Property Tax

Landlords – you must file your self-assessment tax return by 31 January 2020 to avoid a late filing penalty. Here’s what you need to know:

The self-assessment deadline is looming. Self-assessment tax returns for the year to 5 April 2019 must be filed online by 31 January 2020 if a late filing penalty is to be avoided.

Landlords will need to complete the property income pages. Particular care should be taken where the landlord has a loan or a mortgage as the way in which relief is given for financing costs is changing and the position for 2018/19 is different to that for 2017/18.

The way in which relief for finance costs is given is moving from relief by deducting the finance costs when computing profits to giving relief in the form of a basic rate tax reduction. The 2018/19 tax year is a transitional year.

What costs are eligible for relief?

Interest payable on loans to buy land or property which is used in the rental business is eligible for relief, as is interest on loans to fund improvements or repairs. It should be noted that it is not necessary for the loan to be secured on the let property – the rule is that interest is allowable on borrowings up to the value of the property when first let. Thus, if a landlord borrowed against their main home to fund a buy-to-let investment property, the interest on that loan would be allowable on the loan up to the value when the property was first let. If the mortgage on the residential property is more, the allowable interest is proportionately reduced.

Relief is also available for the costs of getting a loan.

It should be noted that it is only the interest and other finance costs which qualifies for relief – no relief is available for any capital repayments which may be made.

The position for 2018/19

For 2018/19, relief for 50% of eligible finance costs is given as a deduction in computing the profits of the property rental business and relief for the remaining 50% is given as a basic rate tax reduction. This makes completing the property pages of the tax return slightly tricky as the information must go in two places.

The first box which needs to be completed is Box 26. This is where allowable loan interest and other financial costs need to be entered. Amounts entered in this box are deducted in computing rental profits. Therefore, as only 50% of the allowable finance costs for 2018/19 are relieved in this way, only 50% of the costs for that year should be entered in this box.

The remaining 50% is entered in Box 44, helpfully titled ‘Residential finance costs not included in box 26’. The amount entered in this box is used to calculate a reduction in the landlord’s tax bill. The reduction is equal to 20% (the basic rate of income tax) of the amount entered in Box 44.

If you have any unrelieved finance costs from earlier years, these should be entered in Box 45. Any balance of residential finance costs which is unrelieved may be carried forward to future years for relief by the same property business.

Partner note: Self-assessment UK Property notes (SA105); see www.gov.uk/government/publications/self-assessment-uk-property-sa105.

 

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From 6 April 2020, the way in which carbon dioxide emissions for cars are measured is changing – read more here.

Zero charge for zero emission cars

From 6 April 2020, the way in which carbon dioxide emissions for cars are measured is changing – moving from the New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) (used for cars registered prior to 6 April 2020) to the Worldwide Light Testing Procedure (WLTP) for cars registered on or after 6 April 2020.

For an introductory period, the appropriate percentages for cars registered on or after 6 April 2020 are reduced – being two percentage points lower than cars with the same CO2 emissions registered prior to 6 April 2020 for 2020/21 and one percentage point lower for 2021/22. From 2022/23 the appropriate percentages are aligned regardless of which method is used to determine the emissions.

Zero emission cars

As part of the transition, the appropriate percentage for zero emission cars is reduced to 0% for 2020/21 and to 1% for 2021/22. This applies regardless of when the car was registered.

The charge was originally set at 2% for 2020/21 and 2021/22, and will revert to this level from 2022/23.

Impact

Electric company car drivers were already set to enjoy a tax reduction. The appropriate percentage for 2019/20 is 16% and was due to fall to 2% from 6 April 2020. However, the further reduction to 0% means that those who have opted for an electric company car can enjoy the benefit tax-free in 2020/21. Their employers will also be relieved of the associated Class 1A National Insurance charge.

Case study

Kim has an electric company car throughout 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22. The car has a list price of £32,000. Kim is a higher rate taxpayer.

In 2019/20, Kim is taxed on 16% of the list price – a taxable benefit of £5,120. As a higher rate taxpayer, the tax hit is £2,048 (40% of £5,120). Her employer must also pay Class 1 National Insurance of 13.8% on the taxable amount (£706.56).

In 2020/21, the appropriate percentage is 0% so there is no tax or Class 1A National Insurance to pay. This is a significant reduction compared to 2019/20.

