With the UK’s tax debt more than double pre-pandemic levels, current staffing at HMRC is unlikely to be enough to manage the increased tax debt workload warns National Audit Office (NAO)
A report by the NAO states that even though HMRC intends to recruit 1,000 full-time staff in 2021-22 to tackle debt collection, the tax authority has confirmed that this will only address the current staff shortfall once turnover is factored in. The current shortfall is expected to be around 300 full-time staff.
Between March 2014 and March 2020 HMRC cut the number of staff working on debt management by 18%, around 880 full-time staff, going from a team of 4,857 to 3,975.
In the years leading up to the Covid-19 pandemic, HMRC claimed that it made ‘efficiency gains’ with the new telephony system and business process reengineering helping it deliver efficiencies equivalent to over 900 staff.
With this, the tax authority maintained its rate of debt collection at around two-thirds of new debt created each year. However, the NAO highlighted that HMRC has written off more tax debt as uncollectable in recent years, over the two years from 2018-19 and 2019-20, it wrote off or remitted around £9bn, around £1bn more than over the previous two years.
HMRC forecasts show that by the end of March 2022 tax debt will be around £33bn, after it reached £42bn in September 2021 and peaked at £67bn in August 2020. The level of tax debt in January 2020 was half of the predicted figure for March at £16bn.
The NAO report stated that this suggested that HMRC could have achieved more with a greater capacity of staff, however at this current level HMRC ‘still faces a significant challenge in clearing the backlog’.
The NAO has estimated that up to 2.4m more taxpayers are in debt to HMRC, when comparing September 2021 with January 2020 the average amount taxpayers owed increased to £6,800 from £4,300. Older debts, which are often more difficult to collect, have increased in value from £2.5bn in 2019-20 to £4.4bn in 2020-21.
Gareth Davies, head of the NAO, said: ‘HMRC faces several years of managing a far greater level of tax debt than it has seen in recent times, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Some debtors have already been able to repay their tax debt quickly, but an unknown number of taxpayers have been badly affected and will struggle to do so. HMRC needs to significantly increase its capacity if it is to meet the changed scale and nature of the challenge.’
An HMRC spokesperson told Accountancy Daily: ‘We are pleased the NAO report recognises how HMRC has supported businesses and individuals in debt throughout the pandemic, such as offering affordable instalment arrangements.
‘Debt to HMRC grew significantly during 2020 to a peak of £72bn in August as a result of the various factors including the economic impact of the pandemic and the government’s decision to support businesses by deferring VAT liabilities.
‘Debt has fallen significantly since the peak to £44bn in September 2021, of which around £4.6bn is already in Time to Pay instalment arrangements.
‘We expect it to fall further as HMRC is recruiting over 1,000 people this year to work in our debt management function and we will continue to take, an understanding and supportive approach to dealing with businesses and individuals in debt to pay back what they owe in an affordable way.’
The NAO said that HMRC ‘lacks a sufficiently detailed understanding of its activity to identify the resources needed to optimise debt collection’.
It added that the tax office does not have a ‘comprehensive breakdown’ of the effectiveness or return on investment of different debt management activities which means that HMRC is ‘unable to identify’ which resources have the most impact.
The tax authority has recognised that it needs to improve its understanding and is currently developing a tool that will help it identify how long each stage of contact with taxpayers takes and what the outcomes are.
HMRC has stated that it plans to prioritise which debts to chase based on the likely impact of the pandemic on the ability to pay. However, those whose ability to pay was considered the least impacted often had larger debts, the NAO said.
The NAO added that HMRC urgently needs to develop a ‘revised strategy for recovering tax debt’ which would consider the varying impacts of the pandemic on different taxpayers and identify which are more able to pay and those most severely affected.
The report also states that new debtors will ‘require more support in the short term to agree on payment plans’ and that HMRC needs to maintain regular contact with these taxpayers with the NAO describing it as ‘a critical factor in recovering debt’.
HMRC stated that it is currently developing better data analytics and has stronger legal powers for collection, including preferential creditor status for some taxes.
These new tools and powers are expected to help it bring in around £300m a year in debt between 2021-22 and 2023-24 and plans to increase the capacity are expected to bring in over £1.2bn a year between 2021-22 and 2023-24. HMRC states that this will be due to ‘making greater use of private sector partners’.
