HMRC halts thousands of scam text messages

HMRC have announced that they have stopped thousands of taxpayers from receiving scam text messages ‘with 90 percent of the most convincing texts now halted before they reach their phones’.

HMRC’s press release states:

‘Fraudsters alleging to be from HMRC send text messages to unsuspecting members of the public. In these messages they will make false claims, such as suggesting they are due a tax rebate. Messages will usually include links to websites that harvest personal information or spread malware. This can in turn lead to identity fraud and the theft of people’s personal savings.’

HMRC have confirmed that they will never contact taxpayers who are due a tax refund by text message or by email.

HMRC’s Director of Customer Services, Angela MacDonald, said:

‘HMRC is focused on becoming the most digitally advanced tax authority in the world, and a big part of that relates to keeping our customers safe from online scammers.’

‘As email and website scams become less effective, fraudsters are increasingly turning to text messages to con taxpayers. But as these numbers show, we won’t rest until these criminals are out of avenues to exploit.’

‘We have made significant progress is cutting down these types of crime, but one of the most effective ways to tackle it is still to help the public spot the tell-tale signs of fraud.’

To read details of the measures taken by HMRC and other advice on spotting fraud visit the link below.

Internet link: GOV.UK scam-text-messages

Tax-free childcare roll out

The implementation of Tax-Free Childcare, the new government scheme to help working parents with the cost of childcare, is being rolled out to eligible parents in stages.

The scheme first made its debut in April 2017 and although there have been initial systems problems, HMRC’s aim is to have the scheme open to all eligible parents by 14 February 2018. Application is made online through the Childcare Choices site and applications can be made for all eligible children at the same time.

Under Tax-Free Childcare, for every £8 the parent pays, the government provides a £2 top-up, to a maximum of £2,000 per child each year – with a higher limit of £4,000 for disabled children. This gives a total childcare pot of £10,000, or £20,000 for disabled children. To be eligible, parents must generally have minimum weekly earnings of at least £120 each. There is also an upper earnings limit of £100,000.

Compensation may be available in certain circumstances where a parent:

  • is unable to complete an application for Tax-Free Childcare
  • is unable to access their childcare account
  • or doesn’t get a decision about whether they are eligible, without explanation, for more than 20 days.

Those employing a nanny should be able to use the childcare account to pay their PAYE tax and National Insurance. Delays in getting this system working may also give grounds for compensation. Application is made online GOV.UK childcare-service-compensation

Internet link: GOV.UK childcare under 9s

HMRC rejected Self Assessment expenses and excuse

HMRC have released the latest list of imaginative excuses made by individuals who failed to submit their self assessment return by 31 January deadline in 2017. Excuses include alien sightings and being too busy touring with a one-man play.

HMRC’s annual list of outlandish excuses is used to publicise the self assessment deadline of 31 January following the end of the tax year. An automatic £100 penalty applies to those who have the obligation to complete a return and miss the filing deadline, regardless of whether the individual has a tax liability to pay or not.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s director general of customer services, said:

‘Each year we’re making it easier and more intuitive for our customers to complete their tax return, but each year we still come across some questionable excuses, whether that’s blaming a busy touring schedule or seeing aliens.’

Here are some of the recent excuses:

  1. I couldn’t file my return on time as my wife has been seeing aliens and won’t let me enter the house.
  2. I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play.
  3. My ex-wife left my tax return upstairs, but I suffer from vertigo and can’t go upstairs to retrieve it.
  4. My business doesn’t really do anything.
  5. I spilt coffee on it.

HMRC have also released details of some of the weirdest expense claims which include:

  1. A three-piece suite for my partner to sit on when I’m doing my accounts.
  2. Birthday drinks at a Glasgow nightclub.
  3. Vet fees for a rabbit.
  4. Hotel room service – for candles and prosecco.
  5. £4.50 for sausage and chips meal expenses for 250 days.

If you have any queries on tax matters please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Delay in the abolition of Class 2 NIC

The government has announced that it will introduce legislation, to abolish Class 2 national insurance contributions (NIC) and to make further proposed NIC changes in 2018.

The measures the legislation will implement, will now take effect one year later than previously announced, from April 2019. These measures include the abolition of Class 2 NIC paid by self employed individuals, reforms to the Class 1A NIC treatment of termination payments (the £30,000 rule) and changes to the NICs treatment of sporting testimonials.

On 2 November 2017 the Government announced a one year delay to the abolition of Class 2 NICs. Class 2 NICs will now be abolished from 6 April 2019 rather than 6 April 2018.

The government have stated that ‘the delay will allow time for the government to engage with interested parties and Parliamentarians with concerns relating to the impact of the abolition of Class 2 NICs on self-employed individuals with low profits’.

Internet links: GOV.UK abolition Class 2 National insurance Bill

Trusts Registration Service

HMRC have launched a new Trusts Registration Service (TRS), so that trustees can register their trust online and provide information on the beneficial owners of the trust. The new service launched in early July for trustees and replaces the 41G (Trust) paper form, which was withdrawn at the end of April.

