The Abatement Dilemma

You may have to pay more income tax if your annual income exceeds £100,000 as a result of the abatement of the annual personal allowance. The allowance is gradually reduced until it is eliminated in full.

The annual personal allowance is:

2018/19 – 11,850
2019/20 – 12,500
2020/21 – 12,500

Once your “adjusted net income” exceeds £100,000 your personal allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 of income over and above £100,000.

For example

If in 2019/20 you have income of £120,000 and make (gross) pension contributions of £5,000 then your adjusted net income is £115,000.

It’s over the £100,000 limit and so the annual personal allowance is reduced. The £12,500 is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which your income exceeds £100,000.

The reduction in the personal allowance is therefore £7,500 (half of (£115,000 minus £100,000)).

The personal allowance for 2019/20 becomes £5,000.

The 60% tax zone

When your net income falls within the zone in which the personal allowance is reduced (that’s from £100,000 to £125,000) then the marginal rate of tax is 60%. This is the combined effect of the application of the higher rate of tax and the reduction in the personal allowance. Currently for 2019/20 the upper end of the band is £125,000 but that may not be true for other years, the strict upper limit is £100,000 plus twice the personal allowance.

Stealth Tax

Abatement was introduced on 6 Apr 2010 when the threshold was set at 100,000. Almost every year the annual person allowance goes up and tax rate bands are adjusted. However, the abatement threshold has never changed. This means that over time more people are becoming liable to 60% tax. If your employment or self employment income is over 100,000 then there is  National Insurance at 2% as well. Don’t let anybody tell you that the highest rate of tax in the UK is 40%, it’s 62%.

Options

There are three options, none of which is easy:

1. Pay the tax
2. Reduce your income below £100,000
3. Increase your income so much that a mere 60% on a 25,000 tranche of your income pales into insignificance.

Don’t dismiss that last one. All you need is a plan. What does your business plan say?

Self Assessment Tax Return

A Checklist

Self assessment tax returns require an extensive amount of personal information.

They encompass income, capital gains, outgoings, residence status, student loans, child benefit and more. They are no longer called income tax returns and you need to take care to include everything that a self assessment tax return requires.

With very few exceptions, the self assessment tax return requires a full disclosure of your worldwide income. There are checks and balances to ensure that you are not subject to double taxation. As your accountant, we need you to make a full disclosure of everything. We would rather have too much information than not enough. Nobody wants HMRC to start an enquiry because something was omitted from a tax return.

You should remember that in UK law the final responsibility for submitting a full and complete tax return (and for paying the tax on time) rests with you, the taxpayer.

Please follow this guide carefully and let us have the information and the documentation detailed below. For self assessment purposes the tax year started on 6 April (more than one year ago) and ended on the 5 April which has recently passed.

Tax Return Notice

In order that we can keep track of tax offices and reference numbers, please let us have either a copy of page one of your tax return, or the “Notice to File”.

Student Loans

A copy of the Student Loan account statement showing the transactions between 6 April last and 5 April just gone.

Tell us if an old loan has been fully paid off since 5 April just gone as we will need to make an adjustment to ensure that you do not overpay.

Residence and Domicile

Is your Domicile outside the UK?

In UK law the word “domicile” does not mean your address, it means your natural home. This is especially important for people who were not born in the UK or whose parents were not born in the UK, or for people have moved away from the UK and have permanently elected (and proven) that they have established a natural home elsewhere.

There are complex tax rules for people who have a non-UK domicile and who have foreign income or gains. Regardless of your “domicile”, UK residents are taxed on their worldwide income or gains. However, if you do have a non-UK domicile, you may be entitled to claim tax relief on foreign income which is not remitted into the UK. If this applies to you please discuss the situation with us.

If you are not resident in the UK, then we need to consider the Statutory Residence Test which determines residence status for tax purposes. This link is just for information . . .

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/rdr3-statutory-residence-test-srt

. . . and we will work through the process with clients who are affected.

Bank Interest and other Investment Income

Please provide copies of certificates of Bank Interest Received, dividend vouchers and other documents showing amounts of investments received.

Some banks pay “rewards” and do not pay interest. Check the year end certificate from your bank to see precisely what sort of income you have. Some deduct tax at source, whilst others do not. Different rules, rates and allowances apply to different types of investment income so it’s therefore vital that you provide full and accurate information for every different account and every different type of investment.

Employees and Directors

A copy of form P60 for all roles held as at 5 April.

A copy of form P45 for all roles that ended during the tax year.

Employers are required by law to issue forms P60 by 31 May following the relevant 5 April. Forms P45 are issued when you leave an employer, normally within 7 days of your leaving date.

Student Loan Repayments via Payroll

As the forms P45 and P60 do not always show student loan repayments, we need a copy of the final payslip for each employment.

That means the 31 March payslip for jobs you had at the year end, or the last payslip they gave you if you left any job(s) part way through the tax year.

Benefits in Kind and Expense Allowances

If you have a company car or van, or if your salary package includes private medical insurance or gym membership, then you will always be issued with a form P11d. These are taxable benefits in kind.

There are a few other cases where forms P11d are issued to employees who receive expense allowances. This is less common than it used to be, because HMRC has introduced more exemptions.

For example, a situation where you have paid for business travel, claimed the exact figure, and were reimbursed the exact figure, is exempt from the P11d reporting rules. However, round sum allowances are reportable. Check with your employer if you are not sure about the expense allowances you received.

We will need a copy of form(s) P11d issued “as at” 5 April for all roles held in the last tax year (whether they were still active on 5 April, or not).

Employers are required by law to issue forms P11d (to relevant employees) by 6 July following the relevant 5 April. However, if a P11d is not relevant to you, the employer is under no obligation to tell you that you’re not going to get one. Check!

