Update on HMRC’s changes to its ‘bereavement service’

This includes:

“On 13 October, HMRC will remove form R27 (‘Reclaiming tax or paying tax when someone dies’):

  • for PAYE customers – with an automated process that is simple for customers and more efficient for HMRC
  • for Self Assessment customers – with a tailored service, which includes letters that match the individual’s circumstances”

More on this can be found here.

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New Inheritance Tax Forms IHT205 (2011), IHT217 and IHT206 (2011) Notes

“HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) have today published:

  • new form IHT205 (2011) – Return of estate information [England, Wales and Northern Ireland]
  • new IHT206 (2011) – Notes to help you fill in form IHT205 (2011)
  • revised form IHT217 – Claim to transfer unused nil rate band for excepted estates

The new forms IHT205 (2011) and IHT206 (2011) Notes should be used when the person died on or after 6 April 2011. The main changes to the form are to the pension’s questions which have been simplified. You will also see the form and notes look different as they have been rebranded.

The revised IHT217 replaces the current version of the form and should be used where the person died on or after 6 April 2010.”

The Forms and Notes can be found here.

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Buzzoni & Ors v Revenue & Customs, Re the Estate of Lia Kamhi (Deceased) [2013] EWCA Civ 1684 “gift with reservation of benefit”

The England and Wales Court of Appeal has unanimously rejected HMRC’s assertion that a mother’s gift of a leasehold flat to her sons was a “gift with reservation of benefit” because the underlease contained covenants in her favour.

This ruling overturns the decisions of both lower tribunals.

“On 5 June 1996, Parkside Knightsbridge Limited, the superior landlord, granted Mrs Kamhi a lease, the Headlease, for a term of 100 years less one day, from 25 March 1994, of a flat in Knightsbridge, London at a premium of £250,000. The Headlease contained a term for payment of rent and a service charge of 3%. The tenant, Mrs Kamhi, covenanted to pay rent and, as additional rent, the service charge and advance service charge. There were other covenants, such as to keep the property in repair, to clean the premises and its windows, to indemnify the landlord against outgoings, to keep the flat decorated and to repay a proportion of the cost in relation to maintenance and cleaning of common areas.”

In 1997 she created a trust for her two sons and granted the trustees an underlease to the flat for their benefit for the remainder of the headlease term. The only trust property was the underlease.  Like the headlease, the underlease imposed covenants on the leaseholders to pay ground rent and service charges and to keep the flat in good condition.

“This appeal turns on the question whether those Tribunals were correct to conclude that the Underlease was not enjoyed to the entire exclusion, or virtually entire exclusion, of a benefit to the donor, by reason of positive covenants entered into by [the trust company] with Mrs Kamhi, which mirrored the covenants into which she had entered in her Head Lease.”

The case report can be found here.

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Another few weeks in “tax land”

Where to start.  Given it is now just over a year to the referendum that seems a suitable place to start.

There is increasing discussion, mostly criticism, concerning the failure of the ‘NO’ campaign to come up with a credible proposal for substantial additional powers for the Scottish Parliament. That said, the likelihood of a joint proposal from the ‘NO’ side is extremely unlikely.  Some want powers removed from Scotland in the event of a ‘NO’ vote.  Some do not want any more powers devolved to Scotland and insist that in any case that is a decision for the whole of the UK.   Even those who argue for greater powers for the Scottish Parliament are only arguing for three or four relatively minor tax powers.  Two of my earlier bogs on this issue outline the proposals in more detail and also how these extremely modest proposals would not take effect for at least a decade.  These blogs: “Tax powers so far refused by Westminster” can be found here and “Likely timescale for additional Scottish tax and fiscal powers” can be found here. Substantial welfare powers are of course not even being considered by the Unionist parties.    

