Offshore Umbrella Companies and how they work

How They Work - Offshore Umbrella Companies

How They Work

Contractors want to know how they work.

Offshore Umbrella Companies normally operate through loans. In 1979 the Thatcher government, in one of its very first bills, allowed money to go offshore untaxed. It doesn’t get taxed till it comes back onshore, if ever.

This opened the way for offshore schemes and offshore umbrella companies which operate in places like the Isle of Man, Jersey, the Bahamas, Bermuda etc.

Indeed most of the world’s hedge funds operate from one of the UK’s offshore islands.

How they work is that money held offshore is not taxed unless it returns to the UK. Among the first to take advantage of this were the Tory Party grandees.

David Cameron’s father made his money this way by setting up schemes both for himself and others. David Cameron’s inheritance came mostly from money earned this way. Another to benefit is Chancellor Osborne who has £4.5m held offshore in a family trust.

Tory Party’s Money

Much of the Tory party’s money comes from people who operate these schemes. Lord Ashcroft, the top donor and fundraiser for the Conservative Party operates these offshore schemes. Now contractors and freelancers are enjoying the benefits of it too.

How they work is that most of the offshore umbrella companies and offshore schemes operate through loans. Because they’ve sent money offshore untaxed, i.e. the money they earn, that money is not taxable till they bring it back onshore. However, it never does.

Because they have that money offshore, the offshore umbrella companies that they operate through will loan them money back in lieu of that. They will then take that money back at the end to pay back that loan. Money loaned is not taxable.

Different Money Comes Back Onshore

Basically it is different money that comes back onshore than the money sent off. How they work is that he contractor receives loans and never pays them back as the offshore umbrella companies take the money sent offshore in lieu of those loans.

This is all completely legal. There is nothing HMRC can do about it as it is all framed in UK law. They would have to change the law to stop it and that is fraught with difficulties and would hit the Tory Grandees who basically pay for the Conservative Party.

Very Neat Scheme

There is one other scheme, which is quite neat, which one offshore umbrella company operates. They basically invest your money in a whole range of safe companies and send you loans in lieu of that money. You may even make a profit when you eventually quit the scheme and the only tax you would pay would be capital gains tax on the profits.

The beauty of it is that you can operate this through your own limited company and it would be invisible to your agency. See details of it here – Offshore Scheme using your Limited Company

To see details of these offshore umbrella companies see Offshore Umbrella Companies Directory

Offshore Umbrella Companies – How Much Money will I keep?

How Much Money

How Much Money Will I Keep

Contractors want to know “How much money will I keep by using offshore umbrella companies?”

Is it worthwhile operating through Offshore Umbrella Companies? How much money will you save a year by operating this way?

Say you are a contractor who is earning just over £400 a day – which is around £100,000 a year.

If you operated PAYE you would probably keep about £64,000 of that.

Offshore Umbrella Companies Viable Alternative

Offshore Umbrella Companies Viable Alternative to PAYE Umbrella Companies and Limited Companies

If you operated through a Limited Company you might keep around £75,000 of that.

If you operated through one of the offshore umbrella companies you would keep something between £85,000 and £90,000 of that depending on how much you earn and your circumstances.

Operating Through Limited Company

So, if you were PAYE you would contribute about £36,000 a year towards the Treasury.

Therefore, if you operated through a Limited Company this loss would be around £25,000 a year.

However, going through one of the offshore umbrella companies you would give up between £10,000 and £15,000 a year. Most freelancers would be towards the lower side at 85% but if they got a really good contract rate they could probably negotiate up towards the higher mark.

It’s probably worthwhile getting a quote from 3 or 4 companies to see what is the best offer. You’ve worked hard enough for it and you might as well keep as much as you can of it.

Government Complaints

The Government complain about it but have no real will to stop it. As the top dog in Google asked, why are they complaining when it is they who created the rules that allowed tax avoidance in the first place?

