Archive for June, 2017

Need help joining the digital age

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

Computers are not everyone’s cup of tea. In fact, there are very few of us who can declare with some confidence that we are computer literate.

Unfortunately, there does seem to be a drive to increase their effective use in business and the offices of HMRC. Gone are the days when HMRC’s offices were populated by human beings checking hand written tax returns and transferring the data to foolscap folders. Racks and racks of these files flanked by rows of desks. The data is now pushed along underground cables, from your PC, or by your advisors’ desktop, and seamlessly integrated into your personal tax account on some distant server. Or at least that’s what we are led to believe.

If HMRC’s current ambition, to forward this process by requiring business owners to upload – essentially send information to HMRC via computerised process – quarterly, summarised data, then any non-computerised accounts process will become extinct.

Where does this leave smaller businesses, especially those who have no great desire to become computer literate, are content with the annual chore of dumping everything: invoices, bank statements, cheque stubs etc., into a carrier bag, and leaving this with their accountant?

We seem to be moving into an age where computer software is taking over the computational activity previously undertaken by accounts clerks and bookkeepers, bent double over ledgers and calculators.

The message we need to communicate to readers today is that this digital process seems to be unstoppable. HMRC’s Making Tax Digital for Business endeavours aim to make this digital upload a legal requirement, starting April 2018.

We can help. We have already crossed the computer Rubicon. Our staff are trained and ready to go. We have software that we can use on your behalf, or if you fancy having a dabble, we can recommend and show you how to use software to meet these new obligations, in house.

The clock is ticking. If you are still unsure whether to embrace these new challenges, or consider our support in dealing with them for you, can we suggest that you call to discuss your options.

National Insurance exemption

Tuesday, June 20th, 2017

Employers, or more specifically, the persons in charge of processing their payroll, are hopefully checking the box to claim the National Insurance Employment Allowance (EA)?

The EA reduces the employers’ (secondary) Class 1 NIC bill. If your employers’ NIC charge is normally more than £3,000, then this is as good as £3,000 additional cash in the bank. If your employers’ NIC bill is less than £3,000, then the EA will wipe out this employment cost for your business.

So far, so good. Why is there always a but…?

You can’t claim this allowance if:

  • You are the director and the only paid employee in your company.
  • You employ someone for personal, household or domestic work (like a nanny or gardener) – unless they’re a care or support worker.
  • You are a public body or business doing more than half your work in the public sector (such as local councils and NHS services) – unless you’re a charity.
  • You are a service company working under ‘IR35 rules’ and your only income is the earnings of the intermediary (such as your personal service company, limited company or partnership)

If you or your company have more than one registered payroll reference with HMRC, you can only claim the EA against one of them.

The first bullet point will no doubt be the most applicable exclusion, the owner managers of one-person companies, but if you can claim, a simple tick in the correct box of your payroll software should do the trick – your NIC payments should be automatically reduced until the £3,000 EA has been fully claimed.

Please note, the EA is only available to set off against employers’ Class 1 NIC, you cannot use this allowance to reduce employees’ contributions.

Making the most of opportunity

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

There are a number of ways that director shareholders of private companies can withdraw funds from their businesses. We have listed below a number of options, the list is not exhaustive, but the points do provide insight into the opportunities that current tax law allows incorporated businesses.

  1. Director shareholders can provide themselves with up to £300 a year in non-cash benefits as long as each “gift” does not exceed £50 and is not related to their employment. Potentially, unlimited “trivial benefits” can be provided to non-family employees, i.e. the £300 annual cap does not apply.
  2. Directors who have lent their company significant funds, can receive interest at a commercial rate on the funds deposited. There are a number of reliefs that can be claimed to reduce tax on interest received, and even if these do not apply, the interest payment will not attract an NIC charge.
  3. Directors aged below the State retirement age will no doubt want to ensure that they are still making NIC contributions that will qualify them for the State Retirement Pension. Many directors ensure that they pay themselves the minimum salary to achieve this planning objective.
  4. Dividends remain the most tax efficient method of taking retained profits from your business. The annual tax-free limit is still £5,000. Dividends drawn in excess of this will be taxed at 7.5%, 32.5% or 38.1%, all dependent on where the dividend income slots into the basic, higher or additional rate income tax bands. However, dividends continue to be exempt from a NIC charge. A final point to observe: dividends can only be taken from the company’s retained profits.
  5. Recent legislation has mitigated against the practice of taking benefits in place of remuneration – so-called salary sacrifice arrangements. In future years these benefits may be taxed as if they were salary. There may be short-term benefits in exploring these options, and these should be considered. Longer-term, other planning strategies may be required.
  6. If director shareholders have children, 18 years or older, it may be possible to issue them with company shares and pay them a small dividend each year. Currently, there is a potential here to provide over 18s with a £5,000 annual, tax-free income.

As you can see, extracting funds from a company can be achieved in a number of different ways, and these options should be a priority when considering your tax planning strategy. Please call if you would like more information on any of the topics raised in this post.

Oh what a night

Tuesday, June 13th, 2017

It is fair to conclude that Mrs May’s ambitions suffered a set-back Thursday last week. She is now attempting to manage a minority government, and Brexit apart, there are other outstanding legislative matters that demand her attention.

