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.

Category Archives: Property

SDLT on second homes

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) is payable on the purchase of residential property in increasing portions of the property price above £125,000.

Current rates of SDLT on individual and additional properties are as follows:

  • Purchase price up to £125,000 – SDLT rate Zero; additional property rate 3%
  • The next £125,000 (portion from £125,001 to £250,000) – SDLT rate 2%; additional property rate 5%
  • The next £675,000 (portion from £250,000 to £925,000) – SDLT rate 5%; additional property rate 8%
  • The next £575,000 (portion from £925,000 to £1.5m) – SDLT rate 10%; additional property rate 13%
  • The remaining amount (portion above £1.5m) – SDLT rate 12%; additional property rate 15%

Note that SDLT no longer applies in Scotland, where a Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) is charged instead.

Additional property

A higher rate of SDLT will be charged on purchases of additional residential property which completed on or after 1 April 2016.

If contracts were exchanged after 25 November 2015, then the higher rates apply if the purchase was completed on or after 1 April 2016. However, if contracts were exchanged on or before 25 November 2015 but not completed until on or after 1 April 2016, the higher rates will not apply.

The amount of the additional charge will be 3% on top of the normal SDLT charge.

Example

Leo buys a second residential property on 25 July 2017 costing £300,000. This transaction will attract SDLT as follows:

£125,000 x 3% = £3,750

£125,000 x 5% = £6,250

£50,000 x 8% = £4,000

Total SDLT due £14,000

Broadly, the higher rates will not apply if at the end of the day of the transaction an individual owns only one residential property, irrespective of the intended use of the property.

If a main home is sold after a new home is purchased, the higher rate will be payable. However, a refund can be obtained is the old home is sold within three years of buying the new one.

Exceptions

The higher rates are not payable on the purchase of a new property if the chargeable consideration is less than £40,000.

In addition, the charge is not payable where:

  • someone else holds a lease on the property with more than 21 years to run;
  • a lease is purchased that has less than 7 years to run.

The higher rates will not be applicable if an individual’s other residential properties meet either of the two criteria above, or each have a value of less than £40,000 when the new property is purchased.

Finally, the higher rates will not apply to purchase of mobile homes, caravans or house boats; or to purpose built student accommodation.

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Rent a room scheme

Although Budget 2017 announced that the Government intends to review the rent-a-room scheme, it currently remains a tax-efficient way of letting out a spare room. Broadly, HMRC’s rent-a-room scheme is an optional exemption scheme, which allows individuals to receive up to £7,500 of tax-free gross income (income before expenses) from renting out spare rooms in their only or main home. The exemption is halved where the income is shared with a partner or someone else. Broadly, as long as income is below the annual threshold, it does not need to be reported to HMRC. If income exceeds the threshold, it needs to be reported to HMRC via the self-assessment system.

In order to qualify under the rent-a-room scheme, the accommodation must be furnished and a lodger can occupy a single room or an entire floor of the house. However, the scheme doesn’t apply if the house is converted into separate flats that are rented out. The scheme cannot be used if the accommodation is in a UK home which is let whilst the landlord lives abroad.

The rent-a-room tax break does not apply where part of a home is let as an office or other business premises. The relief only covers the circumstance where payments are made for the use of living accommodation.

Sometimes additional services are provided, for example, cleaning and laundry. The payments for such services must be added to the rent to work out the total receipts. If income exceeds £7,500 a year in total, a liability to tax will arise, even if the rent itself is less than that.

Accounting for tax

Where the annual threshold is exceeded, there are two options available:

  • the first £7,500 is counted as the tax-free allowance and income tax is paid on the remaining income; or
  • the landlord opts to treat the renting of the room as a normal rental business, working out a profit and loss account using the normal income and expenditure rules.

In most cases, the first option will be more advantageous. The principal point to bear in mind is that those using the rent-a-room scheme cannot claim any expenses relating to the letting (e.g. insurance, repairs, heating).

To work out whether it is preferable to join the scheme, the following methods of calculation should be compared:

  • Method A: paying tax on the profit from letting worked out in the normal way for a rental business (i.e. rents received less expenses).
  • Method B: paying tax on the gross amount of receipts (including receipts for any related services they provide) less the £7,500 exemption limit.

Method A applies automatically unless the taxpayer tells their tax office within the time limit that they want method B.

Once a taxpayer has elected for method B, it continues to apply in the future until they tell HMRC they want method A. The taxpayer may want to switch methods where the taxable profit is less under method A, or where expenses are more than the rents (so there is a loss).

Example

During 2016/17, Flo lets out a room in her home. She receives total income of £11,000 (£10,800 rent plus £200 towards bills). She incurs expenses of £3,000. If she uses method A to calculate her tax liability she will pay tax on £8,000 (£11,000 less £3,000). If she uses method B, she will pay tax on £3,500 (£11,000 less £7,500). Flo is better off using method B.

Even though the tax rules for the rent-a-room scheme are different to the general property income tax rules, a resident landlord will still have certain responsibilities towards tenants, particularly in relation to safety. For further information, see the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/rent-room-in-your-home.

IHT: main residence nil-rate band

From April 2017, each individual spouse or civil partner will be offered a residence nil rate band (RNRB), which is designed to help pass on a home to ‘direct descendants’, including children or grandchildren, tax-free after their death. The rules governing the inheritance tax (IHT) nil rate band are complex and it is always recommended that prior professional advice is considered.

Phasing in of RNRB

The RNRB is being phased in over a four-year period as follows:

  • £100,000 in 2017-2018
  • £125,000 in 2018-2019
  • £150,000 in 2019-2020
  • £175,000 in 2020-2021

Broadly, the new RNRB will be added to the existing £325,000 IHT threshold, meaning the total tax-free allowance for a surviving spouse or civil partner will be up to £850,000 in 2017-18, and up to £1 million in 2020-21.

For the purposes of the new nil-rate band, ‘direct descendants’ include the spouse or civil partner, children, step children, adopted children, foster children, and any lineal descendants.

The property in question must be a ‘qualifying residence’. This means it must be a property where a person held an interest and had occupied the property as their residence at some point. HMRC may require evidence of this, so it is essential to maintain proper records to help substantiate a claim. Where a person has more than one property, an election can be made so that the exemption is offset. For the purpose of the exemption, there is no requirement for the property to be the main residence at death.

Tapering

The new allowance will be tapered away from those leaving an estate of more than £2 million, so that those leaving more than £2.35m will not benefit from it.