However, even with these improvements HMRC’s estimates of the additional debt it will collect fall far short of the increase in debt from the pandemic.
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Corporation Tax Rises and National Insurance Rises were announced in his Covid budget earlier in the year.
2. Protecting jobs and livelihoods
3. Strengthening the public finances
4. An investment-led recovery
5. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland
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The government’s recent announcement that it would increase both the dividend tax and National Insurance by 1.25% has been described as another blow to business owners, particularly those that are already struggling because of supply chain disruption, labour shortages and the ongoing impact of the pandemic.
What are dividends?
A dividend is a payment of profits (after corporation tax) to shareholders of a company. Business owners can pay themselves through a salary or dividend, or a combination of the two. Profits extracted from the company can be spent freely, whereas funds reinvested must be applied wholly and exclusively for the benefit of the company.
What are the benefits of paying yourself dividends from your company?
From a tax perspective, it has historically been beneficial to extract income in the form of dividends, as dividends have attracted lower rates of income tax than being paid a salary. Additionally, each person has a tax-free dividend allowance (currently £2,000) which means that tax is only payable on dividends above this rate. This allowance is on top of the income tax personal allowance, so it can be advantageous to utilise these allowances by taking income as a combination of both salary and dividends.
Investors should check their other investments where dividends are received, as these may mean that part or all of the tax-free dividend allowance for the given period has been used. It is sometimes possible to pay dividends to your spouse to access their tax allowances, if they are a full shareholder in their own right.
Paying yourself a dividend (as opposed to a salary), will be exempt from National Insurance contributions for both you and the company/employer. However, a dividend is paid out of profits after corporation tax, and so business owners should take advice to ensure their position is optimised. With tax rates going up it is sensible to consider taking dividends in the current tax year, before the tax rises take effect.
Who benefits from dividend payments?
Dividends are currently taxed at lower rates than a salary, with a top dividend rate of 38.1% (rising to 39.35% from 1 April 2022), compared with a top salary tax rate of 45%. But dividends are paid after corporation tax, which of course is also increasing to a 25% headline rate in 2023 (but with marginal relief between £50,000 and £250,000 of company profits).
Business must be making a profit (after tax) to make dividend payments. Provided this is the case, one way in which companies can benefit from paying dividends is through shareholder loyalty and retention of investors.
From the viewpoint of an external investor, a big advantage of receiving a dividend is that it is money 'in the bank' and represents a return on investment. In times where stock prices may go up and down, the payment of dividends can provide comfort to the investor and more money to invest, for example to reinvest into more shares without risking money from other sources.
On the other hand, if owner managers do not need to take money out, then it may be best to keep the money in the company to reinvest at lower tax rates. However, you will still pay tax when you eventually take the money out or wind up the company.
What are the risks and disadvantages?
Paying the tax on dividends can be quite onerous. While salaries are an allowable expense which can be deducted from a company's corporation tax liability, the same cannot be said about dividends.
Since dividends can only be paid out of profits, they are then subject to income tax (at the dividend rates) once in the hands of the shareholder. Dividends are not treated as 'earnings' for pension contribution purposes.
If you accidentally take a dividend that is not covered by profits, then there is a risk that you will have taken out a loan which must be repaid quickly.
If the company needs funds for future purposes or growth, then retaining money in the company can be sensible instead. Companies should factor in unexpected situations (for example, the Covid pandemic) and periods of low cash flow (may be seasonal or for other reasons) and whether paying out dividends will impact their ability to make a profit.
However, it is not a good idea to use a trading company as a 'piggy bank' as the cash will not qualify for business property relief from inheritance tax on death, unless it is being retained for a clear purpose.
Setting a pattern of paying dividends can lead to that income being expected and relied upon. In the unfortunate event of divorce, the family courts can take regular dividend income into account as a matrimonial resource.
Furthermore, investors that rely on regular dividends as their main source of income should be aware that companies can reduce the number of dividends paid (or not pay them at all).
Those who apply for income-based support (which has seen more attention due to the Covid pandemic) cannot include dividends as part of their income.
Are there any circumstances in which dividends payments are not a good idea?
Although directors are under a duty to deliver shareholder value, this has to be balanced against practical considerations. An example is if a business is being sold, paying a large dividend could risk impacting the deal.
