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VAT Making Tax Digital – A Giant Step

Growing confidence

It’s official. Sole traders and companies with up-to-date VAT affairs are now able to join HMRC’s test phase for VAT Making Tax Digital (MTD). While testing of VAT-MTD started last April, until now it has been on a limited, controlled, invitation-only basis.

In what can be taken as a clear indication of the department’s confidence, the VAT MTD pilot has now been opened to accept everyone.

New guidance

In support of the public test phase, a suite of new and updated guidance is available to help VAT-registered businesses and their agents get to grips with the new requirements.

The newly published guidance covers:

  • Use of software to submit VAT returns. A guide outlining how to sign up a business for the MTD-VAT pilot and how to join.
  • For agents: use of software to submit VAT returns. A guide outlining how an agent and their clients can sign up for the MTD-VAT pilot.
  • Find software suppliers for sending VAT returns and Income Tax updates. This lists third-party HMRC-recognised software packages that support the Income Tax and VAT-MTD pilots.

HMRC has also published a series of videos on its Help and Support page:

  • How to sign up for Making Tax Digital for VAT.
  • How does Making Tax Digital for VAT affect you?
  • Making Tax Digital for VAT – what software is compatible?
  • Digital record-keeping for VAT.
  • Creating an Agent Service Account.

Can everyone join?

As of last month, provided they haven’t incurred a default surcharge in the last two years, just over 40% of the approximate 1.1 million VAT-registered entities, who are required to keep digital records and file MTD-compliant VAT returns from April next year, will be able to apply to onboard early.

A further 100,000 will be able to join the public pilot by the end of this month.

Those who can’t join

There’s a small but significant list of VAT registered entities who yet remain unable to join the pilot. These include those who:

  • trade with the EU;
  • are based overseas;
  • submit VAT returns annually;
  • make payments on accounts;
  • use the flat rate scheme;
  • are newly registered and have not yet filed a return;
  • are members of VAT groups or VAT divisions;
  • have received a Default Surcharge notice in the last 24 months. However, they will be allowed in by the end of this month;
  • are unincorporated not-for profit organisations;
  • are trusts;
  • are Local Authorities who complete VAT form 21;
  • Public Corporations;

Timetable

To help them plan, HMRC has published a timetable indicating when each of the embargoed cohorts will be able to join the pilot.

3.5% to get a deferral

HMRC has reported that 3.5% of those mandated will not be able to onboard before the end of December.

This cohort will have their mandation date pushed back to October 2019.

Those affected include:

  • VAT groups or VAT divisions.
  • Overseas traders registered for VAT.
  • Trusts.
  • Local Authorities.
  • Public Corporations.

All of those in the deferral group will be written to by HMRC.

What is Making Tax Digital?

Making Tax Digital is a key part of the government’s plans to make it easier for individuals and businesses to get their tax right and to keep on top of their affairs. This will ultimately result, for millions of people, in the end of the annual tax return.

As the first stage of a wider roll-out process, VAT-registered businesses with VAT-able turnover above the compulsory £85,000 registration threshold will be mandated to join the VAT Making Tax Digital for Business regime. To meet their VAT return obligations, this will apply to all return periods commencing April 2019.

As a minimum, they will be required to maintain their VAT records digitally and to file MTD-compliant VAT returns using third party software. Those mandated to join will no longer be able to log on to HMRC’s portal to complete and file their online return.

Those businesses who voluntarily registered for VAT, with a VAT-able turnover under £85,000, will not be required to use the system, although they can choose to do so voluntarily.

Confused?

Contact us if you’re confused about what MTD will mean for your business. We’re here to help.

Helping businesses and individuals prepare for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit

The government has issued notices that aim to help both businesses and individuals prepare in the event of a UK-EU agreement not being realized. The notices cover passports and driving licenses, together with data protection and mobile phone roaming charges. With concerns surrounding the possibility, on 29 March 2019, of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed:

  • 14% of small businesses have started planning for a No Deal Brexit. Another 41% believe that a No Deal Brexit will have an impact on their business but have not yet started planning for the possibility.
  • 10% believe that a No Deal Brexit will have a positive impact on their business. 48% believe a No Deal scenario will have a negative effect.

Reflecting on the research, FSB National Chairman, Mike Cherry, stated:

“It is obvious that our small firms are not prepared or ready for a chaotic no deal Brexit and the impact that it will have on their businesses. If you sell your products to the EU, buy goods from the EU or if your business relies on staff from the EU, you now see this outcome as a clear and present threat to your business.”

To see the FSB survey press release visit here.

It’s coming.

It’s coming whether we like it or not. But don’t worry! We can help you navigate your way through the uncertainty that is Brexit.

Self-employed Class 2 National Insurance remains

The government has decided not to abolish Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs) from April 2019. This is today paid at a rate of £2.95 per week by self-employed individuals with profits of £6,205 or more annually.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury stated, “We delayed the implementation of this policy in November to consider concerns relating to the impact on self-employed individuals with low profits. We have since engaged with interested parties to explore the issue and further options for addressing any unintended consequences.”

He added, “Having listened to those likely to be affected by this change, we have concluded that it would not be right to proceed during this parliament, given the negative impacts it could have on some of the lowest earning in our society.”

