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Helpsheets ... continued 5 from homepage

  • Inheritance tax – making tax-free gifts

    There are various exemptions, and potential exemptions, which make it possible to make gifts free of inheritance tax. Making tax-free gifts is a useful way to reduce the value of your estate – and ultimately the inheritance tax that may be payable on gifts.

    What counts as a gift? - For inheritance tax purposes, a gift is anything that has value, for example, money, property or possessions. A gift may also arise if the value of your estate is reduced following a transfer, for example, if you sell your house to your children for less than it is worth; the discount element is regarded as a gift.

    Gifts to spouses - Gifts to spouses and civil partners are free of inheritance tax.

    Gifts out of income - The inheritance tax exemption for ‘normal expenditure out of income’ is very useful and can be used to make tax-free lifetime gifts. For the exemption to apply, the gift must meet three conditions:

    • 1. It forms part of your regular expenditure.
    • 2. It was made out of income (taking one year with the next).
    • 3. After the gift, you were left with sufficient income to maintain your normal standard of living.

    An easy way to use this exemption, for example, would be to set up a standing order for a regular amount, say £X per month, to your children or grandchildren, or to meet the cost of school fees or similar.

    Gifts made in this way are completely exempt – you do not need to survive seven years to keep the gifts tax-free.

    Annual gifts exemption - There is an annual gifts exemption for inheritance tax which allows you to give away £3,000 of gifts in total IHT-free in each tax year. If the exemption is not used in full in one tax year, the unused amount can be carried forward to the following year, after which it is lost if it is not used.

    Wedding gifts - Tax-free gifts can also be made, up to certain limits, on the occasion of a marriage or civil partnership. The tax-free limit for wedding gifts is £5,000 where the gift is to a child of yours, £2,500 where it is to a grandchild and £1,000 where the gift is to someone else.

    Small gifts - It is also possible to give gifts of up to £250 per year IHT-free to as many people as you like, as long as the recipient has not benefited from another exemption.

    Other tax-free gifts - Gifts to help another person with their living costs, such as an elderly relative or a child under the age of 18 can be made free of inheritance tax, as can certain gifts to charities and political parties, housing associations, gifts for national purpose and for the public benefit.

    Potentially exempt transfers - You can also give as much as you like away IHT-free – as long you survive seven years. However, there are anti-avoidance rules where you have previously owned an asset or where you continue to retain the benefit of it after you have given it away (for example, if you give your house to your children and continue to live in it rent-free), and care must be taken not to fall foul of these.

    If you survive less than three years after making the gift, IHT is payable in full at the usual 40% rate. However, if you survive more than three years but less than seven years from the date of the gift, taper relief reduces the amount of IHT payable. If you survive at least seven years from the date of the gits, it drops out of account and is IHT-free.

  • Inheritance Tax and potentially exempt transfers

    It is possible to make gifts during your lifetime free of Inheritance Tax (IHT), as long as you live for more than seven years after making the gift. Most lifetime transfers are ‘potentially exempt transfers’ (PETs). They have the potential to be free of IHT as long as the donor survives seven years after making the gift. It is assumed at the time that the gift is made, that it will remain exempt; consequently, no IHT is payable at the time that the gift is made.

    However, should the donor die within the seven-year period, the PET becomes a chargeable transfer at the date of the gift. This may mean some reworking if the donor has also made chargeable transfers after making the PET.

    Example - Alfred gives each of his three daughters a cheque for £10,000. As a result of the gifts, the value of his estate is reduced by £30,000. The gifts are PETs at the time that they are made.

    Donor dies within seven years - In the event that the donor dies within seven years of the date of the gift, the PET becomes a chargeable transfer at the time that the gift is made, and is taken into account working out the IHT, if any, due on the estate. The transfer forms part of the cumulative estate and must be cumulated with the death estate and any subsequent lifetime transfers. The death of the donor may trigger an IHT charge on the PET as it is also cumulated with previous transfers.

    14-year window - Although the donor only needs to survive seven years for the PET to remain exempt, should he die within this period, it is also necessary to look at transfers in the seven years before the PET to see whether the failed PET was covered by the nil rate band at the time it was made. Hence, it may be necessary to consider a transfer window of up to seven years.

    Taper relief - Taper relief reduces the amount of IHT payable on the gift – not the value of the gift. The amount of IHT payable depends on the period of time that has elapsed between the gift and the donor’s death.

    Period between chargeable gift and donor’s death IHT payable

    Up to 3 years 100%

    More than 3 years and up to 4 years 80%

    More than 4 years and up to 5 years 60%

    More than 5 years and up to 6 years 40%

    More than 6 years and up to 7 years 20%

    Annual exemption - There is a £3,000 annual exemption for gifts.

    Example - Julie gave £200,000 to her daughter Alice on 22 May 2012 on her 21st birthday and a further £200,000 to her son Henry on 3 February 2014 on his 21st birthday. Julie died on 16 April 2018, leaving her estate, valued at £500,000, to her husband Robert.

    The transfer of value to her husband is an exempt transfer. However, as she died within seven years of making the gifts to her children, they become chargeable transfers.

    The gift to Alice uses up the first £197,000 of her nil rate band of £325,000 (£200,000 gift less annual exemption of £3,000). The remainder of the nil rate band is available to set against the gift to her son (a chargeable transfer of £197,000 (£200,000 less annual exemption of £3,000)).

    As only £128,000 of the chargeable transfer to her son is covered by the nil rate band, the remaining £69,000 is chargeable to inheritance tax. However, as the gift was made more than 4 years but less than 5 years before Julie’s death, taper relief applies. The IHT payable is therefore 60% (£69,000 @ 40%) = £16,560.

  • Free fuel – is it worthwhile?

    Where an employer meets the cost of fuel for private journeys in a company car, an additional benefit in kind charge arises in respect of the provision of the `free’ fuel (unless the employee makes good all the cost).

    Working out the fuel benefit charge

    The fuel benefit charge is found by multiplying the appropriate percentage (based on the level of the car’s CO2 emissions) used in working out the company car benefit charge, including the diesel supplement where appropriate, by the multiplier for the tax year in question.

    For 2018/19, the multiplier is £23,400.

    Tax cost of free fuel

    For 2018/19, the appropriate percentage ranges from 13% for cars with CO2 emissions of 0 –50g/km to 37%. Consequently, the cash equivalent of the fuel benefit ranges from £3,042 (£23,400 @ 13%) to £8,658 (£23,400 @ 37%).

    For a basic rate taxpayer, the tax cost of free fuel ranges from £608.40 (20% of £3,042) to £1,731.60 (20% of £8,658); for a higher rate taxpayer, the tax cost ranges from £1,216.80 (40% of £3,042) to £3,463.20 (40% of £8,658).

    Is it worthwhile?

    Free fuel is expensive. If it is paid in relation to a company car with a list price of less than £23,400, for 2018/19, more tax will be payable on the provision of `free’ fuel than on the provision of the car.

    Whether the provision of fuel constitutes a perk will depend on how much private mileage the employee undertakes in the tax year, the cost of fuel, the appropriate percentage for the car and the rate at which the employee pays tax. In many cases, unless the appropriate percentage is low and private mileage is high, free fuel will not be much of a perk.


    An employee has a company car with CO2 emissions of 145g/km. For 2018/19 the appropriate percentage is 30%. If fuel is provided for private motoring, the associated fuel benefit is £7,020, which if the employee is a higher rate taxpayer will cost him £2,808 in tax.

    Assuming that petrol costs £127p per litre and the driver achieves 6 miles per litre, the driver would have to drive 13,266 private miles in the tax year to break even. This is the level at which the cost of fuel (13,266/6 x 127p) is the same as the tax on the fuel benefit.

    If private mileage is less than 13,266 miles per year, it would be cheaper for the employee to give up free fuel and pay for the petrol himself. If the private mileage is higher, the free fuel will be a perk as the tax paid on the benefit will be less than the cost of the fuel.

    It is advisable to do the sums to see if free fuel is actually worthwhile.

    Cash alternative

    If a cash alternative is available, this may be preferable, particularly if private mileage is low. However, be aware that the alternative valuation rules may bite if a cash alternative if offered.

  • Claim a deduction for pre-trading expenses

    As a general rule, a deduction is allowed for expenses that are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purpose of the trade. Thus, for the deduction to be available, the business must have started trading. However, most businesses will incur expenses in setting up the business. These may include rents and other premises costs, marketing and advertising costs, the purchase of office supplies and stationery, and such like. These costs will be incurred before the business starts to trade rather than when the business is trading; they are incurred to put the business in position to trade, rather than for the purposes of the trade.

    Luckily, help is at hand and the tax legislation specifically allows relief for pre-trading expenses, as long as certain conditions are met. Relief is available for both income tax and corporation tax purposes, providing a deduction regardless of whether the trader operates as a sole trader or via a limited company.

    The relief is available for:

    • expenditure which is incurred within a period of seven years prior to the commencement of the trade, profession or vocation; and
    • which is not allowable as a deduction, but which would have been allowable had the expenditure been incurred after the trade had commenced.