For estates (broadly, assets less liabilities) exceeding £2 million, the RNRB (£100,000 for 2017-18) is reduced by £1 for every £2 over the £2 million threshold. The effect of tapering is an extremely important planning point, particularly where the whole of an estate is being left to a surviving spouse or civil partner – whilst no IHT will be charged on first death, the amount of RNRB that may subsequently be transferred to the surviving person may be affected by the taper.

If there is no qualifying residence or the residence is left to someone who is not a direct descendant, upon the first death of one spouse or civil partner, the RNRB will not be available. However, the surviving spouse or civil partner may be able to benefit from the unused RNRB when they subsequently die. On the death of the surviving spouse or civil partner, they will be entitled to two times the RNRB. Note that for this to happen, a claim would need to be made within two years of the death of the second spouse or civil partner.

There is an additional benefit to this exemption which will naturally affect a number of people whom in their old age may wish to, or require to, either downsize or dispose of their residence (move in with family or into a care home). Provided that the sale of the property occurred on or after 8 July 2015, the RNRB will not be lost. Instead, the exemption can be maintained and used against either the remaining value of their smaller residence or equivalent value of assets (provided it has been left to a direct descendant).

In the event that the property was given away, the RNRB can be available, provided the gift was made on or after 8 July 2015, and assets of a similar value have been left to a direct descendant.

The calculations for the RNRB where a residence has been downsized, sold, or gifted are extremely complex and careful planning is required to ensure the exemption is not lost. It is extremely important that proper records of sales and/or purchases of residential property are maintained.

Reform of landlords’ taxation?

The government’s plans to allow landlords to use the cash basis for tax purposes were confirmed in the 2017 Spring Budget, but although the proposed legislation was included in Finance Bill 2017, it did not appear in the much reduced Finance Act 2017, which received Royal Assent on 27 April 2017. It is likely that the proposals have been temporarily shelved, pending the outcome of the General Election, and are expected to reappear in a second Finance Bill later this year. If the provisions are subsequently enacted, they are expected to apply retrospectively from 6 April 2017, i.e. for the current tax year.

Up to and including 2016-17, profits of a property business must be calculated in accordance with generally accepted accounting practice (GAAP), commonly referred to as the accruals basis. Although this remains the case for certain landlords (including companies, LLPs, corporate firms, and trustees of trusts), if the Finance Bill 2017 provisions are enacted, the position for 2017-18 onwards will be more complicated. The general rule is that the cash basis must be used. However, this is subject to some exceptions and there will be scope for the individual to elect to continue using the accruals basis if they so wish. The new property allowance will remove some landlords from income tax, whilst for others, it will provide a deduction from profits of £1,000.

Property allowance

The property allowance works as follows:

  • Full relief: if income from a property business for the tax year is equal to or less than £1,000, no income tax will payable in respect of that property business for that year. Individuals may elect to use the rules normally applying to calculate profits.
  • Partial relief: if income from a property business for the tax year exceeds £1,000, the individual may elect to deduct £1,000 from his income – rather than the expenditure actually incurred – in arriving at the profits of the property business.

A number of restrictions apply. The property allowance will not apply:

  • to income on which rent-a-room relief is given; or
  • where the ‘alternative method’ is not elected, but instead the actual allowable expenses are deducted.

Cash basis

The cash basis operates by reference to the tax year. This means that profits are calculated for the tax year by adding or subtracting:

  • all income received in connection with the property business in the tax year;
  • any income that is not taxable and for expenses which are not allowable.

Reform of capital expenditure rules

To date, the cash basis rules have prohibited a deduction for expenditure of a capital nature unless such expenditure would qualify for plant and machinery capital allowances under the ordinary tax rules. However, if the Finance Bill 2017 proposals are enacted this general disallowance of capital expenditure rule will be replaced from 2017/18 onwards with a more limited disallowance of capital expenditure incurred in relation to assets which are not used up in the business over a limited period.

So, if enacted, from 2017/18 onwards, relief will be prohibited only in relation to costs incurred in relation to the provision, alteration or disposal of:

  • any asset that is not a ‘depreciating asset’ (to be defined as having a useful life of up to 20 years);
  • any asset not acquired or created for use on a continuing basis in the trade;
  • a car (but of course business mileage-based relief is available);
  • land (as defined);
  • a non-qualifying intangible asset, (as per Financial Reporting Standard 105) including education or training; and
  • a financial asset.

Costs in relation to the acquisition or disposal of a business, or part of a business, will also be excluded.

On entering the cash basis, which many taxpayers will do for 2017-18, it will be necessary to adjust for:

  • amounts which, applying the cash basis, would have been brought into account for a period before the change and were not brought into account; and
  • amounts which, applying the cash basis, should be brought into account for a period after the change and were brought into account for a period before the change.

These adjustments are designed to ensure that no amounts are either left out of account or double counted. The adjustment income/expense is brought into account on the last day of the first period of account under the cash basis.

Similar rules apply where a taxpayer leaves the cash basis with the exception that adjustment income is automatically spread over six years unless an election is made to accelerate the charge.

Given the uncertainty of the current situation, clients are encouraged to ensure that all income and expenditure is recorded, particularly where clients are intending to make use of the property allowance. If the proposals are not enacted, or are delayed to a future tax year, the client will need to report their actual income and expenditure and so it is important that adequate records are kept.

March 2017 Q&A

Q. Will I have to pay stamp duty land tax on a property I am about to inherit?

A. Stamp duty land tax (SDLT) is generally payable on land transactions. There is a land transaction when land passes to a beneficiary under a will, or by virtue of the law on intestacy. However, the legislation governing SDLT (Finance Act 2003, Schedule 3, para. 3A) provides that the acquisition of property by a person:

  • in or towards satisfaction of his entitlement under or in relation to the will of a deceased person,
  • on the intestacy of a deceased person

is exempt from SDLT.

You should note though that this exemption does not apply where the beneficiary gives consideration other than the assumption of secured debt or the acceptance of an obligation to pay inheritance tax. Secured debt is debt that, immediately after the death of the deceased person, was secured on the land. The most common example of this is a mortgage to the extent that the mortgage is not paid off on death.

The exemption applies whether the transfer is to a sole beneficiary or to joint beneficiaries.

Q. I run a small business but I am registered for VAT. What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the annual accounting scheme?

A. The annual accounting scheme aims to help small businesses by allowing them to submit only one VAT return annually. During the course of the year, fixed sums are paid to HMRC – based on the previous year’s liability – and a balancing payment is made, if necessary, once the annual return has been prepared.

