All posts by Richard Hallsworth

The hefty cost of renting

It’s an age-old debate: is it better to purchase your own home, or to cut out the hassles of property ownership and just rent? Is having a mortgage a huge burden, or is renting just throwing your money down the drain?

According to June 2018 figures by the housebuilder  Strata, the financial difference – over a lifetime – is vast. If you rent for life, it will cost you £1.1 million more than purchasing your own home. The research compared the cost of owning a UK home to average monthly rental payments, over a 60-year period. An average first time buyer will spend around £430,000, whilst lifetime renters will reach a total of £1.6 million – 280% higher.

 

how will the 2017 general election affect business in lincoln


Mind the state pension gender gap

The UK state pension can be a valuable source of income during your retirement – especially for men.  April 2018 research by Which? found that – over the course of a typical 20-year retirement – men receive an average of £29,000 more state pension than women.

In August 2017, the average weekly amount women received was 81.9% of the amount received by men. This is a slight improvement on recent years, although still a considerable gap. Of the 12.9 million people currently receiving state pension, the amount that 8.4 million receive is based solely on the National Insurance (NI) contributions.

You currently need to have made 35 years’ worth of NI contributions to qualify for the full state pension, but many women – who may have taken a career break to have children, for example – fall short of the full criteria.


Interview questions about health conditions

I recently read what I thought was a staggering statistic which was that 25% of employees experience a mental health condition each year. This statistic comes from Mind, the mental health charity who make the point that one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health condition each year. This often results in time off work but can you do anything at the interview stage to determine whether a potential employee has a mental health condition or would this be unlawful?

From my own experiences, many people who experience mental health conditions are often somewhat reluctant to talk about them openly and even less likely to voluntarily offer this information at an interview.

I would very strongly suggest that you do not ask any potential employee at a job interview any health-related questions as this would not be legal.

The Equality Act 2010 states that an employer must not ask about a job applicant’s health (including whether they have a disability) before offering them any work. The Act does give one exception and that is where you have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments”. In relation to this duty, you are able to ask questions of the potential employee to determine whether or not you need to make any adjustments for them during the recruitment process.

Many employers will be genuinely concerned about the physical qualities needed to carry out certain jobs, even allowing for reasonable adjustments. The starting point is that an employer must not discriminate against any job applicant in deciding to whom a job should be offered. (Section 39 of the Equality Act.)

Pre-employment enquiries about disability and health are not permitted before making an offer of work or shortlisting for a position. (Section 60 of the Equality Act). Strictly speaking an employer does not contravene the rules merely by asking a prospective employee about their health but they lay themselves open to an accusation of discrimination if subsequently a job is not offered; and defending such an accusation at an employment tribunal will be much more difficult.

However, employers are protected and may ask relevant questions in certain specified situations:–

  • Where it is necessary to carry out an assessment of an individual before offering the job or to find out if the duty to make reasonable adjustments will be necessary for the purposes of an assessment. This relates to the selection process.

In order to determine if the prospective employee will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work concerned. A very important point is that this provision applies after any reasonable adjustment would be made. So, if an employer takes the view that certain physical characteristics are essential relevant questions are permissible.

 

 


Other matters addressed in the 2018 Budget

Extension of offshore time limits

Draft legislation has been issued to increase the assessment time limits for offshore income and gains to 12 years. Similarly the time limits for proceedings for the recovery of inheritance tax are increased to 12 years. Where an assessment involves a loss of tax brought about deliberately the assessment time limit is 20 years after the end of the year of assessment and this time limit will not change.

The legislation does not apply to corporation tax or where HMRC has received information from another tax authority under automatic exchange of information.

The potential extension of time limits will apply from the 2013/14 tax year where the loss of tax is brought about by careless behaviour and from the 2015/16 tax year in other cases. The amendments will have effect when Finance Bill 2018-19 receives Royal Assent.

Comment

The current assessment time limits are ordinarily four years (six years in the case of carelessness by the taxpayer). The justification for the extension of time limits is the longer time it can take HMRC to establish the facts about offshore transactions, particularly if they involve  complex offshore structures.

The legislation cannot be used to go back earlier than 2013/14. If there has been careless behaviour HMRC can make an assessment for up to 12 years from 2013/14 in respect of offshore matters but HMRC could not raise an assessment for 2012/13 or earlier (unless there is deliberate error by the taxpayer).

Penalties for late submission of tax returns

Taxpayers are required to submit tax returns by specified dates. When taxpayers submit their returns late they generally incur a penalty. Draft legislation has been issued which sets out a new points-based penalty regime for regular submission obligations. Returns have to be submitted more frequently in some circumstances. Depending on the frequency of the return submission obligation, a defined number of penalty points will accrue to a threshold. Once this threshold has been reached, a fixed penalty will be charged to the taxpayer.

After this each late submission will attract a fixed penalty, until the taxpayer meets all submission obligations by the relevant deadline for a set period of time. Once this happens, and a taxpayer has provided any outstanding submissions for the preceding 24 months, the points total will reset to zero. Points will generally have a lifetime of 24 months after which they expire, so if a taxpayer accrues points but does not reach the threshold, the points will expire after 24 months. Taxpayers will have a separate points total per submission obligation.

