You do not have to register for self assessment just because you’re a company director

We recently made a member of the team a company director at Atlas. It’s a simple enough process that can be performed online on the Companies House website. We submitted the forms, received electronic confirmation and then forgot about it.

Recently our incredibly diligent accountant got in touch to advise me that our new director would need to file for self assessment. Hmm, that’s a pain and not something I foresaw. Especially when the director in question is paid via PAYE, so all taxable deductions are made at source. This makes self assessment a paperwork exercise at best.

My first port of call was the HMRC website. A quick Google landed me here: Keep in mind that this is the government website and so the majority of people would take it at face value. Scroll down and you’ll see this:

hmrc website

Well that’s interesting. We’re not a charity and we pay our directors, so based on this it seems that our new director does indeed have to register for self assessment.

Feeling belligerent I decided to do some further research and discovered that the law has very specific sections about who has to register for self assessment, and it’s not quite in line with the above information. If you’re feeling nerdish like I was, have a read of this Tax Management Act 1970 where it’s outlined quite clearly:

Bottom line? Just because you’re a company director does not automatically mean you need to file for self assessment. The only caveat is that if you have tax liabilities you do have to register – but that’s the law regardless of whether you’re a company director.

It was incredibly frustrating to see that what is otherwise a very high quality website is providing incorrect information. The cynic in me wonders if this “oversight” plays in favour of HMRC, as it’s in their interests to have more people file self assessments than not.

I’ve contacted HMRC via their online form to tell them their website is incorrect but frustratingly I’ve not been able to find an e-mail address of somebody who I can speak with to get the site updated.

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The EU cookie directive must surely crumble

A forum post has popped up on the Federation of Small Businesses forums about the EU cookie directive.  With the hype surrounding it starting to grow as the deadline for adherence to the directive arrives on the 26th May, it’s clear that businesses really do only have a couple of options.  Stick their heads in the sand or spend money implementing changes to their website that will render any customer tracking software, such as Google analytics, useless.

As if all of this wasn’t bad enough, the UK government have not yet taken steps to make their websites compliant with this new legislation.  All the while the ICO has still not issued clear guidance on how they intend to coerce businesses in to adhering to the new cookie rules.  All we know for now is that from Saturday they have the power to impose a 500,000 GBP fine on any business that does not comply with the directive.  Pretty scary stuff.

At first I have to admit I panicked about this new legislation.  I contacted my colleagues on various committees in an attempt to get them on board.  I couldn’t understand why nobody was protesting online about this latest piece of EU garb.  After a time it dawned on me that this legislation is in fact so absurd, that it’s just not going to stick.  There’s no way the ICO are going to pursue thousands of small businesses with their legal team.  Even the wording in the directive isn’t clear, which means that until the ICO sets a precedent by taking somebody to court, it’s not clear how far businesses need to go when they adapt their websites.

So unlike me, you shouldn’t panic.  I’m inclined to believe that this is one of those few occasions where for now you can ignore a change in the law.  If you are risk averse – just make sure your site isn’t doing anything that could be considered foul play by your visitors.  Check your privacy policy is up to date, and keep an eye on the news.

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