Key points of the scheme are as follows:

  • A business can join the scheme providing its taxable turnover does not exceed £1,350,000 per annum.
  • The business must stop using the scheme if its taxable turnover exceeded £1,600,000 per annum in the previous accounting year of the scheme.
  • The business makes nine monthly payments of 10% of the total paid in the previous year or, if newly registered, the amount it is expecting to pay in the next 12 months. Alternatively, it can choose to pay 25% quarterly.
  • HMRC may agree to alter the level of interim payments if the business trading pattern changes.
  • A business may not obtain approval to use the scheme if it owes a significant debt to HMRC.
  • Payments start on the last working day of the fourth month of the scheme’s accounting year and must be made by standing order, direct debit, or other electronic means.
  • The annual VAT return, together with any balance due to HMRC, is submitted two months from the end of the scheme’s accounting year. This means that a business gets an extra month over the time limit applicable to a normal return.
  • The scheme may assist some businesses with cash flow, particularly where the business is seasonal. For example, if the busiest trading period is in the summer, a scheme year ending, say, 31 January, will spread the payments, thus assisting cash flow. It may also be more convenient to produce both the annual VAT return and the annual accounts at a quieter time of the year.
  • It is generally felt within the accountancy profession that the discipline of preparing a quarterly VAT return helps businesses to keep their records up to date and on top of their financial affairs.

Q. I live in a leasehold flat in a property in which there are six other leasehold flats. The opportunity has arisen for the leaseholders to buy the freehold reversion from the landlord and all of the leaseholders have agreed to contribute equally towards the purchase. Our solicitor has advised a limited company should be set up to buy the freehold. Are there any tax consequences involved here?

A. The Law of Property Act 1925 stipulates that a maximum of four persons can be the legal owners of land and property, which is likely to be the reasoning behind your solicitor suggesting the use of a company. This restriction, however, only applies for legal ownership, which means that named persons could hold the ownership as trustees for other persons too. Tax is usually based on beneficial ownership, not legal ownership and a ‘bare trust’ is often used in cases where one or more persons would hold the freehold reversion as bare trustee for all the leaseholders. For tax purposes, the tenants would be deemed to own their share of the freehold absolutely. A similar arrangement can exist in a company providing the company is a ‘nominee company’ which is the corporate equivalent of a bare trust. This too would have the same consequences as a bare trust.

February 2017 Q&A

Q. Due to unforeseen circumstances I have recently had to sell my house and down-size to a smaller property. I sold the house for £20,000 less than I paid for it. Can I offset this loss against income from my business and reduce my income tax liability for this year?

A. Unfortunately the tax law does not permit you to do this. I am assuming that you are not trading in properties and the house was either your main residence or an investment asset. Losses on the sale of a principal private residence are generally not allowable losses for tax purposes. If the property was an investment asset, the loss on the sale may be treated as a ‘capital loss’, which could be offset against other capital gains you make, but it cannot be offset against other income. For further information on this, see the HMRC Capital Gains Manual at paragraph CG65080.

Q. I have some spare cash earning virtually no interest in the bank and I have decided that I would like to buy a flat for my daughter, who is currently just 16. Am I correct in thinking that she cannot own the property until she is 18? Is there an alternative for ownership? What are the tax implications surrounding this proposal?

A. You could consider using a bare trust for buying the flat. In very broad terms, a bare trust is a basic trust in which the beneficiary (in this case, your daughter) has the absolute right to the capital and assets within the trust, as well as the income generated from the assets. This type of trust is popular with parents and grandparents who wish to transfer assets to children or grandchildren. The assets are held in the name of a trustee (in this case, you), who will be responsible for managing the trust in a prudent manner so as to generate maximum benefit for the beneficiaries. However, you would not have control over the assets and no say or discretion in directing the trust’s income or capital. However, since you will have provided the funds to buy the flat, under what is known as the ‘settlements legislation’ you will be taxed on the income from it until your daughter becomes 18.

When your daughter turns 18, you can change the name of ownership on the Land Registry documents, which is relatively straight-forward.

Q. I have been trading for several years. I am not currently registered for VAT but think my income is getting close to the VAT registration threshold. What items can I exclude from my ‘taxable turnover’ calculation?

A. When the ‘taxable turnover’ of a business reaches the VAT registration threshold, currently £83,000 per annum, it must register for VAT. As you state, any income you receive that is not counted as ‘taxable turnover’ is excluded from the £83,000 turnover figure.

There are several items that can be ignored when calculating ‘taxable turnover’ for VAT registration purposes. Any income that is ‘exempt’ from VAT is ignored. This commonly includes insurance, postage stamps or services; and health services provided by doctors or dentists.

Some goods and services are outside the VAT tax system so VAT is neither charged nor reclaimed on them. Such items include:

  • goods or services you buy and use outside of the EU;
  • statutory fees – like the London congestion charge;
  • goods you sell as part of a hobby – like stamps from a collection;
  • donations to a charity – if given without receiving anything in return.

Supplies of services to business customers in another EU member state or any customer outside the EU are treated as outside the scope of UK VAT and do not count towards turnover for VAT registration purposes (for example: supplying consultancy services to a business customer in Spain).

Other non-business income that may be excluded includes disbursements incurred on behalf of a client, grants, or any income from employment.

Finally, it is worth noting that you can ignore any ‘one-off’ sales of capital assets. This means that if, for example, you sell a van and the income received puts the business turnover over the registration limit, the sales proceeds can be ignored.

The Autumn Statement 2016

This is aimed at those who didn’t receive our client newsletter – that is still available at http://eepurl.com/cqcb0b. If you do read them both, let me know which version you prefer:-)

Summary

Chancellor Philip Hammond has delivered his Autumn Statement 2016, which is the first major review of government finances since the EU Referendum, and Mr Hammond’s first major statement since taking responsibility for the work of the Treasury in July 2016. As previously speculated, this will be Mr Hammond’s only Autumn Statement as it was confirmed that the government is to move to a single major fiscal event each year. This means that following the Spring 2017 Budget and Finance Bill, Budgets will be delivered in the Autumn, with the first one scheduled to take place in Autumn 2017. However, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is required by law to produce two forecasts a year – one of these will remain at the time of the Budget, the other will fall in the Spring and the government will therefore respond to it with a new ‘Spring Statement’. This change means that we can expect a Finance Bill in Spring/Summer 2017 following the 2017 Budget. The effect of this new approach is that Finance Bills will be introduced following the annual Budget in Autumn, with the desired aim of reaching Royal Assent in the following Spring, before the start of the new tax year. This change in timetable is designed to help Parliament to scrutinise tax changes before the start of the tax year where most will take effect.

