Tag Archives: PAYE

Q&A on pensioner taxation

JW_OTS_bannerThe OTS’s report on pensioner taxation has aroused a fair amount of debate on some of its recommendation. Here’s a summary of some of the main questions – plus our responses.

When are the changes coming in?

That is up to the Chancellor. We have had a very extensive consultative process to develop our recommendations, including input from HMRC and HM Treasury.  Significant changes will be subject to consultation but we anticipate an initial general response in the Budget.

Are the recommendations going to raise money for the Treasury?

The OTS has to be revenue neutral in our package of recommendations but we have to balance that with a drive for simplification. We think the two recommendations are broadly revenue neutral but it does all depend on how the ideas are taken forward. If the administrative recommendations are taken forward, they will cost the government money initially to develop DWP60s and consolidated coding notices though we think there is a real efficiency gain possible as well as achieving our main objective – making life easier for pensioners.

Doesn’t abolishing the 10% savings rate penalise the poor?

Our research showed that few people actually benefit from this relief: the unrepresented in particular usually fail to claim their rebate. Many who do benefit do so via a self assessment tax return but it is complex and little understood. At today’s interest rates, anyone who gains an amount of any significance must have a fair amount of capital, though that isn’t a reason to scrap the rate of course. But we think those with savings would be better served by a pragmatic increase in the ISA limit – 0% tax rather than 10% on savings.

The DWP60 and P2C seem very sensible but they won’t actually mean that all pensioners’ tax bills are right, will they?

No, but it will mean that pensioners get better information about their tax affairs, understand more and have a better chance of making sure their bills are correct. Plus it will improve HMRC/DWP liaison.

How can you recommend abolishing a relief that helps blind people?

Do look carefully at our reasoning and recommendation. Our starting point is that only around a fifth of those potentially eligible actually benefit. It seems to us better that instead help is given by direct grant. That would cost more money of course, so if that is not taken up, we have suggested some improvements to the way the relief is organised which will help ensure more people benefit.

John Whiting
Tax Director, OTS

Q&A on unapproved employee share schemes

JW_OTS_bannerThe OTS’s report on unapproved employee share schemes has been generally welcomed by those involved with share-based rewards. Here’s a summary of some of the points we have heard – plus our responses.

What are the chances of the changes coming in?

That is up to the Chancellor. We have had a very extensive consultative process to develop our recommendations, including input from HMRC and HM Treasury.  Significant changes will be subject to consultation but we anticipate initial responses in the Budget.

Will this be part of a general relaunch of employee share ownership?

Again that has to be up to the government. But it is clearly an area receiving a good deal of attention from the government – changes to tax advantaged share schemes stemming from our earlier report, the Nuttall report’s recommendation on widening employee share ownership and the ‘shares for rights’ proposals.

Are the recommendations going to raise money for the Treasury?

The OTS has to be revenue neutral in our package of recommendations but we have to balance that with a drive for simplification. We think the recommendations are broadly revenue neutral but it does all depend on how the ideas are taken forward. For example, changing the tax charging arrangements for share awards could raise money for the exchequer as income tax/NIC could be on higher values – though the tax would be somewhat delayed.

Is the employee shareholding vehicle a safe harbour employee benefit trust (EBT)?

Probably, but we do not want to badge it as such at this stage. As is well-known, HMRC have a serious problem with abuse of EBTs and are understandably nervous of opening up new avenues for avoidance. But we think that many companies would welcome a simple vehicle – probably a form of EBT – which operated under model rules and could be used to provide a market for employees’ shares. There would be restrictions such as not being able to own other assets and having to be UK-based, but it would be protected from the raft of tax traps we identified. We also think this vehicle will be needed for the Nuttall reforms and ‘shares for rights’ proposals.

Surely you should have just abolished Form 42?

This was probably the most frequent request at meetings and in our postbag! It is part of HMRC’s risk management procedures but we do think HMRC need to look at how much of the information they really need and justify it to taxpayers. We have suggested various improvements to ease the burden.

Have the OTS now finished with these areas?

In principle yes, though we are keenly interested in how the recommendations are taken forward and plan to stay involved. It may be appropriate to use our Consultative Committees and general contacts to help develop some of our ideas during any consultative process.

John Whiting
Tax Director, OTS

Pensioner taxation

AutopilotOur review of pensioner taxation took 18 months and we met with pensioner groups, charities and frontline HMRC staff to understand where the complexity lies within the system. We also commissioned research with pensioners to explore their awareness and understanding of tax and their experiences of complexity. Further information on the research report is here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/research/report227.pdf

The interim report has already had an impact on HMRC administration. Closer working between HMRC and DWP has led to the development of a data feed which will electronically transmit data on State Pension transfers weekly. They are also working on a review of communications which will help pensioners to understand their tax affairs.

Our final report includes recommendations about tax on savings and allowances for married couples and blind people. We have made a set of recommendations to make it easier for pensioners to manage their tax affairs. This includes replacing multiple tax coding notices into a single document which sets out how each source of income is taxed. We have recommended that the DWP produces a DWP60 which sets out their taxable income from the State Pension and state benefits. This will make things it easier for pensioners to complete their self assessment returns and check that they are paying the right amount of tax.

Our Chairman Michael Jack has noted that many pensioners face a shock once they leave the “autopilot” of PAYE and have to steer their tax affairs themselves without the help of an employer or payroll team. We think the package of recommendations will provide them with the information they need to manage their affairs with peace of mind and hope the Chancellor will look favourably on them.

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/ots_pensionerstaxreview.htm

Unapproved employee share schemes

BlackberriesThis month sees the culmination of our two major reviews of unapproved employee share schemes, published today, and pensioner taxation, published next week.

Our final report on unapproved employee share schemes comes hot on the heels of the Government’s response to our review of tax advantaged employee share schemes in December. The Chancellor accepted the majority of our recommendations from that report and we sincerely hope our report on unapproved employee share schemes will be met in the same way.

As our Chairman Michael Jack notes, this area of the tax system is a “bramble patch” of complexity. Continuing this metaphor he hopes that the package of recommendations in our report will “enable users to access the blackberries more easily and with fewer prickles” from the “thorns of complexity”.

So what does the report say? Well, we have made six main recommendations, with three smaller, but still significant recommendations. These include recommendations on the general taxation of unapproved share schemes, international aspects, administration (including Pay as You Earn, Form 42 and valuation) and a proposal for a new vehicle for holding employee shares. Full details of our recommendations can be found in the report at the link below:

http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/d/ots_unapproved_employee_share_schemes_final.pdf