2015 September | Exchange Accountancy Services

Archive for September, 2015

HMRC considering changes to the way they charge penalties

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015

Readers might be interested to know that HMRC have been consulting with various parties, including the accountancy profession, regarding the way in which they charge penalties to taxpayers who don’t meet their filing obligations. We have listed below a number of the conclusions HMRC have reached thus far.

 HMRC’s published responses:

 We recognise the need to distinguish between the vast majority of customers who are generally compliant and those who are not.

At the same time the penalty system needs to work effectively to encourage those who make one off errors back into full compliance, and counter the activities of careless or intentionally non-compliant customers. So the ultimate goal for the future is to charge fewer penalties, and for penalties to be well-targeted where we do charge them and to take account of the customer’s compliance history across all of the taxes they are involved with.

That, together with automating and simplifying the penalty process as much as possible, should release resource within HMRC to focus its attention on tackling serious non-compliance.

 Late filing and payment

Time based failures to file tax returns or pay by particular dates relate to high frequency, mechanical obligations. They tend to produce large volumes of low-value penalties with a high incidence of successful appeals and they generate significant levels of contact between customers and HMRC.

 Reform of these penalties will be our first priority.

 In developing a new model for late filing penalties we will explore options

for:

  • not charging a penalty where no tax is due and where the circumstances for not charging are appropriate;
  • not charging a penalty where the period of lateness is very short;
  • not charging a penalty for the first default;
  • taking account of the customer’s compliance history across all of the taxes they are involved with;
  • increasing opportunities for and use of mitigation in recognition of the circumstances surrounding the default and HMRC’s desire to encourage future good compliance; and
  • using notifications to remind the customer that their return is due (before the due date is reached) and draw their attention to the default and its consequences for penalty purposes (after the due date has passed).

 While we are currently keeping all of these options in consideration the new penalty model we consult on might not contain all of them.

What qualifies as a tax allowable travelling expense

Thursday, September 24th, 2015

HMRC’s opinion on qualifying travel costs is clearly set in their employee travel guide. For instance:

The sort of travel that qualifies for tax relief is travel that is ‘on the job’, as distinct from travel ‘to the job’. The most common example is travel between one workplace and another in connection with a single employment. The cost of such travel is incurred in actually carrying out the duties of the employment, although the treatment may be different where one of the workplaces is the employee’s home.

Example

Amanda is a senior manager in a sales consultancy company. She manages teams in offices in Leicester and Nottingham and is regularly required to travel between the two. Tax relief is available for the full cost of the travel between the 2 workplaces because it is undertaken in the performance of Amanda’s duties. No relief is available for travel from her home to the offices or her return home from the offices as this is ordinary commuting.

Another example is where travel is integral to the performance of the duties. Typical examples are a commercial traveller, or a service engineer who moves from place to place during the day carrying out repairs to domestic appliances at clients’ premises. Such employees are sometimes described as having travelling appointments.

Example

Tony is a service engineer working for a company that services and maintains white goods for the commercial sector. He visits up to 10 customers each day throughout the UK. He has no normal workplace and is emailed his job list each evening for the following day. Travel is an integral part of his job and he carries out the duties of his employment at each customer’s premises. Tax relief is available for the cost of all Tony’s business travel, including from his home to his first appointment and from his last appointment to his home.

If you are unsure if your travel costs qualify for tax relief please call for more information.

Shared parental leave

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

 Parents considering shared parental leave may like to consider the following notes.

 You may be able to get Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP) if:

  • your baby is due on or after 5 April 2015
  • you adopt a child on or after 5 April 2015

 If you’re eligible for SPL you can use it to take leave in blocks separated by periods of work, instead of taking it all in one go.

 To start SPL or ShPP the mother must end her maternity leave (for SPL) or her Maternity Allowance or maternity pay (for ShPP). If she doesn’t get maternity leave (but she ends her

Maternity Allowance or pay early) her partner might still get SPL.

 If you’re adopting then you or your partner must end any adoption leave or adoption pay early instead.

 If you’re eligible you can take:

  • the remaining leave as SPL (52 weeks minus any weeks of maternity or adoption leave)
  • the remaining pay as ShPP (39 weeks minus any weeks of maternity pay, maternity allowance or adoption pay)

 If neither of you is entitled to maternity or adoption leave then SPL will be 52 weeks minus any weeks of maternity pay, Maternity Allowance or adoption pay.