In addition to the Budget timetable changes, it has also been confirmed that, from next year, HMRC will publish customer service performance data more regularly and in greater detail. This will include the monthly publication of digital, telephony and postal performance data, as well as new customer complaints data.

Regarding tax, highlights from this Autumn Statement include:

  • confirmation of the government’s commitment to raising the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 by the end of the Parliament. From that point the personal allowance will rise in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI);
  • affirmed commitment to the ‘business tax road map’, which sets out plans for major business taxes to 2020 and beyond, including cutting the rate of corporation tax to 17% by 2020, the lowest in the G20, and reducing the burden of business rates by £6.7 billion over the next 5 years;
  • fuel duty will be frozen from April 2017 for the seventh successive year. This will save the average driver around £130 a year, compared to pre-2010 fuel duty escalator plans;
  • certain changes will be implemented to promote fairness in the tax system, including:
    • to tackle tax avoidance, the government will strengthen sanctions and deterrents and will take further action on disguised remuneration tax avoidance schemes;
    • to ensure multinational companies pay their fair share, following consultation, the government will go ahead with reforms to restrict the amount of profit that can be offset by historical losses or high interest charges;
    • Insurance Premium Tax will rise from 10% to 12% in June 2017; and
    • to promote fairness and broaden the tax base, the government will phase out the tax advantages of salary sacrifice arrangements.

This newsletter provides a summary of the key tax points from the 2016 Autumn Statement based on the documents released on 23 November 2016. The overview of legislation in draft, providing further information on all tax changes and updates on all tax consultations, will be published on 5 December 2016. Draft Finance Bill clauses, explanatory notes, tax information and impact notes, and responses to consultations will also be published on this date. We will keep you informed of any significant developments.

Individuals

Personal allowance and basic rate limit for 2017-18

The personal allowance for 2017-18 will be increased to £11,500 (£11,000 in 2016-17), and the basic rate limit will be increased to £33,500 (£32,000 in 2016-17). The additional rate threshold will remain at £150,000 in 2017-18. It was announced that the allowance will rise to £12,500 by the end of Parliament.

The marriage allowance will rise from £1,100 in 2016-17 to £1,150 in 2017-18.

Blind person’s allowance will rise from £2,290 in 2016-17 to £2,320 in 2017-18.

Starting rate for savings

The band of savings income that is subject to the 0% starting rate will remain at its current level of £5,000 for 2017-18.

Dates for ‘making good’ on benefits-in-kind

As announced at Budget 2016 and following a period of consultation, Finance Bill 2017 will include provisions to ensure an employee who wants to ‘make good’, on a non-payrolled benefit in kind will have to make the payment to their employer by 6 July in the following tax year. ‘Making good’ is where the employee makes a payment in return for the benefit-in-kind they receive. This reduces its taxable value. This will have effect from April 2017.

Assets made available without transfer of ownership

Existing legislation is to be clarified to ensure that employees will only be taxed on business assets for the period that the asset is made available for their private use. This will take effect from 6 April 2017.

Termination payments

As announced at Budget 2016, from April 2018 termination payments over £30,000, which are subject to income tax, will also be subject to employer NICs. Following a technical consultation, tax will only be applied to the equivalent of an employee’s basic pay if their notice is not worked, making it simpler to apply the new rules. The government will monitor this change and address any further manipulation. The first £30,000 of a termination payment will remain exempt from income tax and National Insurance.

Company car tax bands and rates for 2020-21

To provide stronger incentives for the purchase of ultra-low emissions vehicles (ULEVs), new, lower bands will be introduced for the lowest emitting cars. The appropriate percentage for cars emitting greater than 90g CO2/km will rise by 1 percentage point.

Cars, vans and fuel benefit charges

The company car fuel benefit charge multiplier will be £22,600 for 2017-18 (rising from £22,200 in 2016-17).

The van fuel benefit charge will rise from £598 to £610 for 2017-18.

The van benefit charge will rise from £3,170 to £3,230 for 2017-18.

Life insurance policies

Finance Bill 2017 will contain provisions regarding the disproportionate tax charges that arise in certain circumstances from life insurance policy part-surrenders and part-assignments. This will allow applications to be made to HMRC to have the charge recalculated on a ‘just and reasonable’ basis. The changes will take effect from 6 April 2017 and are designed to lead to fairer outcomes for policyholders.

NS&I Investment Bond

From Spring 2017, National Savings and Investments (NS&I), the government-backed investment organisation, will offer a new three-year Investment Bond with an indicative rate of 2.2%. The bond will offer the flexibility for investors to save between £100 and £3,000 and will be available to those aged 16 or over.

Personal Portfolio Bonds

As announced at Budget 2016 and following a period of consultation, the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2017 to take a power to amend by regulations the list of assets that life insurance policyholders can invest in without triggering tax anti-avoidance rules. The changes will take effect on Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2017.

ISA, Junior ISA and Child Trust Fund investment limits

The annual subscription limit for Junior ISAs and Child Trust Funds are to rise in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) to £4,128 from 6 April 2017.

As previously announced, the ISA subscription limit will also rise from 6 April 2017, from £15,240 to £20,000.

National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage increases

From April 2017, the National Living Wage (NLW) for those aged 25 and over will increase from £7.20 per hour to £7.50 per hour. The National Minimum Wage (NMW) will also increase from April 2017 as follows:

  • for 21 to 24 year olds – from £6.95 per hour to £7.05;
  • for 18 to 20 year olds – from £5.55 per hour to £5.60;
  • for 16 to 17 year olds – from £4.00 per hour to £4.05;
  • for apprentices – from £3.40 per hour to £3.50.

The government announced that £4.3 million is to be spent on helping small businesses to understand the rules, and cracking down on employers who are breaking the law by not paying the minimum wage.

Consultation on reducing money purchase annual allowance

The pension flexibilities introduced in April 2015 gave savers the ability to access their pension savings flexibly, as best suits their needs. Once a person has accessed pension savings flexibly, if they wish to make any further contributions to a defined contribution pension, tax-relieved contributions are restricted to a special money purchase annual allowance (MPAA).

As announced in the Autumn Statement, a consultation has been launched relating to government proposals to reduce the MPAA to £4,000, with effect from April 2017. The consultation will run until 15 February 2017.

Foreign pensions

The tax treatment of foreign pensions is to be more closely aligned with the UK’s domestic pension tax regime by bringing foreign pensions and lump sums fully into tax for UK residents, to the same extent as domestic ones. The government will also close specialist pension schemes for those employed abroad (‘section 615′ schemes) to new saving, extend from five to ten years the taxing rights over recently emigrated non-UK residents’ foreign lump sum payments from funds that have had UK tax relief, align the tax treatment of funds transferred between registered pension schemes, and update the eligibility criteria for foreign schemes to qualify as overseas pensions schemes for tax purposes.