Penalties for late payment of tax

Draft legislation has been issued to harmonise the late payment penalty regimes for income tax, corporation tax and VAT. Late payment penalties are charged when customers do not pay, or make an agreement to pay, by the date they should, and do not have a reasonable excuse for the failure to do so.

The penalties will consist of two penalty charges, one charge based upon payments and agreements to pay in the first 30 days after the payment due date and another charge based upon how long the debt remains outstanding after the 30 days.

Interest harmonisation

Draft legislation has been issued to change the VAT interest rules so that they will be similar to those that currently exist for income tax and corporation tax.

This will mean:

  • late payment interest will be charged from the date the payment was due to the date the payment is received
  • HMRC will pay repayment interest when it has held taxpayer repayments for longer than it should.

The provisions are expected to take effect for VAT returns from 1 April 2020.


Budget 2018 – Tackling the plastic problem

Tackling the plastic problem

As part of the government’s response to tackling plastic waste, the following announcements were made:

  • Single-use plastics will be addressed in the Resources and Waste Strategy later in the year for situations where recycling rates are too low and producers use too little recycled plastic.
  • The issue of excess and harmful packaging will be addressed with a tax on the production and importation of plastic packaging which does not contain at least 30% recycled plastic. This tax will be implemented in April 2022.
  • The Resources and Waste Strategy will also consider ways of reducing the environmental impact of disposable  cups. The government does not believe that a levy would be effective at this time but will return to the issue if insufficient progress has been made by those businesses already taking steps to address the matter.

Capital Tax & Inheritance Tax – check what changes have taken place.

Capital gains tax (CGT) rates

The current rates of CGT are 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, both of which have a lifetime limit of £10 million for each individual:

  • Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER). This is targeted at working directors and employees of companies who own at least 5% of the ordinary share capital in the company 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.

CGT annual exemption

The CGT annual exemption is £11,700 for 2018/19 and will be increased to £12,000 for 2019/20.

Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER)

Tackling misuse

With immediate effect for disposals on or after 29 October 2018, two new tests are to be added to the definition of a ‘personal company’, requiring the claimant to have a 5% interest in both the distributable profits and the net assets of the company. The new tests must be met, in addition to the existing tests, throughout the specified period in order for relief to be due. The existing tests already require a 5% interest in the ordinary share capital and 5% of voting rights.

Minimum qualifying period

The government will legislate in Finance Bill 2018-19 to increase the minimum period throughout which certain conditions must be met to qualify for ER, from one year to two years. The measure will have effect for disposals on or after 6 April 2019 except where a business ceased before 29 October 2018. Where the claimant’s business ceased, or their personal company ceased to be a trading company (or the holding company of a trading group) before 29 October 2018, the existing one year qualifying period will continue to apply.

Dilution of holdings below 5%

Draft legislation has been issued to provide a potential entitlement to ER where an individual’s holding in a company is reduced below the normal 5% qualifying level (meaning 5% of both ordinary share capital and voting power). The relief will only apply where the reduction below 5% occurs as a result of the company raising funds for commercial purposes by means of an issue of new shares, wholly for cash consideration.

Where a disposal of the shareholding prior to the issue would have resulted in a gain which would have qualified for ER, shareholders will be able to make an election treating them as if they had disposed of their shares and immediately reacquired them at market value just before dilution. To avoid an immediate CGT bill on this deemed disposal, a further election can be made to defer the gain until the shares are sold. ER can then be claimed on the deferred gain in the year the shares are sold under the rules in force at that time.

The new rules will apply for share issues which occur on or after 6 April 2019.

Gains for non-residents on UK property

Draft legislation has been issued to charge all non-UK resident persons, whether liable to CGT or corporation tax, on gains on disposals of interests in any type of UK land, whether residential or non-residential. Certain revisions are to be made following a further technical consultation when the full legislation is introduced but the key points are covered here.

All non-UK resident persons will also be taxable on indirect disposals of UK land. The indirect disposal rules will apply where a person makes a disposal of an entity that derives 75% or more of its gross asset value from UK land. There will be an exemption for investors in such entities who hold a less than 25% interest.

All non-UK resident companies will be charged to corporation tax rather than CGT on their gains. There will be options to calculate the gain or loss on a disposal using the original acquisition cost of the asset or using the value of the asset at commencement of the rules in April 2019.

The CGT charge relating to the Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings will be abolished. The legislation will broadly have effect for disposals from 6 April 2019.

Comment

The main effect of the new legislation will be to extend the scope of UK taxation of gains to include gains on disposals of interests in non-residential UK property. Previous legislation has focussed on bringing gains made by non-residents on residential properties within the UK tax regime.

Payment on account and 30 day returns

Draft legislation has been issued to change the reporting of gains and the associated CGT liability on disposal of property. The main change is a requirement for UK residents to make a return and a payment on account of CGT within 30 days following the completion of a residential property disposal on a worldwide basis. The new requirements will not apply where the gain on the disposal is not chargeable to CGT, for example where the gains are covered by private residence relief.

