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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.