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JPH Law Solicitor Portadown
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Facebook tests 'work histories' feature
Facebook is looking to gain an advantage in the crowded online recruitment sector with the testing of a feature to enable users to create CVs - which the company calls a 'work histories' feature - and share them privately on the site as part of their search for a job.
TechCrunch

Diplomats cannot claim immunity in staff abuse claims
The Supreme Court in the UK has ruled that diplomats who are accused of abusing their staff cannot claim immunity to escape compensation actions. Anti-trafficking campaigners welcomed the landmark decision in favour of two domestic workers who said they were racial harassed and mistreated while employed at the London home of a Saudi diplomat.
The Independent The Times

Judge sues for whistleblowing protection
A British district judge who has spoken out over the impact of austerity on the justice system has taken a test whistleblowing case to the appeal court. While at Warrington county court, Claire Gilham complained about the lack of appropriate courtroom accommodation, the impact on district judges' workloads and dangers for judges and court staff, which she said were partly fuelled by cuts to legal aid. She is fighting employment tribunal rulings that do not class judges as "workers" but as "office holders", arguing that denying judges worker status also removes their entitlement to the standard legal protections granted to whistleblowers. Public Concern at Work, represented by law firm Leigh Day, says that to deprive those who hold judicial office from whistleblowing protection is incompatible with human rights laws.
The Guardian

Fund managers could lose half EU workforce
Research by the CFA Society UK has found that London’s fund management industry could lose half of its EU workers because of Brexit. Just 42% of fund management professionals polled said they plan to continue working in the UK after its departure from the EU. The responses showed that 16% are already planning to leave, with the remainder undecided. Will Goodhart, chief executive officer of CFA Society UK, commented: “While many of the outcomes of Brexit remain unclear, we can certainly expect a change in the profile of the investment management workforce in the UK.” Separately, a report from the Creative Industries Federation has warned that film, television and other creative industries in the UK are facing a potentially catastrophic loss of talent and skills after Brexit.

Theresa May says EU migrants can stay in UK
EU migrants who arrive in the UK over the next 18 months will be entitled to stay in Britain permanently after Brexit. In an open letter, Theresa May reassured EU citizens already in the country legally that they face no threat of expulsion after Britain leaves the EU in March 2019. The prime minister wrote: “EU citizens who have made their lives in the UK have made a huge contribution to our country. And we want them and their families to stay. I couldn't be clearer - EU citizens living lawfully in the UK today will be able to stay.” In a goodwill gesture, she said she was aiming for a deal that would allow the UK to drop the current requirement for EU citizens to show they have comprehensive sickness insurance. Mrs May also used the letter to stress that the process for EU nationals wanting to register their intention to stay will be made as simple and “streamlined” as possible.
Financial Times

#brexit

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With a week to go, 420m round pound coins are still in circulation
The round pound coin will cease being legal tender next Sunday. It is estimated that £420m worth are still in circulation with one in 30 counterfeits.
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Business chiefs come to the defence of free markets
Business leaders have come out in support of free market economics after the Chancellor called for the model to be defended in the face of Jeremy Corbyn’s threats of renationalisation and large-scale state intervention in the markets. Among them was Sir Philip Hampton, chairman of GlaxoSmithKline, who commented: “Profitable businesses providing good jobs are needed to provide the tax revenues to support public services. Countries that don’t have good tax revenues from market-based businesses have poor public services.”
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The Criminal Finances Act 2017, which came into force last month, created a corporate criminal offence of failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion. Under the legislation, organisations can be held accountable for failing to stop an “associated person” — an employee, for example — from facilitating tax evasion in the UK and abroad unless it can prove it had reasonable prevention procedures in place.

David Sleight, a white collar crime partner at Kingsley Napley, a London law firm, says: “The new legislation has dispensed with the need to prove that the controlling mind of a company [senior management] was aware that tax evasion had been facilitated. All that now needs to be demonstrated is that a tax evasion offence has been facilitated by a person associated with a company and that the company failed to prevent it.”

