March 14 Budget
Savings, pensions, and tax avoidance all feature in the March 14 Budget. The Budget is increasingly being used to summarise the state of play and map out the next steps in an increasingly coherent work programme.
Here we set out not only the changes announced in this Budget, but also summarise those announced previously which come into effect in 2014 and 2015. Growth and fairness were the themes of the Budget, you can read the individuals measures below, that we have picked out, which may affect our typical client base of small & micro family businesses. It is an introduction only and should not be used as a definitive guide, since individual circumstances may vary. Specific advice should be obtained, where necessary.
Tax Rates and Thresholds
As previously announced, the personal annual allowance for income tax rises to £10,000 from 6/4/14 but the March 14 Budget announced that it will increase to £10,500 from 6/4/15. This is the level of tax-free income that a person can earn or receive without paying income tax and has risen substantially over the past few years. However, as in previous years, the higher rate threshold doesn’t increase by the same amount, so this only benefits basic rate taxpayers, not higher rate taxpayers.
The higher rate threshold will be £41,865 for 2014/15, above which income tax will be 40% on the amount of taxable income over that threshold. The higher rates and thresholds remain unchanged. The personal allowance is tapered away for incomes over £100,000 and the top rate 45% income tax applies to incomes over £150,000. If your taxable income is over any of these thresholds,you really need to consider paying contributions to a pension scheme to get your total taxable income under the threshold, especially the £100,000 threshold where the personal allowance is removed. As the higher rate thresholds are not increasing in line with inflation nor the increases in the personal allowance, more and more people are being dragged into the higher rates of tax as each year passes.
The trend of increasing the VAT registration and de-registration thresholds continue with the March 14 Budget. The threshold at which you have to register for VAT increases to £81,000 per annum – NB this is your business total “sales”, not profits, i.e. the total amounts paid to you by your customers, not the amount you receive after charges (such as Paypal) nor the amount of profit made (i.e. after commissions, postages, expenses, etc). For those already registered, you can now apply to deregister if your sales fall below £79,000. Remember also that these thresholds relate to any rolling 12 month period, not your business year nor the tax year – if you are anywhere near the thresholds you should take monthly reports at every month end from your book-keeping system to keep a tally of your sales for the past 12 months.
HMRC powers extended
The government plans to give HMRC the power to recover tax directly from debtors’ bank accounts where they owe more than £1,000 and have previously been contacted ‘multiple times by HMRC to pay’. A single aggregate of £5,000 will be left across all accounts, after the debt is recovered. The Treasury says the new power will bring the UK tax authorities in line with other countries in Europe, which already have this power. Let’s just hope that they get their own house in order as we regularly see demands and statements for wrong amounts due to their errors! More then ever, it’s important not to ignore any demands from HMRC even if they are clearly wrong – it’s also important to ensure that you tell HMRC whenever you move premises so that they can send correspondence to the right address.
Transferable tax allowances
In the Autumn Statement 2013, the government announced its intention to recognise marriage and civil partnership in the income tax system. It was proposed that this would be done by allowing the transfer of a portion of personal allowances between spouses or civil partners. For 2015/16 a spouse or civil partner, who is not liable to income tax above the basic rate, will be able to transfer up to £1,050 of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner, but only if that individual is not liable to income tax above the basic rate. From 2016/17 the transferable amount will be 10% of the basic personal allowance. This could be a useful tax planning tool for couples where one spouse has little or no taxable income.
Employment Allowance of £2,000 for National Insurance
From April 2014, most small business will be eligible for a new £2,000 Employment Allowance to set off against their employers’ (secondary) national insurance contributions. Up to 1.25m employers will be affected with 450,000 having their employer NIC fully covered by the allowance. Sadly, if you are a personal service limited company caught by IR35 you are not eligible for this allowance! This has the potential to be a real help for smaller businesses, who employ small numbers of staff, to reduce their payroll costs.
Payroll RTI (real time) reporting, payments and penalties
The first year of the new RTI scheme is coming to an end. May we remind any clients who do their own payrolls that they must submit RTI returns electronically to HMRC for every pay period (week or month) even if no wages have been paid. They must also complete a year end RTI submission with final year end details and give P60s (pay and tax certificates) to all their staff. The old end of year reports (P35 and P14s) are no longer required. There will be penalties for late or non submission of the RTI submissions. Please be especially vigilant if you no longer currently employ anyone or all your employers are now paid under the PAYE/NIC thresholds as RTI submissions may still be required and the first you’ll know is the thud of the penalty notice through your letterbox!
Statutory Sick Pay
Currently, some of the smallest employers can reclaim some of the statutory sick pay that they must legally pay to their staff on sick leave. From 6/4/14, this will end and there will be no relief or repayment for any statutory sick pay that any business has to pay to any of their workers. However, there is a new scheme, the Health and Work Service’s (HWS) Return To Work Plan which offers support to manage staff sickness and up to £500 of medical treatment tax free if agreed with the HWS. The emphasis is therefore changing to getting staff back to work rather than supporting their sick pay.
The Chancellor confirmed, in the March 14 budget, that the Tax-Free Childcare costs cap, against which parents can claim 20% (basic rate tax) support, will be increased to £10,000 per year for each child. This will mean that eligible parents can now benefit from greater support, worth up to £2,000 per child each year. The Tax-Free Childcare Scheme will also be implemented more quickly than previously announced. From autumn 2015, the Scheme will be available to all eligible families with children under 12 within the first year of the scheme’s operation.
