The UK government has announced that it has cut the cost of the NHS Test and Trace PCR test for international arrivals and has launched a review to private testing providers
The government has announced that the cost of NHS Test and Trace tests for international arrivals will be reduced from £88 to £68 for one test for green or fully vaccinated and amber arrivals, and from £170 to £136 for two tests for amber arrivals who are not fully vaccinated.
The health secretary has also announced that there will be a rapid internal review of the private testing providers that are listed on gov.uk. The review began at the weekend and will last 10 days and any providers failing to meet necessary standards will be removed.
Sajid Javid stated that any providers offering misleading claims and excessive pricing will be clamped down on and swiftly be removed from the official list.
The health secretary said that ‘too many providers are acting like cowboys and that needs to stop’ and that ‘the public should be allowed to enjoy their summer holidays without having to face excessive costs or anxiety.’
The call for a review came from an investigation of the list from the Liberal Democrats which found that more than 100 outlets charged £200 for a PCR test and only 11% of the providers offered tests for under £50, with the cheapest offering prices ranging from £20.
It also found that 24% of the providers were charging more than £200 with a Mayfair GP clinic listed as £575, although on its own website it stated that prices started at £399.
After publishing its results, the Liberal Democrats called on the government to cap the cost of PCR tests for international travel, cut the red tape that is keeping prices high, and scrap the VAT on tests.
Guidance from HMRC, states Covid-19 tests are only exempt from VAT, which amounts to 20% on the sale price, if administered by a registered health professional or if the company selling them has sales of less than £85,000 a year.
Munira Wilson, health spokeswoman, Liberal Democrats said: ‘International travel cannot become a luxury that only the wealthy can afford. The price of PCR tests for international travel are a rip-off and far higher than most other countries. Many have not seen their loved ones abroad since the beginning of the pandemic and the cost of testing is a real barrier to travel.
‘When the cost of providing a test is estimated to be £20, why are many companies charging well over £100 and some over £500? Testing is vital in our fight against the pandemic, but if it is safe to travel it should be affordable to travel.’
Other Conservative MP’s have also joined the call for a VAT cut on PCR tests with a recent study by the University of Hull showing that axing the VAT on Covid-19 travel tests could boost the UK economy by £5bn.
The study also found that the overall tax take from holiday spending could rise from £1.9bn to £2bn.
PCR tests are free or zero-rated for VAT in seven of the 10 most popular tourist destinations for UK holidaymakers with Spain, France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus ,and Ireland having all scrapped VAT on tests.
Tests are also taxed at just 5% in Malta and Italy and even Turkey, which taxes them at 18% and is still lower than the UK.
HMRC tax investigations are targeting football clubs, players and their agents for millions in underpaid tax, particularly from lucrative transfers and image rights
According to data provided by HMRC to accountancy firm Hacker Young, HMRC has uncovered £5.8m in tax owed by players and £4.8m owed by agents in the last year. Aside from the players, HMRC claims that a further £34m is owed by the clubs themselves.
In the last 12 months, the tax authority has opened compliance investigations into nine football clubs, 93 football players, and 23 agents. The number of investigations opened in 2020-21 totalled 125.
HMRC is increasingly targeting agents’ fees, representing the money that agents are paid by the football club and player to manage a transfer. HMRC published new guidance on agents’ fees in April of this year.
Agents’ fees are often split 50/50 between the club and player with the club normally paying the player’s half. The player must pay tax on their half of the agents’ fees, as it is treated as a benefit in kind. In most cases, the agent does far more work for the player but the 50/50 split means the player’s tax bill is less.
HMRC has voiced concerns that this 50/50 split was being exploited and has now demanded that the agent’s work for the club is properly accounted for, or the fee is split in a more representative manner.
Another area under investigation is image rights, where big names in football set up companies to run their image rights deals, which are taxed at the 19% corporation tax rate rather than the 45% high-earner income tax rate. These range from lucrative sponsorship deals to corporate endorsements.
Despite the strain of Covid-19, HMRC managed to claw back £55.6m in unpaid tax in the last 12 months from the world of football.
Elliott Buss, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: ‘HMRC sees the football industry as an area where there is a great deal of unpaid tax owed by extremely high earners.
‘Despite HMRC’s capabilities being stretched over the past year, they still identified a significant sum in unpaid tax from the football industry totalling £55.6m. HMRC increasingly targeting agent’s fees is a clear signal that they think this is an area where too much tax is going underpaid.’
HMRC has requested that clubs and agents keep evidence of the relationship between the agents and the club in the transfer process and that records, such as letters between the agent and the club, texts, emails, and Whatsapp messages are kept.
HMRC will then use these records to determine whether the split is justified.
Buss added: ‘A longstanding focus of HMRC’s has been footballers’ use of image rights. It is understandable that the likes of Marcus Rashford or Harry Kane would utilise a company to sell their image – as their ‘image’ will be in high demand amongst advertisers.
‘However, players who have near to no brand recognition are seen by HMRC as using image rights as a way to avoid paying tax and that is why HMRC is actively investigating the use of image rights in football.’
Around 660,000 jobs will likely still need furlough when the scheme ends in September with thousands being pushed into unemployment if the government doesn’t extend it past the deadline
The analysis from the New Economics Foundation (NEF) found that the additional 20% employer contributions towards furlough wages at the start of August will not be cost-effective for nearly 250,000, jobs.
The thinktank detailed that once furlough is no longer an option, workers could be at risk of becoming redundant or seeing a reduction in hours or pay.
The New Economics Foundation states that the government’s September deadline is premature as certain industries will not be able to trade at full capacity when furlough ends.
An example of this is the aviation industry which at the end of June had one third of workers still on furlough and international travel will not return to normal come the deadline and there is possibility of a permanent shift occurring.
Alex Chapman, senior researcher at the New Economics Foundation, said: ‘The current end date for the furlough scheme is arbitrary and can cause unnecessary harm to thousands of workers across the UK, by risking unemployment or facing a reduction in pay. Our analysis highlights that demand will remain suppressed because of voluntary measures that the public will take in response to the uncertainty around the delta variant.
‘The furlough scheme has been a necessary lifeline for millions of workers, and we strongly urge the Chancellor to retain it beyond September.
‘Over time, similar to some of our European neighbours, a more permanent furlough scheme should be introduced that can help the British workforce build resiliency against future economic shocks such as climate disruption, trade realignment, and other public health emergencies.’
The analysis also highlights that self-isolation is still a requirement for those in close contact with a Covid-19 infected person and even with the requirements for isolating easing from 16 August for those who are double-vaccinated, at the current rate around 10m adults will have not received both jabs by this date.
In order to avoid a surge in unemployment at the end of furlough New Economics Foundation recommends that the government rolls back the increase of employer contributions and extends the furlough scheme until a realistic point where voluntary social distancing is likely to end.
It also calls for the government to allow furloughed workers to use their subsidised non-working hours on training, with a priority for industries that may never recover to pre-pandemic levels of output.
This would make furloughed workers more attractive for their employers to bring back and would increase both productivity and the government’s tax return.