HMRC are getting tough on those who seek ways to avoid tax and the schemes are often treated as Tax Fraud.
The Finance (No. 2) Act 2017 contains some of the most significant changes to tax legislation in recent memory (the 2019 Loan Charge).
The legislation which is retrospective targets Employee Benefit Trusts, Employer Financed Retirement Benefit Schemes, Contractor Loans and many others where an employee was rewarded with a loan from the employer or a trust, but in realty the employee was never going to repay the loan and just wanted tax free money.
The 5th April 2019 Loan charge will require Income Tax and National Insurance to be paid on the balance outstanding, as most of the loans will be high value that probably means 40%/45% income tax and Employee NI at 2% and Employers NI at 13.8%, so that could be 45% + 2% +13.8% = 60.8% tax on the loan, plus possible interest and penalties
How re-describing loans is claimed to work
Scheme users are being told they can sign documents saying that the sums they’ve received from their disguised remuneration scheme under loan agreements are not loans at all. Instead, these sums of money are merely held by them in a ‘fiduciary capacity’ – for example, an individual acts in a fiduciary capacity if they hold money, or assets, for the benefit of someone else, not themselves.
It’s wrong to claim that the loan charge won’t apply because the sums received aren’t loans.
Why you shouldn’t use this scheme
Renaming something now doesn’t change what happened in the past. Attempting to describe a loan as something else doesn’t mean it’s not a loan.
The loan charge will apply to more than just loans, including any form of credit or other right to a payment regardless of what it’s called. If you adopt this approach and choose not to reflect the loan charge on your tax return you may face a significant penalty in addition to the tax charge.
Deliberately misleading, or concealing information from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) may result in criminal prosecution.
- Repay in full before the 5th April 2019 – but be aware that if the company distributes money to you it may be taxable
- Settle with HMRC
Doing nothing is not an option, its likely you lead to bigger penalties and possible legal action.
The Advice from HMRC
Any arrangements to avoid the loan charge, which seek to deceive HMRC as to what is really happening, may be fraudulent.
A number of previous cases promoted as being compliant and legal have resulted in criminal convictions for the key people involved and extensive investigation of several hundred users. HMRC will investigate all of these arrangements and is likely to take similar action if it finds any that are seeking to deceive. At the very least, anyone who takes part in an offensive arrangement is likely to face penalty sums, chargeable along with any tax and interest that will be due.
Tax avoidance doesn’t pay. Most arrangements simply don’t work and people can end up paying more than they were trying to avoid. Users may have a long-term requirement to deal with the cost, commercial and tax fallout from these transactions with no support from the promoter of the original arrangement. If users are worried about their financial position, it is better to contact HMRC rather than risk more investigation and what is likely to be a larger bill.