Review of the Year 2015. The Highs and the Lows...

Nick Parkes, Founder of Parkes Content Services and creator of Bloomsbury Professional’s Tax Planner Interactive product

Tax highlight of the year

Robert Maas’ response to HMRC’s Jim Harra saying that “The key thing for me … is making sure we’ve got the maximum value we can from having an agent in the relationship between HMRC and the taxpayer”. Robert Maas made it clear that accountants work for their clients not for HMRC, saying “I see myself as having two completely separate relationships. I have a relationship with my client.” and “I have a completely separate relationship with HMRC”. More and more HMRC are seeking to bully and bludgeon so it was good to see someone of Robert Maas’ stature stand up for accountants and the important role they play.

Non-tax highlight of the year

The Queen becoming the longest serving monarch. Nearly 90 and still riding, walking up and down steps unaided and surviving those awful, interminable formal functions. I could do with some of what she’s on!

Tax lowlight of the year

The prohibition on claiming Entrepreneurs’ Relief after 3 December 2014 to reduce capital gains tax on the disposal of goodwill to a close company to which the seller is connected. This removes the tax advantage achieved by a business proprietor selling their business to a close company to which they are connected so that they can extract funds from the business at a low rate of CGT instead of the normal rates of income tax and national insurance contributions.

Non-tax lowlight of the year

England doing so appallingly badly in the Rugby World Cup. Enough said.

Troubling tax advisers next year will be …...

Everyone wanting to know the effect of the new dividend tax. Those who already have a company will want to know what effect it will have on their income and what steps, if any, can be taken to mitigate the effects of the change. Those who don’t already have a company will want to know if the incorporation route is still worthwhile. It will cause quite a stir and a lot of work.

 

Mark McLaughlin, Owner of Mark McLaughlin Associates and author/general of numerous Bloomsbury Professional titles

Tax highlight of the year

It’s difficult to think of a 'highlight' as most tax changes are pretty grim! The residence nil rate band for IHT purposes is a positive step, but even that is tarnished by the complexity of the rules.  

Non-tax highlight of the year

My son graduating from Salford University with a first in Law. He's a bright chap (must come from his mother!).

Tax lowlight of the year

Definitely two Finance Acts in 2015! As an author of a tax annual and other tax books, it effectively means twice the writing work in broadly the same amount of time.   

Non-tax lowlight of the year

General election year - I hate it! It's a bit like having to vote whether you want to be shot or hanged.   

Troubling tax advisers next year

On a general level, getting to grips with another voluminous and complex Finance Act! On a more specific level, the new dividend tax regime will take some getting used to, as will the proposed changes in respect of non-UK domiciled individuals.

 

Philip Spencer, Partner at BDO and author of Property Tax Planning

Your tax highlight of the year

Pension reforms

Your non-tax highlight of the year

Also pension reforms

Your tax lowlight of the year

No tax lowlights – just accept that the world is getting more complicated, which is not such

Your non-tax lowlight of the year

Cancelling the local bus service after 7.30 pm

The thing most likely to be troubling advisers next year

How to adapt to the challenges of digital transformation

 

George Duncan, Partner at Charles Russell Speechlys LLP and contributor to Tax Planning 2015/16

Tax Highlight:

Quite difficult to think of any beneficial change in legislation or HMRC practice. Perhaps the best thing was the sense of relief that the announced changes to the taxation of resident non domiciliaries  were not even worse than they were!

Non-tax highlight:

A good moment was looking at the well preserved surface of a Roman road exposed in an archaeological excavation that I worked on during some weekends.

Tax low-light:

Spoilt for choice. About the most depressing thing was the proposal to extend the DOTAS rules to IHT in such a way that, apparently, even the most routine and innocuous IHT planning would have to be disclosed, which could make life nigh on impossible for private client advisers (and indeed HMRC).

Non-tax low-light:

A low point was the moment when the bicycle that I used to cycle to and from the station on my way to and from work, which I had had since I was at University, finally gave up the ghost.

Thing that will trouble most advisers in the coming year:

The sheer complexity of the recent and impending changes to the tax treatment of non domiciliaries who own UK property through offshore structures.

 

Rebecca Cave, specialist tax writer and author of numerous Bloomsbury Professional titles including Capital Gains Tax Reliefs for SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2015/16

Your tax highlight of the year

The new dividend tax announced at the Summer Budget on 8 July (see question 3). - Endless *fun* trying to explain how it will work - with only a misleading Budget announcement to work with until a 4 page briefing note was issued by HMRC in mid-August. We are still waiting for draft legislation- to be issued on 9th December.

Your non-tax highlight of the year

Using the Couch to 5K NHS programme to train myself to run 5k, and achieving that goal. I now run 5k along the Grand Union canal near my home  4 or 5 times per week.

Your tax lowlight of the year

The summer Budget - we really didn't need another Budget. It disrupted all of the publishing schedules and created far too much work and worry for tax advisers and tax writers, but also see question 1.

Your non-tax lowlight of the year

Dying on stage when giving a talk on CGT - terrifying. In the future I will stick to writing about tax and leave the public speaking to people who like to perform.

The thing most likely to be troubling advisers next year

For advisers of individuals - How to help buy-to-let investors change their business model so their lettings businesses are still economically viable from 2017 onwards. This may mean incorporating the business, but that will not suit everyone and it will involve costs.

 

David Heaton, Tax consultant and lecturer and contributor to HMRC Investigations Handbook 2015/16

Your tax highlight of the year 

The reported use by Margaret Hodge of the Liechtenstein disclosure facility.  Priceless if true (or 40% of priceless if you take the flat-rate option).

 

Your non-tax highlight of the year

On a personal level, the 13-weeks premature arrival of our granddaughter, and her surviving and thriving thanks to the efforts of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the NHS Royal Gwent hospital in Newport, but if you are looking for a public affairs event, the celebration of Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary in Salisbury and elsewhere.

Your tax lowlight of the year

HMRC’s reliance on undermanned telephone contact centres.  The late Andy Wells said, they should be called ‘call centres’, because you can call them but usually you can’t contact them. 

Your non-tax lowlight of the year

The destruction of the renewable energy industry in the UK, both by government action and by nimbyism, makes me despair for the future of the human race.

The thing most likely to be troubling advisers next year

HMRC’s service standards will suffer from yet more staff cuts and a headlong rush to digitisation of its business.  The continuing problems with RTI, with bailiffs turning up to collect non-existent PAYE debts created by magic by the HMRC computer, risk being duplicated and magnified if the Making Tax Digital programme is not slowed to a pace that HMRC and all taxpayers can manage.

Written by Ellie MacKenzie

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