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.

Sections


Areas

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

 

First steps

  • 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.

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.

Patterns

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…

Private Residence Relief – tax relief on selling your home

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

Where a property has at some point been the owner’s only or main residence, any gain relating to the final period of ownership is exempt from capital gains tax. Prior to 6 April 2020, the final period is set at 18 months, subject to a period of 36 months where the person making the disposal is a long-term resident of a care home or is disabled.

However, for disposal on or after 6 April 2020, the final period exemption is halved from 18 to nine months. However, it remains at 36 months for disposal by long-term care home residents and disabled persons. 

If you are planning to dispose of a property which has not been your only or main residence throughout the whole period that you have owned it, speak to your professional advisers to ascertain how the timing of the disposal can impact on the capital gains tax payable.

Lettings relief 

Lettings relief is a valuable relief that applies on the disposal of a property which has been let out and which has at some point been the owner’s only or main residence.

Under the current rules lettings relief applies to shelter part of the gain arising on the sale of a property which has been let out as residential accommodation and which at some time was the owner’s only or main residence. The amount of the lettings relief is the lowest of the following three amounts:

 • the amount of private residence relief available on the disposal;

 • £40,000; and 

 • the gain attributable to the letting.

However, from 6 April 2020, the availability of lettings relief is to be seriously restricted. From that date, lettings relief is only available where at some point the owner of the property lets out part of their main residence as residential accommodation and shares occupation of that residence with an individual who has no interest in the residence.

Where the gain would otherwise be chargeable to capital gains tax because it relates to the part of the main residence which is let out as residential accommodation, it is only chargeable to capital gains tax to the extent that it exceeds the lower of:

 • the amount of the gain sheltered by private residence relief; and

 • £40,000.

If the property is let but the landlord does not live in the property with the tenant, lettings relief will not be available for disposals on or after 6 April 2020.

Lettings relief can shelter up to £40,000 of gains. Where a disposal of a property that would currently attract the relief is on the cards, it may be beneficial to dispose of the property prior to 6 April 2020. Speak to your professional adviser to ascertain the impact that the disposal date has on the available reliefs and the capital gains tax, if any, that will be payable.

Residential property gains

Although no capital gains tax will arise on the disposal of a property which has been the owner’s only or main residence throughout the period of ownership, a liability may arise on the disposal of a residential property which is or has at some point been a second home or which has been let.

Prior to 6 April 2020, where capital gains tax is payable on a gain arising on the disposal of a residential property, the gain is notified to HMRC on the self-assessment return and the tax is payable by 31 January after the end of the tax year in which the disposal took place. 

However, from 6 April 2020, taxpayers will be required to make a payment on account of the capital gains tax liability arising on the disposal of a residential property. The taxpayer will also be required to make a return to HMRC giving notice of the disposal. The return must be delivered to HMRC within 30 days of the date of completion of the disposal. Payment of any associated tax must be made within the same window.

Capital gains tax on chargeable residential property gains is payable at higher capital gains tax rates of 18% and 28%.

If you are planning on disposing of a second home or buy-to-let property on or after 6 April 2020, speak to us about how the new return and payment rules will affect you.

Company Car Tax Reliefs

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors
Porsche’s first ever electric car – the Taycan.

Car enthusiasts would not have unnoticed the unveiling of a stunning car recently: the Porsche Taycan Turbo. And it’s an all electric beauty.

Convenient then, to look at the current tax advantages of buying an electric vehicle (the Porsche starting at a relatively modest £83,367).

So how does the company car tax rules work? In a nutshell, the lower the Co2 emissions the lower the tax “benefit” percentage, and, there are some upcoming attractive tax reliefs for all electric company cars.

For 2019/20 the appropriate percentage for cars with Co2 emissions of 50g/km or less is 16%, while the appropriate percentage for cars with CO2 emissions of 51-75g/km increases to 19%. The appropriate percentage is set at 22% for cars with emissions in the 76-94g/km band and at 23% for cars within the 95-99g/km band. Thereafter, the charge increases by 1% for each 5g/km rise in CO2 emissions until the maximum charge of 37% is reached for cars with CO2 emissions of 265g/km and above. 

The diesel supplement remains at 4% for 2019/20 and applies to cars with emissions not certified to Real Driving Emissions 2 (RDE2) standards or which do not meet the Euro standard 6d (subject to not exceeding the maximum charge of 37%).

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

For 2019/20 the fuel multiplier is set at £24,100.

Looking ahead to 2020/21, the charge for electric and hybrid cars is to be reduced. From 6 April 2020, the appropriate percentage for zero emission cars falls to 2% and the appropriate percentage applying to cars in the 1-50g/km band will depend on the level of the car’s CO2 emissions as shown in the table below.

By choosing an electric or hybrid company car, it is possible to significantly reduce the associated tax bill from 2020/21 onwards.

Speak to us about the tax  implications of your company car and how to make a tax-efficient choice telephone 0114 275 6292 or email info@shipleystax.com.

Spotlight on tax avoidance using offshore trusts

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

Following the decision of the First-tier Tribunal in two cases which involved the use of tax avoidance schemes and disguised remuneration arrangements to avoid tax and National Insurance, HMRC have published a spotlight which draws attention to why these arrangements do not work. In each case HMRC were successful. The Tribunal found that the disguised remuneration arrangements that were being promoted were notifiable under the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) legislation. 

The spotlight (Spotlight 52) is available on the Gov.UK website at www.gov.uk/guidance/disclousure-of-tax-avoidance-schemes-tax-avoidance-using-offshore-trusts-spotlight-52.

If you need help with this, or have been approached by anyone promoting offshore tax avoidance schemes, contact us for an authoritative review on info@shipleystax.com or telephone 0114 275 6292.

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