Gloves off as the Pensions Regulator begins Auto Enrolment crackdown

Yes, we know. If you run a business these days, you have to deal with so much red tape that you could decorate several acres of Christmas trees with it.

It’s bad enough having to deal with the taxman’s demands for VAT returns, Corporation Tax returns, PAYE and (always highly inconvenient) surprise inspections. But with the advent of Auto Enrolment, The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is demanding a slice of the action too.

TPR’s intentions to clamp down on SMEs became clear in September when it took a Greater Manchester bus firm to court for deliberately not putting 36 members of staff into a workplace pension. They should have been put into a pension scheme no later than June 2015.

In November, the company and its managing director pleaded guilty to a total of 16 offences. They will be sentenced at Brighton Magistrates’ Court on 14 December this year.

The fact of the matter is that, as an employer, it is solely your responsibility to make sure that you comply with the law on Auto Enrolment and workplace pensions. If you don’t, TPR will normally issue you with a statutory notice to take action. If you ignore it, you will be issued with a penalty notice – which can be recovered through the courts.

If you comply late, you are still liable to pay any missed contributions to your staff. And if you don’t comply and TPR believes you deliberately fail to enrol eligible staff or you include false information in a declaration of compliance, then you are likely to be prosecuted.

Nor is TPR afraid to name and shame. If you are non-compliant, the Regulator will publish your company details online explaining what penalties you owe or have paid. It’s not a good look and it’s bad for your reputation, especially if prospective clients or contract-awarders do proper background checks. You could easily lose valuable business.

TPR is also being very active in bringing SMEs to book for non-compliance. In the run up to Christmas it will be carrying out spot checks on South of England employers to make sure they are complying with their pension duties. If they are not, it’s likely to be a very expensive festive season for them.

Remember, you can’t claim ignorance of the law regarding pensions and Auto Enrolment, and complying is your responsibility alone – not your accountant’s. That said, at THP we’ll always do all we can to make sure you conform with the law and avoid fines and prosecutions. To learn more about how we can help, check out our guide on Auto Enrolment or get in touch with one of our accountants today.