HMRC gives employers 30 days to come clean over furlough support claims

Howdenshire-based tax dispute specialist Independent Tax is warning that new powers enabling HMRC to pursue employers and company directors who have misused the Government’s Covid-19 furlough support packages will further add to the pressure faced by business as a result of the pandemic.

Last week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak amended the Finance Bill to give HMRC the power to pursue those who abuse the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS). The new powers will allow HMRC to charge 100 per cent tax on payments that have been made to employees since the schemes were introduced in March of this year. HMRC will also be able to pursue small companies that received a government grant of up to £25,000. Action will be taken if they believe that the business did not require a loan or ceased trading shortly after receiving the funds.

The Finance Bill is expected to receive Royal Assent in mid-July, at which point it will become law. From that date, any business or individual that has received payments from CJRS or SEISS will have just 30 days to inform HMRC that they applied by mistake and pay the amounts back without penalty.

Gary Brothers, Managing Partner of Brackenholme-based Independent Tax, explained: “HMRC believe that fraud and mischief exists in various areas, including businesses that have required staff to continue working despite receiving the 80 per cent furlough payments from the government; businesses that have not passed the full furlough amount on to their employees; self-employed people ‘moonlighting’ on other work, despite having taken support; and self-employed people falsely amending their tax returns to maximise their SEISS payments.”

In May, Independent Tax was made aware that HMRC was already conducting more than 1,000 investigations into potential furlough ‘abuse’ as a result of information received from whistleblowers through its fraud hotline. Less than one month on, HMRC has advised that the number of investigations is now closer to 2,000. 

Gary continued: “In addition to relying on whistle-blowers, HMRC is at pains to point out that they have access to an incomprehensible wealth of information and cutting-edge forensic review technology, which allows their Risk & Intelligence Teams to trawl through millions of pieces of data in seconds to find furlough ‘abuse’, without the need for whistle-blower information.

“Because these new powers are being introduced at a new 100 per cent rated tax band, the penalties provided for in the Taxes Acts will apply, which means that, on top of an employer having to repay all the money to HMRC, they could also be issued with penalties of up to 100 per cent, as well as interest! In the worst cases, HMRC has said that it will seek to criminally prosecute people.”

He advised: “What’s alarming is that the burden to prove otherwise and discharge the enquiry sits with the those being investigated. As such, we strongly recommend that detailed records of any claims under CJRS or SEISS are kept for the statutory period of six years.

“If you believe that an application for either CJRS or SEISS payments was made mistakenly and that such an admission needs to be made to HMRC, expert advice should be sought. At this point in time, we are uncertain how HMRC will approach these disclosures but, based on our collective experience of working for both HMRC and private practice, the view tends to be that if a taxpayer is treating their affairs incorrectly there’s a strong chance that they’re doing so in other areas too. Expert advice could help to minimise the risk of a voluntary admission of a mistake spreading exponentially into other areas of your tax affairs.”

 

Photography competition winners announced

Howden Rotary Club has announced the winners of its recent photography competition… Rebecca Andrews won the 13 to 19 years age group and Jackie Halliday emerged victorious in the adult category.

Each of the winners received a prize of £20 to donate to the charity of their choice.

Rebecca, who only turned 13 in May and attends Howden Senior school, took her winning photograph on a family walk in Gilberdyke during lockdown. The talented teenager chose to donate her prize money to Mission Trinity in Goole.

Jackie, who captured her winning image (below) on a walk at a local nature reserve, opted to give her prize to homeless charity Shelter, explaining: “It always upset me when I was passing through the car park in York near the river, on seeing someone so young living rough and on his own.”

Two runners-up – Leah Coates (13) and Graham Garrett – were each awarded £10 for their chosen charities.

Howden Rotary Club President Ray Guthrie said: “On behalf of the members and committee of Howden Rotary Club, I would like to thank all the photographers who entered photographs in our competition; the standard of the entries was excellent.

I’d also like to say a huge thank you to Ken Duck, who had the extremely difficult task of judging the competition. Ken has been a local photographer for many years and is a member of Howden Camera Club. Although he is now retired, he was a qualified member of the British Institute of Professional Photography, so we are most grateful to him for his time and expertise.”

 

Junction challenges local people to get creative!

Goole arts venue Junction is looking for 2D artworks to brighten up the poster boards outside the front of the building while they remain closed to the public.

Artwork can be made by adults or children, and could be drawn, painted, stitched or written – as long as it’s flat, Junction can accept it. Your piece could be related to the lock-down or about something completely different, the only limit is your imagination!

The artwork will be displayed in the large film poster boards near the main entrance and will be visible to all visitors to Paradise Place. It should be no larger than A3 size in any format. If you would like your name to be displayed alongside your artwork, please include this clearly with your submission. As the boards are outside, artwork may be damaged by the elements whilst on display and, for this reason, Junction will be unable to return any artwork submitted.