Cracking down on tax avoiders and those who help them

A new penalty is to be introduced for those helping someone else to use a tax avoidance scheme. Significant penalties may be imposed where HMRC successfully defeat avoidance schemes. The new penalty will ensure that those who help tax avoiders participate in avoidance schemes also face the consequences. In addition, tax avoiders will not be able to claim as a defence against penalties that relying on non-independent tax advice is taking reasonable care.

The taxation of different forms of remuneration

Employers can choose to remunerate their employees in a range of different ways in addition to a cash salary. The tax system currently treats these different forms of remuneration inconsistently and sometimes more generously. The government will therefore consider how the system could be made fairer between workers carrying out the same work under different arrangements and will look specifically at how the taxation of benefits in kind and expenses could be made fairer and more coherent. Proposed changes in this area are as follows:

  • Salary sacrifice – following consultation, the tax and employer National Insurance advantages of salary sacrifice schemes will be removed from April 2017, except for arrangements relating to pensions (including advice), childcare, Cycle to Work and ultra-low emission cars. This will mean that employees swapping salary for benefits will pay the same tax as the vast majority of individuals who buy them out of their post-tax income. Arrangements in place before April 2017 will be protected until April 2018, and arrangements for cars, accommodation and school fees will be protected until April 2021;
  • Valuation of benefits in kind – the government is currently reviewing how benefits in kind are valued for tax purposes – a consultation on employer-provided living accommodation, and a call for evidence on the valuation of all other benefits in kind, will be published at Budget 2017;
  • Employee business expenses – at Budget 2017, the government will publish a call for evidence on the use of the income tax relief for employees’ business expenses, including those that are not reimbursed by their employer.

Legal support

From April 2017, all employees called to give evidence in court will no longer need to pay tax on legal support from their employer. This will help support all employees and ensure fairness in the tax system, as currently only those requiring legal support because of allegations against them can use the tax relief.

Non-domiciled individuals

As previously announced, from April 2017, non-domiciled individuals will be deemed UK-domiciled for tax purposes if they have been UK resident for 15 of the past 20 years, or if they were born in the UK with a UK domicile of origin. Non-domiciled individuals who have a non-UK resident trust set up before they become deemed-domiciled in the UK will not be taxed on income and gains arising outside the UK and retained in the trust.

From April 2017, inheritance tax will be charged on UK residential property when it is held indirectly by a non-domiciled individual through an offshore structure, such as a company or a trust. This closes a loophole that has been used by non-domiciled individuals to avoid paying inheritance tax on their UK residential property.

The government will change the rules for the Business Investment Relief (BIR) scheme from April 2017 to make it easier for non-domiciled individuals who are taxed on the remittance basis to bring offshore money into the UK for the purpose of investing in UK businesses. The government will continue to consider further improvements to the rules for the scheme to attract more capital investment in British businesses by non-domiciled individuals.

Inheritance tax reliefs

From Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2017, inheritance tax relief for donations to political parties will be extended to parties with representatives in the devolved legislatures, as well as parties that have acquired representatives through by-elections. This measure is designed to ensure consistent and fair treatment for all national political parties with elected representatives.

Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR)

From 6 April 2017, the amount of investment social enterprises aged up to 7 years old can raise through SITR will increase to £1.5 million. Other changes will be made to ensure that the scheme is well targeted. Certain activities, including asset leasing and on-lending, will be excluded. Investment in nursing homes and residential care homes will be excluded initially, however the government intends to introduce an accreditation system to allow such investment to qualify for SITR in the future. The limit on full-time equivalent employees will be reduced to 250. The government will undertake a review of SITR within two years of its enlargement.

Offshore funds

UK taxpayers invested in offshore reporting funds pay tax on their share of a fund’s reportable income, and capital gains tax (CGT) on any gain on disposal of their shares or units. The government will legislate to ensure that performance fees incurred by such funds, and which are calculated by reference to any increase in the fund’s value, are not deductible against reportable income from April 2017 and instead reduce any tax payable on disposal of gains. This equalises the tax treatment between onshore and offshore funds.

Reduction in Universal Credit taper

Under the Universal Credit system, as a person’s income increases, their benefit payments are gradually reduced. The taper rate calculates the reduction in benefits as a person’s salary increases. Currently, for every £1 earned after tax above an income threshold, a person receiving Universal Credit has their benefit award reduced by 65p and keeps 35p. From April 2017, the taper will be lowered to 63p in the pound, so the claimant will keep 37p for every £1 earned over the income threshold.

National Insurance Contributions

As recommended by the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS), the Class 1 secondary (employer) NIC threshold and the primary (employee) threshold will be aligned from April 2017, meaning that both employees and employers will start paying NICs on weekly earnings above £157.

As announced at Budget 2016, Class 2 NICs will be abolished from April 2018, simplifying National Insurance for the self-employed. The Autumn Statement confirmed that, following the abolition of Class 2 NICs, self-employed contributory benefit entitlement will be accessed through Class 3 and Class 4 NICs. All self-employed women will continue to be able to access the standard rate of Maternity Allowance. Self-employed people with profits below the Small Profits Limit will be able to access Contributory Employment and Support Allowance through Class 3 NICs. There will be provision to support self-employed individuals with low profits during the transition.

For 2017-18, Class 2 NICs will be payable at the weekly rate of £2.85 (rising from £2.80) above the small profits threshold of £6,025 per year (rising from £5,965 in 2016-17).

Class 3 voluntary contributions will rise from £14.10 to £14.25 per week for 2017-18.

For 2017-18, the lower profits limit for Class 4 NICs will be £8,164 and the upper profits limit will be £45,000. Contributions remain at 9% between the two thresholds and at 2% above the upper profits limit.

Businesses

Simplifying PSAs

As announced at Budget 2016 and following a period of consultation, Finance Bill 2017 will include provisions to simplify the process for applying for and agreeing the Pay as You Earn Settlement Agreement (PSA) process. Broadly, a PSA allows an employer to make one annual payment to cover all the tax and National Insurance due on small or irregular taxable expenses or benefits for employees. Further details will be published in due course. The changes will have effect in relation to agreements for the 2018-2019 tax year and subsequent tax years.

