Archive for the ‘News’ Category

More delays contacting HMRC?

Thursday, December 21st, 2023

HMRC have announced that they will be focussing the use of its Self-Assessment helpline on priority queries from 11 December 2023 to 31 January 2024.

Taxpayers calling with queries that can be quickly and easily resolved online will be directed to HMRC’s online services from 11 December until the SA deadline on 31 January.

The department’s expert advisers will focus on answering priority SA queries – those that cannot be easily dealt with online – as well as supporting the small minority of taxpayers who require extra support or cannot engage with us digitally.

HMRC monitors all calls to identify people who may need extra help. These callers are passed on to HMRC’s Extra Support Team who are specially trained to deal with vulnerable taxpayers.

The vast majority of SA customers use HMRC’s online services, with more than 97% of taxpayers filing their SA returns online last year, and overall taxpayer satisfaction with these services is at more than 80%.

But around two-thirds of calls to the SA helpline can be resolved far quicker through HMRC’s online services. To make all SA callers aware of the department’s extensive online services, recorded messages supported by SMS texts will be used.

Examples of queries that can be resolved much quicker online include updating personal information, chasing on the progress of a SA registration, ending SA registration, and checking a Unique Taxpayer Reference number.

According to HMRC, they are:

“Transitioning to a digital-first approach, meaning taxpayers can get their queries answered 24/7, without having to wait on the phone or write a letter. It is continuing to improve and expand its online services, increasing their capabilities and ease of use so they become the default option. This includes the HMRC app, which is already used by more than a million people every month.”

In reality, you should not be surprised if your attempts at calling HMRC require prolonged waits or the navigation of confusing auto-select options.

Do you have a problem we could help you solve?

Tuesday, December 19th, 2023

From time to time, we may spot issues when preparing accounts or tax returns that indicate problems that we subsequently help you solve.

But the problems we are going to identify in this way will relate back to past events, and these events may or may not be capable of an effective resolution due to the passage of time.

For example, if your business provides company cars and fuel for both private and business mileage, the car users will be paying tax for the use of the car and for the provision of fuel for private journeys. The car fuel taxable benefit is expensive, and, in many cases, it is worth crunching the numbers to see if this car fuel benefit can be avoided by the employee paying back the cost of any private fuel provided.

This payback process needs to be completed by the 6th of July following the end of the relevant tax year (usually, the 5 April). Miss the payback deadline and any opportunity to save employees from the tax charge will evaporate.

Or your business may start to experience a drop off in sales or increases in costs; profits may be falling and cash resources dwindling. Before you run out of cashflow – hit your overdraft limit – could you pick up the phone so we could brainstorm strategies to ease the situation?

As we approach the new year, make your “top of the list” resolution a promise to call us if you start to encounter business or personal financial issues causing you concerns.

The railways have a relevant exhortation, see it, report it, sort it. As soon as you become concerned, pick up the phone.

It is doubtful that all the political and economic challenges will resolve in 2024, but reacting swiftly to challenges as they occur is the best way to minimise any downside risks.

And we can help.

 

Called HMRC recently?

Thursday, December 14th, 2023

Call queues are becoming a unwelcome feature of communicating with HMRC. In a recent post on the GOV.UK newsfeed a new strategy is emerging. As you would expect, it steers taxpayers towards their online accounts or other information posted online by HMRC. We may be heading for a completely impersonal approach to handle communications between taxpayers and HMRC.

In their post, HMRC said:

“Nobody enjoys having to wait on hold on the phone just to resolve a simple query – and those completing Self-Assessment tax returns no longer need to, with more help and advice than ever before available online.

“But many people, unaware of the extent of online support now out there, are still calling instead, often with questions that could be answered via GOV.UK.

“Releasing details of the top 5 reasons people call the helpline, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging everyone to check online when seeking help about their tax return, to get a much quicker and easier result.

“HMRC received more than 5.5 million calls to the Self-Assessment helpline last year, with 1.2 million calls in the 8 weeks leading up to the 31 January deadline. Around a third of these calls were routine or simple enquiries.

“The most common calls to the Self-Assessment helpline, which can be checked online are:

  1. Do I need to fill in a tax return?
  2. How do I fill in my online tax return?
  3. How do I check how much tax I owe?
  4. Where’s my Self-Assessment tax refund?
  5. What happens if I can’t pay my tax bill?

“Using HMRC’s online services means customers can access the information they need to resolve all of these questions quickly and easily – day or night – without the need to call HMRC.”

Let’s hope that this drive to push taxpayers towards online facilities does not disenfranchise those who have no access to the internet or who are not tech-savvy. But we may be transitioning towards a society where information – and solutions to problems – can only be solved by searching online data or by interacting with AI systems.

A reminder of imminent changes at Companies House

Wednesday, December 13th, 2023

The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill (ECCT) achieved royal assent recently, and as we have reported previously, this will have an impact on the data that is held and required on the Companies House register.

