Nick H., London
“Like many others, following the introduction of IR35 I sought professional help clarifying my tax position – something eminently sensible given the vagaries and complexities of the UK tax system. There were a wide range of companies touting such services, all “fully registered” with the HMRC and using phrases such as “100% HMRC compliant”.
These companies and the arrangements they promoted gave a return similar to that received working via a limited company only without the uncertainty IR35 created and so, like many others, I was sold.
And so it began, tax returns were submitted, all monies received accounted for and nothing from HMRC. Certain years, I would receive notice my tax return was being checked (typically just before the 1 year cut-off, something I later found out was a legal requirement for any follow-up action to be taken) and hear nothing more.
Fast forward to the present day, the arrangements I was involved with are now labelled ‘tax avoidance’ rather than ‘tax planning’ and the APN legislation introduced in the 2014 Finance Bill is being applied retrospectively to actions made years earlier under a considerably different climate.
Not that this apparent violation in the rule of law seems to phase HMRC. The monies demanded arise from multiple years using arrangements that, although fully declared at the time, were never challenged and have now reached life-changing amounts, with the expectation that hard working people, like myself, can simply write a cheque for 5 and sometimes 6 figure sums.
For me personally, having sought clarity in my tax affairs, I find myself in a nightmare situation.
HMRC seem unconcerned with personal circumstances, unwilling or unable to offer advice beyond their demands to pay. I suspect criminals are treated better than I have been; to say that the DOTAS/APN situation is stressful would be an understatement.
As a contractor you get used to stress – the 6 monthly renewal cycles, the possibility of project cancellations, the periods between projects – but HMRC’s actions take stress to another level.
I fall asleep at night (eventually) and wake up in the morning thinking about how I can pay; increasingly my mind wanders during the day when I should be focused on the job in hand – I’m starting to think bankruptcy and all it entails would be the least worse option, although doing so would be an end to my the career (I work in financial services) and render my family and I homeless.
And all because I sought professional help, ensuring my taxes were in order…”