    Applying the ‘wholly and exclusively’ rule

    The ‘wholly and exclusively’ rule applies equally to determine whether expenses which are incurred prior to the commencement of trade are deductible under the pre-trading expenses rule, as it does to determine the deductibility of expenses incurred while trading. Only those pre-trading expenses which are incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade can be deducted under the pre-trading expenses rules.

    How is relief given?

    Relief is given by treating the qualifying expenses incurred in the seven years prior to the commencement of the trade as if they were incurred on the first day of trading. Consequently, they are deductible in computing the profits of the first accounting period.


    The purchase of trading stock is not deductible as a pre-trading expense; it is deductible in computing profits once the trade as commenced.

    Capital v revenue

    Where the accruals basis is used, relief is only given for pre-trading expenses if they are revenue in nature, as is the case where the expenses are incurred once the trade as commenced. If the trader has opted to use the cash basis, capital expenses may also be deducted where these would be deductible under the cash basis rules.


    Dave starts trading as sports therapist on 1 November 2018. He spends six months setting up the business, acquiring premises and preparing to trade. He incurs £2,000 on rent, and £800 on marketing the business. The expenses are treated as incurred on 1 November 2018 and are deducted in computing the profits of his first accounting period.


  • Are your workers employees?

    Employee status continues to be in the spotlight. The Government are consulting on proposals to address non-compliance with the off-payroll working rules in the private sector. Earlier in the year they consulted on employment status, including the possibility of introducing a statutory employment status test.

    It is important that the status of workers is correctly assessed as this will affect the tax and National Insurance that the worker pays, and consequently the state benefits to which they may be entitled, and also the extent to which they are able to benefit from employment rights. It will also determine whether the engager must operate PAYE and pay employer’s National Insurance contributions.

    Current approach - While change is likely, under the current rules there is no single test that determines whether a worker is an employee or is self-employed. Rather it is a case of looking at the characteristics of the engagement and standing back and seeing whether the picture that emerges is one of employment or self-employment.

    Employee v self-employed - An employee works under a contract of service whereas a self-employed person enters into a contract for service.

    The following summarises some of the key indicators of employment and self-employment.


    The employer is obliged to provide work and the worker is obliged to do it.

    The worker must work regularly unless on leave.

    The worker is required to work a minimum number of hours at set times.

    The worker must do the job personally.

    The worker is supervised and told what work to do.

    The worker is entitled to paid holiday.

    The worker is entitled to join the workplace pension scheme.

    The worker receives employment-type benefits.

    The worker is given the tools and equipment needed to do the job.

    The employer deducts PAYE and NI contributions from the employee’s pay.

    The worker is `part and parcel’ of the organisation.

    The worker is included in company social events, such as the staff Christmas party.


    The worker is in business on their own account.

    The worker bears the financial risk.

    The worker is generally paid a price for the job, regardless of how long it takes.

    The worker does not have to do the work personally and can send a substitute.

    The worker can decide when and how to do the job.

    The worker does not get paid while on holiday.

    The worker decides what jobs to take on.

    The worker is responsible for correcting unsatisfactory work and bears the cost of this.

    The worker provides the tools and equipment needed to do the job.

    Marginal cases - It will often be clear cut as to whether a worker is employed or self-employed and the characteristics of the engagement will fall securely into one camp or the other. However, this will not always be the case; in marginal cases, the worker may exhibit characteristics of each. In such case, HMRC produce a ‘Check Employment Status Tool’ (CEST), which can be used to help reach a decision.

  • Cash basis for landlords – when does it apply?

    The cash basis simply takes account of money in and money out – there is no need to worry about debtors and creditors and prepayments and accruals. Income is recognised when received and expenditure is recognised when paid. Since 6 April 2017, the cash basis has been the default basis for eligible landlords.

    An eligible landlord is one in respect of whom none of the tests A to E below is met.

    Test A

    Test A is met if the business is carried on at any time in the tax year by:

    • a company;

    • a limited liability partnership;

    • a corporate firm;

    • the trustees of a trust; or

    • the personal representatives of a person.

    A partnership is treated as a ‘corporate firm’ (and thus not eligible for the cash basis) if a partner in the firm is not an individual.

    Test B

    Test B is met if the cash basis receipts for the year exceed £150,000.

    The cash basis receipts are those that are taken into account in working out the profits of the property business on a cash basis.

    Test C

    Where individuals who are married or in a civil partnership and who live together own property jointly, for income tax purposes, the income is split equally between them. Where a landlord receives a share of income from a jointly owned property and that income is being treated as arising to the joint owners in equal shares (for example where the property is owned with a spouse or civil partner) and the other joint owner uses the accruals basis to calculate their profits, the landlord must also use the accruals basis to calculate his or her profits.

    Consequently, if one party is not eligible for the cash basis, the cash basis is not available to the other party in respect of the property business receiving a share of the joint income.

    Test D

    Test D is met if a Business Premises Renovation Allowance is made in calculating the profits of the business property business and a balancing event in the year would give rise to a balancing adjustment. Where this is the case, profits must be computed using the accruals basis.

    Test E

    Test E is only relevant where none of A, B, C or D is met.

    Test E is that the landlord has opted out of the cash basis by electing for the accruals basis to apply.

    Cash basis by default

    The cash basis for unincorporated landlords will apply if none of the Tests A to D above are met and the landlord has not made an election for the accruals basis (Test E) to apply.

  • Give away £3,000 IHT-free each year

    There are various exemptions for inheritance tax purposes which enable a person to make tax-free gifts. One of the more useful is the annual exemption.

    Nature of the exemption - The annual exemption is set at £3,000. The exemption allows an individual to make gifts of up to £3,000 each tax year without them being included in the transferor’s estates.

    Gifts covered by the exemption do not count as potentially exempt transfers (PETs) – there is no requirement for the transferor to live a further seven years. Gifts covered by the annual exemption are exempt, even if the transferor dies the next day.

    The annual exemption applies to:

    • lifetime transfers by individuals

    • the lifetime termination of an interest in possession in settled property

    • transfers by close companies

    Gifts totalling less than £3,000 - If an individual makes gifts in a year which do not exceed the amount of the annual exemption, the gift is tax-free. To the extent that the exemption has not been fully utilised, the excess can be carried forward – but only for one tax year.

    Example - In 2017/18, Florence sold some shares and made a cash gift of £1,000 to each of her two granddaughters.

    The gifts are covered in full by her annual exemption, using up £2,000 of the exemption. The balance of £1,000 is carried forward to 2018/19.

    In 2018/19 Florence makes a further gift of £2,000 each to her granddaughters. Although the gifts total £4,000 in 2018/19, they are exempt in full, being covered by the annual exemption for 2018/19 of £3,000 and the unused exemption of £1,000 from 2017/18 which has been carried forward to 2018/19.

    Gifts exceeding the annual exemption - If the value of the gifts in the tax year exceeds the available annual exemption (£3,000 plus any unused exemption brought forward from the previous tax year) and other exemptions are not available, the gifts are exempt up to the value of the available exemption. If the balance is a gift by an individual, it will be a PET; otherwise it may be an immediately chargeable lifetime transfer.

    Example - Harry makes a gift from capital of £10,000 in 2018/19 to his son Paul. It is the only gift he makes in the tax year. In 2017/18 he used his annual exemption in full.

    The first £3,000 of the gift is covered by the annual exemption. The remaining £7,000 is a PET.

    Multiple gifts - Where a transferor makes multiple gifts in a tax year, the annual exemption is applied to the gifts in the order in which they are made.

    Example - In May 2018, Barbara gives £2,000 to her daughter Julie; in October 2018, she gives £2,000 to her daughter Jane and in December 2018 she gives £2,000 to her son James.

    In 2017/18, she fully utilised her annual exemption.

    The gift to Julie is fully exempt, falling entirely within the annual exemption.

    The first £1,000 of the gift to Jane is exempt, utilising the remaining £1,000 of the annual exemption. The remaining £1,000 is a PET. The gift to James is a PET.

    Tip - Consider the timing of gifts and whether other exemptions, such as that for small gifts, may be available.

  • Tax code changes for 2018/19

    Tax codes are the lynchpin of the PAYE system – unless the tax code is correct, the PAYE system will not deduct the right amount of tax from an employee’s pay.

    The tax code determines how much pay an employee may receive before they pay any tax. The most straightforward scenario is that the person receives the personal allowance for that year. The code is then the personal allowance for the year with the last digit omitted and an `L’ suffix. So, for 2017/18, the personal allowance is £11,500 and the associated tax code is 1150L. This is also the emergency tax code.

    Other codes - Employees’ situations vary and consequently different codes are needed to accommodate that. If an employee has more than one job, his or her allowances may be used up in job 1, leaving all the pay for job 2 to taxed. The 0T code – no allowances – accommodates this. A person may also have an 0T code if their personal allowance has been fully abated (at £123,000 for 2017/18 and £123,700 for 2018/19). An employee may have all his or her pay taxed at the basic rate, for which the relevant code is BR, or at the higher rate (code D0), or the additional rate (code D1). Code NT indicates that no tax is to be deducted.

    Scottish taxpayers have an S prefix, indicating the Scottish rates of tax should be used.

