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VAT Flat Rate Scheme

Posted by Kath Docherty on October 16, 2017  /   Posted in Newsletters

The flat rate scheme for small businesses was introduced to reduce the administrative burden imposed when operating VAT.

Under the scheme a set percentage is applied to the turnover of the business as a one-off calculation instead of having to identify and record the VAT on each sale and purchase you make.

Who can join?

The scheme is optional and open to businesses that do not breach the relevant limits. A business must leave the scheme when income in the last twelve months exceeds £230,000, unless this is due to a one off transaction and income will fall below £191,500 in the following year. A business must also leave the scheme if there are reasonable grounds to believe that total income is likely to exceed £230,000 in the next 30 days.

The turnover test applies to your anticipated turnover in the following 12 months. Your turnover may be calculated in any reasonable way but would usually be based on the previous 12 months if you have been registered for VAT for at least a year.

To join the scheme you can apply by post, email or phone and if you are not already registered for VAT you must submit a form VAT1 at the same time.

You may not operate the scheme until you have received notification that your application has been accepted and HMRC will inform you of the date of commencement.

When is the scheme not available?

The flat rate scheme cannot be used if you:

  • use the second hand margin scheme or auctioneers’ scheme
  • use the tour operators’ margin scheme
  • are required to operate the capital goods scheme for certain items.

In addition the scheme cannot be used if, within the previous 12 months, you have:

  • ceased to operate the flat rate scheme
  • been convicted of an offence connected with VAT
  • been assessed with a penalty for conduct involving dishonesty.

The scheme will clearly be inappropriate if you regularly receive VAT repayments.

How the scheme operates

VAT due is calculated by applying a predetermined flat rate percentage to the business turnover of the VAT period. This will include any exempt supplies and it will therefore not generally be beneficial to join the scheme where there are significant exempt supplies.

The percentage rates are determined according to the trade sector of your business and range from 4% to 14.5%. The table in the appendix to this factsheet summarises the percentages. In addition there is a further 1% reduction off the normal rates for businesses in their first year of VAT registration. If your business falls into more than one sector it is the main business activity as measured by turnover which counts. This can be advantageous if you have a large percentage rate secondary activity and a modest major percentage trade. You should review the position on each anniversary and if the main business activity changes or you expect it to change during the following year you should use the appropriate rate for that sector.

Although you pay VAT at the flat rate percentage under the scheme you will still be required to prepare invoices to VAT registered customers showing the normal rate of VAT. This is so that they can reclaim input VAT at the appropriate rate.

Example of the calculation

Cook & Co is a partnership operating a café and renting out a flat. If its results are as follows:

VAT inclusive turnover:

£

Standard rated catering supplies

70,000

Zero rated takeaway foods

5,500

Exempt flat rentals

3,500
_______

Total

£79,000
_______

Flat rate 12.5% x £79,000 = £9,875

Normally £70,000 x 20/120 = £11,667 less input tax

Limited cost trader

A new 16.5% rate applies from 1 April 2017 for businesses with limited costs, such as many labour-only businesses. Businesses using the FRS, or considering joining the scheme, will need to decide if they are a ‘limited cost trader’.

A limited cost trader will be defined as one whose VAT inclusive expenditure on goods is either:

●      less than 2% of their VAT inclusive turnover in a prescribed accounting period

●      greater than 2% of their VAT inclusive turnover but less than £1,000 per annum if the prescribed accounting period is one year (if it is not one year, the figure is the relevant proportion of £1,000).

Goods, for the purposes of this measure, must be used exclusively for the purpose of the business but exclude the following items:

  • capital expenditure
  • food or drink for consumption by the flat rate business or its employees
  • vehicles, vehicle parts and fuel (except where the business is one that carries out transport services – for example a taxi business – and uses its own or a leased vehicle to carry out those services)

These exclusions are part of the test to prevent traders buying either low value everyday items or one off purchases in order to inflate their costs beyond 2%.

The government has introduced anti-forestalling legislation designed to prevent any business defined as a limited cost trader from continuing to use a lower flat rate beyond 1 April 2017. These provisions will affect a business that supplies a service on or after 1 April 2017 but either issues an invoice or receives a payment for that supply before 1 April 2017.