Drop off physical artworks at Junction between 10 and 2pm from Monday to Friday, or send any digital work to lauren.gtc@btconnect.com.

Local singing star is bound for the big smoke

By Emily Collins

Florence Taylor is well known to local audiences, having performed at many events and venues around Howden from a young age.

But now, the mezzo soprano singer is also becoming well known to audiences up and down the country, thanks to her talented vocals and spine-tingling performances.

At only 22 years of age, Florence is just starting her career in the industry but has already performed at York’s Grand Opera House and sang with the Northern Academy of Performing Arts. She was even invited to perform at BBC Countryfile Live at Castle Howard last summer, a performance that she describes as the highlight of her career so far.

After graduating from Leeds College of Music last year she’s now heading to the prestigious Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance to study for a master’s degree in music.

Florence says she is delighted to be attending the school, adding: “I am so excited to move to London in September. Although the Covid-19 pandemic means things will be slightly different, I have decided to go ahead with my masters and am really looking forward to it.

“I will be living with my boyfriend, which is really exciting too. I lived in Leeds during my undergraduate degree, but living in London will be a completely new experience.”

With several impressive performances under her belt, Florence is set to make waves in the capital and revealed that she has big dreams for the future: “The list of places I would love to perform at is as long as my arm, but my biggest goals are to perform on a West End stage or at the Royal Albert Hall.

“At the moment though I would just love to perform on any stage!”

With all theatres and venues forced to close during the lockdown, it is several months since Florence was last in her ‘happy place’ – up on stage – but she has not let that stop her spreading joy through her singing.

She explained: “I started doing Quarantine Concerts on my Facebook as a way to bring some music into people’s homes and keep myself entertained throughout the lockdown. However, it has now become so much more than that. So many people have been isolating on their own, including many of my friends and family, and throughout the last few weeks I have realised how special it is to be able to cheer people up through my music.”

When her online performances began to gain popularity, Florence also decided to use her platform to help raise money for key workers. Last month she teamed up with family friend Timothy Gorton to produce a special rendition of Let It Be (Stay At Home), to show support for the NHS, with all proceeds going to the Laura Hyde Foundation, a charity working to support the mental health needs of frontline workers.

The kind-hearted singer has now also started producing special videos for couples who have been unable to get married due to the virus.

She explained: “I realised that many couples had been left devastated at having to cancel their wedding, so I wanted to do something to help.”

Florence decided to offer custom-made videos for couples, singing what should have been their first dance or walk down the aisle song and adding a montage of photographs of the ‘nearly wed’ couple, again with all profits going to the Laura Hyde Foundation.

We asked Florence to share some of her top tips with Howdenshire Magazine readers who want to follow in her footsteps and pursue a career in music.

She said: “My biggest tip has to be…learn your music! I really struggled with my nerves at first and I realised that, until I could get to a point where I could literally concentrate on a bird singing outside or what I was having for dinner, there was no chance of me conveying the song properly and enjoying what I was singing without nerves.

“Also, always warm up! When I haven’t in the past it has done terrible things to my voice.

“Finally, just go for it. If you want to learn to sing, insecurity and holding back are some of the worst things for the voice and can really strain it, so let loose and belt it out!”

Despite already having achieved so much, Florence remains very humble and says she just loves to see the reaction of her audiences and put a smile on their face.

Quick-fire Q&A with Florence Taylor:

What’s  your favourite thing about Howden?

“Well apart from Kitchen, it has to be the people. Having grown up in Howden, I know how friendly everyone is and I really feel at home there.”

What is your favourite place to eat in Howden?

“Well I guess I have already answered that, Kitchen!”

What is your favourite shop in Howden?

“I love them all! That is another great thing about Howden, there are so many unique small businesses. If I had to choose just one I think I would say Tom Loves, I wish I could buy everything in there!”

What’s your favourite musical?

“That’s a really hard question, but I would have to say Les Misérables. In 2015, I had the opportunity to take part in a West End Summer School and we were lucky enough to meet the cast of ‘Les Mis’ and that is what really made me know I wanted to go into music. I can never watch it and not cry.”

What is your favourite song to perform?

“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, or any of the wartime songs. I just love seeing the reaction of the older generation, who were alive during the war, remembering the songs that they listened to in their childhood.”

  • For more information on how to support Florence’s fundraiser for the Laura Hyde Foundation or to watch her Quarantine Concerts, visit her Facebook page.

It’s a life of crime for local author

The peaceful village of Swinefleet may seem an unlikely place for a successful crime novelist to find inspiration, but it’s where author Ray Clark (pictured) has lived and worked for the last 30 years.

Ray embarked on his writing career in 1995 and has an extensive back catalogue of published work to his name, some of which has been shortlisted for awards.

