Taxing year for Cornish pasties, caravans, coffee and a comic called Carr
FROM pasty taxes and caravans to Jimmy Carr, Starbucks and Google, tax has been the topic on everybody's lips in 2012.
Arguably, not since the 1980s when Ken Dodd and Lester Piggott caused a media frenzy for alleged tax evasion has tax grabbed the headlines to such a degree.
So, one would be forgiven for thinking tax experts across the region have had a busier year than most – not only fielding calls from journalists trying to work out the difference between tax evasion and avoidance, but also from businesses and individuals looking to see if there are any legitimate schemes they can take advantage of.
However, as Jackie Hall, head of Tax at Baker Tilly in Hull, explained, in the world of tax, 2012 has just been a regular year.
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She said: "In terms of our work, 2012 has been no different to any other.
"However, this year, the celebrity element has pushed tax into the headlines.
"Everybody drinks at Starbucks, shops at Amazon or uses Google, so these are examples people can relate to.
"It has certainly made the topic of tax appear in unlikely places – watching programmes like 8 Out Of 10 Cats, for example, has certainly been interesting!"
Tax partner Andrew Mould said: "One significant change has been the way the Government and HMRC are using the media.
"Jimmy Carr was hanged, drawn and quartered for tax avoidance but people soon realised he was not the only one. There are many other high-profile celebrities and politicians doing the same."
Locally, the issue of tax made the headlines when Chancellor George Osborne unveiled plans to scrap tax breaks for static caravans in the March budget.
The proposals, which industry experts predicted would lead to the loss of more than 7,000 jobs, saw MPs and caravan manufacturers from across East Yorkshire join forces in a bid to make the Government rethink the issue.
Following much lobbying, the Government changed its mind on plans to impose 20 per cent VAT on static caravans, instead announcing it would introduce a 5 per cent rate of VAT on static caravans from April this year.
The Government also did a U-turn on its plans to impose a so-called "pasty tax" – another issue that literally caused heated debates in bakeries and fast-food outlets up and down the country.
Jackie and Andrew agreed tax would remain firmly in the headlines in 2013, not only because of the ongoing debates surrounding tax avoidance and tax evasion, but also because of changes in everything from self-assessments and benefits to the way employees are paid.
"2013 is going to be an interesting year," said Andrew.
"We may fall into recession again, which will be worrying for this area, and the issue of tax avoidance and tax evasion will be big news for the UK as a whole.
"The new year's resolution for Hull and East Riding businesses needs to be to shy away from certain tax schemes. If something sounds too good to be true, then stay well clear."
Jackie said: "One of the biggest changes, which will affect just about every business, is the requirement on employers from April 2013 to report PAYE in real time.
"This means each time an employee is paid, their employer must submit details to HMRC online, whether this is at 5pm or 4am.
"The impact this would have on smaller businesses, particularly rural ones which may not have access to broadband, remains to be seen."