Category: Finance & Accounting

The delayed start date for the domestic reverse VAT charge has given businesses an extra year to prepare for the charge. We explain what you can do to prepare.

Domestic reverse VAT charge for building and construction services

The domestic reverse VAT charge for building and construction services was due to come into effect from 1 October 2019. However, in early September it was announced that the start date had been put back one year. As a result, the charge will now apply from 1 October 2020.

Who is affected?

The charge will affect individuals and businesses who are registered for VAT in the UK and who supply or receive specified services that are reported under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS).

Nature of a reverse charge

The reverse charge means that the customer receiving the specified supply has to pay the VAT rather than the supplier. In turn, the customer can recover the VAT under the normal VAT recovery rules.

Supplies within the scope of the charge

The reverse charge will apply to supplies of building and construction services which are supplied at the standard or reduced rates that also need to be reported under the CIS. These are called specified supplies.

However, where materials are included within a service, the reverse charge applies to the whole amount. By contrast, where deductions are made from payments to subcontractors under the CIS, no deductions are made from any part of the payment that relates to material.

Move to monthly returns

The introduction of the reverse charge will mean that some businesses may become repayment traders claiming VAT back from HMRC rather than paying it over to HMRC. To aid cashflow and reduce the delay in claiming the VAT back, repayment traders can move to monthly returns.

Planning ahead

The delayed start date has given businesses an extra year to prepare for the charge. In order to be ready for its introduction, businesses within the CIS should:

  • check whether the reverse charge will affect their sales, their purchases or both
  • update their accounting systems and software to deal with the reverse charge from 1 October 2020
  • consider whether the change will impact on cashflow
  • ensure that staff who are responsible for VAT accounting are familiar with the reverse charge and how it will operate

Contractors should review their contracts with subcontractors to determine whether the reverse charge will apply to services received under the contract. Where it does, they will need to notify their suppliers.

Subcontractors will need to contact their customers to obtain confirmation from them as to whether the reverse charge will apply, and also whether the customer is an end user or intermediary supplier.

Impact of change of start date

HMRC recognise that the start date was changed at short notice and that businesses may have changed their invoices to meet the needs of the reverse charge and cannot easily change them back. Where errors arise as a result, HMRC will take the change of date into account.

Partner Note: The Value Added Tax (Section 55A) (Specified Services and Excepted Supplies) Order 2019 (SI 2019/892); The Value Added Tax (Section 55A) (Specified Services and Excepted Supplies) (Change of Commencement Day) Order 2019 (Si 2019/1240).

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Wondering whether to use dividends or a salary? Read this blog to find out why dividends are more cost-effective.

Director’s salary or bonus?

Given current tax rates, paying a dividend rather than a salary will often be a more cost-effective way of withdrawing profits from a company.

Tax is currently payable on any dividend income received over the £2,000 annual dividend allowance at the following rates:

  • 7.5% on dividend income within the basic rate band (up to £37,500 in 2019-20)
  • 32.5% on dividend income within the higher rate band (£37,501 to £150,000 in 2019-20)
  • 38.1% on dividend income within the additional rate band (over £150,000 in 2019-20)

However, if the company is loss-making and has no retained profits, it will not be possible to declare a dividend, and an alternative will need to be considered. This often involves an increased salary or a one-off bonus payment.  

From a tax perspective, the position will be the same whether a salary or bonus is paid. Both types of payment attract income tax at the recipient’s relevant rate of tax (20%, 40% or 45% as appropriate).

However, from a National Insurance Contributions (NICs) perspective, the position, and any potential cost savings, will depend on whether or not the payment is made to a director.

Directors have an annual earnings period for NIC purposes. Broadly, this means that NICs payable will be the same regardless of whether the payment is made in regular instalments or as a single lump sum bonus.  In addition, since there is no upper limit of employer (secondary) NICs, the company’s position will be the same regardless of whether the payment is made by way of a salary or a bonus.

Where a bonus or salary payment is to be made to another family member who is not a director, the earnings period rules mean that it may be possible to save employees’ NICs by paying a one-off bonus rather than a regular salary.

Example

Henry is the sole director of a company and an equal 50% shareholder with his wife Susan. In 2019/20 they each receive a salary of £720 per month.

