Accounting and Taxation advice in Hexham, Northumberland


Thoughts Friday 11th December 2020

Hi folks,
Somebody sent me a load of new jokes as a result of my rather bad ones of last week and I’d like to share a couple of them with you:

What is Dominic Cumming’s favourite Christmas song? >>>>>>>>> Driving Home for Christmas.
Which Christmas film was 30 years ahead of its time? >>>>>>>>>> Home Alone.
Any more for any more?

Some thoughts as we head towards Christmas:

Virtual office parties

HMRC have updated their guidance to confirm that virtual office parties for employees are exempt from tax where the cost (including VAT) does not exceed £150 per head, just as it would be if it were held physically.  For example, an office party is held virtually using IT, all employees are invited and provided with a hamper consisting of some food and drink to be enjoyed by the attendees during the party.  The cost per head is £100 and within the £150 exemption and so the exemption applies.  For the full tax rules on annual parties, please follow the link below:

Staff gifts

Any gifts or bonuses of cash or cash equivalents must be put through the payroll and taxed accordingly.  If you want to give your staff a non-taxable gift then you should give them a non-cash gift (a gift voucher is usually fine) for up to £50 including VAT.  This is classed as a “trivial benefit” and is tax exempt.

Furlough over the Christmas period

It’s also worth noting that you shouldn’t put employees on furlough over the Christmas period if you usually close down anyway.  Not only is this against the spirit of the scheme, but the legislation states that furlough is for employees “whose employment activities have been adversely affected by the coronavirus and coronavirus disease or the measures taken to prevent or limit its further transmission”.  So if you are usually closed between Christmas and New Year, with employees taking holiday etc, then you should continue this as normal and NOT use furlough during that period.

December payroll

Some employers pay their employees earlier than usual in December so payroll is completed before the business closes for the Christmas period, for example 18th December instead of the usual 31st December.  HMRC is asking employers to put their “usual” or contractual pay date on their FPS submission, (i.e. 31st December in the example), so that it protects those employees eligible for Universal Credit – early payment could affect further entitlements.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – publication of claims

Information from CJRS; - December claims onwards will be published and this will include the name of the employer, an indication of the value of the claim and, for Companies and LLP’s, the company registration number.  This measure is to encourage whistleblowing on employers who are not abiding by the rules of the scheme by making fraudulent claims.  The value of the claim will be put in a banding e.g. £1 to £10,000, £10,000 to £25,000, so the exact value of the claim will not be disclosed.  If publication of the details would result in serious risk of violence or intimidation to certain individuals, or anybody living with them, then their details will not be published if adequate evidence can be supplied.  More information on how you can apply for this will be published soon.

Employees will additionally be able to check if their employer has made a claim under CJRS on their behalf by viewing their online personal tax account.

Scams as we head towards the 31st January deadline

As we head towards the self-assessment deadline of 31st January, HMRC are warning that fraudsters also ramp up their activity.  The general public have reported almost half a million examples of being offered bogus tax rebates and, therefore, asked for their bank details.  HMRC urges tax payers not to give out private information, reply to text messages, download attachments or click on links in unexpected texts and emails.  Be particularly careful if the contact offers a tax rebate, refund or grant, or asks for your bank details.  One particularly vicious scam at the moment will call you, say that you’ve committed tax fraud and threaten to arrest you unless you make an instant payment over the telephone to avoid prosecution!
HMRC have produced some guidance on how to identify bogus contacts as follows:

Ways to report suspicious activity are on the following link: Emails can be forwarded to and texts to 60599.

The HMRC Employer Bulletin for December has been issued with lots of advice regarding PAYE, Brexit and beyond.  It can be found on the following link:

Our Christmas Appeal.

Our fundraising is going well – donations to The MS Trust now stand at £3,476 including gift aid so thank you to everyone who has helped with that. Our target is £5,000 so please could you consider making a donation no matter how small for this worthy cause? We accept cheques or you can follow this link:

The Salvation Army’s donations so far are £1,250 with gift aid. Help us reach our target of £1,800 by going to

Or you can send us a cheque. Thank you.


Last Saturday, (5th December), was Small Business Saturday, which is an annual event to mark the huge contribution small businesses make to the local economy and to encourage people to buy local - especially in the run-up to Christmas.

Throughout November our MP, Guy Opperman, has been asking local residents across Tynedale and Ponteland to nominate their favourite small local businesses as part of his 2020 Small Business Awards. He has written to let us know that Patricia J Arnold and Co Ltd have been ‘Highly Commended’ by many local residents! It’s good to be acknowledged even in a small way.

Keep well,

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