News

Advisers and accountants who help clients avoid paying tax could face hefty fines, under fresh rules proposed by HM Treasury.

New proposals could mean advisers have to pay a penalty of up to 100 per cent of the tax owed to HM Revenue & Customs, the financial secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison announced today (17 August).

The move, which is part of the government’s continued crackdown on tax avoidance, would affect advisers, tax planners and accountants involved in schemes – including those offshore – which are proven in court to be a tax avoidance arrangement.

The proposals aim to make it easier to force firms to pay fines by overhauling the way tax avoiders are judged, making sure proven tax avoiders have taken reasonable care to ensure their tax returns do not contain inaccuracies.

Ms Ellison said the government is acting to make sure tax avoidance is “rooted out at source”, by targeting all those in the supply chain of tax avoidance arrangements.

She said currently those who advised on the avoidance “bear little risk”.

These tough new sanctions will make would-be enablers think twice.
Jane Ellison

Prime minister Theresa May has heralded the fight against tax avoidance, and pledged to clampdown on tax dodgers in her leadership campaign.

The measures are part of a consultation set out by HMRC which is to be published later today.

Ms Ellison said the government is “determined” to make sure people who peddle tax avoidance schemes pay the price.

“The vast majority of their schemes don’t work and can land their users in court facing large tax bills and other costs.

“These tough new sanctions will make would-be enablers think twice and in turn reduce the number of schemes on the market.”

This proposal is the latest move in a string of measures designed to tackle tax avoidance, including sanctions against those who engage in multiple avoidance schemes which are defeated by HMRC.

katherine.denham@ft.com

How low interest rates are crippling capitalism
• The Swiss problem is going global
• Yesterday’s close: FTSE 100 up 0.5% to 6,728… Gold down 1.2% to $1,316.06/oz… £/$ – 1.32085
From John Stepek, across the river from the City
Dear Reader,John Stepek

Since the Brexit vote, all eyes have been on sterling.

The pound has fallen. But not quite hard enough or heart-stoppingly enough for the Remain catastrophists, who think that it can surely only be downhill from here.

But take a look around. The Bank of England must be the envy of the world’s central bankers. Everyone wants a weaker currency.

And I suspect that this particular race-to-the-bottom is about to pick up sharply…

Lloyds has accelerated its job-cutting scheme, axing a further 3,000 roles, even as it reported a 101% increase in pre-tax profits.
It has also doubled its planned branch closures, with 200 more set to vanish from High Streets by the end of 2017.
The bank attributed the cuts to changes in people’s banking habits, and the effects of interest rates remaining low in the wake of Brexit.
Lloyds is already carrying out 9,000 redundancies and 200 branch closures.
It announced those cost-cutting measures in 2014.
The news of fresh job losses came as Lloyds reported a £2.5bn pre-tax profit for the half year to the end of June 2016.
In the same period last year, it made £1.2bn.
The profits rise was largely due to a sharp drop-off in payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation payouts, which dented previous profits.
PPI has cost the bank more than £16bn since 2011. Lenders are expecting the scheme to be wrapped up soon.
Brexit effect
Underlying profits at Lloyds Banking Group fell by 5%, and chief executive Antonio Horta-Osorio warned that he expects a “deceleration of growth” following the UK’s decision to leave the EU.
The Group said the increased cost-cutting was as a result of the change in how people do their banking, and due to the chances of interest-rates staying low in the wake of Brexit.
But Mr Horta-Osorio emphasised that Lloyds was in a “strong position to withstand the uncertainty” created by the vote.
Almost 10% of Lloyds is still owned by the British taxpayer.
Lloyds shares fell almost 4% in early trading.
Laith Khalaf, analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that despite Lloyds’ attempt to set out its stall as a “multi-channel bank”, the reality is that “demand for banking services is moving online, and so banks must follow where their customers lead, and ultimately that doesn’t bode well for high street branches”.
He added that while the Brexit vote had hit Lloyds, “it remains a strong bank”, and the impact of the vote will probably be felt most by shareholders, who may receive less cash this year.
Rob MacGregor, the national officer for Unite, which represents some Lloyds staff, called the job cuts a “further body blow to the UK economy”.
“These are permanent jobs that are being lost,” he said.
“As a country, we can’t afford to lose these jobs in a challenging post-Brexit world.”

From John Stepek, across the river from the City

John Stepek Dear Reader,

The oil price is heading into bear market territory again.

Both key benchmarks – WTI (West Texas Intermediate – the US benchmark) and Brent crude – are down by nearly 20% from the highs they set in June.

Now, you won’t catch me complaining about falling oil prices. I prefer petrol prices to go down or at least stay flat, rather than rise.

But it’s worth noting that the market as a whole has seemed rather more comfortable with stable, rather than falling oil prices.

So it’s worth asking what sort of knock-on effect a fresh oil crash might have…

As U.K. banks post second-quarter results, investors will be watching for yet another deepening of cost cuts – courtesy of Brexit.

Bloomberg News reports that Lloyds Banking Group was already mulling deeper job cuts on top of the 9,000 previously announced to combat record-low interest rates, people familiar with the plans said earlier this year. The five major U.K. banks are all in the midst of cost-cutting programs, collectively trying to trim about $15bn from their expenses. Earnings figures themselves will be a sideshow, even with some positive news from bond trading and oil’s rebound.

While most European banks have been cutting assets and staff to boost profitability and meet capital requirements, British lenders had been able to rely on one of the strongest domestic markets in the region before the nation voted to leave the European Union on June 23. Post-Brexit, the Bank of England is expected to cut interest rates to shore up the economy, and that’s set to crimp lending margins at firms like Lloyds, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland just as demand for loans wobbles.

