Newsletter – December 2015

eNews – December 2015

In this month’s eNews we report on pertinent announcements from the Autumn Statement focussing on issues for parents, employers and company car drivers, buy to let landlords and those with second homes. We also report on the forthcoming Scottish Budget and other pertinent announcements for employers.

Please do contact us if you would like any further information on any of the issues.

Scottish income tax rates and Scottish Budget

From April 2016, the Scottish Parliament will have the power to set its own rate of income tax to fund spending by the Scottish government. The rate will be set in the Scottish Budget on 16 December and we will update you on pertinent announcements.

Those who are resident in Scotland will pay two types of income tax on their non-savings income. The main UK rates of income tax will be reduced by 10p for Scottish taxpayers and in its place the Scottish Parliament will be able to levy a Scottish Rate of Income Tax (SRIT) applied equally to all Scottish taxpayers. If the SRIT is set at 10p then income tax rates will be the same as in the rest of the UK. SRIT can however be reduced to zero and there is no upper limit.

The Scottish Rate of Income Tax doesn’t apply to income from savings such as building society interest or income from dividends. Tax on this income will stay the same for all taxpayers across the UK. It also doesn’t affect income tax thresholds and allowances, which will continue to be set by the UK government.

The definition of a Scottish taxpayer is based on where an individual lives in the course of a tax year. Scottish taxpayer status applies for a whole tax year. It is not possible to be a Scottish taxpayer for part of a tax year. HMRC will identify those individuals who will be Scottish taxpayers based on their records of where individuals live. In early December HMRC started to write to potential Scottish taxpayers to confirm that the address held in their records is correct. If it is, taxpayers will need to take no further action. Those paying the new rate will see their tax code prefixed by an ‘S’ and their income tax will continue to be collected from pay and pensions in the same way as it is now.

Further details and the effect on employers can be found by visiting the following link.

Internet link: GOV.UK briefing

Autumn Statement 2015 – key announcements for parents

Reversal of most of the tax credit proposals

A number of changes to tax credits and Universal Credit were announced in the July Budget but the Chancellor has scrapped some of the changes following a defeat of the proposals by the House of Lords. The government has confirmed that:

  • The rate at which a tax credit claimant’s award is reduced as each pound of their income exceeds the income threshold (known as the taper rate) will remain at 41% of gross income from April 2016.
  • The level of income at which a claimant’s tax credit award begins to be tapered away (known as the income threshold), will remain at £6,420 per year from April 2016. Claimants earning below this amount will retain their maximum award.
  • The income rise disregard in tax credits will reduce from £5,000 to £2,500. This is the amount by which a claimant’s income can increase in-year compared to their previous year’s income before their award is adjusted.

Changes to the prospective Tax-Free Childcare scheme

Under the scheme, which is expected to launch in 2017, the relief will be 20% of the costs of childcare up to a total of childcare costs of £10,000 per child per year. The scheme will therefore be worth a maximum of £2,000 per child (£4,000 for a disabled child).

The government has announced changes to the conditions to qualify for Tax-Free Childcare. All parents in the household must:

  • meet a minimum income level based on the equivalent of working 16 hours a week at the National Living Wage (increased from eight hours at the National Minimum Wage)
  • each earn less than £100,000 a year (reduced from £150,000), and
  • not already be receiving support through tax credits or Universal Credit.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, has announced that the government will publish its next Budget on Wednesday 16 March 2016.

Internet links: GOV.UK main tax announcements GOV.UK news

Autumn Statement 2015 – key announcements for employers and company car drivers

Retaining the 3% diesel supplement for company cars which was to be abolished

The scale of charges for working out the taxable benefit for an employee who has use of an employer provided car are now announced well in advance. Cars are taxed by reference to bands of CO2 emissions. From 6 April 2015 the percentage applied by each band went up by 2% and the maximum charge is capped at 37% of the list price of the car.

From 6 April 2016 there will be a further 2% increase in the percentage applied by each band with similar increases in 2017/18 and 2018/19. For 2019/20 the rate will increase by a further 3%. It had been expected that the 3% diesel supplement would be removed from 6 April 2016, however this 3% differential will now be retained until April 2021. This is a blow to diesel car drivers who were expecting to see their car benefit reduce from April 2016.

The introduction of an apprenticeship levy

The government will introduce the apprenticeship levy in April 2017. It will be set at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s paybill, which is broadly total employee earnings excluding benefits in kind, and will be paid through PAYE. Each employer will receive an allowance of £15,000 to offset against their levy payment. This means that the levy will only be paid on any paybill in excess of £3 million.

