The government has announced a revised timetable for the introduction of Making Tax Digital for Business (MTDfB).
MTDfB introduces extensive changes to how taxpayers record and report income to HMRC. Unincorporated businesses, including landlords, were expected to be the first to see significant changes in the recording and submission of business transactions but the government has announced a delay to the implementation of the new rules and some exceptions for smaller businesses.
The government had decided how the general principles of MTDfB will operate after receiving responses to their original ideas first published in August 2016. Some legislation was published in Finance Bill 2017 but this was removed due to the General Election.
Under MTDfB, businesses will be required to:
- maintain their records digitally, through software or apps
- report summary information to HMRC quarterly through their ‘digital tax accounts’ (DTAs)
- submit an ‘End of Year’ statement through their DTAs.
The new timetable is being introduced following concerns raised by the Treasury Select Committee, businesses and professional bodies about the implementation of the new rules and to hopefully ensure a smooth transition to a digital tax system.
Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury and Paymaster General said:
‘Businesses agree that digitising the tax system is the right direction of travel. However, many have been worried about the scope and pace of reforms.
We have listened very carefully to their concerns and are making changes so that we can bring the tax system into the digital age in a way that is right for all businesses.’
The government has confirmed that under the new timetable:
- only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will have to keep digital records and only for VAT purposes
- they will only need to do so from 2019
- businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HMRC quarterly, for other taxes until at least 2020.
This means that businesses and landlords with a turnover below the VAT threshold will not have to move to the new digital system.
Ministers have also confirmed that the Finance Bill will be introduced as soon as possible after the summer recess and that all policies originally announced to start from April 2017 will be effective from that date.
The government has also confirmed that the proposed changes to VAT reporting will come into effect from April 2019. From that date, businesses trading above the VAT threshold will have to provide their VAT information to HMRC through Making Tax Digital software.
The original plan from the government and HMRC would have forced the smallest businesses and sole traders to start quarterly reporting from April 2017, but those below the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will now be exempt from requirements to quarterly report until the government can reassess the plans.
Vociferous opposition to the rollout timetable from MPs, business and the influential Treasury Committee has resulted in the climbdown.
Full-blown quarterly reporting will not start before ‘at least 2020’ according to the ministerial statement.
Changes at the Treasury after the election seem to have resulted in a more sensible approach to the whole Making Tax Digital debacle.
The new minister in charge of Making Tax Digital, Mel Stride, financial secretary to the Treasury said: ‘Businesses agree that digitising the tax system is the right direction of travel. However, many have been worried about the scope and pace of reforms.
‘We have listened very carefully to their concerns and are making changes so that we can bring the tax system into the digital age in a way that is right for all businesses.’
It is likely that at least until 2020 Making Tax Digital will not be mandatory, and nearer the time (2020) the Treasury plans to reassess the situation and review mandatory requirements.
This will leave HMRC with a hole to fill as it had expected Making Tax Digital to generate an additional £500m in tax revenues a year, although many tax experts doubted whether this could be achieved, unless there was widespread abuse of the current system which the new digital reporting closed down.
The deferral will give more time for testing the system and HMRC will start the pilot for Making Tax Digital for VAT by the end of this year – this will give the tax profession time to test run a year’s worth of reporting before the VAT system goes live.
A Treasury source said that ‘the main concern is the pace of the change. We recognise that businesses need longer to adapt and so that is why we are saying that companies will not have to use quarterly reporting until at least 2020. VAT reporting under Making Tax Digital will be mandatory from 2019 but as companies already report VAT on a quarterly basis this will not be a major change.’
While the Treasury is totally behind the plans for digital tax reporting it is in listening mode and so has decided to back off the rather rapid timetable for introduction originally set out by HMRC and government officials.
This will also give HMRC more time to pilot quarterly reporting as there is only a limited pilot at the moment and some testing by software developers with their clients.
Software companies have welcomed the delay but warn that the government must not be complacent; the general lack of communications about the rollout of Making Tax Digital raised concerns with recent surveys of software clients showing low levels of awareness of the plans for Making Tax Digital.
In terms of quarterly reporting for incorporated businesses and large partnerships, ‘larger businesses will have to use Making Tax Digital for VAT only, regardless of the type of business, but not before at least 2020. Larger businesses will not have use Making Tax Digital for corporation tax reporting before at least 2020, although it is still not wholly clear whether they will ever have to enter the system due to the complexity of their tax compliance requirements.
