Newsletter – May 2021

Enews – May 2021

In this month’s Enews we consider the opening of the latest SEISS grant to applicants, the launch of the government’s latest loan scheme aimed at supporting COVID-hit businesses and the introduction of state-backed 95% mortgages for first-time buyers.

With guidance on tax relief for home workers, a call for the extension of the Kickstart scheme and pension fraud increases there is a lot to update you on.

Article Index

  • Fourth self-employed grant now open for online applications
  • Recovery Loan Scheme opens to businesses
  • Recent changes to IR35 ‘undermine the self-employed’, says IPSE
  • CBI calls for extension of Kickstart Scheme as jobs market remains subdued
  • New 95% mortgage scheme launched
  • New claims required for home working tax relief
  • HMRC sets out penalty regime for SEISS abuse
  • Pension fraud increased to £1.8 million in first quarter of 2021

Fourth self-employed grant now open for online applications

On 21 April, the online service for applications for the fourth Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant was opened for claims, HMRC confirmed.

All applications must be submitted by the individual self-employed worker and cannot be handled by accountants or tax advisers.

The fourth grant will be 80% of three months’ average trading profits, to be claimed from late April 2021.

Payment will be in a single instalment capped at £7,500 in total and will cover the period 1 February to 30 April 2021. The scheme has been extended to those who filed a 2019/20 self-assessment tax return prior to 3 March 2021.

Claimants must have been impacted by reduced activity, capacity and demand, or have been trading previously and are temporarily unable to do so. All claims must be made on or before 1 June 2021.

There is no requirement for an earlier SEISS grant to have been claimed to be able to claim the fourth grant.

The fifth SEISS grant will cover the period from 1 May to 30 September 2021 and will be available from July.

It will be set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more.

Alternately, it will be worth 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850 for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%.

Further details of the fifth grant will be provided in due course.

Internet link: GOV.UK 

Recovery Loan Scheme opens to businesses

On 6 April, the Recovery Loan Scheme (RLS) was introduced to replace the government’s coronavirus lending schemes.

The RLS provides financial support to businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The scheme gives lenders a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans between £25,000 and £10 million to give them confidence in continuing to provide finance to UK businesses.

The RLS is open to all businesses, including those who have already received support under the previous COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes, the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Scheme although the amount they have borrowed under an existing scheme may in certain circumstances limit the amount they may borrow under RLS.

The RLS is initially available through a number of lenders accredited by the British Business Bank.

Internet link: British Business Bank website

 

Recent changes to IR35 ‘undermine the self-employed’, says IPSE

The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has stated that the recent changes to the rules relating to off-payroll workers, commonly known as IR35, ‘undermine the self-employed at the worst possible time’.

The changes to IR35 took effect on 6 April 2021 and shifted responsibility for making the decision on employment status on each contract away from contractors and personal service companies (PSCs) and on to the client receiving their services. This has already been done in the public sector.

Research carried out by IPSE found that 50% of contractors planned to stop contracting in the UK once the changes took effect unless they could secure contracts unaffected by them. 24% are planning to seek contracts abroad; 12% plan to stop working altogether; 17% will seek an employed role; and 11% are looking to retire within the next year.

Additionally, 24% of contractors said their clients are planning to blanket-assess all their contractors as ‘inside IR35’.

Andy Chamberlain, Director of Policy at IPSE, said:

‘The changes to IR35 would do serious harm to the self-employed sector at the best of times, but now they are adding drastic, unnecessary damage to the financial carnage of the pandemic – undermining the UK’s contractors at the worst possible time.

‘The crucial problem with IR35 is still its complexity: in fact, it is so complex that HMRC has lost the majority of tribunals on its own legislation. And there remains serious doubts about the CEST tool HMRC designed to supposedly cut through this complexity.’

Internet link: IPSE website

CBI calls for extension of Kickstart Scheme as jobs market remains subdued

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to extend the Kickstart Scheme to help young people who are bearing the brunt of the subdued job market.

The Kickstart Scheme was launched in September and promised to pay the wages and associated employment costs for businesses taking on 16 to 24-year-olds in receipt of Universal Credit up to six-month contract periods.

The UK unemployment rate fell to 4.9% in the three months to February, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). However, 56,000 workers were cut from company payrolls in March, which represents the first monthly drop since last November.

Around 813,000 workers have been cut from company payrolls in the last 12 months as the pandemic adversely affected the jobs market. The ONS said young people continued to bear the brunt of the crisis amid job losses in sectors such as hospitality and retail.

People under 25 accounted for more than half of the jobs lost in the year to March, it added.

Matthew Percival, Director of People and Skills at the CBI, said:

‘Evidence continues to mount that it is young people’s jobs that have been hardest hit by lockdowns. Support for jobs and training will be vital to making the UK’s economic recovery inclusive.

‘Government should confirm that the extra lockdown at the beginning of the year means that the Kickstart Scheme will remain open for longer to allow businesses the time to deliver opportunities for young people.’

Internet link: CBI website

New 95% mortgage scheme launched

On 19 April, a government-backed mortgage scheme to help people with 5% deposits get on to the housing ladder was made available to lenders.

First announced at the 2021 Budget, the scheme will help first-time buyers or current homeowners secure a mortgage with just a 5% deposit to buy a house worth up to £600,000. The government says this will provide ‘an affordable route to homeownership for aspiring homeowners’.

The government will offer lenders the guarantee they need to provide mortgages that cover the other 95%, subject to the usual affordability checks.

The scheme is now available from lenders on high streets across the country, with Lloyds, Santander, Barclays, HSBC and NatWest having launched mortgages under the scheme and Virgin Money following shortly.

Miguel Sard, Managing Director of Home Buying and Ownership at NatWest, said:

‘We welcome the government’s new mortgage guarantee scheme to give further support to those with smaller deposits. For those customers, particularly younger or first-time buyers, saving up for a big deposit can often be difficult, and we know people in these groups are some of the hardest hit by the effects of the pandemic.

‘A government-backed scheme will help segments of the market for whom homeownership has felt far out of reach in recent months.’

Internet link: GOV.UK

New claims required for home working tax relief

Employees who are working from home will need to make new claims for tax relief for the 2021/22 tax year, HMRC has stated.

From 6 April 2020, employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home.

Employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive the tax relief from HMRC.

HMRC has also confirmed that the £6 per week payment is available in full, even if an employee splits their time between home and the office.

The allowance is to cover tax-deductible additional costs that employees who are required to work from home have incurred, such as heating and lighting the workroom, and business telephone calls.

Last year an online portal was launched that allows employees to claim tax relief for working at home. The portal was set up to process tax relief on additional expenses for employed workers who have been told to work from home by their employer during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Internet link: GOV.UK

HMRC sets out penalty regime for SEISS abuse

The fourth Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grant is now live and HMRC has set out the penalties for abuse of the scheme.

An overclaimed SEISS grant includes any amount of grant which the self-employed individual was not entitled to receive or was more than the amount HMRC said the applicant was entitled to when the claim was made.

Overpayments must be notified to HMRC within 90 days of receipt of an SEISS grant.

When deciding the amount of any penalty, HMRC will take account whether the taxpayer knew they were entitled to the SEISS grant when they received it and when it became repayable or chargeable to tax because the individual’s circumstances changed.

The HMRC guidance states: ‘If you knew you were not entitled to your grant and did not tell us in the notification period, the law treats your failure as deliberate and concealed. This means we can charge a penalty of up to 100% on the amount of the SEISS grant that you were not entitled to receive or keep.

‘If you did not know you were not entitled to your grant when you received it, we will only charge you a penalty if you have not repaid the grant by 31 January 2022.’

If you would like further advice or require a compliance review on your eligibility, please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Pension fraud increased to £1.8 million in first quarter of 2021

Losses from pension fraud rose to £1.8 million in the first three months of this year, according to figures from Action Fraud.

107 reports of pension fraud were made in the first quarter of 2021, an increase of almost 45% when compared to the same period in 2020.

Pension scams often include free pension reviews, ‘too good to be true’ investment opportunities and offers to help release money from your pension, even for under 55s, which is not permitted under the pension freedom rules.

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:

‘Criminals are malicious and unapologetic when it comes to committing pension fraud. They are motivated by their own financial gain and lack any kind of empathy for their victims, who can often lose their whole life savings to these scams.

‘We know pension fraud can have a devastating impact, both financially and emotionally, but any one of us can fall victim to a fraud and it’s nothing to feel ashamed or embarrassed about. It’s incredibly important that instances of pension fraud and attempted scams are reported to Action Fraud.

‘Every report helps police get that bit closer to the people committing these awful crimes. Reporting to Action Fraud also allows our specialist victim support advocates to provide people with important protection advice and signpost them to local support services.’

Internet link: Action Fraud website

Newsletter – April 2021

Enews – April 2021

In this month’s Enews we consider the extension of business rates relief to COVID-hit businesses outside of the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors, the announcements from the inaugural Tax Day and the details of the 2021 Finance Bill.

With guidance on the new Brexit fund aimed at SMEs, the fourth and fifth instalments of the support grant for the self-employed and minimum wage increases there is a lot to update you on.

Article Index

  • Business rates relief extended with £1.5 billion fund
  • Consultations launched on UK’s first Tax Day
  • Government publishes details of Finance Bill 2021
  • £20 million SME Brexit Support Fund opens for applications
  • HMRC publishes details of final grants for self-employed
  • National Minimum and Living wages increases
  • UK cuts electric vehicle grants by £500
  • ICAEW urges HMRC to rethink quarterly reports under MTD for corporation tax

Business rates relief extended with £1.5 billion fund

The government is to extend business rates relief with a £1.5 billion fund targeted at those businesses unable to benefit from the current COVID-19 support.

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses have not been paying any rates during the pandemic, as part of a 15 month-long relief which runs to the end of June this year.

However, many businesses ineligible for reliefs have been appealing for discounts on their rates bills, arguing the pandemic represented a ‘material change of circumstance’ (MCC).

The government says that market-wide economic changes to property values, such as from COVID-19, can only be properly considered at general rates revaluations, and will therefore be legislating to rule out COVID-19 related MCC appeals.

Instead, the government will provide a £1.5 billion pot across the country that will be distributed according to which sectors have suffered most economically, rather than on the basis of falls in property values. It says this will ensure the support is provided to businesses in England in the fastest and fairest way possible.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

‘Our priority throughout this crisis has been to protect jobs and livelihoods. Providing this extra support will get cash to businesses who need it most, quickly and fairly.

‘By providing more targeted support than the business rates appeals system, our approach will help protect and support jobs in businesses across the country, providing a further boost as we reopen the economy, emerge from this crisis, and build back better.’

Internet link: GOV.UK 

Consultations launched on UK’s first Tax Day

The government has published over 30 updates, consultations and documents on the UK’s first ever Tax Day.

The announcements, which would traditionally be published at Budget, have been released later to allow for scrutiny from stakeholders.

It was announced that HMRC will tighten rules to force holiday let landlords to prove they have made a realistic effort to rent properties out for at least 140 days per year. There are suspicions that many simply declare that they will do this but leave the properties empty.

Declaring a home to be a holiday let means that it is exempt from council tax and owners pay business rates instead.

The Treasury plans to cut the rate of domestic Air Passenger Duty. The consultation also seeks views on supporting the UK’s commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 by increasing the number of international distance bands.

Inheritance tax (IHT) reporting regulations ‘will be simplified’ to ensure that from 1 January 2022 more than 90% of non-taxpaying estates will no longer have to complete IHT forms when probate or confirmation is required.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘We are making these announcements to increase the transparency, discipline and accessibility of tax policymaking.

‘These measures will help us to upgrade and digitise the UK tax system, tackle tax avoidance and fraud, among other things.

‘Many of today’s announcements form a key part of the government’s wider 10-year plan to build a trusted, modern tax system.’

Internet links: GOV.UK GOV.UK news

 

Government publishes details of Finance Bill 2021

The details of the Finance Bill 2021 have been published by the government.

The Bill outlines the key measures set to be brought into legislation, including many measures announced in the recent 2021 Budget.

In his Budget speech, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extension of the stamp duty holiday in England; a super-deduction capital allowance; extensions of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) and the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS); and an extension of the VAT cut for the tourism and hospitality sectors.

The Bill will make sure the measures announced in the Budget take effect from 6 April 2021. It also legislates for tax changes that were previously consulted on and subsequently confirmed at the Budget.

Internet link: UK Parliament website

£20 million SME Brexit Support Fund opens for applications

The UK government has unveiled a £20 million Brexit support package to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with changes to customs and tax rules when trading with the EU.

The SME Brexit Support Fund aims to help businesses prepare for the implementation of further import controls which come into force later this year.

Businesses who trade only with the EU and are therefore new to importing and exporting processes will be encouraged to apply for grants of up to £2,000 for each trader to pay for practical support, including training and professional advice, to ensure they can continue trading effectively.

Businesses must meet certain criteria, including having been established in the UK for at least 12 months, having fewer than 500 employees and no more than £100 million in turnover.

The closing date for applications is 30 June. HMRC states that the fund may close for applications earlier if the full £20 million is allocated.

Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said:

‘We have been asking for proper financial assistance of this scale so that a cash-strapped small business can afford to buy-in expertise, training and practical support. The new fund will make a significant difference.’

Internet links: GOV.UK guidance GOV.UK press release

HMRC publishes details of final grants for self-employed

HMRC has published details of the eligibility criteria of the final two grants available under the coronavirus (COVID-19) Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).

At the 2021 Budget it was confirmed that the fourth SEISS grant will be set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500. It will cover the period from February 2021 to April 2021.