    Marriage allowance - Where one partner in a marriage or civil partnership is unable to use their personal allowance, they can transfer 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner, as long as the recipient is not a higher or additional rate taxpayer. The person surrendering 10% of their allowance has a code with a `N’ suffix, whereas the recipient has an `M’ suffix’.

    Adjustments - Tax underpayments or the tax due on benefits in kind may be collected through the PAYE system. The tax code is based on the net amount of the allowances less deductions. So, for example, if in 2017/18 a person had a personal allowance of £11,850 and a company car with a cash equivalent of £5,000, the net allowance due is £6,500 and the associated tax code would be 650L.

    Where deductions exceed allowances, a person has a K prefix code – in this scenario, they do not have any free pay and are treated as if they have received additional taxable pay.

    2018/19 updating - Tax codes need to be updated each year to reflect changes in allowances. The personal allowance is increased to £11,850. Where the employer does not receive a form P9(T) or an electronic notice of coding for an employee, the following changes should be made to update an employee’s tax code for the 2018/19 tax year:

    • add 35 to any code ending in L, so 11500L becomes 1185L;
    • add 39 to any code ending in M; and
    • add 31 to any code ending in N.

    Any week one or month one markings should not be carried forward.

    Codes BR, SBR, D0, SD0, D1, SD1 and NT can be carried forward to 2018/19.

    The emergency code for 2018/19 is 1185L.

    If a new code has been notified on form P9(T) or electronically, that should be used instead.

    The updated codes should be used from 6 April 2018 onwards.

  • Rent-a-room: New restrictions

    Rent-a-room relief offers the opportunity to enjoy rental income of up to £7,500 tax-free from letting out a room in your own home. It does not matter whether you own or rent your home; what is important is that the let is of furnished accommodation in your own home.

    How the relief works

    The relief is automatic where the rental income is less than the threshold. If you are the only person receiving income from the let, the threshold is £7,500; where one or more other people receive income, the threshold is halved so each person can receive up to £3,750 tax-free (this is the case regardless of how many people receive income from the let).

    Rental income more than the threshold

    If the rental income exceeds the threshold, you can opt into the scheme and pay tax on the excess.

    Not always the best option

    Claiming rent-a-room relief will not always be the best option. For example, if rental income is more than the threshold, and expenses are also more than the threshold, computing rental profit in the normal way will give a lower taxable amount.

    It will also be beneficial to opt out of rent-a-room if you make a loss, otherwise the benefit of the loss is lost and cannot be carried forward for offset against future rental profits.

    New restriction

    Rent-a-room relief was introduced to boost the supply of low-cost residential accommodation. In light of concerns that it was providing an unintended benefit to those offering short-term lets through sites such as Airbnb, the relief is to be amended.

    To ensure that the relief is used as originally intended, i.e. to encourage the availability of rooms for lodgers, a new shared occupancy test will apply from 6 April 2019.

    Shared occupancy test

    Under the shared occupancy test, the individual in receipt of the income (or a member of their household) must have a ‘shared occupancy’ for all or part of the period of the let. The draft legislation requires that the physical use of the accommodation by the tenant must overlap with the use of the residence as sleeping accommodation by the landlord or a member of his or her household. It should be noted that another tenant does not count as a member of the household for the purposes of satisfying the test.

    The legislation does not, however, specify a minimum period of overlap – there is no requirement for the landlord to be present for the whole let and, indeed, under the legislation as drafted, a period of overlap of only one night would be sufficient to ensure this test is met.


    In 2019, the Jones family let out their house for the Wimbledon fortnight and holiday in Tuscany for the entire period of the let. Their neighbours, the Smiths, let out three rooms for the Wimbledon fortnight, but remain at home for the first three days before joining the Jones’ in Tuscany. The Smiths meet the new shared occupancy test, but the Jones family do not.

  • How to make a complaint to HMRC

    If a taxpayer feels that HMRC has made mistakes, treated them unfairly, or they have been subject to unreasonable delays on the part of HMRC in getting matters resolved, it is possible to make a complaint.

    To make a complaint to HMRC, taxpayers can log in to their Government Gateway account online, or by phone or post. Complaints can be made by an individual or by a business and can be made on the taxpayer’s behalf by a professional adviser, a friend or relative, or a voluntary organisation, such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, Tax Aid, or Tax Help for Older People. To make a complaint on someone’s behalf, they must be first authorised by HMRC. Complaints are advised to be made as soon as possible.

    However, these methods cannot be used to dispute the amount of tax that is due or tax penalties, or to complain about serious misconduct by HMRC staff.

    It is also important that the taxpayer continues to pay tax while the complaint is being dealt with, as this may result in penalties.

    How HMRC handles complaints

    HMRC states that when a complaint is made, they will:

    • try to resolve the problem;
    • not treat the taxpayer any differently due to a complaint being made;
    • handle the complaint confidentially;
    • provide the name and contact details of the person who is dealing with the complaint;
    • consider refunds for reasonable costs incurred by mistakes or delays;
    • keep the taxpayer informed of the progress of the complaint; and
    • provide details of who to contact if the complaint is not resolved satisfactorily.

    If the person who is contacted in the first instance cannot resolve the complaint, it will be passed to a customer service advisor. Or, the complaint can be made direct to a customer service advisor from the outset.

    When making a complaint, it is important that the taxpayer gives sufficient information to allow the complaint to be investigated and the matter put right. This includes information such as what happened and when, who dealt with it, the effect of HMRC’s actions, and what action the taxpayer would like to be taken to resolve matters. The taxpayer’s full name and address and any relevant reference numbers should also be provided.

    Disagreeing with the outcome

    If HMRC do not resolve matters to the taxpayer’s satisfaction, there are further routes that can be taken. In this first instance, a different customer service advisor will investigate and review the complaint for a second and final time. If this still does not resolve matters once HMRC have provided a final response, the taxpayer can ask the Adjudicator’s Office to investigate the complaint, this service is free. Thereafter, the matter can be referred to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman via the taxpayer’s MP.

  • Relief for replacement domestic items

    Where a landlord lets a property, even if the property is not fully furnished, it is likely that some domestic goods will be provided. It is also likely that at some point the landlord will need to replace these goods.

    Tax relief is available for the replacement, but not the initial purchase, of domestic goods, as long as certain conditions are met.

    The conditions - Relief is available if the following conditions are met.

    • Condition A – the individual or company must carry on a property business that includes the letting of one or more residential properties.

    • Condition B – an old domestic item which has been provided for use in the property is replaced with a new domestic item. The new item must be for the tenants’ exclusive use, and the old item must no longer be available to them.

    • Condition C – the expenditure is incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the property business, and a deduction would be otherwise prohibited as capital expenditure.

    • Condition D – capital allowances have not been claimed in respect of the expenditure.

    Where the above conditions are met, relief is available for the cost of the replacement domestic item unless the property is a furnished holiday letting or rent a room relief has been claimed.

    What items count as domestic items? - Domestic items are items for domestic use. The definition is wide and includes moveable furniture, such as sofas, tables, bed frames, wardrobes; furnishings, such as curtains and carpets; household appliances, such as fridges, freezers, washing machines; and kitchenware, such a utensils, crockery, cutlery etc.

    Nature of the relief - Relief for the cost of the replacement item is given as a deduction in computing the profits of the property business.

    However, the amount of the deduction is limited to that for a ‘like for like’ replacement. Where the replacement is superior to the original – for example if a washing machine was replaced with a washer dryer – the relief is capped at the cost of a replacement which is equivalent (in current day terms) to the original.

    Relief is also available for incidental costs, such as the costs of delivery or disposal. However, the deduction is reduced for any consideration received in respect of the old item.

    Example - In 2018/19 a landlord who lets a furnished property replaces the old fridge with a fridge freezer costing £500. An equivalent fridge would have cost £300. He also replaces a sofa with a similar sofa. The replacement costs £600. He pays £30 for the fridge freezer to be delivered, and £15 for the old fridge to be disposed of. He sells the old sofa for £50.

    Under replacement domestic item relief, he can claim a deduction for £345 in respect of the fridge-freezer, being the cost of a like-for-like fridge plus the costs of deliver and disposal. He can also claim a deduction of £550 in respect of the sofa, being the cost of the replacement sofa less the proceeds from the sale of the old sofa.

  • Pass on your house free of IHT

    The introduction of the residence nil rate band (RNRB) opens up the possibility of leaving the family home to successive generations without triggering an inheritance tax charge. It is available for deaths on or after 6 April 2017. The RNRB is an additional nil rate band that is available where a qualifying residence is passed on death to a direct descendant. The RNRB is:

    • £100,000 for 2017/18

    • £125,000 for 2018/19

    • £150,000 for 2019/20

    • £175,000 for 2020/21

    From 2021/22 onwards it will be increased each year in line with the CPI.

    Estates worth more than £2 million - Where the net value of the estate is more than £2 million, the RNRB is reduced at a rate of £1 for every £2 by which the value of the estate exceeds £2 million. Thus, for 2018/19, the RNRB is not available where the net estate exceeds £2,350,000.

    Interaction with existing nil rate band - The RNRB is available in addition to the normal nil rate band of £325,000. However, it can only shelter a residence that is passed on death to a direct descendant. The value of the RNRB is capped at the net value of the residential property (i.e. after deducting liabilities such as a mortgage) left to direct descendants where this is less than the maximum for the year, as set out above.

