation quite possibly hitting its ‘highest rate in the UK for three decades’, millions will be worse off in the short term. Next April benefits will rise by just over 3%, but inflation could easily be at 5%. That will be a real, if temporary, hit of hundreds of pounds a year for many benefit recipients.

‘We are not at 1970s levels of inflation, but we are now experiencing enough inflation that real pain will be felt as low income households – most of whom have next to nothing in the way of financial assets – wait more than a year for their incomes to catch up. For some in work that may never happen.’

Internet link: IFS website

Payment period on residential CGT is doubled

The government has doubled the period for filing and payment of capital gains tax (CGT) on residential property from 30 days to 60 days.

The measure was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the recent Autumn Budget.

The change applies from 27 October 2021. It sees the deadline for residents to report and pay CGT after selling UK residential property increase from 30 days after the completion date to 60 days.

For non-UK residents disposing of property in the UK, this deadline will also increase from 30 days to 60 days. When mixed-use property is disposed of by UK residents, legislation will also clarify that the 60-day payment window will only apply to the residential element of the property gain.

The Treasury says that these changes will ensure that taxpayers have sufficient time to report and pay CGT, as recommended by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS). The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has campaigned for this change for the past 18 months.

Phil Hall, Head of Public Affairs and Public Policy at the AAT, said:

'It's a common-sense measure that helps taxpayers and their accountants whilst maintaining increased revenue for the Exchequer. Very pleased that HM Treasury and HMRC took on board the views of our members and changed their position accordingly.'

Internet links: GOV.UK publications LinkedIn

FSB warns tax rises 'threaten recovery from pandemic'

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned that tax rises could threaten the UK's ongoing recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the FSB, small businesses are coming up against 'unprecedented strain', with the cost of doing business higher than ever. Small businesses are also being affected by disruption to supply chains and increasing costs, the business group said.

Following the end of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it has called for the government to focus on helping employers create jobs. The FSB also urged the government to generate new schemes to help fill skills shortages.

Mike Cherry, National Chair of the FSB, said:

'It's disappointing to see that more is not being done to tackle employment costs which are a huge drain on small businesses.

'Increasing the Employment Allowance would help protect the smallest employers who are being hit hard by the end of furlough and the NICs rise. The government should also expand Small Business Rates Relief to premises with a rateable value of £25,000, removing an additional 200,000 small firms from the scope of this tax.'

Internet link: FSB press release

Applications now open for freeports

Businesses that are planning to operate in the UK's new freeports can now apply to HMRC.

The tax authority has published the application forms to operate special customs procedures within the sites, along with further guidance on procedures for declaring goods moving into and out of sites.

Freeports are areas that benefit from a range of tax and other incentives, including a suspension from customs duties for imported goods and less burdensome customs procedures.

HMRC is now accepting applications to use freeport customs special procedures. The application form, which can be downloaded from gov.uk, must be emailed or posted to HMRC once completed.

An application can be made by businesses that have a provisional agreement in place with a freeport customs site operator to store or process goods at a freeport customs site. An application may not be necessary if the business uses existing customs special procedures.

To complete the form, businesses will need, among other things, their Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number, company registration number (if a company), tax reference numbers and contact details.

Internet link: GOV.UK

Pensions experts say a minimum of £10,900 a year needed to retire

A single person will need post-tax annual income of £10,900 for a minimum standard of living in retirement, according to the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA).

The minimum retirement living standard is based on the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Minimum Income Standard and covers a typical retiree's basic needs plus enough for some social activities, such as a week of holiday in the UK, eating out once a month, but not including running a car.

That spending budget increases to £16,700 for a couple and also includes subscriptions and services such as getting a haircut.

The moderate retirement living standard includes a two-week holiday in Europe and more frequent eating out. This was assessed to require a budget of £20,800 for a single person, £600 higher than two years ago, and £30,600 for a couple, up £1,500.

The annual budget needed for a comfortable retirement living standard has increased since 2019 by £600 to £33,600 for one person and £2,200 to £49,700 for a couple.

This covered items such as regular beauty treatments, theatre trips and annual maintenance and servicing of a burglar alarm.

