New COVID-19 vaccination guidance for employers

Public Health England has published a new guide for employers on COVID-19 vaccination. The guide encourages employers to support the government’s COVID-19 vaccination programme and it covers the following subjects:

  • why supporting vaccination of employees against COVID-19 is important
  • what employers can do to support the vaccination of their workforce
  • resources to help employers promote vaccination to their workforce.

In particular, the guide links to the previously published employer toolkit (which has now been updated) on supporting employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The toolkit can be downloaded as a zip folder and comprises an employer briefing sheet, posters, email signatures, a Q&A document, web banners and other resources.

Income excluded from a property business

HMRC publishes a list of income streams that are excluded from a UK property business. The list includes fishing concerns, hotels and guest houses, tied premises, caravan sites, lodgers and tenants in your own home, extra services to tenants and letting surplus trade accommodation. In most cases the income from these activities will be taxed as income of a trade and not as property income.

In addition, there are certain receipts that can arise out of the use of land, and which are specifically excluded by statute from a rental business. These include yearly interest, income from the occupation of woodlands managed on a commercial basis, income from mines and quarries and income from farming and market gardening.

There is also a £1,000 property income allowance that applies to income from property (including foreign property). If a taxpayer’s annual gross property income is £1,000 or less, the amount is exempt from tax and does not need to be reported on their tax return.

Updated working safely guidance to apply from 19 July 2021

With England having moved to step 4 of the roadmap out of lockdown from 19 July 2021, the government has published updated guidance on working safely during coronavirus. The guidance, which is to be kept under review, has been re-categorised into the following six sector-specific guides:

  • construction and outdoor work
  • events and attractions
  • hotels and guest accommodation
  • offices, factories and labs
  • restaurants, pubs, bars, nightclubs and takeaway services
  • shops, branches and close contact services.

There is also a general step 4 overview which makes clear that the government is no longer instructing people to work from home and businesses no longer need to implement social distancing in the workplace. However, it warns that businesses still have a legal duty to manage risks to those affected by their business, and the way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment, including the risk of COVID-19, and to take reasonable steps to mitigate the identified risks. The onus is on businesses to decide what mitigations are appropriate to adopt. The guidance also states that the government expects and recommended a gradual return to the workplace over the summer, and employers should discuss the timing and phasing of a return with their workers. 

The sector-specific guides each set out six priority actions for businesses to take from 19 July 2021 to protect their staff and customers. These are:

  1. Complete a health and safety risk assessment that includes the risk from COVID-19
  2. Provide adequate ventilation
  3. Clean more often
  4. Turn away people with COVID-19 symptoms
  5. Enable people to check in at the business venue
  6. Communicate and train.

Employers are advised to give extra consideration to workers who are at higher risk, discussing their individual needs and supporting them in taking any additional precautions advised by their clinicians, and those facing mental and physical health difficulties. 

Inheritance Tax Business Relief

There are a number of reliefs available that can reduce liability to IHT if you inherit the estate of someone who has died. One of these reliefs is known as Business Relief and is a valuable tax relief for taxpayers with business interests, offering either 50% or 100% relief from IHT on the value of the business assets if certain conditions are met.

  • 100% Business Relief can be claimed on a business or interest in a business or on shares held in an unlisted company.
  • 50% Business Relief can be claimed on:
    – shares controlling more than 50% of the voting rights in a listed company
    – land, buildings or machinery owned by the deceased and used in a business they were a partner in or controlled
    – land, buildings or machinery used in the business and held in a trust that it has the right to benefit from

Relief is only available if the deceased owned the business or asset for at least 2 years before they died. There are a number of restrictions to the relief, for example if the company in question mainly deals with securities, stocks or shares, land or buildings, or in making or holding investments. In some cases, partial Business Relief may be available.

Claiming the relief can be a complicated process. We can of course help review the facts and advise.

Taxis: what is liable to VAT

HMRC sets out specific guidance regarding the application of VAT if you are in the taxi and private hire car trade. VAT Notice 700/25 – How VAT applies to taxis and private hire cars – applies.

Private hire cars include mini-cabs. The notice is relevant if you are:

  • a driver who owns or rents a vehicle (an owner driver)
  • the owner of a business which operates a number of vehicles
  • operating a taxi association

The fares a driver charges to their passengers for taxi or private hire journeys are liable to VAT at the standard rate. This also includes any additional charges for things like baggage and waiting time.

Other sources of income liable to VAT may include:

  • referral fees received from another taxi firm
  • charges for supplying fuel or the rental of vehicles and radios to drivers
  • administration charges to customers

Tips or gratuities voluntarily given by passengers are not regarded as payment for a supply and are outside the scope of VAT.

National Minimum Wage reminder for summer staff

We would like to remind any students and seasonal staff that work part time, for example in a summer job, to ensure they are being paid the National Minimum Wage (NMW). All workers are legally entitled to be paid the NMW. This includes temporary seasonal staff, who often work short-term contracts in bars, hotels, shops and warehouses over the summer. 

