HMRC has published further Spotlights highlighting tax avoidance schemes that HMRC believes are being used by some companies to avoid paying tax.

Spotlight 44 encourages users of disguised remuneration schemes to settle with HMRC before the loan charge arises on 5 April 2019. HMRC strongly recommends that companies which have implemented such schemes offered by promoters take advice and settle with HMRC.

In relation to arrangements involving contracts for differences (which HMRC consider should be taxed as employment income, as set out in Spotlight 28), the First-tier Tribunal has recently made a direction that two of the cases that are currently being litigated should be specified as lead cases, with all other similar appeals being put on hold pending a decision.

On 5 October 2018, HMRC posted an update on its Tax Agents Blog, confirming that the Tribunal’s decision will not have any impact on HMRC’s ability to negotiate with those who wish to settle their affairs (whether their case is before the Tribunal or not). HMRC will continue to issue determinations to users of the scheme in question for the tax HMRC believes is due. Once a final decision is reached, it will not impact on HMRC’s ability to issue follower notices and accelerated payment notices in relation to related appeals.

On corporate acquisitions, any historic aggressive arrangements operated by a target company (in particular any highlighted by HMRC Spotlights) will be under close scrutiny, and warranty protection and indemnities are likely to need to be negotiated.