Taxfile passes HMRC inspection with flying colours!

HMRC inspect high volume tax return agentsHMRC have recently been targeting tax agents who file high volumes of tax returns and, as one of the UK’s top 100 tax return preparers by volume, Taxfile had the honour of having an inspection by HMRC inspectors during late October.

The two senior inspectors met all Taxfile staff who prepare tax returns and analysed the procedures undertaken by them to arrive at the figures entered on customer returns. They also reviewed, on a spot-check basis, a selection of files worked upon over this Summer. Analysis included checks on procedures, figure work and record keeping including the level of detail recorded in notes. The result was a resounding success – Taxfile passed with flying colours – of course!

HMRC were also satisfied with the way Taxfile had dealt with any occasional instances of missing client receipts. They reiterated that, where clients had lost receipts, some kind of proof of purchase was always needed in lieu of the official receipts. For example bank statements showing that the purchase was made via a debit card or cheque, or credit card statements showing the purchase was made originally with a Visa or MasterCard. Our own recommendation is to Read more

The Taxpayers Charter & how it can help you

The Taxpayers CharterMany ordinary working taxpayers do not even know it exists, but The Taxpayers Charter is there to make sure that HMRC give you a service that is even-handed, accurate and based on mutual trust and respect. HMRC also want to make it as easy as possible for you to get things right.

The Charter is there to protect you and, better still, it gives you certain rights. In return for 3 simple obligations on your part (honesty, respect for HMRC staff and diligence to get things right) HMRC promises to:

  1. Respect you.
    This includes treating you with courtesy and making you aware of your rights;
  2. Help and support you to get things right.
    This includes processing the information you supply as quickly and accurately as possible and also correcting any mistakes as quickly as they can;
  3. Treat you as honest.
    This includes only questioning what you tell them if they have good grounds to do so;
  4. Treat you even-handedly.
    This includes consideration of any financial difficulties which you may be having and explaining what you can do if you disagree with their decisions, or if you wish to make a complaint;
  5. Be professional and act with integrity.
    Critically, this includes a useful sub-clause to ‘make sure that you are dealt with by people who have the right level of expertise‘ and another to ‘let you know how appeals, investigations or complaints are progressing‘. Here at Taxfile we feel that these may be the most helpful clauses of all, judging by past history;
  6. Tackle people who deliberately break the rules and challenge those who bend the rules;
  7. Protect your information and respect your privacy.
    This includes a sub-clause to respect your legal rights when they visit premises;
  8. Accept that someone else can represent you;
    Hey – we would be happy to represent you!
  9. Do all we can to keep the cost of dealing with us as low as possible.
    For example if you, or your representative (see clause 8 above) feel that an HMRC officer is relentlessly dragging out a tax enquiry with perhaps unfair queries, creating unnecessary work, then Read more

HMRC’s ‘Direct Recovery’ of owed tax – straight from your bank account!

Direct Recovery of tax from your bank accountPart of the Chancellor’s recent Budget included plans to recover tax owed to the Treasury direct from the debtor’s bank account — all done directly and without a Court Order being necessary. This has been criticised widely but HMRC says that only 17,000 people in the UK per year would fall into this potential scenario and that it would only occur for those owing more than £1,000 in unpaid tax or tax credits owed. Moreover they say that they would only target long-standing tax debts from those who had received a minimum of 4 payment demands and whose bank and savings accounts combined had a minimum total balance of £5,000 or more remaining after any tax bad been directly seized. Also the debtor involved will have been issued with a final warning period of 14 days, during which the funds concerned would be frozen, before any tax was directly withdrawn.

Meanwhile many, including the Treasury Committee, have raised concerns by stating that it is well-known that HMRC make mistakes including, for example, sometimes asking for the wrong amount of tax from people, issuing incorrect tax cards, or worse. Similar mistakes applied through the new ‘Direct Recovery’ of tax from bank and savings accounts could be seriously detrimental to people and Read more

It’s official: thousands are on the wrong tax code!

