HMRC IT problems see payment on account demands delayed

Many taxpayers (though it is not clear exactly how many) may find that the payment on account demands they are expecting this month don’t arrive, meaning they could get a shock after Christmas.

This is because of problems with HMRC’s IT systems, during self-assessment tax return season, which affected calculations for 2018/19 payment on account.

Payment on account explained

Self-assessment taxpayers with annual tax demands of £1,000 or less, or those who have 80 per cent or more of their total annual tax collected at source (i.e. PAYE), do not have to make payments on account.

However, most individuals within self-assessment, with a tax bill of £1,000 or more, will settle their liabilities in instalments. This is done by making payments on account in January and July, followed by a final balancing payment in the next January.

The amounts that are due depend on the individual’s tax liability from the previous year.

Demands become disaster

Late in 2018, it became apparent that HMRC systems had not always processed payments on account for 2018/19 correctly. Consequently, a number of taxpayers’ self-assessment statements did not include demands for the January 2019 payment on account.

Unless those affected made contact with HMRC to correct their position at the time, they will not have received a demand in June or July for the second payment on account, which would be due by 31 July 2019.

The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) has been told by HMRC that taxpayers do not need to do anything, if they have not received payment on account demands for 2018/19.

Instead, the taxpayer will receive a demand from HMRC for the full amount of tax in January 2020. HMRC has also confirmed that it will not charge any interest for late payment – assuming no further IT glitches!

Sarah Dixon, Tax Manager at George Hay, said: “In the event that a taxpayer does not make any payments on account during 2019, then the tax bill that arrives in January 2020 could be significantly larger than expected.

Individuals whose demands are delayed, should either set aside the funds needed ahead of January 2020 or, if they wish, they can make a voluntary payment on account to HMRC of their July payment – and their January payment if that was also missed.

The risk with making a voluntary payment is that, where HMRC has no record of an outstanding liability, its systems may see this as overpayment and automated refunds may be triggered at a later date.

We have had a couple of instances where clients who have made the payment, have been refunded by HMRC. We have advised these clients not to spend the money, so that they can be confident that they have the funds available to fulfil their obligations in the new year.”

How can we help?

If you have concerns about this announcement, or about fulfilling your tax liabilities, we would urge you to get in touch with your usual adviser.

If you’re not already working with us, by entrusting us with your annual tax return you can rest assured that we will handle your affairs efficiently, accurately and compliantly.

We will ensure that you are kept up to date with the latest news and updates relating to self-assessment and your tax obligations, and we can help you to fulfil your responsibilities accordingly; saving you time and money, helping you to grow your business and eliminating anxieties in the process.

If you’d like to discuss your circumstances in more detail with one of our specialist tax advisers, contact us at one of our three offices in Biggleswade, Huntingdon or Letchworth, today.

Construction sector will face VAT reverse charge from October

HMRC is changing the way in which building contractors will account for VAT, on some of their supplies, from 1 October 2019.

Businesses that undertake either of the following activities, will be required to comply with the new rules:

  • Buys in construction services, from other builders, then makes an onward supply of these services to another customer.
  • Sells construction services to other builders, where those builders then make an onwards supply of those services to their own customer.

The changes have come about, because of HMRC’s concern that some supplies are prone to VAT fraud; for example, where the supplier charges VAT to the customer and receives the money, but never declares it on a VAT return.

Under current rules, a builder charges VAT to a customer, collects the VAT accordingly and accounts for it within the relevant VAT return.

The introduction of the ‘reverse charge’ procedure means that from October, the builder will invoice his customer without charging VAT and the customer will make the necessary entry on his own VAT return.

The rules will apply to ‘construction services’, the definition of which mirrors that used for the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

The domestic reverse charge will affect supplies at the standard or reduced rates of VAT (either 20 per cent, or 5 per cent), where payments are required to be reported under the CIS.

This typically constitutes construction work on permanent or temporary buildings/structures and civil engineering works. For example:

  • Groundworks
  • Demolition
  • Installation of systems for heat, light, power, water or ventilation
  • Painting and decorating

Certain services are excluded from the rules, including where the recipient is not registered for the CIS, where the supplies are zero-rated and where the supplier and recipient are landlord/tenant. A full list of exclusions can be found here.

