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Thursday, 6 May 2021

Newsletter 155

 As we head into May and towards the summer months, we remain ever more optimistic that there is some light at the end of the Coronavirus tunnel. We are still alert to the possibility of a third wave but we are confident that we have put in place the measures necessary to reduce exposure to Covid within the office. We are very much hoping that visitors will be able to come into our building during the latter part of this month for face to face meetings.

Somehow Zoom and Teams whilst a good substitute during the crisis never quite replaced the social interaction of a physical meeting. Announcements regarding opening up will be posted on our website.

Sadly during the last month we have learned of the deaths of two long standing clients of the practice as a result of Covid-19 and we offer our condolences to their families along with our continuing support at this time.

The more senior staff at Walker Thompson have all now received their first vaccination and looking ahead to a second in the weeks ahead.

Fourth self-employed grant now open for online applications

On 21 April, the online service for applications for the fourth Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant was opened for claims, HMRC confirmed.

All applications must be submitted by the individual self-employed worker and cannot be handled by accountants or tax advisers.

The fourth grant will be 80% of three months' average trading profits, to be claimed from late April 2021.

Payment will be in a single instalment capped at £7,500 in total and will cover the period 1 February to 30 April 2021. The scheme has been extended to those who filed a 2019/20 self-assessment tax return prior to 3 March 2021.

Claimants must have been impacted by reduced activity, capacity and demand, or have been trading previously and are temporarily unable to do so. All claims must be made on or before 1 June 2021.

There is no requirement for an earlier SEISS grant to have been claimed to be able to claim the fourth grant.

The fifth SEISS grant will cover the period from 1 May to 30 September 2021 and will be available from July.

It will be set at 80% of three months' average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more.

Alternately, it will be worth 30% of three months' average trading profits, capped at £2,850 for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%.

Further details of the fifth grant will be provided in due course.

Internet link: GOV.UK 

Recovery Loan Scheme opens to businesses

On 6 April, the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) was introduced to replace the government's coronavirus lending schemes.

The RLS provides financial support to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme gives lenders a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans between £25,000 and £10 million to give them confidence in continuing to provide finance to UK businesses.

The RLS is open to all businesses, including those who have already received support under the previous COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme although the amount they have borrowed under an existing scheme may in certain circumstances limit the amount they may borrow under RLS.

The RLS is initially available through a number of lenders accredited by the British Business Bank.

Internet link: British Business Bank website

Recent changes to IR35 'undermine the self-employed', says IPSE

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has stated that the recent changes to the rules relating to off-payroll workers, commonly known as IR35, 'undermine the self-employed at the worst possible time'.

The changes to IR35 took effect on 6 April 2021 and shifted responsibility for making the decision on employment status on each contract away from contractors and personal service companies (PSCs) and on to the client receiving their services. This has already been done in the public sector.

Research carried out by IPSE found that 50% of contractors planned to stop contracting in the UK once the changes took effect unless they could secure contracts unaffected by them. 24% are planning to seek contracts abroad; 12% plan to stop working altogether; 17% will seek an employed role; and 11% are looking to retire within the next year.

Additionally, 24% of contractors said their clients are planning to blanket-assess all their contractors as 'inside IR35'.  

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said:

'The changes to IR35 would do serious harm to the self-employed sector at the best of times, but now they are adding drastic, unnecessary damage to the financial carnage of the pandemic – undermining the UK's contractors at the worst possible time.

'The crucial problem with IR35 is still its complexity: in fact, it is so complex that HMRC has lost the majority of tribunals on its own legislation. And there remains serious doubts about the CEST tool HMRC designed to supposedly cut through this complexity.'

Internet link: IPSE website

CBI calls for extension of Kickstart Scheme as jobs market remains subdued

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to extend the Kickstart Scheme to help young people who are bearing the brunt of the subdued job market.

The Kickstart Scheme was launched in September and promised to pay the wages and associated employment costs for businesses taking on 16 to 24-year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit up to six-month contract periods.

The UK unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the three months to February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, 56,000 workers were cut from company payrolls in March, which represents the first monthly drop since last November.

Around 813,000 workers have been cut from company payrolls in the last 12 months as the pandemic adversely affected the jobs market. The ONS said young people continued to bear the brunt of the crisis amid job losses in sectors such as hospitality and retail.

