The (right wing) press has been having some fun speculating what a Labour Govt, under proforma Chancellor John MacDonald, might do under its tax and spent vision spelt out in the 2017 manifesto. Basically, they are talking about a 45% tax rate for those earning over 80k and 50% from 123k up. Corporation tax up to 26% from its current low of 19%. More Sweden than Venezuela.
But what if some more radical ideas come through in order to fund (massive) spending on education and the NHS? The current favourite is a “wealth tax” which is well established in countries such as France and Norway. Tax wonks favour this as income is relatively easy to fudge (well, defer anyway) and real inequalities exist in wealth. The real shocker is the suggestion that all savings and investments in excess of 200k should be subject to a one-off 20% wealth raid. That amounts to an unprecedented assault on property rights, the very concept that helped to create wealth in the first place. Who said tax was boring?
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I've been on another tax course and as usual have returned feeling totally demoralised. The Criminal Finance Act of 2017 takes effect from 30 September 2017. This allows the prosecution of any business including partnerships regardless of size if a person associated with it (employee contractor or agent) facilitates a tax evasion in the UK or overseas An example where this would bite is where work is carried out for an individual (who cannot claim back VAT) but the invoice is made out to his business where VAT is reclaimed. A prosecution under this, could mean unlimited fines, public record of the conviction and reputational damage. The offence can stick to the business even if the evasion was carried out by an employee and the principal was completely unaware. There is no requirement for there to be intention. The only get out is having documented procedures in place to prevent/minimise the risk: 1. Risk assessment 2. Proportionality 3. Top level commitment 4. Due diligence 5. Communication and training 6. Monitoring and reviewing This needs to be considered seriously When someone has invented a TARDIS everything will be fine
What it means for advisors and their clients
I watched with interest the Channel 4 documentary on Monday night to see what areas it would cover with HMRC’s work into catching ‘tax dodgers’.
The case that I looked at with most interest was a ‘PR Guru’ who instructed his accountant not to submit a VAT Return, for which HMRC successfully prosecuted him.
This is the type of scenario we, as accountants and tax advisers, are more commonly likely to encounter, rather than a £45m foreign wine duty issue.
The case resonated with me as I have seen similar cases with HMRC whereby, what used to be considered a relatively minor offence of not being compliant with your tax obligations, would now result in a Criminal Investigation being launched.
I am currently presiding over two CI cases involving non-submission of VAT and PAYE returns. In each case, neither of the amounts due are particularly high for those of us who deal with tax enquiries on a regular basis; however, HMRC’s stance is to make a statement to demonstrate that perceived tax evasion will not be tolerated. This is in addition to several others that I have had contact with who were being investigated for VAT offences, mainly a failure to register because HMRC suspect they have breached the turnover threshold.
A meeting I had with the lead officer on one of these cases confirmed that HMRC are taking a tougher stance on such offences in order to ‘shock’ local business communities to bring any outstanding issues up to date, or realise that HMRC will deal with them far harsher than in the past.
A lot of cases will centre around VAT, due to the way the VAT legislation differs from direct tax legislation, any non-compliance is potentially a criminal offence which gives HMRC far more scope to obtain a successful prosecution. It is therefore expected that we see a rise in the number of these cases as HMRC pour more resources into an area that they find easy to make cases of.
So, what does it mean for the adviser? In the case of the PR Guru, the adviser did the correct thing in submitting a money laundering report – although I was surprised that this was mentioned as my belief was these would be anonymous and a client would be unaware that a report had been filed against them. I will be checking this again with our own ML officer. I have seen a case whereby HMRC quizzed the adviser into his role in a potential CI case, trying to establish whether the accountant had knowledge of his clients non-compliance, presumably seeking to establish whether the accountant had followed the correct ML procedures had he been aware of the issue.
In December 2016 an adviser was reprimanded for not submitting an ML report despite having reasonable grounds to believe an offence had been committed – the case being an over claim of mileage expenses.
This now puts pressure on the adviser to consider submitting an ML report for any suspected case of non-compliance, no matter how minor it is considered to be.
As far as the individual with the offshore tax issue, in which HMRC took a hard line with him in not offering the benefits of the LDF to him for being late with his submission, again shows HMRS to be taking a hard line against those who have not used the appropriate disclosures facilities in a timely basis. With the upcoming requirement to correct legislation coming into force September 2018, there is greater emphasis for taxpayers to use the Worldwide Disclosure Facility to bring any matters up to date.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised that the programme gave a fairly accurate portrayal of where HMRC are currently going with their investigations, though it was clearly set out to be a warning to individuals and businesses to get their acts together, resulting in some good PR for HMRC.
If you have any concerns about an on going tax investigation or a client who needs to make a disclosure because of overseas income or previous non-compliance in the UK, then please call me on 01803 320100 or email me at email@example.com