Category: Income Tax

Failing to take your record keeping obligations seriously as a landlord could mean that you pay more tax than necessary, or worse that you could be on the receiving end of a penalty from HMRC.

Buying a property to let – the importance of keeping records from day one

For tax purposes, good record keeping is essential. Without complete and accurate records, it will not be possible to provide correct details of taxable income or to benefit from allowable deductions. Aside from the risk of paying more tax than is necessary, landlords who fail to take their record keeping obligations seriously may also find that they are on the receiving end of a penalty from HMRC.

Recording expenses

A deduction is available for expenses that are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the rental business. A deduction is available for qualifying revenue expenses regardless of whether the accounts are prepared on the cash basis or under the traditional accruals basis.

Revenue expenses are varied and are those expenses incurred in the day to day running of the property rental business. They include:

  • office expenses
  • phone calls
  • cost of advertising for tenants
  • fees paid to a managing agent
  • cleaning costs
  • insurance
  • general maintenance and repairs

A record should be kept of all revenue expenses, supported by invoices, receipts and suchlike.

The treatment of capital expenditure depends on whether the cash or the accruals basis is used. For most smaller landlords, the cash basis is now the default basis.

Under the cash basis, capital expenditure can be deducted unless the disallowance is specifically prohibited (as in the case in relation to cars and land and property). Under the accruals basis, a deduction is not given for capital expenditure, although in limited cases capital allowances may be available. Capital expenditure would include improvements to the property and new furniture or equipment which does not replace old items.

Records should identify whether expenditure is capital or revenue and also whether it relates to private expenditure so that it can be excluded.

Records should also be kept of replacement domestic items and the nature of those items. A deduction is available on a like-for-like basis.

Start date

Although the property rental business does not start until the property is first let, records should start as soon as expenditure is incurred in preparation for the letting.

As well as allowing relief for expenses incurred while the property is let, relief is also available for expenses which are related to the property rental business and which are incurred in the seven years prior to the start of the business. Relief is given on the same basis as for expenses incurred after the start of the property rental business; expenses can be deducted as long as they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property rental business. Capital expenditure is treated in accordance with rules applying to the chosen basis of accounts preparation.

Relief is available under the pre-trading rules, as long as:

  • the expenditure is incurred within a period of seven years before the date on which the rental business started
  • the expenditure is not otherwise allowable as a deduction for tax purposes
  • the expenditure would have been allowed as a deduction has it been incurred after the rental business had started

Relief is given by treating the expenses as if they were incurred on the first day of the property rental business.

Expenses incurred in getting a property ready to let can be significant. It is important that accurate records are kept of all expenditure incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the let from the outset so that valuable deductions are not overlooked.

Partner note: ITTOIA 2005, s. 57; CTA 2009, s. 61.

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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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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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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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If you’ve read anything about property and tax, you’ll probably have heard the terms ‘nominating your main residence’ and ‘flipping’. This blog takes you exactly what these terms mean and how and when they apply.

Private residence relief shelters a gain on the sale of a residence from capital gains tax while the property has been the owner’s only or main residence. Where a property has been an only or main residence at some point, the final period of ownership (currently 18 months but reducing to nine months from 6 April 2020) is also exempt from capital gains tax.

Only one main residence at a time

As the name suggests, the relief is only available in respect of the only or main residence. Thus, where a person has more than one home, only one of those homes can be the ‘main residence’ at any given time.

However, as long as certain conditions are met, the taxpayer is free to choose which property is classed as the ‘main’ residence for capital gains tax purposes – it does not have to be the one in which the owner spends the majority of his or her time.

Only one main residence per couple

A couple who are married or in a civil partnership and who are not separated can only have one main residence between them.

Property must be a residence

Only properties that are lived in as a home can be a ‘main residence’ – a property which is let out can’t be a main residence while it is let.

Making an election

Where a person has only one residence, that residence is their only or main residence. Where they acquire a second residence, they have a period of two years to nominate which residence is the main residence for capital gains tax purposes. Where residences are acquired or sold, the clock starts again from the date on which the particular combination of residences changes, and the taxpayer then has another two years in which to elect which residence is the main residence.

The election should be made in writing to HMRC. The letter should include the full address of the property being nominated as the main residence and should be signed by all owners of the property.

No election made

In the absence of an election, the property which is the main residence will be determined as a question of fact and will be the property in which the person lives in as their main home. For example, if a couple has a family home and a holiday home, in the absence of an election, the family home will be treated as the main residence.