As a result of the changes, many construction businesses will find themselves in a position whereby they must identify instances where they supply services to other businesses in the sector (rather than to a consumer of those services) and determine whether these fall within the list of specified services.

Businesses that are caught by the reverse charge VAT will no longer charge VAT on their services; instead, the recipient will charge themselves VAT.

Those affected will need to ensure that their accounting systems are capable of processing reverse charge supplies and be committed to carrying out regular checks to ensure that supplies and purchases are correctly treated.

Construction services may be charged VAT at different rates dependent upon what work is being undertaken i.e. 20 per cent, 5 per cent, or zero-rated. The onus will now be on the contractor, to verify the correct rate to be used for the reverse charge (or if it is to be used at all).

Subcontractors may need to consider the loss of cashflow, as a result of the changes. Using VAT to fund cashflow, between the time it is received and the time it has to be paid over to HMRC, will no longer be possible.

Subcontractors will also be responsible for confirming that they are working for a VAT registered business and whether they are working for an end user, or for someone connected to an end user, including landlords and tenants.

Overall, the new rules mean that the construction sector is likely to face considerable scrutiny from HMRC, in the foreseeable future. It may therefore be wise to evaluate VAT and CIS compliance across the board.

HMRC has confirmed that it will apply a light touch approach, when dealing with errors that occur in the first 6 months after introduction, but only when businesses are seen to be trying to comply with the new legislation.

However, businesses that knowingly claim end user status, when the domestic reverse charge should have been applied, will still be liable for the output tax that should have been paid and may incur penalties.

How can George Hay help?

We can help those affected to make any necessary changes, in respect of accounting procedures and software, to accommodate the new rules.

Our experts will also work with you to ensure that you know how to process affected transactions correctly, after 1 October 2019.

With the implementation only a matter of weeks away, it’s worth speaking to any VAT-registered subcontractors you work alongside, to ensure that they know exactly what is required of them under the new rules.

If you anticipate that you might be affected by the upcoming changes, contact us today on 01480 426500.

New measures to drive accountability for late payments

New measures, unveiled by Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst, could see large firms facing significant fines for failing to pay their small and medium-sized suppliers on time.

Late payments and poor payment practices result in the closure of more than 50,000 small businesses each year, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), costing the economy roughly £2.5 billion.

In 2018, Britain’s small businesses collectively spent around £6.7bn to collect money they were owed – clearly impeding the plans that organisations might have had, to invest this money elsewhere.

In an attempt to increase transparency, company boards will now be held accountable for supply chain payment practices as opposed to just finance directors.

The new measures will also force audit committees to report payment practices in company annual reports.

The government will consult on intensifying the powers of the Small Business Commissioner, to hold to account the minority of larger businesses who neglect to make payments within the allotted time-frame.

Under the proposals, the Small Business Commissioner could have the power to disclose payment terms and practices, as well as to impose financial penalties or obligatory payment plans on large businesses that are found to have inequitable or late payment practices.

The Small Business Commissioner will also assume responsibility for the voluntary Prompt Payment Code of best practice.

In addition, the government also announced the following:

  • A tough approach to large companies which are failing to observe the Payment Practices Reporting Duty – a mandatory requirement on large businesses to report payment practices to a national database, twice a year. The legislation allows for prosecution where businesses do not comply, and fines may be imposed. The government will consult on handing these powers to the Small Business Commissioner.
  • A ‘Business Basics Fund’ competition of up to £1m in funding, to encourage businesses to use technology to simplify invoicing, payment and credit management and ultimately to boost productivity.

Small Business Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said: “These measures will ensure that small businesses are given the support they need and ensure that they get paid quickly – ending the unacceptable culture of late payment.”

The Small Business Commissioner’s Office was set up by government in 2017 to tackle the issue of late payments. To date, it has recovered over £3.8 million and additional powers will hopefully enable it to level the playing field for the UK’s 5.7 million small businesses, delivering on the modern Industrial Strategy’s ambition to make Britain the best place to start and grow a business.

Martin Williams, partner at George Hay, comments: “In business, we are all aware of the phrase ‘Cash is King’; a company may have all the revenue in the world, but without good cash flow it can easily fail which is certainly not good for individuals and the economy overall.

