Nadhim Zahawi has agreed to pay millions of pounds in tax to HMRC following a dispute over his family’s financial affairs
The former chancellor has agreed to pay a seven-figure sum to the tax authority to settle a tax dispute totalling £3.7m related to his family trust, Balshore Investments.
In July, HMRC examined the tax affairs of MP Nadhim Zahawi after an inquiry was launched by the National Crime Agency (NCA) in 2020.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) had also investigated Zahawi’s finances, according to a report in the Independent.
The investigation probed Zahawi’s involvement in a scheme to avoid tax by using an offshore company to hold shares in YouGov – the polling company he co-founded.
His family trust, Gibraltar-registered Balshore Investments, held a stake worth more than £20m, but sold up in 2018, with the proceeds being transferred to an unknown recipient.
Tax Policy Associates, a think tank, has estimated that Balshore’s sale of YouGov shares should have incurred capital gains tax (CGT) of about £3.7m.
Zahawi has insisted that he ‘does not have, and never has had’ an interest in Balshore Investments and that he was ‘not a beneficiary’.
A spokesperson for Zahawi said: ‘As he has previously stated, Mr Zahawi’s taxes are properly declared and paid in the UK. He is proud to have built a British business that has become successful around the world.’
Contesting the news, Zahawi stated: ‘There have been news stories over the last few days which are inaccurate, unfair and are clearly smears. It’s very sad that such smears should be circulated and sadder still that they have been published.
‘These smears have falsely claimed that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), the National Crime Agency (NCA), and HMRC are looking into me. Let me be absolutely clear. I am not aware of this. I have not been told that this is the case.
‘I’ve always declared my financial interests and paid my taxes in the UK. If there are questions, of course, I will answer any questions HMRC has of me.’
Labour chair Anneliese Dodds has said there were ‘serious questions’ for Zahawi to answer, saying: ‘Why did Nadhim Zahawi claim last summer that he had paid his taxes in full, and that he wasn’t aware of an investigation? When was he made aware of an investigation? Was the prime minister aware of an investigation when he appointed Nadhim Zahawi to the cabinet?’
A recruiter, a pension administrator and a payroll services provider all avoided tax bills totalling £13.8m and face millions of pounds in fines from HMRC
During the month of November, HMRC identified £13.8m in unpaid tax by the businesses and individuals named in the quarterly deliberate defaulters’ list, £3.2m less than the £17m that was identified in the last quarter.
HMRC’s list names over 100 individuals and businesses who have failed to pay their taxes and been identified in the last three months.
In November, the level of penalties handed out amounted to £8m in total for outstanding tax evasion, as HMRC hammered down on deliberate tax defaulters.
At the top of the list of deliberate tax defaulters was a real estate agent who failed to pay a tax bill of £2,695,693 over a four-year period between April 2014 and 2018. Simon Karimzadeh, sole director of Euroland 3, now faces a penalty of £1,227,997 related to income from capital gains.
According to Companies House, Karimzadeh is listed as the director of Euroland 3 Limited, Euroland 2 Limited, and Euroland 1 Limited, which are all still active and trading. The companies buy and sell real estate.
Second place goes to a former technology consultant who failed to pay £993,729.79 in tax payments between April 2010 and 2019. Stephen Bernard Wheatley, former director of Westward Technology Limited and Qorbis Holdings Limited, received penalties amounting to £457,555.08.
In the meantime, a pension administrator failed to pay £729,596 worth of tax between April 2018 and 2020. Based in London, Avril Patricks Stewart Limited entered into compulsory liquidation in February 2011, and was fined £491,831.44 for unpaid tax by HMRC.
A recruitment and payroll service provider has been fined £533,270.96 for tax evasion over a two-year period. Arrow Logistics Ltd, based in London, failed to pay £627,377.61 in tax between April 2020 and 2022.
Bolton-based payroll services provider Ditto Payroll Ltd takes the fourth spot after not paying £542,238 worth of tax between April 2020 and 2022. HMRC handed the business a £515,126.31 fine and the group entered into a creditors voluntary liquidation in April 2021.
In addition, an international telecoms company called Akal Nation Limited based in London avoided paying £381,038 worth of tax between February and July 2019. HMRC handed the business a £220,049.44 fine.
Finally, a printing company based in Bradford avoided £359,358 in tax payments. A&S Printers was fined £211,122.66 by HMRC for tax evasion over a 10-year period, between May 2010 and July 2020.