Legal Tax Avoidance for UK contractors

Legal Tax Avoidance schemes used by UK contractors

It was the Thatcher Government who changed the rules to allow money to go offshore untaxed which gave rise to this tax avoidance in the first place. If they were to abolish it now it would hit many of the Conservative Party donors.

As one of top dogs at HMRC said recently many of these schemes are completely legal. If the Government want to make them illegal they have to change the laws. Until then, offshore Umbrella Companies are legitimate ways for contractors in the UK to avoid tax quite legally.

To see details of these offshore umbrella companies and how much money you would keep see Offshore Umbrella Companies Directory

Offshore Tax Avoidance – Why the Government doesn’t Stop it

Offshore Tax Avoidance

Offshore Tax Avoidance

Many people, including contractors are bemused by the fact that the Government doesn’t just stop Offshore Tax Avoidance schemes completely.

“Why don’t they just shut them all down?” they ask. Why don’t they just get in touch with the people and say “You owe us a whole load of tax?”

The answer is that they can’t.

Don’t Break UK Tax Law

Top Umbrella Companies offshore and onshore

Top Umbrella Companies for returns

They don’t break UK laws. Indeed the offshore umbrella company schemes are designed to fit in with UK law. It may not be in a way that the Government intended, or wanted,  but they do comply with UK tax law.

That’s why it is legal tax avoidance rather than tax evasion.

According to HMRC’s Commissioner and Director General for Enforcement and Compliance, Jennie Granger, “There is nothing illegal about an international structure, especially in a globally integrated economy and these arrangements may be particularly legitimate”.

Legal Tax Avoidance

International tax law expert, barrister Jonathan Schwartz said “All laws influence and tax laws are no different. The tax behaviour of companies is largely driven by the tax systems they engage with.

“Tax administrators must apply the law as it exists rather than what they, or anyone else, might think it ought to be”.

That’s exactly correct. Those who run offshore tax avoidance schemes design their solutions to fit in with current UK law.

Change Tax Laws Back

Of course, the Government could change the laws back to where they were before – but they don’t want to do that.

They make those laws for a purpose. They may want to bring more film companies to Britain or to support the burgeoning UK music industry. They give tax incentives for film makers or music producers to operate from the UK.

Offshore Schemes for UK contractors to save tax

Offshore Schemes for UK contractors to save tax

It does do that – but it also opens the door to those who want to use this for tax avoidance.

Offshore Umbrella Company Loans

Then there is the fact that, in many offshore tax avoidance schemes like offshore umbrella companies, the money is sent offshore untaxed and stays there.

The offshore company gives the contractor a loan in lieu of the money.

That loan money is never paid back so the offshore company keeps the money sent offshore in lieu of it.

So, what should the Government do about it? Make loans taxable?

Think what would happen to the banking system then or to the City of London and all the commerce that goes on there.

Upholding the UK Tax Laws

As tax expert Jonathan Schwartz said “Tax administrators must apply the law as it exists rather than what they, or anyone else, might think it ought to be”.

The courts must do that also. It’s Government that makes the laws. It’s the duty of the courts to apply those laws.

The Government may fulminate against offshore tax avoidance but it is they who create the laws that allow it.

Money Leaving UK Untaxed

One of the first things that Mrs Thatcher did when she came to power was to bring in a law that allowed money to leave the UK untaxed.

Many Tory grandees have taken advantage of this to send their money offshore untaxed. This includes David Cameron’s father Ian, his father-in-law Lord Astor and the Tory party’s main funder, Lord Ashcroft.

Paying UK Tax

Paying UK Tax

It also includes Chancellor, George Osborne, who has a £4.5 trust offshore. He says he will pay the appropriate tax when it comes back onshore. However, it never will. It was sent offshore in the first place to avoid UK tax.

Margaret Hodge and Stemcor Tax Avoider

The hammer of the offshore companies, and big companies who avoid UK tax, is Margaret Hodge, a Labour party MP who is in charge of the Public Accounts Committee in Westminster.

However, it was revealed that she owns part of an offshore company called Stemcor, which her brother runs, and that her stake  is worth a million and saved her 50 grand in tax annually.

