Category: Finance & Accounting

Airbnb-type lets – is rent-a-room relief available?

Many homeowners have taken advantage of sites such as Airbnb to let out a spare room on a temporary basis or their whole property while they are away. In most cases, as long as the associated conditions are met, hosts can enjoy rental income of up to £7,500 tax-free under the rent-a-room scheme. This continues to be the case as planned legislation to restrict the availability of the relief has not been introduced.

Rent-a-room relief

Rent-a-room relief is a relief that allows individuals to earn up to £7,500 per year tax-free from letting out furnished accommodation in their own home. This limit is halved where more than one person benefits from the income such that each person can enjoy rental income of up to £3,750 per year tax free.

The relief is available to owner occupiers and tenants. To qualify, the rental income must relate to the let of furnished accommodation in the individual’s only or main home. While the relief was introduced to boost the supply of cheap residential accommodation, there is no minimum period of let and applies equally to very short lets. Further, the individual can let out as much of their home as they want.

The relief can be used where a room is let furnished to a lodger. It can also be used where the letting amounts to a trade, for example, where the individual runs a guest house or a bed-and-breakfast or provides services such as meals and cleaning.

Where gross rental income is less than £7,500 (or £3,750 where the income is shared), the relief is automatic – there is no need to tell HMRC.

Where the gross rental income exceeds the rent-a-room limit, the individual has a choice of deducting the rent-a-room limit and paying tax on the excess or calculating the profits in the normal way by deducting the actual expenses. Claiming rent-a-room relief will be beneficial if there is a profit and actual expenses are less than the rent-a-room limit. This is done on the tax return.

It is not possible to create a loss by deducting the rent-a-room limit if, for example, rental income is less than the limit – the income is simply treated as being nil. Where deducting actual expenses from rental income produces a loss, it is better not to claim rent-a-room relief to preserve the loss.

Rent-a-room relief cannot be claimed where the accommodation is not in the individual’s main home, where accommodation is provided unfurnished or where a UK home is let out while the owner is working abroad.

Airbnb-type income

Rent-a-room relief is available for Airbnb-type accommodation as long as the conditions are met. The issue is not whether the income is from an Airbnb-type let; rather, whether the conditions for rent-a-room relief are met. This is likely to be the case if the nature of the Airbnb let is such that it comprises the let of a furnished spare room in the taxpayer’s home, or the whole home for a short period, such as a weekend or a couple of weeks when the homeowner is on holiday.

However, where the individual uses Airbnb or similar to let accommodation in a property which is not his or her main home, for example a holiday cottage, rent-a-room relief is not available and the normal property rental rules apply. The individual may, however, benefit from the property income allowance of £1,000.

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Claiming a deduction for pre-letting expenses

For tax purposes, a property rental business begins when the first property is let. However, it is likely that the landlord will have incurred some expenses prior to that date in getting the property ready to let and in finding a tenant and agreeing the let.

Once the letting has commenced, expenses incurred in relation to that let will be deductible in computing the taxable rental profits, as long as the conditions for deductibility are met (i.e. the expenses are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the rental business and, subject to the cash basis capital expenditure rules, are revenue in nature). It is therefore necessary to distinguish between expenses incurred as part of the letting business and preparatory expenses incurred before the property rental business began.

While no relief is available for preparatory expenses at the time that they are incurred, relief may be available under the special rules for pre-letting expenses once the business has commenced.

Relief for pre-letting expenses

For relief to be available in respect of expenses incurred before the start of the property rental business, the expenditure must meet all of the following conditions:

  • 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 had it been incurred after the rental business had started

Consequently, to be allowed under the pre-letting expenditure rules, the expenditure must be incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business and (otherwise than in accordance with the cash basis rules permitting a deduction for capital expenditure) must be revenue in nature.

The type of expenditure which might qualify for relief under the pre-letting expenses rules would include the costs of advertising for a tenant, cleaning the property, tidying up the garden, and suchlike.

Where expenditure qualifies for deduction under the pre-letting expenses rules, the expenditure is treated as if it were incurred on the day on which the property rental business began. In this way, it is deducted from the rental income of the first accounting period of the property rental business.

Example

Teresa buys a house to let out. The property costs £250,000, and the associated costs of the purchase are £4,000. The purchase completes on 28 February 2019.

Teresa arranges for some work to be undertaken on the property prior to letting it out. This comprises painting the property (£2,000) and some minor repairs (£400). She also buys carpets and curtains (£3,000) and arranges for the property to be cleaned (£200) and the garden to be tidied up (£150).