Receiving an Occupational Pension or a Private Pension Annuity

A copy of the form P60 (or other statement from your pension provider) as at 5 April, showing the gross pension received by you, and the tax deducted.

Pension providers (other than the State Pension) are required by law to issue forms P60 by 31 May following the relevant 5 April.

Receiving a State Pension

Letters detailing State Pension rates and entitlements are normally issued in March and April setting out what your individual rate is. Almost no-one gets the standard rate of State Pension as it is often enhanced by the level of your national insurance contributions. Hence we cannot rely on headline rates, and we need a copy of that letter setting out the rate specific to your case.

Child Benefit

Please let us know how much Child Benefit was received during the tax year. Child Benefit may be restricted in some cases where your income exceeds £50,000 and in all cases where your income exceeds £60,000.

If you (or your spouse/partner) have children aged 18 or younger then,  regardless of whether you receive Child Benefit or have disclaimed it, please let us have a note of each date of birth for those who were aged 18 or below on 5 April just gone. Child Benefit may still be paid in connection with 18 year olds until 30 September following their 18th birthday. Having this information allows us to accurately establish two types of situation:

– Claimants where a claw back becomes due;
– Non-claimants who may now become entitled to claim.

There are complex rules in cases where you or your partner move out or move into the family home part way through a tax year. If this applies to you, please talk to us on a one to one basis.

Self Employed Trades and Partnership

Please consider the Annual Accounts Checklist

Rental Income

Please consider the Lettings Accounts Checklist

Personal Pension Contributions

By “personal pension” we mean a pension policy agreed by you directly with a Pension Provider and paid for using your own private funds.

Personal pensions agreed with a Pension Provider because you are a company director (and your company pays the contributions) are not reportable on a personal tax return – ignore these.

Pension Providers normally issue a certificate PPPC (for each policy) just after 5 April each year.

Please provide a copy of each certificate PPPC or set out an analysis of dates and amounts paid under each separate pension policy, stating whether these were paid gross or paid net.

Auto-enrolment Pension Contributions

Under auto-enrolment in the UK, you may have an employer pension where contributions are taken by deduction at source from your pay. There are four ways of doing this and your employer will have elected for one of them when the pension scheme started.

Check with you payroll office, and tell us which “Pension Contribution Basis” applies to these deductions:

• After tax and NI with basic rate tax relief
• After tax and NI with no tax relief
• Before tax and NI
• Before tax and after NI

Please provide us with copies of all your payslips for the tax year as that’s the only way to see the full pension deductions for the year.

Gift Aid Contributions

Please provide two analyses showing the name of each gift aid scheme, the commencement date, and the amounts paid. One list is for your regular contributions. The second list is for one off payments for that year only.

Sundry

Lastly, please consider if any of the following items need looking at more closely:

• New sources of income in that tax year.
• Job Seekers Allowance or other taxable benefits.
• New stock options.
• Capital gains or losses on shares, securities and other assets.
• Purchases and sales of “second” properties.

If you are unsure about any of these points please feel free to call us.

Covid-19 Support For Freelancers

The details below are given in good faith based on the prevailing information as at 12.30pm on 27 Mar 2020.

1 of 3 Covid-19 Measures in General
2 of 3 Covid-19 Support For Freelancers
3 of 3 Covid-19 Bounce Back Loans

This report should be one big flow chart, but in order to make it fully accessible, a numbered list is more straight forward. Please follow the instructions line by line, and follow “go to” instructions as soon as you meet them. Stop at the first mention of “stop” that you come across.

Update 15 April 2020 – owing to recent changes in HMRC guidance, lines 1000 and 1010 have been renumbered and repositioned as lines 1033 and 1034.

1020 Do you have limited liability protection because you operate as a limited company?

1030 Yes – go to 3020

1033 Did your freelance work commence on 6 Apr 2019 or later?

1034 Yes – go to 7000

1040 Has your self employment (or partnership) income declined directly as a result of the Covid-19 crisis?

1050 No – go to 7000

1060 Take care with this double barrelled question, and check your tax return if you are unsure . . .

1070(a) Are you a partner in a traditional partnership and have a page P1 on your last tax return?
1070(b) Are you a sole trader with self employed accounts and a page SE1 on your last tax return?

1080 If you answered “no” and “no” go to 7000

1090 Annual income includes all earnings, all investment income and rent received etc. Is your self employed profit (or partnership share) less than 50% of your annual income?

1100 Yes – go to 7000

1110 Has your self employed trade (or partnership) ceased in 2019/20?

1120 Yes – go to 7000

1130 Will you (or but for the effects of the Covid-19 crisis, would you) continue to trade in 2020/21?

1140 No – go to 7000

1150 Work out the annual average of your net profit between 6 Apr 2016 and 5 Apr 2019 (or pro rata annual profit for businesses that commenced between those two dates). Is your annual average net profit greater than £50,000?

1170 Yes – go to 7000
1180 No – go to 2000

2000 Based on your response, you are eligible for support under the 26 Mar 2020 measures “for the self employed”. HMRC has this info already (from your tax returns) and will contact you. They have asked that you do not contact them. The plan is set out here and grants are expected to be paid in June 2020.

2010 From 13 May 2020 claims can be made here. Look for the “Start Now” button in the middle of the page. There’s also a big warning saying “You must make the claim yourself. Your tax agent or adviser must not claim on your behalf as this will trigger a fraud alert, and you will have to contact HMRC. This will cause a significant delay to you receiving your payment.“. Moreover, you will need the start date that HMRC sent to you by email, SMS or letter. They definitely don’t want to let accountants get involved for some reason!

2020 Stop

Update 15 April 2020 – owing to recent changes in HMRC guidance lines 3000 and 3010 have been renumbered and repositioned as lines 3033 and 3034.

