Budget Day Bombshell?

We are indebted to Richard Dyson of The Daily Telegraph for this news on pensions. Though we stress that it’s a forecast and not an absolute certainty.

A tax break set to be axed within weeks

And at the same time, we need to remind you that we are not authorised to provide pensions advice, but we can tell you about tax law and possible changes to it. If we are to believe everything which we read in the Press, which we hear in Accounting Bulletins and which we learn on our CPD courses, then the March 2016 Budget is going to squeeze middle Britain like never before.

201601240504mattCartoonPensionAdviceMatt Cartoon
Pension adviser: “Have you considered befriending a wealthy despot?”

George Osborne has already announced that new punitive tax rates will be applied to dividend income from 6 April 2016 and that buy to let landlords will be hit with restrictions on tax relief. Now, it seems that higher rate taxpayers who have private pensions will also be hit.

If you’re a higher rate tax payer investing in pensions, and you’re used to getting 40% (or 45%) tax relief on pensions, then you may be shocked to see that tax relief reduced to 20%. Let’s assume you’re a 40% taxpayer. Up to now, for every £1,000 you added to your private pension, you gained an instant 20% boost as The Exchequer would add £250 to your pension pot, and your pension provider would then have £1,250 to invest on your behalf. Then, a few months down the road, you do your Self Assessment Tax Return, you get back (in your hand effectively) another 20% (being another £250), because your tax bill is reduced by that amount.

That means that your pension provider has a pot of £1,250 which cost you £750 of your money. That’s how 40% tax relief works.

Now if, as seems likely, the Chancellor changes the rules on 16 March 2016 then you may find that your tax relief is restricted to 20% and thus your pension provider will have a pot of £1,250 which in future costs you £1,000 of your money.

Richard Dyson of the Telegraph suggests you pour your money into pensions now, before this forecasted measure is introduced. Our view is that, if you were going to be investing in your pension anyway, in 2016/17 and later years, then you could potentially get more tax relief by bringing forward that investment and doing it in 2015/16 and preferably before Budget Day on 16 Mar 2016.

Is there any alternative? Well perhaps yes! For those of you who are a director and shareholder of a UK limited company, get your company to invest in a pension, rather than do it yourself. All things being equal, your company will get tax relief at its company rate, and your personal income from the company can come down to match the contributions. That way, you’ll find that rather than funding your pension out of your own taxed income, you’ll have a lower income, a lower tax bill, and your company will have a lower tax bill too!

 

The Pensions Regulator Letter

Proactive is not authorised to give pensions advice, and the comments here are a guide to complying with new legislation. It is not a guide to pensions!

The Government decided in about 2012 to shake up UK pension provision, and as a result, a lot of smaller businesses have to comply with the new laws from 2015 or 2016. It appears that they launched a campaign in Spring 2015, sending letters like this example, to the smallest of UK employers.

Oddly, if the new legislation does not apply to you, then you still have to comply with the new legislation, by telling The Pensions Regulator that the new legislation does not apply to you! That’s law makers for you! The key question to consider is “do I have any eligible employees”? The long answer is to be found on the The Pensions Regulator web site.

The short answer is “if you have staff with a contract of employment and a decent wage” then you probably have to provide some pension arrangements. The key in all this is “contract of employment” and if this is an issue for you then you may need a dedicated payroll service.

What if you are a director of your own company, with no employment contract and a very basic salary? We found another short answer (well not exactly short, but shorter) on the Accounting Web UK forum.

That means two things:

  • Proactive can continue to provide you with basic payroll services.
  • You have to notify The Pensions Regulator that the new legislation does not apply to you.

If you visit the page below on the Regulator’s website you will find a pre-populated email to send to them which should ensure the record is updated to show that the small business is not an employer.

http://www.thepensionsregulator.gov.uk/employers/what-if-i-dont-have-any-staff.aspx

For those of you who don’t like to rely on form to email solutions like that one, here’s the text of the standard message which you can use to send your own email to customersupport@autoenrol.tpr.gov.uk or send a Recorded Delivery or Special Delivery letter on your business letterheaded paper to the address shown.

The Pensions Regulator The Pensions Regulator
PO Box 16314 Napier House
Birmingham Trafalgar Place
B23 3JP Brighton
BN1 4DW

I confirm that [add your company name here] is not an employer for the purposes of automatic enrolment for the following reason.

