Additional funding for charities and social enterprise

The government's dormant assets scheme allows money in accounts that have been dormant for at least 15 years to be made available for certain qualifying charitable and community causes.

The Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden has announced that £150 million from dormant bank and building society accounts is to be unlocked to help charities, social enterprises and vulnerable individuals during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The £150 million charity injection is made up of the accelerated release of £71 million of new funds from dormant accounts alongside £79 million already unlocked that will be repurposed to help charities’ Coronavirus response and recovery.

The money will be used to support urgent work to tackle youth unemployment, expand access to emergency loans for civil society organisations and help improve the availability of fair, affordable credit to people in vulnerable circumstances.

Since the scheme was launched in 2011 over £600 million has been distributed to good causes. However, it is important to note that the original account holder retains the rights to repayment of any monies within the scheme after providing satisfactory proof that the money is theirs.

Upcoming bank holiday dates

We thought it would be useful to remind our readers of the upcoming bank holiday dates across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Whilst many people are still under lockdown, there are still some extra days off to look forward to for the rest of the year.

2020 bank holidays in England and Wales

Monday 25 May – Spring bank holiday
Monday 31 August – Summer bank holiday
Friday 25 December – Christmas Day
Monday 28 December – Boxing Day (substitute day)

2020 bank holidays in Scotland

Monday 25 May – Spring bank holiday
Monday 3 August – Summer bank holiday
Monday 30 November – St Andrew’s Day
Friday 25 December – Christmas Day
Monday 28 December – Boxing Day (substitute day)

2020 bank holidays in Northern Ireland

Monday 25 May – Spring bank holiday
Monday 13 July – Battle of the Boyne (Orangemen’s Day) (substitute day)
Monday 31 August – Summer bank holiday
Friday 25 December – Christmas Day
Monday 28 December – Boxing Day (substitute day)

If a bank holiday is on a weekend, a 'substitute' weekday becomes a bank holiday, normally the following Monday.

Extension of vehicle MOT dates

A reminder that MOT expiry dates are being extended by 6 months for all MOTs due on or after 30 March 2020. This includes vehicles that are due their first ever MOT test and applies to cars, motorcycles, light vans and other light vehicles.

The MOT expiry date will be automatically extended approximately 7 days before it’s due to expire. Your vehicle tax remains due as normal. You cannot renew your vehicle tax until your MOT expiry date has been extended. This means you might need to wait until later in the month to tax your vehicle after your MOT has been extended.

It is very important to remember that vehicles must be kept roadworthy even if an MOT date has been extended. Unsafe vehicles should be taken to an open garage for repair. There are different rules for those with MOT expiry dates on or before 29 March 2020 as the law only changed on 30 March 2020.

The Department for Transport is working with insurers and the police to make sure people are not unfairly penalised for not being able to organise an MOT. If you are not using your car, you can also register your vehicle as off the road by obtaining a statutory off-road notification (SORN). This will see any remaining full months of tax refunded and you could also look into cancelling your car insurance (with a SORN).

Businesses that must presently stay closed

Government guidance on businesses in England that must presently stay closed has been updated. The government is clear that failure to follow the law relating to these closures can lead to the individual responsible for the business being issued a prohibition notice, a fixed penalty notice or prosecution.

The current pandemic has seen most non-essential businesses closed in an unprecedented high street shutdown that started on 24 March 2020. Only a limited number of retailers that sell what have been deemed to be essential goods have been allowed to stay open. Garden centres and plant nurseries were allowed to reopen on 13 May 2020 as part of a number of measures to slowly ease the lockdown.

The government has also allowed takeaway and delivery services to remain open if they are able to safely operate in line with specific guidance. Online retail and click and collect services have also been allowed to continue to operate if social distancing guidance is followed.

The guidance for businesses in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are set by the devolved administrations.

HMRC’s tax app

A free HMRC tax app is available and offers some useful functionality. The app has recently been updated.

The APP can be used to see:

  • your tax code and National Insurance number
  • an estimate of the tax you need to pay
  • your income and benefits
  • how much you will receive in tax credits and when they will be paid
  • your Unique Taxpayer Reference (UTR) for Self-Assessment

The app can also be used to complete a number of tasks that usually require the user to be logged on to a computer. This includes:

  • renew and report changes to your tax credits
  • access your Help to Save account
  • using HMRC’s tax calculator to work out your take home pay after Income Tax and National Insurance deductions
  • track forms and letters you have sent to HMRC
  • claim a refund if you have paid too much tax
  • update your postal address

The app is available to download from the App Store for iOS and from the Google Play Store for Android.

Agent update April 2020

HMRC has released the latest bi-monthly issue of the 'Agent Update' publication which includes summaries of recent changes and updates that have been announced. The document, which is aimed at taxation and accountancy practitioners, includes links to more detailed information on each of the topics covered.