People under 25 accounted for more than half of the jobs lost in the year to March, it added.

Matthew Percival, Director of People and Skills at the CBI, said:

'Evidence continues to mount that it is young people's jobs that have been hardest hit by lockdowns. Support for jobs and training will be vital to making the UK's economic recovery inclusive.

'Government should confirm that the extra lockdown at the beginning of the year means that the Kickstart Scheme will remain open for longer to allow businesses the time to deliver opportunities for young people.'

Internet link: CBI website

New 95% mortgage scheme launched

On 19 April, a government-backed mortgage scheme to help people with 5% deposits get on to the housing ladder was made available to lenders.

First announced at the 2021 Budget, the scheme will help first-time buyers or current homeowners secure a mortgage with just a 5% deposit to buy a house worth up to £600,000. The government says this will provide 'an affordable route to homeownership for aspiring homeowners'.

The government will offer lenders the guarantee they need to provide mortgages that cover the other 95%, subject to the usual affordability checks.

The scheme is now available from lenders on high streets across the country, with Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, HSBC and NatWest having launched mortgages under the scheme and Virgin Money following shortly.

Miguel Sard, Managing Director of Home Buying and Ownership at NatWest, said:

'We welcome the government's new mortgage guarantee scheme to give further support to those with smaller deposits. For those customers, particularly younger or first-time buyers, saving up for a big deposit can often be difficult, and we know people in these groups are some of the hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic.

'A government-backed scheme will help segments of the market for whom homeownership has felt far out of reach in recent months.'

Internet link: GOV.UK

New claims required for home working tax relief

Employees who are working from home will need to make new claims for tax relief for the 2021/22 tax year, HMRC has stated.

From 6 April 2020, employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home.

Employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive the tax relief from HMRC.

HMRC has also confirmed that the £6 per week payment is available in full, even if an employee splits their time between home and the office.

The allowance is to cover tax-deductible additional costs that employees who are required to work from home have incurred, such as heating and lighting the workroom, and business telephone calls.

Last year an online portal was launched that allows employees to claim tax relief for working at home. The portal was set up to process tax relief on additional expenses for employed workers who have been told to work from home by their employer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Internet link: GOV.UK

HMRC sets out penalty regime for SEISS abuse

The fourth Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant is now live and HMRC has set out the penalties for abuse of the scheme.

An overclaimed SEISS grant includes any amount of grant which the self-employed individual was not entitled to receive or was more than the amount HMRC said the applicant was entitled to when the claim was made.

Overpayments must be notified to HMRC within 90 days of receipt of an SEISS grant.

When deciding the amount of any penalty, HMRC will take account whether the taxpayer knew they were entitled to the SEISS grant when they received it and when it became repayable or chargeable to tax because the individual's circumstances changed.

The HMRC guidance states: 'If you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell us in the notification period, the law treats your failure as deliberate and concealed. This means we can charge a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the SEISS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.

'If you did not know you were not entitled to your grant when you received it, we will only charge you a penalty if you have not repaid the grant by 31 January 2022.'

If you would like further advice or require a compliance review on your eligibility, please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Pension fraud increased to £1.8 million in first quarter of 2021

Losses from pension fraud rose to £1.8 million in the first three months of this year, according to figures from Action Fraud.

107 reports of pension fraud were made in the first quarter of 2021, an increase of almost 45% when compared to the same period in 2020.

Pension scams often include free pension reviews, 'too good to be true' investment opportunities and offers to help release money from your pension, even for under 55s, which is not permitted under the pension freedom rules.

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:

'Criminals are malicious and unapologetic when it comes to committing pension fraud. They are motivated by their own financial gain and lack any kind of empathy for their victims, who can often lose their whole life savings to these scams.

'We know pension fraud can have a devastating impact, both financially and emotionally, but any one of us can fall victim to a fraud and it's nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It's incredibly important that instances of pension fraud and attempted scams are reported to Action Fraud.

'Every report helps police get that bit closer to the people committing these awful crimes. Reporting to Action Fraud also allows our specialist victim support advocates to provide people with important protection advice and signpost them to local support services.'