 You can share SPL and ShPP between you if you’re both eligible.

 Example A mother and her partner are both eligible for SPL and ShPP. The mother ends her maternity leave and pay after 12 weeks, leaving 40 weeks available for SPL and 27 weeks available for ShPP. The parents can choose how to split this.

SPL and ShPP must be taken between the baby’s birth and first birthday (or within one year of adoption).

VAT late filing and late payment defaults surcharges

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Readers are reminded that late filing or late payment of VAT returns can result in costly penalties – in VAT speak they are referred to as default surcharges.

Each time you default HMRC will send you a Surcharge Liability Notice, or Surcharge Liability Notice Extension. These will warn you that if you default in respect of an accounting period ending within a specified period (the surcharge period) you may be liable to a surcharge.

The surcharge period begins on the date of the notice and ends twelve months from the end of the latest period in default.

If you default during a surcharge period, and there is VAT outstanding for the tax period in default, HMRC will charge you a default surcharge.

If you make payments on account and default on any payment, you will be sent a Surcharge Liability Notice or Surcharge Liability Notice Extension at the end of the quarterly accounting period.

Special arrangements are in place if your taxable turnover is £150,000 or less to help when you first have difficulties paying your VAT on time. You will be sent a letter offering help and support rather than a Surcharge Liability Notice the first time you default. This is to help you sort out any short-term difficulties before formally entering the default surcharge system. If you default again within the following twelve months HMRC will issue you with a Surcharge Liability Notice.

The surcharges levied can be cumulative.

The surcharge is calculated as a percentage of the VAT that is unpaid at the due date. If you don’t send in your return HMRC will assess the amount you owe and the surcharge will be calculated as a percentage of that amount.

For the first late payment during a surcharge period the surcharge will be 2% of the VAT outstanding at the due date.

The rate of surcharge will then increase progressively to 5%, 10% and 15% for further payment defaults in a surcharge period.

Tax scheme generates �1bn in tax

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

HMRC has collected £1 billion in tax payments from users of tax avoidance schemes as a result of the government’s new rules to collect disputed tax upfront, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, announced 13 September 2015.

The Government introduced Accelerated Payments last year to radically change the economics of avoidance. Under these rules, disputed tax is paid up front by avoidance scheme users.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said:

“The Government will not tolerate tax avoidance and Accelerated Payments has been a real game changer.

It is no longer possible for these individuals to avoid tax and sit on the money while their affairs are investigated. This first £1bn received in Accelerated Payments shows that we are turning the tables on those looking to avoid paying their fair share.”

Jennie Granger, Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC, said:

“Tax avoiders are running out of options. People now have to pay upfront and dispute later. We are winning around 80% of avoidance cases that people litigate. And many more are settling before litigation.”

More than 25,000 notices to pay disputed tax have been issued by HMRC since August 2014. By the end of 2016, HMRC expect to have completed issuing around 64,000 bringing forward £5.5 billion in payments for the Exchequer by March 2020.

Accelerated Payments were introduced in the Finance Act 2014 and the National Insurance Contributions Act 2015. They apply where avoidance schemes are subject to the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes rules or the General Anti-Abuse Rule, or where they are similar to a scheme that has already been defeated in the courts.

Tax scheme generates 1bn in tax

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

HMRC has collected £1 billion in tax payments from users of tax avoidance schemes as a result of the government’s new rules to collect disputed tax upfront, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, David Gauke, announced 13 September 2015.

The Government introduced Accelerated Payments last year to radically change the economics of avoidance. Under these rules, disputed tax is paid up front by avoidance scheme users.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said:

“The Government will not tolerate tax avoidance and Accelerated Payments has been a real game changer.

It is no longer possible for these individuals to avoid tax and sit on the money while their affairs are investigated. This first £1bn received in Accelerated Payments shows that we are turning the tables on those looking to avoid paying their fair share.”

Jennie Granger, Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC, said:

“Tax avoiders are running out of options. People now have to pay upfront and dispute later. We are winning around 80% of avoidance cases that people litigate. And many more are settling before litigation.”

More than 25,000 notices to pay disputed tax have been issued by HMRC since August 2014. By the end of 2016, HMRC expect to have completed issuing around 64,000 bringing forward £5.5 billion in payments for the Exchequer by March 2020.

Accelerated Payments were introduced in the Finance Act 2014 and the National Insurance Contributions Act 2015. They apply where avoidance schemes are subject to the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes rules or the General Anti-Abuse Rule, or where they are similar to a scheme that has already been defeated in the courts.