“I don’t think any bank’s current cost-cutting plans are sufficient to generate normalized returns in the time periods they’re targeting,” said Ian Gordon, an analyst at Investec in London. “Will branch closures continue? Yes. Might they accelerate? Yes. For capital markets and investment banks, will we see cost takeout? Yes. Will we see further streamlining? Yes.”

Baroness Ros Altmann has likened her time as pensions minister to being “in detention” and believes leaving government will allow her to be more influential.

Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle Altmann said she was not allowed to speak to the media saying that: “The instructions I had were: ‘If any journalist phones you; then they are always out to trick you and trap you’.”

She added: “Now and again I was very naughty, and I would actually speak to a journalist and take the consequences because I thought: ‘Stuff it, I have had enough of this’.

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“But then you get called in to see the Secretary of State. It’s like being in school, like being in the naughty corner or detention.”

Altmann hopes to be able to discuss pensions issues in a more open and honest manner now that she has left government as well as helping mould appropriate policy while sitting in the House of Lords.

“As I said to the Prime Minister, I am not going anywhere. I am still in the Lords and I am still offering to help. I can help as long as legislation goes through, to try and move it in a better direction, lead debates and ask the right questions.

“At least I can say what I think and I am not being silenced in government.”

Posted by | April 29, 2016 | News

Since pensions freedoms were introduced in April 2015, the Association of British Insurers reports £3bn has been paid out in 213,000 cash lump sum payments, with an average payment of £14,800.

According to the ABI annuities are beginning to see a revival in popularity following their post-pension freedom fall as across the fourth quarter of last year, 21,200 annuities were sold – worth £1.1bn – compared with 19,700 drawdown policies – worth £1.4bn.

This 30-minute video features presentations on the impact of pension freedom one year on and explore what has worked well and how the government could further tinker with the rules in the future.

Act now in case budget puts an end to tax perk
Salary sacrifice is a simple way of saving thousands of pounds a year, but it’s under threat in the July budget
A PAY CUT could make you richer —thanks to a popular trick known as salary sacrifice — but experts warn that you should act fast in case the government clamps down on the rules in next month’s “bonus” budget.
Salary sacrifice can save you thousands of pounds a year and is, currently, entirely legal. Essentially it is a salary swap: you amend your employment contract to lower your gross salary, but receive something else in return, which makes you better off.
Workers can save money on everything from childcare vouchers to pension contributions, and high earners can use it to claw back child benefit, worth £1,076 for a couple with one child or £1,788 a year for those with two children

Think tank the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has hit out at the Labour and Conservative parties over their plans to reduce pension tax relief.

The Conservatives plan to reduce the annual allowance for those with taxable incomes over £150,000 so that it falls from £40,000 to £10,000 by the time income reaches £210,000.

Labour said that would fund a reduction in tuition fees by reducing the lifetime allowance from £1.25 million to £1 million, reducing the annual allowance from £40,000 to £30,000 and reducing the current 45% pension tax relief for those earning over £150,000 to 20%.

To read more about each party’s tax and pension pledges clickhere.

The IFS said the Tories’ plans would bring ‘added complexity’ to the tax system. It said: ‘It is not really clear why someone earning £150,000 should be able to receive income tax relief on £40,000 of pension saving while someone earning £250,000 should only be able to receive relief on £10,000 of pension saving.’

Of Labour’s plans, the think tank said one of the main dangers would be the introduction of a ‘cliff edge’ where some workers who increased their contributions would be worse off.

It said Labour’s plans to reduce the annual allowance would: ‘move us further away from an appropriate pensions tax regime and does so in a way that penalises those making occasional large contributions rather than frequent smaller contributions.’

The IFS also accused both parties of tampering with already sensible tax structures: ‘The frequency and direction of reforms to pension taxation under this government has been concerning. The continued desire to dismantle an important and relatively sensible part of the tax system is more worrying still.’

The Liberal Democrats, who have promised a review on flat rates of pension tax relief, also came under fire when the IFS attacked proposals for clampdowns on tax avoidance.

The Conservatives plan to raise £4.6 billion through such measures, Labour £6.7 billion and the Liberal Democrats £9.7 billion.

‘None of the parties has proposed specific measures that would increase revenues by these sorts of amounts. One might think of these revenue targets as, at best, aspirational, yet the parties’ plans rely on achieving them.’

‘It is not helpful to the public debate to pretend that raising such sums is easy, certain or necessarily painless.’

Labour, Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party plans to introduce a mansion tax were also condemned as ‘unnecessarily complicated.’

Cross-party support for the single-tier state pension was also questioned.

The IFS said it was ‘absurd’ that future state pension payments would depend both on price and earnings growth, and on whether previous years with high price growth were also years with high earnings growth.

Royal London chief executive Phil Loney scooped a £2.9 million pay package in 2014, up from £2.6 million in 2013.

Alongside a salary of £634,000, Loney (pictured) received a £151,000 pension supplement, £904,000 as part of the company’s short term incentive plan, and £1.1 million in long term incentives which vested.

Royal London Asset Management chief executive Andrew Carter received a total pay package of £1.6 million in 2014, lower than the £1.7 million package he took home in 2013. On top of his base salary of £354,000 , he received pension benefits of £144,000, a short term incentive plan award of £389,000 and £747,000 in longer term incentive plans vesting.

Carter was appointed as chairman of Royal London’s wrap platform Ascent ric in January.

Group finance director Tim Harris, who joined Royal London in May 2014, was awarded a total pay package of £640,000 in 2014.

Chief risk officer Jon Macdonald received a package of £881,000 in 2014, compared to £756,000 in 2013.