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Are cash flow problems an excuse for late payment of taxes?

Are cash flow problems an excuse for late payment of taxes?

Research from SFP, a leading solvency firm, has shown that tax bills are the largest cause of insolvencies amongst SMEs. In fact 75% of insolvencies cite HMRC as the largest creditor.

This could have happened because companies taking advantage of the Revenue’s Time to Pay initiative failed to make provisions for future tax bills.

Simon Plant, a partner at SRP, said Time to Pay is a ticking time bomb that no-one wants to talk about. HMRC are now calling in their debts and companies that have not accrued for their liabilities face major problems.

He went on to say that there is an increasing trend in the number of companies that owe between £125,000 and £500,000. Recent data from HMRC shows an increase in the number of firms refused TTP arrangements and the Revenue attributes this to companies applying for repeat arrangements.

However, things could be about to change after a recent tribunal ruled that problems with cash flow did constitute a reasonable excuse for late settlement of tax liabilities.

Alan Kincaid had appealed against a Revenue decision to take away the gross payment status of his company, A K Construction. HMRC said Kincaid had fallen more than a year behind with some of his payments and therefore he did not meet its compliance test. Without gross payment status, Kincaid had to pay an automatic 20% levy on gross payments from contractors and this led to his cash flow problems.

John Walters, the presiding tribunal judge, ruled that Kincaid had done everything possible to avoid this possible and his cash flow problem was a reasonable excuse.

One of the directors at McGrigors, Heather Self, said the reasonable excuse defence has been used in VAT cases for some time but it is reasonably new in direct tax. However, we now have people with commercial experience sitting in tribunals and there is a developing trend towards taking a commercial approach when considering a reasonable excuse.

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Image: Empty Pockets by danielmoyle

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