Nigel Peaple, Director of Policy and Advocacy at the PLSA, said:

'The pandemic has emphasised the importance of economic security as well as social and cultural participation in retirement.

'We hope the updated standards will encourage people to think about whether they are saving enough for the retirement lifestyle they want and, in particular, whether they are making the most of the employer contributions on offer in their workplace pension.'

Internet links: PLSA website

Heat pump grants worth £5,000 will help replace gas boilers

Homeowners in England and Wales will be offered subsidies of £5,000 from next April to help them to replace old gas boilers with low carbon heat pumps.

The grants are part of the government's £3.9 billion plan to reduce carbon emissions caused by heating homes and other buildings.

It is hoped no new gas boilers will be sold after 2035. The funding also aims to make social housing and public buildings more energy efficient.

However, experts have stated that the budget is too low and the strategy not ambitious enough. Ministers say the subsidies will make heat pumps a comparable price to a new gas boiler, but the £450 million being allocated for the subsidies over three years will cover a maximum of just 90,000 pumps.

Matthew Fell, Chief Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said:

'£5,000 heat pump grants will help get the ball rolling when it comes to decarbonising homes across the UK. The government's Heat and Buildings Strategy provides a golden opportunity for both the public and private sector to pick up the pace of progress to net zero.

'There's no doubt that the scale of the challenge is considerable. These welcome measures – including the 2035 phase out of new gas boilers – will help consumers and business better prepare to change the way they heat their homes and buildings.'

Internet links: GOV.UK CBI website

 

Friday, 8 October 2021

Newsletter 160


Deferring VAT or Time to Pay

We have recently been made aware of some not well publicised practices which are causing concerns for clients.

As part of the Governments Assistance to Business during the Covid pandemic, HMRC offered VAT registered businesses the opportunity to defer VAT payments and for the Self Employed, the opportunity to defer their July 2020 tax instalment.

In some cases and without forewarning, clients have received letters from HMRC demanding that any arrears should be settled and that taxpayers risk damaging their credit record by not doing so. A client recently tried to purchase a business vehicle but at the final hurdle was informed that the company credit rating was such that they could not obtain finance. Upon further investigation it seemed that a marker had been placed on the credit rating because a VAT Return had been submitted late. HMRC had been kept informed that the taxpayer had been suffering with the effects of Covid and the VAT return had been filed at the earliest possible opportunity. The client is trying hard to run his business through to full recovery and is being blocked by a Government agency in doing so.

We have also encountered circumstances where a VAT Registered business has filed their VAT Return on time but because of bank daily limitations they had to spread payment over 2 days, the final day for payment and the following day, being technically a late payment. HMRC systems initiated an immediate financial penalty of over £1,500. It seems that whilst some large corporates are still not contributing fully to the Treasury, HMRC are still targeting SME businesses in an attempt to refill the coffers. 

Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Self Assessment delayed for a year

The government has delayed the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Income Tax Self Assessment (MTD for ITSA) for a year, HMRC recently announced.

The government says it has made the move in recognition of the challenges faced by many UK businesses as the country emerges from the pandemic.

It will now introduce MTD for ITSA in the tax year beginning in
April 2024, a year later than planned.

It says the later start for MTD for ITSA gives those required to join more time to prepare and for HMRC to deliver a robust service, with additional time for customer testing in the pilot.

Lucy Frazer, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

'The digital tax system we are building will be more efficient, make it easier for customers to get tax right, and bring wider benefits in increased productivity.

'But we recognise that, as we emerge from the pandemic, it's critical that everyone has enough time to prepare for the change, which is why we're giving people an extra year to do so.

'We remain firmly committed to MTD and building a tax system fit for the 21st century.'

Internet link: GOV.UK

National Insurance and dividend tax rises announced for social care reform

From April 2022, the government plans to create a new social care levy which will see UK-wide tax and National Insurance Contribution (NIC) increases.

There will be a 1.25% increase in NICs on earned income, with dividend tax rates also increasing by 1.25%. The money raised will be ringfenced for health and social care costs.