Making Tax Digital will be available on a voluntary basis for the smallest businesses, and for other taxes. Businesses and landlords with a turnover below the VAT threshold will be able to opt to use the new digital reporting system but it will not be mandatory until ‘at least’ 2020.
The Treasury document states that under the new timetable:
- only businesses with a turnover above the VAT threshold (currently £85,000) will have to keep digital records and only for VAT purposes;
- they will only need to do so from 2019; and
- businesses will not be asked to keep digital records, or to update HMRC quarterly, for other taxes until at least 2020.
As VAT already requires quarterly returns, no business will need to provide information to HMRC more regularly during this initial phase than they do now.
All businesses and landlords will have at least two years to adapt to the changes before being asked to keep digital records for other taxes.
HMRC will start to pilot Making Tax Digital for VAT by the end of this year, starting with small-scale, private testing, followed by a wider, live pilot starting in spring 2018. This will allow for over a year of testing before any businesses are mandated to use the system.
The current pilots for non-VAT Making Tax Digital and quarterly reporting have been criticised as being too slow and lacking depth so the decision to delay the programme for at three years will be a major relief for tax advisers, accountants and small businesses.
John Preston, CIOT president, said: ‘Whilst we are supportive of the government’s long-term ambitions for digitalising the tax system, we have always called for this to be achieved in a measured and manageable way.
‘This deferral will give much more time for businesses, supported by their advisers, to identify for themselves, at their own pace, the benefits of digital record keeping. It will also ensure that many more software products can be developed and tested before mandation is reconsidered.’
Ministers also confirmed that the Finance Bill will be introduced as soon as possible after the summer recess. This will legislate for all policies that were included in the pre-election Finance Bill, raising over £16bn across the next five years to fund our vital public services. The wash-up Finance Act before the snap general election in June was a slimmed down version of the planned legislation, stripping out all but the most critical changes to tax rates and reliefs, and removing any complex tax changes due to the lack of time for effective scrutiny in parliament and through select committees.
The government has also re-confirmed that all policies originally announced to start from April 2017 will be effective from that date, including the changes to non dom rules and loss relief reform. Draft legislation for the Second Finance Bill will be issued today.
According to Home.co.uk, Scotland has seen the biggest fall with a 34.7% decrease in available properties to rent between July 2001 and June 2017. Wales has seen a fall of 28.1% while the south west has seen a decline of 26.5%.
Overall, seven out of 11 UK regions saw a fall in excess of the UK average. This includes a decrease of 24.6% in the East Midlands, a fall of 20.8% in the South East and a drop of 16.7% in the West Midlands.
Only the North East saw a rise in rental properties with 33.4% properties available to rent.
Due to people no longer being able to afford to buy they have no choice but to rent, this along with legislative changes in the sector mean that the number of rental properties available are falling.
Some landlords are selling up or downsizing their portfolios simply to avoid making a loss, resulting in falling supply, and those that remain in the sector are forced to raise their rents.
From April 2017, buy-to-let landlords are unable to offset their mortgage interest against their profits and over the next three years none of this interest will be tax deductible. The recent hike in stamp duty land tax (SDLT) has also hit landlords.
Due to these changes landlords have had to raise their rents. Wales has seen rents increase by 11.3% over the last year and, during the same period, Yorkshire has seen rents rise by 8.4%. In Scotland the last six months have seen an increase of 5.4% in the average rent.
In the South West rents are up 5.7% over the last 12 months while in the South East the average rent increase is 0.9% and in the East Midlands the rise over the same period has been 4.5%.
From April 2016 to March 2017 the median monthly rent in England recorded by the Valuation Office Agency was £675. The median rent in London (£1,495) was more than double the English median rent with the North East having the lowest median rent at £495.
Home.co.uk director Doug Shephard said: ‘It is ironic that the government’s justification for tax changes in the private rental sector was to ‘level the playing field’ for wannabe homeowners. The result of this barrage of red tape and taxation, at both local and national government levels, has meant that the supply of rental properties has fallen behind demand in most regions thereby driving up rents.
‘The “elephant in the room” for the government is that record low mortgage interest rates have driven unprecedented investment in the private rental sector over recent years. Simply put, those already with significant home equity have been able to come up with deposits for properties intended to let whilst aspiring homeowners are as cash-strapped as ever as they pay out huge sums in rent. However, ultra-low interest rates and the associated pain for renters look set to persist for the foreseeable future.’
Over 285,000 homeowners, including 240,000 first time buyers, were able to buy their homes with support from the government’s Help to Buy schemes. The average house price across the scheme is £193,826, which is below the average UK house price, and 90% of completions have taken place outside of London.