One is the remainder of the Finance Bill 2017, that was placed in abeyance in order to accommodate the recent election. Thankfully, Philip Hammond seems to be continuing at number 11, and hopefully, this will result in a degree of continuity regarding the management of the UK’s finances.

Certainly, our job as advisors to the business community, was to a degree placed in purdah, much like the civil service, during the recent campaigning period. One major tax change that was deferred, and is still part of the Finance Bill (in abeyance) 2017, is the matter of progress towards the implementation of HMRC’s Making Tax Digital program. The Bill defines the terms and dates on which the process will commence. Without this legislation reaching the statute books, there is no certainty. Key questions will be subject to speculation, including: will self-employed traders, including landlords, with turnover in excess of the current VAT registration limit, be required to upload their summarised accounts data to HMRC from April 2018?

Tax and accounting software providers must be biting their nails, as over 600 are presently investing in providing links for their users such that uploads from their software can be facilitated from April next year. In fact, as we have said before, Making Tax Digital data uploads can only be provided in this way – by third parties. HMRC are not providing direct access to taxpayers.

Let us hope that there will be a business-like return to parliament, and that the remaining sections of the Finance Bill will be enacted so we all have some certainty. Without this, it is hard to see how we can advise clients, or plan for changes in law that may or may not occur.

Recovery of VAT after deregistration

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Last week we discussed in this blog, how to recover VAT paid prior to registering for VAT.

This week we are going to sketch out the reverse position: how to reclaim VAT after you have deregistered.

According to HMRC, you can make a claim for relief from VAT charged to you on certain services (not goods) supplied after your registration was cancelled and when you were no longer a registered person. You can only claim relief from VAT on those services which, although supplied to you after your registration was cancelled, related to your taxable activities prior to deregistration.

The most usual costs you could claim for are accountants’ and solicitors’ services where the supply could not be made to you until after your registration was cancelled.

There is no relief from VAT on goods supplied to you after the date of cancellation or on services that are not attributable to taxable supplies.

When you claim relief from VAT, you must produce the relevant invoice(s) (originals only) and satisfy HMRC that the services supplied to you were for the purpose of the business carried on by you before the date on which your registration was cancelled. If, when you were registered, your input tax claims were restricted because you had non-business activities, you must apply the same restriction to this claim. You may not claim any relief on VAT incurred for exempt activities.

The deadline for reclaiming VAT under this option is no more than four years after the date it was incurred.

You can also reclaim VAT paid on your invoices issued to customers before deregistration, that subsequently became bad debts after deregistration – to qualify, you will need to have accounted for VAT on the supplies and can meet all the requirements of the bad debt relief scheme.

If you feel that you may be eligible to make a claim under these provisions, please call, we would be delighted to help.

The hidden tax on car benefits for employers

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Businesses that provide employees with taxable benefits: company cars, health insurance and so on, will be aware that a benefit in kind charge is added to the employee’s income and subjected to an income tax charge the same as their salary.

Employers will also be aware that the cumulative sum of all the taxable benefits of their employees are subjected to an employers’ National Insurance charge – at present, this Class 1A charge amounts to 13.8% of all taxable benefits provided.

Which means the true cash cost of providing £10,000 of taxable benefits is £11,380.

Unfortunately, some benefits are not based on an identifiable cost, but on a scale rate applied by HMRC. Of particular concern are car and car fuel benefits for the use of company cars.

Consider Thrifty Ltd, who provide a second hand Toyota to Jane, a salesperson. The annual cost to the company is calculated as:

  • Fuel £200 per month, of which £25 covers private fuel.
  • A further £100 per month to cover insurance, repairs, and road tax, and
  • The car was purchased for £12,000 second hand – and is expected to be worth £4,000 after 4 years – and so the expected annual depreciation amounts to £2,000. The cost of the car when new was £19,000.

The company consider the overall, annual cost of £5,600, including depreciation, to be acceptable.

The CO2 rating of the car is 122 g/km, and Jane’s annual benefit in kind charge for 2016-17 is (£19,000 x 21%) £3,990. The 21% is the scale rate applied by HMRC to cars with a CO2 rating between 120 – 124 g/km). Not bad, Jane is only being taxed on £3,990 when the underlying cost of the car for 2016-17 was £5,600.

Unfortunately, this is not the complete story. The company pays for all of Jane’s fuel, including fuel for private use. This means the car fuel benefit charge applies and this is based on the formula – £22,200 x 21% – £4,662.

Therefore, Jane’s total car and car fuel benefits amount to £8,652 (£3,990 £4,662), when the underlying cost to her employer is just £5,600, and Thrifty Ltd will have to stump up £1,194 in Class 1A NIC, increasing the annual cost of providing the car to £6,794. The true rate of NIC payable is therefore 21.3% (£1,194/£5,600*100).

In this particular case, Jane would be advised to pay Thrifty Ltd the £25 a month to cover her private fuel. At a stroke this would mean the car fuel benefit would no longer apply, and reduce her taxable benefits for the use of the car from £8,652 to £3,990. As a bonus, the company Class 1A NIC would also reduce, from £1,194 to £551. As the true cost of the car is still £5,600, this reduces the effective NIC charge to 9.8% (£551/£5,600*100).