A good example of how few powers are being considered can be found in this interview of Michael Moore.  The article on this can be found here.  It is worth noting that this is the view of the Liberal Democrats supposedly the strongest advocate of increasing the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

Another factor of this debate that as yet is not being widely commented upon are the anomalies that can arise under devolution.  Take for example inheritance tax.  Inheritance tax is controlled by Westminster but succession law and social care are controlled by Holyrood. Does that make any sense?  Of course not.  With this in mind please see the following article from the Scotsman which can be found here.

Now to specifically Scottish tax matters.

A “Revenue Scotland and Tax Powers Bill” will establish a new authority for the collection of devolved taxes from 2015.  The First Minister described this as a “historic step”, but also just a “first-step” – since Scotland would still only collect 15% of all taxation revenue and the Parliament would remain a “spending chamber rather than a revenue raising chamber”.  More on this can be found here.  This is an important landmark in the creation of a Scottish tax system.

No-one I suspect was surprised at this announcement.  “Scottish and Welsh red meat levy bodies are unlikely to recoup levy money lost when animals are slaughtered in England, UK farm minister David Heath has said.”  More on this can be found here.  This type of argument, in short Westminster knows best, has of course been made many times before.  Some matters where this argument has been used include: fossil fuel levy, attendance allowance, VAT and the new Scottish police and fire services, energy transmission charges, mobile phone coverage, delivery charges and local income tax.  The UK Government’s attitude to relatively minor issues such as the so called “meat levy” simply adds to the doubt that the UK Government will act in a positive way to calls for further powers to be devolved in the event of a ‘NO’ vote.

The Scottish Parliament’s Finance Committee has welcomed proposed new legislation which will see Scotland take responsibility from the UK Government for landfill tax.  The Committee also welcomed proposals to impose landfill tax on unauthorised disposals to landfill following the identification of illegal sites and to increase the credit limit on contributions to the Landfill Communities Fund, which provides funding for community or environmental projects in areas affected by landfill sites.  More on this can be found here.

Now to the “bedroom tax” or to give it it’s Sunday name, “spare room subsidy”.

Social housing residents affected by the UK Government’s “bedroom tax” may be able to appeal depending on the size of their spare room, after a tribunal ruled the size of a room has to be taken into account when imposing the controversial policy.

The UK Government has played down the implications of the ruling.  A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “It is simply not affordable to pay housing benefit for people to have spare rooms, and our reforms in the social sector mean families receive help for the number of bedrooms they need, and these are exactly the same rules as in the private sector.” Meanwhile, a United Nations special investigator has described the bedroom tax as a “shocking” policy which could constitute a violation of the human right to adequate housing.

More on this from the Scotsman can be found here and the Guardian here.  This policy, it is argued, shows the widening gap on welfare matters between Holyrood and Westminster.

Now to the tax avoidance debate. Let’s start with some irony.  An adviser to HMRC has had to resign as a result of an investigation by the BBC.  The irony is the BBC’s own attitude to severance payments and tax avoidance schemes involving its own staff.  More on this can be found here.

Further evidence as to how we are definitely not “all in this together”.  Top civil servants are having some tax paid using public money, a newspaper investigation has revealed.  More on this can be found here.

And finally on tax avoidance. “It is not possible to construe a director’s duty to promote the success of the company as constituting a positive duty to avoid tax.”  The legal advice quoted may well turn out to be one of most important contributions to the tax avoidance debate.  More on this can be found here.

Now to matters further afield.

In response to a question asked in the Spanish parliament, the Spanish Government was obliged to disclose the amount of unpaid tax owed by professional football clubs in the country’s top two divisions. The sum was a staggering €663,876,441 (about £575m).  More on this can be found here.

The number of Americans renouncing their US citizenship has jumped by a factor of six in 2013, according to official figures. The reason is generally accepted as the difficulties caused to expatriates by the soon-to-be-active “Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act”, in conjunction with the USA’s extra-territorial taxation system.  More on this can be found here.

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Latest HMRC Trusts and Estates newsletter

The latest HMRC Trusts & Estates newsletter can be found here.