To be eligible for the fourth grant, self-employed workers must have filed their 2019/20 tax return by midnight on 2 March 2021. This includes those who became self-employed in 2019/20, provided they have filed according to the deadline.

Eligibility will be based on the 2019/20 self assessment tax return which may affect the amount of the fourth grant which could be higher or lower than previous grants.

The remaining eligibility criteria are unchanged so applicants must either be currently trading but impacted by reduced demand, or be temporarily unable to trade due to COVID-19. They must also declare an intention to continue trading.

Claims can be made from late April until 31 May 2021.

The fifth SEISS grant will cover the period from May to September 2021 and will be available from July.

It will be set at 80% of three months’ average trading profits, paid out in a single instalment, capped at £7,500, for those with a turnover reduction of 30% or more.

Alternately, it will be worth 30% of three months’ average trading profits, capped at £2,850 for those with a turnover reduction of less than 30%.

Further details of the fifth grant will be provided in due course.

Internet link: GOV.UK

National Minimum and Living wages increases

UK workers are set to benefit from rises in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) and the National Living Wage (NLW) rates that took effect from 1 April 2021.

The NMW which applies to 21 and 22 year-olds has risen from £8.20 to £8.36 and the NLW has risen from £8.72 to £8.91. 23 and 24-year-olds are now eligible for the NLW, prior to 1 April 2021, only workers aged 25 and over were eligible.

The rates for NMW and NLW for all employees are as follows:

  Previous rate Rate from April 2021 Increase
National Living Wage £8.72 £8.91 2.2%
21-22 year-old rate £8.20 £8.36 2.0%
18-20 year-old rate £6.45 £6.56 1.7%
16-17 year-old rate £4.55 £4.62 1.5%
Apprentice Rate £4.15 £4.30 3.6%

The change follows recommendations made to the government by the Low Pay Commission (LPC) and marks the first step towards the government’s target of the NLW reaching two-thirds of median earnings for workers aged 21 and over by 2024.

Commenting on the wage increases, Bryan Sanderson, Chair of the LPC, said:

‘This week’s increase in the NLW is our first step towards the government’s target of two-thirds of median earnings. It is a real-terms increase, meaning that an hour’s work can buy more than it could last year at the start of the pandemic.

‘Young people should be fairly rewarded for their work. We will seek to understand how young people’s pay and employment are affected by this in our consideration of a further reduction in the NLW age qualification to 21.’

The LPC will make recommendations to the government on the 2022 NMW and NLW rates in October.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

UK cuts electric vehicle grants by £500

The government has cut the Plug-in Car Grant and Van & Truck Grant by £500 and lowered the pricing cap on qualifying electric vehicles.

The Department for Transport will now provide grants of up to £2,500 for electric vehicles on cars priced under £35,000. This is a reduction from the current £3,000 available for vehicles costing up to £50,000.

This will mean the funding will last longer and be available to more drivers, the government statement said. Grants will no longer be available for higher priced vehicles, typically bought by drivers who can afford to switch without a subsidy from taxpayers.

The number of electric car models priced under £35,000 has increased by almost 50% since 2019 and more than half the models currently on the market will still be eligible for the grant.

However, Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said:

‘The decision to slash the Plug-in Car Grant and Van & Truck Grant is the wrong move at the wrong time. New battery electric technology is more expensive than conventional engines and incentives are essential in making these vehicles affordable to the customer.

‘This sends the wrong message to the consumer, especially private customers, and to an industry challenged to meet the government’s ambition to be a world leader in the transition to zero emission mobility.’

Internet links: GOV.UK SMMT statement

ICAEW urges HMRC to rethink quarterly reports under MTD for corporation tax

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has urged HMRC to rethink the requirement for companies to report quarterly under Making Tax Digital for corporation tax (MTD for CT).

In response to HMRC’s consultation on expanding the MTD initiative to corporation tax, the ICAEW suggested that HMRC should reconsider reporting requirements ‘at the very least for businesses below the VAT registration threshold’ and other organisations including those that require a senior accounting officer.

The Institute argued that quarterly reports would merely consist of cash in and out transactions.

The ICAEW said:

‘These reports will tell HMRC very little about the true accounting or tax results of the company for the quarter concerned.

‘The additional burden placed on companies in providing quarterly reports is not justified and should not be introduced until digital record keeping has become established and the software available is shown to work efficiently for companies and HMRC.’

Internet link: ICAEW website

Newsletter – March 2021

Enews – March 2021

In this month’s Enews we consider the Chancellor’s 2021 Budget announcements, a new deadline for Self Assessment penalties and an online system for VAT deferrals.

With guidance on off-payroll working rules, the VAT reverse charge and extra time for businesses to repay COVID support there is a lot to update you on.

Article Index

  • Sunak set out Budget to protect businesses
  • Business groups welcome Budget
  • Late payment penalties for Self Assessment waived until 1 April
  • Online service opens for VAT deferral scheme
  • HMRC clarifies off-payroll rules
  • Domestic VAT reverse charge comes into effect on 1 March
  • Borrowers of Bounce Back loans given six more months for repayments
  • Advisory fuel rates for company cars

Sunak set out Budget to protect businesses

Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out a Budget to protect businesses through the pandemic, fix the public finances and begin building the future economy.

The Chancellor once again pledged to do ‘whatever it takes’ during the COVID-19 pandemic and confirmed that the furlough scheme would be extended until September 2021 to support jobs through the crisis.

Mr Sunak also confirmed that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has also been extended, with two further grants this year. Claimable by the self-employed, including the newly self-employed from 6 April 2019, provided they have filed their 2019/20 tax return for by midnight on 2 March 2021,

The stamp duty nil rate band on residential properties in England up to £500,000 will continue until the end of June. It will taper to £250,000 until the end of September, and then return to the usual level of £125,000 from 1 October 2021.

To support businesses as they re-open following lockdown, £5 billion will be made available in restart grants. Non-essential retail businesses re-opening first will be eligible for up to £6,000 but the leisure and hospitality sectors, which have been worse affected and will re-open later, will be eligible for up to £18,000.

However, the rate of corporation tax will increase to 25% in April 2023 for companies with profits over £250,000, whilst retaining a Small Profits Rate of 19% for companies with profits of £50,000 or less.

The Chancellor also introduced a super-deduction for companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery. Under this measure a company will be allowed to claim 130% on most new plant and machinery investments that ordinarily qualify for 18% main rate writing down allowances.

He also confirmed the location of the eight Freeports in England. Freeports are special economic zones with favourable tariffs and lower taxes to make it easier and cheaper to do business.

Internet link: GOV.UK speeches

Business groups welcome Budget

Business groups welcomed the Chancellor’s Budget for protecting the economy now and kickstarting recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tony Danker, Director General of the CBI, said:

‘The Chancellor has gone above and beyond to protect UK businesses and people’s livelihoods through the crisis and get firms’ spending.

‘Thousands of firms will be relieved to receive support to finish the job and get through the coming months. The Budget also has a clear eye to the future; to ensure finances are sustainable, while building confidence and investment in a lasting recovery.’

Meanwhile, the British Chambers of Commerce’s (BCC) Director General, Dr Adam Marshall, commented:

‘The Chancellor has listened and acted on our calls for immediate support to help struggling businesses reach the finish line of this gruelling marathon and to begin their recovery.

‘Extensions to furlough, business rates relief and VAT reductions give firms a fighting chance not only to restart but also to rebuild.’

 

However, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said that there was little in the Budget to aid job creation or help people return to work. Mike Cherry, National Chairman of the FSB, said: ‘Thousands of small businesses are on the brink of collapse and thousands more are suffering from low confidence as cash reserves dwindle.

‘The continuation of business rates and VAT discounts is critical, and it’s important that those in supply chains benefit from them, not just those that neatly fit the definitions of frontline retail, leisure and hospitality.’

Internet links: CBI press release BCC press release FSB press release

Late payment penalties for Self Assessment waived until 1 April

HMRC has announced that Self Assessment taxpayers will not be charged a 5% late payment penalty if they pay their tax or set up a payment plan by 1 April.

The payment deadline for Self Assessment is 31 January and interest is charged from 1 February on any amounts outstanding.

Normally, a 5% late payment penalty is also charged on any unpaid tax that is still outstanding on 3 March. But this year, because of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, HMRC is giving taxpayers more time to pay or set up a payment plan.

Taxpayers can pay their tax bill or set up a monthly payment plan online and are required to do this by midnight on 1 April to prevent being charged a late payment penalty. The online Time to Pay facility allows taxpayers to spread the cost of their Self Assessment tax bill into monthly instalments until January 2022.

Jim Harra, HMRC’s Chief Executive, said:

‘Anyone worried about paying their tax can set up a payment plan to spread the cost into monthly instalments. Support is available at GOV.UK to help anyone struggling to meet their obligations.’

Internet link: HMRC press release

Online service opens for VAT deferral scheme

HMRC has announced that businesses that deferred VAT payments last year can now join the new online VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme to pay it in smaller monthly instalments.

To take advantage of the new payment scheme businesses will need to have deferred VAT payments between March and June 2020, under the VAT Payment Deferral Scheme. They will now be given the option to pay their deferred VAT in equal consecutive monthly instalments from March 2021.

Businesses will need to opt-in to the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme. They can do this via the online service that opened on 23 February and closes on 21 June 2021.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘The Government has provided a package of support worth over £280bn during the pandemic to help protect millions of jobs and businesses.

‘This now includes the VAT Deferral New Payment Scheme, which will help provide businesses with the breathing space they may need to manage their cashflows in the weeks and months ahead.’

Internet links: GOV.UK guidance GOV.UK press release

HMRC clarifies off-payroll rules

HMRC has published a briefing on its approach to the changes to off-payroll working rules, commonly known as IR35, which will be introduced on 6 April 2021.

Reiterating its advice from last year, HMRC has confirmed that it will not issue penalties for inaccuracies in the first 12 months of the regime, unless there is evidence of deliberate non-compliance.

HMRC also confirmed that it will not use information it receives under the expanded regime to open new compliance enquiries into returns for tax years before 2021/22, unless there is reason to suspect fraud or criminal behaviour.

The new tax rules will see the extension to medium and large organisations in the private sector. These reforms will shift the responsibility for assessing employment status to medium and large organisations engaging individuals via a personal services company.

Internet link: GOV.UK

Domestic VAT reverse charge comes into effect on 1 March

The twice-delayed introduction of the domestic VAT reverse charge for construction services came into effect on 1 March 2021.

The change was originally scheduled to come into effect from 1 October 2019 but was deferred for 12 months after industry bodies highlighted concerns about the lack of preparation and the impact on businesses.

It was put back another five months due to the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the sector. The change applied from 1 March 2021 and overhauled the way VAT is payable on building and construction invoices as part of a move to reduce fraud in the sector.

From March 2021, the person receiving the supply of services, not the supplier of services, who accounts for the output VAT on those services. The recipient deducts VAT due on the supply as input VAT, subject to normal VAT rules. In most cases, no net tax on the transaction will be payable to HMRC. This new procedure will apply right the way up the CIS supply chain until you reach end users/intermediary suppliers, the supply defaults to normal VAT rules, so long as the end user/intermediary supplier correctly evidences their status.

The Domestic Reverse Charge (DRC) applies to most supplies of building and construction services from 1 March 2021, which are:

  • standard or reduced rated supplies
  • where both parties are registered for VAT in the UK
  • and payments for the supplies are required to be reported via the Construction Industry Scheme.

The DRC does not apply to:

  • zero rated supplies
  • services supplied to end users or intermediary suppliers, so long as these have provided written confirmation of their status to the supplier
  • employment businesses supplying either staff or workers.

Please contact us for advice on the DRC and how it impacts your business.

Internet link: GOV.UK

Borrowers of Bounce Back loans given six more months for repayments

Businesses that took out government-backed Bounce Back loans to get through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic will now have greater flexibility to repay their loans, the government has announced.

The Pay as You Grow repayment flexibilities now include the option to delay all repayments for a further six months. This means businesses can choose to make no payments on their loans until 18 months after they originally took them out.

Pay as You Grow will also enable borrowers to extend the length of their loans from six to ten years, which reduces monthly repayments by almost half.

They can also make interest-only payments for six months to tailor their repayment schedule to suit their individual circumstances.

The Pay as You Grow options will be available to more than 1.4 million businesses which took out a total of nearly £45 billion through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS).

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, said:

‘Businesses are continuing to feel the impact of extended disruption from COVID-19, and we’re determined to give them the backing and confidence they need to get through the pandemic.

‘That’s why we’re giving Bounce Back loan borrowers breathing space to get back on their feet, through greater flexibility and time to repay their loans on their terms.’

Internet links: GOV.UK news British Business Bank

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published and took effect from 1 March 2021.

The guidance states: ‘You can use the previous rates for up to one month from the date the new rates apply’. The rates only apply to employees using a company car.

The advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after 1 March 2021 are:

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 10p
1401cc – 2000cc 12p
Over 2000cc 18p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 8p
Over 2000cc 12p
Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 9p
1601cc – 2000cc 11p
Over 2000cc 12p

HMRC guidance states that the rates only apply when you either:

  • reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars
  • require employees to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel

You must not use these rates in any other circumstances.

The Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric cars is 4 pence per mile. Electricity is not a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

If you would like to discuss your car policy, please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

Budget 2021 – March 2021

Budget 2021

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak presented his second Budget on Wednesday 3 March 2021. In his speech he stated his Budget ‘meets the moment with a three-part plan to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people’.