Of course, the Government could reverse Margaret Thatcher’s tax law and make money that leaves the UK taxable.

What would that do for British business and the City of London, and the Tory grandees, income streams?

Offshore Tax Avoidance Schemes to Continue

So, the Government may fulminate against offshore tax avoidance schemes every time they are ‘exposed’ in the press. They have to do that.

What they are not going to do is make money that goes offshore taxable again or to make loans subject to tax.

So, offshore tax avoidance will continue as long as the laws of the land allow it – and courts will continue to rule that loans are not taxable.

For a list of hose companies who operate offshore (and onshore) tax avoidance schemes click on Offshore Umbrella Companies List

Crushing HMRC defeat in Rangers offshore tax case

Rangers Tax Case

HMRC Defeat

There was a crushing HMRC defeat in its appeal against Rangers football club’s use of offshore Employee Benefits Trust (EBTs) to pay its players. There was a major HMRC defeat in the original case by 2-1.

HMRC said that these were payments rather than loans. The First Tier Tribunal (FTT) said they were loans. HMRC lost.
The case, and the tax said to be owed, was a major in bringing down Rangers Football Club.

HMRC Appeal

It was a crushing HMRC defeat but they quickly decided to appeal. They have now lost that appeal. The tribunal judge Lord Doherty ruled against HMRC and in favour of Rangers. It confirms that the EBTs and offshore umbrella companies were completely legal.

This HMRC defeat will have major consequences. Tory Grandees, including David Cameron’s father, his father-in-law, Lord Astor, and the Tory Party main sponsor, Lord Ashcroft, have long used these schemes. George Osborne has an offshore family trust.

However, they didn’t like it when this nice scheme spread to the likes of actors, pop artists, footballers and comedians. Nowadays, contractors and freelancers us them. Many of them are in offshore umbrella companies.

Sleep Safely

Now, after this huge HMRC defeat, freelancers and contractors who use offshore umbrella companies can sleep more safely in their beds at night.

A spokesman for Murray International holdings (MIH) which owned Rangers and made the offshore payments to players said:-

“We are pleased with the judgement. It again leaves negligible tax liability. It overwhelmingly supports the views collectively and consistently held by our advisers, legal counsel and MIH itself”.

Rangers were forced into liquidation in 2012 by HMRC.

Rangers Update

HMRC appealed this case again and won. Rangers are now going to appeal that to the Supreme Court.

More Info

For a list of Offshore Umbrella Companies for Contractors click on Offshore Umbrella Companies List

See also Offshore Schemes legal says top HMRC boss

Offshore Umbrella Companies and how they work

Offshore Isle of Man Umbrella Companies – Autumn Statement leaves them alone

Autumn Statement

Autumn Statement

Offshore Isle of Man Umbrella Companies are in the news due to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

The Chancellor unveiled his new tax avoidance measures yesterday in the autumn statement. He says will net the government £9bn extra in taxes. However, he has made those predictions before and only managed to get a fraction of what he expected to get. Most contractors using offshore  Isle of Man Umbrella Companies will not be hit.

There are two areas that the Chancellor is attacking as regards tax avoidance.

Intermediary Companies Legislation

Firstly, the Chancellor is targeting Intermediary Companies.

This is where UK companies register their UK employees as self-employed and pay them through Intermediary companies offshore. This saves the employer paying National Insurance on them.

Several hundred thousand construction workers are ’employed’ this way. It is the companies that get the main benefit. It is not something that affects most contractors in Offshore Umbrella Companies.

False Partnerships Crackdown

Secondly, the Government is going to crack down on what they see as false partnerships, i.e. those set up just to avoid tax. This may affect some Offshore Umbrella Company contractors, if the Isle of Man Umbrella Companies have set them up as partners. However, it is only a small percentage that are set up this way.

All that would happen here is that the offshore Isle of Man Umbrella Company owner would change to a new scheme that is legal and move their contractor over to it.