She incurs costs of £400 on advertising for a tenant.

A tenant is found, and the property is let from 1 May 2019.

The property rental business starts on 1 May 2019. Relief is available under the pre-letting rules for the following expenses:

  • repairs and maintenance (decorating and minor repairs): £2,400;
  • cleaning: £200;
  • gardening: £150; and
  • advertising: £400.

These costs are treated as if they were incurred on 1 May 2019 and are deducted from the rental income if the first period of letting.

The cost of property and associated expenses are not allowable (relief will be given on the eventual sale under the capital gains tax rules). Likewise, no relief is available for the initial purchase of the carpets and curtains, although relief will be available if at some future point they are replaced in accordance with the relief for the replacement of domestic items.

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The importance of keeping good business records

To ensure that you pay the correct amount of tax and file correct tax returns with HMRC, it is vital that you keep complete and accurate records. This applies regardless of whether you are running a business as a sole trader or in partnership or operating a limited company.

Business records for the self-employed

The self-employed need to complete records of their business income and expenses. Where the business is operated in partnership, the responsibility of keeping records falls on the nominated partner.

It is important to keep records of:

  • all sales and income
  • all business expenses
  • VAT records if the business is VAT registered
  • PAYE if the business has employees

Records are essential to enable the business to work out its profit or less. They may also be needed to support the figures included on the tax return should HMRC ask questions.

Keeping records of expenses ensures that nothing is overlooked and tax relief can be claimed as appropriate. It is, however, important to retain proof of expenses, for example:

  • receipts
  • bank statements
  • sales invoices
  • purchase invoices
  • till rolls
  • paying-in slips

Limited companies

Where the business is operated as a limited company, records of income and expenses must be kept as for a sole trader. It is important to record income, expenses, debts owed by and to the company, details of goods brought and sold, details of stock and records of stock takes, etc.

Records must also be kept about the company itself, including details:

  • directors and shareholders
  • minutes of votes and resolutions
  • details of any charges on the company’s assets, debentures, indemnities

The company must also keep a register of persons with significant control. Broadly, anyone who has more than 25% of the voting rights, can appoint or remove a majority of directors or can influence or control the company.

How to keep records

While records can be kept manually, for many businesses it will soon become mandatory to keep digital records. Most businesses who are VAT registered and whose turnover is above the VAT registration threshold of £85,000 will need comply with the requirements of Making Tax Digital for VAT from the first VAT accounting period beginning on or after 1 April 2019. This will necessitate keeping certain VAT records digitally. Once MTD is introduced for income tax and corporation tax, it will be mandatory to keep digital business records for these purposes too.

Where there is no mandatory digital record keeping requirement to meet, records can be kept on paper, using software packages or on spreadsheets.

How long to keep records

Where a self-assessment tax return is filed before the deadline of 31 January after the end of the tax year to which it relates, records should be kept for at least 22 months of the end of the tax year (12 months from the filing deadline). Where the return is sent late, records should be retained for at least 15 months from the date the return was submitted.

Beware penalties

HMRC can charge penalties for the failure to keep accurate records. A company director can be fined £3,000 or disqualified for the failure to keep proper accounting records.

Working from home – claim tax relief for your expenses

An increasing number of employees work from home some or all of the time. Where they do so, they may be able to claim tax relief for the costs that they incur from working at home, regardless of whether their employer meets those costs.

Nature of expenses

Where an employee works from home, they can claim tax relief for the extra costs that are incurred as a result of working from home. This may include the cost of phone calls from the landline, the costs of electricity and gas to heat and light the workspace, power the computer, and the cost of cleaning the workspace.

Wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred

The rules on claiming tax relief for employment are strict; relief is only available for those expenses incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of the employment. This is difficult test to meet.

Mixed business and private use

Tax relief is not available for expenses that have both a work and a private element. This may prevent a deduction for, say, the cost of broadband which is used for both by the family for private use and also for work use. Likewise, no deduction for rent would be permitted unless a room was used exclusively for work, in which case a proportionate amount could be claimed.

Voluntarily working at home

To be allowed to claim tax relief for additional expenses incurred as a result of working from home, the employee must be required to work from home, rather than doing so voluntarily. Under the letter of the law, the employee should be working at home because the duties of the employment demand it, rather than as a matter of personal choice. However, from a practical perspective, if the employee’s contract requires that the employee works from home, either part time or on specified days or when required to do by the needs of the job, tax relief should be forthcoming.

