Revenue searchlight on eclipse

Residents in the South West of England hoping to cash in on the four million extra tourists expected to flood into Devon and Cornwall next week to watch the eclipse will have more than their eye-sight to worry about, writes Ben Griffiths.

Inland Revenue officials will be trawling accommodation adverts to spot undeclared money-making.

The influx of visitors means accommodation in the region is at a premium and residents are expected to cash in by letting rooms or entire houses to tourists. Farmers are also letting land as camp sites.

Revenue customer service manager Helen Davidson said residents in the South West were being warned to declare their earnings.

‘We want people to understand their obligations and to help them meet these obligations voluntarily,’ she said. ‘Staff in the local offices in the South West will be happy to discuss any concerns people may have about how they might be affected.’

In July, Revenue officers checked accommodation adverts in Wimbledon hoping to catch residents letting houses during the tennis tournament. Just as at Wimbledon, home-owners will be able to take advantage of exemptions under the Revenue’s rent-a-room scheme whereby they can receive the first £4,250 of rent tax free.

Peter Crane of Penzance-based Crane & Johnston said he was advising clients renting out houses to take advantage of the rent relief and to set up their letting interests as a separate business to avoid potential VAT complications.

David Reynolds, another local accountant, said: ‘There is a black economy unit in the local tax office and they are sure to be out looking for opportunities.

But I have had no contact from the Revenue on a potential crackdown.’

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