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New Inheritance Tax forms for Scottish Executries

“HMRC has published updated forms and guidance notes:

  • C1 – Confirmation Inventory
  • C2 – Inventory continued
  • C5(2006) – Return of estate information
  • C5(OUK)(2006) – Return of estate information(Person domiciled abroad & their UK assets consisted of cash/and or quoted stocks & shares only, gross value less than £150,000)
  • C5(SE)(2006) – Information about small estates
  • C3(2006) – Notes to help you fill in form C1 Confirmation Inventory and form C5(2006) HM Revenue & Customs return
  • Integrated Inventory – contains form C1 confirmation and form C2 continuation

Forms C5(OUK)(2006) and C5(SE)(2006) are now online only forms.”

More on this can be found here.

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Another few weeks in “tax land”

Let’s start with the incredible revelation that large multi-national companies put a great deal of effort into paying as little tax as possible.  The debate surrounding this issue is long overdue.  I am also glad to say that there has been some great commentary on this issue.

Examples include:  Ian Bell’s: “It’s not an accident Westminster’s financial system allows tax avoidance … it’s designed that way”.  His article from the Herald can be found here.

Joyce McMillan outlines the wider debate and criticises the focus at Westminster on benefit fraud rather than tax avoidance.  Her article from the Scotsman can be found here.

George Kerevan’s article titled: “Taxing questions for complicit governments” from the Scotsman can be found here.  This is from the article: “The current generation of highly profitable internet companies have taken (legitimate) transfer pricing to extraordinary new limits. Google manages to operate almost tax-free in the UK, France and Germany, despite generating more than £35 billion in revenues in all three countries.”

Alsion Rowatt writing in the Herald comments on the increasing evidence of multinational corporations’ tax avoidance and criticises the HMRC for not keeping up with the internet age.  This article can be found here.

And from the Guardian: The bosses of some of Britain’s largest multinational corporations have urged David Cameron to stop moralising and rein in his rhetoric on tax avoidance.”  The article in full can be found here.

For an example as to how far some companies will go look no further than our utility companies.  More on this from the Telegraph can be found here.

To summarise.  Companies rarely consider “morality” when deciding how much tax to pay.  I use the word “decide” intentionally.  These companies after all have a duty to their shareholders.  The fact is that UK and international taxation law is full of holes and has always been.  The politicians know this.  The politicians have always known this.  In the so called good times this issue was simply ignored.  Is there an easy answer? Of course not.  Do the politicians desperately want to be seen to be doing something? Of course.  Is there a huge amount of hypocrisy around this issue?  Yes.  Do governments want inward investment?  Yes.  Will they offer tax breaks to achieve this?  Yes.  Is the headline rate of tax the only deciding factor for companies?  Of course not.  Is there a growing perception in the UK that the taxation favours certain sectors over others?  I believe so.  Is this debate going to continue?  I hope so.

Now to the fiscal powers debate and two stories on the Scottish Conservatives.  The headlines contain the phrases “under attack” and “under fire” and show how difficult a position Ruth Davidson is in.  It seems she is damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t.  The Scotsman article can be found here and the Herald article here.

The head of one of the UK’s largest quarries has accused tax collectors of “arrogant and high-handed behaviour” ahead of a case this week involving millions of pounds in unpaid aggregates levies.  Aggregates levy was of course one of the taxes recommended for devolving under Calman.  The article from the Scotsman can be found here.

Now to London.  Boris Johnson continues to argue that London should have the same fiscal powers as those available to the devolved parliaments in Scotland and Wales.  This is a debate that is going to run and run.  More on this can be found here.

HMRC has begun a campaign to make professional football managers and coaches regularise their tax position. It has forced the English Football Association to provide a list of its 3,300 registered coaches, and has written to them all warning that “we have received extensive data about coaches from sources in the football community”.  Presumably HMRC knows that football is played in Scotland as well.  More on this can be found here.

