New Sectors Targeted By Taxman 
In a bid to claw back £7bn annually in undeclared tax for the Government, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has added landlords in Wales, scrap metal dealers in Scotland and builders in the North West to its list of sectors to target.

Previous campaigns have seen dentists, restaurateurs and, most recently, second homeowners put under the microscope.

Under this latest campaign, the taxman will be seeking out scrap metal dealers who appear to be suppressing their income or inflating their expenditure in a bid to avoid tax.

David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said in a statement: “We will not tolerate those who break the rules. The taskforce will come down hard on scrap metal dealers and their customers or suppliers who have chosen to break the rules or deliberately evade the tax they should be paying.”

Taxpayers failing to submit their tax returns in the South East of England will be targeted, as will landlords owning three or more properties but not paying enough tax in the North West of England or North Wales.
The taxman will flood a particular sector in short bursts with agents to ensure that tax is being paid.

It was also announced yesterday that taxpayers who do not submit their statutory returns across Corporation Tax, Income Tax, Self-Assessment, PAYE and VAT will be targeted.

Darren Boston, SME Business Unit Head for HMRC in South East England, said: “The taskforce will come down hard and fast on those who have chosen to break the rules and deliberately evade the taxes they should be paying but not submitting their returns.

Whilst business activities may have ceased in some cases, or there may in fact be no tax liability, HMRC will target those who are fully aware how much money they are due to pay but have made the conscious decision not to submit the necessary declarations,” he added.

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UK Economy Contracting 
A UK output index declined in October to its lowest level in two years, prompting concerns that the UK economy could start contracting as early as the New Year as a result of the weakness of the service sector, according to one accountancy group.

The group says that its output index, which is based on a range of survey data, fell to 92.6 in October – from 93.3 in September; it’s lowest since June 2009.

This is the third consecutive month that the index, which measures company turnover expectations over the next three months, has been below the critical 95.0 mark, indicating on trend-growth, showing the UK economy could already be contracting.

Peter Hemington, a Partner at the group, said: “We urge the chancellor to tackle the slowing recovery head-on in his autumn statement. Supply side reforms in particular, reform of the tax system will be critical if the UK is to promote investment.”

The accountancy group did offer some glimmer of hope with its Optimism Index - which predicts business confidence two quarters ahead - edged up from 93.4 in September to 94.1 in October, propelled by the improving morale of UK manufacturers. However, prospects for the 1st quarter of 2012 continue to look fragile.

If you’d like advice or support for your businesses finances following these findings and ahead of the New Year, contact the team of professional accountants Taunton at Milsted Langdon today.

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Companies Often Unaware Of Staff Location 
Almost 50 per cent of small businesses polled recently by YouGov have said that they do not require staff to log their whereabouts when travelling on business for the company.

And only 15 per cent of employees felt ‘very confident’ that their employer had an effective process in place to deal with an emergency, with almost half of those polled stating that they believed that they alone were responsible for their safety when travelling on business.

However, an employer has a legal duty of care towards his or her employees or to anyone performing services for the company. Should a natural disaster occur abroad, all employers should have an emergency process in place.

Speaking of the results, Tim Grant, CEO of Track24, a provider of global crisis management solutions said: "Economic globalisation means more people are travelling for business than ever before.”

He added: “While some of the companies we encounter have basic employee location recording processes set up, normally consisting of a spreadsheet and emergency phone number, many have nothing in place at all.“

The results of the survey also highlighted that only 22 per cent of employees polled would contact their employer first in the event of an emergency while they were working away from home; 45 per cent would contact a family member in the first instance.

Mr Grant explained that, as companies expand their operations, it is important for them to be able to locate employees quickly and identify what they can do to help in an emergency.

"A natural disaster such as an earthquake or a violent episode such as a riot can suddenly jeopardise an employee's safety. If an employer records the location of all employees, while they are working on the company's behalf, they will be able to better respond to an emergency situation," he said.

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Service Sector Slips But Confidence Grows 
The Markit/Cips services purchasing managers' index (PMI) fell to 51.3 in October for the UK service sector, down from 52.9 in September, but confidence hit its highest level since May and input price inflation was at its lowest level for almost a year.

The Service sector accounts for around two-thirds of UK economic activity and employment in the sector showed a “fractional decline”. Output charges have also dropped in an attempt to win new business

Many firms that had won new business said it had been hard to win contracts, as most companies are unwilling to commit to projects at a time of such economic uncertainty.

The survey also revealed that companies have started to use discounting practices for the first time in more than a year to try and establish new business.

Chris Williamson, Chief Economist at survey compilers Markit said: “Another rather disappointing survey adds to fears that the UK recovery continued to lose momentum at the start of the fourth quarter.

“Growth in the vast service sector, which accounts for almost two-thirds of economic activity in the UK, slowed to a worryingly lacklustre pace in October. The sector made a strong contribution to economic growth in the third quarter, but this looks set to wane in the final quarter of the year.”

Howard Archer, Chief UK & European Economist for IHS Global Insight said: “While the services purchasing managers’ survey did not deliver a knock-out blow to fourth quarter growth hopes, the economy is clearly on the ropes and recession is a serious threat.”

Despite slowing growth – anything above 50 marks growth - in activity business, expectations among services companies rose to 68.5 in October, from 63.5 in September.

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Banks Need More Reforms 
According to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) think-tank, the banking industry needs deeper reforms that the ones already lad out by the government-appointed Independent Commission on Banking (ICB).

In a research paper, NIESR Director Dr Andrew Armstrong said: “Deeper and more fundamental reforms of the governance of banking and funding markets are required."

"There is a strong case for full separation between retail and wholesale banking. Full separation, rather than just ring-fencing as proposed by the ICB, would have a better chance of addressing the severe corporate governance issues in banks," he added.

And NIESR added that there is a strong case for a full separation of companies' retail and wholesale banking activities, which is an option the UK has decided against.

In September, the ICB published its final report on reforms for the banking industry, which is dominated by the “big four” of Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The ICB said banks should form separate subsidiaries for their retail and investment activities under the same parent holding company, and establish a ring-fence to limit the extent to which a bank can use money in its retail arm to prop up its investment bank.

The ICB also called on UK banks to store up billions of pounds in extra capital, but gave them until 2019 to implement the new regime.

However, earlier in the week, there was concern that UK banking reforms could be illegal under EU law, which could take the debate to a whole new level.

The revelation that EU law could disrupt the government’s flagship overhaul of the banking and regulatory system will add fresh impetus to calls for a renegotiation or withdrawal from the EU.
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