Changes to customs declarations 1 January 2022

There are special procedures for importing goods into the UK. Following the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, the process for importing goods from the EU effectively mirrors the process for all non-EU international destinations.

However, a number of easements had been in place to help ensure a smooth transition for goods coming from the EU. This included a delay in the requirement for full customs declarations and controls until the end of this year.

And so, from 1 January 2022, businesses will no longer be able to delay making import customs declarations under the Staged Customs Controls rules that have applied during 2021. This will mean that most businesses will have to make declarations and pay relevant tariffs at the point of import.

Affected businesses should ensure that they consider as a matter of urgency how they are going to submit customs declarations and pay any duties. Businesses can appoint an intermediary, such as a customs agent, to deal with their declarations or they can submit them directly; although this can be daunting for businesses unused to the processes involved.

There is a ‘Simplified Declarations’ authorisation from HMRC that allows some goods to be released directly to a specified customs procedure without having to provide a full customs declaration at the point of release. However, this needs specific authorisation from HMRC and there are also other requirements that must be met. An application made now is unlikely to be approved before 1 January 2022.

Appealing to the First-tier Tribunal (Tax)

There are a number of different options open to taxpayers that disagree with a tax decision issued by HMRC. Usually, the first step is to make an appeal to HMRC against the tax decision. The case worker who made the decision will look at your case again and consider your appeal. If they do not change their decision, you can request what is known as a ‘statutory review’. This is where the decision is looked at by someone at HMRC who was not involved in the original decision.

If the taxpayers do not agree with HMRC’s review, there are further options available which include making an appeal to the tax tribunal or using the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.

If you decide to appeal to the First-tier Tribunal (Tax) in relation to a ‘direct tax’ issue you must have appealed to HMRC first. For ‘indirect tax’ issues such as VAT and excise duties you can usually lodge an appeal straight to the Tribunal. An appeal to the Tribunal must be made within the time limit stated on your decision letter and any disputed tax ‘due’ must usually be paid upfront. An appeal can normally be made online or by post.

You can apply for ADR after you’ve appealed to the tribunal and your appeal has been accepted. The ADR seeks to offer a fair and quick outcome for both parties, helping to reduce costs and avoid a Tribunal case. However, in some cases the cost and effort of going to Tribunal can be worthwhile and needs to be properly considered.

Discovery assessment changes

HMRC has taken action to ensure that discovery assessments relating to certain aspects of the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC), Gift Aid Donations and different pension charges act as intended.

According to HMRC, this new measure does not change this policy but makes a technical point to clarify the law to provide legal certainty and maintain the status quo. The change applies both retrospectively and prospectively and does not impose any additional liability.

A recent Upper Tribunal case found that HMRC did not have the power to recover an individual’s HICBC by issuing a discovery assessment. HMRC is appealing the decision to the Court of Appeal. However, in advance of that appeal, this new measure will provide certainty that HMRC may recover HICBC through the issue of a discovery assessment.

The legislation will not apply retrospectively to those individuals who previously received a discovery assessment and who appealed on or before 30 June 2021, the date at which the Upper Tribunal handed down its decision in the relevant case. However, HMRC will be hoping to win their Court of Appeal case which would make this a moot point.

Self-employed basis period reforms

The government announced back in September that the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Income Tax Self-Assessment (ITSA) has been delayed by one year until April 2024. There had been widespread concerns on the speed of the MTD for ITSA rollout and the delay was widely welcomed.

In tandem with this announcement, the government also announced that proposals for Income Tax basis period reform would also be delayed until the 2024-25 tax year with 2023-24 being a transitional year. The proposals change the basis period from a ‘current year basis’ to a ‘tax year basis’. Under the current rules there can be overlapping basis periods, which charge tax on profits twice and generate corresponding ‘overlap relief’ which is usually given on cessation of the business. The new method of using a ‘tax year basis’ removes the basis period rules and prevents the creation of further overlap relief. 

HMRC has published a new policy paper on this change. The paper confirms that the measure will only affect businesses which draw up annual accounts to a date different to 31 March or 5 April (mainly seasonal businesses and large partnerships), and businesses that commence from 6 April 2024. On transition to the tax year basis in the tax year 2023 to 24, all businesses’ basis periods will be aligned to the tax year and all outstanding overlap relief given.

Letting agencies and the Money Laundering Regulations

HMRC is responsible for the money laundering supervision of certain businesses including letting agencies. Businesses that HMRC is responsible for supervising should be aware of the requirement to register with HMRC and the penalties for failing to register. It is a criminal offence to trade as a letting agency business (as defined within the Regulations) without being registered for money laundering supervision.

You may need to register with HMRC if your business operates as a letting agency business.

A letting agency business means a firm or sole practitioner whose work consists of things done in response to instructions received from a:

  • prospective landlord seeking to find another person to let land to,
  • prospective tenant seeking to find land to rent.

This is for a term of a month or more and over €10,000 per month. This covers both residential and commercial property lettings.

A lettings agent carrying out lettings activity not defined within the Regulations, for example, below €10,000 per month, is not required to register.

There are penalties for not registering in a timely manner. If you think you should have been registered or need further clarification, we would be happy to help.

Want to complain about HMRC?

Taxpayers may find themselves in a position where they need to make a complaint about HMRC’s service. Complaints can relate to many different issues such as unreasonable delays, mistakes and poor treatment by HMRC’s staff. Note, there is a separate procedure to be followed by taxpayers that disagree with a decision of HMRC or that wish to complain about serious misconduct by HMRC staff.

Taxpayers that wish to make a complaint should in the first instance write or speak to the person or office they have been dealing with. If the complaint is not resolved or the taxpayer would prefer not to discuss the issue with the person or office they have been dealing with, then a complaint can be made using an online complaint form. A complaint can also be made by phone or post.

If the response is unsatisfactory a further request can be made for the complaint to be looked at again by a different complaints handler who will take a second look at the complaint and then provide a final response. Taxpayers that are still unhappy with the response can ask the Adjudicator to look into the complaint. If they are unhappy with the Adjudicator’s decision it is possible to contact their local MP to ask for the matter to be referred to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

Income excluded from UK 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 their 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 a tax return.

Rental business – post cessation transactions

There are special rules for the taxation of post-cessation transactions after a trade has ceased. The legislation clearly states that the person who receives or is entitled to the post-cessation receipt is the person who is subject to Income Tax or Corporation Tax on the income. This does not have to be the same person who carried on the original trade.

HMRC manuals are clear that a receipt, which arises from a property rental business after it has ceased, is taxable under special rules; provided, of course, the taxpayer has not already included that receipt in the computation of their rental business profits. The tax payer may also be able to claim relief for post-cessation expenses for which they have had no relief. One example might be the cost of background heating for empty premises to keep down condensation and so maintain the value of the property for later sale.

A claim for post-cessation property relief is possible if a customer ceases to carry on a UK property business and within 7 years makes a ‘qualifying payment’ or a ‘qualifying event’ occurs in relation to a debt of the business.

A claim to relief must be made on or before the first anniversary of the 31 January following the end of the tax year in which the payment is made.

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.

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.