This legislation is not retrospective so there would be no legacy problems for contractors here. There will be no back payments that HMRC can claim. The very fact that they are changing the law on partnerships means that it was legal before. It will be legal right up to April 2014 when the contractors, presumably, will move to a new legal Offshore Umbrella Company scheme.

Government and HMRC

It would be different if the Government and HMRC fought a scheme through the courts and won. Then the contractors might have problems. However, the Government haven’t won many of these.

If the Government are to get anywhere near the £9bn that they expect to get then they are going to have to get it through the Intermediaries side of it. They may get some from onshore partnerships.

Offshore Isle of Man Companies

However, after this autumn statement those contractors using offshore Isle of Man Umbrella Companies can rest more easily. They weren’t in the Government’s line of fire this time around.

The vast majority of the offshore umbrella company schemes were legal and remain legal under current UK laws. If they do make them illegal, in the future, the legislation will not be retrospective. So, contractors whose schemes are made illegal will not lose out and have to pay back taxes.

For a list of legal Offshore Umbrella Companies you should click on Offshore Umbrella Company List

Applying for Contractor Mortgages

If you want to find out more see Specialist Contractor Mortgages

To apply for one of those specialist contractor mortgages see Contractor Mortgages Application

 

Agency Bungs – Major scandal of Umbrella Companies’ agency bungs

Agency Bungs to Umbrella Companies

Agency Bungs

The news is of a major scandal of agency bungs to umbrella companies.

Under the 2010 Bribery Act, Umbrella Companies are not allowed to make payments to Agencies for sending contractors to them. However, we have had it confirmed that this does happen – and it is completely against the law.

Many agencies force contractors to go with a particular umbrella company or to one of several Umbrella Companies that are on their PSL. Often contractors will tell agencies that they want to use their own Umbrella Company and are told point-blank that this is not possible. They say that the contractor must use the one they recommend or one on their PSL.

The agencies are very forceful about this and will seldom back down when the contractor tries to put his or her foot down.

Of course, it may be that they just want to ensure that contractors are working through reputable Umbrella Companies. It could also be because they are getting a bung for each contractor the preferred Umbrella Company gets from them.

Major Scandal of Umbrella Companies

This is a major scandal of umbrella companies and many people know that it is happening. It is an open secret. At some stage the police may decide to raid an agency. One would presume that agencies hide these payments as much as possible. They are not likely to be on the accounts as ‘Agency Bribes’. They will hide them under some other name.

It is completely illegal to induce contractors to choose one Umbrella Company over another in order to get a payment. That payment is not legally a payment but a bribe.

If a contractor is told that they have to use an umbrella company ‘recommended’ by the agency or they cannot start the new contract, the contractor should ask the agency to email them something to say that they are not receiving any money from the particular umbrella company.

Alarm Bells Ringing

If this is not forthcoming then the contractor should have alarm bells going off all over the place. It would be up to the contractor to meekly accept what they are told or insist on having their own umbrella company. They could even threaten to call the police, or financial authorities, if the email saying that they do not receive money from the Umbrella Company is not forthcoming.

That should get their attention if the umbrella companies are taking agency bungs.

Of course, they may find some other candidate is suddenly better to take up the contract. However, they would know that you would call the police. You would have them over a barrel.

For a list of legal Offshore Umbrella Companies you should click on Offshore Umbrella Company List

Offshore Umbrella Companies storm has died down

Offshore Umbrella Companies Storm

Offshore Umbrella Companies Storm

There was an Offshore Umbrella Companies storm a while back. The Times whipped up an offshore umbrella companies storm and the Government decided that they needed to react. The press spouted a lot of hot air. David Cameron even brought it up at the G8 summit.

He did that as he didn’t want Britain to go it alone and give competitive advantage to other countries. After all, Britain is the world’s leading exponent of owning territories which run offshore schemes.

However, the G8 didn’t back Cameron, who was probably only doing it to show the press that he was doing something. The G8’s rejection has let him off the hook. We have since learned that the Conservative Party have received £45m in contributions from hedge schemes many of which operate from offshore addresses.

