700,000 taxpayers miss self assessment deadline

A record 93.68% of self assessment tax returns were completed by yesterday’s midnight deadline, with 700,000 taxpayers filing last night, according to HMRC

More than 11.5 million taxpayers were required to file their 2017/18 tax returns by 11.59pm on 31 January. The majority filed on time, but 700,000 taxpayers missed the deadline.

More than 700,000 taxpayers submitted their tax returns on deadline day, the peak hour for filing was 4pm to 5pm when 60,000 filed. The number of taxpayers who filed online soared to more than 10.1 million for the first time.

However, it is important to note that it is possible to dispute automatic penalties, at least a million of which are issued by HMRC.

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) is reminding people of their right, in certain circumstances, to contest penalties given by HMRC for missing the self assessment tax return deadline of 31 January 2019.

HMRC issued one million late filing penalties issued for tax returns due for the 2015/16 tax year, the latest year’s numbers that are available.

It is possible to avoid a fine as long as the taxpayer has a so-called ‘reasonable excuse’ in the eyes of HMRC.

For example, if someone’s child was taken seriously ill just before they were due to submit a tax return, then that is likely to be a reasonable excuse for filing it late. But they would then have to submit the form as soon as possible after the situation was resolved.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general for customer services, said: ‘This year, we had a record numbers of filers completing their tax returns by the deadline. And for any customers who are yet to file their returns, please contact HMRC – we are here to help.’

HMRC is urging any taxpayer that missed the deadline to contact the tax authority. HMRC says it will treat those with genuine excuses leniently, as it focuses penalties on those who persistently fail to complete their tax returns and deliberate tax evaders.

The excuse must be genuine and HMRC may ask for evidence.

Challenging penalties

Head of LITRG team Victoria Todd said: ‘Most taxpayers will want to do everything they can to file their tax return to HMRC on time, however, sometimes that may not be possible and HMRC will automatically issue a late-filing penalty.
‘Where someone thinks they have a reasonable excuse for having missed the deadline, they must provide details and, where possible, evidence in support of those details to HMRC. It may be that a combination of reasons, rather than any one thing, may constitute a reasonable excuse to HMRC.

‘It is up to the taxpayer to appeal a penalty if they wish to claim they have a reasonable excuse. If HMRC agree with the appeal the penalty will be removed, however if they don’t, it is possible to challenge HMRC’s decision as HMRC do not have the final word on whether or not an excuse is reasonable; that question is ultimately for the courts to decide. If someone is unable to agree with HMRC, they can ask HMRC to review the decision and/or appeal to the First-tier Tribunal.

‘If someone claims a reasonable excuse, they must comply with the obligation in question without further delay, for example, submit a late tax return as soon as possible. This is because the law on reasonable excuse requires people to remedy a default within a reasonable time after the excuse has ended.’

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by Amy Austin, Sara White.

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Leading institutes back Lords call for MTD delay

A recommendation by a Lords committee that the government’s introduction of mandatory Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT should be delayed by at least one year is supported by the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG), CIOT and the ICAEW.

Victoria Todd, head of the LITRG team, said that HMRC had underestimated quite how significant a change the programme will be for many small businesses, pointing out that that who will be forced to move to digital recording keeping for the first time ‘may well find the prospect very daunting and intimidating’.

She said that these businesses ‘will need time to familiarise themselves with what is required, both in terms of the digital record keeping requirements and any system requirements’, even though some of these businesses were still unable to join HMRC’s pilot scheme in order to test whether their systems are compatible.

‘We are very concerned that HMRC have not yet published any detailed information as to how exemption from MTD for VAT may be obtained. Some small businesses may want to apply for exemption from the new regime, which they are allowed to do where it is not reasonable to expect them to use digital tools because of age, disability or remoteness of where they live or work.

‘However, HMRC have not yet told people how they should apply for an exemption, or what they can do if their application is turned down. As it is likely to take some time to get a decision under any process introduced, if someone is denied an exemption when they were expecting to get it, they will now have very little time to get themselves ready to go digital by April 2019 - this is completely unacceptable.’

In its submission to the House of Lords economic affairs committee’s inquiry LITRG highlighted concerns about the challenging timetable, the availability of suitable free software, the small scale of the pilots and a lack of information for those requiring digital assistance and exemption.

Appearing before the committee in October 2018, Todd argued that MTD should not be mandatory, saying: ‘If a system is good and has benefits you would expect people to naturally want to use it, as is the case in the self-assessment system, filing online. We do not think it needs to be mandatory.’

