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What to pay - PAYE or VAT?

Insolvent company cannot afford to pay both

New client referred by an ISP. Company struck off for not filing accounts. Bank account frozen with £40k in it. No salary reported or dividends declared. About £70k cash withdrawn by sole director over 3 years. No VAT or CT600 returns ever filed. Only standard reminders/penalties from HMRC so far. No threat YET of them restoring the company, forcing liquidation and demanding re-payment of DLA to cover tax debts. Company ceased trading due to public sector IR35 rules. Director now works through an umbrella.

Proposed solution:-

1) Restore company by court order to avoid late filing penalties and unfreeze bank account.

2) Quantify loan a/c and calculate monthly salary required to offset drawings.

3) Calculate VAT, PAYE and CT bills.

4) Submit VAT/CT returns and do Earlier Year Updates for payroll.

5) Pay tax bills out of the remaining company funds.

6) Begin strike-off process with DS01.

7) Send copy to HMRC, tell them the whole story and suggest they write off the balance.

I estimate total tax bills of £53k and available funds (after paying £7k fees) of £33k. Tax shortfall = £20k + penalties & interest. Hence, insufficient funds to pay both VAT and PAYE in full. Corporation tax can go to the back of the queue as least likely to be debt transferred but is only about £5k anyway after deducting salary and employer NI.

HMRC could transfer VAT or PAYE debts to director citing neglect (failure to file VAT returns on time) and Regulation 72 (taking salary knowing the company cannot afford the PAYE). This has echoes with the 2010 Williams case where Reg 72 was upheld, although we could argue he thought of his drawings as salary and the company could have paid the PAYE at the time. Wouldn't like to rely on that as a defence though and would prefer to avoid a Reg 72 direction. Hence, minded to pay the PAYE in preference to VAT.

However, could be out of the frying pan into the fire if HMRC chase him for the unpaid VAT instead. How likely is this in practice? Do they only do this where there is evidence of fraud as opposed to head-in-the-sand neglect? If push comes to shove, is he more likely to survive a PAYE case or a VAT one?

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By mrme89
20th Oct 2017 07:39

Well you can’t do 6) if it has already been struck off.

Because of 6), the remaining points would be a waste of time and money.

If it has already been struck off, there is nothing to do.
The debts died with the company and any assets forfeited to Her Majesty.

They may come after the company for a while. But your client just needs to tell them that the company is dissolved. They’ll get the message eventually.

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to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 07:42

You perhaps have not noticed what step 1 is. After step 1 has been completed, step 6 is indeed possible.

The plan I think is to forestall what might happen if HMRC reinstate the company.

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By mrme89
to johngroganjga
20th Oct 2017 08:16

Why would you want to?

It seems a lot of time, effort and money for a big ‘if’.

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By cfield
to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 08:47

Thought I'd already made this clear. We don't want HMRC going down the court order route themselves in order to force liquidation as the ISP will then demand repayment of the outstanding DLA, bearing in mind there are insufficient funds to pay all taxes, let alone penalties and interest.

Doesn't sound like a "big if" to me. I'd have thought it was highly likely. An ISP would be failing in his duty if he didn't.

Doing it this way clears the DLA so only the cash in the bank account will be payable to HMRC....hopefully! We can settle its affairs on our terms and present it as a fait accompli.

My understanding is that if you go down the court order route you must pledge to dissolve the company as soon as you've unfrozen the assets and disposed of them. Once the company is restored, the DS01 process can be used.

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to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 09:22

I don't. It's the OP who does.

Whether it's worthwhile depends how big the "if" is.

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By Matrix
20th Oct 2017 09:07

Surely Step 1 should be pay accountant's fees? It seems as if you have done a lot of work already on a closed company owned by someone who had no intention of operating it properly and paying taxes. Have they paid you upfront?

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By cfield
to Matrix
20th Oct 2017 10:24

Don't worry. That's all been taken care of. I'm not that daft!

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20th Oct 2017 09:39

Did he actually pay salary though for the earlier years?

If you are using net salary to clear loan account which could otherwise be collected by an IP, surely this will just be regarded as re-writing history and the plan will fail?