Internet link: Action Fraud website


Thursday, 15 April 2021

Newsletter 154

 

Business rates relief extended with £1.5 billion fund

The government is to extend business rates relief with a £1.5 billion fund targeted at those businesses unable to benefit from the current COVID-19 support.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have not been paying any rates during the pandemic, as part of a 15 month-long relief which runs to the end of June this year.

However, many businesses ineligible for reliefs have been appealing for discounts on their rates bills, arguing the pandemic represented a ‘material change of circumstance’ (MCC).

The government says that market-wide economic changes to property values, such as from COVID-19, can only be properly considered at general rates revaluations, and will therefore be legislating to rule out COVID-19 related MCC appeals.

Instead, the government will provide a £1.5 billion pot across the country that will be distributed according to which sectors have suffered most economically, rather than on the basis of falls in property values. It says this will ensure the support is provided to businesses in England in the fastest and fairest way possible.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

‘Our priority throughout this crisis has been to protect jobs and livelihoods. Providing this extra support will get cash to businesses who need it most, quickly and fairly.

‘By providing more targeted support than the business rates appeals system, our approach will help protect and support jobs in businesses across the country, providing a further boost as we reopen the economy, emerge from this crisis, and build back better.’

Internet link: GOV.UK 

Consultations launched on UK’s first Tax Day

The government has published over 30 updates, consultations and documents on the UK’s first ever Tax Day.

The announcements, which would traditionally be published at Budget, have been released later to allow for scrutiny from stakeholders.

It was announced that HMRC will tighten rules to force holiday let landlords to prove they have made a realistic effort to rent properties out for at least 140 days per year. There are suspicions that many simply declare that they will do this but leave the properties empty.

Declaring a home to be a holiday let means that it is exempt from council tax and owners pay business rates instead.

The Treasury plans to cut the rate of domestic Air Passenger Duty. The consultation also seeks views on supporting the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 by increasing the number of international distance bands.

Inheritance tax (IHT) reporting regulations ‘will be simplified’ to ensure that from 1 January 2022 more than 90% of non-taxpaying estates will no longer have to complete IHT forms when probate or confirmation is required.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘We are making these announcements to increase the transparency, discipline and accessibility of tax policymaking.

‘These measures will help us to upgrade and digitise the UK tax system, tackle tax avoidance and fraud, among other things.

‘Many of today’s announcements form a key part of the government’s wider 10-year plan to build a trusted, modern tax system.’

Internet links: GOV.UK GOV.UK news

Government publishes details of Finance Bill 2021

The details of the Finance Bill 2021 have been published by the government.

The Bill outlines the key measures set to be brought into legislation, including many measures announced in the recent 2021 Budget.

In his Budget speech, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extension of the stamp duty holiday in England; a super-deduction capital allowance; extensions of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS); and an extension of the VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Bill will make sure the measures announced in the Budget take effect from 6 April 2021. It also legislates for tax changes that were previously consulted on and subsequently confirmed at the Budget.

Internet link: UK Parliament website

£20 million SME Brexit Support Fund opens for applications

The UK government has unveiled a £20 million Brexit support package to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with changes to customs and tax rules when trading with the EU.

The SME Brexit Support Fund aims to help businesses prepare for the implementation of further import controls which come into force later this year.

Businesses who trade only with the EU and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £2,000 for each trader to pay for practical support, including training and professional advice, to ensure they can continue trading effectively.

Businesses must meet certain criteria, including having been established in the UK for at least 12 months, having fewer than 500 employees and no more than £100 million in turnover.

The closing date for applications is 30 June. HMRC states that the fund may close for applications earlier if the full £20 million is allocated.

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

‘We have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference.’

Internet links: GOV.UK guidance GOV.UK press release

HMRC publishes details of final grants for self-employed

HMRC has published details of the eligibility criteria of the final two grants available under the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

At the 2021 Budget it was confirmed that the fourth SEISS grant will be set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500. It will cover the period from February 2021 to April 2021.

To be eligible for the fourth grant, self-employed workers must have filed their 2019/20 tax return by midnight on
2 March 2021. This includes those who became self-employed in 2019/20, provided they have filed according to the deadline.

Eligibility will be based on the 2019/20 self assessment tax return which may affect the amount of the fourth grant which could be higher or lower than previous grants.

