Employee gifts – tax free?

At this time of year some employers may wish to make small gifts to their employees.

A tax exemption is available which should give employers certainty that the benefits provided are exempt and do not result in a reportable employee benefit in kind. In order for the benefit to be exempt it must satisfy the following conditions:

  • the cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50 per employee (or on average when gifts made to multiple employees)
  • the benefit is not cash or a cash voucher
  • the employee is not entitled to the voucher as part of a contractual arrangement (including salary sacrifice)
  • the benefit is not provided in recognition of particular services performed by the employee as part of their employment duties
  • where the employer is a ‘close’ company and the benefit is provided to an individual who is a director, an office holder or a member of their household or their family, then the exemption is capped at a total cost of £300 in a tax year.

If any of these conditions are not met then the benefit will be taxed in the normal way subject to any other exemptions or allowable deductions.

One of the main conditions is that the cost of the benefit does not exceed £50. If the cost is above £50 the full amount is taxable, not just the excess over £50.The cost of providing the benefit to each employee and not the overall cost to the employer determines whether the benefit can be treated as a trivial benefit. So, a benefit costing up to £50 per employee whether provided to one or more employees can be treated as trivial. Where the individual cost for each employee cannot be established, an average could be used. Some HMRC examples consider gifts of turkeys, a bottle of wine or alternative gift voucher.

Further details on how the exemption will work, including family member situations, are contained in HMRC manual.

However if you are unsure please do get in touch before assuming the gift you are about to provide is covered by the exemption.

Internet link: HMRC manual

Advisory fuel rates for company cars

New company car advisory fuel rates have been published which took effect from 1 December 2017. 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 2017 are:

Engine size Petrol
1400cc or less 11p
1401cc – 2000cc 14p
Over 2000cc 21p
Engine size LPG
1400cc or less 7p
1401cc – 2000cc 9p
Over 2000cc 14p
Engine size Diesel
1600cc or less 9p
1601cc – 2000cc 11p
Over 2000cc 13p

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.

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

Internet link: GOV.UK AFR

Pension contribution increases and temporary staff

The Pensions Regulator is reminding employers that they need to comply with their auto enrolment duties.

Automatic enrolment still applies to temporary staff this Christmas

With the festive season fast approaching, employers may be planning to take on temporary staff to help their business survive the rush. Automatic enrolment applies to these employees in the same way as permanent employees, even if they will only be working for a short time.

Employers will still need to assess temporary staff and auto enrol any eligible employees into a qualifying pension scheme. Once auto enrolled both the employer and employee must make pension contributions.

It is possible to apply postponement to temporary employees, which has the effect of delaying some of the auto enrolment duties, but TPR are warning this must be dealt with correctly.

Are you ready to increase contributions?

TPR are reminding employers that they need to be ready to deal with the increased auto enrolment pension contributions which apply from April 2018. Employers and their employees need to be aware of how the changes will affect them, including checking that the employer’s payroll software is compatible.

Guidance is included on TPR website on this issue. From 6 April 2018, the minimum contributions employers and staff pay into their automatic enrolment pension goes up to 2% for employers and 3% for employees. This increase has been planned since automatic enrolment started. Further increases in rates are scheduled for April 2019.

Please contact us if you would like any help with auto enrolment duties.

Internet links: TPR increase in contributions TPR irregular

Autumn Budget 2017

The Chancellor Philip Hammond presented his first Autumn Budget on Wednesday 22 November 2017. Some of the key announcements are set out below.

Increased limits for knowledge-intensive companies

The government will legislate to encourage more investment in knowledge-intensive companies under the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs). The government will:

  • double the limit on the amount an individual may invest under the EIS in a tax year to £2 million from the current limit of £1 million, provided any amount over £1 million is invested in one or more knowledge-intensive companies
  • raise the annual investment limit for knowledge-intensive companies receiving investments under the EIS and from VCTs to £10 million from the current limit of £5 million. The lifetime limit will remain the same at £20 million, and
  • allow knowledge-intensive companies to use the date when their annual turnover first exceeds £200,000 in determining the start of the initial investing period under the permitted maximum age rules, instead of the date of the first commercial sale.

The changes will have effect from 6 April 2018. This measure is subject to
normal state aid rules.

Proposed changes to Entrepreneurs’ Relief

The government will consult on how access to ER might be given to those whose holding in their company is reduced below the normal 5% qualifying level as a result of raising funds for commercial purposes by means of issues of new shares thus diluting their holding. Allowing ER in these circumstances would incentivise entrepreneurs to remain involved in their businesses after receiving external investment.

This proposal is welcome and addresses a particular problem which can arise. ER broadly requires a holding of 5% of the ordinary share capital. It may be that significant external investment is made which would reduce the holding to below 5%.