    Transfer to spouse - The spouses’ exemption allows property to be left to a spouse or civil partner without triggering an inheritance tax charge. However, to ensure that the nil rate band is not lost, the proportion unused on the death of the first spouse or civil partner may be used transferred to the surviving spouse or civil partner and used on their death. The RNRB band operates in the same way and any unused proportion is transferred to the surviving spouse or civil partner.

    The transfer is available even if the first death was prior to 6 April 2017 as long as the surviving spouse or civil partner dies after that date.

    Qualifying residence - The RNRB only applies where the residence that is passed on is a qualifying residence. This must be a residential property – a property such as a buy-to-let property in which the deceased has never lived does not qualify. Where there is more than one qualifying residence, the personal representative can nominate which one qualifies.

    Direct descendent - The RNRB is only available if the residence is left to a direct descendant. This includes a child and their lineal descendants.

    Downsizing - Where the deceased downsized after 8 July 2015 or ceased to own a residence after that date, the funds relating to the former residence can still qualify for the RNRB if passed to a direct descendant.

    Example - Ida and Edward have lived in their family home for many years. On her death in 2015, Ida left her whole estate to Edward. On his death in June 2018, he left his estate worth £850,000 equally between his two sons. The estate included the family home with a net value of £600,000.

    Edward’s estate benefits from the nil rate band of £325,000 and 100% of Ida’s nil rate band – a further £325,000.

    He is also able to benefit from the RNRB (£125,000), plus 100% of Ida’s RNRB (a further £125,000) as he leaves a qualifying residence to direct descendants. As the net value of the residence is worth more than £250,000, the available RNRB is £250,000.

    Edward’s total nil rate band (including the RNRB) is £900,000 ((2 x £325,000) + (2 x £125,000)). As the value of his estate is less than this, it is free from inheritance tax.

  • SDLT and first-time buyers

    First-time buyers are able to benefit from Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) relief when they buy their first home – but only if the property that they are buying does not cost more than £500,000. It was announced in the 2018 Budget that the relief would be extended retrospectively to first-time buyers buying their first share in a shared-ownership property.

    The relief is worth up to £5,000.

    The relief - SDLT relief for first-time buyers was announced in the Autumn 2017 Budget and introduced with effect from Budget day (22 November 2017). It applies to purchases of residential property of £500,000 or less by a first-time buyer, provided that the purchaser intends to occupy the property as their only or main home.

    Where the relief applies, the first-time buyer pays no SDLT if the price paid for their first home is £300,000 or less.

    If the first home costs more than £300,000 but less than £500,000, there is no SDLT to pay on the first £300,000 of the consideration, but the excess over £300,000 is liable to SDLT at 5%.

    Example - Chris buys his first home, a two-bedroomed flat costing £380,000. He will live in it as his main residence. The purchase completes in November 2018.

    As the purchase price is less than £500,000, he is able to benefit from first-time buyer relief.

    He pays SDLT of £4000 on the purchase ((£300,000 @ 0%) = (£80,000 @ 5%)).

    For comparison, a person buying a similar property who was not a first-time buyer would pay SDLT of £9,000 ((£125,000 @ 0%) = (£125,000 @ 2%) + (£130,000 @ 5%)). The availability of the relief saves Chris £5,000 in SDLT.

    The relief is not available where the first-time buyer buys a property costing more than £500,000 – SDLT is payable at the normal residential rates.

    Shared ownership - It was announced at the time of the 2018 Budget that SDLT relief for first-time buyers would be extended to purchasers of qualifying shared ownership properties who do not elect to pay SDLT on the market value of the whole property when they buy their first share.

    The relief applies to the first share purchased where the market value of the shared ownership property is £500,000 or less. Those paying less than £300,000 for their first share do not pay any SDLT; whereas those paying between £300,000 and £500,000 for their first share pay SDLT of 5% on the excess over £300,000. The relief also applies to any SDLT on the rental payments. However, it only applies on the purchase of the first share – it does not apply if further shares are purchased.

    The relief is backdated to apply retrospectively from 22 November 2017. First time buyers who have already purchased their first share in a shared ownership property since 22 November 2017 and paid SDLT without the benefit of the relief can claim a refund.

    Claiming relief - First-time buyer relief must be claimed in the SDLT return, or, where the return has already been filed, by amending the return.

  • Deduction for interest costs

    The method of giving landlords relief for interest and other financing costs is gradually switching from one by deduction to one as a basic rate tax reduction. Once fully implemented, relief will only be available at the basic rate, regardless of the landlord’s marginal rate of tax.

    The transitional period lasts four years, with 2017/18 being the first year. It is important that landlords comply with the new rules and claim relief for interests costs correctly when completing their 2017/18 tax return.

    The transitional period - The change from relief by deduction to relief as a basic rate reduction is being introduced gradually.

    • For 2017/18, 75% of interest cost are allowed as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 25% as a basic rate tax deduction.
    • For 2018/19, 50% of the interest costs are allowed as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 50% as a basic rate tax deduction.
    • For 2019/20, 25% of the interest costs are allowed as a deduction, with relief for the remaining 75% as basic rate tax deduction.
    • For 2020/21 and subsequent tax years, relief for 100% of interest costs is given as a basic rate tax deduction.

    Relief by deduction - Interest costs qualifying for relief by deduction are simply deducted as for any other deductible expense from rental income in computing taxable rental profits.

    Relief as a basic rate tax deduction

    Where relief is given as a basic rate tax reduction, the amount of tax that is payable is reduced by an amount that is equal to the basic rate tax multiplied by the interest costs which qualify for relief as a basic rate tax deduction.

    Example - Assume a landlord has interest costs of £1,000 in each of the years from 2017/18 to 2020/21 inclusive, the amount they can deduct in calculating their profits and the amount by which the tax bill is reduced is shown below. It is assumed that the basic rate of tax remains at 20% throughout.

    Year .                      Deduction         Tax reduction BR

    2017/18                  £750                  £50 (£250 @ 20%)

    2018/19                  £500                  £100 (£500 @ 20%)

    2019/20 .                £250                  £150 (£750 @ 20%)

    2020/21                  £0.                     £200 (£1,000 @ 20%)

    If the landlord is a higher rate tax payer, the relief will gradually be reduced as the method of giving relief switches from deduction (where relief is at the higher rate) to relief as a basic rate tax deduction (where relief is given only at the basic rate).

    Claiming relief - Relief is claimed via the property pages of the self-assessment tax return. If a breakdown of expenses is provided, the interest costs qualifying for relief by deduction (75% of total interest costs for 2017/18) are entered in the relevant box on p.2 of the property income pages in the box headed ‘Loan interest and other financial costs’. The balance for which relief is given as a basic rate reduction is entered in the box on p.4 of the property income pages, headed ‘Residential finance costs not included’ in ‘loan interest and other financial costs’.

    It is important that the tax return is completed correctly so that relief is given in the right way.

  • Cost of using a company van

    Under the government’s new timetable, any changes to tax rates, allowances and benefits are now generally announced in conjunction with the Autumn Budget each year. This approach is designed to allow employers time to make the necessary changes to payroll systems.

    In relation to company vans, the 2018 Autumn Budget announced that, from 6 April 2019, the flat-rate van benefit charge will increase from £3,350 to £3,430, representing a small increase in real terms to a basic rate taxpayer of £16 a year. In addition, the flat-rate van fuel benefit charge will increase from £633 to £655 from 6 April 2019.

    In principle, a tax charge will arise if a work’s van is made available, by reason of the employment, to an employee or to a member of their family or household. It must be made available without a transfer of ownership from the employer to the employee. From 2016/17 onwards, the charge applies regardless of the employee’s earnings rate. If the van is only available for part of a tax year, the chargeable benefit will be reduced proportionately.

    It may be worth noting that where a van is shared between two or more employees, the taxable benefit is calculated as normal and a reduction is then given for any periods during which the van is unavailable. To recognise that the benefit of the van is shared between more than one employee, a further reduction is then made ‘on a just and reasonable basis’. Discretion as to what constitutes a 'just and reasonable' proportion is generally left to the employer to evaluate, although HMRC may intervene if they suspect any deliberate manipulation of the rules.

    Taxable van benefit will be reduced by any payments made by the employee for private use.

    Zero-emissions vans - Changes were made to the taxable benefit charge provisions from 2015/16 onwards to phase out the former £nil van benefit charge for zero-emissions vans. For 2015/16 a rate of 20% of the van benefit charge for vans which emit CO2 applied to zero-emissions vans. The reduction is currently being phased out over several tax years until the van benefit charge for zero-emissions is equal to that for conventionally fuelled vans. The reductions are currently set as follows:

    2018/19 – charge is 40% of van benefit

    2019/20 – charge is 60% of van benefit

    2020/21 – charge is 80% of van benefit

    2021/22 – charge is 90% of van benefit

    From 2022/23, the van benefit charge for zero-emissions vans is 100% of the van benefit charge for conventionally fuelled vans.

