Some tax enquiry cases…

Tax Investigation

Tax Enquiry Investigation

Client A had been in a 4 year running battle with HMRC. The client was keen to finalise matters but at a reasonable compromise based on the facts and circumstances. HMRC were asking for approximately £200,000 and the previous accountant and insurers were not able to reduce this figure.

Shipleys were then appointed at this late stage and discovered flaws in HMRC’s argument. We supplied irrefutable evidence and successfully negotiated tax down to £30,000.

Comment: This is unfortunately a typical case where HMRC officers tend to hastily take a defensive position and refuse to move. Our tax expertise was invaluable in dealing with these type of enquiries.

Serious Tax Fraud

Client B had a 15 year back duty case, the tax assessed was approximately £300,000. Shipleys managed this stressful process from start to finish and achieved a good result both on time and reduced overall duty payable and secured a sensible time to pay plan.

Comment: HMRC are much more aggressive now with collecting tax with these kind of formal tax cases on the increase; it is thus essential that the client has proper representation by experienced advisers in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Latest news & blogs…

Back to School Fees Tax Planning: Good design or good fortune?

Tax Investigation Shipleys Tax Advisors

IT IS ANECDOTALLY REPORTED that due to COVID-19 lockdown, birth rates are expected to rise. With estimates for children’s education to cost over hundreds of thousands, can setting up a trust for the benefit of children not only help save tax but also assist with education costs?

In this article Shipleys Tax Advisers takes a look at some of the pros and cons of school fees planning and why planning and design is key to achieving the right outcome if you want to avoid an expensive HMRC enquiry.

YOU SHOULD NOT ACT (OR OMIT TO ACT) ON THE BASIS OF THIS ARTICLE WITHOUT SPECIFIC PRIOR ADVICE. SHIPLEYS TAX PLANNING PROVIDES A TAX CONSULTANCY SERVICE AND CAN ADVISE YOU OF THE RIGHT COURSE OF ACTION.

Bank of (grand)Mum and Dad

Generally, the most common method we come across is the “grandparent solution”. This typically involves adult children (i.e.  the parents) transferring shares to their parents (i.e. the grandparents). This is then transferred to the grandchildren (minors) directly or indirectly held via a type of trust arrangement. The idea being that beneficiaries (e.g. grandchildren) in these circumstances are likely to be minors and are unlikely to have other income, the trust arrangement allows them to use their annual tax-free allowances such as the personal allowance, savings rate allowance and dividend allowance.

The idea being that beneficiaries (e.g. grandchildren) in these circumstances are likely to be minors and are unlikely to have other income, the trust arrangement allows them to use their annual tax-free allowances…

This is a seemingly a perfect solution for grandparents who wish to transfer shares to the grandchildren where the donor is not a basic rate taxpayer or where the donor wishes to reduce the value of their estate for inheritance tax (IHT) purposes.

Sorted, you would have thought.

Well not quite, there are significant pitfalls which need navigating.

Is the income taxed on the minor? 

The major problematic issue is that the income may not be treated as taxable on the minor. This type of planning is not straight forward and requires careful scrutiny of the settlements legislation and to ensure that there are no reciprocal arrangements in place.

Where parents are setting up trusts for their minor children anti-avoidance legislation can tax any income arising on the parents, so this method may not be tax efficient or indeed even work. In other words, there is a significant health warning with this planning which many are unaware of.

Gift of shares 

Where the adult children gift interests in their business to their parents and these are subsequently transferred to the minor/s in quick succession, the transaction will be at a serious risk of a successful HMRC challenge which will result in the income being taxed on the parents. 

Where parents are setting up trusts for their minor children anti-avoidance legislation can tax any income arising on the parents, so this method may not be tax efficient or indeed even work.

If, however,  the transaction can be structured in such a way that the asset is given to the grandparents with no onward obligation/intention that the asset will be transferred to the minors, and if the shares are held for a reasonable period of time (i.e. where the probity of ownership cannot be in issue) and where certain conditions are met, or due to a change of circumstances, the grandparents of their own volition decide to gift the asset to the minors, this should not be subject to a successful challenge by HMRC.  So, in reality it’s all a question of intention and timing. Get this right along with the surrounding facts and circumstances, then the prospect of having a successful fees planning increases.

