10 need to know facts about the UK Patent Box

Patents are only for the old machine

You may already be successfully claiming R&D tax credits for your fast growth company. If so, you might be wondering what’s next in terms of tax incentives to assist your business once you have gone beyond the research and development phase and into the phase of commercial exploitation?

Up until now, there hasn’t been much….

However, we now have the latest UK tax incentive for intellectual property rich companies – the Patent Box, which kicks in from 1 April 2013.

The UK Patent Box is a £1bn+ tax incentive that represents potentially one of the most significant tax incentives ever introduced in the UK.

Here are 10 facts to get you started – plenty more detail to come in future posts:

  1. 10% corporation tax rate will apply to company income falling within the Patent Box – this more than slashes the corporation tax rate in half!
  2. Applies to qualifying patent derived profits generated from 1 April 2013 – 10% tax rate phased in over four years
  3. Companies must satisfy specific ownership requirements to one or more patents to fall within this regime
  4. Patents must be granted for the relief to apply. For patents pending, you can track the relevant income for six years and claim the tax relief upon grant
  5. Patent must be granted by certain designated patent offices to qualify: the UK Intellectual Property Office; the European Patent Office or other patent offices within certain designated EU countries
  6. Companies must take an active role in developing the invention to which the patent applies to qualify – passive ownership will not suffice.
  7. For groups, the company that holds the patent must carry out an active role to manage the IP
  8. Relevant patent profits are calculated by applying either an apportionment or streaming methodology – apportionment is the default calculation methodology
  9. Disappointingly the calculations are complex as you must run through a six stage process to reach the qualifying relevant patent profits –  but this is where we can help.
  10. You enter the patent box regime by election – it is not automatic.

Given that this relief kicks in from 1 April 2013, your company may already fall within this regime if your financial year end falls after this date e.g. those with an April, May or June  year end!

If you already have patents or are considering filing patents, you need to start planning now to maximise this opportunity. 

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1 April is no joke for UK companies!

1st April is an important date for UK companies as it signifies the start of a new tax year (yes, the personal tax year is different running to 5 April each year) and there have been some important announcements made in recent Budgets. Here are the headlines:

1. Small companies rate of corporation tax falls from 21% to 20%.

2. Standard rate of corporation tax falls from 28% to 26% (applies broadly to stand alone companies with taxable profits of £1.5m or more).

3. R&D tax credits increased from 75p enhancement for every qualifying £1 spent to £1 enhancement. If you haven’t considered whether R&D tax credits apply to your business it is well worth considering now.

10 Year End Tax Planning Tips For SMEs

You have the opportunity to structure your business finances in ways that preserve more of the wealth that you create. This takes advance planning. Don’t miss this opportunity.

To help, here are 10 pre-year end tax planning tips that entrepreneurs should be actively considering to reduce corporation tax, income tax and national insurance costs:

  1. Don’t pay corporation tax at the highest rate of 29.75%. Calculate your full year budgeted profits as soon as possible so that you plan around this rate. If you are a standalone company and your estimated taxable profits exceed £300,000 (but are less than £1.5m) then you fall into what’s called the corporation tax ‘marginal rate.’ This is not a good place to be. This rate is higher than the rate of tax applied to large companies (with profits in excess of £1.5m) who pay tax at 28% and much higher than the 21% rate your company would otherwise pay if you kept profits below the marginal band. If this applies to you, then you need to consider tax planning ideas to reduce your corporation tax payable – see further below.
  2. Make a pension contribution from your company into your (and possibly your spouse’s) pension fund. I am not going to go into the pros and cons of pensions and the detail of the recently introduced (and hideously complex) anti-forestalling provisions that currently apply for ‘super earners’ (broadly those with personal income of £130,000+), suffice to say that pensions can play an important role in year end planning for owner managed businesses. The benefit of pensions is that income tax relief is received at the individual’s highest rate of income tax. Certain restrictions apply for ‘super earners’ and new rules will be coming into force from April 2011, however, where implemented carefully, pension planning allows for a corporation tax deduction in the company and no income tax or national insurance payable by the owner managers. Pensions can also be an important lever in managing the company taxable profits e.g. if hovering above the £300,000 standalone company profit watershed. And don’t forget you must pay the pension contribution by the year end in order for it to be tax deductible in the company in that period – so don’t leave it to the last minute!
  3. Optimise the tax on your remuneration. Generally, a small salary (within the personal allowance – so no income tax or national insurance is due) will have been paid during the year with regular dividends to cover living expenses. Spouses, who ideally take an active role in helping run the business, can receive a small salary and dividends (subject to shareholdings) to maximize the use of both husband and wife personal tax allowances. With the year end approaching, now is the time to consider whether a final bonus or dividend should be awarded depending on available distributable profits, taxable profits and how much needs to be left in the business for future reinvestment etc. There are normally a number of factors to consider in making final awards of cash from the company, therefore it is important to crunch the numbers. Normally, a dividend will be the most tax efficient means of extracting profits for most business owners (up to the £150,000 personal income limit and 50% additional tax rate – see further below). Care should be taken in awarding dividends to spouse shareholders as HM Revenue & Customs still have their eye on husband and wife companies despite having lost a landmark case on this issue related to maximising both spouse’s income tax allowances. Some demonstrable activity in the business by both spouses is therefore recommended to mitigate this risk.
  4. Watch the 60% marginal income tax rate for income over £100,000. Total personal income of £100,000 is a new watershed for business owners as income received between £100,000 to £112,950 attracts a marginal rate of 60%! This is due to the personal allowance being phased out for income above £100,000. So if your total remuneration package is likely to be around this area, you might be well advised to limit your income to £99,999 to avoid this horribly expensive marginal rate.
  5. Watch the 50% additional rate for ‘super earners’. For those successful entrepreneurs with earnings in excess of £150,000, getting the right balance of remuneration is even more important as income tax is levied at 50% on salary or bonuses compared to 36.1% on dividends (a 25% increase in tax on salary income is matched (or not?!) by a 44% increase in dividend tax rate – work that one out?!). So rather than take a dividend from the company beyond £150,000 total income, business owners could consider taking a loan from the company and the company paying the due tax at a rate of 25% on the loan – something akin to what the shareholder would have paid on a dividend. Note that there could also be benefit in kind tax charges where no interest is paid on the loan but this could still work out to be the cheaper overall option.
  6. Optimise the timing of dividend and bonus payments for cashflow and tax rates. Dividends and bonuses are taxed on business owners on a receipts basis. If your income is already high for the 5 April 2010/11 tax year then you could defer paying out a dividend until 6 April 2011 so that it falls within the following year’s tax allowances and limits. Also, you can accrue a bonus in the 31 December 2010 accounts and don’t have to physically pay it until 30 September 2011 but you still receive the corporation tax deduction upfront. This gives a useful cash-flow advantage and the bonus timing is applicable for all employees i.e. not just business owners.
  7. Plan your spend on capital items to get tax relief quicker. Expenditure on computer equipment, desks, chairs etc attracts a write off against tax up to £100,000 spend per year. This reduces to £25,000 from April 2012. Make sure you bring forward any expenditure to reduce your taxable profits especially if the company profits are hovering around the standalone company £300,000 mark.
  8. Get tax deductions now for provisions against stock and debtors etc. Consider the valuation of any stock or debtors at the year end and make specific provisions where the likely recoverable value is less than the original amount recognised. Provisions against specific items (on a line-by-line basis) are tax deductible for corporation tax purposes.
  9. Claim loss carry backs as soon as possible to get refunds. If you have a forecast tax loss then you can carry this loss back to obtain a refund from HM Revenue & Customs of the corresponding amount of tax suffered in the preceding accounting period. You may wish to get your skates on with the year end work so that you can promptly file the accounts and tax return and get the cash back as quickly as possible.
  10. Don’t get time barred from lucrative tax incentives. Review available tax incentives such as R&D tax credits, capital allowances on fixed asset expenditure, loss carry back claims etc as the majority of such tax breaks have a 2 year time limit for you to be able to claim them with HM Revenue & Customs. So, for example,  many available tax incentives for the year end to 31 December 2008 will be time barred from 1 January 2011.

If you would like more ideas for growing your business and structuring your finances so that you keep more of the wealth you create, then please join the mailing list in the side-bar.