There are also instances where receiving dividend payments may not be a good idea, including:
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HMRC is contacting companies directly about their company tax returns reminding them to declare overpayments from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) or the Eat out to Help Out scheme
At the same time HMRC has issued guidance to agents and accountants on declaring Covid-19 support scheme overpayments on company tax returns, informing them that any returns completed before April with overpayments will have to be resubmitted after the covid-19 elements were added to tax return forms.
If a client received a grant from the job retention scheme, then they need to complete the boxes 471-473 during the accounting period covered on the client’s company tax return (CT600).
If the company needs to declare overpayments for the eat out to help out campaign, then box 474 needs to be completed. Agents must also include the grant as taxable income when profits for the company are being calculated
HMRC reminds agents that these boxes were added to the online CT600 on 6 April 2021 and that if any agents have clients who filed their company tax returns before 6 April 2021, then this would have not been available to them.
HMRC states that if these clients have an overpayment to report then they will need to resubmit their return and make sure they include the figures. The tax authority also says that company tax returns that do not include the correct boxes then the return needs to be resubmitted as the overpayments need to be reported and repaid.
If all Covid-19 support overpayments are already repaid or have already been assessed before the tax return is filed and there is no Covid-19 support schemes overpayment due HMRC clarifies that nothing needs to be done to the company tax return.
Box 526 represents the overall figure of the Covid-19 support schemes that are now due. If the amount self-assessed in box 526 remains the same, the amounts entered in boxes 471-474 do not have to be changed.
HMRC confirms that if the amount self-assessed in box 526 is higher or lower, then the tax return needs to be amended.
HMRC will issue tax charges for any overpayment due, and the tax authority reminds agents that if their client has received a charge following the submission of an incorrect CT600 return using the previous guidance, then they should tell HMRC and amend the return for the charge to be amended.
This information was released in HMRC’s Agent Update: issue 89 which contains the latest guidance and information for tax agents and advisers.
This issue also includes information on the health and social care levy, employer’s liabilities and payments for PAYE, and updates to HMRC appeals processes.
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As part of a range of measures to support businesses post-covid, the extended loss carry back rules provide a temporary tax break for businesses.
Finance Act 2021 detailed new rules around taxation for companies providing for a temporary extension to the loss carry back legislation for trading losses for both incorporated and unincorporated businesses.
The new legislation means those eligible can save money on taxation - which is as important as ever as businesses navigate the post-covid landscape.
But what has changed under the new rules, and what has stayed the same? Read on for a full breakdown of the new legislation to find out what it means for you and your clients.
Company taxation – three-year extension
The present ruling means that company trading losses that have been accrued can be carried back one year without restriction. For accounting periods ending between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2022, there is a three-year extension. Losses against profits from the most recent years must be set against, before carrying back to previous years.
£2m cap on one-year extended relief
For the current one-year extended relief, the amount of loss that can be carried back is capped at £2m for each of the earlier two years. Groups also have a group cap of £2m for each relevant period.
De minimis limit
In most instances, an extended loss carry back claim should be made on a company tax return. But there is no need to wait until the submission of a claims return below a de minimis limit of £200,000. This applies to any stand-alone or group company.
However, if the claim exceeds the de minimis limit of £200,000, then it must be made on a company tax return.
Commencement and duration
The change can be applied to losses suffered in accounting periods ending between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2022.
There are no alterations to the existing legislation that allow a trade loss for a tax year to be set against general income of the loss-making year and/or the previous year. Similar caps, as mentioned above, will also be in place for unincorporated businesses.
The three-year extension will add to the current trade loss relief against general income in section 64 of ITA 2007. It will apply where a claim has been made under section 64 of ITA 2007 to set a trade loss for 2020-21 or 2021-22 against general income of the current and/or previous year, and relief for the loss cannot be fully given under that claim. All other current loss reliefs will remain available.
The change is temporary and is only applicable to trade losses for tax year 2020-21 and 2021-22. Trade losses in 2022-23 will be subject to the regular one-year carry back rule.
Making a claim: companies
For companies wanting to claim under the new rules, it can be done via the corporation tax return (by completing box 45). Claims to the extended loss relief must be made within two years of the end of the accounting period in which the loss being carried back arises.
Submission of amended corporation tax returns will not be permitted for the extended loss carry back claims. This is because in most cases the time limit for amendments will have lapsed.