    Electric-charging points - The Autumn Budget 2018 announced that the period for which 100% first-year allowances (FYAs) are available to businesses for expenditure on plant or machinery for electric vehicle charging points, is to be extended. 100% FYAs will be available for expenditure incurred up to and including 31 March 2023 for corporation tax purposes and 5 April 2023 for income tax purposes. The relief is subject to certain conditions, in particular, the expenditure must be on plant that is ‘unused and not second-hand’.

    Conclusion - The benefit-in-kind charge arising on the private use of a work’s van remains relatively low in comparison to a company car. Given the current reductions in the benefit charge for zero emissions vans, and the immediate relief for capital allowances on charging facilities, businesses thinking of purchasing or changing their van/vans, may wish to consider opting for electric, or other zero-emissions, vehicles.


  • Private lettings relief

    Lettings relief potentially shelters some of the gain from capital gains tax on the disposal of a property which has been an only or main residence at some point during the period of ownership and which has also been let out.

    Where a residence has been occupied as an only or main home, private residence relief exempts from capital gains tax not only the period for which the property was so occupied, but also the last 18 months of ownership. Where the property is let, to the extent that the letting falls outside the last 18 months of ownership, private residence relief is not available for that period. However, lettings relief may be.

    Availability of lettings relief

    Lettings relief is available where a gain arises on the disposal of a property which:

    • at some time has been the individual’s only or main residence;

    • during the period of ownership, all or part of the property has been let as residential accommodation; and

    • a chargeable gain arises as a result of the letting.

    Amount of the relief

    The amount of the relief is the lowest of the following three amounts:

    1. the amount of private residence relief;

    2. £40,000; and

    3. the amount of the chargeable gain arising as a result of the letting.


    Rose buys a cottage on 1 January 2012 for £200,000 and lives in it as her only or main residence until 30 June 2015. She then moves in with her boyfriend and lets the cottage out. The cottage is sold for £350,000 on 30 June 2018.

    The gain on the sale of the property is £150,000.

    The property is owned for 6 years and 6 months (78 months).

    She lived in it as her main residence for 3 years and 6 months (42 months).

    Private residence relief is available for the period in which she occupied the property as her main residence and the final 18 months – a total of 60 months (42 months + 18 months).

    The gain eligible for private residence relief is 60/78 x £150,000 = £115,385.

    The gain attributable to the let period is the remainder of the gain, i.e. £34,615 (£150,000 - £115,385).

    Lettings relief is the lower of:

    1. £115,385 (gain eligible for private residence relief);

    2. £40,000; and

    3. £34,615 (gain attributable to the letting).

    As a result of the lettings relief, the full gain is exempt from tax; £115,385 being sheltered by private residence relief and the remaining £34,615 being sheltered by lettings relief.

    Living in a let property as a main residence for a period of time can be very beneficial. Not only does it shelter any gain for the period for which it was occupied as such, it also shelters the gain for the last 18 months and brings lettings relief to the table.

  • Subsistence expenses – using the benchmark scale rate

    The option to pay employees flat rate subsistence expenses tax-free can be an attractive one; the employees are clear on what expenses will be paid, and the employer is saved the work involved in reimbursing the actual amounts incurred.

    The rates - HMRC set benchmark scale rates which can be used to make subsistence payments to employees.  The rates are as follows:


    Minimum journey time     Maximum amount of meal allowance

              5 hours                                          £5

              10 hours                                        £10

              15 hours (and ongoing at 8pm)     £25


    For these purposes, a meal is taken to be the combination of food and drink. Where the £5 or £10 rate applies and the qualifying journey in respect of which it is paid lasts beyond 8pm, a supplementary rate of £10 can be paid tax-free to cover the additional expenses necessarily incurred by working late.

    The rates are the maximum that can be paid tax-free; the employer can pay below these rates if they choose to do so. If a higher amount is paid without first agreeing that it is appropriate with HMRC, the excess over the above rates is liable to tax and National Insurance contributions. However, employers can negotiate a higher rate with HMRC where they can demonstrate that actual expenditure is more than the benchmark rates.

    Conditions - The benchmark rates can only be used to make tax-free subsistence payments where the qualifying conditions are met. These are that:

    • the travel is in the performance of the employee’s duties or to a temporary place of work on a journey that is not substantially ordinary commuting (i.e. the normal journey between home and work);

    • the employee is absent from his normal workplace or home for a continuous period in excess of five hours or ten hours, as appropriate;

    • the employee has incurred costs on a meal (food and drink) after starting the journey and retained evidence of their expenditure.

    Checking - Under the rules as they currently apply, employers are required to have a checking procedure in place. The employer must be satisfied that the employee has in fact incurred expenditure of the type that are being reimbursed (e.g. by checking receipts or credit card statements) and had the employee not been reimbursed for that expenditure, it would be tax deductible.

    The checking system which is appropriate will depend on the size and nature of the employer’s business. However, it should be sufficient to ensure that the expenditure relates to qualifying travel, it does not include any disallowable items (e.g. private expenditure) and it is not excessive.

    However, the checking requirement will soon be history – legislation is to be introduced from 6 April 2019 to remove the requirement for employers to check evidence of amounts spent when making benchmark scale rate payments.

    Tax deduction for employees - If the employer pays less than the benchmark rates, the employee is not allowed a deduction for the shortfall. However, if the employee’s actual expenditure is more than that reimbursed, the difference is deductible, as long as the usual conditions for deductibility are met.

  • Rewarding staff suggestions in a tax-free manner

    Staff suggestion schemes reward employees where a suggestion saves money. The tax system allows suggestion scheme awards to be made tax-free. The tax exemption recognises two types of award:

    Encouragement awards - An encouragement award is an award other than a financial benefit award for a suggestion with intrinsic merit or showing special effort.

    Financial benefit awards - This is for a suggestion relating to an improvement in efficiency which the employer adopts & expects will result in financial benefits.

    Conditions - The tax exemption applies where an employer establishes a scheme for the making of suggestions which is open on the same terms to employees of the employer generally or to a particular description of them, eg. all employees at a site or department.

    The following conditions must also be met:

    • the suggestion relates to activities carried on by the employer,

    • the suggestion is made by an employee who could not reasonably be expected to make it in the course of the duties of employment; and

    • it is not made at a meeting which is held for the purpose of proposing suggestions.

    Tax-free limit for encouragement awards - are capped at £25.

    Tax-free limit for financial benefit awards - depends on the savings & number of awards.

    The starting point is the suggestion maximum which is the financial benefit share or, if less, £5,000.

    The financial benefit share is the greater of:

    • 50% of the financial benefit that could reasonably be expected to result from the adoption of the benefit for the first year after its adoption; and

    • 10% of the financial benefit that could be expected to result from its adoption in the first five years.

    If no award has been made for the suggestion before, the tax-free limit is the suggestion maximum where one award is made or the appropriate proportion of the suggestion maximum if two awards are made on the same occasion to different people (for example 25% if an award is made at the same time to four people).

    If further awards are made for the same suggestion, the tax-free limit is the remainder of the suggestion maximum if one such further award is made, or an appropriate proportion of the remainder of the suggestion maximum if two or more further awards are made.

    Example - Two employees suggest replacing disposable cups with reusable cups. The suggestion will save £8,000 in year 1, and £10,000 pa thereafter. The financial benefit share is the greater of:

    • £4,000 (50% of £8,000); and

    • £4,800 (10% of £48,000 (savings in years 1 to 5 being £8,000 and 4 x £10,000))

    As this is less than £5,000, the suggestion maximum is £4,800.

    The maximum tax-free award that can be made to each employee is £2,400 (50% of £4,800).

  • Savings income – how is it taxed?

    The taxation of savings income can be complicated as there are various allowances and rates that come into play. However, most people are able to enjoy savings income tax-free. For these purposes, savings income means interest on savings – separate rules apply to the taxation of dividends.

    Personal allowance

    The first allowance which may be available to shelter savings income from tax is your personal allowance. If your personal allowance has not been fully used up elsewhere, for example against your wages or salary or against pension or rental income, any unused balance can be set against your savings income.

    The personal allowance is set at £11,850 for 2018/19. However, it is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds £100,000. Consequently, those with income in excess £123,700 for 2018/19 do not receive a personal allowance.

    Starting rate for savings income

    Those whose non-savings income is low may be able to enjoy the 0% starting rate on savings income. The availability of the starting rate for savings depends on the amount of non-savings income that you have in excess of your personal allowance.

    For 2018/19, the savings starting rate band is £5,000. If non-savings income in excess of the personal allowance is more than £5,000, the savings starting rate of 0% is not available.

    If non-savings income above the personal allowance is less than £5,000, the savings starting rate band of £5,000 is reduced by the amount of the non-savings income is excess of the personal allowance. Savings income falling within the remainder of the band is taxed at the zero rate.


    Peter has a pension of £13,000 a year and receives interest on his savings of £2,500 a year.

    For 2018/19, his personal allowance is £11,850. His pension exceeds his personal allowance by £1,150 (£13,000 - £11,850).

    The savings starting rate band is reduced by the non-savings income in excess of the personal allowance. The savings starting rate band is therefore £3,850 (£5,000 - £1,150).

    As Peter’s saving income is less than £3,850, it all benefits from the 0% savings starting rate.