Capital allowances: first-year allowance for electric charge-points

From 23 November 2016, businesses will be able to claim a 100% first-year allowance (FYA) in relation to qualifying expenditure incurred on the acquisition of new and unused electric charge-points. The allowance will be available until 31 March 2019 for corporation tax purposes and 5 April 2019 for income tax purposes.

The measure complements the 100% FYA for cars with low carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, and the 100% FYA for cars powered by natural gas, biogas and hydrogen.

Employee shareholder status

The income tax reliefs and capital gains tax exemption will no longer be available with effect from 1 December 2016 on any shares acquired in consideration of an employee shareholder agreement entered into on or after that date. Any individual who has received independent advice regarding entering into an employee shareholder agreement before the 23 November 2016 will have the opportunity to do so before 1 December (but not later) and still receive the income and CGT tax advantages that were known to be available at the time the individual received the advice. The effective date is to be the 2 December where independent legal advice is received on 23 November prior to 1.30pm. Corporation tax reliefs for the employer company are not affected by this change.

New tax allowance for property and trading income

As announced at Budget 2016, the government will create two new income tax allowances of £1,000 each, for trading and property income. Individuals with trading income or property income below the level of the allowance will no longer need to declare or pay tax on that income. The trading income allowance will now also apply to certain miscellaneous income from providing assets or services.

Expanding the museums and galleries tax relief

The new museums and galleries tax relief is to be expanded to include permanent exhibitions. The new relief, which starts in April 2017, was originally only intended to be available for temporary and touring exhibitions. The rates of relief will be set at 20% for non-touring exhibitions and 25% for touring exhibitions. The relief will be capped at £500,000 of qualifying expenditure per exhibition. The relief will expire in April 2022 if not renewed. In 2020, the government will review the tax relief and set out plans beyond 2022.

Tax deductibility of corporate interest expense

Following recent consultation, the government will introduce rules that limit the tax deductions that large groups can claim for their UK interest expenses from April 2017. These rules will limit deductions where a group has net interest expenses of more than £2 million, net interest expenses exceed 30% of UK taxable earnings and the group’s net interest to earnings ratio in the UK exceeds that of the worldwide group. The provisions proposed to protect investment in public benefit infrastructure are also to be widened. Banking and insurance groups will be subject to the rules in the same way as groups in other industry sectors.

Reform of loss relief

Following consultation, the government will legislate for reforms announced at Budget 2016 that will restrict the amount of profit that can be offset by carried-forward losses to 50% from April 2017, while allowing greater flexibility over the types of profit that can be relieved by losses incurred after that date. The restriction will be subject to a £5 million allowance for each standalone company or group.

In implementing the reforms the government will take steps to address unintended consequences and simplify the administration of the new rules. The amount of profit that banks can offset with losses incurred prior to April 2015 will continue to be restricted to 25% in recognition of the exceptional nature and scale of losses in the sector.

Bringing non-resident companies’ UK income into the corporation tax regime

The government is considering bringing all non-resident companies receiving taxable income from the UK into the corporation tax regime. At Budget 2017, the government will consult on the case and options for implementing this change. The government wants to deliver equal tax treatment to ensure that all companies are subject to the rules which apply generally for the purposes of corporation tax, including the limitation of corporate interest expense deductibility and loss relief rules.

Substantial Shareholding Exemption (SSE) reform

Following consultation, the government will make changes to simplify the rules, remove the investing requirement within the SSE and provide a more comprehensive exemption for companies owned by qualifying institutional investors. The changes will take effect from April 2017.

Authorised investment funds: dividend distributions to corporate investors

The rules on the taxation of dividend distributions to corporate investors are to be modernised in a way which allows exempt investors, such as pension funds, to obtain credit for tax paid by authorised investment funds. Proposals and draft legislation will be published in early 2017.

Northern Ireland corporation tax

The government will amend the Northern Ireland corporation tax regime in Finance Bill 2017 to give all small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) trading in Northern Ireland the potential to benefit. Other amendments will minimise the risk of abuse and ensure the regime is prepared for commencement if the Northern Ireland Executive demonstrates its finances are on a sustainable footing.

Corporation tax deduction for contributions to grassroots sport

As announced at Autumn Statement 2015 and following consultation, in Finance Bill 2017 the government will expand the circumstances in which companies can get corporation tax deductions for contributions to grassroots sports from 1 April 2017.

Patent Box rules

The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2017 to add specific provisions to the Patent Box rules, covering the case where Research and Development (R&D) is undertaken collaboratively by two or more companies under a ‘cost sharing arrangement’. The provisions ensure that such companies are neither penalised nor able to gain an advantage under these rules by organising their R&D in this way. This will have effect for accounting periods commencing on or after 1 April 2017.

Authorised contractual schemes: reducing tax complexity for investors in co-ownership authorised contractual schemes

As announced at Budget 2016 and following a period of consultation, Finance Bill 2017 will include legislation (to be supported by secondary legislation) to clarify the rules on capital allowances, chargeable gains and investments by co-ownership authorised contractual schemes (CoACS) in offshore funds, as well as information requirements on the operators of CoACS.

Off-payroll working rules

Following consultation, the government will reform the off-payroll working rules in the public sector from April 2017 by moving responsibility for operating them, and paying the correct tax, to the body paying the worker’s company. This reform aims to tackle high levels of non-compliance with the current rules and means that those working in a similar way to employees in the public sector will pay the same taxes as employees. In response to feedback during the consultation, the 5% tax-free allowance will be removed for those working in the public sector, reflecting the fact that workers no longer bear the administrative burden of deciding whether the rules apply.

Bank levy reform

As announced at Summer Budget 2015, the bank levy charge will be restricted to UK balance sheet liabilities from 1 January 2021. Following consultation, the government confirms that there will be an exemption for certain UK liabilities relating to the funding of non-UK companies and an exemption for UK liabilities relating to the funding of non-UK branches. Details will be set out in the government’s response to the consultation, with the intention of legislating in Finance Bill 2017-18. The government will continue to consider the balance between revenue and competitiveness with regard to bank taxation, taking into account the implications of the UK leaving the EU.

Hybrids and other mismatches

The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2017 to make minor changes to ensure that the hybrid and other mismatches legislation works as intended. The changes will have effect from 1 January 2017.

Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings

The annual charges for the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED) will rise in line with inflation for the 2017-2018 chargeable period.

Clarification of tax treatment for partnerships

Following consultation, the government will legislate to clarify and improve certain aspects of partnership taxation to ensure profit allocations to partners are fairly calculated for tax purposes. Draft legislation will be published shortly for technical consultation.