Guidance on recognising phishing emails and texts

The guidance has been updated on how businesses and individuals should recognise whether contact from HMRC is genuine or whether it is phishing or fake.

Five Steps to a Successful Business Strategy

When setting out on a new venture or business idea, so many businesses do not succeed. This could be down to a combination of factors. Yet, one common factor is the challenges associated with executing the idea and establishing it in the market.

To ensure your idea or business has the best start, or if you are reviewing current plans and progress, you must first develop an effective business strategy to support you. To help, here are five steps to guide you.

 

  • Build up your data and knowledge

 

 

To know where you want to go is first to understand where you are today. The best way to do this is to investigate the past. This could be through data from your market, so you understand the size of the opportunity at stake. Investigate the total market size, the number of potential customers, and the growth rates of similar projects. Using the SWOT framework helps you identify Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats, both internally and externally.

You might want to use the PESTLE model to explore deeper into external factors that may affect your business. This looks into the Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Legal, and Environmental aspects of your business and market. It is key to make sure you involve the right people in this process to help you build up your data and knowledge.

Once you understand the market, begin to narrow down your idea, exploring the unique business problem you are looking to solve, and the market opportunity associated to it.

 

    1. Build Your Vision and Mission Statement

 

Your vision should be used to describe the future direction of the business and its aims in the medium to long term. It’s about describing your organisation’s purpose and values. This should be built in parallel to your mission statement, which defines the organisation’s purpose and outlines its primary objectives.

In simple terms, organisations summarise their goals and objectives in mission and vision statements. These serve different purposes but are often confused with each other. While a mission statement describes what a company wants to do now, a vision statement outlines what a company wants to be in the future.

The mission statement focuses on what needs to be done in the short term to realise the long-term vision. So, for the vision statement, you are asking where do you want to be in three to five years’ time. The mission statement, alternatively, asks: what do we do? how do we do it? for whom do we do it? what value do we bring?

Examples:

Amazon’s Corporate Vision Statement: “To be Earth’s most customer-centric company; to build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online.”

Google’s Corporate Mission Statement: “To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

 

    1. Define your Strategy and Tactical Plans

 

At this stage, the aim is to develop a set of high-level objectives for all areas of the business. These need to highlight the priorities and inform the plans that will ensure delivery of the company’s vision and mission. By reviewing your work in step one across the SWOT and PESTLE analyses, you can layer these into your SMART Objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-related).

Your objectives must also include factors such as KPI’s, resource allocation, and budget requirements. It is key to align your resources and structure according to the strategy, so to clarify everyone’s role and accountability.

 

    1. Track and Manage Performance

 

All the planning and hard work may have been done, but it’s vital to review continuously all objectives and action plans – to ensure you’re still on track to achieve that overall goal. Managing and monitoring a whole strategy is a complex task, which is why many directors, managers and business leaders are looking to alternative methods of handling strategies. Creating, managing and reviewing a strategy requires you to capture the relevant information, break down large chunks of information, plan, prioritise, and have a clear strategic vision.

 

    1. Execute, Learn and Review

 

Firstly, execute your business strategy with excellence and, throughout, capture learning so that it can be reapplied or used to adjust the plan if necessary. Do not be afraid to make mistakes, but make sure each mistake is an opportunity to apply learning to the strategy. Executing at the highest level is key: anyone can have a good idea, but those who can execute make a lesser idea into a successful business.

Remember always to celebrate your team and business successes. It can be quite easy to get dragged into the here-and-now and forget to reflect on the great achievements of the organisation.

A daunting prospect

If after reading our article, you feel daunted by what you need to do, don’t worry. We are here to help you every step of the way. Simply give us a call and we will guide you through the challenging start-up maze.

The stamp duty cut that has helped first-time buyers save

Since November 2017, more than 120,000 first-time buyers have saved £284,000 following the introduction of first-time buyers’ relief from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT). SDLT is a tax on properties in England and Northern Ireland. It is estimated that, over the next five years, this relief will help over a million people get onto the property ladder.
The relief ensures that first-time buyers purchasing homes valued up to £300,000 do not incur a SDLT charge at all – with those paying up to £500,000 also benefitting from a reduction.
Mel Stride, MP, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said, “once again, we can see that our cut to stamp duty for first-time buyers is helping to make the dream of home ownership a reality for a new generation – exactly as we intended…”.
He added, “In addition, we’re building more homes in the right areas, and have introduced generous schemes such as the Lifetime ISA and Help to Buy.”
Scotland and Wales
Those buying property in Scotland pay Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT), whilst those in Wales (since 1 April 2018) pay Land Transaction Tax (LTT). Earlier this year, Scotland introduced its own version of a new LBTT relief for first-time buyers of properties up to £175,000.
The Scottish relief raised the zero-tax threshold for first-time buyers from £145,000 to £175,000. It is estimated that around 80 per cent of first-time buyers in Scotland will pay not LBTT at all.
Furthermore, Scottish first-time buyers acquiring properties above £175,000 will also benefit from relief on the portion of the price below the threshold – meaning all first-time buyers will benefit from the relief by up to £600.
In Wales, where SDLT has been replaced by a LTT from 1 April 2018, the starting rate will be £180,000, benefiting not just first-time buyers but all home buyers in Wales.