In the year ended 31 March 2020, the company makes profits of £24,000 (after paying the salaries). The profits are to be shared equally between Henry and Susan. They want to know whether it will be more cost effective to extract the profits as an additional salary – each receiving an additional £1,000 per month for the next twelve months – or as a one-off bonus payment with each receiving £12,000.

The income tax position will be the same regardless of which method is used.

As Henry is a director, his NIC position will be the same regardless of which route is taken as he has an annual earnings period for NIC purposes.

Susan is not a director, so the normal earnings period for NIC in a month will be the interval in which her existing salary is paid.

Assuming NIC rates and thresholds remain the same in 2020/21, if Susan receives an additional salary of £1,000 a month, she will pay Class 1 NIC of £120 (£1,000 x 12%) a month on that additional salary. Her annual NIC bill on the additional salary of £12,000 will be £1,440.

However, if she receives a lump sum bonus of £12,000 in one month (in addition to her normal monthly salary of £720), she will pay NIC on the bonus of £585 ((£3,450 x 12%) + (£8,550 x 2%)).

Paying a bonus instead of a salary reduces Susan’s NIC bill by £855.

Finally, it is important to note that in determining an effective company profit extraction strategy, tax should never be the only consideration. Any profit extraction strategy should be consistent with the wider goals and aims of the company.

Partner note: SI 2001/1004, Reg 11

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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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If you need help on how to time dividends, read our short article that explains the basics

Timing dividends right could help save tax

Timing the date of a dividend payment from a company can determine both the amount and the due date of the tax payable. This may be a particularly useful strategy in a close- or family-owned company.

The dividend allowance, which was originally introduced from 6 April 2016, was cut from £5,000 a year to £2,000 from 6 April 2018. Fortunately, the tax rates on dividend income, above the allowance, remain at 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers, 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers and 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers.

The amount of tax payable on dividend income is determined by the amount of overall income an individual receives during a tax year. This includes earnings, savings, dividend and non-dividend income. The amount of dividend tax paid depends primarily on which tax band the first £2,000 falls in.

Accelerating payment

The timing of the dividend payment may have a marked impact on the directors’ and shareholders’ personal tax situation. A dividend is not paid until the shareholder receives the funds direct or the dividend amount is put unreservedly at his or her disposal, for example by a credit to a loan account on which the shareholder has the power to draw. If the personal tax allowance and basic rate band for a tax year have not been fully utilised towards the end of the tax year, payment of a dividend may mean that the unused portion can be mopped up.

Example

Graham is the sole director and shareholder of a limited company.

He is considering whether to pay a dividend before the end of the 2019/20 tax year. In that tax year he has other income of £25,000. He has retained profits in the company of £100,000.

For 2019/20 the personal tax allowance is £12,500 and the basic rate tax band is £37,500. The dividend allowance is £2,000.

If Graham pays a dividend of £27,000 before the end of the 2019/20 tax year, he will fully utilise his basic rate band, and will be liable to tax at 7.5% on the £25,000 of the dividend income (the first £2,000 of the dividend being covered by the dividend allowance).

Delaying payment

Where the shareholder already has income exceeding the basic rate band in one tax year, delaying the dividend until the start of the next tax year could save tax.

Example

Following on from the above example, say Graham has already paid himself a salary of £50,000 in the 2019/20 tax year, thus fully using up his basic rate band. If he pays the £27,000 dividend before the end of the tax year, he will pay tax on it of £8,125 (£27,000 – £2,000 allowance x 32.5%). This tax will be due for payment on 31 January 2021.

If he waits until the start of the next tax year (2020/21) to pay the dividend, and also receives a salary of £25,000 during that year, the tax due on the dividend will be £1,875 (£25,000 x 7.5%) – a potential saving of £6,250. Graham will also benefit from a delay in the due date for payment of the tax until 31 January 2022.

Fluctuating income

Dividend payments can often be timed to smooth a director/shareholder’s earnings year-on-year. Broadly, where profits fluctuate, a company could consider declaring and paying dividends equally each year, or by declaring a smaller dividend in the first year (when profits are higher) and treating the remainder of the payment as a shareholder loan. At the start of the next tax year, a further (smaller) dividend can be declared, which will repay the loan. Care must be taken with this type of arrangement, not least because the loan must be repaid within nine months of the company’s year-end to avoid a tax charge arising on the company.

