What are the rules on subsistence and travel?

One of the most frequently asked questions from business owners and employees is ‘how much can I claim for meals and travel?’

Its such a common question that HMRC have a specific notice (490 Employee Travel) which explains the rules with examples

Click to access 490.pdf

Here are some of the key points:

Section 1.7 Tax Relief

If an employee is obliged to incur travelling in the performance of their duties, provided the journey isn’t ordinary commuting they employee is entitled to tax relief on the full cost of Travel.

Section 3.2 Ordinary Commuting

Ordinary Commuting is travel to/from a permanent place of work, normally from/to home

3.8 excludes Private Travel

3.12 states that Non Exec Directors traveling to the company for board meetings is Ordinary Commuting

Section 3.18 The 24 Month Rule

In summary if you work at temporary place of work for less than 24 months you may be able to get tax relief.

Section 3.36 Employees who work from Home

If an employee performs substantive duties at home, then it may be treated as their place of work.

Where this is the case travel to other work places will be business travel.

Section 5.1 The Amount of Tax Relief

If the trip qualifies as business travel then the full cost will be allowed for relief, you don’t need to try to save money on the cost of the trip!

Section 5.4 Subsistence

Subsistence includes:

  • any necessary subsistance in the course of the journey
  • the cost of meals at a temporary workplace
  • the cost of meals as part of an overnight stay

Section 5.12 Scale of Expenditure

Where the travel is unusually lavish HMRC will consider whether the trip is really a reward or part of remuneration, but this is rare and HMRC will not seek to deny costs because for example you travel first class rather than second class.

Section 8.4 Incidental Expenses

These are £5 in the UK and £10 when overseas per night to cover expenses such as Laundry, Phone Calls and a Newspaper

Section 8.14 Unpaid Directors

Unpaid directors are entitled for relief for any they receive to cover travel

Scale rate payments

If you provide your employees with a set amount of cash for some common business expenses like travel and meals, these are known as ‘scale rate payments’.

As long as your employee has actually spent the scale rate payment on business expenses, you won’t need to check every single receipt – it’s fine to just check a sample.

You can set up a scale rate payment by either:

2016/17 rules on the tax free allowance for Sandwiches

steve@bicknells.net

When do you pay Capital Gains Tax on a Property Sale?

One family house for sale

Capital Gains Tax is a tax on the profit when you sell (or ‘dispose of’) something (an ‘asset’) that’s increased in value.

It’s the gain you make that’s taxed, not the amount of money you receive.

So it doesn’t apply to Property Developers, their profits are trading income not investment income.

Disposing of an asset includes:

If you sell a property that your have lived in you will probably qualify for Principle Private Residence Relief

How does Principle Private Residence Relief work?

Even it it wasn’t your Principle Private Residence but you did own it personally you will still get an allowance of £11,100 tax free.

Companies get an indexation allowance

Capital Gains Tax for Companies

Residential properties don’t qualify for business asset rollover relief.

Once you have worked out your gain, the choices for individuals are:

Report your gain and pay straight away

You can use the Report Capital Gains Tax online service for the 2016 to 2017 tax year (6 April 2016 to 5 April 2017) if you’re a UK resident.

You’ll need a Government Gateway account – you can set one up from the sign-in page.

You don’t need to wait for the end of the tax year – you can use this service as soon as you’ve calculated your gains and the tax you owe.

Report in a Self Assessment tax return

Use Self Assessment to report your gain in the tax year after you disposed of assets.

If you don’t usually send a tax return, register for Self Assessment by 5 October following the tax year you disposed of your chargeable assets.

If you’re already registered but haven’t received a letter reminding you to fill in a return, contact HMRC by 5 October.

You must send your return by 31 January (31 October if you send paper forms).

Report Company Capital Gains in a Corporation Tax Return

Report your gains to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) when you file your Company Tax Return. How much tax you pay depends on any allowances and reliefs you claim.

steve@bicknells.net

Is your Expense Checking System up to scratch?

Angry tax inspector looking serious and determined

HMRC have guidance in EIM30275 and EIM30270 which set out what they expect, so for example, this is what they expect the expense checking process to be for a one man company

Model D – One man company

Single employee of a one man company working at a series of temporary workplaces. Claiming benchmark scale rates.

Employee maintains a diary and time sheet to confirm occasions when travelling in the performance of their duties and retains receipts in respect of subsistence costs.  An independent third party performs regular monthly checks on a sample of the employees’ records to confirm that the relevant conditions for the exemption were met on each occasion. Checks are performed at random and the employee does not know in advance which journeys will be checked.

