Sunday, 30 January 2011

Representing the sinners

Map of Tyburn gallows and immediate surroundin...Image via WikipediaPart of my work as a tax practitioner is to represent those who for one reason or another have not declared their income properly. Sometimes they have not declared their capital gains either. Sooner or later they need help from someone like me.

There are all sorts of reasons why people find themselves outside the tax system. I have certainly heard some tales. I can however see certain trends in the way my new clients might have fallen outside the system.

The innocent

Some individuals do start out in innocence in that they may start a very small business for “pin money” which would be well below the level of income tax or National Insurance. Their business might then take off, they think they ought to have told HM Revenue & Customs before, and they become afraid to do so for fear of retribution. Thus they go on outside the system for several years. At some point they are either caught by HMRC or (as I much prefer) they approach me for help because they simply want to come clean and meet their obligations to the Exchequer. I love people with a real conscience!

The oblivious

Strangely there are some who really never dream that they could possible be liable to tax. These are more commonly those who receive some sort of investment income upon which they “assume”, if they had thought about it at all, that the tax is already paid. Other people in this category may include those in receipt of rents on their property. Yes, there really are some extremely na├»ve types who have no idea that the Government might want its share of their income.

The not so innocent

This category really knows that they should be paying tax. They just like to live on the edge and take the risk of being caught, but somehow they do not expect to be. They may have earnings or have let property.

The net tightens

It is a popular belief amongst both the public and some accountancy and tax professionals that HMRC does not have the resources to catch tax evaders, and especially small time ones. They think that HMRC prefers to concentrate on the big fish amongst the dodgers by going after the miscreants who have substantial funds in Swiss bank accounts. They believe that the Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility represents the main type of evasion mainly being targeted.

HMRC have other strings to their bow. For example they have been checking the Land Registry and have been finding not only undeclared capital gains realised by property investors, but also significant undeclared rents from such properties. Judging from instructions I have received from new clients who have been found out, this is a very successful initiative.

All are welcome

Helping new clients who want to come out of the woodwork and into the system is very pleasing, and I am happy to assist those who have been nabbed by HMRC too. I don't judge people and in the end they all need help.

The variety of work is hugely satisfying, and once we have established that there is absolutely nothing else which has been forgotten in the way of income or gains, I can get a fair deal.

Of course I don't like tax evasion because dodging obligations to the Exchequer is much the same as taking the money out of our own back pockets. For the small timers, though, whether innocent, oblivious or a bit guilty, HMRC mainly wants them in the system rather than bankrupting them or hanging them at Tyburn Tree. In the end it is better to cough up some money and have someone like me represent them, because afterwards there will be no more looking over their shoulders.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, 23 January 2011

You CAN talk to real people at HMRC

A very large collections call centre in Lakela...Image via WikipediaJanuary is not my favourite month from the perspective of Self Assessment Tax Returns, though fortunately I avoid maximum stress by not taking on every last-minute prospect, giving my procrastinator clients an early “last warning” and not doing hundreds of tax returns anyway.

The biggest problem in January concerning Self Assessment is in speaking to HMRC employees in call centres who know only what is on their screens, are unable to make decisions on specific requests, don't necessarily have the information we want or are not authorised to give it.

Contrast this. I had occasion to call a Corporation Tax Office this week. The officer was helpful, we did not have a pointless barrage of security questions, she was exceedingly helpful and she changed the tax return periods while we spoke just as I asked. She was maybe a little brusque with a rougher telephone manner than one would get from the call centres, but she did the job and left me feeling happy. Above all, she did not waste my time but helped me solve a problem.

It may sound trivial but it proves to me again that organisations get better results and are more efficient if they empower their employees. I wish this ethos were prevalent throughout the leviathan that is HMRC.

What is your experience?
Enhanced by Zemanta