Under the existing self assessment rules, the trustees (or their agents) must register details of a trust with HMRC by 5 October of the year after a liability to Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax (CGT) first arises. The registration process, which will need completing via TRS, includes providing information about the beneficiaries of the trust.

In subsequent years, or where the trust is already registered for self assessment, the trustees (or their agent) of either a UK or non-UK trust that incurs a UK tax liability are required to provide beneficial ownership information about the trust, using the TRS, by 31 January following the end of the tax year.

HMRC have advised that agents will be able to register on behalf of trustees from October 2017 and agents and lead trustees can enter updates for changes of circumstances from early 2018.

HMRC have also confirmed that in this first year of TRS there will be no penalty imposed where registration is completed by 5 January 2018 for trusts whose first tax assessment year is 2016/17.

A Self Assessment Trust and Estate Tax Return (SA900) must still be submitted after the end of each tax year, reporting any income and gains. A TRS update is required each year in parallel with income tax returns; however an update is also required when any tax charge arises for example IHT principal charges or SDLT.

From 17 November 2017 the method of registering a trust has been simplified such that an agent can access TRS directly rather than email HMRC for approval to access.

If you would like help or guidance on trusts please contact us.

Internet links: GOV.UK trusts-and-estates GOV.UK news STEP comprehensive guidance STEP FAQs (November 2017)

Delay to roll out of Tax free childcare

The government have announced a delay to the roll out of tax free childcare which was expected to be fully implemented by the end of the year. From 24 November 2017 the service is available to parents whose youngest child is under 6 or who has their 6th birthday on that day. Parents can apply online through the childcare service which can be accessed via the Childcare Choices website.

In April 2017, HMRC started rolling out the childcare service via a single website through which parents can apply for both 30 hours free childcare and Tax-Free Childcare. The roll out started with parents of the youngest children first. HMRC acknowledge that over the summer some parents didn’t receive the intended level of service when using the website and that they have subsequently made significant improvements. For those parents who have had difficulties in accessing the service, compensation may be available: see childcare service compensation.

Over the coming months, HMRC will gradually open the childcare service to parents of older children, whilst continuing to make further improvements to the system. HMRC hope this strategy of managing the volume of applications will result in prompt eligibility responses when parents apply, with ‘almost all parents receiving a response within five working days, and most getting their decision instantly’.

All eligible parents will be able to apply by the end of March 2018. Parents will be able to apply for all their children at the same time, when their youngest child becomes eligible.

Tax-Free Childcare is the new government scheme to help working parents, both employed and self employed, with the cost of childcare. For every £8 a parent pays in, the government will pay in an extra £2. Parents can receive up to £2,000 per child, per year, towards their childcare costs making a total amount of £10,000. Higher limits of £4,000 and £20,000 apply for disabled children.

To qualify for Tax-Free Childcare parents and partners in the household must generally meet a minimum income level of on average £120 a week and each earn less than £100,000 a year.

The scheme will eventually be available for children up to the age of 12, or 17 for children with disabilities. Those eligible will be able to apply for all their children at the same time.

Employer Supported Childcare, usually by way of childcare vouchers, will remain open to new entrants until April 2018 to support the transition between the schemes and it will continue to be available for current members if they wish to remain in it or they can switch to the new scheme. It is not possible to benefit from both Employer Supported Childcare and Tax Free Childcare at the same time.

Internet link: Tax free childcare for under 6

Employee gifts – tax free?

At this time of year some employers may wish to make small gifts to their employees.

A tax exemption is available which should give employers certainty that the benefits provided are exempt and do not result in a reportable employee benefit in kind. In order for the benefit to be exempt it must satisfy the following conditions:

  • the cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50 per employee (or on average when gifts made to multiple employees)
  • the benefit is not cash or a cash voucher
  • the employee is not entitled to the voucher as part of a contractual arrangement (including salary sacrifice)
  • the benefit is not provided in recognition of particular services performed by the employee as part of their employment duties
  • where the employer is a ‘close’ company and the benefit is provided to an individual who is a director, an office holder or a member of their household or their family, then the exemption is capped at a total cost of £300 in a tax year.

If any of these conditions are not met then the benefit will be taxed in the normal way subject to any other exemptions or allowable deductions.

One of the main conditions is that the cost of the benefit does not exceed £50. If the cost is above £50 the full amount is taxable, not just the excess over £50.The cost of providing the benefit to each employee and not the overall cost to the employer determines whether the benefit can be treated as a trivial benefit. So, a benefit costing up to £50 per employee whether provided to one or more employees can be treated as trivial. Where the individual cost for each employee cannot be established, an average could be used. Some HMRC examples consider gifts of turkeys, a bottle of wine or alternative gift voucher.

Further details on how the exemption will work, including family member situations, are contained in HMRC manual.

However if you are unsure please do get in touch before assuming the gift you are about to provide is covered by the exemption.

Internet link: HMRC manual