Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

New protection for tenants

Friday, July 1st, 2022

The government has announced their intention to radically overhaul the rights of tenants. The changes announced include:

For tenants

  • Helping the most vulnerable by outlawing blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.
  • For the first time, ending the use of arbitrary rent review clauses, restricting tribunals from hiking up rent and enabling tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes. This will make sure tenants can take their landlord to court to seek repayment of rent if their homes are of unacceptable standard.
  • Making it easier for tenants to have much-loved pets in their homes by giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their house, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.
  • All tenants to be moved onto a single system of periodic tenancies, meaning they can leave inferior quality housing without remaining liable for the rent or move more easily when their circumstances change. A tenancy will only end if a tenant ends it or a landlord has a valid reason, defined in law.
  • Doubling notice periods for rent increases and giving tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unjustified.
  • Giving councils stronger powers to tackle the worst offenders, backed by enforcement pilots, and increasing fines for serious offences.

 

For landlords

  • A new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will be created to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost, and without going to court.
  • Ensuring responsible landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and can sell their properties when they need to.
  • Introducing a new property portal that will provide a single front door to help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators.

According to government sources these reforms will help to ease the cost-of-living pressures renters are facing, saving families from unnecessarily moving from one privately rented home to another and thereby saving hundreds of pounds in moving costs.

Not so trivial benefits

Friday, July 1st, 2022

The trivial benefits exemption allows you to provide benefits to employees without your employee suffering a tax charge on the benefit. Likewise, there is no Class 1A National Insurance for you, the employer, to pay.

To count as ‘trivial’ for the purposes of the exemption, the benefit must meet all of the following conditions:

  • the cost of providing the benefit is £50 or less.
  • the benefit is not cash or a cash voucher.
  • your employee is not contractually entitled to the benefit.
  • the benefit is not provided in recognition of particular services.

Unless your company is a close company (generally a small company) and trivial benefits are provided to a director or other office holder, there is no limit on the number of trivial benefits that you can give to a particular employee in the tax year.

However, the cumulative provision of trivial benefits to directors or other office holders of close companies is capped at £300 for each tax year.

If you provide the benefit to a number of your employees and it is impracticable to work out the actual cost of each individual benefit provided to each individual employee, you can work out the average cost instead. As long as this does not exceed £50 the cost condition will be met.

Loss of personal allowance

Friday, July 1st, 2022

If your taxable income exceeds £100,000 you will suffer a reduction in your personal tax allowance.

For every £2 that your income exceeds £100,000, £1 will be knocked off your allowance. The reduction is progressive and means that once your income exceeds £125,140 your personal allowance of £12,570 will be reduced to zero.

As Income Taxpayers with income in the range, £100,000 to £125,140, are paying tax at 40%, the gradual loss of the personal tax allowance means that the effective rate of tax in this range is 60% not 40%.

Accordingly, if you are affected by this process, tax planning to reduce your income below the £100,000 threshold would be cost effective.

This may involve consideration of pension top-ups, deferring income, sacrificing salary for additional holidays, or other planning options that may be available to you.

Please call so we can help you consider your options.

Coping with inflation

Thursday, June 30th, 2022

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, of the Scottish government, made a number of suggestions to help households and businesses who are struggling to cope with inflation.

 

With inflation reaching a 40-year high of 9 per cent, and forecast to rise higher, Ms Forbes has written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer urging the UK Government to use the £30 billion fiscal headroom it has available to help those struggling in the face of rising bills.

 

Her suggestions are reproduced below.

 

"I am proposing four principles that should guide a response from the UK Government:

"Firstly, ensure that the fiscal support package is targeted at the households and businesses that most need support. The package should aim to offset the disproportionate burden of the cost-of-living crisis on the least well-off, and I would urge you to consider as a starting point of any package:

  • An emergency cost of living cash payment to all UK households with below median income, tapered to provide more support to those at the lower end of the income distribution. I would suggest this be up to £1,000 to those on the lowest incomes, to be delivered directly as cash support at periods across the fiscal year. Providing money directly, without a link to specific bills, would provide households with the means to manage the cost-of-living crisis however it is affecting them the most, whether it is on food, transport or energy bills, and offset the impact of the cost-of-living crisis for those on the lowest incomes. The Resolution Foundation has also called for a policy intervention of a similar design.
  • Permanently uprate all social security benefits as if they had been increased by 10% in April to match the current level of inflation, as proposed by the Centre for Social Justice. In April, we increased our eight Scottish social security benefits by 6%, reflecting the higher inflation expected at that time.
  • A further £25 uplift to Universal Credit, and for this to be extended to legacy benefits.
  • Increase the National Living Wage rate of £9.50 to the Real Living Wage rate of £9.90 for all over eighteen.
  • A temporary suspension of VAT on household energy bills, which we estimate would save the average household around £100 a year at current prices.
  • Extend the £350 energy rebate scheme to small and medium enterprises and remove the requirement to repay to the £200 energy bill reduction component.
  • Remove standing charges for anyone with a pre-payment meter. The energy price increases will be felt more severely for consumers using prepayment meters who are often subject to higher prices for energy than through other means such as direct debit, and as standing charges must still be paid even if there is no credit on the meter, and top ups can be swallowed up before energy can be bought. Removing standing charges would reduce the risk of self-disconnection if they cannot afford their energy costs.

 

"Collectively, we estimate this package can be comfortably implemented within the £30 billion fiscal headroom available to you, even before allowing for any additional revenue from a windfall tax.”

It will be interesting to see if the Treasury respond to these ideas or any others aimed at reducing the current cost of living crisis.

Concerns about Repayment Agents

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

New measures to stop rip-off agents taking advantage of people by pocketing their tax repayments have been proposed by HMRC.

To achieve this, HMRC have launched a 12-week consultation Raising standards in tax advice: Protecting customers claiming tax repayments to consider ways to better protect taxpayers from Repayment Agents who make routine tax claims on people’s behalf but can take up to half, or even more, of the payment.

Taxpayers can use Repayment Agents to make claims for repayments of tax, and many are happy with the service they receive. On the other hand, many taxpayers have complained that the scale of the charges are unclear or even hidden, while questions have been raised about how some agents secure agreements from customers.

What protection will HMRC propose?

HMRC’s consultation proposes many ways to better protect the public from unscrupulous practices and ensure they receive the money they are entitled to, while also asking various questions to better understand the problem.

This includes seeking views on:

  • restricting the use of assignments, where contracts legally transfer the right to a repayment from a taxpayer to an agent.
  • introducing measures designed to ensure taxpayers see material information about a repayment agent’s service before entering into a contractual agreement.
  • requiring repayment agents to register with HMRC.

What has prompted this action by HMRC?

HMRC is aware of a number of specific concerns with the industry including excessive amounts of commission charged for routine tax repayments that can be claimed online by taxpayers for free.

There is also convincing evidence that many taxpayers do not understand the terms they are signing up to and feel misled, some even believing they are dealing with HMRC directly rather than a third party.

Other concerns include the submission of high volume or speculative claims where no repayment is due, resulting in delays to genuine claims, as well as the use of assignments which means the repayment goes to the Repayment Agent instead of the taxpayer.

The consultation is now open and will run until 14 September 2022.

HMRC is reminding taxpayers that they remain responsible for their own tax. If they do appoint an agent, they should take care to ensure they are aware of fees and the terms and conditions of service, and not to share their HMRC login details with them. HMRC has published standards for agents and will act against agents who breach them.

Questions to ask when choosing an agent:

  • is the agent a member of a professional body that regulates their conduct and standards?
  • will the claim be made in accordance with HMRC’s view of the law, or is HMRC is likely to challenge the validity of the claim if they look into it?
  • if the agent will deduct their fee from my tax repayment and HMRC later looks into my claim and asks for the repayment back, how will I recover the agent’s fee from them in order to fund the tax bill?
  • does the agent have insurance to cover them if something goes wrong, and are they registered for Anti Money Laundering supervision?

Nothing to declare

Thursday, June 23rd, 2022

Downsizing business operations is a perfectly acceptable response to economic pressures, and this may lead to an absence of activity for a period of time. This would have been the likely experience of businesses subject to recent lockdown restrictions.

 

Unfortunately, our obligation to file returns to HMRC does not end if there are no transactions to report on these returns. Three areas where this may occur – and there may be more – are:

  1. Filing VAT returns
  2. Filing payroll returns
  3. Filing CIS returns

 

This may seem to be over the top, and slightly ridiculous, but our obligation is twofold, to declare any liability and secondly, to file a return to advise HMRC of the amount due, or not due.

