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Draft clauses for forthcoming Autumn Budget are published

The Finance Bill 2018-19 draft legislation was published on 6 July 2018. The Bill which runs to 226 pages (with a further 143 pages of explanatory notes) contains the legislation for many of the tax measures that had previously been announced by the government as well as new initiatives.

The publication of the draft Finance Bill is in line with the approach to tax policy where the government committed to publishing most tax legislation in draft for technical consultation before the legislation is laid before Parliament.

The Bill is open for comment until 31 August 2018 and the draft legislation is subject to change. The final Finance Bill will be published shortly after Budget 2018 which is expected to take place in November this year. The Bill, colloquially known as Finance Bill 2018-19, will become Finance Act 2019 after Royal Assent is received.

Supporting documentation for 33 separate measures have been published. This includes changes to rent-a-room relief, simplification of donor rules for Gift Aid, Corporation Tax reform of loss relief rules, changes to the VAT grouping eligibility requirements and a new points-based penalty regime for certain regular tax filings.

Commenting on the publication of the draft Finance Bill, Mel Stride, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said:

‘Britain is one of the best places in the world to do business, and we’re determined to see that continue. This legislation illustrates our commitment to creating an environment in which innovation and enterprise can thrive, while ensuring that everyone plays by the same rules.’

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Rules for use of taxable cars and vans to be updated

The Finance Bill 2018-19 draft clauses include new measures that will address two anomalies in the Optional Remuneration Arrangements (OpRA) rules.

These measures will:

  • ensure that when a taxable car or van is provided through OpRA, the amount foregone, which is taken into account in working out the amount reportable for tax and National Insurance contributions purposes, includes costs connected with the car or van (such as insurance) which are regarded as part of the benefit in kind under normal rules
  • adjust the value of any capital contribution towards a taxable car when the car is made available for only part of the tax year.

The proposed legislation will ensure that the OpRA rules work as intended.

The Finance Bill 2018-19 will also introduce another car related measure that will see the introduction of legislation to remove any tax liability for charging electric cars or plug-in hybrids at or near a workplace. This measure will have retroactive effect from 6 April 2018.

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Beneficiaries of tax exempt pension benefits to be extended

The draft Finance Bill includes a new measure that will help modernise the tax treatment of employer paid premiums for the provision of death in service life assurance products for their employees. 

Currently, these premiums are only tax-exempt if the named beneficiary is a member of the employee’s family, or a member of their household. This includes the employees spouse or civil partner, parents, children and members of the employee’s household (such as domestic staff). As the law stands, if the beneficiary is not a member of the employee’s family or household, the premiums paid by the employer are treated as a taxable benefit in kind.

This new measure will see the tax exemption modernised and extended to include any individual or registered charity as a beneficiary. The inclusion of registered charities is in line with the government’s policy of providing tax relief on charitable donations and has been welcomed by the charity sector.

The changes will also apply to employer contributions to qualifying recognised overseas pension schemes (QROPS). The government has said that these changes are being made to ensure the tax system remains relevant and fair and to reflect societal changes. The new measures are expected to take effect from 6 April 2019.

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Rent-a-room relief to be modified

The publication of the draft Finance Bill 2018-19 includes legislation to change the way the rent-a-room relief scheme works. Following last year’s Budget, a consultation was launched by HM Treasury to examine the design of the rent-a-room scheme.

When the relief was first launched it was intended to be used where one bedroom in a house was rented out to a lodger for medium to long-term lets, however this has changed as more and more people rent out rooms online for short term lets using property portals and apps (such as AirBnB).

The new legislation will introduce a new test that must be satisfied in order to be eligible for the relief. The test requires that the individual or individuals in receipt of rental income, need to share occupancy of the residence for all, or part of the period, of occupation which gives rise to the receipts. This change will mean that the relief will not be available if the owner is absent for the whole period that they sub-let rooms.

If an individual lets their house and is away for only part of the rental period, then the rental would be eligible for rent-a-room relief. The initial consultation also suggested the removal of relief for rentals of less than 30 days. However, this measure has not been included in the new legislation. The changes are expected to come into force from April 2019.

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Bereavement payments

The Bereavement Allowance was a weekly benefit that was payable to certain widows, widowers, or surviving civil partners whose spouse or civil partner died before 6 April 2017. Prior to that date, it was also possible for qualifying applicants to claim the Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Payment.