3020 Do you have a proper contract of employment with your own company?

3030 No – go to 6000

3033 Does your company have a PAYE account with HMRC?

3034 No – go to 5000

3040 Has your company’s income declined directly as a result of the Covid-19 crisis?

3050 No – go to 5000

Update 15 April 2020 – owing to recent changes in HMRC guidance lines 3053 and 3054 have been added.

Update 17 April 2020 – HMRC guidance has changed (again) – different conditions for qualifying employees have been added to a new line 3053.

3053 Were you on your employer/company PAYE records on 28 Feb 2020? Friday 28 is the key date, even though there were 29 days in February in 2020. If you officially left before 28 Feb or officially started after 28 Feb, then you should answer no.

3053 Were you on your employer/company PAYE records on 19 Mar 2020? If you officially left before 19 Mar or officially started after 19 Mar, then you should answer no. If your first ever payslip from this employer is dated after 19 Mar 2020 then you should answer no. The criteria require that HMRC was notified of this employment via any payroll RTI submission by 19 Mar 2020 at the latest.

3054 No – go to 5000

3060 Have you been laid off with no work (officially termed “furloughed”) owing to the Covid-19 crisis?

3040 Yes – go to 4000
3050 No – go to 5000

4000 Based on your response, your employer is eligible for support under the 18 Mar 2020 “Job Retention Scheme” and ultimately you should receive some Government funded income through your employer’s payroll system. It is the responsibility of the employer to make a claim to HMRC using an online tool which they say is due to be available “at the end of April 2020”. More details are given here. Office holders should note that this applies only to salary and not to dividend income.

4010 Stop

5000 No support under the 18 Mar 2020 “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme”.

5010 Stop

6000 As a director, your salary is usually paid to you for the responsibility involved in “holding the office of director” and not for “work done”. This causes two issues.

6010 A director cannot be furloughed according to the Companies Act 2006. The Act does not say that exactly, but the combination of rules means that a director is always active on company affairs. Update 11 April 2020 – HMRC guidance has been adjusted, go to 6080.

Update 11 April 2020 strike out lines 6020 through 6070

6020 Furthermore, a director is not an employee in a strict sense even though the words employee and employment are often used in everyday dialogue about directors. There is no definition of “employee” in Statute. Sometimes case law helps, but there is still no definition of “employee”.

6030 What is clear is that to qualify for support under the 18 Mar 2020 “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” the employee must be engaged to do work “under a contract of employment”. Unfortunately “holding the office of director” is not the same thing as “doing work” and you don’t need “a contract of employment” in order to hold an office.

6040 This Government web page has ignored these fine points of detail and professional bodies are seeking clarification from HMRC. To be honest, some of the dialogue on that page demonstrates clearly that the civil servants who authored it have no idea what the legal definition of “self employed” is!

6050 Arguably, this is just legalistic torture but the law is the key issue in all of our interactions with Government. It could be hoped that Rishi Sunak will soon be hauled back to announce further measures. The thing many people want to hear is something like “irrespective of the provisions of the Companies Act 2006, for the purposes of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme HMRC will permit directors without contracts of employment to be deemed as furloughed provided that all the other conditions of the Scheme are satisfied”.

6060 And then what would you get? Possibly your company will get 80% of your salary. And nothing extra on account of your dividend income. Go back now and look at line 4000 if you want to, but read the rules carefully, it’s about salary only.

6070 Unless Rishi Sunak suddenly reverses the Government’s attitude to freelancers who operate as small limited companies you currently stand to get nothing. Maybe there will be movement on directors’ salaries. A change of heart on dividend income is highly unlikely given that HMRC has previous form with the original IR35 legislation and later additions to those rules.

6080 Update 11 April 2020 – the desired text (at line 6050 above) has in effect been published here. Office holders may be entitled to claim JRS.

Update 15 April 2020 modify line 6090

6090 Go to 4000

6090 Go to 3033

6100 Stop

7000 No support under the 26 Mar 2020 measures “for the self employed”.

7010 Stop

Footnote

We know where Boris Johnson lives if you want to write to him.

Covid-19 Measures in General

Disclaimer

This report was published, in good faith, based on the prevailing information, at 1.00pm on 23 Mar 2020. The situation is changing on a daily basis and any updates to this report will be clearly marked with a date time stamp.

1 of 3 Covid-19 Measures in General
2 of 3 Covid-19 Support For Freelancers
3 of 3 Covid-19 Bounce Back Loans

Overview

The Government measures are designed to target employees and businesses which are directly affected by the Covid-19 issue. We can argue that we are all affected, but having had dealings with HMRC for 35+ years they can be tricky, and so we suggest that you keep evidence in case you need to (at a later date) show how you have been affected. That includes:

• Medical correspondence for those worst affected.
• Employer correspondence for those laid off.
• Business correspondence for those who experience a downturn.

Do not routinely delete those emails. If somebody cancels a piece of work (or worse) please keep a copy of that email for 6 years beyond the end of your trading year (or tax year).

VAT Registered Taxpayers

VAT due for quarters ended 29 Feb 2020 through to 30 Jun 2020 inclusive will not become due until 7 Aug 2020 at the earliest. This right is automatic and (Government says) no action needs to be taken. If you have VAT to pay, you can pay it on your normal due date if you wish, or hold on to the cash and pay on 7 Aug 2020. No interest will be charged. If you are due a VAT repayment these will be processed as normal.

If you pay quarterly VAT by Direct Debit and want to delay your payments then we recommend cancelling the Direct Debit now. We know from experience (foot-and-mouth disease in 2001 and the farming sector) that “this right is automatic” may not be enough to stop HMRC Direct Debit collections.

Apparently a further announcement is to be made which will allow accumulated VAT debts to be paid over time, and you are to be given until 5 Apr 2021 to bring things up to date.