Treatment of capital assets

The purchase of capital assets costing more than £2,000 (including VAT) may be dealt with outside the scheme. You can claim input VAT on such items on your VAT return in the normal way. Where the input VAT is reclaimed you must account for VAT on a subsequent sale of the asset at the normal rate instead of the flat rate.

Items under the capital goods scheme are excluded from the flat rate scheme.

Transactions within the European Community

Income from sales of goods is included in your turnover figure.

Where there are acquisitions from EC member states you will still be required to record the VAT on your VAT return in the normal way even though you will not be able to reclaim the input VAT unless it is a capital item as outlined above.

The rules on services are complex. Please get in touch if this is an issue so that we can give you specific advice.

Records to keep

Under the scheme you must keep a record of your flat rate calculation showing:

  • your flat rate turnover
  • the flat rate percentage you have used
  • the tax calculated as due.

You must still keep a VAT account although if the only VAT to be accounted for is that calculated under the scheme there will only be one entry for each period.

Summary

The scheme is designed to reduce administration although it will only be attractive if it does not result in additional VAT liabilities. The only way to establish whether your business will benefit is to carry out a calculation and comparison of the normal rules and the flat rate rules.

How we can help

We can advise as to whether the flat rate scheme would be beneficial for your business and help you to operate the scheme. Please do not hesitate to contact us.

Appendix: Table of sectors and rates

Trade Sector

Appropriate %

Accountancy or book-keeping

14.5

Advertising

11

Agricultural services

11

Any other activity not listed elsewhere

12

Architect, civil and structural engineer or surveyor

14.5

Boarding or care of animals

12

Business services that are not listed elsewhere

12

Catering services including restaurants and takeaways

12.5

Computer and IT consultancy or data processing

14.5

Computer repair services

10.5

Dealing in waste or scrap

10.5

Entertainment or journalism

12.5

Estate agency or property management services

12

Farming or agriculture that is not listed elsewhere

6.5

Film, radio, television or video production

13

Financial services

13.5

Forestry or fishing

10.5

General building or construction services*

9.5

Hairdressing or other beauty treatment services

13

Hiring or renting goods

9.5

Hotel or accommodation

10.5

Investigation or security

12

Labour-only building or construction services*

14.5

Laundry or dry-cleaning services

12

Lawyer or legal services

14.5

Library, archive, museum or other cultural activity

9.5

Management consultancy

14

Manufacturing fabricated metal products

10.5

Manufacturing food

9

Manufacturing that is not listed elsewhere

9.5

Manufacturing yarn, textiles or clothing

9

Membership organisation

8

Mining or quarrying

10

Packaging

9

Photography

11

Post offices

5

Printing

8.5

Publishing

11

Pubs

6.5

Real estate activity not listed elsewhere

14

Repairing personal or household goods

10

Repairing vehicles

8.5

Retailing food, confectionary, tobacco, newspapers or children’s clothing

4

Retailing pharmaceuticals, medical goods, cosmetics or toiletries

8

Retailing that is not listed elsewhere

7.5

Retailing vehicles or fuel

6.5

Secretarial services

13

Social work

11

Sport or recreation

8.5

Transport or storage, including couriers, freight, removals and taxis

10

Travel agency

10.5

Veterinary medicine

11

Wholesaling agricultural products

8

Wholesaling food

7.5

Wholesaling that is not listed elsewhere

8.5

* ’Labour-only building or construction services’ means building or construction services where the value of materials supplied is less than 10 per cent of relevant turnover from such services; any other building or construction services are ‘general building or construction services’.

VAT – Bad Debt Relief

Posted by Kath Docherty on October 16, 2017  /   Posted in Newsletters

It is quite possible within the VAT system for a business to be in the position of having to pay over VAT to HMRC while not having received payment from their customer.

Bad debt relief allows businesses, that have made supplies on which they have accounted for and paid VAT but for which they have not received payment, to claim a refund of the VAT by reference to the outstanding amount.

