Question: My business has recently had a visit from HM Revenue and Customs and now I have agreed to pay extra PAYE tax and NIC. Will I be named and shamed under the taxman’s new powers?
David Hill of Tax Troubleshooter.co.uk replies:
A: HMRC say that the new power will be applied to periods starting on or after April 1 2010 and to offences committed on or after that date, so the good news is that you will not be subject to negative publicity under the new rules.
Also, anyone else who has already agreed a settlement with HMRC or who qualifies for one of the ongoing “amnesties” is similarly assured of confidentiality — assuming that they tell the whole truth this time!
So who should be worried? The legislation in last year’s Finance Act refers to “deliberate tax defaulters” and that is the key point: the rules are aimed at those who deliberately try to cheat the system. The threshold for publication is £25,000 of “lost revenue” so it is likely that the numbers of people who are pilloried will be relatively small on each occasion — but will attract all the more publicity as a result.
The Revenue expects to publish the first list in 2011. Where there has been a genuine mistake, oversight or reasonable misunderstanding, then there will have been no deliberate attempt to underpay tax so the ‘naming and shaming’ rules will not apply.
Question: As a company we are keen to reduce overheads. How can we become more energy efficient?
Derek Russell, ESBIE commercial manager replies:
A: In the challenging economic climate, companies ranging from large multi-national organisations to local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are actively seeking to take control of their energy consumption to maximise energy |efficiency. Indeed as businesses have become reliant on new forms of technology issues surrounding quality, such as power disturbances or inadequate wiring, have become more prevalent.
A number of companies provide energy consulting services to assist and empower businesses to maximise the efficiency of their energy usage. Key elements of some of these programmes are:
Energy audit — this is universally applicable to all industries and identifies steps that can be undertaken to increase efficiency. This can vary from a scoping audit, which identifies low and no-cost opportunities for reducing energy costs; a standard audit which identifies the potential for making electrical energy savings through design, technology, retrofit alterations and improvements; a specific audit which focuses on the energy performance of one specific technology of your choice eg. lighting, refrigeration, heating systems; and an audit which focuses not just on electricity consumption, but on all energy inputs to a facility, including natural gas, fuel oil, and any other delivered fuels.
Energy-tracked — an energy and environmental monitoring and targeting system, which analyses the energy usage associated with general utilities, thereby enabling businesses to identify and cut out unnecessary wastage.
Company/staff Awareness — directly involving employees and making them an integral part of an energy strategy will help drive efficiency.
Energy awareness presentations and information campaigns can educate employees about achieving energy goals and the role they can play in this.
Question: I’ve seen a lot of coverage recently about WorldSkills. What is it and can it benefit my business?
Tim Devine, head of the Department of Employment and Learning’s Sectoral Development Branch, replies:
A: WorldSkills is the largest vocational skills competition in the world. It takes place every two years in a host country and features around 45 different skill areas ranging from construction crafts like bricklaying and joinery to fashion design and floristry, to autobody repair, beauty therapy, caring, cooking and hairdressing.
Skills competitions are a key tool in raising standards of training, promoting skills, upskilling the workforce, enhancing business performance in the economy and showcasing the opportunities that a vocational career route can offer. To this end they benefit the individual, the trainer, the college, the training organisation and the employer.
You can get more information on line at www.worldskillsuk.org/competitions .