Check if HMRC contact is genuine

HMRC’s published guidance titled ‘Check genuine HMRC contact that uses more than one communication method’ has been updated. The list is intended to help taxpayers check if recent contacts purporting to be from HMRC are actually a scam.

The guidance contains a list of emails, phone calls, letters and text messages recently issued by HMRC that are genuine. The list can be useful to help taxpayers decide if a contact is genuine or from a fraudster trying to trick taxpayers into supplying confidential or personal information.

Some of the most recent additions to the list include the following:

  • Temporary Customer Compliance Manager service for mid-size businesses. HMRC’s Customer Insight Team will be inviting mid-size businesses and their agents for feedback about the temporary Customer Compliance Manager service. From 1 March 2024 up to and including 31 May 2024 HMRC may contact you by phone or email.
  • Tax code notice research. HMRC are working with independent research agency People for Research to recruit participants to gather feedback on communications notifying taxpayers of their tax code. You may have been contacted by email or phone call to take part in the research.
  • Cryptoasset research. HMRC are working with independent research agency Ipsos UK to carry out research into the cryptoasset industry. From 2 April 2024 up to and including 31 May 2024 Ipsos UK may contact you by email, letter or phone. Ipsos are carrying out research on behalf of HMRC into the cryptoasset industry. The research aims to understand the behaviours and attitudes of individual owners of cryptoassets and the operation and business models of cryptoasset service providers. You may receive a letter, email or phone call from Ipsos UK asking you to take part in an interview, which will be conducted online or by telephone.
  • Impact of Making Tax Digital on Income Tax self-assessment taxpayers. HMRC are working with independent research agency Verian to explore the impact of Making Tax Digital (MTD) on Income Tax self-assessment (ITSA) taxpayers. You may be contacted through email, letter or phone call and asked to take part in a telephone interview or a survey.

Participation in any of these research items is voluntary.

Do you need to register for Economic Crime Levy?

The Economic Crime Levy is a levy that applies to businesses that are already regulated for anti-money laundering purposes.

Your business must register if your UK revenue is £10.2 million or more in a financial year and:

  • Your business is already regulated by HMRC for anti-money laundering purposes.
  • Your business is regulated by a professional body for anti-money laundering purposes.

The financial year runs from 1 April to 31 March of the following year. Not all entities have to register and submit a return – it depends on the identity of their collection authority.

Businesses only need to register for the Economic Crime Levy once but are required to submit a return and pay the levy on an annual basis.

The amount businesses need to pay depends on their UK revenue for the financial year.

There are four size bands:

  • small entities (less than £10.2 million in UK revenue);
  • medium entities (between £10.2 million and £36 million in UK revenue);
  • large entities (between £36 million and £1 billion in UK revenue); and
  • very large entities (over £1 billion in UK revenue).

Small entities do not need to pay the levy, however:

  • medium entities must pay £10,000;
  • large entities must pay £36,000; and
  • very large entities must pay £500,000 from April 2024. The levy was previously £250,000 but was increased as part of the recent Spring Budget measures. As is currently the case, payments for 2024-25 will be due in the following financial year. No other changes to the levy were announced.

The amount due for the levy may be reduced if businesses carry out regulated activities for only part of the financial year.

Holiday Lets averaging election

The furnished holiday let (FHL) rules allow holiday lettings of properties that meet certain conditions to be treated as a trade for tax purposes.

In order to qualify as a furnished holiday letting, the following criteria need to be met:

  • The property must be let on a commercial basis with a view to the realisation of profits. Second homes or properties that are only let occasionally or to family and friends do not qualify.
  • The property must be located in the UK, or in a country within the EEA.
  • The property must be furnished. This means that there must be sufficient furniture provided for normal occupation and your visitors must be entitled to use the furniture.

In addition, the property must pass the following three occupancy conditions.

  1. Pattern of occupation condition. The property must not be used for more than 155 days for longer term occupation (i.e. a continuous period of more than 31 days).
  2. The availability condition. The property must be available for commercial letting at commercial rates for at least 210 days per year.
  3. The letting condition. The property must be let for at least 105 days per year and homeowners should be able to demonstrate the income from these lettings. 

Where there are a number of furnished holiday lettings properties in a business, it is possible to average the days of lettings for the purposes of qualifying for the 105 days threshold. This is called an averaging election.