Without contemporaneous records of the salary, I think you would be struggling, if someone is smart enough to think about it.

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By cfield
to JCresswellTax
20th Oct 2017 10:35

I've read in the past that HMRC often argue cash transfers are salary, even without payroll records, and demand PAYE. In fact, when RTI came in, Rebecca Bennyworth warned us that overdrawn loan accounts could be treated as salary in the absence of a formal loan agreement, so we are doing no more than HMRC would themselves if the company was still trading.

If the director thought of the money he took as salary, as so many often do, but just failed to operate a payroll for himself, we would simply be catching up with the PAYE and RTI obligations.

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20th Oct 2017 09:40

Sorry, can I just add that in my 30 years, I have never seen a company restored to collect outstanding tax. Not saying it hasn't happened, but I have never seen it.

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By mrme89
to JCresswellTax
20th Oct 2017 09:44

That is why the SpongeBob Plan is so popular.

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By cfield
to JCresswellTax
20th Oct 2017 10:37

I gather it's happening a lot more now and HMRC are much more aggressive in transferring tax debts to directors than they used to be.

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20th Oct 2017 10:09

I would be careful
Declaring a salary to offset the DLA the way you suggest could be deemed fraudulent preference and the client would have to repay the money when HMRC wind it up . (Note the when , which they certainly will do once they wake up after the restoration)
I assume the director has not declared any salary during the 3 years so how do you think they will let you do it now when he owes £70k which would balance the books and repay HMRC
I would steer very clear of this as there appears to be nothing in it for you except misery and hard work
Will the ex director pay you a substantial fee up front and pay for all the restoration fees? If not don't accept the instructions
I rather like alternative 8 i.e. DO NOTHING

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By cfield
to bernard michael
20th Oct 2017 10:49

I don't see how it can be fraudulent preference when the only creditor is HMRC. The director took the cash when the company was solvent. He's only treating it as salary, as HMRC would have wanted under IR35, so I don't think it's wrong. We could even call it a deemed payment. They don't see anything wrong with that, do they?

Also, I can't see the point in HMRC blocking a striking off or restoring the company afterwards when there is no DLA to recover and they've already had all the available cash. At least the director is trying his best to rectify matters now and using all the cash to pay taxes rather than doing a runner with it as so many others are apt to do these days.

Yes there is a substantial fee and the director is paying this up-front out of his own pocket.

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By ShayaG
to cfield
24th Oct 2017 14:49

Either the payroll has a legal effect (fraudulent preference) or not (pointless waste of time).

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20th Oct 2017 10:14

Why isn't the ISP that referred this client to you dealing with this? Surely they should be sorting this out, recalling the DL and repaying any debts to HMRC. It looks like a can of worms that could cost you a lot of time if HMRC appoint their own ISP.

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By cfield
to lesley.barnes
20th Oct 2017 10:57

I suspect the IP didn't want to potentially compromise himself by giving advice detrimental to a creditor, HMRC, and referred the client to me for an independent opinion.

Don't forget, the company doesn't officially exist at the moment, so there is nothing for him to liquidate.

I can't see any advantage to HMRC calling in the Official Receiver when they've already had all the available cash, there is no DLA to recover and the company has been dissolved. For one thing, who is going to pay the fees?

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20th Oct 2017 10:19

It takes a special person to want to help people like that.

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By cfield
to andy.partridge
20th Oct 2017 11:05

I've told Mourinho many times, it's me who's The Special One!

In fairness to the director, he has held his hands up and admitted it was foolish to ignore all the envelopes coming through his door. All he wants to do now is put matters straight and he is paying the fees himself. The IP said he was even willing to go into bankruptcy.

Also, it's a nice little earner and a chance to build a good relationship with a local IP.

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20th Oct 2017 10:54

On question I put that needs answering
Did the director declare the salary as a taxable income in any of the last 3 years. If not why not?

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By cfield
to bernard michael
20th Oct 2017 11:07

Need you ask? He hasn't done any of his own tax returns either. He will pay a few grand in Schedule 55 penalties.