Internet link: GOV.UK Blue Book

Autumn Statement 2015 – key announcements for buy to let landlords and those with second homes

Higher SDLT on purchases of additional residential properties

Higher rates of SDLT will be charged on purchases of additional residential properties (above £40,000), such as buy to let properties and second homes, from 1 April 2016. The higher rates will be three percentage points above the current SDLT rates.

The higher rates will not apply to purchases of caravans, mobile homes or houseboats, or to corporates or funds making significant investments in residential property. The government will consult on the policy detail, including whether an exemption for corporates and funds owning more than 15 residential properties is appropriate. The Chancellor stated that ‘more and more homes are being bought as buy to lets or second homes’ and ‘frankly, people buying a home to let should not be squeezing out families who can’t afford a home to buy’.

No mention was made by the Chancellor on the position in Scotland. It is the Scottish Government which sets the rates for the equivalent tax on property – the Land and Buildings Transaction Tax.

The introduction of a payment on account of any CGT due on the disposal of residential property

From April 2019, a payment on account of any CGT due on the disposal of residential property will be required to be made within 30 days of the completion of the disposal. This will not affect gains on properties which are not liable for CGT due to Private Residence Relief.

Currently, CGT is not payable on a disposal of an asset until 31 January following the tax year in which a disposal is made. So a disposal made on the 6 April 2016 will not result in a tax bill until 31 January 2018.

This measure is another blow for buy to let landlords.

Internet link: GOV.UK main tax announcements

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published which took effect from 1 December 2015. 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 December 2015 are:

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 11p
1401cc – 2000cc 13p
Over 2000cc 20p

 

Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 9p
Over 2000cc 13p

 

Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 9p
1601cc – 2000cc 11p
Over 2000cc 13p

Please note that not all of the rates have been amended so care must be taken to apply the correct rate.

Other points to be aware of about the advisory fuel rates:

  • Employers do not need a dispensation to use these rates. Employees driving employer provided cars are not entitled to use these rates to claim tax relief if employers reimburse them at lower rates. Such claims should be based on the actual costs incurred.
  • The advisory rates are not binding where an employer can demonstrate that the cost of business travel in employer provided cars is higher than the guideline mileage rates. The higher cost would need to be agreed with HMRC under a dispensation.

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

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

‘Payrolling’ benefits in kind

From April 2016 the government is introducing a voluntary framework to allow employers to payroll most employee benefits in kind (benefits) rather than report them at the end of the tax year on a form P11D.

In order to payroll benefits an employer will need to include a notional value for employee benefits as taxable pay in the regular payroll cycle. By doing this the income tax due on the benefits can be collected in real time.

Currently the tax due on employee benefits is collected through an adjustment to the employee’s tax code. The way that tax codes work means that HMRC try to collect the right amount of tax at the right time. However, when benefits start/stop or are changed there can be a delay in changing the tax code which may result in an employee under or over paying tax.

One of the advantages to employers is that if employees’ benefits are payrolled then forms P11D will not need to be completed. Payrolling is not possible for some benefits such as living accommodation, beneficial loans and credit vouchers and tokens.

HMRC have confirmed that there will be no change to the process for reporting and collecting Class 1A NICs. Employers will still need to complete a form P11D(b) after the end of the tax year and calculate and pay the 13.8% employer only liability.

Employers need to register for the new service by 5 April 2016 as HMRC cannot process changes in year. HMRC are advising that employers should ideally register before 21 December to avoid being sent multiple tax codes for employees.

Please contact us if this is of interest to you.

Internet links: GOV.UK payrolling benefits Employer Bulletin

Guidance on use of zero hours contracts

The government has published guidance for employers on the use of zero hours contracts. The guidance sets out where zero hours contracts may be appropriate and also sets out alternatives and best practice.

The guidance gives examples of where zero hours contracts might be appropriate:

  • new businesses, where demand might be fluctuating and unpredictable
  • seasonal work, for example around Christmas
  • employers needing cover for unexpected sickness in critical roles
  • catering businesses using additional experienced staff when a special event is booked and
  • a business testing a new service that they are thinking about providing, needing employees on an ad hoc basis.

Internet link: GOV.UK zero-hours-contracts-guidance

Deadline for final IR35 payments and returns

The ‘IR35’ rules are designed to prevent the avoidance of tax and national insurance contributions (NIC) through the use of personal service companies and partnerships.

The rules do not stop individuals selling their services through either their own personal companies or a partnership. However, they do seek to remove any possible tax advantages from doing so.