The remaining eligibility criteria are unchanged so applicants must either be currently trading but impacted by reduced demand, or be temporarily unable to trade due to COVID-19. They must also declare an intention to continue trading.

Claims can be made from late April until 31 May 2021.

The fifth SEISS grant will cover the period from May to September 2021 and will be available from July.

It will be set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more.

Alternately, it will be worth 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850 for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%.

Further details of the fifth grant will be provided in due course.

Internet link: GOV.UK

National Minimum and Living wages increases

UK workers are set to benefit from rises in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and the National Living Wage (NLW) rates that took effect from 1 April 2021.

The NMW which applies to 21 and 22 year-olds has risen from £8.20 to £8.36 and the NLW has risen from £8.72 to £8.91.
23 and 24-year-olds are now eligible for the NLW, prior to
1 April 2021, only workers aged 25 and over were eligible.

The rates for NMW and NLW for all employees are as follows:

Previous rateRate from
April 2021
Increase
National Living Wage£8.72£8.912.2%
21-22 year-old rate£8.20£8.362.0%
18-20 year-old rate£6.45£6.561.7%
16-17 year-old rate£4.55£4.621.5%
Apprentice Rate£4.15£4.303.6%

The change follows recommendations made to the government by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) and marks the first step towards the government’s target of the NLW reaching two-thirds of median earnings for workers aged 21 and over by 2024.

Commenting on the wage increases, Bryan Sanderson, Chair of the LPC, said:

‘This week’s increase in the NLW is our first step towards the government’s target of two-thirds of median earnings. It is a real-terms increase, meaning that an hour’s work can buy more than it could last year at the start of the pandemic.

‘Young people should be fairly rewarded for their work. We will seek to understand how young people’s pay and employment are affected by this in our consideration of a further reduction in the NLW age qualification to 21.’

The LPC will make recommendations to the government on the 2022 NMW and NLW rates in October.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

UK cuts electric vehicle grants by £500

The government has cut the Plug-in Car Grant and Van & Truck Grant by £500 and lowered the pricing cap on qualifying electric vehicles.

The Department for Transport will now provide grants of up to £2,500 for electric vehicles on cars priced under £35,000. This is a reduction from the current £3,000 available for vehicles costing up to £50,000.

This will mean the funding will last longer and be available to more drivers, the government statement said. Grants will no longer be available for higher priced vehicles, typically bought by drivers who can afford to switch without a subsidy from taxpayers.

The number of electric car models priced under £35,000 has increased by almost 50% since 2019 and more than half the models currently on the market will still be eligible for the grant.

However, Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said:

‘The decision to slash the Plug-in Car Grant and Van & Truck Grant is the wrong move at the wrong time. New battery electric technology is more expensive than conventional engines and incentives are essential in making these vehicles affordable to the customer.

‘This sends the wrong message to the consumer, especially private customers, and to an industry challenged to meet the government’s ambition to be a world leader in the transition to zero emission mobility.’

Internet links: GOV.UK SMMT statement

ICAEW urges HMRC to rethink quarterly reports under MTD for corporation tax

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has urged HMRC to rethink the requirement for companies to report quarterly under Making Tax Digital for corporation tax (MTD for CT).

In response to HMRC’s consultation on expanding the MTD initiative to corporation tax, the ICAEW suggested that HMRC should reconsider reporting requirements ‘at the very least for businesses below the VAT registration threshold’ and other organisations including those that require a senior accounting officer.

The Institute argued that quarterly reports would merely consist of cash in and out transactions.

The ICAEW said:

‘These reports will tell HMRC very little about the true accounting or tax results of the company for the quarter concerned.

‘The additional burden placed on companies in providing quarterly reports is not justified and should not be introduced until digital record keeping has become established and the software available is shown to work efficiently for companies and HMRC.’

Internet link: ICAEW website

Friday, 9 April 2021

TAX REPAYMENTS

For some time now, HM Revenue & Customs have been withholding genuine tax repayments which may have arisen under Self Assessment, PAYE or CIS Schemes.

HMRC will refer to repayments being held up as they are subject to “security checks”

HMRC have now put in place a process whereby they will write to taxpayers directly, not the agent acting for them such as Walker Thompson. The letter will ask for 3 separate ID documents together with replies to certain questions they might raise.
 