HMRC warns: Declare offshore assets
As of 1 October, the new Requirement to Correct (RTC) rules are upon us. Previously, under HMRC Offshore Disclosure Facilities, taxpayers had been encouraged to come clean with an offer of lower penalties than would have been incurred if “the error” had been discovered by HMRC.
All that has now changed. Failure to Correct rules, introduced alongside RTC, leave non-compliant taxpayers facing penalties of up to 200% of the resultant tax liability – or even more. Where the tax involved exceeds £25,000 per tax year, an additional penalty of up to 10% of the value of the asset concerned may be charged.
RTC only applies if HMRC is able to raise an assessment to recover the tax unpaid on 6 April 2017. Normal assessing rules apply to decide whether HMRC is able to raise such an assessment.

The most common reasons for failing to declare offshore tax are in relation to foreign property and holiday homes, investment income, and moving money into the UK from abroad.

HMRC have said the following:
“Offshore non-compliance occurs when there is tax owed to HMRC as a result of tax non-compliance and that non-compliance involves either an offshore matter or an offshore transfer.
The tax non-compliance involves an offshore matter if the unpaid tax is charged on or by reference to:
• income arising from a source in a territory outside the UK
• assets situated in a territory outside the UK
• activities carried on wholly or mainly in a territory outside the UK, or
• anything having effect as if it were income, assets or activities of a kind described above.
The tax non-compliance involves an offshore transfer if it is not an offshore matter, but the income (or sale proceeds in the case of a capital gain), or any part of the income, was either received abroad or was transferred abroad before 6 April 2017.
For inheritance tax, the tax non-compliance involves an offshore transfer if it is not an offshore matter, but the disposition that gives rise to the transfer of value involves a transfer of assets, and after that disposition, but on or before 5 April 2017, the assets, or any part of the assets, are transferred to a territory outside the UK.
In all cases, references to the income, proceeds or assets transferred includes any assets derived from or representing the income, proceeds or assets.
If the non-compliance meets these definitions, the RTC rule applies and failure to correct the position will result in the new tougher FTC penalties.”

Mel Stride, The Financial Secretary said, “Since 2010 we have secured over £2.8 billion for our vital public services by tackling offshore tax evaders, and we will continue to relentlessly crack down on those not playing by the rules.”

RTC is supported by the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), an international legal framework permitting the automatic exchange of information, between different country’s tax authorities, regarding financial accounts and investments held by non-residents, in order to help stop tax evasion. CRS came into force in the UK in 2016. In excess of one hundred countries are already signed up to CRS and are starting to share information. It has already significantly increased HMRC’s ability to detect UK taxpayers’ overseas non-compliance.

If you would like to discuss this, or any other matter further, then please contact us.

New Fuel Rates published for Company Cars
New company car advisory fuel rates were published, on September 1st, with the guidance indicating that the previous rates may be used for up to one month from the date the new rates applied. This only effects employees using a company car. The listed rates are shown below.

Petrol Engine size
12p 1400cc or less
15p 1401cc – 2000cc
22p Over 2000cc
LPG Engine size
7p 1400cc or less
9p 1401cc – 2000cc
13p Over 2000cc
Diesel Engine size
10p 1600cc or less
12p 1601cc – 2000cc
13p Over 2000cc

Latest guidance from HMRC in Employer Bulletin
HMRC Employer bulletins are magazines published every two months, giving up-to-date information on payroll topics for employers and agents.
The latest edition has useful information on reporting payroll information, information on the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage, and also information on fully electric company cars. There are also articles on Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) webinars and Welsh Rates of Income Tax. The Employer Bulletin is used to inform you about new products and any changes which may affect your employees. This information provides information on the following:
1. Reporting your payroll information accurately and on time.
2. Irregular payments and your completion of Full Payment Submissions.
3. Starter Declaration on a Full Payment Submission (FPS).
4. PAYE Settlement Agreements and Scottish Income Tax.
5. National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage.
6. Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric company cars.
7. Welsh Rates of Income Tax.
8. Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) webinars.
9. Postgraduate Loans.
10. Benefits and Expenses: Company cars.
11. Tax avoidance loan schemes.
12. Completing an EYU in respect of employee’s National Insurance Contributions
13. Employment Income: Draft Legislation
14. Deadline for post-16 Child Benefit.

Hold tight for Brexit! Business guidance in the event of no deal
With less than six months to go until the UK leaves the EU – and with no post-Brexit deal yet on the table – there’s no doubt that we are entering unchartered waters. So, what should we do?
Chequers statement
The UK’s Government insists that preparations for a no-deal scenario are part of its overall Brexit preparation strategy. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s Chequers statement, issued after her cabinet’s infamous July away day, included a pledge to step up preparedness for all possible outcomes to the negotiations, including a no deal scenario.
August technical notices
On the 23 August, a little over a month after May’s statement, the Department for Exiting the EU published 25 ‘technical notices’.
The documents covered such diverse areas, as:
• Applying for EU-funded programmes
• Driving and transport
• Farming
• Money and Tax
• Importing and exporting
• Regulating medicines

The notes were supported by guidance entitled “UK government’s preparations for a ‘no deal’ scenario”. Its aim was to put the technical notices in context by explaining the Brexit negotiation’s progress to date and what might happen if the UK were to crash out of the EU.
September White paper
In early September, the House of Commons joined the party by publishing a briefing document (white paper) called “What happens if there’s no Brexit deal?”

