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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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.