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NIC implications of COVID-19 support payments

NIC implications of COVID-19 support payments

Various support payments have been made to help those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How are those payments treated for National Insurance purposes?

Grant payments under the CJRS

Where an employer claims a grant payment under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), the full amount of the grant (topped up to 80% of wages in the last two months of the scheme) must be paid over to the employee. As far as the employee is concerned, this is treated in the same way as a normal salary payment. The employer deducts Class 1 National Insurance and pays it over to HMRC.

The payment is also liable to employer’s Class 1 National Insurance to the extent that it is not covered by the employment allowance. For pay periods prior to 1 August 2020, the employer can reclaim the associated employer’s National Insurance on grant payments from the Government under the CJRS. The employer’s National Insurance must be paid over to HMRC in the usual way.

Grants under the SEISS

Grants under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) should be taken into account in computing profits for 2020/21. Where those profits exceed £9,500, Class 4 National Insurance contributions will be payable. If the profits for 2020/21 are more than £6,475, you must pay Class 2 contributions.

As a result of the pandemic, profits may be lower in 2020/21 than previously. If profits are below the small profits threshold, set at £6,475 for 2020/21, there is no obligation to pay Class 2 contributions. However, it may be worthwhile to do so voluntarily to ensure that 2020/21 remains a qualifying year for state pension and contributory benefit purposes. This is much cheaper than paying Class 3 contributions to make up a shortfall.

Other grants

Businesses may also receive other grants, such as those payable to businesses qualifying for small business rate relief or payable to specific sectors, such as the hospitality and leisure sector. For self-employed taxpayers, these are taken into account in calculating profits, which in turn will determine whether a liability to Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions arise.

Talk to us

Speak to us to ascertain the effect of grant payments on your National Insurance bill.

SEISS extended

SEISS extended

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been extended. Eligible self-employed taxpayers will be able to claim a second, and final, grant under the scheme in August.


The eligibility criteria for the second grant are the same as the first. To qualify, the individual must:

  • have submitted their self-assessment tax return for 2018/19 by 23 April 2020;
  • traded in 2019/20;
  • be continuing to trade when they claim the grant, or would be except for the Coronavirus pandemic;
  • intend to continue to trade in 2020/21; and
  • they have lost profits due to the Coronavirus.

The grant is limited to traders whose trading profits are £50,000 or less, either for 2018/19 or on average for the three years 2016/17 to 2018/19 inclusive. Profits from self-employment must also comprise at least 50% of the individual’s income to qualify for the grant.

‘Adversely affected’

The taxpayer will need to confirm that they were ‘adversely affected’ by COVID-19 on or after 14 July 2020 when making their claim for the second grant. HMRC have published examples on the website of circumstances in which a business will be deemed to be adversely affected by the pandemic. They include:

  • an inability to work because the taxpayer is shielding, self-isolating, sick with Coronavirus or has caring responsibilities as a result of the virus;
  • a scaling down of the business due to interruption of the supply chain;
  • a loss of trade because staff are unable to work; or
  • a loss of trade because of a reduction in customers or clients.

Amount of the second grant

The second grant is based on 70% of average monthly profits for three months, based on the profits for 2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19. The calculation is adjusted where the taxpayer was not trading for all of these years. The second grant is capped at £6,570.

Making the claim

The claim cannot be made until August. As with the first claim, it must be made online. While agents cannot make claims on behalf of clients, we can help you determine whether you are eligible and what you are entitled to receive.

Changes to trading activities as a result of COVID-19

Changes to trading activities as a result of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on trade have led many businesses to change what they do in a bid to survive. An example of this is the village pub opening instead as a local shop selling food and other essentials. Alternatively, a business may have ceased trading temporarily as a result of the lockdown.

HMRC have recently published guidance on the tax implications of crisis-driven changes to trading activities.

Nature of trade

When a business changes what they do, the tax implications will depend on whether the new activity is broadly similar to their previous activities or completely unrelated.

New trade

If a business has started something new which is completely different to their usual business, for example, a hairdresser starting to manufacture face masks, the business making face masks will be treated as a new separate business. The profits and losses should be calculated separately from those of the existing hairdressing business.

Existing trade

However, if a business starts to carry on a new activity that is broadly similar to its existing trade, the new activity should not be treated as a new business. Instead, profits and losses should be included when working out the profits and losses of the existing trade. An example of this would be a restaurant that instead offers a takeaway and delivery service.

Temporary break in trading

In the initial strict phase of the lockdown, many businesses were not allowed to trade. The list included those in the leisure and hospitality sector, non-essential shops, hairdressers, beauticians and barbers. As a result, the business will have a temporary break in its trade.

HMRC have confirmed that where a business closed its doors to customers or otherwise ceased trading as a result of the pandemic, the break will not be treated as a cessation of trade where the intention is to continue trading once the lockdown restrictions are lifted. However, this is conditional on the activities after the break being the same as, or similar to, those prior to the break. Any income and expenses relating to the gap in trading should be taken into account in calculating the profits or losses for the period.

Help and advice

Discuss the tax implications of any changes to or breaks in your trade with us.

Flexible furloughing

Flexible furloughing

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has provided a lifeline for many employees and employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. As at 21 June 2020, 9.2 million employees had been furloughed by 1.1 million employers who had, collectively, claimed grants totalling £22.9 billion.

Prior to 30 June 2020, employees who had been furloughed could not work for their employer while on furlough. This changes from 1 July 2020 with the introduction of flexible furloughing.

The CJRS runs until 31 October 2020. As the scheme draws to a close, the grant support provided to employers is gradually reduced from 1 August 2020.

Reduction in support

The CJRS enters its second and final phase from 1 July 2020. While employees will continue to receive 80% of their wages for furloughed hours up to the maximum amount for the duration of the scheme, the amount that employers can claim changes each month.

For July 2020, employers can still claim 80% of the furloughed employee’s wages up to £2,500 per month, plus the associated employer’s National Insurance due on the grant amount and the minimum employer pension contributions due under auto-enrolment. For pay periods commencing on or after 1 August 2020, the employer is no longer able to claim back employer’s National Insurance or pension contributions. For August, the grant claim remains at 80% of the employee’s pay up to £2,500 per month; however, this reduces to 70% for September up to £2,187.50 per month and to 60% for October up to £1,875 per month. For the last two months of the scheme, the employer must make up the difference so that the employee continues to receive 80% of their pay for furloughed hours up to the maximum amount.

Nature of flexible furloughing

Flexible furloughing enables employers to bring back furloughed workers for any amount of time and under any work pattern while continuing to claim a grant for the employee’s normal hours that they are not working. The employee’s normal hours are effectively split between hours that they work for which they are paid by the employer as normal and hours that they do not work – treated as furloughed hours – in respect of which the employer is able to claim a grant under the scheme.

From 1 July 2020, employers can only claim a grant for an employee if the employee had previously been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks between 1 March 2020 and 30 June 2020. To meet this test, the latest date an employee could have been placed on furlough for the first time is 10 June 2020. However, this does not apply to employees returning from statutory leave (such as maternity, paternity or adoption leave) after this date who can be furloughed when their leave comes to an end.

Calculating the amount of the claim

The calculation of the claim amount under flexible furloughing can be complicated. However, detailed guidance is available, with examples, on the website.

The starting point is to determine the employee’s usual hours, the hours that the employee works and the furlough hours (which are simply the usual hours less the hours worked). The Government guidance explains how to work out an employee’s usual hours.

Having determined the furlough hours and the usual hours, the next step is to work out the minimum furlough pay. This is found as follows:

  1. Find the lesser of 80% of the employee’s usual wages and the maximum amount (equivalent to £2,500 per month).
  2. Divide this by the employee’s usual hours.
  3. Multiply this by the number of hours that the employee is furloughed in the pay period.


In July 2020, an employee returns to work on flexible furlough. The employee’s usual hours are 155 hours and the employee works 56 hours in July, for which they are paid by their employer as normal. The remaining 99 hours are furlough hours for which the employee can claim a grant.

The employee’s usual pay is £3,000 per month; 80% of which is £2,400. As this is less than £2,500, this figure is used to calculate minimum furlough pay.

The minimum furlough pay is £2,400 x 99/155 = £1,532.90.

The employer can claim £1,532.90 for July plus the associated employer’s National Insurance and pension contributions.

Claims for August, September and October

The amount that the employer can claim for August is the minimum furlough pay, for September 70/80ths of the minimum furlough pay, and for October 60/80ths of the minimum furlough pay.

For pay periods on or after 1 July 2020, claims must start and end in the same calendar month. If the pay period spans two months, two separate claims must be made.

Help with claims

We can provide guidance on flexible furloughing and submit claims on your behalf.

Option to defer July self-assessment payment on account

Option to defer July self-assessment payment on account

Taxpayers facing financial difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic can opt to delay making their second self-assessment payment on account for 2019/20, due by 31 July 2020. As long as the amount is paid in full, together with any outstanding balance for 2019/20, by 31 January 2021, HMRC will not charge any interest or penalties.

Requirement to make payments on account

Under the self-assessment system, taxpayers are required to make payments on account of their tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability if their self-assessment bill for the previous tax year was £1,000 or more, unless at least 80% of the tax owed for that year was deducted at source, for example, under PAYE.

Each payment on account is 50% of the previous year’s tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability. Although Class 2 National Insurance contributions are collected via the self-assessment system, they are not taken into account when working out payments on account. Payments on account are made on 31 January in the tax year and on 31 July after the end of the tax year, with any balance being paid by the tax return filing date of 31 January after the end of the tax year. If the payments on account are more than the eventual liability, the excess is refunded or set against the next year’s liability.

The first payment on account for 2019/20 was due by 31 January 2020. The second payment would normally need to be paid by 31 July 2020.

Option to defer

This year, taxpayers have the option to defer the second payment on account if they are finding it difficult to make the payment by 31 July 2020 due to Coronavirus. There is no obligation to defer – taxpayers can still make the payment by 31 July 2020 if they so wish.

Where a taxpayer takes the deferral option, the outstanding payment can be made whenever the taxpayer is able to meet the payment, as long as this is no later than 31 January 2021. Any balance owing for 2019/20 must be paid by the same time, together with the Class 2 National Insurance liability for the self-employed and the first payment on account for 2020/21.

Taxpayers choosing the deferral option do not need to tell HMRC – they simply pay the tax by 31 January 2021; nor do they have to provide evidence that they were adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guidance on the deferral option is available on the website.

Pros and cons

Delaying the payment will no doubt help those struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, it may provide a lifeline for particular groups of taxpayers, for example, those who are self-employed and who do not qualify for a grant under the Self-employment Income Support Scheme and who have been unable to work due to the restrictions.

However, the deferred tax has to be paid eventually, and the payback for having nothing to pay in July is a big bill in January 2020. Not only will the deferred tax be payable then, but also any balance due for 2019/20 and the first payment on account for 2020/21.

Get in touch

It would be a pleasure to help you decide whether the deferral option would be beneficial to you and what it will mean for your cashflow come January 2021.

Expenses and benefits provided to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

Expenses and benefits provided to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic

HMRC have recently published guidance for employers on how to treat certain expenses and benefits which may be provided to employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is available on the website.

They have also relaxed the rules for a limited period where an employer reimburses an employee for the cost of equipment purchased to enable them to work from home.

Mileage costs

Particular issues can arise where an employer supports employees who are undertaking volunteer work during the pandemic, such as delivering prescriptions or PPE.

Volunteers driving a company car

If the employee has a company car and you refund the fuel costs where the car is used for volunteer duties using the advisory fuel rates, this will be a taxable benefit as the reimbursed mileage is not business mileage. If you wish to meet the tax and National Insurance on behalf of your employees, you can include it within a PAYE Settlement Agreement. If not, the reimbursement is taxable and liable to National Insurance.

If, as an employee, you pay for the petrol when undertaking volunteer duties using you company car, you are not able to claim tax relief as the expense is not incurred wholly, exclusively and necessary in the performance of your job.

Volunteers driving their own car

Where an employee undertakes volunteer driving using their own car and, as measure of support, you reimburse the cost using the approved mileage allowance rate, again, this will be taxable and liable to National Insurance. However, you can instead settle the associated liability on behalf of your employees by including it within a PAYE Settlement Agreement.

If the employee pays the mileage costs associated with volunteer driving, they cannot claim mileage allowance relief as the journeys are not business journeys.

Company car availability

During the lockdown many employees have been furloughed or are working from home. As a result, if they have a company car, they may be using it only rarely or not at all.

A taxable benefit arises in respect of the provision of a company car when that car is ‘available’ for private use – it does not matter whether the car is actually used or not, it is the ‘availability’ that triggers the tax charge. HMRC have confirmed that during the lockdown, a company car should still be treated as being ‘available for private use’, even if the employee has been:

  • instructed not to use the car;
  • asked to keep a record of the mileage to prove the car has not been used (i.e. photographs of the mileage at the start and end of the period); and
  • unable to return the car or arrange for its collection.

However, where it was not possible for the car to be handed back or collected as a result of the restrictions on movement, where the contract has been terminated, HMRC will accept that the car ceased to be available from the date that the keys (including tabs or fobs) are returned to the employer or relevant third party. If the contract has not been terminated, the car will be treated as unavailable after a period of 30 consecutive date from the date on which the keys have been returned. HMRC accept that where the employee no longer has access to the keys, they cannot drive the car, even if the car remains at their home.

The company car tax rules are strict and it important to appreciate the difference between a car being available for use and a car actually being used by the employee when it comes to calculating the taxable benefit.

Homeworking relaxations

An employee may have purchased office equipment to enable them to work at home. HMRC have, temporarily, relaxed the rules where the employer reimburses the cost. Under the normal rules, where an employee purchases a capital item, such as computer, to enable them to work from home, any reimbursement by the employer is taxable. Likewise, the employee is unable to claim tax relief.

However, where an employee has purchased equipment to work at home because of Coronavirus, if the employer reimburses the costs on or after 16 March 2020 and before the end of the 2020/21 tax year, the reimbursement will be tax-free. If the employee purchases equipment in this period and the cost is not met by the employer, the employee can claim a tax deduction, either on form P87 or via their self-assessment return. They should retain evidence of the expenditure

HMRC have also confirmed that employees can claim tax relief for additional household expenses of up to £6 per week (£26 per month) without the need for supporting evidence.

Other benefits

HMRC’s guidance also covers other benefits that may be provided to employees during the pandemic. We can help you ensure that these are provided in a tax-efficient manner.

Expenses and Benefits Returns for 2019/20

Expenses and Benefits Returns for 2019/20

Employers who provided taxable expenses and benefits to their employees during the 2019/20 tax year will, as usual, have to tell HMRC about these by 6 July 2020. This obligation is unchanged despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Form P11D

Form P11D is used to tell HMRC about taxable benefits and expenses provided to employees where these have not been payrolled or included within a PAYE settlement. If the employer has payrolled some benefits but not others, only those benefits which have not been payrolled should be included on the P11D.

Exempt benefits

Benefits and expenses which are covered by a tax exemption do not need to be shown on the P11D. However, exemptions are only available if all the associated conditions are met. Remember, where provision is made via an optional remuneration arrangement, for most benefits the exemption is lost and thus the benefit should be notified on the P11D.

Taxable value

The taxable value of the benefit is its cash equivalent value, unless provision is made via an optional remuneration scheme. Where a benefit-specific rule exists, as is the case for company cars and employment-related loans, the cash equivalent value is calculated in accordance with the relevant rules; where there is no specific rule, the general rule applies. This is the cost to the employer less any amount made good by the employee (which must be by 6 July after the end of the tax year). HMRC produce worksheets which can be used to work out the cash equivalent value for some benefits. These can be found on the website.

If the benefit is made available under an optional remuneration scheme, such as a salary sacrifice arrangement, alternative valuation rules apply to all but a handful of benefits. In this case, the taxable amount is the ‘relevant amount’. Broadly, this is the salary foregone where this is more than the cash equivalent value. The alternative valuation rules do not apply to pensions or pensions’ advice, childcare, employer-provided cycles and cyclists’ safety equipment under cycle to work schemes, and cars with CO2 emission of 75g/km or less, and transitional rules apply in certain cases.


The P11D(b) is the employer’s declaration that all required P11Ds have been filed, and also the Class 1A National Insurance return. Remember to take account of payrolled benefits when working out the Class 1A National Insurance liability.

A P11D(b) is still required even if you have no P11Ds to file because all benefits have been payrolled.

If you provided benefit and expenses in 2018/19 but not in 2019/20, you may need to make a nil declaration. This will be required if HMRC sent you either a P11D(b) or a reminder letter. The notification can be made online.

How and when to file

Expenses and benefits returns (P11D and P11D(b)) can be filed online using HMRC’s Expenses and Benefits Online Service, PAYE for Employers or commercial software. Paper returns can also be submitted.

Returns for 2019/20 must reach HMRC by 6 July 2020. Employees must be given a copy of their P11D or details of the information that it contains by the same date.

The Class 1A National Insurance liability must reach HMRC by 22 July 2020 where payment is made electronically. Where payment is made by cheque, the deadline is 19 July; however, as this falls on a Sunday this year, the cheque must be with HMRC by Friday 17 July.

How we can help

Discuss with us what you need to do in order to meet your filing obligations during these challenging times.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced on 12 May that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme would be extended until 31 October 2020. The scheme enables employers adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to furlough staff rather than making them redundant, and to claim a grant from the Government for 80% of their wages up to £2,500 a month. It was due to finish at the end of June. It will now continue in its current form until 31 July 2020, with changes being made from August as part of the gradual withdrawal of the scheme.

As at 17 May 2020, 8 million jobs had been furloughed by 986,000 employers who had, in total, claimed grants totally £11.1 billion.

Current support

In its current form, employers can furlough staff and claim a grant from the Government for 80% of the furloughed employee’s wages, capped at £2,500 a month. The grants, which must be paid over in full to the employee, are liable to tax and National Insurance as usual, and must be reported to HMRC as normal under Real Time Information. However, the employer can claim the associated employer’s National Insurance, together with minimum employer contributions where these are due under auto-enrolment, from the Government as part of the grant.

Employers can only claim a grant if the employee is furloughed for a minimum of three weeks. Employees are not currently allowed to undertake work for their employer while on furlough (although they can work for someone else if their contract allows).

Changes from August

Support provided under the scheme is to be withdrawn gradually. While the scheme will continue to be available for a further three months from 1 August, employers will have the flexibility to bring furloughed employees back part time from that date. Employees will continue to receive 80% of their salary (capped at £2,500 a month), but employers will be required to meet some of the cost. The Government are to publish more details of how the scheme will operate from 1 August 2020 to 31 October 2020.


Guidance on the operation of the scheme can be found on the website. Speak to us to find out how you can use the scheme to help you maintain your workforce during the pandemic.

Claim SSP for Coronavirus-related absences

Claim SSP for Coronavirus-related absences

Smaller employers who have paid statutory sick pay (SSP) to employees who were absent from work due to a Coronavirus-related absence can now claim a rebate from the Government. The claim portal went live on 26 May 2020.

Who can claim?

Employers are eligible to make a claim if they have a payroll scheme that was created on or before 28 February 2020 and had fewer than 250 employees on the payroll at that date. They can claim back up to two weeks’ SSP paid to an employee who was absent from work due to Coronavirus.

What can you claim?

An absence counts as a Coronavirus-related absence if the employee is unable to work for one of the following reasons:

  • they had Coronavirus (COVID-19) symptoms;
  • they were self-isolating because someone in their household had Coronavirus symptoms; or
  • they were shielding and have a letter from either the NHS or their GP telling them to stay at home for at least 12 weeks.

Claims are capped at two weeks’ SSP per employee, even if the employee is absent for work and receiving SSP for longer than this, for example, because they are shielding. Claims can be made for periods of sickness starting on or after 13 March 2020 where the employee either had Coronavirus symptoms themselves or were self-isolating because someone in their household had symptoms, and in relation to periods of absence starting on or after 16 April 2020 where the employee is shielding. If you have paid more than the weekly SSP rate (for example if you pay employees their full pay while sick), the claim is limited to the SSP rate, set at £95.85 per week from 6 April 2020 and at £94.25 before that date. For Coronavirus-related absences, SSP can be paid from the first qualifying day once a period of incapacity for work has been established – the usual three waiting days do not need to be served.

Where SSP is paid for an absence which is not a Coronavirus-related absence, the employer cannot claim it back under the rebate scheme. Normal rules apply in relation to absences that are not related to Coronavirus and the employer must meet the cost of any SSP paid to employees who are absent other than for one of the reasons listed above. Claims can be made for employees in respect of whom a grant has been claimed under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme; although a claim for a grant and an SSP rebate cannot be made for the same period.

How do we claim?

Claims can be made via the online portal. To claim, you will need:

  • your Government Gateway User ID;
  • employer PAYE scheme reference number;
  • UK bank or building society details for the account into which the rebate is to be paid;
  • the total amount of SSP paid to employees for Coronavirus-related absences;
  • the number of employees in respect of whom a claim is being made; and
  • the start and end date of the claim period.

When claiming, you will also need to provide a contact name and telephone number. Claims can be made at the same time for multiple pay periods and multiple employees.

HMRC will check claims and if satisfied pay the money into the designated account within six working days of the date on which the claim was made.

Do we need records to support the claim?

You do not need to provide evidence when making the claim. However, you do need to keep records of:

  • the dates on which the employees were absent from work;
  • which of those dates were qualifying dates;
  • the reason for their absence, i.e. whether they had symptoms or were shielding; and
  • the National Insurance numbers of the employees in respect of whom a claim is being made.

You do not need to obtain a Fit Note for Coronavirus-related absences.

Records should be kept for three years from the date on which you received the rebate.

Further help

The good news is that HMRC has confirmed that if you have authorised us to do PAYE online for you, we can complete the claim on your behalf. Alternatively, if you prefer, we advise if you are able to make a claim and how to go about it.

COVID-19 self-employed scheme

COVID-19 self-employed scheme

After mounting pressure for clarification on the COVID-19 support that was expected to be made available on the 26 March, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has now announced the details of the self-employed income support scheme (SEISS) and how it will work.

SEISS is a taxable grant payable to the self-employed (including partners).

It is set at 80% of a qualifying person’s average trading profits, payable for 3 months and capped at £2,500 per month.

No real-time information?

With it being almost impossible to determine what the self-employed earn in real time, the government has opted to base the grant a person should receive on an average of their trading profits arising in three tax years ending 5 April 2019, as reported under self-assessment.

Where self-employment started later 6 April 2016, the average profit will be calculated by reference to actual period of trading, from commencement to 5 April 2019.

Nothing to do…. yet

As HMRC already holds the data there is nothing for the taxpayer or their agents to do. Instead, the revenue authority will use what it holds to establish eligibility and, if appropriate, the size of grant.

One quarter of the average annual profit will form the basis of the SEISS grant awarded, at the rate of 80% of taxable profits up, with the maximum monthly grant being £2,500.

Who qualifies

The SEISS grant is payable to anyone who is self-employed and meets these conditions:

  • average annual taxable profits of no more than £50,000;
  • submitted a tax return for 2018/19;
  • more than half of taxable income from self-employment;
  • continued to trade throughout 2019/20 tax year;
  • an intention to trading throughout 2020/21 tax year.

Started after 6 April 2019

Those who started trading on or after 6 April 2019 are not eligible for the SEISS grant. Tough, very probably, but the government had to draw a line somewhere.

To qualify for the cash-grant, a self-employed person must have traded in 2018/19, filed a 2019 Tax Return, and would still be trading in the current tax year if it hadn’t been for the interruption to business due to the Coronavirus. In fact, to be eligible for SEISS it is not necessary for your business to cease entirely. It just needs to have suffered a loss of income as a result of the pandemic.

Where a trader has already decided to cease trading, no grant is payable.

Taxpayers who have not submitted their 2018/19 tax return were given until 23 April 2020 to get it in to HMRC and still qualify for the grant. Although, it should be noted that for late filing, and late payment of tax, penalties are not going to be waved. 

HMRC contact

HMRC will contact those eligible and invite them to apply for the grant online. At the time of writing, it is not clear how that approach will be made.

When will it arrive

The three month’s grant will be paid into the applicants bank account in one lump sum, starting early June.

The number of months covered by a SEISS grant may be extended beyond three months if the COVID-19 shutdown continues into July.

As observed earlier, the grant will be treated as taxable income and those in receipt of working tax credits or universal credit should treat the SEISS grant as part of their self-employed income.

Points to note:

  • Those who pay themselves a salary and dividends through their own company are not covered by the scheme. Instead they will be covered for their salary by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme if they are operating PAYE schemes.
  • Property letting businesses are not regarded as a trade, therefore, landlords will not qualify for the SEISS.
  • Similarly, the letting of furnished holiday accommodation is not strictly a trade and, as believed, HMRC is unlikely to consider income from furnished holiday lets as qualifying for the SEISS grant.

Making Tax Digital – soft landing extension

Making Tax Digital – soft landing extension

One-year extension for MTDfV soft landing

In a welcome response to COVID-19, HMRC has extended its digital links ‘soft landing period’ by twelve months to April 2021.

HMRC Email

In a widely distributed email issued on 30 March 2020, HMRC stated:

“We understand that the impact of COVID-19 is creating extremely difficult times for all, and we are committed to helping in every way possible all those businesses facing unprecedented challenges.

Therefore, we are providing all MTD businesses with more time to put in place digital links between all parts of their functional compatible software. This means that all businesses now have until their first VAT return period starting on or after 1 April 2021 to put digital links in place.”

Digital journey

From April 2019, once those mandated to comply with VAT MTD have entered accounting data into their business’s accounting software, they have been required to transfer, recapture or modify that data using digital links. Effectively, once VAT data has been digitally captured the rest of its journey until the submission of a VAT return must be a digital journey, without manual intervention.

Soft landing

HMRC recognised that not all businesses would have digital links in place from day one and allowed a period of grace, the ‘soft landing period’. HMRC promised that, where businesses were trying to meet the statutory digital end to end journey during the ‘soft landing period’, the department would not impose penalties for non-compliance.

The effect of the ‘soft landing’ announcement meant that for the first year of mandation, businesses are not required to have digital links between software programs.

For most, MTD for VAT rules have applied from VAT period starting on or after 1 April 2019. Although there was a smaller group where mandation was deferred until the start of the first VAT return period on or after 1 October 2020.

What it means

All businesses mandated to comply with MTD for VAT now have until their first VAT return period, starting on or after 1 April 2021, to put digital links in place.

Given the coronavirus related troubles affecting practically all businesses in the UK, this extension to the ‘soft-landing period’ is another sensible easement that is to be much welcomed.

Optimal salary for 2020/21

Optimal salary for 2020/21

A popular profit extraction strategy for personal and family companies is to pay a small salary and to extract further profits as dividends. With new National Insurance thresholds applying for 2020/21, what is the optimal salary for the new tax year?

Starting point – what can be paid free of tax and National Insurance?

Assuming the director has the full personal allowance for 2020/21 of £12,500 available, the optimal salary will be dictated by National Insurance considerations. Unless the director already has the 35 qualifying years needed to secure a full single tier state pension, it is worthwhile paying a salary at least equal to the lower earnings limit, set at £6,240 for 2020/21, to ensure that the year counts for state pension and contributory benefits purposes.

