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

ATED updated procedures

Since 2013 a range of measures have been introduced to discourage the holding of residential property in the UK via companies, partnerships and collective investment schemes. In summary, these measures are:

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is payable at 15% on the acquisition on or after 20 March 2014 of properties costing more than £500,000
  • an Annual Tax on Dwellings (ATED) applies at a fixed amount depending on value and
  • Capital gains tax (CGT) at 28% is payable on a proportion of gains for the period that the property has been subject to ATED.

There are specific reliefs and exemptions for certain types of properties.

Changes in limits

Prior to 1 April 2015 the lower property value threshold for ATED was a value of more than £2m on 1 April 2012, or at acquisition, if later. With effect from 1 April 2015, residential properties valued at more than £1m and up to £2m on 1 April 2012, or at acquisition if later, were brought into the charge.

From 1 April 2016 another new valuation band comes into effect for properties valued at more than £500,000 but less than £1 million.

The threshold for ATED-related CGT disposal consideration has also reduced from £2m to £1m from 6 April 2015 and will further reduce to £500,000 from 6 April 2016.

ATED Procedures

ATED is reported and the tax paid through an annual return. The return periods run from 1 April to 31 March each year.

Normally an ATED return must be made within 30 days of the date on which the property first comes within the charge to ATED for any chargeable period. Where the property is within the scope of ATED on 1 April each year, the return must be filed by 30 April in the year of charge. Payment of the tax is due with the return.

There is a special rule for properties coming within the scope of ATED from 1 April 2015 under the lower threshold of £1m detailed above. The rule is that returns for the chargeable period beginning 1 April 2015 must be filed by 1 October 2015 if the property was held on 1 April 2015 or within 30 days of acquisition if this is later. Payment of the tax is due 31 October 2015.

The chargeable person must submit an ATED return for any property that is within the scope of ATED for the relevant chargeable period. There are reliefs available which may reduce the liability in part or to zero. However, all claims for reliefs must be made in a new ‘relief declaration return’ and these new returns to claim relief have now been made available.

Returns for properties falling within the lower band of £500,000 are due for the chargeable period 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017. The normal filing dates apply to properties within this new band. For example, if you hold a property valued at more than £500,000 on 1 April 2016, you must file your return and pay the tax by 30 April 2016.

Returns

In addition, a new ‘relief declaration return’ is introduced. Broadly, for each type of ATED relief being claimed, the company can submit a relief declaration return stating that a relief is being claimed in respect of one or more properties held at that time. No details are required of the individual properties or the number of properties eligible. Where a property is acquired in-year which also qualifies for the same type of relief, the existing return is treated as also having been made in respect of that property.

A normal ATED return will still be required in respect of any property which does not qualify or ceases to qualify for a relief i.e. where tax is due.

ATED and the reliefs available are a complex area. Please contact us if you would like specific advice.

Internet links: ATED relief declaration returns  ATED

National Minimum Wage rates and National Living Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) is a minimum amount per hour that most workers in the UK are entitled to be paid. NMW rates increases come into effect on 1 October 2015.

From 1 October 2015:

  • the adult rate will increase by 20 pence to £6.70 per hour
  • the rate for 18 to 20 year olds will increase by 17 pence to £5.30 per hour
  • the rate for 16 to 17 year olds will increase by 8 pence to £3.87 per hour
  • the apprentice rate will increase by 57 pence to £3.30 per hour.

Employers also need to be aware that from April 2016, the government will introduce a new mandatory National Living Wage (NLW) for workers aged 25 and above. This will initially be set at £7.20 which is a 50p increase in the adult rate of NMW coming into force in October 2015. This represents an increase of in excess of £1,200 per annum in earnings for a full-time worker on the current NMW.

The NMW will continue to apply for those aged under 25. The government has issued further details of the new NLW policy.

Penalties

Penalties may be levied on employers where HMRC believe underpayments have occurred and HMRC may ‘name and shame’ non-compliant employers.

Please contact us if you would like help with payroll issues.

Internet links: Press release  NLW policy

Taxing dividends from April 2016

In the Summer 2015 Budget, George Osborne announced fundamental changes to the way in which dividends are taxed and HMRC have issued a factsheet setting out examples of how the new regime will work.

An extract from the HMRC Factsheet states:

‘From April 2016 you have to apply the new headline rates on the amount of dividends you actually receive, where the income is over £5,000 (excluding any dividend income paid within an ISA).

The Dividend Allowance will not reduce your total income for tax purposes. However, it will mean that you don’t have any tax to pay on the first £5,000 of dividend income you receive.

Dividends within your allowance will still count towards your basic or higher rate bands, and may therefore affect the rate of tax that you pay on dividends you receive in excess of the £5,000 allowance.’

The changes will affect dividend receipts from 6 April 2016 however those who extract profits from their company as dividends may wish to consider whether to increase dividend payments before this date.

The table below shows a comparison between the current and prospective tax rates.

Dividend falls into : Basic rate band Higher rate band Additional rate band
Effective dividend tax rate now (taking into account notional tax credit) 0% 25% 30.6%
Rate from 6 April 2016 7.5% 32.5% 38.1%

Please contact us if you would like advice on this issue.

Internet link: Factsheet

For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm

Pension Schemes for Auto Enrolment

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has published some guidance aimed at the 1.3 million small and micro employers who are preparing for pensions auto enrolment. The guidance aims to help employers find a good quality pension scheme. TPR research suggests one in five (290,000) employers will not seek advice when choosing a pension scheme, while one in ten (130,000) do not know how to select a scheme, or think it will be difficult.

The information includes details of a list of ‘master trust’ pension schemes open to employers of all sizes, and which have been independently reviewed to help to demonstrate that they are administered to a high standard.

TPR have also made available a quick guide for small and micro employers on what to look out for when choosing a scheme suited to their needs. They have also updated their webpage guidance to advisors.

Lesley Titcomb, chief executive of The Pensions Regulator, said:

‘I strongly believe that the vast majority of the 1.3 million small and micro employers approaching automatic enrolment want to do the right thing. However, many will choose not to seek advice and will need additional support to meet their duties.

We are committed to providing them with the information they need to make confident choices when it comes to choosing a quality scheme for their employees.’

If you would like help complying with your auto enrolment duties please do get in touch.

Internet link: Press release

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

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