The Levy will be effectively introduced from April 2022, when NIC for working age employees, the self-employed and employers will increase by 1.25% and be added to the existing NHS allocation. The Levy will not apply to Class 2 or 3 NICs.

From April 2023, once HMRC’s systems are updated, the 1.25% Levy will be formally separated out and will also apply to individuals working above State Pension age and NIC rates will return to their 2021/22 levels.

Individuals who receive dividend income will also face a higher tax bill as all rates of dividend tax will increase by 1.25% from April 2022.

The dividend tax is applicable on dividend income above the frozen £2,000 dividend allowance and above the £12,570 personal allowance. Dividends on assets held in ISAs are excluded from the dividend tax.

From the 2022-23 tax year, basic rate dividend tax will be charged at 8.75% instead of 7.5% this year. Higher rate dividend taxpayers will be charged 33.75% instead of 32.5% and additional rate dividend taxpayers will pay 39.35% instead of 38.1% respectively.

Internet links: GOV.UK 

Chancellor to deliver Autumn 2021 Budget on
27 October

HM Treasury has announced that Chancellor Rishi Sunak will deliver the Autumn 2021 Budget on Wednesday 27 October.

On 7 September the Chancellor launched Spending Review 2021, which will conclude on 27 October and will be presented alongside the Autumn Budget. The Spending Review will outline government departments' resource and capital budgets from 2022/23 to 2024/25.

The Spending Review is also expected to set out how the government will deliver on its promises to the British public through leading the transition to net zero across the country; ensuring strong and innovative public services; levelling up across the UK to increase and spread opportunity; and delivering its Plan for Growth.

The Chancellor said:

'Despite the worst economic recession in 300 years, we have not only got people back into work through the Plan for Jobs but continued to deliver on the priorities of the British people.

'At the Spending Review . . . , I will set out how we will continue to invest in public services and drive growth while keeping the public finances on a sustainable path.'

Internet link: GOV.UK 

Chancellor warned of redundancies as furlough scheme ends

The government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) ended on 30 September after supporting millions of workers during the pandemic.

The government said the wages of more than 11 million people were subsidised for at least some of the scheme's duration at a cost of around £70 billion.

Economists say there is likely to be a rise in unemployment due to new redundancies, despite the fact that some may be able to find work in recovering sectors such as travel and hospitality.

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said the end of the furlough scheme, the scrapping of the small employer sick pay rebate and the closure of the government's apprenticeship incentive scheme will only add pressure on companies.

Mike Cherry, the FSB's National Chair, said:

'It's potentially a dangerous moment. As the weather turns colder, so too will the operating environment for many firms. With recent economic growth numbers having fallen below expectations, the upcoming festive season may not provide as much of a boost as hoped to many small businesses' bottom lines.'

Internet link: GOV.UK FSB website 

COVID-19 sick pay rebate scheme closed in September

The government's scheme that enables small businesses to recoup statutory sick pay costs caused by COVID-19 closed at the end of September.

Legislation ending the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) was laid before parliament on 9 September.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, employers were obliged to pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) to eligible employees unable to work because of sickness. It is paid at a flat rate of £96.35 (at the current rate) for up to 28 weeks. The full cost of SSP is met by the employer.

To support employers during the pandemic, the government legislated to allow certain small and medium size employers to reclaim some, or all, of their SSP costs from HMRC via the SSPRS.

Under the new regulations, employers will not be able to reclaim SSP from 30 September 2021 and any claims relating to periods prior to that date must have been filed by 31 December 2021.

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) said:

'It would appear that the suspension of the requirement to wait for three days before SSP is paid has not yet been repealed. The three-day rule was suspended temporarily during the peak of the COVID-19 crisis to encourage people to stay at home as soon as they felt ill.'

Internet link: ICAEW website GOV.UK 

£800 million Reinsurance Scheme opens for live events

The government has opened a £800 million Reinsurance Scheme to cover live events against cancellations stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The live events sector is worth more than £70 billion annually to the UK economy and supports more than 700,000 jobs, including small businesses and the self-employed.

The UK Live Events Reinsurance Scheme will support live events across the country – such as concerts and festivals, conferences and business events – that are at risk of being cancelled or delayed due to an inability to obtain COVID-19 cancellation insurance.