Irrespective of actual payment dates, VAT returns must still be submitted within the correct time frames.

Mainstream Businesses

Most of the best measures that have been announced are contingent on you being a mainstream business, that is to say, one which:

• has commercial premises subject to business rates; and
• is eligible for either Small Business Rate Relief or Rural Rate Relief.

In these cases you will qualify for grants of up to £10,000 (originally the announcement was £3,000). Whichever local authority deals with your business rates will be in contact you and will automatically initiate the process for you.

All Businesses

Loan scheme – talk to your bank. The Government has agreed to underwrite 80% of any loan capital advanced by your bank under these emergency measures. Theoretically that makes you a lesser risk today that you were a few weeks ago. However, nothing really changes between you and the bank, your application still needs to be well founded and your repayments need to be affordable. The protection is for the bank in case your business goes bankrupt.

Employers and Employees

The Chancellor announced a new a grant from HMRC to employers to cover furloughed workers and keep people on payroll rather than laying them off. The coronavirus job retention scheme would pay up to 80% of employees’ salary to a maximum of £2,500 a month.

The job retention scheme will be backdated to 1 March, with no limit on the amount of funding, and The Chancellor stated that it will be open initially for “at least three months” but didn’t take off the table the option to extend the scheme for longer if necessary.

HMRC will implement a process to fund employers. However, HMRC is in the business of collecting tax and has less experience of handing out grants. The infrastructure to do this is currently a work in progress. Nobody knows when the first grants will be paid.

27 Mar 2019 12.30pm Update – strike out this headingSelf Employed Trade or Partnership

27 Mar 2019 12.30pm Update – new heading – All Self Assessment Cases

Self assessment tax instalments due on 31 Jul 2020 have been postponed, without interest etc, and will now become due on 31 Jan 2021. This is automatic and no action needs to be taken.

27 Mar 2019 12.30pm Update – strike out this para – Apparently you need to be in a self employed trade or be a partner in a traditional partnership to take advantage of this. That means (until we hear otherwise) that self assessment tax instalments due on 31 Jul 2020 on account of your rental income or dividend income, etc, are still due.

Freelance Limited Company

Other than claiming the 80% job retention scheme figure (see “employers” above) there are no specific provisions for small freelance limited companies.

27 Mar 2020 12.30pm update – even the eligibility for this 80% has been questioned by some legal experts. Please see this newer blogpost.

The Government is still addressing this issue and has called for submissions to made by 5pm GMT on 23 Mar 2020.

https://twitter.com/CommonsTreasury/status/1240620040803803136

Use the email address specified in that tweet and (in meaningful words) spell out precisely what you want The Cabinet Office to help with.

Other Resources

Well respected tax lecturer Giles Mooney has posted a 17 min video on YouTube:

Although we have covered key points above, clients of Proactive may be interested in the following sections:

• 10min02 – 10min40 – statutory sick pay
• 10min41 – 11min30 – the self employed
• 14min10 – 15min25 – loan guarantee
• 15min25 – 15min59 – claiming on business insurance

The Government Support for Business page is here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses

The Coronavirus helpline: 0300 456 3565

This telephone number has been rebranded as the Coronavirus Helpline. It’s not a new service as some claim. It has been in existence for many years and is also known as the Business Support Helpline. As far as we know, it is mainly of use to taxpayers who wanted to negotiate “time to pay” arrangements.

HMRC Software Errors Affect 2016/17 Tax Returns

HMRC have incorrectly calculated a series of 2016/17 tax liabilities, and in mid 2016 they sent incorrect sample calculations to software houses. As a result, the software houses have been compelled to write those inaccuracies into their 2016/17 tax return packages.

HMRC were notified of this problem in November 2016. I first learnt of it in January 2017, and now it transpires (on 29 March 2017) that HMRC have not been able to rewrite their internal software in time for the 2016/17 tax return filing season! And, that means that the software houses are being required to ship 2016/17 tax return software which they know is inaccurate.

You can’t make this stuff up can you?

This is a mission critical Government body that is incapable of doing tax calculations properly and preparing tax ready software! And next year, they’re imposing the new “Making Tax Digital” rules on all of us. Who knows what else could go wrong?

The problem for 2016/17 arises because tax law is now so complex, and HMRC has failed to get to grips with the interaction of the “savings allowance of £1,000” and the “dividend allowance of £5,000” and the “personal allowance of £11,000” and the “additional rate of tax on income over £150,000”.

The complexity of the interaction between these allowances gives rise to certain combinations of income (and these are not unusual combinations) where the taxpayer can elect to allocate the allowances in the most beneficial way. For example, a combination of small salary and big dividend is enough to create problems for many taxpayers.

It goes like this:

  • Scenario 1 – If your total income is more that X, and your earned income is between Y and Z then you’re caught.
  • Scenario 2 – If your total income is more that A, and your dividend income is between B and C then you’re caught.

What’s the solution? HMRC’s official instructions are to file paper tax returns for taxpayers who fall into these groups and not to use online filing! Yes! Seriously! They want paper tax returns by 31 October 2017 for these cases. They’ve not explained what accountants (and taxpayers) should do if they work the records just before the 31 January 2018 filing deadline (for electronic returns), and then discover that one of these two scenarios is an issue. Then you’ll need a time machine to go back to October and get your paper tax return submitted on time.

It’s not the fault of the software houses, it’s HMRC’s fault! The software houses spotted the errors last year. And, the software houses could rewrite their own software now and get it right. However, if HMRC don’t change their internal software, things will go horribly wrong. These software houses are required to produce tax return software which abides by the sample calculations set by HMRC. If their software doesn’t follow HMRC’s computational rules, then the tax return will be rejected by HMRC’s system.