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20th Oct 2017 11:04

I can see others hinting similarly to my thoughts about the salary.

I think you are treading on thin ice with this and it is not something I would be comfortable doing.

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20th Oct 2017 11:04

If your fees are coming out of the 40k then you are being treated as a preferential creditor, which the Company can't do. The company, once restored, is insolvent, therefore it's debts must be repaid from the 40k pro rata to all creditors. You can't pick and choose who gets paid what.

Given that the Company doesn't exist, and in effect the 53k is actually only a 13k debt to the Govt, then I would suggest this is left well alone. You are suggesting increasing that debt to 20k, why?

Why would you then be filing DS01 when you are fully aware that the Director has assets (overdrawn DLA)

Regarding VAT and PAYE, a lot of people forget that the money isn't their's to begin with. They are simply collecting a tax on behalf of HMRC and, strictly speaking, shouldn't be touched. A contractor (in my opinion) has even less of an excuse to touch that tax than a company genuinely struggling and using it as cash flow, which is perfectly understandable, even though it's wrong to do it.

Who is the IP acting for?

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By cfield
to JCresswellTax
20th Oct 2017 11:25

Ask yourself this. If HMRC opened an IR35 enquiry, how would they wish the matter to be dealt with then? They would insist on a Deemed Payment being calculated for each tax year and demand PAYE.

This is effectively what we're doing. As far as the PAYE bill is concerned, it is immaterial whether we call it salary or a year end deemed payment. In fact, they're better off calling it salary as there is no 5% allowance (although that is offset by the employer NI allowance for 2014/15).

They are getting their PAYE. It is half the VAT and all the corporation tax they will have to forego. That was the crux of my query. Will they debt transfer the VAT? If that is likely, should we risk a Regulation 72 direction instead in the hope of a better outcome than Michael Williams of Instafix Ltd?

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 11:36

I don't quite understand though.

If you are calling this an effective deemed payment, there must then be sufficient funds for the PAYE/NIC and VAT to be paid? If not then surely the 'deemed payment' will be excessive?

If the VAT/PAYE cant be paid then it appears the director has drawn amounts in excess of his net salary so there would still be scope for HMRC to chase the overdrawn amount?

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By cfield
to JCresswellTax
20th Oct 2017 12:03

Good point. I suspect the requisite salary will exceed profits once grossed up for PAYE and some of the cash drawings will turn out to have been paid out of funds that should have been used to pay the VAT.

In that case, a deemed payment won't be enough and we are back to calling it salary, but if that's what he thought it was at the time and there is no evidence of fraud (just gross mismanagement) I don't think HMRC can overturn that and insist on collecting an overdrawn DLA.

It is their own policy to treat drawings as wages if there is no written loan agreement, so it's not that irregular.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 11:39

cfield wrote:

Ask yourself this. If HMRC opened an IR35 enquiry, how would they wish the matter to be dealt with then?

I think this is shaky thinking. For one thing, anticipating what one creditor would do in a hypothetical situation and applying it to a different one (especially when it benefits a debtor) is risky. But in general, as the company is insolvent once restored, it's up to the IP and creditors to decide the next steps, isn't it?

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By cfield
to WhichTyler
20th Oct 2017 12:08

WhichTyler wrote:

I think this is shaky thinking. For one thing, anticipating what one creditor would do in a hypothetical situation and applying it to a different one (especially when it benefits a debtor) is risky. But in general, as the company is insolvent once restored, it's up to the IP and creditors to decide the next steps, isn't it?


There are no other creditors but HMRC so using the £40k to pay their taxes shouldn't break insolvency rules. It will be up to them what happens afterwards, but I suspect they will recognise there is no point in pursuing the matter any further and write off the outstanding tax. That seems to be what usually happens.
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By cfield
to legerman
20th Oct 2017 11:46

legerman wrote:

If your fees are coming out of the 40k then you are being treated as a preferential creditor, which the Company can't do.