Advantages of flipping

There are a number of advantages to a property being the main residence at some point in the period of ownership as not only is any gain while the property is the only or main residence exempt from capital gains tax; the final period of ownership is also exempt. Where the property is let, occupying the property as a main residence at some point may open up the option of lettings relief (although it should be noted that the availability of lettings relief is to be seriously curtailed from April 2020).

Once an election has been made to nominate a property as a main residence, this can be varied any number of times (‘flipping’). This can be very useful from a tax planning perspective, for example, occupying a property as a main residence after it has been let but before it is sold can shelter some of the gain. Flipping properties and making use of the capital gains tax annual exempt amount to shelter any gain that falls into charge when the property is not the main residence can be beneficial in reducing the tax bill.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 222

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This blog explains the most common mistakes that are made in directors’ loan account tax returns.

Directors’ loan accounts – avoiding the risks

HMRC produce a series of toolkits which set out common errors that they find in returns. The hope is that by being familiar with the mistakes that are routinely made, steps can be taken to avoid them. Although the toolkits are aimed primarily at agents, they are useful for anyone who has to complete a tax return. The directors’ loan accounts toolkit highlights the key areas of risk in relation to directors’ loan accounts. The latest version of the toolkit was published in May 2019 and should be used for personal tax returns for 2018/19 and for company returns, for the financial year 2018.

Personal expenses

Expenses are only deductible in computing taxable profits to the extent that they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade. A company is a separate legal entity to the directors and shareholders. However, many close companies meet directors’ personal expenses. Where these are not part of the director’s remuneration package, the company cannot deduct the cost when computing its taxable profits. Instead, they should be charged to the director’s loan account. The director’s loan account toolkit focuses on expenses that do not form part of the director’s remuneration package.

Risk areas

  1. Review of the accounts – any personal expenditure incurred by the director and paid for by the company must be allocated correctly, i.e. an allowable expense where it forms part of the director’s remuneration package and charged to the director’s loan account. Account headings should be reviewed to identify director’s personal expenditure which has not been treated correctly.
  2. Loans to participators – under the close company rules, tax (section 455 tax) is charged at 32.5% on loans to directors who are also shareholders where the loan remains outstanding nine months and one day after the end of the accounting period. Review overdrawn loan accounts to check whether the company is liable to pay section 455 tax.
  3. Review of expenses and benefits – where a director is provided with anything other than pay, it may need to be reported to HMRC as a benefit in kind on form P11D. Review expenses and benefits for taxable items that may have been missed. It should be noted that if the director’s loan account balance exceeds £10,000 at any point in the tax year, a benefit in kind charge will arise on the loan unless the director pays interest at a rate that is at least equal to the official rate (2.5% since 6 April 2017).
  4. Self-assessment – check whether the director needs to send a self-assessment return. The directors’ loan accounts toolkit states that “Company directors do not need to send a tax return unless that have other taxable income that needs to be reported, or if HMRC has sent a notice to file a return”.
  5. Record keeping – good keeping is essential. Poor records may mean expenditure is missed or allocated incorrectly.

Checklist

The toolkit features as useful checklist which can be completed to make sure that nothing is overlooked. The checklist contains a helpful link to HMRC guidance.

Partner note: Directors’ loan account toolkit, see www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-directors-loan-accounts-toolkit-2013-to-2014.

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There are five conditions that need to be met to get the tax benefits of a pool car.

When is a car a pool car?

Rather than allocating specific cars to particular employees, some employers find it preferable to operate a carpool and have a number of cars available for use by employees when they need to undertake a business journey. From a tax perspective, provided that certain conditions are met, no benefit in kind tax charge will arise where an employee makes use of a pool car.

The conditions

There are five conditions that must be met for a car to be treated as a pool car for tax purposes.

  1. The car is made available to, and actually is used by, more than one employee.
  2. In each case, it is made available by reason of the employee’s employment.
  3. The car is not ordinarily used by one employee to the exclusion of the others.
  4. In each case, any private use by the employee is merely incidental to the employee’s business use of the car.
  5. The car is not normally kept overnight on or in the vicinity of any of the residential premises where any of the employees was residing (subject to an exception if kept overnight on premises occupied by the person making the cars available).

The tax exemption only applies if all five conditions are met.

When private use is ‘merely incidental’

To meet the definition of a pool car, the car should only be available for genuine business use. However, in deciding whether this test is met, private use is disregarded as long as that private use is ‘merely incidental’ to the employee’s business use of the car.

HMRC regard the test as being a qualitative rather than a quantitative test. It does not refer to the actual private mileage, rather the private element in the context of the journey as a whole. For example, if an employee is required to make a long business journey and takes the car home the previous evening in order to get an early start, the private use comprising the journey from work to home the previous evening would be regarded as ‘merely incidental’. The car is taken home to facilitate the business journey the following day.

