Thursday, February 9, 2017

Pension contributions: time is running out...

It's now the time of the year to start thinking about funding savings and pensions. And all the more this year as starting next year, high earners will see their tax benefits on pensions seriously curtailed.

There are no changes this year in VCTs, EIS and SEIS funds so there is no need to talk about those. Please refer to our previous articles on the subject. So what changes to expect this year?

1. As every year, make sure to fully fund your ISA

Each of us is entitled to pay up to £15,240 prior to 5th April 2016 into our ISA. And for the 17/18 tax year the limit will increase to £20,000. Before July 1, 2014, you could only invest half your annual ISA allowance into cash. However, following changes to ISA rules, you can invest the full £15,240 allowance into a cash ISA. This is an interest-bearing account that carries no risk, although as interest rates are so low, your returns may be eroded by inflation. Also note that you can invest some of your allowance in Innovative Finance ISA, such as P2P funds.

Don't forget that your kids have an allowance as well. The Junior ISA allowance for 16/17 is £4,080.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What is a European VAT number?

In July 2013, VAT rules for digital services sold to individuals and non VAT registered businesses were changed. From that date, these services, when supplied to EU consumers, are to be subject to VAT in the Member State where the customer belongs, even if the supplier has no EU presence. This means that non-EU businesses would have been required, under the normal rules, to register separately and account for VAT in each and every Member State in which they make those supplies. For example, a Canadian business with customers in the UK, France, Germany and Holland would have to register in, and submit declarations to each of those Member States.

In order to simplify the process, a special scheme was created that offers eligible non-EU businesses the option of registering electronically in a single Member State of their choice and account for VAT on their sales of electronically supplied services to all EU consumers on a single quarterly electronic VAT declaration which provides details of VAT due in each Member State. It's called the Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS). The return is submitted with payment to the tax administration in the Member State of registration which then distributes the VAT to the Member States where the services are consumed. Those businesses are issued a VAT number that starts with EU rather than the 2 letter code of the European country where they are registered.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Saving tax with Deferral of Capital Gains

While Capital Gain Taxes have been slashed in the recent budget to 10% and 20% (from the 18% and 28% that it used to be), CGT has remained unchanged for residential property gains. While the tax rate for gains is lower than the one for income, amounts tend to be much bigger and far appart, making it harder to use allowances and low rate bands.

This is where deferral comes in handy. The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) provides one of the mechanisms that allows such a deferral. Most people misunderstand that the general EIS conditions for income tax relief are much more restrictive than the conditions for CGT deferral. In particular the requirement that one owns less than 30% of the company or that one is connected to the business only applies to the income tax relief component of the EIS, not the CGT deferral. Same thing for the requirement that the investment be held 3 years or more: if you sell earlier the deferral just ends then (see HMRC note).

Monday, November 21, 2016

Dividend strategies for post April 2016

Prior to 6 April 2016, there was generally a tax advantage to extracting profits by way of dividends, often once a salary had been taken to utilise the personal allowance and ensure entitlement to certain state benefits. With the new dividend taxation regime from 6 April 2016, the tax advantage of dividends as opposed to salary / bonuses is reduced or in certain cases eliminated entirely. However, dividend planning is still important and is not as straightforward as it appears on the surface. Dividend planning strategies include cashflow and administrative ease as well as tax savings.

Many companies distribute dividends on a monthly basis as a means of providing themselves with a 'salary-like' income. In many cases it is only through habit and there is no reason that these frequent distributions shouldn't be replaced by a less frequent dividend followed by drawings against their current account with the company.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Feared non-dom reform is a go!

Following the Brexit vote, some people were wondering if the non-dom reform announced in the previous budget would indeed go forward or be shelved for the time being. There were concerns that many high net worth individuals would then decide to leave the UK putting further pressure on the premium property market. It seems that these concerns were not enough to stop the changes and now the government has released a further consultation document in which they confirm that they will press ahead with the proposed changes to the taxation of non-domiciled individuals. Here are the key changes:

IHT on Residential Property

The government has confirmed that, from 6 April 2017, all UK residential property will fall within the scope of UK inheritance tax. This means that shares in overseas companies holding UK residential property will no longer be considered as excluded property for IHT purposes, and will therefore be chargeable to UK IHT on the death of the owner, regardless of their domicile status. This treatment will also extend to overseas partnerships owning UK residential property. The definition of residential property is likely to follow the existing definition of a dwelling under the Non-Resident Capital Gains Tax rules.

Many non-UK domiciled have traditionally held UK residential property through an offshore structure in order to avoid exposure to IHT. Even following the introduction of the ATED (Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings) charge that now applies to properties worth over £500,000 held by an overseas company or other structure, many non-doms chose to retain their structures, accepting the ATED charge on the basis that the property would not be subject to UK IHT on their death.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

10 Reasons why it's still worth going Limited

With the recent increase in dividend taxation, many of our clients are asking whether it still makes sense to incorporate when you are a Sole Trader. It's a tough question to answer as indeed, the tax benefits of running a business as a Limited Company have now been seriously curtailed. If you extract all of the profits from your company as they arise, the total tax and national insurance (NI) paid is now almost identical whether your are operating as a Limited Company or a Sole Trader.

There are still a number of benefits however to operate as a Limited Company. Here they are:

1. Better legal protection

As the name suggests, if you run a Limited Company, you are protected in case things go wrong. Assuming no fraud has taken place, you will not be personally liable for any financial losses made by your Limited Company. Those running a business as self employed do not enjoy such protection from financial claims if things go wrong with their business. While it's possible (and recommended) to subscribe to a professional liability insurance, there is always a risk of running foul of the fine print...