Late payment has long been an issue for small-to-medium sized enterprises, holding them back in respect of growth and making it difficult to compete with larger suppliers and businesses in the marketplace.

It is clear that the consequences of late payment for smaller enterprises do not uphold a strong, fair for all, economy, or a business culture that places importance on good payment practice.

Ending the culture of late payments will pave the way to boost SME productivity, remove barriers to growth and improve cash flow.”

How can George Hay help?

We have many years of experience working with SME’s, across a range of industry sectors, and we understand the impact that an inconsistent stream of income can have on these businesses.

We can help you to take control of your cashflow and drive your business forward. We will work diligently with you, to put a realistic plan together that will cultivate confidence within your business and ultimately facilitate growth.

We also support a range of online accounting and bookkeeping software packages, including Xero, Sage and Kashflow, meaning we can easily take care of your cloud accounting needs.

If you’re concerned about late payment or you’re interested in streamlining some of your processes to improve productivity, contact our team of experts in Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire or Hertfordshire, today.

HMRC to get higher priority as creditor when firms go bust

At Autumn Budget 2018, the government announced that legislation would be introduced in Finance Bill 2019-20 to make HMRC a secondary preferential creditor for taxes paid by employees and customers.

This would protect the payment of tax debts for PAYE (including student loan repayments), NIC (employee contributions only), CIS and VAT, that are due at the instigation of an insolvency.

Prior to 2003, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) was a preferential creditor for certain taxes.

However, this arrangement was abolished after a record number of smaller corporate entities began winding up in the late 1990s, raising concerns that HMRC was inadvertently pushing them into liquidation through its tax recovery activities.

Currently, HMRC is a non-preferential creditor ranked alongside unsecured creditors, such as suppliers, trade creditors, contractors and customers who, on average, rarely recover more than four per cent of debts owed.

Now, though, as losses to the exchequer from insolvency have increased, the government has decided that from April 2020 certain tax debts should be protected in an insolvency; in particular, where taxes have been paid by employees and customers and are, effectively, being held by the business on behalf of HMRC.

The proposals suggest that, from April next year, HMRC will rank third just after secured creditors, such as banks, and insolvency practitioners in order to recover additional outstanding tax from failing businesses.

The change will mean that it is now likely to recover a higher percentage of tax, which will contribute around £185 million extra a year to the public coffers, according to the Government.

The taxman’s new ‘third place’ position in respect to employment taxes and national insurance contributions means that its claims will jump ahead of floating charges from secured creditors, such as debt provided by financial institutions.

The VAT paid by customers on goods will also jump up the queue, although claims relating to other charges, such as corporation tax, still rank alongside other unsecured creditors.

The new rules are expected to come into force for insolvencies that commence from 6 April 2020.

The government’s consultation on the proposals ended on 29 May 2019 and its summary of responses is expected in the coming months.

We will of course monitor any further developments and report as appropriate.

Link: Protecting your taxes in insolvency

New trigger to increase the accuracy of PAYE codes being trialled by HMRC

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is trialling a new trigger, which is intended to improve the accuracy of employees’ PAYE tax codes.

According to HMRC, as many as half a million tax codes being used by employers across the UK could be incorrect, leading to employees either overpaying or underpaying tax.

To address the problem, HMRC is making changes to dynamic coding, which was first introduced in July 2017.

Dynamic coding is characterised by a set of ‘triggers’ which, when fulfilled, can lead to a new code being issued.

The aim of dynamic coding is to make use of the additional information HMRC receives from employees and employers, in order to recalculate pay estimates during the course of the tax year.

Recalculations can prompt HMRC to amend codes to achieve more accurate tax deductions and hence the number of P800 computations produced at the end of each tax year should be reduced.

Current triggers

Until April 2019, trigger events included the following:

  • Full Payment Submission (FPS) with a start date for an employee or pensioner: a recalculation is based on the number of days to the end of the tax year and the first reported pay figure.
  • FPS with a leave date: based on the final FPS year to date figures.
  • Benefit in kind reported by the employee or employer.
  • Allowance or relief reported by the taxpayer.

What’s new?

