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A squeeze on tax avoidance

Someone once told me, “I enjoy paying tax because, if I am paying tax then I must be earning money”.
In fairness, most people would agree with the above. Unfortunately, there has been a long-running battle for HM Revenue & Customs in catching up with those who see it differently.
Following consultation, legislation received Royal Assent within the Finance Bill 2019. Entitled, “Tax abuse using company insolvencies” it provides for a person to be jointly and severally liable for amounts payable to HMRC where at least one of the following five conditions are met:
1. Where a company that is subject to an insolvency procedure or there is a serious risk that it will be;
2. The company has engaged in tax avoidance or evasion;
3. The person responsible for the company’s conduct enabled or facilitated it, or benefitted from it;
4. There is likely to be a tax liability arising from the avoidance or evasion;
5. There is a serious possibility some or all of that liability will not be paid.
The legislation also provides for where there has been repeated insolvencies and non-payment.
The objective of this legislation is aimed at those:
• Who try to exploit the insolvency procedure to avoid or evade taxes and/or payment of taxes and duties;
• Repeatedly accumulate tax debts without payment by running them through a succession of corporate vehicles which are made insolvent;
• Try to sidestep penalties for facilitating avoidance and evasion by going insolvent.
One example I have seen included directors who had adopted a policy of VAT evasion where they have both been the recipients of 6-figure personal liability notices.
Before you panic this legislation is aimed at those who act in a deliberate manner of tax avoidance/evasion. It is not aimed at those who have missed the payment deadline for this month’s PAYE (provided you do still pay that is) or your overall circumstances demonstrate, as a director, you have acted honestly and fairly to creditors as a whole.
The key message that should be derived from this legislation is if you feel there is an increasing difficulty in managing the company tax affairs then seek early advice. HMRC are generally understanding where they learn of a possible issue at an early stage rather than wait until the need for enforcement procedures commences.
Should you have an insolvency-related issue or a corporate dispute then please contact Gary Pettit at PBC Business Recovery & Insolvency on (01604) 212150 (Northampton office) or (01234) 834886 (Bedford office). Alternatively, you may send an email to or access our website at