Termination payments

The tax treatment of termination payments has changed significantly over recent years. The changes have aligned the rules for tax and secondary National Insurance contributions (employer (NICs)) by making an employer liable to pay NICs on termination payments they make to their employees. 

Employees do not pay tax and National Insurance on:

  • Contributions their employer makes to a registered pension scheme as part of their termination payment – tax will be due on any employer contributions that go above the Annual Allowance.
  • Legal costs related to the settlement that their employer pays directly to their solicitor.
  • A termination payment they receive because of an injury, illness or disability that prevents them from being able to continue to do their job.

Employees do not usually pay tax on the first combined £30,000 of:

  • statutory redundancy pay;
  • additional severance or enhanced redundancy payments your employer gives you; and
  • non-cash benefits, for example company property you keep after your employment ends.

Employees are required to pay tax on any amount over a combined total of £30,000.

An employer is required to pay employer Class 1A NICs on any part of a termination payment that exceeds the £30,000 threshold.

Employees are liable to pay tax and National Insurance on payments they would have earned whilst working. This includes lump sum payments in lieu of notice (PILONs), pay on ‘gardening leave’ and part of any severance, enhanced redundancy or non-cash benefits they receive (known as Post-Employment Notice Pay (PENP).

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 08-08-2022

Bona Vacantia – dissolved companies

The final step in bringing a company to a legal end is dissolution. However, one of the important points to consider when doing so is that the dissolved company can no longer do or receive anything including receive a tax refund. It is the responsibility of the company directors to ensure that all of a company’s assets and liabilities are all dealt with before it is dissolved.

Any assets or rights (but not liabilities) remaining in the company at the date of dissolution will pass to the Crown as ownerless property. This happens under what is known as 'bona vacantia' which literally means vacant goods. The bodies that deal with bona vacantia claims vary across the United Kingdom, but they all ultimately represent the Crown.

Only formally dissolved companies are caught by bona vacantia. A company 'in liquidation' or 'being wound up' is on its way to being dissolved but is still in existence. Until the company is dissolved its property and rights will not be bona vacantia.

It may also be possible for a company to apply to be restored to the register if it was dissolved less than six years ago. This would mean that the bona vacantia ceases to exist. However, this process is by no means straightforward. Accordingly, any assets or rights owned by the company should be properly dealt with before a company is dissolved.

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 08-08-2022

Reminder of compensation limits for bank deposits

The bank deposit guarantee limit is the amount of money that is guaranteed for savers in UK banks and building societies should the institution become insolvent. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) guaranteed amount is currently £85,000 per person, per authorised bank or building society.

There is additional protection available to savers with certain types of temporary high balances, for example proceeds from a house sale, benefits payable under an insurance policy and inheritances. The additional FSCS protection is for amounts up to £1m per depositor per life event and is available for up to six months. The FSCS offers unlimited cover for personal injury claims.

The limit is enough to cover the deposits of most savers in the UK. However, savers with more than £85,000 should consider opening multiple bank accounts with separate banks and building societies in order to increase their guaranteed savings limits. The FSCS was set up to assist private individuals, although some businesses and small local authorities (such as parish councils) are also covered. The compensation limit is doubled for joint account holders.

Source:Other| 08-08-2022

Reminder that the plug-in grant has ended

The government plug-in grant was first introduced 11 years ago to help drivers make the move to owning an electric car. Since the scheme was introduced the amount of the grant available reduced significantly as did the range of cars to which the grant applied.

Significant changes to the low-emission vehicles plug-in grant scheme became effective on 15 December 2021 in response to soaring demand for electric vehicles and to help target those buying the most affordable zero emission cars. Just under six months later, on 14 June 2022, the government announced it was closing the plug-in car grant scheme to new orders.

The government is now focusing on helping to expand the public charge-point network and has committed £1.6 billion to this effort. In addition, £300 million in grant funding will be used towards extending plug-in grants to boost sales of plug-in taxis, motorcycles, vans and trucks and wheelchair accessible vehicles.

The sale of all new petrol and diesel cars and vans is expected to be phased out by 2030. Interestingly, battery and hybrid electric vehicles (EVs) now make up more than half of all new cars sold. Fully electric car sales have risen by 70% in the last year, now representing 1 in 6 new cars registered.

Source:HM Government| 08-08-2022

Using the Customs Declaration Service

The Customs Declaration Service (CDS) is a new customs IT platform that has been designed to modernise the process for completing customs declarations for businesses that import or export goods from the UK. A phased launch of the service started during August 2018. The CDS is used for making import and export declarations when moving goods into and out of the UK.

The closure of the old Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) service is imminent. The CHIEF system is over 25 years old and has struggled to cope with complex reporting requirements that could not easily or cost-effectively be accommodated within the existing service. 

The complete closure of the CHIEF system is marked for 31 March 2023. However, the CHIEF system is being withdrawn in two stages. The first stage, on 30 September 2022, will see the ability to make import declarations on CHIEF closed. This is a critical date. Businesses that have not moved across to the CDS will be unable to import goods into the UK from 1 October 2022.

Even businesses that use a customs agents need to ensure they take the following steps:

  • subscribe to the CDS;
  • choose a payment method;
  • check their standing authorities are correctly set up; and 
  • give their customs agent customs clearance instructions.

The CHIEF system will fully close on 31 March 2023 when the ability to make export declarations will also be withdrawn. 

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 08-08-2022

Do you qualify for the marriage allowance?