The Conditions for Relief

In order to make a claim a business must satisfy the following conditions:

  • goods and services have been supplied and the VAT in question has been accounted for and paid
  • six months has elapsed since the later of the date of supply and the due date for consideration, whichever is the later
  • all or part of the outstanding amount must have been written off in the accounting records as a bad debt (in the ‘refunds for bad debts account’).

Making the Claim

A claim is made by entering the appropriate amount in Box 4 of the VAT return for the period in which entitlement to the claim arises (or any permissible later period).

Records

Businesses making bad debt relief claims must keep records for four years from the date of the claim to show:

  • the time and nature of supply, purchaser and consideration – normally a VAT invoice will show this
  • the amount of VAT and the accounting period it was paid to HMRC
  • any payment received for the supply
  • details of entries in the ‘refunds for bad debts account’.

Repayment of Input Tax by Purchaser

Where a customer has not paid a supplier within six months of the date of the supply or, if later, the date payment is due, VAT previously claimed as input tax, must be repaid. This puts a burden on all VAT registered traders to monitor their transactions to anticipate whether they need to reverse any input tax recovered on goods received from suppliers.

How we can help

We would be pleased to help with further advice in this area.

VAT

Posted by Kath Docherty on October 16, 2017  /   Posted in Newsletters

VAT registered businesses act as unpaid tax collectors and are required to account both promptly and accurately for all the tax revenue collected by them.

The VAT system is policed by HMRC with heavy penalties for breaches of the legislation. Ignorance is not an acceptable excuse for not complying with the rules.

We highlight below some of the areas that you need to consider.

It is however important for you to seek specific professional advice appropriate to your circumstances.

What is VAT?

Scope

A transaction is within the scope of VAT if:

  • there is a supply of goods or services
  • made in the UK
  • by a taxable person
  • in the course or furtherance of business.

Inputs and outputs

Businesses charge VAT on their sales. This is known as output VAT and the sales are referred to as outputs. Similarly VAT is charged on most goods and services purchased by the business. This is known as input VAT.

The output VAT is being collected from the customer by the business on behalf of HMRC and must be regularly paid over to them.

However the input VAT suffered on the goods and services purchased can be deducted from the amount of output tax owed. Please note that certain categories of input tax can never be reclaimed, such as that in respect of third party UK business entertainment and for most business cars.

Points to consider

Supplies

Taxable supplies are mainly either standard rated (20%) or zero rated (0%). There is in addition a reduced rate of 5% which applies to a small number of certain specific taxable supplies.

There are certain supplies that are not taxable and these are known as exempt supplies.

There is an important distinction between exempt and zero rated supplies.

  • If your business is making only exempt supplies you cannot register for VAT and therefore cannot recover any input tax.
  • If your business is making zero rated supplies you should register for VAT as your supplies are taxable (but at 0%) and recovery of input tax is allowed.

Registration – is it necessary?

You are required to register for VAT if the value of your taxable supplies exceeds a set annual figure (£85,000 from 1 April 2017).

If you are making taxable supplies below the limit you can apply for voluntary registration. This would allow you to reclaim input VAT, which could result in a repayment of VAT if your business was principally making zero rated supplies.

If you have not yet started to make taxable supplies but intend to do so, you can apply for registration. In this way input tax on start up expenses can be recovered.

Taxable person

A taxable person is anyone who makes or intends to make taxable supplies and is required to be registered. For the purpose of VAT registration a person includes:

  • individuals
  • partnerships
  • companies, clubs and associations
  • charities.

If any individual carries on two or more businesses all the supplies made in those businesses will be added together in determining whether or not the individual is required to register for VAT.

Administration

Once registered you must make a quarterly return to HMRC showing amounts of output tax to be accounted for and of deductible input tax together with other statistical information. All businesses have to file their returns online.

Returns must be completed within one month of the end of the period it covers, although generally an extra seven calendar days are allowed for online forms.

Electronic payment is also compulsory for all businesses.

Businesses who make zero rated supplies and who receive repayments of VAT may find it beneficial to submit monthly returns.

