Revenue To Self-Employed: Drop Dead

January 20, 2016

Two Revenue eBriefs in the past 24 hours outline new income tax exemptions on travel expense payments to teachers who do State exam work, and non-executive directors who attend corporate board meetings.

Yet no such concessions are available to self-employed small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Instead, their travel expense claims are subject to a battery of arbitrary and complex restrictions – with no leeway and serious penalties for disallowed motor and subsistence costs.

angry aggressive woman driving car

In Ireland, it always pays to pursue a career in the public or corporate sectors.

Because, if you’re brave & independent enough to stand on your own two feet and run your own small business, you’ll be nailed to the wall at every turn.


Companies Act 2014 – A Nasty Shock for Small Company Directors

June 9, 2015

How would you feel if you were legally obliged to publish your earnings on the internet?

This is a question that many small company directors will soon be asking themselves as they digest the new Companies Act 2014, which came into effect on 1 June 2015.

Companies Act 2014 Privacy

For the first time, the new Act compels all companies to disclose Directors’ Remuneration (ie directors’ salaries and fees), in the annual Abridged Accounts to be filed with the Companies Office.

Once filed, any member of the public can access and download a copy of the accounts for €2.50.

This should not be a major issue for larger companies where the total Directors’ Remuneration figure is shared among several directors.

However, it will come as a nasty shock to family companies with one or two directors, most commonly husband & wife.  In such cases, the Directors’ Remuneration figure will clearly link to an identifiable individual or couple.

And once published, this information will be on the public record forever.

I’m amazed that the new Act provides no safeguards against the obvious privacy breach that this measure will entail for small company directors.

An exemption for companies with two or fewer directors would have been a reasonable solution. Yet no such exemption exists.

Will we soon see a stampede of small company owners fleeing the new disclosure rules and returning to sole trader status?

It would be ironic if the new Act, which was supposed to revolutionise company law and simplify company administration, ends up wrecking the entire concept of the small family company.


Revenue, Techies & The Bart Simpson Paradox

January 31, 2013

Tech contractors are this week anxiously reviewing their contract and tax arrangements following last Friday’s news of a looming Revenue crackdown on the sector.

They and their advisors will be grappling with a range of complex issues, some of which contradict each other.

Revenue & Tech Contractors

An interesting contradiction lies at the heart of a major issue flagged by Revenue last week, as follows:

“For the moment, our concern is that in many cases too small a proportion of the gross contract payment is reported as liable to tax in the hands of the contractor. Into the future, this will continue to be the subject of frequent checking, and will be a factor in risk-based selection for audit.”

Essentially Revenue are stating here that, if your contracting business has significant overheads, they will suspect you of evading tax.

This seems to directly contradict Revenue’s own Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment, which lists the various factors that indicate whether a worker is an employee or a contractor running their own business.

Among the criteria that suggest that they are self-employed, are that the worker:

  • “Provides the materials for the job.
  • Provides equipment and machinery necessary for the job, other than the small tools of the trade or equipment which in an overall context would not be an indicator of a person in business on their own account.
  • Has a fixed place of business where materials, equipment etc. can be stored.
  • Provides his or her own insurance cover e.g. public liability cover, etc.”

Now, if a contractor provides all these component functions in the course of their contract work, these will all cost money, ie overhead costs. These costs represent the difference between the contractor’s gross turnover and their net profits.

For a contractor who provides their own materials, equipment and insurance, and runs their own business premises, these overhead costs may be significant. Yet Revenue’s letter now tells contractors that if their companies have such large overheads,  they will be treated as suspected tax dodgers!

It looks like Revenue are presenting contractors with a classic Catch-22: Unless you incur overheads, you’re not a contractor at all. And if you incur overheads, you’re a suspected tax dodger.

As Bart Simpson once said:

Life is a paradox, You’re damned if ya’ do, and you’re damned if ya’ don’t.

bart-simpson-08


Contractor Companies Face Revenue Probe

January 25, 2013

Revenue are now reviewing the tax affairs of limited companies and directors who provide contracted services to a larger company or group.

They have this week written to the Irish Tax Institute, confirming that that their review has already commenced in the South West region (counties Cork, Limerick, Kerry and Clare) and is “likely” in due course to extend to other parts of the country.

Revenue

Revenue state that they have already found “a significant understatement of tax liability” in many cases, which they attribute to “deficiencies in accounting for input costs and expenses”.

