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.

Latest news & blogs…

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – The Final Countdown?

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

The Government today (29‌‌ May) announced in what seemed like the final countdown further details about the extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, we’ve outlined these below for you.

The Chancellor announced three changes to the job retention scheme:

  1. From 1‌‌ July 2020, the scheme will be made more flexible to enable employers to bring previously furloughed employees back part time and still receive a grant for the time when they are not working.
  2. From 1‌‌ August 2020, employers will have to start contributing to the wage costs of paying their furloughed staff and this employer contribution will gradually increase in September and October.
  3. The scheme will close to new claimants from 30‌‌ June.

Part time furloughing

From 1‌‌ July 2020, businesses using the CJRS scheme can bring previously furloughed employees back to work part time.

  • The government will continue to pay 80% of wages for any of the normal hours they do not work up until the end of August. This flexibility comes a month earlier than previously announced to help people get back to work.
  • Employers will decide the hours and shift patterns their employees will work on their return and will be responsible for paying their wages in full while working. This means that employees can work as much or as little as the business needs, with no minimum time that they can furlough staff for.
  • Any working hours arrangement agreed between a business and their employee must cover at least one week and must be confirmed to the employee in writing.
  • When claiming the CJRS grant for furloughed hours, they will need to report and claim for a minimum period of a week. They can choose to make claims for longer periods such as on monthly or two weekly cycles if preferred.
  • Employers will be required to submit data on the usual hours an employee would be expected to work in a claim period and actual hours worked.

If employees are unable to return to work, or employers do not have work for them to do, they can remain on furlough and the employer can continue to claim the grant for their full hours under the existing rules.

Employer contributions

From August, the CJRS grant will be slowly tapered with contributions made by employers as follows:

Month% of wages CJRSMax CJRS wages capWho pays NIC & Pension?Employer contribution
    
June & July80%£2,500GovtNIL
  
August80%£2,500EmployerNIL
  
September70%£2,187.50Employer10%
  
October60%£1,875Employer20%

Note that many smaller employers have some or all of their employer NIC bills covered by the Employment Allowance so will not be significantly impacted by that part of the tapering of the government contribution.

Important dates

It’s important to note that the scheme will close to new claimants from 30‌‌ June. From this point onwards, employers will only be able to furlough employees that they have furloughed for a full three-week period prior to 30‌‌ June.

This means that the final date by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time will be 10‌‌ June for the current three-week furlough period to be completed by 30‌‌ June. Employers will have until 31‌‌ July to make any claims in respect of the period to 30‌‌ June.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme 

The Chancellor also announced plans to extend the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) for those people whose trade continues to be, or is newly, adversely affected by COVID-19 (coronavirus). Eligible self-employed people will be able to claim a second and final SEISS grant in August; this will be a taxable grant worth 70% of their average monthly trading profits for three months, paid out in a single instalment and capped at £6,570 in total.

The eligibility criteria for the second grant will be the same as for the first grant. People do not need to have claimed the first grant to claim the second grant: for example, their business may have been adversely affected by COVID-19 more recently.

Claims for the first SEISS grant, which opened on 13‌‌ May, must be made no later than 13‌‌ July. Eligible self-employed people must make a claim before that date to receive the first SEISS grant (a taxable grant of 80% of their average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering 3 months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total).

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.

Bounce Back Loans: avoid the 32.5% tax trap

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

The Bounce Back loan scheme is fast, attractive and gives small businesses easy access to money. But many unsuspecting SME companies are unaware of a potential 32.5% tax charge if used incorrectly. We look at how this arises and what you can do.

The government introduced Bounce Back Loan scheme on 4 May 2020 to help small businesses get access to a injection of cash up to £50K. As loans, the Bounce Back terms are very attractive: no interest or repayments for the first year, a low interest rate afterwards, and no penalties if you pay them back before the six years are up.

What is the loan used for?

The problem arises when the money is taken out as cash withdrawals to fund private expenses even though the Bounce Back Scheme terms specifically states that it is not for personal purposes.

In these circumstances, as a company, you essentially have two basic options: treat the withdrawal as dividends or treat the withdrawal as a loan owed to the company by the shareholder/director.