HMRC will raise interest rates on tax debt from 22 November following the 0.75% increase in the Bank of England base rate
The current late payment and repayment interest rates applied to the main taxes and duties that HMRC currently charges and pays interest on are:
- late payment interest rate — 5.5% from 22 November 2022
- repayment interest rate — 2.0% from 22 November 2022
This means that the late payment interest rate will increase by 0.75% to 5.5% from 22 November 2022. The rate last increased to 4.75% on 11 October. This is the highest rate since the height of the financial crisis in January 2009.
Late payment interest is payable on late tax bills covering income tax, National Insurance contributions, capital gain tax, stamp duty land tax, stamp duty and stamp duty reserve tax. The corporation tax pay and file rate also increases to 5.5%.
The repayment interest rate will also be increased from the current 1.25% repayment interest rate to 2.0%.
Corporation tax self assessment interest rates relating to interest charged on underpaid quarterly instalment payments rises to 5.5%, up from 4.75%.
The interest paid on overpaid quarterly instalment payments and on early payments of corporation tax not due by instalments rises to 2% from 1.25%.
The latest regional HMRC hub has opened in Manchester and will accommodate 3,000 staff in a purpose built facility
The Manchester Regional Centre and UK government hub is located at Three New Bailey and was formally opened by HMRC chief executive Jim Harra on 12 October 2022.
The office’s distinctive red-brick weave references the area’s industrial heritage buildings and contains meeting rooms named after computer pioneer Alan Turing and Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, and landmarks including The Bridgewater Hall.
Harra unveiled a plaque, which is the first mounted in a HMRC building to bear the government department’s changed name, His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, following the accession of King Charles III to the throne.
Jim Harra, HMRC’s chief executive, said: ‘Three New Bailey is a landmark building and will enable HMRC staff to work together in an inspiring modern environment which prioritises inclusive design.
‘I am delighted to formally declare our Manchester Regional Centre open.’
The seven-storey building will house around 3,000 HMRC staff, including those whose work focuses on customer compliance and borders and trade. It is also home to a team from the Valuation Office Agency.
Three New Bailey has been built using HMRC’s inclusive design guide, with features including step-free access to all levels and workspace finishes which balance colours and reduce glare for neurodiverse and visually impaired staff.
The opening ceremony was attended by Sir Dermot Turing, the nephew of Alan Turing.
Moving to regional centres will save around £300m cumulatively up to financial year 2025 to 2026 and will deliver annual cash savings of £74m in financial year 2025 to 2026.
HMRC’s other regional centre locations are Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Croydon, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Portsmouth and Stratford in east London.
A further increase on interest paid to HMRC for late payment of taxes will hit taxpayers who are not up-to-date, warns Blick Rothenberg
Nimesh Shah, CEO at the firm said: ‘Following another Bank of England base rate to 1.75%, HMRC has confirmed that it will raise its interest rates on late tax bills to 4.25% on 23 August – a level not seen since January 2009.’
He added: ‘Since the start of 2022, the HMRC’s interest rate has increased by 1.5% – that’s the equivalent of an extra £225 per annum on a £15,000 tax liability. On the same £15,000 tax liability, you would suffer almost £650 of interest per annum.
‘With continuing rising costs rising across the board, HMRC have hiked up interest on late tax payments at the latest opportunity. It sets a worrying trend for some taxpayers who are struggling to pay their outstanding taxes, against the backdrop of other rising costs.
The threat of further interest rate rises this autumn, coupled with rising inflation, will likely see further increases in HMRC rates.
Shah said: ‘The worst is yet to come on this front, with some economists projecting the Bank of England could decide to increase the base rate to 2.5% by the end of 2022 – this could see HMRC increasing their interest rate on late paid tax to 5% by the end of the year.
‘Taxpayers who have outstanding tax liabilities should be mindful to settle as much as they can afford before there are further rate rises.
‘HMRC have also finally increased the repayment supplement rate by 0.25% to 0.75% – the first increase in this rate in over a decade. It’s quite shocking that HMRC have quickly increased the rate on late paid tax by six times the amount the equivalent repayment interest rate has gone up by this year.
‘HMRC’s meagre 0.75% repayment supplement rate means there is not any great incentive for HMRC to release repayments. There continues to be one rule for money owed to HMRC and another for taxpayers who are due a refund. Many taxpayers have seen significant delays to repayments over the last 12 months, but HMRC can continue to drag their heels with little cost to the Treasury.’
