There have been many creative schemes promoted to contractors, entertainers and sports stars, basically using a limited company to make loans to connected parties to avoid tax.
HMRC have been attacking these schemes for years, for example the Boyle case
On the 16th September HMRC published Spotlight 26: Contractor Loan Schemes – Too good to be true
Contractors and freelancers are bombarded by promoters who make claims that they can help individuals take home as much as 80% to 90% of their income. Sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is.
So why is this considered to be tax avoidance? These promoters use schemes to reduce the amount of tax you pay on your income by making payments which purport to be ‘loans’ from a trust or a company. Normally, a contractor would receive the contract income directly and pay tax on it. These arrangements artificially divert the income through a chain of companies, trusts or partnerships and pay the contractor in the form of a ‘loan’. The ‘loans’ are claimed to be non-taxable because they don’t form part of a contractor’s income. However, in reality the ‘loans’ aren’t repaid and the money is used by the contractor as if it were his or her income.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) view is that these schemes don’t work and strongly advises any contractor or freelancer who has used such a scheme to withdraw and settle their tax affairs. People who settle with HMRC avoid the costs of investigation and litigation and minimise interest and penalty charges on the tax which should have been paid.
Don’t be fooled by promoter websites..
The promoters’ websites and promotional literature claim that they are fully compliant and are HMRC approved. HMRC doesn’t view these arrangements as compliant and never approves any schemes.
Contractor loan schemes, of the sort described above, must be declared under the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance legislation. The promoter is required to pass the scheme reference number (SRN) to all the users who must put this on their tax return. A failure to show the correct SRN on your tax return will lead to additional penalty charges.
Don’t be tempted, HMRC are closing in on unpaid tax, they will find you!