The Blog

[Q&A] Requirement to Correct (RTC) – Offshore Tax Matters

This time next year, the Government will be just about to implement its new Requirement to Correct (RTC) penalty regime.

RTC has been put on hold since the calling of the ‘snap’ General Election earlier this year, which may have led to some people thinking it wasn’t going ahead.

However, if you’ve not been following the RTC developments or if this is the first time you’ve heard about it, it can be difficult to know:

  1. What to do to prepare for it and;
  2. The impact it’s going to have on you and your business.

Keep reading, the Q&As below are designed to provide you with a handy overview of all things RTC-related, as well shed some light on the steps you ought to take next if it applies to you.

Q. When exactly is RTC going to be implemented?

A. September 30, 2018.

Q. Why is it being introduced?

A. Overall, RTC is designed to tackle offshore tax evasion and non-compliance. More specifically, it’s hoped that taxpayers will be encouraged to make sure that any undeclared UK offshore tax liabilities, relating to all periods up to and including April 5 2017 are fully disclosed to HMRC.

Q. Who will it apply to?

A. Anybody who has underpaid UK tax that relates to overseas assets. This includes UK residents, domiciled individuals and non-UK domiciled individuals, who are UK residents. It will potentially apply to offshore trustees too.

Liabilities such as income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax will all fall within the scope of RTC.

Q. How will RTC impact the people listed above?

A. RTC is a penalty regime so, if you have underpaid tax that relates to overseas assets, then you’re likely to be hit with a hefty fine from HMRC.

Q. How much are people likely to get fined?

A. Taxpayers who fail to correct historical errors relating to April 6 2017 to September 30, 2018 will face much tougher penalties, which include:

  • A standard penalty of between 100% and 200% of the tax that’s not been corrected
  • A 10% asset-based penalty (relevant to ‘the most serious cases’ where tax underpaid in a tax year is greater than £25,000)
  • An enhanced penalty of 50% of the standard penalty amount if HMRC could show that assets or funds had been moved in an attempt to avoid RTC
  • Naming and shaming of taxpayers ‘in the most serious cases’ (total loss of tax greater than £25,000)

Q. Are there any exceptions to these penalties?

A. The only defence for taxpayers who fail to correct their affairs is a ‘reasonable excuse.’ However, the RTC legislation attempts to limit when the reasonable excuse defence can be used.

Q. Are there any other implications taxpayers should be aware of?

A. Yes. Under RTC, HMRC’s assessment periods can be extended. This is to prevent the tax in question falling out of assessment during the correction period and to give HMRC enough time to take action. As a result, any tax that’s potentially assessable at April 6 2017 will remain this way until at least April 5 2021.

Q. What should taxpayers be doing about RTC?

A. Taxpayers who have evaded tax or have failed to pay the correct amount of tax in relation to their offshore affairs need to declare them as soon as possible. If you think this may apply to you, but aren’t sure, now is the time for you to seek expert advice.

Q. What is the process for making corrections?

A. Corrections can be made using several methods, such as through outstanding tax returns or via an HMRC enquiry. For more serious cases, the Worldwide Disclosure Facility (WDF) or Contractual Disclosure Facility (CDF) can be used.

We hope you’ve found these Q&As useful and that they’ve helped bring you up to speed on the new RTC regime. As with all Government legislation, we recommend that if you’re not sure if it applies to you, always ask an expert, as the implications – a minimum of 100% (up to 200%) in underpaid tax in this instance – can be significant.

To find out more about RTC or to find what action you might need to take, contact our team of tax specialists on 01905 777600 or hello@ormerodrutter.co.uk.


DSC6529 (1)About the author

Anthony Middleton is responsible for monitoring all of Ormerod Rutter’s tax investigations and deals specifically with Corporation Tax and Income Tax enquiries. He has been a member of the team for 13 years.

 


 

Ten top tips for surviving an HMRC tax investigation

Have you been notified by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) that they’re going to look into your tax affairs and aren’t sure what’s next? Or perhaps you’re not being investigated, but would like to establish a clearer picture of what’s involved, should you ever be investigated?

Some tax inspections can be short and relatively straightforward, while others can be long, complex, costly and involve going down several different routes. Here are our ten top tips for dealing with HMRC tax investigations.

TIP #1: Check the dates

If HMRC has contacted you to say they need certain details from you by a particular date, check whether or not the time period they’re requesting the information from is still valid.