Sale of shares

Where the grandparents acquire an interest in the parents’ business for full market value for/on behalf of the grandchildren, the anti-avoidance provisions do not apply. However, one will need to be mindful that the open market is actually paid and there are no reciprocal arrangements in place.  The cost of this may be prohibitive due to the costs of asset, valuation and other professional fees.

If, however,  the transaction can be structured in such a way that the asset is given to the grandparents with no onward obligation/intention that the asset will be transferred to the minors…

…this should not be subject to a successful challenge by HMRC.

COVID-19 Gifting income producing assets – a timely opportunity?

The grandparents could gift/acquire an income producing asset for the benefit of the minors and hold these on trust. This would typically be a bare trust – as opposed to a substantive trust mainly due to compliance and costs. However, this comes with a significant risk as minors (as beneficiaries) will have absolute entitlement and control of the business at the tender age of 18. The parent/grandparent may not wish for the minor to control these assets at such a young age.

It is said that a discretionary trust or an interest in possession trust may therefore be a more appropriate solution here due to its flexibility and control, and, unlike a bare trust, beneficiaries are not entitled to the assets of the trust upon attaining 18 years.

However, the tax anti-avoidance provisions apply here also. If the parents set up the trust with the intention to fund school fees, then a discretionary trust may not be a tax efficient option.

As such if income producing assets, for example stocks, shares or investment property, can be gifted/acquired by the grandparents for the benefit of minors, the income would be taxable on the minors and could go towards paying for their private school fees.  

if income producing assets… can be gifted/acquired by the grandparents for the benefit of minors, the income would be taxable on the minors and could go towards paying for their private school fees.

With COVID-19, the valuations of income producing assets may be at a value which allows gifting without significant capital gains tax consequences, perhaps a timely opportunity? 

HMRC Radar 

We have been told that a small minority of school fee planners have aggressive timeframes in implementing school fees planning. Currently this appears to fall under HMRC radar as it is not straight forward for HMRC to connect the dots with this planning. However, this does not mean this will continue forever – with the burgeoning big data revolution HMRC as poised to invest in IT systems to enable them to fill the gaps much quicker than they are now.

As such, school fees planning should be based on sound principle and careful thought; a matter of good design not a matter of good fortune.

YOU SHOULD NOT ACT (OR OMIT TO ACT) ON THE BASIS OF THIS ARTICLE WITHOUT SPECIFIC PRIOR ADVICE. SHIPLEYS TAX PLANNING PROVIDES A TAX CONSULTANCY SERVICE AND CAN ADVISE YOU OF THE RIGHT COURSE OF ACTION.

If you are interested in School Fees Tax planning, please call us on 0114 272 4984 or email us at info@shipleystax.com.

VAT AND STAMP DUTY CUTS ANNOUNCED TODAY

Tax Investigation Shipleys Tax Advisors

IN A SEEMINGLY DESPERATE BID, the UK Chancellor gave his Summer economic update today in Parliament to revive jobs and the boost the ailing economy following the outbreak of COVID-19 Coronavirus. 

Along with a Stamp Duty holiday (£125k to £500k), a 15% VAT reduction for the catering/leisure industry he announced new job scheme subsidies for young unemployed workers. Here at Shipleys Tax Advisers we outline some of the plans below.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

  • The current residential SDLT threshold of £125,000 will rise to £500,000.
  • This will apply from 8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021.
  • First-time buyers qualify for relief, whereby they pay less, or no tax, if the purchase price is £500,000 or less.
  • Applies only to property purchased in England and Northern Ireland.

VAT: Temporary VAT cuts

The rate of VAT on food, accommodation, entry fees etc is cut from 20% to 5% for the next six months.

VAT on food and non-alcoholic drinks

  • From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, to support businesses and jobs in the hospitality sector.
  • The reduced (5%) rate of VAT will apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK.
  • Further guidance on the scope of this relief will be published by HMRC in the coming days.

VAT on accommodation and attractions

  • From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, to support businesses and jobs.
  • The reduced (5%) rate of VAT will apply to supplies of accommodation and admission to attractions across the UK.
  • Further guidance on the scope of this relief will be published by HMRC in the coming days.

New Jobs Retention Bonus

  • A new bonus of £1,000 will be paid to employers for bringing back and retaining furloughed employees until January 2021.
  • Employees must be paid at least £520 per month.

Job Retention Scheme (JRS)

  • The Employee Job Retention Scheme (JRS) is due to wind down and it will end in October 2020. The Chancellor has said “It is a false hope to keep furloughing open forever”. 