Making a claim: unincorporated businesses
Loss relief claims will normally be made in a person’s tax return. However, this is not required when a claim is made for more than one year. Stand-alone claims can be made as soon as the period in which the loss was made has passed.
The loss itself must also be calculated before the claim is submitted, and the claim must specify the name of the business, the period in which the loss was made, the amount of the loss, and how the loss is to be used.
Due to the time limits against claims, it is vital that any claims are made as soon as possible. These are the deadlines for claims:
Making a claim: de minimis
Any business or individual wanting to make a de minimis claim will need to supply the below details directly to HMRC:
Any amendments to a de minimis claim would need to be made in writing, within 30 days of the original claim submission.
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In a statement to MPs today, new financial secretary to the Treasury Lucy Frazer has confirmed that the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for income tax will be postponed by a year.
The quarterly digital reporting for landlords and the self employed was due to start in 2023, but it will be pushed back by 12 months, the second delay to the digitisation programme.
‘The government recognises the challenges faced by many UK businesses and their representatives as the country emerges from the pandemic over the last year. In recognition of this and of stakeholder feedback, we will now be introducing MTD for ITSA a year later, in the tax year beginning in April 2024,’ said Frazer in a written statement.
‘General partnerships will not be required to join MTD for ITSA until the tax year beginning in April 2025.
‘The date at which all other types of partnerships will be required to join will be confirmed later.’
This delay will also affect the introduction of the new penalty scheme for late filing and late payment of tax for ITSA. This will now be introduced for those who are mandated for MTD for ITSA in the tax year beginning April 2024, and for all other income tax self-assessment customers from April 2025.
Alongside the regulations - statutory instrument - laid in parliament today, HMRC has also published a tax information and impact note (TIIN) setting out the projected benefit and cost impacts of MTD for ITSA, as well as a policy paper to help different businesses understand what their transition to MTD could look like in more detail.
‘A later start for MTD for ITSA provides more time for those required to join to make the necessary preparations and for HMRC to deliver the most robust service possible, affording additional time for testing in the pilot,’ Frazer said.
‘HMRC will continue to work in close partnership with business and accountancy representative bodies and software developers to ensure taxpayers are well supported as they adopt MTD for ITSA.’
Nimesh Shah, CEO of Blick Rothenberg said: ‘HMRC are buying themselves some time by not introducing MTD for income tax, especially with the new social care levy and the backlog from covid. There’s also the recent consultation on moving the tax year, and aligning the basis period, and various proposals from OTS.
‘This give HMRC some time to deal with the IT infrastructure which is notoriously difficult and to do proper testing of the systems. Government IT projects are fraught with problems and the extension would give HMRC a better chance of ensuring that everything works smoothly.
‘It might even be possible for them to align the MTD changes with the basis period, to bring the tax year in line for all businesses. We’ll have to wait and see what else the government says.’
HMRC estimates a transitional cost for MTD adoption by businesses of around £1.3bn and a net increase in the ongoing costs of tax compliance of around £152m for those businesses mandated to use MTD for ITSA. This equates to an average transitional cost of £330 per business and an annual cost of £35 per business within scope.
This delay has also had a knock-on effect on the plans to introduce basis period reporting for the self employed and partnerships, which is currently out for consultation and has come in for some criticism due to the rushed nature of the original time scale, particularly as businesses were recovering from the pandemic.
‘The government has also recently consulted on a reform of the complex basis period rules that govern how self-employed profits are allocated to tax years,’ Frazer said. ‘Many respondents said that the reform was a sensible simplification but asked for more time to implement the changes.
‘In recognition of these concerns, these changes will not come into effect before April 2024, with a transition year not coming into effect earlier than 2023. The government will respond to the consultation in due course providing the next steps.’
The move was welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) as there was a general view that there had been little time for full testing of the rollout or a communications effort to educate taxpayers about the upcoming changes.
Richard Wild, head of tax technical at the CIOT, said: ‘We are pleased that the government has listened to feedback from stakeholders such as ourselves and today announced a deferral of the start date for MTD for Income Tax Self Assessment so that it will now commence from April 2024 (and April 2025 for general partnerships).