HMRC’s letter expects a response within 30 days and if they do not receive a reply with the requested documents, they will seek to close any Self Assessment file and presumably withhold any repayment. Not replying in time after allowing for Royal Mail and Covid hold ups will condense the 30 days considerably.  

There will also be the costs involved in resetting of Self Assessment if it is removed.
 
As there will be no online reply service we are suggesting that any reply to HMRC should be by recorded mail or trackable mail to confirm delivery. We are extremely concerned that taxpayers replies should be at a low risk as far as potential scammers are concerned. 

Any taxpayers who are concerned about the letter’s authenticity can contact HMRC to confirm that the letter was issued by them. 



 

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

THE VAT MAN COMETH

HMRC has written to businesses which it believes are trading above the VAT threshold, but who are not currently VAT registered. Thomas Peterson of Accounting Web explains what to do when such a letter arrives. 

23rd Mar 2021






Tell the accountant

HMRC has not sent a copy of the letter to the trader’s tax agent and so accountants will not be aware their client may have received the VAT related letter. It is important that the letter is copied to  the accountant as soon as possible, as the adviser can assist with mitigating penalties should the registration deadline have been missed.

What are the rules?

A business is required to register for VAT once its historic taxable turnover for the previous 12 months exceeds £85,000, or if it expects its future taxable turnover in the next 30 days alone will exceed £85,000. Exempt sales, such as land or insurance, do not count towards these thresholds. However, zero-rated sales, such as books and children’s clothing, and reduced-rated sales, such as alterations to houses, do count. 

For the historic test the business is required to notify HMRC within 30 days of the month’s end when it exceeded the threshold and becomes registered from the first day of the second month. For the future test it must notify by the end of the 30 days after the future expectation arose and becomes registered from the start of the 30th day.

Late registration penalty

HMRC may charge a penalty where a business misses the VAT registration deadline. These penalties are based on a percentage of the net VAT payable between the date the business should have registered and the date it actually did register, ranging from 5% to 15% depending on how late the registration is.

Information delay

Due to the nature of the self-assessment system, the information HMRC holds for businesses which do not complete VAT returns will, in many cases, be up to a year out of date. For self-employed traders this will be the profits up to the 5 April 2020, and for companies reported profits potentially as far back as 29 February 2020. 

As this is roughly the date when the Covid-19 restrictions began to have an impact on many businesses, it is entirely possible that the health of the business, including its turnover levels, will have fallen since the last reported period end, making HMRC’s extrapolated estimates of turnover incorrect.

What to do

Any businesses that have received such a letter should review their rolling 12-month turnover figures to ensure at no point did they breach the £85,000 threshold. This review should extend as far back as possible to ensure a reporting requirement has never arisen. All businesses, including those who have not received a HMRC letter, should be in the habit of reviewing their rolling turnover at the end of each month, especially where it has previously been close to the VAT registration threshold.

If the review reveals no requirement to register, either current or historic, then the business should reply to the HMRC letter and confirm this. This will prevent HMRC following up with further letters unnecessarily.

How to register

If VAT registration is required, regardless of whether the applicable deadline has been missed or not, the business should immediately register for VAT online, and notify HMRC via the address on the letter that they have done so. 

Where the business should have been VAT registered with effect from an earlier date, VAT will become due on any sales made since that date, but it also becomes entitled to recover any VAT suffered on business purchases. The business can also generally recover VAT paid in the previous four years for physical items still held at registration, or within the last six months for services purchased prior to the date of registration.

Depending on the wording of the contracts, the business may be able to issue additional invoices to affected customers for any VAT that should have been charged historically. Where the customer is VAT registered this is unlikely to represent a real cost to them, as they will recover any VAT paid, however they may require additional time to make the payment to minimise the impact on their cashflow.

Exemption required

If the outcome of the review is that the threshold was exceeded in a previous 12 month period, but that turnover subsequently fell such that the 12 month rolling turnover ever since has been below the threshold (and is expected to remain below the threshold going forwards), it is important that the business still completes the registration forms but ticks the box to request exception from registration.

If HMRC agrees that the exception applies, the business will not be required to register, but it must continue to review its turnover as usual.

