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HMRC seeks to boost disappointing NIC holiday take-up

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HMRC has marked the first anniversary of the NICs holiday scheme, noting in its latest Employer Bulletin that the scheme is benefiting ‘many new businesses’. But take-up has been well below government estimates.

‘It is estimated that 400,000 new businesses will benefit by having a lower tax bill from employing new staff,’ HM Treasury said in a press release 12 months ago. But HMRC had only received 6,316 successful applications nationally by 5 September this year, according to a Commons written answer.

The scheme applies to new businesses outside London, the South East and the East of England.

‘The government have considered the case for extending the NICs holiday to all existing micro businesses but believes the best use of public funds at this time is to keep the NICs holiday as a targeted scheme for those areas in most need of employment support,’ said David Gauke, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

A month earlier, the Daily Telegraph quoted Ed Balls, the Shadow Chancellor, as saying that the recent figures were ‘embarrassing setback for the Chancellor’.

Gauke had told MPs in June that analysis suggested that ‘on average each business will claim for approximately two employees’.

HMRC is planning to write ‘a personalised letter’ to all new employers set up since 22 June 2010, and their accountants, reminding them of the benefits of the holiday.

The bulletin, available on the HMRC website, has articles on an enhanced recognition system for payroll software; real time information; and PAYE settlement agreements. There is a reminder that the national minimum wage rates will be increased from 1 October.