Employer meets the expenses

Many employees will be able to reclaim the additional costs of working from home from their employer. If the expenses are such that the employee would be eligible for tax relief, the tax exemption for paid and reimbursed expenses comes into play and the employer and employee can both ignore the reimbursement for tax purposes – there is no tax to pay and nothing to report.

Keep it simple To avoid the need to keep records and work out the additional costs of working from home, employers can pay a tax-free allowance of £4 per week (£18 per month) to employees who work from home. The amount is the same regardless of whether the employee works at home one day per week or five days a week. It may be possible to pay a higher amount if this is agreed with HMRC.

Give to charity to reduce your inheritance tax bill

Making gifts to charity can be an effective way to reduce the amount of inheritance tax (IHT) payable on your estate. Charitable gifts can work to reduce the IHT payable in two ways:

  • reducing the value of the net estate chargeable to IHT; or
  • where the gifts to charity are worth at least 10% of the net estate at death, reducing the rate at which inheritance tax is payable.

Lifetime gifts and bequests on death made to qualifying charities and registered housing associations are exempt from inheritance tax, provided that the gift was made outright.

Qualifying charities

A qualifying charity is one that meets the following conditions:

  • it is a charity that is established in the EU or other specified country;
  • it meets the definition of a charity under the law of England and Wales;
  • it is regulated in the country of establishment, if that is a requirement of that country;
  • its managers are fit and proper persons to be managers of the charity.

HMRC assumes that people appointed by charities are fit and proper persons unless they hold information to show otherwise.

Reducing the net estate

Where a gift is made to charity, the net estate is reduced by the amount of the gift. This can be effective in reducing the amount of inheritance tax payable where the value of the estate exceeds the nil rate band (currently £325,000), plus the residence nil rate band, where available.

The gift to charity reduces the net value of the estate.

Example

Elsie died on 1 December 2018 leaving an estate worth £475,000. She had never married and had no children. In her will she left £5,000 to a qualifying charity, and the balance of her estate to her niece Susan.

Her total estate of £475,000 is reduced by the charitable gift to £470,000. After deducting her nil rate band of £325,000, her taxable estate is £145,000 (on which IHT of £58,000 (£145,000 @ 40%) is payable. The charitable gift reduced the IHT payable on her estate by £2,000 (£5,000 @ 40%).

A reduced rate of IHT

Where the charitable gift is at least 10% of the net estate, the rate of inheritance tax is reduced from 40% to 36%. The net estate is the value of the estate after deducting any debts, liabilities, reliefs and exemptions and the nil rate band and residence nil rate band, as appropriate.

Example

Alfred died on 20 October 2018. He left an estate of £700,000. He had never married and had no children. In his will he left £40,000 to a qualifying charity, with the balance of his estate split equally between his three nephews.

Total estate £700,000
Less: qualifying donation to charity (£40,000)
  £660,000
Less: nil rate band (£325,000)
Taxable estate £335,000

The value of the estate in excess of the nil rate band is £375,000 (£700,000 – £325,000). This is the baseline amount. The qualifying donation to charity of £40,000 is more than 10% of this amount. Thus, the rate of inheritance tax on the taxable estate is reduced from 40% to 36%.

Consequently, the inheritance tax payable on Alfred’s estate is £120,600 (£335,000 @ 36%).

Complications

Where the residue of the estate is partially exempt, for example if it left to a surviving spouse or to a charity, and the Will contains other legacies are left free of tax, it is necessary to gross up such legacies when testing whether the 10% test is met. HMRC produce a calculator which can be used to check whether the test is met. It is available on the Gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/inheritance-tax-reduced-rate-calculator.

Expenses that landlords can deduct

Landlords must pay tax on any profit from their property rental business (although income from property of less than £1,000 a year can be ignored). In working out the profits, expenses are deducted from rental income. To ensure that the landlord does not pay more tax than is necessary, it is important to deduct all allowable expenses. Remember, the profit calculation is undertaken for the property income business as a whole, not on a property by property basis. Consequently, it does not matter whether the expenses incurred in relation to an individual property exceed the rental income from that property – it is the overall result that matters.

Cash basis

From 6 April 2017, the cash basis is the default basis for eligible landlords. Where accounts are prepared on the cash basis, it is the date that the expenditure was incurred that is the key date.

Allowable expenses

An expense is an allowable expense if it is incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of renting out the property.

