As business owners we all want to make sure our company is a great place to work. Have you considered giving your employees or even their family members educational scholarships?

Partnership rather than a limited company. We explain why in today’s blog.

Employer-funded scholarships

Special tax rules apply to scholarships, which include exhibitions, bursaries or other similar education endowments.

Provided certain conditions are met, there will be no tax or reporting implications where an employer funds a ‘fortuitous’ scholarship for an employee’s family member. Broadly, this means that there must be no direct connection between the employee working for the employer and their family member getting the scholarship.

A scholarship is ‘fortuitous’ if all the following apply:

  • the person with the scholarship is in full-time education
  • the scholarship would still have gone to that person even if their family member did not work for the employer
  • the scholarship is run from a trust fund or under a scheme
  • 25% or fewer of the payments made by the fund or scheme are for employment-linked scholarships

If the scholarship does not qualify for exemption, the employer must report it to HMRC on form P11D and pay Class 1A NICs on the cost of providing it.

Unfortunately, in a family company, directors’ children are unable to take advantage of this provision because the tax legislation deems there to be a benefit in kind. However, in some circumstances a remoter relative (for example a grandparent) could establish such a scheme provided that the student was validly employed and their parents are not involved with the company.

Sandwich courses

An employee in full-time employment may leave that employment for a period to attend an educational establishment but continue to receive payments from their employer, for example where the employee is on a ‘sandwich’ course. Such payments will be treated as exempt from income tax, provided the following conditions are satisfied:

  1. The employer must require the employee to be enrolled at the educational establishment for at least one academic year and to attend the course for at least 20 weeks in that academic year. If the course is longer, the employee must attend for at least 20 weeks on average, in an academic year over the period of the course.
  2. The establishment must be a recognised university, technical college or ‘similar educational establishment’, open to the public and offering more than one course of practical or academic instruction.
  3. The payments must not exceed a specified maximum figure for the academic year. This figure must include lodging, subsistence and travel allowances but does not include any tuition fees payable to the establishment by the employee. Note that:
  • the exemption can apply to payments of earnings payable to the student for periods spent studying at the educational establishment
  • it cannot, however, cover payments made for any periods spent working for the employer, whether during vacations or otherwise
  • the current maximum figure is £15,480 per academic year
  • in principle, the limit is all or nothing: if it is breached then the whole amount is taxable. However, if an increased payment is made during the academic year then this does not invalidate earlier payments made within the agreed limit

Qualifying payments will also be exempt for Class 1 National Insurance Contributions purposes.

Example

Jack’s employer pays for him to attend college on a course that starts in September 2018 and finishes at the end of the academic year in June 2019. Jack works for his employer over the Christmas and Easter periods, during which he is paid his normal monthly salary. His income while working during holidays will be subject to tax and Class 1 NICs, because the exemption only applies to income when attending college.

Jack’s employer pays him £3,000 in September 2018 for the first term of the academic year followed by two further payments of £3,000 each in January 2 and April 2019 to cover terms 2 and 3. These three amounts of £3,000 each will be exempt from tax and NICs because they meet the qualifying conditions, including being less than the financial ceiling of £15,480.

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In many cases, an LLP is likely to be more attractive to those who would have formed a partnership rather than a limited company. We explain why in today’s blog.

Weighing up LLPs

A limited liability partnership (LLP) is similar to an ordinary partnership in that a number of people or limited companies join together and share the costs, risks, and responsibilities of the business. They also take a share of the profits and pay income tax and NICs on their share of the partnership profits.

However, an LLP differs from an ordinary partnership in that its debt is usually limited to the amount of money each partner invested in the business and to any personal guarantees given to raise business finance. Therefore, members have some protection if the business runs into difficulties because their liability is restricted in general terms to the level of their investment.

So, what other advantages can an LLP as a trading vehicle offer?

Advantages

Along similar lines to a company, an LLP is a separate legal person, meaning that the members are not personally or jointly liable for the LLP’s debts, and all contracts are between the LLP and its clients or third parties. If the LLP becomes insolvent, a member’s personal liability is normally limited to the amount of their agreed capital contribution plus the value of any personal guarantee. However, where negligence is involved, members may be personally liable to the full extent of their assets if they have assumed personal responsibility for the advice or work.

The separate legal entity status also means that there is no need, for example, to transfer legal title to property on a change of membership. LLPs also have unlimited capacity and can enter into contracts and hold property in the same way as an individual.

Members of the LLP are usually taxed as if they were partners and not employees or directors. They are therefore not liable to pay PAYE or Class 1 NICs.