One alternative is to use the software to submit a tax return with an incorrect calculation and pay more tax than you have to! “Couldn’t we just do that, and file the tax return electronically, and then just pay what we think is the right tax” I hear you ask? Theoretically “yes” and then you’ll have a battle to fight with both the Inspector of Taxes (ah, but you self assessed and you chose that allocation of allowances) and with the Collector of Taxes (ah, but you must pay what you said in your self assessment).

You don’t want to go down the route of arguing with HMRC. It’s hellish, time consuming, soul destroying stuff and we regularly have to deal with that. Sometimes it seems like half our working week is consumed by us trying to get HMRC to do their job properly!

The second alternative is to file on paper after the 31 October 2017 deadline and get an automatic £100 late filing penalty!

We’re all going to be filing on paper for 2016/17. And we’re all going to be doing that before the 31 October 2017 deadline. At Proactive we won’t know if your income fits Scenario 1 or Scenario 2 until after you give us your records. And we’re not going to risk getting cases like these arising after 31 October 2017.

And “no” we’re not going to state the values of A, B, and C, and X, Y and Z because half of you will say “ah, well I’m OK then” when you could quite easily have overlooked something. Don’t laugh! It happens far more often than you realise! You will need to help us to get your paper tax return done before 31 October 2017 or you will need to find a different accountant.

That may seem draconian, but it’s the only way to guarantee that everything is done correctly, is done uniformly, and is done on time. It’s a bit like “always comply with the speed limit and you’ll never have to pay a speeding fine”. Guaranteed! Safe! Put it in your diary now, please let us have your records by July 2017 at the latest!

Public Sector Bodies and Freelancers and IR35

On Saturday 21 Jan 2017 the National Audit Office in Victoria opened its doors to a range of geeks and devotees, both within and beyond Government, for the now annual unconference called UKGovCamp. This one was special, the 10th event, and there was a considerable buzz among the 220 participants.

Somehow, my session ended up in a very early slot (one of eight concurrent streams) and a small, intense discussion of IR35 took place.

This is an extremely complex subject. I have recently concluded an IR35 enquiry for a client. It took over 4 years and we won. One firm in Bristol who specialise in IR35 enquiries proudly claim to have won 1,498 out of 1,500 cases they’ve worked on. At the moment I’m happy with “played one, won one” and a tentative claim to a 100% success rate! HMRC are (allegedly) working 600 cases per year, and that’s as much as they can do with the staff at that section.

Anyway, you cannot rely on one session from UKGovcamp, nor this one blogpost, to tell you the full story. And every case is different so you need to get specialist advice. What I am going to focus on here is the changes which are due for 6 Apr 2017 and which relate to freelancers who work in Public Sector Bodies.

The Scales of Justice

The law on this comes from two pieces of legislation:

These rules are collectively known as “IR35” because that was the number of the 1999 press release which foretold this nightmare.

The relevant bits that you need are sections 48 to 61 of ITEPA and all of the Social Security Regs (fortunately that has only 11 sections). The most salient detail is to be found at s49 of ITEPA and s6 of the Social Security Regs. The dialogue is almost identical in each piece of legislation, and I will explain the subtle difference later on. For now, you just need to read the rules below and where it says “intermediary” think “freelance limited company”.

The bullet points

Here’s what you need from the Social Security Regs:

6–(1) These Regulations apply where–

(a) an individual (“the worker”) personally performs, or is under an obligation personally to perform, services for the purposes of a business carried on by another person (“the client”),

(b) the performance of those services by the worker is carried out, not under a contract directly between the client and the worker, but under arrangements involving an intermediary, and

(c) the circumstances are such that, had the arrangements taken the form of a contract between the worker and the client, the worker would be regarded for the purposes of Parts I to V of the Contributions and Benefits Act as employed in employed earner’s employment by the client .

The Case Law

It’s sub section (c) above about “the circumstances” which leads to the inevitable debate about whether a freelancer is truly freelance or is in “disguised employment” and is caught by the IR35 rules.

The most poignant piece of case law which helps us interpret sub section (c) is:

  • Ready Mixed Concrete(South East) Ltd v Minister of Pensions and National Insurance 1968

This case came out in favour of the worker who was truly freelance, and in his judgement Justice MacKenna set out three tests of how we are to decide if somebody is an employee or not. The three tests in the Ready Mix case can be summarised as . . .

  • Personal service must be provided by the worker; and
  • The engager has a right of control of the worker; and
  • Mutuality of obligation must exist.

If you can show that any one of these three tests is failed, then you are not an employee.

What’s changed as at 6 Apr 2017?

The core legislation hasn’t changed and the case law hasn’t changed. If you were not caught by IR35 before 6 Apr 2017 then, in theory, you are not caught by IR35 from 6 Apr 2017.

What has changed is the decision maker, but only in cases where the worker is working on the premises of a Public Sector Body. Will this later be extended to the private sector? Officially HMRC says they have no plans to do so. The accountancy profession respond to that with a collective and cynical “oh yeah?”

If HMRC can make these rules work in the Public Sector Body then I have no doubt that they will be extended to all engagements involving freelancers.

Under the old rules, it was the responsibility of the freelance worker who decided if the IR35 rules applied. Usually that involved a discussion with his or her accountant, but in law, the responsibility remained that of the freelance worker.

Under the new proposed rules “a person at the Public Sector Body” where the worker is working, will have to make the decision. Somebody on the premises! The rules commence at s.6 Finance Act 2017 and are set out in detail at Schedule 1 to that Act.

The new rules on the decision maker are set out in a new Chapter 10 to be added to Part 2 to of ITEPA 2003. It’s not in the 2003 Act on the legislation.gov.uk web site so the only place we can read about the new section 61T is in The Finance Act 2017. In effect s.61T(1) says that the engager (referred to as “the client” in the legislation) has to tell the end worker that “a conclusion” on status has been made and what that conclusion is.