Intermediaries who have operated the IR35 concession to delay making a final return and payment for the tax year ending 5 April 2015, have until 31 January 2016 to submit accurate figures and pay any outstanding amounts of PAYE and NIC due.

The concession operates where a provisional return and payment have been submitted but cannot be confirmed because final figures of income, including the calculation of the ‘deemed payment’, were not known at the end 2015 tax year.

HMRC advise that adjustments to the provisional RTI return should be reported using ‘an Earlier Year Update (EYU)’ and must be submitted electronically to HMRC by 31 January 2016. Interest will be charged on any balancing payment.

Please advise us if you would like help with this issue.

Internet links: GOV.UK IR35 guidance Employer Bulletin

Planning a party for employees

With the season for workplace parties fast approaching we thought it would be a good idea to remind you of the tax implications of these types of events. The good news is that, unlike entertaining customers, the costs of entertaining employees are generally allowable against the profits of the business.

But what about the tax consequences for the employees themselves? Is it a perk of their jobs and will they have to pay tax on a benefit?

Generally, as long as the total costs of all employee annual functions in a tax year are less than £150 per attendee (VAT inclusive) there will be no tax implications for the employees themselves. In considering this limit make sure you have included all the costs, which may include not only the meal itself but also any drinks, entertainment, transport and accommodation that you provide.

If the costs are above the £150 limit then the full cost will be taxable on the employee. In that case do get in touch so we can advise you how best to deal with them.

Internet link: HMRC guidance

Newsletter – November 2014

eNews – November 2014

In this month’s enews we report on the Government’s announcement on the availability of free advice on pensions flexibility, the latest HMRC disclosure opportunity and the end of the Business Entity Tests for IR35.

Acas have issued guidance on the administration of Shared Parental Leave and HMRC will be collecting larger debts via ‘coding out’.

Please do contact us if you would like any further information on any of the issues

Pension flexibility

The Government has announced that people who wish to access their defined contribution pension flexibly will be able to go to a local Citizens Advice Bureau across the UK for expert free and impartial face to face guidance or receive telephone guidance from the Pensions Advisory Service.

In Budget 2014 radical changes to the way individuals can access their pensions were announced. The Government promised that those able to take advantage of these flexibilities would be entitled to free and impartial guidance on their available choices as they approach retirement.

Pension expert Dr Ros Altmann CBE said:

‘This is a big step forwards in ensuring the pension revolution announced in the Budget will have a meaningful impact on pension savers. It is clear that, currently, most people saving for a pension don’t understand all the vital issues, and it’s really important that they receive impartial help to make the best decisions for themselves.’

‘Both the Pensions Advisory Service and Citizens Advice have longstanding experience in helping the public with financial issues; and it is really important that people do trust the scheme, otherwise they remain at risk of stumbling into poor decisions.’

Internet link: News

HMRC Credit Card Sales Campaign disclosure opportunity

HMRC have launched yet another disclosure opportunity this time aimed at undisclosed credit card sales. The Credit Card Sales Campaign is an opportunity for those affected to bring their tax affairs up to date if they are an individual or business that accepts credit or debit card payments for goods or services.

The disclosure opportunity allows those who have not registered with HMRC or who have failed to declare all their income to make a ‘voluntary disclosure’ of the omitted information in order to get the best terms under the campaign.

If you have any concerns in this area please do get in touch.

Internet link: Credit card sales campaign

IR35 Business Entity Tests

The ‘IR35’ rules are designed to prevent the avoidance of tax and national insurance contributions through the use of personal service companies and partnerships.

The rules do not stop individuals selling their services through either their own personal companies or a partnership. However, they do seek to remove any possible tax advantages from doing so.

One of the ways in which businesses, advisers and HMRC determine whether or not the IR35 rules apply is by the use of Business Entity Tests (BETs) which were introduced in 2012. The points based system is used to risk assess whether a particular arrangement is caught by the rules.

The IR35 Forum has recently reviewed the approach to administering IR35 and found that the BETs were not helpful to businesses as they were:

  • used very little
  • not fulfilling their intended purpose.

As a result the review recommended withdrawing the BETs.

HMRC have accepted this recommendation and will withdraw the BETs from 6 April 2015. They have also confirmed how this change will affect previous, ongoing or future enquiries which are detailed in the link.

If you are concerned how this change will affect you or your business please do get in touch.

Internet link: News

HMRC to collect more debt through tax codes

HMRC can currently collect debts of up to £3,000 by adjusting an individual’s Pay As You Earn (PAYE) tax code which applies to their employment or pensions income. This collection method is known as ‘coding out’. The effect of this is to recover the debt from an individual’s income, by increasing the amount of tax that is deducted from their income during the tax year.