The government has partnered with Lloyd's Market Association to deliver the scheme as part of its Plan for Jobs.

The scheme will see the government act as a 'reinsurer', stepping in with a guarantee to make sure insurers can offer the products events companies need. The scheme is available from 22 September 2021 and will run until the end of September 2022.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

'The events sector supports hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country and as the economy re-opens, we're helping events providers and businesses plan with confidence right through to next year.'

Internet links: GOV.UK 

Government announces plans to make requesting flexible working a day one right

UK workers could get more choice over when and where they work under new proposals to make the right to request flexible working a day one entitlement.

The government will also introduce a day one right to one week's unpaid leave for carers balancing a job with caring responsibilities. The government says the plans will make for more productive businesses, whilst accommodating both employee and employer needs.

The proposals consider whether limiting an employee's application for flexible working to one per year continues to represent the best balance between individual and business needs.

The consultation also looks at cutting the current three-month period an employer has to consider any request.

If an employer cannot accommodate a request, as can be the case, they would need to think about what alternatives they could offer.

Matthew Fell, Chief Policy Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said:

'Businesses have learnt a huge amount about the pros and cons of flexible working during the pandemic, with many firms expecting to receive more formal and informal requests in the future. Employers support giving employees the right to request flexible working from day one in the job.

'Companies want to work with the government to ensure that they can say 'no' when they have properly considered requests but for good reason can't accept them.'

Internet link: GOV.UK CBI website 

British Business Bank provided £80.5 billion of COVID-19 support

COVID-19 emergency finance schemes offered £80.5 billion of finance to almost 1.7 million businesses through the British Business Bank (BBB) during the last financial year.

This support, which is not included under the Bank's core programmes, was evenly distributed across the nations and regions of the UK.

In addition, the BBB supported £8.5 billion through its normal core finance programmes, although this was below its target of £9.085 billion due to displacement of existing programmes by COVID-19 emergency finance schemes.

The Bank was independently assessed as having deployed its expertise to the government effectively, ranging from advice on COVID-19 scheme development and delivery to fulfilling priorities on research and market engagement.

Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO of the BBB, said:

'Throughout 2020/21, in response to the pandemic, the BBB performed a role vital to the UK government, finance markets and the economy as a whole.

'Our financial support to smaller businesses has increased by more than £80 billion during the last financial year, and now stands at nearly £89 billion.

'We look forward to using our unique position in the market to support businesses further as they recover and return to growth once more, thereby rebuilding the foundations of the UK's future prosperity.'

Internet link: British Business Bank website

 

Friday, 24 September 2021

MAKING TAX DIGITAL DELAYED AGAIN

 

It may come as no surprise to many business people that HMRC have again announced that their MTD (Making Tax Digital) for Self Assessment Tax Returns has been deferred yet again.

MTD was first introduced as a concept by then Chancellor George Osborne in 2015 and was planned to be operational by 2018.

It has been kicked further down the road several times now and the latest announcement follows an “Emergency Meeting” between Government and software developers which might seem to suggest that it is still not fit for purpose operationally.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury in announcing the deferral said that people need more time to prepare for the change. She was careful to use the word “people” as clearly taxpayers have been aware of it for 6 years now and presumably a lot of money has been spent on the IT infrastructure in readiness for it to begin, so which people need more time?

Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Newsletter 159

 

A warning about covid related grants

Many small businesses have gained financial benefit by way of grants over the course of the Coronavirus pandemic.

These have principally been through the Job Retention Scheme “furlough”, SSEIS grants or through local authority schemes which have in the main, targetted smaller businesses. We are reminding everyone that any financial assistance of this nature is taxable income and as such, failure to disclose will be treated seriously by

HM Revenue & Customs.  In many cases, HMRC are able to easily cross reference the receipt by businesses against other records to check for disclosure.

However, we are aware that in some cases, Directors or business owners may have given local authorities the details of non-business bank accounts either accidentally or deliberately leading to such receipts not being included within the business accounts.  We would warn any taxpayer who may have found themselves in this situation to put the relevant sums back into the business account.