That is what is changing. It’s not the freelancer, not the recruitment consultant (if there is one involved) but somebody in a payroll office or finance department of a Public Sector Body who will have to “certify” that the freelancer is genuinely freelance, otherwise they will have to operate PAYE on all the income of the freelancer. Early discussions of these changes indicated that the recruitment consultant will make the decision. Later discussions show that this has changed, as the recruitment consultant will not have first hand knowledge of what precise arrangements exist in the workplace. It’s going to be a government worker on government premises who makes the decision.

To help them there will be a new online “status checker” tool. It’s being written by HMRC, so you can guess what sort of bias it’s going to have, and apparently it will be available by the end of January 2017. [Update – then they said “on 20 Feb 2017” then they said “end of Feb 2017” . . . ]

The online tool was finally released at 4pm on 2 Mar 2017. Instead of the clear Yes/No answer that we were all expecting, it sometimes gives a “don’t know”. It has been tried out with a number of famous “stated cases” and it does not always give the same answer that the Tax Tribunals arrived at! Try it if you wish:

https://www.tax.service.gov.uk/check-employment-status-for-tax/setup

In short, somebody at your school, your GP practice, your library, or your ministry is going to understand all of this and certify that you are truly freelance. Yeah? Pull the other one! Whether it’s a smaller or larger Public Sector Body I allege that nobody will risk their own role by making “a wrong decision” and upsetting the powers that be.

This is going to prove very tricky for any freelancer who was “truly freelance” before 6 Apr 2017 and who discovers that apparently they are now not “truly freelance” and therefore presumably were not “truly freelance” before! Quite a few more tax office enquiries will start later this year!

Here’s a suggestion, if you have to make that decision in your public sector body you might decline to do so, on the grounds that you have insufficient legal training to make such a complex decision.

The New Scales of Justice

Where is the new legislation? I can’t find it!

It’s not in the Finance Act 2015 nor the Finance (No. 2) Act 2015 following George Osborne’s announcement of these rules in the 2015 Budget.

It’s not in the Finance Act 2016 which would have had it firmly in place by 6 Apr 2017. And although, in his 2016 autumn statement, Philip Hammond talked about Public Sector workers paying proper taxes, there is no sign of a Finance (No. 2) Act 2016.

We shall have to wait until after the 2017 Budget on 8 Mar 2017 and the Finance Bill 2017 in order to see the rules in black and white. In a normal year the Finance Bill secures Royal assent in about August and then becomes the Finance Act. That assumes that it gets through the committee stages and The Lords without amendment. If you’re unhappy about the proposed new rules contact your MP now.

As the date of UKGovcamp on 21 Jan 2017 all we have is a “consultation process” and an 87 page PDF from HMRC dated 26 May 2016. And a lot of newer memos circulating in the accounting sector and on “paid for” subscription services.

But there is no clarity.

What will I be paid?

Yep! Good question! And even the payroll software industry doesn’t know. I buy payroll software every March, as I need the upgrade before the March payrolls are run, in order that the April payrolls start correctly.

Software houses need to ship the product by mid March at the latest, but nobody knows exactly what the new rules are. What we do know is that:

  1. payroll software pays individuals
  2. payroll software has never before had to pay freelance limited companies
  3. freelance contracts with limited companies provide no date of birth and no national insurance number
  4. payroll software requires either a date of birth or a national insurance number otherwise it won’t work – it won’t know which National Insurance table to use!
  5. workers with relevant student loans have their student loan repayments taken under PAYE
  6. “deemed workers” under these new rules will be liable for income tax and National Insurance under PAYE but will be liable for student loan repayments on their own Self Assessment tax returns and not via PAYE.
  7. payroll software to date has never had to distinguish between liable and not liable for student loan repayments on the basis of “deemed worker” status.
  8. any payroll clerk who gets a form SL1 for you just logs it into the software, because that’s what the rules say.
  9. payrolls are subject to Real Time Information – HMRC gets a packet of data on the day the payroll is run – so this all has to work by pay day in April 2017.
  10. the first weekly payrolls of 2017/18 will be run on or before Friday 7 Apr 2017.
  11. salaries are outside the scope of VAT, but many freelancers are VAT registered and add 20% on to their invoices
  12. payroll software has never had a mechanism to handle VAT because salaries are outside the scope of VAT!
  13. it seems that finance depatments automatically know this and will now just pay you the 20% VAT without paying the net figure from your invoice, because they are naturally clairvoyant!

And, some low paid payroll clerk in some Public Sector Body is not going to worry too much about how accurate the payroll calculations are, they’re just going to somehow do it. In my own experience of working in the Public Sector and in the Private Sector, no payroll clerk has ever taken much interest in getting anything exactly right, other than making sure that their own net pay is correct!

And what will it cost the Public Sector Body? An extra 13.8% in employer’s National Insurance. So whatever their budget is now, they will have to find an extra 13.8% in order to pay their freelance workers (or “deemed workers”). Wait a moment! No! There’s VAT on top of that! So an extra 20% of 13.8% effectively makes the employer’s National Insurance bill 16.56%.

This is moving from the ridiculous to the sublime!

Maybe the recruitment consultancy (if there is one) will cover that extra National Insurance bill! You bet! And they will increase the fee to the Public Sector Body proportionately.

And by the way, “deemed workers” will not be entitled to SSP, SMP, holidays and all the other trappings that you get from being an employee. Just all the taxes with none of the advantages.

The perverse nature of all these rules means that Public Sector Bodies will have all of their workers on an equal footing when it comes to PAYE costs (but no employment obligations). The big problem is that it will cost Public Sector Bodies an extra 20% to engage any freelancer who is VAT registered. And that’s because Public Sector Bodies are not businesses that “make taxable supplies” and are not able to recover the VAT. Have you been told that? Have you included that in your departmental budget for the next year?