At 172 pages, it’s not exactly a bedtime read. Nevertheless, its fifteen chapters cover all areas from “how could no deal happen?” through to “external relations”, and it is an excellent source of no-deal Brexit information.

HMRC publish a letter
In an unprecedented move, HMRC wrote to 145,000 businesses across the UK about the ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, should Britain crash out of the EU and the Customs union on the 29 March 2019.

The letter, written by HMRC’s Deputy Chief Executive Jim Harra and published on the 17 September, started positively by acknowledging:

“The UK government has reached agreement with the EU on the vast majority of withdrawal issues, including the terms of an implementation period. Full agreement on this will mean that trading with the EU during the implementation period would broadly stay the same until 31 December 2020.”

It then sought to give a degree of reassurance by stating “The approach of continuity does not mean that everything will stay the same, but the priority is maximising stability at the point of departure.”

After referring to the government’s focus “on securing a future partnership with the EU following the end of the implementation period in December 2020”, the letter’s tone changed. Harra referred to a no-deal eventuality being unlikely and continued to reassure readers: in the event of no-deal, the government is committed to prioritising stability for businesses.

He added that:

“we will continue to work closely with industry to ensure that interventions in a no deal scenario are conducted in a way which minimises delays and additional burdens for legitimate trade, while robustly ensuring compliance.”

If a disorderly exit happens there would, of course, be immediate changes to the way British businesses trade with the EU. Jim’s letter set the position out very clearly:

“If we leave the EU without a deal in March 2019, there would be immediate changes to the way UK businesses trade with the EU that impact on your business.
This includes:
• UK businesses having to apply customs, excise and VAT procedures to goods traded with the EU, in the same way that already applies for goods traded outside of the EU.

• Trading partners in the EU having to apply customs, excise and VAT procedures to goods they receive from you, in the same way that they do for goods received from outside of the EU.

In particular, if your business currently trades only with the EU then you’d have to start completing customs declarations from March 2019 and customs checks would apply to your business for the first time.”
The letter concludes by saying, “there is no need to contact HMRC at this stage”. However, it suggests, “If you’re a member of a trade body, they might have useful information on their website. VAT advisers, customs agents, freight forwarders and other businesses also have services to help you to follow customs rules”.
There are many sources of information on Brexit, from listening to the TV and radio through reading newspapers to searching the web. However, some are more reliable than others. To get a balanced and informed view of what is going on, it is wise to access information from more than one source.

Government sources of information
• GOV.UK “Brexit” pages – you can sign up to receive regular updates.
• Government has published technical notices across a range of topics on GOV.UK to explain what will apply if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, including:
o The House of Commons published a white paper in early September
o HMRC’s Jim Harra’s “advice and guidance” letter
To discuss how this may impact your business, please contact us.

Blog: 5 Steps to Resilience
Running and managing your own business can be one of the hardest challenges of your life. The ups, the downs, the cash flow challenges, finding the right people – the list is endless. Likewise, though, are the ups in terms of success: winning the next deal, finding the best employees to help you.
However, one common trait business leaders possess is their ability to battle through the hard times, by way of resilience – a heroic struggle that is not for all. Resilience is not something we are born with, but instead is something we develop during our lifetimes. Below are the five essential tips on how to become more resilient.
1. Keep a positive attitude.
This is key to deflecting stress scenarios, to restructuring your pessimistic or negative thoughts. You need to ask yourself whether there is any rational basis to feel negatively about a situation.

It is also important to recognize that you are in control as to whether the glass is half-empty or half-full. Reframing your thoughts can also help you to be positive, so that you can alter the perceived value of the challenging event by accepting it and recovering from it.

2. Develop your moral compass.
Altruism is strongly related to resilience – and strengthening your set of core beliefs can help. The authors note that there is a strong correlation between faith and religious or spiritual beliefs and resilience.

3. Find a resilient role model and develop your coping skills.
Consider taking a resilient role model, such as a world leader or a successful business or sports star, so that you can consider how they would respond to stress. Also consider how spiritual beliefs help towards a deeper management of challenging times.

Rather than withdrawing and surrendering to your stress situations, the most resilient individuals use active rather than passive coping skills. You could minimise the self-questioning caused by the stress situation by creating positive thinking and in turn facing the fear directly.

4. Build your social network and physical fitness.
Rather than going solo, it is important to build a safety net of friends and family to help cope with stress situations. Regular exercise is one of the keys to cleansing your mind of stress – as it has been linked to improvements in mood, cognition, regulation of emotion, immunity, and overall self-esteem. Try to think of exercise as a welcome reprieve rather than a task, framing your mindset in a positive way.

5. Remember the 8-8-8 rule.
On a typical day, many people are over-worked, with lack of sleep and limited social or personal time. By breaking the day into thirds – eight hours for work, eight hours for personal / family time and eight hours for sleep – is recommended as a suitable routine to help you keep on top of the mental daily stresses.

