HMRC urges traders to prepare for end of Brexit transition period

HMRC is urging traders to act now to avoid Brexit-related disruption when the transition period comes to an end. Some 250,000 letters and emails have been sent to businesses warning that new border controls will come into force on 1 January 2021. HMRC’s Katherine Green and Sophie Dean said: “We understand that these are challenging times, but time is running out for businesses to get ready. “New customs and tax rules will not change or go away if a Free Trade Agreement is negotiated, so businesses should act now to ensure they are ready for the end of the transition period.” Meanwhile, the National Audit Office has warned that preparations for new border controls have been further delayed by coronavirus, likely leading to “widespread” disruption at ports.

The Times, Page: 12 City AM

Former BHS owner jailed for tax evasion

Former BHS owner Dominic Chappell has been convicted of dishonestly choosing to evade paying tax on £2.2m of income he received from his £1 deal to buy the failed high street chain. Instead of paying the tax he knew was due, Mr Chappell spent a fortune on a luxury lifestyle which included a £90,000 yacht, a Bentley Continental car, a Bahamas holiday and some expensive Beretta guns, Southwark Crown Court heard. His lawyers claimed he became, and still is, “utterly broke” because BHS’s hugely underfunded “pension problem exploded” within two weeks of controversially buying BHS from Sir Philip Green in 2015. His defence suggested that, had BHS not failed, he would have had the funds to pay his tax liability, but a jury found Chappell guilty of dishonesty after deliberations over three days. He has been jailed for six years.

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HMRC reduces tax gap to lowest ever level

Annual accounts from HMRC show the tax gap fell to 4.7% in 2018-19, the lowest rate ever recorded. However, £31bn is still lost to fraud and error. HMRC says £4.6bn is lost to tax evasion; £4.5bn to criminal attacks; £3.1bn to error and some £5.5bn the result of people and companies failing to take reasonable care when paying.

The Times, Page: 26


Furlough scheme to be extended until end of March

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has confirmed that he will extend the furlough scheme across the UK until the end of March. Mr Sunak said the scheme will pay up to 80% of a person’s wage up to £2,500 a month. He told the Commons that the Government will review the policy in January. The Chancellor said his intention was “to give businesses security through the winter”. As part of the revised scheme, anyone made redundant after 23 September can be rehired and put back on furlough. Mr Sunak also announced billions of pounds of other support for the economy, including more money for self-employed people. Support through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be increased, with the third grant covering November to January calculated at 80% of average trading profits, up to a maximum of £7,500. Paul Johnson, the head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, has said Rishi Sunak’s move to extend the furlough scheme until March was “wasteful and badly targeted”. Mr Johnson added that to continue with the initial furlough scheme, “which was dreamt up at speed, with no serious attempt to address its flaws is quite surprising.”

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More than £1.1bn in fraud exposed in UK bounce back loan scheme

More than £1.1bn of suspected fraud has been prevented so far in the UK Government’s flagship “bounce back” loans in an indication of how criminals have aggressively targeted the scheme. Estimates from the British Business Bank provided to the Commons public accounts committee said lenders had rejected 26,933 bounce-back loans over concerns they could be fraudulent preventing criminals from stealing £1.1bn from the £40bn scheme.

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Pension ‘wake-up’ packs prove ineffective

New analysis has suggested that pension “wake-up” packs introduced last year by the Financial Conduct Authority are failing to have much impact. The packs were sent to people on certain birthdays, with the first arriving on a saver’s 50th. The packs also encouraged savers to take up free pension guidance but the figures appear to show they have been ineffective. Stephen Lowe, a director at Just Group, said: “Consumer-friendly packs are a step in the right direction but need to be reinforced with stronger measures such as the amendment this week proposed by Stephen Timms MP to automatically schedule Pension Wise appointments.”

Daily Express


BoE launches fresh £150bn stimulus package

The Bank of England has launched a fresh £150bn stimulus package as part of efforts to shore up the UK economy as the coronavirus crisis continues to blight the country. The latest expansion of the scheme takes total bonds purchased by the Bank under quantitative easing to £895bn. Andrew Bailey, Bank Governor, warned the outlook remains “unusually uncertain” in the wake of the spread of the virus but added: “We are confident that we have the headroom to do what we need to do to meet our remit.” Mr Bailey said the Bank now expected economic output would be 11% lower at the end of the year than it was at the start, and that unemployment would rise from the current level of 1.5m to 2.6m. The Bank also forecast a 1% hit to the economy in early 2021 as a result of the end of the Brexit transition period – even if there is a deal with the European Union.

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Greece passes bill critics warn is de facto amnesty for tax offenders

Greece has approved legislation that will effectively grant an amnesty to several thousand alleged tax offenders, a move critics say could harm the country’s reputation.

Financial Times, Page: 6


Accountants charge undercover team £6,000 for scam BBLs

An undercover probe by the Mail reveals how corrupt accountants are falsifying tax returns so clients can apply for a £50,000 Government-backed bounce back loan. Two consultants named by the paper as Zohaib Butt and Imran Khan, operating out of a south London office block, demanded £6,000 in cash to submit false accounts to HMRC so the loan could be processed. The fraudsters also sold pre-registered shell companies for clients with no business account.

Daily Mail, Page: 10

Watchdog bars sex offenders from financial services roles

The Financial Conduct Authority has banned three men convicted of sexual offences from working in the financial services industry. Russell David Jameson, Mark Horsey and Frank Cochran have been banned from carrying out any function related to a regulated activity after being deemed not “fit and proper” and a risk to consumers. It is the first time the watchdog has used its enforcement powers in relation to this type of crime.

Financial Times, Page: 7 The Daily Telegraph

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Paul Southward