Now, HMRC is adding mismatches between its records and those of employers to the list of events that can trigger a recalculation.

This involves comparing the tax code reported for an employee on the FPS with the code HMRC believes it has issued, as shown on the National Insurance and PAYE Service (NPS).

Where they don’t appear to match, and the employer hasn’t implemented the code issued by HMRC more than 60 days ago, the HMRC computer will reissue the PAYE code to the employer.

When comparing tax codes, the HMRC computer doesn’t take into account the suffix (L, T, M etc) or whether the code is cumulative or non-cumulative, i.e. WK1/MTH1.

If the code hasn’t been used by the employer, the computer will recalculate to see if the HMRC held code is still appropriate. If it is, the same code will be reissued and if not, HMRC will issue a new PAYE code to both employee and employer.

HMRC has so far issued new codes to the first 30,000 mismatches identified and expects the volume to increase this month.

As part of the initiative, HMRC is also placing a renewed emphasis on ensuring that employers complete new starter checklists properly and will be visiting the 100 worst offending employers when it comes to inadequate completion.

Link: HMRC trials new PAYE code trigger

MTD for VAT – relaxation on posting supplier statements

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has updated its VAT notice regarding Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT, to relax several of the digital recordkeeping requirements.

One of the changes, secured with the help of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIoT), relates to purchase invoices from suppliers.

Prior to the most recent amendment, to VAT Notice 700/22, businesses that receive large quantities of purchase invoices, from the same company, were previously required to file multiple, yet almost identical, records.

This is despite the fact that it might make only a single payment to a supplier based on a statement covering, for example, 40 invoices; an onerous activity to say the least.

However, a relaxation to the rules has been agreed, which will enable businesses to capture their digital records information from supplier statements, rather than from each individual invoice, from 5th May.

The rules apply provided “all supplies on the statement are to be included on the same return and the total VAT charged at each rate is shown”. The change will only apply to purchases and not sales.

In addition, HMRC has also agreed to review the requirement for petty cash. Currently, the strict requirement is to record each individual supply, or at least each invoice/receipt, within a company’s digital records.

Instead, the updated VAT notice says that petty cash transactions can now be added up and summary totals entered as an alternative.

The notice states: “This applies to individual purchases with a VAT-inclusive value below £50 and the total value of petty cash transactions recorded in this way cannot exceed a VAT-inclusive value of £500 per entry.”

The third and final relaxation of the rules relates to charity fundraising events run by volunteers.

Under the new guidance the total values of supplies made can be entered as a single transaction, and similarly for supplies received.

HMRC has told the CIoT that it will not currently be seeking to apply record-keeping penalties where a business is clearly trying to comply with the requirements of MTD.

This is in line with their previous promise of providing a ‘soft landing’ period in the first year of the new digital tax regime.

You can read more about these changes and how you can secure the right support ahead of your first MTD- compliant submission in our latest blog, here.

How can George Hay help?

We can help you when it comes to choosing and implementing a system matched to your businesses requirements and we can provide professional advice throughout the transition and beyond.

We are able to work with a range of online accounting software packages including Xero, Kashflow and Sage so, when it comes time to take the leap, we have trained advisers on hand to provide as much or as little assistance as you require.

To discuss MTD for VAT and how you can meet your obligations in more detail, with one of our experts in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire or Hertfordshire, contact us today.

Link: VAT Notice 700/22: Making Tax Digital for VAT

Small businesses could see R&D tax relief capped

Access to valuable tax relief, for small businesses investing in research and development (R&D), could be restricted as a result of attempts to crack down on fraudulent claims, where there had been no R&D activity.

R&D tax credits, paid to companies investing in innovation, are currently worth around £3.5bn a year but the government suggest that over £300 million has been lost to malpractice.

The scheme is especially generous to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), affording valuable backing to loss-making firms that might otherwise find it a struggle to invest.

To help prevent abuse of the SME scheme, Budget 2018 announced that the amount of payable tax credit that a qualifying loss-making business can receive through the relief, in any one accounting period, will be capped.

The government plans to limit the value of the credits available to three times the value of a company’s pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) and national insurance (NI) liability, in the year that the claim is made.

