HMRC investigation? Let us help protect your interests

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.

People often think they can outwit HMRC and stay one step 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 they underestimate HMRC at their peril.

If you require help with tax or VAT investigations then speak to our experts on 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com.

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Inheritance Tax (IHT) Planning – How proposed changes affects Non-Doms

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

CONTINUING WITH OUR focus on people pondering a life overseas as the UK faces a period of socio-economic upheaval, combined with the increasing cost of living and increasing tax burdens, in today’s Shipleys Tax brief we have a quick look at the upcoming changes to much maligned non-Dom tax status.

What exactly is Non-Domicile (Non-Dom) Status in the UK?

Non-domicile, or non-Dom status, is broadly a rule that allows individuals who have their permanent home (domicile) outside the UK to benefit from favourable tax treatment. If you are a non-Dom, you can choose to be taxed on a “remittance basis”, meaning you only pay UK tax on the income and gains you bring into the UK, not on your worldwide income or assets.

Domicile of Origin and Tax Planning – Domicile of origin refers to a concept that a UK based person can have another country as their “domicile’, usually based on their father’s domicile if the parents are married or their mother’s if not. For tax purposes, having a non-UK domicile of origin was used to reduce Inheritance Tax (IHT) liabilities by excluding assets from UK tax. Accordingly, individuals with non-UK parents can utilise their “domicile of origin” to reduce their tax liabilities, especially regarding Inheritance Tax (IHT).

For tax purposes, having a non-UK domicile of origin was used to reduce Inheritance Tax (IHT) liabilities by excluding assets from UK tax.

Budget Changes and Their Impact

The UK government announced, quite belatedly, significant changes in the Spring Budget 2024, set to take effect from April 2025. These changes will replace the domicile-based system with a residence-based tax system. Under the new rules:

  • Abolition of Non-Dom Status – The concept of domicile will no longer determine tax liability. Instead, the tax regime will shift to a residence-based system. This means individuals will be taxed based on their UK residence rather than their domicile status​.
  • Four-Year Relief for New Arrivals – New UK residents will benefit from a four-year period where foreign income and gains are exempt from UK tax. This applies only if they have been non-resident for the previous ten consecutive tax years.

The concept of domicile will no longer determine tax liability. Instead, the tax regime will shift to a residence-based system.

  • Inheritance Tax (IHT) Changes – IHT will be based on residence rather than domicile. From April 2025, individuals who have been UK residents for more than ten years will be subject to IHT on their worldwide assets, not just UK assets. This includes assets held in trusts​.
  • Transitional Arrangements – Transitional reliefs include a 50% reduction in the taxable amount of foreign income for the 2025/26 tax year and a temporary 12% tax rate for repatriating previously unremitted foreign income and gains​.
  • Trusts – Foreign assets in some property trusts established before 6 April 2025 will remain outside the scope of IHT, but post-2025 trusts will follow the new residence-based rules​.

Implications for IHT Planning

Given these reforms, the client’s potential IHT exposure and planning strategies need careful reconsideration:

  1. Non-UK Assets and IHT:

Currently, non-Doms are only subject to IHT on UK assets. Post-reform, non-doms resident in the UK for over ten years will face IHT on their worldwide assets. This significantly broadens the IHT net and impacts estate planning strategies​.

  1. Residence-Based IHT:

For clients who have been UK residents for less than ten years, it is critical to understand the timing of their residency and how it will affect their IHT liability under the new rules. Planning should consider the ten-year residence rule to mitigate worldwide IHT exposure​.

  1. Use of Trusts:

Establishing certain trusts before April 2025 may still provide IHT protection for non-UK assets. However, post-2025 trusts will be subject to the new regime, making early planning crucial to enable taxpayers to organise their affairs.

  1. Foreign Income and Gains:

Utilising the transitional reliefs, such as the 50% tax reduction and the temporary repatriation facility, can optimise tax efficiency during the transition period. This may include moving assets before the new rules fully apply​.

Post-reform, non-doms resident in the UK for over ten years will face IHT on their worldwide assets. This significantly broadens the IHT net and impacts estate planning strategies​.

Conclusion

The abolition of the non-Dom regime and the shift to a residence-based IHT system from April 2025 represents a significant change in UK tax law. These reforms necessitate a thorough review of estate planning strategies to ensure tax efficiency and compliance with the new rules. Early planning and strategic use of transitional reliefs can help mitigate the impact of these changes.

Leaving the UK – how to escape the taxman

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

AS THE UK faces a period of socioeconomic upheaval, increasing tax burdens and the growing cost of living crisis, many are pondering a life beyond its borders. The allure of lower taxes, more affordable living or better opportunities can be compelling – but such decisions are, from a tax point of view, often more complex than they first appear.

