Archive for August, 2018

VAT before and after Brexit

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

Businesses that buy goods from the EU or export goods to the EU would be advised to read the recent guidance from HMRC that is published under the title:

"VAT for businesses if there is no Brexit deal"

The stated purpose of the document is reproduced below. The full text can be read online at  https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vat-for-businesses-if-theres-no-brexit-deal/vat-for-businesses-if-theres-no-brexit-deal

The purpose of this notice is, in the event that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 with no agreement, to inform UK businesses of the implications for VAT rules for goods and services traded between the UK and EU member states. It outlines the impacts and gives information for businesses to take into consideration.

While the UK government is confident that it will agree a good deal for both sides, as a responsible government it will continue to prepare for all scenarios, including the unlikely outcome that the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 without a deal.

This is contingency planning for a scenario that the UK government does not expect to happen, but people should be reassured that the government is taking a responsible approach.

It is important that businesses consider how a ‘no deal’ scenario could affect them and begin to take steps to mitigate against such a risk, however unlikely. This technical notice provides further details to support early planning on VAT to help businesses understand the potential impacts, and government will provide further details, including specific actions that businesses should take, in due course.

For most UK businesses there will be no change to VAT rules. UK businesses that are affected may wish to consult other relevant technical notices, including the Trading with the EU if there’s no Brexit deal notice, which covers customs, excise and import processes at the border.

If your business buys and/or sells goods to the EU you may want to start your contingency planning now, and, of course, VAT is just one of the issues you may need to consider. We can help.

Where there is a Will…

Tuesday, August 28th, 2018

None of us relish the thought of our own demise which probably explains why approximately 70% of us have not made a Will. With no direction, who will inherit your worldly goods if you die without making a Will? The legal jargon is dying 'intestate'.

Consider Louis, 75 years old and deeply into avoidance when it comes to considering his estate. Let speculate that he died recently, and his estate was subject to the rules and regulations that apply in England. He is married, and his estate is worth more than £1m. He has two children, Kate and Ian, each with two children (Louis’s grandchildren). Louis has no time for his son and has no intention of leaving him a bean.

But Louis has no Will.

The remainder of his estate after costs and taxes (let’s say this is £1m) will be divided under the intestacy rules as follows:

• His wife will keep assets (including property) up to £250,000.

• His wife gets an absolute interest in half of what’s left, £375,000, and

• The other half is divided up between the two children, Kate and Ian. 

Accordingly, and against his unwritten wishes, the errant son, Ian, received £187,500.

Louis’s family is a fairly typical structure, but there are numerous variations that can create all sorts of complications if there is no Will that expresses the deceased person’s wishes. 

Perhaps the most alarming example is where a couple have lived together for some time but never married or created a civil partnership. The surviving partner in these circumstances would have no right to inherit if their partner did not leave a Will.

The remedy, obviously, is make a Will. If your affairs are straight-forward the cost should be affordable, and your immediate family will benefit from your estate based on your intentions, not the grey dictat of the rules of intestacy.

What has hope got to do with it?

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

In a recent tax case, Pallister v Revenue & Customs, Pallister’s son (PJ) was left a share in his deceased parent’s investment property in June 2012. A local surveyor valued the property at £1.2m and this was the figure used to determine the deceased parent’s inheritance tax bill.

 

Subsequently, the property was sold in March 2014 for £2.5m.

 

HMRC were peeved. Less than two years had passed and PJ’s share of 88% in the property had seemingly increased in value by almost 100%. They therefore challenged the earlier valuation for inheritance tax purposes on the basis that “hope” value should have been considered in the probate valuation.

 

Hope in this context is defined by HMRC as:

 

A component part of the open market value in appropriate cases, whether or not planning permission had been sought or granted.

 

The courts agreed with HMRC and after a degree of wrangling the £1.2m probate valuation was increased to £1.6m. The increase in the valuation likely cost PJ a further £160,000 in inheritance tax.