The new Bereavement Support Payment was launched on 6 April 2017. The Bereavement Support Payment replaced Bereavement Allowance, Widowed Parent’s Allowance and Bereavement Payment. If you lose your spouse or civil partner on or after 6 April 2017 you may be eligible to claim the Bereavement Support Payment.

You could be eligible to claim if your partner either paid National Insurance contributions for at least 25 weeks or died because of an accident at work or a disease caused by work. You must also be below the State Pension Age in order to claim Bereavement Support Payment. The new system of state bereavement payments usually means a more generous initial bereavement payment, but further support payments may be less than under the old system.

HMRC has a specialist bereavement services team that deals with PAYE and Self Assessment issues which arise when a taxpayer dies. In most cases, the team provides family members or personal representatives with a single point of contact when finalising the PAYE and Self Assessment affairs of the deceased.

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Selling digital services to EU based customers

There are a number of VAT issues to consider if you are selling digital services from the UK to consumers based in other EU countries. Since 1 January 2015, the place of supply rules for these types of service is determined by the location of the customer who receives the service rather than the location of the supplier.

Digital services include things like radio and television broadcasting, telecommunications services and electronically supplied services such as video on demand, downloadable music, games, apps, software and ebooks.

The definition of digital services does not include the sale of goods where the order and processing is done electronically, services of lawyers and financial consultants who advise clients through email or advertising services, supplies of physical books and advertising services in newspapers, on posters and on television.

Planning note

If you are deemed to be suppling digital services to consumers in other EU countries you must either register for VAT in each country where you are supplying digital services or sign up to use the VAT Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) service.

The MOSS scheme is an electronic system that allows businesses to register in only one EU member state and submit a single VAT return and payment each quarter for all their cross-border supplies of digital services. If you are unsure as to the correct VAT liability of the digital services you are providing, we can help.

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What is Business Asset Rollover Relief?

Business Asset Rollover Relief allows taxpayers to delay paying Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on gains when they sell or dispose of certain assets and use all or part of the proceeds to buy new assets. The relief means that the CGT due on the gain of the old asset is postponed. The amount of the gain is effectively rolled over into the cost of the new asset and any CGT liability is deferred until the new asset is sold.

Where only part of the proceeds from the sale of the old asset is used to buy a new asset a partial rollover claim can be made. It is also possible to claim for provisional rollover relief where you expect to buy new assets but haven’t done so yet. Interestingly, rollover relief can also be claimed if you use the proceeds from the sale of the old asset to improve assets you already own. The total amount of rollover relief is dependent on the total amount reinvested to purchase new assets.

There are qualifying conditions to be met to ensure entitlement to any relief. These include ensuring that you purchase the new assets within 3 years of selling or disposing of the old ones (or up to one year before). Under certain circumstances, HMRC has the discretion to extend these time limits. In addition, both the old and new assets must be used by your business and the business must be trading when you sell the old assets and buy the new ones.

Planning note

It may be more beneficial to claim entrepreneurs’ relief (if eligible) and pay the CGT due at the lower 10% rate at the time of the disposal of the old asset.

Planning for significant CGT disposals is recommended and we would be happy to help advise you on the best course of action to take.

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Spousal tax reliefs for unmarried couples?

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has decided that the law preventing opposite sex couples from entering into a civil partnership breaches the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The appellants in this long running case are an opposite sex couple with a conscientious objection to marriage.

The crux of this case centred on the issue that when the law was changed in 2013 to allow same-sex couples to marry the older civil partnership rules remained the same. This meant that only two people of the same sex could enter into a civil partnership whilst both same-sex and opposite sex couples could both choose to marry. This created a new inequality affecting opposite sex couples, who for whatever reason, would prefer to enter into a civil partnership rather than marry. Interestingly both the High Court and Court of Appeal had already dismissed the couples claims of discrimination.

Although the couple have won their case, it remains to be seen exactly how the government will remedy this inequality. This may take some time and we are likely to see the eventual widening of the civil partnership rules that will allow all unmarried couples to benefit. The civil partnership rules effectively provide for the same tax reliefs as for married couples together with many other legal protections.

Cohabiting (same-sex and opposite sex) couples currently have limited legal rights and they should carefully consider their position especially when purchasing property together or building a family.