HMRC targets wealthy ‘tax cheats’ in Scotland


A taskforce which aims to tackle wealthy ‘tax cheats’ who are living beyond their means in Scotland has been launched by HMRC.

HMRC is identifying individuals with ‘badges of wealth’ such as large houses, investments, aeroplanes, boats and undeclared offshore bank accounts which are not in keeping with the information they report to HMRC.

HMRC expects the taskforce to recover nearly £4.5million. It will bring together specialist officers from across HMRC to identify wealth indicators and cross reference them with the data HMRC holds about their owners.

HMRC’s Michael Connolly, HMRC Taskforce Lead in Scotland, said:

‘HMRC’s intelligence shows that people being targeted by this taskforce have no intention of playing by the rules. They are deliberately failing to declare all their income to HMRC in a crude attempt to line their own pockets, and they will be investigated.

As a result of this behaviour, they could end up facing a heavy fine or even a criminal conviction. Those who pay the tax they are supposed to have nothing to worry about.

Using information we hold, we can target people whose lifestyle does not reflect the tax they are paying. It’s not fair that a small minority are living millionaire lifestyles as a result of not paying the tax they owe.’

Internet link: Press release

Time to Pay Arrangements – Mandatory Direct Debit


Where a taxpayer has difficulty paying their tax liabilities HMRC may agree ‘time to pay arrangements’ whereby the taxpayer agrees to pay off the amount owing by instalments after the due date. These arrangements are only entered into where the taxpayer is genuinely unable to pay by the due date and is able to commit to agreed payments to bring their tax up to date.

HMRC have announced that where time to pay arrangements are agreed the payments will need to be made by Direct Debit.  This has always been HMRC’s preferred method of collection but this became mandatory from 3 August 2015.

However, HMRC do state that:

‘We recognise that there will be exceptional circumstances where a customer is unable to set up a direct debit, perhaps because their bank account will not allow it. In such cases payment by other methods may be agreed.’

Internet link: GOV.UK blog

National minimum wage campaign targets hair and beauty sector


HMRC are targeting employers in the hairdressing and beauty sectors who pay their staff below the national minimum wage (NMW).

HMRC and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), supported by the National Hairdressers’ Federation and the Hair and Beauty Industry Authority, will work with hair and beauty businesses to help them understand their pay obligations to their employees.

In a new approach HMRC will provide employers with tools and guidance to check if they are paying the correct amount.

Employers who take this opportunity to ‘self-correct’ will not have to pay penalties, nor will they be ‘named and shamed’. If employers choose not to comply with their NMW obligations, HMRC will take action to ensure that employees are paid what they are owed.

As detailed in the press release ‘BIS analysis shows that 42% of businesses in the sector do not pay level 2 and level 3 apprentices the correct minimum wage – the highest underpayment rate of any sector. Those paying under the minimum wage now have a chance to put things right. If they fail to do so it could result in their business being publicly ‘named and shamed’ and facing a fine of up to £20,000 per employee.’

Jennie Granger, HMRC Director General of Enforcement and Compliance, said:

‘This innovative campaign is about helping employees who have been underpaid get the money they are legally due back into their pockets. It will help them understand where they can report underpaying employers confidentially.

It is also about helping employers check if they are making mistakes, and self-correct if they are. Some employers will need a bit of a reminder to check they are getting it right, and some will need stronger action from us, so we are bringing in more enforcement officers to support this campaign.

I urge all employers and employees in the sector to check that salary is being paid correctly, as we will use these extra resources to find and investigate where it is not. Check you’re paying NMW correctly – it’s worth it.’

Employers in the hair and beauty sector are being asked to come forward as part of the National Minimum Wage Campaign by:

  • advising HMRC they want to take part in the campaign
  • disclosing details of arrears now paid to their workers and confirming that wages worth at least the NMW are now paid to all workers.

If you would like help with NMW issues please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK NMW campaign

Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme


The Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS) is being introduced on 1 October 2015 by HMRC to tackle alcohol fraud. HMRC are advising that if you are an alcohol wholesaler or trade buyer, you need to prepare for the new registration scheme now.

Who the scheme applies to

HMRC are advising that the AWRS will apply to existing, and new, wholesalers of alcohol, trading at or after the point at which excise duty has become payable. In addition all businesses that trade in or retail alcohol will in future need to make sure that any UK wholesalers that they buy from are registered with HMRC. The types of business who will be affected include:

  • alcohol wholesalers
  • brokers
  • auctioneers
  • alcohol retailers.

The scheme will not apply to private individuals purchasing alcohol from retailers.

HMRC are advising that:

  • from 1 October 2015, all alcohol wholesalers must apply online to HMRC to register for AWRS
  • from 1 January 2016 HMRC will start to review all AWRS applications to decide whether businesses are ‘fit and proper’ to be accepted onto the register. Where a business fails the ‘fit and proper’ test, HMRC will remove its right to trade in wholesale alcohol
  • from 1 April 2017, all businesses that trade in, or retail, alcohol will need to make sure that any UK wholesalers that they buy from are registered with HMRC. HMRC will provide an online look up service so that trade buyers can ensure wholesalers they buy from are registered with HMRC.

Internet link: GOV.UK AWRS

Farmers Averaging of Profits


It was announced in the March 2015 Budget that the government plans to extend the period over which self-employed farmers can average their profits for income tax purposes from two years to five years. The government has launched a consultation which considers ways in which the extension could be designed and implemented.

The change to the averaging rules is expected to come into effect from 6 April 2016.

Internet link: GOV.UK farmers averaging