When considering purchasing that shiny new MacBook, desk, printer etc (or pretty much any other capital item) for use in your business, you should think about how you can get the best tax result (as well as considering the best model and price).
Purchased computer equipment, furniture and other plant & equipment is not simply deducted from your profits for accounts and tax purposes. Such items are treated as ‘fixed assets’ in your business accounts and depreciated over their useful economic lives e.g. a £600 laptop might be written off against your business profits over say 3 years (at £200 per year). But tax doesn’t necessarily follow this treatment – that would be far too straightforward!
The Capital Allowances tax regime governs the UK tax treatment of fixed assets in order to provide a degree of uniformity given that depreciation policies can differ between different companies.
The good news is that the capital allowances regime has been significantly simplified over the past few years for the majority of UK businesses. Since 2008, the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) was introduced which allows businesses (except LLPs) to deduct expenditure up to a certain amount each year from taxable profits in Year one ie 100% tax write off immediately against profits.
The AIA originally started at £50,000 per annum, then went up to £100,000 with effect from 1 April 2010 for companies (5 April 2010 for unincorporated businesses) although it has recently been announced that this will decrease to £25,000 from April 2012.
A key tax planning point therefore is to accelerate planned future significant capital expenditure before the capital allowance rates decrease in 2012.
Care needs to be taken in applying these limits in periods where the limit has changed e.g. a business with a 31 December 2010 year end would need to pro-rata the AIA limit given that the allowance changed from £50,000 to £100,000 with effect from 1 April 2010 for companies. The entitlement is broadly £87,500 AIA for a 31 December 2010 year end, however, some nifty legislative drafting ensures that companies that may have already invested the full £50,000 before the 1 April 2010 (as it otherwise would have been permissible pre the Budget announcement) are not unfairly penalised.
Note that cars are not eligible for the AIA – although there is a some simple tax planning available to fund car purchases with significant tax relief, but I’ll leave that for a future post…
As always the above information is for guidance and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional advice. Please seek professional advice specific to your facts and circumstances (as tax law can be pretty complex and changes fairly frequently!).