The ICAEW has concurred with this opinion, saying that the pace of take-up should ‘be led by what is best for businesses themselves’. It recently conducted research which suggested that over 40% of businesses due to be affected by MTD were not yet aware of the impending change, and that 25% of affected businesses were still using a paper-based accounting system.

According to Anita Monteith, ICAEW tax manager, with only four months to go, ‘there is not enough time for businesses to act’.

‘We support HMRC’s ambition to increase the use of digital technology’, she said, ‘but we are concerned, as is the committee, that many VAT registered businesses are not going to be ready for implementation in April 2019. Direct communication by HMRC about this major change is only just beginning and with only four months to go, there is not enough time for businesses to act.

‘Time is running out. MTD for VAT is a major change in tax administration and, with its start date coinciding with Brexit, it is important for businesses, the economy and the UK tax system that it is a success. This is too important to be rushed.’

CIOT and the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) have also expressed doubts about the rollout of MTD and backed calls for a delay to the scheme. Adrian Rudd, chair of the CIOT/ATT digitalisation and agent strategy working group, said that although digitalisation ‘could lead to efficiencies for taxpayers, agents and tax authorities’, it should be something that businesses implement because it delivers those benefits and should ‘not be something they are forced to adopt’.

'If properly implemented, digitisation could lead to efficiencies for taxpayers, agents and tax authorities. But many businesses will really struggle to get ready in time, and we support the committee’s recommendation of a delay for MTD for VAT.

'Pushing back the start date for Making Tax Digital for other taxes to 2022 at the earliest, is something we support, but it is more important that there is sufficient time set aside for a full review and evaluation of MTD for VAT before this programme is extended.'

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by James Bunney.

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Making Tax Digital for VAT pilot now live for businesses

The pilot is intended to allow up to 500,000 businesses to get fully involved with Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT and test it in full ahead of the April 2019 introduction of the system.

MTD for VAT is intended by HMRC to 'make it easier for businesses to manage their tax and will save them, and their agents, time which can instead be devoted to maximising business opportunities, encouraging growth and fostering good financial planning'.

The pilot is now available to sole traders and those who submit the VAT return for a limited company using a standard account period. HMRC notes that once signed up to take part in the pilot, entrants will have to continue to use Making Tax Digital compatible software to submit their VAT returns.

Restrictions on who can use the service currently apply. The pilot is at present not available to trusts or charities, or to those who are part of a VAT group or VAT division, trade with the EU, or are based overseas. Also excluded are partnerships and businesses that are newly registered for VAT and have not previously used an online account to submit a VAT return. Individuals or organisations that submit annual returns, have incurred a default surcharge in the last 24 months, make VAT payments on account, or use the VAT Flat Rate Scheme may not take part. However, HMRC expects that this pilot will be opened to more businesses in the near future.

In order to access the pilot, organisations or individuals will need to put into place software capable of interfacing with the Government Gateway. HMRC has provided a list of compatible software packages which includes Quickbooks, Xero, Sage 50 and PWC spreadsheet. Once software is in place, those wishing to enrol need to provide the Government Gateway user ID and password used to submit their VAT returns online. An existing VAT registration number is also required.

Professional tax agents with clients enrolling in the pilot are required to update their client’s details within 30 days. These include the business name, its place of business, the business’s bank details and its VAT return dates.

Mel Stride MP, financial secretary to the Treasury, greeted the news: 'HMRC is transforming the tax administration so that it is more effective, more efficient and easier for taxpayers. Today’s announcement means that around half a million businesses will be able to join MTD and start filing their VAT returns online making it easier to get their tax right first time.

'More and more businesses use digital tools every day to help them operate - tax should not be different. This is a major step towards bringing VAT into the 21st century.'

Theresa Middleton, director for Making Tax Digital for Business, said: 'Millions of people are already banking, paying bills and interacting with their suppliers and customers online. Using digital tools to help businesses manage their business income and expenses and get their tax right builds on this momentum and will also help them get more control over their finances.'

Brian Palmer, tax policy expert at the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT), also commented, saying: 'Today HMRC has confirmed that the testing phase for the first implementation of MTD has gone public. 500,000 businesses will be able to join from today, with a further 100,000 able to apply by the end of this month.

'The pilot has been private to a select group of businesses and their accountants since April this year. Now the majority of businesses with a VAT taxable turnover of at least £85,000 will be able to join. As of 31 March 2019, it will be a requirement for these companies to file their VAT returns digitally. Those who trade with European Union state members, charities, and businesses which pay VAT on account are among those businesses who remain excluded from the pilot.