The legislation coincides with Revenue and Customs ratcheting up its offensive on tax avoidance with the Finance Bill 2017. This includes proposed penalties for those who enable the use of “aggressive” tax avoidance schemes that are later defeated by the taxman in court.

Such schemes have fallen under public scrutiny over the past few years, not least for involving high-profile individuals seen to be exploiting tax loopholes to avoid paying what they owe.

Christopher Groves, a partner in the private client and tax team at the City of London law firm Withers, says: “The previous rules have been aimed at the taxpayer. What HMRC is starting to focus on now are the people who sell the schemes. It now has a tool with which to go after those individuals, a group that has been its bête noire for years.”

Coinciding with these legislative changes, Solicitors Regulation Authority the (SRA), the profession’s watchdog in England and Wales, issued a warning notice last month to solicitors advising clients on tax issues. It says the assumption that “tax avoidance is legal” is outdated and that HMRC has its sights set on “abusive tax avoidance schemes”.

The authority draws particular attention to the wording of the General Anti-Abuse Rule 2013 (GAAR) which warns against schemes that “achieve a favourable tax result that parliament did not anticipate”and states that tax avoidance plans should not go “beyond anything which could reasonably be regarded as a reasonable course of action”.

The SRA adds that it has concerns about firms facilitating tax avoidance schemes that are “aggressive in ways that go beyond the intentions of parliament“, while also highlighting firms’ duty to provide sound and competent tax advice that does not go beyond “the proper arrangement of the clients’ affairs”.

While such language may sound imprecise, HMRC’s ongoing intention is clear, according to Kyle Phillips, a tax specialist solicitor at the London law firm Howard Kennedy. “The Revenue is focusing on the underlying intention. If people are avoiding paying tax or evading tax in the UK, HMRC will look for a way to find against them,” he says.

“The reason for new legislation is that the Revenue can’t take account of every eventuality. Many tax avoidance schemes are created by very clever individuals who often understand the law better than most.

“But HMRC will be looking behind the intention of those who enter into a tax avoidance scheme. If their intention is to evade tax then they could be charged with a serious criminal offence.”

Phillips says lawyers who are faced with such a situation should act with diligence and common sense. “The courts are becoming very strict with avoidance schemes in the sense that what might have passed as a scheme in the past is being rejected now.”

He adds: “Litigation costs individuals large sums of money and there is a lot of reputational damage involved in being caught up in [tax avoidance] schemes, especially when there is infighting between the promoters of the schemes and those who are part of them.”

If people are avoiding paying tax in the UK, HMRC will look for a way to find against them
More than ever advisers need to focus on what is in the best interests of their clients, says Gideon Sanitt, a partner at Macfarlanes, another London law firm. “An adviser may consider that an arrangement works and is in accordance with the rules, but if the advisor thinks it is aggressive they need to be able to say, ‘There are arguments for this, but is it something that you really want to do?’

“The job of the lawyer is to be able to have that kind of conversation. They would not be advising their client properly if they just put them into aggressive arrangements, irrespective of any contrary arguments and the potential consequences.”

Sanitt adds that co-operation is the answer. “Taxpayers and the Revenue will not always agree. But done properly, lawyers, clients and the Revenue should be able to co-operate to come up with a proper way of working. It’s in absolutely nobody’s interests, clients least of all, to be doing something that contravenes acceptable behaviour. Agreement may not always be possible but that is what most will want to achieve: clients, advisors and the Revenue.”

But what is acceptable behaviour in these circumstances? “Different people have different views,” Sanitt says. “Agreement won't always be possible, but the best way to get clarity if there is a disagreement is for everyone to try to talk to each other sensibly.”

The possibility for friction still exists, however, as Withers’ Groves points out. “A client might be willing to take a risk on something because they think it’s reasonable and commercial people take commercial risks. But it may also present a risk for the [law] firm that the firm may not be willing to take.

