It appears all too familiar nowadays to come across a company that can offer you over 80% of your take home pay and familiar may not be the most appropriate word - they are everywhere!
They claim to be HMRC compliant, approved by tax QCs, and in general seem "too good to be true", so how would you feel if a single decision you made about your finances could lose you your home, your family or worse still drive you to suicide? This is no exaggeration... There are some contractors who have ended up in these situations after having been caught by HMRC in what are termed Tax Avoidance schemes. It is common for users of tax avoidance schemes to face penalties from HMRC and then fines on top of their outstanding tax bill.
So, bearing all that in mind, how believable is an advert that says “Take home 90% of your income, 100% compliant”? Especially as the company offering the scheme will take a fee of around 5% of the contract value. To put it in context:
Available for HMRC:
£75,000 per annum
£3,750 per annum or £312.50 per month
£3,750 per annum or 5% of income
That is actually payable on earnings of £75,000 per annum is about £19,000 (depending on your tax code) so you would owe HMRC £15,250.00. Unfortunately, if they come after you for that, they wouldn’t just leave it at that; they would add penalties of up to 200% of the tax owed and then they would add interest. (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/news/offshore-penalties.pdf).
In recent cases with regards to BN66, any contractor found to have been using one of these schemes was deemed to owe tax and interest to cover the period with which they were involved in the scheme. The legal cases against scheme providers have been going on for over 5 years and the campaign group "No Retro Tax", set up by contractors affected by the legislation, state that the fight against retrospection has caused untold stress and in some cases has resulted in contractors losing their homes and their families.
This is what they have to say about the schemes:
"Not one single day goes by without me thinking about what might happen to me and my family. It is a living hell."
"It has been a constant source of stress, marital discord and sleepless nights. My wife has walked out on me twice, and she panics every time she sees a letter in the post box from HMRC."
"Words cannot describe what it is like living with this hanging over your head for such a long period. I have suffered from severe depression, and now suffer from anxiety and panic attacks brought on my the stress. I cannot move forward in my life and more depressing is that I cannot plan for my family's future. There have been moments where depression has got the better of me, and while not quite suicidal, I have thought my family would be better able to move on without this hanging over them. Needless to say, such moments are picked up by my family, even though my children have no idea what is going on."
"I have anxiety attacks about losing my home and where we will live and whether I will be able to secure work. I also have bouts of depression that are brought on by the fact that my actions have been criminalised. I have always been an honest, hard working person and brought up to believe in working hard to improve ones self."
"I am under enormous stress, I am unhappy and worried. My relationship is suffering. My family is unhappy. I am not working and money is short. The situation that I find myself in is causing more and more stress within myself and my family."
"We try not to talk about the situation as much as possible as it affects my wife very deeply and drives her almost to what I can only describe as a depression."
"I am totally at a loss for words to describe the anguish that I have gone through. Sufficed to say that my life, the relationships I have with others and those whom I share my life have been put under the same level of strain as a divorce or death of a loved one."
"Great anxiety and worry during this whole sorry saga, I feel ENTRAPPED , VICTIMISED , PERSECUTED and made to feel a criminal within the country I was born and thought I respected."
"But the worst impact of all by far has been the stress induced illnesses that my wife has had since all of this started. Her health and mental well-being has deteriorated and she is a shadow of her former self."
"I feel I have become withdrawn from life and on death-row. In fact suicidal thoughts have occurred. This 'sword of damycles' hanging over my head has affected my general well-being, sleep, quality of life and family relations."
"My wife and I are extremely stressed over this, which is also badly affecting our relationship. We are trying to hold it together, but may end up divorced."
"It has been crippling: mentally, emotionally, health-wise. Not a day goes by when I don't think about it. It is punitive, life-ending punishment."
"Stress & worry, although I am not on medication for it. My wife & I rarely discuss it, because she gets upset & cries."
"At times I have been in a very dark place, my sleep has suffered and I have even contemplated ending it all - fortunately I have now stepped back from the brink."
"Basically myself and my family (wife and 2 children) will have no where to live and we will lose everything we have ever worked for."
"It's completely put all my families life's on hold and taken over our lives. My wife and myself struggle to sleep as we are so worried about our future (or lack of it). Not one minute goes by without thinking about this. As our stress levels are so high we obviously argue on a fairly
regular basis, although we do try to hide this from our children."
"It's been going on for such a long time now I can't remember the last time we were happy..."
"There are times when I cannot face my family as it feels like the life we have built together is likely to be destroyed."
"My wife has suffered from bouts of depression over the last four years because of the uncertainty of our future."
"The stress is intolerable - I am worried, tired, depressed and afraid for the future. My 84 year old husband is ill and needs a comfortable, warm environment, which will vanish if we are forced to sell our home."
"I cannot overemphasise the effects of living with this total nightmare for years and years with no end in sight, even though I have done nothing illegal. I am a decent, honest person and have never committed a crime in my life, yet I am being treated as a criminal. I have brought up four children to be good citizens yet I am treated as a threat to society."
"Both I and my wife have lived with the stress since it began. It has affected our sleep to the point where we have resorted to taking sleeping pills to get to sleep. My wife still bursts into tears whenever she dwells on the situation."
"The situation has had a serious effect on my mental and physical health. I have lost night after night's sleep worrying about it. My relationship with my husband has been very strained because of the stress of the situation, my work performance (i.e. my livelihood) has suffered at times and most seriously this has sometimes meant that I have been unable to interact properly with my young children."
"The stress of the situation and the inability to do anything about an unjust retrospective law change has broken our spirit in a manner that has not allowed us to look positively at the future."
"My immediate family and i have been most profoundly adversely affected by this retrospective claim. My brother took his own life shortly after he received a similar claim."
"Constant stress, sleepless nights and live with the constant fear that we will lose everything we've worked so hard for and be unable to provide any security for my family."
Just take a moment to think, is it really worth the risk?