This week here at UCHQ, life is returning to something approaching normality. The intern is back to wasting time on social media, the old ‘umbrella’ jokes keep flowing, and we ponder what autumn will bring, besides a renewed need for actual umbrellas.
There seems to be something of a stir in the world of finance and umbrella companies right now. The words ‘disguised remuneration’ seem to be popping up everywhere we turn.
Now, don’t get us wrong, it’s not a term that is new to us. But it seems that HMRC, unable to keep control of all the accounting sidesteps and shimmies out there, are asking the public for help to crack down on the companies who are still, or have previously offered to help contractors and wage earners make some of those earnings disappear, only to reappear in a magically-tax-evaded form, somewhere down the line.
Yes, they are asking anyone who has ever been marketed to in this way to get in touch and let them know, so they can take appropriate action against them. These tactics include the one that was well known previously by some umbrella companies, of turning wages into loan payments, which magically never required repayment. In fact, Government action against these schemes has been so ineffective that a quick scan of Google shows that many of these payroll loan schemes continue to operate today.
Let us not forget that at some point not that long ago, while these schemes weren’t necessarily pure, brilliant white, they also weren’t outlawed and many people took advantage of them, as a result of financial advice that they were given at the time. So, this request to dig down and rout these companies out could be putting some, otherwise innocent people’s money at risk and leave them open to action from HMRC. Many are calling for the government to give these people a break and not treat them in the same way that those who knowingly invested in these schemes, fully aware that they were not legitimate, are being treated.
We don’t have any issue with the government clamping down on these schemes. We get it. But the fact that they are asking us to do their work for them, whilst also looking for ways to increase contractor contributions, screams of a department without the means to do what they need to do, and who are instead looking to make a quick buck at the expense of the greater good of the contractor world, rather than implementing strategic, tactical plans to tackle the nay-do-wells with a sensible, well-thought-out approach.
We’ve said it before, and we will say it again. HMRC really need to focus on the bad guys and use their powers to go after them. Give the little guys a break and stop asking us to do your dirty work, while you look to screw us over in others. That isn’t how government departments should work.