The coming year will see us hang on Revenue’s every word

Amanda Wilkinson, editor of Employee Benefits: As each year turns, compensation and benefits specialists are faced with adapting their benefits strategies to comply with new pieces of legislation. Two years ago there was pensions tax simplification to deal with, and a year ago, age discrimination.

This coming year is no exception. Those managing fleets will have to ensure that their health and safety policies comply with the terms of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, which comes into effect this April. Under the terms of the Act, companies can be found guilty of corporate manslaughter and either face prosecution or an unlimited fine, if their drivers are involved in a fatal accident which has resulted from a gross breach of corporate obligations around duty of care. There is also the Welfare Reform Act 2007, the full impact of which for employers has yet to be ascertained.

However, neither piece of legislation will result in as much upheaval as the legal changes of previous years. Nevertheless, benefits and compensation experts cannot rest easy especially in relation to tax-efficient benefits. While increases in national insurance thresholds, due in April, will make the business case for implementing salary sacrifice even more attractive, practitioners need to keep on their toes as HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) appears to be tightening up generally on tax-efficient benefits.

The latest arrangement to come under its scrutiny entails employees sacrificing salary in exchange for meals in on-site canteens. HMRC appears intent on applying the letter of the law. If it feels that a tax-efficient benefit is being abused in any way for simple gain then it will act, as is evidenced by the government’s decision to axe the home computing initiative and the holiday pay scheme.

It should be an interesting year as clarification on the tax status of perks such as employee assistance programmes and health screening are also expected, while P11Ds could end up being axed. If you are in the midst of planning benefits strategy, and deciding whether to focus on health or financial wellbeing or to pay greater regard to the environment, then you ignore developments at HMRC at your peril.