HMRC will treat any misdirection of monies as “Deliberate & Concealed” which can lead to a 100% penalty on any tax becoming due.  For Company Directors the matter could be more serious as it would be considered misfeasance or potentially fraud.

It is important for our clients to alert us to any grant claims made during the pandemic and to ensure that they are recorded in the business records.

HMRC outlines changes to late payment penalty regime

HMRC has published a policy paper outlining the forthcoming changes to the penalties for late payment and interest harmonisation for taxpayers.

The government intends to reform sanctions for late submission and late payments to make them 'fairer and more consistent across taxes'. Initially the changes will apply to VAT and Income Tax Self Assessment (ITSA).  

The changes will see interest charges and repayment interest harmonised to bring VAT in line with other tax regimes, including ITSA.

Under the new regime, there are two late payment penalties that may apply: a first penalty and then an additional or second penalty, with an annualised penalty rate. All taxpayers, regardless of the tax regime, have a legal obligation to pay their tax by the due date for that tax. The taxpayer will not incur a penalty if the outstanding tax is paid within the first 15 days after the due date. If tax remains unpaid after day 15, the taxpayer incurs the first penalty.

This penalty is set at 2% of the tax outstanding after day 15.

If any of the tax is still unpaid after day 30 the penalty will be calculated at 2% of the tax outstanding after day 15 plus 2% of the tax outstanding after day 30. If tax remains unpaid on day 31 the taxpayer will begin to incur an additional penalty on the tax remaining outstanding. This will accrue at 4% per annum.

HMRC will offer taxpayers the option of requesting a Time To Pay arrangement which will enable a taxpayer to stop a penalty from accruing by approaching HMRC and agreeing a schedule for paying their outstanding tax.

For VAT taxpayers, the reforms take effect from VAT periods starting on or after 1 April 2022. The changes will take effect for taxpayers in ITSA from accounting periods beginning on or after 6 April 2023 for those with business or property income over £10,000 per year (that is, taxpayers who are required to submit digital quarterly updates through Making Tax Digital for ITSA).

For all other ITSA taxpayers, the reforms will take effect from accounting periods beginning on or after 6 April 2024.

Internet link: GOV.UK

Digital marketplaces to report sellers' incomes from 2023

HMRC has published a consultation that outlines plans to implement reporting rules for digital platforms first put forward by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

In February 2020, the OECD consulted on proposed rules setting out how digital platforms should collect information about the income of sellers and report it to tax authorities.

Under the new rules, websites and applications based in the UK will be required to report sellers' income arising in the previous calendar year to HMRC. The reporting deadline will be 31 January of the year following the calendar year.

HMRC stated that the new rules will improve international co-operation in regard to the exchange of information for tax purposes. They will also allow HMRC to access data from platforms based outside the UK quickly and efficiently, which should encourage compliance and increase the visibility of transactions.

The rules will also help taxpayers to get their tax right and will assist HMRC in detecting and tackling tax non-compliance.

HMRC's consultation will close on 22 October 2021.

Internet links: GOV.UK

CIOT warns over stamp duty refund claims

The CIOT has warned that some claims being made by firms offering help with Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) refunds are too good to be true.

The CIOT says an increasing number of firms are contacting buyers of properties after completion of a purchase, suggesting that SDLT has been overpaid.

The most common issues raised are that multiple-dwellings relief (MDR) has not been claimed or that the buyer could have paid non-residential rates of SDLT (which are generally lower than residential rates) because the property was a mixture of residential and non-residential land.

The CIOT said:

'SDLT is complicated and sometimes reliefs are overlooked, so it can be worth revisiting transactions if a letter is received.

'However, many unsolicited approaches are indeed too good to be true and responsible taxpayers should act with caution and check independently whether a refund is due.

'The suggested fee arrangements can also seem attractive as it appears that the claims are made on a 'no win no fee' basis. But it is important to remember that receiving a refund is not necessarily a win as HMRC may revisit the claim and deny that it was valid. In these circumstances, the fee may already have been paid.'

Internet link: CIOT website

Contactless limit to increase to £100 from 15 October

The national roll-out of the new £100 spending limit for contactless card payments will begin from 15 October 2021, banking trade body UK Finance has confirmed.

