National Living Wage potential boost

The government looks likely to accept the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission with a boost to the National Living Wage rate.

In summary:

  • National Living Wage will rise to two-thirds of average earnings.
  • Chancellor commits to Low Pay Commission recommendations, with latest forecasts showing a pay boost next year worth over £1,000 for 2 million low-paid workers.
  • Successive rises mean a full-time worker on the National Living Wage will be over £9,000 better off than they would have been in 2010.

A formal announcement will be made November 2023, presumably as part of the Autumn Statement.

Based on the Low Pay Commission’s latest forecasts, this would see the National Living Wage increase to over £11 an hour from April 2024.   

People currently aged 23 and over are eligible for the National Living Wage, with over 2 million workers on low pay set to benefit from the increase. The announcement, after successive rises since its introduction in July 2015, means a full-time worker on the National Living Wage will be over £9,000 better off than they would have been in 2010.  

Each year, the independent Low Pay Commission produces recommendations to the Government on National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage rates. This year it is due to make recommendations for the rates that will take effect from April 2024, based on their remit which sets a target for the National Living Wage to reach two-thirds of median earnings by 2024 for workers aged 21 and over, taking economic conditions into account.

Unclaimed Child Trust Fund Accounts

HMRC has published their latest statistics on Child Trust Funds (CTFs) that reveal that whilst around 500,000 accounts have now matured, there remains some 430,000 funds that have matured but remain unclaimed.

If you turned 18 on or after 1 September 2020 there may be cash waiting for you in a dormant CTF. The average market value of an unclaimed CTF can be £2,000. The actual amount of money depends on a number of factors.

Children born after 31 August 2002 and before 3 January 2011 were entitled to a CTF account provided they met the necessary conditions. These funds were invested in long term saving accounts for newly born children. 

Around 7 million CTF accounts were set up since the scheme was launched in 2002, roughly 6 million by parents or guardians and a further 1 million set up by HMRC where parents or guardians did not open an account.

Around 55,000 accounts mature each month and HMRC has created a simple online tool to help young people find out where their account is held. If you’re unsure if you have an account or where it may be, it’s easy to track down your provider online.

The actual CTF accounts are not held by HMRC, but by a wide range of CTF providers who are financial services firms. Families can continue to pay into a CTF, until the maturity date. There is an annual limit of £9,000, and there is no tax to pay on the CTF savings interest or profit.

HMRC’s Second Permanent Secretary and Deputy Chief Executive, said:

'Many 18-21 year olds are starting out in first jobs or apprenticeships, starting university or moving into their first home and their Child Trust Fund is a pot of money with their name on. I would encourage young people to use the online tool to track it down or, for parents of teenagers, to speak to them to ensure they’re aware of their Child Trust Fund. It could make a real difference to their future plans.'

Community Investment Tax Relief scheme

The Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) scheme is designed to encourage investment in accredited Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs). The tax relief under the scheme is available to both individuals and companies.

CDFIs may take a range of forms including:

  • community loan funds, which make capital available to community regeneration initiatives and businesses;
  • micro-finance funds, which make small loans, usually at near-market rates of interest, to the smallest businesses, e.g., sole traders; and
  • social banks – profit-seeking financial service providers or subsidiaries, dedicated to social or environmental objectives.

The scheme encourages investment in disadvantaged communities by giving tax relief to investors who back businesses (and other not-for-profit enterprises) in disadvantaged communities by providing additional tax relief. Tax relief of up to 5% per year is available for up to 5 years starting with the year in which the investment is made. This provides for a total tax relief of up to 25% of the invested amount.

It was announced as part of the Spring Budget measures that the amount CDFIs can apply to relevant investments would increase from £250,000 to £375,000 for non-profit organisations and from £100,000 to £250,000 for profit organisations. The enabling legislation came into force on 2 June 2023.

In addition, the amount accredited CDFIs can raise through CITR increased from £10 million to £25 million for retail CDFIs and from £20 million to £100 million for wholesale CDFIs.

Paying tax by debit card or business credit card

It is possible to pay HMRC by corporate credit card or corporate debit cards. The use of these cards is subject to a fee. Payment by personal debit cards is currently fee-free. There is also no charge for payment by Direct Debit, bank transfer or cheque.

HMRC has not accepted personal credit cards since January 2018 when credit card surcharges on personal credit cards were banned.

You can pay HMRC online using a suitable credit / debit card for:

  • Self-Assessment
  • Employers’ PAYE and National Insurance
  • VAT
  • Corporation Tax
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax
  • Income Tax (because you previously under-paid)
  • Imported goods you have declared on the Customs Declaration Service
  • Miscellaneous payments (if your payment reference begins with ‘X’)

When making a payment for Self-Assessment, you should use your 11-character payment reference. This is your 10-digit Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) followed by the letter ‘K’.

HMRC will accept your online debit or credit card payment on the date you make it. This includes payments made on bank holidays and weekends.

Autumn Statement 2023

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has announced that he will deliver his Autumn Statement to the House of Commons on Wednesday, 22 November 2023. This move would imply that the annual Budget will not take place until the spring of 2024.

The Autumn Statement is used to give an update on the state of the economy and will respond to the economic and fiscal forecast published by the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR). The Autumn Statement also presents an opportunity for the government to publish consultations, including initiating early-stage calls for evidence and consultations on long-term tax policy issues.