With the tax return deadline being only hours away (midnight 31 January 2014) there is still time to get professional help if you need it – particularly because HMRC  often get it wrong according to new research by UHY Hacker Young.

In just one example, HMRC sent a tax bill to a pensioner which demanded over £576k in tax! With an income of only £11k per annum this was clearly incorrect but what if it had been only hundreds of pounds wrong – would the pensioner have noticed and, if so, would he have been confident enough to question it with the might of HMRC?

According to the research, HMRC employees have been making ‘basic’ errors which have led to problems such as people being on the wrong tax code and consequently underpaying or overpaying tax. While underpaying it may sound attractive on the face of it, chances are the system will catch up and then a correction will need to be made later on, leaving the taxpayer with an unforeseen bill to pay – a real blow for cashflow.

While the UHY Hacker Young research cites an error rate in 2013 of 37% in the sample tested, HMRC are arguing that the research is wrong and that their PAYE coding notices are 99% accurate. Either way, when you consider that Read more

Assets hidden offshore? Not for long!

Financial information sharing now reaches the Cayman Islands, Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey.

On November 5th, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (‘HMRC’) announced that the Cayman Islands had joined the ever-growing list of offshore territories which will now automatically share financial information with them in respect to UK taxpayers who may have accounts there. This follows similar agreements which took place in October for Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man. Clearly the idea is to further aid in HMRC’s clampdown on tax evasion and avoidance.

The Cayman Islands also agreed to become an integral part of the G5 multi-lateral information sharing initiative involving a total of 31 territories including the UK, France, Germany and Spain, based on an earlier agreement with the U.S. and now also including cooperation with South Africa. The transparency of who really owns and controls UK companies is also a key HMRC aim.

This is all an important step towards the creation of a global standard in tax transparency and information sharing, an initiative originally agreed Read more

Enquiry Meeting:One Big Interview

According to the HMRC, during a tax investigation, meetings between the taxpayer and the tax inspector play a vital role.

Why is that? Because according to HMRC, this is the easiest way to obtain information about the taxpayer’s business and settle the enquiry faster.

Also, meetings between the taxpayer and the tax inspector ”ensure that, where omissions have been found, the taxpayer is aware what offence has been committed and the likelihood of penalties and of the benefits of co-operating in bringing about an appropriate settlement at the earliest possible date, but you should make it clear that it is entirely a matter for them to decide.”(Enquiry Manual, HMRC)

When dealing with a meeting with the taxpayer, the inspectors are advised to consider a few points :
•the purpose of the meeting,
•the reason of the meeting,
•list of questions to be answered by the taxpayer
•review of all the information held,
•establish the basis of settlement.

The Inspectors Enquiry Manual (EM1822) tells the Inspector that the meetings enable them to:
”•obtain facts from the taxpayer about the business, how it is run and the records that are kept;
obtain the facts in non-business enquiries;
•explain the purpose of your enquiry. Taxpayers may not always be fully aware of the extent of HMRC enquiries;
•establish whether the taxpayer wishes to disclose omissions;
•agree what action is required and by whom to move the enquiry towards conclusion;
•ensure that, where omissions have been found, the taxpayer is aware what offence has been committed and the likelihood of penalties and of the benefits of co-operating in bringing about an appropriate settlement at the earliest possible date, but you should make it clear that it is entirely a matter for them to decide.
•quantify and agree omissions;
•settle the enquiry.”(Enquiry Manual, HMRC)

What you need to realise when dealing with a tax investigation is that there is no legal obligation for you to attend a meeting/interview with the Inspector.
Also it is important to go through the structure of the meeting in advance with your tax agent.
It is vital while attending such a meeting to have appropriate representation.
Tax Investigations and conflicts with the HMRC can create difficult and stressful times for anyone involved as well as a big accountancy bill.
Here at Taxfile we have free-of-charge enquiry protection cover. The insurance will cover the whole costs involved in dealing with your tax investigation. For more details about our insurance policy come and see us in our office in Tulse Hill or Exeter.