Kept overnight at employee’s homes – the 60% test

For a car to meet the definition of a pool car, it must not normally be kept overnight at employees’ homes. In deciding whether this test is met, HMRC apply a rule of thumb – as long as the total number of nights on which a car is taken home by employees, for whatever reason, is less than 60% of the total number of nights in the period, HMRC accept that the condition is met.

When a benefit in kind tax charge arises

If the car does not meet the definition of a pool car and is made available for the employee’s private use, a tax charge will arise under the company car tax rules.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 167.

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Read our quick guide to payroll for new employees covering tax codes, the new starter checklist and student loans.

Payroll – how to deal with new starters

From a payroll perspective, there are various tasks that an employer has to perform when they take on a new starter.

For 2019/20 an employer needs to operate PAYE where the employee earns more than £118 per week (the lower earnings limit for National Insurance purposes). However, if any employees earn more than £118 per week, the employer must comply with RTI and report all payments to employees to HMRC (even those below £118 per week).

Work out what tax code to use

The tax code is fundamental to the operation of PAYE and it is important that the correct tax code is used. To ensure that a new employee is taxed correctly, the employer will need to know the correct tax code to use.

If the employee has a P45 and left their last job in the current tax year, the employer can simply use the code shown on the P45. If the employee left their last job in the 2018/19 tax year, the code on the P45 can be updated by adding 65 to codes ending in L, 59 for codes ending in N and 71 for codes ending in M.

If the employee does not have a P45, the employer will need to ask the employee to complete a new starter checklist.

New starter checklist

The new starter checklist enables the employer to gather information on the new employee. Even if the employee has a P45, it is still useful for the new starter to complete the checklist as it contains information which cannot be gleaned from the P45 (such as the type of loan where the new starter has a student loan which has not been repaid).

As far as establishing which tax code to use, the employee will need to select one of three statements:

  • A: ‘This is my first job since 6 April and I have not been receiving taxable Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance, taxable Incapacity Benefit, State or Occupational Pension’.
  • B: ‘This is now my only job but since 6 April I have has another job or received taxable Jobseeker’s Allowance, Employment and Support Allowance or taxable Incapacity Benefit. I do not receive a State or Occupational Pension.
  • C: ‘As well as my new job, I have another job or receive a State or Occupational Pension’.

The following table indicates what code should be used for 2019/20 depending on what statement the employee has ticked.

Statement ticked Tax code to use
A 1250L on a cumulative basis
B 1250L on a Week 1/Month 1 basis
C BR

Does the employee have a student loan?

The employer will also need to establish whether the employee is making student loan repayments. If the employee has a P45 and is making loan repayments, the student loan box will be ticked. However, the P45 will not provide details of the type of loan. Student loan information can be provided on the new starter checklist, enabling the employer to ascertain whether the employee has a student loan, and if so what type, and also whether the employee has a post-graduate loan.

Tell HMRC about the new employee

The employer will need to add the new employee to the payroll and also tell HMRC that the employee is now working for the employer. This is done by including the new starter details on the Full Payment Submission (FPS) the first time that the employee is paid.

Partner note: The Income Tax (Pay As You Earn) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/2682), reg. 67B and Sch. A1, para. 35—44.

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If you’ve received a tax calculation or simple assessment from HMRC, don’t assume that it’s correct – HMRC can and do make mistakes.

Check your tax calculation

Each year HMRC undertake a PAYE reconciliation for employed individuals who are not required to submit a tax return to check that the correct amount of tax has been paid. Where it has not, HMRC will send out either a P800 tax calculation or a PA302 simple assessment.

P800 tax calculation

A P800 tax calculation may be issued if an employee has paid too much tax, or if they have paid too little and the tax underpayment can be collected automatically through an adjustment to their PAYE tax code. There are various reasons why a person who pays tax under PAYE may have paid the wrong amount of tax. This may be because:

  • they finished one job and started a new one and were paid for both jobs in the same tax month;
  • they started receiving a pension at work; or
  • they received Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance (which are taxable).

P800 calculations for 2018/19 are being sent out by HMRC from June to November 2019. 

If the P800 shows that tax has been overpaid, it will say whether a refund can be claimed online. If so, this can be done through the personal tax account. Where a claim is made online, the money should be sent to the claimant’s bank account within 5 working days. In the event a claim is not made within 45 days of the date on the P800, HMRC will send out a cheque. If an online claim is not possible, HMRC will also send out a cheque.

