Mike Tombs's Blog

This blog provides information about tax, accounting and other issues affecting small owner-managed businesses in the UK. It is intended as a general source of information but you should not assume that everything applies to your specific circumstances. We are always happy to discuss providing tailor-made solutions to suit your individul needs. Visit www.tlaservices.co.uk to sign up for our free monthly Tax Tips and News newsletter.

Monthly Archives: December 2017

Employment status case turned on right of substitution

Employment status tax cases often make the headlines in the professional press and the recent case involving Deliveroo riders was no exception. The meal delivery firm won the case in the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), confirming that its riders are not ‘workers’. This is the latest challenge to the employment status of ‘gig economy’ workers.

In this case, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) sought to argue that riders were workers, so that they could claim union recognition, thus affording them certain collective rights regarding the minimum wage entitlement, holiday and sick pay, and pension contributions.

The CAC rejected the claim that the riders were ‘workers’, hinging the case on the riders’ ‘ability to turn down a job both before and after accepting it’.

Historically, a genuine right of substitution, whether ‘sideways’ to someone of similar seniority or by way of delegation to a junior, has been regarded as one of the strongest factors favouring self-employment.

The case follows a number of claims brought by workers in the ‘gig’ economy demanding rights such as holiday pay, the minimum wage and pensions contributions. Drivers at Uber won a recent victory when the company lost an appeal at the Employment Appeal Tribunal against an earlier decision to grant them workers’ rights.

The transcript from the Deliveroo riders’ case can be found here.

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Abolition of Class 2 NICs delayed

On 2 November 2017, the Government announced a one year delay to the abolition of Class 2 National Insurance Contributions (NICs). Class 2 NICs will now be abolished from 6 April 2019 rather than 6 April 2018.

The delay will allow time for the government to engage with interested parties and Parliamentarians with concerns relating to the impact of the abolition of Class 2 NICs on self-employed individuals with low profits.

The relevant legislation will be contained in the National Insurance Contributions (NICs) Bill, which will now be introduced in 2018 with the measures it will implement taking effect one year later, from April 2019. These measures include the abolition of Class 2 NICs, reforms to the NICs treatment of termination payments and changes to the NICs treatment of sporting testimonials.

Broadly, Class 2 NICs are being removed to simplify the system. Those with profits below the small profits threshold (£6,025) will need to pay Class 3 contributions, which are five times as much as Class 2 contributions, if they wish to build up an entitlement to contributory benefits such as the state retirement pension. Based on 2017/18 rates, the proposed change would mean that people falling into this category would pay £592.80 a year more in Class 3 contributions.

According to the Office for National Statistics, there were 967,000 people with an annual income from self-employment below the small profits threshold in 2015/16. The proposals, as they currently stand, potentially impact on a considerable number of people.

Commenting on the delay, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) said it was keen for a way to be found for the low-income self-employed to continue to be able to make affordable savings towards their pension at a rate similar to the present Class 2, perhaps by introducing a lower rate Class 3.

Using the IHT gift exemptions

As Benjamin Franklin observed in 1789 ‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.’ More than two centuries on, this statement still rings true! These days however, inheritance tax is often referred to as a voluntary tax, because there are various ways to minimise liability to it, or even avoid it all together.

PETS

Any assets (cash or otherwise) that a person gives away during their lifetime, that do not fall under the exempt transfer rules, such as transfers between spouses and civil partners and gifts to charities, may escape inheritance tax as a potentially exempt transfer (PET).

There is no limit on the amount of PETs that can be made during a lifetime.

Broadly, for a PET to escape inheritance tax completely the donor needs to survive for seven years after making the gift. If he or she dies within the seven-year period, the PET is partially chargeable depending on the number of years that have elapsed since they made the gift.

The reduction is given in the form of taper relief, a sliding scale used to determine tax liabilities on gifts between three and seven years before death.

Current rates of taper relief and the resulting IHT rate are as follows:

Period before death in which gift made:

  • 0 to 3 years – reduction 0%; tax rate is 40%
  • 3 to 4 years – reduction 20%; tax rate 32%
  • 4 to 5 years – reduction 40%; tax rate 24%
  • 5 to 6 years – reduction 60%; tax rate 16%
  • 6 to 7 years – reduction 80%; tax rate 8%
  • More than 7 years – reduction 100%; tax rate 0%

If the donor dies within seven years of making a PET the value of that PET will be added in to the value of his or her estate to determine how much, if any, inheritance tax is due.

