Finance Bill reduced

In order to ensure that the Finance Bill 2017, introduced March 2017, is passed before the impending general election, huge chunks of the original, published bill have been removed. In the national press this has been referred to as a “wash-up”.

Significant legislation has been side-lined in the process. For example, the following charging provisions have been removed:

  1. Rules to introduce the further digitisation of tax payer records by requiring that certain sectors of the self-employed will need to upload quarterly data to HMRC from April 2018, all unincorporated businesses by April 2019. The so-called, Making Tax Digital processes.
  2. The reduction of the tax-free dividend allowance from £5,000 to £2,000 from April 2018.
  3. Many of the anti-avoidance, counter legislation changes.
  4. The reduction in the pensions money purchase allowance.

The national press is keen to speculate that some or all of these removed clauses will not be reintroduced after the election. Much will depend on who wins the election, but if Mrs May re-enters Downing Street, a second Finance Bill for 2017, to represent the missing clauses, seems likely.

Like so much in politics these days, we will have to wait until the ink has dried on the voting slips, and the count completed, before the re-introduced legislation or new tax changes are considered.

Business owners are to some extent in limbo as the Making Tax changes, although heavily promoted by HMRC, are now without charging provisions in the Taxes Acts. Many businesses, and their advisors, are presently trialling the electronic upload of data to HMRC, so it is difficult to see that this entire raft of legislation will be permanently withdrawn. We will have to wait and see.

Annual Investment Allowance (AIA)

From 1 January 2016, the AIA was increased to an annual limit of £200,000. Unlike previous changes, this is a permanent increase.

The AIA allows businesses to write off 100% of expenditure in qualifying assets and equipment, up to the appropriate limit, against their tax liabilities. In effect, qualifying expenditure is treated as any other business expense: it reduces taxable profits.

There have been a number of changes to the £200,000 limit in recent years and where the AIA ceiling has changed, there are transitional considerations that need to be taken into account.

The following example illustrates how these transitional arrangements work in practice:

Where a business has a chargeable period that spans 1 January 2016, the maximum allowance for that business’s transitional chargeable period comprises 2 parts:

(a) the AIA entitlement, based on the temporary £500,000 annual cap for the portion of the period falling before 1 January 2016

(b) the AIA entitlement, based on the £200,000 cap for the portion of the period falling on or after 1 January 2016.

Example

A company with a 12-month chargeable period from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 would calculate its maximum AIA entitlement based on:

(a) the proportion of the period from 1 April 2015 to 31 December 2015, that is, 9/12 x £500,000 = £375,000, and

(b) the proportion of the period from 1 January 2016 to 31 March 2016, that is 3/12 x £200,000 = £50,000.

The company’s maximum AIA for this transitional chargeable period would therefore be the total of (a) (b) = £375,000 £50,000 = £425,000, although in relation to (b) (the part period falling on or after 1 January 2016) no more than £50,000 of the company’s actual expenditure in that part period would be covered by its transitional AIA entitlement.

The AIA remains a valuable tax allowance, especially for smaller businesses. It will be interesting to see if Philip Hammond announces a further boost to investment by increasing this relief as part of his autumn statement November 2016.

We live in interesting times

The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee voted on 4 August to reduce their base rate to 0.25%.

This is good news for individuals and businesses about to borrow money, as it should mean that the interest rate applied will be lower.

Certainly, the interest rates charged by HMRC for late payment of taxes are linked to the base rate and will be cut accordingly. These reductions will apply from 15 August 2016 for quarterly instalment payments, and from 23 August 2016 for non-quarterly instalment payments.

The rate reduction is being made in tandem with a package of measures to provide additional monetary stimulus. As part of their published reasoning for their actions the Bank of England have said:

“The cut in Bank Rate will lower borrowing costs for households and businesses.  However, as interest rates are close to zero, it is likely to be difficult for some banks and building societies to reduce deposit rates much further, which in turn might limit their ability to cut their lending rates.  In order to mitigate this, the MPC is launching a Term Funding Scheme (TFS) that will provide funding for banks at interest rates close to Bank Rate.  This monetary policy action should help reinforce the transmission of the reduction in Bank Rate to the real economy to ensure that households and firms benefit from the MPC’s actions.  In addition, the TFS provides participants with a cost effective source of funding to support additional lending to the real economy, providing insurance against the risk that conditions tighten in bank funding markets. 

 

The expansion of the Bank of England’s asset purchase programme for UK government bonds will impart monetary stimulus by lowering the yields on securities that are used to determine the cost of borrowing for households and businesses.  It is also likely to trigger portfolio rebalancing into riskier assets by current holders of government bonds, further enhancing the supply of credit to the broader economy.”