'If your business is in a position to do so - as one in three AAT members told us they were at the end of September - it makes total sense to engage with the pilot as soon as possible. That way, you can get fully involved with the opportunity to test the system in full, and train up all affected employees and clients where needed. In addition, you will be in a position to let HMRC know of any remaining teething problems prior to mandation itself.

'If your business is not ready to join the pilot, I would strongly advise that you start planning immediately to ensure the business can join well ahead of next April. There will be no prizes on offer for waiting. Of the 150 or so providers who have said they will provide MTD-compliant software, over 70 have already had their solutions recognised on HMRC's website. If you think it wise to test the system in full before next April and your provider is ready, there is little point in waiting, you might as enrol to join the pilot straight away.'

The Guidance: Use software to submit your VAT Returns is here

The Guidance: Agents: use software to submit VAT Returns is here

The Guidance: Update your clients’ business details if they are part of the Making Tax Digital for VAT pilot is here

Guidance: Find software suppliers for sending VAT Returns and Income Tax updates is here

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by James Bunney.

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Calls for HMRC to delay IR35 private sector extension

HMRC’s consultation on extending the IR35 rules covering off-payroll working to the private sector closed last week, and contractor organisations are indicating there has been a groundswell of protest against the proposals, which have attracted controversy since their introduction in the public sector.

In its response to the three-month consultation, which ended on 10 August, the Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) called for the proposed extension should be dropped or, failing that, deferred over concerns that self-employed people working through their own personal service companies (PSCs) may unfairly lose a significant part of their take-home pay under the plans. Michael Steed, co-chair of ATT’s technical steering group, said: ‘We do not feel that a convincing case has been made for the extension of these rules to the private sector. Our strong preference is for there to be greater and more visible compliance activity by HMRC to enforce the existing rules.

‘We have not had a full compliance cycle since the public sector reforms were introduced, so cannot say for sure that they have worked as well as HMRC think in that sector.’

ATT says no changes should be made before 2020, on the basis that businesses will have enough upheaval to deal with in 2019 with the combined effects of Brexit and the rollout of Making Tax Digital.

It also points out that HMRC is consulting separately on employment status following the Taylor review of modern working practices, and say the government should instead consider the wider picture such as the taxation of employment verses self-employment before any extension of the off-payroll rules into the private sector goes ahead.

ATT’s concern is that clients will decide that the off-payroll rules apply in a greater number of situations than they truly do and that, unless the PSC has a very strong bargaining position, they will not be in a position to challenge such decisions. Where the individual and their PSC disagrees with a client’s decision as to their classification, there is no right of appeal at that time to HMRC because the tax authority’s view is that this is a dispute between the client and worker which must be resolved between them.

Steed said: ‘It is vital that the right decision on tax is taken in the first place given the difficulties that PSCs have in challenging their position. It is expected that many private sector businesses will rely on HMRC’s check employment status for tax (CEST) tool to determine the position.

‘We have a number of concerns about the quality of the answers that CEST provides and call for measures to ensure that the CEST is developed into something that is reliable and accurate and in which both worker and client can have confidence.’

Similar concerns have been raised by the Association of Recruitment Consultancies (ARC) in its response, describing the proposals as potentially ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’ for employers, who are already facing challenges from Brexit and Making Tax Digital.

Adrian Marlowe, chairman of ARC said, ‘Although there is an issue of non-compliance which needs addressing, the proposals as they stand unnecessarily penalise the UK’s thriving contractor workforce, the contractor supply sector and, most importantly, hirers.

‘The evidence on which HMRC bases its proposal is inadequate and certainly insufficient to justify its argument for extension. There has been no full impact assessment and use of the online tool CEST, which has been heavily criticised, remains open to question.’

IPSE, the contractors’ umbrella body, also maintains that extending IR35 changes would be 'extraordinarily short-sighted'.

In its response, IPSE warned that pushing the change out into the private sector would heap a greater administrative burden onto UK businesses, reduce productivity and further complicate employment status law. It particularly urged the Government not to extend the reform while the uncertainty of Brexit is hanging over the economy, arguing that it needs the flexibility provided by freelancers now more than ever.

IPSE also used the response to raise concerns about the reliability of HMRC’s CEST tool, asking how clients could be expected to determine IR35 status when even HMRC’s own tool cannot.

Andy Chamberlain, IPSE’s Deputy Director of Policy, said: ‘Research by IPSE and the CIPD has shown that the changes did serious damage to the public sector, causing walkouts, project delays and even cancellations.

