21stFeb
News article

Number of tax fraud cases opened by HMRC fallen by more than half

The number of civil investigations into alleged tax fraud has fallen by more than a half, data has shown.

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The number of civil investigations into alleged tax fraud has fallen by more than a half, data has shown.

The number of investigations into wealthy, offshore and corporate taxpayers fell from 1,417 in 2018/19 to just 627 in 2022/23. According to HMRC, its fraud investigation units focus on the 'highest value' tax fraud.

It stressed that the number of investigations into wealthy, offshore and corporate taxpayers does not take into account overall compliance activity, which saw 300,000 investigations started in 2022/23.

Robert Palmer, Executive Director at Tax Justice UK, commented: 'We know HMRC is underfunded and resources have been diverted for work on Covid and Brexit.

'Parliamentary research shows that when the government invests in HMRC, the return on investment is significant. Until the department is properly funded, vast sums of money owed, often by the richest people and companies, will go unrecovered.'

A spokesperson for HMRC said: 'These specific figures relate solely to the work of our fraud investigation service and do not take account of our overall compliance activity. In 2022/23, we opened 300,000 compliance interventions across a range of tax risks, including avoidance and evasion, and secured £34 billion in additional tax revenue.'

20thFeb
News article

Business group urges Chancellor to outline 'sustainable growth plan'

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the Spring Budget to outline a 'sustainable growth plan'.

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to use the Spring Budget to outline a 'sustainable growth plan'.

It said the government must work in partnership with business to develop a plan to help firms combat 'multiple economic crises'.

The BCC's Quarterly Economic Survey for quarter four of 2023 revealed that many firms are seeing no improvement to sales, cashflow or investment.

Commenting on the matter, Shevaun Haviland, Director General of the BCC, said: 'The Chancellor has shown he is in listening mode. At the Autumn Statement we were pleased to see Full Expensing made permanent and business rate relief. The Budget is an opportunity to build on that good work and further accelerate help for business.

'Our latest research shows that many SMEs are struggling because of business rates, and are limiting their expansion plans because of the VAT threshold. The Chancellor should use his statement next month to announce plans to make rates fairer and restart the VAT registration review.'

19thFeb
News article

AAT outlines top asks in Budget representation

The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has outlined its wishlist for the upcoming Spring Budget on 6 March.

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The Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) has outlined its wishlist for the upcoming Spring Budget on 6 March.

The AAT has called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to create a 'simpler, fairer and more effective' tax system that 'benefits everyone in the country'. It has called for the creation of a new body, separate from government, dedicated to the design, administration and delivery of tax policy.

It said that simplifying and streamlining tax obligations for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can help alleviate costs and 'reduce the time spent on tax issues, allowing them to focus on growing their business'.

Additionally, the AAT said that late payments are 'an increasing threat to SMEs', and called for the government to take further action to ensure large businesses are held accountable for paying their suppliers on time.

The AAT also called for 'continual delays' in the implementation of Making Tax Digital (MTD) to be addressed immediately. It said the pilot schemes for the next phase of MTD must start as soon as possible.

The AAT's full Budget submission can be found here.

16thFeb
News article

HMRC warns self assessment taxpayers as scam referrals rise

HMRC is warning people to be wary of bogus tax refund offers following the self assessment deadline on 31 January.

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HMRC is warning people to be wary of bogus tax refund offers following the self assessment deadline on 31 January.

The tax authority says that fraudsters could set their sights on self assessment taxpayers, with more than 11.5 million submitting a tax return by last month's deadline.

HMRC warns that taxpayers who completed their tax return for the 2022/23 tax year by the 31 January deadline might be taken in by an email, phone call or text message offering a tax rebate.

These phishing scams are designed to use personal details for selling on to criminals, or to access people's bank accounts, says HMRC.

The warning comes after HMRC responded to 207,800 referrals from the public of suspicious contact in the past year to January. This is a 14% increase from the 181,873 reported for the previous 12 months. More than 79,000 of those referrals offered bogus tax rebates.

Kelly Paterson, HMRC's Chief Security Officer, said: 'With the deadline for tax returns behind us, criminals will now try to trick people with fake offers of tax rebates.

'Scammers will attempt to dupe people by email, phone or texts that mimic government messages to make them appear authentic.'

15thFeb
News article

UK fell into recession at the end of 2023

The UK economy fell into recession during the final three months of last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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The UK economy fell into recession during the final three months of last year, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

GDP dropped by 0.3% during the fourth quarter of 2023, which was a sharper fall than expected. That follows a 0.1% fall between July and September.

The UK is considered to be in recession if GDP falls for two successive three-month periods - or quarters.

The figure for the final three months of last year was worse than a 0.1% fall widely forecast by financial markets and economists.

According to the ONS, there a slowdown in all the main sectors it measures to determine the health of the economy, including construction and manufacturing.

Alex Veitch, Director of Policy and Insight at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: 'Businesses were already under no illusion about the difficulties they face, and this news will no doubt ring alarm bells for Government. 

'The BCC's last Quarterly Economic Forecast suggests annual growth below 1.0% for the next two years as firms remained gripped by uncertainty and the twin perils of high inflation and interest rates remain.?? 

'The Chancellor must use his Budget in just under three weeks' time to set out a clear pathway for firms and the economy to grow. 

'Businesses are crying out for a long-term economic plan that reduces the cost pressures they are facing and unlocks the investment they so sorely need.' 