The family business potentially offers considerable scope for structuring tax-efficient payments to family members using a mixture of both salary and dividends. A pre-dividend review may be particularly beneficial towards the end of the company’s year-end.

Partner Note: ITA 2017, s 8 and s 13A; F(No 2)A 2017, s 8;  CTA 2010, s 455

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A quick summary of the new tax bands for CO2 car emissions which will be introduced from April next year:

Are low emissions cars tax efficient?

Significant changes are being made from 2020-21 to the company car tax benefits-in-kind bands affecting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

The taxable benefit arising on a car is calculated using the car’s full manufacturer’s published UK list price, including the full value of any accessories. This figure is then multiplied by the ‘appropriate percentage’, which can be found by reference to the car’s CO2 emissions level. This will give the taxable value of the car benefit. The employee pays income tax on the final figure at their appropriate tax rate: 20% for basic rate taxpayers, 40% for higher rate taxpayers and 45% for additional rate taxpayers. This formula means that in general terms, the lower the C02 emissions of the car, the lower the resulting tax charge will be.

For 2019-20, the appropriate percentage for cars (whether fully electric or not) is 16% for those emitting 50g/km CO2 or below, and 19% for those emitting CO2 of between 51 and 75g/km. This means that the taxable benefit arising on a zero-emissions car costing, say £30,000 is £4,800, with tax payable of £960 for a basic rate taxpayer – for a higher rate taxpayer this equates to tax payable of £1,920

By way of comparison, a 2001cc petrol-engine car with a list price of £30,000, will attract an appropriate percentage of 37% in 2019-20. This equates to a taxable benefit charge of £11,100, and a liability of £2,220 a year for a basic rate taxpayer.

New bands

In April 2020, new ULEV rates will be introduced, and the most tax efficient cars will be those with CO2 emissions below 50g/km. There will also be additional financial incentives for electric only cars

From 2020-21, five new bandings are being introduced for full and hybrid electric cars. Fully electric (zero emissions) cars will attract an appropriate percentage of just 2%. This means that the tax benefit arising on an electric car costing say, £30,000 will be just £600. The resulting tax payable by a basic rate taxpayer will be £120 a year and £240 for a higher rate taxpayer.

For cars emitting CO2 of between 1 and 50g/km, the appropriate percentage will depend on the car’s electric range figure:

Mileage Percentage
130 miles or more  2%
70 – 129 miles 5%
40-69 miles 8%
30-39 miles 12%
Less than 30 miles 14%

ULEVs with CO2 emissions of between 50g-74g/km CO2 will be on a graduated scale from 15% to 19% (as is currently the case, diesel-only vehicles will continue to attract a further 4% surcharge) as follows:

CO2 emissions Percentage
51 to 54g/km 15%
55 to 59g/km 16%
60 to 64g/km 17%
65 to 69g/km 18%
70 to 74g/km 19%
75 or more 20%
Plus 1% per 5g/km
Up to a maximum 37%

Whilst the journey towards ‘greener’ driving has been, and continues to be, a rocky one, in 2014/15 a sub-130g/km petrol car was considered green enough to merit an 18% appropriate percentage. However, by 2020/21, the appropriate percentage on such a car will have risen to 30%. A sub-100g/km band car that was only subject to a 12% charge in 2014/15 will also have risen to 24% by 2020/21. On the other hand, clean air all-electric cars will finally plummet to 2% under the new company car tax incentives from April 2020.

The incentives in the new tax bands are clearly designed to encourage ULEVs as a company car driver’s car of choice, and with around 1 million company car drivers in the UK, this benefit is likely to remain one of the most popular and potent perks of a job.

Partner Note: ITEPA 2003, ss 139-142; Finance Act (2) Part 1 s2

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Do you spend more than 6 months of the year outside the UK? Make sure you’re compliant

Non-residents landlord scheme

A non-resident landlord is a landlord who lets out property in the UK but spends more than six months in the tax year outside the UK. A special tax scheme – the non-residents landlord scheme – applies to these landlords. Under the scheme, tax must be deducted by a letting agent or tenant from the rent paid to the non-resident landlord and paid over to HMRC.