Now to Europe and another example of the increasing role it is playing in tax matters.  The European Commission will present a legislative proposal to require the EU-wide automatic exchange of all types of information on taxable incomes, including dividends, capital gains, salaries, directors’ fees, pensions, life insurance and rents, rather than just interest as now. It will be implemented by an amendment to the EU Directive on Administrative Cooperation which came into force in January.  More on this can be found here.

Now to the USA.  Criminal investigations by the Internal Revenue Service rose 9% to 5,125 in the last fiscal year.  The number of convictions has risen to 2,634 aided by a 93% conviction rate.   More on this can be found here.  I suspect the trend is similar in the UK.

Again from the USA and a story that will I am sure run and run.  The IRS has admitted that its staff gave special scrutiny to the tax-exempt status of organisations supporting the conservative Tea Party alliance during the 2012 presidential election campaign. The IRS says it was trying to distinguish between political organisations as such, and social welfare organisations that are not allowed to engage in political campaigning as their primary activity.  US President Obama has now sacked the Head of the IRS, Steven Miller and the FBI has launched a criminal investigation into the affair.  Two articles on this from the Wall Street Journal can be found here and here.

And finally to France.  The French Government has dropped plans for corporate governance legislation to cap executive pay. Instead the 2014 Budget will introduce the long-threatened 75% levy on employers who pay salaries over €1m.   More on this from Reuters can be found here.

Have a great weekend.

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“Farmhouse wars” – IHT Agricultural Property Relief

HMRC has added new guidance to its inheritance tax manual regarding the entitlement of a farmhouse to agricultural property relief under the character appropriate test.

The guidance reflects the taxpayer’s victory at the First-tier Tribunal in Golding v HMRC [2011] UKFTT 351 (TC)). 

More on this can be found here.

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Another few weeks in “tax land”

Let’s start with Scotland.

According to a new report by the Scottish Government, the tax-take per person is higher in Scotland that the rest of the UK.  Finance Secretary John Swinney says the analysis of tax revenue over three decades proves the country “more than pays its way”.  More on this from the Herald can be found here and the Scottish Government here. 

One of the UK’s foremost ­experts on devolution has warned that new tax-raising powers for the Scottish Parliament have “serious limitations”.  Speaking to Holyrood’s ­finance committee, Gerard Holtham, who chaired a commission in Wales examining the case for more devolved powers for the principality, backed a much wider remit to allow the Scottish Parliament to vary individual bands within the income tax system.

Under the forthcoming Scotland Act powers, Holyrood will take control of a new Scottish rate of income tax, allowing MSPs to reduce or increase the levy as they see fit.  However, they will not be able to change the rates within the system, meaning that any change will apply to lower, middle and higher rates equally.  As I have argued on numerous occasions the Scotland Act 2012 income tax proposal is a mess and does not devolve any meaningful power to the Scottish Parliament.  More on this from the Scotsman can be found here here.

Interesting to see how the First Minister of Wales is following the First Minister of Northern Ireland.  They are both trying to use the Scottish independence referendum as a means to pressure the UK Government into devolving tax and fiscal powers.  More on this from the BBC news website can be found here.

An explanation as to why the First Ministers feel that they have to use this type of argument is shown by the failure of the UK Government to devolve air passenger duty.  Not all of the Calman Commission proposals were implemented by the UK Government.  Air passenger duty was one of the taxes although recommended for devolving was not devolved.  That is why the Scotland Act 2012 is called “Calman minus”.  That is also why we are still hearing calls for air passenger duty to be devolved.  More on this from the BBC news website can be found here.

It also seems that London does not want to be left behind.  Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, is again calling for new financial powers for London.  The proposals, by the London Financial Commission who were appointed by Johnson, call for London to have the power to raise property and tourism taxes, and various housing and infrastructure spending powers.  More on this from the Guardian can be found here.  No matter the result of the Scottish independence referendum pressure on the UK Government to devolve power away from London, and ironically to London, will continue.  What is particularly interesting is that this does not just mean Scotland but almost every part of the UK.