Common examples of expenses which may be allowable include:

  • repairs and maintenance
  • water rates
  • council tax
  • gas and electricity
  • insurance (e.g. landlords’ buildings and contents insurance)
  • gardening costs
  • cleaning costs
  • letting agents’ fees
  • accountants’ fees
  • rents where the property is sub-let
  • office expenses, such as phone calls, stationery, etc.
  • cost of advertising for new tenants

Interest and other finance costs

Relief is available for interest on a loan up to the value of the property when it was first let. However, the way in which relief is given for interest is changing from relief as a deduction from income to relief as a deduction at the basic rate from the tax that is due.

For 2017/18, relief for 75% of the interest costs is available as a deduction and relief for the remaining 25% as a basic rate tax reduction, for 2018/19, relief for 50% of the interest costs is available as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 50% as a basic rate tax reduction. For 2019/20, only 25% of the interest costs are deductible, with relief for the remaining 75% being given as a basic rate tax reduction. From 2020/21 onwards, relief for all interest costs is given as a basic rate tax reduction.

Vehicles

A deduction for vehicle costs can, from 6 April 2017 onwards, be claimed using the approved mileage rates. This is generally easier than working out the deduction based on actual costs (although this method can be used if preferred). The rates are as follows:

Vehicle Rate
Cars and vans 45p per mile for first 10,000 business miles in the tax year 25p per mile for subsequent miles
Motorcycles 24p per mile

Capital expenditure under the cash basis

Under the cash basis, expenditure for capital items is deductible unless specifically disallowed. Capital items for which a deduction is not allowed include land and cars.

Domestic items

Where the property is let furnished, a deduction is allowed for replacement domestic items, as long as they are of an equivalent standard to the item being replaced. A deduction is not allowed for enhancement expenditure.

Property allowance A property allowance of £1,000 is available. Property income of less than £1,000 does not need to be reported to HMRC. Where income exceeds £1,000, the £1,000 allowance can be deducted instead of deducting actual expenses. This will be beneficial where actual expenses are less than £1,000.

Here’s how to earn tax-free money through doing something you love.

Spare time earnings may be tax-free

The new trading tax allowance for individuals of £1,000 was introduced from 6 April 2017 and applies for the 2017/18 tax year onwards. In broad terms, the allowance means that individuals with trading income below the annual threshold may not need to report it to HMRC and may not need to pay tax on it.

This allowance may be particularly useful to individuals with casual or small part time earnings from self-employment, for example, people working in the ‘gig economy’ (Deliveroo workers and such like), or small-scale self-employment such as online selling (maybe via eBay or similar). It means that:

  • individuals with trading income of £1,000 or less in a tax year will not need to declare or pay tax on that income
  • individuals with trading income of more than £1,000 can elect to calculate their profits by deducting the allowance from their income, instead of the actual allowable expenses.

Practical implications of the allowance include:

  • where actual expenses are less than £1,000, deducting the trading allowance will be beneficial, whereas if actual expenses are more than £1,000, deducting the actual expenses will give a lower profit figure, and ultimately a lower tax bill
  • where income is less than £1,000, but the individual makes a loss, an election for the allowance not to apply may be made – in this case, the loss in the usual way and include the details on their tax return, meaning that loss relief is not wasted

Example – Income less than £1,000

Graham enjoys picture-framing in his spare time, and he occasionally frames prints for family and friends for a small fee. During the 2018/19 tax year he received income of £700 from this source, and his expenditure on framing equipment amounted to £300. As Graham’s trading income is less than £1,000, he does not need to report it to HMRC and he does not need to pay tax or national insurance contributions (NICs) on it.

Example – Income exceeding £1,000

Mary enjoys baking and makes celebration cakes to order in her spare time. In 2018/19, her income from cake sales is £1,500 and she incurred expenses of £300. As Mary’s expenditure is less than £1,000, she will be better off if she claims the trading allowance. Her taxable profit will be £500 (£1,500 less the trading allowance of £1,000).

More than one source of trading income

Although the trading allowance may work well for many small-scale traders, care must be taken where a person’s main source of income is from self-employment and their secondary income is from a completely separate small-scale business. HMRC will combine income from all trading and casual activities when considering the trading allowance. In this type of situation, where the allowance is claimed, the individual will not be able to claim for any expenditure, regardless of how many businesses they have and how much their total business expenses are.

