FAQ’s

FAQ’s

Q. Last year my friend’s company; MC Ltd was having cash flow difficulties, so my company; IQ Ltd paid some the outstanding debts with MC’s suppliers. The amount paid was recorded as a debt between our companies. When looking at the books of IQ Ltd the VAT inspector told me I should reclaim the VAT on the invoices IQ paid on behalf of MC Ltd. Is that correct?

A. The VAT inspector is wrong. Only MC Ltd can reclaim the VAT shown on invoices from its suppliers, as MC Ltd is the company that received the goods or services, not IQ Ltd. You have treated the transaction correctly. This shows how important it is for your suppliers to make out invoices correctly. If the invoice is addressed to a business that did not receive the goods or use the services, the VAT cannot be reclaimed.

Q. In 2001 I sold my city centre property and relocated my business to a converted farmhouse with workshops. At the time my accountant said I didn’t have to pay capital gains tax on the sale of the city property, as the gain was rolled over into the workshops. If I now let my surplus workshops will I have to pay tax on the capital gain I made in 2001?

A. The gain you rolled into the cost of the workshops will not become payable until your sell those buildings. As long as you used the workshops for your own business at the time you bought them, the claim to roll-over the gain was valid and is not disturbed by changing the use of the buildings at a later date. However, as you no longer use the workshops for your own business you won’t be able to roll-over the 2001 gain once more when you sell those buildings and buy another business asset.

Q. I am employed to teach a few courses at a further education college and I buy a few books each year to help prepare for those courses. Can I claim the cost of those books against tax?

A. The scope for employees claiming expenses, which are not reimbursed by their employer, is very limited. The expenses must be incurred while the employee is performing the job, not to prepare for that job. So the cost of books purchased to improve your underlying knowledge cannot be claimed against tax. Many taxpayers have fought this point in the courts, and lost. It would be better to get your employer to reimburse you for the cost.

Q. I run two separate businesses (A Ltd and B) that have separate VAT registrations, as only one is a limited company. Both A and B use the cash accounting scheme which means the VAT due on sales is only accounted for when the payment is received. However, sometimes customers make payments to A which are due to B. I correct this by transferring funds from the bank account of A to B, or by setting-off the amounts owing between the businesses. When should I treat the payment due to B as being paid for my VAT records?

A. As your businesses have separate VAT registrations they are independent for VAT accounting purposes. Business B is only treated as receiving the payment when the money arrives in its bank account from an electronic transfer, or a cheque is received, as long as that cheque subsequently clears. It is irrelevant that the money has come via A’s bank account. Where the payment to B is made by you off-setting the amounts owing between A and B, you should treat B as receiving the money on the date you made this set-off. Warning, deliberately getting your customers to pay into the wrong account, or an undue delay in making a set off in order to defer payment of VAT, could be treated by HMRC as fraudulent behaviour.

Q. My husband died in 2007 and I have recently received a large tax demand in his name for the tax year 2007/08. I calculated there was no tax to pay, as his age adjusted personal allowance covered his pension income, and all the bank interest had taxed deducted by the bank. What should I do?

A. This tax demand is probably incorrect. Ring the tax office and ask them to check their figures against what you put on your late husband’s tax return. In particular query the amount of state retirement pension. The Tax office may have altered your husband’s state pension figure to the amount due for the full tax year, ignoring the fact the pension stopped at his death. The tax office should have told you they were ‘correcting’ the pension figure. If they didn’t do this send them a letter of complaint.

Q. I’ve been out of the country so I won’t be able to finalise my accounts and submit my tax return for 2007/08 until mid February 2009. I don’t think I owe any tax as I have made a loss for the year. Will I be charged the £100 penalty for a late tax return?

A. You will be sent a penalty notice if the tax office has not received your 2007/08 tax return by 1 February 2009. When you do submit your return and it shows you had no tax to pay at 31 January 2009 the penalty should be reduced to nil. However, do not delay completing your return as the Tax Inspector can ask the Tax Tribunal to impose a penalty of up to £60 per day to encourage you to file your outstanding tax return. This penalty will not be reduced even if you owe no tax.

Q. We have just taken on a new employee who has presented his form P45. But it’s an A4 sized back and white form, not the usual smaller shaded form. Is it a bad copy? If it is, what should we do?