The fact that there may be no liability to report to does not relieve us of our responsibility to file a nil return.

 

Penalties will apply

The reason for flagging this issue is that if we fail to make the required nil return penalties will apply.

 

For example, a contractor that is registered under the CIS regulations – to report and pay over any deductions from sub-contractor payments – will be required to submit a monthly return. If a month is skipped because no payments to subbies was made, then HMRC will automatically send a £100 late filing penalty.

 

HMRC see things differently

HMRC has legislated that the obligation to file a return is, of itself, a requirement that needs to be taken seriously, notwithstanding that there may be no liability to report, and failure to file nil returns will trigger late filing penalties.

Looking at this matter from HMRC’s point of view, you know that there is no liability but the only evidence that HMRC has is that you have failed to file (and possibly are avoiding payment of liabilities).

 

Nothing to declare

In which case, where it is determined that you make monthly, quarterly or annual returns to HMRC, make sure that nil returns are submitted by the due dates. As far as reporting to HMRC is concerned there is no such thing as nothing to declare.

Proposed new deal for private renters

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

The fairer private rented sector white paper published 16 June 2022, will ensure millions of families benefit from living in decent, well looked-after homes as part of the biggest shake up of the private rented sector in 30 years.

The white paper marks a generational shift that will redress the balance between landlords and 4.4 million private rented tenants. It provides new support for cost-of-living pressures with protections for the most vulnerable, and new measures to tackle arbitrary and unfair rent increases.

The majority of tenants enjoy safe and secure rentals, but for the 21% of private renter and households who currently live in unfit homes, this ‘New Deal’ will extend the Decent Homes Standard to the private sector for the first time, levelling up opportunities. This means homes must be free from serious health and safety hazards, and landlords must keep homes in a good state of repair, so renters have clean, appropriate and useable facilities.

So-called ‘no fault’ section 21 evictions – that allow landlords to terminate tenancies without giving any reason – will be outlawed. More than a fifth of private renters who moved in 2019 and 2020 did not end their tenancy by choice, including 8% who were asked to leave by their landlord.

Other measures published include:

  • Helping the most vulnerable by outlawing blanket bans on renting to families with children or those in receipt of benefits.
  • For the first time, ending the use of arbitrary rent review clauses, restricting tribunals from hiking up rent and enabling tenants to be repaid rent for non-decent homes. This will make sure tenants can take their landlord to court to seek repayment of rent if their homes are of unacceptable standard.
  • Making it easier for tenants to have much-loved pets in their homes by giving all tenants the right to request a pet in their house, which the landlord must consider and cannot unreasonably refuse.
  • All tenants to be moved onto a single system of periodic tenancies, meaning they can leave poor quality housing without remaining liable for the rent or move more easily when their circumstances change. A tenancy will only end if a tenant ends or a landlord has a valid reason, defined in law.
  • Doubling notice periods for rent increases and giving tenants stronger powers to challenge them if they are unjustified. Giving councils stronger powers to tackle the worst offenders, backed by enforcement pilots, and increasing fines for serious offences.

In addition, the estimated 2.3 million private landlords will have greater clarity and support through the following measures:

  • A new Private Renters’ Ombudsman will be created to enable disputes between private renters and landlords to be settled quickly, at low cost, and without going to court.
  • Ensuring responsible landlords can gain possession of their properties efficiently from anti-social tenants and can sell their properties when they need to.
  • Introducing a new property portal that will provide a single front door to help landlords to understand, and comply with, their responsibilities as well as giving councils and tenants the information they need to tackle rogue operators.

While the majority of private rented homes are of good quality, offering safe, comfortable accommodation for families, the conditions of more than half a million properties – or 12% of households – pose an imminent risk to tenants’ health and safety, meaning around 1.6 million people are living in dangerously low-quality homes, driving up costs for our health service.

The sector offers the most expensive, least secure, and lowest quality housing to millions of renters, including 1.3 million households with children and 382,000 households over 65.

According to government sources, rents are rising at their fastest level for five years, damaging life chances and holding back some of the most deprived parts of the country.

Seeing is believing?

Thursday, June 16th, 2022

It is no longer certain that if you receive a letter, email, text or phone call – purporting to be the tax office or some similar, regulatory authority – that it is a genuine communication.

