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Will your tax return stand up to HMRC Profit Benchmarking?

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HMRC have been doing lots of research on SME businesses, the most interesting areas of research are:

Understanding Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) business life eventsSME Customer Journey Mapping

Research was carried out to understand:

  • the key life events and activities that SMEs experience
  • how these relate to tax
  • what opportunities there are for the improvement of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) services by more closely aligning them to business lifecycles

The Transparent Benchmarking Team Statement (November 2014)

HMRC is conducting a number of pilots, focussed on SME customers, designed to explore the effectiveness of publishing benchmarks on aiding greater voluntary compliance.

Following the first pilot (benchmark net profit ratios for Painters and Decorators, and Driving Instructors) in March 2014, HMRC will run two more in the autumn. One of these will focus on self-employed taxi drivers and pharmacists, where HMRC will be writing to around 2,500 agents that have a number of clients in the target sectors. The idea is to test whether publishing benchmarks through an agent is more effective than writing to a customer directly. Letters will also be sent to a sample of represented and unrepresented customers within the selected sectors to form control groups for evaluation purposes. All represented individuals and businesses written to directly will be informed that their agent has not received a copy of the letter.

The benchmark for both sectors is the net profit ratio. Because this is a controlled pilot exercise, not all agents or businesses within the relevant sectors will be receiving a letter. (source CIOT)

The Benchmarks we know so far are:

  • Painters & Decorators range from 59% to 79%
  • Driving Instructors 31% to 67%

So the range of profits are big!

We await the ranges for Taxi Drivers and Pharmacists.

If your profit doesn’t fit then you need to know why.

Do not ignore the letter because HMRC are likely to follow it up and assume you are deliberately trying to avoid tax!

You may have some valid reasons for not fitting the benchmark and you must explain those reasons to HMRC.

A deliberate error will results in a higher penalty (up 100% of the tax) but can also open the door to HMRC going back over up to 20 years of your accounts!

The letters refer to common mistakes in:

  • Travel Expenses
  • Telephone Costs
  • Utility and insurance charges
  • Professional Fees
  • Capital Expenditure

You may find these blogs helpful

Motor Expenses

Travel Expenses

Home Office Expenses

10 Ways to Save Tax

HMRC also have some useful toolkits/checklists…..

Business Profits Toolkit

Private and Personal Expenditure Toolkit

steve@bicknells.net


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