For 2020/21, the point at which employer contributions start (the secondary threshold) is lower than the point at which employee contributions start (the primary threshold). The secondary threshold is set at £8,788 for 2020/21 (£169 per week; £732 per month), whereas the primary threshold is set at £9,500 (£183 per month; £792 per month).

Assuming that the director is over the age of 21 and the employment allowance is not available (as is the case where the sole employee is also a director), the maximum salary that can be paid free of tax and National Insurance is £8,788 – equal to the secondary threshold.

Employer contributions for under 21s do not start until the upper secondary threshold for under 21s is reached (set at £50,000 for 2020/21). Thus, where the director is under 21, a salary equal to the primary threshold of £9,500 per year can be paid free of tax and National Insurance. This is also the case if the employment allowance is available (for example, in a family company scenario).

Is it beneficial to pay a higher salary?

Salary costs and any associated National Insurance are deductible in computing the company’s profits for corporation tax purposes. Thus, if the corporation tax deduction (at 19%) is more than any National Insurance or tax paid on the additional salary, paying a higher salary can be worthwhile.

If the director is 21 or over and the employment allowance is not available, it is worthwhile paying a salary up to the primary threshold of £9,500. On earnings between £8,788 and £9,500, employer National Insurance contributions of 13.8% are due, but this is outweighed by the corporation tax deduction on the additional salary and the associated employer’s National Insurance. However, once the primary threshold is reached, both employer and employee contributions are due (at 13.8% and 12% respectively) on further earnings. As these outweigh the corporation tax deduction, it is not worth paying a salary above £9,500 a year. So, where the director is aged 21 or over and the employment allowance is not available, the optimal salary for 2020/21 is £9,500 a year (£792 per month).

If the director is under 21 or the employment allowance is available, as seen above, a salary of £9,500 (equal to the primary threshold) can be paid free of tax and National Insurance. Above this level, primary National Insurance contributions are payable at 12% until the personal allowance of £12,500 is reached. As the associated corporation tax deduction is higher than the National Insurance cost, it is worth paying a salary of £12,500. Above this, however, income tax at 20% is also payable, outweighing the corporation tax deduction. Consequently, in these circumstances, the optimal salary is equal to the personal allowance of £12,500 a year.

Determine your optimal salary

As shown above, the optimal salary depends on personal circumstances. Speak to us for help in crunching the number and determining the optimal salary for your situation.

Supporting employees working from home

Supporting employees working from home

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees are now working at home in accordance with Government instructions to help reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

Providing equipment to employees working from home

Employees may need tools and equipment to enable them to work from home. For example, employees who are office based, may need a computer, access to software and possibly a printer. They may also need stationery and printer ink. What are the tax implications if the employer provides these or if the employee meets the cost?

Employer provides equipment to work at home

Employers can provide equipment and supplies tax-free to employees working from home as long as certain condition are met:

  • any use of the accommodation, supplies or services for private purposes by the employee or by members of the employee’s family or household is not significant;
  • where the accommodation, supplies or services are provided otherwise than on premises occupied by the employer, the sole purpose of the provision is to enable the employee to perform the duties of their employment;
  • the provision of the accommodation, services or supplies does not comprise an excluded benefit (such as a car or the construction of a home office).

The exemption will cover the provision of office furniture, such as desks and chairs, computer equipment and stationery. Further guidance on what is covered by the exemption can be found on the website.

Employee meets cost of homeworking equipment

The exemption outlined above does not apply if the employee meets the cost of any equipment that they need to work from home.

If the employee meets the cost, the normal rules for deductibility of expenses incurred by employees apply – that is to say, the employee can claim a deduction for revenue expenses that are incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance of the duties of the employment. No deduction is allowed for capital items, such as office furniture and computers. However, employees can claim a deduction for the cost of stationery and suchlike.

Employee meets cost initially and claims it back

From a tax perspective, there is a difference between the employer providing equipment and supplies to enable the employee to work from home and the employee meeting the costs initially and claiming it back from the employer, despite the fact that in each case the employer ultimately bears the cost.

Where the employer provides the equipment, the exemption outlined above applies as long as the associated conditions are met. However, problems can arise if the employee meets the cost and claims it back. In this case, the relevant exemption is the one for paid and reimbursed expenses. This covers paid and reimbursed expenses that would be deductible if met by the employee, i.e. revenue expenses wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties of the employment. Consequently, reimbursed capital expenses fall outside the exemption, are taxable and must be reported to HMRC. To avoid this situation, the employer should provide the equipment directly instead.

Additional household expenses

Employees working from home will incur additional household expenses as a result. They may use additional electricity and gas, have higher household insurance or incur additional cleaning costs.

Employers can pay employees a tax-free allowance of £6 per week (£26 per month) to help cover some of these additional costs. Prior to 6 April 2020, the allowance was £4 per week (£18 per month). As long as the employer does not pay more than this, no evidence is required of the amount spent. Guidance on the relief is available on the website.

Employers can pay higher amounts tax-free to cover additional costs of working at home as long as these can be substantiated.

Employees cannot claim a deduction of £6 per week if the employer does not pay the allowance – the usual rule for deductibility of employment expenses apply.

Speak to us

Speak to us to discover how you can support employees working from home in a tax-free manner.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

The online claim portal for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) went live on 20 April 2020, allowing employers who have furloughed staff as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic to claim grants from the Government equal to 80% of the employee’s wages (capped at £2,500 per month). Employers can also claim the associated employer’s National Insurance contributions and the minimum employer pension contributions required under auto-enrolment. More than 67,000 employers made a claim under the scheme within the first half hour of the portal opening.

Who can claim?

The CJRS aims to help employers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic to maintain their workforce rather than lay-off staff. It is open to any employer with a UK payroll as long as they:

  • had a UK payroll in existence as at 19 March 2020 in respect of which RTI submissions had been made by that date;
  • are enrolled for PAYE online (employers not enrolled for PAYE online as at 19 March can do so after that date); and
  • have a UK bank account.

What employees are covered?

Claims can only be made in respect of employees who have been furloughed – i.e. laid off from work temporarily. Employers must confirm in writing to the employee that they have been furloughed and make any necessary changes to the employee’s contract of employment. An employee must be furloughed for a minimum of three weeks for a claim to be made.

The employee must have been on the employer’s payroll on 19 March 2020 and the employer must have made an RTI submission in respect of the employee by that date. This may mean that employees who were taken on after the February payroll or who missed the February payroll cut-off date fall outside the scheme, even if they had done some work for the employer prior to 19 March. Claims can, however, be made in respect of employees who were on the payroll as at 28 February 2020 and who were made redundant or stopped working for the employer before 20 March 2020 if the employer puts them back on the payroll and furloughs them. This can be done after 19 March 2020. To qualify, an RTI submission must have been made in respect of the employee by 28 February 2020.

It does not matter what type of contract the employee has – the scheme applies to full-time workers, part-time workers and to those on flexible or zero-hours contracts. Claims can also be made by directors of personal and family companies (but only in respect of their PAYE income).

However, furloughed employees cannot do any work for the employer that generates income while furloughed. This means that claims cannot be made for workers who are on reduced pay or reduced hours. Company directors can, however, continue to fulfil their statutory duties. Apprentices can also be furloughed under the scheme and can continue to train whilst furloughed.

What can be claimed?

Employers can claim 80% of a furloughed worker’s wages, plus the associated employer’s National Insurance and the minimum pension contributions that the employer is required to make under auto-enrolment. Amounts claimed in respect of an employee’s wages must be paid over to the employee in full. Employers can, if they so choose, top up the employee’s wages above the 80% covered by the grant. Grants are pro-rated where the employee is only furloughed for part of the pay period and should be made from the date that the employee starts furlough.

For the purposes of the scheme, wages are the regular payments that the employer is obliged to make to the employee and include:

  • regular wages payable to the employee;
  • non-discretionary overtime;
  • non-discretionary fees;
  • non-discretionary commission payments; and
  • piece rate payments.

However, the following payments should not be included as wages for the purposes of a claim:

  • payments made at the discretion of the employer or a client where there was no contractual obligation to pay, such as tips, discretionary bonuses or discretionary commission payments;
  • non-cash payments;
  • non-monetary benefits, such as benefits in kind (for example, company cars and private medical insurance).

Calculating the wage claim

For full and part-time employees on a salary, the employer can claim 80% of their salary for the last pay period to 19 March, capped at £2,500 per month (proportionately reduced where the employee was not furloughed for the whole period).

Where an employee’s pay varies and the employee has been employed for at least 12 months, the claim cam be made either by reference to the same pay period in 2019 or by reference to the employee’s average monthly earnings for 2019/20. If the employee has worked for less than 12 months, their average monthly earnings since they started work should form the basis of the claim.

Claiming employer’s National Insurance

Grant payments paid to employees are liable to PAYE tax and National Insurance (employee’s and employer’s) as for normal payments of wages and salary. However, employers can claim the employer’s National Insurance due on grant payments from HMRC. The guidance on the website explains how this is calculated.

Claims cannot be made for employer’s National Insurance covered by the employment allowance. While there is no obligation to claim the allowance from the start of the tax year, it is possible that HMRC may regard delaying claiming the allowance until after the end of the scheme as tax avoidance.

Claiming pension contributions

Where the furloughed employee is within auto-enrolment, the employer will need to pay pension contributions at the minimum level of 3% on earnings above £520 per month (2020/21).

How to make a claim

Claims can be made online.

The claim can be made by the employer or by an agent authorised to act for the employer for PAYE purposes. However, claims cannot be made by agents who are only authorised to file RTI returns on the employer’s behalf.

When making a claim, the following information is required:

  • UK bank account and sort code;
  • employer PAYE scheme reference number;
  • the number of employee’s being furloughed;
  • the National Insurance number for each furloughed employee;
  • the employee’s payroll number (although this is optional);
  • the start and end date of the claim;
  • the full amount of the claim, including employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions;
  • contact name and phone number;
  • the employer’s corporation tax unique tax reference, self-assessment unique tax reference (as appropriate) or the company registration number.

Claims can be backdated to 1 March 2020. The money should be paid into the employer’s bank account within six working days of the date on which the claim was made. Claims can be made prior to the payroll date so that the employer has the money available to pay furloughed employees.

It should be noted that HMRC will undertake checks for fraudulent claims.

Further help

Speak to use to find out whether you are eligible to make a claim and for help in working out what you can claim. Read more about the scheme on the website.

COVID-19: SSP Relaxations

COVID-19: SSP Relaxations

To help employees and businesses manage the Coronavirus outbreak, a number of relaxations have been made to the statutory sick pay (SSP) rules. They apply from 13 March 2020. Details are on the website.

SSP payable from day one

Employees will be able to benefit from SSP from the first day of their absence – they will not need to serve the three waiting days before SSP can be paid.

Extension to those self-isolating

Statutory sick pay will also be available during the pandemic to those who are self-isolating, even if they are not ill themselves. This will include individuals who are self-isolating because someone in their household is showing COVID-19 symptoms.

No need for a Fit Note

Employees can self-certify absences of up to seven days. Beyond seven days, a Fit Note is normally required. To relieve pressure on GPs, employers should not ask for a Fit Note. A temporary alternative, an isolation note, can be obtained from NHS-111, but employers should exercise discretion when asking for medical evidence during the pandemic.

Small employers to be able to reclaim SSP

Normally, employers must suffer the cost of SSP paid to employees who are off sick. However, to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, small businesses employing fewer than 250 employees on 28 February 2020 will be able to claim a refund of SSP paid to eligible employees who are absent from work due to COVID-19. The refund will be capped at two weeks’ SSP per eligible employee.

As currently there is no process in place for reclaiming SSP, the Government are to work with employers over the coming months to set up a repayment mechanism.

Employers should keep records of staff absences and SSP paid to support the refund claim.

COVID-19: Business rate relief and grants

COVID-19: Business rate relief and grants

To help business affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chancellor announced a number of measures effected through the business rates system.

Business rate retail relief increased and extended

At the time of the 2020 Budget, the Chancellor announced that the business rates retail discount for 2020/21 would be doubled from 50% to 100%. The discount is also to be extended to the leisure and hospitality sectors.


The Chancellor also announced funding of £2.2 billion would be provided to local authorities to enable them to provide grants of £3,000 to all businesses receiving small business rate relief. Following the Budget, the Chancellor announced an increase in the amount of the grant to £10,000. Small business rate relief is available in full where the rateable value of the business premises is less than £12,000. The relief reduces from 100% to nil where the rateable value is between £12,000 and £15,000.

Grants of £25,000 are also to be made available for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000. Businesses in this sector will receive a grant of £10,000 where the rateable value of their business premises is £15,000 or less.

Watch this space

New measures are being announced daily to help businesses survive the pandemic. Speak to us to find out what help is available and check out the website.

Entrepreneurs’ relief – reduction in lifetime limit

Entrepreneurs’ relief – reduction in lifetime limit

Prior to the Budget, there had been much speculation that that entrepreneurs’ relief would be abolished. In the event it stayed – albeit with the new name of ‘Business Asset Disposal Relief’ – and a much-reduced lifetime limit.

New £1 million lifetime limit

The lifetime limit is reduced from £10 million to £1 million with immediate effect for disposal on or after 11 March 2020 (Budget Day). Disposals prior to Budget day that qualified for entrepreneurs’ relief count towards the new £1 million limit, and where this has already been reached, the relief will not be forthcoming on future disposals, even if the qualifying conditions are met.


Anti-forestalling measures were announced which may negate protective action taken ahead of the Budget in an attempt to preserve availability of the relief as it applied at that time.

Where arrangements were entered into before Budget day, the old £10 million lifetime limit will only apply if:

  • the parties to the contract are able to demonstrate that they did not enter into the contract for the purposes of obtaining a tax advantage by virtue of the capital gains tax rules setting the contract date as the date of the disposal; and
  • where the parties to the contract are connected, the contract was entered into for wholly commercial reasons.

If the above conditions are not met, the reduced lifetime allowance of £1 million applies.

Anti-forestalling rules also apply in certain circumstances where between 6 April 2019 and 11 March 2020, shares were exchanged for those in another company, and both companies are owned or controlled by substantially the same person.

Plan ahead

If you are planning on disposing of business assets or shares in a personal company, it is important to plan ahead to maximise relief. We can help you. Remember, spouses and civil partners each have their own lifetime limit.

Guidance on the changes is available on the website.

Budget 2020 – rates and allowances

Budget 2020 – rates and allowances

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, presented his first Budget on 11 March 2020, confirming the rates and allowances applying for the 2020/21 tax year. The following key rates and allowances were announced.

Full details of the rates and allowances applying for 2020/21 are available on the website.

Income tax

As previously announced, the personal allowance remains at £12,500 for 2020/21. It is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds £100,000. This means that if your income is more that £125,000 for 2020/21, you will not receive a personal allowance.

Income tax rates and allowances are unchanged too. The basic rate remains at 20%, the higher rate at 40% and the additional rate at 45%. The basic rate band is also unchanged at £37,500, meaning that the point at which higher rate tax becomes payable remains at £50,000. Tax is payable at the additional rate on income over £150,000.

The Scottish and Welsh rates of income tax apply to the non-savings, non-dividend income of Scottish and Welsh taxpayers.


The dividend allowance remains at £2,000 for 2020/21. Dividends, which are treated as the top slice of income, are taxed at 7.5% to the extent that they fall within the basic rate band, 32.5% to the extent that they fall in the higher rate band and at 38.1% to the extent that they fall in the additional rate band.


Basic rate taxpayers continue to benefit from a savings allowance of £1,000 for 2020/21, while higher rate taxpayers can enjoy a savings allowance of £500. There is no savings allowance for additional rate taxpayers.

The starting savings rate of 0% applies to savings in the savings starting rate band of £5,000, but remember this is reduced by taxable non-savings income.

Corporation tax

The rate of corporation tax was due to fall to 17% for the financial year 2020. However, as previously announced, it will remain at 19%. It will stay at 19% for the financial year 2021 too.

Capital gains tax

The capital gains tax annual exempt amount is increased to £12,300 for 2020/21 for individuals and personal representatives, and to £6,150 for trustees.

Capital gains tax rates remain at 10% where income and gains fall in the basic rate band and at 20% thereafter. Higher rates of 18% and 28% apply to residential property gains.

Off-payroll working rules delayed

Off-payroll working rules delayed

In a surprise move, the Government have announced that the reforms to the off-payroll working rules have been delayed by one year and will now come into effect from 6 April 2021. The delay is to help businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The delay will affect medium and large private sector organisations engaging workers through personal service companies and other intermediaries, and workers providing their services to such organisations in this way.

As the announcement of the delay came only three weeks before the reforms were due to take effect, it comes too late for many. To avoid having to deal with the new rules, many organisations have already taken the decision not to use workers providing their services via an intermediary, opting instead to place all workers ‘on payroll’.

Impact of the delay

The extent to which you will be affected by the delay will depend on whether you are a small, medium or large private sector organisation, a public body or a worker providing their services through a personal service company or other intermediary.

Medium and large private sector organisations

Medium and large private sector organisations (as defined for Companies Act 2006 purposes) who engage workers providing their services through an intermediary can carry on as normal for 2020/21, paying the intermediary gross. They will not need to undertake status determinations and deduct tax and National Insurance from the deemed payment to the worker’s intermediary where the worker would be an employee if their services were provided directly. A further plus is that they will not yet need to pay employer National Insurance contributions on the deemed payment. These changes will now become a reality from 6 April 2021 rather than from 6 April 2020.

Workers providing their services through an intermediary to medium and large private sector organisations

Had the reforms gone ahead as planned from 6 April 2020, the responsibility for determining whether the off-payroll working rules apply would have shifted to the end client where a worker provides his or her services to a medium or large private sector organisation through an intermediary. This shift will now not take place until 6 April 2021.

As a result, the worker’s intermediary will continue to be paid gross, regardless of whether the off-payroll working rules apply. Responsibility for determining whether IR35 applies remains with the worker’s intermediary for 2020/21. If it does, the worker’s intermediary must calculate the deemed payment at 5 April 2021 and account for tax and National Insurance on that deemed payment.

A word of caution here – if the worker would be an employee of the end client if they provided their services directly rather than through an intermediary, the worker’s intermediary will need to operate IR35. While HMRC have said that they will not use off-payroll working determinations to check IR35 compliance for past years, the delay in implementing the reforms is not a licence to ignore the rules.

Small private sector organisations

The extended off-payroll working rules do not apply to small private sector organisations. If you fall into this category and engage workers who provide their service through a personal service company, you should continue, both for 2020/21 and beyond, to make payments to the worker’s intermediary gross.

If you provide your services to a small private sector organisation via a personal service company, your personal service company must determine whether IR35 applies, and apply the IR35 rules if it does.

Public bodies

The delay has no impact on public bodies engaging workers through intermediaries. The rules as they apply where the end client is a public body were reformed from April 2017, and these will continue to apply for 2020/21 (albeit without the tweaks needed to make the rules suitable for application to the private sector).

The delay has no impact on workers providing their services through an intermediary to a public sector body either. The public sector body will continue to determine whether the off-payroll working rules apply, and deduct tax and National Insurance from payment where they do.

Contact us

If you are unsure of how the off-payroll working rules apply to you, please contact us for advice.

Using capital losses

Using capital losses

Where capital gains tax would be payable on a gain made on the disposal of an asset, if the disposal results in a loss, the loss is an allowable loss for capital gains tax purposes.

Gains in the same tax year

In the event that capital gains are made in the same tax year as an allowable loss, the loss is first set against those gains. This may mean that the annual exempt amount is lost as this is set against net gains for the tax year (chargeable gains less allowable losses).

Carry forward unused losses

If there are no gains in the tax year, or allowable losses exceed chargeable gains, the unused losses can be carried forward to a future tax year.

There is no requirement to use them against the first available chargeable gains; rather you can choose when to use them. And unlike the set-off against gains of the same year, they can be set against net gains to the extent that they exceed the annual exempt amount, so that this is not wasted. Any losses remaining unused can be carried forward to a future tax year.

Report the loss

Remember to report capital losses to HMRC. This can be done on your tax return, or by writing to HMRC if you do not need to complete a tax return. You have four years from the end of the tax year in which to claim your losses. We can help you plan your disposals in a tax-efficient manner.

Termination payments and employer National Insurance

Termination payments and employer National Insurance

From 6 April 2020, employers will have to pay Class 1A National Insurance contributions on taxable termination payments in excess of the £30,000 tax-free limit. However, no contributions will be payable by employees; although employers and employees both pay Class 1 contributions on payments made on termination that count as earnings.

Earnings or a termination payment?

Payments made on the termination of an employment are taxed as earnings up to the amount that the employee would have been paid had they worked their notice period. Amounts in excess of this are treated as termination payments, the first £30,000 of which are tax-free. Some payments, such as redundancy pay, count towards the £30,000 threshold rather than being treated as earnings.

Class 1 National Insurance contributions are payable on payments of earnings by both the employer and the employee.

New Class 1A charge on taxable termination payments

Termination payments are taxable to the extent that they exceed the £30,000 threshold. From 6 April 2020, employers will also be required to pay Class 1A contributions on the taxable amount. Contributions will be payable at the rate of 13.8% to the extent that the payment exceeds £30,000.

No employee contributions

As the Class 1A charge is an employer-only charge, the position for employees is unchanged. Employees will pay tax on the excess over £30,000, but not National Insurance.

RTI reporting

The systems for paying and reporting Class 1A National Insurance contributions on taxable termination payments is different to that for benefits in kind. Instead of including the termination payment in the calculation of the Class 1A liability on the P11D(b) after the year end, it must be reported to HMRC under real time information, as for Class 1 National Insurance and PAYE, for the tax month in which the termination payment was paid to the employee.

Payment to be made in-year

Unlike Class 1A National Insurance contributions on benefits in kind, which are due by 22 July after the end of the tax year where payment is made electronically (or 19 July where paid by cheque), Class 1A National Insurance contributions on taxable termination payments must be made in-year.

The Class 1A liability must be paid with the PAYE and Class 1 National Insurance for the tax month in which the payment was made; i.e. by 22nd of the month where payment is made electronically and by 19th of the month where payment is made by cheque.

Accelerate termination payments to avoid the charge

Where a termination is on the cards, terminating the employment prior to 6 April 2020 will save the Class 1A contributions. We can help you structure your termination payments and deal with the associated tax and National Insurance correctly.

National Insurance contributions for 2020/21

National Insurance contributions for 2020/21

The starting point for paying National Insurance is to increase to £9,500 for 2020/21 for employees and for Class 4 contributions payable by the self-employed. This is in line with a Government commitment to increase the starting threshold to £12,500 – the level of the personal allowance for tax purposes.

Employees and Employers

Class 1 National Insurance contributions are payable on an employee’s earnings by the employee (primary contributions) and by the employer (secondary contributions). The rates and thresholds applying for 2020/21 are shown in the table below.

Class 1
Weekly lower earnings limit (LEL) £120 per week
£520 per month
£6,240 per year
Primary threshold (PT) £183 per week
£792 per month
£9,500 per year
Secondary threshold (ST) £169 per week
£732 per month
£9,500 per year
Upper earnings limit (UEL) £962 per week
£4,167 per month
£50,000 per year
Upper secondary threshold for under 21s £962 per week
£4,167 per month
£50,000 per year
Apprentice upper secondary rate (AUST) £962 per week
£4,167 per month
£50,000 per year
Employee’s primary rate (payable on earnings between the PT and UEL) 12%
Employee’s additional rate (payable on earnings above the UEL) 2%
Secondary rate (payable on earnings above the relevant secondary threshold) 13.8%
Reduced rate for certain married women (on earnings between the PT and UEL) 5.85%

For 2020/21, the primary and secondary thresholds are no longer aligned. This means that the point at which employer contributions for employees over the age 21 kicks in is £169 per week (£732 per month), while employee contributions are not payable until earnings reach £183 per week (£792 per month). On earnings between these limits, employer contributions are payable but not employee contributions.

The rate of Class 1A contributions (payable on benefits in kind) and Class 1B contributions (payable on items included in a PAYE settlement agreement) remains at 13.8%.

The self employed

The self-employed pay flat-rate Class 2 contributions and also Class 4 contributions on their profits.

For 2020/21, Class 2 contributions increase by 5p per week to £3.05 per week. Contributions are only mandatory if profits exceed the small profits threshold. This is set at £6,475 for 2020/21. However, they can be paid voluntarily where profits are less than this level.

As with employees, the starting point at which Class 4 contributions become payable on the profits of the self-employed – the lower profits limit – increases to £9,500 for 2020/21. Contributions are payable at the main rate of 9% on profits between this level and the upper profits limit, which remains at £50,000 for 2020/21. Above this, contributions are payable at the rate of 2%.

Voluntary contributions

Voluntary (Class 3) contributions can be paid to make up a shortfall in your contributions record and preserve your entitlement to the state pension. Class 3 contributions rise to £15.30 per week for 2020/21.

Check your contributions record

Speak to us about whether you need to pay additional contributions to ensure that you will qualify for the full state pension when you reach state pension age. You can obtain a pension forecast online.

Personal allowances – use them or lose them

Personal allowances – use them or lose them

With the end of the 2019/20 tax year approaching, now is a good time to review your available personal allowances for 2019/20 and make sure that they are not wasted.

Personal allowance

For 2019/20, the personal allowance is £12,500. However, where income is more than £100,000, the allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds £100,000. This means that individuals with income of £125,000 or more in 2019/20 do not have a personal allowance. If your income is between £100,000 and £125,000, you will receive a reduced personal allowance.

At the lower end of the income scale, if you are married or in a civil partnership and if you are not able to use all of your personal allowance or your partner is unable to use all of their personal allowance, you can claim the marriage allowance. This works by allowing the person who is unable to use all of their allowance to transfer 10% of their personal allowance — £1,250 for 2019/20 – to their spouse or civil partner. However, this is only allowed if the recipient is a basic rate taxpayer. The marriage allowance is worth £250 to a couple for 2019/20. It can be claimed online.

At the other end of the scale, taxpayers whose income exceeds £100,000 could consider taking steps to reduce their income to below £100,000 to preserve their full personal allowance. Options include making pension contributions or gift aid donations or delaying taking salary or dividends until after 5 April 2020.

Dividend allowance

All individuals, regardless of the rate at which they pay tax, are entitled to a dividend allowance of £2,000 for 2019/20. In a family company scenario, where family members have not yet used their allowance, paying dividends by 5 April 2020 to mop up the allowances can be a tax-efficient way to extract profits. The use of an alphabet share structure will enable dividends to be tailored to the circumstances of the recipient.

Pensions annual allowance

Making contributions to a registered pension scheme can be tax efficient. You can make pension contributions to the higher of 100% of your earnings and £3,600 (gross), as long as you have sufficient annual allowance available. The annual allowance is set at £40,000 for 2019/20, but is reduced for high earners. If you have already accessed a money purchase pension, you have a reduced allowance of £4,000.