‘There are many more self-employed people in the private sector, so the damage from this could be far more significant. Not only would the changes be a major administrative burden for private sector clients; they would also limit businesses’ access to skilled flexible labour and ultimately drive down productivity.’

Closed consultation Off-payroll working in the private sector is here

The ATT response is here

The ARC response is here

The IPSE response is here

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by Pat Sweet.

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Please note that Emerald Accountants Limited shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the use of any of the information disclosed in this article…

Property income allowance gives £1,000 tax relief

Property owners who receive an income from rent could be missing out on a recently introduced tax-free allowance potentially worth hundreds of pounds provided they have low rental income.

Taxpayers can claim the property income allowance, which came into effect in April last year, giving the property owner £1,000 of tax relief on their rental income, provided they have few or no expenses. The allowance is worth up to £1,000 each tax year in tax-free allowances for property or trading income from 6 April 2017.

‘Depending on circumstances, this can be a fairly generous tax break for individuals who rent out their property, including land owners, for example farmers. A basic rate taxpayer can save up to £200, while higher rate taxpayers can save up to £400 by claiming the allowance,’ said Annalise Lovett FCCA, partner at chartered accountants Newby Castleman.

‘Because many landlords and property owners fill out their own tax returns, they may well have overlooked the property income allowance, especially as it only came into effect last year, and the 2017/18 tax return is the first time it can be claimed.’

The new allowance can be particularly beneficial to joint owners of property and land, for example married couples, as both parties are able to claim the allowance, ie, up to £1,000 each.

Where the allowance covers all of an individual’s relevant income (before expenses) then they will no longer have to declare or pay tax on this income.

Those with higher amounts of income will have the choice, when calculating their taxable profits, of deducting the allowance from their receipts, instead of deducting the actual allowable expenses. The trading allowance will also apply for Class 4 national insurance contribution purposes.

The allowance does not apply to partnership income from carrying on a trade, profession or property business in partnership. They cannot be used in conjunction with the relief available under the rent-a-room relief rules.

Lovett said: ‘It’s a relatively straightforward way of claiming back a potentially generous amount from the taxman, and if you’re completing your own tax return it might be easy to miss.’

The relief was introduced as part of Finance Act 2017, and introduced a new Part of Income Tax (Trading and Other Income) Act 2005 (ITTOIA 2005), to give relief for two new annual tax allowances for individuals of £1,000 each, a trading allowance and a property allowance.

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by Sara White.

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Please note that Emerald Accountants Limited shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the use of any of the information disclosed in this article…

HMRC delays Making Tax Digital for VAT trial for businesses

HMRC has assessed 18 software suppliers as having met its requirements for Making Tax Digital for VAT, ahead of the mandatory deadline for online filing next April, while its public trial for businesses who will have to keep and submit digital records will not now start until later this year.

HMRC has published a stakeholder communications pack offering guidance about the requirements of Making Tax Digital, which will see VAT-registered businesses with a taxable turnover above the registration threshold required to keep and submit digital VAT business records and make digital VAT returns from 1 April 2019.

HMRC launched a private pilot of Making Tax Digital for VAT in April 2018, working with software providers in order to test its systems and their products. The guidance suggests this will become a public trial ‘later in 2018’, having previously indicated it could begin this summer.

HMRC will not be offering its own software products, but will provide the application programming interfaces (APIs) that commercial software developers will use to develop a range of applications that will enable businesses to keep their records digitally and integrate with HMRC systems.

The guidance describes the VAT trial as ‘a private pilot available to invited volunteer VAT businesses and their agents’ and says that ‘for now, we are limiting the number and types of business we invite into the pilot.’

According to HMRC’s latest update, more than 130 software suppliers have told HMRC that they are interested in providing software for Making Tax Digital for VAT, of which over 35 have said they will have software ready during the first phase of the pilot, which involves small numbers of invited businesses and agents.

So far, 18 suppliers including Intuit, IRIS, PwC, Xero and Sage, are listed as having tested their products in HMRC’s test environment and having demonstrated a prototype of their software to HMRC.

The guidance states: ‘We’ve invited a small number of volunteer VAT businesses who meet a specific set of eligibility criteria to join. Some are represented by agents and others are unrepresented. As we continue testing, we’ll increase the numbers and start to invite businesses with more complex features.’

HMRC also says it will provide more detailed guidance about the operation of Making Tax Digital for VAT after the launch of the public service later this year.

In March 2018 HMRC launched a pilot for Making Tax Digital Income Tax pilot on a voluntary basis. It will not be mandatory for businesses until at least 2020.

Businesses can sign up if they are a sole trader with income from one business and/or are landlords (except those with furnished holiday lettings).