He's paying the £7k personally. The IP was comfortable with this being reimbursed to him once the bank account is unfrozen, but I must admit, it does seem a bit dodgy and I suspect he will have second thoughts on this.

legerman wrote:

Why would you then be filing DS01 when you are fully aware that the Director has assets (overdrawn DLA)

Because the company is not trading and has no hope of paying the remaining taxes. The DLA will disappear so this is not an issue.

legerman wrote:

Regarding VAT and PAYE, a lot of people forget that the money isn't their's to begin with. They are simply collecting a tax on behalf of HMRC and, strictly speaking, shouldn't be touched. A contractor (in my opinion) has even less of an excuse to touch that tax than a company genuinely struggling and using it as cash flow, which is perfectly understandable, even though it's wrong to do it.

Yes, we all know that, but at least he is giving them the remaining cash and not doing a runner as so many others do, so he deserves some credit for that

legerman wrote:

Who is the IP acting for?

Just the director at the moment. The company doesn't exist.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 12:41

cfield wrote:

Yes, we all know that, but at least he is giving them the remaining cash and not doing a runner as so many others do, so he deserves some credit for that

You keep saying this but I disagree. He owes the company enough money to cover all the tax liabilities but is in the process of, through you, restoring the company so he can wipe out his own debt, increase the tax liability and then, once he's no longer on the hook for it, telling HMRC they can have what's left.

What does he deserve credit for? The head in the sand approach would leave HMRC better off since they could seek the cash from him.

If you think he's doing a good thing by not also emptying the bank account and then fleeing then you could as well say he deserves some credit for not sending in his late returns with an anthrax letterbomb.

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By cfield
to Duggimon
20th Oct 2017 13:23

Duggimon wrote:

If you think he's doing a good thing by not also emptying the bank account and then fleeing then you could as well say he deserves some credit for not sending in his late returns with an anthrax letterbomb.


Don't tempt me!

Who are we to say it wasn't salary if that's what the director sincerely thought it was at the time? Looking at it another way, did he consciously borrow that money from the company on the understanding he would have to pay it back one day? No, of course not. He considered it remuneration. All we are doing is recognising that fact retrospectively.

OK, so he's 3 years late with the record-keeping, but how many owner/directors bothered with payroll before RTI came along? All they did was let their accountants do the PAYE returns at the year end and most of them didn't even know how much they were "earning" until they got the P60. Should we have said, "Sorry, you didn't give yourself a staff contract or vote yourself salary in a board minute by the end of the tax year so we're just going to have to treat all your cash drawings as a loan. You can have a salary now though".

Of course, we could do just that. It would avoid any risk of the salary being disregarded as retrospective and clear the loan account, but there are 2 problems.

Firstly, it would almost certainly fall foul of Regulation 72 as it would be known when the salary was paid that there was insufficient cash to settle the PAYE bill (which would be huge if he gets all that money in one go).

Secondly, the company has already ceased trading, so no hope of claiming terminal loss relief against profits for the previous 3 years. That means there will be a huge corporation tax bill too.

I think the way I'm proposing to deal with this reflects the commercial reality. It's just late payroll, that's all, same as the late VAT returns and the late CT600s.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 14:14

cfield wrote:

I think the way I'm proposing to deal with this reflects the commercial reality. It's just late payroll, that's all, same as the late VAT returns and the late CT600s.

And I think the way you're choosing to deal with it is to first decide by what means your client can get away with paying as little as possible then finding a justification for it after the fact.

That's not to say I think there's a flaw in your plan, that it won't work or that it contradicts the legal position, my objection is that you seem to also be looking for some sort of moral justification for it, as though this is the correct and honest treatment rather than just the most financially beneficial to your client.

Consider this perhaps, the vast majority of my limited company clients who come to me are already well aware that the money you get from your own limited company is dividends and I have to explain to them why it may be beneficial to pay a salary so who's to say these payments weren't dividends?

The truth of it is the payments weren't anything other than the client taking the company's money and your argument for it being salary is simply retrospective justification of the most beneficial course to your client. Which is fine, that's who you represent, just don't try to argue on here that it's actually the most factually correct and therefore only reasonable decision.

