Employers Beware! – PAYE Penalties

Typically, PAYE has been described as an ‘approximate’ method of collecting tax due, which remained the ultimate liability of the employee.

Recent judgements, including the case of Paringdon Sports Club, suggest more of the risk may fall on the employer.

In addition the risk may be worse with the current HMRC penchant for penalties. Many advisors will be familiar with their tendency to seek around 15% extra tax for relatively minor ‘careless’ errors. This represents increased risk for business and their advisors.

There are methods related to potentially mitigating or suspending such penalties.

To avoid embarrassment and excessive cost a prudent review may seem sensible?

Whilst most businesses operate routine PAYE relatively easily with the backing of software, experience suggests that ‘unusual’ or one off events can cause problems.

These days such errors can lead to expensive penalties, so procedures should be put in place to check the correct treatment on one off matters and if necessary take advice.

On the penalty front the case of P Steady shows that it can be worth appealing against a penalty imposition. In that recent case the taxpayer managed to get a penalty suspended where, by oversight he had put down bank interest earned in incorrect years. The Tribunal said ‘The mere fact that this is an error in a tax return does not mean that a taxpayer has been careless’. They went on to say, ‘To levy a penalty on a taxpayer who hereto has had a good compliance record over many years and then refuse to consider suspension of those penalties does not reflect well on HMRC’.

As always thinking of the correct technical position makes sense.

Payroll Schemes and the Isle of Man Disclosure Facility

Over the years, a number of agency workers and related workers, will have entered into arrangements to try to reduce their tax burdens.  In certain cases, these may have involved Payroll Schemes run through the Isle of Man.

HMRC have been cracking down on such schemes for a number of years and have been successful in pulling them apart in a number of cases.  With the original scheme providers often no long in existence, the tax is pursued from the end users of the scheme, potentially leading to financial hardship, especially when interest and penalties are also brought into the equation.

In appropriate circumstances, the Isle of Man Disclosure Facility (MDF) could provide an option for users of such schemes to come forward and pay the tax at a reduced penalty rate.  The MDF provides a useful framework for making disclosures and would enable the taxpayer to start again with a clean slate.  In our experience, this feeling of relief is often the most significant outcome for clients from disclosing.

Eaves and Co have had extensive experience in dealing with the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility, which operated in a similar manner, and can bring this experience to bear in assisting with a disclosure under the MDF.

For more details on the terms of the MDF, please see our earlier post here.  If you think you may be able to benefit from the MDF, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Hok Ltd v HMRC – HMRC Wins Appeal

HMRC have successfully appealed against the decision of the first tier tribunal in the case of Hok Ltd v HMRC.

In the original case (see our blog http://wp.me/p2JyHb-7i), Hok Ltd claimed that HMRC’s practice of delaying sending out penalty notices for the late submission of form P35 (PAYE end of year return) by 4 months was unfair as they had already built up penalties of £500 before they knew they had to submit the return.

Following the decision in Hok Ltd and a number of similar cases being found against them, HMRC changed their practice such that employers will now receive earlier correspondence regarding the late submission and penalties.

The upper tier tribunal found that the first tier tribunal erred in its judgement on the basis that the company (Hok Ltd) did not deny that the return was late nor attempt to argue that they had a reasonable excuse, as such the first tier tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to mitigate the penalty.

The upper tier tribunal considered that the first tier tribunal has no statutory power discharge or adjust a penalty because of a perception that it is unfair. Thus in the absence of a statutory route of appeal, the only option available to the taxpayer is to seek a judicial review.