The annual allowance can be carried forwarded for up to three years. However, before using brought forward allowances (earliest year first), you must use the allowance for the current year. Any allowances unused for 2016/17 will be lost if they are not used by 5 April 2020.

Capital gains tax annual exempt amount

Capital gains tax is only payable where net gains and losses for the tax year exceed the annual exempt amount. This is set at £12,000 for 2019/20. Spouses and civil partners have their own annual exempt amount.

Where a disposal is on the cards which will give rise to a capital gain, if the annual exempt amount for 2019/20 has not been used up yet, consider making the disposal before 6 April 2020 to utilise this. Remember, where a spouse or civil partner has an unused exempt amount, assets can be transferred between them on a no gain/no loss basis, making it possible to make use of their annual exempt amount too.

Inheritance tax annual exemption

The inheritance tax annual exemption allows you to give away £3,000 each year without the gift counting as part of your estate for inheritance tax purposes. If it is not used, it can be carried forward to the next tax year, but is then lost. If you do not use your exemption for 2018/19 by 5 April 2020, you will lose it. There are also various other gifts that you can make IHT-free each tax year.

Act now

Why not speak to us to find out what action you need to take to make sure your allowances are not wasted.

Reducing your payments on account

Reducing your payments on account

Under the self-assessment system, a taxpayer is required to make payments on account of their tax liability where their income tax and Class 4 National Insurance bill for the previous tax year was £1,000 or more, unless at least 80% of their tax is paid at source, such as under PAYE.

When are payments due?

Where payments on account are required, these are due on 31 January in the tax year and 31 July after the end of the tax year. Any balance not covered by the payments on account must be paid by 31 January after the end of the tax year.

Consequently, payments on account for 2019/20 are due on 31 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, with any outstanding balance due by 31 January 2021.

How much is each payment on account?

Each payment on account is 50% of the tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability for the previous tax year. Class 2 National Insurance is not taken into account in computing payments on account, nor is capital gains tax. These are payable by 31 January after the end of the tax year.

Thus, if a taxpayer had a combined tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability of £3,000 for 2018/19, they would need to make payments on account of their 2019/20 liability of £1,500 on 31 January 2020 and 31 July 2020.

Changing the payments on account

If a person’s tax and Class 4 National Insurance liability is constant from year to year, the payments on account will exactly match the liability for the year. However, in practice this is unlikely and most people will under or over-pay. Where there is a shortfall, the excess must be paid by 31 January after the end of the tax year; if the payments on account exceed the liability for the year, the overpayment can be set against the first payment on account for the next year or refunded.

If you know or strongly suspect that your income will be lower for the current tax year than the previous tax year, for example, if your turnover has fallen because you have lost a major customer, you can apply to reduce your payments on account. There are various ways to do this.

If you know this when you file your self-assessment return, you can do it on the return. You can also do it online by:

  • signing into your personal tax account;
  • selecting the option to view your latest self-assessment return;
  • and choosing ‘reduce payments on account’.

You can also apply to reduce payments on account by post, using form SA303.

If your know your tax liability for 2019/20 will be higher than for 2018/19, you do not have to increase your payments on account – you simply pay the excess by 31 January 2021.

A word of warning

If you are tempted to reduce your payments on account to below the level which they should be, remember that interest will be charged on the difference between what you have paid and what the payment on account should have been.

Confused….don’t be, call us we’re here to demystify tax and help you get it right.

Struggling to pay your tax? Set up a time-to-pay agreement

Struggling to pay your tax? Set up a time-to-pay agreement

The self-assessment tax return for 2018/19 must be filed by midnight on 31 January 2020, and any tax still owing for 2018/19 must be paid by the same time, along with the first payment on account of the 2019/20 tax liability.

Taxpayers struggling to pay their tax bill should not ignore it in the hope that it goes away. Rather, they could consider setting up a time-to-pay agreement allowing them to spread their tax bill over a number of months.

What is a time-to-pay agreement?

A time-to-pay agreement is simply a payment plan that allows a tax bill to be paid in instalments. Ideally, it should be set up before the date that the payment is due. It can be considered for all taxes, not just those due under self-assessment.

How to set one up?

To set up a time-to-pay agreement, you will need to call HMRC’s Payment Support Service on 0300 200 385.

Information you will need

When calling HMRC, you will need to tell them:

  • your 10-digit unique taxpayer reference;
  • the amount of the tax bill you are struggling to pay and why;
  • what action you have taken to try and get the money to pay the bill;
  • how much you can pay now and how long you will need to pay the balance; and
  • your bank account details.

HMRC will usually ask for information about your income and expenditure, your assets and what you are planning to do to get your tax payments up to date.

Paying in instalments

HMRC will only allow payment to be made in instalments if they think that you are genuinely unable to pay the bill on time but will be able to do so in the future. Payment under an instalment plan must be made by direct debit on agreed dates. Interest is charged on tax paid after the due date.

Missed the self-assessment deadline?

If you have already missed the self-assessment payment deadline, you should call HMRC’s Self Assessment Payment Helpline on 0300 200 3822 in the first instance rather than the Payment Support Service.

Loan charge – changes announced

Loan charge – changes announced

The 2019 loan charge applied to loans made through a disguised remuneration loan scheme on or after 6 April 1999 which remained outstanding on 5 April 2019 and in respect of which settlement had not been reached with HMRC by that date. Loans caught by charge crystallised on 5 April 2019 and were treated as employment income on which PAYE tax and National Insurance were due.

The 2019 loan charge did not apply if the loan was repaid by 5 April 2019 or if a settlement was reached with HMRC. Reaching a settlement allowed the liabilities to be settled on better terms.

The loan charge attracted considerable criticism, particularly as regards the potentially devastating consequences for those affected. In September 2019, the Chancellor of the Exchequer commissioned Sir Amyas Morse to lead an independent review into the disguised remuneration loan charge. The review has now concluded and the Government have announced a package of changes to the loan charge. These include removing some loans, including those taken out prior to 9 December 2010, out of the scope of the charge.

What are the key changes?

The key changes arising from the independent review of the disguised remuneration loan charge are as follows:

  • the loan charge will only apply to outstanding loans that are made on or after 9 December 2010;
  • the loan charge will not apply to loans made prior to 6 April 2016 where the avoidance scheme was disclosed to HMRC and HMRC did not take any action, such as opening an enquiry;
  • those affected by the loan charge will be able to choose to spread their outstanding loan balance over three tax year – 2018/19, 2019/20 and 2020/21 – to provide greater flexibility when the loan is taxed (thereby potentially reducing or eliminating any higher rate tax payable);
  • voluntary payments (known as ‘voluntary restitution’) which were made to prevent the loan charge from arising and included in a settlement agreement reached since March 2016 will be refunded where the loan charge no longer applies because the loan was made prior to 9 December 2010 or because the loan was made prior to 6 April 2016 and fully disclosed to HMRC and HMRC took no action.

Additional flexibility in paying the charge

Those that remain within the scope of the loan charge will be given more flexibility as regards paying the charge. Taxpayers affected by the charge who do not have disposable assets and who earn less than £50,000 can agree a time-to-pay agreement with HMRC for a minimum of five years. Where the taxpayer earns less than £30,000, HMRC will agree a time-to-pay agreement for a minimum of seven years. Taxpayers that need longer to pay may be able to agree a longer time limit, but will need to provide HMRC with detailed financial information. Under a time to pay agreement, taxpayers will not normally have to pay more than 50% of their disposable income to HMRC.

This is a welcome outcome of the review. Previously, the ability to spread payments was only available where a settlement had been reached with HMRC.

Obtaining a refund

As a result of the changes outlined above, loans made in the period 6 April 1999 to 8 December 2010 are no longer within the scope of the charge. Likewise, loans made prior to 6 April 2016 under a disguised remuneration scheme disclosed to HMRC in respect of which HMRC took no action are also now outside the scope of the charge. Where the charge has been paid in relation to such loans, the taxpayer will be due a refund.

However, taxpayers will need to wait to receive the refunds due as HMRC have stated that they will not be able to process any refunds until the necessary legislation giving statutory effect to the change has been enacted by Parliament. This is expected to become law in summer 2020.

Filing a tax return

Taxpayers affected by the charge who have not submitted a tax return for 2018/19 or reached settlement with HMRC have a number of options available to them. They can either file their 2018/19 tax return by the normal due date of 31 January 2020 with the best estimate of the tax due in respect of their disguised remuneration loan. Alternatively, they can take advantage of an extended deadline and file the return by 30 September 2020. HMRC have stated that they will waive penalties for late filing, late payment and inaccuracies in relation to loan charge entries in these returns. Further, late payment interest will not be charged for the period 1 February 2020 to 30 September 2020 as long as the return is filed by 30 September 2020 and, by that date, either the associated tax is paid or the taxpayer has reached an agreement with HMRC to pay the tax.

Further help

HMRC are to write to taxpayers in early 2020 who they know have used a disguised remuneration scheme and who have either paid the loan charge or who may be liable to do so, explaining what the changes mean for them.

Guidance on the changes announced following the review can be on the website. Those affected can also call HMRC on 0300 534226 or email HMRC.

Determining worker status using HMRC’s CEST tool

Determining worker status using HMRC’s CEST tool

From 6 April 2020 the off-payroll working rules are extended. The impact of the new rules was discussed in the December 2019 Newswire. Under the new rules, medium and large private sector organisations engaging workers providing their services through an intermediary, such as a personal service company, must determine the status of the worker if the services were provided direct to the end client rather than via the intermediary. If, ignoring the intermediary, the worker would be an employee, the off-payroll working rules apply.

HMRC’s Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool can be used to fulfil the requirement to make a status determination.

The tool was updated in November 2019 in preparation for the extension of the off-payroll working rules. On 7 January 2020, the Government announced that they were reviewing the rules to facilitate a smooth implementation. As part of the review, which is due to report in mid-February, they will evaluate the effectiveness of the enhanced CEST tool.

The CEST tool is available on the website.

What is CEST?

CEST – Check Employment Status for Tax – is a tool which has been created by HMRC and which can be used to determine whether, for a particular contract, the off-payroll working rules apply. It can also be used to ascertain whether, for a particular piece of work, a worker is employed or self-employed.

If you are a medium or large private sector organisation which uses workers who provide their services through an intermediary, such as a personal service company, you can use CEST to meet your obligation to undertake a status determination under the off-payroll working rules as they apply from 6 April 2020. You must give the worker a copy of the determination, together with reasons for reaching it. Printing off the CEST decision will tick this box.

Although use of the CEST tool to make a status determination is not compulsory, its use is advised, not least because HMRC will accept by the decision reached by the tool as long as the information entered is correct.

Using CEST

The tool works by asking a series of questions, the answers to which are used to determine the status of the worker.

The CEST tool can be used anonymously. However, it should be noted that there is no facility to save the answers and return to the task later. If the tool is closed before the determination is complete, the answers will be lost. It will also time out if it is left idle for 15 minutes. It is therefore advisable to ensure that you have all the relevant information to hand before starting the determination.

The starting point is the contract of employment. The tool assumes that a contract is in place – this highlights the significance of mutuality of obligation as without mutuality of obligation there can be no contract.

To use the CEST tool, you will need the following information:

  • details of the contract;
  • the responsibilities of the worker;
  • who decides what work needs doing and when and where;
  • how the worker is paid;
  • whether the engagement includes any corporate benefits or reimbursement of expenses.

It is then simply a case of working through the question and selecting the best match answer from the available options.

Once all the questions have been answered, the user is given the option of reviewing the answers selected before the decision is given.

The decision

The CEST tool will use the information provided in response to the questions to give one of the following outcomes:

  • off-payroll working rules (IR35) do not apply;
  • off-payroll working rules (IR35) apply;
  • unable to make a determination (for whether the off-payroll working rules apply);
  • self-employed for tax purposes for this work;
  • employed for tax purposes for this work;
  • unable to make a determination (for employed or self-employed for tax purposes).

It will also set out the reasons for the decision reached.

Use of the tool by a worker

If you are a worker providing your services through a personal service company or other intermediary, you can also use the CEST tool to check your status. From 6 April 2020 onwards, you can use it to check a determination given to you be an end client that is a medium or large private sector organisation; and if you disagree with the determination given, the CEST decision can be used as the basis for a challenge.

Prior to 6 April 2020 and on or after that date where the end client is small private sector organisation, you can use the CEST tool to see if you need to operate the IR35 rules.

Detailed guidance

HMRC produce detailed guidance on using the CEST tool, which can be found in their Employment Status Manual. Check this out before using the CEST tool.

The whole area of IR35 and employment status is an area of constantly changing legislation and case law. Remember we’re always here to help you to safely navigate your way through the employment tax minefield.

Changes to Property Taxation – 2017 to 2020

Changes to Property Taxation – 2017 to 2020

2017 Income Tax – Restriction of finance costs for individual landlords

In his 2015 post-election summer Budget, George Osborne informed residential landlords that from April 2017 their ability to claim higher rate tax relief for finance costs was to be withdrawn over a four year period, as follows:

  • April 2017 the deduction from property income will be restricted to 75% of finance costs, with the remaining 25% available as a basic rate tax reduction.
  • April 2018 the deduction from property income will be restricted to 50% of finance costs, with the other 50% available as a basic rate tax reduction.
  • April 2019 the deduction from property income will be restricted to 25% of finance costs, with the other 75% available as a basic rate tax reduction.
  • April 2020 all financing costs incurred by a landlord will be given as a basic rate tax reduction.

From April 2020 residential property (not holiday lets) landlords will only receive basic rate tax relief on finance costs.

2019 Extension to Non-resident Capital Gains Tax

Since the start of the current tax year (6 April 2019) non-resident landlords have been required to complete a separate online non-resident Capital Gains Tax return for each property disposal. Including, a computation of gains and losses.

Note: Different rules apply for those who are temporarily non-resident and make disposals during a tax year when you were either not resident in the UK or overseas as part of a split year.

In addition, corporation tax rather than CGT is now chargeable on chargeable gains linked to UK property or land for all non-resident companies.

Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax (NRCGT) is also potentially payable by all non-resident landlords, as the ATED-related gains charge was abolished from 6 April 2019. It now applies to gains arising from the disposal of any type of UK land or property which accrue from 5 April 2015 (residential property) or 5 April 2019 (non-residential property).

2020 Further Capital Gains Tax Restrictions – Coming soon (April 2020)

As part of his 2018 Budget the then Chancellor Philip Hammond announced the intention to restrict the Private Residence Relief (PRR) rules from 6 April 2020 by cutting the last period of ownership from 18 month to just nine months.

Note: As with the 2014 change, the 36-month exemption period is to be retained for owners with a disability or who are in residential care.

As if that wasn’t enough, he also announced that lettings relief (see below) is to be restricted to owners who share occupancy with a tenant.

Lettings relief was introduced in 1980, to allow people to let out spare rooms within their property on a casual basis without losing the benefit of PRR. HMRC says that it has found that lettings relief is being used for purposes beyond the original policy intention, benefitting those who let out a whole dwelling that has, at some stage, been their main residence.

Current lettings relief rules:

Where the property has been let at any time, each owner can claim lettings relief to reduce the taxable capital gain.

  • This relief can cover gains of up to £40,000 per owner.
  • It is only available if the property has been the owner’s main home for a period.
  • It is also capped at the amount of PPR relief due for the period of actual occupation by the owner.

At the same time, Hammond proposed that CGT would be payable “on account” within 30 days of completion for all UK residential properties. Originally intended to be effective from 6 April 2019, to coincide with the new NRCGT rules, implementation of the proposal was delayed until 6 April 2020.

If there’s no gain to report or the gain is covered by exemptions or losses, taxpayers won’t have to complete a property disposal return.

After the end of the tax year, a taxpayer will complete a self-assessment return to disclose the property gain. The ‘on account’ payment will be deducted from the end of CGT liability; this could result in a repayment of CGT for the taxpayer.

Tax Return Tips

Tax Return Tips

The 2018/19 self-assessment tax return must be filed online by midnight on 31 January 2020 if a late filing penalty is to be avoided. What can you do to help ensure this deadline is not missed?

Help us to help you

The tax return season is a very busy time for accountants and tax advisers. With the best will in the world, there is a limit to the number of tax returns that can be filed on 31 January. To ensure that your tax return is filed on time, it is prudent to help us to help you.

  • Check what date your accountant needs tax information from you in order to meet the filing deadline, and make sure that you provide the information by that date.
  • Collect together all the relevant paperwork and make sure that nothing is missing. This will include your P60 and P11D, dividend vouchers, bank statements, details of trading income and expenses, details of rental income and expenses, details of sales of capital assets and associated expenses, and details of pension contribution and charitable donations.
  • Make sure your paperwork is organised and easy to follow, whether supplied digitally or in hard copy format.
  • Keep copies of the information supplied to your accountant.
  • Advise your accountant of any changes in your personal circumstances – such as change of address, whether you have got married or divorced etc.
  • Deal with any queries promptly.
  • Pay any tax due on time.

What are the penalties for late returns?

A late filing penalty is charged if the self-assessment tax return is filed late. The normal deadline for filing the 2018/19 tax return online is midnight on 31 January 2020. A later deadline applies if the notice to file a return was issued after 31 October 2019 – this is three months from the date of the notice.

Returns must be filed by 30 December 2019 if you want an underpayment (available for underpayments of up to £3,000) to be collected through PAYE via an adjustment to your tax code. Paper returns had to be filed by 31 October 2019 (or three months from the date of the notice to file where this was issued after 31 July 2019) to avoid a penalty – however, if this deadline was missed, a penalty can be avoided by filing online by 31 January 2020.

Returns filed late attract a late filing penalty of £100. This is charged even if there is no tax to pay or the tax is paid on time. Further penalties are charged if your return has not been filed three months after the due date – from that point daily penalties of £10 per day start to accrue for a maximum of 90 days (£900). At the six month and 12-month point, additional penalties set at the higher of 5% of the tax due and £300 are charged.

Penalties are also charged if tax is paid late, in addition to any interest that may accrue. The trigger dates are 30 days late, six months late and 12 months late. At each date, the penalty is 5% of the tax outstanding at the trigger date.

Is the VAT flat rate scheme still worthwhile for limited cost businesses?

Is the VAT flat rate scheme still worthwhile for limited cost businesses?

The VAT flat rate scheme is a simplified VAT scheme for smaller traders which allows them to work out the VAT they pay over to HMRC as a fixed percentage of their VAT-inclusive turnover. The fixed rate percentage depends on the business sector in which they operate. The scheme reduces the need to record VAT on purchases separately and reduces the information that must be held digitally under Making tax Digital for VAT. However, for those classed as limited cost businesses, there are potential pitfalls associated with using the scheme.

Who can join the scheme?

The flat rate scheme is open to VAT registered businesses whose VAT-inclusive turnover is not more than £150,000 a year. Once in the scheme, the trader can remain in the scheme as long as their turnover for the year is not more than £230,000 – although HMRC will allow the trader to remain in the scheme if they are satisfied that the turnover for the next 12 months will not exceed £191,500.

Who is a limited cost business?

Special rules apply to limited cost businesses. A business is a limited cost business if the amount it spends on relevant goods is either:

  • less than 2% of the business’s VAT flat rate turnover; or
  • greater than 2% of the VAT flat rate turnover but less than £1,000 a year (£250 per quarter).

The calculation is performed separately for each VAT quarter; consequently, a business may be a limited cost business for one VAT but not for the next.

What are relevant goods?

Relevant goods are goods used exclusively for the business. Examples of relevant goods are stationery and office expenses, gas and electricity used for the business, stock for a shop, standard software and food used in meals for customers.

However, the list of relevant goods does not include:

  • vehicle costs, including fuel (unless the business operates in the transport sector);
  • food and drink for you and your staff;
  • capital expenditure;
  • goods for resale, letting or hiring out where this is not your main business activity;
  • goods for disposal such as promotional items, gifts or donations; and
  • any services.

Thus, not all purchases on which VAT is suffered are taken into account in assessing whether a business is a limited cost business.

The fixed rate percentage for limited cost businesses

A business that meets the definition of a limited cost business must use a flat rate percentage of 16.5% rather than the one for their business sector.

Doing the maths highlights a potential problem – 16.5% of VAT inclusive turnover is 19.8% of net turnover (16.5% x 120)/100 = 19.8%), so the business will pay almost all the VAT it charges customers (20% of net turnover) over to HMRC, with virtually no margin to cover the input tax suffered.

If the nature of the business is such that its expenditure on relevant goods is low, so that it is classed a limited cost business, but the business has relatively high expenditure on non-relevant goods, such as fuel, the flat rate scheme may not be worthwhile as the business will not recover all its input VAT.

Possible solutions

Limited cost businesses should review their position to ascertain whether the flat rate scheme remains worthwhile. If they are not recovering their input tax (with the result that it is costing them to use the scheme), they can consider leaving the scheme and using traditional VAT accounting instead. This will be more work, but depending on the amounts involved, may be worthwhile.

Alternatively, if turnover is below the de-registration limit, set at £83,000, the business can consider de-registering and coming out of VAT.

More information

Guidance on the flat rate scheme can be found in VAT Notice 733.

Off-payroll working – plan ahead for the changes

Off-payroll working – plan ahead for the changes

The tax playing field is not a level one – the tax and National Insurance take where a worker is employed is higher than that where that worker provides his or her services through a personal service company and extracts profits in the form of a small salary plus dividends. From the engager’s perspective, this is also beneficial as there is no employer National Insurance to pay. Unsurprisingly, HMRC are not happy about this. While anti-avoidance legislation has existed for some time (IR35), compliance has been low. To address this, new off-payroll working rules were introduced from 6 April 2017, applying where a worker supplies his or her services through an intermediary, such as a personal service company, to an end client which is a public sector body. These rules are being extended from 6 April 2020; from that date they will also apply where the end client is a medium or large private sector organisation. The existing IR35 rules will continue to apply where services are provided through an intermediary to a ‘small’ private sector organisation.

The extension of the rules will affect engagers and contractors alike – it is now time to prepare for the changes ahead.

What is changing?

Off-payroll working is basically what is says on the tin – working in such a way that the worker is not paid through the payroll.

The original off-payroll working rules were the IR35 rules which were introduced to target perceived avoidance where services were provided through an intermediary but, looking through that intermediary, the relationship between the worker and the end client was essentially that of employer and employee. In this scenario, the worker is off-payroll – instead the intermediary bills the client. To recover the employment taxes that HMRC regard as being due, the intermediary is treated as making a deemed payment to the worker on 5 April at the end of the tax year on which tax and National Insurance are due.

To address poor compliance with the IR35 rules and the difficulties associated with policing them, the rules were changed from 6 April 2017 where the end client is a public sector body. Under these rules, responsibility for determining whether the worker would be an employee if the services were supplied direct rather than through an intermediary (and thus whether the rules apply) was moved from the intermediary to the public sector end client. Where the rules apply, the fee payer must deduct tax and National Insurance from payments made to the worker’s personal service company or other intermediary.

From 6 April 2020, these rules will also apply where the end client is a medium or large private sector organisation which engages workers providing their services through an intermediary.

What do engagers need to do?

If you are a private sector organisation which uses workers who provide their services through a personal service company or other intermediary, the first task is to identify whether you are within the scope of the extended rules. This will be the case if you are a ‘medium’ or ‘large’ organisation.

Where the rules apply, the organisation will need to:

  • Determine the worker’s employment status if the intermediary is ignored.
  • Supply the worker and other parties in the chain (such as a third-party fee payer or agency) with a copy of the determination and the reasons for it.
  • Deduct tax and National Insurance from payments made to the worker’s intermediary where the status determination is that the worker would be an employee if service were supplied direct to the end client.

Is the end client ‘medium’ or ‘large’?

The test here is borrowed from the Companies Act 2006, and the extended off-payroll working rules will apply unless the engaging organisation is ‘small’. A small company is one which meets at least two of the following tests:

  • annual turnover is not more than £10.2 million;
  • balance sheet total is not more than £5.1 million;
  • the number of employees is not more than 50.

The test is modified in its application to unincorporated bodies.

An organisation that is ‘small’ is outside the scope of the extended off-payroll working rules – the intermediary must continue to apply IR35 as now.

Determining the worker’s status

The usual employment status tests apply to determine the status of the worker, if the intermediary is ignored. The easiest way to make a determination is to use HMRC’s Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) tool, which is available online. The tool asks a series of questions and uses the answers to provide a result as to the worker’s status. An advantage of using CEST is that as long as the information used is accurate, HMRC will stand by the result.

Detailed guidance on the CEST tool can be found in HMRC’s Employment Status Manual.

Paying the worker

If the status determination shows that the worker would be an employee of the end client if the intermediary is taken out of the equation, the fee payer must calculate the deemed payment (which is treated as earnings) and deduct tax and National Insurance when making the payment to the worker’s personal service company. The fee payer is simply the person who pays the worker – this may be the end client or a third party, such an agency.

The fee payer must report the pay and deductions to HMRC on a full payment submission under real time information. The submission should indicate that the worker is an off-payroll worker. The fee payer can either use their existing PAYE scheme or open a new one for this purpose.

Calculating the deemed payment

The deemed payment is the amount which is treated as earnings for tax and National Insurance purposes. It is calculated as follows.

  1. Work out the value of payments to the worker’s intermediary having first deducted any VAT charged.
  2. Deduct the direct cost of materials that have or will be used by the worker in providing his or her services.
  3. Deduct any expenses that would be deductible for tax purposes if the worker was employed.
  4. The resulting amount is the deemed payment.

If the result of the above calculation is nil or negative, there is no deemed payment.

What do the changes mean for contractors?

If you provide services through a personal service company, the new rules will affect you if you provide your services to a medium or large private sector organisation. You will no longer be responsible for deciding whether the IR35 rules apply – instead your client will determine your employment status, and provide you with a copy of their determination. If you do not agree, you can appeal. This should be done in writing to your client explaining why you disagree with their determination. Your client has 45 days to respond. It is sensible to undertake your own determination using the CEST tool.

Where the rules apply, you will no longer be paid gross – the fee payer will deduct tax and National Insurance from payments made to your intermediary (although you will receive credit for the tax and National Insurance paid when working out the tax and National Insurance that you owe).

If you supply your services to clients that are small, the new rules will not affect you. You should continue to apply the IR35 rules as now.

Contractors operating through personal service companies or other intermediaries are advised to check that they are complying with IR35 – where a worker is found to be within the off-payroll working rules post 6 April 2020, HMRC may look carefully for compliance with IR35 prior to that date. Now is the time to check that your house is in order. If you are within the new rules, you may also wish to consider whether it remains beneficial to supply your services via an intermediary, or whether going on-payroll is a lot less hassle.

Plan ahead

Engagers and contractors should plan ahead for the changes and make sure that they understand how the new rules will work and the impact that they will have on you or your organisation.

That said, it would appear that the new rules are not yet set in stone. On the 2nd of December while speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Money Box programme Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, pledged to review the off-payroll IR35 legislation. Mr. Javid said:

“I want to make sure that the proposed changes are right to take forward. We’ve already said that we’re on the side of self-employed people. We will be having a review and I think it makes sense to include IR35 in that review.”

MTD – announces more time for digital links…what does this mean?

