Dormant bank accounts

There is a free tracing service called ‘mylostaccount’ to find lost bank accounts. The service brings together the three tracing schemes of the British Bankers’ Association (BBA), the Building Societies Association (BSA) and National Savings and Investments (NS&I) into a single website (www.mylostaccount.org.uk) and is free of charge.


The service offers a way for savers to search for their lost accounts by enabling them to complete one form to search the majority of banks and building societies and National Savings & Investments (NS&I). An account may be defined as ‘lost’ if you have not made any withdrawals or deposits for a set period (typically three years in the case of a savings account and one year for a current account) and the bank has not heard that you wish to keep the account open. The monies remain the account holders property but may need to be searched for as a lost account.


The government’s dormant assets scheme allows money in accounts that have been dormant for at least fifteen years to be made available for certain qualifying charitable and community causes. The original account holder retains the rights to repayment of any monies within the scheme after providing satisfactory proof that the money is theirs.

Is HMRC’s message real or fake?

HMRC has issued an updated version of their online guidance on Genuine HMRC contact and recognising phishing emails and texts. The guidance provides a current list of genuine messages from HMRC. This includes email messages, text messages and telephone contacts from HMRC.

The latest updates on the list includes confirmation that HMRC is contacting selected taxpayers by phone in relation to National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage enquiries. Taxpayers will be asked some basic questions about current working, or previous employment experiences and will be given the opportunity to request that their current or previous employer are not informed about the phone call.

HMRC is also sending emails to some businesses that have signed-up to the Making Tax Digital for Business VAT pilot. The email includes a link to a short voluntary questionnaire asking for feedback on the sign-up and submissions process.

Although all these communications are genuine, taxpayers should still be wary of receiving messages that are purported to come from HMRC. Fake email and text messages can appear to be genuine, but clicking on a link from these messages can result in personal information being compromised and the possibility of computer viruses affecting your computer or smartphone.

One recent example of a fraudulent email that appeared to be sent from HMRC stated that a recent submission had been 'successfully received but unfortunately failed HM Revenue & Customs data checks and could not be accepted'. The email went on to request that the recipient use the attached link to correct the submission and send it again. The email looked genuine, but the email address from which the email was sent, looked suspect. Further investigation revealed that this was indeed a scam email but serves as a useful reminder of the continued importance of being vigilant.

Don't open suspect messages or follow links

If you are unsure as to the validity of any message it should not be opened until the sender can be verified. The validity of letters from HMRC can also be checked by contacting HMRC directly by telephone to confirm if a letter is genuine.

What is a finance lease?

The definition of a finance lease can be difficult to pin down. In legal form a finance lease is just another lease – the legal ownership of the asset lies with the lessor and the lessee only has the right to use the asset.


However, in commercial terms a finance lease is often considered to be an alternative form of ‘purchase’ with a loan of money and with the asset as security. In substance the finance lessee buys the asset with a loan from the finance lessor.


It is important to be able to distinguish what type of lease is in place, i.e. whether the lease is actually an operating lease (usually a type of rental agreement) or whether it is a type of purchase agreement, usually known as a finance lease. There can be important differences between the accounting and tax treatment of different types of leases.


HMRC’s internal manual defines a finance lease as follows:


To put it another way, a finance lease may be viewed as an arrangement under which one person (the lessor) provides the money to buy an asset which is used by another (the lessee) in return for an interest charge. The lessor has security because they own the asset. The terms of the leasing arrangements aim to give the lessor a banker’s interest turn and no more or less – however good or bad the asset proves to be for the end user.

Keep abreast of Brexit news

As the Brexit date fast approaches, it seems the only thing we can say with any certainty is that uncertainty continues to plague the issue of our leaving the EU. The negotiations on the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU are unresolved and there are three possible outcomes: a delayed Brexit by extending Article 50, a no-deal Brexit or a modified Brexit.

HMRC has published a letter to help businesses prepare for a no-deal Brexit. The letter includes a reminder to 'Make sure you find out about our EU Exit news as it happens'.

HMRC advises businesses to:

Action point

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, then UK businesses will be responsible for making customs declarations. Businesses that trade with the EU should ensure they register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number as soon as possible. In the event of a no deal Brexit, this identification number will be required even if the business appoints a customs agent to assist in making customs declarations.

2019 Spring Statement: employment implications

In the Spring Statement 2019, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has announced that the apprenticeship reforms set out in the Autumn Budget 2018 will now be introduced a year early. From 1 April 2019, the co-investment rate for non-levy employers will be cut by a half from 10% to 5%. In addition, from the same date, levy-paying employers will be able to share a greater portion of their levy funds across their supply chains, with the maximum amount rising from 10% to 25%.

The Chancellor also confirmed that the government has commissioned a review of the latest international evidence on the impact of minimum wages, to inform future national living wage policy after 2020.
 

Lost your Unique Tax Reference number?

Your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) identifies your tax records at HMRC. The number is also known as your taxpayer number or tax reference number and should be used whenever you contact HMRC, or when you file your tax returns. The UTR is a unique 10 digit code. You are automatically given a UTR when you set yourself up to file Self Assessment tax returns or form a limited company.


If you have mislaid your UTR, you should be able to find the number on previous tax returns and other documents from HMRC, for example, on notices to file a return and payment reminders. You can also find your UTR in your HMRC online account.


If you are still unable to locate your UTR you can call the Self Assessment helpline to request your UTR on 0300 200 3310. The lines are usually open from Monday to Friday: 8am to 8pm, Saturday: 8am to 4pm and Sunday: 9am to 5pm.


If you have mislaid your Corporation Tax UTR, this can be requested online and HMRC will send a copy of the number by post to the company’s registered address.

Have you received income in the form of loans?

HMRC has issued a new briefing paper on disguised remuneration charge on loans. Disguised remuneration schemes are tax avoidance arrangements that seek to avoid Income Tax and National Insurance contributions by paying scheme users their income in the form of loans.

HMRC is clear that these loans were never intended to be repaid and are no different to normal income and are therefore taxable. HMRC is encouraging tax-payers affected to come forward and settle their tax affairs before a charge on these outstanding loans comes into effect.

The charge will not arise on outstanding loans if the individual has agreed a qualifying settlement with HMRC before 5 April 2019. HRMC is offering flexible payment arrangements to those having genuine difficulty paying what they owe. For example, HMRC will allow scheme users to spread their payments over 7 years if their current taxable income is less than £30,000, and 5 years if their current taxable income is less than £50,000. This offer only applies if the taxpayer is no longer engaged in tax avoidance and takes sufficient action before 5 April 2019. HMRC will look at other taxpayers on a case-by-case basis.

Although the deadline is fast approaching, HMRC has been clear that you will not be disadvantaged if you provided the relevant information by 5 April but have not been able to settle due to a delay at HMRC.