Main Budget proposals

Tax measures include:

  • a super-deduction for companies investing in new plant and machinery
  • a time extension of the temporary increase to the SDLT nil rate band for residential property in England and Northern Ireland
  • an extension to the temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for certain supplies
  • a temporary increase in the carry-back period for business losses
  • an increased rate of corporation tax from 2023.

Other measures include:

  • a new mortgage guarantee scheme
  • extension to the Job Retention Scheme
  • a Self-Employment Income Support Scheme fourth and fifth grant
  • an extension to the business rates holiday in England.

Previously announced measures include:

  • a cap on the amount of R&D tax credit paid to a loss-making small or medium-sized enterprise
  • new rules apply to off-payroll working payments made for services provided on or after 6 April 2021.

Some Budget proposals may be subject to amendment in the 2021 Finance Act. You should contact us before taking any action as a result of the contents of this summary.

Business

Coronavirus loan schemes

In 2020, the government introduced a number of government-guaranteed coronavirus loan schemes. In December 2020 the Chancellor extended, until the end of March 2021, access to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme.

Budget 2021 announced a new loan scheme to be introduced to replace those coming to an end.

From 6 April 2021 the Recovery Loan Scheme will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on eligible loans between £25,000 and £10 million to give them confidence in continuing to provide finance to UK businesses. The scheme will be open to all businesses, including those who have already received support under the existing COVID-19 guaranteed loan schemes.

Restart Grants

In addition Restart Grants will be provided in England of up to £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail businesses and up to £18,000 per premises for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses. This will provide the cash certainty needed to plan ahead and safely relaunch trading over the coming months.

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)

Budget 2021 has confirmed details of a fourth grant. This will be 80% of three months’ average trading profits to be claimed from late April 2021. Payment will be in a single instalment capped at £7,500 in total and will cover the period February to April 2021. The scheme has been extended to those who have filed a 2019/20 self assessment tax return prior to 3 March 2021. This means that the newly self-employed from April 2019 now qualify subject to satisfying the other conditions.

A fifth and final grant was announced and can be claimed from late July 2021 to cover the period May to September 2021. This grant will be determined by a turnover test. Where the self-employed business turnover has fallen by 30% the grant will be worth 80% of three months’ average trading profits capped at £7,500. People whose turnover has fallen by less than 30% will receive a 30% grant, capped at £2,850.

Business rates

Business rates have been devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. All four nations have introduced 100% business rates relief mainly aimed at retail, leisure and hospitality businesses. Such businesses have not had to pay business rates from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.

In a Scottish Budget update statement on 16 February, the Scottish Government proposed an extension to the relief for the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors until 31 March 2022.

The Chancellor has now announced a continuation of 100% business rates relief for eligible retail, hospitality and leisure properties in England to 30 June 2021. This will be followed by 66% business rates relief for the period from 1 July 2021 to 31 March 2022, capped at £2 million per business for properties that were required to be closed on 5 January 2021, or £105,000 per business for other eligible properties. Nurseries will also qualify for relief in the same way as other eligible properties.

Following the Chancellor’s announcement, the Welsh Finance Minister has extended the rates holiday for the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors in Wales for a further 12 months.

Rates review

The government announced at Budget 2020 that it would conduct a fundamental review of the business rates system in England. The government’s objectives for the review are reducing the overall burden on business, improving the current business rates system and considering more fundamental changes in the medium-to-long term.

The government has recently announced the final report will be published in Autumn 2021 with an interim report published on 23 March.

Reduced VAT rate for hospitality sector

In July 2020, the government introduced a temporary 5% reduced rate of VAT for certain supplies of hospitality, hotel and holiday accommodation and admissions to certain attractions. In September 2020 the Chancellor extended the reduced rate to 31 March 2021. The government has now announced an extension of the reduced rate until 30 September 2021. To help businesses manage the transition back to the standard 20% rate, a 12.5% rate will apply for the subsequent six months until 31 March 2022.

Corporation tax rates

The main rate of corporation tax is currently 19% and it will remain at that rate until 1 April 2023 when the rate will increase to 25% for companies with profits over £250,000. The 19% rate will become a small profits rate payable by companies with profits of £50,000 or less. Companies with profits between £50,000 and £250,000 will pay tax at the main rate reduced by a marginal relief, providing a gradual increase in the effective corporation tax rate.

Comment

The main rate of corporation tax has been 19% since 1 April 2017. The rate for the Financial Year beginning on 1 April 2020 was due to fall to 17% but the Chancellor reversed this decision in Budget 2020.

Tax losses

A temporary extension of the period over which businesses may carry trading losses back for relief against profits of earlier years to get a repayment of tax paid will have effect for company accounting periods ending in the period 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2022 and for tax years 2020/21 and 2021/22 for unincorporated businesses.

Trade loss carry back will be extended from the current one year entitlement to a period of three years, with losses being carried back against later years first.

For companies, after carry back to the preceding year, a maximum of £2 million of unused losses will be available for carry back against profits of the same trade to the earlier two years. This £2 million limit applies separately to the unused losses of each 12 month period within the duration of the extension.

For individuals a separate £2 million cap will apply to the extended carry back of losses made in each of the tax years 2020/21 and 2021/22.

The £2 million limit applies separately to the unused losses of each tax year within the duration of the extension. Income Tax payers will not be subject to a partnership-level limit.

Super-deduction

Between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023, companies investing in qualifying new plant and machinery will benefit from new first year capital allowances.

Under this measure a company will be allowed to claim:

  • a super-deduction providing allowances of 130% on most new plant and machinery investments that ordinarily qualify for 18% main rate writing down allowances
  • a first year allowance of 50% on most new plant and machinery investments that ordinarily qualify for 6% special rate writing down allowances.

This relief is not available for unincorporated businesses.

First year allowances for business cars from April 2021

Budget 2020 announced the extension of 100% first year allowances for zero-emission cars, zero-emission goods vehicles and equipment for gas refuelling stations by four years from April 2021.

CO2 emission thresholds will also be amended from April 2021. These determine the rate of capital allowances available through which the capital expenditure for business cars can be written down. The thresholds will be reduced from 50g/km to 0g/km for the purpose of the first year allowances for low CO2 emission cars and from 110g/km to 50g/km for the purpose of writing down allowances (WDAs) for business cars.

Comment

The reduction in thresholds will mean that only business cars acquired with CO2 emissions of 0g/km will be eligible for first year allowances. Ultra-low emission vehicles which currently qualify for first year allowances if 50g/km or less will no longer qualify. They will be eligible for WDAs at the main rate (18%). Cars with CO2 emissions exceeding 50g/km will be eligible for WDAs at the special rate (6%).

Freeports

In 2020 the government consulted on proposals to create up to ten Freeports across the UK. The government is now proposing a range of measures covering customs, tax reliefs, planning, regeneration funding and innovation to create Freeports as national hubs for global trade and investment across the UK.

A UK Freeport will be a geographical area with a diameter up to 45km which is closely linked to a sea port, airport or rail port. East Midlands Airport, Felixstowe & Harwich, Humber, Liverpool City Region, Plymouth and South Devon, Solent, Teesside and Thames have been successful in the Freeports bidding process for England.

The government is working with devolved administrations to establish Freeports in each of the nations.

Customs benefits

Within the Freeport there will be a primary customs site and perhaps custom subzones. A customs site or subzone provides customs and tariff benefits such as:

  • duty deferral while goods remain on site
  • duty inversion if the finished goods exiting the Freeport attract a lower tariff than their component parts
  • subject to the UK’s trade agreements, customs duty exemption on goods that are imported into a Freeport, processed into finished goods and subsequently re-exported
  • simplified import procedures.

Tax benefits

Freeports may also have one or more tax sites within which tax reliefs will apply. The aim is for a single site and up to three tax sites may be allowed but the total area of the site(s) must not exceed 600 hectares. The tax site will likely be located on primarily underdeveloped land to generate new, additional productive activity in Freeport locations.

The intention is to offer:

  • Stamp Duty Land Tax relief on land purchases within Freeport tax sites in England where that property is to be used for qualifying commercial activity
  • a 10% rate of Structures and Buildings Allowance rather than the 3% rate that applies for businesses constructing or renovating structures and buildings for non-residential use
  • enhanced tax relief for qualifying new plant and machinery assets for the full cost of the qualifying investment in the same tax period the cost was incurred
  • 100% relief from business rates on certain business premises within Freeport tax sites in England.

Very broadly, the reliefs will apply for expenditure from various dates in 2021 to 30 September 2026.

In addition, a 0% rate of employer NICs on the salaries of any eligible employee working in the Freeport tax site is proposed. The relief is intended to be available for up to 9 years from April 2022.

Research and Development (R&D) tax relief

A cap on the amount of R&D tax credit which can be paid to a loss-making small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) will be introduced for accounting periods which commence on or after 1 April 2021.

Prior to the introduction of the cap, loss-making SMEs incurring qualifying expenditure on R&D activities are allowed to make a claim to surrender the unrelieved loss for a payable tax credit of up to 14.5%. For accounting periods commencing on or after 1 April 2021, payable tax credits are restricted to £20,000 plus three times the company’s relevant expenditure on workers.

Relevant expenditure on workers is the company’s PAYE and NICs for the period and importantly this is the company’s whole PAYE and NIC liability. In addition, if the company is supplied with workers by a connected company the relevant workers’ expenditure is extended to include a proportion of those worker costs.

Some companies which create or manage intellectual property and spend less than 15% with connected persons on R&D qualifying expenditure will be exempt from this cap.

Capital Taxes

Capital gains tax (CGT) rates

No changes to the current rates of CGT have been announced at Budget 2021. This means that the rate remains at 10%, to the extent that any income tax basic rate band is available, and 20% thereafter. Higher rates of 18% and 28% apply for certain gains; mainly chargeable gains on residential properties with the exception of any element that qualifies for Private Residence Relief.

There are two specific types of disposal which potentially qualify for a 10% rate up to a lifetime limit for each individual:

  • Business Asset Disposal Relief (BADR) (formerly known as Entrepreneurs’ Relief). This is targeted at directors and employees of companies who own at least 5% of the ordinary share capital in the company, provided other minimum criteria are also met, and the owners of unincorporated businesses.
  • Investors’ Relief. The main beneficiaries of this relief are external investors in unquoted trading companies who have newly-subscribed shares.

The lifetime limit for BADR was reduced from £10 million to £1 million for BADR qualifying disposals made on or after 11 March 2020. Investors’ Relief continues to have a lifetime limit of £10 million.

CGT annual exemption

The CGT annual exemption will be maintained at the current 2020/21 level of £12,300 for 2021/22 and up to and including 2025/26.

Inheritance tax (IHT) nil rate bands

The nil rate band has been frozen at £325,000 since 2009 and this will now continue up to 5 April 2026. An additional nil rate band, called the ‘residence nil rate band’ (RNRB) which has been increased in stages and is now £175,000 for deaths in 2020/21 will also be frozen at the current level until 5 April 2026. A taper reduces the amount of the RNRB by £1 for every £2 that the ‘net’ value of the death estate is more than £2 million. Net value is after deducting permitted liabilities but before exemptions and reliefs. This taper will also be maintained at the current level.

Business assets and Gift Hold-Over Relief

Gift Hold-Over Relief operates by deferring the chargeable gain on the disposal when a person gives away business assets. The gain then comes into charge when the recipient disposes of the gifted asset. The recipient is treated as though they acquired the asset for the same cost as the person who gave them the asset.

A change to the relief ensures that Gift Hold-Over Relief is not available where a non-UK resident person disposes of an asset to a foreign-controlled company, controlled either by themselves or another non-UK resident with whom they are connected. This measure will affect disposals made on or after 6 April 2021.

Employment

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (JRS)

The current JRS allows an employer to place an employee on furlough and apply for a grant to cover wage costs for the time an employee is on furlough. The employer:

  • can claim 80% of ‘usual salary’ for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500 per employee (pro-rated for hours not worked) per month
  • needs to fund employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) and the minimum employer automatic enrolment pension contributions.

In December 2020, the Chancellor extended the scheme until the end of April 2021.

Further extension of JRS

In Budget 2021 the Chancellor has further extended the scheme to 30 September 2021.

The level of grant available to employers under the scheme will stay the same until 30 June 2021.

From 1 July 2021, the level of grant will be reduced and employers will be asked to contribute towards the cost of furloughed employees’ wages. To be eligible for the grant an employer must continue to pay furloughed employees 80% of their wages, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for the time they spend on furlough.

The reduction in the level of the grant means that the percentage recovery of furloughed wages will be as follows:

  • for July 2021 70% of furloughed wages up to a maximum of £2187.50 and
  • for August and September 2021 60% of furloughed wages up to a maximum of £1,875.00.

Employers will need to continue to fund employer NICs and mandatory minimum automatic enrolment pension contributions.

Comment

The Chancellor has also extended eligibility for the scheme. For periods starting on or after 1 May 2021, employers can claim for employees who were employed on 2 March 2021, as long as a PAYE Real Time Information (RTI) submission was made between 20 March 2020 and 2 March 2021, notifying a payment of earnings for that employee.

Apprenticeships and traineeships

High quality traineeships for young people

The government will provide an additional £126 million in England for high quality work placements and training for 16-24 year olds in the 2021/22 academic year. Employers who provide trainees with work experience will continue to be funded at a rate of £1,000 per trainee.

Payments for employers who hire new apprentices

The government will extend and increase the payments made to employers in England who hire new apprentices. Employers who hire a new apprentice between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2021 will receive £3,000 per new hire, compared with £1,500 per new apprentice hire (or £2,000 for those aged 24 and under) under the previous scheme.

This is in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government provides for all new 16-18 year-old apprentices and those aged under 25 with an Education, Health and Care Plan, where that applies.