Rising interest rates from Bank of England

The recent Bank of England 0.25% interest rate increase (to 0.75%) sees UK interest rates at their highest since March 2009. This change will have an immediate impact on interest costs, such as mortgages for those on variable or tracker rates, whilst the rise may take a little longer before it benefits savers.

In response, CBI Principal Economist Alpesh Paleja stated ‘The Monetary Policy Committee has signaled further rate rises over the next few years, if the economy evolves as they expect’. He added, ‘These are likely to be very slow and limited, particularly over the next year, as uncertainty around Brexit takes its toll on business investment.’

Summer holidays and Tax-Free Childcare (TFC)

Throughout the summer holidays, the government has been reminding parents seeking help for childcare costs that they can use Tax-Free Childcare (TFC). This is worth up to £2,000 per child per year, to pay for regulated holiday clubs. Findings from a recent survey by YouGov suggest that:

  • 31% of parents feel stressed about arranging childcare for the school holidays.
  • 30% of parents are concerned about balancing their job and school holiday childcare.
  • 54% of parents indicate that they look forward to their children returning to school in September.

Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV)

HMRC has published a new VAT Notice (700/22), ‘Making Tax Digital for VAT’.

The new notice provides information on the new rules with which VAT-registered entities will have to comply.

For VAT return periods commencing after 31 March 2019, VAT-registered entities with annual VAT-able turnover above £85,000 will legally be required to keep digital records for VAT purpose, using MTD compatible software and providing the data of the VAT return to HMRC through an API application programming interface.

This will take effect from 1 April 2019, for taxpayers who have a ‘prescribed accounting period’ which begins on that date, or from the first day of a taxpayer’s prescribed accounting period beginning after 1 April 2019.

Tax legislation next round published

For the Finance Bill 2018-19, the government has published draft legislation that could affect a range of taxes, from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) to Income Tax. This is now open for consultation and is aligned to the commitment from the government for a ‘competitive and fair tax system’.

The payment of taxes is also outlined, with businesses and individuals who do not pay their taxes on time potentially facing a penalty.

Running until 31 August 2018, the consultation will conclude on the final contents of the Finance Bill 2018-19, which will be subject to confirmation expected in November at the Budget 2018.

Marriage Allowance- 1 million couples eligible for £900 tax boost

Three million UK couples have claimed their Marriage Allowance. However, it is estimated that a further one million have not.

The Marriage Allowance allows married couples or those in a civil partnership, where neither pay beyond the basic tax rate, to transfer 10% of their unused personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner. This, in turn, can reduce their tax bill by up to £238 a year in 2018/19. The allowance was introduced in April 2015, and appropriate claims can be back-dated to prior years.

Relief for first-time buyers in Scotland

Around 80% of first-time buyers will pay no Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT).

30 June 2018 saw the introduction of the First-Time Buyers tax relief. The change has meant that the zero-rated LBTT threshold has increased from £145,000 to £175,000 for first-time buyers.

It is expected that this initiative will benefit 12,000 first-time buyers per year.

Cold calling ban requested on pensions

HMRC recently issued a consultation concerning draft technical regulations to ban pension cold calling

The consultation document sets out the policy intentions behind the proposed ban and invites comments on the draft regulations to implement the ban set out at Annex A.

Since the government has already consulted on the policy, this consultation is a technical consultation intended to seek final views on the draft regulations to ensure they meet policy objectives.

This draft also outlined the ban on cold calls promoting retirement income products. The consultation ended on 17 August 2018.

Raising finance for your business: Where to start

To help you kick-start your business, there are several ways in which to raise finance to get your idea underway or to further accelerate your growth.

At the time of writing, these are the most common routes to explore for finance. However, new offerings for finance are constantly evolving in line with financial innovations – so it is recommended to keep a close eye on what is happening. For now, these are the recommended routes, meaning that you don’t have to rely exclusively on traditional avenues, such as banks, to raise funds:

Keep it in the family

When transforming a new idea into a business, many people first go to their friends and family to help raise funds. Whilst many start-ups do this to help fund their new venture, it is recommended that you seek legal advice to ensure that you capture all aspects of the agreement in writing. This could be a simple contract between parties, including a detailed business plan and financial forecast for their review.

This will help to prevent challenges that may appear in the future, protecting your business and the investments of your friends and family. Most importantly, it will help you to maintain your personal relationships.

Business Angel investment

Angel Investments is a means for private and industry investors to explore opportunities to use their personal finance in exchange for shares in your business. Their expectation is usually for a return on their investment between three and eight years.

The good news here is that Angel Investors typically play an active role in your business, offering support and guidance to your strategy and plan. Obviously, then, an investor familiar with your industry would in most cases be the best choice.

For more information, the UK Business Angels Association, here, is a good place to start.

Crowdfunding

One option, rather than asking a few people to contribute large sums, is to ask a large amount of people to each invest smaller amounts. This is known as Crowdfunding and can appear in different forms:

  • Equity is when the investment is exchanged for shares or for a stake in the business.
  • Debt is when the money is provided with the view to receive money back with interest.
  • Donations are for when people believe in your idea and base their contribution on their belief in that cause. Donors will expect nothing in return for their provision of funds.

