As HMRC prepares to send emails and text reminders to self assessment taxpayers, the department is reminding them to be on their guard after nearly 800,000 tax-related scams were reported in the last year
Fraudsters use self assessment to try and steal money or personal information from unsuspecting individuals. In the last year alone, HMRC has responded to 797,010 referrals of suspicious contact from the public and some 357,567 of these offered bogus tax rebates.
In the last 12 months, HMRC has also worked with the telecoms industry and Ofcom to remove more than 1,282 phone numbers being used to commit HMRC-related phone scams.
The scale of the problem is vast with 8,561 malicious web pages reported for takedown.
The self assessment deadline is 31 January 2022 and taxpayers may expect to hear from HMRC at this time of year.
More than four million emails and SMS will be issued this week to self assessment customers pointing them to guidance and support, prompting them to think about how they intend to pay their tax bill, and to seek support if they are unable to pay in full by 31 January.
However, the department is also warning customers to not be taken in by malicious emails, phone calls or texts, thinking that these are genuine HMRC communications referring to their self assessment tax return.
Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC director general for customer services, said: ‘Never let yourself be rushed. If someone contacts you saying they’re from HMRC, wanting you to urgently transfer money or give personal information, be on your guard.
‘HMRC will also never ring up threatening arrest. Only criminals do that.
‘Scams come in many forms. Some threaten immediate arrest for tax evasion, others offer a tax rebate. Contacts like these should set alarm bells ringing, so if you are in any doubt whether the email, phone call or text is genuine, you can check the ‘HMRC scams’ advice on gov.uk and find out how to report them to us.’
Criminals use emails, phone calls and text messages to try and dupe individuals, and often mimic government messages to make them appear authentic. They want to trick their victims into handing over money or personal or financial information.
Customers can report suspicious phone calls using a form on gov.uk and should forward suspicious emails claiming to be from HMRC to email@example.com and texts to 60599.
HMRC has a dedicated team working on cyber and phone crimes. They use innovative technologies to prevent misleading and malicious communications from ever reaching the taxpayers. Since 2017 these technical controls have blocked 500 million emails. More recently, new controls have prevented 90% of the most convincing SMS messages from reaching the public and controls have been applied to prevent spoofing of most HMRC helpline numbers.
HMRC is also reminding self assessment customers to double check websites and online forms before using them to complete their 2020/21 tax return. People can be taken in by misleading websites designed to make them pay for help in submitting tax returns or charging to connect them to HMRC phone lines.
HMRC’s advice to the public:
• take a moment to think before parting with your money or information;
• if a phone call, text or email is unexpected, don’t give out private information or reply, and don’t download attachments or click on links before checking on gov.uk that the contact is genuine; and
• do not trust caller ID on phones. Numbers can be spoofed.
• it’s ok to reject, refuse or ignore any requests – only criminals will try to rush or panic you; and
• search ‘scams’ on gov.uk for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact and how to avoid and report scams.
• Forward suspicious texts claiming to be from HMRC to 60599 and emails to firstname.lastname@example.org. Report tax scam phone calls on gov.uk.
• Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen victim to a scam, and report it to Action Fraud (in Scotland, contact the police on 101).
The Treasury has announced that the National Living Wage will increase next April to £9.50 per hour. This represents a 6.6% increase. These new rates will be effective from 1 April 2022.
From April 2022, minimum pay rates will increase as below.
- NLW (workers aged 23+) — from £8.91 to £9.50 per hour.
- NMW rates:
- workers aged 21–22 — from £8.36 to £9.18 per hour
- workers aged 18–20 — from £6.56 to £6.83 per hour
- workers aged 16–17 — from £4.62 to £4.81 per hour
- apprentice rate — from £4.30 to £4.81 per hour.
As the hospitality industry continues to recover from the pandemic, the Chancellor announced significant discounts on business rates for specific sectors for the next 18 months
Over 90% of retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will receive at least 50% off their business rates bills in 2022-23.
To support local high streets as they adapt and recover from the pandemic, the government is introducing a new temporary business rates relief in England for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties for 2022-23, worth almost £1.7bn.
Up to 400,000 retail, hospitality and leisure properties will be eligible for the new, temporary £1.7bn of business rates relief next year. This will provide support until the next revaluation, helping the businesses that make UK high streets and town centres successful evolve and adapt to changing consumer demands.
Apart from reliefs in response to Covid-19, this is the biggest single-year cut to business rates in 30 years.