Supporting apprenticeships across different employers

The government will introduce a £7 million fund from July 2021 to help employers in England set up and expand portable apprenticeships. This will enable people who need to work across multiple projects with different employers to benefit from the high quality long-term training that an apprenticeship provides.

Off-payroll working in the private sector

New tax rules are soon to come into force for individuals who provide their personal services via an ‘intermediary’ to a medium or large business. The new rules apply to payments made for services provided on or after 6 April 2021.

The off-payroll working rules apply where an individual (the worker) provides their services through an intermediary (typically a personal service company) to another person or entity (the client). The client will be required to make a determination of a worker’s status and communicate that determination. In addition, the fee-payer (usually the organisation paying the worker’s personal service company) will need to make deductions for income tax and NICs and pay any employer NICs.

The legislation uses an existing statutory definition within the Companies Act of a ‘small company’ to exempt small businesses from the new rules. A small company is one which meets two of these criteria:

  • a turnover of £10.2 million or less
  • having £5.1 million on the balance sheet or less
  • having 50 or fewer employees.

If the business receiving the work of the individual is not a company, it is only the turnover test that will apply.

Comment

The Status Determination Statement (SDS) is a key part of the status determination procedure. The client must provide the SDS to the worker and should include not only the decision of the client but also the reasons underpinning it. The client must take ‘reasonable care’ in coming to its conclusion. If it doesn’t, the statement is not a valid SDS

In the Budget the government announced minor technical changes to improve the operation of the rules, in response to feedback from stakeholders, which will be legislated for in Finance Bill 2021. The government will make changes to the rules regarding provision of information by parties in the labour supply chain.

Comment

These changes will make it easier for parties in a contractual chain to share information relating to the off-payroll working rules by allowing an intermediary, as well as a worker, to confirm if the rules need to be considered by the client organisation.

National Living Wage (NLW) and National Minimum Wage (NMW)

The National Living Wage will increase by 2.2% and will be extended to 23 and 24 year olds for the first time. For workers aged under 23, the government has announced smaller increases in NMW in recognition of the risks to youth employment which the current economic situation poses.

From 1 April 2021, the new hourly rates of NLW and NMW are:

  • £8.91 for those 23 years old and over
  • £8.36 for 21-22 year olds
  • £6.56 for 18-20 year olds
  • £4.62 for under 18s
  • £4.30 apprentice rate for apprentices under 19, and those 19 and over in their first year of apprenticeship.

Comment

The extension of the NLW to 23 and 24 year olds may catch out some employers. Employees in this category, if they are on the NMW rate, are currently being paid £8.20 an hour.

Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) scheme

At Budget 2020, the government announced a review of the EMI scheme to ensure it provides support for high-growth companies to recruit and retain the best talent so they can scale up effectively, and examine whether more companies should be able to access the scheme.

As part of this review the government is publishing a consultation alongside the Budget.

Van benefit charge nil-rating for zero-emission vans

From 6 April 2021, a nil rate of tax applies to zero-emission vans within the van benefit charge. In 2020/21 such vans have a van benefit charge at 80% of the standard flat rate of £3,490.

Comment

A zero-emission van is a van which cannot in any circumstances emit CO2 emissions when driven. Governments have provided varying amounts of discounts from the van benefit charge for zero-emissions vans since 2010. We are now back to the policy which applied from 2010 to 2015 when there was no charge.

Temporary changes to legislation resulting from coronavirus

Easement for employer-provided cycles exemption

The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2021 to introduce a time-limited easement to the employer-provided cycle exemption to disapply the condition which states that employer-provided cycles must be used mainly for journeys to, from, or during work. The easement will be available to employees who have joined a scheme and have been provided with a cycle or cycling equipment on or before 20 December 2020.

The change will have effect on and after Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2021 and be in place until 5 April 2022, after which the normal rules of the exemption will apply.

Employer-reimbursed coronavirus tests

The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2021 to introduce a retrospective income tax exemption for payments that an employer makes to an employee to reimburse for the cost of a relevant coronavirus antigen test for the tax year 2020/21. Legislation will extend this exemption for the tax year 2021/22.

The change will have effect on and after Royal Assent of Finance Bill 2021. The corresponding NICs disregard is already in force and this will also be extended for the tax year 2021/22.

Extension of income tax exemption for COVID-19 related home office expenses

The government will, by secondary legislation, extend the temporary income tax exemption and Class 1 NICs disregard for employer reimbursed expenses that cover the cost of relevant home office equipment. The extended exemption will have effect until 5 April 2022.

Other Matters

Land and buildings transaction taxes

Land and buildings transaction taxes are devolved to Scotland (Land and Buildings Transaction Tax) and Wales (Land Transaction Tax). Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) applies to transactions in England and Northern Ireland. All these taxes have had a temporary increase in the nil rate threshold for residential properties. The thresholds were set to return to the previous thresholds from 1 April 2021.

Budget announcement

The government will extend the temporary increase to the SDLT nil rate band for residential property in England and Northern Ireland to 30 June 2021. From 1 July 2021 until 30 September 2021, the nil rate band will be £250,000. The nil rate band will return to the standard amount of £125,000 from 1 October 2021.

Wales – Land Transaction Tax

Following the Chancellor’s announcement, the Welsh Finance Minister has confirmed that the Land Transaction Tax temporary reduction period will be extended by a further three months so that it will end on 30 June 2021.

In December 2020, the Welsh Government changed the rates charged on higher rates residential property transactions and non-residential transactions including the rent element of non-residential and mixed leases. The changes to the higher residential rates have the effect of increasing the tax rates applied to the bands by 1%. For non-residential transactions, changes have been made to the bands so as to increase the nil rate thresholds. These changes came into effect on 22 December 2020.

SDLT surcharge

New SDLT rates are proposed for purchasers of residential property in England and Northern Ireland who are not resident in the UK. The new rates will be 2% higher than those that apply to purchases made by UK residents, and will apply to purchases of both freehold and leasehold property as well as increasing SDLT payable on rents on the grant of a new lease. The surcharge will apply to land transactions with an effective date of 1 April 2021 or later. Transitional rules may apply to some contracts exchanged before 11 March 2020 but completed or are substantially performed on or after 1 April 2021, or some contracts substantially performed on or before 31 March 2021 but not completed until 1 April 2021 or later.

Plastic Packaging Tax

Draft legislation has been issued to establish a Plastic Packaging Tax. This is a new tax that applies to plastic packaging produced in, or imported into the UK that does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. Plastic packaging is packaging that is predominantly plastic by weight.

The tax rate will be £200 per tonne of non-compliant plastic packaging. There will be an exemption for businesses that manufacture or import less than 10 tonnes of plastic packaging per year. The tax will take effect from April 2022.

Van Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)

Van VED is currently levied at £250 per year for most light goods vehicles (under 3.5 tonnes) which have been registered since 1 March 2001. A consultation paper explored creating a graduated first year rate for new light goods vehicles and motorhomes from April 2021. The government has recently decided not to proceed with the change in light of the pandemic. Motorhomes will continue to be placed in the Private/Light Goods class.

Reform of penalties for late submission and late payment of tax

The government will reform the penalty regime for VAT and Income Tax Self Assessment (ITSA) to make it fairer and more consistent. The new late submission regime will be points-based, and a financial penalty will only be issued when the relevant threshold is reached. The new late payment regime will introduce penalties proportionate to the amount of tax owed and how late the tax due is. These reforms will come into effect: for VAT taxpayers, from periods starting on or after 1 April 2022; for taxpayers in ITSA with business or property income over £10,000 per year, from accounting periods beginning on or after 6 April 2023; and for all other taxpayers in ITSA, from accounting periods beginning on or after 6 April 2024.

Contactless payment card limit

Following a public consultation by the Financial Conduct Authority, the government has approved an increase to the legal contactless payment limits previously set by the European Commission. This will allow banks to support single contactless payments up to £100, and cumulative contactless payments up to £300, without the need for customers to input their chip and pin. The government hopes the banking industry will implement the new limits later this year.

Personal Tax

The personal allowance

The personal allowance is currently £12,500. Budget 2018 announced that the allowance would remain at the same level until 2020/21 and the statutory provision to increase the allowance annually by CPI was to be overridden. The Chancellor has confirmed that the personal allowance will increase by CPI (0.5%) for 2021/22 to £12,570.

There is a reduction in the personal allowance for those with ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000. The reduction is £1 for every £2 of income above £100,000. So for the current tax year there is no personal allowance where adjusted net income exceeds £125,000. For 2021/22 there will be no personal allowance where adjusted net income exceeds £125,140.

The Chancellor announced that the personal allowance will be frozen at £12,570 for the tax years 2022/23 to 2025/26.

The marriage allowance

The marriage allowance permits certain couples, where neither pays tax at more than the basic rate, to transfer 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner.

Comment

The marriage allowance reduces the recipient’s tax bill by up to approximately £250 a year. The marriage allowance was first introduced for 2015/16 and there are couples who are entitled to claim but have not yet done so. It is possible to claim for all years back to 2016/17 where the entitlement conditions are met. The total tax saving for all years up until 2020/21 could be over £1,000. A claim for 2016/17 will need to be made by 5 April 2021.

Tax bands and rates

The basic rate of tax is 20%. In 2020/21 the band of income taxable at this rate is £37,500 so that the threshold at which the 40% band applies is £50,000 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance.

The Chancellor announced that for 2021/22 the basic rate band will be £37,700 so that the threshold at which the 40% band applies will be £50,270 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance. The Chancellor announced that the basic rate band will be frozen at £37,700 for the tax years 2022/23 to 2025/26. The National Insurance contributions Upper Earnings Limit and Upper Profits Limit will remain aligned to the higher rate threshold at £50,270 for these years.

Individuals pay tax at 45% on their income over £150,000.

Scottish residents

The tax on income (other than savings and dividend income) is different, for taxpayers who are resident in Scotland, from taxpayers resident elsewhere in the UK. The Scottish income tax rates and bands apply to income such as employment income, self-employed trade profits and property income.

In 2020/21 there are five income tax rates which range between 19% and 46%. Scottish taxpayers are entitled to the same personal allowance as individuals in the rest of the UK. The two higher rates are 41% and 46% rather than the 40% and 45% rates that apply to such income for other UK residents. For 2020/21, the 41% band applies to income over £43,430 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance. The 46% rate applies to income over £150,000.

In the Scottish Budget on 28 January 2021, the Scottish Government proposed that the Scottish income tax rates will be frozen for 2021/22. The thresholds for the tax bands will be increased by 0.5% except for the 46% rate threshold which remains at £150,000. So the 41% band will apply to income over £43,662 for those who are entitled to the full personal allowance.

Welsh residents

From April 2019, the Welsh Government has had the right to vary the rates of income tax payable by Welsh taxpayers. The UK government has reduced each of the three rates of income tax paid by Welsh taxpayers by 10 pence. For 2020/21 the Welsh Government has set the Welsh rate of income tax at 10 pence which has been added to the reduced rates. This means the tax payable by Welsh taxpayers is the same as that payable by English and Northern Irish taxpayers.

The Welsh Government has announced that the income tax rate will remain at 10 pence for 2021/22.

Tax on savings income

Savings income is income such as bank and building society interest.

The Savings Allowance applies to savings income and the available allowance in a tax year depends on the individual’s marginal rate of income tax. Broadly, individuals taxed at up to the basic rate of tax have an allowance of £1,000. For higher rate taxpayers the allowance is £500. No allowance is due to additional rate taxpayers.

Some individuals qualify for a 0% starting rate of tax on savings income up to £5,000. However, the rate is not available if taxable non-savings income (broadly earnings, pensions, trading profits and property income, less allocated allowances and reliefs) exceeds £5,000.

Tax on dividends

The first £2,000 of dividends is chargeable to tax at 0% (the Dividend Allowance). Dividends received above the allowance are taxed at the following rates:

  • 5% for basic rate taxpayers
  • 5% for higher rate taxpayers
  • 1% for additional rate taxpayers.

Dividends within the allowance still count towards an individual’s basic or higher rate band and so may affect the rate of tax paid on dividends above the Dividend Allowance.

To determine which tax band dividends fall into, dividends are treated as the last type of income to be taxed.

Universal Credit

Universal Credit is a single payment that is made up of different amounts depending on an individual’s circumstances. There is no entitlement if an individual’s capital is worth more than £16,000. Shortly after the 2020 Budget the Chancellor announced an increase in the Universal Credit standard allowance by £20 per week for one year.

The government is extending the temporary £20 per week increase for a further six months.

Working Tax Credit

The government is making a one-off payment of £500 to eligible Working Tax Credit claimants to provide extra support over the next six months.

Mortgage guarantee scheme

The government will introduce a new mortgage guarantee scheme in April 2021. This scheme will provide a guarantee to lenders across the UK who offer mortgages to people with a deposit of 5% on homes with a value of up to £600,000.

Under the scheme, all buyers will have the opportunity to fix their initial mortgage interest rate for at least five years should they wish to. The scheme, which will be available for new mortgages up to 31 December 2022, is designed to increase the availability of mortgages on new or existing properties for those with small deposits.

Green National Savings and Investment (NS&I) product

The government will offer a green retail savings product through NS&I in the summer of 2021. This product will be closely linked to the UK’s sovereign green bond framework and will give all UK savers the opportunity to take part in the collective effort to tackle climate change. The green gilt framework, to be published in June, will detail the types of expenditure that will be financed to meet the government’s green objectives.

Venture Capital Schemes: extension of the Social Investment Tax Relief

The government will continue to support social enterprises that are seeking growth investment by extending the operation of Social Investment Tax Relief to April 2023. This will continue the availability of income tax relief and capital gains tax hold-over relief for investors in qualifying social enterprises.