We are happy to discuss this conundrum with readers who feel they could benefit from advice in this area.

Tax Diary June/July 2017

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

1 June 2017 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 31 August 2016.

19 June 2017 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 June 2017. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 June 2017.)

19 June 2017 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 June 2017.

19 June 2017 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 June 2017 is payable by today.

1 July 2017 – Due date for Corporation Tax due for the year ended 30 September 2016.

6 July 2017 – Complete and submit forms P11D return of benefits and expenses and P11D(b) return of Class 1A NICs.

19 July 2017 – Pay Class 1A NICs (by the 22 July 2017 if paid electronically).

19 July 2017 – PAYE and NIC deductions due for month ended 5 July 2017. (If you pay your tax electronically the due date is 22 July 2017.)

19 July 2017 – Filing deadline for the CIS300 monthly return for the month ended 5 July 2017.

19 July 2017 – CIS tax deducted for the month ended 5 July 2017 is payable by today.

Claim back pre-registration VAT

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

It is possible to reclaim VAT you have paid on any business purchases before you have subsequently registered for VAT. In fact, once you have registered your business for VAT the first thing you should consider is the possibility of reclaiming input tax on purchases of goods and services prior to registration.

This article summarises the issues you will need to consider for the two categories: goods and services.

There’s a time limit for backdating claims for VAT paid before registration. From your date of registration, the time limit is:

  • 4 years for goods you still have, or that were used to make other goods you still have
  • 6 months for services

You can only reclaim VAT on purchases for the business now registered for VAT. They must relate to your ‘business purpose’. This means they must relate to VAT taxable goods or services that you supply.

You should reclaim them on your first VAT Return (add them to your Box 4 figure) and keep records including:

  • invoices and receipts
  • a description and purchase dates
  • information about how they relate to your business now

If your pre-registration purchases and other costs are significant, this facility can produce a reasonable cash flow benefit. Please call if you would like our help to assess any possible claim you could make.

When does a hobby become a trade

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

An example may illustrate the answer to this question.

Harry updates his iPad and decides to sell his old one – he does not use the iPad for his employment or any business, it’s used purely for recreational purposes. He sets up an account on eBay and manages to sell for a reasonable price. Encouraged, he sells a number of other, no longer used, personal items on the same eBay account.

At this point, it would be difficult for the tax office to argue that Harry was engaged in a trade.

Harry then has an opportunity to buy an iPad from a friend, and the price his friend wants is reasonable, so reasonable that Harry is tempted to purchase and resell on eBay for a quick profit. This he does. With a small profit in the bank Harry starts to consider that he may be onto a good thing and plans to buy and sell more items online.

Buying with an anticipation of selling in order to make a profit is a so-called “badge of trade”, and if Harry continued with this activity he may need to register his online trade with HMRC and submit a tax return.

The criteria that HMRC will apply to decide if a hobby (sometime described as an adventure in the nature of a trade) is a trade are listed below. These are the badges of trade that will be considered by HMRC together with any relevant case law:

  • profit seeking motive
  • the number of transactions
  • the nature of the asset
  • existence of similar trading transactions or interests
  • changes to the asset
  • the way the sale was carried out
  • the source of finance
  • interval of time between purchase and sale
  • method of acquisition.

We are waiting to see if a new Trading Allowance of £1,000 will be reintroduced after the election this month, if it is, Harry would not pay tax as long as the income from his eBay account did not exceed £1,000.

We would be happy to discuss this issue with any readers who are unsure of their present status. You should be aware that there may be penalties if you do not register a business activity with HMRC, file a tax return and pay any tax due.

What happens if you can’t pay your tax on time

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Following on from the previous article, we thought readers might be interested in the consequences if they fail to pay their Self Assessment tax on time.

If you are facing cash-flow issues, and cannot see how you can afford to settle part, or all of your tax payment due 31 July 2017, what is the best strategy to avoid confrontation with HMRC and minimise any penalties and interest charges?

Firstly, let’s take a look at penalties. The trigger dates for penalties are 30 days, 6 months and 12 months after the tax became due for payment. On each of these trigger dates you will be charged a 5% penalty based on the amount of tax outstanding.

The current interest charge on unpaid tax is 2.75%.

If you are concerned that you may not be able to meet your liabilities as they fall due, and in particular, any payment due 31 July 2017, we recommend a two-pronged approach.

  • Firstly, make a realistic estimate of when you can settle amounts due. This may be instalments or payment in full at a time after the due date.
  • Secondly, call HMRC’s Business Payment Support Service on 0300 200 3835, and agree an extended payment scheme with them. Generally speaking, they will agree as long as your suggested scheme clears any outstanding liability before your next liabilities become due for payment. They will also exhort you to gather funds such that you can settle future tax on the due dates.

What is inadvisable, is to bury your head in the sand and wait for the brown envelopes, telephone calls and debt collectors at your front door. Call the help line before the tax falls due and keep to your agreed settlement plan.