With HMRC under pressure to collect more tax owed, it is moving away from the tolerance shown during the pandemic and back towards a normal level of debt enforcement activity. As a result, the number of company winding-up petitions being instigated by HMRC is rising rapidly.
HMRC’s use of winding-up petitions to actively chase the money it is owed comes at the worst possible time as many companies struggle to cope with inflationary pressures, higher interest costs and reduced consumer spending. HMRC’s aim is to recover tax owed from a company’s liquidated assets.
Although the tax gap (the difference between the amount of tax that should, in theory, be paid to HMRC, and what is actually paid) has declined in recent years, it is still 5.2% or £32bn.
For a company experiencing difficulty paying its tax liabilities, the best way forward is to agree to a time-to-pay arrangement with HMRC. This avoids the possibility of a winding-up petition, although early engagement with HMRC is essential.
· An affordable, regular monthly payment will be agreed based on the specific financial circumstances of the company. A good approach is to not be overambitious with the monthly repayment value, so there is less chance of being unable to meet future payments.
· HMRC will want to know about the company’s financial prospects (cashflow forecasts and budgets may be required), what efforts have made to raise funds, and what has been done to try and pay tax liabilities.
· The arrangement is designed to be flexible, so the monthly payment can be adjusted over time.
Prior to agreeing to a time-to-pay arrangement, HMRC may want to see company assets released, with the funds raised used to repay tax. This might mean selling vehicles, increasing business borrowing or directors putting personal funds into the company.
HMRC’s guidance to paying a debt with a time-to-pay arrangement can be found here.