Independent third party would generally mean your accountant, but as HMRC encourage people to file themself many One Man Companies won’t have an accountant, so who does the checking then?

Lets see what bigger companies need to do?

Model C – Small employer

Small employer with less than 100 employees who regularly travel in the duties of their employment. Employer pays benchmark rates

Employer checks a random 10% of all claims.  Checks to be independently checked and authorised, and vouched by reference to employee diaries, work schedules and time sheets to confirm that employees were travelling in the performance of their duties on the date of the claim, and receipts to demonstrate that employees had in fact incurred costs whilst travelling. Employees should be aware that they might be subject to review at any time, and not be given notice that any particular claim will be subject to review.

The employer will have to be able to satisfy HMRC that their 10% sample really is a random one – for example, every 10th claim received.  HMRC will accept the evidence produced by such an exercise as being random for the purposes of confirming that employees meet the qualifying conditions for payment of the scale rate.

Employees required to retain receipts for a period of twelve months from the date of expenditure.

I think for small employers this would probably work and is achievable.

What system do you use? Do you think HMRC would accept your system?

steve@bicknells.net

The future is Digital, but we aren’t ready to Make Tax Digital yet!

b1854df8-4af2-474b-b2ae-fd20bfa3f1bb

On 14 December 2015, HMRC published a “roadmap” showing that the new process known as ‘MTD Making Tax Digital’ would be mandatory for most businesses:

“By 2020 most businesses, self-employed people and landlords will be required to keep track of their tax affairs digitally and update HMRC at least quarterly via their digital tax account. These changes will be introduced for some businesses from April 2018, and will be phased in by 2020, giving businesses time to adapt.”

Accountant’s have been saying for sometime that 2018 is too ambitious and the £10,000 threshold is too low.

The House of Commons Treasury Committee now agree that 2018 is too soon and feel it should be 2019 or later.

One of the big areas of concern has been over the quarterly tax reporting requirements and concerns over data accuracy.

Data accuracy is going to be critical, are most businesses up to providing data in real time? RTI has worked for payroll but could it really work for accounting information? many businesses rely on their accountants and book keepers to get the information correct.

The relationship between UK Taxpayers and HMRC is a good one, the vast majority of UK taxpayers want to pay the right amount of tax and the UK tax gap is already one of the lowest in the world. HMRC could lose that trust by rushing MTD.

Software is also a big issue, with the threshold at £10,000 even very small businesses will need specialist software to cope with MTD and spreadsheets will not be able to cope.

It’s time to take a slower more considered approach.

steve@bicknells.net

What if you can’t afford to pay your tax bill?

No money concept

Some tax payers are great at saving up and keeping money aside to pay their tax bill, but many aren’t!

What can you do if you can’t pay?

You could ask HMRC for help

You may be able to either:

  • get more time to pay
  • pay your bill in instalments by direct debit
  • Telephone: 0300 200 3835
  • Opening times:

    8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday
    8am to 4pm, Saturday and Sunday

Another option might be to use Credit Cards, you may be able to get a 0% credit card or pay and then transfer to 0%

https://www.uswitch.com/credit-cards/credit-card-balance-transfers/

This might be easier, better and cheaper than spreading payments with HMRC.

steve@bicknells.net

 

Are my costs Capital or Revenue expenditure?

Stress business woman

It makes a big difference to your tax whether you can offset costs as revenue expenditure or remove costs because they are capital expenditure

HMRC published a guide on this in September 2016 and have circulated in in their Agent Alert Self Assessment Special January 2016.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hmrc-capital-vs-revenue-expenditure-toolkit

The Toolkit is really useful and covers lots of problem areas:

  • Acquisition, improvement and alterations to assets – highly relevant to property investors
  • Legal and Professional – including how to handle unsuccessful property purchases – which are a capital cost – and Business Owner Training Costs
  • Finance Costs
  • IT Costs – including websites
  • Intangible assets – such as Goodwill

steve@bicknells.net

Should I worry about a tax investigation?

Tax Investigations can happen to anyone, around 7% are estimated to be random.

Even if your accounts and tax affairs are in totally up to date and correct investigations will take up your accountants time and incur fees.