Businesses with expected annual taxable supplies not exceeding £1,350,000 may apply to join the annual accounting scheme whereby they will make monthly or quarterly payments of VAT but will only have to complete one VAT return at the end of the year.

Record keeping

It is important that a VAT registered business maintains complete and up to date records. This includes details of all supplies, purchases and expenses.

In addition a VAT account should be maintained. This is a summary of output tax payable and input tax recoverable by the business. These records should be kept for six years.

Inspection of records

The maintenance of records and calculation of the liability is the responsibility of the registered person but HMRC will need to be able to check that the correct amount of VAT is being paid over. From time to time therefore a VAT officer may come and inspect the business records. This is known as a control visit.

The VAT officer will want to ensure that VAT is applied correctly and that the returns and other VAT records are properly written up.

However, you should not assume that in the absence of any errors being discovered, your business has been given a clean bill of health.

Offences and penalties

HMRC have wide powers to penalise businesses who ignore or incorrectly apply the VAT regulations. Penalties can be levied in respect of the following:

  • late returns/payments
  • late registration
  • errors in returns.

Cash accounting scheme

If your annual turnover does not exceed £1,350,000 you can account for VAT on the basis of the cash you pay and receive rather than on the basis of invoice dates.

Retail schemes

There are special schemes for retailers as it is impractical for most retailers to maintain all the records required of a registered trader.

Flat Rate scheme

This is a scheme allowing smaller businesses to pay VAT as a percentage of their total business income. Therefore no specific claims to recover input tax need to be made. The aim of the scheme is to simplify the way small businesses account for VAT, but for some businesses it can also result in a reduction in the amount of VAT that is payable.

How we can help

Ensuring that you comply with all the VAT regulations is essential. We can assist you in a number of ways including the following:

  • tailoring your accounting systems to bring together the VAT information accurately and quickly
  • ensuring that your business is VAT efficient and that adequate finance is available to meet your VAT liability on time
  • providing assistance with the completion of VAT returns
  • negotiating with HMRC if disagreements arise and in reaching settlement
  • advising as to whether any of the available schemes may be appropriate for you.

If you would like to discuss any of the points mentioned above please contact us.

Taxation of the Family

Posted by Kath Docherty on October 16, 2017  /   Posted in Newsletters

Individuals are subject to a system of independent taxation so husbands and wives are taxed separately. This can give rise to valuable tax planning opportunities. Furthermore, the tax position of any children is important.

Marriage breakdowns can also have a considerable impact for tax purposes.

We highlight below the main areas of importance where advance planning can help to minimise overall tax liabilities.

It is important that professional advice is sought on specific issues relevant to your personal circumstances.

Setting the scene

Married couples

Independent taxation means that husbands and wives are taxed separately on their income and capital gains. The effect is that both have their own allowances, savings and basic rate tax bands for income tax, annual exemption for capital gains tax purposes and are responsible for their own tax affairs. The same tax treatment applies to same-sex couples who have entered into a civil partnership under the Civil Partnership Act.

Children

A child is an independent person for tax purposes and is therefore entitled to a personal allowance and the savings and basic rate tax band before being taxed at the higher rate. It may be possible to save tax by generating income or capital gains in the children’s hands.

Marriage breakdown

Separation and divorce can have significant tax implications. In particular, the following areas warrant careful consideration:

  • available tax allowances
  • transfers of assets between spouses.

Tax planning for married couples

Income tax allowances and tax bands

Everyone is entitled to a basic personal allowance. This allowance cannot however be transferred between spouses except for the circumstances outlined below.

Transferable Tax Allowance or Marriage Allowance

From 6 April 2015 married couples and civil partners may be eligible for a new Transferable Tax Allowance.

The Transferable Tax Allowance (also referred to as the Marriage Allowance) will enable spouses and civil partners to transfer a fixed amount of their personal allowance to their spouse. The option to transfer is not available to unmarried couples.

The option to transfer is available to couples where neither pays tax at the higher or additional rate. If eligible, one partner is able to transfer 10% of their personal allowance to the other partner, which is £1,150 for 2017/18 (£1,100 for the 2016/17 tax year).

