Will Scottish taxpayers pay less?
From 5th April 2016 a new Scottish Rate of Income Tax (SRIT) will come into force in Scotland. Although is it currently anticipated that taxpayers in Scotland and the rest of the UK will pay the same rate of tax next year, it is likely that the regions will diverge in coming years as more power is devolved to Scotland.
Who is Scottish?
The criteria applied to determine Scottish taxpayers are based on where the individual lives, and not where they work or their feeling of national identity. All of the following would be classed as a Scottish taxpayer:
- WILLIES (Working In London Living In Edinburgh)
- Scottish Parliamentarians (regardless of where they live)
- People living and working in Scotland
- People living in Scotland and working across the border in Carlisle / Newcastle etc
HMRC are responsible for assessing whether or not someone is a Scottish taxpayer. Anyone that HMRC deems to be Scottish based on their principal residence will be issued with a new S tax code. Your payroll software should automatically process the SRIT for anyone with a new S code. As with student loans, it is not for the employer to use their own judgement about applying the SRIT. If an employee disagrees with their tax code, it for the employee to resolve this with HMRC. Employers must act on instructions from HMRC.
Do English employers need to do anything?
Even if your business operates exclusively in England (or any other region of the UK outside Scotland) you will need to comply with regulations as they apply to any of your employees who live in Scotland. Surprisingly, there is no legal obligation to inform HMRC if you move and although employers really ought to know where their employees live, it might not always be obvious, especially if an employee has more than one residence.
It is common to think that any of the criteria below qualify for Scottish taxpayer status, but it isn’t the case.
- National identity
- Place of work
- Where income is generated (eg property income in Scotland)
- Regular travel to Scotland
Will Scots benefit?
The costs of the SRIT are to be borne by the Scottish Government. HMRC currently estimates that the total costs of implementing SRIT will be in the range of £30 million to £35 million over the seven-year period from 2012-13 to 2018-19. This is split between IT expenditure of between £10 million and £15 million, and non-IT expenditure of £20 million. The additional annual costs of operating the SRIT will be between £2m and £6m. The lower estimate corresponds to a SRIT where Scots pay the same rate as the rest of the UK. If the SRIT diverges from the neutral rate of 10%, the costs rise in administering the tax regime in the UK including pensions, gift aid and disputes over residence.
Why is the SRIT being introduced?
Scotland as a whole is likely to be worse off as any difference in tax raised is offset by an adjustment to the block grant from Westminster. It is estimated that 2.6m people will be issued with an S tax code. The annual running costs are therefore less that £3 per taxpayer but it is a valid question to ask if it is a good use of taxpayer’s money if tax rates are the same across the UK. It is anticipated that after additional powers are introduced in 2017 the SRIT could be more progressive, meaning that wealthier individuals would pay a higher proportion of tax. For anyone thinking about their residence status and still had a choice, now is a good time to get advice on the best situation for you!
For more information on the SRIT and for guidance on operating your payroll scheme, please contact Alterledger.
Trainee Accountant Vacancy
Training for Chartered Management Accountant
If you have graduated in the last year and are looking for your first job after university there are some fantastic opportunities in Glasgow including a position at Alterledger as Trainee Accountant.
New office for Alterledger
Growing the business and the team
We are pleased to announce that Graham has joined the team as Trainee Accountant and will be working through his ACCA qualifiation. For more information, please visit the Alterledger website.
You are the sole director in a company that undertakes some R&D. The annual profit is estimated at £140,000 for the year ended 31 March 2016 before taking into account the director’s remuneration.
You might think that the most tax-efficient remuneration package is £10,600 for 2015/16 to cover the personal allowance and then net dividends of £28,606 to take the director up to the basic rate band. You also need to consider whether the company can make an R&D relief claim and, if it can, how this might affect your decision.
Salary vs Dividends
If the director takes a typical remuneration package, then the net tax and NI savings over taking a salary of £39,206 would be £5,265, assuming the £2,000 employment allowance is available. This saving is made because dividends received within the basic rate band attract no further income tax plus no NI for the director or the company. This more than outweighs the additional corporation tax suffered on profits retained for dividends.
Taking R&D relief into account
From 1 April 2015 the R&D tax credit for SMEs increased from 225% to 230%. There is no R&D uplift on dividends received – only on salary. This means that paying a £39,206 salary would actually result in a saving over taking a small salary and dividends of £1,208.
