Play it 'Tax Safe'

Hardly a month seems to go by where there is not another push by HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to collect unpaid tax by having a campaign against those traders who do not suffer tax on their earnings.  Recently electricians were added to the growing list which includes those with offshore bank accounts and those in the medical profession who are encouraged by HMRC to make an early disclosure of their untaxed income in exchange for a lower penalty.  If after the campaign has finished HMRC discovers that someone in these groups has not made a disclosure then they will face a much higher penalty when HMRC catches up with them.

Similar campaigns have been running for a number of years. Last year plumbers came under scrutiny and it was reported at the end of that campaign there had been a very low take up of HMRC’s offer.  However, in August it was confirmed that five plumbers would be taken to court and 600 would be facing civil investigations.

The understanding of tax obligations is assumed for all individuals who start a business and this can be the cause of at least some of the problems that can occur.  Many people who run a business are so concerned with ensuring that there is a continuing demand for the product or service they are selling, sorting out financing for the business and dealing with an ever growing raft of other legislation, that often their own tax affairs are understandably forgotten.  However, forgetting your obligations is not a reasonable excuse.

HMRC can start an enquiry for no reason whatsoever and when the letter falls through your letter box telling you they are intending to look through your affairs it can feel like you’ve been singled out.  The letter may give some clue as to what HMRC’s concerns are in relation to your affairs, perhaps asking for details of your bank interest, or of a capital gain.  It is not unusual though for the letter to ask for a great deal of business and personal information and so the focus of the enquiry is unclear.  The most important thing to do is to draw this information together and submit it in good time to allow the HMRC to review it and clarify the problem areas. 

Obtaining professional advice on enquiries can be money well spent.  Securing the services of a professional adviser with a great deal of experience in dealing with such enquiries can help you deal with the exchanges of letters, requests for further information and meetings aimed at bringing the enquiry to a close.  If you add into this the need to continue to run your business effectively then all of this can be a drain on your business and so a professional adviser can take this additional stress.

There is a set format for an enquiry as each will be individual and will be subject to the facts but with a new campaign against e-market traders, such as those on eBay, starting soon there is a very real need for people who haven’t declared all their income to get the advice they need now before its too late. 

Graham Poles
Tax Director

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