Tax tips for Family Businesses

Family Businesses

Find out how family businesses can reduce their tax burden with some practical forward thinking.

Owners and managers of family-owned businesses rightfully spend the vast majority of their time ensuring that the business runs well and generates profits. In the midst of such a demanding task, it can be easy to overlook some tax considerations that can potentially be significant.

The topic of tax in the context of family-owned businesses is a large one – however, there are a few key considerations to bear in mind:

Sections

 


How is your business set up?

Most family-owned businesses are set up as companies, but some do run as partnerships. These two structures differ in terms of tax, and it is worthwhile for business owners to consider which structure could be most beneficial for their business.

Companies may pay lower rates of tax initially, but further tax (including National Insurance Contributions in the case of salary/bonuses) is often due when higher profits are extracted. Partnerships however are tax transparent, so profits are taxed as they arise, even if they are not extracted (but are taxed only once). It is generally easier to convert a partnership into a company than the other way around.


How are you extracting funds?

The business has a choice, broadly speaking, of paying dividends or paying salary/ bonuses. However, recent legislation has attempted to narrow the tax difference between companies and sole trader/partnerships.


What’s New?

The Finance Bill 2016, published on 24 March 2016, contains the new rules for dividends.

Changes:

  • From 6 April 2016, the notional 10% tax credit on dividends will be abolished
  • A £5,000 tax free dividend allowance will be introduced
  • Dividends above this level will be taxed at 7.5% (basic rate), 32.5% (higher rate), and 38.1% (additional rate)
  • Dividends received by pensions and ISAs will be unaffected
  • Dividend income will be treated as the top band of income
  • Individuals who are basic rate payers who receive dividends of more than £5,001 will need to complete self assessment returns from 6 April 2016
  • The change is expected to have little impact upon non-UK residents

Impact

The proposed changes raise revenue despite the so-called “triple lock” on income tax. Perhaps aimed to tax small companies who pay a small salary designed to preserve entitlement to the State Pension, followed by a much larger dividend payment in order to reduce National Insurance costs. It appears that the government is anti-small companies, preferring workers to be self-employed.

These changes will affect anyone in receipt of dividends: most taxpayers will be paying tax at an extra 7.5% p.a. Although the first £5,000 of any dividend is tax free, in 2016/17:

  • Upper rate taxpayers will pay tax at 38.1% instead of an effective rate of 30.55% in 2015/16
  • Higher rate taxpayers will pay tax at 32.5% instead of an effective rate of 25% in 2015/16
  • Basic rate taxpayers will pay tax at 7.5% instead of 0% in 2015/16

This measure will have a very harsh effect on those who work with spouses in very small family companies. For example, a couple splitting income of £100,000 p.a. could be over £5,000 p.a. worse off.

Businesses should therefore consider these tax issues when using either of these methods to extract funds.

There can be benefits in various family members being involved in the business, particularly if they, for example, perform smaller roles and are not paying taxes at the higher rates. Care is always required here to ensure that any salaries are commensurate with the job performed.

There can also be complexities in giving away shares to spouses to enable them to capture dividends at the lower rates.


How are you incentivising your staff?

Clearly, the retention of key staff is of critical consideration for businesses of any size. With cash flows being restricted in these difficult times, consideration can usually be given to granting share options to employees. Certain tax-approved options schemes (such as Enterprise Management Incentives) are potentially very tax-efficient and a good incentive for key workers.


Are you thinking of an exit?

It is never too early to contemplate what would happen if the business were sold. The headline rate of capital gains tax is not good as it once was but there are potentially reliefs available which may minimise the tax burden on exit. With the right structuring, valuable relief can potentially be opened up to various family members through tax planning.


Tax Planning with pensions

Pensions are all the rage now, given the recent changes.

In certain instances, an appropriate pension plan for a family-owned business can lead to substantial tax efficiencies. Also the use of SIPPs and SASSs can be used a valuable tax planning tool to extract funds from otherwise taxable business profits.


What about the next generation?

Succession planning is a key strategic matter for any family-owned business. Where the business is a trading concern, it is often possible (depending on the particular circumstances) to give away shares without adverse tax consequences.

But care is required here to avoid certain pitfalls that can exist if even a few investment assets are located somewhere within the business.

It may also be the case that a trading business qualifies for inheritance tax relief (under the business property relief regime); therefore, founders may not be worried about inheritance tax now. If the business is sold however, this relief will be lost, potentially generating a significant inheritance tax bill in the future. Fortunately, planning options do exist here, such as transferring the business into a trust before an exit.

Needless to say, the above gives only a taste of some of the relevant tax considerations where family-owned businesses are concerned. The important point is to remember the significant impact that tax can make, and to take advice early and regularly.

Latest news & blogs…

COVID-19: Company liquidations and the £30k tax free redundancy pay – too good to be true?