What about a larger salary? In fact, if the client wanted to take out more than the basic rate band, then the salary may become even more tax efficient. A £70,000 salary would result in net tax/NI due of £1,366 after the R&D relief (assuming there was sufficient profit to offset the CT relief), whereas a salary of £10,600 and net dividends of £59,400 would result in net tax/NI of £5,883 – so the saving by taking a salary over dividends is £4,517.
HMRC will generally not accept 100% of a director’s salary costs within the R&D claim unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the director was exclusively involved in R&D activity.
While dividends don’t qualify as eligible staff costs for R&D claims, company pension contributions do. New pension freedoms make pension contributions a much more attractive option, so you might want to consider this as part of your remuneration package.
If a company makes pension contributions of £40,000 for the director and they spend 60% of their time on R&D, the R&D relief on this will be £55,200 (£40,000 x 60% x 230%). This means that the overall CT saving on the pension contribution will be £14,240 (((£40,000 x 40%) + £55,200) x 20%). As there’s no NI due on pension contributions, this is an even more efficient option than taking additional salary.
Get the best deal for yourself
For advice on the best split between salary and dividends or help with setting up a limited company and registering for VAT, please contact Alterledger.
Losses and profits
You might think that HMRC is being unfair in refusing loss relief, but if your activity is a hobby you won’t have to pay tax on profits either. This rule can be tricky as revealed in the case of P, when HMRC dismissed his claim for loss relief.
Trade or personal loss?
HMRC challenged P’s claim at a tribunal because in its view it related to non-business transactions and so was a personal financial loss and not one arising from a trade. Non-trading losses can’t be set against taxable income and it’s not just HMRC being difficult.
HMRC and tax specialists refer to the so-called “badges of trade” to decide if a trade exists. These tests were set out in a court judgment decades ago, but remain valid today. One of the tests to establish if a trade exists is that there must be an intention to make profit from a business. In P’s case the tribunal extended this test a little further.
Incapable of making a profit
P started two “businesses”, neither of which made a profit because, in the tribunal’s view, he was inexperienced and couldn’t devote enough time to them. Neither venture was capable of making a profit without P reducing the hours he spent in his main job. In essence P didn’t have the business acumen or time to devote to making his business profitable.
Putting the boot on the other foot
The ruling in P’s case is useful, not just for guidance on when losses are deductible, but for countering HMRC if it claims money you make from a hobby is taxable. Its view has always been that if you advertise your hobby in a newspaper or online you’re probably trading. But the tribunal’s judgment, supported by HMRC, dispelled that idea. If you don’t have the time or intention to carry on a trade, profit you make from isolated sales isn’t liable to income tax.
Turn your hobby into a business
For advice on converting your hobby to a profitable business, including help with setting up a limited company or registering for VAT, please contact Alterledger.
How to maximise your VAT reclaim
Plan ahead and reclaim everything
If you are setting up a business and can ahead, you can register for VAT from the date your business will start. For most traders there is not any restriction on the date the business can start, but for some professional services eg barristers and advocates, no trade exists until they qualify. To maximise the VAT to be reclaimed, the sole trader can register for VAT in advance of date of commencement, effective the date they are due to qualify. This means that the VAT registration will be in place from the 1st day of trading and all sales invoices can be issued as VAT invoices.
There are specific rules allowing pre-registration VAT to be reclaimed, but any claims to recover pre-registration VAT must relate to the same trade and made by the same person. A sole trader who incorporates the business is not the same legal person as the new company. Any VAT suffered by the (unregistered) sole trader can’t be claimed as pre-registration VAT by the new company.
Get help with registering
Your accountant will be able to register you for VAT and recommend the best scheme for you. It can take a few weeks for HMRC to process applications, but accountants who are registered as agents with HMRC are likely to have a quicker turnaround time. For advice on registering for VAT and setting up your invoices, please visit the Alterledger website.
Childcare vouchers to be withdrawn for new employees
The existing benefits available in the form of childcare vouchers to employees will be withdrawn to new entrants in the Autumn of 2015. The current scheme saves National Insurance contributions for both employers and employees. Employees also save income tax.
New scheme to start in Autumn 2015
The new scheme for childcare vouchers will not be as good for many employees who currently benefit from the current scheme, but where both parents work and are self employed, they can get the government to pay £2,000 towards registered childcare.
How do I set up childcare vouchers?
Childcare vouchers are set up through your payroll scheme and must be available to all eligible employees to receive the tax benefit.
Alterledger can help
For more information on saving employer’s national insurance and preparing for changes to childcare vouchers, contact Alterledger or visit the website alterledger.com.