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…
Businesses in the UK now have less than nine months to prepare for wide-ranging new rules requiring them to manage their accounts and submit tax returns digitally.
The government’s long-anticipated and controversial Making Tax Digital regime, hailed as the biggest tax and accounts shake-up in a generation, finally comes into effect in April 2019.
Experts in the accountancy world have warned the changes could catch many businesses off-guard. Shipleys Tax have urged business owners to begin researching and investing in digital reporting software that’s compliant with the new rules.
What is Making Tax Digital (MTD)?
Making Tax Digital for VAT is being brought in by the government as an attempt to streamline and simplify the tax reporting system. Making Tax Digital for business (MTDfb) begins on 1 April 2019 with MTD for VAT. From that date, VAT-registered businesses above the threshold of £85k (currently) will have to keep digital records and submit VAT returns using compatible software.
There will be specific rules for how business will report digitally and the software used to do this has to comply with HMRC’s guidance. Gone are paper records and spreadsheets (to a certain extent), in its place will be digital books and records stored online in the cloud.
This may come as a culture shock for many small businesses who are used to doing it the traditional way.
Businesses that exceed or expect to exceed the VAT registration threshold will need to consider:
· are they exempt from the requirement to file returns electronically under MTD (charities, local authorities, government departments and overseas businesses will not be exempt from MTD for VAT)?
· what records will need to be kept digitally
· what the digital VAT account should look like
· how to submit their digital VAT return in line with MTD requirements
· whether to submit their digital VAT account to HMRC
· penalties for late filing and payment of VAT, and for not keeping digital records or having digital links.
It is also worth noting that the government has plans to roll out MTD requirements for all other taxes in 2020.
What are the key dates to look out for?
· April 2018 – HMRC opened pilot for businesses to volunteer to submit their VAT returns
· Spring 2018 – HMRC launches consultation on MTD for corporation tax
· 1 April 2019 – start of first VAT period where MTD is mandatory
· 7 June 2019 – submission deadline for first monthly VAT returns under MTD
· 7 August 2019 – submission for first quarterly returns under MTD
· 1 April 2020 – MTD mandatory for all taxes (planned)
What can you do now to get ready for MTD?
Reports suggest some businesses have not heard about MTD. There is less than 12 months to go until MTD is implemented, many are still uncertain about the requirements and how specifically these requirements will apply to their business.
HMRC is still publishing further guidance on specific definitions and how MTD will work in practice. However, what businesses can do now is to review existing VAT accounting systems and processes in relation to the preparation of VAT returns.
Our recommended steps
To ensure that your business is ready for MTD, we would recommend the following steps:
1. Review your internal reporting systems, processes and controls. Liaise with your advisers/software providers and internal IT teams to get a view on what they can do to help to get ready for MTD.
2. Consider likely costs and potential disruptions to your business. Agree additional budgets for changing and maintaining your systems, seeking specialist advice.
3. Test the integrity of your data and consider whether your VAT-related data is accurate, current and complete.
4. Consider what information you wish to submit to HMRC and how the API connection will work. Do you need to develop or acquire additional software? Is it easier to outsource the submission of VAT returns to a third party?
Accounts and IT system changes may take 9 to 12 months to review and implement. HMRC advise that failure to meet the necessary MTD requirements could result in penalties although there will be a 12 month grace period (‘soft landing’) after MTD goes live to enable businesses to ensure that they have the necessary processes in place and digital links. It is important therefore that all affected businesses start reviewing their systems, processes and VAT adjustments now.
If you have any queries regarding the above, please contatct us on 0114 275 6292
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.