Explaining where his passion for writing began, he said: “I enjoyed writing at school but, like most kids, I’d start something and not finish it. It was when a read The Manitou by Graham Masterton – a book full of Indian legends – that my interest was piqued and it started from there.”

Although Ray initially wrote horror stories, his interest in crime writing was inspired by the work of bestselling author Peter James.

He explained: “I liked what Peter was doing with crime writing and – no pun intended – horror was a dying market. Peter has since become a good friend and opened lots of doors for me; he takes a real interest in my writing.”

When asked where ideas for the dark scenes in his novels come from, Ray revealed: “I’ve always had a good imagination, but I grew up watching Hammer horror films. In fact, I’ve just returned from Transylvania, where I enjoyed a good look around. Although it wasn’t quite like in the Hammer films, it was still very atmospheric!”

Ray’s first full length crime novel, Impurity, was published by Caliburn Press in 2016 and was followed by Imperfection in 2017 and Implant in 2018. 

His latest novel, Impression, has now been released by his UK publisher, The Book Folks. It sees detectives Stewart Gardener and Sean Reilly called out at midnight to a housing estate in Batley, where they discover the dead body of a young woman pinned to the floor with a bayonet. Before the investigation is underway, Gardener takes a call informing them that there is another dead body propped up in a shop doorway in Birstall, only three miles away. There’s a connection between the bodies, and that is only the beginning.

Impression is available in Kindle e-book and paperback formats from leading wholesalers, including Amazon. It can also be ordered from traditional and independent bookshops and  The Book Folks website.

Fun activities for children under five years

East Riding Museums have unveiled even more activities for children under five years (including babies) and their families during this period when people are having to spend more time at home.

The new suggested activities – Boats, Windmills and Beverley Town – are inspired by Goole Museum, Skidby Mill and Beverley Guildhall and feature ideas for music and signing, craft, role play, sensory experiences, and messy play.

Activities on the theme of boats, including making a junk model boat and exploring the sensory qualities of rope, shells, wooden toys and pebbles, link with Goole Museum’s extensive collection of objects and stories relating to Goole’s history as a port town.

Activities inspired by Skidby Mill encourage people to investigate the physical qualities of windmills and their purpose. Ideas include building a giant windmill to play inside and making a messy play mix from flour and milk.

Beverley Guildhall’s collection showcases the history of Beverley and the surrounding villages, and themed activities include drawing a map and singing the classic song ‘The Wheels on the Bus’.

Lucy Cooke, under fives learning co-ordinator, said: “We have already suggested activities linked to our other East Riding Museums venues, so I am very pleased to unveil more ideas linked to more of our fantastic museums in the East Riding!

“I hope that people will enjoy trying out these ideas for fun things to do in these challenging times.”

Find these ideas at the new website, Active East Riding.

Local arts venues bring comedy into our homes

A number of the region’s best-loved small theatres and arts centres have joined forces to provide an evening of FREE entertainment from highly-acclaimed national touring acts, which will be broadcast live to viewers’ homes this Sunday 7 June at 8pm.

Part of the virtual comedy project Your Place Comedy, the broadcast will see two of Radio 4’s most popular comedy broadcasters, Jo Caulfield and Simon Evans, each deliver a live set direct from their own homes. Both Jo and Simon have been seen on BBC2’s Mock the Week and Live At The Apollo, as well as, between them, starring on BBC1’s Have I Got News For You and Question Time, BBC2’s Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Channel 4’s Stand Up For The Week. They are regulars on BBC Radio 4’s The Now Show, The News QuizThe Unbelievable Truth and Just A Minute. Jo has starred in three series of her own show, Its That Jo Caulfield Again, and Simon has written and presented five series of Simon Evans Goes To Market.

The event, which will be compered by writer and star of Radio 4’s The Gambler, presenter of CBBC’s Super Human Challenge and Edinburgh Comedy Award Best Newcomer nominee, Tim FitzHigham, will be free to watch on YouTube and Twitch, with an option for viewers to donate if they have enjoyed the broadcast. All money raised will be distributed equally between the ten supporting venues, which include Junction, Goole; Howden Shire Hall; Pocklington Arts Centre; East Riding Theatre at Beverley and Selby Town Hall, each of which is navigating its way through challenging financial times. The venues participating in the project have all pledged funds to support the performers involved and provide their audiences with entertainment from the kind of artists who, in normal times, would have been appearing in their local arts centre or theatre.

Chris Jones, manager of Selby Town Hall, said: “While, sadly, our doors remain closed for the immediate future, this hasnt stopped venues from across the region working hard to find new ways of delivering high quality entertainment in innovative formats to the audiences they miss so much. All the theatres and arts centres involved in Your Place Comedy are deeply rooted in their communities, and want to maintain those vital links which allow them to bring some of the most sought after national and international touring acts to the towns and cities of Yorkshire and beyond. We are all determined to help keep the live performance industry afloat at a time when it has never been needed more.”

For more information, visit Your Place Comedy.