HMRC publishes Agent Update 79

13 August 2020

The latest Agent Update issue has been published by HMRC, and includes articles that discuss the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, Student Loans and the cyber scams in place that target students, and information on the customs grant scheme. The update is aimed at tax agents and advisers with the purpose of providing them with the latest news and guidance.

 Claims Portal for Eat Out to Help Out scheme opens

Businesses who are classed as eligible businesses to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme can now claim for discounts offered to customers on the scheme, by accessing the new online claims portal. The message is reiterated that, whilst agents and intermediaries cannot register for the scheme, or make claims on behalf of their clients, they can assist by ensuring that they have all the required documents and information that they need to submit their claims. Further guidance on the scheme can be located here.

End of VAT payment deferrals period

As one of the measures introduced to help support businesses through the outbreak of coronavirus, HMRC offered businesses the option to defer VAT payments if they were not able to pay on time. This could be done without incurring late payment interest or any penalties. Payment of VAT due between 20 March and 30 June could be deferred until 31 March 2021. Any deferred VAT can be paid back ahead of the deadline as ad hoc payments and / or overpayments, or however is preferred, on the proviso that full payment is made by the deadline date.

The scheme closed on 30 June 2020, so businesses need to set up any cancelled direct debits ahead of payment of their next VAT return. Further information on this can be found here.

Student loans and scams targeting students

There may be scenarios in which employers face difficulties in determining:

  • Whether or not student and / or postgraduate loan deductions are applicable
  • Which earnings period to use for the purposes of calculating student and / or postgraduate loan deductions

In determining how to treat income for student and / or postgraduate loan deductions, it is advisable to follow the rules for Class 1 National Insurance (NI) contributions.

Back in 2018, Scotland’s First Minister announced that Scotland’s student loan earnings threshold would increase to £25,000 from April 2021 for any new and existing borrowers. The repayment period would also be reduced from 35 to 30 years, to mirror England and Wales. These developments mean that a new Scottish Student Loan Plan Type needed to be created – plan type 4.  On 6 April 2021, anyone who has taken a student loan from Scotland will repay under new plan type 4, and employers will be notified of any move  of loan types via the current SL1 / PGL1 notification process.

Self-Assessment tax returns have been updated in include the following Income Contingent Student Loans :

  • Plan 1
  • Plan 2
  • Postgraduate Loan

Agents should establish which is the correct loan type with their client before selecting it to ensure that they are not overcharged.

There has been a spike in the number of cyber scams which have targeted students, and offered them false tax refunds over the course of the past few months. HMRC is therefore advising students to be vigilant and extra careful when providing any personal information. HMRC’s Customer Protection Team has instructed internet service providers to remove malicious web pages associated with scams of this nature.

HMRC’s advice to students is to:

Stop

Take a moment to think before parting with information or money

Do not give out private information, or reply to text messages

Don’t download attachments or click on links in unexpected texts or emails

Challenge

Reject, refuse or ignore any requests – it is OK to do this – only criminals will try and rush or panic people

Search ‘scams’ on Gov.UK for information surrounding how to recognise genuine HMRC contact, and how to avoid and report scams

Protect

Forward any suspicious emails purporting to be from HMRC to phishing@hmrc.gov.uk and any texts to 60599

Individuals should contact their bank immediately if they suspect they’ve fallen victim to a scam and also report it to Action Fraud

Read the Agent Update in its entirety here.

 


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