Key tax issues for businesses to consider
The decision has been made. The aftermath has created panic and hysteria both politically and economically. The fall-out from Brexit will take some time to play itself out, however, what should businesses consider in these spectacularly uncertain times?
Short term, the vote for Brexit will have little immediate impact beyond increased volatility in the currency and stock markets given that an emergency Budget has been ruled out. The new PM Theresa May may well look to bolster the UK’s attraction as a business location as one of her first duties.
Longer term, the effects on some sectors will be more fundamental and unlikely to make it easier to do business within the EU. Clearly this will depend on the terms the UK can agree for Brexit, something which may not become clear for some time – possibly years. There may also be significant impacts on businesses with little direct EU trade.
In the meantime, uncertainty over the UK’s relationship with the EU will continue for months or years creating a drag on the economy as businesses and consumers take a wait and see approach to investments and major purchases.
As with all major economic shocks, businesses that remain engaged and adaptable will be best placed to trade profitably and make the most of the opportunities that they offer.
Some key issues to consider:
- VAT – sales of goods to and from the UK become imports and exports (no acquisitions), which would need to clear customs and incur import charges – triggering a cash flow disadvantage (the delay between paying customs charges and entitlement to recover the input VAT). This can be mitigated by using deferment and customs warehousing arrangements.
- Customs Duty – on Brexit the UK will no longer be part of the EU’s Customs Union. As a result, EU customs duties could apply to imports from the UK, making it less attractive for EU companies and consumers to source goods from UK companies. Similarly, the UK Government may extend the current UK customs duty tariff to imports from the EU, adding costs for UK companies reliant on raw material and finished goods from EU suppliers.
- Repatriating profits and withholding taxes – withholding taxes on dividends from EU subsidiaries or payments of interest or royalties to or from companies located in the EU will be problematic. Currently, EU legislation allows subsidiary companies to pay dividends up to a UK parent company without the need to account for withholding tax. Similarly, companies often rely on the interest and royalties directive to make interest or royalty payments free from either UK or local withholding taxes. If the benefit of this legislation is withdrawn, companies would be relying on existing double taxation agreements in order to reduce or eliminate withholding tax rates.
While the majority small UK business will be directly unaffected, these are some of the changes certain businesses need to consider in order to find a path of least resistance in this volatile climate.
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