Yeah, well thought out George Osborne and Philip Hammond!

Appeals

The good news is that if you’re unhappy with a decision that treats you as a “deemed worker” and not a freelancer, you can appeal . . . to an Employment Tribunal. That’ll take time! The “tribunal stage” of the IR35 case that I recently won took 18 months.

The bad news is that if you want to appeal to a Tribunal, then you will have to wait until after the end of the tax year. So, no appeals on these new rules until April 2018 at the earliest! And based on my expereince no ruling until 18 months after that, making it October 2019 by the time you get an answer to your April 2017 question!

Wiggle room

What scope is there for steering the decision making process? Colin Bishopp points you to some wiggle room. The minor difference between . . .

  • s.49 Income Tax (Earnings and Pensions) Act 2003
  • s.6 Social Security Contributions (intermediaries) Regulations 2000

. . . is that section 6 of the Social Security Regs gets a specific mention in another stated case which was heard before Colin Bishopp, a Special Commissioner for HMRC.

  • Usetech Ltd v HM Inspector of Taxes [2004]

Colin Bishopp said:

“when that analysis shows that those two sub-paragraphs are satisfied sub-paragraph (c) involves an exercise of constructing a hypothetical contract which did not in fact exist”.

And what that means for us is that, in order to come up with a decision about status under IR35, somebody has to prepare a hypothetical contract.

Your first questions about any new freelance engagements in the Public Sector should now be:

“Can I please have a copy of the hypothetical contract that was drawn up in order to evaluate Reg 6.(1)(c) of the Social Security Contributions (intermediaries) Regulations 2000?”

“Who drew it up, and on what date, and what position do they hold in which organisation?”

Let me know how you get on with that. I genuinely would like to know! It’s the sort of document that you’ll need at Tribunal.

Sledgehammer Policy

The Government doesn’t do joined up thinking.

The conversation in the room at the end of the session can be summed up by saying:

  1. give up on freelancing in the public sector
  2. move to the private sector
  3. let that particular public sector body suffer from under staffing
  4. the more they suffer the better, it will make government rethink the rules
  5. some public sector bodies would seize up if all the freelancers left
  6. alternatively, just take a PAYE job directly with the public sector body (with the added safeguards of all the employee law)

The worst thing that can happen is that the freelancer community succumbs to the new rules, accepts lower take home pay and signals to the Government that the policy works. That will lead to the imposition of similar rules on the private sector within a year or two. This is another “poll tax” moment and requires a commensurate reaction.

And if you are inclined to just “go on payroll” you will need a large salary to give you the same disposable income you were accustomed to as a freelancer.

We’ll take the example of a software developer on a day rate of £500 who worked a full year. That’s 233 work days allowing for weekends off, bank holidays off, and 4 weeks holiday. The equivalent annual income at £500 a day is £116,500. The equivalent PAYE salary, to give you the same net as a freelance worker would be £242,700.

Do you work in finance in a public sector body? Here are the figures for you:

  • Freelancer: 116,500 plus 20% VAT plus the recruitment agency fees
  • Equivalent employee: 242,700 plus 13.8% employer’s National Insurance

In short, think of a number and double it. I want £500 a day as a freelancer or £1,000 a day as an employee.

To date, budgets in public sector bodies have been based on the premise that you can get freelancers much more cheaply than you can get staff. I can’t believe that George Osborne and Philip Hammond did not already know this. Or have they secretly been plotting to destroy the NHS and other public sector bodies, whilst trying to deflect the blame onto “greedy” freelancers who want ridiculous salaries?

Makes you think? Doesn’t it? The government appear to be trying to crack a nut with a sledgehammer. They’re more likely to be shooting themselves in the foot.

I suppose we could all emigrate?

I really enjoyed UKGovCamp this year!

HMRC System Borked

Late on Thursday 23 Jun 2016, we tried to submit a number of Corporation Tax returns for clients. The data went in (apparently), but the normal response did not come back. We tried again early on Friday with the same blank result.

According to Acorah, our software supplier, this issue (experienced by many accountants) was raised with HMRC on Friday, and whilst the data has arrived on the HMRC systems, it is only the “result” message which is failing. We checked the HMRC status page on both Thursday and Friday and it said the systems were all working normally. It still says “full service available” even though there is clearly something wrong.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/corporation-tax-service-availability-and-issues/corporation-tax-service-availability-and-issues

So we tried again on Monday, and again just now (approx 11.30am on Tuesday 28 Jun 2016). This time Acorah has provided an alert window to put us in the picture.

Anyway, HMRC haven’t updated us or Acorah and so we don’t know when we can return to normal patterns of work. Apologies if you’re waiting on a confirmation of submission! So are we!

Buy To Let – new tax rules

Two new sets of rules come into force over the next few years.

No more “10% Wear and Tear” allowance

The allowance is being abolished. Starting on 6 Apr 2016, landlords who rent out furnished accommodation will no longer be able to claim the flat rate 10% allowance every year, and instead will be permitted only to claim the actual costs of like-for-like renewals and replacements.

Restriction of loan interest relief

Over a three year period, starting on 6 Apr 2017, the amount of tax relief you can claim for loan interest paid, will be gradually reduced so that by 6 April 2020 landlords who let out residential property (in their own name) will no longer be able to claim the full amount of loan interest relief.

Taken to extremes this may mean that you end up paying tax based on your gross rents, rather than on your rental profit. Let’s consider this hypothetical case of a property being let out in the 2020/21 tax year. We’ll assume that there is an annual income from rent of £25,000 and that the loan interest on an enormous mortgage also comes to £25,000 per year. For simplicity’s sake we will assume that there are no other allowable costs.