Family Business Shipleys Tax Advisors

IN THE CURRENT economic climate, companies are sadly going bust. A frequently asked but often misunderstood so called tax planning idea doing the rounds involves paying £30K “tax-free” whilst the company undergoes voluntary liquidation.

At Shipeys Tax we consider the viability of this in the tax note below. Needless to say, never take tax advice from someone around a dinner table (unless of course he/she is an experienced tax adviser!).

Basics

Due to the unfortunate impact of COVID-19 and lack of demand, a sole director and shareholder of an hitherto successful company personal company has decided to put the company into voluntary liquidation. As part of the process the director decides to pay herself a redundancy or termination payment from the limited company as she has heard that such pay-outs are tax-free.

As part of the process the director decides to pay herself a redundancy or termination payment from the limited company as she has heard that such pay-outs are tax-free…

What is a redundancy/termination payment?

Broadly, this refers any payment to an employee for compensation for loss of employment that is not contractual, non-customary, related earnings or to the notice period. If it qualifies then the payment can potentially benefit from a statutory £30,000 exemption to tax and NIC. Nice.

Can a sole director shareholder receive a tax-free redundancy or termination payment from the company?

Generally speaking, in some circumstances it is possible for a director to receive termination payments that fall within the exemption. However, the old adage that the position should be reviewed on a case by case basis applies. Whilst the tax treatment of qualifying termination payments are quite well established, those involving sole director shareholders are somewhat trickier to navigate.

To employ or not to employ?

Firstly, it is important to identify whether the sole director is employed by the company. To receive a tax-free statutory redundancy payment, a worker must have an employment contract with their employer

Generally speaking, in some circumstances it is possible for a director to receive termination payments that fall within the exemption…

Evidence that could point the employment status includes the existence of an employment contract, payment of salary, duties etc which point towards employment.

The payment conundrum

Assuming the sole director is clearly employed by the company, it is then necessary to determine to what extent the payments relate to the termination of the client’s employment rather than their position as shareholder. Was the payment in actual fact compensation for loss of office or was it an extraction of “profits”, i.e. a dividend distribution? HMRC will obviously argue the latter, especially for one-man band companies where no other employees have been made redundant and paid termination payments. In other cases, payments to those close to retirement can be classed as part of the package an amount that arises from what is known as an employer-financed retirement benefits scheme (EFRB). Essentially, this is an unregistered pension scheme. If there is a payment that HMRC deems to be an EFRB, it will be fully taxable.

Self (de)termination

Secondly, even if a sole director satisfies the first condition and has clear evidence of  employment, there is another issue to consider: as the owner and director of the business making themselves redundant, they are effectively making the decision to cease trading and leave, and so fail the condition that they cannot resign or leave of their own volition.

Was the payment in actual fact compensation or loss of office or was it an extraction of profits, i.e. a dividend distribution? HMRC will most likely argue this route for one-man band companies where no other employees have been made redundant and paid termination payments…

An employee has to be made redundant by their “employer” – they have no choice in whether their role continues to exist.

In the case of a sole director/owner employee who is also a company director controlling the company, choosing to make themselves redundant is the same as choosing to end the employment. This will most likely nullify the redundancy argument. In addition, HMRC would also challenge a sole director company making a corporation tax deduction for their own redundancy in the company accounts, the nature of the payment not being deemed to be for the benefit of the trade.

An employee has to be made redundant by their “employer” – they have no choice in whether their role continues to exist…

Terminus

However, it is possible some termination payments may fall within the £30,000 exemption, provided they are not subject to tax under any other part of the legislation such as earning or benefits. The circumstances in which can occur are very few and far between and you would need specialist tax advice to help you navigate the tax traps. This is a fairly complex area as evidenced above and the facts of any case will need to be reviewed to determine whether any termination payments for the director would fall within the £30,000 exemption, but with the right set of circumstances some relief may be available.

At Shipleys Tax we have a team of experts who can advise on the above and whether a redundancy payment can be tax-free. Contact us on 0114 272 4984 or email info@shipleystax.com.

HMRC penalties – how COVID-19 can be used as a reasonable excuse to remove them

Family Business Shipleys Tax Advisors

IF THERE’S ONE thing the tax man loves more than collecting tax, it’s dishing out penalties. But where you have forgotten to file your tax return or have made a mistake giving rise to a HMRC penalty, and you or a family member were ill with coronavirus, you may have a get out clause via the ‘reasonable excuse’ route.

In today’s note we explain what reasonable excuses are and how coronavirus might fall into this category.