Tenants

A tenant falls within the NRL scheme where the landlord is a non-resident landlord and the rent paid to the landlord is more than £100 a week. Where the rent is less than £100 a week (£5,200 a year), the tenant is not required to deduct tax from the rent (unless told to do so by HMRC). The tenant is also relieved of the obligation to deduct tax if HMRC have notified the tenant in writing that the landlord can receive the rent without tax being deducted; however the tenant must still register with HMRC and complete an annual return.

Where the tenant pays rent to a letting agent, it is the letting agent rather than the tenant who must operate the scheme.

Letting agents

Letting agents must also operate the NRL scheme where they collect rent on behalf of a non-resident landlord, regardless of how much rent they collect (unless HMRC have informed the letting agent in writing that the landlord can receive the rent without tax being deducted).

A letting agent is someone who helps the landlord run their business, receives rent on their behalf or controls where it goes and who usually lives in the UK.

Complying with the scheme

To comply with the scheme, tenants and letting agents must

  • register with the HMRC Charity, Savings and International department within 30 days of the date on which they are first required to operate the scheme– letting agents should use form NRL4i and tenants should write to HMRC
  • work out the tax to be deducted each quarter
  • send quarterly payments of tax deducted to HMRC Accounts Office, Shipley
  • send a report to HMRC and the landlord by 5 July after the end of the tax year on form NRLY
  • provide the non-resident landlord with a certificate of tax deducted each year (on form NRL6)
  • keep records for four years to show that they have complied with the scheme

Calculating the tax

Tax should be calculated on a quarterly basis on:

  • any rental income paid to the landlord in the quarter
  • any payments that they make in the quarter to third parties which are not ‘deductible payments’

Deductible payments are those that the tenant or letting agent can be ‘reasonably satisfied’ will be deductible in computing the profits of the landlord’s property rental business. Reassuringly, in their guidance, HMRC state that they ‘do not expect letting agents and tenants to be tax experts’.

The quarters run to 30 June, 30 September, 31 December and 31 March. The tax deducted must be paid over to HMRC within 30 days of the end of the quarter.

The non-resident landlord

The non-resident landlord can set the tax deducted under the scheme against that payable on the profits of his or her property rental business. Partner note: The Taxation of Income from Land (Non-residents) Regulations 1995 (SI 1995/2002).

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A quick guide to what should be included when calculating the profit or loss for a property rental business.

Property income receipts – what should be included?

When calculating the profit or loss for a property rental business, it is important that nothing is overlooked. The receipts which need to be taken into account may include more than simply the rent received from letting out the property.

Rent and other receipts

Income from a property rental business includes all gross rents received before any deductions, for example, for property management fees or for letting agents’ fees. Other receipts, such as ground rents, should be taken into account.

Deposits

The treatment of deposits can be complex. A deposit may be taken to cover the cost of any damage incurred by the tenant. Where a property is let on an assured shorthold tenancy, the tenants’ deposit must be placed in a tenancy deposit scheme.

Deposits not returned at the end of the tenancy or amounts claimed against bonds should normally be included as income. However, any balance of a deposit that is not used to cover services or repairs and is returned to the tenant should be excluded from income.

Jointly-owned property

Where a property is owned by two or more people, it is important that the profit or loss is allocated between the joint owners correctly. Where the joint owners are married or in a civil partnership, profits and losses will be allocated equally, even if the property is owned in unequal shares, unless a form 17 election has been made for profits and losses to be allocated in accordance with actual ownerships shares where these are unequal.

Where the joint owners are not spouses or civil partners, profits and losses are normally divided in accordance with actual ownership shares, unless a different split has been agreed.

Overseas rental properties

Where a person has both UK and overseas rental properties, it is important that they are dealt with separately. The person will have two property rental business – one for UK properties and one for overseas properties. Losses arising on an overseas let cannot be offset against profits of a UK let and vice versa. Proper records should be kept so that the income and expenses can be allocated to the correct property rental business.

Furnished holiday lettings

Different tax rules apply to the commercial letting of furnished holiday lettings and where a let qualifies as a furnished holiday let it must be kept separate from UK lets that are not furnished holiday lettings. Likewise, furnished lets in the EEA must be dealt with separately from UK furnished holiday lets.