Dividend Allowance, wake up call for shareholder directors

Monday, September 14th, 2015

HMRC have published the following fact sheet regarding the wide ranging changes to the taxation of dividends from April 2016:

From April 2016 the Dividend Tax Credit will be replaced by a new tax-free Dividend Allowance.

The Dividend Allowance means that you won’t have to pay tax on the first £5,000 of your dividend income, no matter what non-dividend income you have.

 The allowance is available to anyone who has dividend income.

 Headline rates of dividend tax are also changing.

 You’ll pay tax on any dividends you receive over £5,000 at the following rates:

  • 7.5% on dividend income within the basic rate band
  • 32.5% on dividend income within the higher rate band
  • 38.1% on dividend income within the additional rate band

 This simpler system will mean that only those with significant dividend income will pay more tax.

 If you’re an investor with modest income from shares, you’ll see either a tax cut or no change in the amount of tax you owe.

 Dividends received by pension funds that are currently exempt from tax, and dividends received on shares held in an Individual Savings Account (ISA), will continue to be tax free.

From April 2016 you have to apply the new headline rates on the amount of dividends you actually receive, where the income is over £5,000 (excluding any dividend income paid within an ISA).

 The Dividend Allowance will not reduce your total income for tax purposes. However, it will mean that you don’t have any tax to pay on the first £5,000 of dividend income you receive.

Dividends within your allowance will still count towards your basic or higher rate bands, and may therefore affect the rate of tax that you pay on dividends you receive in excess of the £5,000 allowance.

 All company directors that have a dividend policy that favours dividends over salary should take tax planning advice as soon as possible as they may need to change the mix of dividends v salary from April next year.

 The clock is ticking…

Charities, making the most of tax reliefs

Monday, September 14th, 2015

There are now a number of ways that charities can encourage donations by promoting the various tax schemes available.

Over the last five years the government has brought in a range of changes to the tax system to make it simpler for charities to make the most of tax reliefs, so that more money can go to good causes.

It’s now easier for charities to receive gift aid

Charities online, a system that helps charities to claim gift aid faster, was introduced in 2013. Instead of having to submit paper claims for tax reliefs through the post, charities can now submit them online.

Almost 95% of charities now use charities online to claim gift aid. The majority of claims are processed within five working days, down from around 15 days.

It’s now simpler for charities to receive government support on small donations

If someone donates a small amount of money to a charity – for example, by giving it to a charity vendor in a high street – it’s often not possible (or practical) for the donor to provide formal consent for gift aid to be claimed on that donation.

Through the gift aid small donations scheme charities can now claim a gift aid-style top-up on these small donations, up to a limit of £5,000 per year. This limit will increase to £8,000 per year from April 2016.

An outreach team now helps charities claim tax relief

To date, HMRC’s outreach team has delivered face-to-face presentations to over 650 represented charities to spread awareness, increase take-up, and help charities to successfully claim tax relief.

Works of art donated to the nation now receive tax relief

The cultural gifts scheme was introduced in 2013 and allows taxpayers to pay a tax bill by donating eligible works of art to the nation.

People donating to charity in their will can now benefit from a lower rate of inheritance tax

If people leave at least 10% of the net value of their estate (its worth, minus any debt, other liabilities and reliefs) to charity, then 36% inheritance tax can be paid instead of 40%. This was introduced in 2012.

Local amateur sports clubs can now claim gift aid on donations too

The government has amended the law so that local sports clubs registered as community amateur sports clubs can receive corporate gift aid, to help these clubs to benefit their local communities.

A new tax relief has been created to encourage investment in social enterprises

The social investment tax relief scheme has been created to encourage people to invest in social enterprises, including charities.

Individuals making an eligible investment will be able to deduct 30% of the cost of that investment from their income tax liability.

Keep your records up to date at Companies House

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

If you’re late telling Companies House about changes to your officer’s details, it could come at a cost.

Searches of company officers account for 47% of all public searches of our database, but only 53% of companies notify Companies House within the legal timescale when their officer details have changed.

Filing your documentation late can affect your credit standing as this is one of the indicators to your company’s reliability. If your bottom line is being affected it makes sense to keep your documentation up to date.

You must tell Companies House about changes to your officers within 14 days of the change.