Stephen Barclay, Economic Secretary to the Treasury said: ‘We want to make sure that anyone who works hard and aspires to own their own home has that opportunity. That is why I am delighted that our Help to Buy schemes have now helped over 240,000 first time buyers across the country achieve home ownership.’
More than 120,000 completions have now taken place through the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, which offers buyers up to 20% of a newly-built home’s costs so they only need to provide a 5% deposit.
The North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the South West have seen the highest number of property completions using the Help to Buy: ISA. In total, 62,528 completions across the UK using the ISA bonus have taken place since launch in December 2015.
As the future bride of a multimillionaire hedge fund manager, Middleton has probably spent some time considering her financial position, but Sarah Ghaffari, ICAEW tax manager, says this has been the case for decades.
‘Staying engaged with tax rules has always been important for couples who are planning to get married. For example, a spike in March weddings in the 1950s and 60s can be explained by tax rules at the time- a married man received the full married man’s tax allowance as long as he was married before the end of the tax year,’ Ghaffari said.
While the weather rather than tax policy is now the key issue for most couples, and the summer months have now taken over as the most popular time to get married in England and Wales, ICAEW says guests should not overlook the tax relief available on their gifts to the bride and groom.
The institute says with more and more couples living together before marriage, it is becoming increasingly common for newlyweds to request gifts of cash rather than more traditional gifts such as a kettle or toaster for their new home.
Whatever the gift, all or part of it will be exempt from inheritance tax (IHT) provided the gift is made on or shortly before the date of the wedding or civil partnership ceremony.
The amount of tax relief will vary depending on the relationship between the donor and the recipient.
Each parent (including step-parents) can give up to £5,000 tax free; grandparents can each give up to £2,500; and any other person (such as relatives and friends) can each give up to £1,000.
For couples who both own properties, there will be capital gains tax (CGT) complications once they are married. The main residence exemption for CGT only applies to one property per married couple, so bridge and groom must decide which the exemption will be used for going forward and the second may eventually be taxable if it is sold for a profit.
HMRC does allow time to sort out such ‘overlaps’, but ICAEW points out that an unmarried couple using two houses as ‘homes’ can have one house each, so are much better off.
And in a final tip which may be useful in the Middleton marriage, Ghaffari said: ‘Remember, that if the wedding or civil partnership is called off and you still give a gift, it will not be exempt from inheritance tax. If the couple wish to give a gift to each other on their wedding day, it will be completely free from Inheritance Tax (IHT) and Capital Gains Tax (CGT).’
According to its March quarterly update, estimated receipts for Q1 2017 are £1.9bn from residential transactions and £789m from non-residential transactions. The estimated receipts from residential transactions are 16% higher than Q1 of 2016, while for the financial year 2016-17, the estimated receipts are 17% higher than in 2015-16.
However, the number of SDLT liable transactions in the first quarter is 5% lower than Q1 2016. There has been a 10% drop in the number of transactions in the £250,000 to £500,000 range, and a 14% drop in those valuations over £500,000.
HMRC’s analysis points out that SDLT liable transactions were unusually high at the beginning of the previous year, due to many buyers rushing to purchase ahead of the introduction of the higher rates on additional properties in April 2016. As a result, it says year-on-year comparisons for this quarter should be made with caution.
The figures include an estimate of SDLT receipts from ‘additional properties’ to which the additional 3% SDLT rate is applied, for example second homes and buy-to-let properties. For 2016-17 there have been 207,700 transactions of additional properties accounting for £3.2bn in total SDLT receipts, of which £1.6bn is attributed to the additional 3% element.
Meanwhile, data from the Nationwide building society shows that UK house prices fell for the second month in a row during April, down 0.4% in April, and the annual rate of price growth slowed to 2.6%, the weakest pace for almost four years.
HMRC Quarterly Stamp Duty Statistics report is here.