An exemption can also be claimed if the business has exceeded the threshold (and has not dropped back below it) but only due to a high level of zero-rated sales. However, in that instance the business may wish to register regardless, as it is likely to receive refunds of VAT each quarter.

Delays at HMRC

HMRC is currently taking considerably longer to deal with forms and queries and it has steadily built up a backlog of forms to process, and it has apologised for this. If your client has registered for VAT within the last few months but they received a letter regardless, it is likely that HMRC has not processed their application as yet. If this is the case you should note this in your response to the letter.

Friday, 12 March 2021

Newsletter 153

Sunak set out Budget to protect businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a Budget to protect businesses through the pandemic, fix the public finances and begin building the future economy.

The Chancellor once again pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ during the COVID-19 pandemic and confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended until September 2021 to support jobs through the crisis.

Mr Sunak also confirmed that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has also been extended, with two further grants this year. Claimable by the self-employed, including the newly self-employed from 6 April 2019, provided they have filed their 2019/20 tax return for by midnight on
2 March 2021,

The stamp duty nil rate band on residential properties in England up to £500,000 will continue until the end of June. It will taper to £250,000 until the end of September, and then return to the usual level of £125,000 from 1 October 2021.

To support businesses as they re-open following lockdown, £5 billion will be made available in restart grants. Non-essential retail businesses re-opening first will be eligible for up to £6,000 but the leisure and hospitality sectors, which have been worse affected and will re-open later, will be eligible for up to £18,000.

However, the rate of corporation tax will increase to 25% in April 2023 for companies with profits over £250,000, whilst retaining a Small Profits Rate of 19% for companies with profits of £50,000 or less.

The Chancellor also introduced a super-deduction for companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery. Under this measure a company will be allowed to claim 130% on most new plant and machinery investments that ordinarily qualify for 18% main rate writing down allowances.

He also confirmed the location of the eight Freeports in England. Freeports are special economic zones with favourable tariffs and lower taxes to make it easier and cheaper to do business.

Internet link: GOV.UK speeches

Business groups welcome Budget

Business groups welcomed the Chancellor’s Budget for protecting the economy now and kickstarting recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tony Danker, Director General of the CBI, said:

‘The Chancellor has gone above and beyond to protect UK businesses and people’s livelihoods through the crisis and get firms’ spending.

‘Thousands of firms will be relieved to receive support to finish the job and get through the coming months. The Budget also has a clear eye to the future; to ensure finances are sustainable, while building confidence and investment in a lasting recovery.’

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) Director General, Dr Adam Marshall, commented:

‘The Chancellor has listened and acted on our calls for immediate support to help struggling businesses reach the finish line of this gruelling marathon and to begin their recovery.

‘Extensions to furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions give firms a fighting chance not only to restart but also to rebuild.’

However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that there was little in the Budget to aid job creation or help people return to work. Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said: ‘Thousands of small businesses are on the brink of collapse and thousands more are suffering from low confidence as cash reserves dwindle.

‘The continuation of business rates and VAT discounts is critical, and it’s important that those in supply chains benefit from them, not just those that neatly fit the definitions of frontline retail, leisure and hospitality.’

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

Late payment penalties for Self Assessment waived until 1 April

HMRC has announced that Self Assessment taxpayers will not be charged a 5% late payment penalty if they pay their tax or set up a payment plan by 1 April.

The payment deadline for Self Assessment is 31 January and interest is charged from 1 February on any amounts outstanding.

Normally, a 5% late payment penalty is also charged on any unpaid tax that is still outstanding on 3 March. But this year, because of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, HMRC is giving taxpayers more time to pay or set up a payment plan.

Taxpayers can pay their tax bill or set up a monthly payment plan online and are required to do this by midnight on 1 April to prevent being charged a late payment penalty. The online Time to Pay facility allows taxpayers to spread the cost of their Self Assessment tax bill into monthly instalments until
January 2022.

Jim Harra, HMRC’s Chief Executive, said:

‘Anyone worried about paying their tax can set up a payment plan to spread the cost into monthly instalments. Support is available at GOV.UK to help anyone struggling to meet their obligations.’

Internet link: HMRC press release

Online service opens for VAT deferral scheme

HMRC has announced that businesses that deferred VAT payments last year can now join the new online VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme to pay it in smaller monthly instalments.