A loan provided by a company to a director, that is interest free or low cost, is not currently taxed as earnings of employment if it does not exceed £5000. As long as the total outstanding balances on all such loans do not exceed the threshold at any time in a tax year, there is no personal tax benefit-in-kind charge. From 6 April 2014, this threshold will be doubled to £10,000. However, the company will still have to pay a 25% tax charge on all outstanding loans to directors that remain outstanding 9 months after the company year end, and there are rules to prevent repayment and then it being drawn again shortly after, so these relaxations are only helpful for those wanting a short term loan on an occasional basis, certainly not for long term or semi-permanent loans.
Annual Investment Allowance (Tax relief for business equipment purchases)
Small businesses can claim the full cost of their equipment purchases (including vans etc) against their profits in the year of purchase. The limits have been going up and down wildly from year to year which isn’t helpful, but the limit increases from £250,000 to £500,000 per annum with effect from April 2014 to December 2015 but will then revert back to £25,000 per annum with effect from January 2016. So, if you have any plans for spending more than £25,000 p.a. on plant and equipment, then you should do it in 2014 or 2015 whilst the limits are higher.
Private residence relief for Capital Gains Tax on sale of your home
As announced in the Autumn Statement 2013, the government will legislate to reduce the final period exemption from 36 months to 18 months in most cases from 6 April 2014. This reduces the generous capital gains tax relief and will affect those who have two “homes” temporarily when moving out of one and into another and will also affect those who have previously lived in a home which was then rented out.
The small profits rate of corporation tax will remain at 20% from April 2014. As announced previously, the main rate of corporation tax will be reduced to 21% from April 2014 and 20% from April 2015.
There was no mention of IR35 or any more detail about the government’s plans to reduce tax avoidance by clamping down on so-called “artificial employment”.
There has been a major change to the ISA limits applicable from 30 June 2014 with transitional measures from 6 April 2014. If you are planning to put money into an ISA, there have been changes to the cash limits and to the flexibility of ISAs.
SEIS (Small Enterprise Investment Scheme)
The Scheme was not permanent, but ran from 6 April 2012 to 5 April 2017. Finance Act 2014 will make the Scheme permanent. The investment limit for a qualifying individual in a fiscal year is £100,000 and cannot claim tax relief until the company has spent at least 70% of the money invested.
Simplifying self-employed National Insurance Contributions (NICs)
Following a consultation announced at Budget 2013, from April 2016 class 2 NICs for self-employed will be collected through self-assessment.
The March 14 Budget announced fundamental changes to the pensions regime. From 27 March 2014 to April 2015 measures are being introduced to make withdrawing benefits during this period more flexible. These changes cover the following:
- capped drawdown increasing basis amount from 120% to 150%
- flexible drawdown, minimum income threshold reduced from £20,000 to £12,000
- trivial commutation limit increased from £18,000 to £30,000
- relaxation of rules relating to small pension pots.
Currently people who choose to withdraw all of their defined contribution pension savings at the point of retirement are charged 55% on the amount withdrawn (other than the 25% tax free amount). From April 2015 an individual will be able to withdraw their savings at a time of their choosing subject to their marginal rate of income tax, which for a basic rate tax payer will be 20%. Also from April 2015 the government will introduce a new guarantee that everyone who retires with a defined contribution pension will be offered free and impartial face-to-face guidance on their choices at the point of retirement.
Together with the changes to ISAs, we strongly recommend that everyone reconsider their savings for retirement plans as these announcements of fundamental changes have the potential to be “game changers” for a lot of people!
Upfront payment of tax associated to avoidance schemes
Budget 2014 announced a new measure that will require taxpayers to pay upfront tax disputed under schemes that fall within the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Schemes (DOTAS) rules or are counteracted under the General Anti-Abuse Rule (GAAR).
Legislation will be introduced in Finance Bill 2014 that will enable HMRC to issue a ‘Notice to Pay’ to any taxpayer for whom there is an open enquiry, or the matter is under appeal, and who has received a cash flow tax advantage by the use of arrangements that fall to be disclosed under DOTAS. The notice will require the taxpayer to pay the tax in dispute within 90 days. If the taxpayer requests HMRC to reconsider the amount of the payment notice a further 30 days will be granted. In the case of a matter under appeal, the new rules will remove the postponement of the disputed tax.
The intended effect of the new rules is that of removing the cashflow advantage enjoyed by the taxpayer of holding onto the disputed tax during an avoidance dispute. There will be no change to the tax liability owed.
Overall a relatively benign budget for our typical small business client. The national insurance relief for small employers is welcomed, but offset against the loss of being able to reclaim some statutory sick pay that has to be paid to ill staff. Good news that the limit for tax relief on capital purchases is increased, but most small businesses need to spend far less anyway so the old limits were usually adequate. The increases in the personal allowance is good, but not the fiscal-drag of more people being sucked into the higher rate tax bands. The changes to pensions and ISAs has the potential to be a game-changer for people planning for their retirement and I think that there’ll now be more emphasis on paying contributions into pensions due to the promised flexibility.