Pensions Lifetime Allowance

The lifetime limit sets the maximum figure for tax-relieved savings that an individual can build up over their lifetime.

Legislation will be introduced to remove the annual link to the CPI increase for the next five years. This will maintain the standard Lifetime Allowance at £1,073,100 for tax years 2021/22 to 2025/26.

Newsletter – February 2021

Enews – February 2021

In this month’s Enews we consider the latest Self Assessment figures, those named and shamed for failing to pay the minimum wage and Scottish Budget announcements.

With guidance on bonuses for businesses taking on trainees, calls for changes ahead of the Budget and the Supreme Court ruling on business interruption claims there is a lot to update you on.

10.7 million taxpayers submitted their 2019/20 Self Assessment tax returns

HMRC has revealed that more than 10.7 million taxpayers submitted their 2019/20 Self Assessment tax returns by the 31 January deadline.

The remaining 1.8 million whose tax return is now late will not be charged a late filing penalty provided they submit their return online by 28 February.

Taxpayers who did not pay their Self Assessment tax bill by 31 January are now incurring interest on the outstanding balance and should pay their bill as soon as possible.

Taxpayers should pay any outstanding balance, or arrange a payment plan, before 3 March 2021 to avoid a 5% late payment penalty.

Those who are not yet able to file their tax return should pay an estimated amount as soon as possible, which will minimise any interest and late payment penalty.

Karl Khan, HMRC’s Interim Director General for Customer Services, said:

‘Thank you to the 10.7 million customers who have sent in their tax returns.

‘We won’t send anyone a late filing penalty if they complete their tax return by 28 February.

‘We know that many individuals and small businesses are finding it harder to pay this year, due to the pandemic. Anyone who can’t afford to pay their tax bill in full can set up a payment plan, once they’ve filed their return, to spread their tax bill into monthly instalments.’

There are several ways that taxpayers can pay their Self Assessment tax bill or an estimated amount. They can pay online, via their bank, or by post.

Anyone who cannot pay their bill in full can apply to spread the cost. Taxpayers can set up a payment plan, in up to 12 monthly instalments, online via https://www.gov.uk/pay-self-assessment-tax-bill/pay-in-instalments provided they meet the following requirements:

Taxpayers need to have no:

  • outstanding tax returns
  • other tax debts
  • other HMRC payment plans set up.

The debt needs to be between £32 and £30,000.

The payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date for payment. Taxpayers should set up the payment plan as soon as possible, and certainly before 3 March to avoid a 5% late payment penalty.

Those who do not meet these requirements, or who need more than 12 months to pay their bill, can apply for a payment plan by speaking to one of HMRC’s debt advisers.

Interest accrues on all outstanding balances, including those in payment plans.

Self Assessment taxpayers who are required to make Payments on Account, and know their 2020/21 tax bill is going to be lower than in 2019/20, for example due to loss of earnings because of COVID-19, can reduce their Payments on Account. More information is available at https://www.gov.uk/understand-self-assessment-bill/payments-on-account.

Internet link: GOV.UK press release

Rogue employers named and shamed for failing to pay employees the minimum wage

HMRC has published the names of 139 named companies that failed to pay minimum wages amounting to £6.7 million to over 95,000 workers.

HMRC has named 139 companies, including major household names, that have underpaid their employees and have been fined. The offending companies failed to pay £6.7 million to their workers, in a breach of employment law.

This is the first time the government has named and shamed companies for failing to pay National Minimum Wage since 2018, following reforms to the process to ensure only the worst offenders are targeted.

Business Minister Paul Scully said:

‘Paying the minimum wage is not optional, it is the law. It is never acceptable for any employer to short-change their workers, but it is especially disappointing to see huge household names who absolutely should know better on this list.

‘This should serve as a wake-up call to named employers and a reminder to everyone of the importance of paying workers what they are legally entitled to.

‘Make no mistake, those who fail to follow minimum wage rules will be caught out and made to pay up.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Scottish Budget Income Tax

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes delivered the 2021/22 Scottish Draft Budget on Thursday 28 January 2021, setting out the Scottish Government’s financial and tax plans.

The Government has devolved powers to set the rates and bands of income tax (other than those for savings and dividend income) which apply to Scottish resident taxpayers.

The Scottish Budget announced the following income tax rates and bands for 2021/22. These will be considered by the Scottish Parliament, and an agreed Scottish Rate Resolution will set the final Scottish income tax rates and bands for 2021/22.

The current rates and bands for 2020/21 and the proposed rates and bands for 2021/22 on non-savings and non-dividend income are as follows:

Scottish Bands

2020/21

Scottish Bands

2021/22

Band name Scottish Rates
£12,501* – £14,585 £12,570* – £14,667 Starter 19%
£14,586 – £25,158 £14,668 – £25,296 Scottish Basic 20%
£25,159 – £43,430 £25,297 – £43,662 Intermediate 21%
£43,431 – £150,000** £43,663 – £150,000** Higher 41%
Above £150,000** Above £150,000** Top 46%

* Assumes individuals are in receipt of the Standard 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.

In the UK Spending Review in November 2020, the UK Government announced that the UK wide Personal Allowance and the UK higher rate threshold would be uprated by CPI inflation of 0.5% for the tax year 2021/22 (to £12,570 and £50,270 respectively). All other policy decisions about UK rates and bands will be announced at the UK Budget on 3 March 2021.

The Personal Allowance is £12,500 for 2020/21. Across the rest of the UK the basic rate of income tax is 20%. In 2020/21 the band of income taxable at this rate is £37,500 so the threshold at which the 40% band applies is £50,000 for those entitled to the full personal allowance. UK taxpayers pay 45% tax on their income over £150,000.

Internet link: GOV.SCOT publications

Scottish Land and Buildings Transaction Tax

As part of the Scottish Budget, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes also announced changes to Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) which apply from 1 April 2021.

The Scottish Government’s stated policy priority for residential LBTT remains to help first-time buyers and to assist people as they progress through the property market. The current rates and bands which apply until 31 March 2021 are as follows:

Residential property Rate
£0 – £250,000 0%
£250,001 – £325,000 5%
£325,001 – £750,000 10%
£750,001 and over 12%

For transactions with an effective date on or after 1 April 2021 the rate bands will return to:

Residential property Rate
£0 – £145,000 0%
£145,001 – £250,000 2%
£250,001 – £325,000 5%
£325,001 – £750,000 10%
£750,001 and over 12%

The rates apply to the portion of the total value which falls within each band.

First-time buyer relief

The relief for first-time buyers of properties up to £175,000 will resume its effect by increasing the residential zero tax threshold for first-time buyers from £145,000 to £175,000. First-time buyers purchasing a property above £175,000 also benefit from the relief on the portion of the price below the threshold. According to the Government, those buying a property for more than £175,000 will receive relief on the portion of the price below the threshold and benefit from savings of up to £600.

Higher rates for additional residential properties

Higher rates of LBTT are charged on purchases of additional residential properties, such as buy to let properties and second homes. Although these are the main targets of the higher rates, some other purchasers may have to pay the higher rates.

The Additional Dwelling Supplement (ADS) potentially applies if, at the end of the day of the purchase transaction, the individual owns two or more residential properties. Care is needed if an individual already owns, or partly owns, a property and transacts to purchase another property without having disposed of the first property. An 18-month rule helps to remove some transactions from the additional rates (or allows a refund). The ADS is charged at 4%.

Internet link: GOV.SCOT publications

Bonus of £1,000 to help businesses take on trainees

The government has announced that employers can now apply for a £1,000 bonus, a cash boost, to help them take on new trainees.

The new scheme will support young people to gain the skills and experience they need from the start, helping them to get a job, an apprenticeship, or to pursue further study.

The cash boost, which is available until 31 July 2021, will help businesses with the cost of providing a high-quality work placement for a trainee. This includes providing facilities, uniforms or helping with travel costs.

Businesses offering new traineeship opportunities will receive the £1,000 bonus for every trainee they take on, up to a maximum of ten trainees.

Employers can claim the cash incentive for all work placements that have been completed since 1 September.

Gillian Keegan, Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, said:

‘We’re pulling out all the stops to help young people get the skills and confidence they need to progress. This cash boost will help employers of all sizes provide more traineeship opportunities to invest in their workforce so they can rebuild and grow, giving young people a vital route to start their apprenticeship journey, get their first job or go on to further study.

‘I strongly encourage as many employers as possible to apply now and take advantage of this fantastic offer so more young people can gain the skills they need to progress in their careers as we build back better from the pandemic.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

LITRG calls for a rise in the High Income Child Benefit Charge threshold

The Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) has urged the government to raise the High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) threshold to avoid it affecting basic-rate taxpayers for the first time in April 2021.

The LITRG stated that this goes against the original policy intent, and is ‘likely to cause the government additional difficulties in raising awareness about the charge among those who do not consider themselves on a high income’.

Tom Henderson, Technical Officer at the LITRG, said:

‘When the HICBC was announced in 2010, the government’s policy intent was that it would only affect higher-rate taxpayers from January 2013. For the 2012/13 tax year, the higher-rate threshold – the point at which an individual is liable to the higher rate of tax – was £42,475. Since then, the higher-rate threshold has risen broadly in line with inflation but the £50,000 threshold for the HICBC has remained static.

‘The government has so far resisted calls to up-rate the £50,000 threshold, but this is no longer tenable now the higher-rate threshold will overtake it from 6 April 2021.’

In its Budget submission, the LITRG calls for the point at which child benefit is fully clawed back to increase from £60,000 to £75,000.

The government will present the 2021 Budget on Wednesday 3 March.

Internet link: LITRG news

Government urged by CBI to act on COVID business support ahead of Budget

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has urged the government to provide more financial assistance to businesses affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic ahead of the Budget on 3 March 2021.

The business group has outlined support measures required to help protect UK businesses through the spring. It has called for:

  • an extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) beyond April to the end of June
  • a lengthening of repayment periods for existing VAT deferrals until June 2021; and
  • an extension of the business rates holiday for at least another three months.

The CBI has also called for an announcement of details of the successor of the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS).

Tony Danker, Director General of the CBI, said:

‘The Budget comes at a crucial time for the UK. The Government’s support from the very start of this crisis has protected many jobs and livelihoods, and progress on the vaccine rollout brings real cause for optimism.

‘But almost a year of disrupted demand and extensive restrictions to company operations is taking its toll. Staff morale has taken a hit. And business resilience has hit a sobering new low.

‘The Government must once again stand shoulder-to-shoulder with businesses to underwrite support for the duration, helping viable enterprises to last the course.

‘Many tough decisions for business owners on jobs, or even whether to carry on, will be made in the next few weeks. If the Government plans to continue its support then I urge them to take action before the Budget which is still more than six weeks away.

‘The Government has done so much to support UK business through this crisis, we don’t want to let slip all the hard work from 2020 with hope on the horizon.

‘The rule of thumb must be that business support remains in parallel to restrictions and that those measures do not come to a sudden stop, but tail off over time. Just as the lifting of restrictions will be gradual, so must changes to the Government’s sterling support to businesses.’

Internet link: CBI article

Supreme Court backs small firms on business interruption claims

The UK’s Supreme Court has found in favour of small firms receiving payments from COVID-19 business interruption insurance policies.

The test case was brought against insurers by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). The ruling means that thousands of small businesses are now set to receive insurance payouts covering losses from the first national lockdown.

Commenting on the ruling, Flora Hamilton, Financial Services Director at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said:

‘At such an uncertain time, this court case provides much-needed clarity to companies across the UK, and relief for smaller firms struggling with cashflow.

‘This is significant news for insurers, and regulators will need to work closely with the industry as policies, products and processes are updated to reflect this ruling.’

Internet links: CBI article FCA news

Newsletter – January 2021

Enews January 2021

In this month’s Enews we consider the latest lockdown grant package, the extension of the Job Retention Scheme and guidance on the VAT deferral. We also update you on action to disrupt tax avoidance scheme promoters, the approaching self assessment deadline and a warning against potential capital gains tax rises. With guidance on making festive charitable donations and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme there is a lot to update you on.

Chancellor announces £4.6 billion lockdown grant package

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a new £4.6 billion package of grants to support businesses through the latest national lockdown.

UK businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors are to be given one-off grants worth up to £9,000.

The payments are expected to support 600,000 business properties across the UK. A further £594 million will be made available to councils and devolved nations to support businesses not covered by the new grants.

The Chancellor said:

‘The new strain of the virus presents us all with a huge challenge, and whilst the vaccine is being rolled out, we have needed to tighten restrictions further.’

‘Throughout the pandemic we’ve taken swift action to protect lives and livelihoods and… we’re announcing a further cash injection to support businesses and jobs until the spring.’

‘This will help businesses to get through the months ahead – and crucially it will help sustain jobs so workers can be ready to return when they are able to reopen.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Extension of the Job Retention Scheme

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has extended the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) until the end of April 2021.

Businesses adversely affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) can make use of the CJRS until the end of April, with the government continuing to pay 80% of employees’ salaries for hours not worked. Employers will only be required to pay wages, national insurance contributions (NICs) and pensions for hours worked, and NICs and pensions for hours not worked.

Additionally, Mr Sunak stated that he is extending COVID-19 business loan schemes until the end of March 2021. Businesses will be given until the end of March to access the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS). These schemes had been due to close at the end of January.

The Chancellor also confirmed that the 2021 Budget will be delivered on 3 March 2021 and will outline the next phase of the government’s plan to combat COVID-19 and protect jobs.

