Alcohol and Tobacco Duties
Excise duties are chargeable on beer, wine and spirits according to their volume and/or alcoholic content. For example, since 20 March 2005 the rate of tax on spirits and some high-alcohol wines has been £19.56 per litre of pure alcohol, the rate on other wines has been from £51.69 to £223.62 per hectolitre (of wine rather than of alcohol), and the rate on beer has been £12.92 per hectolitre for each percent of alcohol. Duties on most tobacco are set according to weight. Since 16 March 2005, the rate has been £149.12 per kilogram for cigars, £107.18 for hand-rolling tobacco and £65.56 for pipe tobacco. Cigarettes are taxed on 22 percent of the recommended retail price plus £102.39 per thousand cigarettes.
Business Premises Renovation Allowance
At the time of the 2004 Pre-Budget Report the Government published a consultation document, with draft legislation, for a Business Premises Renovation Allowance scheme. Subject to EU State Aid approval, this will provide 100 percent capital allowances for the costs of renovating business properties in Enterprise Areas that have been vacant for at least a year. The consultation period ended on 1 March 2005 and legislation was included in the Finance Act 2005. However, it will not be brought into effect until EU approval has been obtained.
Capital Gains Tax (CGT)
A tax on chargeable gains of individuals, trustees and personal representatives of deceased persons. A person is liable to CGT for any tax year (year to 5 April) during all or part of which he or she is resident or ordinarily resident in the UK (but years of arrival and departure may be split into chargeable and non-chargeable periods in certain circumstances). Companies are not subject to capital gains tax, but are liable to corporation tax on their chargeable gains on the same principles as for CGT (but with certain significant differences). Broadly, the gain on an asset is calculated by reference to the difference between the sales proceeds and the acquisition cost. The rate of CGT is broadly equivalent to the rate of income tax which would be chargeable if the capital gains for the year were part of the individual’s savings income. Taper relief may be available which can reduce the effective rate of tax depending on how long the asset has been held. This relief is not available to companies, which are instead eligible for indexation allowance.
Child Tax Credit
A credit available from April 2003 which consolidated the previous income-related child benefits into a single tax credit. It replaced the child elements of Income Support, the Job Seeker’s Allowance, the Working Families’ Tax Credit and the Disabled Person’s Tax Credit, and also the Children’s Tax Credit (which was an allowance given in determining taxable income, rather than a benefit payable by the Government). It is payable to the main carer of the child, usually the mother. The tax credit is available whether or not the recipient pays tax. The amount is reduced as income increases, but is available for family incomes up to a level in excess of £55,000.
Child Trust Fund
For all children born on or after 1 September 2002, the Child Trust Fund provides an initial endowment of £250 at birth, or £500 for children from low-income families who also qualify for the full Child Tax Credit. A further payment will be made when the child reaches the age of seven, in an amount yet to be decided (but proposed to be, again, £250 in general and £500 for low-income families). In the 2005 Budget the Government announced consultation on further payments at ‘secondary school age’. Parents, other family members and friends are allowed to make additional contributions to the fund up to an annual limit (for all such contributions) of £1,200. The assets of the fund will be accessible without restriction when the child reaches 18 years of age.
Climate Change Levy
The climate change levy is charged on electricity, coal (including hydrocarbon derivatives) and natural/petroleum gas supplied to industrial and commercial consumers. Suppliers are required to register and collect the tax. The levy is calculated at different rates for different fuels; e.g., 0.43 pence per kilowatt hour of electricity and 1.17 pence per kilogram of coal. Supplies for domestic and transport use are excluded.
Community Investment Tax Relief
Community Investment Tax Relief (CITR) is available to individuals and companies that invest in accredited intermediary organisations (Community Development Finance Institutions or CDFIs), which in turn invest in enterprises operating within or for disadvantaged communities.
The tax relief reduces the investor’s income liable to income tax or corporation tax by up to 25 percent of the sum invested, spread over five years. To obtain maximum relief investors must hold the investment for at least five years, but if in the course of that period they receive some return of the sum invested they will not necessarily forfeit the relief in full. Reasonable commercial payments of interest and dividends are permitted.
There is no limit to the amount of investment on which a single investor may claim relief under the scheme. However, there are limits on the amount of investment that can be raised by any single CDFI.
Companies are subject to corporation tax, which is levied on business profits and other forms of income, as well as on chargeable gains accruing to companies.
Corporation tax is charged on the profits of ‘financial years’ which run from 1 April. The profits of a company are calculated by reference to its accounting periods and are then, where necessary, apportioned on a time basis between the financial years in which the accounting period falls.
