winter hedgerow Linda Hoskin

Linda Hoskin

Tax is a boring subject for most of us, but it’s important one. People need to pay taxes to pay for the NHS and everything else, but it’s often made very complicated by government. And if you can’t afford a private tax consultant, where do you turn? Here are a few helpful folks who can help!

TaxAid is an organisation that can help with problems that HMRC can’t, if you are on a low income. Just call their helpline during office hours on weekdays. There is also a helpling for voluntary advisors to get help for their clients. The service is free to people on less than £20K a year, where experts can simplify your tax, so you are only paying the right amount.

Tax Help for Older People is another charity that offers free help for older people over 60, on incomes of less than £20K a year. It has over 420 volunteers and a national call centre, and can also help you to pay less tax, if you are on a pension. You can call them or use the web enquiry form.

If you don’t qualify for free help, organisations like Tax Scouts offer affordable low-cost help to do tax returns on your behalf. It offers three services (depending on your type of company – dormant, active or VAT-registerd) that you are directed to one of their accredited accountants for your tax to be filed to HMRC in as little as 48 hours. You can also take advantage of a fixed fee service to sort out tax problems. The site also offers free simple book-keeping tools.

different types of tax (simplified)

Tax is very complicated in England. We have income tax (and national insurance which some would rather see merged for simplicity), corporation tax, inheritance tax and capital gains tax. Some people want a ‘flat rate tax’ where everyone pays the same rate (thereby saving masses of money in administration – a few countries abroad do this). Hungary and Romania pay flat taxes of 16% for example. There are also indirect taxes like VAT on the price of things you buy (environmental and health campaigners want more tax on junk food and polluters, and perhaps subsidies on organic food and green energy). Contact the government website to check your tax code.

how serious is tax evasion in England?

Very. Although most people who ‘evade tax’ end up in court, many companies legally ‘avoid tax’ by moving companies abroad (for instance, Amazon paid no corporation tax at all in 2021, despite its huge profits). That tax could go to funding our NHS. The Labour manifesto for the General Election 2024 promises to close these loopholes, and use the billions recovered to pay for things like free dentistry appointments – let’s hope this is not a case of MPs telling fibs, to win elections!

It’s more difficult these days to move to ‘tax havens’ due to country-by-country reporting and a worldwide minimum corporate tax. Experts say that the huge issue of UK tax evasion by companies is mostly due to UK banks not having to legally report it to HMRC and Companies House. What irks is that the amount of tax evasion each year is more than false benefits claims – yet the government focuses on one for the media interviews, and never the other. It’s estimated around £6 billion a year could be claimed, if governments pulled up their stocks and got the money back.

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