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PAUL Clayden’s article in the July issue of Clerks & Councils Direct states that parish councils may purchase goods, reclaim the VAT and donate them to village halls – but this is not the case, as my parish has discovered.

Cllr Reg Thompson, Chairman,
 Syderstone Parish Council, Norfolk

 Paul Clayden writes: I said in my article that a council may be able to recover VAT on goods it buys and then donates to a village hall; I did not say that such a recovery would always be possible. I also advised that advice should be taken before making purchases. I recommend the HMRC VAT publication Local authorities and similar bodies (Notice 749, April 2002), which gives detailed guidance. It can be viewed on the HMRC website. My Legal Matters article in this issue (page 10) deals with various aspects of VAT relating to councils in greater detail.

Clerks & Councils Direct, September 2014

VALUE ADDED TAX – helping local communities

Written by Paul Clayden, Chief Executive, Local Councils Advisory Service
As appeared in Clerks & Councils Direct, September 2014
© CommuniCorp


I AGREE entirely with the comments made by Ian Hook (May 2014) about the disproportionate amount of work PAYE is placing on clerks to small parish councils. However, I don’t believe anyone has to pay HMRC by internet banking, it’s simply that HMRC would prefer it. You can understand that as it will save them millions.

Either way I have a different solution for Ian. Pass the whole PAYE task over to a small accountancy firm like the one we use. For around £30 per year they will take care of everything for a small parish council, and I thoroughly recommend them. They provide peace of mind that the job is being done properly and on time. Moreover, compared with a possible penalty notice of £100, their fee seems really good value for money too.

Phillip Brooks, Clerk
Keswick and Intwood Parish Council, Norfolk
Clerks & Councils Direct July 2014



FURTHER to recent correspondence regarding HMRC’s RTI, I fully agree with the comments expressing irritation with the extra unnecessary work that it entails (Letters, January 2014). As with the Thrussington clerk, I am paid irregularly, therefore requiring nine nil returns with accompanying postage!

In addition, I fell foul of the annual return. I thought that I had completed the return ahead of time in March last year but apparently did not ‘release’ the data. When I received my £100 penalty notice (out of proportion relative to the £400 tax actually paid correctly on time), I went back into the system and all of the data previously entered was there. My protestations to HMRC were rejected and as at this moment I am still appealing through the tribunal system.

As Janet Heath said in her letter, it was so much easier and more efficient to declare the income in my personal return, but HMRC appear deaf to such pleas.

Now comes a briefing note from NALC advising that electronic payments to HMRC are mandatory “irrespective of inconvenience” and “even if this triggers a bank charge”.

What is being done to resist this almost unbelievable imposition on small parish councils? HMRC seems hell-bent on making more unnecessary work for already over-worked clerks.

Ian Hook, Clerk
Mursley Parish Council, Buckinghamshire
Clerks & Councils Direct May 2014


WE can all sympathise with L. Michael Woodman on his frustrating telephone experience (“Taxing times”, January 2014). You get the impression that companies and organisations would rather not speak to you at all. Are they so frightened of complaints?

However, in the case of HMRC, I wonder if Mr Woodman and his parish council have considered a way in which he would not have to contact them in that way at all. There will be “payroll providers” in Warwickshire, one of which would be pleased to take on his PAYE work, I’m sure.

There is a cost involved, of course, and maybe we are lucky in East Yorkshire in having more than one with very reasonable charges, but it would save him contemplating retirement over it!

Phillip Crossland, Clerk,
Rudston Parish Council, East Yorkshire
Clerks & Councils Direct March 2014



WITH regard to the letter from the Clerk of Hampton Lucy Parish Council in Warwickshire (“Taxing times”, January 2014), I agree entirely with his comments.

Paying the clerk (me) used to be a doddle until Real Time Information (RTI) was introduced last April. My experiences are exactly the same as his. I am paid twice a year but, despite my best efforts, have not found a way to record the “periods of inactivity”, other than monthly, to avoid penalties!

Before the introduction of RTI, I was able to speak to someone at HMRC and tell him I was only paid bi-annually (and, as a pensioner, no NICs were paid by me or my council anyway), and that was satisfactory.

Is there anybody or any institution who could take up the cudgels with HMRC on behalf of clerks of small parishes, to streamline the information that has to be recorded or to add another “box” to allow for our different pattern of payments? If there is, I feel sure that many clerks of small parishes would be eternally grateful!

Janet Heath, Clerk
Thrussington Parish Council, Leicestershire
Clerks & Councils Direct March 2014


I FOUND my council's PAYE affairs so straightforward before Real Time Information (RTI) was introduced in April 2013, and since then I have spent an inordinate amount of time contacting HMRC.

The problem started when the council was threatened with a penalty for not having notified HMRC that I hadn’t been paid (I am the sole employee and I make the payment twice a year in September and March). Knowing that a “period of inactivity” – tax speak for not being paid – could incur a penalty, I contacted them in May last year, via the PAYE Basic Tools software, and received a notice saying, “Invalid, you have nothing to declare”. I had marked the software that I was paid bi-annually, so naturally I was not satisfied.

I phoned HMRC to speak to someone, but for the first five minutes I was directed to a host of websites that would give me answers to all sorts of questions, but not mine! Eventually, I was told to await an adviser and then a buzzing noise began, before oft-repeated sounds of what I can only describe as the frantic cries of a choking duck.

At last I was connected to an adviser who confirmed that, yes, I must inform the Revenue every month that I'm not paid, and I will receive an acknowledgement from Gateway. “So what happens when I’m paid and the Revenue receives the tax due?,” I asked. “Oh, we don’t acknowledge that,” was the answer.

I've had enough, I'm retiring!

L. Michael Woodman
Clerk, Hampton Lucy Parish Council, Warwickshire
Clerks & Councils Direct January 2014

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