We then learned that those hedge funds had received a tax break recently worth £145m. A Labour MP was called a ‘stupid woman’ by Foreign Minister William Hague for suggesting that there might be a connection.

Margaret Hodge

We also learned that Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, who is Chairperson of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has a share in an offshore company run by her brother call Stemcor. She has called major companies and people who avoid tax as unethical. Her stake is worth millions and the company pays as little tax as the major company tax avoiders.

Not only has David Cameron piped down about it recently but Margaret Hodge has been a little quieter too. He is, no doubt, too busy eating humble pie. There is little point in attacking the major companies for avoiding tax. It is their duty to shareholders to maximise profits.

Umbrella Company Contractors

There’s no point in haranguing contractors for using offshore umbrella companies either. They are just doing the same.

It’s the Government who makes the rules that big companies and contractors take advantage of. However, the Government doesn’t want to change those rules unilaterally.

So, it looks as if the offshore umbrella companies storm has all died down. So, it is business as before for the operators of, and those who use, offshore umbrella companies. It remains tax avoidance and not tax evasion.

For a list of legal Offshore Umbrella Companies see Offshore Umbrella Company List

Rise in Use of Offshore Umbrella Companies

Rise in Usage of Offshore Umbrella Companies

Rise in Offshore Umbrella Companies

Offshore Umbrella Companies appear to be on the rise. One of the top dogs at HMRC recently said that many offshore schemes were completely legal.

Top people in the Conservative Party have been using these schemes for a long, long time. Indeed David Cameron’s inheritance came to a great extent from the money his father Ian made from setting up offshore schemes for himself and for others.

His father-in-law Lord Astor has many offshore schemes. Indeed the house in Scotland that David Cameron and his wife visit every year is registered in the Bahamas.

The top Tory party donor Lord Ashcroft is another one who operates offshore tax avoidance schemes. He is also the Tory party’s top fundraiser.

Tory Party Leaders

The top dogs in the Tory party have been doing this for years. They are getting on their high horses about multi-national companies joining them in doing this now. They didn’t create these rule for them (nor for comedians like Jimmy Carr) but for the ‘good old boy’ network.

As the head of Google said, it wasn’t Google that created the rules. It was, previous, mainly Conservative governments who created them. Making money moved offshore untaxable was one of the first things the Conservative government brought in when they won the 1979 election.

Now, contractors and freelancers are doing the same and setting up offshore umbrella companies. Of course the Government don’t like it but if they changed the rules it would affect many of their own supporters and donors. They liked it best when it was only the ‘good old boys’ that were able to take advantage of it.

Margaret Hodge Avoiding Tax

Even Labour MP, Margaret Hodge, who has been bashing multi-national companies as immoral for avoiding tax, turned out to be a shareholder in an offshore company that pays less than 2% tax. Her share is worth millions and she got a dividend of £50,000 last year. Everyone is at it now, it seems, except the PAYE workers who now pay most of the tax.

Contractors and freelancers can now get 85% or more of their money returned to them through using offshore umbrella companies. It is very difficult for the Conservatives to change the rules so that contractors and multi-national companies are hit and Tory party donors and members aren’t hit. They don’t want to share this goldmine but they don’t want to lose it either.

This is why more and more contractors are operating through these offshore umbrella companies. Their usage is on the rise. To see a list of these companies click on Offshore Umbrella Company Directory

General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) will not catch multinationals

General Anti Avoidance Rules offshore

General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR)

There is a common misperception that the new General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR) will force companies like Google, Facebook and Starbucks to pay more UK tax. It will do no such thing and it is not even aimed at them.

Playing Field

The problem that the UK Government has in this area is that it doesn’t control the playing field. Other countries can use whatever rate of Corporation tax that they like and the UK cannot do anything about it. They can’t tell Ireland, Luxembourg and Switzerland what Corporation Tax to set.

Maybe the EU could but remember that the EU has a common VAT rate – but Britain has a different one. This would certainly be brought up if Britain tried to introduce a standard rate of corporation tax across the EU.