Chris Sanger, EY head of tax policy, said: ‘The Chancellor announced a number changes to business rates, which fell short of what some had called for. Nevertheless, business rates were cut in half for a further year for those in the retail, hospitality and leisure business, including local pubs. The half price offer for the next year will help, but does not address the long-term issue.’
The government is also freezing the business rates multiplier in 2022-23, a tax cut worth £4.6bn over the next five years. This will support all ratepayers, large and small, meaning bills are 3% lower than without the freeze.
From 2023, a new business rates relief will support investment in property improvements so that no business will face higher business rates bills for 12 months after making qualifying improvements to a property they occupy.
This will enable businesses to make improvements to their premises that support net zero targets, such as installing solar panels, and enhance productivity as employees return to the workplace.
From 2023, the government will introduce exemptions for eligible plant and machinery used in onsite renewable energy generation and storage, and a new 100% relief for eligible heat networks, to support the decarbonisation of buildings.
In a welcome move for residential property owners, the Budget Red Book confirmed that the current 30-day capital gains tax (CGT) payment window will be extended to 60 days
From 27 October 2021 the deadline for residents to report and pay CGT after selling UK residential property will increase from 30 days after the completion date to 60 days.
For non-UK residents disposing of property in the UK, this deadline will also increase from 30 days to 60 days.
This will ensure that taxpayers have sufficient time to report and pay CGT, as recommended by the Office of Tax Simplification.
When mixed-use property is disposed of by UK residents, legislation will also clarify that the 60-day payment window will only apply to the residential element of the property gain.
Tim Walford-Fitzgerald, private client partner at accountancy firm HW Fisher said: ‘In the small print announced in the Budget, for those selling UK residential property the deadline to file a tax return will be extended from 30 days to 60 days from midnight tonight.
‘This is welcome news and it is positive to see that the Chancellor has recognised the reality of these transactions. To anyone selling a property and up against tight deadlines to receive registrations you can breathe easy.’
The national rollout of the new £100 spending limit for contactless card payments begins from 15 October 2021, although it will take time for retailers to update their terminals
The decision to raise the contactless limit from £45 to £100 was made by the Treasury and the Financial Conduct Authority following a public consultation and in discussion with both the retail and banking sectors. It follows on from the increase in the limit from £30 to £45 in April 2020 at the height of the covid pandemic.
From 15 October 2021, consumers will start to see retailers accepting contactless payments up to the new £100 limit, which will give customers more flexibility when shopping in store, UK Finance said.
Given the number of terminals which will need to be updated to accept the new limit, it will take some time to be introduced across all retailers. To check if a retailer has updated to the new limit, customers should either ask in store or follow the prompts on the card payment machine when paying.
For consumers spending more than £100 there are many ways to pay, for example through Chip & PIN, cash and alternatives such as mobile payments like Apple Pay or Google Pay which do not have an upper limit when authenticated through biometric technologies like fingerprint or facial recognition.
David Postings, chief executive of UK Finance, said: ‘Contactless payment has proved very popular with consumers and an increasing number of transactions are being made using contactless technology.
‘The increase in the limit to £100 will allow people to pay for higher value transactions like their weekly shop or filling up their car with fuel. The payments industry has worked hard to put in place the infrastructure to enable retailers to update their payments systems so they can start to offer their customers this new higher limit.’
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said: ‘Increasing the contactless limit will make it easier than ever to pay safely and securely – whether that’s at the local shops, or your favourite pub and restaurant. Millions of payments will made be simpler, providing a welcome boost for retailers and shoppers.’
Changes to the licensing rules for taxi drivers will add a requirement to check their tax compliance before issuing new licenses in a bid to tackle tax evasion from 2022
HMRC has issued guidance on how the tax checks, known as conditionality, will work from April 2022 for licence applications initially in England and Wales. There are plans to extend the rules to Scotland and Northern Ireland from 2023.
HMRC believes that taxi drivers and scrap metal dealers are often part of the hidden economy, operating outside the tax regime, and has indicated that the scheme is likely to be extended in the future to cover more sectors.
In the technical brief outlining the original policy, HMRC stated: ‘The hidden economy consists of individuals and businesses with sources of taxable income that are entirely hidden from HMRC. This deprives the government of funding for vital public services. The hidden economy tax gap (the difference between the amount of tax that should, in theory, be paid, and what is actually paid) is estimated to be £2.6bn for 2018 to 2019.’
The new tax checks are projected to raise £30m in taxes in the first year of operation in 2022-23 with Treasury estimates indicating that this will rise to £55m by 2024-25.