A. Don’t panic. The format of the form P45 was changed last October, but there was not much publicity about it. The new form P45 is A4 sized, double its previous size, and it must be printed in black ink on to plain white paper, not onto pre-printed HMRC stationery. The new form is valid and includes all the information that was on the old form. There are also some new compulsory boxes: date of birth and gender for the employee, and the address and postcode for the former employer must be shown in full. The new format P45 will be compulsory for all employers from 6 April 2009.

Q. I have built up quite a good business as a music teacher with profits of about £80,000 a year. Should I incorporate my business?

A. The full answer to your question will involve a lot of detailed calculations concerning how much you want to draw from the business each year, what assets you use in the business – such as a car and musical instruments, and what other people may be involved – such as your spouse. However, your main consideration should be VAT. As a sole trader the private tuition you provide is exempt from VAT. However, because the service is one of private tuition, if you provide the same service as an employee of your own company, that tuition must be subject to standard rate VAT. If your customers are individuals they will see your prices increase by 15% once you start trading through your company.

Q. I retired from the civil service in 1992 and have just been informed that my civil service pension has been overpaid for every year since then. As this money has to be repaid to the Government will I get refund of the tax I paid on that income?

A. The overpayment of pension will be recouped by the Government by reducing the amount of pension you were due to receive from 6 April 2009. This reduction will be small and should be covered by the normal inflationary increase you would have at that time, so you will receive approximately the same pension in 2009/10 as you did in 2008/09. You will not have to repay a lump sum. Your tax position for earlier years will not be affected, and you will be taxed on the pension you actually receive in 2009/10.

Q. I formed my own IT contracting company in 1987, which made good profits. In 2006 that company bought the assets of several small record labels which were making a loss. In May 2008 I gave up IT contracting and my company has concentrated on music since then. The music business will probably make a loss in 2009. Can I set that loss back against the profits made by the combined music and IT businesses in 2008?

A. Yes you can. As both trades were active in 2008; the IT consultancy and the music business, there is no restriction on the amount of music business loss you carry back from 2009 to set against the profits made in 2008.

Q. In 2005 I retired from my architectural practice and sold my share of the business to the remaining partners. I invested the proceeds in Enterprise Investment Scheme shares (EIS), which I am about to sell, so I understand the gain from 2005 will now be taxed. Are there any reliefs I can claim to reduce that gain?

A. If the gain you made on selling your share in the architectural practice in 2005 would have qualified for entrepreneur’s relief, which is possible if you were a partner for at least a year, you can claim entrepreneurs relief on that 2005 gain when becomes taxable in 2009. Entrepreneur’s relief actually came into effect from 6 April 2008, but we pretend it was in place in 2005 for this test.

Q. A member of my staff has had a serious operation and will be away on sick leave for some weeks. If I send her flowers from the company will this be taxable as a benefit in kind?

A. HMRC ignore small gifts like flowers or chocolates to valued members of staff. They are classified as trivial benefits and are not taxable. If you were to send her a cash gift, or a gift voucher that would be taxable.

Q. I recently started a graphic-design business and I have applied for a VAT number but it hasn’t come through yet. Should I be adding VAT to my invoices or not?

A. The application for a VAT registration can sometimes take many weeks to be processed. If you haven’t received your VAT number you can’t issue a full VAT invoice that shows the separate VAT due and the VAT number. However, you will be required to pay over VAT on all sales made after the effective date of VAT registration that you put on the registration form. So you can’t show VAT on your invoices, but you will need to charge your customers a sufficient amount to include the VAT due. When your VAT number arrives you will need to issue full VAT invoices to all those customers you have invoiced since the effective date of VAT registration. Please contact us if you need more practical help on how to do this.

Q. The only income I have is about £10,000 from letting rooms in my own home. As this amount is covered by the rent-a-room relief of £4,250 plus my personal allowance of £6,475 I should have no tax to pay. But do I have to inform the Tax Office about this income?

A. Yes you do have to tell the Tax Office, and they should issue you with a self-assessment form to complete. Even if you have no tax to pay you need to declare the taxable income to the Tax Office. If you haven’t declared this rental income for some years you should make it clear to the Tax Office that you want to declare this income for the past years.

Q. I am under retirement age but not in employment. All my income comes from investments and a let property. Do I have to register to pay national insurance on any of my income?

A. You don’t have to pay national insurance (NI) on your savings or rental income, but you will have to complete a tax return to report your rental income to the Tax Office (see previous question). However, you should consider whether you have paid NI for enough complete tax years throughout your working life so far to qualify for the full state pension. If you will reach state pension age after 6 April 2010 you will only need 30 qualifying years in which you paid sufficient NI, to get the full state pension. You will also get NI credits for periods you were not in work such as a carer for a young child or disabled person. You may want to pay voluntary class 3 NI to top up your number of qualifying years to 30.