In 2021/22, the charge is 1% of the list price, equal to £320, on which the tax is £128 (assuming a 40% tax rate) and the Class 1A National Insurance is £44.16.

From 2021/22 the charge is 2% of the list price – equal to £640.

Not quite zero emissions

It is also possible to enjoy a company car tax-free in 2020/21 if it is registered on or after 6 April 2020, has emissions of between 1 and 50g/km (measured under the WLTP) and an electric range of at least 130 miles.

Go electric

The benefits of choosing electric cars from a tax perspective, as well as from an environmental one, are significant.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 139, 139A (as to be amended/inserted in accordance with draft Finance Bill 2019 clauses (see https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/taxable-benefits-and-rules-for-measuring-carbon-dioxide-emissions)).

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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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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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Inspired by Grand Designs? You are entitled for a VAT refund if you build your own home.

VAT refunds for DIY builders

If you build your own house or convert an existing property into a home, you may be eligible to apply for a VAT refund on building materials and services. You do not need to be VAT registered to claim a refund.

What qualifies?

Refunds can be claimed in respect of building materials that are incorporated into the building and which cannot be removed without tools or without damaging the building. Refunds are available for materials used to build both new homes and for certain conversions.

A new home will qualify if it is separate and self-contained and you build it for you and your family to live in. The property must not be used for business purposes, although you are permitted to use one room as a home office.

Conversions will qualify if the property was previously used for non-residential purposes and is converted for residential use. Conversions of residential building will only qualify if they have not been lived in for at least 10 years.

Where you use a builder, the builder’s services will normally be zero-rated where they work on a new home. However, you can claim a refund for VAT charged by a builder working on a conversion.

What does not qualify?

Refunds are not available in respect of:

  • materials or services on which no VAT is payable because they are zero-rated or exempt;
  • professional fees, such as architects’ fees or surveyors’ fees;
  • costs of hiring machinery or equipment;
  • building materials which are not permanently attached to or part of the building;
  • fitted furniture, some gas and electrical appliances, carpets and garden ornaments.

A refund is also denied if the building is not capable of being sold separately, for example, as a result of planning restrictions.

How to claim

The claim is made on form 431NB where it relates to a new build and on form 431 where it relates to a conversion. The forms are available on the Gov.uk website. The claim must be made within three months of the date on which the building work was completed.

You must include all the relevant supporting documentation with your claim, such as valid VAT invoices to support the amount claimed. The refund will normally be issued within 30 days of making the claim.

Partner note: www.gov.uk/vat-building-new-home/eligibility.

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Have you heard of a SIPP? They can be a useful tool for investments.

Using a SIPP to save for retirement

A SIPP is a self-invested personal pension which is set up by an insurance company or specialist SIPP provider. It is attractive to those who wish to manage their own investments. Contribution to a SIPP may be made by both the individual and, where appropriate, by the individual’s employer.

Investments

The range of potential investment is greater for a SIPP than for a personal pension or group personal pension scheme.

The SIPP can invest in a wide range of assets, including:

  • quoted and unquoted shares;
  • unlisted shares;
  • collective investment schemes (OEICs and unit trusts);
  • investment trusts;
  • property and land (but excluding residential property); and
  • insurance funds.

A SIPP can also borrow money to purchase investments. For example, a SIPP could take out a mortgage to fund the purchase a commercial property, which could be rented out. The rental income would be paid into the SIPP and this could be used to pay the mortgage and other costs associated with the property.

Making contributions

Tax-relieved contributions can be made to the SIPP up to the normal limits set by the annual allowance. This is set at £40,000 for 2019/20. The annual allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 which adjusted net income exceeds £150,000 where threshold income exceeds £110,000, until the minimum level of £10,000 is reached. Anyone with adjusted net income of £210,000 and above and threshold income of at least £110,000 will only receive the minimum annual allowance of £10,000. Where the annual allowance is unused, it can be carried forward for three years. Any contributions made by the employer also count towards the annual allowance.

SIPPs operate on a relief at source basis, meaning that the individual makes contributions from net pay. The SIPP provider claims back basic rate relief, with any higher or additional rate relief being claimed through the self-assessment return.

Drawing a pension

A SIPP is a money purchase scheme and the value of benefits available to provide a pension depend on contributions that have been made to the scheme, investment growth (or reduction) and charges.

