New Changes Restrict Reliefs for Goodwill But Options Still Remain

Two changes were announced in the Autumn Statement to the treatment of goodwill on incorporation, which had immediate effect from 3 December 2014.

These were as follows:

  • Entrepreneurs’ Relief is no longer available on a sale of the goodwill to a connected party
  • Tax relief on writing off the goodwill (amortisation) can no longer be obtained once in the company.

Both of these changes will reduce the attractiveness of common planning which was undertaken when incorporating a business, but there are still options available to avoid tax becoming a drawback on incorporation.

The use of TCGA 1992, s.162 incorporation relief, in combination with s.165 gift relief where suitable, is still possible in order to avoid upfront capital gains on incorporation.

It should also be noted that the new restrictions only apply where the parties are connected, and there could therefore be situations where suitable planning could be undertaken to prevent the rules from applying.  Similarly, in cases of a management or third-party buy-out, these new restrictions should not apply.

With further tightening of the rules, it will be more important than ever to ensure suitable professional advice is sought before undertaking an incorporation as careful structuring will be needed to avoid unexpected outcomes.

Taxpayers Hunted and Lynched

The Blog this week could be described as dark tales from the Brothers Grimm entitled “What happens to those who ignore HM Revenue and Customs…”

Do not be too scared!  Whilst the Brothers Grimm tales tend to have awful endings – as do the stories of the poor souls in the cases described in the Blog – they are the ones who have ignored the warnings and neglected dealing with HMRC with due and proper respect.  For years many seem to get away with it.  However, the final conclusion seems inevitable to Observers.  Neglect means ignoring that invariably the Mills of God (and HMRC) may grind slowly, but they grind exceedingly fine.  It is prudent to take professional advice before the sack of corn representing your life is thrown down the hopper into the grinding wheel.

Looking at likely outcomes those who take advice from their properly qualified professional advisors generally come out far better.  Prior neglect will cost – often significantly – but making disclosure and then negotiating a fair deal makes personal and economic sense.  Just compare getting matters settled to being sent to jail or having your assets seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act, let alone the miserable anticipation of waiting for it to happen.

3 recently reported cases exemplify the lesson.  Stephen Douce only declared a low household income, where in fact he was earning far more.  The under-declarations resulted in a loss to HMRC of VAT, income tax, NIC and tax credits.  He was sent to jail.

Mr Lynch was discovered to have failed to declare a particular source of income.  The Courts held that the degree of suspicion was sufficient for there to be ‘discovery’ under S29 TMA 1970 and for procedures to be taken under the Proceeds of Crime Act, reflecting gains obtained illicitly over the preceding 20 year period.  Unexplained deposits and credit card payments from unexplained sources amounted to sufficient evidence of undeclared income.  The tax assessments stood.

The Hunt case shows financial irregularities can have other long term consequences.  Again, taking proper advice regarding prompt disclosure may well have helped Mr Hunt, a Financial Advisor, avoid having his new business tainted because he was deemed not to be a ‘fit and proper person’ under FSMA regulations.  He lost in court, even though he argued his original criminal conviction ought to be ‘spent’ because it took place in 1993 so was over 20 years ago.

The advice to clients is take proper advice and then act promptly.  Ignore HM Revenue and Customs at your peril!  The alternative consequences are likely to be costly and last most of a lifetime.

If you need further advice call us; 01704 548698 or 0113 2443502.

Reasonable Excuse – HMRC Publishes List of Worst Excuses, But Are They Ignoring Genuine Cases?

HMRC have released a list of the 10 worst excuses for missing the 31 January tax return deadline, however there are a number of cases where HMRC’s limited definition for what constitutes a reasonable excuse has been exposed.

 

The list of excuses published by HMRC is as follows:

 

  • My pet dog ate my tax return…and all the reminders.
  • I was up a mountain in Wales, and couldn’t find a postbox or get an internet signal.
  • I fell in with the wrong crowd.
  • I’ve been travelling the world, trying to escape from a foreign intelligence agency.
  • Barack Obama is in charge of my finances.
  • I’ve been busy looking after a flock of escaped parrots and some fox cubs.
  • A work colleague borrowed my tax return, to photocopy it, and didn’t give it back.
  • I live in a camper van in a supermarket car park.
  • My girlfriend’s pregnant.
  • I was in Australia.

 

Whilst these excuses are clearly unreasonable, recent cases have shown that HMRC continue to pursue their internal line that only ‘death, disease or disaster’ would constitute a reasonable excuse.  However, the legislation itself simply states that the excuse must be reasonable.  Recent cases have included excuses such as inability to pay (T James V HMRC), HMRC communication failure (M Styles v HMRC), HMRC system failures (Eclipse Generic Ltd v HMRC) and in the case of Spink v HMRC (2014), it was found that it was reasonable for a taxpayer to assume that tax was not payable until the actual tax status had been established.

 

Each case should be determined on its own facts and we believe HMRC are continuing to refuse reasonable excuse claims in circumstances that are “reasonable” under case law.

Dividends not unlawful according to Tribunal – R Jones, J Jones v HMRC

In a recent case (R Jones, J Jones v HMRC) that initially appears surprising, the First-Tier Tribunal determined that dividends declared by a recruitment consultancy company, which subsequently went into insolvent liquidation, were not unlawful.

The company had been struggling but they were still forecast to make profits at the time dividends were declared.  Unexpectedly, the company’s invoice finance providers demanded immediate repayment of sums owed.  It appears that this was what forced the company into liquidation as they were not able to obtain the funds on demand and were unable to find alternative finance.

On appointing liquidators, the directors were advised to reclassify the sums paid as dividends as salary as there was a risk that they could be unlawful.  There was no evidence presented as to why they believed this to be the case, and the directors admitted to not fully understanding the advice given.  This reclassification took place, but the accounts and company records were not fully updated to reflect this.

The directors declared the salaries on their tax returns, but stated that tax had been deducted, which was not the case as when the payments were made, they were treated as dividends.  HMRC argued there had been a wilful failure by the business to deduct PAYE and National Insurance on these payments of salary, and were therefore seeking to recover the tax from Mr and Mrs Jones.

The directors appealed arguing that the payments had been intended as interim dividends.

The First-tier Tribunal decided that the reclassification amounted to “nothing more than a flawed analysis of the transactions which had taken place”.  The sums were clearly intended as dividends and they did not see any reason as to why they should have been unlawful.  They did acknowledge that the position may have been different if the dividends were unlawful.

The taxpayers’ appeal was therefore allowed, with the sums taxable as dividends as originally intended.

This case highlights the importance of taking correct advice, and of ensuring that dividends are declared in a lawful manner with proper records made.  The taxpayers in this case were able to get the desired outcome, but the position would likely have been resolved more easily if proper advice was taken at the time.