Currently the limit set on the amount which can be recovered this way is £3,000, however for those with PAYE earnings of £30,000 or more the amount which can be recovered via coding out will be increased from April 2015 to a possible maximum of £17,000. The amount which can be collected increases using a sliding scale of band earnings, for example those with annual PAYE earnings of between £40,000 but less than £50,000 could have debts of £7,000 collected this way. If an individual’s earnings are less than £30,000, there is no change to the £3,000 coding out limit.

These changes will only apply to underpaid Self Assessment and Class 2 National Insurance debts and Tax Credit overpayments. Changes will be reflected in 2015/16 tax codes. If an individual does not want the debt coded they should arrange to pay off the debt or agree a suitable payment plan with HMRC.

The current £3,000 coding out limit will still apply to the collection of Self Assessment balancing payments and PAYE underpayments.

If you don’t want the debts to be included in your tax code, then you will need to pay the full amount you owe or speak to us to agree a suitable payment arrangement.

If you receive a tax code and would like us to review it please do get in touch.

Internet link: News

VAT on ‘snowballs’

HMRC have published a Brief which advises that ‘snowballs’ are zero rated for VAT purposes.

Following the decision of the First Tier Tribunal HMRC have issued guidance on the VAT treatment of ‘snowballs’. The case concerned the VAT liability of this food item and whether or not it was confectionary (standard rated) or a cake (zero-rated). The ‘snowballs’ considered were those manufactured by Lees of Scotland and Thomas Tunnock Ltd which are a dome of marshmallow covered with sugar strands and a chocolate, carob, cocoa or coconut coating with or without a jam filling.

Both manufacturers had challenged a previous ruling that ‘snowballs’ were standard rated confectionery by claiming they were also cakes and submitted voluntary disclosures for VAT they claimed was overcharged. HMRC disagreed with this view and so the matter was decided by the First Tier Tribunal.

The Tribunal considered what factors should be considered when identifying whether a product is a cake and weighed the relevant factors in the balance. The Tribunal did not dispute that snowballs are confectionery however they accepted they do have sufficient characteristics of a cake for them to be characterised as a cake, which means they are zero rated for VAT purposes.

HMRC have accepted that decision and will be updating their guidance in respect of this type of snowball in due course.

In limited circumstances suppliers of these products may be entitled to a refund however this claim would be subject to the ‘unjust enrichment’ rules and the 4 year cap in line with normal HMRC procedures.

This case helps to illustrate how important it is to get the VAT treatment right. Please do get in touch for advice on VAT issues.

Internet link: Brief

Acas guidance on new shared parental leave rules

Acas have issued a new guide to help employers and employees to understand the practicalities of the Shared Parental Leave (SPL) Regulations.

The operation of the new rules, which apply to parents of babies due on or after 5 April 2015, and to parents of children placed for adoption from that date, have raised concerns among employers about administrative difficulties, such as managing employee requests to alternate leave multiple times between parents.

The Acas guidance which can be found using the following link includes step by step instructions on how eligible employees can make SPL requests, as well as advice for employers about how to handle requests fairly together with useful template documents.

Internet link: Acas guidance

Parties for employees

With the season for workplace parties fast approaching we thought it would be a good idea to remind you of the tax implications of these type of events. The good news is that, unlike entertaining customers, the costs of entertaining employees are generally allowable against the profits of the business.

But what about the tax consequences for the employees themselves? Is it a perk of their jobs and will they have to pay tax on a benefit?

Generally, as long as the total costs of all employee annual functions in a tax year are less than £150 per attendee (VAT inclusive) there will be no tax implications for the employees themselves. In considering this limit make sure you have included all the costs, which may include not only the meal itself but also any drinks, entertainment, transport and accommodation that you provide.

If the costs are above the £150 limit then the full cost will be taxable on the employee. In that case do get in touch so we can advise you how best to deal with them.

Internet link: HMRC guidance

2012/13 tax gap

HMRC have announced the latest tax gap figures. The tax gap, which is the difference between the amount of tax due and the amount collected, was 6.8% of tax liabilities, or £34 billion, in 2012 to 2013.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury David Gauke said:

‘Since 2010 to 2011 the percentage tax gap has stayed lower than at any point under the previous government, saving the country £4 billion. Today’s figures show that there’s still more work to do but our continued drive to tackle avoidance means that avoidance is down.’

Internet link: News