Many of the changes – including the requirement to file profit and loss details – will require secondary legislation and may be some months away from implementation.

Other changes are more imminent. The following changes should be actioned Spring 2024, and we have summarised below some of these early reporting objectives that will apply to UK registered companies.

 

These early measures include:

 

  • Greater powers to query information

Companies House have confirmed that will be able to scrutinise and reject information that seems incorrect or inconsistent with information already on the register. In some cases, they will be able to remove information.

  • Stronger checks on company names

This is likely to mean that Individuals setting up new companies or wanting to change the name of an existing company, can expect a more rigorous vetting process.

  • New rules for registered office addresses

They will mean all companies must have an appropriate address at all times. Companies will not be able to use a PO Box as their registered office address.

  • A requirement for all companies to supply a registered email address

At present, you may, in certain circumstances, volunteer your email address when using Companies House online facilities. The new changes now include a requirement that you register an email address with Companies House.

  • A requirement for all companies to confirm they are forming the company for a lawful purpose when they incorporate.

Every year, companies will need to confirm that its future activities will be lawful on their confirmation statement.

  • Sharing data

Companies House will have more freedom to share your company data with other government departments and law enforcement agencies.

The ECCT bill, when fully implemented, will oblige all UK companies to be more transparent about the data they are obliged to share. We will post details as and when the fine print becomes available.

Pubs to open longer if UK nations reach Euros semis

Thursday, December 7th, 2023

In a potentially welcome announced for the hospitality industry in England and Wales, the government has set out plans to extend licensing hours for the semi-finals and final of the men’s European Football Championships next year, should England, Wales or Scotland reach the final stages of the tournament.

In a public consultation launched 27 November 2023, the government has proposed that pub licensing hours in England and Wales should be extended from 11pm to 1am if any of the UK nations remaining in the tournament reach the latter two rounds in Germany.

The Home Secretary has the power to extend licensing hours for occasions of “exceptional international, national or local significance”.

The plans, which will be subject to public consultation, would provide a welcome boost for the hospitality industry and clarity for pubs and bars. This is part of a series of recent government measures to boost the hospitality industry and make sure pubs and bars have the support they need to thrive, including the continuation of relaxed licensing regulations that allow pubs, restaurants and bars to sell takeaway pints without red tape holding them back.

Pub licensing hours were previously extended for the men’s Euro 2020 final, and pubs also stayed open longer for the King’s Coronation bank holiday weekend earlier this year.

The public consultation will run for 12 weeks with the government to consider the views from the public, licensing authorities and hospitality industry.

Hospitality venues that could benefit from this easing of licensing should start planning their “special EURO 2024 late night events”. The UEFA EURO 2024 fixtures can be viewed online at https://www.uefa.com.

Of course, to benefit from this licensing largesse in England and Wales – if it passes scrutiny – one or more of the UK nations actually have to qualify. Otherwise, supporters will need to drown their late night sorrows at home.

Winter support for pensioners

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023

Pensioners across the country have started to receive up to £600 to help with energy bills this winter.

Winter Fuel Payments – boosted again this year by an additional £300 per household Pensioner Cost of Living payment – will land in bank accounts over the next two months, the vast majority automatically.

The money will appear in bank statements with the payment reference starting with the customer’s National Insurance number followed by ‘DWP WFP’ for people in Great Britain, or ‘DFC WFP’ for people in Northern Ireland.

The overwhelming majority of Winter Fuel Payments are paid automatically but some people need to make a claim, such as those who qualify but do not receive benefits or the State Pension and have never previously received a Winter Fuel Payment. The payments deliver additional support to pensioners, the majority of whom are on fixed incomes and also are unable to raise their incomes through fixed employment.

The start of the Winter Fuel Payments season comes hot on the heels of the recent £300 Cost of Living payments made by the DWP to more than seven million eligible households across the UK.

Pensioners receiving Pension Credit also qualify for this extra support. The average Pension Credit award is now worth £3,900 per year and there is still time for those who are eligible to apply and receive the £300 Cost of Living payment.

This is because an eligible claim for Pension Credit can be backdated by three months provided the entitlement conditions are met throughout that time.

Current State Pension age

Monday, December 4th, 2023

The second review of the State Pension age has been published by the Department for Work and Pensions. The State Pension age is currently 66. The review has stated that a further increase in the State Pension age to 67 for those born on or after April 1960 will take place as planned between 2026 and 2028. Following this announcement, the government has confirmed the State Pension age will rise to 67 by the end of 2028.

The Pensions Act 2014 requires the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions to regularly review the State Pension age. There had also been plans for a further gradual rise in the State Pension age to 68 between 2044 and 2046 for those born on or after April 1977. The government plans to have a further review within two years of the next Parliament to reconsider the rise to age 68.

This will ensure that the government is able to consider the latest information to inform any future decision on the State Pension age. This will include life expectancy and population projections, the economic position and the impact on the labour market.