A nil rate band (the ‘starting rate’) applies to companies with taxable profits up to £10,000, with marginal relief up to £50,000. Companies with profits between £50,000 and £300,000 pay tax at a 19 percent small companies’ rate, with marginal relief up to £1,500,000. Companies with profits of £1,500,000 or more pay tax at the full rate of 30 percent. All these limits are reduced where there are associated companies. Since 1 April 2004, profits distributed to non-corporate shareholders have been charged at a minimum rate of 19 percent even where they would otherwise be taxed at a lower rate. From 1 April 2006 the starting rate band and the special rules for non-corporate shareholders are to be abolished and the 19 percent small companies’ rate will apply to all profits up to £300,000.
Corporation Tax Deductions
In general, in order to arrive at the taxable trading profits for a company, expenses are deductible provided that they are of a revenue rather than a capital nature and that they are wholly and exclusively laid out or expended for the purposes of the trade.
There are special provisions disallowing the deduction of expenses for business gifts and business entertainment. Exceptions apply for certain small gifts.
Capital allowances are available for certain categories of expenditure (e.g., plant and machinery and industrial buildings) instead of commercial depreciation.
Dividends are not deductible, whereas interest and royalties generally are.
Cross-border Loss Relief
The European Commission announced in November 2003 that it would consult with Member States with a view to presenting an initiative in late 2004/early 2005 to tackle the current limits on cross border loss relief within the EU. No further announcements have been made by the Commission.
The availability of such losses was also the subject of litigation in Marks & Spencer v Halsey (which was referred to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) by the High Court) and by other companies under the loss relief Group Litigation Order (GLO). In December 2005 the ECJ ruled in the Marks & Spencer case that relief should be available for cross-border losses where they are unrelievable in their country of origin.
The Government has announced that legislation incorporating the outcome of this case will be included in Finance Bill 2006. It has also announced anti-avoidance legislation designed to prevent groups from taking steps to render losses unrelievable in their country of origin.
At a meeting of ECOFIN (the EU’s Economic and Finance Council of Ministers) on 7 June 2005 the German Finance Minister, Hans Eichel, proposed that a high-level committee of tax experts be set up to consider the implications of ECJ cases affecting national tax systems. The UK Government agreed to set up such a committee during its presidency of the EU from July to December 2005. The exact status of the committee is unclear; the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has referred to it as “an informal high-level discussion among Member States” .
Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes
The Finance Act 2004 introduced measures that, together with subsequent regulations, require ‘promoters’ of certain tax avoidance scheme to provide HMRC with details within five days after the scheme is made available (or, in the case of ‘bespoke’ arrangements, within five days of becoming aware that any relevant transaction has been implemented).
HMRC register notified schemes and allocate each a reference number. In most cases taxpayers are required only to include on their tax return the registration number of the scheme. However, where (i) a UK taxpayer has used a scheme purchased from an offshore promoter, or (ii) the scheme has been devised in-house rather than purchased from a promoter; or (iii) the promoter has not disclosed on the ground of legal professional privilege, taxpayers themselves must provide details of the scheme to HMRC within five days (or a longer period in case (ii)).
The legislation originally applied to certain types of employment or financial tax product, and has since been extended to cover Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) schemes. The National Insurance Contributions Bill currently passing through Parliament will further extend the rules to National Insurance avoidance schemes, and the 2005 Pre-Budget Report stated that the disclosure regime would be widened still more.
Enterprise Investment Scheme
Subject to detailed conditions, the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) gives income tax relief to individuals at 20 percent on qualifying investments in unquoted trading companies up to £200,000 in any tax year, and exempts from capital gains tax any gain on the disposal of qualifying shares on which income tax relief has been given (and not withdrawn). Where a loss arises on disposal, the investor can claim income tax relief. While investors have to be unconnected with the company up until the time of the investment, this does not prevent them becoming paid directors subsequently. Only those companies or groups with gross assets of less than £15 million before an investment and no more than £16 million after it can participate in the scheme.
In addition, capital gains arising on other assets may be deferred against acquisitions of investments meeting the qualifying conditions under the EIS. The rules prohibiting connection with the company do not apply for this purpose.
Enterprise Management Incentives
A scheme designed with the aim of helping small higher risk companies attract and retain key employees by rewarding them with share options. To participate in the scheme companies must be either trading companies or holding companies of trading groups and must have gross assets (for the company or the group as the case may be) no greater than £30 million. Each eligible employee can hold options to acquire shares with an initial value of up to £100,000 and the total initial value of shares over which options are granted must not exceed £3 million. Provided various conditions are met, the grant and exercise of the options do not attract a tax charge, and the capital gains tax charge on the final disposal of shares may be lower than for disposals outside the scheme.
Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs
Previously, indirect taxes (such as VAT and excise duties) were under the control of HM Customs & Excise, while direct taxes (such as income tax and corporation tax) were the responsibility of the Inland Revenue. The merger of the two departments was recommended in 2004 in Financing Britain’s Future – Review of the Revenue Departments , the report of a review chaired by Mr Gus O’Donnell, then Permanent Secretary to the Treasury and now (as Sir Gus O’Donnell) the Cabinet Secretary. The necessary legislation was included in the Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Act 2005 and two departments merged with effect from 18 April 2005.
A tax on the income of individuals and trusts. Income includes emoluments from employment, profits from a trade carried on by an individual (either alone or in partnership), pensions, and investment income such as interest, dividends and rents. The rates of income tax for 2005/06 are the starting rate (currently 10 percent) on the first £2,090 of taxable income, the basic rate (22 percent) on the next £30,310, and the higher rate (40 percent) on the excess. Savings income is subject to tax at 20 percent rather than 22 percent to the extent that it does not exceed the basic rate limit, treating such income as the top slice. Any excess savings income is taxed at the higher rate. Special rates apply to dividend income: 10 percent on dividend income in the basic rate band and 32.5 percent on the excess. Various deductions can be claimed for income tax purposes such as certain losses, subscriptions to professional bodies and donations to charities. Individuals who are resident in the UK are entitled to a personal allowance; i.e., a tax-exempt band. For individuals below the age of 65 this is £4,895 for the tax year to 5 April 2006, rising to £5,035 for the year to 5 April 2007.
Individual Savings Accounts
An Individual Savings Account (ISA) is a savings account on which the return is tax-free, and which need not be declared in the investor’s tax return. There are two components: (i) cash; and (ii) stocks and shares, and life insurance policies.
An investor can have a ‘maxi-ISA’ with an overall annual investment limit of £7,000, of which no more than £3,000 can be in cash (i.e., all £7,000 can be in stocks and shares, and life assurance policies, if the investor wishes).
Alternatively the investor can have one or two ‘mini-ISAs’, with the same or different managers. The maximum investment is £4,000 for a stocks and shares and life insurance mini-ISA, and £3,000 for a cash mini-ISA.
From 6 April 2006 the limits of £7,000 and £3,000 were due to fall to £5,000 and £1,000 respectively. However, it was announced in the 2005 Budget that the higher limits were to be extended to 2009/10.
Prior to 6 April 2005 there were separate components for stocks and shares and for life assurance policies (i.e., there were three components, and three categories of mini-ISA, in total), with separate limits.
Inheritance tax is charged on the transfer of property passing on death (chargeable transfers) subject to various exemptions and reliefs, notably for certain business and agricultural property. It is also levied (subject to tapering relief) on certain gifts made within the seven years before an individual’s death (potentially exempt transfers). The scope of inheritance tax is further extended by the inclusion of gifts made outside that seven-year period where the deceased has not been entirely excluded from the benefit of the property concerned for the seven years prior to death (gifts with reservation). Certain transfers (to companies and some trusts) are taxed at the time of transfer (life-time transfers).
Inheritance tax is calculated on a cumulative basis. When a chargeable transfer is made, tax is calculated at the rate in force at that date taking into account the cumulative total of chargeable transfers made by the individual in the preceding seven years. Inheritance tax is charged at the rate of 20 percent in respect of lifetime transfers and 40 percent where it arises as a result of death (including tax on potentially exempt transfers). Tax is chargeable at zero percent on the first £275,000 of cumulative chargeable transfers – this is known as the ‘nil rate’ band. There is an exemption for most intra-spouse transfers. The nil rate band will rise to £285,000 for 2006/07 and to £300,000 for 2007/08.
International Financial Reporting Standards
An EU regulation requires listed companies in Europe to adhere to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) from financial years commencing on or after 1 January 2005 when preparing their consolidated accounts. In implementing this in UK legislation the Government has not made the use of IFRS compulsory for any further categories of accounts, but the legislation permits all companies to use them for individual and consolidated accounts if they wish.
Changes were made in the Finance Act 2004, the Finance Act 2005 and the Finance (No 2) Act 2005 to accommodate these new rules for tax purposes. Further changes have been made by statutory instrument.
The ‘IR 35’ legislation on the provision of services via an intermediary applies where a person (the worker) is made available to work for another person (the client) by a third party (the intermediary), and where the worker would have been an employee rather than an independent contractor if he or she had worked under a direct contract with the client. In most cases the intermediary is the worker’s own limited company. Very broadly, the legislation puts such workers in the same position for income tax and national insurance purposes as they would have been in if they had been an employee of the client. The legislation was introduced in 2000 and is referred to as ‘IR 35’ because it was first announced in an Inland Revenue (now HMRC) press release numbered IR 35 issued at the time of the 1999 Budget.
