HMRC to clamp down on unpaid internships

Accountants in London may be interested to learn that HMRC is planning to tackle companies that pay interns less than the national minimum wage.

The Revenue is currently preparing a media enforcement campaign to tackle illegal practice and it is thought that some MPs could be targeted.

The problem of MPs underpaying interns is not a new one. In July 2009, the Guardian newspaper published an article claiming that parliament saved £5 million a year by not paying interns.

HMRC recently released a statement saying that young people applying for work experience or internships are unlikely to complain if they do not receive the national minimum wage. Therefore, the Revenue will target the sectors where young people traditionally look for internships and work experience.

This targeted enforcement activity will include visiting companies unannounced and educating employers on their responsibilities.

Earlier this year, The Low Pay Commission accused HMRC of not doing enough to protect underpaid interns. It also suggested that more clarity was needed regarding the differences between an unpaid work experience and an exploitary internship.

Internships can be a tricky subject for employers. They have been seen as a good way to provide experience for young people, but some organisations exploit this. However, a lot of employers might not bother to use interns if they had to apply the same payroll regulations to them as were applied to regular employees.

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