Business Law & Compliance

How to make sure your business doesn’t lose sight of how to comply with HMRC

5 min read

17 December 2014

For businesses, Christmas is always a hectic time of year. In the midst of ongoing festivities, and working towards the end-of-year targets, maintaining VAT and expense compliance may well be the last thing on your mind. However, as we draw to the end of 2014, businesses must not lose sight of this matter.

Not only do companies want to ensure that their employees receive the money that has been spent – but the process must also be tightly regulated as UK companies have a legal obligation, when managing expenses spend to meet statutory compliance. 

During the Christmas period employees’ expenses could be on the rise with client entertainment, business travel and spending on the annual Christmas party – therefore a suitable expenses policy must be in place with accurate expenditure tracking. So how can businesses ensure they don’t fall foul of HMRC requirements whilst maintaining Christmas cheer? 

Our experience and our clients tell us that one of the biggest expenses challenges for most organisations is reclaiming the right amount of VAT on expenses while ensuring statutory compliance. 

It is imperative for businesses to understand their HMRC compliance responsibilities. However, a Vanson Bourne and Concur study found that only 27 per cent of finance leaders in small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) understand the regulations, with a whopping 83 per cent saying that they are concerned about what to expect when it comes to HMRC inspections. Bearing this in mind, here are a few tips to keep your business off the HMRC naughty list this Christmas:

What to look out for with HMRC

A common misconception is that HMRC is only interested in the completed forms and the receipts that are attached to them – however it is the entire end-to-end process that they look at. Therefore ensuring the right documentation is on hand for HMRC to process is crucial – this includes accurate receipts and the correct VAT documents. By having all this documentation in place, it makes the approval process easier for the business to ensure that misplaced expenses haven’t fallen through the cracks.

HMRC ensures that appropriate checks and controls have been carried out on those completed forms, with the right level of people in the business signing off the expenses. Incurred expenditure should also have the appropriate business reason behind it, as they closely check for a strong and enforced policy that sets out the ground rules of how employees should spend the business’s money. Typically these checks are performed by your finance team, or outsourced as an audit process to a third party to ensure accuracy. By maintaining best practice across these areas, it all helps mitigate the risk of your business committing fraud or unnecessary revenue loss.

Going digital

We can now book holidays, and purchase Christmas gifts all via a mobile app, therefore why should expense management still be an outdated scramble for paper receipts? Businesses are increasingly investing in new technologies to ensure a smoother and more efficient work process. 

For employees, being able to submit their expenses on the go via a mobile app mitigates the fuss of receipts. With everything that has been booked and paid for recorded in a signal itinerary via apps such as Tripit, it is harder to make inaccurate claims. Managers are then able to oversee the expense claims more efficiently, and approve only those which comply with policy and HMRC regulations. 

These steps, can reduce the pain of processing expenses while applying the necessary rules. 

Having an automated expense management system in place can help businesses stay on top of these challenges during the busiest time of year. With the landscape of regulatory compliance ever changing, knowledge of your policies and intelligent systems can ensure that money is kept within the business. This makes it one less thing for employees and business owners to worry about at the end of the year, so they can get on with celebrating the year’s hard work in a proper fashion!

David Vine is managing director of SMB at Concur.