Grant and Loans for Start-Ups

The government aims to accelerate the UK economy and as such provides grants and loans for businesses.

Grants are where a portion of taxpayers’ money each year is saved to drive new business ideas. With the money offered nationally, you will need to apply so that the government can assess whether you are eligible for the grant.

Start Up loans are provided through a government scheme aimed at entrepreneurs, with the average loan estimated at £6,000. Applications can go to £25,000 however, supported by twelve months of business mentoring. The loan must be paid back within five years, typically with an interest rate of 6%.

HMRC confirms UK ‘tax gap’ fall to 5.7%

The tax gap for 2016 – 2017 has fallen to 5.7%, HMRC has confirmed. The “tax gap” relates to the tax that should be paid and the actual tax paid to HMRC.

In a statement, Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: ‘These really positive figures show that the tax gap is the lowest in the last five years, which reflects the hard work that HMRC and I have been doing to ensure we support businesses to pay the right tax at the right time and clamp down on tax evasion and avoidance.’

She added, ‘Collecting taxes is essential for funding our vital public services such as the NHS. Indeed, had the tax gap remained at its 2005/06 level the UK would have lost £71 billion in revenue destined for public services, enough to build 200 hospitals.’

It is understood that HMRC considers the improvement to be linked to the department’s sustained efforts to tackle evasion and avoidance. From the findings in the Tax Gap publication, it was noted that small businesses made up the largest proportion of unpaid tax of £13.7 billion.

Additional findings include:

  • 9.2 billion of unpaid taxes were due to errors and failure to take reasonable care.
  • £5.4 billion made up by criminal attacks.
  • £7.9 billion from income tax, national insurance contributions, and capital gains tax, equivalent to 16.4% of self assessment liabilities.
  • The VAT gap indicates an improving trend, falling from 12.5% in 2005/06 to 8.9% in 2016/17.

RTI filing extended by HMRC until April 2019

The payroll Real Time Information (RTI) late filing easement has been extended by HMRC until April 2019. For the RTI payroll, it is a requirement for employers to submit details of payments made to employees on or before the day that salaries/wages are paid. The new amended easement applies when a Final Payment Submission (FPS) is late but is completed within three payment days of the employee’s pay day.

The easement applies from 6 March 2015 to 5 April 2019, but it must be noted that HMRC has clarified that employers who persistently file after the payment date but within these three days may be contacted or considered for a penalty. This could range from £100 to £400, depending on the size of the company.

Fraudsters stopped by HMRC, saving the public £2.4m

Fraudsters have been tackled by HMRC, with a focus on the use of premium rate phone numbers for services HMRC provide for free. The reported fraudsters create fake websites for HMRC and then look to charge for what are actually free services from HMRC, through re-direction to premium rate phone numbers. HMRC has confirmed that its genuine 0300 numbers are mainly free, or at least charged only at the local landline rate.

Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said, ‘We know that HMRC is the most spoofed government brand, as criminals try to take advantage of the fact that everyone has some involvement with the tax authority. In this particular case, scammers try to dupe the public into paying large sums for services that are available for free or low cost.’

She added, ‘This is a brazen con, charging premium rates whilst simply redirecting calls to the real HMRC numbers that are available at low or no cost. It is a testament to the hard work of HMRC that they have prevented criminals extracting £2.4 million from the public.’

Latest edition of Employer Bulletin for employer guidance

In the latest edition of the Employer Bulletin, published by HMRC, there are a number of articles, including:

  1. P11D and P11D(b) filing and payment deadlines.
  2. Benefits in kind with cash allowances, flexible benefit packages, and salary sacrifice.
  3. National Living and Minimum Wage increases.
  4. Student Loans – to update payroll if you receive an SL1 for an employee.
  5. Fitness at Work – to help employers cut these costs and take advantage of the significant tax savings.
  6. Childcare voucher information and contracted childcare schemes.
  7. The Apprenticeship Levy – Levy-paying employers can then create an account on the apprenticeship service to spend levy funds on apprenticeships.
  8. CIS – Construction Industry Scheme with key pointers for subcontractors.

HMRC proposes new VAT rules for construction services

Subject to consultation, HMRC proposes to introduce new VAT rules for construction services, which have been published in a draft statutory instrument for consultation. It suggests, under the draft legislation, that supplies of standard or reduced-rated construction services between construction or building businesses will be subject to a domestic reverse charge. The result would mean that the customer will be liable to account for VAT due rather than the supplier. This legislation is expected from the 1st October 2019.

HMRC publish list of software providers for Making Tax Digital

HMRC has published the Making Tax Digital for VAT Guide, the Software Suppliers Supporting Making Tax Digital List, and HMRC Stakeholders Communication pack on the GOV.UK website. All can be found on the MTD for VAT collection page.

The notice gives guidance on digital record keeping and should be read in conjunction with other VAT notices.

  • HMRC notes that more than 150 software suppliers have stated their interest in providing software for Making Tax Digital for VAT. Currently, there are just over twenty developers with VAT-MTD ready products.
  • Of the 150, over forty have said they’ll have software ready during the first phase of the VAT-MTD pilot.
  • The pilot will be opened to allow more businesses and agents to join later this year.