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Emergency Budget Wishes 2010

Letter to George Osborne MP regarding my wishes for next Tuesday’s Emergency Budget Speech:

Dear Mr Osborne MP,

Emergency Budget 2010

I appreciate that you have an extremely difficult job next Tuesday 22 June 2010 in delivering a Budget Report that seeks not only to balance the books over the longer term but to also avoid derailing any possible chance of an economic recovery in the UK in the short to medium term. No mean feat!

I ask that you place support for Enterprise and Business at the centre of your plans. In my view, this represents the only fighting chance we have of preserving jobs – so that people can keep on saving and spending – whilst generating profits and economic growth to keep the till ringing at the Exchequer with tax receipts for years to come (and so pay down our monstrous public deficit).

Central to this approach must be a “sleeves rolled-up” desire to discard with red-tape, bureaucracy and other hurdles to businesses getting on “with doing business” aligned with a clear vision and road-map of the UK as a great place to do business. This must be a long term plan backed with long term measures. No short term chopping and changing – we’ve had enough of this of late – as businesses want “certainty” so that they can plan for the future with the confidence that the rug will not be pulled out from under their feet anytime soon. (As an advisor, I agree that this would be nice too).

You have already set out in your coalition agreement that you will increase the rate of capital gains tax for individuals, however, I ask that you stick to your pledge to retain more attractive rates for investment in business assets and avoid implementing any cumbersome taper relief measures that cause wide-spread head-scratching. Keep it simple. In a similar vein, I ask that you withdraw the hideously complex restrictions on tax relief on pension contributions made by higher earners so that people can save for their retirement without having to navigate this minefield.

You have also expressed a wish to simplify corporation tax to make the UK one of the most competitive tax systems in the world. I wholeheartedly agree with this lofty goal but ask that you refrain from withdrawing tax incentives that have helped influence longer term business planning in a positive way such as R&D tax credits, enhanced capital allowances and the forthcoming patent income and gaming relief tax breaks. The UK’s highly successful entrepreneur and inventor, James Dyson, has called for the R&D tax credit to be retained and enhanced – although I question whether the relief should be aimed solely toward particular high tech sectors as Dyson suggests. Further, a recent report by NESTA points to recent findings that the fastest growing 6% of businesses generated 1/2 of the jobs created in the UK between 2002 – 2008 – what these companies had in common was a disproportionate tendency to be innovativeWe have the expertise to build innovative intellectual property rich businesses that become key exporters bringing cash into our country and you should seize this opportunity by demonstrating commitment via targeted tax incentives such as those noted above.

Capital allowances should continue to be used as a lever to encourage ‘greener’ investment and I would also like to see the Government implement tax-advantaged status for specific business parks or zones to encourage inward and internal investment in businesses spread across the UK. The increasing prominence and differential of London as a business centre compared to the rest of the UK regions needs recalibrating and such measures could help. This could also lead to much needed job opportunities in areas of high unemployment – particularly where painful planned public sector jobs cuts are implemented.

Given the substantial revenue raising potential of an increase in VAT rates, I can understand why this is likely to be a target for change. Most B2B businesses would suffer minimally from such an increase as they would pass on the cost in most cases, however, please be mindful of the pain likely to be suffered by UK retailers and customers alike. I would also ask that any planned phased increases take account of the administrative and labour costs of changing prices for each uplift and its timing (e.g. not over the Christmas busy season like your predecessors implemented please), if such an approach is ultimately planned.

Other matters I would like to see addressed include: no drastic cuts to the HMRC Time to Pay Arrangement which so many businesses have been relying on to spread their tax bills whilst the banks have been less willing to lend; a withdrawal of the planned 1% increase in Employer’s National Insurance contributions and some practical, workable solutions for married / civil couples to split their personal income tax allowances.

The above is just a handful of the sorts of changes I would like to see but my overall plea is that a long-term business friendly strategy is adopted that opens the door for new business start-ups, increased overseas inward investment and a supportive tax and business regime that gives every promising UK business a chance to flourish.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Best wishes and good luck for next Tuesday.

Yours sincerely

Steve Livingston

Have I missed anything?