Couples will be entitled to the full benefit in their first year of marriage.

For those couples where one person does not use all of their personal allowance the benefit will be worth up to £230 in 2017/18 (£220 in 2016/17).

Eligible couples can apply for the marriage allowance at www.gov.uk/marriage-allowance. The spouse or partner with the lower income applies to transfer some of their personal allowance by entering some basic details.

Those who do not apply via the government gateway will be able to make an application at a later date and still receive the allowance.

If either you or your spouse were born before 6 April 1935, then a married couple’s allowance is available. This is given to the husband, although it is possible, by election, to transfer it to the wife.

Joint ownership of assets

In general, married couples should try to arrange their ownership of income producing assets so as to ensure that personal allowances are fully utilised and any higher rate liabilities minimised.

Generally, when husband and wife jointly own assets, any income arising is assumed to be shared equally for tax purposes. This applies even where the asset is owned in unequal shares unless an election is made to split the income in proportion to the ownership of the asset.

Married couples are taxed on dividends from jointly owned shares in ‘close’ companies according to their actual ownership of the shares. Close companies are broadly those owned by the directors or five or fewer people. For example if a spouse is entitled to 95% of the income from jointly owned shares they will pay tax on 95% of the dividends from those shares. This measure is designed to close a perceived loophole in the rules and does not apply to income from any other jointly owned assets.

We can advise on the most appropriate strategy for jointly owned assets so that tax liabilities are minimised.

Capital gains tax (CGT)

Each spouse’s CGT liability is computed by reference to their own disposals of assets and each is entitled to their own annual exemption of £11,300 for 2017/18 per annum.

Some limited tax savings may be made by ensuring that maximum advantage is taken of any available capital losses and annual exemptions.

This can often be achieved by transferring assets between spouses before sale – a course of action generally having no adverse CGT or inheritance tax (IHT) implications. Advance planning is vital, and the possible income tax effects of transferring assets should not be overlooked.

Further details of how CGT operates are outlined in the factsheet Capital Gains Tax.

Inheritance tax (IHT)

When a person dies IHT becomes due on their estate. Some lifetime gifts are treated as chargeable transfers but most are ignored providing the donor survives for seven years after the gift.

The rate of IHT payable is 40% on death and 20% on lifetime chargeable transfers. The first £325,000 is not chargeable and this is known as the nil rate band.

Transfers of property between spouses are generally exempt from IHT. Rules were introduced which allow any nil rate band unused on the first death to be used when the surviving spouse dies. The transfer of the unused nil rate band from a deceased spouse, irrelevant of the date of death, may be made to the estate of their surviving spouse who dies on or after 9 October 2007.

The amount of the nil rate band available for transfer will be based on the proportion of the nil rate band which was unused when the first spouse died. Key documentary evidence will be required for a claim, so do get in touch to discuss the information needed.

IHT residence nil rate band

An additional nil rate band is being introduced for deaths on or after 6 April 2017 where an interest in a main residence passes to direct descendants. The amount of relief is being phased in over four years; starting at £100,000 in the first year and rising to £175,000 for 2020/21. For many married couples and civil partners the relief is effectively doubled as each individual has a main nil rate band and each will potentially benefit from the residence nil rate band.

The additional band can only be used in respect of one residential property which does not have to be the main family home but must at some point have been a residence of the deceased. Restrictions apply where estates are in excess of £2 million.

Where a person dies before 6 April 2017, their estate will not qualify for the relief. A surviving spouse may be entitled to an increase in the residence nil rate band if the spouse who died earlier has not used, or was not entitled to use, their full residence nil rate band. The calculations involved are potentially complex but the increase will often result in a doubling of the residence nil rate band for the surviving spouse.

The residence nil rate band may also be available when a person downsizes or ceases to own a home on or after 8 July 2015 where assets of an equivalent value, up to the value of the residence nil rate band, are passed on death to direct descendants.

