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Federal Tax Relief to Alleviate COVID-19 Hardships

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has already had widespread effects on the U.S. economy. Demand for many goods and services has stalled. Unemployment claims have skyrocketed. And many schools and businesses are operating online — if at all. Life has changed dramatically across the country.

The federal government has been working on various relief measures to help individuals and small businesses cope with the situation, including tax relief provisions. Here are the tax changes that have been finalized so far.

Even more relief measures are underway. As of this writing, Congress is working on a huge new COVID-19 relief bill that will surely include a massive economic stimulus package and probably lots of tax changes. Contact your tax pro for the latest developments.

Guidance on Federal Income Tax Deadline Deferrals

On March 20, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on Twitter that the April 15 federal income tax filing deadlines will be extended until July 15. His tweet says, “All taxpayers and businesses will have this additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.” It’s unclear at this point whether the extension will apply to the tax return filing deadlines for federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare taxes) owed by employers or for federal estate and gift taxes.

In addition, on March 21, the IRS issued Notice 2020-18, which clarifies that individual taxpayers and corporations can defer until July 15 federal income tax payments that would otherwise be due on April 15. (Normally, when you file an extension, you must still make a good-faith estimate of your tax liability and, by the normal filing deadline, pay the full amount estimated to be due. This relief measure is an exception to the general rule.)

Specifics under Notice 2020-18 are as follows:

For individualsIndividual taxpayers can defer payment of federal income tax (including any self-employment tax) owed for the 2019 tax year from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15. They can also defer their initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year (including any self-employment tax) from the normal April 15 deadline until July 15.

Individuals who have non-salary income — such as self-employed people, investors and rental property owners — must normally make quarterly estimated tax payments to avoid an IRS interest charge penalty.

Individuals can defer their tax payments until July 15, with no interest or penalties, “regardless of the amount owed.” (Earlier IRS guidance imposed a $1 million limit, but that limit was eliminated by Notice 2020-18.)

For corporations. Corporations that use the calendar year for tax purposes can defer until July 15 any amount of federal income tax payments that would otherwise be due on April 15 with no interest or penalties. This relief covers the amount owed for the 2019 tax year and the amount due for the first quarterly estimated tax payment for the 2020 tax year. Both of those amounts would otherwise be due on April 15. (Earlier IRS guidance imposed a $10 million limit, but that limit was eliminated by Notice 2020-18.)

For trusts and estates. Trusts and estates pay federal income taxes, too. Federal income tax payments for the 2019 tax year of trusts and estates that use the calendar year for tax purposes are due on April 15. The initial quarterly estimated federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year of trusts and estates that use the calendar year for tax purposes are also due on April 15.

Notice 2020-18 clarifies that trusts and estates can defer any amount of the aforementioned tax payments from April 15 to July 15 with no interest or penalties.

Important: Notice 2020-18 offers no relief for paying federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare taxes) owed by employers — or federal estate and gift taxes. But additional relief measures may be under construction in Congress.

Tax Provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act

On March 18, President Trump signed into law a COVID-19 relief bill. It’s called the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The new law mandates paid leave benefits for small business employees affected by the COVID-19 emergency and establish related tax credits and Social Security and Medicare (FICA) tax relief for their employers.

Tax credits for emergency leave payments to employeesThe new law grants tax credits to small employers to cover payments to eligible employees while they take time off under the mandatory emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave and paid family leave provisions. These provisions apply to employers with less than 500 employees.

Emergency paid sick leave under the new law is limited to $511 per day for up to 10 days (up to $5,110 in total) for an employee who’s in COVID-19 quarantine or seeking a COVID-19 diagnosis. An employee can also receive emergency COVID-19 paid sick leave of up to $200 per day for up to 10 days (up to $2,000 in total) to care for a child whose school or childcare location has been closed or whose childcare is unavailable due to COVID-19.

In addition, the law gives an employee the right to take up to 12 weeks of job-protected family leave if the employee or a family member is in COVID-19 quarantine or if the school or childcare location of the employee’s child is closed due to the outbreak. The employer must pay at least two-thirds of the employee’s usual pay, up to a maximum of $200 per day, subject to an overall maximum of $10,000 in total family leave payments.

