Tutors: Avoiding Tax? Time to ‘fess up

I’ve been hearing from various sources that HM Revenue & Customs is planning a crackdown on private tutors who aren’t paying their tax.

First, there was an article in the Daily Telegraph in which an HMRC spokesperson told tutors (in bizarrely colloquial terms) that “Now is your chance to come forward and ‘fess up. It will be more expensive if we come and find people.”

Then, there was another article highlighted by a tutor on our tutor forum (thanks, Carrie), which reported that HMRC is using “cutting-edge tools such as ‘web robot’ software” to crawl Gumtree and other websites to home in on people who are trading without telling HMRC.

Finally, I’ve heard reports that tuition agencies are receiving letters from HMRC asking them to provide the names and addresses of tutors who have received payments of £1000 or more, going back over the last three years.

Since tutoring work is often cash in hand, and since it is commonly done in addition to a full-time job, it requires real self-discipline on a tutor’s part to make sure all earnings are appropriately recorded and declared. To help with this, our free e-book for tutors gives extensive advice on tutors’ tax obligations and how tutors can record their income appropriately.

HMRC clearly think that private tuition is a substantial risk area for tax evasion, and have therefore set up a new campaign entitled ‘Private Tuition and Coaching (PT&C)’ which according to their website ‘covers people providing private lessons, regardless of whether they have a teaching qualification, and could include, for example, fitness/dance/lifestyle coaches through to national curriculum subject tutors and others’.

I was curious about what the campaign was about, and so gave their new helpline a call. I was told that, when the campaign gets going in the autumn of this year, private tutors will for the first time be able to come forward and voluntarily disclose earnings which they realise they should have been paying tax on. I was told that a similar initiative has been running for other professions (such as plumbers). It seems a little bit like an amnesty – except that individuals who do so will still be subject to a penalty for tax avoidance.

So why would anyone wish to come forward under such a scheme? The answer was simple – the penalty for voluntary disclosure is lower than if HMRC discover through other means that you have undeclared earnings.

And with their increasingly sophisticated online and offline methods for catching tax avoiders, if you’re at all unsure about your tax affairs, now seems the right time to make sure everything is above board.

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