News Roundup 4th June 2018



HMRC fails to answer 4m calls a year

More than four million calls to HMRC are going unanswered, with the Revenue conceding the problem is almost twice as bad as previously disclosed. New figures show more than one in 10 callers to HMRC fails to get through to anyone, compared with just over one in 20 a year ago. The true scale of the problem may be even worse, as HMRC’s audit ignores taxpayers who get an engaged tone when they dial the tax advice helpline. HMRC’s own figures also reveal that 14% of calls took more than 10 minutes to answer, though that does not include the time people spend navigating its automated call handling service. The Telegraph’s leader argues that the government should either reverse cuts made to HMRC staff, or take steps to make paying one’s taxes easier by cutting down on forms, rules and red tape.

The Daily Telegraph, Page: 1 The Daily Telegraph, Page: 15 The Times, Page: 4

Complex rules are too taxing for savers

The Express examines the rules surrounding savings, pensions and life policies, after the Office of Tax Simplification called for an overhaul. Rachael Griffin, tax and financial planning expert at Old Mutual Wealth, said conflicting tax rules have created too much complexity: “Instead of being a coherent, well-oiled system, the taxation of savings has had numerous bolt-ons, which makes the whole thing confusing.”

Daily Express, Page: 27

Immigrants won’t be removed over altered tax returns

The government has agreed to stop deporting people under an immigration rule that saw highly skilled migrants removed from the UK. Some migrants who applied for indefinite leave to remain were accused of lying after making minor and legal amendments to their tax records.

Financial Times The Guardian, Page: 1, 5

Put NHS before tax cuts, says Davidson

Ruth Davidson has urged the Conservatives to prioritise extra spending on the NHS over the introduction of further tax breaks. Elsewhere, the Cato Institute’s Ryan Bourne suggests efficiency savings could avoid the need for tax rises to fund the NHS.

The Times, Page: 2 Daily Star, Page: 2 The Independent, Page: 4 City AM, Page: 17

High street needs support

The Guardian argues that the UK’s high street decline can be arrested through the introduction of a fairer tax system, and investment in support of offline retailers. It suggests proceeds from a turnover tax on big tech firms could be used to set up a fund to help places adopt imaginative and diverse responses to the new retail environment.

The Guardian, Journal, Page: 2


Professional services ‘booming’, says CBI

Demand for accountancy, legal work and marketing is booming, with optimism among such companies improving at the fastest rate in more than a year, the CBI has said. The organisation’s quarterly survey shows that growth in volumes for business and professional services companies jumped in the three months to May, with a balance of 25% reporting a rise, the sharpest rate of growth since August 2015. The survey also reveals that profits in business and professional services grew at the fastest pace since August 2015 and are expected to be higher over the next three months. In addition, optimism about the business situation has risen at its fastest pace for a year. The Times suggests the findings will have come as a surprise to the CBI, which warned in March 2016 that a vote to leave the European Union would cost the economy £100bn by 2020.

The Times, Page: 38 The Scotsman, Page: 39

Barrett’s FRC appointment delayed

The Financial Reporting Council’s recruitment of Elizabeth Barrett to run its enforcement division has been held up while the regulator seeks permission to pay her a higher salary than that of the prime minister. The appointment of Ms Barrett, former head of dispute resolution at Slaughter and May, needs approval from the Treasury, which has to sign off on remuneration packages of more than £150,000 for public sector workers. If the Treasury agrees to the appointment, Ms Barrett will replace Gareth Rees, QC, who left the FRC last October to work for King & Spalding.

The Times, Page: 36


Hi-tech boost for Holywell businesses

Small businesses in Holywell, north Wales, have reported an uptick in trade after accepting free card readers from Square, as part of the US company’s efforts to get to know the British market. The card readers allow traders to take payments using an app on their phone or tablet. Many of the businesses were previously cash-only, put off by traditional card readers, which typically charged monthly rental fees and locked them into long-term contracts.

The Times, Page: 21


London drops down earnings list

Earnings in London are now lower than in most other capitals, including Paris, Berlin and Madrid, according to a study by UBS. London was ranked eighth most expensive city in the world in 2018, with Zurich and Geneva the priciest. But a scale of gross earnings puts Londoners at 24th place in the world. Three years ago, when the investment bank last carried out the study, London was ranked sixth on prices and 13th on earnings.

The Guardian, Page: 33

Rees-Mogg dismisses HMRC Brexit claim

Jacob Rees-Mogg has rejected claims by HMRC’s Jon Thompson that the ‘Max Fac’ post-Brexit customs plan will cost UK businesses £20bn. The Conservative MP said current customs arrangements in place for non-EU trade already prove the cost could not be as high.

Daily Express Daily Express


Lottery winners share the wealth

National Lottery millionaires are shunning expensive purchases in favour of sharing their money with family and spending it on experiences. Camelot’s latest millionaire report also reveals that racehorses, designer sunglasses, conservatories, koi carp and ride-on mowers have fallen off winners’ shopping lists to be replaced by camper vans, woodland spaces, bars or games rooms, coffee machines and university fees.

The Times

Fraudster jets off despite £65m bill

A convicted fraudster who owes taxpayers more than £65m has taken nearly 360 flights worldwide in the past five years. Prosecutors say Gerald Smith has used private jets as well as business and first class flights to travel in luxury despite claiming to be too poor to pay back his criminal profits.

The Times, Page: 11 Evening Standard

Contact Paul Southward if you have any queries.

Paul Southward