HMRC have certain time scales they can enquire within and if their requests fall outside of these timescales then, unfortunately, they’re out of time and will have to close their enquiry.

TIP #2: Take care when divulging information

If you own up to a problem, then it’s important you do it in the right way. HMRC are usually looking to clarify two key things when they contact taxpayers:

  1. The wrong amount of tax that’s been paid.
  2. Why the wrong amount of tax has been paid (as they want to charge a penalty).

Silly error (reasonable care)

Penalties are all tax-geared and based on the behaviour that led to the error. If you’ve made a silly mistake, for instance, taken some bad advice, but have done everything you possibly can to get your tax return right, then you may not be charged a penalty. If you are, then it will be most probably be around 15% of the tax that’s due.

Deliberate error (no reasonable care)

However, if you’ve not made a careless error and have not taken reasonable care to get your tax return right, then you could wind up with a penalty of up to 70%.

The current penalty rates are as follows:

tax

TIP #3: Be helpful

As mentioned in the tip above, it’s important that you are as transparent, open and honest with HMRC as possible. When responding to valid questions from HMRC, you can actually score yourself some brownie points with them if you’re giving, helping and telling throughout the course of your investigation.

TIP #4: Seek expert advice

If you haven’t got an accountant, then it might be worth you appointing one to help you with your investigation. Not only will they be able to take the pressure of the enquiry away from you, so that you can focus on your business, they know the processes, not to mention the terminology and your rights, inside out. Not all accountants have experience of enquiry work so make sure you ask the right questions. Here at Ormerod Rutter we have experts who have dealt with many tax investigation and are capable of guiding you through an investigation.

TIP #5: Set the pace

Always try and control the pace of your enquiry by responding ahead of deadlines. Don’t leave things to the last minute. If, for some reason, you can’t meet a particular deadline because you’re on annual leave or might be going through a particularly busy period, then at least speak to HMRC. They are fairly flexible, will appreciate your cooperation and should be able to give you an extension.

TIP #6: Check you’ve got insurance

Many accountants and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) offer tax investigations insurance. For an annual fee you’ve got peace of mind that your agent’s costs are paid for, should you suddenly be hit with an enquiry. For details on insurance policies we offer or to receive a quote please call 01905 777600 or email hello@ormerodrutter.co.uk. It is important that you understand your policy and this is something we can talk you through.

Note: If you have such insurance in place, it’s important you notify your insurance company straight away if you’re going to be investigated. Failure to do so could invalidate your claim.

TIP #7: Think penalties

Ultimately, HMRC want to issue you with a penalty, which you’ll have to pay on top of the tax that you already owe, plus interest.

It’s therefore useful to always make sure HMRC’s penalties are the back of your mind if you’re being investigated, as every single thing you say and do from the moment you start corresponding with them, will impact the overall penalty you receive.

TIP #8: Pick up the phone

While communicating with HMRC might appear daunting, it can help you establish a clearer picture of what’s required from you and how your investigation’s progressing. Always chat to the inspector who’s working on your case, they’ll be able to explain the reasons why there’s an enquiry or why they’re going down a particular route with you.

TIP #9: Only meet HMRC if you want to

Many people think that if HMRC has requested to meet them then they must meet them. However, they’re under no legal obligation to meet with HMRC. Some taxpayers attend, some don’t and some ask their accountant (or agent) to go for them.

TIP #10: Don’t be an ostrich!

As tempting as it might be to bury your head in the sand and deal with your tax investigation another day (particularly if you’re busy), this is the worst thing you can do. Co-operation is key to reducing and, where possible, eradicating the risk of a penalty coming your way, it’s also the answer to getting your enquiry completed as soon as possible.

Got any questions or want to find out more? For more information or to discuss your tax investigations with one of our tax investigation specialists, contact us on 01905 777600 or hello@ormerodrutter.co.uk.


DSC6529 (1)About the author

Anthony Middleton is responsible for monitoring all of Ormerod Rutter’s tax investigations and deals specifically with Corporation Tax and Income Tax enquiries. He has been a member of the team for 13 years.

 


 

My taxes are being investigated! What’s going to happen next?

My taxes are being investigated! What’s going to happen next?

Tax investigations can happen to businesses of all sizes, whether you’re a sole trader who’s been running for a year or a corporate enterprise with multiple offices that have been established for two decades. Individuals can also receive an enquiry letter from HMRC too.