‘There is still much to be done to ensure that MTD delivers its purported benefits without adding significant costs and burdens for businesses and their advisers. We would urge HMRC to prepare and publish a detailed implementation roadmap to ensure there is adequate time for software development, testing and communication before April 2024.’
Frazer took over from Mel Stride who lost his Treasury job in last week's reshuffle and had been instrumental in pushing through the government's ambitious tax digitalisation programme.
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The Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) has published analysis of the potential benefits, costs and implications of a change to the tax year.
The OTS review sets out its analysis of the benefits, costs, and wider implications of a change to the date of the end of the tax year for individuals.
There are concerns about the cost implications of any change to the current 5 April year end date.
The costs of change are significant, both in terms of the financial cost and the opportunity cost, the OTS said. Whether moving to 31 March or 31 December, the work involved would consume government and private sector resources and make it much harder to implement other changes at the same time. A move to 31 December could also require changing the UK’s financial year.
The review considers the high-level implications of moving the tax year end date to 31 December, and a more detailed evaluation of the implications of a move to 31 March. It also considers potential short-term practical measures to facilitate the launch of Making Tax Digital for Income Tax.
If the government were to opt for a 31 December year end there would be significant impacts from the change. The OTS said: ‘It is because a three-month change, involving a transitional tax ‘year’ of just under nine months, would require transitional provisions to address the impact on the Exchequer and taxpayers, which could prove costly or complex. From the following year, the self-assessment deadline would move to 31 October, with comparable changes to other reporting and payment deadlines, with particular consequences for taxpayer, agent and HMRC workloads in that transitional period.’
Some changes to reporting measures are currently out for consultation as part of HMRC’s review of the basis period, which considers the option to treat 31 March and 5 April accounting dates as equivalent in relation to profits from self-employment.
Bill Dodwell, OTS tax director said: ‘It’s been stimulating to explore this issue, which has been of long-standing interest to many given the curiosity aroused by the UK’s use of a tax year running from 6 April to 5 April.
‘Despite our having carried out our review over a short period, many people have got in touch to share their insights and experience. A clear majority of those responding to us thought that the UK should adopt a different year end – but there was a range of views on whether to move to 31 December or to 31 March.
‘This report presents information and analysis to inform evaluation and debate about the implications of any potential change and its timing. It does not aim to make a specific recommendation about whether the tax year should change.’
‘There would be clear advantages from having a different tax year end date, but as the transitional costs and impacts are significant, it would require detailed advance planning. If government were to make a change, it would also be important to ensure the timing did not derail existing change programmes such as work on the Single Customer Account.
‘So, while we do not consider such a change should take place in the immediate future, it is not too early to start some long-term planning if the government were to consider taking this forward.
‘In the short-term, we recommend government and HMRC focus on arrangements to allow self-employed taxpayers and individual landlords to use 31 March in place of 5 April when reporting their income, to facilitate Making Tax Digital for Income Tax.’
There are clear benefits in adopting a tax year which is either aligned with the calendar year or with a calendar month-end, especially given the increasing automation, internet-enabled commerce and digitisation of financial information and accounting systems generally.
A tax year aligned to the calendar year would be the natural, simplest and easiest approach for everyone to understand, OTS said. It would align with the approach in many other countries and support improvements in the use of international data to help taxpayers in fulfilling their obligations. It would also help individuals who move internationally (and, where relevant, their employers), or who have overseas income.
Moving to 31 March would also be much more understandable, align with the UK’s financial year, and assist taxpayers who prepare business accounts or report income from investments.
However, the change would impact Treasury revenues. HMRC analysts provided indicative costings, in Exchequer revenue terms, of between £0.4bn and £2.2bn in lost tax for moving the tax year end date to 31 March.
One of the main concerns with Making Tax Digital for Income Tax, which affects landlords with property income, is that it will involve an increased administrative burden on taxpayers.
Changing the tax year end could reduce this as potentially there would be fewer reporting dates. A change of tax year to 31 March would reduce the number of months where filings are needed from eight down to four, as the property business reports would be due at the same time as the self-employed business reports.
The systems impact of such a change, for government and the private sector, could be comparable with those for a change to 31 December, but the overall scale of what would be involved in a change to 31 March would be lower.
The OTS considers that any change would be best carried out after major projects such as the Single Customer Account have been completed. It would in any case not be feasible to change the tax year end date before the scheduled 5 April 2023 start date of Making Tax Digital for Income Tax.
