Archive for November, 2016

Tax changes announced last week

Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

Last week, Philip Hammond presented his first Autumn Statement to parliament.

In some respects, it was a bit of a damp squid as there were no stand-out revelations. However, there were a few tax changes that are worthy of note:

Pension pot reinvestment

The over 55s have been making good use of George Osborne’s facility to flexibly access their pension savings. Many have also reinvested their pension pots in further pension arrangements and reaped the benefit of additional tax savings. To temper enthusiasm for this strategy the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) was introduced. This effectively limited tax relief on reinvested funds to £10,000.

The government now believes this is too generous, and from April 2017 this MPAA will be reduced to £4,000.

Check with your pensions advisor to see how this change may affect your pension opportunities if you are considering, or have recently completed, flexible access to your pension pot(s).

VAT Flat Rate Scheme (FRS)

In order to curb what HMRC sees as aggressive use of the FRS, registered traders with limited costs subject to VAT may have to use a compulsory 16.5% FRS rate in place of their existing FRS rate from April 2017.

In certain circumstances, traders using FRS can make a cash “profit” from using the FRS. In particular, this benefits businesses who have low purchases of goods and overheads subject to VAT – HMRC describes these FRS users as a “limited cost trader”.

Businesses using the FRS will need to see if they are affected as continued use of the special scheme may be cash negative from April 2017.

The end of tax-free perks?

HMRC aim to limit the number of benefits provided by employers from April 2017, that are effective from a tax point of view.

The only benefits that will be exempt from the new reclassification are: pensions, pensions advice, childcare, cycle to work schemes and the use of ultra-low emission cars.

The idea is to curb the use of benefits as a means to sacrifice salary for tax perks, and save tax and National Insurance.

We may be witnessing the end of tax-free use of mobile phones and other benefits, although HMRC have said that benefits in place before April 2017 will be protected for at least one year, and in some cases, for four years.

Autumn Statement 2016

Friday, November 25th, 2016

Please click here to view our Autumn Statement.

Autumn Statement wish lists

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

Organisations across the UK have been publicising their wish lists for Philip Hammond’s first autumn statement later this week.

Amongst tax practitioners there seems to be a preference for increases in the Inheritance Tax threshold and the merger of income tax and National Insurance.

Northern business leaders are keen to see investment in roads and infrastructure, and incentives to invest and grow job opportunities.

There is a general consensus that we need to step up investment to improve access to super-fast broadband. Manufacturers would also like to see plant and machinery removed from business rate calculations.

Greens are hoping for investment incentives for green energy development and carbon capture.

In order to meet the increasing costs of care for the elderly, there is an expectation that a scheme will be announced to promote long term saving to meet these costs.

According to the pensions industry, less is more. They are hoping that Mr Hammond will leave them alone and resist the temptation to make the pensions’ tax rules ever more complicated.

Underlying all of these concerns is the uncertainty generated by the effects of our withdrawal from the EU. No doubt the Chancellor will aim smooth the transition, and on Wednesday this week we will finally see what number 11 is going to offer.

Buy to let lenders subject to new regulation

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

Just when it looked as if things couldn’t get any worse for prospective buy-to-let investors – in particular the gradual withdrawal of higher rate tax relief for finance charges – the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee (FPC) will be granted new powers by the government to help it protect the financial system from future risks in the buy-to-let mortgage market.

The FPC is responsible for identifying, monitoring and taking action to remove or reduce systemic risks in the financial system. The new powers of direction will enhance the FPC’s existing macro-prudential toolkit – the tools it has at its disposal to head off potential threats to financial stability should they arise.

From early 2017, the FPC will be able to direct the Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) and Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to require regulated lenders to place limits on buy-to-let mortgage lending in relation to:

  • loan-to-value (LTV) ratios
  • interest coverage ratios (ICRs)

It follows the FPC recommending that it be given additional powers of direction over both the residential mortgage lending market and the buy-to-let mortgage market in September 2014. The government granted the FPC powers over the residential mortgage lending market in April 2015. The government consulted on the FPC’s recommended powers relating to the buy-to-let market from 17 December 2015 to 11 March 2016.

The consultation noted the positive impact of buy-to-let landlords in the economy, and the role they play in widening and balancing the overall housing market. They provide good quality accommodation for those who cannot at this point afford to buy a home, or who do not wish to commit to home ownership for personal or employment reasons. At the same time, the consultation set out the financial stability risks that buy-to-let lending may pose and how the FPC’s recommended tools would address these risks and ensure long-term economic stability.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, said:

It is crucial that Britain’s independent regulators have the tools they need to keep our financial system as safe as possible.

Expanding the number of tools at the Financial Policy Committee’s disposal will ensure that the buy-to-let sector can continue to make an important contribution to our economy, while allowing the regulator to address any potential risks to financial stability.

The season to be merry

Thursday, November 17th, 2016

If you are involved in planning the staff Christmas party for your firm don’t forget to consider the income tax consequences. Here’s a short reminder of the points you should add to your check list.

The cost of an annual staff party or similar function is allowed as a deduction for tax purposes. However, the cost is only deductible if it relates to employees and their guests, which would include directors in the case of a company, but not sole traders and business partners in the case of unincorporated organisations.

Also, as long as the criteria below are followed there will be no taxable benefit charged to employees:

1.      The event must be open to all employees at a particular location.

2.      An annual Christmas party or other annual event offered to staff generally is not taxable on those attending provided that the overall average cost per head of the functions does not exceed £150 p.a. (inc VAT). The guests of staff attending are included in the head count when computing the cost per head attending.

3.      All costs must be taken into account, including the costs of transport paid to and from the event, accommodation provided, and VAT. The total cost of the event is merely divided by the number attending to find the average cost. If the limit is exceeded then individual members of staff will be taxable on their average cost, plus the cost for any guests they were permitted to bring.

4.      VAT input tax can be recovered on staff entertaining expenditure. If the guests of staff are also invited to the event the input tax has to be apportioned, as the VAT applicable to non-staff is not recoverable. However, if non-staff attendees pay a reasonable contribution to the event, all the VAT can be reclaimed and of course output tax should be accounted for on the amount of the contribution.

 

If these limits are breached employers can pick up the tax cost by using a PAYE settlement agreement.

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