There is also the MTD for Business – Stakeholder Communications pack, which is intended to support businesses that need to make the transition to digital VAT business record keeping as well as the submission of VAT returns using MTD-compatible software from 1 April 2019.

If your business is above the VAT turn-over threshold of £85,000, please discuss with your accountant how QuickBooks Online can help get you ready to file for MTD for April 2019.

Becoming self-employed? Here are five recommended rules to help you.

1. Have clear goals and be realistic about what you want to achieve.

Consider what you want to achieve, whether this be the dream of building your business, eventually having staff, or giving something back to society. Do you want to work less hours, have a better work / life balance, or just be your own boss?

Once you decide, make sure you make your goals realistic and ensure you determine your process goals – the things you will need to do to get you to your overall goal.

Have your goal and objective clear and written down at the start, and keep referring to it to avoid straying off course. Building a business takes time and any distraction is time you will not get back.

2. Be brutal with your time and leverage support around you.

Be strict about working hours, as this may be one of the main reasons you went self-employed in the first place. Don’t be tempted to waste your time: balance your working hours between building your new prospect base, networking for business, and delivering to your customers.

Make sure you have a support network around you. It can be lonely working alone and it is great to have others with whom to share ideas and thoughts to help you and your business improve. These can be colleagues, networking groups, or industry bodies.

3. Have professional standards.

Consider all you do to put the customer at the heart of your business and be professional at all times. Be on time for all appointments and be dressed appropriately, acting professionally on the clients’ premises and following appropriate business etiquette.

Balance what you do as a professional off-line with that online. Make sure your website, invoices and methods of payment are all to a high professional standard. With cost effective business solutions such as QuickBooks Self-Employed, you can easily manage all aspects of your business process in a professional way.

4. Keep close and connected to your industry.

Whatever industry you are in, it will be constantly evolving, and it is key to keep connected, staying close to new developments, compliance, regulations, and best practices. This will help you get the training and certifications you need, as well as remaining an expert in your industry.

5. Maintain your work / life balance.

Focusing only on work is not good for anyone, so do consider what other hobbies or family activities you might enjoy. Maintain your social and family balance and avoid being over-worked.

IR35 Update

Who would have thought that the Intermediaries Legislation – commonly known as IR35 – is almost twenty years old? Despite the passage of time, issues regarding employment status are less clear than ever.

This is certainly no less true in the last few months, which has seen three IR35 related cases pass through the First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) – with conflicting outcomes…

Christa Ackroyd Media Ltd

The BBC engaged (contracted) Christa Ackroyd through her Personal Service Company (PSC), Christa Ackroyd Media Limited (CAM), to co-present their Look North Program on a seven-year contract. In 2013, after a three-month period off air, Ackroyd was sacked. It was reported at the time that the sacking was because of an alleged dispute concerning her employment status and payment of tax. This was later supported by documents produced to the Courts, revealing that the BBC terminated CAM’s contract after HMRC issued to Ackroyd’s company a formal demand for unpaid tax.

Employed or not?

Despite Ackroyd’s insistence to the contrary, HMRC successfully argued before the FTT that she was engaged under a contract of service (employed contact), rather than one for services (a self-employed contract).

The FTT’s ruling stated that she was “economically dependent on the hypothetical contract with the BBC,” which took up most of, if not all of, her working time and that a “hypothetical contract of that length […] terminable only for a material breach points towards a contract of employment.”

The First-Tier Tribunal ruled that the TV personality’s contract was caught by IR35, and they landed her company with an eye-watering £420,000 bill.

Mark Daniels – MDMC Limited

A few weeks later (March 2018), a second IR35-related case came before the FTT, and with it came further layers of complexity and uncertainty. Mark Daniels provided his services to Structured Tone Limited (SLT) though a PSC (MDMC Limited) – which in turn was engaged by Solutions, a recruitment agency.

In 2016, HMRC determined that the contract to provide services on large construction projects should have been caught by IR35, and that the service company should have paid PAYE and NIC. In effect, there had been a contract for service.

Daniels successfully appealed, with the FTT finding that the engagement was for services, not for service, and that Daniels should not be treated as an employee.

Lack of rights

An absence of rights under the hypothetical contract – the lack of a notice period, holiday pay, or any employment benefits – proved to be a key factor influencing the FTT. All of these would have had to be present if Daniels had been engaged directly as an employee.

Interestingly, the FTT dismissed “control” as a factor by concluding that, in a large project, there is a clear structure to the work which had to be done, and that an individual working within that structure was not being controlled by the end user; they were merely working within the structure.

Ian Wells – Jensal Software Limited

Details of an October 2017 case have recently received publicity. Its focus was on weak Mutuality of Obligation (MOO).

Wells worked on a project concerned with DWP’s Universal Credit (UCs) rollout.

It involved him attending a DWP office and travelling to different sites. He had the use of a secure DWP laptop and the tribunal heard evidence of meetings between Wells and DWP managers involved with the project.

