We protect your interests from intrusive HMRC enquiries
Tax Investigation Management
Tax investigations by HMRC often come as an unpleasant shock for many and can be very stressful.
From the outset communication from HMRC can be quite intimidating as they tend to take an aggressive position and “throw the book”. The enquiry will often embrace many aspects of the business and will typically take the form of a standard template letter padded out in parts by reference to the particular client.
In other cases HMRC will issue a letter which on the face of it looks benign but has far reaching implications if not handled correctly.
At Shipleys we are non-judgmental, vigorous in defending our clients and aim to resolve the investigation in the most efficient manner possible without compromising the quality of our work.
We have the experience and know-how to handle local district cases to large tax fraud cases both in direct and indirect tax (VAT).
And with Shipleys Tax Fee Protection Partner our clients have peace of mind that in the event of an enquiry all professional fees up to the First Tier Tribunal are covered.
- First steps
- How we can help
- How do HMRC investigate a business?
- What are the trigger points to look out for?
Some of the areas in which we regularly assist clients are:
- Code of Practice 9
- Code of Practice 8
- Voluntary Disclosures to HMRC (Onshore)
- Compliance Checks
- Negotiated Settlements with HMRC
- You need to know what your rights are under enquiry
- Identify and prioritise of areas of primary concern
- Assemble and analyse relevant information and evidence in order to quantify the correct tax liability
- You need advice on what HMRC can ask you to produce – whether you have to provide copies of documents and soft copies of electronic files for example
- You need an assessment of your accounting systems to know if it is robust enough to withstand scrutiny
- You want to reduce the risk of an investigation going forward and improve compliance procedures.
How we can help
- Our team consists of highly experienced ex-HMRC Inspectors
- We can influence and control the pace of investigation
- Our specialist knowledge will be utilised to challenge any incorrect assumptions made by HMRC
- Comprehensive Fee Protection insurance for clients
Remember early intervention by a tax investigation specialist could resolve the dispute relatively quickly; what not do to is to attempt to correspond with the tax man yourself as you could unknowingly put the proverbial “foot in it”.
Are under enquiry? Do you think you are at risk of an investigation? Contact us now for independent advice on your options.
HOW DO HMRC INVESTIGATE A BUSINESS?
Some tax investigations are random but increasingly the majority are as a result of HMRC’s risk analyses/assessments.
This “risk assessment” process typically compares the results of the business to other similar businesses; it statistically analyse areas such as gross profit margin, mark-up rate and comparisons to earlier years. Where a case is “risk assessed” HMRC cannot decline the invitation to investigate.
Even where HMRC know that there was “nothing in it for them”, officers have openly admitted that they have no choice but to open an enquiry because the risk assessment process had identified the case as warranting an enquiry.
What are the trigger points to look out for?
The short answer is patterns and, to a certain extent, timing.
Most accountants are unaware that whilst HMRC can launch an investigation into a business at any time within the statutory timeframe, enquiry notices are usually timedto be issued at specific times of the year in order to control work flow. Favoured times for issuing enquiry notice are the end of January (accountants busy with heavy workloads) and Fridays (clients receive a shock when opening post on a weekend!).
Nowadays, HMRC typically impose a non-statutory time limit on the taxpayer for producing information requested in the opening letter. Often it will not be possible to provide this within the time frame specified, and it is advisable to make contact very quickly with HMRC if this is the case. This is important in both establishing a relationship with the officer dealing with the enquiry and also gaining maximum penalty mitigation for cooperation in the event there is culpability.
HMRC expect to see consistency across a business, both within the business itself and also across similar sectors. It will expect turnover to be fairly level whilst accepting modest fluctuations in either direction. If turnover goes down it will expect expenses to decrease. If profit decreases HMRC will query if proprietors’ drawings/directors remuneration increases. This crude analysis tool is often misleading and belies the actual reasons for fluctuations leading to businesses that have nothing to hide being flagged up for enquiry.
For example, if turnover increases substantially HMRC may conclude that maybe not all of the turnover in the previous year was declared. Or if it drops significantly then maybe some has been taken by the owner and not declared? The reality maybe that turnover has increased due to having a exceptionally good year and decreased because of a loss of a large customer or order.
Suspicion is also aroused if the claim in respect of administration expenses increases well beyond what would be expected comparing it with the previous year. HMRC will wonder whether hours have increased (hence the increase in admin expenses) and therefore the officer will wonder why turnover has gone down.
Proprietors’ drawings – a substantial increase could mean that drawings may have been understated in the past, leading HMRC to query whether any cash takings have not been declared. Similarly, if the drawings are less than the salary paid to the highest paid employee HMRC will be very uneasy – business owners are expected to be the highest earners in the business even though the reality is most proprietors in business start ups do not take any drawings in the formative years.
Gross profit margins (GPR) – typically the GPR of the business will be examined over a period of up to 6 years to see whether or not it is consistent. It will also be compared to similar businesses and fluctuations of more than a few percent will arouse suspicion. HMRC has access to a vast database of information indicating what the GPR of a particular type of business should be.
