HMRC defends efforts to promote Making Tax Digital

HM Revenue & Customs defended its efforts to raise awareness of Making Tax Digital for VAT after a leading accountancy body warned that many businesses remain unaware of the programme…

“The lack of awareness among businesses about MTD is of concern and needs to be addressed. The communications on MTD do not appear to be getting through to VAT-registered businesses,” said Anita Monteith, ICAEW’s technical tax manager, in a September 13 release.

HMRC published on July 13, during the survey period, a new VAT notice setting out the digital record-keeping and return requirements and a communications pack intended to “provide stakeholders with information to support businesses that need to make the transition” …

“Since the ICAEW’s survey was completed, we have been increasing our promotion of MTD and our guidance published in July has received over 150,000 views,” an HMRC spokesman told Tax Notes. Read more:

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), September 14

HMRC warns of customs and VAT impact of no-deal Brexit

HM Revenue & Customs has alerted 145,000 businesses that trade only with EU countries to changes that would have an immediate impact in the event of a no-deal Brexit in March 2019.

HMRC sent separate letters, signed by Deputy Chief Executive Jim Harra, to VAT-registered businesses based in Northern Ireland and those based elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

For businesses outside Northern Ireland, HMRC confirmed that in a no-deal Brexit scenario, those trading with the European Union only would have to start completing customs declarations from March 2019, and that customs checks would be applied for the first time. Read more:

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), September 14

HMRC: Letters on ‘no deal’ Brexit advice for businesses only trading with the EU, September 13

UK finance bill inquiry examines HMRC powers

A House of Lords committee’s inquiry into the draft finance bill is seeking evidence of “perceived unfairness” in UK tax policy or enforcement …

The Lords Economic Affairs Committee re-established its Finance Bill Subcommittee on September 4. The subcommittee will examine developments in the balance of powers and safeguards between HM Revenue & Customs and taxpayers, it announced on September 12. It requested written submissions by October 1 …

Before the summer parliamentary recess, the House of Commons Treasury Committee and Treasury Subcommittee published written evidence submitted to inquiries into the VAT systemtax avoidance and evasion, and the conduct of tax inquiries and disputes. Read more:

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), September 13

House of Lords Economic Affairs Finance Bill Sub-Committee: Call for evidence, September 12

UK seeks public support for post-Brexit trade agreements

The UK government has no desire to push through trade agreements without public support, a minister told peers debating the Trade Bill as UK and US trade officials met in London …

The Trade Bill, setting out measures enabling the UK government to develop a post-Brexit trade policy, passed its second reading in the House of Lords after seven hours of debate on September 11 … Rona Fairhead, minister of state at the Department for International Trade, told peers that the bill is intended to provide “continuity of the existing trade agreements that we already have through the EU, and the certainty that this gives to businesses and our trading partners.” Read more:

My news story for Tax Notes (paywall), September 13

Lords Hansard: Trade Bill second reading, September 11

HMRC’s approach to disputes worsens backlog, tax bodies say

HM Revenue & Customs seems eager to litigate rather than accept reasonable arguments in tax disputes, even when the prospects of success are “less than 50 per cent,” according to the Chartered Institute of Taxation. The “unwelcome trend” is adding to a growing backlog of appeals for tax tribunals, the CIOT said in response to the House of Commons Treasury Subcommittee’s inquiry into the conduct of tax investigations and the resolution of tax disputes.

My news story of July 6 for Tax Notes (paywall) is now reproduced in full with permission:

HMRC’s Approach to Disputes Worsens Backlog, Tax Bodies Say (pdf)

As I reported, HMRC officials and CIOT president Ray McCann were scheduled to give evidence to the subcommittee’s inquiry on July 9. The evidence session was postponed following the resignations of Brexit secretary David Davis and foreign secretary Boris Johnson over the July 6 Chequers agreement:

A personal tax roadmap would help address complexity, says OTS

Misunderstandings remain about UK taxation of savings income, but a personal tax roadmap would help address its significant complexities, the Office of Tax Simplification said last month.