Businesses often find it easier to recruit new members to an LLP than to an ordinary partnership, where the prospect of unlimited liability can be a major disincentive to potential partners.

Disadvantages

The benefits of limited liability combined with a favourable tax treatment should not be underestimated, but they do come at a price, most notably the associated disclosure obligations.

Where the LLP’s profit before members’ remuneration exceeds £200,000, there is a requirement to report the amount of profit attributable to the highest paid member (but not their name). Other disclosure includes total members’ remuneration, total members, average members’ remuneration and related party transactions.

There will be costs to set up the LLP and ongoing filing fees. The administrative costs in notifying clients and suppliers and transferring bank accounts, leases and agreements will need to be considered.

Corporate-type accounts have to be prepared, circulated to each member and filed on a public register within nine months of its year end. LLP accounts must comply with UK generally accepted accounting principles and other specific regulations.

Loans and debts due to members (the equivalent of partnership current accounts), are required to be shown as liabilities rather than as part of capital alongside the partnership capital accounts. This in turn reduces the LLP’s net worth and may affect its credit rating and borrowing capacity.

In relation to tax matters, the following areas will need careful thought:

  • tax relief for losses in trading LLPs is restricted
  • there will be no scope for tax-efficient share incentives for staff as there are with a company
  • anti-avoidance provisions may apply to ‘disguised employment’ situations

Weighing up the pros and cons, in many cases, an LLP is likely to be more attractive to those who would have formed a partnership rather than a limited company, but who ultimately seek the benefit of limited liability.

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Generally, tax relief is available, but the rules are different if you’re a small business using the cash basis…

Tax relief on business-related loans

Subject to certain conditions and restrictions, tax relief will generally be available for interest paid on loans to, or overdrafts of, a business in the form of a deductible expense. Different rules for loan interest relief apply to smaller businesses using HMRC’s cash basis for income tax purposes (see below).

One of the main qualifying conditions for the deduction is that the interest must be paid wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business and at a reasonable rate of interest. Tax relief is only available on interest payments – the repayment of the capital element of a loan is never tax-deductible.

Where only part of a loan satisfies the conditions for interest relief, only a proportion of the interest will be eligible, for example, interest payable in respect of, say, a car used partly for business and partly for private purposes will be apportioned accordingly. Note, however, that tax relief is not available for an employee using a privately-owned car for the purposes of his or her employment, although tax-free business mileage payments may usually be claimed.

A deduction cannot be claimed for notional interest that might have been obtained if money had been invested rather than spent on (for example) repairs.

In addition, a deduction will not be allowed if a loan effectively funds a business owner’s overdrawn current/capital account.

Anti-avoidance rules exist to prevent tax relief on loan interest paid where the sole or main benefit to the payer from the transaction is to obtain a tax advantage.

Incidental costs

In addition to loan interest relief, the incidental costs of obtaining loan finance, such as fees, commissions, advertising and printing, will also be deductible in most cases. The deduction for incidental costs is given at the same time as any other deduction in computing profits for income tax purposes.

Cash basis

From 2013/14 onwards, eligible unincorporated small businesses may choose to use the cash basis when calculating taxable income, and all unincorporated businesses have the option to use certain flat-rate expenses when calculating taxable income.

The general rule for businesses that have chosen to use the cash basis is that no deduction is allowed for the interest paid on a loan. This is however, subject to a specific exception. Where the deduction for loan interest would be disallowed under this general rule or because (and only because) it is not an expense wholly and exclusively for the trade, a deduction is allowed of up to £500.

This £500 limit does not apply to payments of interest on purchases, provided the purchase itself is an allowable expense, as this is not cash borrowing. However, if the item purchased is used for both business and non-business purposes, only the proportion of interest related to the business usage is allowable.

If a deduction is also claimed for the incidental costs of obtaining finance, the maximum deduction for both these expenses together is £500.

If a business has interest and finance costs of less than £500 then the split between business costs and any personal interest charges does not have to be calculated.

Businesses should review annual business interest costs – if it is anticipated that these costs will be more than £500, it may be more appropriate for the business to opt out of the cash basis and obtain tax relief for all the business-related financing costs.

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Be careful when borrowing money from your company as a director – you might fall foul of the ‘bed and breakfasting’ scenario

Directors’ loans – Beware of ‘bed and breakfasting’

It can make sense financially for directors of personal and family companies to borrow money from the company rather than from a commercial lender. Depending on when in the financial year the loan is taken out, it is possible to borrow up to £10,000 for up to 21 months without any tax consequences. However, if the loan remains outstanding beyond a certain point, tax charges will apply.