The topics covered in the latest edition include the following:

  • COVID-19. A reminder that the government portal listing all the various financial support measures for businesses during coronavirus is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/financial-support-for-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19.
  • Off-payroll working rules. Confirmation that the government have postponed the roll-out of off-payroll working rules to the private sector until 6 April 2021. This deferral was announced in response to COVID-19, to help businesses and individuals deal with the economic impacts of the pandemic and the government remains committed to introducing this policy.
  • Independent Loan Charge Review. A number of important changes have been made to the loan charge following the independent loan charge review. This will result in some people being due a refund of voluntary restitution. HMRC will not be able to process any refunds until the Finance Bill has received Royal Assent, expected in summer 2020 although subject to delay due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • Construction Industry Scheme. A reminder of filing dates and an update on tax refunds following the end of the tax year. Repayments can be requested online, but refunds cannot be processed until 24 April and it can take 40 working days for repayments to be made.
  • Official Rate of Interest for the 2020-21 tax year. From 6 April 2020, the official rate of interest was reduced to 2.25% (from 2.5%). This interest rate is used to calculate the Income Tax charge on the benefit of employment related loans and the taxable benefit of some employer-provided living accommodation.
  • Links to new Revenue & Customs Briefs.

£750m support for charities

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced an additional £750m of funding for front-line charities to help them to continue their vital work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The £750m is made up of a direct allocation of £360 million from government departments to charities providing key services during the crisis, including hospices and those charities supporting the victims of domestic abuse. A further £370 million will support small and medium-sized charities – including through a grant to the National Lottery Community Fund. These grants will support organisations working in local communities, including those delivering food, essential medicines and providing financial advice during the outbreak.

A further minimum of £20m will be allocated from the government to the National Emergencies Trust Appeal – a funding raising programme that will be aired on the BBC on 23 April. The government has committed to match public donations made on the night. 

Taken together, we are told that tens of thousands of charities providing vital services will benefit from direct cash grants to ensure they can meet increased demand as a result of the virus as well as continuing their day-to-day activities supporting those in need.

Whilst charities welcomed this news there are still significant concerns that many will face collapse whilst facing higher demand for their services and a huge decrease in fundraising opportunities due to cancelled events and closure of charity shops.

MOT expiry dates and vehicle tax

The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) has confirmed that MOT expiry dates will be extended by 6 months for all MOTs due on or after 30 March 2020. This includes vehicles that are due their first MOT test and applies to cars, motorcycles, light vans and other light vehicles.

The MOT expiry date will be automatically extended just before it is due to expire. Your vehicle tax remains due as normal. You cannot renew your vehicle tax until your MOT expiry date has been extended. This means you might need to wait until later in the month to tax your vehicle after your MOT has been extended.

It is important that vehicles must be kept roadworthy even if a MOT date has been extended. Unsafe vehicles should be taken to an open garage for repair. There are different rules for those with MOT expiry dates on or before 29 March 2020 as the law only changed on 30 March. If you are affected, a MOT must be booked as usual unless you are self-isolating or extremely vulnerable from Coronavirus (shielding).

The Department for Transport is working with insurers and the police to make sure people are not unfairly penalised for not being able to get a MOT. If you are not using your car, you can also register your vehicle as off the road by obtaining a statutory off road notification (SORN). This will allow you to obtain a refund of any remaining full months of road fund tax previously paid.

Hardship Fund

The huge monetary and fiscal stimulus measures announced by the government and the Bank of England has seen amongst other measures interest rates lowered by 0.5% and a significant package of targeted measures to help support those affected.

One of these measures was the launch of a new £500 million Hardship Fund to help support economically vulnerable people and households. The details on this fund are hard to come by, but it appears the money will be distributed to Local Authorities by government. The government expects most of this funding to be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes or similar measures.

This Hardship Fund will likely need to be scaled up over the coming months as the full force of COVID-19 becomes apparent. We would also be interested to see further information on who will be eligible to claim from this fund. We will publish more information on this scheme as it becomes available.

Tax scheme promoter defeated

The First-Tier Tribunal (FTT) has recently published its decision in a long running case that focused on tax planning arrangements. This important decision represents a significant win for HMRC against a tax avoidance promoter in a case that has been before the FTT since June 2018. The firm in question launched and promoted an arrangement known as the Alchemy scheme. The FTT was clear that this scheme was inherently implausible from the outset.

The scheme involved selected employees (usually directors) entering a high-risk form of gambling, known as spread betting. The scheme’s intended result was a tax-free betting win for the individual employee, which was taken instead of taxable employment income, and a tax-deductible expense for the company.

HMRC has said that the decision by the FTT could lead to the recovery of £2.4 million in tax and National Insurance Contributions (NICs) in this specific case, with a further £110 million in related cases. The FTT also agreed with HMRC’s argument that Disguised Remuneration legislation would apply to the arrangements.

The decision in this case is likely to be appealed.