The rules are changing for individuals, companies or any type of partnership applying for a licence for a taxi driver, private hire driver, private hire vehicle operator, scrap metal site and scrap metal collector.
Any individuals that make an application from 4 April 2022 will need to complete a tax check if they are renewing a licence; applying for the same type of licence previously held, that ceased being valid less than a year ago; and applying for the same type of licence already held with another licensing authority
The key element of the new system is a tax check which must be carried out by the individual applicant and cannot be conducted by an accountant or tax agent.
There will be a number of questions to identify whether the individual complies with tax rules and how they pay any tax that may be due on income earned from the licensed trade before a licence will be issued.
Once the tax check is completed and verifed by HMRC, a nine-character tax check code will be issued. This must then be included with the application to the licensing authority, so they can confirm a tax check has been completed.
This will add extra administrative work for licensing authorities but there will be not costs for the HMRC checks.
Double-jabbed workers no longer need to isolate after coming into contact with someone with Covid-19. And while that’s great for business, it means staff could be more likely to bring the virus into work. Which increases your risk of a big outbreak and costly closures.
So, how do organisations stay safe, compliant, and open for business?
1. Keep up with and communicate self-isolation rules
Staff need to know when to self-isolate. And to avoid unnecessary staff shortages and closures, they also need to know when they don’t need to. Make sure everyone is aware of the current rules.
Double-vaccinated staff no longer need to isolate when:
- returning from countries not on the red list
- they’ve been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus
- they live with someone who has Covid-19.
However, your non-vaccinated staff will still need to self-isolate in these situations.
Note that, even if not fully vaccinated, the fully vaccinated rules apply to:
- under-18s resident in the UK
- those taking part in an approved Covid-19 vaccine trial in the UK or USA
- those resident in England and medically exempt from taking the vaccine.
Regardless of vaccination status, all staff still need to isolate when they:
- have Covid-19 symptoms
- are waiting for PCR test results
- test positive for Covid-19
- return from a country on the red list (the self-isolation must take place in a managed hotel).
2. Stick to preventive measures
Organisations are no longer legally required to follow Covid-secure guidance.
However, your Covid control measures should still be based on your risk assessment. Vaccinated people can still carry coronavirus and pass it onto others so it makes sense to continue certain preventive measures to stop the virus spreading.
To reduce the risk of transmission, the Government is still asking employers to:
- make sure there’s fresh air running through the workplace
- keep up with regular and thorough cleaning
- turn staff and customers with Covid-19 symptoms away
- keep staff and customers up to date with any safety measures
- complete a risk assessment which outlines the organisation’s safety measures.
3. Encourage vaccine uptake
Self-isolation rules have relaxed for your double-jabbed staff. If the majority of your workforce have now taken the vaccine, you’re less likely to deal with inconvenient staff shortages.
But if your staff are unprotected, they still need to isolate if they get pinged by the NHS app. To avoid big gaps in the rota, it’s important to improve vaccine uptake in your staff.
If there’s a high level of hesitancy in your organisation, here are some basic steps to boost uptake:
- allow paid time off for vaccine appointments or side effects
- share vaccine information from reliable sources
- outline the benefits of taking the vaccine
- invite an external healthcare expert to answer any questions.
You could even provide an incentive for vaccinated staff, like an extra day of leave. (However, you will need to consider medically exempt staff or those with religious objections, etc otherwise this could be seen as discriminatory.)
4. Use lateral flow testing
One way of picking up asymptomatic Covid spreaders is through the use of lateral flow tests (LFTs).
LFTs can be distributed to staff (or are available for staff to pick up free from pharmacies). Many organisations require staff to test twice a week and report their results through the GOV.UK website. You could request any visitors to complete an LFT 24 hours before their visit.
If an LFT comes back positive, the individual should take a PCR test and self-isolate while they wait for the results.
5. Track who’s been vaccinated
Before the recent change to self-isolation rules, the same rules applied for all employees but now your non-vaccinated workers face a higher chance of self-isolation. And to keep these staff both safe and in work, you may need to do more to protect them. To do that, you’ll need to know who hasn’t received the jab.
HMRC is reminding taxpayers to check that they have the correct information in order to complete their paper self assessment tax returns by the month end deadline
The deadline for 2020/21 paper tax returns is 31 October 2021 for those completed on paper forms and 31 January 2022 for online returns.