From April 2017 we have three nil rate bands to consider. The standard nil rate band has been a part of the legislation from the start of IHT in 1986. In 2007 the ability to utilise the unused nil rate band of a deceased spouse was introduced, enabling many surviving spouses to have a nil rate band of up to £650,000. By 6 April 2020 some surviving spouses will be able to add £350,000 in respect of the residence nil rate band to arrive at a total nil rate band of £1 million. However this will only be achieved by careful planning and, in some cases, it may be better for the first deceased spouse to have given some assets to the next generation and use up some or all of the available nil rate bands.

For many individuals, the residence nil rate band will be important but individuals will need to revisit their wills to ensure that the relief will be available and efficiently utilised.

Gifts

A gift for family maintenance does not give rise to an IHT charge. This would include the transfer of property made on divorce under a court order, gifts for the education of children or maintenance of a dependent relative.

Gifts in consideration of marriage are exempt up to £5,000 if made by a parent with lower limits for other donors.

Small gifts to individuals not exceeding £250 in total per tax year per recipient are exempt. The exemption cannot be used to cover part of a larger gift.

Gifts which are made out of income which are typical and habitual and do not result in a fall in the standard of living of the donor are exempt. Payments under deed of covenant and the payment of annual premiums on life insurance policies would usually fall within this exemption.

Children

Use of allowances and lower rate tax bands

It may be possible for tax savings to be achieved by the transfer of income producing assets to a child so as to take advantage of the child’s personal allowance.

This cannot be done by the parent if the annual income arising is above £100. The income will still be taxed on the parent. However, transfers of income producing assets by others (eg grandparents) will be effective.

A parent can however allow a child to use any entitlement to the CGT annual exemption by using a ‘bare trust’.

Child Tax Credit

A Child Tax Credit (CTC) is available to some families. To see whether you are entitled to claim visit www.gov.uk/child-tax-credit.

Junior Individual Savings Accounts (Junior ISA)

The Junior ISA is available for UK resident children under the age of 18 who do not have a Child Trust Fund account. Junior ISAs are tax advantaged and have many features in common with existing ISAs. They are available as cash or stocks and share-based products.

High Income Child Benefit Charge

A charge applies to a taxpayer who has adjusted net income over £50,000 in a tax year where either they or their partner are in receipt of Child Benefit for the year. Where both partners have adjusted net income in excess of £50,000 the charge will apply to the partner with the higher income.

The income tax charge will apply at a rate of 1% of the full Child Benefit award for each £100 of income between £50,000 and £60,000. The charge on taxpayers with income above £60,000 will be equal to the amount of Child Benefit paid.

Child Benefit claimants can elect not to receive Child Benefit if they or their partner do not wish to pay the charge.

Example

The Child Benefit for two children amounts to £1,788.

The taxpayer’s adjusted net income is £54,000.

The income tax charge will be £715.

This is calculated as £17.88 for every £100 above £50,000.

For a taxpayer with adjusted net income of £60,000 or above the income tax charge will equal the Child Benefit.

Marriage breakdown

Maintenance payments

An important element in tax planning on marriage breakdown used to involve arrangements for the payment of maintenance. Generally no tax relief is due on maintenance payments.

Asset transfers

Marriage breakdown often involves the transfer of assets between husbands and wives. Unless the timing of any such transfers is carefully planned there can be adverse CGT consequences.

If an asset is transferred between a husband and wife who are living together, the asset is deemed to be transferred at a price that does not give rise to a gain or a loss. This treatment continues up to the end of the tax year in which the separation takes place.

CGT can therefore present a problem where transfers take place after the end of the tax year of separation but before divorce, although gifts holdover relief is usually available on transfers of qualifying assets under a Court Order.

IHT on the other hand will not cause a problem if transfers take place before the granting of a decree absolute on divorce. Transfers after this date may still not be a problem as often there is no gratuitous intent.

How we can help

Some general points can be made when planning for efficient taxation of the family.

Any plan must take into account specific circumstances and it is important that any proposed course of action gives consideration to all areas of tax that may be affected by the proposals.

Tax savings can only be achieved if an appropriate course of action is planned in advance. It is therefore vital that professional advice is sought at an early stage. We would welcome the chance to tailor a plan to your own personal circumstances so please do contact us.