Home based travel costs

Doctor Samadian works from home and has contracts with a number of private and NHS hospitals.

As he has a home-based office, from where he runs and administers his business, he has claimed for the costs of travel as follows:

·         from his home/work base to his various, contracted private hospital clients;

·         from the NHS hospitals, where he was an employee, to the private hospitals.

HMRC considered that the claims were not bona fide business costs and sought to disallow them. Dr Samadian appealed.

The case, when heard by the First Tier Tribunal (FTT), decided that neither of these circumstances qualified the travel costs as incurred “wholly and exclusively” for the purposes of a trade, and Dr Samadian’s appeal was denied.

The case was then heard, on appeal, by the Upper Tier Tribunal, who upheld the decision of the FTT.

This seems to be an odd conclusion by the courts. Essentially they are saying that:

·         Travel expenses for journeys between home (even where the home is used as place of business) and places of business are treated as non-deductible (other                than in very exceptional circumstances).

·         Travel expenses for journeys between a location which is not a place of business and a location which is a place of business are not deductible.

If applied to all self-employed persons who worked from home this would seem to deny tax relief on travel costs that they believe are expended solely for business purposes.

Good news for exporters

The UK’s 5 major high street banks have signed up to work with the new Department for International Trade to revolutionise the way businesses access international markets.

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest and Santander are getting behind the government’s drive to populate a new and unique Directory of Exporters. The Directory will link UK companies with contacts from around the world. Potential customers and buyers from global markets will be able to search for companies from across the whole of the UK which are ready to supply the products, services and skills they need.

The directory heralds an incredible opportunity for the UK economy and is part of wider government plans for a more digital service that will provide a world-leading platform for British businesses and the UK economy. The government and banks see this unique collaboration as the critical first stage in creating a ground-breaking service, aiming to make the UK the easiest place in the world from which to start exporting. Further details of the service will be revealed as the offer develops in advance of its launch in November 2016.

Business customers of the 5 banks will be encouraged to join the directory and take advantage of this exciting opportunity to promote themselves in lucrative global markets.

Announcing the partnership at an event in London on the 21 July, Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox, said:

“The new Department for International Trade is perfectly placed to bring together the whole of government, industry and our extensive overseas network to help UK businesses win lucrative deals. We want to help UK businesses scale up and take advantage of the global appetite for British goods and services, as well as to demonstrate that there has never been a better time for international companies to partner with UK suppliers.

The first of its kind, this directory will deliver a unique and new route to global markets, promoting British goods and services on an unprecedented scale. With this kind of creativity and collaborative working between government and industry, I’m confident that we can make the whole of the UK a beacon for open trade around the world.”

Tax free Childcare

This new scheme will be rolled out to parents next year. The scheme will be made available gradually to families, with parents of the youngest children able to apply first. You’ll be able to apply for all your children at the same time, when your youngest child becomes eligible. All eligible parents will be able to join the scheme by the end of 2017.

 

In the meantime, HMRC are gearing up to advise childcare providers to register to use the scheme.

 

The top ten things that parents should know about Tax-free Childcare have recently been updated and are reproduced below:

 

1.      You’ll be able to open an online account, which you can pay into to cover the cost of childcare with a registered provider. This will be done through the government website, GOV.UK.

 

2.      For every 80p you or someone else pays in, the government will top up an extra 20p. This is equivalent of the tax most people pay – 20% – which gives the scheme its name, ‘tax-free’. The government will top up the account with 20% of childcare costs up to a total of £10,000 – the equivalent of up to £2,000 support per child per year (or £4,000 for disabled children).

 

3.      The scheme will be available for children up to the age of 12. It will also be available for children with disabilities up to the age of 17, as their childcare costs can stay high throughout their teenage years.

 

4.      To qualify, parents will have to be in work, and each earning around £115 a week and not more than £100,000 each per year.

 

5.      Any eligible working family can use the Tax-Free Childcare scheme – it doesn’t rely on employers.

 

6.      The scheme will also be available for parents who are self-employed. Self-employed parents will be able to get support with childcare costs in Tax-Free Childcare, unlike the current scheme (Employer-Supported Childcare) which is not available to self-employed parents. To support newly self-employed parents, the government is introducing a ‘start-up’ period. During this, self-employed parents won’t have to earn the minimum income level.

 

7.      If you currently receive Employer-Supported Childcare then you can continue to do so; you do not have to switch to Tax-Free However, Tax-Free Childcare will be open to more than twice as many parents as Employer-Supported Childcare.