“So it can create conflict between solicitors and their clients, which is unfortunate because solicitors should always be acting in the interests of their clients”

Groves adds that the perception of tax abuse is greater than the reality. “What we see is an industry that had its heyday around seven to ten years ago. A lot of the things you see in the press now aren’t reflective of current practice, they’re reflective of arrangements that were put in place some years ago.”

And while tax avoidance schemes may still exist, he adds: “They are being pushed to the margins and are being sold by people who are, without wanting to be pejorative, pulling a fast one. To that extent, the new rules make perfect sense: they’re going after the people causing the mischief rather than those who may well be innocent victims.”

A spokesman for HMRC commented: “Promoters and facilitators of tax avoidance schemes, and their customers, need to wake up to reality and accept that attempting to avoid tax doesn’t work. No tax avoidance scheme is outside of our reach.”

Still feeling the ripples from K2
One of the most high-profile tax avoidance cases of recent years involved the K2 scheme, marketed by the Scotland-based accountancy firm Peak Performance Accountants.

The scheme involved British earners signing new employment contracts with offshore shell companies that then “loaned” them thousands of pounds a month. The loans were written down as tax liabilities to reduce the amount of tax payable.

A 2012 investigation by The Times suggested that about 1,100 people had been using the scheme to avoid paying an estimated £168 million in tax.

The comedian Jimmy Carr, who sheltered about £3.3 million under the scheme, was named as its largest beneficiary.

K2 was described by David Cameron, then the prime minister, as “morally wrong”. At the time HMRC commented: “There is no way anyone, no matter who they are, is going to get away with paying less than they should.”
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The Criminal Finances Act 2017, which came into force last month, created a corporate criminal offence of failure to prevent the facilitation of tax evasion. Under the legislation, organisations can be held accountable for failing to stop an “associated person” — an employee, for example — from facilitating tax evasion in the UK and abroad unless it can prove it had reasonable prevention procedures in place.

David Sleight, a white collar crime partner at Kingsley Napley, a London law firm, says: “The new legislation has dispensed with the need to prove that the controlling mind of a company [senior management] was aware that tax evasion had been facilitated. All that now needs to be demonstrated is that a tax evasion offence has been facilitated by a person associated with a company and that the company failed to prevent it.”

The legislation coincides with Revenue and Customs ratcheting up its offensive on tax avoidance with the Finance Bill 2017. This includes proposed penalties for those who enable the use of “aggressive” tax avoidance schemes that are later defeated by the taxman in court.

Such schemes have fallen under public scrutiny over the past few years, not least for involving high-profile individuals seen to be exploiting tax loopholes to avoid paying what they owe.

Christopher Groves, a partner in the private client and tax team at the City of London law firm Withers, says: “The previous rules have been aimed at the taxpayer. What HMRC is starting to focus on now are the people who sell the schemes. It now has a tool with which to go after those individuals, a group that has been its bête noire for years.”

Coinciding with these legislative changes, Solicitors Regulation Authority the (SRA), the profession’s watchdog in England and Wales, issued a warning notice last month to solicitors advising clients on tax issues. It says the assumption that “tax avoidance is legal” is outdated and that HMRC has its sights set on “abusive tax avoidance schemes”.

The authority draws particular attention to the wording of the General Anti-Abuse Rule 2013 (GAAR) which warns against schemes that “achieve a favourable tax result that parliament did not anticipate”and states that tax avoidance plans should not go “beyond anything which could reasonably be regarded as a reasonable course of action”.

The SRA adds that it has concerns about firms facilitating tax avoidance schemes that are “aggressive in ways that go beyond the intentions of parliament“, while also highlighting firms’ duty to provide sound and competent tax advice that does not go beyond “the proper arrangement of the clients’ affairs”.

While such language may sound imprecise, HMRC’s ongoing intention is clear, according to Kyle Phillips, a tax specialist solicitor at the London law firm Howard Kennedy. “The Revenue is focusing on the underlying intention. If people are avoiding paying tax or evading tax in the UK, HMRC will look for a way to find against them,” he says.

“The reason for new legislation is that the Revenue can’t take account of every eventuality. Many tax avoidance schemes are created by very clever individuals who often understand the law better than most.

