Last month, the government launched a consultation on the employment tax compliance and reporting obligations in respect of short term business visitors ("STBVs"). Whilst the proposals may be welcome in some quarters, the question remains, do they go far enough?
STBVs – the current state of play
Currently, employers are required to operate PAYE in respect of overseas business visitors to the UK where business visitors perform more than incidental duties in the UK.
The only way in which this requirement can be relaxed is where the employer obtains a No Tax (“NT”) code for each business visitor or obtains a Short Term Business Visitors Agreement (“STBVA”) from HM Revenue and Customs (“HMRC”).
Many employers are unaware of this obligation and those who are often struggle to apply the rules correctly.
What do the proposals aim to achieve?
The proposals put forward are aimed at helping to make compliance and reporting easier for employers. However, they look only at two specific areas:
- Those business visitors employed by a non-UK branch (who can’t currently be included in a STBVA).
- Changes to the regime which enables employers to settle PAYE at year end in respect of business visitors who do not qualify to be included in the STBVA.
Details can be found in the consultation document here.
Therefore, whilst the proposals will no doubt help some employers in limited circumstances, they do not address the key issues with the short term business visitor regime in our view. Specifically:
- The rules can be difficult for non-specialists to understand. For example, in order to be compliant, employers need to work out whether business visitors can be included in a STBVA by, amongst other things, checking whether the UK has a relevant double tax treaty with the country in which the business visitor is resident and also, in some cases, the specific double tax treaty terms. Employers may also have to work out whether or not they are deemed to be the ‘economic employer’ for a business visitor as this can affect whether PAYE is due or not (even where there is a STBVA in place).
- The rules for immigration are completely separate from the rules for tax when it comes to short term business visitors. This leads to confusion. For example, the definition of ‘incidental duties’ for visa purposes is different to the definition of ‘incidental duties’ for PAYE purposes.
- The compliance regime for the smallest of UK owner-managed businesses is the same as for the largest of UK multi-national corporations. Whilst large corporates will normally have the time and resources to invest in understanding the rules and adhering to the obligations, small businesses typically struggle in this regard.
We understand that managing short term business visitors is one of the top areas of non-compliance for employers when it comes to expatriates. So, the current regime is working neither for the government or employers.
Reducing the complexity
At Blick Rothenberg, we think that there should be a more comprehensive overhaul of the short term business visitor rules. Specifically, we think the rules should:
- Be more straightforward and easier for employers to understand.
- Consider a relaxation or simplification of the process for small businesses.
- Have greater alignment between the visa and tax rules.
We are currently reviewing the regimes in other territories and developing our own ideas in this regard.
Share your views
These are the questions we are considering at Blick Rothenberg and we would really like to hear your views:
- Is the current regime fit for purpose?
- Do you spend too much time on reporting in this area for little benefit to either them or the government?
- Are you even aware of your obligations?
- Do you struggle to keep track of your short term business visitors?
- Do you put this in the ‘too difficult box’ and ignore?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like further information on any of the issues above, please contact Lee Hamilton