2. More professional image or status

In some industries, having a Limited Company can provide a more professional image. If you are doing business with larger companies, you may find that they prefer to deal only with Limited Companies rather than Sole Traders or even partnerships. Indeed by being transparent, adhering to regulatory requirements and opening up company accounts to public scrutiny, you are demonstrating that the business is being correctly managed and this inspires confidence.

3. Wider availability of some contracts

The reason bigger corporations do not hire Sole Traders is not just image or professionalism but IR35 risk. The IR35 regulation was put in place to prevent employees to set up shop as free-lancers just to save tax. In other words if HMRC decides that a free-lancer behaves as an employee, then he is required to pay the same amount of tax and NI as an employee would. He he does not, whoever hired him is responsible for the back tax and NI, unless he operates as limited company (and in which case that limited company is responsible). It's easy to understand then why some organisations will only deal with limited companies!

4. Name protection

Once you register your company with Companies House, your company name is protected by law. No-one else can use the same name as you, or anything deemed to be too similar. As a Sole Trader, you can use a trading name but it's not protected and there is nothing to prevent a competitor to start using the same trading name as you. While it's possible to protect a trading name with a trademark, it will be in practice a lot more expensive than just creating a company with that name.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New HMRC SA302 procedures slow to take effect

HMRC has decided to tighten security and is now refusing to fax copies of SA302 (tax calculation summary) to mortgage providers when self employed people apply for a mortgage when acquiring a property. As a potential solution, HMRC has persuaded the Council of Mortgage lenders to propose acceptance of alternative documents printed from accountants’ software, meaning that for self employed people with an accountant, the change should be seamless.

In other words, most mortgage providers should now accept instead of the HMRC SA302, the tax year overview confirming the tax due on the return submitted. It is also possible for the mortgage providers to cross check the tax due as per the accountant's calculation against the tax paid as displayed on the HMRC web site.

The institutions that have agreed on the new process at the time of the article publishing date are the following:

Thursday, March 31, 2016

New clampdown on capital treatment of distributions

Starting April 6th next month, a new targeted anti-avoidance rule (TAAR) will make it more difficult to convert profits generated in a company into a capital receipt in the hands of the shareholders. Indeed, a capital distribution made in the winding-up of a company will be taxed as income if either within two years of the winding-up the shareholder continues to be involved in the same trade as that carried out by the company that has been wound-up or if profits, in excess of those required by the company, were retained in the company so that they could be received as capital on a later liquidation.

These new measures only apply to individual shareholders and close companies (broadly, companies controlled by five or fewer people) but it represents a significant tax increase where the shareholder was able to claim Entrepreneur's Relief on the gain (a jump from 10% to 38.1% if dividends are falling within the additional rate band).

More specifically, the anti-avoidance is targeted after the following behaviours:

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Save even more Money on Foreign Exchange

In the last few years a numbers of foreign exchange brokers have been appearing undercutting banks and providing much cheaper exchange rates.

The difference in spread and fees is often huge resulting in significant savings for individuals that need to transfer money overseas or companies that often trade in multiple currencies.

The problem is however that those rates are very attractive on the first few transactions but have a tendency to creep up after a while. Most people will spend time initially to select a broker based on price but few will put in competition multiple brokers every time they need to do a transfer.

This is where a new start-up found an opportunity. Called, the company takes care of registering you with up to 8 brokers (yes the compliance process is done just once and passported over to the other brokers). Going forward when you need to do a forex transaction, the platform will put a bid on your behalf to all available brokers. You just have to pick-up the best price and off you go, with just a few clicks. Everytime.

This is a huge benefit as brokers have to stay honest if they want your business and it therefore guarantees the best possible price everytime without you having to be a specialist.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Five tips to mitigate Inheritance Tax in the UK

Inheritance Tax (IHT) in the UK can be extremely punitive. For spouses or civil partners there is no tax to pay but for anyone else, the IHT rate is 40% for sums above the nil rate band (NRB) of £325,000 per individual.

It does not have to be. There are a number of ways one can significantly reduce this tax with a little bit of estate planning. Here are 5 tips you need to keep in mind when it comes to IHT:

1. Gifts from disposable income

This is actually an HMRC concession that most people are unaware of. It relates to the ability to give away an unlimited amount provided it qualifies as "normal expenditure out of income" and it is arguably one of the most useful IHT exemptions. It is also very flexible, because you don't have to gift the same amount every year or make the gifts to the same person. Many people use the exemption to pass on money on a regular basis to children or grandchildren. It is important to remember however that the exemption is not given automatically and has to be claimed retrospectively by the executors of your estate. For the gifts to qualify, you must be able to show that the payments are made out of surplus income - either earned income or investment income - and that they do not reduce your standard of living and in particular you cannot pass on income and then use your capital to supplement living costs.

2. Gifts of capital survived 7 years

There is a way to give your whole estate away and pay no tax at all. As long as you survive the gift by 7 years or more. This type of transfer is known as a "Potentially Exempt Transfer" or a PET. It is important to bear in mind that when making a large gift it has to be in excess of the nil band rate (NBR) to benefit from any potential reduction in the potential tax due as a result of the taper relief. In addition it is also important to be aware that any gift made essentially uses up the nil rate band and could push the remaining estate into a full rate of tax with no relief at all for the subsequent 7 years.

Keep in mind that if you give your estate away, you don't control it anymore. Something that many people are reluctant to do. But there is another option. Please read on....