- The main rate of National Insurance contributions for the self-employed to increase from 9% to 10% in April 2018 and 11% in April 2019
- The Class 4 rate is levied on profits of more than £8,060 a year
- The increases, which will apply to earnings below £43,000, will raise £145m a year by 2021-22 at an average cost of 60p a week to those affected. All Class 4 earnings above £43,000 will be taxed at 2%
- Class 2 National Insurance, a separate flat rate contribution paid by self-employed workers making a profit of more than £5,965 a year, is to be scrapped as planned in April 2018
- No changes to National Insurance paid by the employed and employers or to income tax or VAT
- Personal tax-free allowance to rise as planned to £11,500 this year and to £12,500 by 2020
- £435m for firms affected by increases in business rates, including £300m hardship fund for worst hit
- Pubs with rateable value of less than £100,000 to get a £1,000 discount on rates they would have paid
- Rate rises for businesses losing existing relief will be capped at £50 a month
- A tax avoidance clampdown totalling £820m to include action to stop businesses converting capital losses into trading losses and introduction of UK VAT on roaming telecoms services outside the EU
- Review of taxation of North Sea oil producers
The state of the economy
- UK second-fastest growing economy in the G7 in 2016
- Growth forecast for 2017 upgraded from 1.4% to 2%
- But GDP downgraded to 1.6%, 1.7%, 1.9% in subsequent years, then 2% in 2021-22
- Annual rate of inflation forecast to rise from 2.3% to 2.4% in 2017-18 before falling to 2.3% and 2.0% in subsequent years
- A further 650,000 people expected to be in employment by 2021
- Annual borrowing £51.7bn in 2016-17, £16.4bn lower than forecast
- Borrowing forecast to total £58.3bn in 2017-18, £40.6bn in 2018-19, £21.4bn in 2019-20 and £20.6bn in 2020-21
- Public sector net borrowing forecast to fall from 3.8% of GDP last year to 2.6% this year, then 2.9%, 1.9%, 1% and 0.9% in subsequent years, reaching 0.7% in 2021-22. But borrowing still predicted to be £100bn higher by 2020 than forecast in March 2016
- Debt rose to 86.6% this year, but will fall to 79.8% in 2021-22
The Flat Rate Scheme is designed to simplify records of sales and purchases and was operating at a 14.5% rate but this is due to rise to 16.5%. It allows micro businesses and sole traders to apply a fixed flat-rate percentage to gross turnover to arrive at the VAT due. Flat rate turnover is different from standard VAT turnover. For example, as well as business income (eg, from sales), it includes the VAT paid on that income.
The guidance details the limited cost business rate and HMRC has produced a calculator to help businesses work out whether they are a limited cost business and will update individual sector rates when the new rules come into force.
The VAT flat rate used depends on the business type. If the rate changes, the new rate must be applied from the date it changes.
To meet the requirement of being a limited cost business the amount spent on relevant goods including VAT is either:
- less than 2% of VAT flat rate turnover: or
- greater than 2% of VAT flat rate turnover but less than £1,000 per year.
If a return is for less than one year, the figure is the relevant proportion of £1,000. For a quarterly return this is £250.
For some businesses this will be clear,other businesses, particularly those whose goods are close to 2% may need to complete this test each time they complete their VAT return. This is because businesses can move from a limited cost rate of 16.5% in one period to a relevant sector rate in another. This would happen if costs fluctuate above and below 2%.
In addition, this could mean that a limited cost trader ends up paying more VAT than on standard accounting. The HMRC guidance includes a number of examples:
Example 1: A business has a flat rate turnover of £10,000 a quarter. It spends £260 on relevant goods. This is more than 2% of the flat rate turnover and more than £250 so the rate they need to use is the sector rate for their business.
Example 2: A business has a flat rate turnover of £20,000 a quarter. It spends £325 on relevant goods. This is more than £250 but less than 2% of the flat rate turnover so the rate they need to use is 16.5%.
Example 3: A business has a flat rate turnover of £10,000 a quarter. It spends £225 on relevant goods. This is more than 2% of the flat rate turnover but less than £250 so the rate they need to use is 16.5%.
There are also details of the bridging period as businesses using the flat rate scheme will have to take into account the increase in rates and split the reporting periods to reflect the pre-rise and post-rise rates.
The list of so-called relevant goods and exempted items has also been updated but the individual rates for the 54 sectors captured by the rules, including eligible bussinesses providing a range of services from accounting to consultancy, hair dressing and small retail to pubs, dry cleaners, vehicle repair and veterinary supplies, to name a few.
Paragraph 4.4, 4.5 and 4.6 have been added to the original November VAT notice. There are also slight amendments to the rest of section 4.
This notice cancels and replaces Notice 733 (November 2016). The revised HMRC Notice 733 February 2017 on VAT Flat Rate Scheme is here
May has set out 12 objectives to follow to ‘build a truly global Britain’, saying that the UK cannot remain within the European single market as staying in it result in ‘not leaving the EU at all’. Instead she wants to ensure a ‘big free trade deal’ with Europe, despite admitting that she has not yet worked out how the UK will achieve this.
During her long-awaited speech, May revealed that government will put the final Brexit deal down to a vote in Parliament, despite previously fighting this decision.
