Even in the middle of the SA tax return season, HMRC continue to issue penalties for errors in past returns. In many cases those penalties can be suspended, and we have some tips to help you achieve the best outcome for your client. We also explain how the Scottish income tax bands for 2017/18 will work. Finally, in case you have not completed your Christmas shopping, we have a reminder of the “Santa clause” regarding tax-free gift vouchers for employees.

What follows is an extract from our weekly tax tips as explained in the box at the side (or below if you’re viewing this on a mobile device)

The Santa clause

If your clients are feeling generous towards their employees this Christmas, you can advise them to provide each employee with a gift voucher worth up to £50. These vouchers are tax and NI free, if certain conditions are met, and a company can even give tax-free vouchers to its directors.

This tax-free gift possible due to the new statutory exemption for trivial benefits, which applies from 6 April 2016 (see page 4 of Employer Bulletin). The vouchers must not be exchangeable for cash, so if the shop allows the customer to receive change in cash when using the voucher, it doesn’t qualify as a tax-free trivial benefit.

Also, the gift vouchers (or other non-cash benefit) must not be given as reward for services. So the employer can’t say to his staff; “If you finish all the orders by 24 December I’ll give you each a voucher”. He has to surprise them with the gifts, but he doesn’t have to give the same amount to everyone in order to make it tax-free.

The company can also be generous to its management, but the directors and their families can only receive up to £300 of tax-free trivial benefits per tax year. There is no limit to the number of tax-free vouchers an employer can give to other staff members, as long as each gift is not worth more than £50.