The PET will therefore use up some or all of the available nil-rate band, potentially increasing or even creating an inheritance tax liability for the estate. In addition, if the value of the PET exceeds the level of the nil-rate band in force for the year in which the donor dies, then additional inheritance tax will be payable by the recipient of the gift.

Taper relief may reduce the amount of tax payable. However, taper relief can only reduce an inheritance tax liability resulting from a PET becoming chargeable on death. The relief does not reduce the value of the gift itself.

Taper relief is particularly beneficial for those with large estates. Giving away £1 million and living for seven years takes the money right out of the inheritance tax net. But even if the donor lives for only six years, the £1 million less the nil-rate band is charged at just 8% under taper relief, instead of the full 40% inheritance tax rate.

Lifetime exemptions

The annual exemption enables a person to give away up to £3,000 per annum free of IHT. In addition, any unused exemptions from the previous year, may be carried forward, although any unused exemptions earlier than a year will be lost. This means that if no gifts have been made in the previous tax year, a person could make an IHT-free gift in the current tax year of £6,000. If the amount exceeded the annual exemption available, it could still remain exempt from IHT, if the person making the gift survives seven years.

In addition to the annual exemption, small gifts of up to £250 per year may be made free from IHT. The gift must be an outright gift to any one person each tax year.

Gifts on marriage can also be free of IHT provided that the gift does not exceed set limits. The limits depend on the relationship to the married couple/ civil partners and are as follows:

  • Parents – £5,000
  • Grandparents, great-grandparents – £2,500
  • Bride to groom/ groom to bride/ bride to bride/ groom to groom – £2,500
  • Anyone else – £1,000

These exemptions may be combined in certain circumstances to reduce a potentially exempt transfer (PET).

December 2017 Q&A

Q. My wife and I jointly owned a property that we originally lived in for many years, although it has been rented out for the last 10 years. My wife has recently died and I am now the sole owner of that property. I intend to sell it and give the proceeds to my two children (both aged in their 40’s). Will there be capital gains tax on the sale proceeds?

A. If a residence is transferred between a husband and wife who are living together (or between civil partners), of each other who are living together, whether by sale or by gift, the period of ownership of the transferee is treated as beginning at the beginning of the period of ownership of the transferor (TCGA 1992, s 222(7)(a)). This also applies where the residence is transferred from one to the other on death. When you inherited your wife’s half share in the property, you also took over her principal private residence ‘history’ for that property. This means that if you sell the property now, you will be entitled to PPR relief for all the period you occupied the property plus relief for the final eighteen months of ownership.

Additionally, you should be able to claim the letting exemption to reduce the gain attributable to the ten years that you rented it out.

Q. I am a sole trader and registered for VAT. The business pays for the fuel in my car, which I use for both business and private mileage. How do I account for VAT on the fuel using HMRC’s fuel scale charges?

A. Using HMRC’s scale charges is a way of accounting for output tax on road fuel bought by a business for cars that are then used privately. Broadly, if you use the scale charge, you can recover all the VAT charged on road fuel without having to split your mileage between business and private use. The charge is calculated on a flat rate basis according to the carbon dioxide emissions of the car.

You need to use the fuel scale charge table that has effect for the relevant accounting period.

Q. I have not yet paid my self-assessment payment on account, which was due on 31 July 2017. Will I be charged a penalty for paying late?

A. Interest will be charged on the overdue amount. The charges will accrue from the due date of payment (31 July 2017) to the date the payment is made. The applicable interest rate is currently 2.75%.

Penalties, on the other hand, will only be imposed if the balancing payment (due 31 January 2018) is late. The penalties for late payment under self-assessment are as follows:

  • 30 days late: 5% of the unpaid tax
  • 6 months late: additional 5% of the unpaid tax
  • 12 months late: additional 5% of the unpaid tax.

HMRC may reduce a late payment penalty in ‘special circumstances’, which does not include inability to pay. In addition, a defence of ‘reasonable excuse’ may be available.

In relation to payments on account, the maximum penalty for fraudulent or negligent claims by taxpayers to reduce payments on account is the difference between the correct amount payable on account and the amount of any payment on account made.