The OBR has executive responsibility for producing the official UK economic and fiscal forecasts, evaluating the government’s performance against its fiscal targets, assessing the sustainability of and risks to the public finances and scrutinising government tax and welfare spending.

The Chancellor has made it clear that the main focus of the Autumn Statement will be to continue with measures to bring down inflation. We are therefore unlikely to see any major tax cuts that could further fuel inflation.

Clampdown on fake reviews and hidden fees

The Department for Business and Trade published the following announcement, that if implemented, should reduce the present trend to publish fake reviews and charge hidden fees at point of sale. The overall aim is to help consumers cut the cost of living…

In a recent press release the Department said:

“Commissioned by the Prime Minister in June as part of the Government’s ongoing work to support people with the cost of living, government research published today will inform the consultation to ensure we root out where ‘drip pricing’ harms consumers most.

The research has confirmed so-called ‘drip pricing’ – where the price paid at checkout is higher than originally advertised due to extra, but necessary, fees – is widespread, and occurs in more than half of providers in the entertainment (54%) and hospitality (56%) industry, and almost three quarters across transport and communication (72%) sectors. In total, this costs UK consumers £1.6 billion online each year.”

Additional consultations that target labelling and so-called “fake reviews” are in the pipe-line that should ensure that unit pricing is consistently applied, including to promotions and special offers, helping consumers compare products easily and identify what items represent the best value.

At present, these noble initiatives are speculative. We will have to wait and see if the proposed consultations produce effective legislation.

Back to school – help with childcare costs

As children return to school after the summer break, HMRC is reminding parents that they may be eligible to use the Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) scheme to help pay for any approved childcare.

The TFC scheme can help parents of children aged up to 11 years old (17 for those with certain disabilities). The TFC scheme helps support working families with their childcare costs. There are many registered childcare providers including childminders, nurseries, breakfast and after school clubs and approved play schemes signed up across the UK. Parents can pay into their account regularly and save up their TFC allowance to use during school holidays. 

The TFC scheme provides for a government top-up of parental contributions. For every £8 contributed by parents an additional £2 top up payment will be funded by Government up to a maximum total of £10,000 per child per year. This will give parents an annual savings of up to £2,000 per child (and up to £4,000 for disabled children until the age of 17) in childcare costs. 

The TFC scheme is open to all qualifying parents including the self-employed and those on a minimum wage. The scheme is also available to parents on paid sick leave as well as those on paid and unpaid statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave. In order to be eligible to use the scheme parents will have to be in work at least 16 hours per week and earn at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage. If either parent earns more than £100,000, both parents are unable to use the scheme.

HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said:

Starting back to school and arranging childcare for the term ahead can be costly for working families. Tax-Free Childcare offers financial help so families can save on the cost of childcare. Search Tax-Free Childcare on GOV.UK and sign up online today.

Access to cash to be protected

Recognising the need to maintain access to cash withdrawal facilities, the government is stepping in to set out a new access standard in the UK.

The vast majority of people and businesses are set to be no further than three miles away from withdrawing cash under a new framework set out by the Treasury.

A government statement recently published sets a minimum expectation on banks to protect services for people and businesses wanting to withdraw or deposit cash.

They can expect to withdraw cash without any fees – something that has been set out in law.

As part of this move, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has been provided new powers by the government to protect the provision of cash access services. This includes protecting cash access without any fees for those who hold personal current accounts.

Building on laws granted through the government’s Financial Services and Markets Act 2023, the FCA will use these new powers to make sure banks and building societies are keeping up to these standards – and have the power to fine them if they do not.

While we are moving further away from using coins and notes – with the number of online payments rising from 45% to 85% in the past ten years – cash can still be an integral part of many businesses and people’s lives. This is particularly so for disadvantaged groups and old persons who may not be able to access online or card payment services.

Scottish charities regulations

Charities in Scotland are regulated by an independent body. This body is called the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR). The OSCR is the regulator and registrar for over 25,000 Scottish charities including community groups, religious charities, schools, universities, grant-giving charities and major care providers. 

The OSCR was established under the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act). The 2005 Act sets out the powers that OSCR has to regulate charities. This includes publishing and maintaining the Scottish Charity Register.

There is currently a Bill making its way through the Scottish Parliament that will update the 2005 Act.

The bill is intended to:

  • give OSCR wider powers to investigate charities and charity trustees;
  • amend the rules on who can be a charity trustee or a senior office-holder in a charity;
  • increase the information that OSCR holds about charity trustees;
  • update the information which needs to be included on the Scottish Charity Register; and
  • create a record of charities that have merged.

These changes will keep Scottish legislation in line with changes that have been made in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to improve charity legislation since the Act came into effect in 2005.

HMRC increases interest rates again

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) met on 2 August 2023 and voted 6-3 in favour of raising interest rates by 25 basis points to 5.25% in a move to further contain inflation. One member of the MPC voted to keep the rate at 5% whilst two others favoured an increase to 5.5%. This is the fourteenth consecutive time that the MPC has increased interest rates with rates now the highest they have been since 2008.

This means that the late payment interest rate applied to the main taxes and duties that HMRC charges interest on increases by 0.25% to 7.75%.

These changes will come into effect on:

  • 14 August 2023 for quarterly instalment payments; and
  • 22 August 2023 for non-quarterly instalments payments.

The repayment interest rates applied to the main taxes and duties that HMRC pays interest on will increase by 0.25% to 4.25% from 22 August 2023. The repayment rate is set at the Bank Rate minus 1%, with a 0.5% lower limit.