Company tax charge

In the event that a loan made to a director of a close company in an accounting period remains outstanding on the date when the corporation tax for that period is due, the company must pay a tax charge (‘section 455 tax’) on the outstanding value of the loan. The trigger date for the charge is the corporation tax due date of nine months and one day after the end of the accounting period. The amount of section 455 tax is 32.5% of loan remaining outstanding on the trigger date.

Traps to avoid

In days of old, it was relatively simple to prevent a section 455 charge from applying by clearing the loan balance just before the trigger date and, if the director still needed the loan, re-borrowing the funds shortly after the trigger date (bed and breakfasting). However, anti-avoidance provisions mean that as a strategy this is no longer effective.

Trap 1 – The 30-day rule

The 30-day rule comes into play where, within a period of 30 days of making a repayment of £5,000 or more, the director re-borrows money from the company. The rule effectively renders the repayment in-effective up to the level of the funds that are re-borrowed. Section 455 tax is charged on the lower of the amount repaid and the funds borrowed within a 30-day window.

Example

John is a director of his personal company J Ltd. The company prepares accounts to 31 January each year. In May 2018, John borrowed £8,000 from the company. On 28 October 2019, he repays the loan with money lent to him by his wife. On 7 November 2019, he re-borrows £7,000 from the company to enable him to pay his wife back. He does not make any further borrowings in November 2019.

Corporation tax for the year to 31 January 2019 is due on 1 November 2019. Although the director’s loan is not outstanding on that date, the 30-day rule bites and only £1,000 of the repayment made on 28 October 2019 is effective — £7,000 of the £8,000 paid back is re-borrowed within 30 days. Consequently, the section 455 charge applies to £7,000 – the lower of the repayment and the funds borrowed within 30-days of the repayment – and the company must pay section 455 tax of £2,275 (32.5% of £7,000).

Avoiding the trap

The 30-day rule can be avoided if the company pays the director a dividend, bonus or any other payment that’s taxable and this is used to repay part or all of a loan. In this situation, it’s OK to take another loan from the company within 30 days without the anti-avoidance rule being triggered. Keeping repayments and re-borrowings below £5,000 will also prevent the 30-day rule from biting.

Trap 2 – Intentions and arrangements rule

The ‘intention and arrangements’ rule applies where the balance of the loan outstanding immediately before the repayment is at least £15,000, and at the time a loan repayment is made there are arrangements, or an intention, to subsequently borrow £5,000.

This rule applies even where the new borrowing is outside 30 days. The rule bites if the repayment is made with the intention of redrawing at least £5,000 of the payment, irrespective of when this is done. Again, the rule does not apply to funds extracted by way of a dividend or bonus as these are within the charge to income tax.

Plan repayments carefully

Where looking to repay loans to prevent a section 455 charge from arising, these should be planned carefully to avoid falling foul of the traps.

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Property Business – What SIC code should I use for my property Company ?

A SIC code stands for Standard Industrial Classification code, and classifies your business activity at Companies House. SIC code for a company can be changed at any time and be amended when you file your next  Confirmation Statement. While forming a company to run your property business, you will be asked to provide SIC code which closely describes your business activities. There are various reasons to choose an appropriate SIC code so as to avoid any complexities later on with tax authorities and Lenders.

Practically, there are only four: 68100, 68209, 68320 and 68310, and here’s a brief explanation of their classification.

1. SIC code 68100 is for the buying and selling of own real estate; so, if you’re going to be flipping and trading,  this would be the code for you. So if you intend to buy properties to resell, then this is the appropriate SIC code.

2. SIC code 68209 is for the letting and operating of own or leased real estate. In other words, for buying and holding property and renting it out. So if you are buying a property to hold as an investment (single BTLs or HMOs) or if you are using Rent to Rent strategy this will be the SIC code for  your company.

3. SIC code 68320 is for the management of real estate on a fee or contract basis. So, for example if you’re going to set up your own management company, then this would be the right classification for you.

4. SIC code 68310 is for real estate agencies. So, for all the deal sourcers/packagers who act as an agent for investors.

As you can see, these codes effectively tell Companies House what a business is going to be doing from a tax point of view. You can choose up to a maximum of four SIC codes for one company. SIC codes also play a crucial role with lenders/Finance providers – again, these codes let lenders know what activity a property company is going to undertake, and will help lenders assess whether they want to lend to you or not.There are issues however with having multiple property activities running through the same company, and it would be wise to seek professional advice to ensure your company structure is correct and efficient from the outset, with particular consideration to Capital Gain Tax and business property relief.

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