HMRC provides the following illustrative example:

Emma lets 4 UK holiday cottages for the following number of days in a tax year:

Cottage Number of days
Cottage 1 120 days
Cottage 2 125 days
Cottage 3 112 days
Cottage 4 64 days
Total 421 days

If Emma uses averaging, all 4 cottages will meet the letting condition (421 days divided by 4 = 105). Without averaging, cottage 4 would not qualify.

You can only average across properties in a single FHL business. You cannot mix UK and EEA FHL properties.

Landlords – claiming maintenance and repairs costs

Landlords are able to claim for allowable expenses as a deduction from their rental income when calculating taxable rental profits to declare to HMRC. The expenses must relate wholly and exclusively for the purposes of renting out the property.

There is also a range of other types of expenses that can be claimed as a deduction when paid for by the landlord. This includes general maintenance and repairs to the property. It is important to note that this type of allowable expense includes the costs of maintenance and repairs to the property (but not ‘capital’ improvements).

HMRC’s guidance states that… a repair restores an asset to its original condition, sometimes by replacing parts of it.

Property repairs can include:

  • replacing roof tiles blown off by a storm;
  • replacing a broken-down boiler; and
  • redecoration between tenants to restore the property to its original condition.

Replacing a part of the property with the nearest modern equivalent is still a repair if the improvement is incidental to the repair, such as replacing a single-glazed window with a double-glazed window.

You cannot claim the costs for replacing furnishings or equipment in a property. These are not allowable as costs of maintenance and repairs but may qualify for replacement of domestic items relief.

Time to Pay your tax

Businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time to Pay service. Any tax, duty, penalties or surcharges that you cannot afford to pay can be included.

An online payment plan for self-assessment tax bills can be used to set up instalment arrangements for paying tax liabilities up to £30,000. Taxpayers that qualify for a Time to Pay arrangement using the self-serve Time to Pay facility online, can do so without speaking to an HMRC adviser. This service is available within 60 days of the payment deadline.

Taxpayers that want to use the online option must also meet the following requirements:

  • Have no outstanding tax returns
  • No other tax debts
  • No other HMRC payment plans set up

Other payments arrangements are usually agreed on a case-by-case basis and are tailored to individual circumstances and liabilities. Agreements reached with HMRC allow businesses and individuals to pay off their debt by instalments over a period of time.

HMRC will usually offer taxpayers the option of extra time to pay if they think they genuinely cannot pay in full now but will be able to pay in the future. If HMRC do not think that more time will help, then they can require immediate payment of a tax bill and start enforcement action if payment is not forthcoming.

HMRC awards £5.5m in grant funding

HMRC’s has awarded twelve voluntary and community sector organisations a share of £5.5 million in funding to help customers with their tax affairs.

The £5.5 million funding pot applies over a three-year programme from April 2024 to March 2027 (£1.835 million per year), to help fund Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) organisations. These organisations can then in turn help taxpayers who need extra help understanding and complying with their tax obligations and claiming their entitlements.

Registered charities, voluntary and community organisations, social enterprises, mutual organisations and co-operatives based in the UK were eligible to apply for funding. The application window for the current funding round closed on 21 August 2023.

The successful Voluntary and Community Sector organisations to receive a share of the grant funding are:

  • Advice Direct Scotland
  • Advice NI
  • Citizens Advice Bureau – Isle of Wight, Gosport and Fareham
  • Citizens Advice East Lancashire
  • Citizens Advice South Tyneside
  • Good Things Foundation
  • Money Advice Trust
  • Refugee Migrant Centre
  • Royal National Institute of Blind People
  • Royal Association for Deaf People
  • Tax Aid
  • Tax Volunteers (Tax Help for Older People)

The new grant agreements will be in place before the grant funding programme begins on 1 April 2024. HMRC is aiming to direct the grant funding to help taxpayers who are currently hardest to reach, who cannot or will not interact directly with HMRC, or need extra support in doing so.

The funding is aimed at helping VCS organisations that deal with taxpayers such as those with mental health or learning difficulties, people on low incomes or in debt and facing financial hardship, older people, migrants, carers, and people who are digitally excluded.

Help to Save scheme

The Help to Save scheme is intended to help those on low incomes to boost their savings. Eligible users of the scheme can save between £1 and £50 every calendar month and receive a 50% government bonus. The 50% bonus is payable at the end of the second and fourth years and is based on how much account holders have saved. The bonus is paid directly into the account holder’s chosen bank account.

This means that account holders on low incomes can receive a maximum bonus of up to £1,200 on savings of £2,400 for four years from the date the account is opened. The scheme is open to most working people who receive Working Tax Credits or Universal Credit.