If a business that signs up to Making Tax Digital for income tax has no other income to provide to HMRC they will not need to complete a separate self assessment return for 2018/19.

The stakeholder communications pack says: ‘Where additional personal income needs to be reported, such as employment income, bank and building society interest, dividends and gift aid, additional functionality will be made available in the coming months to allow software providers to build this into their products, meaning many more businesses will be able to send all of their additional personal income details using MTD.’

It also states that the income tax pilot ‘continues to be developed and additional functionality to allow more business to join will be released in the coming months’. This will include the ability to report other sources of income through software e.g. bank interest and dividends.

Currently there are four approved suppliers on HMRC’s list for Making Tax Digital for income tax: Absolute, Forbes, IRIS and Rhino.

HMRC says the communication pack provides information for firms, agents and others, who can use the contents to inform their own communications activity and key messages for their clients, customers or members.

As well as explaining the background to Making Tax Digital, it includes details of the pilots and encourages stakeholders to get involved in these, and to ensure that they and their clients are aware of new digital requirements.

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by Pat Sweet.

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Please note that Emerald Accountants Limited shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the use of any of the information disclosed in this article…

Two-tier Making Tax Digital penalty regime confirmed

The penalty system for Making Tax Digital will kick in within 15 days of an overdue payment and will be a two-tier system, the government has confirmed in the draft Finance Bill 2018-19, although there will be an initial grace period for late filers

The government has admitted that there were numerous complaints in the consultation responses stating that the system for Making Tax Digital penalties was overly complicated with effectively a two-tier system, but it will go ahead regardless.

HMRC has confirmed that the penalties for failure to keep digital records will come into force immediately from April 2019, while there will be a grace period for those who file late. Penalties for late filing will come into force in April 2020.

Making Tax Digital for VAT reporting for business is due to come into force from April 2019, although the wider project for corporation tax and property tax has been delayed until at least 2020-21.

Penalties will be calculated on debts remaining due after 15 days from the payment due date although on a mitigated basis where payment is made or a Time to Pay arrangements (TTP) has been set up until 30 days after the due date.

Where a successful TTP agreement is made, the government will take the date of contact with HMRC as the effective date for the purpose of late payment penalties.

The government intends to introduce the late payment penalties based upon the two charge model consulted on as it believes that a two charge system is fairer to the vast majority who comply with payment dates and prompts better compliance behaviours for the small minority who do not in a proportionate manner:

It says that the system will encourage taxpayers to get in touch earlier with HMRC when they have payment problems and will directly link the penalty to the amount of time a debt is outstanding.

Two-charge model

Two charge model will work as follows:

- If a payment or TTP is made or treated as made within 15 days of the due date no penalty will be charged;
- Between 16 and 30 days half a penalty will be charged;
- After 30 days a full penalty will be charged plus a further penalty which will then accrue daily until payment is made or a TTP treated as made.

VAT repayment interest

Some specific concerns were raised about VAT repayment interest not being paid where there are missing returns or for periods of reasonable enquiry.

In response, the government has decided that where a repayment return is received and there are other outstanding returns HMRC will pay interest from the date any outstanding returns are submitted, subject to reasonable enquiry.

The government rejected concerns about using differential rates for corporation tax Quarterly Instalment Payments (QIPS), stating that only those paying corporation tax have to estimate their current year’s tax liability before the year is finalised and make payments based on those estimations.

Once the payment date for the year, nine months and one day after the end of the accounting period has elapsed, the usual rates apply. As a result, there will be no change to the current interest rate differential for QIPS, the government confirmed.

Source: Accountancy Daily - Report by Sara White.

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Please note that Emerald Accountants Limited shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the use of any of the information disclosed in this article…

Thanks from a Special Client – Wes Hoolahan

Celebrating another great year at Emerald Accountants, one of our clients has also had a very big year himself, celebrating 10 years at Norwich City Football Club.

Emerald Accountants have been working with former Republic of Ireland International Wes Hoolahan, for the past few years. As a nice token of gratitude, Wes has kindly presented us with a signed shirt for the office.

We would like to congratulate Wes on a glittering football career with Livingstone, Blackpool, Norwich City and Republic of Ireland (making 43 caps), and wish him all the best for the next chapter of his footballing journey.

Additionally, we would like to thank Robert Trett, Paul and Aiden Snelling at Lifetime for the introduction to Wes, and support provided alongside us.

Please note that Emerald Accountants Limited shall not be liable for any loss or damage arising out of the use of any of the information disclosed in this article…