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…

BUDGET 2021: KEY HIGHLIGHTS

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

AS THE ROLL out of the vaccine continues apace, UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak held back on the promised heavy taxation changes but instead opted for a light touch.

In today’s Shipleys Tax note we look at the highlights and what it means for you.

At a glance Budget 2021 announcements:

  • Furlough extended until September 2021 and extra Self Employment Support grants made available with potentially more qualifying.
  • Personal Allowance frozen for 5 years – this means that for tax years ended 5 April 2022 until 5 April 2026, you will be able to have an annual income of £12,570 before paying any tax, and you will be taxed at the higher 40% rate (32.5% for dividends) once your income exceeds £50,270. This will effectively push more and people into the higher tax rates as earnings increase.
  • Corporation tax increase from 19% to 25% – the 25% rate will apply to companies whose profits are above £250,000. Where a company’s profits falls between £50,000 and £250,000, a (complex) tapering calculation will apply, thereby allowing companies to grow gradually without paying at the top rate.
  • 2 Year “Super Tax Deduction” on business investments – a new “super deduction” of 130% of capital expenditure on new qualifying plant and machinery will apply from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2023 (when the 25% rate of CT starts). The 130% deduction applies to business assets which would be eligible for the main capital allowances. Businesses which are able to invest heavily in plant and machinery within the next two years will benefit from the business tax cut before the increased corporation tax rate of 25% kicks in. 
  • Extension of losses being carried back against tax – many companies will have made losses during the Covid-19 pandemic, therefore relief is provided for loss-making business to carry back losses by up to 3 years for up to £2m of losses per group in each of the financial years 2020/21 and 2021/22.  This £2m cap applies only to the extended carry back, so there is no change to the unlimited carry back of losses to the previous 12 month accounting period. 
  • Stamp Duty holiday extended – the current Stamp Duty nil rate band of £500,000 for residential property acquisitions in England and Northern Ireland will be extended from 31 March to 30 June 2021, with a reduced nil rate band of £250,000 for acquisitions between 1 July and 30 September, after which it will revert to £125,000.
  • Restart grants – https://www.shipleystax.com/2021/03/restart-new-grants-for-small-businesses/
  • VAT 5% extended for 6 months then 12.5% thereafter – an extension to the temporary 5% rate of VAT until 30 September 2021. A new reduced rate of VAT of 12.5% will then be introduced from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022 after which the standard rate of VAT (20%) will apply
  • Freeports – eight new freeport sites have been announced. Expenditure within designated freeports will attract the following reliefs:
  1. Enhanced Structures and Building Allowances at 10% for buildings brought into use by 30 September 2026;
  2. 100% enhanced capital allowances for companies incurring qualifying expenditure on plant and machinery within Freeport sites until 30 September 2026.

If you are affected by any of the issues above and would like more information, please call 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com.

Please note that Shipleys Tax do not give free advice by email or telephone.

RESTART – New grants for small businesses

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

IN THE BUDGET 2021 the Chancellor will unveil £5bn support package to help small businesses stay afloat until restrictions are lifted.

Under the scheme it is thought that non-essential retail businesses will be able to apply for grants of up to £6,000; while pubs, restaurants, hotels and leisure businesses will be able to apply for grants up to the full amount of £18,000.

Where can you get your Restart Grant?

The Restart Grant scheme, administered by local councils, will help most small business owners including those running shops, pubs, clubs, hotels restaurants, gyms and hair salons.

Non-essential retail businesses will get up to £6,000 per premises through the Restart Grant scheme to help them reopen. Shops will reopen no earlier than April 12, according to the Government’s Covid-19 roadmap.

More Restart Grant money will be available for any small business in hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gyms, which will reopen later and will be more affected by restrictions. They can receive up to £18,000, depending on their rateable value.

The Restart Grant scheme will replace the monthly Local Restrictions Support Grant (Closed) and Local Restrictions Support Grant (Open), which will both close at the end of March.

If you are affected by any of the issues above and would like more information, please call 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com.

Please note that Shipleys Tax do not give free advice by email or telephone.

Electric cars – still tax efficient from April 2021?

Tax Investigation Management Shipleys Tax Advisors

For 2020/21, it was possible to enjoy an electric company car as a tax-free benefit. While this will no longer be the case for 2021/22, electric and low emission cars can remain a tax-efficient benefit.

In today’s Shipleys Tax note we get up to speed on the changes afoot and whether this can affect your buying choices.

How are electric cars taxed?

Under the company car tax rules, a taxable benefit arises in respect of the private use of that car. The taxable amount (the cash equivalent value) is the ‘appropriate percentage’ of the list price of the car and optional accessories, after deducting any capital contribution made by the employee up to a maximum of £5,000. The amount is proportionately reduced where the car is not available throughout the tax year, and is further reduced to reflect any contributions required for private use.

The appropriate percentage

The appropriate percentage depends on the level of the car’s CO2 emissions. For zero emission cars, regardless of whether the car was first registered on or after 6 April 2020 or before that date, the appropriate percentage for electric cars is 1% for 2021/22. For 2020/21 it was set at 0%.

This means that the tax cost of an electric company car, as illustrated by the following example, remains low in 2021/22.

Example

Jaz has an electric company car with a list price of £30,000. The car was first registered on 1 April 2020.

For 2020/21, the appropriate percentage for an electric car was 0%, meaning that Jaz was able to enjoy the benefit of the private use of the car tax-free.

For 2021/22, the appropriate percentage is 1%. Consequently, the taxable amount is £300 (1% of £30,000).

If Jaz is a higher rate taxpayer, he will only pay tax of £120 on the benefit of his company car. If he is a basic rate taxpayer, he will pay £60 in tax. This is a very good deal.

His employer will also pay Class 1A National Insurance of £41.40 (£300 @ 13.8%).

For 2022/23 the appropriate percentage will increase to 2%.

Low emission cars

If an electric car is not for you, it is still possible to have a tax efficient company car by choosing a low emission model.

The way in which CO2 emissions are measured changed from 6 April 2020. For 2020/21 and 2021/22, the appropriate percentage also depends on the date on which the car was first registered as well as its CO2 emissions. For low emission cars within the 1—50g/km band, there is a further factor to take into account – the car’s electric range (or zero emission mileage). This is the distance that the car can travel on a single charge.

The following table shows the appropriate percentages applying for low emission cars for 2021/22.

Appropriate percentage for 2021/22 for cars with CO2 emissions of 1—50g/km
Electric rangeCars first registered before 6 April 2020Cars first registered on or after 6 April 2020
More than 130 miles2%1%
70—129 miles5%4%
40—69 miles8%7%
30 – 39 miles12%11%
Less than 30 miles14%13%

As seen from the table, choosing a car with a good electric range can dramatically reduce the tax charge. Assuming a list price of £30,000, the taxable amount for a car first registered on or after 6 April 2020 with an electric range of at least 130 miles is £300 (£30,000 @ 1%); by contrast, the taxable amount for a car with the same list price first registered before 6 April 2020 with an electric range of less than 30 miles is £4,200 (£30,000 @ 14%).

The moral here is to choose a new greener model and you will be rewarded with a lower tax bill.

If you are affected by any of the issues above and would like more information, please call 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com.

Please note that Shipleys Tax do not give free advice by email or telephone.

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