Switzerland is not even in the EU anyway and neither are the Bahamas, Bermuda etc.

Loading Up Costs

In terms of General Anti Avoidance Rules (GAAR), it’s also up to companies in which countries they load up costs and in which countries they have low costs and high profits.

General Anti Avoidance Rules

General Anti Avoidance Rules affecting UK contractors

Those countries with low corporation tax rates lose out as the companies incur fewer costs there like opening factories or hiring people.

Those with higher rates of tax will ge the benefit of the companies loading up costs by running their operations there. Those countries will earn income tax and have fewer people claiming unemployment benefit.

Dice Loaded

It’s swings and roundabouts. Cameron is trying to load the dice so that the UK can get both jobs and the corporation tax. However, he can’t bring in many measures to do so. He would have to get international cooperation and that will prove very difficult to do with low tax countries like Ireland saying that their corporation tax rate of 12.5% was not negotiable even when they were being forced into a bailout.

Any multinational agreement on all of this is a long way off, if it happens at all. Why should countries not compete on tax rates as well as on everything else. Surely that’s the free market. Surely a Conservative would understand that. Why do they want or need General Anti Avoidance rules (GAAR)?

Offshore Umbrella Companies Boosted by UK Government

Offshore Umbrella Companies Boosted

Offshore Umbrella Companies Boosted

We have now got offshore umbrella companies boosted by the UK Government.

The UK Government is inadvertently boosting them by their attacks on freelancers’ use of Personal Service Companies. The UK Government appear to want freelancers to get out of Limited Companies and get into Umbrella Companies. The UK Government can then grab more income tax and National Insurance Contributions from them.

Although, to a certain extent they are managing to do this, more and more fish are escaping their nets and slipping into the offshore umbrella companies net. This means that the Government will get very little tax at all from them if any.

Legal Offshore Companies

Most of these schemes are completely legal. The freelancers’ money goes to the offshore umbrella company as an investment. They get back a loan in lieu of the investment. They use the investment as collateral.

One such scheme has the freelancer’s money paid as an investment. This is then invested in a broad spread of 150 telecoms companies. They insure the investment against loss. Therefore, as they insure the investment against loss the offshore umbrella company is able to loan money to the contractor in lieu of that investment.

When the contractor wants to cash in the investment he, or she, will get any profit from the investment in the telecoms companies. All they will pay is Capital Gains Tax on any profit they have made.

Conservative Party

Of course, this is all completely legal. The Conservative Government knows that as it was they, under Margaret Thatcher, who legalised it in 1979 within a month of coming to office. Perhaps it was payback time for their sponsors.

A number of Tory Grandees have used it successfully. They include David Cameron’s father Ian, Lord Astor his father-in-law, Lord Ashcroft the Conservative Party’s main donor and fundraiser. Of course, the Chancellor himself, George Osborne has a family trust of £4.5m offshore.

IT Contractors

Of course, these schemes were never meant for the likes of IT Contractors and other freelancers. However, they cannot just exclude IT Contractor from this tax avoidance gravy train. If they stopped it they would be cutting off their noses to spite their faces.

So, contractors are happy to see offshore umbrella companies boosted by the Government.

Check out our Which Umbrella Company guide and our Which Contractor Accountant guide.

Offshore Schemes have Government foaming at mouth

Offshore Schemes for contractors

Offshore Schemes

The Government has fulminated about offshore schemes where big companies are able to avoid paying tax in the UK. David Cameron has criticised ‘clever accountants’ who set up these offshore schemes for their clients to avoid paying UK tax.

Margaret Hodge of the Public Accounts Committee has attacked the big Accountancy companies for setting up these schemes at a Public Enquiry.

However, one wonders who should be in front of this Public Enquiry, the big Accountancy companies or the Government. After all, it is the Government who are in charge of the law. The big Accountancy companies just follow the laws that the Government set up.