At the height of the wedding season, HMRC is reminding married couples and people in civil partnerships to sign up for the marriage allowance tax break
Marriage allowance allows married couples or people in civil partnerships, including those who have been together for many years, to share their personal tax allowances if one partner earns below the personal allowance threshold of £12,570, and the other is a basic rate taxpayer.
Eligible couples can transfer 10% of their tax-free allowance to their partner, which is £1,260 in 2022/23. It means couples can reduce the tax they pay by up to £252 a year. They can apply any time and, if eligible, could backdate their claims for up to four previous tax years to receive a payment of up to £1,242.
Marriage allowance is one of a number of benefits and reliefs available to boost family finances at a time when many are concerned with the rising cost of living.
Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s deputy chief executive, said: ‘We want to ensure people are receiving vital financial support at a time when they need it most. Married couples or those in a civil partnership could potentially receive tax relief worth up to £1,242, meaning extra cash in their pockets.
‘To find out if you are eligible and how to apply search ‘marriage allowance’ on gov.uk.’
More than two million couples currently benefit from marriage allowance, but there could be thousands more who are eligible to claim.
Even if couples do not qualify for marriage allowance when they first get married, a change in circumstances years later could mean they become newly eligible. These include:
- one partner retiring and the other remaining in work;
- a change in employment;
- a reduction in working hours which means their earnings fall below their personal allowance;
- maternity, paternity, or shared parental leave;
- unpaid leave or a career break; and
- one partner studying or in education and not earning above their personal allowance.
If a spouse or civil partner has died since 5 April 2018, the surviving person can still claim by contacting the income tax helpline.
Marriage allowance claims are automatically renewed every year. However, couples should notify HMRC if their circumstances change.
HMRC has confirmed plans to modernise its direct debit payment system for employer PAYE so a recurring direct debit can be set up for the first time
Currently employers can only set up a direct debit to collect a single payment, but not a recurring direct debit.
As part of its payment modernisation programme, HMRC is going to offer a recurring direct debit to employers. This is part of a wider project to create a consistent set of payment methods for all taxpayers across the tax authority, rather than the current limited service, which varies depending on the type of tax payable.
The service will be available from mid-September this year, HMRC said.
Once available, there will be a change to the business tax account (BTA) and the employers’ liabilities and payments screens. There will be a new link for ‘set up a direct debit’. This will allow client companies to set up a direct debit instruction once, authorising HMRC to collect directly from their bank account based on their return submissions.
After an employer has set up a direct debit, the link will change to ‘manage your direct debit’ and an employer will be able to view, change or cancel the direct debit online.
Payments which will be covered by direct debit will show within employers’ liabilities and payment screens for both employers and agents.
This service is not available for agents and only employers will be able to create, view, amend and cancel a direct debit.
Employer PAYE liabilities and payments viewer update
HMRC also confirmed that it has been extending employer PAYE for the agent online service on a rolling basis and that the expansion is ‘progressing well’. This service allows agents to see employer liabilities and payments records held by HMRC.
All previous restrictions will be removed by the end of July and in future all agents will be able to access the service. This will include those with the assistant as well as administrative roles.
One of the biggest problems for self employed taxpayers relates to confusion over allowable business expenses when completing self assessment returns
Many self-employed people experience difficulties completing self assessment returns due to ‘confusing terminology, ambiguity around allowable business expenses and uncertainty transferring figures from personal spreadsheets to HMRC’s system. These challenges resulted in a more time-consuming process and errors being made’, finds the latest HMRC commissioned research into the tax experiences of the self employed.
There was widespread consensus that the first year of self employment was by far the most challenging, with many emphasising the level of complexity and stress induced by the process of figuring out what they needed to do. This anxiety was further compounded by their fear of the potential financial repercussions of making a mistake.
The greater the number of roles and sources of income, the more taxpayers found it difficult to keep on top of their financial records, in turn impacting effective tax management.
The process of maintaining good financial records throughout the year was also challenging, presenting additional complications by increasing the difficulty of tax management.
For some self-employed customers managing cash flow was also a challenge. This difficulty was most prominent for those with irregular hybrid incomes as it was hard to predict and align the timings of their incomings and outgoings, exacerbated when combining PAYE and self-employed earnings.
Agents and accountants were mostly employed to help overcome tax management rather than financial management challenges; for example, to accurately complete self assessment returns.
Using a tax agent was also felt to provide the added benefit of saving time, particularly for those who were time-poor, and saving money, for example, by receiving guidance on the allowable expenses they could claim for.