There are concerns amongst professional bodies and industry experts that the measures could be detrimental for genuine businesses, particularly the very smallest businesses and start-ups who employ very few staff and, consequently, have minimal PAYE and NI liabilities.

The change is expected to come into effect for accounting periods which commence on or after 1 April 2020.

HMRC’s consultation on how the cap would be implemented ended on 24 May 2019, a response to which should follow in the coming months.

Phil Blackburn, Tax Partner at George Hay, said: “The principle purpose of research and development tax relief is to encourage innovation.”

“Clearly the tax fraud that the government has identified should be stamped out, however I would argue that there must be an alternative to withdrawing support from genuine claimants.”

“We hope the government considers responses to the consultation carefully, before implementing the policy.”

How can George Hay help?

Our experts can explain the complex rules surrounding R&D tax credits, in language you can understand, and they can assist you with preparing your claim, to ensure you have the greatest chance of success.

We can also advise you on issues like improving your record keeping, so that you can keep track of all the activities involved in the R&D process, and the costs, so that all eligible expenditure is claimed for.

We make sure we understand our clients’ businesses as a whole, so we will not just look at your R&D in isolation.

We will build R&D into your business planning so that you can use tax credit benefits as part of an ongoing strategy to grow your business and keep moving forward.

To discuss your circumstances in more detail with us today, call 01767 315010 or email

P11D’s: Reporting employee benefits and expenses

By now, most employers should be getting their houses in order when it comes to reporting employee benefits and expenses ahead of the 6 July 2019 deadline.

The P11D deadline applies to those businesses that have provided benefits or non-exempt expenses, that have not been deducted through payroll, to some or all of their employees during the tax-year ended 5 April 2019.

Even if you put employee benefits through payroll during 2018/19, you’ll still need to send a P11D(b).

These forms enable HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to calculate how much you need to pay in Class 1A national insurance contributions (NICs), as well as how much PAYE is due from the employee on the benefit.

Completed forms are due for submission to HMRC by 6 July 2019, which is a little over a month away. You must then pay any Class 1A National Insurance, that is owed on expenses or benefits, by 19 July 2019 (22 July if paid electronically).

HMRC will apply a penalty of £100, per 50 employees, for each month or part month that your P11D(b) is late. You’ll also be charged penalties and interest for late payment.

The benefits that you might need to report include company cars, health insurance and childcare, for example.

Prior to April 2016, certain expenses could be omitted from P11D forms by obtaining a special dispensation from HMRC.

This has now been replaced by an exemption system, whereby the majority of business expenses incurred personally by company employees no longer need to be recorded on a P11D form.

Exemptions for business-related expenses include, for example, business travel, phone bills, business entertainment expenses and fees and subscriptions, as well as uniform and tools that are required in the line of work.

The exceptions are only applicable if you either reimburse the employee’s actual costs or you have agreed with HMRC a flat rate to pay the employee as part of their earnings.

Another of the exemptions applies where you are paying HMRC’s benchmark rates for expenses such as fuel. If your employee undertakes more than 10,000 business miles in the year, make sure you are paying the reduced rate for all miles in excess of 10,000.

It is important that you make sure your forms are filled out correctly, on first submission, as errors can be difficult to rectify.

Incorrect submissions can also result in hefty financial penalties for the employer. If your P11D is incorrect you could also face fines of up to 100 per cent of the tax owed.

If HMRC believes you took reasonable care before filing, you might not face any penalties. However, fines of 30 per cent, 70 per cent or 100 per cent of the owed tax can be applied if HMRC deems that you acted carelessly or endeavoured to conceal your true liabilities.

In addition to submitting the completed P11D form to HMRC, you must also give the relevant employees a copy of the information that is included on the forms, by 6 July 2019.

If you’re unsure about whether you should be reporting any transactions, or for any other advice on P11D’s, contact us by calling 01767 315010 or emailing

Buy-to-let attracting more investors over 65

According to new research by buy-to-let broker, Commercial Trust, in 2018 there was a notable increase in the number of over 65’s applying for a buy-to-let mortgage.

Borrowers aged between 65 and 75 increased their share of buy-to-let applications by 5.43 per cent in 2018, compared to just a 0.03 per cent rise for those aged between 25 and 34.