The decision to raise the contactless limit from £45 to £100 was made by HM Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) following a public consultation and discussions with both the retail and banking sectors. It follows on from the successful increase in the limit from £30 to £45 in April 2020.

From 15 October 2021, consumers will start to see retailers accepting contactless payments up to the new £100 limit, which will give customers more flexibility when shopping in store.

David Postings, Chief Executive of UK Finance, said:

'Contactless payment has proved very popular with consumers and an increasing number of transactions are being made using contactless technology.

'The increase in the limit to £100 will allow people to pay for higher value transactions like their weekly shop or filling up their car with fuel. The payments industry has worked hard to put in place the infrastructure to enable retailers to update their payments systems so they can start to offer their customers this new higher limit.'

Internet link: UK Finance website

HMRC urges taxpayers to stay alert to digital scams

HMRC has urged taxpayers to stay alert to the threat of digital scams and scammers claiming to represent HMRC.

Research published by HMRC revealed that the number of tax-related scams has doubled in the past 12 months.

In the past year HMRC has received more than one million referrals from the UK public in regard to suspicious contact, with many fraudsters offering 'tax refunds' or 'rebates'. The research showed that HMRC received 441,954 reports of phone scams and more than 13,315 reports of malicious websites.

HMRC also stated that, over the last year, it has asked internet providers to take down 441 coronavirus (COVID-19) support scheme scam webpages.

Mike Fell, Head of Cyber Security Operation at HMRC, said:

'The pandemic has given criminals a fresh hook for their activity and we've detected more than 460 COVID financial support scams alone since early 2020.

'HMRC takes a proactive approach to protecting the public from tax-related scams and we have a dedicated Customer Protection Team that works continuously to identify and close them down.'

Internet link: ICAEW website

BCC calls for government to extend skills training

The BCC has urged the government to extend skills training in light of the publication of research which showed that one in five companies are considering making redundancies as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The BCC has stressed concerns that older workers could go unutilised unless support for retraining is put into place immediately.

The BCC survey, which polled over 250 businesses with employees still on furlough, revealed that one in five are planning to make staff redundant following the rise in employer contributions to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).

Jane Gratton, Head of People Policy at the BCC, said:

'The changes to the furlough scheme will likely result in many thousands of people being released back into the labour market, as employers who are still struggling to recover from the recession are forced to make redundancies and cuts to working hours.

'With widespread skills shortages across the economy, some will find new jobs where their skills are in demand, while others will need to retrain for opportunities in a different sector.'

Internet links: BCC website

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published and took effect from1 September 2021.

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 September 2021 are:
 

Engine size

Petrol

1400cc or less

12p

1401cc - 2000cc

14p

Over 2000cc

20p

 

Engine size

LPG

1400cc or less

7p

1401cc - 2000cc

8p

Over 2000cc

12p

 

Engine size

Diesel

1600cc or less

10p

1601cc - 2000cc

12p

Over 2000cc

15p

HMRC guidance states that the rates only apply when you either:

         reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars

         require employees to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel.

You must not use these rates in any other circumstances.

The Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric cars is 4p per mile. Electricity is not a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

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

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

The government has 'named and shamed' 191 companies that have broken National Minimum Wage (NMW) laws.

Following investigations by HMRC, the named firms have been fined for owing £2.1 million to over 34,000 workers. The breaches took place between 2011 and 2018. Named employers have since been made to pay back what they owed to employees and were fined an additional £3.2 million.

According to HMRC, 47% of firms wrongly deducted pay from workers' wages, including for uniforms and expenses. In addition, 30% failed to pay workers for all the time they had worked, such as when they worked overtime, while 19% paid the incorrect apprenticeship rate.

Business Minister Paul Scully said:

'Our minimum wage laws are there to ensure a fair day's work gets a fair day's pay – it is unacceptable for any company to come up short.

'All employers, including those on this list, need to pay workers properly.

'This government will continue to protect workers' rights vigilantly, and employers that short-change workers won't get off lightly.'