    Personal savings allowance

    In additional to the personal allowance, basic rate and higher rate taxpayers receive a personal savings allowance. The amount of the allowance depends on the income tax band in which the taxpayer falls. The allowance is set at £1,000 for basic rate taxpayers and £500 for higher rate taxpayers. Additional rate taxpayers do not receive the savings allowance.

    Savings income sheltered by the personal savings allowance is tax-free.

    Up to £17,850 of savings income tax-free

    If your only income is savings income, it is possible to receive up to £17,850 of savings income tax-free in 2018/19. This is made up of the personal allowance of £11,850, the starting rate (0%) band of £5,000 and the personal savings allowance of £1,000.


  • How to choose your main residence to maximise relief

    Private residence relief (also known as main residence relief) takes the gain arising on the disposal of a person’s main or only residence out of the charge to capital gains tax. This relief means that in the majority of cases, any gain arising when a person sells their home is tax-free.

    However, as with any relief, there are conditions. Relief is available for a property that is, or has been at some point, the individual’s only or main home. Where the property meets this criteria throughout the period of ownership (and assuming it has not been used partially for business), the whole gain arising on the disposal of the residence is tax-free. Where the property has not been the main residence throughout, the gain is apportioned. However, as long as it has been the home at some point, the gain relating to the last 18 months of ownership is exempt. If the property has been let at any time, letting relief may further reduce the chargeable gain.

    More than one home

    For the purposes of the relief a person can only have one main residence at any one time. Where a person has more than one residence, they can choose which one is the main one – this can be useful in mitigating future tax bills.

    A property can only be a main residence if it is in fact a residence. Broadly, this is a property which someone occupies as their home. A property which is let, such as a buy to let property, does not count as it is not occupied by the taxpayer as his or her home. However, a city flat in which a taxpayer spends the week, and a family home elsewhere would both count as residences, as would a property in this country in which a person spends the summer and a property abroad in which they spend their winter.

    Choosing the main residence

    A person can elect which of their residences is their main residence by writing to HMRC. The deadline is two years from the date on which the combination of residence changes. In a simple case where a person acquires a second home, this will be two years from the date on which the second home was acquired.

    If no election is made, the home which is the main home is a question of fact – and will be the home that the person spends most of their time, where their family is based etc.


    Where a person has more than one residence it is beneficial for each of them to be the main residence at some point. At the very least, this will shelter the gain relating to the period of occupation as a main residence and the last 18 months. Where a property has been let, making it the main residence for a period also opens up the opportunity of letting relief to further reduce the gain. The period as a main residence can be after the period of letting.

    Flipping the main residence can be very beneficial – however, the property must be occupied as a residence. The election can only be made on paper and all owners must sign.

  • Use of home as office

    Use of home as office is a catch-all phrase to describe the costs that a self-employed businessperson has in running at least part of their business operations from home. It need not be an office as people may use a spare bedroom to hold stock for assembly and postage, or similar.

    Many will have used the figures that HMRC has long published for employees’ ’homeworking expenses’ - initially £2 a week, then £3 a week, changing to £4 a week from 2012/13.

    From 2013/14 onwards HMRC has adopted the following rates:

    Hours of business use per month 25-50 flat rate per month £10

    Hours of business use per month 51-100 flat rate per month £18

    Hours of business use per month 101+ flat rate per month £26

    So in HMRC’s eyes, I am entitled to a deduction of £120 a year for the use of home office space (or similar), but basically only so long as I spend at least 25 hours a month working from home. Working more than 25 hours a week - broadly full time - from home gets me the princely sum of £312 per year.

    Working from home may be cheap, but it’s not that cheap.

    The following guidance assumes that the claimant is not using the cash basis of assessment for tax purposes, as the rules work differently.

    'Wholly and exclusively’ - Business expenses are allowed if incurred 'wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade'. This is a cardinal rule; however, there is a further point:

    'Where an expense is incurred for more than one purpose, this section does not prohibit a deduction for any identifiable part or identifiable proportion of the expense which is incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade’ (ITTOIA 2005, s 34).

    Applying these principles, I do not have to use a room in my house exclusively for my self-employment, just so long as when I am using it for business purposes, that is all it is being used for.

    The costs you are allowed to claim - It is worth bearing in mind that HMRC does have guidance on how to make a more comprehensive claim for using one’s home in the business, in its Business Income manual however you may find it strange that almost all of the examples result in a claim of around £200 a year or less!

    HMRC’s guidance nevertheless includes the following potentially allowable costs:

    • mortgage interest (or rent paid to a landlord)
    • council tax
    • insurance
    • repairs
    • cleaning
    • heat, light, and power
    • water
    • telephone and broadband (unless already/separately claimed as a business expense)

    If you incur appreciable costs on the above then just £120 a year as a standard use of home deduction, or even £312 a year, is likely to make you feel more than a little aggrieved.

  • Tax-free Christmas parties

    Although the tax legislation contains an exemption to prevent employees from suffering a benefit-in-kind tax charge on the staff Christmas party, the exemption is limited in scope and application. It is unwise to assume that there will be no tax to pay – without proper planning, an unwanted tax charge may accompany the post-party hangover.

    The exemption applies to an annual party or similar function which is provided to the employer’s employees generally, or to those at a particular location. Where only one annual party or similar function is provided in the tax year, no income tax liability arises as long as the cost per head figure does not exceed £150. Where more than one such function is provided in the tax year, the exemption applies if the cost per head of the exempt party or parties does not exceed £150 in aggregate.

    Trap 1 – annual functions only

    The first trap is that the exemption applies only to annual functions – i.e. functions that are held each year. The staff Christmas party or annual summer barbecue may qualify, but a one-off event, such as a party to celebrate the company’s 10-year anniversary, will not.

    Where the function is not an annual function, a benefit in kind charge may arise. However, if the cost is less than £50 per employee, it may fall within the trivial benefits exemption.

    Trap 2 – all employee condition

    The exemption only applies if the party is open to all employees, or to those at a particular location. So, for example, if the company has sites in Birmingham and Manchester, an annual Christmas party for the Manchester-based employees would be permitted under the terms of the exemption, a party to which only directors and senior managers were invited would not.

    Trap 3 – exemption capped at £150 per head

    The exemption is limited to £150 per head. There are several points to note as regards to this condition.

    The first is that the cap is applied per head, not per employee. The cost per head figure is found by dividing the total cost of providing the function by the number or people attending the function – employees and guests. The total cost of the function includes not only the expenses of providing the function itself, but also the cost of any transport and accommodation which may also be provided. The cost is inclusive of VAT – even if this is subsequently reclaimed.

    So, if the total cost of a function is £5,440 and it is attended by 38 employees and 30 guests at a total of 68 people - the cost per head figure is £80 per head (£5,440 ÷ 68).

    The second point to note is that the exemption is not a tax-free allowance – if the cost per head figure is more than £150, the whole amount is taxed, not just the excess over £150. Where, say, the cost per head is £175 and an employee brings a guest, the amount of the benefit on which the employee is taxed is £350 (employee plus their guest).

    Where there is more than one qualifying function, the exemption can be used to best effect. If an employee attends three functions with cost per head figures of £80, £60 and £65, best use may be to use the exemption for the functions costing £80 and £65 per head. The remaining £5 is lost as it cannot be set against the cost of the £60 per head function.

    Tip - Remember to consider the impact of guests – in the above example, if the £65 function was for employees only but the £60 function was for employees and guests, it would be better to use the exemption for the £80 and £60 functions, leaving the £65 function in charge. If the £60 function was left in charge, the cash equivalent of the benefit would be £120 for the employee and guest – which is more than £65.

    Any tax liability could potentially be met by the employer via inclusion in a PAYE Settlement Agreement.

  • Class 2 NICs – happy to pay?

    Subject to certain conditions and limits, self-employed earners over the age of 16 and below state retirement age are currently entitled to pay both Class 2 and Class 4 National Insurance contributions (NICs) unless specifically excepted by provisions contained in the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992.

    Class 4 contributions are calculated with reference to an individual’s income from self-employment, but Class 2 contributions are simply charged at a flat weekly rate - £2.95 per week in 2018/19 – where the individual’s self-employed income exceeds the ‘small profits threshold’ (SPT) for the year in question. For 2018/19 the SPT is £6,205, so anyone with profits above that limit should be entitled to pay the weekly Class 2 contribution.

    It might be worth noting that for these purposes, ‘profits’ has the same meaning as given for Class 4 NICs, which broadly, means the charge is based on “all profits […] immediately derived from the carrying on or exercise of one or more trades, professions or vocations […] chargeable to income tax […] for the year of assessment and [which] are not profits of a trade, profession or vocation carried on wholly outside the UK”.

    HMRC are responsible for administering Class 2 NICs, and liability to the charge is reported through self-assessment. This means that they can be paid together with income tax and Class 4 NICs in one go on the 31 January following the end of the relevant tax year.

    Those that report profits below the SPT are not liable for Class 2 NICs, although they can usually pay voluntarily to protect their entitlement to contributory benefits.