Example – More than one income source

Mark is a self-employed car mechanic and has income of £30,000 in 2018/19. His business expenditure for the year is £10,000. In his spare time, Mark buys and sells old collectable car magazines via the internet. During 2018/19 he received net income of £1,000 from this source. If Mark claims the trading allowance against his part time income, he will be unable to claim expenses of £10,000 against his car mechanic income, and his taxable profit for the year will be £30,000. If he doesn’t claim the trading allowance, his taxable profit for the year will be just £21,000.

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Employment allowance – upcoming changes

The employment allowance (EA) was introduced from April 2014, potentially cutting every employer’s NIC payments by allowing businesses and charities to offset up to a pre-set annual threshold (£3,000 from April 2016, previously £2,000) against their employer PAYE NIC liabilities.

Employers may generally claim the EA if they are a business (including a Community Amateur Sports Club) that pays employer Class 1 NICs on employees’ or directors’ earnings and is not funded by central government or a charity.

To keep the process as simple as possible for employers, the EA is delivered through standard payroll software and HMRC’s real time information (RTI) system. However, it isn’t given automatically and must be claimed.

How to claim

Claiming is very straight forward – the employer simply signifies their intention to claim by completing the ‘yes/no’ indicator just once. Although, ideally, the claim should be made at the start of the tax year, it can be made at any time in the year.

The employer will then offset the allowance against each monthly Class 1 secondary NICs payment that is due to be made to HMRC until the allowance is fully claimed or the tax year ends.

For example, if employer Class 1 NICs are £1,200 each month, in April the employment allowance used will be £1,200, in May it will be £2,400, and in June £800, as the maximum is capped at £3,000. The following tax year, the allowance will be available as an offset against a Class 1 secondary NICs liability as it arises during the tax year.

The EA applies per employer, regardless of how many PAYE schemes that employer chooses to operate, so each employer can only claim for one allowance. It is up to the employer which PAYE scheme to claim it against.

Recent changes

The EA was restricted from April 2016, so that a company no longer qualifies where all the payments of earnings it pays in a tax year, in relation to which it is the secondary contributor, are paid to or for the benefit of one employed earner only who is, at the time the payments are made, also a director of the company.

This sounds complicated, but the purpose of the change was to prevent perceived misuse of the allowance by personal service companies and help focus it on businesses creating employment. The government estimated that this change affected around 150,000 limited companies with a single director.

Future changes

The Autumn Budget 2018 announced details of a further restriction, expected to take effect in 2020/21, which aims to target the allowance on businesses that need it most.

From 6 April 2020, access to the EA will be limited to businesses and charities with an employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) bill below £100,000.

Currently some 1.1million employers claim the EA and the government estimates that around 93% of these will continue to be eligible once the restriction takes effect, with many paying no employer NICs at all.

It is worthwhile checking that the EA has been utilised where possible. If a claim is made too late in a tax year to set the whole allowance against the employers’ NIC liability, the employer may apply to HMRC for a refund.

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The CGT annual exemption – use it or lose it!

Capital gains tax (CGT) is normally paid when an item is either sold or given away. It is usually paid on profits made by selling various types of assets including properties (but generally not a main residence), stocks and shares, paintings, and other works of art, but it may also be payable in certain circumstances when a gift is made.

Some assets are exempt from CGT, including assets held in an Individual Savings Account (ISA), betting, lottery, or pools winnings, cash held in sterling, jewellery, antiques, and other personal effects that are individually worth £6,000 or less.

The most common method for minimising a liability to capital gains tax is to ensure that the annual exemption is fully utilised wherever possible. Whilst this is relatively straight-forward where only capital gains are in question, the computation can be slightly more complex where capital losses are also involved.

Most people are entitled to an annual CGT exemption, which means that no CGT is payable on gains up to that amount each year. For 2018/19, the limit is £11,700 and it will rise to £12,000 in 2019/20.

Eligible individuals each have their own exemption, so for jointly owned assets, there is scope for spouses and civil partners to exempt £23,400 worth of gains in 2018/19, rising to £24,000 in 2019/20.

However, the annual exemption is good only for the current tax year – you can’t carry it forwards or backwards – so if it isn’t used in a particular tax year, it will be lost. If you are planning to make a series of disposals, for example disposing of a portfolio of shares, you may want to consider the timing of sales between two or more tax years to use up as much and as many annual exemptions as possible.

Moving gains

Although inter-spouse/civil partner transfers are not technically exempt from CGT, the mechanics of computation are such that no CGT charge arises on such transfers. This treatment requires the spouses/civil partners to be married and living together. It should also be noted that if the spouse or partner later sells the asset, they may have to pay CGT at that time.