Almost 450,000 people have opened Help to Save accounts since the scheme was launched in September 2018 and March 2023, with nearly £372.5 million paid into accounts during that time. This has seen the government award £146 million in bonus payments.

The scheme had been due to end in September 2023 but was extended by 18 months, until April 2025. The extension was announced as part of the Spring Budget measures earlier this year.

Gifts of shares to minor (under 18s) children

The settlement legislation seeks to ensure that, where a settlor has retained an interest in property in a settlement, the income arising is treated as the settlor’s income for all tax purposes. A settlor can be said to have retained an interest if the property or income may be applied for the benefit of the settlor, a spouse or civil partner. In general, the settlements legislation can apply where an individual enters into an arrangement to divert income to someone else and in the process, tax is saved. 

However, in most everyday situations involving gifts, dividends, shares, partnerships etc., the settlements legislation will not apply. For example, if there is no “bounty” or if the gift to a spouse or civil partner is an outright gift which is not wholly, or substantially, a right to income.

HMRC’s manuals provide the following two indicative examples of how the legislation applies to non-trust settlements.

Direct gift of shares to minor children

Mr and Mrs X each own 50 of the 100 issued ordinary shares in X Ltd. They each decide to give 10 shares to each of their children aged 12 and 15. The children each then hold 20 shares, 10 from each parent. We would treat the dividends paid to the children as the income of their parents.

Indirect gift of shares from parent

Mr J owns 60 of the 100 issued £1 shares in J Limited. Mr J is the sole company director and is the person responsible for making all the company’s profits because of his knowledge, expertise and hard work. On starting up the company, Mr J allowed his mother to subscribe £40 for 40% of the shares but shortly afterwards she gifted them to her grandchildren. The circumstances are such that the decision to issue 40 shares at par is a bounteous arrangement (as were the shares in Jones v Garnett). The true settlor here is Mr J rather than the children’s grandmother. ITTOIA/S629 therefore applies and attributes the dividends received by the children to Mr J for tax purposes.

Due a student loan refund?

Student Loans are part of the government's financial support package for students in higher education in the UK. They are available to help students meet their expenses while they are studying, and it is HMRC’s responsibility to collect repayments where the borrower is working in the UK. The Student Loans Company (SLC) is directly responsible for collecting the loans of borrowers outside the UK tax system.

The main finance package elements available to students include loans for tuition fees and maintenance loans (to help with living costs). The maximum loan amounts are capped with the maximum amount depending on a student’s circumstances. Maintenance grants are also available under certain circumstances. The grants do not have to be repaid but do reduce the amount of available maintenance loan a student can claim.

Students that have finished their studies and entered the workforce must begin to make loan repayments from the April after they have finished their studies or when their income exceeds an annual threshold.

Since 6 April 2023, the thresholds and rates are as follows: Plan 1 – £22,015, Plan 2 – £27,295 and Plan 4 (Scottish student loans) – £27,660. The terms of loan repayment for courses of study started before 01 September 2012 are referred to as 'Plan 1', and those started after 01 September 2012, are referred to as 'Plan 2'. Repayments will be deducted at a rate of 9% of income over the threshold. The threshold for postgraduate loans is £21,000 and repayments are deducted at a rate of 6%

Taxpayers that have made repayments but whose total annual income was less than the respective thresholds can apply for a student loan refund. An application cannot be made until after the relevant tax year has finished. Taxpayers can also apply for a refund from the Student Loans Company if the loan debt has been repaid in full.

The Student Loans Company repayment call waiting times are currently far longer than usual due to exceptionally high volumes of refund requests. Taxpayers should first check if they are due a refund by looking at https://www.gov.uk/repaying-your-student-loan/getting-a-refund

Help to Save bonus payments

The Help to Save scheme is intended to help those on low incomes to boost their savings. Eligible users of the scheme can save between £1 and £50 every calendar month and receive a 50% government bonus. The 50% bonus is payable at the end of the second and fourth years and is based on how much account holders have saved. The bonus is paid directly into the account holder’s chosen bank account.

This means that account holders on low incomes can receive a maximum bonus of up to £1,200 on savings of £2,400 for 4 years from the date the account is opened. The scheme is open to most working people who receive Working Tax Credits or Universal Credit.

Almost 450,000 people have opened Help to Save accounts since the scheme was launched in September 2018 and March 2023, with nearly £372.5 million paid into accounts during that time. This has seen the government award £146 million in bonus payments.

The scheme had been due to end in September 2023 but was extended by 18 months, until April 2025. The extension was announced at Spring Budget on 15 March 2023.