    So, what are the benefits of paying Class 2 contributions? In broad terms, they are the entry fee allowing the self-employed to enter the UK’s contributory benefits system. Payment will generally give the payer access to the following benefits, if and when the need arises:

    • Maternity allowance
    • Contribution-based employment and support allowance
    • Widowed parent's allowance
    • Basic state pension
    • New flat-rate state pension
    • Bereavement benefits (except bereavement support payment)
    • Bereavement support payment

    Payment does not however, count towards contribution-based jobseeker’s allowance.

    Future reform? - Government proposals to abolish Class 2 NICs and reform the system for paying Class 4 NICs were due to take effect from April 2019. The proposals were designed to simplify the tax system for the self-employed and offer them more equal access to contributory benefits. However, the Treasury subsequently announced that it will not be proceeding as planned with the abolition of Class 2 NICs - a move which is estimated will save some £360m for each of the three years to 2021 based on the original impact assessment.

    There is, however, a good deal of speculation that NIC rates increases are likely in the near future, which are bound to affect employees and the self-employed alike.

    As the current system stands, Class 4 NICs do not count towards any state benefits, but Class 2 contributions provide a cheap route for self-employed people to safeguard entitlement to a future state retirement pension and certain other state benefits. It may be possible to pay for gaps in a National Insurance record from the past 6 years. It’s therefore a good time to check that NIC payments are up-to-date and to take action where appropriate.

  • Mileage allowances – what is tax-free

    Employees are often required to undertake business journeys by car, be it their own car or a company car, and may receive mileage allowance payments from their employer. Up to certain limits, mileage payments can be made tax-free. The amount that can be paid tax-free depends on whether the car is the employee’s own car or a company car.

    Employee’s own car

    Where an employee uses his or her own car for work, under the approved mileage allowance payments (AMAP) scheme, payments can be made tax-free up to the approved amount. The rates for cars (and vans) are set at 45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles in the tax year and 25p per mile for any subsequent business miles. A rate of 24p per mile applies to motorcycles and a rate of 20p per mile applies to bicycles.


    Jack frequently uses his car for work and in the 2017/18 tax year he undertakes 13,420 business miles.

    Under the AMAP scheme, the approved amount is £5,355 ((10,000 miles @ 45p per mile) + (3,420 miles @ 25p per mile)).

    Amounts up to the approved amount can be paid tax-free and do not need to be reported to HMRC.

    Where the mileage allowance paid is more than the approved amount, the excess over the approved amount is taxable and must be reported to HMRC on form P11D in section E.


    The facts are as in example 1 above. Jack is paid a mileage allowance by his employer of 50p per mile.

    The amount paid of £6,710 (13,420 miles @ 50p per mile) is more than the approved amount of £5,355, therefore the excess over the approved amount (£1,355) is taxable and must be reported on Jack’s P11D (unless his employer has opted to payroll the benefit).

    Where the mileage allowance paid is less than the approved amount, the employee can claim tax relief for the shortfall, either in his or her tax return or on form P87.

    For NIC, the 45p per mile rate is used for all business miles in the tax year, not just the first 10,000 miles.

    Beware salary sacrifice

    The value of tax exemption is lost if the mileage payments are made under a salary sacrifice or other optional remuneration arrangement, and instead the employee is taxed on the amount of salary foregone where this is higher.

    Company vehicles

    Where an employee has a company car, the AMAP scheme does not apply. However, mileage payments can still be made tax-free, but at the lower advisory fuel rates. These are updated quarterly and the rate which can be paid tax-free depends on the engine size of the car and fuel type. The rates are available on the website at

    As with the AMAP rates, where the amount paid is in excess of the advisory rate, the excess is taxable.

  • SDLT supplement and replacing the main residence

    Higher rates of stamp duty land tax (SDLT) are payable on the purchase of an additional residential property. However, it is possible to have more than one property and move house without paying the supplement.

    It should be noted that SDLT applies in England and Northern Ireland; Land and Buildings Transaction Tax (LBTT) applies in Scotland and Land Transaction Tax (LTT) in Wales. This article focuses only on SDLT.

    The supplement - The SDLT supplement increases the normal residential rates by 3% where the purchase price of the additional property is £40,000 or more.

    Scenario 1: sell main residence and buy a new one

    As far as replacing the main residence is concerned, the simplest case is where the old home is sold, and a new home is purchased, with the sale and purchase completing either at the same time or where the sale completes before the purchase. If the purchaser has no other properties, at any given time the purchaser only owns one property. Consequently, the supplemented SDLT rates do not apply to the purchase of the new main residence; SDLT is payable at the normal residential rates.

    Scenario 2: replace main residence but have other properties

    A person who owns other properties in addition to their main residence will have more than one property when the main residence is replaced. At first sight, it would seem that the SDLT supplement would be payable on the purchase of the new main residence; however the higher rates do not apply where the dwelling which is being purchased is replacing the main residence. The sale of the old main residence must complete before or at the same time as the purchase of the new main residence (but see also scenario 3 below).

    Example - Louise owns a buy-to-let property in addition to her main home. She sells her main home and buys a new house. The sale and purchase complete on the same day. Louise has replaced her main residence and SDLT is payable at the normal residential rates; the supplement does not apply.

    Scenario 3: buy a new main residence then sell former main residence

    When a person moves home, the sale of the old home and the purchase of the new home may not complete at the same time. If the purchase of the new home completes before the sale of the old home, at the time that the purchase completes, the buyer will have acquired an additional residential property – he or she will, at that point, own both the former home and the new home. As a result, the SDLT supplement will initially apply to the purchase of the new home.

    However, provided that the former main residence is disposed of within the three-year period of the purchase of the new property, the supplement paid on the purchase of the new main residence can be reclaimed. But be warned, the window for claiming the repayment is short – claims must be made within 3 months of the date of the sale of the former home or, if later, 12 months from the filing deadline for the SDLT return on the purchase of the replacement main residence. A claim form is available on the website.

    Example - George purchases a new home on 23 June 2017. The property needs a lot of work, so he lives in his former main residence while undertaking the work, selling his old home on 3 February 2018. Although the higher rate of SDLT is initially payable on the purchase of the new home, the supplement element can be reclaimed once the former home is sold as this takes place within the required three-year window.

  • New savings accounts launched

    According to recent figures, an estimated 3.5 million people on low incomes are now eligible to open new government- incentivised savings accounts designed to help people build up a ‘rainy-day’ fund.

    Although much delayed since its original announcement in March 2016, the launch of the new Help-to-Save scheme follows an eight-month trial, with over 45,000 customers who have now deposited over £3 million.

    The new scheme is easy to use, flexible and secure, and aims to promote savings behaviours and habits, whilst encouraging people who may not have been able to save before, to build up a savings pot. In summary, subject to certain limits, investors can receive a 50p bonus for every £1 they save in this new type of account.

    How much is saved and when is up to the account holder – the rules stipulate that investors can save between £1 and £50 every calendar month. Accounts last for forty eight months from the date the account is opened and the government bonuses are added at the halfway point, i.e. after two years, and at the end of the four year lifespan of the account, or on the date that the individual becomes terminally ill or dies, if earlier. If an account is closed or ceases to be a help-to-save account before the end of a bonus period, no bonus is payable.

    The investment limits mean that £2,400 is the maximum an individual can save, with a maximum government bonus payable of £1,200. In comparison, high street banks are currently offering a typical interest rate of between 1 and 2% on savings bonds, which does appear to make the help-to-save account a particularly attractive option for someone looking to save.

    However, whilst the potential returns are very attractive, these accounts are specifically designed to help low earners and therefore, there are stringent rules on who can open one.

    The scheme, which will be administered by HMRC, is open to UK residents who are:

    • entitled to Working Tax Credit, and receiving Working Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit payments
    • claiming Universal Credit and have a household or individual income of at least £542.88 for their last monthly assessment period (though note that payments from Universal Credit are not considered to be part of household income)
    • people living overseas who meet either of these eligibility conditions can apply for an account if they are:
    •  a Crown servant - or their spouse or civil partner is
    •  a member of the British armed forces - or their spouse or civil partner is

    To apply, savers can visit or use the HMRC app. Opening an online account should be very straight-forward and it should take less than five minutes to do.

    HMRC must decline or accept an application an account within 21 days of the date of the application, stating reasons accordingly. Applications can be declined if HMRC have reason to believe that the declaration or application is untrue or contains matters which are untrue. The Regulations governing the scheme do allow for appeals where HMRC decline an application.

    Whilst feedback from the trial period has been largely positive, others have criticised the launch of such a scheme when the government is making changes to the benefits system. However, there are apparent benefits on offer, and any anyone meeting the eligibility criteria may wish to consider opening an account.

  • Inheritance tax and potentially exempt transfers

    Aside from the annual exemption and the exemptions for particular gifts (such as those out of income or in consideration of marriage), it is possible to make gifts free of inheritance tax – as long as you survive for at least seven years after the date of the gift. The problem is that none of us knows when we are going to die.

    If the estate is not going to exceed the nil rate band (currently set at £325,000 plus the residence nil rate band (currently £125,000), available where the home is left to a direct descendant)), there is no rush to reduce the estate by making gifts. Remember also that the unused portion of the nil rate band and the residence nil rate band can be used by the surviving spouse or civil partner (for example, where the estate is left to the surviving spouse on the first death benefitting from the inter-spouse exemption).