The government has said they remain committed to the principle of providing 10 years notice of changes to State Pension age, enabling people to plan effectively for retirement. All options for the rise to the State Pension age from 67 to 68 that meet the 10 years notice period will be in scope at the next review.

Income Tax – savings on zero rate band

Monday, December 4th, 2023

If you have taxable income of less than £17,570 in 2023-24 tax year you will have no tax to pay on interest received. This figure is calculated by adding the £5,000 starting rate limit for savings (where 0% of the interest is taxable) to the current £12,570 personal allowance. However, it is important to note that if your total non-savings income exceeds £17,570 then the starting rate limit for savings is unavailable.

There is a tapered relief available if your non-savings income is between £12,570 and £17,570 whereby every £1 of non-savings income above a taxpayer's personal allowance reduces their starting rate for savings by £1.

There is also a Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) that can be beneficial to savers. This allowance ensures that for basic-rate taxpayers the first £1,000 interest on savings income is tax-free. For higher-rate taxpayers the tax-free personal savings allowance is £500. Taxpayers paying the additional rate of tax on taxable income over £125,140 do not benefit from the PSA.

Interest from savings products such as ISA's and premium bond wins do not count towards the limit. And so, taxpayers with tax-free accounts and higher savings can still benefit from the relevant PSA limits.

Banks and building societies no longer deduct tax from bank account interest as a matter of course. Taxpayers who need to pay tax on savings income are required to declare this as part of their annual Self-Assessment tax return.

Taxpayers that have overpaid tax on savings interest can submit a claim to have the tax repaid. Claims can be backdated for up to four years from the end of the current tax year. This means that claims can still be made for overpaid interest dating back as far as the 2019-20 tax year. The deadline for making claims for the 2019-20 tax year is 5 April 2024.

Marriage allowance entitlement

Monday, December 4th, 2023

The marriage allowance applies to married couples and those in a civil partnership where a spouse or civil partner does not pay tax or pay tax above the basic rate threshold for Income Tax (i.e., one of the couples must currently earn less than the £12,570 personal allowance for 2023-24).

The allowance works by permitting the lower earning partner to transfer up to £1,260 of their personal tax-free allowance to their spouse or civil partner. The marriage allowance can only be used where the recipient of the transfer (the higher earning partner) does not pay more than the basic 20% rate of Income Tax. This would usually mean that their income is between £12,571 and £50,270 in 2023-24. For those living in Scotland this would usually mean income between £12,571 and £43,662.

Making a claim, could result in a saving of up to £252 for the recipient (20% of £1,260), or £21 a month for the current tax year. In fact, even if a spouse or civil partner has died since 5 April 2018, the surviving person can still claim the allowance (if they qualify) by contacting HMRC’s Income Tax helpline.

If you meet the eligibility requirements and have not yet claimed the allowance, you can backdate your claim to 6 April 2019. This could result in a total tax break of up to £1,256 if you can claim for 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23 as well as the current 2023-24 tax year. If you claim now, you can backdate your claim for four years (if eligible) as well as for the current tax year. Even if you are no longer eligible or would have been in all or any of the preceding years, then you can claim your entitlement.

HMRC’s online Marriage Allowance calculator can be used by couples to find out if they are eligible for the relief. An application can be made online at GOV.UK.

Due a student loan refund?

Monday, December 4th, 2023

Student Loans are part of the government's financial support package for students in higher education in the UK. They are available to help students meet their expenses while they are studying, and it is HMRC’s responsibility to collect repayments where the borrower is working in the UK. The Student Loans Company (SLC) is directly responsible for collecting the loans of borrowers outside the UK tax system.

The main finance package elements available to students include loans for tuition fees and maintenance loans (to help with living costs). The maximum loan amounts are capped with the maximum amount depending on a student’s circumstances. Maintenance grants are also available under certain circumstances. The grants do not have to be repaid but do reduce the amount of available maintenance loan a student can claim.

Students that have finished their studies and entered the workforce must begin to make loan repayments from the April after they have finished their studies or when their income exceeds an annual threshold.

Since 6 April 2023, the thresholds and rates are as follows: Plan 1 – £22,015, Plan 2 – £27,295 and Plan 4 (Scottish student loans) – £27,660. The terms of loan repayment for courses of study started before 01 September 2012 are referred to as 'Plan 1', and those started after 01 September 2012, are referred to as 'Plan 2'. Repayments will be deducted at a rate of 9% of income over the threshold. The threshold for postgraduate loans is £21,000 and repayments are deducted at a rate of 6%

Taxpayers that have made repayments but whose total annual income was less than the respective thresholds can apply for a student loan refund. An application cannot be made until after the relevant tax year has finished. Taxpayers can also apply for a refund from the Student Loans Company if the loan debt has been repaid in full.

The Student Loans Company repayment call waiting times are currently far longer than usual due to exceptionally high volumes of refund requests. Taxpayers should first check if they are due a refund by looking at https://www.gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan/getting-a-refund