After going rather quiet on the ‘PAYE Audit’ front for a few years, HMRC has now introduced a new round of employer reviews, under the title of ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC). Whilst these sound like a bit of a cosy chat, we should not overlook the reality – that for all intents and purposes these are simply PAYE Audits aka Employer Compliance Reviews, in another guise.
The ‘KYC’ programme is initially being rolled out by HMRC’s Large Business Service (LBS) teams i.e. those offices who deal with the largest employers in the country. However this is no surprise: HMRC invariably follows the ‘law of diminishing returns’ when undertaking Employer Compliance work, i.e. the larger employers will always be first in line, and things then gradually work their way down to medium and smaller-sized structures.
KYC reviews initially involve a high level review of the employer’s policies. This may happen before or after an initial KYC meeting with HMRC. From there we can expect HMRC to focus in on what it perceives to be the main areas of risk. Whilst those areas will vary depending on the worker profile, experience suggests that HMRC will always wish to consider the following common risk areas:
- Employment status: recent changes to the employment agency or ’employment intermediary’ rules seem to have re-focussed HMRC’s minds on the risks associated with temporary workers, self-employed, and limited company engagements.
- Termination payments: businesses that have seen substantial staffing changes can expect HMRC to take a particular interest in severance packages paid, with the usual focus on Pay in Lieu of Notice and any other payments on termination potentially arising from the contract (rather than simply from the severance).
- Company expenses policies: relevant policies include those applying to company vans, company cars and private fuel (the last one is a particular HMRC favourite as this represents an all or nothing benefit when linked to company vehicle use).
- Flexible benefits and salary sacrifice: HMRC will be especially interested in any aspect of the scheme which has not already been cleared fully by HMRC on a ‘cards face up on the table’ basis (or where the ‘goalposts have moved’ so that the scheme does not operate precisely in the way HMRC was told originally).
For those employers who also have ‘Senior Accounting Officer’ (SAO) reporting responsibilities, this provides HMRC with an additional angle of approach, i.e. within a KYC review HMRC may at the same time seek assurances on the validity of previous SAO reporting and the extent of internal checking undertaken to verify this. Indeed we are now seeing HMRC ask for copies of relevant internal audit reports – an approach not previously followed.
On the plus side, our own recent experience has indicated that, with a little advance planning it is usually possible for an employer to take and retain control of much of the process. If so the employer should be able to approach any KYC review with a fair amount of calmness, rather than simply hoping for the best, and then having to ‘fire-fight’ when issues later arise.
If you require assistance in dealing with a forthcoming KYC review or in relation to any other Employer Compliance matter, please contact the ET4B team.