There are clear indications that the rollout of such a major change would take a minimum of two years to plan and implement the necessary IT upgrades. There would also be an impact on self-assessment filing deadlines, as these would have to change in line with revised year end reporting dates, particularly if a 31 December deadline was adopted.
The OTS does not consider such a change should take place in the immediate future but recommends that in the short-term the government and HMRC pursue ways to formalise arrangements to allow (or even require) taxpayers to use a 31 March cut off to stand in for 5 April in respect of the calculation of profits from self-employment and from property income, ahead of the implementation of Making Tax Digital for Income Tax.
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Accountants are warning that the increase in National Insurance contributions for businesses could discourage the creation of new jobs and potentially put some at risk, while the individual tax burden is at its highest for decades.
Under measures announced yesterday by the prime minister Boris Johnson, a new social care levy will see the introduction of a 1.25% hike in National Insurance rates for employees and employers, effective from April 2022, set to raise £12bn a year, of which £600m will be generated by an increase in the dividend tax rate.
Paul Dickson, CEO and managing partner at Armstrong Watson, said: ‘This increase in national insurance will have a big impact on business. It is effectively a tax on businesses for employing people. It will create a significant additional burden at a time when they will be dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic.
‘Not only are businesses trying to navigate out of the economic fallout of the pandemic, but they are also facing greater costs, and now they are being hit with a tax because they employ people. There is no correlation to profits. If a business was making more profit, then I think increasing tax by 1.5% would be more bearable, but it isn’t, this announcement taxes businesses based on their salary bill.
‘This increase in NIC will discourage the creation of new jobs and will potentially put some positions at risk. The government should be looking at how they can support businesses to create jobs, thereby creating more wealth to be taxed.’
The increase sees the NICs’ bill for companies increasing significantly with employer NICs’ rate now hitting 15.05% in employment related taxes.
John Cullinane, director of public policy for the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT), explained: ‘National insurance contributions (NICs) are a tax on income but they are not the same as income tax. This has implications for how different groups are affected.
‘For example, NICs affect employed people differently from self-employed people. At 9% the main rate of NICs for self-employed people is 3% lower than that for employed people. In effect adding 1.25% to each figure, will not change that gap.
‘But that 3% differential is dwarfed by the 13.8% cost of employers’ NICs, levied on wages paid to employees but not on payments made to independent contractors. This will rise to, in effect, 15.05%, amounting to an increase in the total tax burden on employment of 2.5% of income compared to just 1.25% for self-employment.’
When the pandemic started, the Chancellor indicated that his long-term aim was to align the tax liability and national insurance rates between employed and the self-employed, which may be addressed in the Autumn Budget in October.
John Sheehan, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: ‘We expect the rise in National Insurance will increase differences between employment and gig economy taxation. As a result, employers may be encouraged to make more use of self-employed workers, while shifting away from employees.
‘The government has made the point in the past that it would work on closing the gap between taxation of the employed and self-employed, however, its latest tax increase will have done the opposite.’
Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said: ‘A levy of 1.25% on employee earnings and on employer wage costs (so a 2.5% overall increase in the tax rate on earnings), will raise £12bn a year. The extension of this levy to those over state pension age and to dividends is welcome, but this remains a tax which will be overwhelmingly borne by workers with very little coming from pensioners. This continues a trend seen over many decades of the burden of tax being shifted towards earnings. The creation of an entirely new tax will mean yet more quite unnecessary complexity.’
Amanda Tickel, head of tax policy at Deloitte UK, said: ‘The planned increases of 1.25% in national insurance rates and dividend taxation from 2022, are expected to raise £12bn a year - more than the total tax raised by all capital gains taxes. This will have the desired impact in paying for social care.
‘It will, however, also increase the cost of employment further and when added to the tax rises announced in the March Budget, result in the highest ever sustained tax level in the UK.
‘HMRC now need to work out how to collect the levy from those above pension age who are not currently paying NI through the PAYE system, as well as looking at how ring fencing this tax to a particular cause will work in practice. This could be a complex and costly exercise and explains why some of the measures are deferred until 2023.’