In todays’ Shipleys Tax brief we look at why just becoming non-UK resident may not in itself be enough to escape the dreaded UK tax net. In some cases, the UK’s long of arm of the taxman can reach individuals who previously believed themselves as unaffected. This brief article aims to provide general guidance on the current and upcoming non-resident tax obligations that follow you abroad, the potential traps for the unwary, and some of the important tax considerations that need to be addressed when contemplating a move from the UK.

If classified as temporarily non-resident, any income or gains earned during this period may still be taxed in the UK upon their return, just as if it had been earned while resident…

The Temporary Non-Residence Trap

The UK tax system is widely known for its anti-avoidance measures, including the ‘temporary non-residence rules.’ These rules target individuals who leave the UK temporarily to take advantage of tax benefits abroad but plan to return. If classified as temporarily non-resident, any income or gains earned during this period may still be taxed in the UK upon their return, just as if it had been earned while resident. There are suggestions that that staying non-resident for at least six consecutive tax years is advisable to avoid this trap, however this is needs to be approached with caution. Planning your departure date carefully and ensuring you remain non-resident for at least six tax years to avoid being classified as temporarily non-resident is one of the factors HMRC will look at. For the best solution, work with a tax adviser to structure your income or asset disposals during the non-residency period.

Double Tax Treaties and Split-Year Treatment

The complexities of double tax treaties often come into play when individuals find themselves potentially liable for taxes in multiple jurisdictions. In such cases, they might benefit from these treaties’ provisions, which can offer relief from double taxation. Split-year treatment can occasionally divide the tax year between periods of residency and non-residency, though this requires strict adherence to qualifying criteria. Review your eligibility for double tax treaties and split-year treatment. Conducting a residency analysis before departure to maximise treaty benefits and reduce double taxation will offer greater certainty.

Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax (CGT): How the UK Tax Net Reaches Beyond Borders

Non-residents are generally taxed on UK-sourced income. Certain types of investment income from UK companies can often be disregarded for tax purposes, but rental income from UK properties is still taxable in the UK even when non-resident.

Non-residents are generally taxed on UK-sourced income. Certain types of investment income from UK companies can often be disregarded for tax purposes


In the ever-changing CGT landscape, non-residents who once enjoyed immunity from CGT on UK assets have faced new rules since 2015. From 2015, non-residents became taxable on UK residential property disposals. Further, since 2019, this tax extends to disposals of all UK land, including commercial property and indirect disposals through ‘property-rich’ entities. Before leaving the UK, assess all UK-sourced income streams and evaluate the tax implications of any property or business asset disposals. Consider restructuring assets to minimise future CGT exposure.

UK Property Ownership: Ties That Bind

Owning property in the UK makes you subject to various tax obligations. Renting out a UK property whilst abroad leads to income tax liabilities and filing of additional paperwork with HMRC. Although the main residence relief can help reduce CGT on your property, this is restricted by stringent residency and occupancy requirements and any non-qualifying tax years since 2015 could limit the available relief.

Furthermore, the basic 90-day occupancy test complicates matters, especially for individuals who spend significant time abroad. However, designating one property as your main residence and monitoring qualifying occupancy days will help secure main residence tax relief. Additionally, those abroad need to register with HMRC for the Non-Resident Landlord Scheme if renting out any UK property. Those owning UK properties via limited company have different set of obligations which is beyond the scope of this article.

Inheritance Tax (IHT): Domicile is (still) a Decisive Factor

Inheritance tax isn’t based on residency alone but on domicile, a deeper, often permanent connection to a location. Currently, non-domiciled (“non-dom”) individuals may only face IHT on UK assets unless they gain deemed domicile status after 15 years in the UK, subjecting their entire estate to IHT. Leaving the UK can reduce this exposure, but the deemed domicile rule extends the IHT net for three additional years after losing actual domicile status.

After the 2024 Spring Budget, significant changes were announced regarding the taxation of non-UK domiciled individuals. From April 2025, the existing non-dom regime will be replaced by a residence-based system. Under the new rules, inheritance tax (IHT) will apply to worldwide assets if a person has been UK resident for 10 years. Conversely, non-residents will remain liable for IHT on their non-UK assets for 10 years after leaving the UK. This significantly extends the scope of IHT compared to the current deemed domicile rules, which require 15 years of UK residency.

From April 2025, the existing non-dom regime will be replaced by a residence-based system.

Evaluate your domicile status well in advance and plan a strategy that reduces or delays IHT liability. Consider creating trusts or transfer assets strategically to minimise exposure.