It is possible to draw retirement benefits at age 55. A tax-free lump sum can be taken to the value of 25% of the accumulated funds. Withdrawals in excess of this are taxed at the individual’s marginal rate of tax.

To prevent recycling contributions, where pension benefits have been flexibly accessed a reduced money purchase annual allowance, set at £4,000 for 2019/20, applies.

Partner note: www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk

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Closing a business can be a difficult time. Be tax efficient with this beneficial liquidation strategy.

Closing a business – when a member’s voluntary liquidation is beneficial

Although it is possible to strike off a company and for distributions made prior to dissolution to be treated as capital rather than as a dividend, this is not an option where the amount of the distributions exceeds £25,000.

Where the taxpayer’s personal circumstances are such that it is beneficial for the remaining funds to be taxed as capital (and liable to capital gains tax), rather than as a dividend, a member’s voluntary liquidation (MVL) can be an attractive option, as depending upon the level of funds to be extracted the costs of the liquidation may be more than covered by the tax savings that can be achieved.

What is an MVL?

An MVL is a process that allows the shareholders to put the company into liquidation. This route is only an option if the company is solvent (i.e. its assets are greater than its liabilities). The directors must sign a declaration of solvency confirming that the company is able to pay its debts in full within the next 12 months and 75% of the members must agree to place the company into liquidation. The shareholders must pass a special resolution to wind up the company. They will also need to pass an ordinary resolution to appoint liquidators. The liquidator must be a licenced insolvency practitioner.

What are the tax implications?

Under an MVL the capital extracted from the company is treated as a capital distribution and is liable to capital gains tax, rather than being taxed as a dividend. Where entrepreneurs’ relief is in point, the rate of tax will only be 10%, assuming enough of the entrepreneurs’ relief lifetime limit remains available. If significant funds are available for distribution, this can generate considerable tax savings.

Example

Edward and Oliver are directors of a company in which they both own 50% of the shares and 50% of the voting rights. Each is entitled to 50% of the profits available for distribution and 50% of the assets on a winding up.

They wish to wind the company up, but as they have cash and assets of £10 million to distribute, they opt for an MVL, to allow them to take advantage of the capital gains tax treatment. Both are additional rate taxpayers, and both meet the qualifying conditions for entrepreneurs’ relief.

Edward and Oliver each receive £5 million on the winding up of the company. They both have the full amount of the entrepreneurs’ relief lifetime limit (£10 million) unused, and it is assumed for simplicity that the annual exempt amount has been used elsewhere. The gain is therefore taxed at 10% and each will pay tax of £500,000 on their distribution of £5 million.

Had they not opted for an MVL and the extracted funds taxed as a dividend, they would have each paid £1,905,000 in tax on the £5 million distribution (£5m @ 38.1%).

Anti-avoidance

Anti-avoidance provisions apply which are designed to target ‘moneyboxing’ (where the company retains more funds than it needs in order to extract them as capital when the company is liquidated) and ‘pheonixism’ (where the company is liquidated, the value extracted as capital and a new company is set up to carry on what is essentially the same business). Liquidation distributions which are caught by the rules are treated as income rather than capital.

Partner note: Insolvency Act 1986, Pt. IV, Ch. III.

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Today’s blog explains how Britain’s most hated tax – inheritance tax – works for married couples and civil partners.

Inheritance tax and spouses and civil partners

Special rules apply for inheritance tax purposes to married couples and civil partners. To ensure valuable tax reliefs are not lost, it is beneficial to consider the combined position, rather than dealing with each individual separately. Married couples and civil partners benefit from exemptions that are not available to unmarried couples.

Inter-spouse exemption

The main inheritance tax benefit of being married or in a civil partnership is the inter-spouse exemption. Transfers between married couples and civil partners are not subject to inheritance tax. This applies both to lifetime transfers and to those made on death.

The inter-spouse exemption makes it possible for the first spouse or civil partner to die to leave their entire estate to their partner without triggering an IHT liability, regardless of whether it exceeds the nil rate band.

Transferable nil rate band

The proportion of the nil rate band that is unused on the death of the first spouse or civil partner can be used by the surviving partner on his or her death. This makes tax planning easier and there is no panic about each spouse using their own nil rate band. If the entire estate is left to the spouse on the first death, on the death of the surviving spouse or civil partner, there will be two nil rate bands to play with.