MTD – announces more time for digital links…what does this mean?

On 17 October HMRC made a much-welcomed announcement that some businesses will qualify for an extension to the MTD for VAT (MTDfV) existing twelve months ‘soft-landing’ period.

The basics

In order to explain the significance of the extension, it is best to reprise some of the basics of what is required in order to achieve compliance with MTDfv.

Specifically, the need for a VAT-registered entity with annual VATable turnover greater than £85k, to keep digital VAT records and file MTD-compliant VAT returns.

HMRC’s view

Section 4 of HMRC VAT notice 700/22 ‘Making Tax Digital for VAT’ covers the requirements for digital record keeping, a fundamental of ensuring compliance with MTD.

  • Almost all VAT registered businesses with annual VAT-able turnover in excess of £85K are required to comply with MTDfV rules.
  • To achieve compliance, they must keep and preserve certain records and accounts digitally within functional compatible software.
  • Functional compatible software can be a software program, or set of software programs, products or applications, that must be able to:
    • record and preserve digital records (see paragraph 4.3);
    • provide to HMRC information and returns from data held in those digital records by using the API platform; and
    • receive information from HMRC using the API platform.

With only limited exceptions, once VAT data has been digitally recorded into a business’ chosen accounting software any subsequent transfer, recapture or modification of it must be carried out using digital links.

While for many, everything required to achieve compliance can be done from within third-party software. For others, it can mean resorting to transferring data between disparate pieces of software in order to achieve compliance. With each piece of software needing to be ‘digitally linked’, to create a digital journey ending with the submission of an MTD-compliant VAT return.

Digital links

Section 4.2 .1 of 700/22 describes a ‘digital link’ as, “…. a transfer or exchange of data is made, or can be made, electronically between software programs, products or applications”.

Digital links includes:

  • linked cells in spreadsheets;
  • emailing a spreadsheet containing digital records so the information can be imported into another software product;
  • transferring a set of digital records onto a portable device (for example, a pen drive, memory stick, or flash drive) and physically giving this to someone else who then imports that data into their software;
  • XML, CSV import and export, and downloads and uploads of files; and
  • automated data transfers.


In the context of MTDfV, a soft-landing period is an amnesty period during which, provided a VAT registered entity required to comply with MTDfV regulations has tried its best to satisfying the digital links rules, and that for reasons such as their software providers are still working on delivering the required functionality, has found it impractical to comply, no penalty for non-compliance will be issued.

Prior to the launch of MTDfV, HMRC announced there would be one-year soft-landing period for all businesses who, after trying, were initially unable meet the legal requirement for digital links. The period-of-soft-landing was, and remains to be, an essential element of ensuring a smooth roll out of MTDfV.

Why…simply…without the soft-landing many businesses, without fully functionally compatible software at the launch of MTDfV, would have been left facing fines for failing to have digital links in place, even though, they and or their software providers were doing their best to ensure that everything required to achieve compliance would be ready as soon as possible. Which, HMRC realised was not a good position to leave those willing to be compliant in.

The initial soft-landing period

For those affected, the initial soft-landing period commenced from the first day, of the first return period, after 31 March 2019 for most mandated businesses, or after 30 September for a small number of deferred businesses. Those with the most complex of VAT affairs.

As announced on 17 October, businesses with complex or legacy IT systems, who are struggling to have digital links in place within the existing one-year soft-landing window, are now able to apply for additional time to put the required digital subject to meeting certain qualifying criteria.

Where a business qualifies, the additional time will be granted as a specific direction from HMRC.

It’s important to note that there is no blanket extension to the soft-landing period and it appears that HMRC will take a fairly strict line on who does and doesn’t qualify.

Why the extension

Many businesses use bespoke software, specifically tailored to their market sector, to manage bookings, keep records, stocks, etc. Where this is the case, it is not uncommon common for there to be a need to manually post totals from one part of a system to another on a weekly, monthly or other basis.

While such transfers will not be acceptable once the soft-landing expires, replacing them with a digital link(s) is proving, for some, to be difficult.

In much the same way, many businesses with internally developed systems are finding they may need additional time to get their, often very different, software packages to talk to each other. This is particularly proving to be the case for VAT registered entities in VAT groups.

In recent months, AAT and its fellow professional bodies have highlighted to HMRC the difficulties some businesses are facing when trying to ensure they have digital links next year.

This is a particular problem in industries that use specialist software, which can often be difficult (or even impossible) to link to accounting and VAT systems.

How generous is HMRC likely to be?

While any business can apply for an extension, they will only get one if HMRC accept that one is needed.

Section 4.2 .1.3 sets out various criteria which need to be met for digital link deadline extensions. Key amongst these is that it must be “unachievable and not reasonable” to have digital links in place in the normal one-year soft-landing period.

HMRC are very clear that an extension will only be granted in “exceptional circumstances”. The department does not accept that the potential cost of achieving compliance with the digital links requirements is sufficient grounds for applying for an extension.

Furthermore, it expects businesses to make every effort to comply with ‘digital links requirements’.

HMRC examples of what might be considered “unachievable and not reasonable”, include:

  • part of an IT system is incapable of importing and exporting data to or from another part, and it isn’t possible to update or replace it in time; and
  • a business is in the process of updating or replacing its IT system and the planned implementation date is not before the end of the original soft-landing period.

Even where an extension application is granted by HMRC it will not be a permanent relaxation of the requirement for robust end-to-end digital links.

  • Businesses still have to consider how they will put digital links in place and will need to set out a clear explanation and timetable for when and how this will be implemented in their application to HMRC.
  • The length of any extension will be decided on a case by case basis, though HMRC has indicated that they do not expect that this will ordinarily be what businesses should do.

If any business thinks they may benefit from an extension, they should first look at the detail in the VAT Notice whether they meet HMRC’s criteria. If they believe they do, then a formal application has to be made to HMRC. The VAT Notice sets out the information which this must contain, including an explanation it is “unachievable and not reasonable” to have digital links in place by the end of the normal soft-landing period, a map of current VAT systems, a timetable plan to put digital links in place and details of controls for manual transfers of data in the meantime.

Applications have to be submitted before the current soft-landing-on-digital-links expires. Given the amount of information required businesses may want to make a start on their applications sooner rather than later.

Beware the trivial benefits gift card trap

Beware the trivial benefits gift card trap

The tax exemption for trivial benefits is a handy exemption as it allows employers to provide employees with low cost benefits tax-free. However, where the benefit is in the form of the gift card, it is easy to fall foul of the rules inadvertently.

Scope of the exemption

The trivial benefits exemption applies where the cost to the employer of providing the benefit is not more than £50 and the following conditions are met:

  • the benefit is in kind; benefits in the form of cash or a voucher that is redeemable for cash do not count;
  • the benefit is not given in return for work done; and
  • the benefit is not provided under a salary sacrifice or flexible remuneration arrangement.

The value of trivial benefits that can be provided to a director of a close company is capped at £300 per year; otherwise there is no limit on the number of trivial benefits that an employee can enjoy in a tax year.

The problem with gift cards

At first sight, providing an employee with a gift card which is topped up at regular intervals may seem a handy way to take advantage of the trivial benefits exemption. It would be reasonable to assume that as long as each top up is less than £50 and the other conditions for the exemption to apply are met, the top-ups would all be tax-free. However, HMRC take a different view. Their stance is that the benefit of the gift card is a single benefit and the cost of that benefit is the total amount put on the card throughout the tax year.


An employer wishes to take advantage of the trivial benefits exemption and provides an employee with a gift card for a popular store. The initial gift card cost the employer £20. The employer tops up the gift card by a further £20 each month. As each top-up is less than £50, the employer is confident that the trivial benefits exemption applies.

However, HMRC’s position is that the cost to the employer of providing the benefit for the tax year in question is £240 (12 x £20). As this is more than £50, the trivial benefits exemption does not apply. The benefit is taxable as a benefit in kind and is also liable to employer Class 1A National Insurance. It must also be reported to HMRC on the employee’s P11D.

A similar problem could arise with the provision of a season ticket.

Individual benefits

To avoid falling foul of the gift card trap, make sure each benefit is separate from other benefits given to the employee in a tax year. Where gift cards are used, give the employee a separate gift card each time (perhaps varying the type of card), rather than simply topping up an existing card.

Voluntary NICs – Should you pay?

Voluntary NICs – Should you pay?

The single-tier state pension is payable to individuals who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2016. Entitlement to the state pension is dependent on having been paid or credited with sufficient National Insurance contributions. Individuals whose contributions record is insufficient for a full state pension can boost their pension by making voluntary contributions.

Is your contributions record sufficient?

To qualify for the full single tier state pension, you need 35 qualifying years. A reduced state pension is paid to individuals who have less than 35 qualifying years but at least ten. Individuals with less than ten qualifying years are not eligible for a state pension. Only the individual’s own contributions are taken into account – contributions by a spouse or civil partner do not provide any pension entitlement.

Check your state pension

In order to decide whether it is necessary to consider paying voluntary National Insurance contributions, you first need to ascertain your state pension entitlement. This can be done by getting a state pension forecast online. The online service allows an individual to:

  • check how much state pension they could get — their state pension forecast;
  • when they will receive the state pension; and
  • how to increase it, if they can.

The service can only be used by individuals who have not already reached state pension age.

Building up qualifying years

The main way in which a person builds up qualifying years for state pension purposes is via the payment of National Insurance contributions. For the year to be a qualifying year, contributions must be paid in respect of all weeks in that tax year.

Where the individual is employed, it is the payment of primary (employee’s) Class 1 National Insurance contributions that provides the means for building up a contributions record. Although no employee Class 1 contributions are payable until earnings reach the primary threshold (set at £166 per week for 2019/20), contributions are deemed to be paid at a notional zero rate once contributions exceed the lower earnings limit (£118 per week for 2019/20). This means that as long as the employee earns at least £118 per week throughout the tax year, the year will be a qualifying one for state pension purposes.

For the self-employed, it is the payment of Class 2 contributions (set at £3 per week for 2019/20) that provides the mechanism for building up entitlement to the state pension and contributory benefits. The self-employed also pay Class 4 contributions on their profits, but this does not confer any pension or benefit entitlement.

Some individuals who are not paying National Insurance contributions may be able to get National Insurance credits. These will help secure qualifying years. Those able to benefit from National Insurance credits include parents and foster parents claiming child benefit for a child under the age of 12, certain people on jobseekers allowance and carers. More information on National Insurance credits can be found on the website.

Topping up with voluntary contributions

Individuals with a shortfall in their contributions record can top it up by paying voluntary (Class 3) National Insurance contributions. Voluntary contributions can be paid to buy additional years or to turn a non-qualifying year into a qualifying year by making voluntary contributions for weeks for which contributions have not been paid or treated as paid.

Class 3 contributions are expensive at £15 per week, so should only be paid where it is beneficial to do so. If a person has, or will have by the time they retire, 35 qualifying years, there is nothing to be gained by paying voluntary contributions. If an individual has slightly less than ten qualifying years, paying voluntary contributions to increase their qualifying years to ten may be worthwhile as this will secure a minimum state pension.

At 2019/20 rates, it will cost £700 (52 weeks @ £15 per week) to buy an additional year – at 2019/20 rates this will increase the state pension by £4.82 a week (£57.04 a year). Thus, a person needs to live at least 12 years and 3 months to recoup the cost of each year of voluntary contributions.

Class 3 contributions must be paid within six years from the end of the tax year to which they relate. Extended time limits apply to certain years.

Class 2 rather than Class 3

The self-employed are only liable to pay Class 2 contributions if their profits exceed the small profits threshold, set at £6,365 for 2019/20. Where profits from self-employment are less than this, Class 2 contributions can be paid voluntarily. If an individual has a shortfall in their contributions record and is eligible but not required to pay Class 2 contributions, at £3 per week for 2019/20, this offers a much cheaper option of plugging a pension shortfall than paying Class 3 contributions of £15 per week.

Next steps

Review your pension forecast and ascertain whether payment of voluntary contributions is worthwhile.

Starting a business? Remember to claim relief for pre-trading expenses

Starting a business? Remember to claim relief for pre-trading expenses

When starting a business, whether as a sole trader, a company or in partnership, there is inevitably a preparatory period before trading commences during which expenditure is incurred in setting up the business. Depending on the nature of the business, the set-up period can be long and complex and the expenditure incurred during this phase may be considerable. It is therefore important that opportunities to claim relief for pre-trading expenditure are not overlooked.

When does trading commence?

To identify any pre-trading expenditure, it is necessary to determine when trading starts and whether expenditure is incurred while trading or prior to trading. The point at which a business starts to trade will not always be clear cut – the transition from set-up to trading may be very gradual, such that it is difficult to pin point the exact point at which trading commenced. HMRC take the view that a trade cannot commence until the trader:

  • is in a position to provide those goods or services which it is, or will be, his or her trade to provide; and
  • does so, or offers to do so, by way of a trade.

Whether or not a trade has commenced, is a matter of fact in each particular case. It is important to note that for trading to have started, the trade does not need to be on a large scale, although the production of a small number of items as a trial run will not necessarily mean that the trade has commenced.

Typical pre-trading expenses

Although the specific expenses that will be incurred in the preparatory period will depend on the nature of the business, typical expenses when setting up a business may include:

  • expenses incurred in securing business premises, whether rented or purchased;
  • computer expenses (hardware and software);
  • website costs;
  • stationery;
  • marketing and promotion;
  • purchase of stock;
  • legal and professional fees;
  • purchase of plant and equipment; and
  • travel expenses.

It is important to distinguish between expenses incurred for the purpose of the business and those which are private expense or which have a mixed-use element. It is also vital to identify whether the expense is capital or revenue in nature as this affects the way in which relief is given.

Relief for expenses

Once the business has started to trade, relief is given for revenue expenses as a deduction from profits to the extent that they are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the business.

As far as capital expenditure is concerned, the mechanism for giving relief depends on whether the trader prepares accounts under the traditional accruals basis or using the cash basis. Where the accruals basis is used, relief for capital expenditure is given in the form of capital allowances (to the extent that the expenditure is qualifying expenditure). By contrast, where accounts are prepared under the cash basis, capital expenditure is deducted in the computation of profits unless the capital expenditure is of a type for which a deduction is expressly prohibited; land, buildings and cars fall into this category.

Expenses incurred pre-commencement

The rules for determining whether a pre-trading expense qualifies for relief mirror those for determining whether relief is available for an expense incurred once trading has begun; an expense incurred prior to the commencement of trading will qualify for relief ,if it would have qualified for relief had it been incurred once trading had commenced. Therefore, for a pre-trading expense to be deductible, it must have been incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade. In addition, the expenditure must have been incurred in the period of seven years before the trade commenced; no relief is available for expenditure incurred prior to this. Where the set-up period is likely to be long, this should be borne in mind.

Care should be taken, particularly where the accruals basis is used, in relation to expenses paid in advance, such as rent or insurance paid prior to the commencement of the trade which relates to a period after the trade has begun. Under the accruals basis, such expenses would be relievable as trading expenses once the trade has commenced, and consequently do not count as pre-trading expenses. Likewise, no relief is given under the pre-trading expenses rules for stock purchased before the start of the trade, as the cost of stock is deducted in calculating profits once the trade has started.

The relief is available for both income tax and corporation tax purposes.

How relief is given

Relief for qualifying pre-trading expenses incurred in the seven years prior to the start of the trade is given by treating the expenses as if they were incurred on the first day of trading. In this way, the expenses are deducted in computing the profits of the first accounting period.

Availability of capital allowances

As noted above, where accounts are prepared using the accruals basis, relief for capital expenditure is given by means of capital allowances. Where accounts are prepared in this way, any capital expenditure incurred in the seven years before the start of the trade which is of a type that qualifies for capital allowances, is treated as having been incurred on the first day of trading. Capital allowances (whether the annual investment allowance or writing down allowances) can be claimed for the first accounting period.

Necessity of keeping good records

In order to maximise the relief for pre-trading expenses, it is necessary to know what those expenses are when they were incurred. Good record keeping is therefore essential. If you are thinking of setting up a business, keep a record of everything that you spend. You should also keep invoices and receipts to back up the expenditure. Setting up a separate business bank account as early as possible is also a good idea to keep expenditure on the business separate from any private expenditure.

Can you claim small business rate relief?

Can you claim small business rate relief?

Business rates are payable on non-domestic properties such as offices, shops and factories. The rates are worked out on the rateable value of the property, but there are various reliefs available including small business rate relief. The relief is not given automatically and many businesses may be overpaying, not realising they are entitled to the relief. However, all is not lost; claims for relief can be made retrospectively, giving rise to a repayment of overpaid business rates.

The business rates calculation

Business rates are worked out by applying the relevant multiplier (set in terms of pence in the pound) to the rateable value of the property. The most recent valuation took place in 2015 and is used as the basis for business rate calculations from April 2017 onwards. You can check the rateable value of your business property online. The rateable value is based on the annual rent that could be expected to be received if the property were let on a commercial basis.

In England there is a standard multiplier and a small business multiplier. The standard multiplier, set at 50.4p for 2019/20, applies to business properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or more. The small business multiplier, applying to business properties with a rateable value below £51,000, is set at 49.1p for 2019/20. The multipliers for the City of London are higher – the standard multiplier is 51p and the small business multiplier is 49.7p. In Wales, there is a single multiplier of 52.6. So, for example, the annual business rates for a property with a rateable value of £20,000 outside London would be £9,820 – found by applying the small business multiplier of 49.1p to the rateable value of £20,000.

Small business rate relief

In England, small business rate relief is available where the business has only one property and the rateable value of that property is less than £15,000.

Full relief is available where the rateable value is less than £12,000 – business with a single property which has a rateable value of less than £12,000 pay no business rates.

Taper relief is available where the rateable value is between £12,001 and £15,000. The taper reduces the amount of relief from 100% for properties with a rateable value of £12,000 to 0% for properties with a rateable value of £15,000.

The percentage reduction is found by applying the following formula:

(£15,000 – x) / (£15,000 – £12,000) x 100%.


A small business operates from offices with a rateable value of £12,750. The business is based in Norfolk.

The business rates before deducting small business relief are found by applying the small business multiplier of 49.1p to the rateable value of £12,750, giving a figure of £6260.25.

Taper relief is available. The percentage reduction is 75%.

Thus, applying small business relief reduces the business rates by 75% to £1,565.06.

Claim the relief

Unless a claim is made, the business will not benefit from the relief. The claim must be made to the relevant council, either in writing or online. Once a claim is made, it will apply to future years.

Claims can be backdated, so check bills since the start of the current system in April 2017. Many businesses do not realise that small business rates relief is not given automatically and may be due sizeable repayments. Unless a claim is made, they will continue to overpay.

File your tax return by 30 December

File your tax return by 30 December

The 2018/19 self-assessment tax return must be filed online by midnight on 31 January 2020 if a late filing penalty is to be avoided. A later deadline applies where the notice to file a return was not given until after 31 October 2019 – in this case the deadline is three months after the date of the notice. However, it can be beneficial to file your tax return by 30 December 2019 rather than waiting until 31 January 2020.

Why file by 30 December?

Filing your 2018/19 tax return online by 30 December 2019 may mean that any underpayment can be collected through an adjustment to your tax code. This may be preferable to having to pay it in one instalment by 31 January 2020; instead collection of the underpayment is spread throughout the following tax year.

The option to have tax collected through the tax code is available where:

  • the return is filed online by 30 December 2019 or a paper return was filed by 31 October 2019;
  • the underpayment is less than £3,000; and
  • the taxpayer already pays tax under PAYE, for example, because they are an employee or because they receive a company pension.

However, HMRC will not collect an underpayment via an adjustment to a tax code if the taxpayer does not have sufficient PAYE income to allow for the repayment or if as a result of coding out the underpayment, the taxpayer would pay more than 50% of their PAYE income in tax or would pay more than twice as much tax on their PAYE income as they would do otherwise.

No need to tell HMRC you want an underpayment coded out

Where the tax return is submitted online by the 30 December deadline and the conditions for coding out an underpayment are met, HMRC will automatically adjust the taxpayer’s tax code for 2020/21 to collect the underpayment for 2018/19.

If you have just been organised in filing your tax return ahead of time and do not want an underpayment coded out, you must let HMRC know by ticking the relevant box on your tax return.

How does the adjustment work?

The underpayment is collected by grossing it up at the taxpayer’s marginal rate of tax and treating it as a deduction from the personal allowances to which the taxpayer is entitled. For example, if an employee has a tax underpayment of £300 for 2018/19 relating to, say, dividend income and the taxpayer pays tax at 40%, the relevant adjustment to the tax code is £750 (£750 @ 40% = £300). Assuming the taxpayer has a personal allowance of £12,500 for 2020/21 and no other adjustments to their code, their allowances will be reduced by £750 to £11,750, giving rise to a tax code for 2020/21 of 1175L.

The underpayment is collected in equal instalments over the course of the tax year – where the employee is paid monthly, the £300 underpayment would be collected in 12 instalments of £25. This may be much less painful than paying it all in one hit.

Action point

Consider whether it would be beneficial to file your tax return by midnight on 30 December 2019 to enable a tax underpayment to be deducted from your pay.

Parties and Presents

Parties and Presents

The taxman is not entirely lacking in Christmas spirit and the tax system features a number of exemptions which enable employers to put on a party for staff or to give employees a seasonal gift without triggering an unwanted tax liability. However, the taxman’s generosity is limited, and the message here is to keep it modest.

Staff Christmas parties

Although there is no specific exemption for Christmas parties, there is one for annual parties and functions and it is this exemption which provides the opportunity for staff – and their guests – to enjoy a Christmas party without being hit with tax charge once the decorations have been packed away. As with all exemptions, availability is contingent on the associated conditions being met.

Function must be an annual function

As far as the tax exemption is concerned, not all functions are equal. The tax exemption only applies to annual parties and functions. Consequently, if you hold a staff Christmas party every year, it is possible to take advantage of the exemption to keep it tax-free. However, if the Christmas party is not a regular occurrence and you decide to hold a party for staff this year as a one-off, for example to celebrate a successful year, the exemption will not apply and your employees will be taxed on the resulting benefit in kind.

Exempt amount capped at £150 per head

The exemption only applies to an annual function if the cost per head is £150 or less including VAT. This is simply the total cost of the function divided by the total number of people attending, including both employees and any guests. If accommodation or transport is also provided, these are taken into account in working out the total cost of the function. VAT is also included, even if this is subsequently recovered where the employer is VAT-registered.

If there is only one annual function in the tax year, it will be tax and National Insurance free as long as the cost per head figure is not more than £150.

Exceeding the £150 per head limit

The £150 per head figure is an exemption not an allowance and if the cost of the function is more than £150 per head, the total amount is taxable, not just the excess over £150. This means that if the cost per head is £155 per head, an employee attending alone would be treated as receiving a taxable benefit with a taxable value of £155. Where an employee attends with a partner, the employee is taxed on their partner’s attendance too – in this case the taxable benefit would be £310. The employer will also face a Class 1A National Insurance charge where the provision of the party is taxable on employees as a benefit in kind.

Going slightly over the £150 cost per head limit can be expensive – there is no tax or employer-only Class 1A National Insurance to pay for an annual party where the cost per head is £149; however, the story is very different if it creeps up to £151 per head. The moral here is to keep a close eye on the costs.

More than one annual function

Where there is more than one annual function in the year, the exemption can be allocated in such a way as to minimises the overall tax bill. Annual functions will all be tax-free as long as the total cost of all the functions is not more than £150 per head. For example, if a company holds an annual Christmas party costing £50 per head and a summer barbecue costing £40 per head, both will remain tax free as the total cost per head figure of £90 is less than the permitted £150.

If the total cost of all functions is more than £150, the exemption can cover whole functions in such a way as to give the best result. For example, if there are three annual functions costing respectively, £70 per head, £60 per head and £40 per head, at first sight the exemption is best applied to the £70 and £60 functions (a total cost of £130 per head). The remaining £20 is lost as it cannot be set against the £40 per head function – only whole functions can qualify for the exemption.

The best result may be different if guests are invited to some functions but not to others. In the last example, if the employees bring a guest to the £40 function, the exemption is best utilised against the £70 and £40 per head events. Leaving the £40 function in charge will mean that the employee suffers a taxable benefit of £80 (£40 for the employee and £40 for their guest); leaving the £60 function in charge reduces the total taxable benefit to £60. There is no substitute for doing the sums.

Consider a PSA

If a taxable benefit arises in respect of the staff Christmas party, either because the function is not an annual function or because the cost per head figure exceeds the £150 exempt limit, consider using a PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA) to settle the tax liability on behalf of your employees to preserve the goodwill gesture. A PSA is an agreement with the tax inspector under which the employer pays the tax and associated National Insurance on behalf of their employees. Information on using a PSA can be found online.

Deduct the cost in computing profits

The general prohibition on tax deductions for entertainment expenses does not apply to staff entertaining. Consequently, the costs of holding a staff Christmas party can be deducted in computing the employer’s taxable business profits.

Seasonal gifts

At Christmas, businesses may wish to show their appreciation by making gifts to staff and to customers and suppliers. The rules on gifts can be quite complicated and it is important to understand when a tax charge may arise on the recipient and what the business can deduct when computing its profits.

Staff gifts

It is possible to give staff small seasonal gifts without triggering an associated tax charge. Typical gifts would include a bottle of wine, a small hamper, a box of chocolates and suchlike. The relevant exemption here is the one for trivial benefits which enables employees to enjoy small non-cash benefits costing not more than £50. Unless the employee is a director of a close company, there is no limit on the number of tax-free gifts of £50 and under that an employee can enjoy each year; for close company directors, there is a £300 annual limit.

There are conditions which must be met for the exemption to apply. The gifts must not be in cash or in the form of a cash voucher and it must cost you £50 or less to provide. Further, the gift cannot be reward for services, and there must be no contractual obligation to provide it. Keeping seasonal gifts within the trivial benefits exemption will prevent a tax charge from arising.

Detailed guidance on the trivial benefits exemption can be found in HMRC’s Employment Income Manual.

Cash gifts and cash vouchers are liable to PAYE and employer and employee National Insurance.

If a tax liability does arise, for example because the cost is more than £50, it will be taxed on the employee as a benefit in kind and will need to be reported to HMRC on the employee’s P11D. An employer-only Class 1A National Insurance liability will also arise. Again, the employer could consider using a PSA to meet the liability on behalf of the employees.

As with staff parties, the employer can deduct the cost of staff gifts when computing their taxable profits.

Gifts to third parties

It is also traditional at Christmas to give a small gift to key customers and suppliers as a ‘thank you’. However, the rules here are harsh; gifts the third parties are deemed to be entertaining in respect of which a tax deduction is denied. There is however a workaround – the gift will be tax deductible if the cost does not exceed £50 per person per tax year and it features a conspicuous advert for the business. In addition, it cannot be food, drink or tobacco (or a voucher exchangeable for food, drink or tobacco). Consequently, to benefit from a deduction for gifts to third parties, go for a business diary or a pen featuring an advert for the business rather than a bottle of wine.

