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HMRC crackdown sees £3.4bn collected from UK SMEs

Authored by Phil Meekin

Phil Meekin

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Approximate read time: 3 minutes

After a crackdown on VAT by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), they have collected an extra £3.4 billion from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) in the tax year which spanned from April 2016 to April 2017. HMRC have toughened up their stance on businesses which have failed to pay their VAT bills, which has accounted for this significant amount of extra revenue.

These statistics come from a study by tax investigation insurance company PFP who have said that this tougher stance is increasing pressure on many SME’s. VAT accounts for 49% of the extra tax received via investigations into SME’s by the compliance team at HMRC, this is a rise of 4% on the previous tax year.

HMRC Investigations

Inquiries by HMRC are costly, time-consuming and usually very disruptive for SMEs who may not have plans in place to deal with lengthy tax investigations. So, with these kinds of investigations set to continue under HMRC’s new, stricter stance, SMEs will need to make sure they are fully compliant.

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Managing director of PFP, Kevin Igoe, has urged businesses to work to avoid inquiries and fines from the tax office;

“Over the years the Revenue has widened its net – cracking down on smaller businesses, as well as larger organisations.
“It’s clear from the high tax take that the Revenue has found investigations into SMEs to be fruitful, and therefore it is likely that this focus on smaller organisations will continue. In order to avoid scrutiny, SMEs must make sure they are filing their returns correctly, so as not to incur a hefty fine.”

The Value of VAT

As VAT can raise a lot of extra revenue, HMRC are prepared to go through the lengthy and costly process if they think they stand a good chance of recouping unpaid tax, and any additional money in fines. In their crackdown, HMRC make use of their Connect database to identify those who may be underpaying on their tax, and they can use tactics such as accelerated payment notices and property raids if necessary.

So, while HMRC steps up in its crackdown on unpaid tax bills, it is important that businesses, big and small, are aware of their tax responsibilities. Always make sure you file returns on time and inform HMRC of any changes or updates. If you need further information on how you should handle your tax, speak to your accountant.

Tax compliance

You must stay on top of your taxes. Although it can be easy to fall behind due to unexpected expenses or an overbearing debt, you need to maintain your payments to HMRC to avoid fines.

If you do fall behind on payments to HMRC, you could benefit from a Time to Pay Arrangement (TTP), an informal agreement which allows you to repay your liabilities to the tax office at a rate you can afford. Alternatively, if you have more debts to multiple parties, you may benefit from a more formal arrangement, such as a Company Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) for limited companies, or an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA) for individuals and sole traders.

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