Getting it right

Good record keeping is essential to ensure that not only that all sources of income are taken into account, but also that any income received is allocated to the correct property rental business.

Partner note: HMRC’s property rental toolkit (see www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-property-rental-toolkit).

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You might have escaped student loans, but your employees probably haven’t.

Student loan deductions

Employers fulfil many collection roles for HMRC, one of which is the collection of student loan repayments.

There are now three types of student loans for which employers may be responsible for deducting loan repayments from an employee’s pay. These are:

  • Plan 1 Student Loans;
  • Plan 2 Student Loans; and
  • Post-graduate Loans (PGLs).

Repayment thresholds

Employees must make repayments in respect of a student loan when their income exceeds the threshold for their particular loan type. Each loan has its own repayment threshold. The thresholds are as follows:

  Annual Monthly Weekly
Plan 1 Student Loan £18,935 £1,577.91 £364.13
Plan 2 Student Loan £25,725 £2,143.75 £494.71
Post-graduate Loan £21,000 £1,750.00 £403.84

Repayments are made at the rate of 9% on income in excess of the threshold for Plan 1 and Plan 2 Student loans, and at a rate of 6% on income in excess of the threshold for PGLs.

Where an employee has both a student loan and a PGL, deductions will be made at the combined rate of 15% where income exceeds the higher loan threshold.

Starting deductions

An employer will need to start making deductions in respect of a student or PGL if any of the following apply:

  • a new employee is taken on and has a ‘Y’ in the student loan box on their P45;
  • a new employee tells the employer they are repaying a student loan;
  • a new employee completes a starter checklist confirming that they have a student loan;
  • the employer receives a SL1 start notice from HMRC;
  • the employer receives a PGL1 start notice from HMRC; or
  • the employer receives a Generic Notification Service Student Loan reminder.

The employer should check they are aware of the type of loan that the employee has, confirming the loan type with the employee where necessary.

Stopping deductions

The employer should only stop making student loan deductions if they receive a SL2 stop notice or a PGL2 stop notice from HMRC; deductions should not be suspended at the request of the employee.

Where a stop notice is received, the employer should stop the deductions from the first payday from which it is practical to do so.

Paying deductions over to HMRC

The employer should pay amounts deducted from employees’ pay in respect of student loan deductions over to HMRC, together with payment of tax and National Insurance, taking care to ensure that the payment reach HMRC by 22nd month where payment is made electronically or by 19th month where payment is made by cheque.

Leavers

If an employee in respect of whom student loan or PGL repayments are being deducted leaves, the employer should enter a ‘Y’ in box 5 of the P45. This will tell the new employer to make deductions for student loan repayments. A ‘Y’ should be entered in this box even if the employee’s income is below the repayment threshold so no deductions have yet been made. An entry should not be made on the P45 if a stop notice has been received.

Partner Note: The Education (Student Loans) (Repayment) Regulations 2009 (SI 2009/470).

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Are you prepared for the dividend allowance cut on your January 2020 tax return?

Dividend complexities
The dividend allowance, which was originally introduced from 6 April 2016, was cut from £5,000 a year to £2,000 from 6 April 2018. The cut is likely to have a significant impact on employees and directors of small businesses who receive both salary and dividend payments.
Many family-owned companies allocate dividends towards the end of their financial year and/or the tax year, so it was not until March/April 2019 that the impact of the reduction first started to hit home. Unfortunately, many other taxpayers may not become aware of the change until they complete their 2018/19 tax return, which in most cases, will be due for submission to HMRC by 31 January 2020.
How much tax is paid on dividend income is determined by the amount of overall income the taxpayer receives. This includes earnings, savings, dividend and non-dividend income. The dividend tax will primarily depend on which tax band the first £2,000 falls in.
The tax rates on dividend income, above the allowance, remain at 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers, 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers and 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers.
For a basic rate taxpayer, the reduction in the allowance means an increase in tax paid on dividends of £225. For a higher rate taxpayer, the reduction increases the annual tax bill on dividends by £975, and for additional rate taxpayers, the increase is £1,143. Note that if dividend income falls between multiple tax bands, these figures will be different.
Dividend income is taxed at the taxpayer’s highest rate. This can often work in the taxpayers favour, particularly where a mixture of salary and dividends is received. For example, if a director receives a salary of £40,000 and a dividend of £12,000, their tax liability for 2019/20 will be as follows:

In this example, personal allowances are deducted first against the salary, leaving £27,500 of other income falling within the basic rate tax band (£37,500 for 2019/20). Dividend income falling within the basic rate band is £10,000 (£37,500 minus £27,500 used), with the remaining £2,000 falling above the basic rate limit. The dividend nil rate is allocated to the first £2,000 of dividend income, falling wholly within the basic rate band, leaving £8,000 within the basic rate band and taxable at the lower 7.5% rate. The remaining £2,000 of dividend income is taxable at the dividend upper rate of 32.5%.
Individuals who are not registered for self-assessment generally do not need to inform HMRC where they receive dividend income of up to £2,000. Those with income between £2,000 and £10,000 will need to report it to HMRC. The tax can usually be paid via a restriction to the PAYE tax code number, so that it is deducted from salary or pension. Alternatively, the taxpayer can complete a self-assessment tax return and the tax can be paid in the usual way (generally 31 January following the end of the tax year in which the income was received). Those receiving more than £10,000 in dividends will need to complete a tax return.
The allocation of various rate bands and tax rates can be complicated, even in situations where straight-forward dividend payments are made. Family business structures may be particularly vulnerable to the impact of the reduction in the dividend allowance, especially where multiple family members take dividends from the family company. A pre-dividend review may be beneficial is such cases.
Partner Note: ITA 20017, s 8 and s 13A

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Don’t lose out on tax reliefs for start-ups

Just starting out
As long as HMRC can be satisfied that a business is being run on a commercial basis with a view to making a profit, they will usually allow taxpayers to claim tax relief for a trading loss in one tax year against other taxable income (for example PAYE income or a pension) from the same year, or the preceding year. This can be quite beneficial as the claimant can choose which year to claim the losses against. However, HMRC will usually restrict loss relief claimed by individuals who carry on a trade but spend an average of less than ten hours a week on commercial activities.
Early days
The provisions for tax relief on business losses can be particularly useful in the early years of trading. Broadly, this is because a loss incurred in any of the first four tax years of a new business may be carried back against total income of the three previous tax years, starting with the earliest year. Therefore, if tax has been paid in any of the previous three years, the taxpayer should be entitled to a repayment of tax, which may be especially welcome in those often difficult first few years of running a business.
The rules for this carry back stipulate that the maximum amount of the loss must be offset each year – it is not permissible to offset just a proportion of the loss in order to spread the loss across three years to take advantage of beneficial tax rates. Again, relief will not be available unless the taxpayer was trading on a commercial basis with a view to making a profit within a reasonable timescale. In practice, this requirement may be difficult to prove in the case of a new business and the taxpayer may need a viable business plan to support a claim.
Cap on relief
A cap now restricts certain previously unlimited income tax reliefs that may be deducted from income. Trade loss relief against general income, and early trade losses relief, as outlined above, are two areas where this restriction might apply. The cap is set at £50,000 or 25% of income, whichever is greater. ‘Income’ for the purposes of the cap is calculated as ‘total income liable to income tax’. This figure is then adjusted to include charitable donations made via payroll giving and to exclude pension contributions – the adjustment is designed to create a level playing field between those whose deductions are made before they pay income tax, and those whose deductions are made after tax. The result, known as ‘adjusted total income’, will be the measure of income for the purpose of the cap.
The cap applies to the year of the claim and any earlier or later years in which the relief claimed is allocated against total income. The limit does not apply to relief that is offset against profits from the same trade or property business.
No need to lose out
Where a loss is made in a tax year, but the trader does not have any other income against which it can be set, the loss can be carried forward indefinitely and used to reduce the first available profits of the same business in subsequent years.
Finally, losses arising from a business may be set off against any chargeable capital gains. Relief may be claimed for the tax year of the loss and/or the previous tax year. However, the trading loss first has to be used against any other income the taxpayer may have for the year of the claim (for example, against earnings from employment) in priority to any capital gains.

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