Keeping it tax-free

To keep Christmas parties and seasonal gifts tax-free, the trick it to keep it small and make use of the available exemptions. Plan ahead and make sure that the cost figures do not creep up.

Have you got your EORI number?

Have you got your EORI number?

UK businesses will need an ‘Economic Operator Registration Identification’ (EORI) number to trade with the EU after Brexit.

If there is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit

In the event that the UK leaves the EU on 31 October 2019 without a deal, businesses will need an EORI number that starts with GB to move goods in and out of the UK.

An EORI consists of a 12-digit number following the GB prefix. It includes the VAT registration number where the business is VAT registered.

How do we get an EORI number?

Depending on whether a business is registered for VAT, an EORI number may be issued automatically or, where this is not the case, the business can apply for one.

When is an EORI number issued automatically?

In August and early September, HMRC sent out EORI numbers automatically to businesses that are registered for VAT and which had not previously applied for an EORI number. If you are VAT registered, check that you have received your number.

How do we apply?

Where a business is not registered for VAT, and it is likely that it will want to move goods in and out of the UK post Brexit, it will need to apply for an EORI number.

The application can be done online. The process is straightforward and should take less than 10 minutes, with the EORI number being sent out within 5 working days. Unless, HMRC need to undertake additional security checks.

Trading with Ireland

An EORI number is not needed if goods are only moved between Northern Ireland and Ireland. However, one is required for imports and exports that move directly between Ireland and Great Britain without going through Northern Ireland.

EU EORI numbers

Businesses that want to trade with the EU post-Brexit will need an EU EORI number, starting with the country code of the EU country that they wish to trade with. This should be obtained from the Customs authority of the EU country that the business will first trade with post Brexit.

Stay up to date

Brexit is something of a moveable first. The Government will update the guidance to reflect any changes. Check the website and register for email alerts.

Happy anniversary — auto-enrolment’s third anniversary obligations

Happy anniversary — auto-enrolment’s third anniversary obligations

Auto-enrolment is now up well and truly up and running, and the obligations that it imposes on employers are on-going. The most notable being, employers must undertake a re-enrolment and re-declaration exercise every three years.

Re-enrolment and re-declaration are legal duties and employers may be fined for non-compliance.

What employers must do

All employers must complete a triennial review where they will need to choose a re-enrolment date, assess and re-enrol certain staff, write to them to confirm their intended actions and complete a re-declaration of compliance.

Re-enrolment duties must be completed approximately three years after the original automatic enrolment staging date.

At the time, employers must complete a re-declaration of compliance to tell the Pensions Regulator (TPR) how you have completed your duties.

Re-enrolment and the re-declaration of compliance are legal duties. With failure to comply within the approved timescale punishable by a fine.

Four basic steps

There are four basic steps to the re-enrolment process but, as always, the ‘devil is in the detail’.

1. Choose a re-enrolment date

The re-enrolment date is the date by which an employer’s staff will have been reassessed for re-enrolment.

There is a six month ‘window’ that starts three months before, and ends three months after, the third anniversary of the original staging date (the relevant dates can be found in the correspondence that will be received from the Pensions Regulator).

2. Assess and re-enrol staff

Staff who must be assessed, with a record the assessment activity held on file:

  • All staff who have opted out of the pension scheme;
  • Left the pension scheme after the end of the opt-out period;
  • Remained in the pension scheme but have chosen to reduce the level of pension contributions to below the minimum level; and
  • Who meet the age and earnings criteria to be re-enrolled.

It is possible to leave out staff member who, on the chosen re-enrolment date:

  • Are already in the pension scheme used for automatic enrolment;
  • Are aged 21 or under;
  • Have reached, or passed, state pension age;
  • Have not yet met the age and earnings criteria for automatic enrolment; or
  • Have had their re-enrolment postponed.

Note: Postponement (whereby it is possible to delay payments for up to 3 months) cannot be used with automatic re-enrolment. If the eligible jobholder criteria have been met by an employee on the automatic re-enrolment date, automatic re-enrolment must take place with effect from that date.

3. Write to staff who have been re-enrolled

Employers must write within six weeks of their re-enrolment date to advise that they are to be reinstated into an auto-enrolment pension scheme. An eligible jobholder then has a one-month period, after automatic re-enrolment, during which they may choose to opt out.

A letter template is available on The Pension Regulator’s website.

4. Complete the re-declaration of compliance

A declaration of compliance must be completed within five months of the third anniversary of the staging date.

This is a legal duty. Whereby, an employer must confirm that they have fulfilled their re-enrolment duties. The re-declaration of compliance must be completed regardless of whether the employer has any staff to re-enrol.

The re-declaration of compliance can be filed online.

Understanding your obligations

It is important that employers understand their on-going obligation under auto-enrolment, as penalties for non-compliance can be high. If you are in any doubt, please contact us.

Outstanding director’s loan – clear the loan or pay the ‘Section 455’ charge?

Outstanding director’s loan – clear the loan or pay the ‘Section 455’ charge?

As a company approaches its corporation tax due date, a decision needs to be taken whether to clear any director’s loan account balance remaining outstanding from the year end or whether to pay the ‘Section 455’ charge.

Nature of ‘Section 455’ charge

The ‘Section 455 charge’ (imposed by CTA 2010, s. 455) arises where a loan to a director or participator in a close company remains outstanding on the corporation tax due date nine months and one day after the year end.

According to HMRC, “The purpose of the s455 tax charge is to deter companies from making untaxed loans to their participators rather than paying remuneration or dividends which are chargeable as income”.

The rate of ‘Section 455’ tax is the same as the higher dividend rate, currently 32.5%.

A temporary tax

‘Section 455’ tax is unusual in that it is a temporary tax – it is refundable (usually by offset against the main corporation tax liability) nine months and one day after the end of the period in which the loan was repaid.

Is it worth clearing the loan?

The answer, is that it depends. Not all repayments are equal and the repayment mechanism may trigger its own tax liabilities, which may be higher than the ‘Section 455’ tax.

Ways to clear a director’s loan account

  • Using personal funds

  • Where a director has sufficient funds at their disposal, outside of their company, introducing those funds for offset against the overdrawn director’s loan account will normally be a cheaper option, tax wise, provided that accessing the cash, in the first place, does not trigger any additional tax liabilities elsewhere.

  • Declaring a dividend

  • If the company has sufficient retained profits, within its reserves, another option would be for it to declare a dividend to offset against the overdrawn director’s loan account, to either reduce or even clear the loan account balance.

    If the dividend falls within a taxpayer’s:

    • Basic rate band, their income tax charge will be at 7.5%, considerably less than the rate of the ‘Section 455’ tax.

    • Higher rate tax band, the tax payable on the dividend will be 32.5%, the same rate as the ‘Section 455’ tax.

    • However, as the dividend tax incurred will be lost for good, in some circumstances it may be preferable to leave the loan outstanding and pay the ‘Section 455’ tax.

    • Additional rate band, in the short run paying the ‘Section 455’ tax will be the cheaper option.

  • Paying a bonus

  • Another option available is to pay a bonus to clear a director’s loan account. However, while deductible for corporation tax purposes, it will attract income tax and Class 1 National Insurance costs.

Do the sums

There is no substitute for crunching the numbers. The decision as to whether it is better to pay the ‘Section 455’ tax or clear a director’s overdrawn loan account will depend on each director’s personal circumstances.

Talk to us we’re here to help you through the tax maze.

Beat the changes to main residence ancillary reliefs

Beat the changes to main residence ancillary reliefs

From 6 April 2020, two of the reliefs associated with the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) main residence relief are to be significantly curtailed. Therefore, if you are likely to be affected and are currently considering disposing of a potentially affected property, it may be prudent to sell, before 6 April 2020 rather than on or after that date to benefit from the current, more generous, reliefs.

The benefit of being an ‘only or main residence’

Any gain arising on the sale of a residence which has been the owner’s ‘only or main residence’ for the whole period of ownership is exempt from CGT.

However, currently, there are additional ‘generous’ CGT reliefs available if the residential property has been the only or main residence for some, if not all of the period, of ownership.

‘Final period exemption’

Where a property has at some point been the owner’s only or main residence, the final period of ownership is exempt from CGT.

The final period is currently set at 18 months, with a longer period of 36 months applying where the person making the disposal is a disabled person or a long-term resident in a care home.

Reduction in final period

From 6 April 2020, the final period exemption will be halved to nine months (although it will remain at 36 months for disposals by long-term care home residents and disabled persons). This change will potentially bring more of a taxable gain into the scope of CGT.

‘Lettings relief’

Lettings relief’ is a valuable relief currently available on the disposal of a property which at some point during the period of ownership has both been rented out and occupied by the owner(s) as their main residence. In its current form, letting relief can remove gains of up to £40,000 per person from a charge to CGT.

Current rules

Under the rules, in place until the end of the 2019/20 tax year, the amount of lettings relief available is the lowest of the following three amounts:

  • the amount of private residence relief available on the disposal;
  • £40,000; and
  • the gain attributable to the letting.

The relief applies regardless of the whether the landlord lives, or lived, in the property while it was rented out.

Reduced relief from 6 April 2020

From 6 April 2020, lettings relief will only be available where the landlord shares occupancy with the tenant(s).

The restricted relief will be available to relieve a gain that would otherwise be subject to CGT because it relates to the part of the main residence that has been let out as residential accommodation.

Where the relief applies, the gain is only chargeable to the extent that it exceeds the lower of:

  • the amount of the gain sheltered by private residence relief; and
  • £40,000.

Beat the changes

If you are considering selling a current or former letting property it would be wise to seek advice from us. It is likely, depending on your individual circumstances, that we will tell you that in order to benefit from the current, more generous reliefs, you should aim to, at the very least, have exchanged contracts before 6 April 2020.

Loan Charge Reporting Requirements – Navigating the Minefield

Loan Charge Reporting Requirements – Navigating the Minefield

You will no doubt be aware the loan charge is upon us, and this article highlights what you need to know.

UPDATE: Since this article was written, Boris Johnson has announced a review into the government’s controversial loan charge following sustained pressure from campaigners, MPs and the House of Lords. As a result, proposed dates and/or details below may change accordingly.

What Is It All About?

An estimated 50,000 workers, mostly contractors, were paid by way of a modest salary, topped up with a loan, as a way to reduce their income tax and national insurance contributions.

Although this has been described as a ‘loan’, in reality the amounts advanced were never intended to be repaid.

HMRC maintains it never approved these schemes, asserting that they do not work, and referring to such loan schemes as ‘disguised remuneration’.

2019 Loan Charge

Effective from April 2019, the tax department, supported by the UK government, introduced a charge (loan charge) on unrepaid loans that contractors received instead of salaried payments.

This loan charge combines all outstanding loans accrued over the course of up to 20 years and taxes them as income in one year.

Those affected will have to pay by the end of January 2020.

Employment-Based Schemes

A UK Based Employer

UK based employers were required to declared outstanding loan amounts by April 15th, 2019 at the latest, via their RTI returns, with all associated income tax, national insurance and student loan repayment amounts paid to HMRC by April 22nd .

Subsequently, assuming the employer operated the scheme in the first place, the employee must ‘make good’ (reimburse) the tax and national insurance to their employer by July 5th, 2019.

Failure to make good will give rise to a taxable benefit in kind, reportable as part of the 2018/19 P11D return.

It is immediately apparent that most those affected would rather incur a P11D benefit charge than repay the amount in full to their employers.

Great Care

There are two instances where great care is needed:

  1. Where not all of the tax has been made good to the employer

The way that the legislation is written (ITEPA 2003 s.222) is as an ‘all or nothing’ scenario. This means an employee who pays back some or most, but not all of their liability will face a P11D tax liability on the full amount paid by the employer.

  1. Where the employer cannot afford to pay

Under Reg 81(4) of the PAYE regulations, the tax liability could get transferred to the employee, where the employer is unable to pay.

While an employee ends up paying all the tax themselves, they still incur an ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Too Late

HMRC maintains that, provided they were advised by July 4th, 2019 that an employee wished to pay the loan charge tax to them rather than to their employer, they would not seek to apply the ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Furthermore, the department promised to refund anything the employer had previously paid over.

Offshore Employer

In the event of an employer either being situated abroad or no longer in existence, beneficiaries of the loan scheme must report any outstanding loans to HMRC by September 30th 2019.

To help, HMRC has established an online process supported by a paper form for those who are less tech-savvy.

Be Careful

Failure to report the details for all outstanding loans by September 30th 2019 may render a person liable to penalties. However, it is anticipated they will only be charged in the most severe cases.

Individuals must also report their outstanding loans as part of the 2018/19 self-assessment tax return filing process. The amount of the outstanding loans should be disclosed in box 21, located under the ‘Disguised Remuneration’ section of form SA101Self-assessment: additional information’.

Do not forget that where an affected person has not previously been required to file a self-assessment tax return, the standard section 7 (Taxes Management Act 1970) requirement to notify chargeability by October 5th following the end of the tax year concerned applies.

Remember also that the loan charge is a one-off charge. Therefore, a claim to reduce future payments on account may be in point

Trade-based schemes

The basic process for dealing with trade-based schemes is similar to the employee scenario.

Where individuals are still trading, they should include outstanding loan amounts from trade-based schemes in box 75.1 under the ‘Disguised Remuneration Additions To Profits’ section of the self-employed supplementary pages (SA103 (full)) of their self-assessment tax return.

For those whose trading activity ceased before 2018/19, they should complete boxes 22 to 24 of form SA101 as appropriate.

Those in trade-based schemes will need to elect for any APNs (accelerated payment notices) to be set against the loan charge liability. At the time of writing, further HMRC guidance on the offsetting of APN’s is expected in due course.

Difficulty in Paying

Anyone who believes they will have difficulty paying the resultant tax must still complete and submit a tax return. They will otherwise be liable for failure to notify and subject to late filing penalties in addition to the loan charge.

Once the self-assessment tax return has been filed, and HMRC is aware of the extent of any loan charge debt, the department should be contacted to agree on a manageable payment plan. Their agreement will depend on an individual’s circumstances, and there is no upper time limit on how long payments can potentially be spread.

If things are left until after the January 31st, 2020 payment deadline, individuals may have to consult with HMRC’s debt management team directly about next steps.

Off-Payroll Working in The Private Sector – The Ticking Timebomb

Off-Payroll Working in The Private Sector – The Ticking Timebomb

While you might have been entertained over the last two years by the IR35-related tribunals involving celebrities such as Lorraine Kelly and Christa Ackroyd, a more significant issue closer to home has been looming large on the tax landscape. HMRC is planning to roll out their public sector version of ‘off-payroll’ working to the private sector.

Although this might risk being blown off course by the ongoing Brexit uncertainty, all medium and large private sector businesses employing off-payroll workers (contractors and freelancers) will feel the impact of the new off-payroll working rules when they become mandatory in April 2020.

As a signal-of-intent, HMRC published a consultation document on March 5th, 2019 aimed at seeking views on how the off-payroll working rules will work. This period of consultation concluded on May 28th, 2019.

Importantly, it proposed some changes to the existing public sector legislation and promised that any resulting amendments would be reverse-engineered into the 2017 public sector legislation.

Relief for Small Businesses

One piece of good news in response to feedback from AAT and other relevant parties is that HMRC has excepted operators of ‘small businesses’ from any requirement to implement the proposed rules.

HMRC has indicated that the definition of a small business will be in line with the Companies Act definition:

  • Annual turnover: less than £10.2m;
  • Balance sheet total: less than £5.1m;
  • Number of employees: less than 50.

While the definition may be apparent for companies, the definition of ‘small business’ for un-incorporated entities still needs to be adequately defined. Moreover, although the wording in the recent consultation document concerning the core deciding-components appears to be the same, what remains unclear is just how they are to be applied.

You Must Decide

According to the consultation document, it will be your responsibility (the ‘engaging party’) to determine whether or not a contractor is an IR35 deemed worker, based on the terms of the engagement.

You will also be expected to set out the reasons for reaching a particular decision, as well as working out the practicalities, how you will be required to share this information with other parties within the supply chain and even directly with the contractor.

A New Improved CEST

To help you determine a worker’s employment status, HMRC is to revamp its much-criticised Check Employment Status Tool (CEST) tool. As part of the revision exercise, it has promised to consult with interested parties to improve the way that CEST currently works.

It will be interesting to see how the department will rise to the challenge of addressing the full range of different concerns about the existing operational shortfalls levelled at CEST. One key area of interest is the Mutuality of Obligation (MOO), and the department’s ability to improve this will be seen by many as a critical test.

Who Is Responsible?

As can be expected, any party in a lengthy supply chain that fails to meet its obligations under the proposed legislation will, at least in the first instance, be held liable by HMRC for any monies due.

However, in a move intended to protect the public purpose, HMRC proposes that any liability will transfer back up the supply chain where HMRC finds itself unable to recover the monies due. This may ultimately fall back on you in some instances. In HMRC’s view, this, therefore, requires that the right incentives are in place so that all parties in the supply chain not only comply but are also ensuring the compliance of others further down the line.

Right of Appeal

HMRC is also promising to introduce a statutory appeal process. The absence of any such process in the 2017 public sector legislation left many workers exposed to inappropriate decisions and even the subject of a blanket employment status decision without a right of appeal. This was seen as a severe oversight in AAT’s opinion.

What Action to Take

You should take steps to ensure that you’re aware of this new change and ask yourself how you might be affected.

As HMRC has only recently closed its consultation response window, the department will still be sifting through a deluge of response, and the final legislation still resembles shifting sands. Consequently, we are issuing a health warning to the effect that nothing is certain until the underpinning legislation has been passed.

Having acknowledged that our advice is built on nothing more robust than the legislative equivalent of these shifting sands, we are outlining the fundaments of what is currently proposed:

  • From April 6th, 2020, medium and large businesses will need to decide whether the rules apply to an engagement with individuals who work through their own company.
  • Where it is determined that the rules do apply, the business, agency, or third party paying the worker’s company will need to deduct income tax and employee NICs and pay employer NICs.
  • HMRC has promised to revamp its CEST tool to help businesses determine whether the off-payroll working rules apply.


We’ll be keeping a close eye on this challenging IR35 issue and closely monitoring future developments, and if there are any updates, we’ll let you know.

A One Year Tax Break for Zero Emission Company Cars

A One Year Tax Break for Zero Emission Company Cars

The UK government recently announced its intention to exempt newly registered zero-emission company cars from a benefit in kind tax charge for one year from April 2020. This exemption underlines the key role that the company car has to play in helping the government achieve its zero emissions ambitions.

The move is also intended to ensure that company car tax rates are not hiked as a result of the introduction of the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP).

WLTP – What’s It All About?

Effective April 2020, WLTP will introduce a new CO2 emission-linked benefit in kind calculator to be applied to all new cars. It has been developed using real driving data gathered from around the world.

The aim is to introduce a universal global test cycle across different world regions. In this way, pollutants, CO2 emissions and fuel consumption values can be compared. This ensuring a level playing field.

WLTP is divided into four different average speeds: low, medium, high and extra high. Each speed has a variety of driving phases. As a result, it is considered more representative of everyday driving.

Intentionally, the new bands have been made more sensitive to changes in CO2 emissions as a way to nudge companies and their employees to opt for lower emission vehicles in the future.

Why the Change?

The new measure is intended to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by encouraging a move towards lower emission vehicles. Whilst this ambition is to be welcomed, the Treasury has acknowledged that the WLTP measure will have significant impact on company car users.

This was also acknowledged in a recent Treasury document which stated:

“Whilst the government’s view is that vehicle tax rates should more closely reflect the environmental impacts of driving, it is important that the transition to WLTP is managed.”

Carefully Managed

In response to this, and following a period of consultation, the government announced that appropriate percentages of new zero emission models will be as follows:

  • Nil in 2020-21;
  • 1% in 2021-22;
  • 2% rate in 2022-23.

By comparison, the appropriate percentage for most other cars registered from 6 April 2020 will be reduced by the following appropriate percentages:

  • 2% in 2020-21;
  • I% in 2021-22;
  • 1% in 2021-22;
  • 1% in 2022-23.

A small number of company cars with the greatest CO2 emissions (170g/km and over) will

continue to attract the maximum appropriate percentage of 37%.

The Treasury has acknowledged:

“Due to the range of WLTP impacts on CO2 emissions, this approach means some [new] conventionally fuelled cars will be liable to pay an equal amount of company car tax as of today, whilst others will pay more, and a small number of models could pay less.”

The government has promised that it will set company car tax rates in advance of the tax year affected by the proposed change. This has normally been the position in recent years.

In addition, it will continue to use the current NEDC-based measure for road tax (graduated vehicle excise duty, VED) for 2020/21. However, a public consultation is planned for later this year to establish the best approach to changing the wider road tax system, but avoid hikes in VED for the majority of car users.


Legislation is to be introduced in the next Finance Bill to amend the Income Tax (Earnings and

Pensions) Act 2003 (ITEPA) in order to reflect the changes to the appropriate percentage(s) that will be applied to the list price of the car.

In Summary

  • A zero rate of BIK tax for ‘zero emission vehicles’ from next April for tax year 2020-21, rising to 1% in 2021-22 and 2% in 2022-23;
  • A 2% reduction in scale charge from next April for cars registered after April 6 2020, with a 1% discount in 2021-22;
  • A freeze on existing 2020-21 BIK rates for the following two years.

The CIS Reverse Charge – Waking the Slumbering Giant

The CIS Reverse Charge – Waking the Slumbering Giant

UPDATE: Since this article was written, HMRC has, in a carefully worded brief, announced the postponement of the introduction of domestic reverse charge for construction services for 12 months to 1 October 2020. As a result, proposed dates below may change accordingly.

There has been much focus in recent months on the delivery of Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV), and the time is now upon us. However, in case you’re thinking about relaxing and just focussing on your standard tax compliance work for the rest of the tax year, be warned.

VAT Domestic Reverse Charge for Building and Construction Services

Otherwise known as the ‘CIS reverse charge’, this will be a significant change to the way VAT will be accounted for in the building and construction industry. Moreover, the change is coming shortly.

Why All the Fuss?

As of October 1st 2019, the responsibility for paying VAT due to HMRC will shift from the supplier to the customer for certain supplies of specified construction services.

The ‘customer’, a VAT-registered main contractor, will be required to withhold the input VAT charged to them by their ‘supplier’, where the supplier concerned is a VAT-registered sub-contractor. The ‘customer’ will then account to HMRC in respect of the VAT withheld, the ‘reverse charge‘.

6 Key Points

  1. The reverse charge applies throughout the supply chain to the point where the customer receiving the supply is no longer considered a business providing construction services.
  1. At the start of a contract, VAT-registered subcontractors should ascertain whether their customer is making payments under CIS rules to establish whether the domestic reverse charge rules apply.
  1. Subcontractors should assume that the reverse charge does not apply if their customer is not making payments according to CIS rules.
  1. Equally, if the customer is applying CIS, then suppliers will be able to use the reverse charge unless their customer has confirmed in writing that they are an ‘end-user’ for reverse charge purposes.
  1. Suppliers’ VAT invoices must outline clearly that their services are subject to the domestic reverse charge, clearly indicate the amount due under the reverse charge, but not include the amount shown as total VAT charged.
  1. For continuous supplies of specified services, invoices with a tax point before October 1st 2019 will be subject to the standard VAT rules, if paid before the December 31st. Invoices with a tax point on or after October 1st 2019 will be subject to the new domestic reverse charge rules.

Why Is HMRC Doing This?

HMRC have implemented the ‘reverse charge’ rule as an anti-fraud measure to prevent potential ‘dodgy’ suppliers from absconding with the VAT they have collected.

HMRC have already deployed the rule successfully in the telecoms industry as a means of preventing carrousel fraud or ‘missing trader fraud intercommunity fraud’ (MTIC).

HMRC and the government have calculated that by the end of the 2023/24 tax year, the new initiative will have collected more than £495m in tax revenues that would otherwise have been lost to the public purse.

When Does It Apply?

The reverse charge will apply all the way along construction industry supply chain up until the point where the customer receiving the supply is no longer considered a business supplying specified services. These businesses/individuals are referred to as the ‘end-user(s)‘.

Services Covered Under CIS

Construction services covered by the reverse charge (the ‘specified services’) are those falling within the definition of ‘construction operations’ under CIS.

GOV.UK provides a list of the following activities that are covered under CIS:

  • A permanent or temporary building or structure;
  • Civil engineering work, e.g. roads and bridges;
  • Site preparation, e.g. the laying of foundations and the provision of access works;
  • Demolition and dismantling;
  • Building work;
  • Alterations, repairs and decorating;
  • The installation of systems for heating, lighting, power, water and ventilation;
  • Post-construction cleaning work inside of buildings.

Services Not Covered Under CIS

Some services are excluded from the reverse charge. For example:

  • Professional work carried out by surveyors, architects or consultants in the building industry;
  • Acquisition and delivery of machinery;
  • Natural gas/oil drilling/extraction activities;
  • Installation of security systems which include closed-circuit television and burglar alarms.


The reverse charge will not bring businesses that supply specified services to connected parties within a corporate group structure or with a common interest in land within scope.

In such circumstances, standard VAT accounting rules apply.

Definition of ‘Deemed Contractors’

While these obligations only apply to those operating in the construction industry, non-construction businesses can be treated as ‘deemed contractors’. Under CIS rules, deemed contractors will be required to report payments if their average annual construction-related expenditure exceeds £1 million over a three-year period.

The obligations are designed to throw a net around those businesses with a significant spend on construction activities such as large retailers and public bodies.

What Needs To Be Done?

By October 1st, businesses operating within the construction industry will need to establish whether they are affected by the reverse charge.

If they indeed decide they affected, then they will need to consider the following:

  • Are they affected in respect of sales, purchases or both?
  • Are their accounting systems and software ready to deal with the reverse charge?
  • What is the potential impact on their cash flow?
  • Are there any additional training requirements for staff?

When settling an account, the VAT-registered customer must:

  • withhold the VAT element of their liability (the reverse charge);
  • account for the VAT withheld to HMRC on its VAT return.


The customer retains the ability to recover the associated input VAT incurred on the same VAT return, subject to standard VAT rules.

In summary, by September 30th:

  • Contractors should review their contracts with sub-contractors to decide whether the reverse charge If it applies, then they should notify their suppliers immediately;
  • Sub-contractors will need to contact their customers to establish if the reverse charge applies. They will also need to determine whether their customer is an end-user or intermediary supplier.


The reverse charge does not apply to consumers or final customers of building and construction services.

Any consumers or final customers who are registered for VAT and CIS will need to ensure their suppliers do not apply the reverse charge on services supplied to them.

Intermediary Suppliers

Intermediary suppliers are VAT, andCISregistered businesses that are considered connected or linked to end-users.

To be considered ‘connected’ or ‘linked to’ end-users, intermediary suppliers must either:

  • share a relevant interest in the same land, where the construction works are taking place, or;
  • be part of the same corporate group or undertaking, as defined in section 1161 of the Companies Act 2006.

If several connected businesses are collaborating to purchase construction services, they are all treated as if they are end-users, and the reverse charge does not apply to their purchases. For example:

  • A property-owning group may buy construction services through one member of the group and recharge those services to either other group companies, their tenants, or both.
  • All the members of the property-owning group and their tenants will be considered end-users, and the reverse charge will apply.