PA302 simple assessment

Instead of a P800 tax calculation, an individual may instead receive a PA302 simple assessment. This is effectively a bill for tax that has been underpaid. HMRC may issue a simple assessment if:

  • the tax that is owed cannot be taken automatically from the individual’s income;
  • the individual owes HMRC tax of more than £3,000; or
  • they have to pay tax on the State Pension.

A simple assessment bill can be paid online.

Check your calculation

If you receive a tax calculation or simple assessment from HMRC, do not simply assume that it is correct – HMRC can and do make mistakes. It is prudent to check that their figures are correct. When checking the calculation, check HMRC’s figures against your records, such as your P60, your bank statements and letters from the DWP. Check that employment income and any pension income is correct, and that relief has been given for expenses and allowances. HMRC have produced a tax checker tool (available on the Gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/check-income-tax) which can be used to check the amount of tax that should have been paid.

If you think that your tax calculation is incorrect, you will need to contact HMRC. This can be done by phone by calling 0800 200 3300. If you do not agree with your simple assessment, you have 60 days to query this with HMRC by phone or in writing. The simple assessment letter explains how to do this.

Partner note: www.gov.uk/tax-overpayments-and-underpayments

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Today’s blog covers the serious curtailment to letting relief for landlords coming April 2020 – read more here.

Curtailment of letting relief

Landlords have been hit with a number of tax hikes in recent years, and this trend shows no signs of abating. From 6 April 2020, lettings relief – a valuable capital gains tax relief which is available where a property which has at some point been the owner’s only or main residence is let out – is seriously curtailed.

Now

Under the current rules letting relief applies to shelter part of the gain arising on the sale of a property which has been let out as residential accommodation and which at some time was the owner’s only or main residence. The amount of the letting relief is the lowest of the following three amounts:

  • the amount of private residence relief available on the disposal;
  • £40,000; and
  • the gain attributable to the letting.

Under the current rules, periods of residential letting count regardless of whether or not the landlord also lives in the property.

From 6 April 2020

From 6 April 2020, letting relief will only be available where the owner of the property shares occupancy with a tenant. From that date, lettings relief is available where at some point the owner of the property lets out part of their main residence as residential accommodation and shares occupation of that residence with an individual who has no interest in the residence.

To the extent that a gain that would otherwise be chargeable to capital gains tax because it relates to the part of the main residence which is let out as residential accommodation, the availability of lettings relief means that it is only chargeable to capital gains tax to the extent that it exceeds the lower of:

  • the amount of the gain sheltered by private residence relief; and
  • £40,000.

Example 1

Tom owns a property which he lives in as his main residence. He lived in it for a year on his own, then to help pay the bills he let out 40% as residential accommodation.

In June 2020 he sells the property realising a gain of £189,000. He had owned the property for five years and three months (63 months).

The final nine months of ownership are covered by the final period exemption – this equates to £27,000.

For the remaining 54 months, private residence relief is available for the first 12 months and 40% of the remaining 48 months – a total of 31.2 months (12 + (40% x 48)). This is worth £93,600. (31.2/63 x £189,000).

Private residence relief in total is worth £120,600 (£27,000 + £93,600).

The gain attributable to the letting is £68,400 (£189,000 – £120,600). This is taxable to the extent that is exceeds £40,000 (being the lower of £40,000 and £120,600).

Thus the letting relief is worth £40,000 and the chargeable gain is £28,400.

Example 2

Lucy buys a flat for £300,000 which she lives in for one year as her main residence. She then buys a new home which she lives in as her main residence and lets the flat out for three years, before selling it and realising a gain of £96,000.

If she sells it before 6 April 2020, she will be entitled to private residence relief of £60,000 (30/48 x £96,000). The final 18 months are exempt as she lived in the flat for 12 months as her main residence. The gain attributable to letting is £36,000, all of which is sheltered by lettings relief (as less than both private residence relief and £40,000).

If she sells the property after 6 April 2020, the final period exemption only covers the last nine months, reducing the private residence relief to £42,000 (21/48 x £96,000). The remainder of the gain of £54,000, which is attributable to the letting, is chargeable to capital gains tax as letting relief is no longer available as Lucy does not share her home with the tenant.

Consider realising a gain on a let property which has also been a main residence prior to 6 April 2020 to take advantage of the letting relief available prior to that date where a landlord does not share the accommodation with the tenant.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, s. 224; Draft legislation for inclusion in Finance Bill 2019—20 (see https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/816196/Changes_to_ancillary_reliefs_in_Capital_Gains_Tax_Private_Residence_Relief_-_Draft_legislation.pdf).

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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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