To help employers cover these now-mandatory emergency leave payments, the law allows a refundable tax credit equal to 100% of qualified sick leave wages and family and medical leave wages paid by the employer.

The credit applies only to eligible leave payments made during the period beginning on a date specified by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and ending on December 31, 2020. The beginning date will be within 15 days of March 18, 2020.

The new law increases the credit to cover a portion of an employer’s qualified health plan expenses that are allocable to emergency sick leave wages and emergency family leave wages.

The credit is first used to offset the Social Security tax component of the employer’s FICA tax bill. Any excess credit is refundable, meaning the government will issue a check to the employer for the excess.

Important: The credit isn’t available to employers that are already receiving the pre-existing credit for paid family and medical leave under Internal Revenue Code Section 45S.

Employer FICA tax relief. Qualified sick leave and family leave payments mandated by the new law are exempt from the 6.2% Social Security tax component of the employer FICA tax on wages. Employers must pay the 1.45% Medicare tax component of the FICA tax on qualified sick leave and family leave payments, but they can claim a credit for that outlay.

Credits for self-employed people. For a self-employed individual who’s affected by the COVID-19 emergency, the new law allows a comparable refundable credit against the individual’s federal income tax bill. If the credit exceeds the individual’s federal income tax bill (including the self-employment tax), the excess will be refunded via a check from the government. The credit equals:

  • 100% of the self-employed person’s sick-leave equivalent amount, or
  • 67% of the person’s sick-leave equivalent amount for taking care of a sick family member or taking care of the individual’s child following the closing of the child’s school or childcare location.

The sick-leave equivalent amount equals the lesser of:

  • The individual’s average daily self-employment (SE) income, or
  • $511 per day for up to 10 days (up to $5,110 in total) to care for the individual or $200 per day for up to 10 days (up to $2,000 in total) to care for a sick family member or a child following the closing of the child’s school or childcare location.

In addition, a self-employed individual could receive a family leave credit for up to 50 days. The credit amount would equal the number of leave days multiplied by the lesser of:

  • $200, or
  • The individual’s average daily SE income.

The maximum total family leave credit would be $10,000 (50 days x $200 per day).

Credits for self-employed individuals are only allowed for days during the period beginning on a date specified by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and ending on December 31, 2020. The beginning date will be within 15 days of March 18, 2020.

Important: To properly claim the credit, self-employed individuals must maintain whatever documentation the IRS requires in future guidance. Contact your tax professional for details.

Moving Target

This article only covers some of the COVID-19-related tax changes that have already been finalized. Other types of non-tax federal relief have also been made available and many states have announced their own COVID-19 relief. More federal measures and additional guidance are expected soon. Contact your tax professional to discuss financial relief measures that apply in your specific situation.

 

Amendments to Tax Code: Azerbaijan

Law of the Republic of Azerbaijan “on Amendments to the Tax Code of the Republic of Azerbaijan” was approved by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan on 29 November 2019. These amendments become effective from January 1st, 2020.

The amendments concerns the following matters:

  • E-tax invoice cancellation and application of various types of electronic invoices depending on the nature of the transaction;
  • Application of a single approach to VAT calculation and payment (cash method);
  • Abolition of simplified tax on building;
  • False Transactions and Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer;
  • Changes on excise rates;
  • New tax exemptions;
  • Control of installation of POS-terminals and introduction of new generation cash registers;
  • Improvements in the simplified tax payment;
  • Centralized tax registration;
  • Taxation by state-owned subsidies from residential and non-residential areas;
  • Reporting on transnational group of companies;
  • Carrying out of joint inspections with tax authorities of other state as regulated by international treaties;
  • Editing and refining.

General provisions and new concepts

The following new concepts were added to the Tax Code:

Non-Commodity Transaction – is a transaction disclosed in the course of tax control, concluded for the purpose of concealing another transaction and generating profit without the provision of goods, works and services;

Risky Taxpayer – means a taxpayer regarding whom there is a decision of the relevant executive authority (body) and who meets the criteria approved by the decision of the relevant executive authority (body), as well as a taxpayer who carries out non-commodity and/or risky transactions; A taxpayer may be considered as a risky taxpayer upon respective decision of the competent body.

Transnational group of companies – a group of companies, which includes two or more companies that are residents in different countries, or a company that is resident in one country and operates through a permanent representation in another country.