Invoices – An officer will scrutinise invoices carefully to check whether part of the invoices are being paid in cash to disguise the true GPR.
Sectors – HMRC will often target a particular sector because it has become aware of consistent malpractice across the sector. For example, Medical practices, dentists and vets are targeted because they engage locums as self- employed workers whereas in reality it is difficult to show that a locum is self- employed in many typical practices.
Professional footballers and their clubs have been under scrutiny for a few years now mainly because in some cases a player will receive a payment for the exploitation of his “image rights” and HMRC does not approve of this because it reduces or in some cases completely avoids liability to UK tax by devising a structure which holds the image rights offshore.
Umbrella companies and IT agencies using “one-man band” IT companies have been under the microscope for a long time (see IR35), mainly because it is considered that many of them are purportedly engaged as self- employed workers but the reality is that they can be deemed to be employees.
Standard of living – does an individual have the means to finance his/her standard of living? Information will be gained in this regard from a variety of sources, giving HMRC details of property owned, cars, boats, bank accounts, horses etc. Although there will often be perfectly reasonable explanations as to how such assets may have been acquired it may not stop HMRC delving further.
Clients often think they can outwit HMRC and stay one move ahead. However, they should be well aware of that most of the tricks which the unscrupulous businessman may try has been seen and dealt with by HMRC many times over and clients underestimate HMRC at their peril.
Latest news & blogs…
MTD goes live
Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT went live from 1 April 2019. It applies to businesses with VATable turnover over the VAT registration threshold of £85,000 from the start of their first VAT accounting period on or after 1 April 2019, unless they fall within one of the categories of businesses with more complex affairs (such as those in a VAT group) in respect of which the start date is deferred until the start of the first VAT accounting period beginning on or after 1 October 2019.
Under MTD for VAT businesses must keep digital records and file their VAT returns digitally using MTD-compatible software.
Speak to Shipleys Tax to check what you need to do to comply with the requirements of MTD for VAT.
Call us on 0114 275 6292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Doctor will not be seeing you now.
The ‘pension tax trap’ that’s affecting senior NHS doctors has been getting plenty of media attention over the past few months. But if you’re one of the senior doctors and consultants that’s directly affected by this issue, you’ll already know about the detrimental effect on your earnings.
Some doctors have been advised to use the “NHS Scheme Pays” option as a solution, but this, as we will see below, has a secondary trap waiting for the usnsuspecting pension patient. What a mess!
It works as follows. If you are subject to an Annual Allowance (AA) charge, you can either pay this directly to HMRC via the self-assessment system, or in some circumstances, you can ask your pension scheme to pay the charge on your behalf (Scheme Pays). NHS Pensions have confirmed to what extent Scheme Pays applies to members whose AA is tapered due to their level of earnings (refers to “earnings” generally above £150k).
The legislation will only allow Scheme Pays if the AA tax is over £2k and the growth in the scheme is above the £40k limit (not the reduced limit if an individual is subject to tapering). However, there is also a paragraph in the revenue’s personal tax manual (PTM056410):
“There is a maximum amount that a member can ask their scheme administrator to pay under these circumstances based on the pension input amount in the scheme which exceeds the annual allowance.”
This means that the NHS Pension scheme will only pay the tax charge on the excess over £40k. So if a member has a £60k growth in their pension and a tapered AA limited of £10K, NHS Pensions will only pay the AA tax on £20K, (being £60k – £40k). The member will have to pay the tax on £30k (i.e. £40k – £10k) via their Self Assessment return.
Any clients affected we can write to ask for a voluntary scheme pays to be considered but it is unlikely any will be. The Department of Health (DoH) are currently monitoring the position as use of Scheme Pays is quite low. If members are opting out as a result of not being able to Scheme Pay the whole amount, NHS pensions may well refer them to the DoH.
If you need advice on NHS pensions and how you can avoid the tax trap please call 0114 275 6292 or email email@example.com.
Changes to the rates and allowances impact on directors of personal and family companies looking to extract profits in a tax-efficient manner. As always, the optimal strategy will depend on circumstance, and professional advice should be sought.
It is generally beneficial to take a small salary, particularly where the recipient does not have the 35 qualifying years needed for the full single-tier state pension. Where the employment allowance is not available (as is the case for a company with a single employee who is also a director, or where it is utilised elsewhere), the optimal salary for 2019/20 is one equal to the primary threshold for Class 1 National Insurance purposes, which for 2019/20 is set at £8,632 (equivalent to £166 per week and £719 per month).
If the employment allowance is available, for example in a family company with a number of employees, the optimal salary is one equal to the personal allowance of £12,500, assuming it is available and not used elsewhere.
Above these limits, it will generally be more beneficial to extract further profits as dividends, making use of shareholders’ dividend allowances and basic rate bands, where possible.
Before extracting profits from your company, discuss your optimal profit extraction strategy with our professional adviser at Shipleys Tax.
Call 0114 275 6292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.