The latest announcement sees the tax burden reach its highest level for decades. Isabel Stockton, a research economist at the IFS, said: ‘Following just six months after the March Budget, itself the biggest tax-raising Budget since Norman Lamont’s 1993 Spring Budget, these announcements push taxes to their highest-ever sustained share of the economy. Equivalently, government spending is set to reach a record peacetime level. Long-term challenges around rising costs of health and social care means this increase in the size of the state is likely here to stay.’
This also represents a further complication of the tax system. Cullinane said: ‘The new health and social care levy, by being established separately from National Insurance, and with slightly different rules, represents a further complication of the tax system.
‘The initial year in which national insurance will be raised will enable HMRC to build the systems to collect the levy. It Is hard to avoid seeing this as a diversion of scarce IT and other resources at a time when HMRC’s services to taxpayers and their agents are under severe strain. Presumably the government preferred to pay this price for the appearance of creating a new tax rather than of increasing rates of an existing one.’
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HMRC has launched nearly 13,000 investigations into alleged abuse of the government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) financial support schemes.
A freedom of information request revealed that, up to the end of March 2021, HMRC opened 12,828 investigations into alleged cases of fraud.
Commenting on the matter, a spokesperson for HMRC said: ‘It is vital we support businesses to recover by ensuring a level playing field, so the majority are not undercut by the few who tried to cheat the system. We are taking tough action to tackle fraudulent behaviour. We have now opened more than 12,000 inquiries into claimants we suspect may have kept more than they were entitled to. We have also begun a handful of criminal investigations.’
We will continue to open cases as the Income Support Scheme winds down and after the Scheme has ended.
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With less than a year to go until the plastic packaging tax is introduced a survey by Veolia found that 83% of businesses asked were not aware of the tax
The survey released after a Treasury technical consultation on the tax closed, found that most of the businesses asked, 84%, were in support of the tax.
The study, run in partnership with YouGov, surveyed 507 businesses and found that the two biggest drivers for acting more sustainably in business are government mandate, 30%, and environmental conscience, 48%.
First announced alongside the government’s Resources and Waste Strategy in 2018 the plastic packaging tax will come into force on 1 April 2022 and between 2022 to 2026 the tax is expected to raise £670m for the Treasury.
The tax will place a £200 per tonne levy on producers or importers of plastic packaging if they do not include 30% recycled content. Plastic covered by the tax includes bioplastics, including biodegradable, compostable, and oxo-degradable plastics.
The tax will not be chargeable on plastic packaging which has 30% or more recycled plastic content, or where the packaging is made of multiple materials of which plastic is not proportionately the heaviest when measured by weight.
This includes importers of packaging which already contain goods, such as plastic bottles filled with drinks, and where the imported packaging already contains other goods as the tax only applies to the plastic packaging itself.
According to an Imperial College London report, if all plastics were recycled then the UK could avoid contributing 61% of emissions and save 30 to 150m tonnes of carbon annually.
Tim Duret, director of sustainable technology, Veolia UK and Ireland said: ‘The plastics packaging tax is removing the economic burden of acting more sustainably and levelling the playing field for businesses.
‘In order to continue this momentum, we need to escalate the tax and roll it out across all types of plastics like construction, cars, furniture, and electric goods.
‘It is essential that we continue pairing our actions with the backing of policy. 84% of businesses we spoke to agreed and support the incremental increase to the plastic packaging tax.’
Certain exemptions will apply to the tax and these include plastics used in licensed human medicine, transport packaging to import goods into the UK, and plastics used in aircraft, ship or railway stores for international journeys as these are not released into the UK.
There will also be an exemption for businesses that manufacture and/or import less than 10 metric tons of plastic packaging in a 12-month period.
The tax is expected to have a ‘significant effect’ on businesses with the government estimating that around 20,000 manufacturers and importers of plastic packaging will be affected.
Helen Bird, strategic technical manager for plastics at WRAP, said: ‘The end market for recycled plastic is central to circularity and it’s positive to see that ahead of implementation, the plastics tax has positively impacted on demand. However, challenges remain. For some packaging it is practical to reach higher levels of recycled content, while for others, the roll-out of technological developments will be required to include any.
‘While we continue to export more than half of the UK’s plastic packaging waste, many businesses are struggling to secure enough recycled material to meet targets such as the UK Plastics Pact and tax obligations. We must continue to work together to drive investment to overcome these challenges and act more sustainably.’
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