In addition to income tax, the self employed may be liable to pay, and employees may suffer deduction of, national insurance contributions. For employees these are payable where earnings exceed an earnings threshold (£97 for 2006/07 and £94 for 2005/06). Earnings at or below the threshold do not attract a contribution liability, and contributions are charged for 2006/07 and 2005/06 at 11 percent on earnings above the threshold, up to an upper limit (£645 for 2006/07 and £630 for 2005/06). A further charge applies at a rate of 1 percent on all earnings above the upper limit. If the employee is contracted out of the state earnings-related pension scheme a reduced rate is applicable on earnings below the upper earnings limit (9.4 percent for both 2006/07 and 2005/06). Employers also pay national insurance contributions on the earnings of their employees, above the earnings threshold. For 2006/07 and 2005/06 the employers’ rate is 12.8 percent (with reduced rates below the upper earnings limit where the employee is contracted out).
Contributions for the self-employed consist of a flat rate charge of £2.10 a week for 2006/07 and 2005/06 and a charge equal to 8 percent of profits between the lower and upper limits of £5,035 and £33,540 for 2006/07 (£4,895 and £32,760 for 2005/06), plus 1 percent of earnings above the upper limit.
National Insurance Contributions Bill
The National Insurance Contributions Bill was introduced in the House of Commons on 11 October 2005 and is now making its way through the House of Lords. It contains measures to:
·allow anti-avoidance NIC regulations to be made effective retrospectively from the same date as the corresponding anti-avoidance tax measures (back to 2 December 2004 if necessary). The first use of this power will be to impose NIC liability on certain employment-related securities charged to income tax from that date by the Finance (No 2)Act 2005;
·give HM Treasury the power to extend the tax avoidance disclosure rules to NIC-only avoidance arrangements; and
·prevent employers passing on to employees, under the existing rules for agreements or joint elections, any NIC liability on past payments of share-based earnings that arises from regulations made under the provisions of the Bill.
A benefit that the Government introduced from 6 April 2003 for pensioners on low and modest incomes, to give them a guaranteed level of income without penalising them for having small amounts of savings. The guaranteed level of income is linked to the growth in average earnings (as opposed to prices).
Planning Gain Supplement
The Barker review of housing supply, Delivering stability: securing our future housing needs , included a proposal for a ‘planning-gain supplement’ (effectively a tax on development gains). In the 2005 PBR the Government announced a consultation on the introduction of a planning-gain supplement, which would be chargeable at the point a development commenced. The amount due would be based on the uplift in the value of the land at the point at which planning permission for the development had been granted.
The Finance Act 2004 (and subsequent regulations) included provisions aimed at countering avoidance of the inheritance tax (IHT) rules for ‘gifts with reservation’; i.e., (broadly) where the former owner continues to enjoy the benefits of ownership of an asset. In certain circumstances, where these IHT rules do not apply, the new rules impose an income tax charge on the former owner for every year in which the benefit of the assets is enjoyed. The provisions came into effect on 6 April 2005.
Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)
Following consultation, the Government announced at the 2005 PBR that it would be taking forward proposals to create UK REITs.
UK resident companies listed on a recognised stock exchange will be eligible for REIT status. They will be required to distribute at least 95 percent of their taxable profits to investors. Companies which qualify as REITs will not be subject to corporation tax on their qualifying rental income or chargeable gains. Final details of the REITs regime, including details of any conversion charge payable when existing companies convert to REIT status are still to be published.
Research and Development Tax Credits
Tax relief is available in respect of research and development expenditure. The rules are complex but broadly speaking a small or medium-sized company can claim an allowance of 150 percent of revenue expenditure and a large company can claim an allowance of 125 percent, in addition to an allowance of 100 percent in respect of certain capital expenditure. In some circumstances a small or medium-sized company that does not have sufficient profits to utilise the 150 percent allowance can claim a cash payment (an ‘R&D tax credit’). The term ‘R&D tax credit’ is sometimes used loosely to refer to the whole system of allowances.
Residential Property in Self-Invested Pension Plans (SIPPs)
Following earlier consultation the Finance Act 2004 contained the primary legislation for simplifying the taxation of pensions, and this was supplemented by further legislation in the Finance Act 2005, with many of the detailed rules contained within regulations some of which are not yet final. The new system will take effect from 6 April 2006.