The UK Chancellor should stop discriminating against visiting foreign musicians and artists by denying them tax breaks which are offered to top foreign footballers and athletes, leaders of Britain’s biggest orchestras have argued.  More on this from the Telegraph can be found here.

Launched in June 2010 by the UK coalition government, the National Insurance “holiday scheme” was aimed at cutting staffing costs for newly-established businesses outside London and the south-east of England.  Eligible firms do not have to pay NI contributions for their first ten employees, with a maximum saving of £5,000 per staff member in their first year.  However, the initiative, which is due to end in September, has failed to live up to its promise and it seems only a few companies have benefited from it. More on this from the Scotsman can be found here.

The House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has claimed that the UK’s largest accountancy firms are using inside knowledge from staff seconded to HM Treasury to help leading companies and wealthy individuals avoid paying UK taxes.  The Public Accounts Committee has also recommended that these companies should be prevented from advising the UK Government on tax law.  In its report on this issue they also claim that these firms have “undue influence over the tax system”.  More on this from the BBC News website can be found here.

A controversial “sweetheart” tax deal between HMRC and Goldman Sachs worth up to £20m, was agreed in part to avoid embarrassment to George Osborne, according to the UK Government’s former head of tax.  Dave Hartnett has said that he decided to settle the long-running dispute after Goldman Sachs threatened to pull out of a prized new tax framework a week after the UK Chancellor had announced that the bank had signed up to it. More on this can be found here.

HMRC raises yield from wealthy taxpayers again.  The top 1% of earners paid 26.5% of the total income tax take in 2012/13, according to figures from HMRC.  More on this from the STEP journal can be found here.

The Scottish Government has published a bill aimed at tackling illegal dumping. The Landfill Tax (Scotland) Bill will transfer responsibility from the UK Government for administering the tax and encourage the proper disposal and recycling of waste.  More on this can be found here.

The Financial Transactions Tax has been in the news again.  The negative reaction from the City of London is as expected.  What is slightly more surprising is how far the UK Government will go to prevent this tax from coming into existence.  The UK Government has launched a legal challenge against plans for a European Financial Transactions Tax.  More on the UK Government’s challenge from the BBC news website can be found here and more generally from the Telegraph here.

Now to an example of European cooperation.  The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has signed an information exchange agreement with the finance ministers of France, Germany, Italy and Spain in yet another attempt to crack down on tax evasion.  Under the agreement, banks in these countries will be forced to reveal financial details of foreign clients.  More on this can be found here.

Now to matters further afield and a relatively new area for taxation, the internet.  By a vote of 75 to 24, US senators adopted an amendment to a Democratic budget resolution that, by allowing states to “collect taxes on remote sales,” is intended to eventually usher in the first national, i.e. American  internet sales tax.  More on this can be found here and here.

Now to Greece.  The International Monetary Fund has criticised Greece for making very little progress in tackling its notorious tax evasion problem.  It says the rich and self-employed ‘are simply not paying their fair share’ and the tax authorities are still bedevilled by ‘pervasive political interference’.  The IMF also said that Greece is making progress in overcoming deep-seated problems in the midst of a very serious and socially painful recession. More on this can be found here. 

Finally the not unexpected news that Silvio Berlusconi’s four-year conviction for tax fraud on TV rights bought by his Mediaset TV empire has been upheld.  Mr Berlusconi had appealed against a sentence passed by a lower court in 2012, which had found him guilty of tax fraud, but the appeals court reinstated the 2012 conviction and said he should serve four years in jail. More on this can be found here here.

Have a good weekend. 

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UK “statutory residence test” guidance

Legislation introduced in Finance Bill 2013 puts the rules which determine an individual’s tax residence on a statutory basis.

HMRC has published guidance to help customers decide if they are resident in the UK for the purposes of paying tax.

The guidance can be found here.

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