 Here, our Tax Inspection Manager, Anthony Middleton, lifts the lid on what businesses and their owners can expect when they’re being investigated by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), as well as the steps they can follow.

All tax investigations, whether that’s PAYE, Corporation Tax, Income Tax or individual Self Assessments, are carried out by HMRC, with most companies or owners first finding out that their tax affairs are going to be scrutinised via letter. In some circumstances, HMRC will call organisations to tell them they’re going to investigate them, which tends to mainly be for VAT-related enquiries.

There are formal notices and informal requests for information, the details of which we’ll cover in a separate article at a later point. Businesses will typically be given 30 days’ notice to respond to any requests for information. If they’ve received a telephone call, then a tighter schedule may be involved. However, in all situations, it’s up to the company that’s being investigated to decide whether or not what’s being requested is manageable in terms of their own timescales. Early discussions with HMRC to amend timescales are preferable.

There are two different routes HMRC can choose to go down. They can either look at a whole return, which is known as a Full Enquiry, or a single item or area of a return, referred to as an Aspect Enquiry. 

Regardless of the route that’s being taken, investigations tend to follow a similar process, which should ideally be dealt with as follows:

STEP 1: Notify your accountant

This may seem like a really obvious point, but companies or individuals who have an accountant (or ‘agent’ in HMRC’s language), don’t always tell them that they’re going to be investigated. They assume their accountant knows everything, but this isn’t always the case. For instance, HMRC, might write to the company about three taxes, but only write to their accountant about two as they only have the authority to discuss matters where a relevant authority has been signed. Never assume that your accountant knows that HMRC has been in touch with you.

STEP 2: Analyse what’s required

So, now that you know HMRC want to look into your tax affairs, the next step is to ascertain exactly what is it they’re after. What information are they requesting to see? How can you help them answer the question(s) they’re posing? And is what they’re asking for accurate?

It’s worth noting here that the type of tax that’s being explored and how many taxes that are being investigated will impact the length of the investigation.

STEP 3: Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’

Obviously, it’s important that you’re as co-operative as possible with HMRC and provide them with the details they require within the given timescales (usually within 30 days). In fact, it’s a common fact that companies that give, help and tell during the course of their enquiry are more likely to receive reduced penalties if errors have been made and additional tax is due.

However, co-operation aside, there are instances, when HMRC do ask for information in Opening Letters that they aren’t necessarily entitled to know about at that given time.

For example, you might be a limited company and you’re being asked in your Opening Letter to share all of your personal bank statements as a company director. Usually, this is something HMRC are actually not entitled to see at this stage. It’s essential that their requests for information are made at the right time and that they’re not just simply ‘fishing’ around for information. If you’ve followed the advice in Step 1 and notified your accountant, then they’ll be able to advise you on what can and can’t be divulged at this stage. Alternatively, you may want to seek professional help from a tax investigation specialist.

STEP 4: Provide what’s required

It’s important that you do provide HMRC with the details they’re entitled to see within the given timescales. Ideally, you should produce the information that’s been requested of you through your accountant.

STEP 5: Be patient (and potentially expect to hear from HMRC again)

HMRC will analyse the information you’ve shared with them and, if they have any further questions or if there are any causes for concern raised by what you’ve divulged, then you’ll receive another letter from them.

STEP 6: If there are no problems, look out for your Closure Notice

Assuming everything’s ok and your tax affairs all add up, you’ll be issued with a Closure Notice that confirms your enquiry is over and no additional tax is due. End of investigation.

STEP 7: Check HMRC’s calculations

When a Closure Notice is issued, and HMRC issue revised assessments or calculations based on their findings, be sure to check them. These computations should be correct, but they can sometimes be wrong. Make sure any adjustments have been entered correctly, and the tax rates that have been used are correct. In certain circumstances, it can be difficult to amend them at a later date or even get them revised.

STEP 8: If there are any issues, be prepared to discuss them

If HMRC do identify any problems, there are different ways you can choose to progress your enquiry. You might want to call a meeting with them, which you can attend with your accountant or ask your accountant to attend on your behalf. The aim of this meeting should be to ascertain what the issues are that have been identified and what HMRC requires going forward.