Don’t Underestimate the Impact

You should be under no doubt that from October 1st, the domestic reverse charge will have a significant impact on cash flow management for sub-contracting businesses that are affected by this new rule.

Smaller sub-contractors should pay particular attention since historically smaller sub-contractors have relied on the VAT element of contract payments received to fund their short term cashflow needs.

While in essence, a business is free to use VAT that it has collected as working capital, HMRC would prefer for it to be ringfenced and held on deposit until payment of the related VAT has been made.

Irrespective of your view on the appropriateness of a business using government monies to fund their working capital requirements, as of October 1st, this interest-free source of funds will be withdrawn.

Calls for Delay

With the emphasis on businesses meeting compliance requirements for MTDfV, until recently, there has been scant information regarding its poor relation, the reverse charge. Consequently, there is an ongoing concern amongst those in the know that the construction industry will not be ready on time.

In an attempt to draw attention to this lack of readiness, the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) wrote to HMRC in early August and published a press release calling for the launch to be postponed until April 2020. This would enable the 150,000 affected CIS to prepare for this significant change in accounting for VAT.

Light Touch

In response, HMRC says it recognises the difficulties around implementing the new rules. In response, it has announced that it will apply a ‘light touch’ in dealing with related errors during the first six months.


When supplying a service subject to the domestic reverse charge, suppliers must:

  • show all the information required on a VAT invoice;
  • make a note on the invoice, clearly indicating that the domestic reverse charge applies and that the customer is required to account for the VAT;
  • clearly state how much VAT us due under the reverse charge, or the rate of VAT if the VAT amount cannot be shown, but that VAT should not be included in the amount charged to the customer.

Where software is used to produce invoices and the system cannot show the amount of VAT to be accounted for under the reverse charge, then the invoice should clearly indicate that VAT is to be accounted for by the customer at the appropriate rate, based on the VAT-exclusive selling price for the reverse charge goods or services.

Authenticated Tax Receipt and Self-billing Invoices

Authenticated tax receipts or self-billing invoices must:

  • show the supplier’s name, address and VAT registration number (as well as the usual VAT invoice details);
  • contain the self-billed invoice with the self-billing reference;
  • clearly state the amount of VAT due under the reverse charge, or the rate of VAT if the VAT amount cannot be displayed.

Determining Reverse Charge Treatment of Existing Contracts by The Deadline

In the run-up to the October 1st deadline, businesses with a large number of active contracts that engage sub-contractors at a variety of sites may find it difficult to establish whether or not the reverse charge applies.

For example, a construction group may be considered a property developer on some sites and a building contractor on others, therefore, their status could change.

To avoid uncertainty and delay to payments while each contract is being checked, HMRC has determined that it will be easier for one accounting treatment to be applied to all contracts with a particular sub-contractor.

For example, if a contractor determines that the reverse charge applies to more than 5% of contracts (by volume or value) after examining all its construction contracts with a particular subcontractor, then the reverse charge may be applied to all the contracts.

Switching to Monthly VAT Returns

HMRC acknowledges:

“As a result of the reverse charge, some businesses may find that because they no longer pay the VAT on some of their sales to HMRC, they become repayment traders (their VAT return is a net claim from HMRC instead of a net payment).

Repayment traders can apply to move to monthly returns to speed up payments due from HMRC.”

Asking Customers About End-user or Intermediary Status

If in doubt and where a supplier intends to make a supply, they should ask the customer if they are an end-user or intermediary supplier, ensuring they keep a record of the customer’s answer.

It will be up to the customer to make the supplier aware that they are an end-user or intermediary supplier, and that VAT should be charged in the usual way instead of being subject to a reverse charge.

Sometimes it may be evident that the customer is an end-user. For example, if there is a repeat contract, it will be deemed acceptable for you to charge VAT in the usual way.

Examples of end-users include UK VAT-registered mainstream or deemed contractors. Under CIS rules:

  • They are typically not construction businesses and are found in the retail, manufacturing, utilities and property investment sectors as well as public bodies.
  • Property developers should also be end-users in cases where they do not make onward supplies of building or construction services.
  • Intermediary suppliers can call themselves end-users in all communications and should be in writing (either digitally, or on paper).

HMRC also acknowledges:

“There is no set wording, but this is an example of suitable wording:

We are an end-user for the purposes of section 55A VAT Act 1994 reverse charge for building and construction services. Please issue us with a normal VAT invoice, with VAT charged at the appropriate rate. We will not account for the reverse charge.”

If the reverse charge treatment depends on the customer’s end-user status, and the treatment adopted is found to be incorrect (for example, because the customer is an end-user but has not provided written confirmation resulting in the reverse charge being applied incorrectly) HMRC will expect the customer to notify the supplier that it is an end-user and request a corrected invoice.

In the case of self-billing, a new invoice will have to be issued, and the VAT will have to be paid to the supplier.

Verifying the VAT Status of Customers

Before applying the reverse charge, a supplier must be satisfied that a customer is VAT-registered. Presently, this can be done via the European Commission website.

Verifying a Customer’s CIS registration

It is not necessary to verify the CIS registration of existing customers. If a business holds such evidence, then that evidence should be retained as part of the VAT record. With respect to all new customers, confirmation of registration or a copy of their CIS should be obtained and retained.

Change of VAT Treatment During A Contract

There are occasions during a contract when a customer no longer retains an interest in the land concerned, or a property developer sells a partly completed building but carries on supplying the construction services to the new owner to complete the building.

Where this happens, a customer should notify the supplier that the end-user exclusion no longer applies, and charges for services in future would be subject to reverse charge.

The new treatment will be considered to apply at the point the customer’s circumstances are deemed to have changed.

If this change happens during an invoice period (where there would be one invoice including both reverse charge and standard VAT rules), the supplier can opt to change to the new treatment for the entire invoice period, or wait until the next invoice period before switching to the new treatment.

Transitional Supplies for Authenticated Tax receipts or Self-billed Invoices

For authenticated tax receipts or self-billed invoices, the tax point is usually the date the supplier receives payment.

The transitional arrangements for how the VAT treatment is determined are as follows:

  • For transactions recorded by October 1st, and paid by December 31st, the standard rules apply.
  • For transactions recorded by October 1st, but not paid by December 31st, the domestic reverse charge rules apply.
  • For transaction recorded on or after October 1st, domestic reverse charge rules apply.

Cash Accounting Scheme

The Cash Accounting Scheme cannot be used for the supply of services that are subject to the reverse charge. However, under the reverse charge, no VAT is actually paid by customers to suppliers, so there will be no additional adverse cash flow impact.

The Cash Accounting Scheme can still be used for supplies that are not within the reverse charge. However, as a business will have to pay cash out to make a claim, the scheme may no longer help.

Flat Rate Scheme (FRS)

Reverse charge supplies are not to be accounted for under the FRS scheme. Therefore, users of the scheme will have to consider if it is still beneficial to them when VAT is not being paid to them on some or all of the invoices they issue.

Flat Rate Scheme users who receive reverse charge supplies will have to account for the VAT due to HMRC.


This article only provides the key highlights of the change, and you should be aware of the specific details by visiting the HMRC’s site, which has a helpful section dedicated to ‘VAT: domestic reverse charge for building and construction services’ guidance.

Improve task organisation with this simple concept

Improve Task Organisation with this Simple Concept.

The daily grind, for so many, can feel like a constant juggling act. You attempt to balance work, household chores, bills, family – and hopefully some leisure in between if there’s any time leftover. Trying to find time for things we enjoy – or for projects to improve ourselves – can often feel impossible. It is incredibly frustrating to not move forward with things that you truly value. It’s just as frustrating to get stuck under a tower of tasks that never seems to get any smaller. An online poll by the Mental Health Foundation found that in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope. A report by ACAS, the workplace experts, had similar findings. These included 66% of poll respondents had felt stressed or anxious about work over the past year – and 35% struggling to balance home and work lives. This encouraged us to look for a helpful way to improve task organisation and to make them seem less disheartening. One example is for you to embrace online apps and tools which are available, as they can support your progress in breaking down into manageable segments an expanding task list. This can prevent you from falling into the pattern of trying to complete multiple tasks simultaneously while considering other items that may need to be started soon. This common mistake can lead to us feel overwhelmed. The effort to move forward becomes mentally taxing and stagnates our progress. Some scheduling style techniques, such as Personal Kanban, and post-it note-style tools like Trello boards, encourage you to condense the mass of tasks that you may currently be working on into a more manageable and visually pleasing format. Both strategies encourage breaking down your to-do list into two main areas – which are followed by a done or complete column.

To Do / Options / Ideas

This column (or two columns if you would like to separate your ideas from the general to-do list) should be used for everything you currently have pending. Trello will allow you to organise this further with handy coloured labels and due dates, etc. This list, when viewed alone, can result in our slipping into the habit of trying to tackle as many tasks as possible and struggle to complete tasks at a standard we are happy with.

Doing / in progress

The In Progress list, according to the Personal Kanban, should be restricted to three tasks. This will allow you to focus on the tasks clearly and will give you the ability to complete them without reaching a mental block. Resist the temptation to add any more than three, or to add tasks that should be broken down into multiple tasks. For example, if your task is to start a new business or write a new business strategy, it will obstruct your progress instantly. These need to be broken down further.

Complete / Done

Although this column may appear self-explanatory, not all tasks are indefinitely complete. For example, self-assessment is an annual business task. Once complete, a due date can be added, and, once relevant, the card can be moved back to the To Do column. For the other completed tasks, it is simply rewarding to see them move over to the completed column. Enjoy the sense of satisfaction as the list grows! We hope this simple concept can help you manage your planning and task lists. For further guidance on business and finance-related issues, please contact us today.

Latest Employer Bulletin

Latest Employer Bulletin

The latest edition of HMRC’s Employee Bulletin was issued in June. Topics covered in the bi-monthly magazine, include some of the following:

Please contact us if you would like further guidance on any of the topics covered in the Bulletin.

Workforce preparations for Brexit

Workforce Preparations for Brexit

The government has advised that EU citizens who wish to continue to work, live, or study in the UK, after it leaves the EU on 31 December 2020, should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

An employer toolkit is available to assist with the application and includes posters, videos, and relevant information on how to apply to the scheme. The government has created the toolkit for employers to share when necessary. However, there is no duty to provide the toolkit information or ensure employees have applied.

A recent HMRC Agent Update includes further guidance on employer obligations and states, “employers have a duty not to discriminate against EU citizens in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, both as a prospective and current employer”.

Successful applicants will receive either a settled or pre-settled status. The outcome can be influenced by how long an EU citizen has been living in the UK and, when the application is submitted.

Contact us for more guidance on this matter.

New measures to ensure small businesses get paid on time

New Measures to Ensure Small Businesses Get Paid on Time

A new government measure has been released to target the late payments of large businesses to smaller businesses.

The proposal by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, Small Business Commissioner, includes the following points:

  • The government will consult on increasing the powers of the Small Business Commissioner, with a view to target larger companies who fail to make payments on time. The powers could include the ability to impose fines and to request information on payment terms and conditions where necessary. New binding payment plans could also be enforced where the current practice is deemed as unfair for small businesses.
  • Company boards are to be held accountable within their companies for payment practices to small businesses. This will increase accountability and encourage fair practice and transparency.
  • A new Business Basic Fund competition of up to £1 million – which aims to encourage small businesses to embrace new technology, to improve productivity and management practices.
  • The amount owed in late payments has halved over the last five years.

Small Business Minister, Kelly Tolhurst, said:

Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and, through our modern Industrial Strategy, we want to ensure the UK is the best place to start and grow a business. These measures will ensure that small businesses are given the support they need and ensure that they get paid quickly – ending the unacceptable culture of late payment.

Visit GOV.UK for the full details or please speak with us for more guidance.

New tool launched by the Department for International Trade

New Tool Launched by the Department for International Trade

A new tool has been released, which aims to assist international investors who are interested in setting up or expanding their operations in the UK.

The UK Investment Support Directory tool allows potential investors to locate experts who can assist with their move – for example, in accountancy, law, consultancy, recruitment, and more. The tool will also connect them with over three hundred businesses throughout the UK.

The Department for International Trade states that the International Support Directory has been designed to improve the accessibility of information regarding the investment process. It states that this is part of a wider plan to encourage more foreign investment in the UK.

Mark Slaughter, Director General for Investment, said:

The UK Investment Support Directory is a smart, new digital tool that innovatively connects investors to private sector expertise.This interactive platform allows investors to tailor their searches to find the specific advice they are looking for or generates a range of businesses if they aren’t sure what they’re looking for yet. It is another way DIT is helping support foreign investment by streamlining connections between UK businesses and overseas investors.

Loan charge reporting requirements: Navigating the minefield

Loan Charge Reporting Requirements: Navigating the Minefield

Unless you’ve been operating in a complete vacuum, you will no doubt be aware that the loan charge is upon us. However, you might not be quite so clear on what it is and what you really need to know.

What’s it All About?

An estimated 50,000 workers, mostly contractors, were paid by way of a modest salary topped up with a loan. This was to reduce their income tax and National Insurance contributions.

While it is described as a loan, in reality, the amounts advanced were never intended to be repaid.

HMRC said it never approved these schemes. The department affirmed that it has always said these schemes did not work and it refers to such loan schemes as disguised remuneration.

2019 Loan Charge

Effective from April 2019, the tax department, supported by the UK government, introduced a charge (a loan charge) on unrepaid loans that contractors received instead of salary payments.

The loan charge combines all outstanding loans accrued over the course of up to twenty years and taxes them as income in one year.

Those affected will have to pay by the end of January 2020.

Employment-Based Schemes

A UK-based Employer

UK-based employers were required to declare outstanding loan amounts by 15 April 2019, at the latest, via their RTI returns. This includes all associated income tax, National Insurance and student loan repayment amounts paid to HMRC by 22 April.

Then, assuming the employer operated the scheme in the first place, the employee must have made good (reimburse) the tax and National Insurance to their employer by 5 July 2019.

Failure to have made goodwill give rise to a taxable benefit in kind, reportable as part of the 2018/19 P11D return process.

It is immediately obvious that most of those affected would rather incur a P11d benefit charge than repay the amount in full to their employers.

There are two instances where great care is needed:

Where not all of the tax has been made good to the employer.

The way that the legislation is written (ITEPA 2003 s.222) affirms an all or nothing scenario. This means that an employee who pays back some – but not all – of their liability will face a P11d tax liability on the full amount paid by the employer.

Where the employer cannot afford to pay.

Under Reg 81(4) of the PAYE regulations, the tax liability could get transferred to the employee where the employer is unable to pay.

While an employee ends up paying all the tax themselves, they still incur an ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Too Late

HMRC had said, provided they were advised by 4 July 2019 that an employee wished to pay the loan charge tax to them rather than to their employer, they would not seek to apply the ITEPA 2003 s222 charge.

Furthermore, the department promised to refund anything the employer had previously overpaid.

Employer is Offshore

In the event of an employer either being situated abroad or no longer in existence, beneficiaries of the loan scheme must report any outstanding loans to HMRC by 30 September 2019.

To help, HMRC has established an online process. This is supported by a paper form – for those who are less tech-savvy.

Be Careful

Failure to report the details for all outstanding loans by 30 September 2019 may render a person liable to penalties. However, it is anticipated that they will only be charged in the most serious of cases.

Individuals must also report their outstanding loans as part of the 2018/19 self-assessment tax return filing process. The amount of the outstanding loans should be disclosed in box 21 found under the Disguised remuneration section of form SA101 Self-assessment: additional information.

Don’t forget that where an affected person has not previously been required to file a self-assessment tax return, the normal section 7, Taxes Management Act 1970 requirement applies. This notifies chargeability by the 5 October following the end of the tax year concerned.

Remember the loan charge is a one-off. Therefore, a claim to reduce future payments on account may be necessary.

Trade-Based Schemes

The basic process for dealing with trade-based schemes is similar to the employee scenario.

Where individuals are still trading, they should include outstanding loan amounts from trade-based schemes in box 75.1 under disguised remuneration additions to profits of the self-employed supplementary pages (SA103 (full)) of their self-assessment tax return.

Those whose trading activity ceased prior to 2018/19 should complete boxes 22 to 24 of form SA101 as appropriate.

Those in trade-based schemes will need to elect whether any APNs (accelerated payment notices) are to be set against the loan charge liability. At the time of writing, further HMRC guidance on the offsetting of APNs is expected.

Difficulty in Paying

Anyone who believes they will have difficulty paying the resultant tax must, nonetheless, complete and submit a tax return. Otherwise, they will be liable for failure to notify or late filing penalties – on top of the loan charge.

Once the self-assessment tax return has been filed and HMRC is aware of the extent of any loan charge debt, the department should be contacted to agree on a manageable payment plan. What they agree will depend on an individual’s circumstances, and there is no upper time limit on how long payments can potentially be spread.

If things are left until after the 31 January 2020 deadline, individuals may have to talk with HMRC’s debt management team directly regarding the next steps.

About the author: Brian Palmer is a tax policy adviser and a UK-leading authority on Making Tax Digital. He advises, blogs, and lectures extensively on this and other important areas of taxation.

It’s that time of year again!

It’s That Time of Year Again!

At this time of every year, HM Revenue and Customs embark on a massive computerised reconciliation process. This is to check that those with PAYE records, but not in self-assessment, have paid the right amount of tax in the preceding tax year.

Where the department determines a taxpayer has not paid the correct amount, HMRC will issue a tax calculation. This can be a P800 or a simple assessment letter.

Reasons for a P800

GOV.UK informs taxpayers of the following:

You might get a P800 if you:

  • finished one job, started a new one and were paid by both in the same month;
  • started receiving a pension at work;
  • received Employment and Support Allowance or Jobseeker’s Allowance.

It also states:

You will not get a P800 if you’re registered for self-assessment. Your bill will be adjusted automatically if you’ve underpaid or overpaid tax.

While this might be true for the vast majority, occasionally HMRC’s system fails to match a taxpayer’s PAYE with their self-assessment record. In this case, it will issue a P800 / simple assessment.

Reasons for a Simple Assessment letter

GOV.UK informs taxpayers:

You might get a Simple Assessment letter if you:

  • owe tax that cannot be automatically taken out of your income;
  • owe HMRC more than £3,000;
  • have to pay tax on the State Pension.

Checking the Tax Calculation

The P800 or simple assessment letter will show the taxable income received and tax paid in a tax year.

This includes the following:

  • taxable income from employment (including employee benefits);
  • pensions (state and private);
  • state benefits and savings interest.

Watch Out!

Although it is not made clear, HMRC makes use of estimated figures for bank interest or nominal amounts of rental income. For this reason, as well as best practice, the departments’ figures should be checked against third-party documentation – including P60s, P11ds, P45s, bank statements, or correspondence from the Department for Work.

HMRC will combine, in the calculation, any income of a similar type into a single line.

Where this happens, you may have to contact HMRC to obtain a breakdown or ask your client to check them in their personal tax account.

What if a Calculation is Wrong?

Thankfully, PAYE usually collects the right amount of tax in cases in which you have stable employment that lasts a complete tax year. However, this might not be possible for taxpayers with more complicated affairs.

This might be the case, for example, where taxpayers:

  • have more than one job, pension, or are in receipt of a taxable state benefit or another form of untaxed income;
  • change jobs or retire;
  • draw income flexibly from a pension;
  • are widowed or lose a civil partner;
  • get extra benefits or expenses payments from their employer on top of their cash wages;
  • need to claim extra allowances or expenses against taxable income;
  • leave the UK or arrive in the UK from overseas.


HMRC will usually try to collect any tax due through a PAYE coding adjustment.

If the tax amount owed is less than £3,000, HMRC will attempt to recover the tax due from future income paid via PAYE, rather than as a lump sum.

Where a taxpayer’s income exceeds £30,000, HMRC may seek to collect more than £3,000 via a coding adjustment.

The department must consider whether a taxpayer has sufficient taxable income to enable the extra deduction. Furthermore, the department must be mindful that total PAYE deductions must not exceed 50% of a taxpayer’s wage.

While an underpayment is usually recovered in a single tax year, collection can be spread over more than one tax year. Normally, this happens where a P800 is issued late in a tax year. In such instances, details of how the amount is to be collected should be shown on the form.

If HMRC cannot collect the tax through a PAYE code – for example, because a taxpayer has left the UK or is not working – they will contact the taxpayer to arrange payment another way. Failure to respond, or to reach an agreed method of repayment, is likely to result in HMRC issuing a simple assessment. This letter will contain similar information found on the form P800. It also creates a legal obligation to pay the tax. This means that enforcement action can be used to collect the tax.

What Happens if You Don’t Agree?

If you don’t agree with the simple assessment, it is vital that it is queried within sixty days of receipt, setting out the reasons. This can be done by phone or in writing to HMRC.

At this stage, it is possible to ask for some or all of the tax reported as due to be postponed.

HMRC must respond to the query. If you do not agree with the response, you can appeal. Be careful, however, that there is only a thirty-day window in which to make such a response.

Again, the query can be made by phone, or in writing. You will need to state why you think the assessment is incorrect and provide what you consider to be the correct figures.

While the tax due is in dispute, HMRC might agree not to collect any or all of the tax shown as due.

When to Pay

Normally, the assessed tax is payable by the 31 January following the end of the relevant tax year. However, if it is issued after 31 October following the year of assessment, the due date is three months after the date of issue of the simple assessment.

Payment must either be made online or by cheque.

Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG)

In a recently published LITRG article, the champions of the unrepresented drew attention to the three main things to note in respect of P800s and simple assessment letters:

Firstly, it is an informal calculation, not a tax demand.

A P800 calculation is an informal calculation, not a demand for tax.

If a taxpayer ignores a P800 which reports tax due, at some point HMRC, are likely to issue a formal assessment or even a tax return.

Secondly, do you have underpaid tax?

The 2018/19 tax year was a week 53 tax year. Thus, many of the calculations issued showing 2018/19 underpayments will be correct.

There are still a few things to bear in mind if you receive a P800 that shows you have underpaid tax:

  • If it is for an earlier tax year, HMRC may be too late to collect it.
  • Apart from in cases of taxpayer neglect or fraud, HMRC is not permitted to assess tax that was due more than four tax years previously.
  • Therefore, the earliest tax year that HMRC can view is 2015/16 (which ended on 5 April 2016 and can be assessed until 5 April 2020).
  • In most cases, the P800 will be for a more recent tax year. However, if you believe that HMRC has had the information they needed to calculate your tax correctly, but have simply not used it until now, you should ask them to consider writing off the underpaid tax. This falls under the terms of the extra-statutory concession A19.
  • If you consider the underpaid tax to be an employer or pension provider’s fault – for not operating correctly the code given to them by HMRC or for making some other mistake – then, in strict law, HMRC must first call upon your employer or pension provider to make good the shortfall.
  • The calculation produced by HMRC is not necessarily the full picture of a taxpayer’s situation. They may not have matched all relevant records – for example, they may have missed out a source of income upon which tax was paid.
  • HMRC might also have used estimated figures in the calculation. This will not be immediately obvious, so you need to check all the figures carefully.

Finally, LITRG can help.

The Low Income Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has a P800 factsheet. It contains information on what to do if you think a P800 is wrong or if you think a taxpayer might have difficulty paying any tax that is shown as being due.

For guidance on how to pay your P800 bill, including via your tax code or by making a voluntary payment, please see our news piece, How to pay the tax bill shown on your form P800.

About the author: Brian Palmer is a tax policy adviser and a UK-leading authority on Making Tax Digital. He advises, blogs, and lectures extensively on this and other important areas of taxation.

HMRC confirms supplier statements are acceptable for Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV)

It’s good for businesses to know that HMRC expects them to record digitally for every individual invoice, no matter how minor and inconsequential it might be. This stands irrespective of the fact that a business’s clients might make a single monthly payment against a statement. Often, when I’ve broken this news to the audience in one of my many lectures, it goes down like a lead balloon – and at least one Licensed Accountant will utter:

This is ridiculous! It’s going to take much more of my time to digitally record each and every invoice. How am I going to make a living? My clients won’t pay my extra time costs.

Custom and Practice

Historically, accountants and bookkeepers whose clients account for VAT according to VAT cash accounting scheme rules have simply recorded a summary, a one-line entry. This would reflect a single payment made to a supplier, based on the amount recorded as outstanding on a statement covering a myriad of different invoices.

This practice was fair game. It was accepted by HMRC and the profession alike, provided that the source VAT invoices were matched to the statement amount, that they were retained and could be produced if HMRC required.

Commonsense Wins Out

There’s always the customary rash of we’re all doomed articles, appearing in the accountancy press at this point in the implementation cycle of any major change in our interactions with HMRC. But, now, I’m delighted to be the bearer of tidings of good news.

On the 5 May 2019, HMRC updated parts of its go-to online guide for MTDfV, VAT Notice 700/22: Making Tax Digital for VAT. Despite what some might say, I think it’s great. As it’s online, it is a living document. By this, I mean that, unlike its hard-copy antecedents, it is capable of being regularly updated at a minimal cost.

Importantly, on this occasion, tracts of section 4, which cover Digital record-keeping, have been updated.

A newly introduced paragraph starts with an acknowledgement:

Some businesses record the value of each supply from a supplier statement instead of individual invoices….

At this point, it lapses into something more churlish:

In HMRC’s view, it is best practice to record digitally the individual supplies, as this means less risk of invoices either being missed completely or being entered twice – once as an invoice, and once as part of the statement. There is also less risk of the wrong rate of VAT being applied.

The paragraph concludes,

On the other hand, HMRC accepts there may be additional work for a business in capturing individual supplies digitally, and this could lead to data entry errors. Therefore, HMRC can accept the recording of totals from a supplier statement where all the supplies on the statement relate to the same VAT period, and the total VAT charged at each rate is shown. If you choose to do this, you must also cross-reference all supplies on the supplier statement to invoices received, but this can be done outside of your digital records.

I struggle with the logic of that middle section – in particular, its begrudging tone, which serves to undermine the positive impact of HMRC’s acceptance. However, I applaud HMRC for allowing an earlier common-sense practice to continue into tomorrow’s digital future. The department has relaxed its former hardline attitude to the posting of purchase and expenses data by committing to allow those accounting for VAT under cash accounting rules to digitally record supplier statement totals. The alternative is the task of entering every underlying invoice in the majority of instances.

Things to Watch Out For

Would-be exponents of the relaxation will do well to take note of the second paragraph, in which HMRC sets the ground rules for recording transactions via supplier statements.

They are, as follows:

  • All recorded transactions (invoices) must be from the same VAT period.
  • If more than one VAT rate is applicable, summary totals should be prepared for each rate.
  • All statemented items must be supported by the original VAT invoice.

The Force of Law

The third and final paragraph under gives readers all the confidence they need to make use of HMRC’s change of heart:

The following rule has the force of law: where a supplier issues a statement for a period you may record the totals from the supplier statement (rather than the individual invoices) provided all supplies on the statement are to be included on the same return, and the total VAT charged at each rate is shown.