Offshore Schemes for UK contractors to save tax

Offshore Schemes for UK contractors to save tax

Thatcher Government

Perhaps the Committee should investigate members of the Thatcher Government. The Committee could ask them why one of the first pieces of legislation they put through in 1979 after being elected was to allow people to send money offshore without it being taxed. Why was that so urgent?

There’s a lot of talk also about trying to shame companies like Starbucks into paying more tax than they legally have to.

Perhaps they should put David Cameron in front of the Committee to ask him if he would hand over to HMRC a big chunk of his own inheritance which came from the offshore schemes set up by his father Ian, who was one of the early practitioners of such schemes.

George Osborne

Perhaps they can bring Chancellor George Osborne before the Committee. They could ask him if he would promise to that he and his family will pay not just the tax that they have to but the amount of tax that they would have had to do if their £4.5m family trust has been set up in the UK rather than set up offshore.

Contractor Tax Avoidance sches on Isle of Man

Contractor Tax Avoidance schemes

So, the problem for the Government is that these offshore schemes are mainly used by their supporters and backers. There’s not a huge amount of Labour backers with offshore trusts.

These offshore schemes are used by people like David Cameron’s father-in-law Lord Astor and the Conservative Party’s main sponsor and fundraiser Lord Ashcroft. However, it was Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government who brought in the laws allowing people to send money offshore untaxed.

Multinational Companies

What they don’t appear to like is multinational companies getting a slice of what was set up just for the upper and business classes in Britain to avoid paying UK Tax. The upper and business classes in Britain have been taking advantage of this for more than 40 years. However, they are now outraged that companies like Starbucks, IBM, Google and Microsoft are using them.

What really annoys them is that freelancers, many of them in IT, are using offshore schemes to avoid UK tax. IT Contractors mainly come from the middle and working classes. They didn’t set these laws up for them.  So, will Cameron and Osborne change the laws which have helped their supporters and sponsors for many, many years – or is this just a knee jerk reaction to a media frenzy.

We shall see. For the moment these offshore schemes remain perfectly legal.

Facebook avoiding UK Tax

Facebook

Facebook

Facebook are the latest company caught avoiding UK Tax. They made £840m in profits last year. However, they paid just £2.9m in tax – all of it in Ireland. Although they only hire 287 staff in Ireland all, of the advertising outside the USA they book to Facebook Ireland.

They book the profit to Ireland. However, they then move that money out of Ireland to the Cayman Islands and its Californian parent. The technique is called Double Irish. They charge the Irish company royalties for using the Facebook brand in much the same as Starbucks do. They moved £750m that way.

Advertising Revenues

Facebook then reported a loss of £15m loss in Ireland despite all the advertising revenues outside the US ending up there. This is even though 44% of Facebook’s revenues come into Ireland.

At least they gave Ireland £2.9m. They gave the UK just £238,000 in Corporation tax. Facebook say that they comply with all UK laws – and of course they do. They just know how to work the system.

It said that it picked Ireland as its European base because it was the “best location to hire staff with the right skills to run a multilingual hi-tech operation serving the whole of Europe”.

The low Corporation Tax of 12.5% and the ability to do be able to do a Double Irish, it seems, played no part in the decision to go there. Of course, Ireland didn’t get any great benefits from Facebook in terms of Company Tax. Although Facebook’s Irish staff pay income tax there.

UK Tax Avoidance

The Chancellor George Osborne has promised to do something about it. However, it will be difficult and he risks major companies pulling out of the UK. He is going to target high income earners in the UK who hide money overseas.

However, most of the schemes are completely legal. Neither the individuals or companies, like Facebook, are breaking any laws. It is legal tax avoidance rather than illegal tax evasion.

The big problem is with companies who charge other companies within the group royalty payments for using the brand name. They are perfectly entitled to do so. They are perfectly entitled to charge them anything they want for the use of it too.

Perhaps that is one area where the UK can legislate, i.e. to limit the amount that they can charge for using the brand name. Of course, those companies will then look for other costs that they can load up in the locations where they want to load up costs.