HMRC is using the wedding season to issue a reminder to married couples and those in civil partnerships to sign up for marriage allowance if they are eligible and haven’t yet done so.

The marriage allowance applies to married couples and those in a civil partnership where a spouse or civil partner doesn’t pay tax or doesn’t pay tax above the basic rate threshold for Income Tax (i.e., one of the couples must currently earn less than the £12,570 personal allowance for 2022-23).

The allowance works by permitting the lower earning partner to transfer up to £1,260 of their personal tax-free allowance to their spouse or civil partner. The marriage allowance can only be used when the recipient of the transfer (the higher earning partner) doesn’t pay more than the basic 20% rate of Income Tax. This would usually mean that their income is between £12,570 to £50,270 in 2022-23. The limits are somewhat different for those living in Scotland.

This could result in a saving of up to £252 for the recipient (20% of £1,260), or £21 a month for the current tax year. In fact, even if a spouse or civil partner has died since 5 April 2018, the surviving person can still claim the allowance (if they qualify) by contacting HMRC’s Income Tax helpline.

If you meet the eligibility requirements and have not yet claimed the allowance, you can backdate your claim to 6 April 2017. This could result in a total tax-break of up to £1,242 if you can claim for 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22 as well as the current 2022-23 tax year. 

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 08-08-2022

Miscellaneous income

There are special rules known as the miscellaneous income sweep-up provisions that seek to charge tax on certain income. This unusual provision, which is broad in scope, catches income that would not otherwise be charged under specific provisions to Income Tax or Corporation Tax.

Amongst the types of income covered are:

  • payment for a service where it was agreed that the service would be provided for reward.
  • income received under an agreement or arrangement, which is not otherwise taxable.
  • payment for the use of money that is not interest or does not fall within the loan relationships legislation.

HMRC is keen to stress that although the provisions are sweep-up provisions, this does not make all miscellaneous income taxable.

Specifically, the provisions do not tax:

  • capital accretions on isolated transactions in assets.
  • voluntary receipts such as gifts and gratuities.
  • gambling winnings from wagers and bets.
  • certain post-cessation receipts.
Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 01-08-2022

Using the Annual Investment Allowance

The Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) is a generous tax relief that was first introduced in 2008. The AIA allows for the total amount of qualifying expenditure on plant and machinery to be deducted from profits before tax.

The AIA can be claimed by an individual, partnership or company carrying on a trade, profession or vocation, a UK non-residential property business or a furnished holiday let. Only partnerships or trusts with a mixture of individuals and companies in the business structure are unable to qualify for AIA.

The AIA was permanently set at £200,000 for all qualifying expenditure on or after 1 January 2016. Following the pandemic, this limit has been temporarily increased to £1 million until 31 March 2023.

The AIA is available for most assets purchased by a business, such as machines and tools, vans, lorries, diggers, office equipment, building fixtures and computers. The AIA does not apply to cars.

A claim for AIA must be made in the period the item was bought. This date is defined as the date when a contract was signed – if payment is due within 4 months of the contract being signed – or the actual payment date if it’s due more than 4 months later.

Companies also have the option to claim the super-deduction for purchases of qualifying equipment up to 31 March 2023. As this relief effectively provides a 130% deduction, this would be a better choice under most circumstances. Unfortunately, this super-deduction is only available to companies. The best choice for the self-employed is the AIA.

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 01-08-2022

Scope of Trade

There is no statutory definition of ‘trade’. The only statutory reference to the term is that ‘trade’ includes a ‘venture in the nature of trade’. This absence of a formal definition decides if an activity is a trade more difficult. However, over time the courts have set some established guidance. 

It is clear from the significant amount of case law on this subject that a decision on whether there is a trade is a grey area. However, even having established that a trade, or a venture in the nature of trade, exists, the next question to consider is the scope of that trade.

HMRC’s internal guidance on this matter states as follows:

In many cases the nature and extent of a particular trade is never explicitly considered. This is particularly the case where there is no dispute about the nature of the trade, whose scope is implicitly understood and accepted.

However, the scope of a particular trade is fundamental when questions arise concerning:

  • whether particular receipts are income of the trade,
  • whether expenditure is incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade, or
  • whether expenditure is capital or revenue for tax purposes.

One trader’s sale, or purchase, of a fixed capital asset may be another trader’s sale, or purchase, of trading stock.

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 01-08-2022

Using Advisory Fuel rates

The easiest way to ensure that no car-fuel benefit charge (for private journeys in a company car) is payable, is to use the advisory fuel rates published by HMRC to repay any private fuel costs to your employer. The advisory fuel rates are intended to reflect actual average fuel costs and are updated quarterly.

However, the car-fuel benefit charge will still be payable if it cannot be demonstrated to HMRC that the driver of the car has paid for all fuel used for private journeys, this includes commuting to and from work. To ensure that this does not occur, employees will need to keep a log of private mileage.

The latest advisory fuel rates became effective on 1 June 2022 and the next set will take effect on 1 September 2022. Fuel rates are reviewed four times a year with changes taking effect on 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December. You can use the previous rates for up to 1 month from the date the new rates apply.

If you have a company car and your employer pays for all your petrol you will need to work out your actual private mileage for 2022-23, multiply this by the appropriate advisory fuel rate, and pay this amount to your employer.

This will avoid being charged the expensive car-fuel benefit – in many cases the tax saved will be more than the amount of your repayment to the employer.

Source:HM Revenue & Customs| 01-08-2022