Internet link: GOV.UK

Thursday, 5 August 2021

Newsletter 158

Welcome to our latest edition of E-News

We have recently witnessed the Government easing out of Covid and a return to workplace working for many people.

This is evidenced by a large increase in commuter traffic on our roads exacerbated by the increased number of staycation holidaymakers using the motorway network.

Nevertheless, the economy is still dealing with the furlough of staff in travel and hospitality sectors while travellers struggle with the traffic light system for overseas departures and arrivals.

Taxation is however a perennial and in this month’s e-news we consider the announcement of a consultation on self-employed basis periods, draft Finance Bill clauses and guidance on claiming the fifth self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant. With HMRC updated guidance on salary sacrifice, ICAEW urging VAT reforms specifically for property, the latest statistics on furlough, pension scams and public trust in charities, there is a lot to update you on.

Consultation launched on self-employed basis period reform

HMRC has recently launched a consultation on how basis periods can be reformed for income tax for the self-employed.

The consultation seeks to gather views on how best to implement a proposal to simplify the rules under which profits of an unincorporated trading business are allocated to tax years using basis periods. The consultation also includes suggestions regarding transitional rules for moving to the new system.

HMRC aims to simplify the system before Making Tax Digital (MTD) for income tax is implemented.

The proposals affect the self-employed and partnerships with trading income. It mainly affects unincorporated businesses that do not draw up annual accounts to 31 March or 5 April and those that are in the early years of trade.

HMRC stated that it would like to gather views on the matter from businesses, advisers, tax software providers and representative bodies.

Internet link: GOV.UK Basis period reform – consultation

The government has published draft Finance Bill clauses

The Government has published draft clauses for the next Finance Bill, which broadly cover pre-announced policy changes.

The government is committed, where possible, to publishing most tax legislation in draft for technical consultation before the relevant Finance Bill is laid before Parliament.

The consultation will close on 14 September 2021.

Internet link: GOV.UK Draft Finance Bill 2021-22

Claiming the fifth self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant

HMRC has issued guidance on claiming the fifth and final self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant.

Unlike previous SEISS grants the amount of the fifth grant available is determined by how much a self-employed individual’s turnover is reduced.

The fifth grant is 80% of three months’ average trading profits capped at £7,500 for those self-employed individuals whose turnover has reduced by 30% or more. Those with a turnover reduction of less than 30% will receive a grant based on 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850.

Claims must be made by 30 September 2021. It is the taxpayer who must make the claim, an accountant or agent cannot submit the claim on their behalf.

Before making a claim taxpayers must:

  • work out their turnover for a 12-month period starting from 1 April 2020 to 6 April 2020
  • find their turnover from either 2019/20 or 2018/19 to use as a reference year.

HMRC advises taxpayers will need to have both figures ready when they make their claim.

A taxpayer can calculate their turnover for 2020/21 in a number of ways:

  • by referring to their 2020/21 self assessment tax return if this has already been completed
  • checking the figures on their accounting software
  • reviewing their bookkeeping or spreadsheet records that detail their self-employment invoices and payments received
  • checking the bank account they use for their business to account for money coming in from customers
  • by asking their accountant or tax adviser for help in calculating the figures. However accountants and agents are unable to make the claim on the taxpayer’s behalf.

Claiming the fifth SEISS grant is not straightforward so please contact us for advice on determining your turnover figures or eligibility.

Internet link: GOV.UK SEISS5

ICAEW urges HMRC to scrap exemptions to simplify VAT rules

In response to HMRC’s consultation on simplifying the rules relating to land and property, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has urged HMRC to abolish all VAT exemptions and remove all VAT options.

The ICAEW stated that the VAT rules regarding land and property are ‘unnecessarily complex’ and stand to benefit from ‘significant simplification’. The Institute also highlighted the need for a more fundamental review of VAT exemptions.

In its response, the ICAEW also argued that abolishing exemptions would remove the difficulties for businesses posed by partial exemption. It suggested that all land and property transactions should be subject to VAT at the standard rate or reduced rate, other than those relating to domestic property, which should remain zero-rated. This would help to remove many of the complexities associated with the current rules, the ICAEW said.