Q. My business requires me to spend up to 100 days a year away from home speaking at conferences. I always travel first class, to allow me to prepare notes on the train, and stay in four-star hotels. The Tax Inspector has said my expenses are excessive and I should only get a tax deduction for the cost of second class travel and two-star hotels. Is he correct?

A. The Tax Inspector is not correct. His own Employment Income Manual at paragraph EIM 31835 says: “The tests that apply to travel expense relate to the nature of the expense and not to the amount.” It goes on to say: “You should not refuse a deduction for first class rail travel, if that has been incurred, on the basis that the same journey could have been made more cheaply in standard class”. As long as the travel and hotel costs were incurred wholly and exclusive for your business of lecturing the full cost is tax deductible.

Q. I pay income tax at 40%, but my wife and child have no income at all. If I buy fixed income bonds in their names will the interest be effectively tax free, as it will be covered by their personal allowances?

A. When you buy the bonds in the names of your relatives you will be giving them the capital you invest, as they will have complete control of the bonds. There is no limit on the amount you can give to your spouse, although there could be inheritance tax implications. Your wife will be taxed on the interest from her bond, but if this does not exceed her personal allowance of £6,475, there will be no tax to pay. If your child is aged under 18, the interest from his bond will be taxed as part of your income if it exceeds £100 per year.

Q. If I start earning money from a website I have setup in my spare time, will I have to pay tax and national insurance on that income? I am also employed full time on a salary of £25,000 a year.

A. You should register your new web business with the tax office as a self-employed business. We can help you do this if you wish. Your self-employment will not affect your employment, and your employer need not know about your website business. However, you will have to complete a tax return each year to declare all of your income; from your business, employment and any investments. By registering as self-employed you will also be automatically registered to pay class 2 national insurance in respect of your self-employed profits. If these profits are expected to be less than £5,075 for the current year, you should complete form CF10 which is a request for exemption from paying class 2 national insurance.

Q. My company submitted a claim for a tax refund for £15,000 in January, but it still hasn’t materialised. We really need that cash now. I’ve chased the Tax Office but get some excuse about security checks. How long will I have to wait for this money?

A. HMRC have imposed extra security checks on many tax refunds in an attempt to block fraudulent claims that have been flooding the system. These extra checks are slowing up refunds to genuine businesses. A six month delay is quite exceptional. Try writing to your Tax Office suggesting you will take the matter to your local MP if you do not receive the tax refund within 10 days.

Q. In the last two years I have lent my company in excess of £40,000, but now the company is insolvent and I will not receive any of that money back. Can I claim any tax relief for that loss?

A. Assuming your company was a trading company, as opposed to a company that just holds investments, you can claim a capital loss for your loan. The Tax Inspector may ask you to show the cash was used for the company’s trade, rather than simply use to pay dividends, so be prepared to supply the company’s accounts if requested.

Q. I was made redundant on 27 February 2009 from a job that paid £16,000 a year. Almost immediately I found a part time job that pays about £9,400 a year. I made a claim for Tax Credits as I am working 30 hours a week now, but I’ve received a Nil award. What should I do?

A. Your initial Tax Credits award is based on your income for 2008/09, which was too high for you to qualify for Tax Credits, assuming you are a single person with no children. However, on your current wage you should qualify for about £1,200 a year in Tax Credits. Just ring the Tax Credits Office and tell them your current wage rate. They should revise your tax credits award within weeks.

Q. The interest rates available on personal deposit accounts are much higher than those for business deposit accounts. Can I withdraw money from my company’s account and deposit it in an account in my name, on the understanding that I hold the funds as an agent for the company? All the interest would be declared as the company’s income rather than my own.

A. The Taxman accepts this plan works if there is a trust deed in place which gives the company a legal right to the funds. However, will you be completely open with the bank when opening the deposit account in your name? If you declare you hold the funds as agent for the company you may not get the higher interest rate you seek, as the bank will view the account as a commercial rather than a private account.

Q. My company requires certain employees to attend trade shows in other countries. The company pays for all the travel costs including visas where necessary, and the employee’s passport, if one is not already held. Can the company claim the cost of the passport as well as the cost of the visas as a business expense?