Prior to the 2005 Pre-Budget Report (PBR) draft rules allowed individuals to invest in property through their SIPPs. The PBR removed the option to hold residential property direct through a SIPP, although it will still be possible to invest through a property fund such as a REIT. There are no similar restrictions on investment in commercial property.
The Savings Gateway is a savings account for individuals with low incomes, in which the Government matches all money saved, up to a limit. Pilot projects in five areas of the UK ended in February 2005. The Government announced in the 2004 Pre-Budget Report that the preliminary evidence was positive and confirmed in the 2005 Budget that a larger pilot project had commenced.
Section 660A of the Taxes Act (taxation of ‘husband and wife’ companies)
HMRC contend that the anti-avoidance legislation dealing with settlements in s660A Taxes Act 1988 allows them, in certain circumstances, to treat as the income of one spouse the dividends which the other receives from his or her shares in a jointly owned company, if the work carried out by the first spouse accounts for the majority of the income of the company. Where the first spouse is liable to income tax at the 40 percent higher rate, and the other is not, this will increase the overall tax due.
This legislation was the subject of an appeal in the case of Jones v Garnett (often referred to as the Arctic Systems case, that being the name of the taxpayer’s company). This was decided in favour of HMRC at both the Special Commissioners and the High Court, but the Court of Appeal in November 2005 found in favour of the taxpayer. This case had certain specific factors which mean that its wider application is unclear.
Stamp Duty and Stamp Duty Land Tax
With effect from 1 December 2003 Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) largely replaced stamp duty on UK land and buildings. The charge on leases is substantially higher under the new regime, with the duty being directly proportional to the lease term. The SDLT rates are nil where the price is £120,000 or less (£150,000 for non-residential or mixed use), 1 percent where the price is between £120,001 (or £150,001) and £250,000, 3 percent where the price is between £250,001 and £500,000 and 4 percent where the price is above £500,000.
Stamp duty at 0.5 percent applies to transfers of shares irrespective of value. Stamp Duty Reserve Tax is levied on transactions carried out through electronic share dealing systems (also at 0.5 percent).
Value Added Tax (VAT)
A tax on consumer expenditure and imports into the UK. ‘Output’ VAT on standard-rated supplies of goods and services is charged at each stage of the supply, and if the customers are registered for VAT and use the goods or services for business purposes, they reclaim the VAT on their purchases so that they have, in effect, only accounted for tax on the ‘value added’ by the business activities. The total VAT cost is ultimately borne by the final consumer. Supplies made outside the UK are (broadly) outside the scope of UK VAT, although they may be liable to VAT in another country. The three rates of VAT applicable in the UK are the standard rate of 17.5 percent, the reduced rate of 5 percent and the zero rate.
VAT Annual Accounting
Under the annual accounting scheme businesses file only one VAT return each year, two months after the year end. They will normally make nine monthly interim VAT payments during the year, based on their estimated total liability for the year, followed by a balancing payment with the return.
A business may apply to use the scheme at any time on or after the date it is registered for VAT if its taxable turnover is not expected to exceed £150,000 for the year. If its turnover is not expected to exceed £660,000 it can apply as long as it has been registered for 12 months or more. A business already using the scheme can continue to do so until its annual taxable turnover reaches £825,000. From 1 April 2006 the turnover threshold will double to £1,350,000.
VAT Cash Accounting
Under the cash accounting scheme businesses account for VAT on the basis of payments received and made, rather than on invoices issued and received. Whether or not this is advantageous will depend on the timing of the relevant cash flows. The scheme will effectively give automatic relief for bad debts.
The scheme is open to businesses with an annual turnover of up to £660,000 that meet certain other conditions. A business already using the scheme can continue to do so until its annual taxable turnover reaches £825,000. The 2005 Pre-Budget Report announced that the turnover threshold would be increased to £1,350,000 subject to the granting of a derogation by the European Commission.
VAT Flat Rate Scheme
Under the flat rate scheme a business calculates its VAT liability as a fixed percentage of its turnover. The percentage varies from 2 percent to 13.5 percent depending on the business sector concerned. No deduction is given for VAT incurred on expenditure; this is taken into account in setting the fixed rates. A business in its first year of VAT registration can benefit from a reduction of one percentage point in the applicable flat rate.
A business can join the scheme if its taxable turnover in the next 12 months is not expected to exceed £150,000 and its total turnover (excluding VAT) is not expected to be more than £187,500. Taxable turnover for this purpose means the value of all supplies subject to VAT at the standard, reduced or zero rate. ‘Total turnover’ is the taxable turnover plus any exempt and non-business income. (Non-business income is taken into account in determining eligibility for the scheme, but not in calculating VAT due under the scheme.)