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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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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Make the most of your allowances

The tax system contains a number of allowances which enable individuals to enjoy income and gains tax free. In seeking to maximise your tax-free income, it makes sense to take advantage of available allowances. The following are a selection of some of the allowances on offer.
Personal allowance
Individuals are entitled to a personal allowance each year, set at £11,850 for 2018/19, rising to £12,500 for 2019/20. However, not everyone can benefit from the allowance – once income reaches £100,000 it is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds more than £100,000 until it is fully abated. Reducing income below £100,000 will help preserve the allowance.
The personal allowance is lost if it is not used in the tax year – it cannot be carried forward (although in certain circumstances it is possible to transfer 10% to a spouse or civil partner). To prevent the allowance being wasted, various steps can be taken depending on personal circumstances, including:
• paying dividends to use up both the dividend allowance and any unused personal allowance;
• transferring income earning assets from a spouse to utilise the unused allowance;
• paying a bonus from a family or personal company;
• accelerating income so that it is received before the end of the tax year.
Marriage allowance
The marriage allowance can be beneficial to couples on lower incomes, particularly if one spouse or civil partner does not work. The marriage allowance allows one spouse or civil partner to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (as rounded up to the nearest £10) to their spouse or civil partner, as long as the recipient is not a higher or additional rate taxpayer. The marriage allowance is set at £1190 for 2018/19 and £1250 for 2019/20, saving couples tax of, respectively, £238 and £250. The allowance must be claimed: see www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance.
Trading allowances
Individuals are able to earn income from self-employment of up to £1,000 tax-free and without the need to declare it to HMRC. Where income exceeds £1,000, the allowance can be claimed as a deduction from income in working out the taxable profit, rather than deducting actual costs. Where allowable expenses are less than £1,000, claiming the treading allowance instead will be beneficial.
Property allowance
A similar allowance exists for property income, allowing individuals to receive property income of up to £1,000 tax-free without the need to tell HMRC. Where property income is more than £1,000, the individual can deduct this rather than actual costs when computing profits for the property rental business if this is more beneficial.
Rent-a-room
The rent-a-room scheme allows individuals to earn up to £7,500 tax-free from letting a furnished room in their own home. The limit is halved where two or more people receive the income.
Savings allowance
Basic rate taxpayers are entitled to a savings allowance of £1,000, while higher rate taxpayers benefit from a savings allowance of £500. Additional rate taxpayers do not get a savings allowance. ISAs provide the opportunity to earn further savings income tax free.
Dividend allowance
All taxpayers regardless of the rate at which they pay tax are entitled to a dividend allowance, set at £2000 for both 2018/19 and 2019/20. This can be useful in extracting profits from a family company in a tax-efficient manner.
Capital gains tax annual exempt amount
Individuals can also realise tax-free capital gains up to the exempt amount each year – set at £11,700 for 2018/19 and at £12,000 for 2019/20. Spouses and civil partners have their own annual exempt amount. Time sales of assets to make best use of the annual exemption.

The above is only a small selection of the allowances available.

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