"That went as well as could be expected, didn’t it?"
- a quote from Wallace & Gromit (or George Osborne).
A GOOD BUDGET FOR BUSINESS
Corporation tax will be reduced from 1 April 2012 by a further 1% to that already announced. The headline rate will be 24%, reducing by 1% over each of the next two years. This is a welcome announcement to keep the UK competitive internationally.
Clients should be looking wherever possible to defer taxable income recognition and maximise / accelerate tax reliefs (e.g. through maximising capital allowances, especially in the area of fixtures where claims can be undervalued). The small profit rate remains at 20%.
85% of property owners are not claiming their full entitlement of commercial property allowances Around a quarter of the total purchase price of a property can be eligible for allowances, so property buyers are almost certainly missing out. Every commercial property contains plant and machinery items as defined for tax purposes. The key action is to identify and agree their value to claim any allowances in any deal. For future commercial property sellers helping the buyer maximise their allowances will help them achieve the best price. For the future buyer there are substantial benefits claiming allowances; and the recent buyer can make a retrospective claim. See flyer attached.
Business owners should continue to review their business structure to take advantage of the difference in income tax and corporate tax rates. The potential benefits of maximising the arbitrage between the two will be greatest in 2012/2013 (income tax 50% vs corporate tax 24%). There are a number of solutions which can help deliver these tax benefits.
Dividends from companies after 6 April 2013 will be taxed at a rate 5.5% lower than at present.
Apart from further reduction in headline corporation tax rates, there was not much in the Budget that we didn’t already know about such (eg CFC changes, Patent Box and R&D). Companies with offshore interests need to review their structures to minimise the impact and maximise the opportunities of the CFC and Patent Box changes (especially finance company exemptions and taxing intellectual property at 10%).
Income tax rates will be unchanged for next year. However, the Government have recognised that the 50% rate has been a deterrent to inward investment and entrepreneurship as well as encouraged more aggressive tax avoidance, and acted to reduce this to 45% from April 2013.
Clients should be thinking now about whether and how to defer taxable income recognition and accelerate allowances and reliefs (eg pension contributions).
Thankfully, we did not see the predicted tampering with pensions, either in reducing higher rate relief for contributions or taxing pension funds themselves. Also, we did not see any reduction in the £50,000 annual allowance for tax free pension contributions. However, we will need to see the details of the proposed 25% cap on tax reliefs for anyone claiming reliefs over £50,000 in a year to see if this becomes one of the more controversial elements of the Budget.
Clients who made advanced pension payments before budget day will therefore be in the same position as those who contribute between today and 5th April. Business owners should start to give careful thought to how to maximise pension contributions at the highest rate (50%) and how and when these should be funded by their companies, especially given effective dividend rates will reduce from 36.1% to 30.6% from 6th April 2013.
Stamp Duty / Wealth Tax
As expected, the Chancellor attacked specific stamp duty land tax avoidance schemes including bringing in a penal 15% rate for residential properties over £2m purchased by companies (from today). As to "mansion tax by another name", the Government have also increased the rate of SDLT from 5% to 7% for homes worth more than £2m (from tomorrow). The Government have also said they will consult over the introduction in April 2013 of an annual property charge for residential properties over £2m.
Further consultation on the introduction of a general anti-avoidance rule is welcome although the interaction with the existing disclosure regimes could potentially create more rather than less uncertainty for businesses in managing their tax affairs.
The individual limit on qualifying Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) options will increase from £120,000 to £250,000. This makes EMI schemes even more attractive to businesses wishing to retain and incentivise employees in a tax efficient manner. Potentially of greater benefit is the announcement that gains on EMI shares would qualify for entrepreneurs relief (ie 10% tax) for exercises post 6 April 2012. We await more detail but this could be very attractive to many businesses with EMI schemes or considering them.
Individuals holding EMI options should NOT exercise options before 6 April 2012 without taking advice first.
Business Property Renovation Allowance (BPRA) can allow investors to pay as little tax as they choose by investing in commercial property while taking the bulk of the cost as a write-off for tax. With no upper limit on the amount which can be invested there is more relief overall from BPRA than is offered by venture capital schemes. There are limitations. The aim is to direct investment into the conversion or renovation of commercial or office sites that have been unused for at least one year and must be in projects in Assisted Areas. After renovation the property has to be rented out for at least seven years making the scheme an 8-year investment. The Budget have announced some minor improvements to the relief.
UK Head of Tax