The Chancellor said:

‘Our package of support for businesses and workers continues to be one of the most generous and effective in the world – helping our economy recover and protecting livelihoods across the country.

‘We know the premium businesses place on certainty, so it is right that we enable them to plan ahead regardless of the path the virus takes, which is why we’re providing certainty and clarity by extending this support.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

VAT Deferral

HMRC has issued some guidance to taxpayers that deferred their VAT payments between 20 March and 30 June 2020 and still have payments to make.

HMRC is advising taxpayers who deferred their VAT payments to:

  • pay the deferred VAT in full on or before 31 March 2021
  • or opt in to the VAT deferral new payment scheme when it launches in 2021
  • or to contact HMRC if they need more help to pay.

Taxpayers can pay their deferred VAT in full by 31 March 2021. There is no need to contact HMRC. However, if taxpayers want to use the new payment scheme they will need to opt in. The new online opt in process will be available in early 2021. Taxpayers will need to opt in themselves as this cannot be carried out by tax agents.

Where taxpayers opt in to the VAT deferral new payment scheme instead of paying the full amount by the end of March 2021, they can make up to 11 smaller monthly instalments which are interest free. All instalments of the outstanding amount must be paid by the end of March 2022.

In order for taxpayers to use the scheme they must:

  • still have deferred VAT to pay
  • be up to date with their VAT returns
  • opt in before the end of March 2021
  • pay the first instalment before the end of March 2021
  • be able to pay the deferred VAT by Direct Debit.

Taxpayers must prepare to opt in by:

  • creating their own Government Gateway account if they do not already have one
  • submitting any outstanding VAT returns from the last four years. You will not be able to join the scheme if you have not done so
  • correcting errors on their VAT returns as soon as possible. Corrections received after 31 December 2020 may not show in their deferred VAT balance
  • ensuring they know how much they owe, including the amount they originally deferred and how much they may have already paid.

Internet link: GOV.UK guidance

HMRC and Advertising Standard Authority launch new action to disrupt promoters of tax avoidance schemes

HMRC and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) have launched a new joint enforcement notice to cut out misleading marketing by promoters of tax avoidance schemes.

The joint enforcement notice aims to disrupt the activity of promoters and protect individuals from being presented with misleading adverts which may tempt them into tax avoidance.

The enforcement notice requires promoters to be clear about the potential consequences of tax avoidance in any online adverts.

Immediate sanctions include having their paid advertising removed from search engines and follow-up compliance action, which can include referral to Trading Standards. The enforcement notice has been published as HMRC launches its ‘Tax avoidance: don’t get caught out’ awareness campaign warning and educating contractors about how to identify if they are being offered a tax avoidance scheme, and the pitfalls of using these schemes.

Jesse Norman MP, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘The government has made clear its determination to clamp down on the promoters of tax avoidance schemes.’

‘Today HMRC and the ASA are taking an important further step in this direction by action against misleading advertisements by promoters.’

‘As always, we would encourage people to pay close attention to HMRC’s warnings not to enter tax avoidance schemes. If it looks too good to be true, it almost certainly is.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Self assessment deadline approaching

The deadline for submitting your 2019/20 self assessment return is 31 January 2021. The deadline applies to taxpayers who need to complete a tax return and make direct payments to HMRC in respect of their income tax, Classes 2 and 4 National Insurance Contributions (NIC), capital gains tax and High Income Child Benefit Charge liabilities.

There is a penalty of £100 if a taxpayer’s return is not submitted on time, even if there is no tax due or the return shows that they are due a tax refund.

The balance of any outstanding income tax, Classes 2 and 4 NIC, capital gains tax and High Income Child Benefit Charge for the year ended 5th April 2020 is also due for payment by 31 January 2021. Where the payment is made late interest will be charged.

The first payment on account for 2020/21 in respect of income tax and any Class 4 NIC or High Income Child Benefit Charge is also due for payment by 31st January 2021.

HMRC revealed that more than 2,700 taxpayers filed their return on Christmas Day. If you would like help with your return or agreeing your tax liability, please contact us.

Internet links: GOV.UK self assessment GOV.UK news

Institute of Directors warns Capital Gains Tax (CGT) rise would adversely affect entrepreneurs

The Institute of Directors (IoD) has warned the government that a rise in CGT would affect Britain’s entrepreneurial spirit.

The business group believes CGT could be targeted by the Treasury and increased in order to help put public finances back on a stable footing following the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tej Parikh, Chief Economist at the IoD, said:

‘But any reform would have to be done with extreme care to prevent a knock-on effect. Positive entrepreneurialism will be more important than ever in the months ahead.’

‘All told, ramping up CGT will pour cold water over Britain’s entrepreneurialism just when we need it most. It’s not an answer to the costs of COVID-19, but rather paves the way for a stunted recovery.’

Additionally, increasing CGT ‘would only add to the impression held by some that wealth creation is falling down the list of priorities’, the IoD said. It has urged the government to consider the UK’s international standing as a destination for business, arguing that the UK has ‘long held a strong reputation as a place to start, run and grow a company’.

Internet link: IoD news

Individuals urged to remain vigilant when making festive charitable donations

Action Fraud has warned the public to remain vigilant when making festive charitable donations as the number of scams rises.

Figures published by Action Fraud showed that £350,000 in charitable donations ended up with criminals over the festive period in 2019. It warned that fraudsters often set up fake charities or impersonate well known charitable organisations in order to deceive victims.

Action Fraud has advised individuals to look for the registered charity number on charity websites; check if a charity is registered with the Fundraising Regulator, never click on links or attachments in emails and never respond to unsolicited messages or phone calls.

Pauline Smith, Head of Action Fraud, said:

‘Charities do incredibly important work, helping those in need, especially at this time of year. Unfortunately, criminals will try to abuse the generosity and goodwill of others and this can have a huge financial impact on charities and the good causes they support.’

‘We would encourage people not to be put off donating to charities, but instead to be vigilant.’

Internet link Action Fraud news

Check if you can claim a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

HMRC is advising the self employed that the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) has been extended. Taxpayers who were not eligible for the first and second grant will not be eligible for the third.

To make a claim for the third grant the taxpayer’s business must have had a new or continuing impact from coronavirus between 1 November 2020 and 29 January 2021, which they reasonably believe will have a significant reduction in their profits.

The third taxable grant is worth 80% of a taxpayer’s average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £7,500 in total.

The online service to claim the third grant is open. Taxpayers should make their claim from the date HMRC give taxpayers either by email, letter or within the service. Eligible taxpayers must claim the third grant on or before 29 January 2021.

The grant does not need to be repaid, but will be subject to Income Tax and self-employed National Insurance and must be reported on the taxpayer’s 2020 to 2021 Self Assessment tax return. Taxpayers must keep evidence to support their claim.

Internet link: GOV.UK guidance

Newsletter – November 2020

Enews – November 2020

In this month’s Enews we report on the latest government measures that have been brought in to support businesses through a second national lockdown. The furlough scheme has been extended while grants for businesses and the self-employed are being made available. In other news preparations continue for import and export trading after Brexit and the Annual Investment Allowance is set for a reduction, as usual there is lots to update you on.

Furlough scheme extended

On 5 November, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that as part of the new national lockdown the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been extended until the end of March 2021. This announcement updates the Prime Minister’s previous announcement on 31 October that the CJRS would be extended for a month until December.

The scheme has also reverted to its original level of support. Furloughed employees will receive 80% of salary for hours not worked and businesses asked only to cover national insurance and employer pension contributions.

The CJRS was due to have ended on 31 October after being scaled back to cover 60% of salaries during that month.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said that the scheme will retain the flexible element and furloughed employees will receive 80% of their current salary for hours not worked, up to a maximum of £2,500.

A statement from the Treasury also confirmed that the Job Support Scheme (JSS), which had been due to launch on 1 November has now been postponed, and will not start until the CJRS has closed.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

‘I’ve always said I would do whatever it takes to protect jobs and livelihoods across the UK – and that has meant adapting our support as the path of the virus has changed.

‘It’s clear the economic effects are much longer lasting for businesses than the duration of any restrictions, which is why we have decided to go further with our support.

‘Extending furlough and increasing our support for the self-employed will protect millions of jobs and give people and businesses the certainty they need over what will be a difficult winter.’

Internet links: GOV.UK news and GOV.UK factsheet

Increased support made available for the self employed

The government has increased the support available to self-employed workers and extended its emergency business loan schemes as the UK heads for a second national lockdown.

On 5 November Rishi Sunak announced an increase in the level of the third instalment of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) from 55% to 80% of average trading profits for November to January. SEISS grants are calculated over three months and the uplift for November to January, increases the level of the third grant to 80% of trading profits. The maximum grant will be capped at £7,500.

The SEISS grants will also be paid faster than previously planned, with the claims window opening at the end of November rather than the middle of December.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

‘The rapidly changing health picture has meant we have had to act in order to protect people’s lives and I know this is an incredibly worrying time for the self-employed. That is why we have increased the generosity of the third grant, ensuring those who cannot trade or are facing decreased demand are able to get through the months ahead.’

Internet link: GOV.UK SEISS grant extension

Chancellor approves grants for businesses closed by lockdown

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced approved additional funding for cash grants to support businesses required to close in England due to the lockdown.

Those businesses affected will be eligible for the following:

  • For properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or under, grants to be £1,334 per month, or £667 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of between £15,000-£51,000 grants to be £2,000 per month, or £1,000 per two weeks
  • For properties with a rateable value of £51,000 or over grants to be £3,000 per month, or £1,500 per two weeks.

The Chancellor said:

‘I have always said that we will do whatever it takes as the situation evolves. Now, as restrictions get tougher, we are taking steps to provide further financial support to protect jobs and businesses. These changes will provide a vital safety net for people across the UK.’

Internet link: GOV.UK news

Self assessment customers to benefit from enhanced payment plans

Self assessment taxpayers are now able to benefit from enhanced payment plans and can apply online for additional support to help spread their tax bill into monthly payments.

The online payment plan service was already able to set up instalment arrangements for paying tax liabilities up to £10,000. From 1 October 2020, HMRC increased the threshold to £30,000 for self assessment customers following Chancellor’s Rishi Sunak’s announcement on 24 September 2020.

As part of that speech, the Chancellor announced that self assessment taxpayers could pay their deferred payment on account bill from July 2020, any outstanding tax owed for 2019/20 and their first payment on account for 2020/21 in monthly instalments, up to 12 months, via this self-serve tool.

Taxpayers who wish to set up their own self-serve Time to Pay arrangements must meet the following requirements:

  • they have no outstanding tax returns, other tax debts or other HMRC payment plans set up
  • the debt needs to be between £32 and £30,000; and
  • the payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date of a debt.

Taxpayers using self-serve Time to Pay will be required to pay any interest on any outstanding balance from 1 February 2021.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, said:

‘We are supporting jobs by giving more breathing space to up to 11 million self assessment taxpayers when managing their tax affairs.

‘Enhancing Time to Pay should ease the financial burdens and protect the livelihoods of these taxpayers, as they navigate the months ahead.’

HMRC is also warning taxpayers to be aware of scams claiming to be from HMRC, offering to help set up payment plans to pay any tax owed. These scams are trying to harvest taxpayers’ details, in order to steal their money.

Please contact us for advice on meeting your tax payments.

Internet link: Gov.uk news

54,800 customers claim tax relief for working from home

HMRC has received more than 54,800 claims from taxpayers using a new online portal which allows workers to claim tax relief for working at home.

From 6 April 2020, employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home.

Launched on 1 October 2020, the online portal has been set up to process tax relief on additional expenses for employed workers who have been told to work from home by their employer to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

From 6 April 2020, employers have been able to pay employees up to £6 a week tax-free to cover additional costs if they have had to work from home. Employees who have not received the working from home expenses payment direct from their employer can apply to receive the tax relief from HMRC.

HMRC is encouraging taxpayers claiming tax relief for working from home to apply directly through GOV.UK working at home.

Eligible taxpayers can claim tax relief based on the rate at which they pay tax. For example, if an employed worker pays the 20% basic rate of tax and claims tax relief on £6 a week, they would receive £1.20 a week in tax relief (20% of £6 a week) towards the cost of their household bills.

Higher rate taxpayers would therefore receive £2.40 a week (40% of £6 a week). Over the course of the year, this could mean taxpayers can reduce the tax they pay by £62.40 or £124.80 respectively.

HMRC’s Interim Director General of Customer Services, Karl Khan, said:

‘We want everyone to get the money that they are entitled to, so we’ve made the online service as easy to use as we can – it takes just a few minutes to make a claim.

‘Once the application has been approved, the online portal will adjust an individual’s tax code for the 2020/21 tax year. The employee will receive the tax relief directly through their salary and will continue to receive the adjustment until March 2021.’

Internet link: GOV.UK working at home

Brexit imports and exports

From 1 January 2021, the UK will operate a full external border with the EU, which will entail major changes for imports and exports to and from the trading bloc. From 1 January 2021, declarations will be needed to import or export specific (limited) goods categorised as ‘controlled’.

However, for non-controlled goods brought from the EU to GB, import controls apply in three stages: January, April and July 2021. Some changes will apply to all goods movements, and will involve customs declarations, customs duties and VAT on imports, and safety and security declarations. ‘Additional requirements’ come in, but only affect certain specific goods movements, such as foodstuffs.

Action points to consider now include:

Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) numbers: from 1 January 2021, an EORI number with the prefix ‘GB’ is needed to move goods between the UK and the EU, unless you only move goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Remember that from January 2021, it will be important to think about both the UK and EU sides of the equation: to comply with EU requirements, you will, for example, need an EU EORI number if your business makes customs declarations or gets a customs decision in the EU.