Improving Research and Development (R&D)

A number of measures have been announced to support business investment in R&D including:

  • an increase in the rate of the R&D expenditure credit which applies to the large company scheme from 11% to 12% where expenditure is incurred on or after 1 January 2018
  • a pilot for a new Advanced Clearance service for R&D expenditure credit claims to provide a pre-filing agreement for three years
  • a campaign to increase awareness of eligibility for R&D tax credits among SMEs
  • working with businesses that develop and use key emerging technologies to ensure that there are no barriers to them claiming R&D tax credits.

Business rates

Business rates have been devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The business rates revaluation took effect in England from April 2017 and resulted in significant changes to the amount of rates that businesses will pay. In light of the recent rise in inflation, the government will provide further support to businesses including:

  • bringing forward the planned switch in indexation from RPI to CPI to 1 April 2018
  • legislating retrospectively to address the so-called ‘staircase tax’. Affected businesses will be able to ask the Valuation Office Agency to recalculate valuations so that bills are based on previous practice backdated to April 2010.

SDLT relief for first time buyers

The government has announced that first time buyers paying £300,000 or less for a residential property will pay no Stamp Duty Land Tax.

First time buyers paying between £300,000 and £500,000 will pay SDLT at 5% on the amount of the purchase price in excess of £300,000. First time buyers purchasing property for more than £500,000 will not be entitled to any relief and will pay SDLT at the normal rates.

The new rules apply to transactions with an effective date (usually the date of completion) on or after 22 November 2017. This measure does not apply in Scotland as this is a devolved tax. This measure will apply in Wales until 1 April 2018, when SDLT will be devolved to Wales.

Business rates

Business rates have been devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The business rates revaluation took effect in England from April 2017 and resulted in significant changes to the amount of rates that businesses will pay. In light of the recent rise in inflation, the government will provide further support to businesses including:

  • bringing forward the planned switch in indexation from RPI to CPI to 1 April 2018
  • legislating retrospectively to address the so-called ‘staircase tax’. Affected businesses will be able to ask the Valuation Office Agency to recalculate valuations so that bills are based on previous practice backdated to April 2010.

For advice on how the Autumn Budget announcements will affect you and your business contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK Autumn Budget

Trusts Registration Service

HMRC have launched a new Trusts Registration Service (TRS), so that trustees can register their trust online and provide information on the beneficial owners of the trust. The new service launched in early July for trustees and replaces the 41G (Trust) paper form, which was withdrawn at the end of April.

Under the existing self assessment rules, the trustees (or their agents) must register details of a trust with HMRC by 5 October of the year after a liability to Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax (CGT) first arises. The registration process, which will need completing via TRS, includes providing information about the beneficial owners of the trust.

In subsequent years, or where the trust is already registered for self assessment, the trustees (or their agent) of either a UK or non-UK trust that incurs a UK tax liability are required to provide beneficial ownership information about the trust, using the TRS, by 31 January following the end of the tax year.

The new service is not currently available to agents. HMRC have advised that agents will be able to register on behalf of trustees from October 2017 and agents and lead trustees can enter updates for changes of circumstances from early 2018.

HMRC have also confirmed that in this first year of TRS there will be no penalty imposed where registration is completed after 5 October but before 5 December 2017.

A Self Assessment Trust and Estate Tax Return (SA900) must still be submitted after the end of each tax year, reporting any income and gains.

If you would like help or guidance on trusts please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK trusts-and-estates

HMRC offer tax support to growing businesses

HMRC have announced the introduction of a new service to directly help mid-sized businesses as they expand and grow. This is to be known as the Growth Support Service.

According to HMRC there are approximately 170,000 mid-sized businesses registered in the UK. The businesses with either a turnover of more than £10 million or more than 20 employees, that are undergoing significant growth, can now seek help from HMRC to access the services they need.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mel Stride said:

Mid-sized businesses make vital contribution to the UK economy and I want to see them grow, succeed and prosper.

The Growth Support Service will help these expanding businesses access tailored tax assistance so that tax administration doesn’t stand in the way of their growth and ensures businesses can focus on finding new opportunities.

Businesses who meet the eligibility requirements can apply online; they will then be contacted by their dedicated growth support specialist at HMRC, to discuss their requirements. The bespoke service will generally last between three to six months.’

Smaller business can access the Small Business Online Forum.

Please do contact us for help and support.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

HMRC phishing and scam advice

HMRC have updated their list of examples of websites, emails, letters, text messages and phone calls used by scammers and fraudsters to obtain individual’s personal information.
The guidance can be used to help you decide if a contact from HMRC is genuine, this guidance provides examples of the different methods that fraudsters use to get individuals to disclose personal information.

You can also read about how to recognise genuine contact from HMRC, and how to tell when an email is phishing/bogus.

Internet link: GOV.UK phishing-and-bogus-emails-HMRC