Monthly Archives: November 2017

Autumn Budget 2017

Jane Parry, Tax Partner, comments on today’s Autumn Budget announcements…

All in all this Budget was a bit of a damp squib as the Chancellor had no real room for manoeuvre – thanks mainly to the ongoing saga that is Brexit.

In my opinion, it actually threw up more questions than answers, which isn’t great for a Government that needs to promote a sense of stability in what are pretty turbulent times.

It’s positive that he recognised that frictionless trade is important but there’s nothing he can really do to address it right now, as everything is dependent on the outcomes of our negotiations with Europe. The challenge will be to ensure that we don’t drown in a sea of trade bureaucracy once we reach 29th March 2019.

I was pleased to hear him reassert his support for the Northern Powerhouse. However, much of the focus was on Greater Manchester but what about Lancashire and Cheshire who, just like Manchester, need long overdue investment in both connectivity and digital infrastructure? There was quite a bit of talk about cities but not much about towns.

On a more positive note, he resisted the urge to meddle in the pension tax rules which I welcomed.  I also welcome the increased investment in training and growing relevant skills for the future.  Finding skilled people is a huge challenge for many businesses and anything that helps to boost the supply of those people is good news.

For me, this Budget was missing some vital ingredients. Firstly, more effort is needed to reduce the bureaucracy faced by businesses and help them deal with the pressures that Brexit will bring in this regard.  Also, instead of just increasing the main R&D tax credit to 12%, he could have flipped how it operates so it becomes a real time payment rather than retrospective claim. That simple switch would allow thousands of companies to put investment into R&D far more quickly as they would have the cash available.

Announcements like increasing the National Living Wage by 4.4% are great in theory and should really benefit lower paid workers, but it will put additional pressure on small businesses as a significant number of SMEs probably won’t be able to pass all of that new wage burden onto their own clients or customers.

Even though we knew there were never going to be any major shocks or giveaways I came away feeling pretty deflated; it all seemed a bit gloomy, one dimensional and pessimistic. The downgrading of the OBR forecasts goes against the success and growth stories that we are seeing with our clients every single day and I fear a weak Budget and a weak Government could make businesses and the general public feel jittery and ultimately drive down confidence needlessly.

Phishing Emails and Bogus Phone calls from HMRC – BEWARE

You may think it’s your lucky day if you receive an email, text or phone call telling you that you’re due a tax rebate, or in contrast, your heart may sink if you receive a phone call saying you have outstanding taxes to pay. Either way, this is not always what it seems – a growing number of fraudsters are now targeting victims with some form of tax scam.

This currently seems particularly prevalent in the East Lancashire area, so to make sure you don’t fall for one of the many scams out there, we’re taking you through the most common.

Phone calls

Fraudsters can call up unsuspecting victims, telling them that they are due a tax rebate after being in the wrong tax code for several years.

The person on the other end of the line might ask for your bank or card details in order that you pay an administration fee in advance of receiving the rebate. Without realising the scam, the victim gives out their card details and makes the payment.

A more recent variation on the scam sees fraudsters proclaim that the victims owe tax to HMRC and need to pay this with immediate effect or be subject to prosecution.

One of our clients recently informed us that they themselves had received one of these scam phone calls, in which the person claiming to be from HMRC sounded professional, convincing and as though he was in a position of authority. It was only when our client demanded further information from the caller (such as a VAT registration number, VAT quarter end and previous VAT payment dates), that it became clear that the call was a scam.

If you receive a phone call such as this, alarm bells should ring. HMRC would never phone you for issues such as this, they would always write.

Phishing Emails

We have seen many fraudulent emails purporting to be HMRC, telling you that you need to click a link and enter bank account details to receive your refund.

By clicking on the link, you’ll often go to a page that looks like a genuine HMRC page. This is a copycat website. The page will then ask you to input your personal information such as your debit or credit card details.

The email can also include attachments which could contain malware designed to steal personal or financial information. You should check any email that claims to be from HMRC for spelling and grammatical mistakes, and generic greetings like ‘Dear Customer’.

HMRC’s own website clearly states that:

HMRC will never send notifications of a tax rebate/refund by email, or ask you to disclose personal or payment information by email.

Generally, HMRC would only send you emails regarding support, or deadline reminders and alerts.

Be cautious if the email insists on immediate and urgent action, or says you only have a few days to do something – this is a tell-tale sign of a scam email.

Texts

Be wary of texts claiming to be from HMRC that say you’re due a tax rebate. The text will claim you just need to click the link provided to receive it. The link takes you to a fake website that looks like an HMRC page.

It will usually say that you have a deadline to claim your tax rebate and use urgent language to try to get you to click the link.

What HMRC say

HMRC say they will never use texts or emails to:

  • tell you about a tax rebate or penalty;
  • ask you about specific facts about your tax return and financial status; or
  • ask for personal or payment information.

If you think that you have been the victim of such scams and require further advice, please contact the PM+M team on 01254 679131.