New provisions (Article 16.1.4-2) to the taxpayer’s responsibilities regarding the Transnational Group of Companies will be added in the following content:

If the total income for the fiscal year of the Transnational Group of Companies exceeds the manat equivalent of 750 million euros, the enterprise, which is a member of a transnational group of companies for the purpose of automated information exchange with the competent authorities of other countries under international treaties supported by the Republic of Azerbaijan and is a resident of the Republic of Azerbaijan, submits the report to the tax authority in the form and manner specified by the relevant executive authority (body).

A tax sanction of 500 manat is applied to the taxpayer in case of failure to submit the electronic report in prescribed manner and time to the taxpayer.

Registration of taxpayers

The article 33.7 (Registration of taxpayers) will be amended in the following content:

The following taxpayers can be registered in a centralized manner by the tax authority as determined by the relevant body (body) of the relevant executive authority:

  1. Natural monopoly subjects;
  2. Enterprises with special tax regime;
  3. Taxpayers who meet one of the following requirements:

– Average number of employees 251 and above;

– The average annual residual value of fixed assets on the balance sheet exceeds AZN 5,000,000.

Persons who have been registered at the place of their taxation are then registered in the centralized order with the previous identification numbers when referring to taxpayers or enterprises with a special tax regime.

Tax registration of taxpayers and branches, representative offices or other economic entities (objects) of the special tax regime, registered in the centralized manner, shall be carried out in the aforementioned manner.

Legal entities, registered at the place of their taxation, are required to apply to the relevant tax authority for centralized registration within 15 days of commencement of activities under the special tax regime.

Centralized re-registration or de-centralization of enterprises operating under special tax regimes, commencement or termination of their activities under a special tax regime shall be made within 15 days from the date of their application to the relevant tax authority.

III. Responsibility for violation of tax legislation

Provisions about the expiration of the term for calling to account for violation of tax legislation and application of financial sanctions (Article 56) will be amended to the following content:

Except for the results of on site tax inspection conducted in accordance with the relevant decision on the conduct of tax inspection in accordance with the criminal procedure legislation, the person cannot be called to account for violation of tax legislation and no tax liabilities may arise if the period of 3 years (the period of 5 years after the relevant information from the competent authorities of foreign countries on income received abroad) had passed from the date of the tax violation.

The period specified in this article covers a period of 3 years preceding the date of the decision of the tax authority to conduct on site tax inspection, irrespective of the date of making a decision on liability in accordance with the article 49.1 of the Tax Code.

Electronic delivery notes and purchase act of goods

The provisions regarding electronic delivery notes (Article 71-1) will be amended to the following content:

In the cases established by this Code, a person providing goods, performing work and rendering services to individual entrepreneurs and legal entities shall issue an electronic invoice to them within the following terms:

– providing goods – time of delivery of goods;

– providing not pre-ordered goods – within 5 days from the date of issuance of the document confirming delivery of goods;

– performing works and rendering services – within 5 days from the date of performance of works and rendering of services.

New provisions to the electronic delivery notes (Article 71-1) will be added in the following content:

When goods (works, services) are delivered to buyer not registered as a taxpayer, he / she will be given a receipt or a check.

Tax invoices are subject to the following types of electronic invoices, depending on the nature of the operation:

on the provision of goods, works and services;

on return of goods;

according to the article 163 of the Tax Code, except for return of goods;

on transfer of goods to agent (commissioner);

provided by agent (commissioner) to buyer of goods;

on acceptance to eventual processing of goods;

according to the article 177.5 of the Tax Code.

Purchase act of goods (Article 71-2) will be added to the Tax Code:

Within 5 days from the date of purchase of goods, purchase act and electronic purchase act (the form of which is established by the relevant executive autority) shall be drawn up for goods purchased for the purpose of economic activity (excluding individual consumption) by legal entities and individuals.

In the event that an electronic purchase act issued by a taxpayer has been printed and signed by an individual not registered within the tax authority, this document shall be considered as a document confirming purchase of goods and a purchase act shall not be drawn up on paper.

Congress Approves New Disaster-Area Tax Relief

A flurry of tax legislation passed at the end of 2019 as part of an omnibus spending package. You might have already heard about changes to the retirement plan rules and tax extenders that were part of this package.