Make sure that you let Companies House know when your company officers change as soon as possible. The reliability of the UK register is part of the reason why it’s held in such high regard – making the UK one of the most trusted places in the world to do business. People want to know that the companies they’re dealing with are in good standing and keeping company information up to date is key to that.

The speed of online filing and ease of access means you can immediately update your company information as soon as decisions are made, so there’s every reason to take advantage of this. There’s a role for every company to have a positive impact on the economy by filing on time.

Companies House require information updates on a range of issues. These include:

  • directors and company secretaries, e.g. new appointments, resignations or changes to their personal details
  • changing your company name
  • changing your registered office address
  • changing your accounting reference date
  • changing where your company records are kept, if different from your registered address
  • which records you’ll keep at an alternative address
  • changes to your company’s share structure, e.g. if you issue new shares
  • details of any new mortgages it has or mortgages it has paid off

Some of these changes require the filing of formal resolutions, and in most cases, as noted above, notification forms can be filed online.

The rise of cloud accounting in Northern Ireland

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015

As you’ll no doubt have noticed, operating a business in locally means that you (and we) are often seeing trends that begin in ‘mainland UK’ and at times move into our business environment. (Other times they don’t, and we merely scoff from afar and continue doing business as we have done for many years while that particular business fad dwindles to nothing .)

One of the changes we’ve noticed as Northern Ireland based accountants has been the extremely swift rise of not only online or “cloud” computing, but also the number of local SME’s using cloud based platforms for their bookkeeping and accounting requirements.

And unlike some other trends, we believe the use of cloud based accounting platforms is one trend that is here to stay..

We see online tools everywhere: from iphones to online banking, social media for business leading to the slow death of paper, the “cloud” isn’t a ‘revolution’ or a ‘new thing’, it’s simply how we all live , work and do business in this modern digital age.

Locally we’ve noticed some of these trends take a little longer to gain traction , but as your accountants and advisors , more and more we see business being done in the cloudThe impact of the cloud is that any business owner in Northern Ireland has a unique opportunity to get ahead of the trend and to gain a competitive edge that other businesses may not yet have.

How is this possible? And what’s involved?

The key is cloud accounting software – particularly Xero.

Xero: How can accounting software be beautiful?

Xero (in case it’s new to you) has the tagline of “beautiful accounting software”. Even that word ‘beautiful’ may seem to collide with the world of accounting.

How do you make debits and credits beautiful? How do you ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over invoicing? The answer is you make it easy to use, and by integrating it with over 400 add-ons and apps so that your entire business – not just your accounting and bookkeeping – work seamlessly together in the cloud.

No more software CD’s or downloads and upgrades to install, and no more sending Excel spreadsheets to your accountant, or meticulously writing down mileage in a little black notebook kept in your company car.

Why it’s critical that you use Xero now (before everyone else does)

Here are the reasons we believe Xero is taking over when it comes to bookkeeping and  accounting, and why it’s critical you start implementing it as soon as possible.

  • Massive time savings: No more software to download. No more expense claims or mileage recording or creating invoices in Word. Everything happens so quickly you may even find you have enough time at the weekend to do something fun, rather than getting caught up on the business admin.
  • Less email: You and your accountant have access to the same information at the same time. In our case, this means that you never have to send us any information again – we just log in and have a look and give you our advice or opinion based on real-time information.
  • Access anytime, anywhere: Access Xero anywhere where in the world where this an internet connect ordownload the Xero app onto your phone and send that quote or invoice thirty seconds after you’ve met with the customer.
  • Automatic integrations: Chase debts automatically and get paid faster. Link Xero with your website so that every time you add a new product, it’s instantly added to your website allowing you to manage inventory in the cloud.
  • Security: Many of our clients ask, “But is it safe in the cloud?” The short answer is, “Yes, absolutely, and there are hundreds of thousands of businesses who trust Xero with their data.” (You can read Xero’s page on security here, but we’ll be the first to assure you that as your accountant, we would never recommend a system that wasn’t safe for you to use.

All of these elements have been tried and tested throughout the entire UK, and by many of our clients here in Northern Ireland.

But there are still many businesses who aren’t using it yet – which is extremely positive for you.

This means that as soon as you start using cloud accounting, and integrating with the many add-ons and apps that make your business and life better, you’ll be:

  • More efficient, and able to respond more quickly to prospects and new customers
  • More cash-rich, as your cash flow will be better
  • More profitable, because you’ll know where your money is coming from and what products or services to promote (and how to price them)