If the first spouse or civil partner to die has used some of their nil rate band, for example, to leave part of their estate to their children, the surviving spouse or civil partner can utilise the remaining portion. It should be noticed it is the unused percentage that is transferred, rather than the absolute amount unused at the time of the first death – this provides an automatic uplift for increases in the nil rate band.

The nil rate band is currently £325,000.

Residence nil rate band

The residence nil rate band (RNRB) is an additional nil rate band which is available where a main residence is left to a direct descendant. It is set at £150,000 for 2019/20, and will increase to £175,000 for 2020/21. The RNRB is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which the value of the estate exceeds £2 million.

As with the nil rate band, the unused proportion of the RNRB can be transferred to the surviving spouse.

Example

George and Maud have been married for over 50 years. Maud died in 2017 leaving £32,500 to each of her two children. The remainder of her estate, including her share of the family home, was left to her husband George.

George dies in July 2019. At the time of his death, his estate was worth £780,000 and included the family home, valued at £550,000, which was left equally to the couple’s children, Paul and Joanna.

At the time of her death Maud had used up £65,000 of her nil rate band. The nil rate band at the time of her death was £325,000. The transfer to George was covered by the inter-spouse exemption and was free from inheritance tax. Maud has used up £65,000 of her nil rate band (20%), leaving 80% unused. She has not used her RNRB band as she left her share of her main residence to George.

On George’s death, the executors can claim the unused portion of Maud’s nil rate band and RBRB. The nil rate bands available to George are as follows:

Nil rate bands £
George’s nil rate band 325,000
George’s RNRB 150,000
Unused portion of Maud’s nil rate band (80% of £325,000) 260,000
Unused proportion of Maud’s RNRB (100% of £150,000) 150,000
Total £885,000

As George’s estate on death is less than the available nil rate bands, no inheritance tax is payable.

Partner note: IHTA 1984, ss. 8A, 18.

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Here’s how to apply for tax-free childcare:

Government childcare scheme – tax-free top-up

Working parents can receive a tax-free top up from the Government to help with their childcare costs. The top up is worth £500 every three months (£2,000 a year). A higher top-up of £4,000 a year (£1,000 every three months) is available where the child is disabled.

To receive the top-up, eligible parents must open an account online. The Government will provide a top-up of £2 for every £8 deposited by the parents, up to the above limits. The money in the account is then used to pay for childcare with a registered provider.

Who is eligible?

To qualify for tax-free childcare, the claimant (and their partner if they have one) should be in work, on sick leave or annual leave or on parental, maternity, paternity or adoption leave. The scheme is open to both the employed and the self-employed. However, earnings conditions apply.

The claimant (and their partner if they have one) must earn a minimum of £131.36 per week on average (which is equivalent to 16 hours at the National Living Wage of £8.21 per hour for 2019/20 for people age 25 and over). This equates to £1,707.68 over three months. This limit does not apply to a self-employed person who started their business within the previous three months.

There is also an earnings cap – tax-free childcare is not available where the claimant or their partner has ‘adjusted net income’ of more than £100,000. This is broadly taxable income before personal allowances, less items such as gift aid.

The child

Tax-free childcare is available for a child who is 11 or under and who lives with the claimant. Eligibility ceases on 1 September following their 11th birthday. A disabled child remains eligible until they are 17.

Using tax-free childcare

Tax-free childcare can be used to pay for childcare that is approved childcare. This includes childminders, nurseries, nannies, after school clubs, playschemes and home care agencies. The childcare provider must sign up to the scheme.

Interaction with tax-credit and Universal Credit

Tax-free childcare is not available at the same time as working tax credit, child tax credit or universal credit. The childcare calculator is available on the Gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/tax-free-childcare.

Employer-supported childcare and childcare vouchers

Similarly, an employee cannot benefit from both the tax-free top-up under the Government scheme and the tax exemption for employer-provided childcare vouchers or employer-supported care. Again, what is the best option will depend on personal circumstances. An employee within an employer scheme must tell their employer they have applied for tax-free childcare within 90 days of making the application.

How to apply

Applications for tax-free childcare can be made online at www.gov.uk/apply-for-tax-free-childcare.

Partner note: See www.gov.uk/tax-free-childcare.

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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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