A. Where the visa can specifically be linked to the requirement to attend the trade show it is a valid business expense for your company. If the employee makes no other personal trips in the country where the trade show is held there is no significant personal element for the employee, so there is no benefit in kind tax charge for the employee. The employee’s passport will last for 10 years, so the business element of the trip to the trade show will be tiny. Where the company pays for the passport it will be a benefit in kind for the employee that needs to be reported on the form P11D. However, if the terms of the employment require the employee to hold a passport the company can claim the cost of obtaining the passport as a business expense.

Q. I recently formed a new company which will take over the business I run in my sole name. The formation agent charged VAT on their invoice. Can my new company reclaim that VAT?

A. Yes, the company can reclaim the VAT in its first VAT return as long as it becomes VAT registered within six months of the formation of the company.

Q. I operate my own company from a room in my own home, and charge the company a small amount of rent for the space it uses. Can I claim rent-a-room relief for that income on my personal tax return?

A. The law says this tax relief can only apply where rent is received from letting ‘furnished accommodation in a residence’, where that residence is the taxpayer’s own home. Although the law doesn’t say that the let room itself must be used purely for residential purposes, that is how the Taxman interprets the law. The Taxman says that letting a room as an office does not qualify for the rent-a-room relief, and he will not budge from that view until a taxpayer wins a case on those grounds. So although the law is silent on the matter of what the let room must be used for, the Taxman is clear that he will not agree to rent-a-room relief for office space.

Q. I am a self-employed fitness instructor and I teach classes at a number of locations. What records do I need to keep regarding my motoring expenses?

A. If your turnover does not exceed the VAT registration threshold (currently £68,000), you have a choice as to how to record your motoring expenses. When you use your own car for business journeys you need to note down exactly the number of miles driven. The choice is then whether to charge those journeys to your business at the standard rate set by the Taxman: 40p per mile for the first 10,000 miles per year, and 25p per mile for additional miles, or at the actual cost of using your car. For the actual cost method you need to record the total cost of all costs related to your car from fuel to servicing and any loan interest costs. This total cost is then split between business and non-business parts based on the total business miles driven in the entire year. You should also record any additional costs such as parking or tolls.

Q. My company is likely to fold soon leaving a number of debts including PAYE and VAT owing. Can HMRC demand that I pay those taxes personally after the company closes?

A. Anyone who was a director, manager or company secretary of the company, can be landed with a personal liability notice (PLN) for unpaid NI that was due from the company. The Taxman does not issue a PLN very often, but he will do so if he believes the company intentionally avoided paying NI. A similar power can be used to collect PAYE tax payable by the company, from the directors. If the Taxman believes the company has fraudulently avoided paying VAT he can transfer any VAT penalties to the directors or managing officers of the company.

Q. My payroll clerk accidentally overpaid the PAYE payable by my company for 2008/09. I have rung the PAYE office, but they refuse to repay the amount or reallocate it to another period. What can I do to get the money back?

A. Ask the PAYE office for the overpayment review form P35D. Complete this with as much information about how the mistake in overpaying arose, and send it back. If the repayment doesn’t arrive, chase by phone, and make a note of exactly who you speak to, and what they say. If no repayment is forthcoming, consider making a formal complaint to HMRC.

Q. I’ve received a new PAYE coding notice that shows tax is due on a negative figure. What does this mean?

A. A negative PAYE code, or ‘K’ code (due to the letter K used), means your personal allowances for the tax year are less than untaxed income and benefits which have been included in the code. Your employer or pension provider will add the negative figure from this code to your annual income rather than deducting it, as they would with a normal PAYE code. However, please check that all your allowances are included in the code. If you are married and were born before 6 April 1935 you may be due a married couples’ allowance. In some cases the married couples’ allowance has been missed from PAYE codes issued since 1 July 2009. If this applies to you, ring the Tax Office number shown on your coding notice, or ask us to check your code for you.

Q. My elderly aunt wants to give me a seaside chalet, which she inherited when her mother died in 1985. If I accept this gift will I have to pay tax on it?

A. You won’t have to pay any tax when you take ownership of the property. However, your aunt should declare the gift on her tax return. If the increase in value in the property between the 1985 value when she inherited it and its value when the property passes to you, is greater than her annual capital gains exemption (currently £10,100), she will have to pay capital gains tax at 18% on any excess above the unused exemption amount. The value of the chalet at the date of the gift could also be subject to inheritance tax at 40%, if your aunt dies within seven years of making the gift. However, inheritance tax will only apply if the value of your aunt’s total estate on death, plus all the capital gifts she has made in the previous seven years, exceeds the IHT exempt band. This is currently £325,000, and will rise to £350,000 on 6 April 2010. This exempt band could be doubled if your aunt is a widow when she dies.

