Begging Letters Sent Out by HMRC on Offshore Umbrella Companies

Begging Letters from HMRC to UK Contractors

Begging letters from HMRC

As regards Offshore Umbrella Companies HMRC is to continue sending out threatening begging letters to contractors. This is an attempt to get money from them for using offshore schemes that are completely legal.

Said one offshore umbrella company owner “To be honest it’s HMRC scare mongering. They know they can’t legally demand retrospective taxes. However they sent out 30,000 letters in 2013 and will again this year”.

They cannot hope to process that number of contractors, especially when their staff numbers have been cut. However, they are hoping to scare contractors into sending them money.

Tax Avoidance, Not Tax Evasion

Their big problem is that offshore umbrella companies are tax avoidance rather than tax evasion. One is legal and one is illegal.

What HMRC really need to do, if they want all that tax money, is to get the Government to change the laws to make it illegal.

However, despite what they say, the Government have little interest in shutting this down. They are not keen for comedians like Jimmy Carr to use tax avoidance schemes or indeed common or garden contractors.

Legal Tax Avoidance

Most of their donors use tax avoidance. Indeed Cameron’s own money came that way as his father was a setter-up of offshore avoidance schemes and was into it earlier than most people. So, this is where Cameron’s inheritance came from.

George Osborne has an offshore family trust worth around £5m. They probably teach Tax Avoidance at Eton.

Most of the offshore tax avoidance islands around the world are British colonies where the hedge funds ‘reside’.

Isle of Man

Offshore Umbrella Companies for contractors, which are mostly in the Isle of Man, are allowing contractors to do the same as the ‘knobs’ and avoid tax.

As regards offshore umbrella companies HMRC would love this to be changed. However, there is no way that the Tories will annoy their benefactors and sponsors by killing off this golden goose. It is annoying for them that contractors and comedians can’t be kept out.

So, as regards offshore umbrella companies, HMRC just have to send out begging letters to thousands of contractors. They may or may not be using offshore umbrella companies. They hope to can scare them into sending them money.

For a list of Offshore Umbrella Companies you should click Offshore Umbrella Companies List

Disguised Contractors versus Disguised Employees

Disguised Contractors

Disguised Contractors

We have a new concept of disguised contractors.

The reason that the Government brought in IR35 in 1999 was because they believed that many contractors were just disguised employees. Many companies were laying off permanent workers on the Friday and they were starting in the same job on the Monday as contractors.

This saved the company money in taxation and NI contributions and gave the companies a more flexible workforce. They could lay off these new contractors without redundancy payments when times were tight. They could, maybe, hire them again when things picked up.

It was good for the new contractors, as well. They could offset a lot of things against tax that they couldn’t before. It was a win-win situation. Rather it was a win-win-lose situation with the Government / HMRC / taxpayer as the loser.

Disguised Employees

The Government, and HMRC, quite rightly saw these as disguised employees. It was a scam – a tax avoidance scam.

However, the law that the Government brought in, IR35, caught not only those disguised employee contractors in its nets but tens of thousands of contractors who had been operating, quite legally, as Limited Company contractors for years. It is still catching them in their IR35 nets.

The Government hadn’t meant to in the first place. However, when they saw the extra revenue brought in they decided they quite liked that. When the Conservatives were in opposition they gave winks and nods to the PCG about abolishing IR35.

Looked At IR35 Again

Well, they didn’t actually promise to get rid of IR35 but to ‘look at’ it again. They did look at it and decided to keep it. The main reason was that there was a danger that contractors would get out of Umbrella Companies en masse and start up Limited Companies again.

As there are 200,000 Umbrella Company contractors at the moment and they pay, on average, £10,000 a year more in Tax and NI contributions this would be a loss to the Treasury of £2bn a year. They didn’t fancy that. Surely nobody really believed that they would hand back a load of money to people earning several hundred a day.

Government Prefer Umbrella Companies

The Government appear to want as many contractors as they can to get into Umbrella Companies. Although these contractors are able to claim more expenses than a permanent person could claim, while working through an Umbrella Company, HMRC appear to be happy to allow this to happen. They much prefer dealing with a few hundred Umbrella Companies than a million small Limited Companies.

The Umbrella Companies cream off the contractor’s PAYE tax and NI contributions and sends them on to HMRC each week.

Yes, that’s right, these contractors pay PAYE. They are, as far as HMRC are concerned, permanent employees.

Disguised Contractors v Disguised Employees

So, in getting rid of Disguised Employees they have now created what are, effectively, hundreds of thousands of Disguised Contractors.

The disguised contractors are really contractors but they are dressed up as employees of the Umbrella Companies.

The Umbrella Companies are, in effect, a ruse. They are a device so that contractors, whom IR35 catches, can pretend to be employees of the Umbrella Companies (who don’t produce or make anything) in order to claim some expenses against tax.

You couldn’t make this up!

Waste of Time and Money

Isn’t this all just a waste of time and money?

Couldn’t they just have come up with some solution to stop companies changing employees into contractors in the same job over a weekend? Surely it shouldn’t have been so hard to stop that.

Instead they created the monster IR35 which has created an industry in keeping hundreds of thousands of contractors outside IR35 and hundreds of thousands of contractors ‘dressed up’ as employees.

What a terrible waste of everyone’s time and money!

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

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.

Forced Disclosure for Isle of Man Umbrella Companies

Forced Disclosure

Forced Disclosure

Forced disclosure is the latest Government tool against tax evasion.

The Government has just announced a new deal with the Isle of Man where the island will give the Government the names of UK citizens with offshore bank accounts. Forced disclosure is the latest in their war against tax avoiders. This has been whipped up by the media in the UK. Similar deals with Jersey and Guernsey are expected soon.

Said Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, in an interview with The Times “Any jurisdiction that refuses to enter into one of these information disclosure agreements is taking a huge risk with their reputation. It’s the price of doing business”.

So, it looks as if the Isle of Man agreed voluntarily to a certain extent. Said Alexander “Every tax jurisdiction that once thought it could operate on the basis that it could be an offshore haven needs to think again. Everyone should pay their proper amount of tax.”

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man’s Chief Minister said “This decision is a well-considered next step in the island’s long-established policy of commitment to being at the forefront of tax transparency and international co-operation. It is logical for the Isle of Man to embrace new forms of tax co-operation with our largest trading partner, the UK”. So there you ar then.

So, what does that mean for contractors who are operating under offshore umbrella companies schemes there? Does forced disclosure mean that the game is up for them? Will those offshore umbrella companies have to shut down now?

Government Frustration

Far from it. Forced disclosure is more to do with tax evaders than tax avoiders. The Government’s frustration is because most of these schemes are legal under the laws of the UK. Therefore, it would be very hard for the Government to shut them down. Most of the companies in the Isle of Man already disclose this information anyway. They have nothing to hide if they are acting legally and the schemes are legal.

Government Frustration

As the Government can do little about it, what they are trying to do now, in frustration, is to scare contractors out of the offshore umbrella companies. They are doing this by forcing the Isle of Man to bring in disclosure rules to hand that information over to the UK Government. However, once the Government has that information they can’t use it to prosecute people who are operating within the law.