Tax-advantaged venture capital schemes

The rules for the tax-advantaged venture capital schemes (Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs)) are being amended to:

  • clarify the EIS and SEIS rules for share conversion rights, for shares issued on or after 5 December 2016;
  • provide additional flexibility for follow-on investments made by VCTs in companies with certain group structures to align with EIS provisions, for investments made on or after 6 April 2017; and
  • introduce a power to enable VCT regulations to be made in relation to certain shares for share exchanges to provide greater certainty to VCTs.

In addition, a consultation will be carried out into options to streamline and prioritise the advance assurance service.

The government will not be introducing flexibility for replacement capital within the tax-advantaged venture capital schemes at this time, and will review this over the longer term.

Gift Aid digital

As announced at Budget 2016, intermediaries are to be given a greater role in administering Gift Aid, with the aim of simplifying the Gift Aid process for donors making digital donations.

VAT

Tackling aggressive abuse of the VAT Flat Rate Scheme

A new 16.5% VAT flat rate for businesses with limited costs will take effect from 1 April 2017.

The VAT Flat Rate Scheme (FRS) is a simplified accounting scheme for small businesses. Currently businesses determine which flat rate percentage to use by reference to their trade sector. From 1 April 2017, FRS businesses must also determine whether they meet the definition of a limited cost trader, which will be included in new legislation.

Businesses using the scheme, or thinking of joining the scheme, will need to decide whether they are a limited cost trader. For some businesses – for example, those who purchase no goods, or who make significant purchases of goods – this will be obvious. Other businesses will need to complete a simple test, using information they already hold, to work out whether they should use the new 16.5% rate.

Businesses using the FRS will be expected to ensure that, for each accounting period, they use the appropriate flat rate percentage.

A limited cost trader will be defined as one whose VAT inclusive expenditure on goods is either:

  • less than 2% of their VAT inclusive turnover in a prescribed accounting period;
  • greater than 2% of their VAT inclusive turnover but less than £1000 per annum if the prescribed accounting period is one year (if it is not one year, the figure is the relevant proportion of £1000).

Goods, for the purposes of this measure, must be used exclusively for the purpose of the business but exclude the following items:

  • capital expenditure;
  • food or drink for consumption by the flat rate business or its employees;
  • vehicles, vehicle parts and fuel (except where the business is one that carries out transport services – for example a taxi business – and uses its own or a leased vehicle to carry out those services).

These exclusions are part of the test to prevent traders buying either low value everyday items or one off purchases in order to inflate their costs beyond 2%.

Updating the VAT Avoidance Disclosure Regime

As announced at Budget 2016 and following consultation, legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2017 to strengthen the regime for disclosure of avoidance of indirect tax. Provision will be made to make scheme promoters primarily responsible for disclosing schemes to HMRC and the scope of the regime will be extended to include all indirect taxes. This will have effect from 1 September 2017.

Penalty for participating in VAT fraud

As announced at Budget 2016, Finance Bill 2017 will introduce a new and more effective penalty for participating in VAT fraud. It will be applied to businesses and company officers when they knew or should have known that their transactions were connected with VAT fraud. The penalty will improve the application of penalties to those facilitating orchestrated VAT fraud. The new penalty will be a fixed rate penalty of 30% for participants in VAT fraud. This will be implemented following Royal Assent of the Finance Bill 2017.

Power to examine and take account of goods at any place

The government will introduce legislation in Finance Bill 2017 to extend the current customs and excise powers of inspection. This will amend the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979 and enable officers to examine goods away from approved premises such as airports and ports, to search goods liable for forfeiture and open or unpack any container. This will take effect from Royal Assent of the Finance Bill 2017.

Retail Export Scheme

The government is to consult on VAT grouping and provide funding with a view to digitising fully the Retail Export Scheme to reduce the administrative burden to travellers.

Tackling exploitation of the VAT relief on adapted cars for wheelchair users

The government is to clarify the application of the VAT zero-rating for adapted motor vehicles to stop the abuse of this legislation, while continuing to provide help for disabled wheelchair users.

Indirect taxes

Landfill tax

As announced at Budget 2016, the definition of a taxable disposal for landfill tax purposes is to be amended in order to bring greater clarity and certainty. This will come into effect after Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2017, on a day to be appointed by Treasury Order

.

Insurance Premium Tax increase

Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) will increase from 10% to 12% from 1 June 2017. IPT is a tax on insurers and it is up to them whether and how to pass on costs to customers.

Air Passenger Duty (APD): regional review

A summary of responses is to be published shortly relating to a recent consultation on how the government can support regional airports in England from the potential effects of APD devolution. Given the strong interaction with EU law, the government does not intend to take specific measures now, but intends to review this area again after the UK has exited from the EU.

Freeplays in Remote Gaming Duty

Following the consultation announced at Budget 2016, the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2017 to bring the tax treatment of freeplays for remote gaming more in line with the treatment for free bets under General Betting Duty. The changes will take effect for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 August 2017.

Tobacco Illicit Trade Protocol: licensing of tobacco machinery and the supply chain

Following consultation the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2017 to introduce a licensing scheme for tobacco machinery to allow officials to quickly determine whether machines are being held legally. Applications for licences will be accepted from January 2018 and the scheme will come into force on 1 April 2018.

Implementation of the Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme

As announced at Budget 2016 and following a consultation on the scope and design of the scheme, the government will legislate in Finance Bill 2017 to introduce a new Fulfilment House Due Diligence Scheme in 2018. This will ensure that fulfilment houses play their part in tackling VAT abuse by some overseas businesses selling goods via online marketplaces. The scheme will open for registration in April 2018.

Soft Drinks Industry Levy

Draft legislation for the Soft Drinks Industry Levy will be published on 5 December 2016.

Tax evasion and compliance

Emerging insolvency risk

HMRC intend to develop their ability to identify emerging insolvency risk, using external analytical expertise. HMRC will use this information to tailor their debt collection activity, improve customer service and provide support to struggling businesses.

Offshore tax evasion

A new legal requirement is to be introduced to correct a past failure to pay UK tax on offshore interests within a defined period of time, with new sanctions for those who fail to do so.

Requirement to register offshore structures

The government intends to consult on a new legal requirement for intermediaries arranging complex structures for clients holding money offshore to notify HMRC of the structures and the related client lists.

Hidden economy and money service businesses

The government will legislate to extend HMRC’s data-gathering powers to money service businesses in order to identify those operating in the hidden economy.

Tackling the hidden economy

Following consultation, the government will consider the case for making access to licences or services for businesses conditional on them being registered for tax. It will also develop proposals to strengthen sanctions for those who repeatedly and deliberately participate in the hidden economy. Further details will be announced in Budget 2017.

