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.
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In most small family trading companies it is not unusual for the husband and wife to own all the shares. Where a family member works in the business they may wish to give them shares in the company as recognition for their input and hard work.
However, giving shares isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are various taxes that need to be considered on a gift of shares to a family member, including income tax, capital gains tax, inheritance tax and stamp duty.
If an employee of a company receives “free” shares, for example, or if you make a gift of shares to a family member who works in the business, an income tax charge could arise on the market value of the shares gifted. If, however, it can be demonstrated that the transfer of shares is for reasons of family or personal relations, the income tax charge may be avoided.
A gift of shares to a family member is also a deemed to be a disposal of shares for capital gains tax purposes. As the gift is being made to a connected party, it is a deemed disposal at market value. In the case of a gifts it is typical that the person making the disposal receives no monies out of which to pay any capital gains tax which may arise (the gift is treated as a sale at market value). This could discourage family members from making gifts as part of any family tax planning mitigation exercise.
Therefore, capital gains tax is potentially payable on any gain arising even though no consideration is paid. However, providing certain conditions are met, it may be possible to reduce the capital gain on the shares gifted to Nil by way of gift relief. This allows the capital gain (and thus any tax liability) which is deemed to arise on gift of the shares at market value to be postponed. It does this by effectively transferring the capital gain to the recipient of the gift. To claim this relief appropriate submissions must be made to HMRC at the right time.
Stamp duty is also normally payable on the issue or sale of shares and is payable by the person receiving or acquiring the shares. However, if the shares are gifted and no consideration is paid, a stamp duty gift exemption relief can be claimed which is likely to reduce the stamp duty costs to nil.
For inheritance tax (IHT) purposes, a gift of shares to a family member would constitute what is known as a lifetime transfer. Based on current legislation, if you survive 7 years from the date of the gift, there should be no inheritance tax consequences on the transfer of shares to the family member. In the event of your death within 7 years of the gift, IHT relief may be available on the transfer providing certain conditions are met. This could also reduce any potential exposure to inheritance tax to Nil.
Before any transfer of shares takes place, we would recommend that you seek professional advice to ensure that the available reliefs are applicable to your particular circumstances and also to ensure that the various conditions for each tax relief are fulfilled.
The advice above is general guide only and does not constitute any advice whatsoever. You must seek professional advice before taking any action.
For more information please contact us on 0114 275 6292 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deductibility of receiver’s and legal fees
In a recent case the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) has held that the fees of a receiver appointed to sell properties forming part of a letting business and legal fees in challenging the receivership and claiming against the bank for their actions in relation to the loan were not allowable expenditure under TCGA 1992, s. 38.
The FTT found that both a receiver’s fee and legal fees effectively paid by the taxpayers on the forced disposal of properties were not deductible for capital gains tax (CGT) purposes.
The taxpayers owned ten properties, nine of which were let out. It was decided to consolidate the various related loans in place into a single loan with one bank.
Two of the properties were sold, with the bank’s permission. The taxpayers intended to use the proceeds to reduce the loan. However, the bank did not do this. It claimed that the taxpayers were in breach of the terms of the loan as the reduced rental income dropped to less than a predetermined percentage of the interest.
A receiver was appointed who subsequently arranged sale of the remaining eight properties. The taxpayers incurred various legal fees to prevent the forced sale and subsequently to claim against the bank. The bank also deducted the receiver’s fees from the sale proceeds.
The FTT found that the receiver’s fee on the forced sale of the properties was not wholly and exclusively in relation to the sale as the receiver carried out other tasks. This was therefore not deductible. This follows the decision in the recent case of O’Donnell v HMRC  UKFTT 347 (TC).
The taxpayers argued that the legal fees fell within TCGA 1992 s.38(1)(b) and were incurred wholly and exclusively in establishing, preserving or defending title to, or a right over, the asset. The FTT disagreed; the work to prevent the forced sale and the litigation with the bank were concerned with their rights and liabilities under the loan agreement with the bank. The expenses were not allowable. The FTT suggested that the fees were all in fact of an income nature.
If you need advice with capital gains tax on properties please contact us on email@example.com or call 0114 275 62 92 and ask for a tax consultation.