 

In their IHT Tax Toolkit, HMRC have added the following advice:

 

It is important to properly ascertain the value of assets. For assets with a material value you are strongly advised to instruct a qualified independent valuer, to make sure the valuation is made for the purposes of the relevant legislation, and for houses, land and buildings, it meets Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) or equivalent standards. Some issues are easily overlooked when instructions are given. For example, the potential for the development of the land, the existence of tenancies or occupancy by people other than the deceased. Copies of relevant agreements, or full details where only an oral agreement exists, are often not given to the valuer so misunderstandings arise. Where we are satisfied that all the relevant information has been considered by the valuer, we are less likely to challenge the valuation.

 

No doubt surviving families will always be willing to proffer the lowest valuation for a property to keep IHT liabilities to a minimum, even if the surveyor appointed is not advised of past, lapsed, planning consents, or the impending likelihood of future changes that would not be resisted by planning authorities.

 

As we can witness in the Pallister case, overlooking hope value can have expensive consequences.

Boosting recycling through the tax system

Monday, August 20th, 2018

The government has announced that it has received record-breaking support from members of the public to counter the blight of plastic waste. Here’s what they said:

Individuals, businesses and campaign groups have expressed overwhelming support for action on tackling the impact of plastics on our environment.

The backing comes as HM Treasury publishes the summary of responses to its recent call for evidence on how tax can be used to reduce plastic waste. The call attracted an unprecedented 162,000 responses, the highest in the Treasury’s history.

The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has reiterated the department’s commitment to act through the tax system to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste. The views received will help inform and shape the government’s approach ahead of this year’s Budget.

Measures which received noteworthy public support and are being considered include using the tax system to:

  • encourage greater use of recycled plastic in manufacturing rather than new plastic,
  • discourage the use of difficult to recycle plastics, like carbon black plastic,
  • reduce demand for single-use plastics like coffee-cups and takeaway boxes,
  • encourage further recycling as opposed to incineration.

 

It will be interesting to see Mr Hammond’s more detailed ideas if and when they become part of the Autumn Budget later this year.

According to Treasury sources, the department is also looking at how it could further support measures to fund the development of new, greener products and innovative processes that will help ensure a more sustainable future for the country.

This work forms part of the government’s overall commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste. It builds on the recently announced £20 million plastics innovation fund – to support the production of sustainable and recyclable plastics – and follows the £61.4 million announced by the Prime Minister to be invested in tackling plastic in the world’s oceans.

New ideas from government think tank

Wednesday, August 15th, 2018

At the beginning of August, the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) – a government department charged with coming up with new ideas to simplify our tax system – issued a number of reports and recommendations. They include a number of interesting topics and we have shared the conclusions below:

Changes to capital allowances

At present, businesses depreciate assets in their accounts and this process creates a reserve in their accounts such that when the assets are worn out, there is a fund of profits and cash to replace them. For tax purposes, this depreciation charge is added back in tax computations and is replaced by a deduction for capital allowances.

The OTS are now suggesting that trying to align tax relief with the depreciation charge in the accounts would be too complex, but they have suggested that the scope of some capital allowances should be widened.

Lookthrough taxation

Lookthrough taxation was an idea to charge the shareholders of small companies to income tax and National Insurance on the profits of their company rather than tax the company on those same profits using the present corporation tax rules.

If adopted this would have had a dramatic effect on the taxation of small companies. Thankfully, the OTS have considered this notion and have concluded that it’s application would complicate rather than simplify matters for small companies

Sole enterprise with protected assets (SEPA)

This is an interesting and welcome option to the legal status that sole traders could adopt.

At present, sole traders can be personally liable for the commercial liabilities of their businesses: there is no way to protect their personal assets, and in particular their family home, in the event that their business becomes insolvent.

The OTS have now recommended that sole traders be offered a new form of status. The principle behind SEPA is that it will allow an individual to continue to trade as a sole trader whilst offering protection for their primary residence against claims arising from the business. The primary residence will not be protected from personal claims nor will any other asset be protected.

In conclusion

These ideas are by no means certain to find their way onto the statute books. The Treasury will consider the OTS findings and may include the changes in future legislation. We will have to wait and see.

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