Generally, HMRC may allow an appeal against a penalty if the taxpayer has a ‘reasonable excuse’ for failing to comply with an obligation, i.e. you filed a return late or paid your tax late.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ is something that prevented a taxpayer from meeting a tax obligation despite the fact that they took reasonable care. HMRC usually take a hard line as regards what they constitute as a ‘reasonable excuse’; providing the following examples of ‘acceptable’ reasonable excuses:

  • the taxpayer’s partner or another close relative died shortly before the tax return or payment deadline;
  • an unexpected stay in hospital that prevented the taxpayer from dealing with their tax affairs;
  • a life-threatening illness;
  • the failure of a computer or software just before or while the taxpayer was preparing their tax return;
  • service issues with HMRC;
  • a fire, flood or theft which prevented the completion of a tax return;
  • postal delays which could not have been predicted; or
  • delays relating to a disability.

A ‘reasonable excuse’ is something that prevented a taxpayer from meeting a tax obligation despite the fact that they took reasonable care.

By contrast, HMRC cite the following example of excuses that they will not accept as a valid reason for failing to meet a tax obligation:

  • relying on someone else to send the return and they failed to send it;
  • a cheque or payment bounced due to insufficient funds;
  • the taxpayer found HMRC’s online system too complicated;
  • the taxpayer did not receive a reminder from HMRC; or
  • the taxpayer made a mistake on their return.

Impact of coronavirus

HMRC have confirmed that they will consider coronavirus as a reasonable excuse. Where claiming this, the taxpayer should explain in their appeal how they were affected by coronavirus. As a rule of thumb, HMRC are more likely to accept it as a reasonable excuse where the virus led to one of the circumstances listed above as ‘acceptable reasonable excuses’. Thus, the contention that the taxpayer had a reasonable excuse for failing to meet a tax obligation would be strong if a partner or close relative (such as a parent) died of Coronavirus around the tax deadline, the taxpayer was seriously ill with the virus or was in hospital unexpectedly.

HMRC have confirmed that they will consider coronavirus as a reasonable excuse. Where claiming this, the taxpayer should explain in their appeal how they were affected by coronavirus.

Where the taxpayer appeals on the grounds that they had a reasonable excuse for failing to file a return or pay a tax bill, they should file the return or pay the bill as soon as they are able after the reason for the reasonable excuse has been resolved.

If you have been hit with HMRC penalties or an HMRC enquiry, call our Specialist Tax Investigation Team on 0114 272 4984.

Making Tax Digital to be extended to all companies from April 2022

Family Business Shipleys Tax Advisors

MEASURES REQUIRING businesses to submit and record VAT returns via digital means is to be extended to all companies from April 2022, the government announced this week.

The requirement is part of the government’s much vaunted Making Tax Digital (MTD) strategy which aims to see the end of the annual tax return and transform the tax system. The government say these reforms are “intended to make it easier to pay tax due, enhance resilience, effectiveness, and support for taxpayers”. Shipleys Tax Advisers, like most industry tax experts, are somewhat guarded about these aims.

Currently from April 2019, most VAT-registered taxpayers with a turnover above the VAT threshold have needed to operate Making Tax Digital for their VAT returns, keeping their records digitally and updating HMRC through secure software.

What’s changing?

In their announcement, the government set out the road map for the programme.

From April 2022, MTD will first be extended to all VAT registered businesses with turnover below the VAT threshold to “ensure every VAT-registered business takes the step to move to a digital tax service”.

Then from April 2023, it will be extended apply to businesses and landlords who file self-assessment tax returns for business or property income over £10,000 annually.

The government says this timetable will allow businesses, landlords and agents time to plan, while HMRC will expand its pilot service from April 2021 to allow businesses and landlords to test the full end-to-end service before the requirement to join.

What does this mean for you?

At Shipleys Tax Advisers we take most government announcements with a heavy pinch of salt. The current government has an unenviable track record of making far reaching changes with little thought and trying to do too much too quickly, it is usually the taxpayer and/or their agent/accountant who has to deal with the inevitable fall out (e.g. see the debacle around the introduction of RTI for PAYE, and more recently, the much-maligned original MTD roll-out).

So more admin, more red tape and more people being trapped by the overly complicated UK tax system. Is it all bad news then?

Surprisingly, not quite. At Shipleys Tax Advisers we have noted that, if implemented properly, there are valuable advantages to be gained with the right MTD process.

Efficiency – there is growing evidence that using software for VAT and record keeping does free up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.

Flexibility – not all taxpayers will want to be forced online. Those who run very small simple businesses the cost of digitalisation can be off-putting, however the system can be modified to accomodate a non-online solution.

Tax planning opportunities – for the serious business owner, MTD expanding should give agents room for tax planning. At Shipleys Tax Advisers, having an accountant or tax professional review your business performance regularly means avoiding unexpected tax bills and not miss tax planning opportunities.

Going forward

Much like the current pandemic, MTD will not go away anytime soon and as such taxpayers and businesses alike will need to get up to speed quickly.

Those company owners and sole traders currently behind the digital curve will need make plans to implement MTD especially if their bookkeeping is offline as well.

If you need help with MTD implementation or would like to discuss options, please call 0114 272 4984 or email us at info@shipleystax.com.

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