However, there are some lesser-known changes that you might not know about. Specifically, the disaster-related provisions of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act provide valuable relief to taxpayers affected by federally declared disasters that happened between January 1, 2018, and January 19, 2020.

Personal Casualty and Theft Losses

Prior to 2018, individual taxpayers that itemized their deductions could write off their unreimbursed casualty and theft losses to the extent that the losses exceeded 10% of adjusted gross income (AGI). In addition, the deductible amount had to be reduced by a “floor” of $100 for each casualty or theft event.

For example, Bill had $100,000 in AGI for 2017. He incurred a $25,000 loss to his home due to hurricane damage in 2017, and his insurance company paid him $10,000 for repairs. So, his unreimbursed loss was $15,000 ($25,000 – $10,000).

Bill itemized deductions on his 2017 tax return. How much was he able to deduct for unreimbursed hurricane damages? His deduction was subject to the 10%-of-AGI threshold of $10,000 (10% of $100,000). He also had to subtract $100 per loss. So, in 2017, Bill claimed a $4,900 itemized deduction for the loss ($15,000 – $10,000 – $100).

Important: A special election allows taxpayers to deduct a loss on a tax return for the preceding year. If you’ve already filed your return for the preceding year, you can file an amended return to make the election and claim the deduction in the earlier year. Decisions regarding this election should be based on an evaluation of 1) whether you need cash quickly, and 2) your overall tax situation in the casualty event year and the preceding year.

TCJA Changes

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) repealed the deduction for casualties and theft losses for 2018 through 2025 — except for losses suffered in federally declared disaster areas. The special election to speed up the tax relief available to taxpayers in disaster areas remains in effect after the TCJA.

New Relief for Victims

The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act doesn’t restore pre-TCJA law for all casualty and theft losses. However, it does provide the following seven tax breaks to victims in federally declared disaster areas, generally for 2018 through January 19, 2020:

  1. 10%-of-AGI threshold. The new law eliminates the usual 10%-of-AGI threshold on deducting losses from federally declared disasters. It also raises the floor for qualified disaster losses from $100 to $500.
  2. Itemizing vs. taking the standard deduction. Under the new law, you don’t have to itemize deductions to claim a disaster-related loss. You can write off your loss even if you claim the standard deduction for the tax year in question.
  3. Charitable contribution limits. The new law temporarily suspends the tax return limits for charitable contributions associated with qualified disaster relief. For instance, monetary contributions are normally limited to 60% of AGI, but this limit doesn’t apply to qualified donations in a disaster area.
  4. Certain tax credits. A special rule allows taxpayers in designated disaster areas to refer to the preceding tax year for purposes of determining the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Child Tax Credit (CTC).
  5. Early withdrawal penalty. Generally, distributions from qualified retirement plans, such as a 401(k) or Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), are hit with a 10% tax penalty in addition to regular tax liability if made before age 59½ — unless a special exception applies. The list of exceptions is lengthy. The new law now provides another exception for qualified disaster relief distributions, though qualified hurricane distributions can’t exceed $100,000.
  6. Cancelled home purchases. The new law permits re-contributions of retirement plan withdrawals for home purchases cancelled due to eligible disasters. It also provides flexibility for loans from retirement plans for qualified hurricane relief.
  7. Extended tax-filing deadlines. An individual with a principal place of residence within a federally designated disaster area, or any taxpayer with a principal place of business in such a disaster area, is granted an automatic 60-day extension for any tax filing. This provision acknowledges that victims probably have other concerns taking priority. The automatic filing extension applies to federal disaster areas declared after December 20, 2019, the new law’s date of enactment.

Special Break for Small Businesses

The new law also creates a special “employee retention credit” for 2018 and 2019. Essentially, a disaster-affected employer is entitled to a 40% tax credit for the first $6,000 of wages paid to an employee from a core disaster area. The maximum credit is $2,400 per worker.

The employee retention credit applies to wages paid regardless of whether services associated with those wages were actually performed. It’s treated as part of the general business credit.

For More Information

This article highlights the key tax breaks available to individuals and small businesses that have suffered losses in a federally declared disaster area. Other special rules may apply. If you’re hit with a disaster, consult with your tax advisor to maximize the benefits for your situation.