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By cfield
to Duggimon
20th Oct 2017 15:42

Duggimon wrote:

And I think the way you're choosing to deal with it is to first decide by what means your client can get away with paying as little as possible then finding a justification for it after the fact.

No I'm not. All I'm trying to do is clear this mess up as efficiently as possible without it dragging on for years. The director already accepts that the £40k is lost. There is no scope for reducing the tax the company will owe, but we can make sure he benefits from limited liability and does not get lumbered with the company's debts.

Dugimmon wrote:

That's not to say I think there's a flaw in your plan, that it won't work or that it contradicts the legal position, my objection is that you seem to also be looking for some sort of moral justification for it, as though this is the correct and honest treatment rather than just the most financially beneficial to your client.

I'm not seeking moral justification any more than a barrister would try to defend a client on moral grounds. Morality doesn't come into it - you know that. I'm just explaining why it is correct to treat this as salary, even though no payroll was operated.

Dugimmon wrote:

Consider this perhaps, the vast majority of my limited company clients who come to me are already well aware that the money you get from your own limited company is dividends and I have to explain to them why it may be beneficial to pay a salary so who's to say these payments weren't dividends?

That really would be twisting reality. There is absolutely no evidence for dividends. He probably didn't even think of them. Dividends won't save him money anyway. He'll still lose the £40k as the PAYE bill would be replaced by a huge corporation tax bill. The overall tax liability would go down but it would merely reduce the unpaid element. Not only that, but he'd have dividend tax to pay for 2016/17 too.

Duggimon wrote:

The truth of it is the payments weren't anything other than the client taking the company's money and your argument for it being salary is simply retrospective justification of the most beneficial course to your client.

You're basing that argument on salary not being salary unless it went through a payroll. That might at first seem axiomatic, but actually even HMRC don't hold that view. Otherwise, they wouldn't chase businesses for PAYE on payments to people thought to be self employed but who they retrospectively/unilaterally deem to be employees.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 13:11

cfield wrote:

legerman wrote:

Regarding VAT and PAYE, a lot of people forget that the money isn't their's to begin with. They are simply collecting a tax on behalf of HMRC and, strictly speaking, shouldn't be touched. A contractor (in my opinion) has even less of an excuse to touch that tax than a company genuinely struggling and using it as cash flow, which is perfectly understandable, even though it's wrong to do it.

Yes, we all know that, but at least he is giving them the remaining cash and not doing a runner as so many others do, so he deserves some credit for that

No he doesn't sorry. He (on the advice of the IP no doubt) is wanting to restore the Company in order to pay the IP his fees (and no doubt your fees) which in turn increases the debt to HMRC by 7k.

legerman wrote:

Who is the IP acting for?

Just the director at the moment. The company doesn't exist.

[/quote]

That's exactly the reason I asked the question. Of course the IP is happy for the director to restore the Company because there's £40k sat in the bank account, and thus the IP can get paid. The fact that the fees have absolutely nothing to do with the Company would leave the Director liable on the DLA for that 7k.

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By cfield
to legerman
20th Oct 2017 13:35

legerman wrote:

Of course the IP is happy for the director to restore the Company because there's £40k sat in the bank account, and thus the IP can get paid.

There are no plans for the IP to be paid anything (although no doubt he will bill the director for advice to date). The whole idea is to avoid a formal liquidation. There is no point in HMRC forcing one as there will be no assets to liquidate.

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20th Oct 2017 13:18

One more thought:
You: Dear Court, please will you unfreeze this co?
Court: Why?
You: So that the company be wound up again, leaving HMRC owed money.
Court: But I see from the published accounts that the company is solvent, once the director pays back his loan
You: ah you see it s not really a loan, it should have been a salary
Court: [stares over the top of half moon glasses] Hmmm...

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By cfield
to WhichTyler
20th Oct 2017 13:39

It won't be like that. We just fill out a form requesting the company be reinstated so the bank account can be unfrozen and the company can settle its tax debts. Once that purpose has been achieved, we have to wind it up again. Those are the rules as far as I'm aware.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 14:37

But it's not settling its tax debts, is it?

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By cfield
to WhichTyler
20th Oct 2017 14:39

Not all of them no. But then again, how many insolvent companies do?

