HMRC Tax Disputes Taking Over Three Years To Resolve
Companies are facing greater inconvenience and expense as the duration of HMRC investigations continues to grow. The average time large businesses can now expect inquiries to last is 39 months. The 2016-17 typical time was 34 months, up from 31 months in the previous financial year.
There are a number of possible explanations for this increase. Many businesses and private practice lawyers point to the more aggressive approach being taken by HMRC, including an unwillingness to settle cases and a real lack of resources to manage concurrent large-scale investigations. Some also suggest that having resolved simpler cases and dealt with the “low hanging fruit”, HMRC has now turned its attention to more complex multi-jurisdictional business entities, which necessarily entail longer investigations.
Whatever the cause, the consequences for large businesses remain the same: disruption to financial planning and budgeting and increases in cost, time and resources directed towards cooperating with HMRC. There is also greater risk of potential reputational damage caused by such enquiries, which unless carefully handled, can become public and have a knock-on effect on share price for listed companies.
HMRC’s Large Business Directorate leads investigations into the tax affairs of the UK’s biggest businesses. Its investigations enabled it to secure more than £8bn in additional tax revenue in 2017. It states that “at any one time, we will be actively investigating more than half of the UK’s 2,100 largest businesses.”
More companies are looking to specialist investigations and dispute resolution firms that have strong relations with HMRC to ensure such matters are managed as efficiently as possible and with minimum effect on their business.
JHA’s investigations team is made up of specialist and highly experienced solicitors and barristers, forensic accountants, former regulators and data scientists, uniquely sitting under one roof. JHA is also a leading firm in contentious tax, having achieved Band One rankings in both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners for the fifth consecutive year.
Data in this article was originally published by the Financial Times.
Offshore Structures and Onward Gifts
The so-called “onward gift” tax anti-avoidance rules were introduced by the Finance Act 2018 to complement the changes brought in the previous year aimed at restricting the UK tax privileges afforded to non-UK domiciled individuals. The rules were designed to close some perceived loopholes in relation to the taxation of non-UK resident structures (including but not limited to non-UK trusts). With effect from 6 April 2018, it would no longer be possible for an individual to receive a gift without questioning its providence, particularly where family trusts are involved.
The rules were designed to prevent non-UK structures from using non-chargeable beneficiaries as conduits through which to pass payments in order to avoid tax charges. Gone are the days of “washing out” any trust gains that could be matched to offshore income or gains by prefacing a payment to a UK-resident taxable beneficiary with a non-taxable primary payment to a non-UK resident beneficiary.
“It is notoriously challenging to prove a negative (especially to HMRC) and even more tricky where the taxpayer must speak to someone’s intention other than their own.”
Note that the new rules will apply where funds are received from non-UK resident structures before 6 April 2018 to the extent that they are subsequently gifted after that date.
Increased Investment in Personal Tax Compliance in the UK
Changes in public opinion, advances in technology and increased international fiscal co-operation have made global personal tax compliance initiatives pop up in abundance in recent years. In addition, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the corresponding economic fallout have prompted governments to increase transparency in relation to investments by wealthy foreign individuals in their countries.
The UK’s HMRC is one of the most sophisticated tax collection authorities in the world and the department is making significant investments in technology in the field of compliance work.
It should therefore be well placed to take advantage of new international efforts to increase tax compliance, particularly against the backdrop of the already extensive network of bilateral tax treaties in the UK, and not forgetting that the UK was a founding member of the OECD’s Joint International Taskforce on Shared Intelligence and Collaboration (JITSIC) forum.
This article discusses the main developments in support of the increased focus on international transparency and tax compliance in the UK. There are other international fiscal initiatives, particularly in the field of corporate taxation, but such initiatives are beyond the scope of this article.
Case note: Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC)
As HMRC continue to apply the Kittel principle to increasing numbers of industries and businesses, taxpayers need to be vigilant about evidential requirements that HMRC must fulfil in order to discharge their burden of proof. Read JHA’s latest insight into the First-tier Tribunal’s decision in Lynton Exports (Alsager) Ltd v Revenue and Customs Commissioners  UKFTT 00224 (TC).
If you require any further information about the Kittel, Mecsek, and Ablessio principles, or any other allegations by HMRC of fraud or fraudulent abuse, please contact Iain MacWhannell (email@example.com).
Preparing for the Possibility of a Domicile Enquiry
Helen McGhee, a director and chartered tax advisor at Joseph Hague Aaronson, explores who might be vulnerable to an HMRC enquiry on domicile and how best to deal with such enquiries.
The Kittel Principle - Sweet Sixteen
The following is an article written by David Bedenham about HMRC’s wide-ranging application of the ‘Kittel principle’. The current focus appears to very much be on the labour supply industry and the allegation of ‘Mini Umbrella Company Fraud’ (or ‘MUC Fraud’). This article highlights the need for taxpayers to get specialist advice at an early stage when faced with a Kittel decision. If you have any queries about Kittel-related issues or similar denials of input VAT or assessments to VAT, please contact Iain MacWhannell (firstname.lastname@example.org).