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8 tips to avoid a tax investigation by HMRC

Can you reduce your risk of a tax investigation by HMRC?

I believe that you can – and I’d like to share with you 8 tips on how to do that.

HMRC’s resources are stretched meaning that they’re far more likely to investigate where they have reason for suspicion.

This being the case how can you avoid attracting the attention of HMRC?

1. Appoint an accountant – Errors on Tax Returns are one of the most common reasons HMRC has for taking a look at your file. An accountant will significantly reduce the risk of errors.

2. Review your Tax Returns – Ultimately the book stops with you, not your accountant. When you receive your documents for review make sure you give them the due attention.

3. Submit your Returns nice and early – HMRC makes no secret of the fact that it views you as “risky” if you persistently file late returns.

4. Pay your tax on time – same reason as above

5. Keep business expenses sensible – HMRC compares sector averages – it knows how much you should earn before it even receives your Tax Return. Significant deviations from the norm will raise eyebrows. If you’re unsure if a particular expense is legitimate – ask your accountant.

6. Use the “white space” – Your tax return includes a box “Additional Info” (aka “white space”) – use this if you are declaring something out of the ordinary. It may help avoid questions which can lead to an investigation.

7. Beware of easily overlooked omissions – one-off capital gains, interest on savings or small second incomes can easily be forgotten about when it comes time to prepare your Tax Return. But these are not forgotten by HMRC. Since 2010 it uses it’s Connect software to trawl publicly available databases, e.g. Land Registry (provides details of property ownership and transactions), eBay and Airbnb (might give clues of second incomes), even Facebook and other social media websites have become a treasure trove of information to compare life-style with declared earnings.

8. Avoid avoidance schemes – the scheme promoters will tell you that these are legal avoidance of tax, not illegal evasion. However, aggressive schemes such as Employee Benefit Trusts (EBT’s) or Icebreaker (famously used by Gary Barlow) are constantly being shut down by HMRC. Worst of all the participators of these schemes find that some years later the government enacts retrospective tax laws (as controversial as that is) to recover lost tax since the inception of the scheme.

Three months free tax investigation insurance

If the dreaded happens your best defence is your accountant – for between £6 – £10 per month we can insure you against the professional fees incurred in defending your case. Sign-up within 30 days of this post and we’ll give you three months free cover. To better understand our tax investigation insurance please read our blog post Can you insure against a tax investigation?

Enjoy saving tax?

We have two videos to help on ourYouTube-logo-full_colorchannel; and for regular tax-tips follow our blog on Google+ or click +Follow at the bottom of this page.

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Making Tax Digital – When will it affect you?

Are you ready to throw away those paper invoices and do your bookkeeping using only online software? Do you need to prepare for such a change?

If your turnover is above the £85,000 VAT threshold then yes, you have just 12 months to prepare. Smaller businesses are expected to go digital sometime after 2020.

MTD – in the making
March 2015 Chancellor Osborne announces “the end of the Tax Return” with the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD). The idea being that all self-employed people and businesses will be required to keep digital records (paper seemingly being outlawed) and the usual Tax Return will be replaced with 4 quarterly statements + a year-end statement submitted electronically to HMRC.

Over the following months accounting bodies and business groups identify a mountain of hurdles before this grand idea could possibly be implemented.

Summer 2016 and Brexit happened – which seems to have dramatically slowed down the implementation of MTD. The idea lives on but it’s very much a shadow of its former self.

MTD – where are we now?
The most recent government update was 13th July 2017 in which the following implementation timetable was outlined:
• only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will have to keep digital records and only for VAT purposes
• they will only need to do so from 2019
• businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HMRC quarterly, for other taxes until at least 2020

What does MTD mean for you?
• Smaller businesses trading under the VAT threshold can breathe easy for now. At the earliest digital records and quarterly reports will be required from April 2020 (I suspect later).

• Businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold should use 2018 to review which cloud software would best suit their needs. Now, this is where things become a little uncertain as the government are still to define exactly what will be required to comply with MTD for VAT. It is so far thought that such businesses will no longer be allowed to keep their records on spreadsheets and then manually transfer the figures into HMRC’s online VAT submission tool. HMRC’s aim is that VAT Returns are submitted directly from the software on which your records are kept. Whilst we still await precise guidance this year is probably a good time to consider using cloud accounting software from the start of your next financial year. Unfortunately, such software isn’t free but it does offer excellent reporting facilities and automation of processes (inc. bank feeds). We, like many of our clients, already use cloud accounting and wouldn’t look back.

The two most popular offerings being Xero and QuickBooks (Xero being our preferred choice).

Clients of ours that are most likely to be affected will be contacted by email shortly.

For now, even if you’re not immediately affected, it’s worth knowing that HMRC are pushing ahead with MTD – although, sensibly, at a much slower pace than originally announced.

Source info:

Enjoy saving tax?

We have two videos to help on ourYouTube-logo-full_colorchannel; and for regular tax-tips follow our blog on Google+ or click +Follow at the bottom of this page.

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National Minimum Wage Rise from April 2018

National Living Wage (NLW) rates (for those over 25 years old) and National Minimum Wage (NMW) rates (for those under 25 years old) are to rise from 1 April 2018.

The NLW increase of 33p represents a 4.4% rise, equivalent to an annual increase of about £600 for a full-time worker.

In summary and effective 1 April 2018 the follow minimum wage rates will apply

Year 25 and over 21 to 24 18 to 20 Under 18 Apprentice *
April 2017 £7.50 £7.05 £5.60 £4.05 £3.50
April 2018 (new rates) £7.83 £7.38 £5.90 £4.20 £3.70

* The apprentice rate is for apprentices aged 16 to 18 and those aged 19 or over who are in their first year. All other apprentices are entitled to the National Minimum Wage for their age.

The Government has previously said it plans to raise the national living wage to £9 per hour by 2020.

Ensure your payroll procedures are up to date. For further details and more rates visit

Enjoy saving tax?

We have two videos to help on ourYouTube-logo-full_colorchannel; and for regular tax-tips follow our blog on Google+ or click +Follow at the bottom of this page.

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Bogus Companies House Correspondence

Just a reminder that there are many businesses out there purporting to be or work with UK government agencies such as Companies House and HMRC. Before acting on any such correspondence arriving by email or letter please take care to verify its legitimacy.

Carefully watch out for the imitation letters – those which copy very closely the style and logos used by Companies House and HMRC.

As an example, this week I received a letter from Commercial Register demanding that I update and return my company’s details by a given deadline. There was no request for payment. Pictured below (overlapping the enclosed form (at the top) and the return envelope)


On closer inspection the letter comes from Direct Publisher S.L.U. Madrid. Whilst many scams involve requesting a small payment by return (say £15-£30 typically) it seems that Commercial Register await your return of details then invoice your company €993 euros for an advertising directory entry! Apparently this is for the order you place when completing your details – which is certainly not made clear.

Please be careful with your personal and company details.

Feel free to share this info with fellow business owners and your own admin staff. And, as a Massey Accounting Company client please always feel free to ask if in doubt.

As a reminder the legitimate Companies House logo is shown below


Of course Companies House and HMRC are aware of such frauds and their guidance can be found here:

Reporting fraud to Companies House

HMRC Avoid and report internet scams and phishing


Enjoy saving tax?

We have two videos to help on ourYouTube-logo-full_colorchannel; and for regular tax-tips follow our blog on Google+ or click +Follow at the bottom of this page.