Repeal of”Church Parking Tax”

Starting in 2018, a provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) triggered unrelated business income tax (UBIT) on tax-exempt organizations like churches that provide employees with transportation and parking fringe benefits. Now that provision has been repealed under the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act.

The change is effective for amounts paid or incurred after 2017. So, churches and other not-for-profit entities that paid UBIT on applicable transportation benefits in 2018 and 2019 may be eligible for a refund. Contact your tax advisor for more information.

OECD Releases Minimum Tax Plan To Solve Digital Tax Issues

The OECD on November 8, 2019, released its plans for a minimum tax on corporate profits, which is one element of a two-pronged approach to solving the tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy.

In May 2019 the Inclusive Framework agreed a Program of Work for Addressing the Tax Challenges of the Digitalization of the Economy. The Program of Work is divided into two pillars:

  • Pillar One addresses the allocation of taxing rights between jurisdictions and considers various proposals for new profit allocation and nexus rules;
  • Pillar Two (also referred to as the “Global Anti-Base Erosion” or “GloBE” proposal) calls for the development of a co-ordinated set of rules to address ongoing risks from structures that allow MNEs to shift profit to jurisdictions where they are subject to no or very low taxation.

The OECD’s GloBE proposal is designed to give jurisdictions a remedy in cases where income is subject to no or only very low taxation. The proposal looks to minimize tax base erosion and profit shifting by ensuring that income is not inappropriately shifted to territories that levy no or low tax rates, by ensuring that income is subject to at least a minimum level of tax, wherever that may be. This would involve the introduction of a new effective tax rate test, which would also enable stakeholders to better determine in a harmonized way how much tax multinationals pay internationally, the OECD has proposed.

In a new consultation on its proposal, which will run until December 2, 2019, the OECD has explained in detail how its proposed system will work.

According to the OECD, the four component parts of the GloBE proposal are:

  • an income inclusion rule that would tax the income of a foreign branch or a controlled entity if that income was subject to tax at an effective rate that is below a minimum rate;
  • an undertaxed payments rule that would operate by way of a denial of a deduction or imposition of source-based taxation (including withholding tax) for a payment to a related party if that payment was not subject to tax at or above a minimum rate;
  • a switch-over rule to be introduced into tax treaties that would permit a residence jurisdiction to switch from an exemption to a credit method where the profits attributable to a permanent establishment (PE) or derived from immovable property (which is not part of a PE) are subject to an effective rate below the minimum rate; and
  • a subject to tax rule that would complement the undertaxed payment rule by subjecting a payment to withholding or other taxes at source and adjusting eligibility for treaty benefits on certain items of income where the payment is not subject to tax at a minimum rate.

The OECD is proposing that the rules will be implemented by way of changes to domestic law and tax treaties. They would include a co-ordination or ordering rule to avoid the risk of double taxation that might otherwise arise where more than one jurisdiction sought to apply these rules to the same structure or arrangement.

The OECD said: “Like Pillar One, the GloBE proposal under Pillar Two represents a substantial change to the international tax architecture. This Pillar seeks to comprehensively address remaining BEPS challenges by ensuring that the profits of internationally operating businesses are subject to a minimum rate of tax.”

“A minimum tax rate on all income reduces the incentive for taxpayers to engage in profit shifting and establishes a floor for tax competition among jurisdictions. In doing so, the GloBE proposal is intended to address the remaining BEPS challenges linked to the digitalization of the economy, but it goes even further and addresses these challenges more broadly. The GloBE proposal is expected to affect the behavior of taxpayers and jurisdictions. It posits that global action is needed to stop a harmful race to the bottom on corporate taxes, which risks shifting the burden of taxes onto less mobile bases and may pose a particular risk for developing countries with small economies.”

The OECD added: “Depending on its design, the GloBE proposal may shield developing countries from pressure to offer inefficient tax incentives. The GloBE proposal is based on the premise that, in the absence of a coordinated and multilateral solution, there is a risk of uncoordinated, unilateral action, both to attract more tax base and to protect existing tax base, with adverse consequences for all jurisdictions. The GloBE proposal should be designed to achieve these objectives consistent with principles of design simplicity that will minimize compliance and administration costs and the risk of double taxation. To that end, the Program of Work calls for the consideration of simplifications, thresholds, carve-outs, and exclusions from the rules.”