Kickstart scheme

  • The Kickstart scheme will pay employers who take 16 to 24-year-olds for a minimum of 25 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage (NMW).
  • The grant will pay the wages or around up to £6,000 for the first six months.
  • No cap on the number of places available.

Training places

  • Pay employers £1,000 to take on new trainees.
  • Apprentices: pay employers to create new apprenticeships, £2,000 per place.
  • £1,500 payment for taking on apprentices aged over 25 years old.

Eat Out to Help Out

  • The ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme aims to encourage people to return to eating out.
  • Every diner will be entitled to a 50% discount of up to £10 per head on their meal, at any participating restaurant, café, pub or other eligible food service establishments.
  • The discount can be used unlimited times and will be valid Monday to Wednesday on any eat-in meal (including non-alcoholic drinks) for the entire month of August 2020 across the UK.
  • Reclaimed by the business which must apply to participate.

If you need help with the issues above, please call Shipleys Tax Planning on 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com – we are ready to assist.

Furlough fraud – HMRC to go after directors personally

Tax Investigation Shipleys Tax Advisors

The forthcoming Finance Bill 2020 proposes to give HMRC wide powers to make directors personally liable for a company’s tax liability. Under the new proposals, HMRC plans to penalise company directors who intentionally breach the rules of the furlough scheme – the so called “furlough fraud”.

What does this mean for company directors and what should you do to minimise your risk? We outline the issues below.

Identifying abuse of the furlough scheme

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) in the process of being wound down towards the end of October, the government is now focussing their attention to identifying those companies who have made fraudulent grant claims for reimbursement of staff wages in this period.

Abuse of the system includes:

  • forcing employees to continue to work on a part-time or ad hoc basis despite being declared as furloughed
  • where employees not told that their employer was claiming reimbursement of their wages under the CJRS.
  • companies claiming furlough for ‘ghost’ employees who may not actually work for the company at all.

With the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (“CJRS”) in the process of being wound down, the government is now focussing their attention to those companies who have made fraudulent grant claims for reimbursement of staff wages in this period.

Furlough fraud is manifestly an exploitation of employees, as well as a blatant abuse of a system set up to help companies through this period of unparalleled business turmoil. With billions of pounds paid out through this scheme, HMRC are now looking to seriously penalise those who have flouted the scheme for profit.

Joint and Several Liability of Directors – the new proposals

Legislation is currently being rushed through Parliament and is likely to become law in early July as part of the Finance Bill 2020.

The Bill proposes a new regime which will give HMRC the power to make directors and co-directors jointly liable and severally liable for the company’s tax liabilities if:

  • the liability arises from tax avoidance arrangements or tax evasive conduct, repeated insolvency, penalty for facilitating avoidance or evasion; and
  • where the company begins insolvency proceedings or is expected to begin insolvency proceedings so that some or all of the tax liability will be lost.

Of particular concern – and potentially worrying for some – is that these proposals include circumstances where a director did not know about a co-director’s fraudulent conduct – hence the “joint and several” liability. HMRC will seek to apply these provisions for penalties raised in relation to fraudulent furlough payments. It is understood that the penalties will apply in cases of deliberate fraud but could also catch directors who unintentionally breached the rules or who did not know that their fellow directors had made a claim under the scheme.

Of particular concern is that these proposals include circumstances where a director did not know about a co-director’s fraudulent conduct – hence the “joint and several” liability.

Penalties

Penalties for those found guilty are likely to include fines for companies, while directors of companies which have subsequently been liquidated could face personal liability for the falsely claimed furlough costs. Imprisonment for convicted fraudsters is also a possibility as exploitation of the CJRS amounts to defrauding the Treasury. The end result is directors potentially being personally liable even in circumstances where they did not personally benefit from the CJRS grants.

HMRC’s tougher approach

These new powers – indicating HMRC’s intention to take a strong approach to recovering any payments made as a result of fraud – looks to be just the start of a new wave of anti-fraud HMRC enforcement and enquiries arising out of COVID-19 crisis.

It remains to be seen exactly what form these measures will take, however directors are well advised to check whether any CJRS claims have been made on behalf of companies of which they are officers, ensure that any such claims were made in accordance with the rules and confirm that any payments received were then applied properly.

If you need help with the issues above, please call us on 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com – we are ready to assist.

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