Example

Grace, a higher rate taxpayer, disposes of 500 shares in ABC plc in 2018/19 making a capital gain of £30,000. After deducting the annual exemption (£11,700), her chargeable gain is £18,300. As Grace is a higher rate taxpayer, she will pay CGT at the 20% rate, and £3,660 will be payable on the gain.

If prior to sale, Grace transferred half of the shares to her spouse Bob, a basic rate taxpayer, the capital gains tax situation would be significantly different. Both Grace and Bob will be able to use their annual CGT exemptions. They will each have a chargeable gain of £3,300 (after the annual exemption). Since Bob is a basic rate taxpayer, subject to his taxable income and chargeable gain being below the basic rate band, he will pay CGT at 10%.

Capital gains tax on the sale of the shares would be charged as follows:

 Grace:            Chargeable gain of £3,300 at 20% = £660

Bob: Chargeable gain of £3,300 at 10% = £330

Total CGT payable £990

Transferring half the shares to Bob potentially saves tax of £2,670.

Whilst it is permissible to organise your financial affairs in such a way as to minimise tax payable, strict anti-avoidance rules do exist. Seeking professional advice is always strongly recommended prior to undertaking any transactions of this nature.

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Is tax payable on tips?

The question of whether tips and gratuities are taxable and subject to National Insurance Contributions (NICs) often results in a lively debate. Broadly, their treatment will depend on how they are paid to the recipient.
Cash tips handed to an employee, or say, left on the table at a restaurant and retained by the employee, are not subject to tax and NICs under PAYE, but the employee is obliged to declare the income to HMRC.
Where HMRC believe that employees in a particular employment are likely to have received tips which have not been declared, they will generally make an estimate of the tips earned on the basis of facts available to them. HMRC often make an adjustment to an employee’s PAYE tax code number to reflect the amount likely to be received during a tax year and the tax and Class 1 NICs due will be collected via the payroll.
By contrast, if an employer passes tips to employees that are either handed to them (or the employees) or left in a common box/plate by customers, the employer must operate PAYE on all payments made. Tips will also be subject to PAYE if they are included in cheque and debit/credit card payments to the employer, or if they pass service charges to employees.
The obligation to operate PAYE remains with the employer where the employer:
• delegates the task of passing the tips or service charges between employees, for example to a head waiter in a restaurant; or
• passes tips/service charges to a tronc (see below) but the tronc is not a tronc for PAYE purposes.
Examples
Marcia, a restaurant owner, passes on all tips paid by credit/debit card to her employees. She has made a payment to her staff and must operate PAYE on these payments as part of the normal payroll.
Franco, also a restaurant owner, allows all cash tips left on tables to be retained in full by his staff. However, to ensure the kitchen staff receive a share, he collects all the cash tips and shares them out to the staff at the end of each day. Franco is involved in the sharing out of the tips and he must therefore include the amounts received as part of the payroll and operate PAYE on them.
Troncs
Where tipping is a usual feature of a business, there is often an organised arrangement for sharing tips amongst employees by a person who is not the employer. Such an arrangement is commonly referred to as a ‘tronc’. The person who distributes money from a tronc is known as a ‘troncmaster’. Where a person accepts and understands the role of troncmaster, he or she may have to operate PAYE on payments made. Broadly, under such arrangements the employer must notify HMRC of the existence of a tronc created and provide HMRC with the troncmaster’s name.
There are no hard and fast rules regarding how a tronc should operate and HMRC will apply the PAYE and NIC rules to the particular circumstances of each tronc. Where payments made from a tronc attract NICs liability, responsibility for calculating the NICs due and making payment to HMRC rests with the employer. If a troncmaster is responsible for operating PAYE on monies passed to the tronc by the employer and has failed to fulfil his or her PAYE obligations, HMRC can direct the employer to operate PAYE on monies passed to the tronc from a specified date.
NICs
Legislation provides that any amount paid to an employee which is a payment ‘of a gratuity’ or is ‘in respect of a gratuity’ will be exempt from NICs if it meets either of the following two conditions:
• it is not paid, directly or indirectly, to the employee by the employer and does not comprise or represent monies previously paid to the employer, for example by customers; or
• it is not allocated, directly or indirectly, to the employee by the employer.
Review business records
It is worthwhile checking that businesses treat tips and gratuities correctly. From time to time HMRC carry out reviews of employers’ records to make sure things are in order for PAYE, NICs and separately for the National Minimum Wage (NMW). Any errors in tax and NICs treatment could prove costly.

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