I have heard through the grapevine that HMRC are looking closely at withdrawing support for the Time To Pay arrangements from this April and these arrangements have been so popular in the past with SMEs in clearing company debt; too popular, perhaps. Some may be surprised to hear me say, but I believe generally that HMRC do a good job in very difficult circumstances.
HMRC have had to endure IT system changes which have not always been as successful as they should have been. Cut-backs in staffing numbers reduction in pension benefits as have all civil servants along with chopping and changing of what jobs are completed where. The communication systems were antiquated though they are trying to catch up and some at the higher levels finally have access to external email. There is an awful lot of confusion inside and outside regarding the new phone systems which frankly leave a lot to be desired as there is only so many times you can hear Vivaldi or Green Sleeves before you start banging your head on the desk in tune with the beat.
Attempted humour aside, any cut-back on the SMEs ability to agree a time to pay arrangement would be a severe set-back to those companies who genuinely need help when coming out of recession. We deal with company debt and HMRC negotiations as part of our work and the time to pay arrangement has been a valuable tool and saved some companies - no question.
Coming out of a recession is bad enough but coming out of the longest recession in recorded history is another. I am hoping that Carney keeps the interest rates down as businesses need as much help as is possible. Okay, I know there will be some out there saying “Well I pay my taxes on time so why shouldn’t they?” I accept the point, but I do come across a large percentage of smaller businesses who have cut to the bone to survive. Once a company does this they are very vulnerable and it is easy to get into difficulty for no other reason than a larger business debtor has decided to pay later than agreed. You can argue these companies should not have placed all their eggs in one basket, but the reality is these smaller businesses represent a significant part of the British economy.
I appreciate these HMRC time to pay arrangements are time consuming and so I assume they are costly to manage and monitor, but what is the alternative to a time to pay arrangement?
Written by: Mike Smith