Tax administration

Making Tax Digital

In January 2017, the government will publish its response to the Making Tax Digital consultations and provisions to implement the previously announced changes.

Tax Enquiries: Closure Rules

The government will legislate to provide HMRC and customers earlier certainty on individual matters in large, high risk and complex tax enquiries.

Tax Avoidance

Disguised remuneration schemes

Budget 2016 announced changes to tackle use of disguised remuneration schemes by employers and employees. The government will now extend the scope of these changes to tackle the use of disguised remuneration avoidance schemes by the self-employed. Further, the government will take steps to make it less attractive for employers to use disguised remuneration avoidance schemes, by denying tax relief for an employer’s contributions to disguised remuneration schemes unless tax and National Insurance are paid within a specified period.

HMRC counter avoidance

The government is investing further in HMRC to increase its activity on countering avoidance and taking cases forward for litigation, which is expected to bring forward over £450 million in scored revenue by 2021-22.

Restriction of tax relief on finance costs for individual landlords

New provisions will take affect from April 2017, which will see tax relief for finance costs on residential properties being gradually restricted over a period of three years, until, by 2020/21, all financing costs incurred by a landlord will be restricted to the basic rate of income tax.

Such finance costs include mortgage interest, interest on loans to buy furnishings and fees incurred when taking out or repaying mortgages or loans. No relief is available for capital repayments of a mortgage or loan.

Landlords will no longer be able to deduct all of their finance costs from their property income to arrive at their property profits. They will instead receive a basic rate reduction from their income tax liability for their finance costs. Whilst the restriction is being phased in, relief for each year will be as follows:

  • for 2017/18: the deduction from property income (as is currently allowed) will be restricted to 75% of finance costs, with the remaining 25% being available as a basic rate tax reduction;
  • for 2018/19, 50% finance costs deduction and 50% given as a basic rate tax reduction;
  • for 2019 to 2020, 25% finance costs deduction and 75% given as a basic rate tax reduction; and
  • from 2020/21 onwards: all financing costs incurred by a landlord will be given as a basic rate tax reduction.

The restriction does not apply to companies or furnished holiday lettings.

Major concerns have been expressed over these changes, including the formation of the campaign group ‘Axe the Tenant Tax’ who claim that the legislation will result in a substantial increase in rents for tenants and worsen the current UK housing crisis.

Led by Cherie Blair QC, landlords Steve Bolton and Chris Cooper took their case to the High Court on 6 October 2016, to argue that they should be granted a judicial review of the law but they were denied permission for a full hearing. Speaking outside the court, following the decision not to grant permission for the case to proceed any further, Blair said ‘landlords face challenging times ahead’.

Those opposed to the changes say that the rules do not take account of the fact that the landlord takes the risk of property ownership, including repairs, vacancies and potential non-payment. The group will continue to push the case to government.

The landlords’ next step is to launch a range of lobbying, media and grass-roots activism measures which will include asking landlords to write to tenants if rents have to be increased informing then the government has forced them to take this action.

Lifetime ISA guidance updated

HM Treasury has updated its factsheet on the new Lifetime Individual Savings Account (ISA), which are expected to launch in April 2017. Key features of the new ISA include:

  • Accounts may be opened by investors aged between 18 and 40.
  • Savings invested in the account before age 50 will attract a government bonus of 25%.
  • A maximum of £4,000 may be saved each year on which the 25% bonus will be paid. This equates to a maximum bonus of £1,000 a year.
  • Some or all of the money can be used to buy a first home, or it can be saved until the investor is 60.
  • The savings can be used for the purchase of a first home worth up to £450,000 across the country.
  • Limits apply per person rather than per household.
  • Investors who have a Help to Buy ISA can transfer those savings into the Lifetime ISA in 2017-18, or continue saving into both – but they will only be able to use the bonus from one to buy a house.
  • After his or her 60th birthday, the investor can take out all the savings (including the bonus) tax-free.
  • Money can be withdrawn at any other time, but the investor will have to pay a 25% charge. This effectively recovers the government bonus and applies a small charge.

July 2016 Q&A

Q1. My mother died last year and left my brother and me a commercial business unit. Probate is nearly complete now. If we sell the property in the future, what are the capital gains tax implications on the sale?

A: I presume that you and your brother are inheriting equal shares in the property. Your acquisition value, for future capital gains tax computation purposes, is the market value at the date of death – known as the ‘probate value’. Capital gains tax will be calculated under the normal rules on any increase in value from that date.

Q2. I have recently registered for VAT. I am not very good when it comes to administration and I have heard that the flat rate scheme might help me. How does the scheme work?

A: Broadly, the flat rate scheme for VAT is designed to help small businesses with a turnover of no more than £150,000 a year, excluding VAT, by taking some of the work out of recording VAT sales and purchases.

With the flat rate scheme:

  • You pay a fixed rate of VAT to HMRC; and
  • You keep the difference between what you charge your customers and pay to HMRC; but
  • You can’t reclaim the VAT on your purchases – except for certain capital assets over £2,000.

The percentages applicable to this scheme currently vary between 4% and 14.5%, depending on the nature of the services provided. Full details of the scheme are included in the HMRC VAT Notice 733: Flat rate scheme for small businesses, which you can download from the HMRC web site.

In your first year of VAT registration you get a 1% reduction in flat rate, which means that you can take 1% off the flat rate you apply to your turnover, until the day before your first anniversary of becoming VAT registered.

The scheme works well for some but not others. On the positive side, the scheme may save you some admin because you don’t have to work out every item of input and output tax, but if your customers are VAT registered, you do have to calculate the VAT and issue VAT invoices in the normal way. Financially, the flat rates averages may work out cheaper for you than normal accounting or you may find this scheme more expensive.

Q3. I have a part time job and I earn about £8,000 a year. As my earnings are less than the tax-free personal allowance, can I transfer the unused amount to my husband?

A: Since April 2015, a spouse or civil partner who is not liable to income tax or not liable above the basic rate for a tax year may transfer part of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner, provided that the recipient of the transfer is not liable to income tax above the basic rate. The transferor’s personal allowance will be reduced by the same amount. For 2016/17 the amount that can be transferred is £1,100 (£1,060 for 2015/16). The spouse or civil partner receiving the transferred allowance will be entitled to a reduced income tax liability of up to £220 for 2016/17 (£212 for 2015/16). Note, however, that married couples or civil partnerships entitled to claim the married couple’s allowance are not entitled to make a transfer. For further information on this, see the gov.uk website at www.gov.uk/marriage-allowance.