They are now inviting contractors to make voluntary disclosures of their tax underpayments, including interest, and the following penalties as set out for “deliberate default” in the Code of Practice for Revenue Audit:

  • unprompted disclosure (i.e. where no audit or investigation notice has issued) –  penalty of 10% of the tax underpayment.
  • prompted disclosure (made after receipt of a audit notice) – 50% penalty;
  • failure to make a complete disclosure,  75% – 100% penalty.

In the coming weeks, contractors, and their tax advisors, will need to carefully review the implications of this news.

The Institute of Tax website includes a pdf copy of the Revenue letter while you can also find a full transcript here.


Revenue’s Letter on Contractor Companies -In Full

January 25, 2013

The following is a full transcript of Revenue’s letter to the Irish Tax Institute confirming that they are “reviewing the tax affairs of companies and their directors” in the South West Region.

The Irish Tax Institute have separately published a pdf copy of the letter here.

Revenue

“Mr Mark Barrett Chairperson
South West Representatives
Irish Tax Institute                                                     22 January 2013

Dear Mark

I am writing in response to queries from yourself and other tax practitioners about the current project in the South West Region concerning various contractors. I would be grateful if you would inform the relevant ITI members of the contents of this letter, which sets out our position as clearly as I can. If I have overlooked any issues, please let me know.

Revenue in the South West Region (Cork, Limerick, Kerry and Clare) are currently reviewing the tax affairs of companies and their directors, where the main source of income is a contract or contracts “for service” with a larger company or companies (directly or through intermediaries), the company in question does not appear to have a substantial business separate from these contracts, and in most cases the director(s) are the only employees of the company and pay tax through PAYE. To date, we have established that in many cases there are deficiencies in accounting for input costs and expenses, with the result that there has been a significant understatement of tax liability to the benefit of the director(s). As a result of these findings, this area will continue to be a significant focus of Regional inquiries through 2013, and it is likely that similar explorations will be initiated in other Regions.

Because of the nature of the underdeclaration, we take the view that the provisions of the Code of Practice for Revenue Audit require us to regard the underdeclaration as stemming from deliberate behaviour. This has the consequence that an unprompted disclosure (i.e. where no notice of audit or investigation has been received) attracts a penalty of 10%; a prompted disclosure made after receipt of a notice of audit is penalised at 50%; and failure to make a disclosure, or to make a complete disclosure, moves the penalty to between 75% and 100% of the tax underpayment. Of course, all underpayments also attract interest from the date of default.

A full disclosure, whether prompted or unprompted, avoids publication. If however the disclosure is incomplete, is not accompanied by full payment, or otherwise fails to meet the requirements described in the Code of Practice for Revenue Audit, then all benefits of disclosure are lost.

In order to facilitate and encourage disclosure, and to ensure a consistent approach to all cases, we have decided not to carry out in-depth checking of disclosures where the disclosure matches existing Revenue information and the general profile for the industry sector concerned. We have also decided that the penalty rates set out in the preceding paragraph will apply subject to exceptional circumstances. Where exceptional circumstances are claimed, a special case will need to be formally made to the Revenue caseworker, who will make a recommendation for decision at Assistant Secretary level.

The definition of “qualifying disclosure” is contained in Section 2.7 of the Code of Practice for Revenue Audit. Naturally, we will take a reasonable approach to the level of detail required, but all significant matters must be included, and payment or an acceptable proposal for payment is also required. If we accept a disclosure and the accompanying payment, we will also accept that the taxes and periods covered are those relevant, and will not look at earlier periods. If however, there are firm reasons to believe that the disclosure is significantly deficient, we retain the right to audit any and all relevant years and taxes.

In the normal course, where an audit is required, it will cover the four complete years preceding the date of issue of the notice of audit. Extension to other years will, as in all audits, depend on the circumstances of the case, but will be unusual. Likewise, there is a possibility of prosecution where audit shows a blatant breach of legal provisions but this will, we hope, be rare.

Changing taxpayer behaviour is a very important consideration in all compliance initiatives, and this is no exception. At the moment, we are not expressing an opinion on whether the arrangements we encounter are valid, that is, whether the company directors should more properly be regarded as direct employees of the entity awarding the contract. This question is being reviewed and may be adressed in the future. For the moment, our concern is that in many cases too small a proportion of the gross contract payment is reported as liable to tax in the hands of the contractor. Into the future, this will continue to be the subject of frequent checking, and will be a factor in risk-based selection for audit.

I hope the foregoing makes our position clear, and I look forward to the co-operation of your members in assuring correct and tax-compliant behaviour in this large and growing area.

Yours Sincerely

Anthony Buckley

Assistant Secretary South West Region”