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…
In the Summer Budget 2015, the Chancellor announced changes to the pensions annual allowance that are likely to have an effect on NHS Pension Scheme members.
Measures to restrict pensions tax relief will be introduced from 6 April 2016 with the introduction of a tapered reduction of the annual allowance for individuals with income over £150,000. The key points that you should be aware of include:
- The provisions reduce the annual allowance by £1 for every £2 that an individual’s adjusted net income exceeds £150,000, up to a maximum reduction of £30,000, resulting in only £10,000 of pensions annual allowance at income levels of £210,000 or above.
- Further restrictions can apply subject to timing of the drawing of multiple pension funds.
- As the NHS Pension Schemes are defined benefit schemes, individuals have to take into account the increased value of their pension over a period of time and not the superannuation paid into the NHS Pension Scheme. Doctors with relatively modest earnings may be caught under the new regime as the levels of income attributed to the calculations include amounts after employee pension contributions, the growth in the pension scheme, and all other income including investment income.
- Doctors in both the 1995/2008 Scheme and the new 2015 Scheme will have even further complexities to their calculation than previously and it is important the pensions annual allowance position continues to be reviewed on an annual basis.
- The use of estimated figures may be needed in order to ensure that individuals are made aware of any impending tax liabilities.
Threshold income – this is all earned and unearned income on which income tax is charged. It is at this point that relief for employees’ contributions is given. If the threshold income is more than £110,000 (ie £150,000 less the maximum annual allowance of £40,000), a second calculation will be required, adjusted income.
Adjusted income – this is threshold income plus adjustments for occupational personal pensions and includes the actual pension input amount for the year less any member contributions paid in the tax year.
The inclusion of a pension charge in the tax liability also 125,000 increases the taxpayer’s payments on account in the following tax year, although there is an option to request that the pension scheme pays the tax, subject to certain limits, conditions and deadline dates for the elections needed, (31 July 125,000 following the tax return deadline submission date).
This change in legislation will have a impact on large numbers of NHS Pension Scheme members. As a result, income tax planning is more important than ever. Consideration of the effects of your personal circumstances is necessary to ensure you plan accordingly.
Key tax issues for businesses to consider
The decision has been made. The aftermath has created panic and hysteria both politically and economically. The fall-out from Brexit will take some time to play itself out, however, what should businesses consider in these spectacularly uncertain times?
Short term, the vote for Brexit will have little immediate impact beyond increased volatility in the currency and stock markets given that an emergency Budget has been ruled out. The new PM Theresa May may well look to bolster the UK’s attraction as a business location as one of her first duties.
Longer term, the effects on some sectors will be more fundamental and unlikely to make it easier to do business within the EU. Clearly this will depend on the terms the UK can agree for Brexit, something which may not become clear for some time – possibly years. There may also be significant impacts on businesses with little direct EU trade.
In the meantime, uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with the EU will continue for months or years creating a drag on the economy as businesses and consumers take a wait and see approach to investments and major purchases.
As with all major economic shocks, businesses that remain engaged and adaptable will be best placed to trade profitably and make the most of the opportunities that they offer.
Some key issues to consider:
- VAT – sales of goods to and from the UK become imports and exports (no acquisitions), which would need to clear customs and incur import charges – triggering a cash flow disadvantage (the delay between paying customs charges and entitlement to recover the input VAT). This can be mitigated by using deferment and customs warehousing arrangements.
- Customs Duty – on Brexit the UK will no longer be part of the EU’s Customs Union. As a result, EU customs duties could apply to imports from the UK, making it less attractive for EU companies and consumers to source goods from UK companies. Similarly, the UK Government may extend the current UK customs duty tariff to imports from the EU, adding costs for UK companies reliant on raw material and finished goods from EU suppliers.
- Repatriating profits and withholding taxes – withholding taxes on dividends from EU subsidiaries or payments of interest or royalties to or from companies located in the EU will be problematic. Currently, EU legislation allows subsidiary companies to pay dividends up to a UK parent company without the need to account for withholding tax. Similarly, companies often rely on the interest and royalties directive to make interest or royalty payments free from either UK or local withholding taxes. If the benefit of this legislation is withdrawn, companies would be relying on existing double taxation agreements in order to reduce or eliminate withholding tax rates.
While the majority small UK business will be directly unaffected, these are some of the changes certain businesses need to consider in order to find a path of least resistance in this volatile climate.
Should you require further information regarding the above, please contact us on +44 (0)114 275 62 92 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HMRC has backtracked on hundreds of Accelerated Payment Notices (APN) after admitting defeat following an application for Judicial Review. This affects the notices it has issued to hundreds of taxpayers as a result of a Judicial Review lodged on their behalf. This is not the first time that HMRC has undertaken a withdrawal of APNs that they had previously issued.
APNs were challenged on a number of grounds including the argument that the Employee Benefit Trust arrangements under consideration were not ‘notifiable’ to HMRC, under the DOTAS regime. HMRC has now admitted that it did not have the right to issue the APNs in relation to these arrangements.
Shipleys Tax Planning partner, Shabeer Yousuf CTA, says “this case demonstrates, that a taxpayer in receipt of an APN should not automatically assume that HMRC has followed the correct processes and exercised its powers lawfully, the taxpayer should seek specialist advice.”