Hopefully, by scheduling the meeting and discussing your enquiry face-to-face, any queries can be quickly identified and ironed out and you’ll hopefully receive your Closure Letter quickly. HMRC often request a meeting to see company directors or representatives. There’s no legal requirement to attend a meeting with them. All meeting requests should therefore be discussed and carefully considered.

STEP 9: Weigh up your options

If your further communication with HMRC has resulted in you having a disagreement with them (unfortunately this can happen), then now’s the time to weigh up your options.

More often than not, businesses continue to debate the issue(s) at hand for a number of months, which finally results in HMRC issuing a Closure Notice through a Decision Letter.

OPTION 1 – Internal review

If you don’t agree with the Closure Notice, then you can ask for an Internal Review to be carried out by a HMRC employee who wasn’t involved in the original investigation. There’s no additional cost involved in requesting an Internal Review. However, you do need to ensure it’s done within the correct time parameters.

OPTION 2 – Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternatively, you can go to ADR, where members of HMRC’s dedicated ADR team act as a mediator between the taxpayer, accountant and HMRC, and look to identify if there’s a way around the particular problem. It could be that there’s been a genuine mistake or information has simply been misinterpreted. This can be a sensible option to hopefully avoid the need to go to a Tax Tribunal.

OPTION 3 – Tax tribunal

Beyond ADR, there are two tax tribunals (1) First Tier (for the vast majority of enquiries) and (2) Upper Tier (for more complex enquiries, as well as First Tier Tribunal appeals).

There are four different types of First Tier Tribunals:

  1. Paper (can be conducted informally, so there’s no need for the taxpayer to attend).
  2. Basic case.
  3. Standard (for middle of the road investigations).
  4. Complex

Most tribunal hearings are chaired by legally qualified tribunal judges, who often sit with specialist, non-legal members – for example, doctors, accountants, surveyors or those with particular experience of disabilities or the armed services – depending on the subject matter of the hearing.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the longer your investigation takes to sort, the greater the cost implications, which could include appointing a solicitor or tax barrister at this stage. You may need to consider the commerciality of continuing with an enquiry, even if you disagree with HMRC. Tribunals can be extremely time consuming to prepare for and, as a result, expensive.

The scale and complexity of tax investigations do vary from business-to-business and individual-to-individual however, by following this best practice advice, taxpayers and their businesses stand a much greater chance of navigating their way around the investigation process as efficiently and effectively as possible. Always consider penalties when responding to HMRC as they’re tax geared and can be reduced if you fully co-operate with HMRC.

For more information or to discuss your tax investigations with one of our tax investigation specialists, contact us on 01905 777600 or mail@ormerodrutter.co.uk.


DSC6529 (1)About the author

Anthony Middleton is responsible for monitoring all of Ormerod Rutter’s tax investigations and deals specifically with Corporation Tax and Income Tax enquiries. He has been a member of the team for 13 years.

 


 

What is the Let Property Campaign (LPC)?

In 2013 HMRC launched the Let Property Campaign (LPC) which allows landlords to declare previously undeclared property income or gains. To date over 10,000 landlords have used this voluntary disclosure scheme. This disclosure often leads to a lower penalty of 0-20% of lost HMRC revenue depending on case by case circumstances.

The LPC is aimed for individuals that own residential properties and does not apply to businesses or commercial properties. Once a voluntary disclosure has been submitted landlords have up to 90 days to pay the tax due.

HMRC is cracking down on landlords with undisclosed property income or gains. If a landlord is found to be evading tax and not made a disclosure, they will be fined up to 100% of the tax due and may face criminal proceedings.

HMRC are using an increasing number of channels, such as the Land Registry and Deposit Protection Schemes, for their investigations. Therefore, it is important for landlords to ensure there are no financial irregularities in their finances.

Once HMRC opens an investigation, a voluntary disclosure will no longer be allowed. The LPC does not yet have an end date by which time disclosures should have been made but it will not last forever.

HMRC are introducing severe penalties elsewhere in the tax regime which will be up to 200% of the tax that becomes due. The disclosure will close at some stage and therefore you should act now and speak to a tax specialist if there is a disclosure to be made.

If you have a question or would like more information about LPC then please contact Anthony Middleton for expert advice at anthonymiddleton@ormerodrutter.co.uk or 01905 777600.


DSC6529 (1)About the Author

Anthony specialises in guiding a taxpayer through the complex process of an enquiry by HMRC, mitigating tax and penalties wherever possible.

 


 

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