HMRC concluded that there been a direct contract between Wells and the DWP during the period of engagement – a contract of service, not a contract for services. Wells was asked to pay £14,658 in income tax and £12,011 in respect of Class 1 NICs.

At the FTT stage, the judge examined in detail three conditions determining employment status.

  1. Mutuality of obligation (MOO),
  2. The degree of control,
  3. Sufficient mutuality of work-placed obligation.

On the question of MOO, the judge stated: ‘The essence of the relationship was that there was no continuing obligation on the part of the DWP to provide work; if it chose to abandon the project there was no contractual basis upon which Mr Wells could demand further work…” The MOO was too weak, and, as a result, the relationship did not go far enough to be classed as one of employment.

Lack of control

When he turned to degree of control, the judge said ‘The level of control exercised did not go beyond that which was usual for an independent contractor…”

He concluded that Mr Wells was not subject to a degree of control to an extent that would constitute a contract of employment.

Off-payroll working for the public sector

New IR35 rules concerning “Off-payroll Working” in the public sector came into effect on 6 April 2017.

The effect has been to shift responsibility for decisions on whether IR35 is applied – from the intermediary-worker providing their services via a PSC, to the public-sector engager.

Where an engagement is deemed to fall within the new IR35 rules, the person paying the PSC (that is the public-sector body or third-party-agency) is responsible for deducting tax and NICs under PAYE.

In many instances, public-sector bodies have made blanket decisions. In these cases, workers providing their services through an intermediary have been caught under the new rules even when they clearly are not.

New Off-payroll consultation

Things could become even more complicated if Phillip Hammond’s stated intention to widen the reach of Off-payroll working legislation to the private sector becomes reality.

On the 18 May 2018, HMRC and HM Treasury published a consultation document called “Off-payroll working in the private sector”.

Where does this leave us now?

The recent flurry of FTT cases, combined with last year’s legislative changes and the recently published private sector worker consultation, only serve to underpin how difficult it is to navigate the intermediaries’ taxation legislation.

If you are concerned that you might be caught by IR35, or if you are considering working through a PSC, contact us, we are not IR35 experts and do not offer advice on IR35 but we can refer you to Accountax Consulting to ensure you get the right advice.

HMRC Scam warnings

There have been warnings issued by HMRC regarding tax scams that approach individuals through SMS and emails. At present, HMRC are processing real refunds for the previous year and the scam is intended to replicate this approach through messages claiming the taxpayer is entitled to a rebate. This subsequently leads to the request of personal account details in order to facilitate that rebate.

It is key to understand and to stress that HMRC will only ever inform individuals of a tax refund by post or through their employer – and that they will never provide this communication through email, SMS, or voicemail. It is advised not to access or click any links, downloads, or attachments from any suspect messages from HMRC.

In a recent comment on the issue, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Mel Stride, stated, “We know that criminals will try and use events like the end of the financial year, the self-assessment deadline, and the issuing of tax refunds to target the public and attempt to get them to reveal their personal data.”

If you are concerned that you might have been approached by a scammer, or if you would just like more information, contact us for the right advice.

Your finances for 2018 – 5 Promises to keep

The start of a new year is a great time for reflection, in particular when it comes to your finances, and planning to best achieve your goals in the forthcoming year.

Following these 5 simple steps, should help you prepare to have your finances in order.

Prioritise around your clearly defined financial goal

First step is to set a clear financial goal; this should avoid being vague and should not be unachievable. Such actionable goals could be “to have increased my savings and use the full ISA allowance for the year”, or “to have cleared my credit card down to zero”.

Be sure to prioritize your approach to achieve your goals, so in this case you could set a weekly target of saving and/or to make a list of your debts to pay off first, interest rates against the debt could help you plan which to tackle first. In setting a goal, such as to make a 10% annual return on savings, there would be no point in having a credit card charging 15% per month on debt, as this would diminish the achievement.

Use your tax-free allowances

Whether you are investing in your own SIPP, or in an ISA, make sure to maximise the tax-free allowances that you are entitled to, for example, you can save £4,000 per year tax free into an ISA account. In terms of try to reduce the tax you are paying, such as for a higher rate tax payer, consider how by paying more into your pension, you can offset some of the tax you are charged.

Set your own personal “tax” on your salary each month

Automatic savings plans are an ideal way to get started. Consider this concept – if the government increased your tax rate, you would naturally pay it. So, by setting your own ‘tax rate’ you could automatically save a set amount monthly by transferring into a savings account, to help reach a savings goal.

Out with the old and do what you love

Make sure to close previous old and unused bank accounts and credit cards as these can impact your credit score rating and access to finance. Then focus on doing what you love, finding a way to turn your passions and hobbies into a profit.

Learn and give back

By committing the time to read financial content, you can support your learning, and explore new investment approaches and business metrics. Even if you could only manage 1 hour per week, perhaps a train journey or some breakfast reading, you could to start to review your financial library with a view to help build a portfolio of diversified investments for the future, or maybe retirement. Once your savings and investments are underway, or at a level which you feel comfortable, then you could give back to a designated charity, making the investments and resources even more meaningful by helping others.

If you would like to find out more about any of the savings opportunities or you would like help setting your 5 goals, please get in touch after all we are here to help.