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Quarterly news:

Spring 2024

HMRC eyes potentially underdeclared dividend income

HMRC is using its data analytic powers to contact taxpayers where it thinks there’s a chance that income has been overlooked.

What it’s interested in is income from distributions or dividends. It has been looking at company accounts, and where it has identified a large drop in the profit and loss account reserves, which might suggest payment of a distribution or dividend, it has been writing to taxpayers to ask them to check that any such income has been declared on their self assessment tax returns.

It does not necessarily follow that tax is owing in such cases. It may be, for example, that any such dividend or distribution was covered by the personal allowance or Dividend Allowance.

It is, however, always important to take notice of correspondence of this type from HMRC, and act within the timescale indicated. This letter, for instance, advises that failure to respond may open the door to a compliance check by HMRC, with the potential for higher levels of penalties for any non compliance.

What employers need to know

In England, Scotland and Wales, new rules impact the following areas:

Holiday pay and entitlement: irregular hours and part-year workers

Almost everyone classed as a ‘worker’ — a definition going wider than just employees — is legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday each year. This includes workers with irregular hours (such as zero-hours contracts) and part-year workers (such as those only working in term time).

For leave years beginning on or after 1 April 2024, new rules apply to these workers, and the government has provided a definition of ‘irregular hours’ and ‘part-year’ to help employers assess which workers are impacted. Points to note are:

  • An accrual method to calculate statutory holiday entitlement for these workers: this is calculated as 12.07% of actual hours worked in a pay period. The 12.07% figure is based on the statutory minimum holiday entitlement, but workers may be entitled to more than the minimum, depending on their contract. Annual leave entitlement is capped at 28 days.
  • A method to work out how much leave such workers have accrued when they take maternity or family related leave, or are off sick.
  • The option for employers to use rolled-up holiday pay (RHP) to calculate holiday pay for these workers. This means employers can choose whether to use RHP, or the pre-existing 52-week reference period method.

The use of RHP isn’t something workers can request: it is at the employer’s discretion, and involves including an additional amount with every payslip to cover holiday pay, rather than paying holiday pay when the worker takes annual leave.

Note that RHP is in addition to the worker’s normal payment, which should be at or above minimum wage. RHP for irregular hour and part-year workers should be calculated at 12.07% of total pay in a pay period. Payments of RHP should be clearly marked as separate items on each payslip.

Paternity Leave and Pay, and other family-leave issues

Changes to Paternity Leave and Pay took effect from 6 April 2024, allowing fathers and partners to take leave in non-consecutive blocks, rather than in one block.

Leave and pay can now be taken at any point in the first year after the birth or adoption of the child, and a shorter period of notice is required (four weeks) before leave is taken. Note, also, new rules come in which extend redundancy protection for pregnant employees and those returning from family-related leave.

Carer’s leave

A new right to carer’s leave took effect from 6 April 2024. It’s a day one employment right, and means any employee can take up to one week of unpaid leave, every 12 months, to give, or arrange care for a dependant with a long-term care need.

Maximum entitlement is one week in the 12-month period: it is not per dependant. Leave isn’t restricted to caring for family members and can be used for anyone reliant on the employee for care. Employees should request leave in advance, but do not have to do so in writing. No evidence of care needs has to be supplied to the employer.

Right to request flexible working

The right to ask for flexible working as a day one right came into force on 6 April 2024. Having 26 weeks’ continuous service before making a request is no longer needed. It is still only a right to request, not a right to receive, however.

Employers must now respond within two months, rather than three. A new Code of Practice, with guidance for employers, has been published by Acas, the arbitration and conciliation service.

Note: none of these changes apply in Northern Ireland.

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