In regard to the removal of all VAT options, the ICAEW commented: ‘Any option, whether it be to tax or exempt a transaction, creates complexity and uncertainty, as there are then two possibilities for the VAT liability of what is essentially the same type of supply.’

Internet link: ICAEW VAT representation

HMRC updates Salary Sacrifice guidance

HMRC has updated the guidance on salary sacrifice.

HMRC has removed the guidance on ‘Salary sacrifice arrangements set up before 6 April 2017’ as the transitional arrangements for calculating the value of the benefit came to an end on 5 April 2021.

A salary sacrifice arrangement is an agreement to reduce an employee’s entitlement to cash pay, usually in return for a non-cash benefit.

Employers can set up a salary sacrifice arrangement by changing the terms of the employee’s employment contract. The employee needs to agree to this change.

The impact on tax and National Insurance contributions payable for any employee will depend on the pay and non-cash benefits that make up the salary sacrifice arrangement.

An employer needs to pay and deduct the right amount of tax and National Insurance contributions for the cash and benefits they provide.

For the cash component, that means operating the PAYE system correctly via payroll.

For any non-cash benefits, an employer will need to work out the value of the benefit.

If an employer sets up a new salary sacrifice arrangement, they will need to work out the value of a non-cash benefit by using the higher of the:

  • amount of the salary given up
  • earnings charge under the normal benefit in kind rules.

For cars with CO2 emissions of no more than 75g/km, employers should always use the earnings charge under the normal benefit in kind rules.

Please contact us if you are considering setting up salary sacrifice arrangements to ensure these are effective.

Internet link: GOV.UK Salary sacrifice

Data reveals 1.9 million workers remain on furlough

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is being wound down on 30 September 2021 and data published by HMRC has revealed that 1.9 million workers remain on furlough.

The data showed that the number of employees furloughed on the CJRS fell by 590,000 during June. The total number of furloughed workers is 1.9 million.

The data also revealed that younger workers have been leaving furlough most quickly, whilst one in ten workers aged 65 or over were on furlough.

For guidance on claiming CJRS visit: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme

Internet link: GOV.UK CJRS statistics

Pension scams average losses now over £50,000

According to the latest figures from Action Fraud the average loss from pension scams has reached £50,949 this year.

That is more than double the typical figure of £23,689 reported last year.

Action Fraud said the losses in each case ranged from less than £1,000 to as much as £500,000, and the real figures could be higher as many scams go unreported.

Mark Steward, the Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), said:

‘Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much they have saved.

‘Check the status of a firm before making a financial decision about your pension by visiting the FCA register. Make sure you only get advice from a firm authorised by the FCA to provide advice, before making any changes to your pension arrangements.’

The FCA highlighted five common warning signs:

  • Being offered a free pension review out of the blue
  • Being offered guaranteed higher returns
  • Being offered help to release cash from your pension, even though you are under 55
  • High-pressure sales tactics – scammers may try to pressure you with ‘time-limited offers’ or send a courier to your door to wait while you sign documents
  • Unusual investments which tend to be unregulated and high-risk.

More information on how to avoid pension scams is available from the FCA at https://www.fca.org.uk/scamsmart/how-avoid-pension-scams

Internet link: FCA news

Increase in public trust in charities

Public trust in charities has reached its highest level since 2014, according to research published by the Charity Commission.

An independent study showed that people’s trust in charities scored an average of 6.4 out of 10, up from 6.2 a year ago and significantly higher than the low of 5.5 recorded in 2018. The highest figure to date is 6.7 out of 10, recorded in 2014.

The Commission said the uplift may be linked in part to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and charities’ visible role in responding to the national crisis, notably in areas such as food poverty and support for NHS workers and other key workers.

Helen Stephenson, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, said:

‘It is vital that we learn the right lessons from this research. The pandemic has been a momentous event in our collective experience, with charities proving their value time and again.

‘But it has not changed people’s fundamental expectations of charity. More than ever, people need evidence that charities are not ends in themselves, but vehicles for making the world a better place, both through what they achieve, and the values they live along the way.’

Internet link: Public trust in charities 2021: web version