To take advantage of the new payment scheme businesses will need to have deferred VAT payments between March and June 2020, under the VAT Payment Deferral Scheme. They will now be given the option to pay their deferred VAT in equal consecutive monthly instalments from March 2021.

Businesses will need to opt-in to the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme. They can do this via the online service that opened on 23 February and closes on 21 June 2021.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘The Government has provided a package of support worth over £280bn during the pandemic to help protect millions of jobs and businesses.

‘This now includes the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme, which will help provide businesses with the breathing space they may need to manage their cashflows in the weeks and months ahead.’

Internet links: GOV.UK guidance GOV.UK press release

HMRC clarifies off-payroll rules

HMRC has published a briefing on its approach to the changes to off-payroll working rules, commonly known as IR35, which will be introduced on 6 April 2021.

Reiterating its advice from last year, HMRC has confirmed that it will not issue penalties for inaccuracies in the first 12 months of the regime, unless there is evidence of deliberate non-compliance.

HMRC also confirmed that it will not use information it receives under the expanded regime to open new compliance enquiries into returns for tax years before 2021/22, unless there is reason to suspect fraud or criminal behaviour.

The new tax rules will see the extension to medium and large organisations in the private sector. These reforms will shift the responsibility for assessing employment status to medium and large organisations engaging individuals via a personal services company.

Internet link: GOV.UK

Domestic VAT reverse charge comes into effect on
1 March

The twice-delayed introduction of the domestic VAT reverse charge for construction services came into effect on
1 March 2021.

The change was originally scheduled to come into effect from
1 October 2019 but was deferred for 12 months after industry bodies highlighted concerns about the lack of preparation and the impact on businesses.

It was put back another five months due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the sector. The change applied from 1 March 2021 and overhauled the way VAT is payable on building and construction invoices as part of a move to reduce fraud in the sector.

From March 2021, the person receiving the supply of services, not the supplier of services, who accounts for the output VAT on those services. The recipient deducts VAT due on the supply as input VAT, subject to normal VAT rules. In most cases, no net tax on the transaction will be payable to HMRC. This new procedure will apply right the way up the CIS supply chain until you reach end users/intermediary suppliers, the supply defaults to normal VAT rules, so long as the end user/intermediary supplier correctly evidences their status.

The Domestic Reverse Charge (DRC) applies to most supplies of building and construction services from 1 March 2021, which are:

  • standard or reduced rated supplies
  • where both parties are registered for VAT in the UK
  • and payments for the supplies are required to be reported via the Construction Industry Scheme.

The DRC does not apply to:

  • zero rated supplies
  • services supplied to end users or intermediary suppliers, so long as these have provided written confirmation of their status to the supplier
  • employment businesses supplying either staff or workers.

Please contact us for advice on the DRC and how it impacts your business.

Internet link: GOV.UK

Borrowers of Bounce Back loans given six more months for repayments

Businesses that took out government-backed Bounce Back loans to get through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will now have greater flexibility to repay their loans, the government has announced.

The Pay as You Grow repayment flexibilities now include the option to delay all repayments for a further six months. This means businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out.

Pay as You Grow will also enable borrowers to extend the length of their loans from six to ten years, which reduces monthly repayments by almost half.

They can also make interest-only payments for six months to tailor their repayment schedule to suit their individual circumstances.

The Pay as You Grow options will be available to more than 1.4 million businesses which took out a total of nearly £45 billion through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said:

‘Businesses are continuing to feel the impact of extended disruption from COVID-19, and we’re determined to give them the backing and confidence they need to get through the pandemic.

‘That’s why we’re giving Bounce Back loan borrowers breathing space to get back on their feet, through greater flexibility and time to repay their loans on their terms.’

Internet links: GOV.UK news British Business Bank

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published and took effect from 1 March 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 March 2021 are:

Engine sizePetrol
1400cc or less10p
1401cc – 2000cc12p
Over 2000cc18p
Engine sizeLPG
1400cc or less7p
1401cc – 2000cc8p
Over 2000cc12p
Engine sizeDiesel
1600cc or less9p
1601cc – 2000cc11p
Over 2000cc12p

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 4 pence per mile. Electricity is not a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

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

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR