Discovery assessment season - unexpected bills from HMRC
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    Default Discovery assessment season - unexpected bills from HMRC

    The threads are filling up with stories of unexpected bills arriving from HMRC.

    Whilst there is no substitute for getting proper advice that suits your own circumstances, the following general description may help reduce the shock.

    However if you have an accountant - ask her/him for help. If you don't then Google is your friend.

    You could ask the promoter of the scheme you used for help, but bear in mind that they may be neither personal tax specialists nor be acting just for you.

    Discovery assessment

    Chances are you have a discovery assessment. The letter will mention section 29 TMA 1970. HMRC issue these where they consider a liability has arisen and they are too late to open an enquiry The time limit is 4 years from the end of the year of assessment. Hence 2012/13 assessments are being issued now, before the end of this tax year.

    What is or is not a discovery is a long and complicated answer that I'm not going to cover here. Suffice to say that HMRC uses them as a blunt instrument, claiming that they have universal application. That is just not true.

    What can you do about them?

    You can make an appeal and have the tax postponed whilst you agree the actual liability.

    You MUST do this within 30 days. The letter that came with the assessment will tell you how to do this.

    Then what happens?

    You have to agree the liability with HMRC.

    You have 3 choices.

    1. Accept HMRC's view of the liability which is basically any loans you received are income subject to tax and NIC and that some of the fees you paid to the promoter may also be seen as taxable income.

    2. Litigate. You can go to Tribunal and mount a challenge to HMRC's view. Best done in a group as costs can be high. You will need to find a group and usually these are collated around particular advisers. It depends on the scheme used as to which adviser is best placed to do this. Ask the promoter if they know of any groups. If there is no group - start one.

    3. Settlement via discussions. Most advisers will be able to speak with HMRC and make some progress towards a settlement. Be under no illusions here though. HMRC is playing hard ball and achieving reductions based on doing nothing with the arrangements, is unlikely to see any discount to the tax/NIC being asked for. The adviser will however be able to check your personal circumstances and make adjustments as required. Some have plans that may or may not result in a reduction of the bill. None of those plans is a guarantee of a reduced bill. You need to evaluate them with a cynical mind.

    If I appeal and sit tight, what then?

    HMRC has introduced a sweep up tax charge in 2019. Basically if you have loans from a disguised remuneration scheme that are not repaid by 5/4/19, HMRC will add the balance to your income and tax you.

    And yes, they will know in the majority of cases what the loan balance is and if they don't they will ask you. As a rule, never lie to HMRC. That is just not sensible.

    Understood - what do I do?

    Get advice.

    I'm sure people will be along here pointing out my connection with a firm that advises in this area. This is true.

    There are others and a few minutes on Google will show them to you.

    The first steps mentioned above - appeal and postpone tax - can be done by following the instructions in the HMRC letter and will cost you nothing. Only if you want to go on and understand and deal with the agreement of liability etc as described above, would you need advice.

    Remember that HMRC would be happy to "help". Whilst I have a view on the ability of the person you might get through to on the phone to understand the position and offer unbiased help, they are there and they work for free.

    In summary:

    Deep breath.

    Read the whole letter.

    Make an appeal and postponement application.

    Get advice.

  2. #2

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    Quote Originally Posted by webberg View Post
    The threads are filling up with stories of unexpected bills arriving from HMRC.

    Whilst there is no substitute for getting proper advice that suits your own circumstances, the following general description may help reduce the shock.

    However if you have an accountant - ask her/him for help. If you don't then Google is your friend.

    You could ask the promoter of the scheme you used for help, but bear in mind that they may be neither personal tax specialists nor be acting just for you.

    Discovery assessment

    Chances are you have a discovery assessment. The letter will mention section 29 TMA 1970. HMRC issue these where they consider a liability has arisen and they are too late to open an enquiry The time limit is 4 years from the end of the year of assessment. Hence 2012/13 assessments are being issued now, before the end of this tax year.

    What is or is not a discovery is a long and complicated answer that I'm not going to cover here. Suffice to say that HMRC uses them as a blunt instrument, claiming that they have universal application. That is just not true.

    What can you do about them?

    You can make an appeal and have the tax postponed whilst you agree the actual liability.

    You MUST do this within 30 days. The letter that came with the assessment will tell you how to do this.

    Then what happens?

    You have to agree the liability with HMRC.

    You have 3 choices.

    1. Accept HMRC's view of the liability which is basically any loans you received are income subject to tax and NIC and that some of the fees you paid to the promoter may also be seen as taxable income.

    2. Litigate. You can go to Tribunal and mount a challenge to HMRC's view. Best done in a group as costs can be high. You will need to find a group and usually these are collated around particular advisers. It depends on the scheme used as to which adviser is best placed to do this. Ask the promoter if they know of any groups. If there is no group - start one.

    3. Settlement via discussions. Most advisers will be able to speak with HMRC and make some progress towards a settlement. Be under no illusions here though. HMRC is playing hard ball and achieving reductions based on doing nothing with the arrangements, is unlikely to see any discount to the tax/NIC being asked for. The adviser will however be able to check your personal circumstances and make adjustments as required. Some have plans that may or may not result in a reduction of the bill. None of those plans is a guarantee of a reduced bill. You need to evaluate them with a cynical mind.

    If I appeal and sit tight, what then?

    HMRC has introduced a sweep up tax charge in 2019. Basically if you have loans from a disguised remuneration scheme that are not repaid by 5/4/19, HMRC will add the balance to your income and tax you.

    And yes, they will know in the majority of cases what the loan balance is and if they don't they will ask you. As a rule, never lie to HMRC. That is just not sensible.

    Understood - what do I do?

    Get advice.

    I'm sure people will be along here pointing out my connection with a firm that advises in this area. This is true.

    There are others and a few minutes on Google will show them to you.

    The first steps mentioned above - appeal and postpone tax - can be done by following the instructions in the HMRC letter and will cost you nothing. Only if you want to go on and understand and deal with the agreement of liability etc as described above, would you need advice.

    Remember that HMRC would be happy to "help". Whilst I have a view on the ability of the person you might get through to on the phone to understand the position and offer unbiased help, they are there and they work for free.

    In summary:

    Deep breath.

    Read the whole letter.

    Make an appeal and postponement application.

    Get advice.
    Would you suggest that if you used a scheme in 11/12 and 12/13, have yet to receive an enquiry and and don't receive one of these letters that you may have gone under the radar and unlikely to hear anything?

  3. #3

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    If you have had nothing it could mean that there is an open enquiry and no need to issue an assessment yet or that you have been missed off and will not need to bother until 2019.

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    Quote Originally Posted by webberg View Post
    If you have had nothing it could mean that there is an open enquiry and no need to issue an assessment yet or that you have been missed off and will not need to bother until 2019.
    If he had an Open Enquiry wouldn't he know about it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by ChimpMaster View Post
    If he had an Open Enquiry wouldn't he know about it?
    That was my understanding.

    My hope is that if they haven't found me to open an enquiry or this discovery assessment, that they may not be able to find me for the 2019 loan charge!

  6. #6

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    In some cases we have come across what we term a "hidden" open year.

    This is where HMRC claim a year is open and under challenge produce a letter apparently dated within the appropriate window, which "proves" that an enquiry is open and the year can be adjusted for tax.

    We have also found that sometimes the HMRC log of time stamped actions exclude the enquiry letter or note it as being issued much later. We have also found other errors.

    Ultimately however, come 2019, if the law stays as it presently is, open or closed will make no difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by WalterWhite View Post
    That was my understanding.

    My hope is that if they haven't found me to open an enquiry or this discovery assessment, that they may not be able to find me for the 2019 loan charge!
    Maybe so, but bear in mind if you have had loans then you will be expected to declare them on your SA for 2019. Don't and you will enter evasion territory. That is what this charge is all about, a catch all piece of legislation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by regron View Post
    Maybe so, but bear in mind if you have had loans then you will be expected to declare them on your SA for 2019.
    Is that how it will work? The onus will be on people to declare any outstanding loans on their 2018/19 tax return?

    A lot of people may not realise this applies to them, especially if they have very old loans or years that were never investigated.

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    Is there any advice anywhere on how to write an appeal letter? I received my assessment of notice but the amount is totally incorrect as I only used a scheme for 2 months in the year it's for.

    Should I just write back and tell them this and then wait for them to ask me for bank statements etc?

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    Advising loan amounts.

    I agree that many will be unaware of their legal obligations but that does not remove the obligation. Late comers to the party will undoubtedly be accused of all sorts of heinous crimes and be subject to wholly unfair penalties.

    However HMRC has extensive powers to require promoters to supply lists of people and may even come to people like us for details. (Not entirely sure that would achieve much as all our clients are on their radar).

    It is also tied up with making tax digital (a horror show unfolding in front of us). It may be that EVERY UK taxpayer get the question about loans.

    Appeal letter.

    There is no one format. Just keep it simple.

    I have received your assessment dated xx/xx/xxxx.

    I believe the value to be incorrect and that the loans assessed should be xx,xxx.

    I therefore appeal the assessment and request that the tax demanded be stood over until an amendment can be agreed.

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