May’s 12 objectives are as follows:
May expressed that she recognised how important certainty was, moving forward through the process, for businesses, the public sector and everyone else in the UK.
Control of laws
There will be an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and UK laws will be controlled and decided by government. Laws will be interpreted in courts in the UK not in Luxembourg, which is the case now.
Securing the union
May stressed the importance of union but the UK government must take back responsibility and will have control over foreign affairs. She mentioned taking into consideration Scotland’s Brexit plans.
Maintain common travel area with Ireland
The UK has always had a special relationship with Ireland and it is important that the UK works to retain the border.
May said: ‘We will have control of the number of people coming to Britain from the EU.
‘Controlled immigration can bring benefits to businesses but when the numbers get too high then public support for the system falters.’
Rights of EU nationals
The rights of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in Europe must be established and resolved as soon as possible.
Workers’ rights currently under EU law will be kept and built upon.
May said: ‘ 23 June was the moment that we chose to build a truly global Britain – the result of the referendum was not a decision to turn inward and retreat from the world.’
The UK will still reach out the allies across the globe and will continue to build relationships.
Leave the single market
If the UK is not part of the single market then it does not have to make any contributions to the EU. May wants to have a customs union agreement with the EU.
The UK should aim to stay one of the leaders of science and innovative advances.
The UK will continue to work with Europe on defence and foreign policy saying the response cannot be ‘to cooperate less but to cooperate more’. Intelligence and information will continue to be shared in order to beat terrorism and ‘threats to common security’.
There will be a phased implementation of Brexit to allow businesses time to plan and prepare.
In her speech May said: ‘ I want Britain to be a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe’, while stating, ‘we are leaving the European Union, we are not leaving Europe.’
As a result of May’s speech the pound recovered from $1.20 on Monday to become $1.21 against the dollar at the time of reporting.
Results from the latest Property Investor Survey conducted by Mortgages for Business found that 60% of respondents felt they would be directly affected by income tax relief changes, although 29% said they would not be hit.
Perhaps of more concern was the finding that one in ten landlords had not even heard about the imminent tax changes. Despite the tax changes only 9% of respondents said they planned to reduce their property portfolios in the next six months while 45% plan to invest in more properties and 46% will hold their investments as they are for the time being.
Those least affected are likely to be base rate taxpayers or landlords who manage their portfolios through limited company vehicles which are subject to corporation tax.
David Whittaker, CEO at Mortgages for Business said: ‘The percentages feel about right for the market in general and it has certainly been a tough 18 months or so for landlords.
‘We are still encouraging landlords who haven’t already taken professional advice on the matter to do so ASAP, as some may find that the new formula will tip them into the next tax bracket leaving them worse off.’
The results compare well with investor understanding of the new Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) guidelines on buy-to-let lending, which will curb loan to value rates. Some 60% of respondents said they understood the impact of the rule changes on how much they can borrow.
However, a quarter of respondents said they only partially understood the implications of the PRA guidelines.
From 1 January 2017, buy-to-let lenders are facing tighter affordability calculations. Worryingly the survey found that 9% of respondents did not know how the revised affordability calculations would affect how much they could borrow and 6% were completely unaware of the new guidelines.
The survey also found that landlords are continuing to move toward incorporation, with 32% of respondents owning at least one property in a limited company, up 2% on May 2016. Those holding property in companies tend to own four or more properties.
When asked whether future purchases would be made personally or using a limited company, 54% opted for the just incorporated route and 16% said they would use both.
These figures reflect the Limited Company Buy to Let Index, which in Q3 2016 showed that 63% of all new buy-to-let mortgage applications for purchases were made by landlords using corporate vehicles.
Five-year fixed rate mortgages are the most popular product type with 34% of respondents expressing a preference for this category of loan.
The majority of respondents (53%) have loans of between 50% and 74% LTV (loan-to-value) against their portfolios, with a further 25% having borrowing of between 25% and 49% LTV and 9% with borrowing of up to 24% LTV.
Despite a tougher operating environment, the proportion of landlords seeking to expand their portfolios rose to 45%, up from 41% in May 2016. This suggests that most are willing to absorb the increased costs, adapt strategies and remain in the property investment market, which still provides better returns than most alternative asset classes.
The average survey respondent owns between four and 10 investment properties, with 49% of respondents falling into this category. Additionally, 20% own two or three properties, 12% between 11 and 20, 10% a single property and 9%, 21 or more.
Full results and analysis of the Property Investor Survey November 2016.