A range of tax reliefs to encourage saving works well for most taxpayers, and 95 percent of people pay no tax on savings income, the OTS said. But the interaction between rates and allowances is so complex that HMRC’s self-assessment computer software has sometimes “failed to get it right,” the OTS pointed out in a 50-page report titled Savings Income: Routes to Simplification.

My news story of May 29 for Tax Notes (paywall) is now reproduced in full with permission: U.K. Office of Tax Simplification Calls for Personal Tax Roadmap (pdf).

A tax compliance update for Tolley’s Tax Digest

My tax compliance update for the May 2018 issue of Tolley’s Tax Digest starts like this:

This Digest draws together and summarises the primary and secondary legislation, and draft income tax and VAT notices, relating to HMRC’s Making Tax Digital project. At the time of writing some commentators had suggested that the implementation of Making Tax Digital for VAT might be deferred in the light of pressures created by the Brexit process, but no announcement had been made. The Office of Tax Simplification recommended in April 2018 ‘urgent work’ to simplify the business tax system. Continue reading A tax compliance update for Tolley’s Tax Digest

Charity Tax Commission invites comments on effectiveness of tax reliefs

An independent commission reviewing the UK’s tax treatment of charities has suggested that Brexit may present opportunities for addressing several issues. The Charity Tax Commission, which the NCVO established in October 2017, has invited comments by July 6.

Tax reliefs for charities are estimated to be worth £3.8 billion a year, and reliefs for donors are worth £1.5 billion, according to the commission.

My news story of March 19 for Tax Notes (paywall) is now reproduced in full with permission:

UK charity body launches review of tax breaks (PDF)

Old versions of tax law on government website – an update

Last week HM Revenue & Customs apologised for linking to some very old legislation, in a guidance note on new criminal offences, and removed the offending links. HMRC guidance at GOV.UK does not normally include statutory references, but if that is going to change there is a clear risk that the same mistake will be made again.

Legislation.gov.uk is described as “the official place of publication for newly enacted legislation”. Great care is needed in relation to older tax legislation, including some of the major consolidation Acts.

For example, go to Income Tax Act 2007 and you’ll see a prominent warning about an apparently very large number of changes that have not yet been processed. Continue reading Old versions of tax law on government website – an update

HMRC guidance points to old tax law

You can find out about criminal offences relating to offshore income and assets in a new guidance note on HMRC’s website. But the guidance points to some very old tax law.

While HMRC guidance for taxpayers published on GOV.UK does not normally include statutory references, this guidance note has six.

At the time of writing, there are links to sections 7 and 8 of the Taxes Management Act 1970 as reproduced at Legislation.gov.uk, the “official place of publication for newly enacted legislation”.


UPDATE 22 March: HMRC has deleted the links to sections 7 and 8 and apologised for the error.


The problem is that while some progress has been made in processing changes enacted in annual finance acts, Legislation.gov.uk still presents the original versions of some of the key consolidation acts. The original TMA 1970, which turned 48 last week, is here. Continue reading HMRC guidance points to old tax law

Designing good compliance into the tax system

HM Revenue & Customs estimates the total UK tax gap, the difference between the tax collected and the amount that should be collected “in theory”, at £34bn. Just £1.7bn relates to avoidance (excluding international tax planning strategies such as profit shifting, which are being addressed slowly but multilaterally), and £6bn relates to interpretation of the law.

In contrast, criminal attacks account for around £5bn and evasion another £5bn, while £3.5bn is attributed to the “hidden economy”.

Read more: My article for AAT Comment, 12 January

Tax is really complex, but where is the law?

The Scottish budget has heaped more complexity on an already complex income tax system. There are to be two new rates for taxpayers on low and middle incomes.

Already, a UK taxpayer may have income that is charged at default rates, savings rates and Scottish rates. These rates include:

the default basic rate, the default higher rate, the default additional rate, the savings basic rate, the savings higher rate, the savings additional rate, the starting rate for savings, the savings nil rate, the dividend nil rate, the dividend ordinary rate, the dividend upper rate, and the dividend additional rate …

That list is drawn from a quick look at sections 6 to 16 of the Income Tax Act 2007, as revised, published in Tolley’s Yellow Tax Handbook. (Other handbooks are available.) Continue reading Tax is really complex, but where is the law?