 

8.      Parents and others can pay money into their childcare account as and when they like. This gives you the flexibility to pay in more in some months, and less at other times. This means you can build up a balance in your account to use at times when you need more childcare than usual, for example, over the summer holidays. It’s also not just the parents who can pay into the account – if grandparents, other family members or employers want to pay in, then they can.

 

9.      The process will be as simple as possible for parents. A bespoke online process will be provided.

 

10.  You’ll be able to withdraw money from the account if your circumstances change or you no longer want to pay into the account. If you do make withdrawals, the government will withdraw its corresponding contribution.

A new broom

Philip Hammond has been appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer as George Osborne returns to the backbenches.

Mr Hammond has already confirmed that there will be no emergency budget, and he will be presenting the usual Autumn Statement later in the year and a new Finance Bill March 2017.

The immediate impact for UK tax payers is therefore business as usual. The Finance Bill 2016 will continue its progress towards Royal Assent and we will continue to offer advice to clients based on current legislation.

The press, of course, are speculating on the options that Mr Hammond has when he does turn his mind to the Finance Bill 2017. These include a deferral in the introduction of tax changes for non-doms, a possible reduction in Corporation Tax rates to encourage businesses to stay in the UK (rates as low as 12% have been mooted), and other measures to encourage savings and investment.

Buy-to-let landlords action required

Buy-to-let landlords need to start considering their options, in particular, those who have borrowed heavily in order to build their property portfolio.

As we have mentioned previously in this newsletter, from April 2017 deductions for finance charges will be progressively reduced and replaced by a 20% tax credit. This will promote a number of landlords into the higher rates of Income Tax and increase most buy-to-let landlords’ tax bills where annual finance charges are significant.

Consider Jane. She has purchased a number of buy-to-let properties and her total rental income is £120,000 a year. Her expenses, excluding mortgage and loan interest are £15,000 and her mortgage interest £85,000. Jane has no other income.

Her Income Tax bill for 2016-17, based on these figures, is estimated to be £1,800 leaving her with disposable income from her property business of £18,200.

With no changes in her rents and expenses her Income Tax bill will gradually increase until 2020-21 (when the changes to tax relief on finance charges are fully implemented). Her tax bill for 2020-21 will increase to £13,500, leaving Jane with a much reduced disposable income of £6,500.

Landlords affected need to start to consider their options now. There are a number of practical changes that could be made. For example, Jane could:

·         increase rents,

·         introduce savings to repay loans and therefore reduce interest charges,

·         dispose of properties that are not pregnant with capital gains.

If you have borrowed heavily in order to build your buy-to-let business, better to consider your options now than to be forced into less effective restructuring as the transitional period progresses.

NIC Employment Allowance

For 2016-17, the EA is set at £3,000. This means that if you are eligible, you will not have to pay employers’ Class 1 contributions up to this amount. The following set out some of the less well known facts about this allowance:

·         The EA can only be used against your employer Class 1 NICs liability. It cannot be used against Class 1A or Class 1B NICs liabilities. Class 1A and 1B NICs are those payable on any taxable benefits or expenses provided by a business to its employees.

·         You cannot claim the EA if the only employee paid above the secondary threshold is a sole director; or someone paid for personal or domestic work (unless they are a care or support worker).

·         You can only claim one EA for your business or charity even if you have multiple PAYE schemes for different parts of your business or charity.

·         You should take off the EA from employer Class 1 NICs liabilities before deducting any other amounts, for example, recoverable Statutory Maternity Pay.

·         If you do not use your full £3,000 EA entitlement against your nominated PAYE scheme, but you have employer Class 1 NICs liability on your other PAYE schemes, and have paid all your PAYE up to date, you can apply to HMRC (at the end of the tax year) for a refund of any unused balance.

·         If you do not apply for a refund, and have an unused balance you should apply to HMRC to use this against any forthcoming PAYE debt.

·         If you make your claim for the EA towards the end of the tax year, you might not incur sufficient employer Class 1 NICs liabilities in the remainder of the tax year to use up the allowance in full. If so, HMRC will use the balance remaining against any PAYE debt or other tax/NIC liabilities arising in the following tax year. If you do not have any existing PAYE debts or liabilities to set the unused balance against, you can claim your allowance as a repayment.

·         You can make a claim for the EA up to 4 years after the end of the tax year in which the allowance applies. For example, if you want to make a claim for the allowance for the tax year 2015-16, you must make your claim by no later than the 5 April 2020.

·         If a business that is claiming the EA changes ownership, then that existing claim for the allowance will end when the transfer of ownership occurs.