14thFeb
News article

Inflation unchanged but remains top concern for business

UK inflation remained unchanged in January at 4% as food prices fell, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

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UK inflation remained unchanged in January at 4% as food prices fell, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

However, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) warned that inflation remains the top concern for many businesses.

Food and non-alcoholic drink prices fell at a monthly rate of 0.4% in January, the first monthly decline since May 2021, the ONS said.

Core inflation – which excludes energy, food, alcohol and tobacco, and is closely watched by the Bank of England – remained unchanged at 5.1%, according to the latest figures from the ONS.

Services inflation rose to 6.5% in January, up from 6.4% a month earlier.

Alex Veitch, Director of Policy at the BCC, said: 'Businesses need price stability, so today's news that inflation remained unchanged in January is welcome.

'However, firms consistently tell us inflation is their top concern.

'The Bank of England has already warned that inflation is likely to remain volatile over the coming months because of global uncertainty. The Red Sea crisis is causing supply chain disruption and price rises for businesses.

'Next month's budget is an opportunity for the government to reassure and support businesses. Companies across the UK will be looking for a clear plan from the Chancellor that prioritises investment and skills.'

13thFeb
News article

British families facing a 'triple savings challenge', Foundation warns

A report published by the Resolution Foundation has warned that UK families are facing a 'triple savings challenge' of insufficient 'rainy day' savings of at least £1,000.

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A report published by the Resolution Foundation has warned that UK families are facing a 'triple savings challenge' of insufficient 'rainy day' savings of at least £1,000.

The Foundation also warned that families face an 'inability to cope financially with bigger life events' and inadequate retirement incomes.

It said that these issues can be addressed by 'building on the success of auto-enrolment into pension saving'. The Resolution Foundation has called for auto-enrolment contributions to be gradually increased from 8% to 12%.

Molly Broome, Economist at the Resolution Foundation, commented: 'Families across Britain face a triple savings challenge – not saving enough for rainy days, bigger life events, or for a decent income in retirement.

'One-in-three families in the country have less than £1,000 in savings – which left many people exposed during the cost-of-living crisis – while around 13 million individuals aren't saving enough for an adequate income in retirement.

'We can address all three challenges by building on the success of pensions auto-enrolment to opt more people into both easy access and long-term saving.' 

12thFeb
News article

NAO publishes findings on HMRC's monitoring of effectiveness of tax reliefs

The National Audit Office (NAO) has published recommendations on how HMRC monitors the effectiveness of tax reliefs.

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The National Audit Office (NAO) has published recommendations on how HMRC monitors the effectiveness of tax reliefs.

In a recent report, the NAO stated that HM Treasury and HMRC 'still do not monitor or evaluate reliefs closely enough to understand if they cost too much or achieve their intended economic impacts'.

The NAO said that, as at December 2023, there were 341 'non-structural' tax reliefs that were designed to achieve social or economic objectives. In the 2022/23 tax year, the total cost of 104 non-structural tax reliefs was around £204 billion.

It said that the largest non-structural reliefs, which include tax reliefs for pensions, capital gains tax (CGT) tax relief on main homes and zero-rated VAT on food, do not specifically target economic growth.

According to the NAO, it has taken 'a number of years' for the government to amend reliefs where analyses found that they were of limited effectiveness.

Commenting on the findings, Gareth Davies, Head of the NAO, said: 'Tax reliefs are an important policy tool for government, but their number and cost makes administration a significant task.

'The government should carry out sufficient evaluation and compliance work to understand whether claims are legitimate and reliefs are working, and act promptly to get reliefs back on track if problems are identified.'

9thFeb
News article

'More ambitious approach' needed towards preserving access to cash

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has stated that a 'more ambitious approach' is needed in regard to making sure access to cash is preserved.

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The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has stated that a 'more ambitious approach' is needed in regard to making sure access to cash is preserved.

The FSB's statement comes following a Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) consultation on the matter, which outlined proposals to protect and widen access to cash.

However, the FSB believes that the proposals 'could go further'. Its own recommendations include:

  • developing a more comprehensive cash assessment process that is more responsive to a wider range of local needs
  • publishing assessment outcomes and making processes transparent
  • responding to a wider range of trigger events to undertake a cash assessment in a local area.

Martin McTague, National Chair of the FSB, said: 'A small business must be free to choose which payment options it wishes to accept, including cash. To enable this, it's vital for the infrastructure required for cash to remain available in all areas.

'Cash access is too important to be left to innumerable individual commercial decisions which, taken together, represent a significant threat to people and businesses' ability to withdraw, process and deposit cash.'

8thFeb
News article

Pensions income needed to retire rises

The amount needed for a single person to have a moderate retirement has risen to £31,300, according to the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA).

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The amount needed for a single person to have a moderate retirement has risen to £31,300, according to the Pensions and Lifetime Savings Association (PLSA).

The rising cost of living and an expectation to offer financial support to grandchildren had pushed up the income required by £8,000, the PLSA said.

The PLSA uses evidence from focus groups to make the estimates, and they are intended as a guide for those planning their retirement savings.

The calculations are pitched at three different levels - minimum, moderate and comfortable - and are developed and maintained independently by the Centre for Research in Social Policy at Loughborough University.

They estimated that a single person needed £14,400 a year for a minimum income, and £43,100 a year for a comfortable retirement.

Couples required a joint £22,400 at the minimum level, £43,100 at a moderate level and £59,000 at a comfortable level.

Nigel Peaple, Director for Policy and Advocacy at the PLSA, said: 'The cost of living has put enormous pressure on household finances over the last year and, as the research shows, this is no different for retirees.'