Summer Budget 2015: Key tax changes for entrepreneurs

Listen to an audio version of this Summary Budget 2015 round up of the key tax changes impacting on entrepreneurs or read the text version below:

An audio download link is available at the end of this post!

Reduction in Corporation tax

Continuing George Osborne’s pledge to make the UK one of the single most attractive places to do business in the G20 he continued with his downward pressure on the UK corporation tax rates. Not content with reducing the main rate to 20% from 28% not too many years ago, he pledged to reduce it further to 19% by 2017 and down to 18% by 2020.

Before we get too excited about the CT rate reductions, it was once again a “give and take budget” as Mr Osborne announced some far reaching changes to the dividend tax regime that will impact on many entrepreneurs and increases to the minimum wage – the now so called “Living Wage”.

Dividend tax changes

It has long been the case that entrepreneurs could extract profits from their companies as dividends rather than salary – the key advantage being NIC savings as dividends are not (currently) subject to NIC. The income tax suffered on dividends is lower than salary as dividends are only available from retained profits that have been subject to corporation tax – so a tax credit system is applied to dividends that, in essence, results in 0% income tax payable by basic rate tax-payers (so broadly up to £42,000 – £43,000); 25% of the net dividend payable for higher rate tax payers and 30.6% for additional rate tax payers.

Seemingly forgetting about the double taxation impact on dividend payments, the Chancellor announced that there will be a £5,000 dividend allowance from 6 April 2016 (whoop whoop!) and then a 7.5% additional tax applied to dividend income – so our rates now become basic rate: 7.5%; higher rate: 32.5% and additional rate: 38.1%.

Looking at the HMRC projected figures, they are looking to net quite a windfall on this change that is a tax grab via the back-door – I don’t think many entrepreneurs have quite grasped this change as it was positioned as a change that might impact on those with substantial quoted shareholdings and contractors.

Will we see larger dividend payments pre 5 April 2016 with founders leaving credit loan balances to draw down over the foreseeable future?

Employment allowance increase

We should see the £2,000 NIC allowance for employers increase to £3,000 from 6 April 2016

Annual investment allowance

The annual allowance for investment into capital equipment (e.g. PCs, servers, desks, chairs, machinery etc) was set to fall to £25,000 pa by the end of this year but this was increased and pegged at £200,000 for the next five years.

EIS restrictions

There were some further changes to EIS building on proposals from the Autumn Budget Statement that include proposals to cap the total amount that can be raised under EIS at £12m (£20m for ‘knowledge intensive’ companies).
Also, a new limit on companies raising EIS making it available only to those companies that have been trading for less than 7 years (10 years for knowledge intensive companies) – this change seems unreasonably harsh for longer more established companies that might want to access capital. The requirement for 70% of the SEIS cash to be invested before shares can be issued under EIS will also be removed as originally noted in the March 2015 Budget. Finally there was reference to ensuring that EIS funds are directed toward developing companies so there will be restrictions on using EIS monies for buyouts and acquisitions and more of a need to demonstrate that the funds are being employed to develop and grow trading companies.

There were no changes announced to the SEIS regime.

R&D tax credits

No significant changes announced for R&D tax relief aside from a restriction aimed at Charities and Universities to prevent them from claiming the R&D tax relief on work subcontracted to them. This restriction takes effect from 1 August 2015.

Buy to let landlords

Many entrepreneurs will have diversified their risk with potentially one or more buy to let properties within their portfolio. These were also hit with some quite serious changes to the tax regime with the most hard hitting being the reduction in interest relief on buy to let mortgages being reduced to the basic rate of tax only. Currently, landlords can offset the mortgage interest at their marginal rate of tax (so potentially up to 45%). These new rules will be phased in to ease the pain of potential deleveraging for some landlords but the writing is on the wall for many – and who’s to say that this is the end with potential for 0% interest relief in the future….?

There will also be the removal of the 10% wear and tear allowance from 6 April 2016. Yet more pain for landlords.

Pension changes

On the downside, there were announcements that those with total income over £150,000 would be hit with reductions in the amounts they can put into their pension with the £40,000 annual allowance being tapered away with it hitting just £10,000 for those earning £210,000 or more. This is a admin headache all round and it comes into force from 6 April 2016.

On the plus side, there was a consultation announce to explore the best ways for pensions to be saved and a seemingly open approach to considering alternative finance in line with improvements to ISAs – this is great news for our thriving Fintech sector.

Inheritance tax changes

Long discussed and unsurprising was the pledge to increase the inheritance tax level to £1m to allow homes to be passed on without incurring IHT. Slightly odd in that the £325,000 nil rate band remains in place for the next 5 years but we have this additional £175,000 especially for the family home. Inflation may start to dig a hole into that £325,000 allowance rendering this less beneficial over time than the headlines suggest.

It was a shame that we didn’t see any changes to the VAT MOSS / (#VATmess) regime and I think the changes to dividends and pensions will add to uncertainty for many entrepreneurs and their advisors as the goalposts keep moving which is disappointing.

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