From 6 April 2017 a UK residential property will now be subject to UK Inheritance Tax regardless of ownership structure and residence or domicile status of the ultimate owner.
Who will be affected?
The new rules will affect all non-UK domiciliaries and the trustees of trusts they have established who hold an interest in an offshore structure which derives its value from:
- a UK residential property;
- loans (is provision applies to all loans not just those between connected parties) used to acquire, maintain or improve UK residential property; or
- collateral for such loans or who have thereunder made or provided collateral for such loans.
Which assets are relevant?
The new legislation imposes an inheritance tax charge on three categories of property:
Interests (e.g. loans or shares) in closely held companies which derive, directly or indirectly, their value from UK residential property. The interest in the parent company will still be caught even if there is a chain of companies underneath before you get to the residential property. However, if any of the companies is widely held (for example a real estate fund), this will not be caught.
An interest in a partnership, the value of which is directly or indirectly attributable to UK residential property. Unlike companies, it does not make any difference how many partners there are and whether or not they are connected. A real estate fund which is structured as a partnership will therefore fall within the new rules.
The benefit of loans made to enable an individual, trustees or a partnership to acquire, maintain or improve a UK residential property or to invest in a close company or a partnership which uses the money to acquire, maintain or improve UK residential property.
To avoid back-to-back lending arrangements, assets used as collateral for such a loan will also be subject to inheritance tax under the new rules.
An interest in a close company, or a partnership which holds the benefit of the debt or the assets which are used as collateral, are also caught.
UK residential property
The rules will apply where the shares’ (or other interest’s) value is attributable to any UK residential property, whether that property is occupied or let and whatever the property’s value (subject to limited exceptions such as care homes). A property which is being constructed or adapted for residential use will be treated as UK residential property.
The rules will not apply to the extent that the asset’s value is derived from commercial property. It is to be welcomed that previous proposals to include a property which had had a residential use at any time in the last two years have been dropped. Rather, it will simply be the use of the property at the time that the IHT charge arises that will be relevant.
Legislation is still awaited for properties used for both residential and non-residential purposes. Based on the 2016 consultation paper this will be on an apportionment basis.
Value subject to IHT and debts
Where an IHT charge arises on shares etc. under the new rules, the IHT liability will be calculated on the open market value of the shares (or other interest) to the extent that their value is attributable to UK residential property. In determining the value of an interest in a close company, the liabilities of the close company will be attributed to all of its property pro rata. The liabilities attributable to the residential property will be deductible in determining the value within the scope of IHT.
Under the original proposals, debts that related exclusively to the property were to be deductible when calculating the value for IHT purposes, unless the borrowing was from a connected party. In response to concerns that this could result in a double IHT charge, the Government’s solution contained in the legislation and other documentation published on 5 December 2016 is to treat any debt used to finance the acquisition, maintenance or repair of UK residential property as an asset subject to IHT in the hands of the lender, with look through provisions where the lender is itself a non-UK close company or partnership. Similarly, any security or collateral for such a debt will be within the scope of IHT in the estate of the provider of the security.
Whilst this removes the potential for double counting, it would appear to defeat certain IHT mitigation options which the Government previously appeared to accept when the provisions relating to debts were revised in 2013. The application of these rules to debts, whenever created, seems unduly harsh and a restriction to debts created after 19 August 2016 (when an iteration of the provision was first announced), if not to commencement date, would be welcomed.
Two year tail
Newly included in the 5 December 2016 draft legislation are provisions such that following sale of close company shares or partnership interests which would have been within the scope of the new IHT rules, or indeed repayment of a lender’s loan, the consideration received (or anything which represents it) will continue to be subject to IHT for a two year period following the sale or repayment. This appears to be a provision introduced to combat specific anticipated avoidance. However it will, as drafted, have a wider effect and give rise to an IHT charge in normal commercial situations even where UK residential property is no longer held.
Targeted anti-avoidance rule
Any arrangements whose whole or main purpose is to avoid or reduce the IHT charge on UK residential property will be disregarded. This anti-avoidance provision is extremely widely drawn.
If you are affected by any of the above and for advice and guidance on what actions you should take next please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0114 275 6292.
The above is not intended to be advice, we strongly recommend professional advice is sought before taking any action.