[please select one option from the list below and delete the others]

  1. There is only one director and there are no other staff working for the company.
  2. The only people working for the company are directors and none of them have an employment contract.
  3. The only people working for the company are directors and only one of them has an employment contract.
  4. The company does not or no longer employs any staff because it has ceased trading/is terminally insolvent eg has gone into liquidation/has been dissolved.

The letter code for the company is: [add your letter code here]

The PAYE scheme(s) reference is: [add your PAYE reference(s) here]

The Companies House number (where applicable): [add your Companies House number (if you have one) here]

The name, email address, address and telephone number of contact at the company: [add these details here]

You may already have enough email to deal with, so rather than send an email (which automatically provides them with an email address for you) send them a letter by Special Delivery as a number of our clients have suggested!

Dissolve a company or put it on ice?

Hopefully, running your own business has been a good experience. When business comes to an end, we know that the double barrelled question “should I dissolve my company or put it on ice” is often asked.

If you have finished with the company and no longer need it, then dissolve it. Keeping it will only add to your costs. A simple dissolution guide is here.

It is not possible to ever make a traded company become truly dormant again. There will always be things to do. A dormant company is one which has been incorporated and which has never traded. So if you want to put your traded company “on ice” you should be aware that Companies House will still want a Confirmation Statement every year, and you will still have to file statutory accounts. You cannot use the Companies House form DCA (Dormant Company Accounts) to do this, because there will be legacy figures which are carried forward each year.

So it’s up to you. Keep the company alive and do the annual submissions yourself to keep costs down. Or keep paying the accountant (a reduced fee) to stay on side with the government.

We know from experience that people who “put the company on ice” normally keep it there for about three years, keep paying professional fees, and then go and dissolve the company anyway. If that’s going to be you, then maybe you should take the easy option and just dissolve it now? You can always incorporate a new company later.

If you do want to keep the company on ice (and not use it at all) we will discount our fees by 50%. However if the company is used, even if it’s for just one project earning one fee, then normal accounts are needed and normal fees will apply. OK, if it was genuinely only one project and one fee then you may not need to pay exactly 100% of our standard costs, but it will be something nearer to 100% than to 50%.

New company reference numbers

When a new company is incorporated, both Companies House and HMRC will issue reference numbers. This may take between 14 and 28 days. In order to submit documents electronically, we need to ask you to let us know the reference in each case.

HM Revenue & Customs call it a Unique Taxpayer Reference or a UTR. Companies House talks about an authentication code. Examples of the tax office form and the Companies House letter are shown below. In each case, please let us know the reference or the code. We don’t need the letter, just a simple email with the reference or the code, thanks.

Once we have the reference number from HMRC we will complete the form CT41G for you using our own electronic proforma. You do not need to do anything with the original paper form. File it in your system just in case you need the UTR later.

We will check that the Companies House authentication code works on their  web site, and then we’ll keep it safe pending the submission of various forms in future.

Company Dissolution

Once you have decided that a company is no longer needed, it can easily be dissolved. You must first ensure that the accounts and corporation tax return for the final period of trading have been submitted and that any tax liability has been paid.

If there is a tax repayment for the final year, you will want to have received that before you close the bank account and dissolve the company. If a company still has money in a bank account on the date of dissolution, you will forfeit that money and it is sent to the government’s Solicitor General. It is a nightmare to get a company reinstated and then recover money from the Solicitor General. So we recommend that you complete your finances first and only then, dissolve your company.

Do not close the company bank account until your tax affairs are settled!

Do close the company bank account before the dissolution form goes in!

If Proactive has prepared the accounts and tax return for the final period of trading then we will be in position to work on the dissolution for you. This normally involves a fee which might be waived in the simplest of cases.

If you want to do this yourself and have an account with Companies House then you can start the process here:

https://guidedfiling.companieshouse.gov.uk/start?t=DS01

The procedure has to allow for legal notices to be published in the London Gazette over a 2 or 3 month period. It normally takes around 3 to 4 months to have a company dissolved. Once the process has been started, no more forms should be sent to Companies House for this particular company, none whatsoever. If that happens, the dissolution process will be cancelled. You will need to start the whole thing again!

If you need further advice, please contact us.