A Helping Hand from the Taxman

A Helping Hand from the Taxman
Employers are a fundamental cog in the tax machinery, collecting around £2bn of tax each year. HMRC expects a lot from employers, and the whole business of operating PAYE and National Insurance contributions, administering statutory payments and deducting student loan repayments imposes a considerable administrative burden, particularly at the year end.


Although HMRC expect employers to spend time administering tax and National Insurance on their behalf, they are quick to impose penalties if returns are made late or contain errors. Similarly, interest is charged if tax is paid late.


It is clearly in the interests of both employers and HMRC that employers are able to fulfil their compliance obligations in a timely and efficient manner. Employers do not want to spend unnecessary time acting as unpaid tax collectors for HMRC, nor do they want to suffer fines and penalties. Likewise, HMRC want to receive tax payments when they are due and do not want to have to spend time and resources chasing up errant employers. It therefore makes sense for HMRC to help employers to get it right first time.


Employer Talk


Employer Talk is a free, half day event run by HMRC for employers, agents and payroll bureaux. It comprises of a number of presentations, an exhibition and an opportunity to speak to experts about a wide range of payroll and associated issues.


The event in now in its thirteenth year, and this year events are being held in 14 different locations. The London event took place at Central Hall, Westminster on 5 March. Details of other events being held throughout the year can be found on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk/employers/talk.htm.


The exhibition runs throughout the event. The exhibition area is divided into several zones:


• Help and support;
• Day-to-day payroll;
• Do it online;
• Pensions;
• Specialist topics.


Each zone is colour coded and features stands on specific topics. Details of the stands and the topics covered are set out in the event guide handed to delegates on arrival. Staff are on hand at each stand to answer questions and provide advice. A range of booklets and leaflets are also available, which can be taken away in the free `Employer Talk’ carrier bag.


The other element of the event is the presentations, of which there are three, each lasting approximately half an hour. There is also an interval of about half an hour between presentations allowing plenty of time for delegates to visit the exhibition.


After Ian Woollin had welcomed delegates and dealt with administrative issues, Stephen Banyard delivered an opening address in which he drew attention to the work done by employers on HMRC’s behalf and thanked them for that work.


He also commented on the presentation economic situation and touched on ways in which HMRC and other Government departments can help businesses in difficulties, such as the new Business Payments Support Service announced in the pre-Budget report, which helps businesses struggling to pay their tax bills by agreeing scheduled time to pay arrangements. To date these arrangements have helped 60,000 businesses.


He also drew attention to the Employment Law Guidance Programme being run by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), which aims to reduce the administrative burdens imposed by employment law. Further details of the programme can be found on the BERR website (http://www.berr.gov.uk/).


The first presentation was delivered by Employment Talk regular, Phil Nilson, and was entitled `Payroll News’. In his usual entertaining style, Phil provided a quick overview of recent developments, focusing on a number of things that employers need to know about:


• Employer pack 2009;
• Finishing the tax year to 5 April 2009;
• Business Payment Support Service;
• Changes from April 2009 – tax and National Insurance (including the upper accrual point), statutory payments and the national minimum wage; and
• Penalties for tax returns and other documents.

The second presentation was entitled `At Your Request’ and focused on topics which employers expressed an interest in hearing more about in the feedback sheets completed at last year’s event. The topics under the spotlight this year were:


• Starters and leavers;
• Employing students; and
• Support from BERR


The final presentation was an update to PAYE online, again an Employment Talk regular. This year the presentation focused on online developments, including the need for employers with 50 or more employees to file P45 and P46 information online from April 2006, HMRC software and the 2009 Employer-CD-ROM.


Speaker Kate Henry drew attention to the work on the PAYE Service and Work Management System which is a new database which will contain information currently held on 12 regional databases. A single customer record will be created for all taxpayers which can be accessed by staff in any location.


The implementation date for migration to the new system has yet to be set. Employers were warned that there will be some disruption during the handover period and that contact centres were likely to be busy during this time. However, HMRC will endeavour to keep this to a minimum.


Other Sources of Help


HMRC provide help to employers through various different initiatives, making use of a number of delivery channels, ranging from face to face contact to the publication of a wide range of guidance materials. The HMRC website (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/) is the starting point, providing details of the services offered and the ability to download guidance materials and forms.


Employer Talk is concerned only with Payroll. However, HMRC also provide advice for businesses on other topics by means of Business Advice Open days, details on which can be found on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk/agents/news-events.htm#3.


HMRC also operate various helplines providing telephone help for employers. The main employer helpline can be contacted on 08457 143 143. They also run a dedicated helpline for new employers (08457 60 70 143) as well as a range of topic-specific helplines, such as those for pensions and employee share schemes. Details of these can be found on the HMRC website at http://search2.hmrc.gov.uk/kbroker/hmrc/contactus/start.jsp.


HMRC also publish a wide range of guidance booklets to help employers fulfil their obligations. These are contained on the Employer CD-ROM sent out as part of the employer pack and are available to download from the HMRC website. Copies can also be ordered from the Employer Orderline, either using the paper order form included in the annual pack (which can be sent by post or fax) or online at www.hmrc.gov.uk/employers/emp-form.htm.


Both the HMRC website and the Employer CD-ROM feature interactive calculators which can be used to make life easier, particular for smaller employers.


Online filing is now a way of life for most employers and even employers with fewer than 50 employees will need to file year end returns online from 2010. HMRC have a team of people who can provide help, either face to face or over the telephone, on registering for PAYE Online and filing returns online. Details can be found on the HMRC website at www.hmrc.gov.uk/payeonline/talk-to-us.htm.


Final Thoughts


Although most employers would prefer not to spend their time working for HMRC, it makes life easier all round if those obligations can be undertaken quickly and efficiently. Help is available from a variety of sources and employers should not have to suffer in silence.


Sarah Bradford