The ‘payments on account’ process also made planning for tax payments more challenging. This stemmed from HMRC’s system of calculating tax bills based on taxpayers’ income from the previous year and ‘payment on account’ for the year ahead.
The process of planning tax payments based on this system was particularly challenging for those with irregular incomes that fluctuated significantly from year to year.
One respondent said: ‘Because my income can fluctuate, it can be quite frustrating to end up paying loads on account when you know for a fact that you’ve not earned as much. It makes it hard to plan around.’
Many self employed people experienced difficulties completing their self assessment ‘due to ambiguity around allowable business expenses, confusing terminology and uncertainty transferring figures from personal spreadsheets to HMRC’s system’. These challenges resulted in a more time-consuming process and errors being made.
Completing self assessment was seen as challenging across the range of tax and income complexity due to uncertainty around how to complete some parts of the forms. While it was said to have improved over time, the terminology within the return was still not felt to be intuitive and simple to understand due to the use of ‘jargon’ and acronyms.
As a result, some people found it difficult to understand the questions and to know which boxes to tick and where to input information. This issue was said to be compounded by the frequency of changes to the return, with these updates adding to their uncertainty each year and requiring time to process and understand.
Some also voiced frustration about the complexity of the ID number and process of retrieving this and inputting it into the Government Gateway. This was seen as a ‘convoluted system’ and was especially frustrating if the code was input incorrectly locking users out of the system.
Long-standing self-employed workers frequently stated that the tone in HMRC communications had generally improved and was more personable, which made completing the self assessment process less stressful.
Respondents suggested a number of ways for HMRC to improve their services, including helping them track their finances and plan for tax payment, for example, through real-time self assessment inputs, improving the speed and accuracy of completing returns, for example, through downloadable spreadsheets, and providing more personal and tailored support, for example, for those in their first year of self-employment.
Three people were arrested after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers visited businesses across the country in a day of action after new powers were introduced in the fight against till fraud
Businesses involved in making, supplying or promoting electronic sales suppression (ESS) systems that help users hide or reduce the value of till sales, now face fines of up to £50,000 and criminal investigations. Users also face fines as HMRC increases efforts to target the tax evasion practice.
HMRC investigations visited 30 businesses on 18 May including shops, takeaways and restaurants, across nine counties to tackle ESS and two men and a woman were arrested in Nottinghamshire as part of a criminal investigation into the alleged supply of ESS software.
The men, aged 43 and 58, were arrested along with a 56-year-old woman on suspicion of fraud offences and cheating the revenue.
A search warrant was executed by HMRC officers at three addresses and computers, digital devices and paperwork were seized. All three suspects have been released under investigation.
Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Lucy Frazer, said the overwhelming majority of businesses are paying their taxes and rightly want to see HMRC stepping in where needed to ensure a level playing field for all.
“Tax crime does not stand still and neither do we – the new powers available to HMRC allow them to clamp down on ESS and help recover tax revenues to fund our vital public services,” she said.
Marc Gill, HMRC’s director of individuals & small-business compliance, said electronic sales suppression gives the appearance a business is trading legitimately, when in fact they’re really just stealing money from taxpayers.
“We encourage anyone using, supplying, making or promoting ESS to report via our disclosure facility. Making a disclosure is not only the right thing to do it could also lead to a reduction in financial penalties,” he said.
ESS users will either have access to specialist software or will configure their electronic point of sale (EPOS) device in a specific way that allows them to consciously hide true sales and the resulting tax that is due.
Sales processed through the till give the impression they have been recorded as normal, however the end-of-day report is deliberately manipulated behind the scenes to reduce reported takings.
As part of investigations into ESS HMRC can also recover tax evaded and launch investigations that could result in criminal convictions.
HMRC has a voluntary disclosure facility and would encourage anyone using, making, supplying or promoting ESS to contact them. By making a disclosure now those using or benefiting from ESS could see their financial penalties reduced.
HMRC has increased its late payment interest rates to 0.75% after the Bank of England increased their base rates
The tax authority revised its interest rates for late payments after the Bank of England (BoE) increased the base rate from 0.5% to 0.75%.
HMRC confirmed that the repayment interest rate will rise to 0.75% with the rises due to come into effect shortly The repayment interest rate will remain at 0.5%.
The changes to late payment interest will come into effect on:
- 28 March 2022 for quarterly instalment payments; and
- 5 April 2022 for non-quarterly instalments payments.
HMRC’s interest rates are linked to the Bank of England’s base rate, and due to the base rate increasing HMRC automatically increases rates.