Under the current 2015/16 rules the loan interest of £25,000 is set against the rental income of £25,000 leading to a taxable profit of NIL and a tax bill of NIL.

Under the 2020/21 rules the loan interest of £25,000 is disallowed in full, meaning that the rental income of £25,000 (and the absence of other costs) will lead to a taxable profit of £25,000. Assuming a tax rate of 40% that potentially means an income tax bill of £10,000. And having used up your £25,000 of rental income to pay the lender the interest of £25,000 you are faced with a real profit of NIL on which HMRC can still legally demand tax. To soften the blow, there is a restricted relief (see table below) equivalent to basic rate tax relief. However, the result is a real tax bill of £5,000 on a real profit of NIL.

Nobody knows how you’re going to find a £5,000 tax payment if all the income was spent on loan interest!

Beware that some property web sites are saying that the “restricted interest relief” means that basic rate taxpayers won’t be affected. However, they will be affected if the amount of the “Taxable profit”, not the “Real profit”, takes them into the higher rates of tax (see table below). In the past, tax computations used the “Real profit” figure in order to work out which rate band you were in. From now on the legislation is changing so that the tax computations will use the “Taxable profit”.

That’s a subtle but important difference which some property web sites have failed to understand. To put it another way (and subject to transitional rules) your tax rate bands are now established before loan interest is factored in, rather than after loan interest is factored in.

Look carefully at the “real profit” line and the “taxable profit” line in this five year projection:

OK, so this is all hypothetical, but substitute your own figures into that table and you’ll see that almost all residential property landlords will end up paying more tax. The exception will be for landlords who already own a property outright and pay no interest. They will presumably already be used to paying tax on their rental income and will notice no material difference. And, any landlords with pitiful rental income and pitiful other income (who stay wholly within the basic rate band) will also be unaffected.

In the three intervening years 2017/18 and 2018/19 and 2019/20 the 100% withdrawal of the allowably of loan interest will be phased in, in 25% tranches, meaning that in:

  • 2017/18– 25% of the loan interest is disallowed, with a basic rate tax reduction applied to that 25%
  • 2018/19– 50% of the loan interest is disallowed, with a basic rate tax reduction applied to that 50%
  • 2019/20– 75% of the loan interest is disallowed, with a basic rate tax reduction applied to that 75%
  • 2020/21– 100% of the loan interest is disallowed, with a basic rate tax reduction applied to that 100%

There is no similar rule for companies which let out residential properties, and the current incarnation of the new rules applies only to individual landlords. As a result, landlords with an existing portfolio and who are likely to have additional tax to pay under the proposals have to consider how best to cope with this measure – whether to:

  • Sell up, or
  • Transfer the property into a limited company (which would involve paying Stamp Duty Land Tax and potentially Capital Gains Tax on the sale – as well as arranging a new mortgage), or
  • Do nothing and pay any additional tax.

Beware that a number of Property Websites may now be offering solutions which lead to you incorporating a limited company. As things stand, that will mitigate the problem, but as things stand, there is nothing to prevent The Chancellor from applying similar rules to limited companies in his next Budget!

Lastly, with effect from 6 Apr 2020, landlords will have to provide quarterly reports of their income and expenses. That creates the paradoxical situation where the 2019/20 SA return will not be due until 31 Jan 2021 but the later “first quarter report” for 6 Apr – 5 Jul 2020 will presumably be due sooner, and most likely within one calendar month of the quarter end, meaning that it becomes due on 5 Aug 2020. That’s how quarterly VAT returns work, and we’re guessing that’s how “quarterly lettings returns” will work too.

Footnote

This report was modified on 4 Dec 2015 to show how the restricted interest relief works.

We also learnt on 4 Dec 2015 that major banks (and finance houses) are sufficiently worried by these new rules (and a possible loss of business), that they are looking at ways to facilitate landlords to move from private ownership to corporate ownership of residential properties. There are no “products” on the market yet, but they may come.

Where is BX9 1BX? What happens to HMRC post?

Have you had a letter from HMRC with the new BX9 1BX address? Did you write back to it? What happened to your letter?

BX9 1BX is an artificial post code and it’s not on the Royal Mail database. It’s a mail handling facility operated by HMRC in Bexley, Kent. Letters are opened and scanned and electronically dispatched to other HMRC offices. Occasionally, bulky items are forwarded as originals (using internal mail) to the HMRC office which is to deal with them.

In Jun 2006 we adopted a policy of sending all communications to HMRC by Special Delivery, because they fail to handle phone calls well, and they tend to lose ordinary mail. They also routinely fail to sign for Recorded Delivery letters so it has to be Special Delivery. When all of the offices consolidated a few years back, we resorted to using this main address for nearly all the mail we send to HMRC:

HM Revenue and Customs
Benton Park View
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE98 1ZZ

That’s another mail handling facility just like the one in Bexley. Interestingly, the HMRC web site tells couriers to always use the Newcastle address.

You can check that web page here. Incidentally, the NE98 1ZZ postcode is on the Royal Mail database.

So this letter really amused us:

Perhaps somebody should let Mrs L Whittle know?

Child Benefit is now a Tax Return issue

New rules governing the entitlement to child benefit come into force on 7 Jan 2013.

Until now, child benefit has never been means tested and has always been paid to the mother of the child. If your household income exceeds £50,000 then the chances are that the child benefit will be clawed back from you, in stages, so that by the time your household income exceeds £60,000 the whole amount of your child benefit may be reduced to Nil.

The rules (as you might expect) are not quite as simple as that, and what is going to happen in some cases is that a man may have to repay child benefit which their spouse/partner has received, even if the child in question is not his child. That also means that as accountants we will have to ask you a few searching personal questions after 5 Apr 2013 in order to be able to work out which figures go into which box on your tax return. And your spouse/partner may need to give you the details so that you can give them to us!