 

Red flags should be waved, and warning buzzers sounded if anyone ever requests personal information or your bank details.

 

What to do?

In all cases, do not respond directly. Disconnect phone calls, do not reply to texts or emails or make contact from information provided on letters.

Instead, use your computer to search for bona fide contact details. For example, for HMRC search for contact numbers at GOV.UK. Call and ask the relevant authority to confirm that the communication you have received is genuine.

Do not part with your bank or credit card details unless you have done so in response to a transaction (say an online purchase) that you have instigated.

HMRC, for example, will never ask for your bank details, unless you are setting up a formal direct debit. Certainly, they will not call and request this information.

 

Take professional advice

If you are a client of our practice in receipt of suspect communications from HMRC, call and we will check the authenticity of the request you have received.

You could also get help with online scams by calling Citizens Advice on 0808 250 5050.

 

Seeing is no longer to be believed

It is unfortunate but seeing may no longer be relied upon to be believable.

The fraudsters that set up these bogus communications have a single intent, to swindle you, to gain access to your hard-won savings. And they cannot do this if you make a point of never divulging your bank details or other personal data unless you are certain it is as a result of a transaction that you have instigated.

There is a thriving community, working from the so-called ‘dark web,’ whose sole intent is to blur the distinction between what is true and what is false.

 

Reporting scams

If you unearth a scam, you can report the incident to the National Cyber Security Centre at ncsc.gov.uk.

Will quarterly reporting lead to quarterly payments?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2022

Within a few years, many taxpayers that are presently required to file a tax return, and most businesses, will be required to file quarterly data with HMRC using the Treasury Making Tax Digital portal.

In which case, the present annual filing obligations will be replaced by quarterly filing obligations.

 

Paying tax in arrears

Apart from salaried or waged individuals who have their tax and NIC liabilities deducted at the time they are paid self-employed traders and companies pay their tax in arrears.

For example, for the tax year 2021-22, individuals registered for self-assessment pay two estimated instalments – based on previous year’s profits – January and July 2022: and any balancing amount 31 January 2023.

Companies pay their corporation tax bill nine months and one day after their accounting period end.

Which means the Treasury does not get its hands on current tax dues (apart from income subject to PAYE) for some time after the income and profits are earned.

 

The demands of Making Tax Digital (MTD)

There are two major demands that taxpayers and companies affected by MTD will need to comply with when they are drawn into the MTD regime:

  • Upload quarterly data to HMRC.
  • Keep their records in an electronic format that will facility the quarterly uploads.

For many taxpayers and traders this will be a simple transition if they have already embraced a digital approach to record keeping – particularly if software has been adopted that is already compliant with MTD technology.

Readers who have not made this transition should consider their options. Please call as we can help.

 

Will MTD lead to quarterly payments?

When HMRC are provided with information on a quarterly basis it is a short step that they request taxpayers to make quarterly payments on account rather than half-yearly or annual payments in arrears.

At present, there is no indication that HMRC will make this transition, but once MTD is bedded in across the range of taxes (particularly income tax and corporation tax), the change to quarterly payments based on actual data submitted would seem to be the logical next step.

 

MTD implementation diary

The present implementation dates for MTD are:

  • MTD for VAT – already mandated for all VAT registered businesses.
  • MTD for Income Tax and self-Assessment – from April 2024 for the self-employed and those with income from property and from April 2025 for most partnerships.
  • MTD for Corporation Tax – launch date April 2026 (but may be later).

Employing students in the summer break

Monday, June 13th, 2022

If you employ students to manage your staff needs over the summer break period, you will need to add them to your payroll and apply PAYE and NIC rules.

 

Students should be advised that they will pay tax and NIC if:

  • they earn more than £1,048 a month on average, and
  • pay NIC if they earn more than £190 a week from 6 April 2022 to 5 July 2022 and more than £242 from 6 July 2022 to 5 April 2023.

 

Students can also apply for a possible tax refund if they work for part of a tax year.

Students who normally live and study in the UK but work abroad during the holidays will need to pay:

  • UK tax on anything they earn above their Personal Allowance, currently £12,570, and
  • National Insurance if they work for a UK employer.

If students work for a foreign employer, they do not need to pay National Insurance in the UK, but may have to pay contributions in the country they are working in.