While the end of January is more than three months away, HMRC has already seen thousands of people filing their returns – more than 63,500 customers filed their tax return on 6 April, the first day of the tax year. Taxpayers can file before the January deadline but still have until 31 January to pay.
Any customer who is new to self assessment must register via gov.uk to receive their Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR). Self-employed individuals must also register for Class 2 National Insurance.
HMRC is encouraging taxpayers to register early so that they can access guidance and be aware of what they need to do. This includes record keeping, knowing when the filing and payment deadlines are, and the potential for a first tax payment to include a payment on account.
This year, taxpayers will also have to declare if they received any grants or payments from Covid-19 support schemes up to 5 April 2021 as these are taxable, including:
• Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS);
• Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS); and
• other Covid-19 grants and support payments such as self-isolation payments, local authority grants and those for the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
If you are employed and received CJRS (furlough) payments during the 2020-21 tax year, you will need to enter your earnings and income tax as stated on your P60. Your P60 will include any furlough payments you received up to 5 April 2021, so you do not need to include furlough payments on your tax return.
If you are self-employed or in a partnership and received any coronavirus financial support, you will need to declare it on your self assessment.
If you are self-employed, you should use:
- form SA103S – short if your tax affairs are simple and your turnover was below the VAT threshold (£85,000) for the tax year; or
- form SA103F – full if your annual turnover was above the VAT threshold for the tax year.
If you’re in a partnership, you should use:
- form SA104S – short if you’re only declaring partnership trading income; or
- form SA104F – full to record all the possible types of partnership income you might receive
HMRC recognises that some taxpayers may be worrying about paying their tax bill. They can access support to help pay any tax owed, and may be able to set up their own monthly payment plan online by using HMRC’s self-serve Time to Pay facility. Taxpayers should contact HMRC for help if they have concerns about paying their bill.
HMRC’s Myrtle Lloyd, director general for customer services, said: ‘We want to help people get their tax returns right by making sure they are prepared and have everything they need before they start their self assessment. If anyone is worried about paying their tax bill, support is available – search ‘time to pay’ on gov.uk.’
The fastest way to complete a tax return is online via a taxpayer’s Personal Tax Account. They will need their UTR to access their tax return, as well as details of their income or earnings and other financial records.
HMRC urges everyone to be alert if they are contacted out of the blue by someone asking for money or personal information. HMRC sees high numbers of fraudsters emailing, calling or texting people claiming to be from the department. If in doubt, HMRC advises not to reply directly to anything suspicious, but to contact them straight away and to search gov.uk for ‘HMRC scams’.
The demand for finance and accounting talent in businesses now exceeds pre-pandemic levels reveals a new report by specialist recruiter Robert Half
According to the 2022 Salary Guide from Robert Half, finance managers, financial analysts, and management accountants are the most sought-after roles due to the effects of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic.
The guide, which is an annual report for projected salary ranges, benefits, and hiring trends across several sectors, revealed that candidates with a strong understanding of Microsoft Excel, finance management, and tax are particularly attractive for employers at this moment.
The report states that the ‘biggest strategic priority’ for chief financial officers (CFO) and finance departments over the next 12 months is rolling out digital transformation and automation initiatives to ‘streamline workflow, increase productivity and reduce costs’.
As well as transforming internal processes, the report states that big data will be ‘key to providing the growth insights’ that businesses need to bolster their recovery efforts with the accounting and finance teams expected to adapt in order to meet these needs.
Leo Hewett, associate director, Robert Half, said: ‘Competition for candidates in finance and accounting is fierce – especially those with the tech skills to support on digital transformation projects. New hires can command significant salary increases, making existing staff more likely to jump ship, so those concerned about retaining talent should be prepared to put up a fight.’
The report also found that 56% of CFOs believe that it will be more challenging to find skilled candidates in 2022 with employee retention at the front of CFO’s minds. The report found that 93% of CFOs are ‘somewhat to very’ concerned about their ability to keep top talent in their ranks.
The rise of environmental social governance (ESG) initiatives and regulatory shifts has also raised the demand for risk and compliance roles with UK businesses launching new responsible and sustainable strategies that require candidates who can help broaden related compliance policies.
In this area senior roles are some of the most sought-after roles that businesses are after are head of compliance and compliance managers.
Chris Henson, senior manager, Robert Half said: ‘There has been high demand for digitally skilled workers in the financial services sector as the link between finance and technology becomes ever-closer.
‘Additionally, the new regulatory landscape and heightened focus on ESG strategies is creating demand for risk and compliance specialists who can help companies create, develop, and adhere to policies and frameworks in relation to this.’