Returning from an Interstellar Journey

For those of you who’ve just returned from an interstellar trip – or are just visiting from Mars:

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is part of HMRC’s ambition to become one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world. It is the UK tax department making fundamental changes to the way the tax system works, with the objective of making it:

  • more effective;
  • more efficient;
  • easier for taxpayers to get their tax right.

Into the Future

This might not have been so obvious back in 2015 when MTD was first launched. However, in the intervening years, a growing number of the Great British Public seem to want to interact with the Revenue in the same way as they do with their bank. This means using:

  • an app, firstly;
  • the internet, secondly;
  • the phone, thirdly; and
  • never by snail-mail (conventionally known as, the post).

MTDfV, which has already been with us for three months, is HMRC’s first tentative step toward delivering on its digital ambition.

What You Need to Do to Comply

MTDfV was introduced, firstly, for all UK businesses making annual VAT taxable supplies of more than £85,000 – for VAT periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019.

You will need to keep your business records digitally, from the start of your VAT accounting period starting after the 31 March 2019. If you already use software to keep your business records, check your software provider’s plans to introduce MTD-compatible software.

If you or your clients are not already digital, you’ll need to switch. To help you, HMRC has published details of the VAT and Income Tax software available for MTD.

About the author: Brian Palmer is a tax policy adviser and a UK-leading authority on Making Tax Digital. He advises, blogs, and lectures extensively on this and other important areas of taxation.

Six Ways an App Can Support Business Growth

The use of the smartphone has changed dramatically over the past decade: it has gone from being merely a gadget to being an increasingly used and increasingly important lifestyle and business tool. A report by Ofcom (the UK regulator for the communications services) referred to this change in our use of this technology as the ‘Smartphone obsession’.

Ofcom’s Director of Market Intelligence, Ian Macrae, said:

“Over the last decade, people’s lives have been transformed by the rise of the smartphone, together with better access to the internet and new services.”

“Whether it’s working flexibly, keeping up with current affairs or shopping online, we can do more on the move than ever before.”

The report found that 72% of adults say that their smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet; 71% say they never turn off their phone; and 78% say they could not live without it. The amazing thing is that these figures still appear to be rising.

So, most importantly for us, how can mobile phones and mobile apps support and help your business grow? We have six things for you to consider.

1. Access to tools and resources around the clock.

In general, our demands and expectations towards finding information, and towards the length of time it should take to find it, have vastly increased. Information should be readily available, and buffering and tedious searching will often be cut short so we can try something else. Generally, we’re always on the lookout for a better user experience.

Apps provide the opportunity for you to compile your information and resources into one streamlined solution which can be accessed whenever it is convenient – with no wait time.

Apps can provide solutions for downloadable resources, communication requests, client referrals, marketing incentives, video content, up-to-date news, software, secure content sharing, tax updates, tax calculators and so much more.

2. A new marketing and communications channel.

An app can be an additional channel in your current marketing mix. Use it for targeted marketing, with geolocation tools which can filter customers according to where they are based.

The user can also set permissions and personalisations which tailor the app to be suitable to their preferred working methods. Push notifications can be sent to bespoke categories allowing only the most relevant alerts and reminders – for example, a deadline notification, an event RSVP, perhaps a special offer, or new content which is available in the app.

Video content can be added to your app where your clients can access your most recent uploads with business advice, tutorials, and any other content you wish to include.

3. Gather consumer data.

By fully utilising your app to streamline business processes, you can collect data on how your clients engage with the app. What content are they accessing, and how regularly do they use it? Which resources are most popular, and which resources are not used?

You can then investigate what other services your clients require to get them more engaged with your service offering. Naturally, and in line with privacy regulations, this provides a directional view of customer behaviour. In order to get more specific, you will then need to ask for permission from your clients and to store their information securely and in line with GDPR regulation.

4. A new contact and sharing solution.

Today, there are plenty of quick options enabling clients to get in touch with you, and any of them can be featured on your app. It just depends what you would prefer.

To name a few, you could take client referrals via an app module, through meeting requests, and even by video calling.

5. Optimising business workflows.

Whether your business is a complex manufacturing process or whether it manages a sales pipeline, apps can provide a convenient and efficient way to optimise a business workflow.

For example, consider a salesperson taking business cards who later records the client information from them. Through an app, you could streamline this process through an off-the-shelf CRM or through a bespoke module which can take a photo and automatically scan the data into the system.

6. Improved user experience through Smartphone capabilities.

When considering using or developing your own app for your business, consider how you can leverage the technology inherent in the smartphone device – whether that’s Bluetooth, GPS, face recognition, or voice recognition.

A common example is to use the camera to interact with QR Codes. For firms with stock management, this approach can be used so that they can quickly assess product details through a simple scan of the code. In addition, consider how GPS tracking can be used, for example, to indicate where your package is being delivered and the estimated time of arrival.

Lastly, interactions do not need to be limited to typing. With voice recognition, apps can take on more of an “assistant” role, which you can engage with through voice commands and instructions.

In summary, whatever your business, there is an ever-growing need for the mobile workforce to have their office in their hand. Apps provide this capability, and, through bespoke development, your app can take on its own unique form to help accelerate and grow your business.

Companies such as AppTheBusiness Limited can develop a tailored solution and take your business to the smartphone.

New advisory fuel rates for company cars

The new fuel rates take effect from 1 June 2019, although the previous rates can be used for an additional month.

These rates only apply to employees who are using a company car in the following scenarios:

  • When employees are reimbursed for business travel in their company cars; or,
  • When employees are required to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel.

The rates are not applicable in any other circumstances.

The Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric cars is four pence per mile, and electricity is not considered a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 12p
1401cc – 2000cc 15p
Over 2000cc 22p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 8p
1401cc – 2000cc 9p
Over 2000cc 14p
Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 10p
1601cc – 2000cc 12p
Over 2000cc 14p

Ancillary Capital Gains reliefs consultation

The Capital Gains Tax (CGT) consultation on Private Residence Relief (PRR) and on changes to ancillary reliefs is now closed. The consultation ran from 1 April 2019 until 1 June 2019.

Historically, PRR has been a very useful way to reduce the taxable gains arising from the sale of a residential property that has been let but which has, at some point, been occupied by the owner as their primary residence.

In the 2018 Budget, the government announced two relief changes which it claimed would aim PRR at owner-occupiers.

The proposed changes are planned to take effect from the 6 April 2020, and are as follows:

  1. The final period exemption will be reduced from 18 months to nine months. However, owners with a disability and those in care will retain a 36-month final period exemption.
  2. Lettings relief will be reformed so that it only applies in cases where an owner is in shared occupancy with a tenant.

PPR has been an important device to help homeowners mitigate or even eradicate a charge to CGT on a residential property that had been their one-time home. Unfortunately, if the government gets its way, the tax mitigation power available to PRR where it is in point will be greatly diminished.

We will provide more information on the results of the consultation once it becomes available.

Companies House open consultation

HMRC currently has an open consultation on proposals to further improve the role of Companies House, with a view to having businesses submit more information for the purpose of helping to tackle economic crime.

The consultation’s focus is to stop the registered information from being misused and to help business owners become better protected against fraud.

In order to help to prevent the register being misused, the following areas are open to consultation:

  • knowing who is setting up, managing and controlling companies;
  • improving the accuracy and usability of data on the companies register;
  • protecting personal information on the register;
  • ensuring compliance, sharing intelligence, and other measures to deter abuse of corporate entities.

Louise Smyth, Chief Executive of Companies House, said:

‘This package of reforms represents a significant milestone for Companies House as they will enable us to play a greater part in tackling economic crime, protecting directors from identity theft and fraud, and improving the accuracy of the register.’

If you wish to share your views, you can do so online until the 5th August 2019.

Tax code mix up for Welsh taxpayers

From April 2019 onwards, the Welsh Government has devolved powers to decide the rates of Income Tax payable by Welsh taxpayers.

The above means the Welsh Government have the ability to vary the Welsh rates of Income Tax or to keep them the same as those paid by English and Northern Irish taxpayers. However, it should be noted that the responsibility for taxing income from savings and dividends remains with the central UK government.

In the first year of its new powers, the National Assembly for Wales has decided that Welsh rates of income tax for 2019-20 will remain at the same levels as found in England and Northern Ireland.

However, in a recent mix-up, HMRC revealed it had released Scottish tax codes (S codes) to some Welsh employers, instead of the ‘C’ prefix applicable to Welsh taxpayers. A result of the error has been that some Welsh employees have been charged income tax according to Scottish rates and bands instead of Welsh.

The effect of the coding mix up was exacerbated by the fact that, whilst the rates of income tax in England and Northern Ireland match those in Wales, the Scottish income tax rates are higher.

Since the error came to light, HMRC have admitted that they do not know how many taxpayers have been affected, whilst the Welsh tax codes are to be issued this month (June).

Llyr Gruffydd, Chair of the National Assembly for Wales’ Finance Committee, said:

‘We raised concerns about the flagging process for identifying Welsh taxpayers during our enquiries into fiscal devolution and the Welsh government’s draft budget.

‘On each occasion, we were told the matter was in hand, and the lessons from the devolution of income tax powers to Scotland, where there were similar issues, had been soundly learned and would be put into effect. We are seeking an immediate explanation of how this has happened and will be asking representatives from HMRC to appear before this Committee in the near future.’

If you are concerned that this tax code mix-up may affect you, please call us for guidance.

Call for everyday tax to be simplified for small businesses

The Office of Tax Simplification has released a new report that follows on from a previous review of the Business Life Cycle published in April 2018.

The new report, “Simplifying everyday tax for smaller business”, discloses that, of the 5.7 million businesses in the UK, 99% are small owner-managed businesses. Furthermore, as many as three quarters do not engage other employees.

It is these stark figures which have led OTS to strongly recommend everyday tax be simplified for these businesses, and for more guidance to be available for new start-ups.

The recommendations in the report cover five key areas:

  • Simple step-by-step guidance about the key things a business needs to do in its early days to help things run smoothly;
  • Improving the operation of the PAYE system;
  • Implementation of HMRC’s Agents Strategy;
  • Improving the mechanics of the Corporation Tax return process;
  • Ensuring that tax changes are built on an understanding of business processes.

The full report is available to read online. However, should you wish to discuss any of the key areas of the Business Life Cycle, please get in touch.

P11D submission deadline

The HMRC form P11D is the form employers use to report the details of taxable expenses and benefits provided to employees and directors during the course of a tax year, after that year has ended.

Employees pay tax on the benefits disclosed on the submitted P11D via a PAYE coding adjustment or through self-assessment.

If the benefits have been payrolled, meaning that have been reported to HMRC as they arise and included in the operation of the employer’s payroll, they are taxed in-year. As a result, they do not need to be reported after the year has ended via the P11D routine.

HMRC have provided a toolkit which includes a checklist which can be used to ensure the forms are completed correctly.

It could potentially be quite time-consuming to compile all the necessary information for these forms, so we would recommend that you do not leave it to the last minute.

Warning: 2019 P11Ds and their supporting forms must be filed with HMRC by the 6 July 2019.

If you would like assistance with completing the forms, or have related queries, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Minimum wage regulations

In a recent report by the Low Pay Commission (LPC), it was found that the number of people being paid less than the statutory minimum wage is on the rise.

In April 2018, 439,000 workers were paid less than the National Minimum Wage (NMW), and out of those individuals, 369,000 were employees aged 25 and over. This was an increase from the previous year.

The new rates, applicable from the 1 April 2019 are as follows.

Minimum wage rates effective 1 April 2019 Hourly rate
25 and over £8.21
21 to 24 7.70
18 to 20 £6.15
Under 18 £4.35
Apprentice rate £3.90
Accommodation Offset £7.55 per day: £52.85 per week

The report found women to be more likely than men to be paid below the minimum wage. It also highlighted that the youngest and oldest workers have a higher chance of being underpaid.

Underpayment was also found to be more likely in sectors including hospitality, cleaning, retail, maintenance, and childcare.

In response to the report, Bryan Sanderson, the Chair of the LPC, said:

‘Our analysis reveals a worrying number of people are being paid less than the minimum wage. We recently celebrated 20 years of the minimum wage – it has raised pay for millions of workers, but it is essential that people receive what they are entitled to.

‘It is also vital for businesses to be able to operate on a level playing field, and not be illegally undercut on wages.’

If you are having issues in relation to your payroll, please contact us for more guidance.

5 Top Tips for Successful Freelancing

5 Top Tips for Successful Freelancing

Here we provide some top tips for keeping your freelancing work organised, healthy, and successful! Although it is not possible to provide a one-size-fits-all plan, these tips will certainly help to keep your freelancing affairs in shape.

1. Draw up a contract.

Regardless of your skillset – whether it is graphic design, project management, or writing – every new client project needs to be issued with a contract. While, at the outset, dispute might be far from your mind, this is the go-to document that others will seek to review should any disagreement arise later.

If you’re new to freelancing, then a contract template is a great place to start – to avoid your getting too preoccupied with creating the perfect contract. You can then add more information where necessary and make improvements along the way.

Even the simplest contract should include all of the following key terms:

  • The nature of your engagement and the services that you’ve agreed to perform.
  • Assurances that your client’s information will be kept confidentially.
  • How much you will be paid, and when, throughout the project.
  • Details of any ownership of intellectual property.
  • Once your work has been accepted by the client, the client also accepts full responsibility for any use of the project files moving forward.
  • Details of liability insurance.
  • Cancellation procedure for you and your client.
  • Membership of relevant professional bodies.

2. Agree payment terms before starting a project.

A big issue with freelancing is ensuring that you’re paid enough, that you’re paid on time – and that you actually are paid. Therefore, to ensure that you are going to get paid, it is best to agree the payment terms upfront. This is better than diving into a new project and trying to resolve payment later.

Depending on the nature of the contract under negotiation, a successful payment structure can be to request 50% to be paid upfront, and the remaining 50% upon completion – but before you deliver the completed project files.

In cases in which the contract is of an ongoing nature, you may wish to agree stage payments, whereby money is paid after you have passed milestones pre-agreed in the contract. You may also want to consider regular instalments.

The price you elect to charge as a Freelancer should consider time spent on tasks such as sourcing clients, preparing proposals, sending/managing invoices, meetings, and other items which are required to run your freelancing business. By not considering these tasks in your pricing there is the risk of not be paid sufficiently.

3. Be prepared to say ‘no’.

When in the process of agreeing the terms of the project, don’t be afraid to say ‘no’. It’s too easy to get caught up in the moment and to agree to everything your client asks – because you want the project and because you want a happy client.

But promising too much can come with a whole array of problems. It can end with you spending too long on an increasingly unprofitable project and can risk your not being able to deliver the project in the agreed timescale.

4. Create a portfolio.

Create a portfolio of projects in which you specialise to showcase to prospective clients. We encourage including projects specifically in your specialist area – rather than putting together a portfolio of everything on which you have ever worked.

If there is a particular avenue to which you want to stick, then make sure you do. Don’t take on those projects you fear you’re going to struggle to complete or that may take you too long to deliver.

This portfolio will also ensure clients best understand the work you are able to deliver and the expected standard they are going to receive. If a client is asking for work outside of this scope, be transparent about what you are, and are not, able to offer them.

5. Stay on top of your finances!

As a freelancer, it is vital to view your finances as would a small business owner. Make sure you are on top of your numbers, and ask yourself the following:

  • What is my business revenue?
  • What is my monthly living expenditure?
  • How many visits is my website getting each month?
  • What is my most popular service?
  • How much time is spent on each project, and am I providing accurate estimates?

If you are a long-term freelancer, then you may want to consider how you are allocating your earnings. For example, are you saving for VAT, business expenses, and making pension contributions? These are hugely important considerations in the long run.

If you’re unsure how to best plan for these business costs, please reach out to us for more guidance around planning for your business and your personal financial affairs!

VAT fuel charge updates

There are new road scale fuel charges with which businesses must comply effective from 1 May 2019. The updated valuation table includes the new scale charges, and is available to view here.

Off-Payroll working rules guidance (IR35) and consultation

IR35, or the Off-Payroll working rules, has been published by HMRC a year early. The original launch date was the 6 April 2020.

HMRC has published a four-step guide to help businesses to check the cases in which the off-payroll working rules apply. As part of the guidance, HMRC states that those organisations using the individual’s service are responsible for checking whether the Off-Payroll working rules apply or not.

The open consultation closed on the 28th May and HMRC is looking for responses on the following matters:

  • The scope of the reform and the impact on non-corporate engagers;
  • Information requirements for engagers, fee payers and personal service companies (PSCs);
  • How to address potential disagreements regarding an individual’s employment status.

The consultation includes HMRC’s plans regarding education and support for those businesses that may be affected.

Scottish Air Departure Tax plans further delayed

The plans to replace Air Passenger Duty (APD) with Air Departure Tax (ADT) have been delayed by the Scottish Government until at least 2020.

As part of the Scotland Act 2016, the Scottish Parliament can charge travellers tax when leaving Scottish airports. As a result, proposals have been put forward with a view to replace the UK APD with the new ADT.

ADT was scheduled to start from April 2018, but it has now been delayed due to issues regarding exemptions which apply to airports in the Highlands and Islands.

Kate Forbes MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Digital Economy, has commented:

‘The Scottish government has been clear that it cannot take on ADT until a solution to these issues has been found, because to do so would compromise the devolved powers and risk damage to the Highlands and Islands economy.

‘While we work towards a resolution to the Highlands and Islands exemption, we continue to call on the UK government to reduce APD rates to support connectivity and economic growth in Scotland and across the UK.’

Pensions Dashboard Initiative

The Pensions Dashboard is a new Government initiative which will now move forward, it has been confirmed.

The dashboard will be introduced with a view to allow individuals to save for retirement and to view information from multiple pensions on one centralised interface. The dashboard is meant to ‘provide an easy to access online view of a saver’s pension’, and to include the state pension.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will bring forward legislation for pension scheme providers to ensure consumer data is available to them through the dashboard.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

‘The government’s commitment to compel pension schemes to share data with platforms through primary legislation is particularly welcome. Some urgency is now required, and we question the three to four-year timeframe for schemes to prepare data for dashboards.’

Employer Bulletin

The latest version of the Employer Bulletin is available to view online.

The April edition includes the following topics, and more:

  • Cash Allowances, Flexible Benefits Packages and Salary Sacrifice
  • Unpaid work trials and the National Minimum Wage
  • EU Exit Preparedness and SMEs
  • Diesel Supplement Company Car Tax Changes to meet Euro standard 6d
  • Student Loans
  • Construction Industry Scheme – helpful reminders for contractors and subcontractors
  • Welsh rate of income tax and Scottish Income Tax
  • PAYE Tools
  • Tax-Free Childcare

Tax scams update

HMRC and Action Fraud have warned of high numbers of springtime scams. These tend to target those who may be less experienced with the tax system, such as the young and the elderly.

Between March and May 2018, HMRC received nearly 250,000 reports of phishing, and requested to have more than 6,000 websites taken down.

An Ofcom Communications Market Report in 2018 found that the majority of text and email scams were sent via smartphone. It noted that, at this time, 95% of 16-24-year olds and 51% of those aged 55 and over owned a smartphone.

The following pointers have been issued by HMRC to help you to work out if you are being targeted by a scam:

  1. Have you been asked to provide confidential information?
  2. Genuine organisations, such as HMRC, will not contact you to ask for your PIN, bank details, or even a password.

  3. Is it a text message refund which sounds too good to be true?
  4. HMRC will never inform you of a refund via e-mail or SMS.

  5. Protect your confidential information!
  6. Do not give out private details, respond to suspicious text messages, download attachments from an unknown sender, or click links within emails if you are unsure of the origin or nature.

  7. Report your concerns!
  8. Ensure you forward emails and information regarding any suspicious calls or emails from HMRC to Forward suspicious text messages to 60599.

If you have suffered a financial loss as a result of these scams, it is recommended that you contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040. Alternatively, use their online fraud reporting tool for further help.

HMRC have also released a handy guide to help you check if correspondence is genuinely from them.

Angela MacDonald, Head of Customer Services at HMRC, has said:

‘We are determined to protect honest people from these fraudsters who will stop at nothing to make their phishing scams appear legitimate.

‘HMRC is currently shutting down hundreds of phishing sites a month. If you receive one of these emails or texts, don’t respond and report it to HMRC so that more online criminals are stopped in their tracks.’

Improving your Productivity in Three Easy Ways

According to Close Brothers, in terms of productivity – something assumed to be one of the largest challenges facing business – the UK lags behind the rest of the G7 by 16%. Nearly half of UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) say new technology would increase overall productivity by 46%, improve staff efficiency by 50%, and help upskill staff by 43%.

In this context, only 45% of UK small business have invested recently in technology, with three out of four businesses having no plans to invest in technology.

Below are three ways to improve productivity for your business.

Take your Accounting to the Cloud

The filing of VAT returns online – under the UK government’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) initiative – requires ongoing management of your company accounts, from invoicing and payments to expenses and payroll.

There are plenty of options in regard to platforms to help you do this, with each platform having the tools to effectively managing accounts. However, not all solutions on the market have been finalised for Making Tax Digital.

Recommended is QuickBooks Online, with the company suggesting that by filing VAT returns online, companies will have a better overview of cash flow in real time and will be able to manage human resources better – thus freeing time for more productive activities such as sales, marketing, and training.

MTD has the power to catalyse an immediate annual £6.9 billion net gain in productivity for the UK economy, or £46 billion over five years, according to Intuit QuickBooks.

Manage your Customer Journey through Customer Relationship Management

Modern businesses need to digitize the customer relationship through CRM, customer-relationship management. This will strengthen their understanding and management of their customers’ journey, so to increase revenues and reduce costs.

Whether this is accomplished by winning new customers, finding new ways to deliver more value to existing customers, or improving efficiency and productivity, it’s crucial to have good visibility of what’s happening in the business – and effective control over the key ways to improve performance.

CRM gives businesses that visibility and control. In addition, CRM provides improved communication and collaboration, automation of everyday tasks, and better reporting capabilities. All of these will be invaluable to upping your productivity – but potentially the biggest boon is centralisation: having all your information in one place.

Lastly, make sure CRM is integrated into your cloud accounting package, to drive a more effective and integrated front office back office approach.

Automate and Socialise your Marketing

Automated marketing amplifies what you’re already doing in marketing. It automates all the digital channels through which you push messages out.

A decade ago, this meant scheduling emails. Today, automated marketing systems have become more sophisticated and broader, handling online marketing campaigns whether it’s through Twitter or email or online advertising.

Marketing automation strengthens customer relationships, scales marketing campaigns, and makes it easy to integrate lead generation efforts into the sales cycle. Through this, it enables the company to be more creative with saved time, harnessing hard-won marketing leads to sales and measuring their campaign’s success. In turn, this allows marketers to quickly and easily profile and target customers, gather business intelligence, and run email campaigns and events.

Applying these three approaches will accelerate your business productivity and help your business survive and thrive.

Structures and Buildings Allowance Consultation

The Spring Statement, delivered in March by Philip Hammond, included an update and open consultation on Structures and Buildings Allowance (SBA).

The relief is available for new commercial structures and buildings – and will also be available where an existing structure or building has been improved or against the cost of renovating existing structures and buildings.

The amount of relief available is limited to the initial cost of building or renovation and can be provided over a fifty-year period at a flat rate of 2%. Only some expenses will qualify for the relief, and the structures or buildings must be used for qualifying purposes, such as trades, professions, vocations and some UK or overseas property businesses or commercial lettings.

The Structures and Buildings Allowance, introduced 29 October 2018, is available to support businesses investing in the UK. The allowance aims to encourage the development of new structural assets and to provide tax relief.

The consultation on draft legislation was open until 24 April 2019.

Making Tax Digital for VAT update

The new Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) rules came into effect on the 1 April 2019. The new rules require businesses with an annual VAT-taxable turnover above £85,000 to keep digital records for VAT purposes, and to submit their VAT return to HMRC using MTD-compatible accounting packages, such as QuickBooks.

The HMRC scheme will ultimately require all taxpayers to move over to digital filing. However, at the moment, there is no proposal to widen compulsory MTD until at least April 2021.

Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has said:

‘In a world where businesses are already banking, paying bills and shopping online, it is important that the tax system moves into the 21st century.’

Although the new rules are now applicable, VAT registered businesses with more complex requirements will not have to comply until the start of their first VAT return period after the 30 September 2019.

The government has also confirmed that there will be no penalties regarding the first year of digital filing and record keeping, in cases where a VAT registered entity has tried to comply with the digital record-keeping requirements and has failed due to software-related issues.

P11D Deadline for Submission to HMRC

P11D forms are due, by 6 July 2019, for the year which ended on 5 April 2019.

The P11D is used to report benefits and some expenses provided to directors and employees. If, as an employer, you report your employee benefits by year, using payrolling, you do not need to complete a P11D.

In addition to payrolling or filing a P11D, employers will also need to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions at 13.8% in respect of the majority of employee benefits they provide. The amount owed can be calculated using the P11(b) form.

Employer’s need to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions by the 19th July (or 22nd, if payed electronically).

HMRC have an expenses and benefits toolkit as well as guidance to support anyone who needs help completing the P11D or the P11(B).

Warning: It can take time to gather the information required, so we would recommend that it is not left until the last minute!

Updates to Income Tax for 2019/20

The new tax year, effective from 6 April 2019, brings changes to income tax allowances and bands. The following updates now apply.

Rates of Tax

While the basic rate of tax will remain at 20%, the 2019/20 basic rate band – the threshold above which income is taxable at this rate – has increased by £3,000 from £34,500 to £37,500.

In addition, the threshold at which the 40% higher rate tax band applies reaches £50,000.

Individuals with taxable income over £150,000 will continue to pay income tax at an additional rate of 45% on their top slice of taxable income.

Personal Allowance

Interestingly, the personal allowance, previously £11,850, increased by £650 on the 6 April to £12,500. However, for individuals with an ‘adjusted net income’ of over £100,000, the personal allowance continues to be reduced by £1 for every £2 of income over £100,000 – until it tapers to nil as a person’s adjusted net income reaches £125,000.

Marriage Allowance

Where one part of a couple, who are either married or in a civil partnership, does not pay income tax – or has a taxable income below their personal allowance – they are entitled to transfer 10% of their unused personal allowance to their partner or spouse. This is provided that the recipient is no more than a basic rate taxpayer.

Welsh Income Tax Updates

From April 2019, the Welsh government now enjoys income tax rate-setting powers. For the 2019/20 tax year, it has been decided that Welsh Income Tax Rates will be kept at a level that leaves Welsh taxpayers in the same position as their English and Northern Irish counterparts.

Scottish Income Tax Rates

The rates of income tax in Scotland are different from the rest of the UK, as follows:

Scottish income tax: 2019-2020

Bands Band name Rate
Over £12,500 – £14,549 Starter Rate 19%
Over £14,549 – £24,944 Scottish Basic Rate 20%
Over £24,944 – £43,430 Intermediate Rate 21%
Over £43,430 – £150,000 Higher Rate 41%
Over £150,000 Top Rate 46%

New Brexit Advisory Tool

The UK Government has issued new advice to small businesses on how they could be affected by the UK’s leaving the EU. The documents contain advice regarding a range of issues, such as sending and receiving personal data and EU-UK trading.