The OECD intends that the GloBE proposal will operate as a top-up to an agreed fixed rate. The actual rate of tax to be applied under the GloBE proposal will be discussed once other key design elements of the proposal are fully developed, it said.

The consultation is seeking feedback on:

  • The use of financial accounts as a starting point for the tax base determination, as well as different mechanisms to address timing differences;
  • The level of blending under the GloBE proposal – that is the extent to which an MNE can combine high-tax and low-tax income from different sources taking into account the relevant taxes on such income in determining the effective (blended) tax rate on such income; and
  • Experience with, and views on, carve-outs and thresholds considered as part of the GloBE proposal.
Boris Johnson

Suspected Terrorists and illegal immigrants Deported

Taxpayers paid £57m to lawyers who successfully fought Government attempts to deport suspected terrorists and illegal immigrants

Two former justice ministers today urge Boris Johnson and the Government to rethink the practice to end such big pay-outs CREDIT: WPA POOL/GETTY IMAGES EUROPE

Taxpayers have had to foot a £57.5 million bill to pay off lawyers who successfully fought Home Office attempts to deport suspected terrorists, foreign criminals and illegal immigrants.

They have had to pay or settle the legal costs of lawyers who have often used European human rights laws to outflank the Home Office and win cases for their clients.

The 6,098 cases covering four years from 2014/15 to 2017/18 have involved foreign criminals, illegal immigrants and asylum seekers whom the Government unsuccessfully attempted to send back to their homelands, according to figures obtained under Freedom of Information laws.

It includes lawyers for hate preacher Abu Qatada who got £57,000 from the Home Office after they initially defeated its bid to send him back to Jordan to face terrorism charges. The Home Office paid their charges at a rate of £330 an hour.

Radical al-Aaida linked preacher, Abu Qatada

Radical al-Aaida linked preacher, Abu Qatada CREDIT: MOHAMMAD HANNON/AP

Two former justice ministers today urge Boris Johnson and the Government to rethink the practice to end such big pay-outs.

Mike Penning, a former policing and justice minister, said: “The Prime Minister needs to add this to his list of legislation that needs to be changed.

“If these people have been convicted and are not conducive to the public good, people won’t understand why we are paying out this money to lawyers abusing the legal system rather than spending it on the NHS.”

Oliver Heald, who was also a former Government law officer as solicitor general, said the Home Office should pay out where there was a serious mistake, but any awards should be “taxed on a reasonable basis so that it’s not possible to make a fortune out of these cases.

“They should be decided on a moderate basis rather than an expensive one. This is something the Ministry of Justice may wish to review.”

The £57.5 million for the 6,000 cases – equivalent to 30 every week for four years – excludes the additional £28.4 million that the Government had to pay for its own legal costs.

Oliver Heald

Oliver Heald, former Government law officer CREDIT: CHRIS MCANDREW / UK PARLIAMENT

The total of £86 million means the average case ends up costing the taxpayer more than £14,000 in legal fees.

Complex procedures around legal fees mean the Government can be forced to pay out extra payments on top of these to lawyers who successfully challenge legal rulings.

It is supposed to act as compensation to solicitors who may take on some cases where they lose and then end up potentially out of pocket with nobody to pay their costs.

But others believe the “No Win No Fee” culture has gone too far with lawyers able to get away with huge costs’ bills for winning cases against the state.

Other cases included lawyers for Kevin Kiarie, who fought deportation after being convicted of drug offences, who were paid expenses of £194,353. They won the case on the basis that having to appeal from abroad was a breach of his human rights under EU laws.

Human rights lawyers also won a court case claiming it was unfair to send migrants back to the EU country where they first arrived – and sent taxpayers a £600,000 bill for their work.

The lawyers, who charged £330-per-hour, represented an Iranian and three Eritreans who had smuggled their way into the UK after first claiming refugee status in Italy. Once in the UK, they lodged claims to stay here saying it would breach their human rights if they were sent back to Italy.

The Home Office said it took seriously its duty to spend public money effectively. Given the volume of cases, it was “unsurprising” it faced a number of legal challenges: “We have a good track record in defending Judicial Reviews of decisions but remain committed to learning where the Courts do not find in our favour.”