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…
Recently , the IT contracting market has faced upheaval due to the upcoming changes in off-payroll workers. From 6 April 2020, the off-payroll working rules that apply where the end client is a public sector organisation are being extended to the private sector.
The amended rules will apply where services are provided via an intermediary, such as a personal service company, to an end client which is a medium or large private sector organisation. The rules bite if, ignoring the personal service company, the worker would be classed as an employee of the end client. Prior to 6 April 2020, the personal service company had to operate the IR35 rules and work out the deemed payment. However, from 6 April 2020, responsibility for working out whether the rules apply will shift to the end client and, where they do, the fee payer must deduct tax and National Insurance from payments made to the worker’s personal service company.
Where the end client is a small private sector organisation, the existing IR 35 rules apply. A private sector organisation is not small if at least two of the following apply:
• turnover of more than £10.2 million;
• balance sheet total of more than £5.1 million;
• more than 50 employees.
To prepare for the changes, HMRC recommend that medium and large private sector companies should:
• look at their current workforce (including those engaged through agencies and intermediaries) to identify those individuals who are supplying their services through personal service companies;
• determine whether the off-payroll rules will apply for any contracts that extend beyond 6 April 2020 (HMRC’s Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool can be used to determine a worker’s status);
• start talking to contractors about whether the off-payroll rules apply to their role; and
• put processes in place to determine if the off-payroll working rules will apply to future engagements. These may include assigning responsibility for making a determination and determining how payments will be made to contractors who fall within the off-payroll working rules.
Workers affected by the changes should also consider whether it is worth remaining ‘off-payroll’.
If you are medium or large private sector organisation engaging workers who provide their services through an intermediary, such as a personal service company, or if you are a worker providing services via an intermediary, speak to us to understand what the changes to the off-payroll working rules mean for you.
Class 1A National Insurance contributions are employer-only contributions charged on most taxable benefits in kind (cars, gifts, vouchers etc).
From 6 April 2020 the Class 1A charge is extended such that from that date it will apply to taxable termination payments in excess of the £30,000 tax-free limit and to sporting testimonial payments in excess of the £100,000 lifetime limit. Currently, such payments are taxable but notliable to National Insurance.
The new Class 1A charge on termination payments will apply to the extent that the termination payment exceeds the £30,000 tax-free limit. The normal Class 1A percentage of 13.8% will apply. However, unlike Class 1A National Insurance contributions on benefits in kind, any liability on termination payments will be notified to HMRC via real time information (RTI) and paid with PAYE tax and Class 1 National Insurance contributions. Termination payments in excess of the £30,000 threshold will remain free of employee’s National Insurance contributions.
As with the new Class 1A charge on taxable termination payments, the liability will be reported and paid via the PAYE/RTI process, rather than through the P11D(b) process.
Non-contractual, non-customary sporting testimonials are taxable to the extent that they exceed a £100,000 lifetime tax-free allowance. From 6 April 2020, Class 1A National Insurance contributions will also be payable to the extent the lifetime allowance is exceeded. The Class 1A charge will fall on the sporting testimonial committee and it will be the responsibility of the sporting testimonial committee to report and pay the Class 1A liability to HMRC.
Speak to your professional adviser to understand how the timing of a termination payments will affect whether any employer-only National Insurance contributions are due.
The deadline for filing the 2018/19 self-assessment return online is 31 January 2020. Where a notice to file a return was issued after 31 October 2019, a later deadline of three months from the date of issue of the notice to file applies.
An earlier date of 30 December 2019 applies to taxpayers who have a liability of £3,000 or less which they would like to pay via an adjustment to their tax code.
A late filing penalty is charged if the return is filed late, even if it is only late by one day and regardless of whether any tax is due.
Speak to us to ensure that you understand what information you need to provide by when to ensure that the filing deadline is not missed.
Any tax that is unpaid for 2018/19 must be paid by 31 January 2020. The first payment on account for the 2019/20 tax year is due by the same date. Payments on account must be made where the previous year’s liability was £1,000 or more unless 80% of your tax liability is deducted at source, such as under PAYE. Each payment on account is 50% of the previous tax year’s tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability. The second payment on account for 2019/20 must be paid by 31 July 2020.
If you would like to us to check what needs to be paid by when speak to us.