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In June the BBC announced..
People who have filed late tax returns have been let off paying a £100 fine for missing the deadline, HM Revenue and Customs has confirmed.
Losses and profits
You might think that HMRC is being unfair in refusing loss relief, but if your activity is a hobby you won’t have to pay tax on profits either. This rule can be tricky as revealed in the case of P, when HMRC dismissed his claim for loss relief.
Trade or personal loss?
HMRC challenged P’s claim at a tribunal because in its view it related to non-business transactions and so was a personal financial loss and not one arising from a trade. Non-trading losses can’t be set against taxable income and it’s not just HMRC being difficult.
HMRC and tax specialists refer to the so-called “badges of trade” to decide if a trade exists. These tests were set out in a court judgment decades ago, but remain valid today. One of the tests to establish if a trade exists is that there must be an intention to make profit from a business. In P’s case the tribunal extended this test a little further.
Incapable of making a profit
P started two “businesses”, neither of which made a profit because, in the tribunal’s view, he was inexperienced and couldn’t devote enough time to them. Neither venture was capable of making a profit without P reducing the hours he spent in his main job. In essence P didn’t have the business acumen or time to devote to making his business profitable.
Putting the boot on the other foot
The ruling in P’s case is useful, not just for guidance on when losses are deductible, but for countering HMRC if it claims money you make from a hobby is taxable. Its view has always been that if you advertise your hobby in a newspaper or online you’re probably trading. But the tribunal’s judgment, supported by HMRC, dispelled that idea. If you don’t have the time or intention to carry on a trade, profit you make from isolated sales isn’t liable to income tax.
Turn your hobby into a business
For advice on converting your hobby to a profitable business, including help with setting up a limited company or registering for VAT, please contact Alterledger.
A new tax break will start from 6 April 2015, which will be eligible to more than 4 million married couples and 15,000 civil partnerships.
The Allowance means a spouse or civil partner who doesn’t pay tax – therefore is not earning at all or is earning below the basic rate threshold (£10,600) – can transfer up to £1,060 of their personal tax-free allowance to a spouse or civil partner – as long as the recipient of the transfer doesn’t pay more than the basic rate of income tax.
Applying online is straightforward. Couples can register their interest to receive the Allowance now at gov.uk/marriageallowance.
The maximum saving is 20% x £1,060 = £212
However, the partner giving up the allowance must not be earning and the partner getting the allowance must not be a higher rate tax payer.
Say hello to small profits
HMRC has changed the name of the threshold for paying Class 2 National Insurance from the Small Earnings Limit to the Small Profits Threshold. If you earn less than £5,965 in 2015-16 you won’t need to pay Class 2 NI, but if you do, it will be calculated as part of your 2015-16 tax return and due with the rest of your tax by 31st January 2017.
Alterledger can help
For more information on filling in your tax return, contact Alterledger or visit the website alterledger.com to see if you can organise yourself better and cut your tax bill.
Last years excuses used in unsuccessful appeals against HMRC penalties for late filing and payment. Here’s the full list:
- 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.
The previous year, the following bizarre, exotic and flimsy excuses have all been used by tardy taxpayers:
- My pet goldfish died (self-employed builder)
- I had a run-in with a cow (Midlands farmer)
- After seeing a volcanic eruption on the news, I couldn’t concentrate on anything else (London woman)
- My wife won’t give me my mail (self-employed trader)
- My husband told me the deadline was 31 March, and I believed him (Leicester hairdresser)
- I’ve been far too busy touring the country with my one-man play (Coventry writer)
- My bad back means I can’t go upstairs. That’s where my tax return is (a working taxi driver)
- I’ve been cruising round the world in my yacht, and only picking up post when I’m on dry land (South East man)
- Our business doesn’t really do anything (Kent financial services firm)
- I’ve been too busy submitting my clients’ tax returns (London accountant)
All of these people and businesses received a £100 penalty from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) for filing late. They appealed against the decision using these excuses, but were unsuccessful.
Don’t be late get your return done!
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 events – SME 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
HMRC also have some useful toolkits/checklists…..
11.2 million people will be required to complete a Self Assessment Return for 2013/14 and the deadline is the 31st January 2015.
The most common things you will need to know are:
- Employment Income – P60 and P11D
- Pension Contributions – statement from provider
- Donations to Charity
- Bank and Building Society Interest
- Buy to Let Investments, Holiday Lets and Second Homes
- Other Income
- Employment Expenses not paid by your employer including mileage to approved rates and clothing
- Professional Memberships related to your job and on HMRC List 3
- Home Office Expenses
What can you do if despite your best efforts you can’t find or get hold of the information you need?
Returns which include provisional or estimated figures should be accepted provided they can be regarded as satisfying the filing requirement.
- A provisional figure is one which the taxpayer / agent has supplied pending the submission of the final / accurate figure
- An estimated figure is one which the taxpayer / agent wishes to be accepted as the final figure because it is not possible to provide an accurate figure for example where the records have been lost. The taxpayer is not required to tick box 20 of the Finishing your Tax Return section of the return page TR 6 (or equivalent in a return for an earlier year) where estimated figures have been used
If you make a mistake on your tax return, you’ve normally got 12 months from 31 January after the end of the tax year to correct or amend it. For example, if you send your 2013-14 online tax return by 31 January 2015, you have until 31 January 2016 to amendment it.
If you sent your tax return online by 31 January, it’s easy to amend it online too. You just need to log into your Self Assessment online account, go to the ‘at a glance’ page and choose the option to amend your tax return.