In a Coronavirus riddled world, many small companies will not be in a profitable place and hence may not be able to legally declare dividends. In such scenario, to avoid the prospect of “illegal” dividends, the second option kicks in and you are faced with treating the monies withdrawn as a “loan”. Specifically, they become what is known as directors’ loans which is a loan from the company to the director/shareholder. The upshot of this is that you must repay the loan balance to back the company at some point in the future.

Corporation tax charge on loans: 32.5%

And this is where the problems kick in.  The Bounce Back loan has very attractive repayment terms, so it is tempting to leave it outstanding beyond the first 12 months. However, loans to directors can be subject to a corporation tax charge at 32.5% if not repaid within a certain time period. This 32.5% tax charge becomes due if you do not repay the director’s loan back to the company within 9 months of the company’s year-end passing. For those withdrawing the full £50,000, the tax charge can amount to an eye watering £16,250! This tax is payable by the company and will no doubt severely impact cashflow.

Can you avoid the 32.5% tax charge?

If you’re planning on taking a loan and repaying it within 9 months of your company accounting year-end (the date in which you actually applied for the BBL loan does not matter here for tax), no corporation tax charge will arise.  But, if you end up having to pay the 32.5% tax charge, there is some relief as you can reclaim the tax back from HMRC at a later point when the loan is cleared and under certain circumstances.

Personal tax issue

Also, as if paying 32.5% corporation tax wasn’t enough, there is a potentially a further additional tax on the loan when borrowing money from your company. This occurs when a director’s loan exceeds £10,000 at any point during the year; HMRC treat this as receiving a “benefit in kind”. This can have personal tax implications, including a National Insurance charge for your company. However, to avoid this, the company can charge you interest on the loan at HMRC’s official rate for the duration of the “loan”.

Paying a salary instead

The more straightforward option is to pay yourself a salary. But by doing so you will be essentially taxing the loan via PAYE. This may or may not be cheaper than paying the £16,250 above depending how it is structured.

But remember, Bounce Back Loans are not for personal purposes, and insolvency practitioners (who would presumably act on behalf of banks should you fail to repay the loan) have warned that increasing salary payments after receiving Bounce Back Loans may be treated as a being for personal purposes, although we feel this interpretation may be open to challenge.

If you are considering taking out a Bounce Back Loan and need help with the issues above, please call us on 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com.

Deferring VAT during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

If your business pays VAT, you can defer it until 31 March 2021. To defer, you do not need to tell HMRC – but make sure you remember to cancel your direct debit.

To help businesses struggling with their cashflow during the COVID-19 pandemic, VAT registered businesses can opt to defer the payment of VAT that becomes due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. This will cover returns for the quarter to 28 February 2020 (due by 7 April 2020), quarter to 31 March 2020 (due by 7 May 2020) and the quarter to 30 April 2020 (due by 7 June 2020).

Businesses do not have to take advantage of the option to defer – they can instead choose to pay their VAT as normal. Where they have sufficient income and have received payment from their customers, this may be a preferable option to prevent running into debt later. The VAT will still be due – the payment date is simply delayed.

HMRC will not charge interest where VAT is paid later as a result of this measure.

Businesses that wish to take advantage of the option to defer paying their VAT do not need to tell HMRC – they simply delay paying the VAT over to HMRC.

Cancel direct debits

Where a business has set up a direct debit to pay their VAT, they will need to cancel the direct debit if they wish to take advantage of the deferral option. If they forget to do this, the VAT payment will be taken automatically.

Paying deferred VAT

Any VAT that is deferred must be paid over to HMRC by 31 March 2021.

File returns on time

Deciding to defer payment of VAT does not affect the obligation to file a VAT return. VAT returns that fall due within the deferral window should be filed as normal and on time.

VAT repayments

Where a VAT returns shows that a repayment is due, HMRC will make the repayment as normal.

After the deferral period

When the VAT deferral window comes to an end, VAT for periods outside the window must be paid as usual.

If you need help with VAT deferral or any COVID-19 financial or tax issue please call us on 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com – we are ready to help.

Load More Posts

Testimonials

Contact us

  • info@shipleystax.com
  • 0114 272 4984
  • Wharf House, Victoria Quays,
    Wharf Street Sheffield,
    S2 5SY

Contact Shipleys today

Want to know how Shipleys can help you with practical tax planning through innovative ideas? Let’s talk. Call or email us directly and a member of our team will be in touch within 48 hours.

Contact us