Category: Business Profits

Closing a business can be a difficult time. Be tax efficient with this beneficial liquidation strategy.

Closing a business – when a member’s voluntary liquidation is beneficial

Although it is possible to strike off a company and for distributions made prior to dissolution to be treated as capital rather than as a dividend, this is not an option where the amount of the distributions exceeds £25,000.

Where the taxpayer’s personal circumstances are such that it is beneficial for the remaining funds to be taxed as capital (and liable to capital gains tax), rather than as a dividend, a member’s voluntary liquidation (MVL) can be an attractive option, as depending upon the level of funds to be extracted the costs of the liquidation may be more than covered by the tax savings that can be achieved.

What is an MVL?

An MVL is a process that allows the shareholders to put the company into liquidation. This route is only an option if the company is solvent (i.e. its assets are greater than its liabilities). The directors must sign a declaration of solvency confirming that the company is able to pay its debts in full within the next 12 months and 75% of the members must agree to place the company into liquidation. The shareholders must pass a special resolution to wind up the company. They will also need to pass an ordinary resolution to appoint liquidators. The liquidator must be a licenced insolvency practitioner.

What are the tax implications?

Under an MVL the capital extracted from the company is treated as a capital distribution and is liable to capital gains tax, rather than being taxed as a dividend. Where entrepreneurs’ relief is in point, the rate of tax will only be 10%, assuming enough of the entrepreneurs’ relief lifetime limit remains available. If significant funds are available for distribution, this can generate considerable tax savings.

Example

Edward and Oliver are directors of a company in which they both own 50% of the shares and 50% of the voting rights. Each is entitled to 50% of the profits available for distribution and 50% of the assets on a winding up.

They wish to wind the company up, but as they have cash and assets of £10 million to distribute, they opt for an MVL, to allow them to take advantage of the capital gains tax treatment. Both are additional rate taxpayers, and both meet the qualifying conditions for entrepreneurs’ relief.

Edward and Oliver each receive £5 million on the winding up of the company. They both have the full amount of the entrepreneurs’ relief lifetime limit (£10 million) unused, and it is assumed for simplicity that the annual exempt amount has been used elsewhere. The gain is therefore taxed at 10% and each will pay tax of £500,000 on their distribution of £5 million.

Had they not opted for an MVL and the extracted funds taxed as a dividend, they would have each paid £1,905,000 in tax on the £5 million distribution (£5m @ 38.1%).

Anti-avoidance

Anti-avoidance provisions apply which are designed to target ‘moneyboxing’ (where the company retains more funds than it needs in order to extract them as capital when the company is liquidated) and ‘pheonixism’ (where the company is liquidated, the value extracted as capital and a new company is set up to carry on what is essentially the same business). Liquidation distributions which are caught by the rules are treated as income rather than capital.

Partner note: Insolvency Act 1986, Pt. IV, Ch. III.

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Do you avoid these five common mistakes when you’re computing your business profits?

Avoiding common errors when computing business profits

HMRC produce a range of Toolkits for agents, which highlight errors commonly made in returns so that agents can take steps to avoid them. The business profits toolkit provides guidance on errors that are found in relation to business profits for small and medium-sized businesses. They are helpful to anyone computing taxable business profits.

Risk area 1 – Record keeping

Good record-keeping is essential for business profits to be calculated correctly. Poor records may result in sales or allowable expenditure being omitted from the accounts, with the result that the level of profit or loss is incorrect.

Risk area 2 – Business income

The profit or loss will only be correct if all income is included in the accounts. Unless the business is an unincorporated business that has opted to use the cash basis, business income should be included on an accruals basis, matching the income to the period in which it was earned.

Not all sources of business income will be immediately obvious – the income of the business may, for example, include scrap sales, contra sales or barter arrangements. Cash sales may also be overlooked.

Risk area 3 – Expenditure

To ensure that the profit is not overstated, all allowable expenditure should be taken into account. However, a deduction is only permitted for expenses which are wholly and exclusively incurred for the purposes of the business. Attention should also be paid to specific prohibitions, such as for business entertaining.

Purchases and expenses should be reviewed to ensure that they have been included.

Sole traders and partnerships comprising individuals can use simplified expenses rather than claiming actual expenses.

Risk area 4 – Stock and work in progress

Where the business is one that holds stock, care must be taken to include it at the correct value – this is the lower of cost and net realisable value. Errors will arise if stock is overlooked or valued incorrectly.

Work-in-progress can be a complex area and advice should be taken to ensure that the treatment is correct.

Risk area 5 – Miscellaneous items

Miscellaneous areas should also be considered. These may include a review of post-balance sheet events and consideration as to whether any adjustment to the accounts is required. Staff costs should also be reviewed and amounts unpaid nine months after the end of the period should be added back. As far as directors are concerned, consideration should be given to the date on which amounts are credited to the director’s loan account.

Partner note: HMRC’s Business Profits Toolkit – see www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-business-profits-toolkit.

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