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Working Together with HM Customs and Excise (London area)

A reminder of what Working Together with Customs is about, and an invitation to raise issues for discussion, from Mary Cook, WT Regional Representative for the Professional Bodies for the London area. HM Customs and Excise have committed resources to a national “Working Together” programme for indirect taxes. This is similar (but is not necessarily identical to) the successful Working Together project that has been running with the Inland Revenue for some years. It will build on established links and provides fast track mechanisms for the identification, and, wherever possible, anticipation, of the sorts of national problems and issues which typically become visible first at local level. One of the key objectives of Working Together is to improve two-way communications, and this is primarily intended to improve working relations between Customs and small businesses.

As part of this process, various "Working Together" regional groups have been established, and these groups discuss matters put forward to the agenda by interested parties from the various professional organisations (eg the CIOT, IIT, ICAEW etc).

Another part of this process is disseminating the information from these meetings, for example, by publishing the minutes on the CIOT website. In addition, we would like to advise you of specific issues relevant to small businesses.

Arising from the summer meeting of the London regional group, Customs would like to make the following points:

Records to be made available during VAT inspections

1) Retailers - till rolls are part of the accounting records, and are required to be retained as part of the records, and made available to Customs during VAT inspections - this includes more than just the "Z" readings, the complete till roll should be retained (although in certain circumstances a business can agree to keep such records for less than six years if storage is an issue)

2) In addition, it is a requirement for all VAT registered businesses to keep a VAT account, ie, working papers showing how the figures for the VAT return have been put together, and these working papers should also be made available to Customs to assist them in verifying the VAT return figures. This should help to speed up the visit process and make it easier for all those involved.

Assistance to New VAT Registrations

Customs aim to contact all new VAT registered businesses within a few months of registration, to offer them assistance - one form this assistance may take is an invitation to a "new business" seminar, which is an introduction to VAT.

Details of the dates for these seminars can be circulated to interested parties - please contact John Sielli (020 8929 3765) for more information.

Dates of Meetings

Our last meeting was held on the 5th October, and we discussed the VAT registration process, problems arising and potential improvements to the system. Notes from this meeting will be circulated shortly, together with information regarding the next meeting.

We are hoping to include the option to tax as an agenda item for a future meeting - Customs have issued this statement about the work of the option to tax team in Glasgow, in response to criticism about delays:

" Every effort is being made by the Opt to Tax (OTT) Team to clear the current backlog - including the provision of extra staff. Once the Team has cleared this they will operate on a ten day turnaround. Strictly speaking Businesses advise of Opt to Tax rather than seek permission. However, the OTT Team will acknowledge all correspondence received.
You are probably aware that the OTT Team offers Businesses and their reps the opportunity to contact them directly by phone, in cases of urgency, to deal with priority cases. This can only work effectively if calls are limited to urgent cases. The OTT Team have indicated their willingness to send a representative to a future CIOT meeting to discuss issues, concerns, and reasonable suggestions."

We would be interested to hear your feedback about the option to tax and whether there are other issues that you are concerned with for your clients, or whether time delays are still a problem (e-mail Mary Cook with your comments).

If there are areas of particular concern to you then please let us know so we can put them on the agenda for future meetings.

Technical Department
020 7235 9381


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