Using a customs intermediary: given the complexity of UK and EU customs declarations, you may want to engage a customs intermediary to deal on your behalf.

Postponed VAT accounting for goods imported from the EU: from 1 January 2021, import VAT applies to imports from the EU. Using ‘postponed VAT accounting’ from 1 January 2021 lets you account for import VAT on your VAT return, giving the potential to declare and recover import VAT on the same return.

Delaying customs declarations and payment of tariffs: when the UK’s full suite of border controls are in place in July 2021, full customs declarations and payment of customs duties, as set out in the new UK Global Tariff (or as specified in any trade deal with the EU) must take place when goods are imported from the EU. But from 1 January 2021 to 30 June 2021, most traders with a good compliance record can defer declaration and payment for up to six months on imports of standard goods from the EU.

This is only a summary outline of some of the issues involved. Gov.uk provides an online checker tool to use in your own circumstances. Do talk to us where further advice is needed.

Internet links: GOV.UK imports and GOV.UK exports

ATT issues last call for firms seeking to use increased Annual Investment Allowance

The Association of Taxation Technicians (ATT) has issued a last call for businesses looking to make use of the increased Annual Investment Allowance (AIA).

The AIA will be reduced from £1 million to £200,000 from 1 January 2021. Businesses that incur significant expenditure on plant and machinery before the end of this year are likely to get tax relief on the cost much earlier than if the purchase is made in 2021.

Jeremy Coker, President of the ATT, said:

The AIA rules can catch a business unawares. Many businesses will have deferred decisions about purchasing capital equipment this year because of the enormous uncertainties created by the pandemic. For any which are considering such purchases now, the scheduled ending of the temporary increase in the AIA in two months’ time introduces an unwelcome additional complexity.

‘Although the timing of a purchase may make no difference in the long run to the amount of expenditure which qualifies for tax relief, it can make an enormous difference to how quickly that relief is received and the contribution that the relief can make to the cashflow of a business.

Internet link: ATT

Latest guidance for employers

HMRC has published the latest issue of the Employer Bulletin. The October issue has information on various topics including:

  • coronavirus support schemes and what employers need to do from November onwards
  • National Insurance Number delays
  • Guidance on off payroll working rules (IR35)
  • grants for businesses that complete customs declarations
  • new Employment Allowance status option on PAYE for employers
  • using HMRC’s Business Tax Account
  • making PAYE settlement agreement payments
  • applications for the £50 million customs grant scheme
  • deferred self assessment payments from July 2020
  • Student Loan repayments.

Please contact us for help with payroll matters.

Internet link: Employer Bulletin

Newsletter – October 2020

 

Enews – October 2020

In this month’s enews we consider announcements made as part of the government’s Winter Economy Plan. In other news we consider the new trade arrangements with the EU following the end of the Transition Period, which apply from 1 January 2021; the rise in house sales following the introduction of the Stamp Duty holiday; and the new domestic reverse charge for VAT, so there is lots to update you on.

Job Support Scheme

The existing job support scheme, the furlough scheme, comes to an end on 31 October. As part of the Winter Economy Plan the government announced it will be introducing a new Job Support Scheme from 1 November 2020.

For employers to participate in the scheme:

  • employees will need to work a minimum of 33% of their usual hours
  • for every hour not worked, the employer and the government will each pay one third of the employee’s usual pay
  • the government contribution will be capped at £697.92 per month.

Employees using the scheme will receive at least 77% of their pay, where the government contribution has not been capped. The employer will be reimbursed in arrears for the government contribution. The employee must not be on a redundancy notice.

The scheme will run for six months from 1 November 2020 and is open to all employers with a UK bank account and a UK PAYE scheme. It will be open to such businesses even if they have not previously used the furlough scheme.

All small and medium-sized enterprises will be eligible. Large businesses will be required to demonstrate that their business has been adversely affected by COVID-19. The government also expects that large employers will not be making capital distributions, such as dividends, while using the scheme.

The Job Support Scheme will sit alongside the Jobs Retention Bonus which was announced by the Chancellor in July. The Bonus will provide a one-off payment of £1,000 to UK employers for every furloughed employee who remains continuously employed through to the end of January 2021 and who earns at least £520 a month on average between 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021. Businesses can benefit from both schemes.

Internet link: Gov.uk Factsheet

Winter Economy Plan support for the self-employed

As part of the Winter Economy Plan the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will be extended under the name SEISS Grant Extension. The grant:

  • will be limited to self-employed individuals who are currently eligible for the SEISS, and
  • will be available to individuals who are actively continuing to trade but are facing reduced demand due to COVID-19.

The scheme will last for six months, from November 2020 to April 2021, and will consist of two grants. The first grant will cover a three-month period from the start of November until the end of January. This initial grant will cover 20% of average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £1,875 in total. The second grant will cover a three-month period from the start of February until the end of April. The government will review the level of the second grant and set this in due course.

The amount of the first grant under the SEISS grant extension will be significantly less than the grants made under the SEISS. The initial SEISS grant was based on 80% of profits (capped at £7,500) and the second SEISS grant was based on 70% of profits (capped at £6,570).

Internet link: Gov.uk factsheet

VAT deferral and enhanced Time to Pay for self assessment

Over half a million businesses deferred VAT payments, which were due in March to June 2020, with these payments becoming due at the end of March 2021.

As part of the Winter Economy Plan the government has now announced the option for such businesses to spread their payments over the financial year 2021/22. Businesses will be able to choose to make 11 equal instalments over 2021/22. All businesses which took advantage of the VAT deferral can use the spreading scheme. Businesses will need to opt in and HMRC will put in place an opt-in process in early 2021.

Enhanced Time to Pay for self assessment taxpayers

Taxpayers were able to defer the income tax self assessment payment on account for 2019/20, due by 31 July 2020, to 31 January 2021. There are also other amounts due on 31 January 2021 – a balancing payment for the 2019/20 tax year and the first payment on account for the 2020/21 tax year.

Taxpayers with up to £30,000 of self assessment liabilities due will be able to use HMRC’s self-service Time to Pay facility to secure a plan to pay over an additional 12 months. This means that self assessment liabilities due in July 2020, and those due in January 2021, will not need to be paid in full until January 2022. Any self assessment taxpayer not able to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, can continue to use HMRC’s Time to Pay self assessment helpline to agree a payment plan.

Internet link: Gov.uk news

Changes to the Bounce Back Loan and Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Schemes

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) has provided support to many UK-based small businesses. Loans are between £2,000 and £50,000, capped at 25% of turnover, with a 100% government guarantee to the lender. The borrower does not have to make any repayments for the first 12 months, with the government covering the first 12 months’ interest payments. Under a Pay as you Grow scheme businesses will have options to:

  • repay their loan over a period of up to ten years
  • move temporarily to interest-only payments for periods of up to six months (an option which they can use up to three times)
  • pause their repayments entirely for up to six months (an option they can use once and only after having made six payments).

Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme provides loan facilities to UK-based businesses with turnover under £45 million. The scheme provides loans of up to £5 million with an 80% government guarantee to the lender. The government does not charge businesses for this guarantee and also covers the first 12 months of interest payments and fees.

The government has announced that as part of the Winter Economy Plan it intends to allow CBILS lenders to extend the term of a loan up to ten years.

The government is also extending the CBILS and BBLS to 30 November 2020 for new applications.

Applications for the Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme and the Future Fund will also be extended.

Internet link: gov.uk publications

The VAT reverse charge

HMRC has issued detailed guidance on the domestic reverse charge changes scheduled for 1 March 2021.

The reverse charge represents part of a government clampdown on VAT fraud. Large amounts of VAT are lost through ‘missing trader’ fraud. As part of this type of fraud, VAT is charged by a supplier, who then disappears, along with the output tax. The VAT is thus lost to HMRC. Construction is considered a particularly high-risk sector because of the potential to make supplies with minimal input tax but considerable output tax.

The reverse charge does not change the VAT liability: it changes the way that VAT is accounted for. From 1 March 2021 the recipient of the services, rather than the supplier, will account for VAT on specified building and construction services. This is called a ‘reverse charge’.

The reverse charge is a business-to-business charge, applying to VAT-registered businesses where payments are required to be reported through the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS). It will be used through the CIS supply chain, up to the point where the recipient is no longer a business making supplies of specified construction services. The rules refer to this as the ‘end user’.

Broadly then, the reverse charge means that a contractor receiving a supply of specified construction services has to account for the output VAT due – rather than the subcontractor supplying the services. The contractor then also has to deduct the VAT due on the supply as input VAT, subject to the normal rules. In most cases, no net tax on the transaction will be payable to HMRC.

The charge affects only supplies at standard or reduced rates where payments are required to be reported via CIS and not to:

  • zero-rated supplies;
  • services supplied to ‘end users’ or ‘intermediary suppliers’.

Under the scheme a VAT-registered business, receiving a supply of specified services from another VAT-registered business, for onward sale, on or after 1 March 2021:

  • should account for the output VAT on supplies received through its VAT return
  • does not pay the output VAT to its supplier on supplies received from them
  • can reclaim the VAT on supplies received as input tax, subject to normal VAT rules.

The supplier should issue a VAT invoice, indicating the supplies are subject to the reverse charge.

An end user should notify its end user status, so the supplier can charge VAT in the usual way.

Internet links: Gov.uk guidance gov.uk technical guidance

Ministers announce new grants for businesses affected by local lockdowns

Businesses in England that are required to shut because of local interventions will now be able to claim up to £1,500 per property every three weeks.

To be eligible for the grant, a business must have been required to close due to local COVID-19 restrictions. The largest businesses will receive £1,500 every three weeks they are required to close. Smaller businesses will receive £1,000.

Payments are triggered by a national decision to close businesses in a high incidence area. Each payment will be made for a three-week lockdown period. Each new three week lockdown period triggers an additional payment.

Internet link: gov.uk news

New trade arrangements with the EU from 1 January 2021

HMRC has sent letters to VAT-registered businesses in Great Britain trading with the EU, or the EU and the rest of the world. They explain what businesses need to do to prepare for new processes for moving goods between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021.

Measures explained in the letter include:

  • making sure they have a UK Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number
  • deciding how they will make customs declarations
  • checking if their imported goods are eligible for staged import controls.

Internet link: gov.uk letters

House sales rise following the introduction of stamp duty holiday

The government has announced that residential property transactions rose 15.6% in August following the introduction of a stamp duty holiday.

The government has announced:

  • a rise in sales supports nearly three quarters of a million jobs in the sector – with new homeowners also spending extra cash on decorating, furniture and appliances
  • a 30% boost in output in July for the construction sector.

New figures show that house sales rose 15.6% in August following the introduction of the stamp duty holiday, helping to protect nearly three quarters of a million jobs in the housing sector and wider supply chain.

The increase follows a 14.5% rise in July. Residential property transactions in August rose a further 15.6% as more people decided to buy a new home or move house. The increase in transactions came after the Chancellor announced a stamp duty holiday at the start of July that will last until March 2021.

The move has helped to protect nearly 750,000 jobs, benefiting businesses across the housing supply chain and beyond, with the Bank of England estimating that households who move home are much more likely to purchase a range of durable goods, such as furniture, carpets or major appliances.

It is expected that, among others, housebuilders, estate agents, tradespeople, DIY stores, removal and cleaning firms could all benefit from the increased activity.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:

‘Every home sold means more jobs protected – helping us to deliver on our Plan for Jobs.

‘But this isn’t just about the housing market. Owners doing up their homes to sell and buyers reinvesting stamp duty savings to make their new house feel like a home are also firing up local businesses, supporting, creating and protecting jobs across the country.’

As part of its Plan for Jobs, the government introduced a temporary stamp duty holiday for residential properties worth up to £500,000, effective from 8 July 2020 until 31 March 2021. The holiday means nine out of ten people getting on or moving up the property ladder will pay no SDLT at all. This measure delivers an average saving of £4,500 in SDLT.

Internet link: gov.uk news

Newsletter – September 2020

Enews – September 2020

In this month’s Enews we consider changes to the plastic bag tax, pension scams and the latest advisory fuel rates. With the latest figures on the success of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, self assessment deadlines, the latest guidance for employers, the launch of the Kickstart Scheme and the Self Employed Income Support Scheme Grants there is lots to consider.

Plastic bag tax charge to be doubled and extended to all retailers

The fee for plastic shopping bags in England will be doubled to 10 pence and extended to all shops from April 2021.

Small retailers, those employing 250 people or fewer, will no longer be exempt, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said.

According to Defra, since the charge was first introduced in 2015 it has successfully prevented billions of plastic bags being sold and ending up in the ocean and environment.

Government data shows the current levy, which stands at 5 pence per bag and applies to any retailer employing 250 or more people, has led to a 95% cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015.

Commenting on the announcement, Environment Secretary George Eustice, said:

‘We have all seen the devastating impact plastic bags have on the oceans and on precious marine wildlife, which is why we are taking bold and ambitious action to tackle this issue head on.

‘The UK is already a world-leader in this global effort, and our carrier bag charge has been hugely successful in taking billions of harmful plastic bags out of circulation. But we want to go further by extending this to all retailers so we can continue to cut unnecessary waste and build back greener.’

Internet link: GOV.UK

More than £30 million lost to pension scams

Over £30 million has been lost to pension scams since 2017, according to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and The Pensions Regulator (TPR).

A total of £30,857,329 in pension savings has been lost to scammers since 2017, data published by the FCA and the TPR revealed. Reported losses ranged from under £1,000 to as much as £500,000. The average victim was a man in his 50s, the FCA and the TPR found.

