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eNews - February 2015

This month we report on changes to auto enrolment limits, the launch of Pension wise and the Fit for Work service. We also update you on the latest HMRC phishing scam emails and the success of Accelerated Payment Notices. Please contact us if you would like any further information on these or any other issues.

 

Government publishes guidance on new 'Fit for Work' service

The Government has published guidance on its new Fit for Work service, which aims to help tackle the problem of long-term sickness absence.

The service is being introduced to facilitate the return to work of employees who have been off sick for a period of four weeks or more. The new service will enable employers to refer their employees, with the employee’s consent, for an occupational health assessment. Following the assessment, a return to work plan will be created, including recommendations for employers on how to assist the employee with getting back to work.

A benefit in kind tax exemption of up to £500 per year per employee will be available for employer spending on medical treatments recommended by the assessment which help employees to return to work.

The Department for Work and Pensions is advising employers to update their sickness policies to reflect the existence of the new service.

If you would like any help in this area please do get in touch.

Internet link: fit-for-work-employers-guide

Accelerated Payment notices

HMRC have announced that they have secured almost all of the disputed tax due from the first group of tax avoidance scheme users to receive Accelerated Payment notices (APNs). An APN forces the taxpayer to make payment to HMRC of tax currently under dispute within 90 days of being issued with a notice. APNs are being introduced to counteract the perceived cash flow advantage for the taxpayer of holding onto the disputed tax during an avoidance dispute.

Approximately 30 scheme users were advised in August 2014 that they had 90 days to pay a total of around £29 million of disputed tax upfront under the new Accelerated Payments regime.

HMRC have announced that over 99% of this money was paid within the deadline, with several payment arrangements also in place. HMRC have received £32 million in disputed tax to date.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said:

‘The high success rate for the first set of Accelerated Payments notices shows avoidance scheme users are having to face up to the reality that they should pay their tax upfront, like the vast majority of taxpayers.

As we move into 2015 and HMRC ramps up the number of notices it sends out, thousands more will get the message that Accelerated Payments has changed the economics of tax avoidance.’

Jennie Granger, Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, HMRC, said:

‘These results show HMRC is making good progress in tackling marketed tax avoidance. If anyone is concerned about being able to pay an Accelerated Payment notice, they should contact us as soon as possible to discuss their options.’ 

Internet link: Gov news

HMRC warn of phishing email scam

HMRC are warning taxpayers to be wary of the latest in a long line of email phishing scams that claims taxpayers have ‘made mistakes while completing their last tax form application’.

HMRC have updated their list of phishing email scams to include the latest bogus email being circulated. According to HMRC:

‘the email contains a link which should not be clicked as it may direct you to a phishing site or contain malware. Do not respond to this email. Forward it to phishing@hmrc.gsi.gov.uk then delete it.’

Internet link: HMRC examples

Auto enrolment letters and updated thresholds

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is to write to all small and micro businesses in the coming months as part of a new campaign to give them key information on auto enrolment, including when the duties affect their businesses.

In addition the auto enrolment qualifying earnings bands and earning thresholds have been announced for 2015/16. These thresholds are relevant to employers complying with their automatic enrolment obligations to enrol and then make pension contributions for eligible employees. Employers must meet their obligations from their staging date which can be found by using TPR Website tool.

The revisions in the limits take effect from 6 April 2015 and follow the recommendations from consultation with interested parties.

TPR proposes to revise the limits to the following amounts:

  • £5,824 for the lower limit of the qualifying earnings band
  • £42,385 for the upper limit of the qualifying earnings band

These limits are used by employers to calculate how much pension contributions are due where band earnings are the basis of calculation.

The amount someone must earn to be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension (the earnings trigger) will remain at £10,000 per annum instead of being aligned with the personal allowance as it has been for previous years following concerns that low paid workers will miss out on pension contributions.

If you would like help with auto enrolment please do get in touch.

Internet links: Gov  Press release

Government wants suggestions for Budget 2015

HM Treasury is encouraging groups, individuals and representative bodies to submit their ideas for consideration in advance of Budget 2015.

HM Treasury has also published guidance on the correct procedure for making a representation, which advises that ‘representations should contain policy suggestions for the upcoming fiscal event and explain the policy rationale, costs, benefits and deliverability of proposals’.

‘It should also be evidence based, providing clear arguments on how it contributes to the aims of the Budget.’

Written representations for the 2015 Budget can be submitted until Friday 13 February, via an online survey or by emailing budget.representations@hmtreasury.gsi.gov.uk.

Chancellor George Osborne will present Budget 2015 on Wednesday 18 March.

Internet link: News

Pension wise

The government has announced the launch of ‘Pension wise’ which will offer free and impartial guidance to people on the new pension freedoms which comes into effect in April.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom has unveiled the name and logo of the new pensions guidance service.

Pension wise will offer free and impartial information and guidance to people with a defined contribution pension approaching retirement and will be available from April 2015 for individuals approaching retirement.

Economic Secretary to the Treasury Andrea Leadsom said:

‘People who have worked hard and saved all their lives will be free to choose what they do with their money from next April.

We want people to be empowered to make informed and confident choices and I’m delighted to announce Pension wise: Your money. Your choice as the brand name for the impartial guidance service we are building.

Pension wise will be a first port of call for people with a defined contribution pension who are approaching retirement. It is a distinctive brand, making it easy for consumers to know where to go for help and guidance.’

Internet link: News

Strong demand for National Savings ‘pensioner bonds’

The National Savings & Investments website and helpline are experiencing a high volume of enquiries following the launch of their 65+ Guaranteed Growth Bonds which are being referred to as ‘pensioner bonds’.

The bonds are available for a period of one or three years. The taxable bonds offer savers interest of 2.8% over one year and a fixed annual interest rate of 4% over three years with a minimum investment of £500. Investors are restricted to a maximum investment of £10,000 in each of the two products offered.

The new bonds cannot be held within a New Individual Savings Account (NISA) and only pay interest at the end of the savings term. Where investors cash in their investment early, a penalty equivalent to 90 days’ interest will be applied.

Internet link: NS&I bonds