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The plumber who came in from the cold

16th May 2011
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I hope you all haven’t forgotten your plumbers (which for the purpose of this exercise includes gas fitters and heating engineers, though in the days when I taught Liberal Studies the gas fitters were the crème de la crème and would not have mixed in such company). The 31st of May is the date by which they must register to obtain the reduced penalties

It is very noticeable that the Plumbers Tax Safe Plan has been wholly unmentioned by the media since a little flurry on 1 March, so quite a lot of people will have forgotten all about it. Then at the other end of the scale you have HMRC’s booklet on it, which runs to 33 pages, which rather suggests that it is aimed at professional advisers rather than tradespeople  – though of course the people HMRC really want to come forward – the ghosts - won’t actually have professional advisers.

Campaigns are supposed to be a vital part of HMRC’s New Order but we all seem to have the attention span of the average teenager on these points, and instead we are all roaring away about the inspection of business records : even HMRC does not seem to be giving PTSP (now there’s a catchy acronym) a lot of encouragement at the moment. This is supposedly a very important event, because it is the first campaign to move to the main areas of small business (yes, there was the medical campaign, but a great deal of what that picked up was not trading or professional income, and this one is moving into what myth and legend and lazy thinking would tell us is the heartland of tax evasion). It also makes it comparatively explicit that people other than plumbers who come forward will get the same terms. HMRC dislikes the term “amnesty” but that is what it is.

Quite what anyone thinks of it is harder to say. HMRC’s Compliance Reform Forum (which has some oversight of HMRC “campaigns”) met on 24 February but its minutes are not yet available. HMRC had seen this as the next potential campaign for some time (there were some remarks by Dave Hartnett last year). One reason for selecting this area is the need for some kind of registration, whether through the Gas Safe register or the Institute of Plumbers, which of course provides  databases for HMRC to search.

The increasing requirement for professional registration and for inspection of domestic work is going to make the field less and less rewarding for cowboys, and is going to make it very difficult simultaneously to make yourself known to potential customers and to avoid making yourself known to HMRC. When I worked for them (many moons ago) there was much talk of what could be gained from the small ads in newsagents’ windows (and now of course in the supermarkets) though much less use seemed to be made of them than there might have been. These days you can hardly run your own website and expect to stay under the radar !  It may be possible in some areas to operate a business with new referrals by word of mouth, but it is going to be increasingly difficult as the cuts bite into disposable income.

So the moral of this is to say get on board now!  If you have plumbing (etc) clients you are doubtful about, a spot of the old third degree might do them good in the long run.

Replies (3)

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By frustratedwithhmrc
16th May 2011 11:54

Using GasSafe (formerly CORGI) as a registration mechanism

The problem with using GasSafe (formerly CORGI) as a registration mechanism is that all it takes is for some enterprizing young gent to start producing duplicate GasSafe ID's based upon the registration information.

Then your ghost plumber can safely do as many jobs as he likes and either alternate a couple of faked cards or simply swap them after a couple of months to prevent detection.

If HMRC do start checking and find that a gas fitter in the Dundee area has been doing jobs all across London (often at the same time as jobs in Dundee), then they'll realise that a spot of Identity theft is going on. However, that would require due dilligence.

What do you think the chances are that HMRC would just start an investigation without revealing the reason and then have the poor gas fitter framed with evidence of undeclared income. I suspect that the chances would be high.

Thanks (1)
By juliekpb
16th May 2011 15:05

PTSP b****x!

What about those cilents you are certain are up front and correct?  My client has just received one of these letters and is seriously worried in case they made any minor errors which will be jumped on.  If I am confident the client has declared everything do I tell HMRC where to go?  Or is this a red rag to a bull?  If I do get the client to join their petty little scheme, is this tantamount to agreeing that there is something wrong?  Help - advice needed!

Thanks (0)
By nathaliejones
08th Aug 2013 06:19

Plumber have no problem of getting weak to their work because its a scarce to have an opportunity like this especially in a cold range but there's a haendiges plumbing services will keeps you alive to your leaking tube.

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