65% of pension savers said they felt confident they could spot a scam. However, four in ten would put themselves at risk unknowingly by engaging with a common scam tactic, such as being told it’s a time-sensitive offer.

The FCA and the TPR have advised savers not to be pressured into making any decisions about their pensions, and to reject unexpected pension offers, whether these are made online, via social media or over the phone.

Mark Steward, Executive Director of Enforcement and Market Oversight at the FCA, said:

‘During these uncertain times, it is more important than ever to defend your lifetime savings from scammers.

‘Fraudsters will seek out every opportunity to exploit innocent people, no matter how much or how little you have saved.’

Internet link: FCA news

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published which take effect from 1 September 2020. The rates only apply to employees using a company car. The guidance states:

‘You can use the previous rates for up to one month from the date the new rates apply.’

The advisory fuel rates for journeys undertaken on or after 1 September 2020 are:

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 10p
1401cc – 2000cc 12p
Over 2000cc 17p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 8p
Over 2000cc 12p
Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 8p
1601cc – 2000cc 10p
Over 2000cc 12p

HMRC guidance states that the rates only apply when 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.

The Advisory Electricity Rate for fully electric cars is 4 pence per mile. Electricity is not a fuel for car fuel benefit purposes.

If you would like to discuss your car policy, please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

Eat Out to Help Out – over 64 million meals

The government has announced that more than 64 million meals were enjoyed by diners across the country during the government’s Eat Out to Help Out discount scheme. The scheme closed on 31 August 2020.

Government figures show that restaurants had claimed for more than 64 million discounted meals as Eat Out to Help Out entered its fourth week.

This continues the upward trend in the scheme’s popularity, with 10.5 million meals claimed for in the first week, growing to a total of 35 million meals in the second.

The upward trend in meals claimed for shows that millions continued to flock to eat out to support 1.8 million jobs in the hospitality sector, which has been hit hard by coronavirus (COVID-19). The government has confirmed that 87,000 claims have been made by restaurants taking part in the scheme.

Data from OpenTable shows that during Eat Out to Help Out’s third week the number of customers at UK restaurants was 61% higher than the same days last year on average for Monday to Wednesday. The average level across Monday to Wednesday in the first and second week were 12% and 41% respectively. The data also shows that the number of customers at UK restaurants was up 17% compared to the same week in 2019.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

‘Today’s figures continue to show that Brits are backing hospitality – with more than 64 million meals discounted so far, that’s equivalent to nearly every person in the country dining out to protect jobs.

‘This scheme has reminded us how much we love to dine out, and in doing so, how this is helping to protect the jobs of nearly two million people who work in hospitality.’

Internet links: GOV.UK news HMRC guidance

Self assessment deadlines

Two self assessment deadlines are approaching:

  • 5th October 2020

For those individuals who have not previously completed a tax return but need to report a liability for 2019/20.

  • 31st October 2020

For those individuals who have previously submitted ‘paper’ self assessment tax returns the deadline for the 2019/20 return is 31 October 2020. Returns submitted after that date must be submitted electronically or they will incur a minimum penalty of £100. The penalty applies even when there is no tax to pay or the tax is paid on time.

If you would like any help with the completion of your self assessment tax return, please do get in touch.

Internet link: HMRC deadlines

HMRC latest guidance for employers

HMRC has published the latest edition of the Employer Bulletin. This guidance for employers, and their agents, includes articles on:

  • Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and what employers need to do from August onwards
  • making sure you are paying the correct workplace pension contributions
  • new laws to ensure furloughed employees receive full statutory redundancy payments
  • the deadline to report the disguised remuneration loan charge – 30 September 2020
  • COVID-19 – are you due a repayment?
  • off-payroll working rules (IR35)
  • applications for the £50 million customs grant scheme
  • the delay to the VAT reverse charge on building and construction services
  • the end of the VAT payment deferrals period
  • Student Loan repayments
  • Finance Act 2020 changes to company car tax.

Please contact us for help with employment matters.

Internet link: Employer Bulletin

Kickstart Scheme opens for applications

On 2 September 2020, the government’s £2 billion Kickstart Scheme opened for employer applications.

The scheme is part of the Plan for Jobs announced during Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s July Summer Economic Update.

The Kickstart Scheme aims to create work placements for young people who are at risk of becoming unemployed for the long-term. Businesses can join the scheme, with the government paying employers £1,500 to help set up support and training. Funding is available following a successful application process. Applications must be for a minimum of 30 job placements.

Businesses that are unable to offer this many job placements can partner with other organisations to reach the minimum number.

Selected out-of-work young people will be offered six month work placements for at least 25 hours a week to help them gain experience, skills and confidence. The scheme is designed to be a stepping stone to further employment.

Employers will receive funding for 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage (NMW) for 25 hours a week, plus associated employer national insurance contributions (NICs) and employer minimum auto-enrolment pension contributions.

Chancellor Sunak said:

‘This isn’t just about kickstarting our country’s economy – it is an opportunity to kickstart the careers of thousands of young people who could otherwise be left behind as a result of the pandemic.

‘The scheme will open the door to a brighter future for a new generation and ensure the UK bounces back stronger as a country.’

Internet link: GOV.UK

Self Employment Income Support Scheme Grants

HMRC are inviting those individuals that are self employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by coronavirus to claim a second grant under the Self Employed Income Support Grant.

Applications for the first grant under the scheme closed on 13 July 2020.

The second and final taxable grant is worth 70% of an individual’s average monthly trading profits, paid out in a single instalment covering three months’ worth of profits, and capped at £6,570 in total.

Applications for the second and final grant are now open. The grant is only available to businesses that have been adversely affected on or after 14 July 2020. Taxpayers must make a claim for the second grant on or before 19 October 2020.

HMRC will work out businesses’ eligibility for the second grant in the same way as the first grant.

Taxpayers are able to make a claim for the second grant if they are eligible, even if they did not make a claim for the first grant.

HMRC have confirmed that taxpayers can:

  • continue to work
  • start a new trade or take on other employment including voluntary work and duties as a military reservist.

The grant does not need to be repaid if a taxpayer is eligible, but will be subject to both income tax and self employed National Insurance.

Internet link: GOV.UK SEISS guidance

Newsletter – August 2020

Enews – August 2020

In this month’s Enews, we report on the Job Retention Bonus as HMRC publishes further details regarding requirements and what employers need to do now to claim the bonus. There have been plenty of other developments. We look at some of them here and analyse changes to tax policy and the wider economy. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to dominate the news, there are lots of issues to update you on.

HMRC outlines Job Retention Bonus criteria

HMRC has outlined the eligibility requirements for the Job Retention Bonus (JRB) that follows the furlough scheme as part of the government’s measures to support the economy through the COVID-19 lockdown.

The government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October 2020 and the JRB aims to provide additional support to employers who keep on their furloughed employees in meaningful employment.

The JRB is a one-off payment to employers of £1,000 for every employee who they previously claimed for under the scheme, and who remains continuously employed through to 31 January 2021. Eligible employees must earn at least £520 a month on average between the 1 November 2020 and 31 January 2021. Employers will be able to claim the JRB after they have filed PAYE for January and payments will be made to employers from February 2021.

All employers are eligible for the scheme including recruitment agencies and umbrella companies. They should ensure that they have complied with their obligations to pay and file PAYE accurately and on time under the Real Time Information (RTI) reporting system, maintained enrolment for PAYE online and have a UK bank account.

Employers will be able to claim for employees who were furloughed and had a Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme claim submitted for them that meets all relevant eligibility criteria for the scheme.

They must have up-to-date RTI records for the period to the end of January and not be serving a contractual or statutory notice period, that started before 1 February 2021, for the employer making a claim.

HMRC will publish further details about this process before the end of September 2020.

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Treasury sets out next steps for Making Tax Digital

On 21 July, the Treasury set out the next steps in its plan to extend Making Tax Digital (MTD) to all businesses and those taxpayers that file self assessment returns.

Currently, businesses above the VAT threshold of £85,000 are required to comply with Making Tax Digital for VAT (MTD for VAT).

From April 2022, the initiative will be extended to all VAT-registered businesses including those with turnover below the VAT threshold. From April 2023 MTD will apply to taxpayers who file income tax self-assessment tax returns for business or property income over £10,000 annually.

According to the Treasury, the MTD changes will affect the way that taxes are reported, not the level of tax that is collected. They will help to minimise avoidable mistakes, which cost the exchequer £8.5 billion in 2018/19.

Jesse Norman, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘We are setting out our next steps on MTD… as we bring the UK’s tax system into the 21st century.

‘MTD will make it easier for businesses to keep on top of their tax affairs. But it also has huge potential to improve the productivity of our economy, and its resilience in times of crisis.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Government announces review of business rates scheme

The government has published a call for evidence on the overhaul of the business rates system that applies in England.

The government announced at the 2020 Budget in March that it would conduct a review of the business rates system in England. It is seeking views from businesses, business representative organisations, local authorities, rating agents, others involved in the operation of the system and anyone interested in the business rates or wider tax system.

The call for evidence seeks views on how the business rates system currently works, issues to be addressed, ideas for change and a number of alternative taxes.

The government stated that it welcomes views on the multiplier and reliefs sections of the call for evidence by 18 September 2020, to inform an interim report in the autumn.

Internet link: TM Treasury consultations

Eat Out to Help Out now up and running

On 1 August, the government’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme began operating at eateries across the country.

The scheme was announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his Summer Economic Update. It provides a 50% reduction of up to £10, for sit-down meals in participating cafes, restaurants and pubs across the UK from Monday to Wednesday every week throughout August 2020.

Those establishments taking part in the scheme will display stickers and posters in their windows. Diners can take advantage of the offer as many times as they like during the month and do not need to present a voucher.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

‘Our Eat Out to Help Out scheme’s number one aim is to help protect the jobs of 1.8 million chefs, waiters and restaurateurs by boosting demand and getting customers through the door.

‘More than 72,000 establishments will be serving discounted meals across the country, with the government paying half the bill. The industry is a vital ingredient to our economy and it’s been hit hard by coronavirus, so enjoy summer safely by showing your favourite places your support – we’ll pay half.’

Internet link: GOV.UK publications

Scottish government cuts LBTT to help home buyers

On 15 July, the Scottish government reduced the rate of Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) following a similar reduction to the rate of residential Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the recent Summer Economic Update.

LBTT is payable by the purchaser in a land transaction occurring in Scotland. SDLT applies to land transactions in England and Northern Ireland.

The threshold at which residential LBTT is paid has been raised from £145,000 to £250,000 in order to help homebuyers following the coronavirus lockdown. Announcing the change, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said that 80% of homebuyers will be exempt from paying LBTT.

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes said:

‘Overall, increasing the LBTT threshold will help increase housing market activity, boost the construction sector and stimulate our economy.

‘Alongside this distinctive Scottish approach to raising the starting threshold for LBTT, I am also targeting further support in other areas. For example, we are injecting £50m into our First Home Fund, which provides first time buyers with up to £25,000 to buy a property. This will help an estimated 2,000 first time purchases.

‘To mitigate the immediate adverse impact on the housing market in Scotland as a result of the Chancellor’s announcement, we are now working at pace on the necessary legislation and to ensure Revenue Scotland is ready to collect and manage the tax.’

Internet link: Scottish government LBTT

Wales reduces LTT rate

On 27 July, the Welsh government reduced the rate of Land Transaction Tax (LTT) following the cuts made to SDLT and LTT across the rest of the UK.

LTT is payable by the purchaser of residential or non-residential property occurring in Wales.

From 27 July 2020, the starting threshold for residential LTT rose from £180,000 to £250,000. This applies until 31 March 2021. The tax reduction does not apply to purchases of additional properties, including buy-to-let and second homes.

The Welsh government predicts that around 80% of homebuyers in Wales will pay no tax when purchasing their home, and that buyers of residential property who would have paid the main rates of LTT before 27 July will save £2,450 in tax.

Rebecca Evans, Welsh Minister for Finance, said:

‘These rates and thresholds have been set so they more closely reflect the property market in Wales and will ensure that we retain a progressive regime that expects those with the broadest shoulders to contribute a larger share in tax.’

Internet links: Welsh government website written statement

Chancellor asks OTS to review capital gains tax

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has asked the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) to carry out a thorough review of capital gains tax (CGT).

In a letter to the OTS, the Chancellor requested that the independent office review CGT and aspects of the taxation of chargeable gains in regard to individuals and small businesses.

Mr Sunak requested that the review identifies and offers advice on the opportunities to simplify the taxation of chargeable gains to ‘ensure the system is fit for purpose’.

In the letter, the Chancellor said that he would be interested in proposals from the OTS on the regime of allowances, exemptions, reliefs and the treatment of losses within CGT, in addition to the interaction of how gains are taxed compared to other types of income.

The OTS has published a call for evidence in the form of an online survey, which seeks views on CGT. The OTS wants to hear from businesses, individuals, professional advisers and representative bodies about which aspects of CGT are complex and difficult to get right, as well as suggestions on how the tax can be improved.

Internet links: GOV.UK publications letter

Overclaimed COVID grants

Taxpayers who have received CJRS or SEISS grants are urged to doublecheck their entitlement as the 90 day period to inform HMRC of any overclaimed amounts is now law.

Finance Act 2020 includes legislation that the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme and coronavirus business support grants are taxable. As well as including HMRC powers to recover grant payments to which the taxpayer is not entitled and penalty provisions.

HMRC has published guidance on how to repay overclaimed grants. This guidance confirms that the onus is on the taxpayer to notify HMRC if they have overclaimed a CJRS or SEISS grant and this must be done by 20 October 2020 or 90 days of receipt of the grant, whichever is the later.

Internet links: CJRS guidance SEISS guidance