“But HMRC will be looking behind the intention of those who enter into a tax avoidance scheme. If their intention is to evade tax then they could be charged with a serious criminal offence.”

Phillips says lawyers who are faced with such a situation should act with diligence and common sense. “The courts are becoming very strict with avoidance schemes in the sense that what might have passed as a scheme in the past is being rejected now.”

He adds: “Litigation costs individuals large sums of money and there is a lot of reputational damage involved in being caught up in [tax avoidance] schemes, especially when there is infighting between the promoters of the schemes and those who are part of them.”

If people are avoiding paying tax in the UK, HMRC will look for a way to find against them
More than ever advisers need to focus on what is in the best interests of their clients, says Gideon Sanitt, a partner at Macfarlanes, another London law firm. “An adviser may consider that an arrangement works and is in accordance with the rules, but if the advisor thinks it is aggressive they need to be able to say, ‘There are arguments for this, but is it something that you really want to do?’

“The job of the lawyer is to be able to have that kind of conversation. They would not be advising their client properly if they just put them into aggressive arrangements, irrespective of any contrary arguments and the potential consequences.”

Sanitt adds that co-operation is the answer. “Taxpayers and the Revenue will not always agree. But done properly, lawyers, clients and the Revenue should be able to co-operate to come up with a proper way of working. It’s in absolutely nobody’s interests, clients least of all, to be doing something that contravenes acceptable behaviour. Agreement may not always be possible but that is what most will want to achieve: clients, advisors and the Revenue.”

But what is acceptable behaviour in these circumstances? “Different people have different views,” Sanitt says. “Agreement won't always be possible, but the best way to get clarity if there is a disagreement is for everyone to try to talk to each other sensibly.”

The possibility for friction still exists, however, as Withers’ Groves points out. “A client might be willing to take a risk on something because they think it’s reasonable and commercial people take commercial risks. But it may also present a risk for the [law] firm that the firm may not be willing to take.

“So it can create conflict between solicitors and their clients, which is unfortunate because solicitors should always be acting in the interests of their clients”

Groves adds that the perception of tax abuse is greater than the reality. “What we see is an industry that had its heyday around seven to ten years ago. A lot of the things you see in the press now aren’t reflective of current practice, they’re reflective of arrangements that were put in place some years ago.”

And while tax avoidance schemes may still exist, he adds: “They are being pushed to the margins and are being sold by people who are, without wanting to be pejorative, pulling a fast one. To that extent, the new rules make perfect sense: they’re going after the people causing the mischief rather than those who may well be innocent victims.”

A spokesman for HMRC commented: “Promoters and facilitators of tax avoidance schemes, and their customers, need to wake up to reality and accept that attempting to avoid tax doesn’t work. No tax avoidance scheme is outside of our reach.”

Still feeling the ripples from K2
One of the most high-profile tax avoidance cases of recent years involved the K2 scheme, marketed by the Scotland-based accountancy firm Peak Performance Accountants.

The scheme involved British earners signing new employment contracts with offshore shell companies that then “loaned” them thousands of pounds a month. The loans were written down as tax liabilities to reduce the amount of tax payable.

A 2012 investigation by The Times suggested that about 1,100 people had been using the scheme to avoid paying an estimated £168 million in tax.

The comedian Jimmy Carr, who sheltered about £3.3 million under the scheme, was named as its largest beneficiary.

K2 was described by David Cameron, then the prime minister, as “morally wrong”. At the time HMRC commented: “There is no way anyone, no matter who they are, is going to get away with paying less than they should.”
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Case highlights special education needs
A mother of a 12-year-old schoolboy who attempted to kill himself three times has won a legal case against West Berkshire Council after her requests for educational support for her son were rejected. The solicitor for AJ Trafford, who has severe dyslexia and Asperger's syndrome, said: "Local authorities are hamstrung by criteria and guidance which penalises bright students that are struggling when the law is actually simple. If a child has or may have special educational needs an assessment should be done”.
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