The Government has confirmed its intention to introduce carer’s leave as a new statutory employment right. This will allow employees with caring responsibilities to take time off from work to focus on the person (or people) they care for.
Carer’s leave entitlement will be just as important as all other time off employees currently get. For example, maternity leave, shared parental leave, annual leave and time off for dependants.
Carer’s leave will be a day-one right for all employees, meaning there is no minimum amount of service needed before staff can request it. Eligible employees will be able to take up to one week (five working days) of leave per year. The leave can be taken flexibly, either in individual days or half-days, up to a block of one week.
What pay should employees on carer’s leave get?
There is no obligation for employers to pay those who are on carer’s leave; the statutory entitlement is unpaid for eligible employees. However, organisations can choose to offer contractual pay if they want to. Details of this should be outlined in the handbook and communicated with the workforce. It’s important that any enhanced payments are offered consistently, to ensure all staff are treated fairly and equally. Doing so minimises any potential risks of constructive dismissal or discrimination claims.
Does everyone get carer’s leave?
At the moment, it is expected the right will only apply to people with employee status, so workers or self-employed individuals will not be included. These employees must be unpaid carers; such as, people who are looking after a family member or friend on a voluntary caring basis outside their normal job. The person they provide care to must be someone with a long-term care need. For example, a person with a long-term illness or injury covered as a disability under the Equality Act, or issues relating to old age and terminal illness.
The relationship between the employee and this person will follow what is already in place for the right to time off for dependants. Namely, a spouse or civil partner; child; parent; person who lives in the same household (but is not a tenant, lodger or boarder); or, a person who relies on them for care (ie an elderly neighbour).
There is no set date for when this will come into effect. However, the Government’s consultation response document outlines that legislation will be introduced to make carer’s leave a statutory right as soon as parliamentary time allows.
What does this mean for organisations?
While this new legislation is very similar to what is already in place for time off for dependants, carer’s leave is a brand-new entitlement that employers need to factor in as an additional type of leave and know how it should be managed. Organisations should consider providing additional training to their managers and HR teams; be prepared to update policies and procedures, then communicate these changes with the workforce; assess how requests for carer’s leave will be submitted and approved; review staffing levels to make sure there are enough people in place to cover those who go off on carer’s leave; and implement systems to track and manage carer’s leave. A new Statutory Code of Practice will be released to give more detailed information on how carer’s leave will be accepted and managed.
Managers who are already aware of any employees with caring responsibilities should keep in mind that they may request unpaid carer’s leave, so be prepared to accommodate it. It’s expected that employers will have limited scope for refusing requests and that any concerns over unreasonable requests should be objectively justified.
Can organisations refuse carer’s leave?
Refusing carer’s leave or failing to comply with the new statutory entitlement could lead to timely and costly tribunal claims for organisations. As well as breaching employees’ statutory rights, there could be the risk of discrimination (including associative discrimination) claims if the employee is placed at a detriment for needing to take carer’s leave. Associative disability discrimination claims can be made when an employee is treated unfavourably due to their relationship with someone who has a disability. There might also be an increased risk of constructive dismissal claims if the employee feels that they can’t work there anymore due to their employer refusing the leave.
Carer’s leave shouldn’t be included in absence triggers for disciplinary action. Doing so could further increase the risk of aforementioned tribunal claims. But, it is important that employers keep track of how much carer’s leave an employee takes, to make sure they don’t go above their entitlement of one week per year. Managers who have grounds to believe that their employee is unreasonably requesting or taking carer’s leave can speak with them to explain their concerns. Following this initial investigation, they can then decide what action would be most appropriate. Placing someone at a detriment, including giving them a warning or dismissing, can lead to unfair dismissal and discrimination claims. However, if a full process has been completed and it is clear that there are unsatisfactory explanations for utilising statutory carer’s leave, employers can follow their usual disciplinary policies to determine the best outcome.
In situations where statutory carer’s leave is not appropriate to use — for example, if the person only has a short-term care need, or does not meet the definition of a dependant — organisations should not automatically rule out other types of leave. Time off for dependants can be used in emergency situations, or compassionate leave can be used to allow employees to be with those who are seriously ill or injured, without having a wider involvement in providing their care. If the need for the leave does not fall into any formal categories, employers should be reasonable in authorising unpaid leave to support their staff. Doing so helps reduce the risk of unplanned and long-term absences and contributes towards increased retention, motivation and productivity.