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The Shocking Truth about Tax on the Poor

How much is taken in taxHave you ever wondered how much of one’s total income is taken up in tax? And I don’t mean just Income Tax. I mean in ALL taxes paid by ordinary taxpayers throughout the course of a year. Such a figure would need to take into account National Insurance (income tax in all but name, some might say), the insidious Value Added Tax or ‘VAT’ – which on its own is a hefty 20% tax on what is often already taxed money for most ordinary taxpayers, and don’t forget to include Council Tax and finally, of course, Income Tax itself.

Well, the answer may surprise you. Before seeing the answer, though, try The Guardian’s little quiz about this and see how you get on. There are only 8 questions, and for each you simply choose from 4 possible answers – so it’s quick to complete and, once submitted, you are immediately taken to a feedback page where you will be told how your answers compared to the average respondent and, more interestingly, what the correct answers were. It’s interesting to note that, in a joint poll by The Equality Trust and Ipsos MORI, nearly 70% of people drastically underestimated how much the poorest pay in tax, as a percentage of their total income. They also over estimated how much the richest pay as a proportion of total income. This wide misconception is due to most people incorrectly focusing only on Income Tax alone which, in reality, only makes up a small proportion of total taxes paid throughout the course of a typical year.

Spoiler alert: be warned that I’m shortly going to divulge the answers 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

The Chancellor’s Budget, March 2014

The Chancellor, George Osborne, has now presented his March 2014 Budget to Parliament. There was lots of talk about the economy, growth forecasts, supporting UK businesses and employment – as well as some obvious political spin bearing in mind the European and General Elections are just around the corner – however we thought we’d concentrate on the most important changes, mainly in relation to tax itself as that’s what is going to affect Taxfile customers and readers the most. So here is our snapshot:

For individuals:

  • The threshold before earnings are subject to income tax (the ‘tax-free personal allowance’) is set to rise to £10,500;
  • The higher rate of tax will kick in for earnings above £41,865 from April 2014, rising again to £42,285 in 2015;
  • The first part of the ‘Help to Buy’ equity loan scheme for those aspiring to buy a new home is to be extended until 2020 (previously 2016);
  • The Stamp Duty on homes worth over £500k is to increase to 15% for those which are bought by companies;
  • Inheritance tax will be scrapped for members of the emergency services who “give their lives protecting us”;
  • Cash and Shares ISAs will be merged into a single New ISA (“NISA”). The annual tax-free limit for the NISA will be £15k (£4k for junior equivalent) from 1 July 2014.
  • From April 2015, pensioners will no longer be forced to buy an annuity with their pension fund. They will now be able to cash in as much or as little as they want to from their pension pot.
  • From June 2014, the amount people will be able to invest into Premium Bonds will increase to £40k (from £30k). From 2015 this will rise again to Read more

RTI (Real Time Information) – last Full Payment Submission (FPS) due soon

Exactly eleven months ago at time of writing, HMRC launched ‘RTI’ (Real Time Information) in the UK. This is the mechanism through which employees now have to report PAYE information for employees on the day it actually happens, or alternatively before that day, for example to confirm to HMRC each time an employee is paid through PAYE, including any NI or Income Tax deductions. RTI is, almost without exception, for all employees including those whose earnings fall below the NIC’s Lower Earnings Limit (‘LEL’), e.g. students.

The RTI reporting has to be done electronically using payroll software, whether that’s the employer themselves reporting it, or their nominated accountant, payroll bureau or bookkeeper. The information reported to HMRC will also now need to include new information which includes the usual hours worked by each employee and any unusual break in the normal working pattern, for instance if an employee takes unpaid leave. RTI also includes other changes to how various things are reported e.g. starter and leaver dates and also employers no longer need to submit end of year forms P14 and P35 because this will be handled on the last Full Payment Submission (‘FPS’) for the tax year in question – this is due in less than a month  at time of writing as the new tax year begins Read more

So are you one of the 6.6% who missed the tax return deadline?

Despite it being an all time record year for receipt, on-line, of ‘on time’ tax returns this year, of the 10.74 million tax returns which were due by 31 January 2013, about 708,740 were – or still are – late. That represents a shortfall of 6.6% and, at a starting penalty of £100 per late return, that’s quite a hefty total penalty. However, one could argue that an additional £71 million in the HMRC coffers in these troubled economic times is very welcome for the exchequer, even if it’s small change in the big scheme of things.

So did you miss the deadline? Here’s what you can expect in terms of additional penalties:

Late return penalties by HMRC

Remember: you still have to submit a tax return even if you do not owe any tax. Taxfile are 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

Tax return help 7 days a week!

By midnight on 31st January 2014, you will need to have submitted your self-assessment tax return to HMRC and have paid them any tax due for the 2012-13 financial year. It doesn’t matter if you have zero tax to pay – you still need to submit your tax return on time or you will be hit with an automatic penalty of £100 (delaying even further can, in the worst case scenario, increase this fine to as much as £1,600).

In view of this, for the month of January you can get help 7 days a week from Taxfile in Tulse Hill, South London.

Our team of tax advisers and accountants can help you with your return whatever your employment status. We can help you register with HMRC if you are not already registered, check your form and help fill it in where necessary, make sure you’ve claimed for any allowable expenses to offset tax, make sure you haven’t missed anything or claimed for something you shouldn’t have claimed, compute any tax due (or due to be refunded), and submit your tax return on-line (the only option available this late into January – paper returns are already too late!). Read more