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The new tax evasion laws are coming…here’s what businesses need to know

Proposed changes to current tax evasion laws aren’t set to take effect until two months’ time, however, it would appear HMRC is already stepping up its criminal investigations into corporate companies.

From September this year, failure to prevent tax evasion will become a criminal offence, as part of new legislation that is set to be implemented under The Criminal Finances Act 2017. 

In this article, David Gillies, Tax Partner, explores what these new measures mean for businesses, which have already seen HMRC publicise a number of criminal investigations into several high-profile companies.

Two months ago, The Criminal Finances Act 2017 was given Royal Assent. Within Part 3 of the Act, two new Corporate Criminal Offence provisions were created, one that applies to UK taxes and the other, foreign tax evasion offences.

These new tax offences, which apply to UK and non-UK tax (where there is a UK element), have attracted widespread publicity, not just because they carry major repercussions for businesses, but because they represent a huge change in strategy for the first time in ten years.

Making tax evasion prosecution easier

Essentially, the new measures are designed to make it easier for HMRC to prosecute companies and partnerships for tax evasion. More specifically, businesses will be liable:

  1. For criminal acts committed by employees, who encourage or assist tax evasion carried out by other individuals, such as customers and suppliers and;
  2. Even if senior management were not involved or were unaware of the activity.

While it’s widely reported that the financial and professional sectors and larger corporate companies are at greatest risk of being penalised by the new legislation, all businesses, regardless of the industry in which they operate are being advised to pay close attention to it. Key questions businesses might want to ask themselves right now include, ‘Are we prepared for a tax evasion investigation from HMRC?’ and ‘What measures, systems or procedures do we have in place to defend ourselves?’

‘Reasonable procedures’

Unfortunately, not all companies will fully tune into the new legislation until it directly impacts them. However, what many don’t realise is that this could actually jeopardise their own defence if they were to be investigated by HMRC, who only have to hold a suspicion in order to start taking action. In all cases, the only acceptable defence that can be presented by organisations is having ‘reasonable procedures’ in place. Failure to evidence such procedures can result in criminal prosecution and unlimited financial penalties.

According to guidance published by HMRC, ‘reasonable procedures’ include measures ranging from risk assessments and due diligence to communication and top-level commitment. (To see the draft guidance in full, click here).

We’re on the cusp of seeing one of the biggest shake-ups in tax evasion law. In just a matter of weeks, the actions of just one individual could see entire organisations being investigated for tax evasion and facilitators will be viewed in the same light as tax evaders. While there’s no way of knowing which companies will be investigated going forward, it is possible to make sure you’re prepared by making sure you have the right processes, or ‘reasonable procedures’, in place.

If you have any questions or want to find out more about the implications of the Corporate Criminal Offence provisions for your business, contact our tax specialists on 01905 777600 or mail@ormerodrutter.co.uk.


DSC4366About the Author

David Gillies specialises in private client tax, advising on personal tax with an emphasis on inheritance tax planning, trusts, tax efficient structuring for property portfolios and residence and domicile status. He has worked for “big 4” firms as well as smaller practices.


Tax relief changes for residential landlords: The ins and outs

As of next month (April), the Government’s widely-debated plans to limit residential landlords’ tax relief are set to come into force.

 But what will the changes involve? Will they impact all landlords? And what action, if any, should people be taking right now? David Gillies explores the ins and outs of the new tax changes, which have been the subject of much discussion and debate since they were first announced by the Government last year.

From April 6, 2017, tax relief on interest and finance costs for landlords with residential properties will start to be reduced to the basic rate of Income Tax.

Currently, landlords are entitled to claim the top rate tax relief of up to 45% on residential buy-to-let properties, but that’s all set to dramatically change once the new rules fully kick in, as this figure will be cut to 20%, the base rate of tax.

As a result of the changes, landlords will no longer be able to deduct mortgage interest payments or any other finance-related costs from their turnover before declaring their taxable income. According to the National Landlords’ Association, the plans will also mean a significant proportion of the 440,000 basic rate tax-paying landlords will find themselves winding up in the higher rate tax bracket.

But while April 6 2017 is when we’ll see the Government start to put the wheels in motion for its plans, the full effect of the changes actually won’t be felt right away. That’s because the reduction will be implemented using a phased approach over the next three years, which will see it fully in place from April 6, 2020.

Who will the changes apply to?

UK and non-UK landlords who let residential properties as an individual, or in a partnership or trust will all be impacted, as will trustees or beneficiaries of trusts who are liable for Income Tax on their property’s profits.

For resident companies, both UK and non-UK based, and landlords of furnished holiday lettings, it’ll be business as usual. They don’t fall within the jurisdiction of the new restriction and therefore will still be able to receive relief for interest and other finance costs as they’ve always done.

Which finance costs will be restricted?

 It’s anticipated the restriction will apply to interest on mortgages, loans (including loans to buy furnishings) and overdrafts. Other affected finance costs include:

  • Alternative finance returns
  • Fees and any other incidental costs for getting or repaying mortgages or loans
  • Discounts, premiums and disguised interest

Up until April 6, 2017:

Interest is classed as a deductible expense so, if a landlord’s total expenses exceed their rental income, it creates a loss that can be carried forward and used to reduce taxable rental profit (or increase a loss) later down the line.

From April 6, 2017:

A proportion of the interest (25% for 2017/18, 50% for 2018/19, 75% for 2019/20 and 100% for 2020/21) won’t count as an expense and therefore won’t be able to be taken into account when working out a loss. It can, however, be carried forward and used as credit in later years.

 What should residential landlords be doing now?

While these changes to tax relief for residential landlords may have been widely-talked about from the moment they were unveiled in the summer Budget 2015, there appears to be some uncertainty surrounding them, even now.

For those who haven’t already done so, now’s the time to focus on fully understanding the implications of what’s proposed, planning ahead and developing a clear strategy to address the widespread impact the changes will undoubtedly have once they’re in place. For instance, while residential landlords should already be in the habit of keeping a record of their losses carried forward for their tax returns, they’ll also need to report the amount of interest carried forward for 2017/18 and onwards, as part of the new rules.

The tax relief landscape for residential landlords is set to change beyond all recognition from April 6, but there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be anything but a seamless process for those who’ve done their research and got the right professional support and insight behind them.

Got any questions or want to find out more about how the tax relief changes for residential landlords will impact you? Or perhaps you’d like advice on how to ensure you’re complying with the new rules as they’re phased in? Call us on 01905 777600 or email us at mail@ormerodrutter.co.uk.


DSC4366About the Author

David Gillies specialises in private client tax, advising on personal tax with an emphasis on inheritance tax planning, trusts, tax efficient structuring for property portfolios and residence and domicile status. He has worked for “big 4” firms as well as smaller practices.

 


 

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