What can you do to reduce your chances of being selected:

1. File your tax returns on time and pay what you owe – If you file late or at the last minute HMRC will think you are disorganised and as such there are more likely to be errors in the return

2. Declare all your income – HMRC get details of bank interest and other sources of income, sometimes they test them and match them to returns

3. Use an accountant – Unrepresented taxpayers are more likely to be looked at, mainly because many of them don’t know what they are doing

4. Trends – if your business doesn’t match the profile of similar business in the same sector or your results suddenly fluctuate it could raise concerns at HMRC, for example, if you suddenly request a VAT refund

According to the FSB

The average duration of a full investigation is circa 16 months whereas an aspect investigation can last between 3 – 6 months, but can take longer.

We are currently putting in place a solution for our clients with Taxwise  better to be safe than sorry, letters will be sent to our clients before Christmas

taxwise

steve@bicknells.net

Will your Flat Rate VAT bill be going up in April?

omg man

The Flat Rate VAT scheme is very popular with small businesses.

The Flat Rate Scheme is designed to simplify your records of sales and purchases. It allows you to apply a fixed flat-rate percentage to your gross turnover to arrive at the VAT due.

Fixed-rate percentages vary depending on the type of business. [HMRC VAT Notice 733]

The scheme is for businesses with a turnover no more than £150,000 a year, excluding VAT.

The problem is that HMRC feel the scheme has been abused and used as a way to pay less VAT especially by businesses with virtually no costs.

A Low or Limited Cost Trader would spend less than 2% on gross turnover, or less than £1000 on the purchase of goods.

From April 2017 they will get a special 16.5% flat rate.

Here are some of the businesses likely to be affected

  • Accountancy and legal services 14.5%
  • Journalism or entertaining 12.5%
  • Computer or IT consultancy 14.5%
  • Business services not listed elsewhere 12%
  • Estate agents and property management 12%
  • Management consultancy 14%

There are lots of other VAT schemes to choose from

Standard VAT Scheme – on this scheme the VAT is based on tax points from invoices

VAT Cash Accounting Scheme – if your turnover is below £1.35m you can account for VAT on a Cash basis, this is particularly helpful if your customers pay you on slower terms than you pay your suppliers

Annual Accounting Scheme for VAT – if your turnover is below £1.35m you could join the Annual Scheme and complete one return for the year but you make either 9 interim payments or 3 quarterly interim payments

Retail VAT Schemes – These are specific schemes aimed at mainly at shops and help to overcome the issues of mixed vat rate goods

VAT Margin Scheme – The margin scheme relates to second hand goods and accounts for VAT on the margin, for example on the sale of cars

They will all produce different answers!

Now might be a good time to make comparisons.

steve@bicknells.net

It’s time for a Tax and NI free Trivial Benefit

hand holding christmas voucher isolated over white

Christmas is definitely a time when you can give your employees and yourself a trivial benefit worth up to £50.

Section 323A ITEPA 2003 sets out a statutory exemption for trivial benefits. Under this exemption, if an employer provides a benefit to its employees, the benefit is exempt from tax as employment income if all the following conditions are satisfied:

  • the cost of providing the benefit does not exceed £50 (or the average cost per employee if a benefit is provided to a group of employees and it is impracticable to work out the exact cost per person) (see EIM21865)
  • the benefit is not cash or a cash voucher (see EIM21866)
  • the employee is not entitled to the benefit as part of any contractual obligation (including under salary sacrifice arrangements) (see EIM21867)
  • the benefit is not provided in recognition of particular services performed by the employee as part of their employment duties (or in anticipation of such services) (see EIM21868)

Where the employer is a close company and the benefit is provided to an individual who is a director or other office holder of the company (or a member of their family or household) the exemption is capped at a total cost of £300 in the tax year (see EIM21869).

Here is an example

The Employer provides each of its employees with a bottle of wine costing £25 at Christmas. However, as an alternative, it provides employees who do not drink alcohol with a £25 gift voucher for a national supermarket chain which they can exchange for an alternative non-alcoholic Christmas gift. Both the bottle of wine and the non-cash gift voucher can be covered by the exemption.

In fact all shop vouchers that can’t be cash in will count provided the value is less than £50.

So why not make a list of special occasions:

Birthday

Christmas

New Year

Anniversary

Holiday

Easter

Buy a stock of vouchers and give them out.

This is a fantastic tax free benefit.

steve@bicknells.net

Will Making Tax Digital (MTD) make life easier for you?

mtd

 

One of the big areas of concern has been over the quarterly tax reporting requirements and concerns over data accuracy, as a result, the government has given exemptions for small businesses which will mean 5.4 million small businesses won’t now need to report quarterly.

Data accuracy is going to be critical, are most businesses up to providing data in real time? RTI has worked for payroll but could it really work for accounting information? many businesses rely on their accountants and book keepers to get the information correct.

steve@bicknells.net