For UK residents, the measure will have effect for disposals made on or after 6 April 2020.

CGT private residence relief

It is proposed that from April 2020 the government will make two changes to private residence relief:

  • the final period exemption will be reduced from 18 months to 9 months. There will be no changes to the 36 months that are available to disabled persons or those in a care home
  • Lettings Relief will be reformed so that it only applies in circumstances where the owner of the property is in ‘shared-occupancy’ with a tenant.

The government will consult on the detail of both of these changes and other technical aspects.

Inheritance tax (IHT) nil rate bands

The nil rate band has remained at £325,000 since April 2009 and is set to remain frozen at this amount until April 2021.

IHT residence nil rate band

From 6 April 2017 a new nil rate band, called the ‘residence nil rate band’ (RNRB), has been introduced, meaning that the family home can be passed more easily to direct descendants on death.

The RNRB is being phased in. For deaths in 2018/19 it is £125,000, rising to £150,000 in 2019/20 and £175,000 in 2020/21. Thereafter it will rise in line with the Consumer Price Index. There are a number of conditions that must be met in order to obtain the RNRB, which may involve redrafting an existing will.

Downsizing

The RNRB may also be available when a person downsizes or ceases to own a home on or after 8 July 2015 where assets of an equivalent value, up to the value of the RNRB, are passed on death to direct descendants.

Changes to IHT RNRB

Amendments are to be introduced to the RNRB relating to downsizing provisions and the definition of ‘inherited’ for RNRB purposes. These amendments clarify the downsizing rules, and provide certainty over when a person is treated as ‘inheriting’ property. This will ensure the policy is working as originally intended. The changes will have effect for deaths on or after 29 October 2018.

Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT)

First time buyers relief

The relief for first time buyers will be extended to purchasers of qualifying shared ownership properties who do not elect to pay SDLT on the market value of the whole property when they purchase their first share. Relief will be applied to the first share purchased, where the market value of the shared ownership property is £500,000 or less.

Comment

The relief will apply retrospectively from 22 November 2017, meaning that a refund of tax will be payable for those who have paid SDLT after 22 November 2017 in circumstances which now qualify for first time buyers relief.

Higher rates for additional dwellings (HRAD)

A minor amendment will extend the time allowed to claim back HRAD where an individual sells their old home within three years of buying their new one.The measure also clarifies the meaning of `major interest` in land for the general purpose of HRAD.

Consultation on SDLT charge for non-residents

The government will publish a consultation in January 2019 on a SDLT surcharge of 1% for non-residents buying residential property in England and Northern Ireland.

 

 


Employment Tax – keep up to date with the changes made in the 2018 Budget

           

Off-payroll working in the private sector

The changes to IR35 that came into effect in April 2017 for the public sector will be extended to the private sector from April 2020. Responsibility for operating the off-payroll rules will be transferred from the individual to the organisation, agency or third party engaging the worker. Only medium and large organisations will be subject to this change.

Employment Allowance

The Employment Allowance provides businesses and charities with up to £3,000 off their employer NICs bill. From April 2020, the Employment Allowance will be restricted to those employers whose employers’ NICs bill was below £100,000 in the previous tax year.

Employer provided cars

The scale of charges for working out the taxable benefit for an employee who has use of an employer provided car are normally announced well in advance. Most cars are taxed by reference to bands of CO2 emissions multiplied by the original list price of the vehicle. The maximum charge is capped at 37% of the list price of the car.

For this tax year there was generally a 2% increase in the percentage applied by each band. For 2019/20 the rates will increase by a further 3%.

A new development for the current tax year is an increase in the diesel supplement from 3% to 4%. This applies to all diesel cars (unless the car is registered on or after 1 September 2017 and meets the Euro 6d emissions standard) but the maximum is still 37%. There is no change to the current position that the diesel supplement does not apply to hybrid cars.

Charging facilities for electric and hybrid cars

Legislation is proposed to provide a new exemption from a taxable employment benefit where an employer provides charging facilities for employees’ all-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles at or near the workplace. The exemption is backdated to have effect from 6 April 2018.

Employer provided cars and vans are already exempt from this benefit.

Exemption for travel expenses

Draft legislation has been issued which removes the requirement for employers to check receipts when making payments to employees for subsistence using benchmark scale rates. This will apply to standard meal allowances paid in respect of qualifying travel and overseas scale rates. Employers will only be asked to ensure that employees are undertaking qualifying travel. This will have effect from April 2019.

The proposed legislation will also allow HMRC to put the existing concessionary accommodation and subsistence overseas scale rates on a statutory basis from 6 April 2019. Like benchmark rates, employers will only be asked to ensure that employees are undertaking qualifying travel.

Self-funded work-related training

The government had previously announced that it would consult on extending the scope of tax relief currently available to employees and the self-employed for work-related training costs. The government has now decided to make no changes to the existing rules. However the National Retraining Scheme is being launched to help those in work, including the self-employed, to develop further skills.

For further information or help with Employment Tax please contact a member of our tax team on 01522 815100