The UK government recommends that businesses ensure they are prepared for Brexit, particularly considering the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the outcome. Businesses which import or export goods to the EU need to apply for a UK Economic Operation Registration and Identification number (EORI), to continue training with the bloc after Brexit.

Service-centred businesses and those that operate in the EU are likely to need to adhere to new rules after Brexit.

Businesses which own intellectual property in the EU are also likely to be affected, with regards to copyright, trademarks, patents, etc. If this affects you, you are recommended to seek advice from the EU Exit tool.

Brexit no deal preparation – HMRC advice

If the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal, many UK businesses will need to apply the same processes to EU trade that apply when trading with the rest of the world. For instance, they will need to register for an Economic Operator and Registration Identification number, commonly referred to as an EORI number.

HMRC is warning UK businesses that have only ever traded inside the EU that they will need to have an EORI number to continue their EU trading.

Worryingly, the latest figures from HMRC indicate only 17% of potentially affected businesses have registered for an EORI.

If you think that your business could be affected and you do not already have a UK EORI number, you’ll need to get one to import or export goods with the EU from 11pm UK time on 12 April 2019.

Warning: It could take 3 days to get a UK EORI number, so you should apply now.

You/your business should apply, if:

  • you’re a sole trader who is resident in the UK;
  • your company or partnership has a registered office in the UK;
  • your company or partnership has a permanent place of business in the UK where they carry out their business activities.

Businesses that import goods into the UK from the EU may register for (TSP), Transitional Simplified Procedures, to allow import without having to make a full customs declaration at the border and to postpone paying any import duties. For imports using other locations, and for exports, standard customs declarations will apply.

Mel Stride MP, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, stated, “We want businesses to be able to continue trading with minimal disruption in any scenario, but we also know that people tend to leave things until the last minute and we would urge against that.”

3 Steps to increase your website traffic

To help drive more customers to your website, it is key to maximise the impact from search through SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Improved SEO enables your website to be discovered and to rank with relevance, so that it appears at the top of the search engine results. The process of optimisation is not a one-time process – but rather one that requires maintenance, tuning, and continuous testing and monitoring.

The following guide is a three-step strategy to help you achieve this.

Step 1: Target Market Business Analysis

Setting Goals and Objectives

Before you get started, ensure that you can measure the ROI (return on investment) from any changes you implement, deciding what is the expected number of visitors you will need to your site vs the baseline today. This is the measure that you can then track from.

Get specific on the goals to determine and set measures for specific pages visited and product / services reviewed.


Keywords are absolutely critical for getting located. These work through setting your “meta sets”, visible text and code.

It is important to examine the content keywords and search engine ranking of competitive websites to assess the impact. There are tools to help such as and

Once you have the list, then look to prioritise the targeted search term related to what you expect your customers to look for. Keep this more in the framing of natural language rather than specific products you have – i.e. “looking for a parasol” rather than “name of brand parasol”. Think what you would type into a search engine. People rarely search to find a specific business – so you need to think of solving a customer problem or meeting a customer need. Test this with your customers and amend accordingly.

Keyword Analysis

Keyword analysis follows, and this helps to further identify a targeted list of key words and phrases. Review competitive lists and other industry sources as well as prioritising keywords and phrases, plurals, singulars, and misspellings.

Step 2: Content Optimisation and Submission

Create page titles

Keyword-based titles help to establish page theme and direction for your keywords.

Create meta tags

Meta description tags can influence click-throughs but aren’t directly used for rankings. (Google doesn’t use the keywords tag anymore.)

Place strategic search phrases on pages

Integrate selected keywords into your website source code and existing content on designated pages. Make sure to apply a suggested guideline of one to three keywords/phrases per content page and add more pages to complete the list. Ensure that related words are used as a natural inclusion of your keywords. It helps the search engines quickly determine what the page is about. A natural approach to this works best.

the past, 100 to 300 words on a page was recommended. Many tests show that pages with 800 to 2,000 words can outperform shorter ones. In the end, the users, the marketplace, content and links will determine the popularity and ranking numbers.

Develop new sitemaps for Google and Bing

Make it easier for search engines to index your website. Create both XML and HTML versions. An HTML version is the first step. XML sitemaps can easily be submitted via Google and Bing webmaster tools.

Submit website to directories (limited use)

Professional search marketers don’t submit the URL to the major search engines, but it’s possible to do so. A better and faster way is to get links back to your site naturally. Links get your site indexed by the search engines.

However, you should submit your URL to directories such as Yahoo! (paid), (paid), and DMOZ (free). Some may choose to include AdSense ( scripts on a new site to get their Google Media bot to visit. It will likely get your pages indexed quickly.

Step 3: Continuous Testing and Measuring

Test and measure.

Analyse search engine rankings and web traffic to determine the effectiveness of the programmes you’ve implemented, including an assessment of individual keyword performance. Test the results of changes, and keep changes tracked in an Excel spreadsheet, or whatever you’re comfortable with.


Ongoing addition and modification of keywords and website content is necessary to continually improve search engine rankings, so growth doesn’t stall or decline from neglect. You also want to review your link strategy and ensure that your inbound and outbound links are relevant to your business.

A blog can provide you with the necessary structure and ease of content addition that you need. Your hosting company can typically help you with the setup/installation of a blog.

Contributions to Pensions Auto Enrolment to increase

The Pensions Regulator has issued guidance for employers concerning the increase in minimum pension contributions, which took effect on 6 April 2019.

Duration Employer minimum Total minimum contribution
Current contributions 2% 5%
6 April 2019 onwards 3% 8%

Chancellor: VAT MTD is go, but no further mandation until 2021

While not mentioned within Chancellor Philip Hammond’s Spring Statement, he made in his written response a strong reference to the Government’s commitment to Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV). He also declared himself satisfied with the way the MTDfV pilot is progressing.

The Chancellor’s statement confirmed a light touch (soft-landing) approach to penalties in the first year of implementation: “Where businesses are doing their best to comply, no filing or record keeping penalties will be issued. “

No further mandation before 2021

Hammond’s written response referenced an earlier promise not to extend the mandation of MTD to any new taxes or businesses until the MTDfV system had been shown to work well – and not before 2021 at the earliest.

Given that the immediate focus will be on supporting businesses to transition to the new service, this can only be described as a common-sense move, and one that provides some certainty.

Latest from HMRC

The publication of the Chancellor’s Spring Statement was followed immediately by a statement from Theresa Middleton (HMRC Director, Making Tax Digital Programme):

“Our VAT pilot service is progressing well, with over 46,000 businesses in the pilot and over 200 MTD compatible software products available, including some free products, and over 140 existing subscription products being updated at no cost at all.”

Middleton’s comments also referenced that HMRC “…continues to listen to feedback from business and recognises the importance of supporting businesses through the transition to MTD.”

What is MTDfV?

It is a major change to the way that VAT-registered businesses – only those with a VAT-taxable turnover of £85,000 or more – will keep their VAT records. These will be recorded entirely digitally, and businesses will need to submit their VAT returns using MTD compatible software for VAT periods starting on or after 1 April 2019.

Increase in Minimum Wage

The National Minimum Wage (NMW) and National Living Wage (NLW), the legal minimum wage rates that must be paid to employees increased on the 1 April, with employers liable to be penalised for any failure to comply.

The new rates are:

Rate from 1 April 2018 Rate from 1 April 2019
NLW for workers aged 25 and over £7.83 £8.21
NMW main rate for workers aged 21-24 £7.38 £7.70
NMW 18-20 rate £5.90 £6.15
NMW 16-17 rate for workers above school leaving age but under 18 £4.20 £4.35
NMW apprentice rate for under 19 or 19 or over and in the first year of their apprenticeship £3.70 £3.90

Company Car Fuel Rates

HMRC has just published their new company car advisory fuel rates, which are effective from the 1 March 2019.

The rates only apply when, as an employer, you either:

  • reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars; or,
  • require employees to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel.

You must not use these rates in any other circumstances.

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 11p
1401cc – 2000cc 14p
Over 2000cc 21p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 8p
Over 2000cc 13p
Engine size Diesel
1400cc or less 10p
1401cc – 2000cc 11p
Over 2000cc 13p


Employers Update from HMRC

In the February Bulletin, HMRC has included updates on the following:

  • End of year reporting;
  • Reporting expenses and benefits;
  • Student Loan notices and a new type of Student Loan repayment that employers will need to be able to process via payroll (Post Graduate Loans);
  • Updates to the Starter checklist – used for new employees;
  • Reporting the Disguised Remuneration Loan Charge;
  • Updates to P9 Notices of Coding;
  • Payrolling benefits in kind;
  • Scottish Income Tax; and
  • the Welsh Rate of Income Tax and new codes for Welsh taxpayers.

To download the Bulletin, click here.

Start date for Making Tax Digital for VAT is here

Most businesses with VAT return periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019 will need to comply with the regulations mandated for VAT.

For businesses with “more complex” VAT, this date has been deferred to 1 October 2019. This delay applies to trusts, not for profit organizations not set up as companies, VAT divisions, VAT groups, public sector entities such as government departments and NHS Trusts. The latter will have to provide additional information on their VAT return.

The delay also applies to local authorities, public corporations, traders based overseas, those required to make payments on account, and annual accounting scheme users.

For more information visit here for the statement on Making Tax Digital made by Mel Stride, The Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Five steps to help you set up as self-employed

If you have made the decision to move towards working for yourself, the options to consider are whether to be a sole trader, a shareholding director of a limited company, or to trade as a partnership.

Once you’ve decided, HMRC will need to be informed. If you choose to go self-employed or to enter into a partnership, HMRC will need to be advised so that they can register you to receive a self-assessment tax return. They will also need to know if you form a limited company.

As a self-employed person (including a partner) it is likely that you will be required to pay income tax and Class 2 and 4 National Insurance contributions under self-assessment.

1. Start-up costs

Starting up a new business can be a costly exercise, and you will need to open a new business bank account for all your future work-related expenditure. It is vital to always keep records of accounts to help ensure the correct taxable profit is reported to HMRC after the end of any tax year.

Budgeting and forecasting

When writing your financial forecast for the business, it is recommended that you factor in the following:

  • Do you have access to funds which you can use to start up the business?
  • Do you have savings to carry you through periods of no income or unexpected expenses?
  • Are there any life changing events on the horizon, such as moving to a new house or having a new baby?
  • When employing staff, have you considered sick pay and annual leave?

2. Are credits or grants available?

Understand if you are eligible to claim benefits, tax credits or even grants. You can check this easily by accessing organisations like the Citizens Advice Bureau or Gov.UK websites to establish what you might be eligible for.

3. Location

To go self-employed, you’ll need to decide where to locate your new business. It may be possible to run it from the comfort of your own home, or you may need to rent or purchase another property as your place of work.

When renting business premises, it is vital that you verify whether there are any rules in place restricting business activity, and you check if the environment is suitable for the type of work which will take place.

If you are renting an office space, you must ensure that you know the monthly costs, outside of the initial rental payments, such as services, or any upcoming upgrades to the building which may increase the rental costs in the future.

Don’t forget, if you convert part of your home into businesses premises, you may be required to pay business rates on top of any existing council tax commitment. You will also be asked to pay these rates if you convert any part of your property into a shop/workshop or if client visits become a daily occurrence and you have dedicated rooms in your home solely for business purposes.

Please call us, if you’re concerned that you might be affected by what we describe in the article. It is always best to be sure of your position.

4. Insurance

Check your insurance policy and if in any doubt call your broker to see if you need to take out additional cover for any business activity within your household. This is not an expensive addition and most companies will combine additional cover into one domestic and business policy. If your business requires clients to enter your property, you may be advised to take out public liability insurance, another inexpensive addition to your insurance policy.

You may also be required to hold a license, depending on the nature of your business.

5. Business name

When deciding whether you are going to use a trading name for the business, you will need to be aware of any restrictions in place.

If you thinking of forming a company, you can check if your proposed company name is already in use by using the Companies House name availability checker.

If the business will have a website, you will need to check if there are suitable domains available for your business name.

Once everything is in place, you can get to work on your new business and enjoy working for yourself.

For more information on setting up as self-employed, forming a limited company, and selecting the right cloud accounting solutions, such as QuickBooks, then please contact us.

Protect your pensions!

The Insolvency Service has urged individuals saving for retirement to protect their pension pots from criminals and ‘negligent trustees’.

Research carried out by the Service found that criminals use a range of tactics to convince savers to part with their funds, including persuading individuals to access their pension and invest in unregulated schemes.

Pension scam victims lost an average of £91,000 to criminals in 2018, according to Financial Conduct Authority research. Criminals often use cold-calls and offers of free pension reviews to convince their victims to comply.

The Insolvency Service has urged savers to be wary of calls that come out of the blue; to seek financial advice before altering their pension arrangements or making investments; and to not be pressured into making decisions about their pension.

Conservative Minister Kelly Tolhurst said:

‘If you are approached to make an investment from your pension, always do your homework and seek independent advice, if necessary, to help you make an informed decision.

‘The government continues to work closely with the Insolvency Service who are working to clamp down on rogue companies targeting vulnerable people.’

The “Be a smart investor” section of the FCA website has further information about scams, and if you suspect you have been the target of a scam you can report it through the UK’s national reporting Centre for fraud and cybercrime in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Please speak to us if you want to know more about protecting yourself from fraud.

HMRC Voice ID system

The non-profit organisation Big Brother Watch has made a report to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO), claiming that HMRC has broken data protection laws by capturing millions of callers’ voice data on the HMRC Voice ID System, and that people have been ‘railroaded into a mass ID scheme by the back door’.

HMRC launched the system in 2017, and it works by having the caller say a key phrase instead of a password to gain access to their accounts.

A freedom of information request found that approximately seven million tax payers are enrolled in the Voice ID database. Around 162,185 individuals have chosen to opt out of the scheme and have their files deleted by HMRC.

An HMRC spokesperson has said:

‘Our Voice ID system is very popular with millions of customers as it gives a quick route to access accounts by phone.

All our data is stored securely, and customers can opt out of Voice ID or delete their records any time they want.’

Spring Statement 13th March 2019

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, has announced that the government will respond to the forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) in the Spring Statement on Wednesday 13 March 2019.

While Hammond has already stated that the Spring Statement is not a mini Budget, he may take the opportunity to announce consultations concerning future tax changes.

Don’t worry about missing anything. We will keep you posted regarding any important developments.

Post-Brexit Preparations

UK VAT-registered businesses which trade with the EU are being urged by HMRC to be prepared for the possibility of a no-deal Brexit. HMRC sent letters to 145,000 firms advising businesses to take three actions ahead of the 29th March 2019 leave date:

  1. Register for a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number.
  2. Decide whether a customs agent will be used to make import and/or export declarations, or whether declarations will be made by the business via software which is compatible with HMRCs systems.
  3. Contact the organisations responsible for moving goods (such as haulage firms) in order to ascertain whether the business will need to supply additional information to complete safety and security declarations, or whether it will need to submit these declarations itself.

A report jointly published by HMRC and the National Audit Office (NAO) recently revealed that approximately 55 million customs declarations are currently made by British businesses every year. This figure may rise to 255 million when the UK leaves the EU.

For more information please contact us. We’re here to help.

Making Tax Digital for VAT pilot update

HMRC has extended the Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) pilot scheme to all eligible businesses, on the mandated compliance for VAT return periods beginning on or after 1 April 2019. However, MTDfV for some ‘more complex’ businesses has been deferred until 1 October 2019. This deferral applies to:

  • Trusts
  • Not-for-profit organisations which are not set up as companies
  • VAT divisions, VAT groups, public sector entities such as government departments and NHS Trusts, which have to provide additional information on their VAT return;
  • Local authorities
  • Public corporations
  • Traders based overseas
  • Those required to make payments on account
  • Annual accounting scheme users.

Businesses with a taxable turnover below the £85,000 threshold are also being encouraged by HMRC to sign up for MTD or MTD for income tax on a voluntary basis. They would gain the benefits of MTD, improve their business processes, and gain a better view of how their business is performing via accountancy software.

HMRC has also reiterated that Brexit will not affect the introduction of MTDfV. For more information please contact us. But, remember with VAT mandation coming in from the 1st August, you really can’t afford to delay.

Update letter from The Pensions Regulator

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) is beginning to write reminders to all employers that, from 6 April 2019, the minimum amount to be paid to a workplace pension is increasing to 8% – and that they, the employers, must contribute at least 3% of the total contribution.

To be prepared for this increase, TPR have recommended seeking further guidance from their website, and to ensure that the payroll software used is compliant with the changes.

Alternatively, if you want informed, proactive advice, you can talk to us.

Scottish Budget income tax changes

The Scottish Draft Budget took place on 12 December 2018. To assist those of you who might be affected, we have published a table containing the 2019/20 proposed rates and bands (for non-savings and non-dividend income), along with the 2018/19 rates and bands.

Scottish Bands 2018/19  Scottish Bands 2019/20  Band Name Scottish Rates
Over £11,850* - £13,850 Over £12,500* - £14,549 Starter 19%
Over £13,850 - £24,000 Over £14,549 - £24,944 Scottish Basic 20%
Over £24,000 - £43,430 Over £24,944 - £43,430 Intermediate 21%
Over £43,430 - 150,000** Over £43,430 - 150,000** Higher 41%
Over £150,000** Over £150,000** Top 46%

* assuming the individual is entitled to a full UK personal allowance.

** The personal allowance will be reduced if an individual’s adjusted net income is above £100,000.

The allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 of income over £100,000.

The personal allowance is currently £11,850 for 2018/19 and will increase to £12,500 for 2019/2020.

  • For UK taxpayers entitled to a full personal allowance, the higher rate is set at £50,000.
  • The tax rates for non-savings and non-dividend income remain at 20%, 40%, and 45% for income over £150,000.

The rate for 2019/2020 will mean that Scottish employees earning approximately £27,000 from employment income will pay the same income tax as the rest of the UK on a similar income. Higher rate earners in Scotland with income of £150,000 and over will pay, approximately, £2,670 of income tax more than those on a similar income in the rest of the UK.

Open Banking: What is it and how can it help your business?

In the UK, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has mandated that the nine largest current account providers must offer standardized Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for current accounts to Account Information Service Providers (AISPs) and for payments to Payment Initiation Service Providers (PISPs).

What does this mean? By providing access to this data from third parties and banks, Open Banking provides small businesses with the opportunity, through technology such as QuickBooks Online, to have a real-time view of their banking and transactional data.

This will help to more accurately predict tax liability (VAT payments), to proactively manage cashflow, to more quickly provide credit scores for loan and finance applications, and to offer the ability to analyse spend and buying patterns – all to help small businesses best budget their finances.

The UK is not at the forefront of Open Banking innovation globally, but it is estimated that Open Banking has the potential to create a revenue opportunity of at least £7.2bn by 2022 across retail and SME markets.

List of deliberate tax defaulters published online

HMRC have published an updated list containing details of taxpayers who have been penalised for deliberate errors in their tax returns or have purposely failed to comply with tax requirements.

HMRC are able to publish details where an investigation has been made and where the taxpayer has been charged one or more penalties for deliberate tax evasion on tax of more than £25,000.

Scottish Budget property tax changes

The 2019/20 Scottish Draft Budget includes changes to Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT).

The policy priority for residential Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) continues to be to help first-time buyers and those moving through the property market.

The policy has helped over 80% of taxpayers to pay less LBTT than in England – or none at all.

The current rates and bands are as follows.

  Residential property


  0 - £145,000


  £145,001 - £250,000


  £250,001 - £325,000


  £325,001 - £750,000


  £750,001 and over


The rates apply to the portion of the total value which falls within each band.

First-time buyers’ relief

Relief is available for first-time buyers of properties costing up to £175,000. The relief increases the zero-tax threshold from £145,000 to £175,000. First-time buyers purchasing a property which is more than £175,000 will also benefit, and the relief will be apportioned only to the price below the threshold.

Higher rates of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax

Certain residential properties, such as buy-to-let and second homes, incur higher rates of LBTT.

From the 25 January 2019, the Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) increased from 3% to 4% and will apply to transactions which occurred before the 12 December 2018. ADS is applicable where an individual owns, or partially owns, a property, or purchases another which is not replacing a main residence. There is an eighteen-month rule which will prevent some purchases incurring the additional rates.

Non-residential rates and bands

The Government has reduced the non-residential LBTT rates from 3% to 1%, and increased the upper rate from 4.5% to 5%, with the starting threshold reduced to £250,000 from £350,000.

These changes will not apply where a transaction was started before the 12 December 2018.

The revised rates and bands for non-residential LBTT transactions are as follows.

Non-residential transactions

  Residential property


  0 - £145,000


  £145,001 - £250,000


  £250,001 - £325,000


  £325,001 - £750,000


  £750,001 and over


HMRC’s most bizarre excuses for late returns

As the deadline approaches for submitting returns, here are HMRC’s strangest reasons for late or failed submissions, from taxpayers who missed the Self-Assessment deadline last year.

  • My mother-in-law is a witch and put a curse on me.
  • I’m too short to reach the post box.
  • I was just too busy – my first maid left, my second maid stole from me, and my third maid was very slow to learn.
  • Our junior member of staff registered our client in Self-Assessment by mistake because they were not wearing their glasses.
  • My boiler had broken, and my fingers were too cold to type.

There were also some dubious expenses claims for unconvincing items like woolly underwear and pet insurance for a dog. Some of the most questionable include:

  • A carpenter claiming £900 for a 55-inch TV and sound bar – to help him price his jobs.
  • £40 on extra woolly underwear, for five years.
  • £756 for a dog’s pet insurance.
  • A music subscription, so someone could listen to music while they worked
  • A family holiday to Nigeria.

None of these excuses and expenses were successful!

Employer tax rates and thresholds for 2019/20

HMRC have updated the online guidance available, now providing a detailed list of income tax and NIC rates applicable to employers for 2019/20. The comprehensive list can be used by employers for 2019/2020 for payroll and employee expenses.

The list includes:

  • PAYE tax and Class 1 National Insurance Contributions
  • Tax thresholds, rates, and codes
  • Class 1 National Insurance thresholds
  • Class 1 National Insurance rates
  • Class 1A National Insurance: expenses and benefits
  • Class 1B National Insurance: PAYE Settlement Agreements (PSAs)
  • National Minimum Wage
  • Statutory Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Shared Parental Pay
  • Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
  • Student loan and Postgraduate loan recovery
  • Company cars: Advisory Fuel Rates (AFRs)
  • Employee vehicles: Mileage Allowance Payments (MAPs)

Guide to completing P11Ds published

A new online guide has been published by HMRC to aid employers in determining which benefits and expenses need to be declared in the P11D forms.

These forms can be completed online using:

  • the PAYE online for employers’ service;
  • or the online end-of-year expenses and benefits forms.

More details are available in the HMRC expenses and benefits guide.

MTD VAT Pilot is Now… Open to All

MTD VAT Pilot is Now… Open to All

HMRC announced (10/1/2019) that their Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTDfV) pilot is now open to all those mandated to keep digitally compliant records and to file MTD-compatible VAT returns for return periods commencing after 31 March 2019.

In an email issued, HMRC stated: “this marks a significant milestone towards our ambition to become one of the most digitally advanced tax administrations in the world.”

HMRC boasts that over one hundred VAT-registered businesses are now signing up to the scheme on a daily basis, with more than 3,500 having already joined.

Testing time

Even though the majority will not need to file their first MTD-complaint return until early August, the department wants “as many eligible businesses as possible to join the pilot ahead of the mandation of the service in April”, as it will provide assurance that the service works for all types of customer.

What does it mean?

This means that all VAT-registered entities with an annual VAT-able turnover in excess of the £85,000 compulsory registration threshold – i.e. those mandated to onboard from April – will now have the chance to test their accounting systems prior to April.

A minority of compulsory registered businesses – those with the most complex VAT affairs – have had their mandation date deferred to their first return period starting on or after 1 October 2019.

VAT groups now able to join the pilot

HMRC has also opened its MTDfV pilot to VAT groups with immediate effect, in order to enable them to start testing the service – even though they are not mandated to join until October.

The department “will continue to update you as we open up the pilot to the remainder of the population who are mandated to join from October.”

Want to know more?

Further details can be found in HMRC’s updated guidance for businesses, updated guidance for agents, and the stakeholder partner packs on GOV.UK.

Marketing considerations for 2019

As we leave 2018 behind, it’s worth taking stock of this period of increased regulation on customer data protection and privacy – in parallel with its acceleration in marketing technology capabilities.

This blog provides an overview of what to consider in terms of the evolving expectations of and demands on customer journeys and the impact they may have on the marketing aspect of your business. The following are the top three marketing trends and strategies to consider for 2019.

Evolving customer experience and journeys

2018 has brought more paths through which customers can satisfy their ideal approach to buying. With the onset of conversational user interfaces through voice search and recognition from the likes of Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa, this is adding a key customer touchpoint that many marketing approaches are yet to adopt and adapt to.

Such examples help fuel the customer need for convenience, being able to request what they want, when they want it, and how. As data becomes richer in terms of what we understand about customer behaviour, the personalisation of the customer experience can become deeper – albeit at a time when the use of data is being re-evaluated by companies such as Facebook.

If you are continuing with the over-used approach of marketing to “millennials”, this will limit how your brand or customer experience connects with twenty- to thirty-year olds today – as building your marketing approach will be subject to change in observing this consumer group.

There is a huge opportunity in blending customer data from silos, such as combining what you know from your business data on your customers with that which is coming from social data. Marketing teams will need to best balance the careful use of client data, segmenting based on specific personas and on an experience personalised on how customers wish to interact.

Be more than a service. Be a trusted brand with values

“Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” (Jeff Bezos)

For companies who have not yet positioned their brand to a set of values, you should do so in 2019. The majority of today’s customers are belief-driven buyers, harnessing their brand loyalty to what the company stands for – whether that is helping others, trust, quality, innovation etc. Although there maybe the danger of alienating some customers, brand values can deepen the customer-company relationship at an emotional level.

Manage your reputation; be prepared for a crisis

“It takes twenty years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it” (Warren Buffett)

“With Google, if a result is based on an established view, it will find its way on to the first page. Taking this approach, if the sentiment about your brand is a bad one, intentionally or accidently, then this may cause significant collateral damage for a long time – if a suitable response is not deployed.

“With the depth of opportunity for brands to advertise on nearly every website and platform consumers use, negative reviews can proliferate rapidly, and it is essential you are able to respond to help mitigate, correct, or address the perception. For example, this might be by listening to what people are saying online and making adjustments accordingly.

“No company is safe from reputation or brand crises and, as such, it is recommended to have a dedicated owner in your team to manage such an unfortunate event.

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

From 1st December 2018, there have been new company car advisory fuel rates published, stating that the previous rates can be used for up to one month from the date the new rates apply. The rates only apply to employees using a company car, and the advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after 1st December 2018.

1400cc or less 12p
1401cc – 2000cc 15p
Over 2000cc 22p
1600cc or less 8p
1601cc – 2000cc 10p
Over 2000cc 15p
1600cc or less 10p
1601cc – 2000cc 12p
Over 2000cc 14p