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Te Forum of Private Business (FPB) is warning entrepreneurs to update fully HM Revenue & Customs about any changes to their businesses, no matter how small, following a report that one firm is facing a £10k fine for not informing inspectors it had changed its name.

Te firm, which did not want to be identified but which has an exemplary record of VAT payments and submitting tax returns on time, was originally hit with a fine of over £30k under VAT notification liabilities contained in the Finance Act 1985 and later the VAT Act 1994.Te fine was imposed after the business changed from a partnership to a limited company – adding a ‘ltd’ to its name – without informing HMRC, despite it retaining the same VAT number and regardless of the fact the revenue did not lose out on tax payments.

Te fine has been reduced to just over £10k after intervention from accountants and the Forum’s Tax Adviser Andrew Needham, of VAT Specialists Ltd, but work is ongoing to reduce the penalty further.

“I am concerned that this is a change in HMRC’s long-standing policy of waiving its technical ability to impose this penalty fine in such circumstances,” said Mr Needham.

“If this is carried through and sets a

precedent it could result in huge fines being imposed on small businesses which, in reality, have done very little wrong.

“It is important that all small businesses

are aware they could face steep fines unless HMRC is kept fully updated – but this heavy-handed approach is the very opposite of the support that is desperately needed at this difficult time and HMRC risks further alienating firms hit by its disproportionate, targeted business records checks regime and widely-reported poor levels of service.”

Mr Needham pointed to a House of Commons debate in July 1986 on the legal clause to protect small traders making innocent mistakes from recently-introduced fixed VAT penalties, a clause which was subsequently included in the legislation. None other than the future Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said: “Nobody is suggesting that

there should not be compliance with VAT regulations - of course there should be. Te situations with which we are dealing are those in which there has been an innocent non-compliance. It should always be borne in mind that the power of mitigation depends precisely on the VAT tribunal commissioners thinking it right to exercise it.”

Te Forum has criticised HMRC’s

disproportionate treatment of small businesses while large companies routinely get away with widespread tax avoidance, and also its all-round poor levels of service.As part of its headline Get Britain Trading campaign the Forum has extended its ‘Business Buddy’ small business ‘work experience’ scheme to include tax inspectors as well as politicians, in order to give HMRC officials insights into the challenges and opportunities facing small businesses.Te Forum is urging all small business owners to contact its Public Affairs team about their experiences of HMRC – including if they have received fines they feel are unfair or disproportionate. Tey should call 01565 626016 or email publicaffairs@


Neil Douglass, financial controller for RENOLIT Cramlington was honoured for his charity works by becoming one of the Olympic torchbearers ahead of the London 2012 Games.

Nominated by his sister, Neil was one of 8,000 ‘inspirational people’ to carry the Olympic Flame – which stands for ‘peace, unity and friendship’ – as it journeyed across the UK.

In October 2010, Neil was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), an extremely rare type of blood cancer. Since his diagnosis, Neil has raised almost £10k for charity Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, which offers patients like him hope for the future, hope for a cure and support in the meantime. Neil’s admirable fundraising efforts have included the Coast 2 Coast Cycle Challenge, the Great North Run and a charity games night, which raised more than £3k. Neil commented: “I was originally nominated [to be a torchbearer] in June 2011, and never thought I would actually be chosen. I found out in March 2012 that I had successfully been selected and had passed all of the security checks. Only then did I start to realise just how important it would be to carry the Olympic Torch.

26 « Clearview NMS « September 2012 «

“Te anticipation built as June 15th approached and the day itself was amazing. Tousands of people lined the streets and cheered me along my stretch of road in North Shields, Tyne and Wear. It is an experience I am very lucky to have had and one I will never forget it. Carrying the flame was an incredible honour, only made possible by tremendous support from friends, family, colleagues and RENOLIT.”

A precise ritual for the lighting of the Olympic Flame is followed for every Olympic Games. Te flame is lit from the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the ancient Games.

In the case of the London 2012 Games, after a short relay around Greece, the flame was

handed to the UK as the host country at another ceremony at the Panathenaiko Stadium in Athens. Te flame was then delivered to the UK, where it transferred from one torchbearer to another on a 70-day relay, spreading the message of ‘peace, unity and friendship’.

During this time, the flame

travelled to within an hour of 95% of people in the UK. Te flame ends its journey as the last torchbearer lights the cauldron at the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. Te flame stays lit until it is extinguished at the Closing Ceremony, signifying the end of the Games.

If you would like to make a contribution to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research details can be found at

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