HMRC helped some 155,000 people recover more than £16 million in pay which was due to them. HMRC is reminding workers to check their hourly rate of pay, and to also check any deductions or unpaid working time. The most common causes of minimum wage underpayment are deductions and unpaid working time such as travelling time between work locations and training time.

The current National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW) rates came into effect on 1 April 2021. The NLW is the minimum hourly rate that must be paid to those aged 23 or over. The hourly rate of the NMW (for 21-22 year olds) is £8.36. The rates for 18-20 year olds is £6.56 and the rate for workers above the school leaving age but under 18 is £4.62. 

Employees that are not being paid correctly can make an official complaint through GOV.UK or contact the ACAS Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0300 123 1100.

Tax if you divorce or separate

If you are a couple that is getting separated or divorced, apart from the emotional stress, there are also tax issues that can have significant implications. Whilst this is unlikely to be uppermost in your mind it is important that the tax consequences of the break-up are carefully considered.

Whilst Income Tax does not automatically cause an issue for separating couples as it is an individually assessed tax, there are other taxes that need to be considered. For example, when a couple are together there is no Capital Gains Tax (CGT) payable on assets gifted or sold to your spouse or civil partner. However, if a couple separate and do not live together for an entire tax year or get divorced then CGT may be payable on assets transferred between ex-partners.

This means that the optimum time for a couple to separate would technically be at the start of the tax year so that they would have up to a year to plan how to split their assets most tax efficiently. Obviously, in the real world most couples will have far more on their minds than deciding to get separated on a certain day, but these issues should be kept in mind.

It is also important to make a financial agreement accepted by both parties. If no agreement can be reached, then applying to the court to make a 'financial order' will usually be required. The couple and their advisers should also give proper thought to what will happen to the family home, any family businesses as well as Inheritance Tax implications.

Rent-a-room: letting as office accommodation

The rent-a-room scheme is a set of special rules designed to help homeowners who rent-a-room in their home. The current tax-free threshold of £7,500 per year has been in place since 6 April 2016. Homeowners using this scheme should ensure that rents received from lodgers during the tax year do not exceed £7,500.

The tax exemption is automatic if you earn less than £7,500 from qualifying rentals. The relief applies only to the letting of furnished accommodation and applies when a bedroom is rented out to a lodger.

HMRC issues specific guidance for individuals who seek to use rent-a-room relief where rooms in private homes are let as office accommodation. HMRC is clear that such claims do not qualify for rent-a-room relief and should be refused.

This does not apply to genuine lodgers such as students who are provided with study facilities in their lodgings. In such cases, HMRC would not want to deny relief. For example, where a lodger is provided with a desk which he or she uses for work or study.

Card security update

VISA have issued information regarding changes to card processing security from September 2021. The idea is to reduce online fraud.

The changes will apply across Europe. A key part of the new security arrangements is the requirement for Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). This means you may be asked to provide additional information when making some purchases.

In their update VISA said:

Banks are introducing these new security measures for Visa cardholders who shop online or make contactless payments. This will help them ensure only you can use your Visa and give you even more confidence and protection when paying with Visa.

  • Online: You may have to enter a passcode, which would be sent to your mobile phone or landline or authenticate your payment in another way, depending on how your Visa Card issuing bank has implemented the new security measures.
  • In-store: For contactless purchases, you may be asked to enter your PIN more often.

You may be asked to take an additional security step to confirm you are you when making a payment using your banks’ chosen authentication method. Your bank will have informed you by now on how to do this. If they have not, please contact your bank.

Hopefully, this will give us even more confidence and protection when paying with a credit card, as all card issuers will need to mirror Visa’s changes to maintain a level, secure playing field.

Stage 4 COVID roadmap implemented 19th July

The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, spoke to the nation and confirmed that the vaccines have significantly weakened the link between coronavirus cases and hospitalisations and deaths. This has allowed the government to confirm that many COVID restrictions will be lifted in England on 19 July, known as Freedom Day. 

The main changes will see an end to social distancing, facemasks will no longer be mandatory, and the opening of all venues currently closed with no capacity limits. The Prime Minister stressed that whilst many official restrictions will be removed it is expected that we will exercise our own personal judgement regarding precautions we should continue to take. 

The press release from the Prime Minister’s office stated: 

'Limits on social contact will end, meaning there will be no restrictions on indoor or outdoor gatherings. Weddings, funerals and other life events able to take place without limits or restrictions.

All venues currently closed will be allowed to reopen, including nightclubs, and there will be no legal requirement for table service in hospitality settings.

Face coverings will no longer be legally required in shops, schools, hospitality, or on public transport although guidance will be in place to suggest where people might choose to wear one, such as where you come into contact with people you don’t usually meet in enclosed and crowded places.'

There are also expected to be changes to the requirement for fully vaccinated people to have to self-isolate if they are identified as having been in contact with someone who tested positive.

Relaxing restrictions as case numbers continue to climb is no doubt a risky move. It will be interesting to see if the public accept personal responsibility in dealing with the pandemic or if restrictions will need to be reintroduced at some future date.