A “nudge” in this context is a piece of advice or an arrangement designed to encourage you to pick the option the Government wants to you to choose, such as contributing to a pension, or eating healthier foods.
In this case the nudge is information about the average profit ratios businesses in your business sector make, as reported on their tax returns. Working out these average profit ratios is called “benchmarking”.
The Taxman is writing to a sample of traders in selected trade sectors quoting benchmarked profit ratios for those sectors. He asks the trader to review his turnover and expense figures before completing the 2013/14 tax return, with a view to ensuring the reported net profit (also known as bottom line) lies in a range around the benchmarked net profit ratio.
If you receive one of these benchmark letters, please send us a copy as the Taxman is unlikely to have copied us in. We can help you review your income and expenses to be reported on your tax return.
Don’t take the letter as a sign that the Taxman has any evidence that your reported figures are wrong. There are many valid reasons why your business may not be typical. For example you operate in a difficult geographical location, or your business may open for different hours than other similar businesses.
However, if you have been hiding sales which have been paid by credit or debit cards, the Taxman can now easily prove that your sales are understated. This is because he can request details of all transactions processed by debit and credit card companies.
That sales data can be broken down by trader, and compared to the VAT and tax returns you have submitted. However, remember the credit and debit card data could contain errors. So if you are challenged on the basis of your credit card sales don’t assume the Taxmans information is 100% correct.