Q. I run a mixed arable and dairy farm in my own name, and my wife operates a holiday accommodation business from two of the farm cottages. The VATman has said that we should treat both businesses as one and charge VAT on the holiday lettings. He has also sent us a bill for past VAT due of £10,000. What should we do?

A. Holiday accommodation should be subject to VAT at the standard rate if the total turnover of the business is higher than the compulsory VAT threshold (currently £68,000). The VATman wants to combine the turnover of the farm, with your wife’s holiday lettings business to reach this threshold. This can only be done if he can show that the two businesses are bound together on an economic, financial and organisational basis. Also the two businesses can only be treated as one business for VAT purposes from a current date, not some date in the past. You should appeal against the VAT bill of £10,000 and discuss with us how the businesses can be shown to be independent in the future. For instance the farm could charge the holiday business a small rent for the cottages used for letting.

Q. I am currently employed but I plan to start an internet-based business in my spare time, which will take about 18 months to break even. I will continue with my current job until the new internet business is making good profits. What is the best way to structure the new business so I can take full advantage of any losses it makes in the first two years?

A. If you run the new business in your own name as a sole trader, any losses made in its first four years will be available to set against your employment income. This applies as long as the Taxman does not see you as an ‘inactive’ trader, in which case the use of the losses against your other income will be restricted. To show the Taxman you are not an ‘inactive’ trader, you must spend an average of at least 10 hours per week on the new business, and make some record of the hours you work. You should also draw up a business plan to prove the business is run on a commercial basis with a view to making a profit in the future.

Q. About ten years ago I acquired all the various versions of the domain names relevant to the trading name used by my business. These domain names have always been held in my own name, although the business is now run through a company. I have just had an offer for the company and one of the domain names, which values the domain name at £3 million. How will the Taxman tax the profit on the sale of the domain name: as income profits or a capital gain?

A. If we assume the full £3 million represents the profit on the sale of the domain name, as the original purchase price was probably very small, the difference in the tax payable under an income or capital treatment will be approximately £660,000 (£3 million x 22%). This is because gains are currently taxed at 18%, and an income profit would be taxed at your highest personal income tax rate of 40%.

Your intention when acquiring the domain names was to protect the trading name of your business, not to sell on those domain names at a profit. You were holding the domain names as an investment, not as stock to be traded. The profit on the sale of the domain name should be treated just like the sale of any other investment; as a capital gain. Report the sale on the capital gains tax pages of your tax return, and provide as much information as possible about the original purchase cost and sale value in the blank space on those tax return pages. You may be able to claim entrepreneurs’ relief on up to £1 million of the gain, if the sale of the domain name is associated with the sale of your company. The rules for this tax relief are complex, so please discuss the details of the deal with us first.

Q. I have acquired a personalised number plate that spells out the name of my business. Can I put it on my business vehicle and claim tax relief for the cost?

A. The Taxman views the cost of a personalised number-plate, over and above what you have to pay to register the car, as an intangible capital asset. Companies can claim a deduction in their accounts for intangible assets acquired since 1 April 2002, but unincorporated businesses cannot. If your business is a company it can write-off the cost of the number plate over a reasonable period, which the Taxman will normally accept to be up to 20 years. If you trade in your own name or as a partnership, your business cannot claim a deduction for the cost, as the number plate does not qualify for capital allowances.

Q. My employer has just paid me a substantial sum described as ‘damages’ to compensate me for an injury I received at work. Will this payment be taxable?

A. Any payment to compensate for personal injury is not taxable. This applies whether the compensation is paid in one lump sum or as a series of periodic payments. Interest paid as part of the damages award is also tax free but interest paid because of the late payment of the award will be taxable.

Q. Can I set-off the losses from my sole-trader business against my employed income for the year?

A. Yes you can set the losses from your sole-trader business against your earnings from your employment in the same tax year, or in the previous tax year. If you started your sole trader business in the last four years, you can set-off the loss against your other income from the previous three tax years. However, the Taxman will need to be convinced that your sole-trader business is a real commercial business and not just a personal interest that you don’t expect to generate a profit from. You will need to submit a personal tax return showing the business turnover, expenses and resulting loss. If your business turnover for tax year 2008/09 is £30,000 or more you will need to provide details on your tax return of the various categories of tax allowable expenses.

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