Meticulous Tax Planning is crucial to mitigate upcoming changes

Going forward, there will be a consultation on moving entirely to the aforementioned residence-based system, which will also determine how trusts will be taxed. Foreign assets in certain property trusts settled before April 2025 will continue to follow the old rules, but any trusts created after that date will be subject to the new residence-based regime. Trustees will be taxed on assets if the settlor has been a UK resident for 10 years, or if they have resided in the UK in the past 10 years​.

Given these changes, it’s crucial to stay informed as further details emerge during the consultation process, and seek advice if you think your estate may be affected. Keep in mind that the final implementation may be influenced by the results of the next general election​.

For further assistance or queries, please contact us.

Leeds: 0113 320 9284

Sheffield: 0114 272 4984

Email: info@shipleystax.com

Please note that Shipleys Tax do not give free advice by email or telephone. The content of this article is for general guidance only and should not be considered as tax or professional advice. Always consult with a qualified professional before taking action.

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Spring Budget 2024 – National Insurance and Property Tax cuts

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

The spring Budget delivers no surprises

IN WHAT WAS probably his last budget in the current parliament, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered his Spring Budget today. A timid affair with no real surprises, a symbol of a dying party on it’s last embers.

In today’s Shipleys Tax brief we look at some of the highlights and how it affects taxpayers.

Employees and self-employed

The expected 2% cut in the main rates of primary Class 1 and Class 4 NI was confirmed. From 6 April 2024, the rates will be as follows:

 Main rateRate above upper earnings/profits limit
Employees8%2%
Self-employed people6%2%

Disappointingly, there are again no changes to the rate or threshold applicable to employers.

Child benefit

The way that the high income child benefit charge operates has long been criticised, in particular the discrepancy that means that a family where each parent earns, say, just under the £50,000 withdrawal threshold can keep the full amount; but a single income household will lose the benefit if they earn more than £60,000.

The long-term solution offered will be to assess eligibility based on “household income”, but this will not be immediate. So in the meantime, from 2024, the withdrawal threshold will be increased to £60,000, and the rate of charge will be lower, at 1% for every £200 of excess income. This means that full withdrawal will not occur until adjusted net income is at £80,000.

Capital gains tax (CGT)

The current CGT rates applicable to gains made on disposals of residential property are 18% and 28%, depending on the individual’s level of income and the size of the gain. This compares to rates of 10% and 20% for other assets, e.g. listed shares. From 6 April 2024, the higher rate will be cut to 24%.

Note: The 18%/28% rates also apply to carried interest gains. Such gains will continue to be subject to these rates.

VAT Threshold

In a long awaited move, the VAT registration threshold will increase from £85,000 to £90,000 from 1 April 2024. The deregistration threshold will increase from £83,000 to £88,000.

Furnished holiday lets (FHLs)

The FHL rules treat short-term letting businesses in a similar way to trading businesses for the purposes of various tax reliefs (including business asset disposal relief), subject to availability and occupancy conditions being met. The FHL regime will be abolished from April 2025. Targeted rules will apply from 6 March 2024 to prevent a CGT advantage being gained via the use of unconditional contracts.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

Multiple dwellings relief will be abolished for transfers with an effective date falling on or after 1 June 2024. However, transfers where contracts have been exchanged on or before 6 March 2024 can still benefit from relief, subject to a number of conditions. This only applies to properties in England or Northern Ireland, as Scotland and Wales have their own devolved regimes.

Non-domiciled individuals

As predicted by this firm some last year, individuals that are UK residents but have a non-UK domicile (non-doms) can currently access a remittance basis which excludes foreign income and gains from the UK tax net unless they are remitted to the UK. Domicile is a general law concept. From April 2025, the non-dom status for tax purposes will be abolished. Instead, those arriving in the UK for the first time, or following a ten-year period of non-residence, will have a four-year foreign income and gains (FIG) regime, meaning they won’t pay UK tax on overseas income or gains for the first four years. The funds can be brought to the UK with no additional charges. After the end of the FIG period, tax will be paid on worldwide income and gains.

It is also intended that inheritance tax (IHT) will move to a residence-based system from April 2025. Details will be available following a consultation.

Other measures

  • A new UK ISA with an allowance of £5,000 per year will be introduced.
  • Personal representatives will no longer be required to seek commercial loans to pay IHT before applying for a grant on credit (from 1 April 2024).
  • SDLT first time buyers’ relief will be extended to those who purchase new leases under a nominee/bare trust arrangement from 6 March 2024.
  • The scope of agricultural property relief and woodlands relief will be restricted to UK property from 6 April 2024.

More to follow.

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