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By mrme89
20th Oct 2017 14:06

I feel sorry for the director. Most people would let sleeping dogs lie, but the more I read, this isn't going to happen because there's an IP and accountant rubbing their hands together.

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to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 14:10

Depends on how much the director wants to do things right, but based on previous experience....

I also don't get why the OP believes HMRC (or any IP appointed) won't pursue collection of the company's main asset - the DLA!

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By cfield
to JCresswellTax
20th Oct 2017 15:12

JCresswellTax wrote:

I also don't get why the OP believes HMRC (or any IP appointed) won't pursue collection of the company's main asset - the DLA!

How many more times? The DLA won't exist. In fact, given that the drawings were always meant to be salary (he certainly didn't think he'd be paying back a loan) there never was an overdrawn DLA. Just a load of payroll admin and years of PAYE debts.

He didn't understand he had to run a payroll, but he did understand that money was earned by him and was his rightful remuneration. Just because he didn't follow the correct procedures, that doesn't change this fundamental commercial reality.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 15:48

How do you reconcile this with your chief concern (expressed at 08.47 to mrme89 above), that

cfield wrote:

the ISP will... demand repayment of the outstanding DLA

?
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By cfield
to Tax Dragon
20th Oct 2017 16:10

Because if the company goes into liquidation without any further action being taken, they will identify an overdrawn DLA and it will be almost impossible at that stage to do anything about it, whereas if we follow the course of action in my OP, we can reasonably argue that there never was an overdrawn DLA.

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to cfield
20th Oct 2017 16:22

I know I'm pretty simple minded, but in said simple mind of mine I have the daft notion that either there was, or there wasn't, a DLA. The past is the past; doing stuff now doesn't change what was, or was not.

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By cfield
to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 15:03

This is absolute rubbish. Before he saw me, he was very stressed out and convinced that he would have to declare himself bankrupt. Now he can draw a line under it.

Sleeping dogs? It's a dog that might easily wake up and give him a nasty bite. What makes you think nothing will happen if things are left as they are? At any point, HMRC could put this company into liquidation and then he'll be chased for £70k. There won't be much change out of that. Not after the horrendous penalties and interest they'll charge.

Yes, most people would just leave it. Hoping for the best. Fingers crossed eh? Unfortunately, the best doesn't often happen. You might be right. Maybe they won't take any action and the sleeping dog never wakes up, but should he really take that chance?

For your information, a qualified IP approved this course of action, even though he won't get a penny out of it. You know better than him, do you?

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By mrme89
to cfield
20th Oct 2017 16:02

How would HMRC go about putting a company that no longer exists into liquidation?

If the company was struck off because it didn't file accounts, HMRC don't even know about the DLA you're banging on about.

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By cfield
to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 16:22

mrme89 wrote:

How would HMRC go about putting a company that no longer exists into liquidation?

By applying for a court order, as they do all the time.

mmre89 wrote:

If the company was struck off because it didn't file accounts, HMRC don't even know about the DLA you're banging on about.

Not yet, but they probably will eventually.

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By mrme89
to cfield
20th Oct 2017 16:26

So you want to:-
1) Restore the company
2) Flag all this to HMRC
3) Try and rewrite history such as the salary, possibly making any dealings with HMRC worse.
4) Get the company to incur further debt via PAYE - my understanding is that a director had an obligation to seize trading and to prevent further debt being incurred. Not the other way around.
5) Charge the client handsomely

And your client will be in a better position than they are currently in?

Have I misunderstood anything?

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By cfield
to mrme89
20th Oct 2017 16:50

Yes, you've misunderstood everything!

The tax bills won't go away. Nor will the debt collectors. You are not off the hook just by letting your company get struck off. HMRC do have counter-measures.

No re-writing history. Just catching up with payroll work.
How do you know it wasn't salary? What do you think the director saw it as?

Seize trading? That's a good one. Do you mean cease trading? The company already has ceased trading. That doesn't mean company admin must cease too.

Recognising outstanding PAYE obligations is not a new debt. You're confusing this with wrongful trading.

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