Commercial Trust also reported a 4 per cent increase in the proportion of buy-to-let purchases and re-mortgages undertaken by those over 55, who now account for 39 per cent of all buy-to-let activity.

The increases can be attributed, in part, to the fact that a number of lenders have recently raised their maximum age at the end of the mortgage term criteria, from 75 to 85 years, while also having pushed up their maximum mortgage term.

Some lenders offer buy-to-let mortgages with no maximum age at application, while a number of the more established lenders employ a maximum starting age of 80 years old.

Andrew Turner, chief executive at Commercial Trust, commented: “Our look at the age demographics for 2018 buy-to-let mortgage activity, suggests that increasing numbers of older people are recognising the potential of buy-to-let investments.”

“Our data indicates that many people reaching retirement are choosing to invest in bricks and mortar and the rental market as a means to fund their retirement years.”

Partner at George Hay and property expert, Toni Hunter, said: “Despite the buy-to-let landscape having been subject to a number of significant changes in recent years, it can still generate worthwhile returns for those who know how to protect their investment.”

“People invest in property for all manner of reasons, but many cite ‘retirement’ as a chief motivation; whether retiring early, or just looking forward to a pension pot subsidised by a successful property portfolio.”

Here at George Hay, we recognise that keen landlords, property investors and developers will always exist, regardless of the state of the market.

No matter your age and regardless of whether you already have an established portfolio or not, we want your investment to be as successful and as profitable as it can be.

That is why we have a dedicated team of property experts and experienced tax advisers, who will support you throughout your venture.

We will help you to take a business-like approach to your investment, and we will assist you with proactive and effective tax planning, identifying and taking advantage of opportunities to minimise your tax liabilities and maximise your return.

If you’re looking to take a leap into the property market ahead of retirement, or in retirement, contact us today, by calling 01480 426500 or emailing, to find out how we can help you to make your investment a success.

ACCA finds role of auditors is largely misunderstood

A survey of 11,000 respondents in 11 different countries, conducted by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), revealed that only one in four people in the UK know what an auditor does, compared to a worldwide average of one third.

Respondents were asked to select the best description of an auditor’s role, from multiple choice answers.

Just 25 per cent of respondents in the UK understood the role of an auditor and were able to answer correctly.

As it stands, the role of an auditor is to;-

  • give an opinion on whether the financial statements of a company represent a ‘true and fair view’ of their finances;
  • to obtain reasonable assurance about whether they are free from material misstatement due to fraud or error; and
  • to ensure they adhere to a recognised accounting framework.

Auditors often face a dichotomy when it comes to companies that ‘in trouble’ financially.

They are required to assess whether the company can continue to trade for 12 months, from the date they sign an audit report.

If the auditor qualifies the audit report on the basis of going concern and, in doing so, raises concerns that the company may not be a going concern, this is likely to affect the company’s credit rating and perhaps push the company over the edge and into administration.

Interestingly, the survey found that over 55 per cent of the public believe auditors could prevent company failures and 70 per cent would like to see audit evolve to do so.

Maggie McGhee, executive director – governance at ACCA, said: “The profession has long spoken about the expectation gap in audit, and our research highlights the failure of the gap to close.”

“Globally, it is clear that further education on the auditor’s role is required, backed by a proactive approach from the profession to address public concern.”

Richard Dilley, partner at George Hay with vast audit experience, says: “In addition to the role of auditors being largely misunderstood, we also often find that businesses underestimate the importance of audit.”

“In undertaking our role as external auditors, we can give credibility to companies, we can give comfort to their stakeholders and we can provide business-owners with renewed insight into their processes, financial position and the marketplace in which they operate.”

Here at George Hay, our experienced auditors can help you to meet your audit obligations; whether you require a statutory audit, or whether you opt to undergo a voluntary audit.

We turn what many businesses view as a ‘regulatory burden’ into a useful review of your financial statements, helping to inform your decision-making and forward planning.

We will keep you informed at every stage of the audit process and we will deliver audit reports and management reports designed to help you improve your business and ensure that your internal controls and systems run effectively and efficiently.

To find out more about how our audit team can help your business, contact us by calling 01462 708810 or emailing