    However, where the estate on death is likely to exceed the nil rate band, it can be beneficial from an inheritance tax perspective to make lifetime gifts – and the earlier the better. The rules allow the transferor to make unlimited lifetime gifts free of inheritance tax if he or she survives for seven years.

    PETs - A PET is a potentially exempt transfer. PETs are only chargeable if the transferor dies within seven years of making the gift. If the transferor survives at least three years but less than seven from the date of the gift, the IHT payable is reduced on a sliding scale.

    A gift to another individual or into a trust is a PET.

    No IHT when PET is made - It is assumed at the time at which the gift is made that the transferor will survive seven years and that the gift will remain free of inheritance tax. Consequently, no inheritance tax is payable at the time that the gift is made.

    Transferor survives seven years from date of gift - If the transfer survives at least seven years from the date on which the PET was made, it remains completely free of inheritance tax.

    Transferor dies within seven years of making the PET - In the event that the transferor does not survive seven years from the date on which the PET was made, the PET is brought into charge for inheritance tax. The value of the PET is cumulated with earlier transfers brought into charge, the death estate and subsequent transfers to work out the inheritance tax payable on the estate.

    However, as the nil rate band is applied to earlier transfers before later transfers, it may benefit from the nil rate band, such that the inheritance tax is payable on the death estate or subsequent lifetime transfer.

    If the transferor survives less than three years from the date of the PET, IHT is payable in full.

    Transferor survives at least 3 years - If the transferor survives at least three years but less than seven from the date of the PET, taper relief is available and the tax payable on the gift is reduced. Gifts made between three and seven years before death are taxed on a sliding scale.

    Years between gift and death     Tax paid

    Less than 3                                    40%

                     3 to 4                             32%

                     4 to 5                             24%

                     5 to 6                             16%

                     6 to 7                               8%

                     7 or more                         0%

    Planning ahead - Making lifetime gifts can potentially reduce the inheritance tax bill.

  • High Income Child Benefit Charge

    The High Income Child Benefit Charge is effectively a clawback of child benefit paid to ‘high income’ individuals and couples. The charge does not only apply to the recipient of child benefit or the parents of the child in respect of whom child benefit is paid - it can also affect the partner of someone who receives child benefit, even if the child is not theirs.

    In the context of the High Income Child Benefit Charge, a person has a ‘high income’ if they have individual income over £50,000 in the tax year. For these purposes, the measure of income is ‘adjusted net income’. Broadly, this is your total taxable income before taking account of personal allowance and items like Gift Aid.

    When does the charge apply?

    If you have adjusted net income of at least £50,000, the High Income Child Benefit Charge will apply in the following situations:

    • you are entitled to child benefit for at least a week in the tax year and you do not have a partner with higher adjusted net income; or

    • your partner is entitled to child benefit for at least a week in the tax year and your income is more than your partner.

    Thus, in a couple where only one person had adjusted net income of more than £50,000, the High Income Child Benefit Charge will apply to that person, even if they do not receive child benefit or the child is not theirs. Where both partners have adjusted net income in excess of £50,000, the charge is levied on the partner with the highest income. Where the recipient does not have a partner, they will be liable for the charge if their income is more than £50,000.

    Amount of the charge

    The charge is 1% of the child benefit received in the tax year for every £100 by which the adjusted net income of the person liable for the charge exceeds £50,000. So, for example, if adjusted income is £57,000, the High Income Child Benefit Charge is 70% of the child benefit received.

    Where adjusted net income exceeds £60,000, the charge is equal to the full amount of the child benefit paid in the tax year.

    No equity in taxation

    In determining whether the charge applies, the income of the individual is considered in isolation to assess whether it exceeds the £50,000 trigger point. Thus, a couple earning £49,000 each (£98,000 in total) escape the charge, whereas a single parent earnings £60,000 must repay any child benefit in full.

    Further, the person liable to pay the charge may not be the person who received it, and consequently they are being taxed on income received by their partner – something that is rather contrary to the principles of independent taxation.

    Opting out

    Where the High Income Child Benefit Charge applies in full, the recipient can opt not to receive the child benefit rather than receive it and pay it back. This can be done online or by contacting the Child Benefit Office.

    HMRC calculator

    HMRC have produced a child benefit calculator, which can be used to see if the charge applies and, if so, the amount of the charge. The calculator can be found on the website at

  • Buy-to-let landlords – relief for interest

    With rising property costs and low interest rates, many people took out a mortgage to invest in a buy-to-let property. As long as property prices continued to rise and the tenants paid their rent, investors could make money from the rising market while the rent from the tenant paid off the mortgage – all the investor needed was the deposit and to convince the bank to lend them the money.

    Fast forward a few years and the buy-to-let star is not burning quite so bright. Second and subsequent properties now attract a 3% stamp duty supplement – making them more expensive to buy – and relief for mortgage interest and other costs is being seriously reduced.

    Interest relief – the new rules

    Prior to 6 April 2016, the rules were simple. In calculating the profits of his or her property business, the landlord simply deducted the associated mortgage interest and finance costs.

    New rules apply from 6 April 2017, with changes being phased in gradually over a four-year period so as to move from a system under which relief is given fully by deduction to one where relief is given as a basic rate tax reduction. This changes both the rate and mechanism of relief. The changes do not apply to property companies – only unincorporated businesses.

    What does this mean

    Relief by deduction simply means deducting the amount of the interest, as for other expenses, in working out the profit or loss of the property business.

    Where relief is given as a basic rate tax reduction, instead of deducting the interest in calculating profit, 20% of the interest is deducted from the tax calculated by reference to the profit (as determined without taking out interest for which relief is given as a tax reduction).


    For 2017/18, a landlord can deduct in full 75% of his or her finance cost. The remainder is given as a basic rate tax reduction.


    Freddie has a number of buy to let properties. In 2017/18, his rental income is £21,000, he pays mortgage interest of £5,000 and has other expenses of £3,000. He is a higher rate taxpayer.

    Tax on his rental income is calculated as follows:

    Rental income                     £21,000

    Less:  interest (75% of £5,000)   (£3,750)

              other expenses          (£3,000)

    Taxable profit                    £14,250

    Tax @ 40%                          £5,700

    Less: basic rate tax reduction

    (20% (£5,000 x 25%))                (£250)

    Tax payable                        £5,450

    This compares to a tax bill of £5,200, which would have been payable had relief for the interest been given in full by deduction.

    Looking ahead

    The pendulum swings gradually from relief by deduction to relief as a basic rate tax reduction. In 2018/19, relief for half of the interest and finance costs is by deduction and relief for the other half is as a basic rate tax deduction. In 2019/20, only 25% of the interest and finance costs are deductible, relief for the remaining 75% being given as a basic rate tax reduction. From 2020/21 onwards, relief is only available as a basic rate tax reduction.

  • Employment allowance – upcoming changes

    The employment allowance (EA) was introduced from April 2014, potentially cutting every employer’s NIC payments by allowing businesses and charities to offset up to a pre-set annual threshold (£3,000 from April 2016, previously £2,000) against their employer PAYE NIC liabilities.

    Employers may generally claim the EA if they are a business (including a Community Amateur Sports Club) that pays employer Class 1 NICs on employees’ or directors’ earnings and is not funded by central government or a charity.

    To keep the process as simple as possible for employers, the EA is delivered through standard payroll software and HMRC’s real time information (RTI) system. However, it isn’t given automatically and must be claimed.

    How to claim - Claiming is very straight forward – the employer simply signifies their intention to claim by completing the ‘yes/no’ indicator just once. Although, ideally, the claim should be made at the start of the tax year, it can be made at any time in the year.

    The employer will then offset the allowance against each monthly Class 1 secondary NICs payment that is due to be made to HMRC until the allowance is fully claimed or the tax year ends.

    For example, if employer Class 1 NICs are £1,200 each month, in April the employment allowance used will be £1,200, in May it will be £2,400, and in June £800, as the maximum is capped at £3,000. The following tax year, the allowance will be available as an offset against a Class 1 secondary NICs liability as it arises during the tax year.

    The EA applies per employer, regardless of how many PAYE schemes that employer chooses to operate, so each employer can only claim for one allowance. It is up to the employer which PAYE scheme to claim it against.

    Recent change - The EA was restricted from April 2016, so that a company no longer qualifies where all the payments of earnings it pays in a tax year, in relation to which it is the secondary contributor, are paid to or for the benefit of one employed earner only who is, at the time the payments are made, also a director of the company.

    This sounds complicated, but the purpose of the change was to prevent perceived misuse of the allowance by personal service companies and help focus it on businesses creating employment. The government estimated that this change affected around 150,000 limited companies with a single director.

    Future changes - The Autumn Budget 2018 announced details of a further restriction, expected to take effect in 2020/21, which aims to target the allowance on businesses that need it most.

    From 6 April 2020, access to the EA will be limited to businesses and charities with an employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) bill below £100,000.

    Currently some 1.1million employers claim the EA and the government estimates that around 93% of these will continue to be eligible once the restriction takes effect, with many paying no employer NICs at all.

    It is worthwhile checking that the EA has been utilised where possible. If a claim is made too late in a tax year to set the whole allowance against the employers’ NIC liability, the employer may apply to HMRC for a refund.