Pre-trading expenditure

There are special tax reliefs for pre-trading expenses that are incurred before a business starts trading. These could include expenses that are required to help a business prepare for trading such as buying stock and equipment, renting premises, taking out insurance and initial advertising expenditure. 

A deduction may be allowed where the following conditions are met: 

  • The expenditure is incurred within a period of seven years before the date the trade, profession or vocation commenced, and
  • the expenditure is not otherwise allowable as a deduction in computing the profits of the trade, profession or vocation but would have been so allowable if incurred after the trade had commenced.

To be allowable, the pre-trading expenditure must be incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the relief. This means that no relief would be allowed where pre-trading expenses would not have been tax deductible if they had been incurred when the business was trading.

The business should keep accurate records relating to pre-trading expenditure to demonstrate that the expenses qualify.

Qualifying pre-trading expenditure is treated as incurred on the day on which the trade, profession or vocation is first carried on. 

Capital expenditure does not qualify for this relief but there are other special provisions for capital allowances. 

Restarting a dormant or non-trading company

HMRC must be informed when a non-trading or dormant company starts trading again and becomes active for Corporation Tax. Companies can use HMRC Online Services to supply the relevant information. 

When a company has previously traded and then stops, it would normally be considered as dormant. A company can stay dormant indefinitely, however there are costs associated with doing this and certain filings must still be made to Companies House. The costs of restarting a dormant company are typically less than starting from scratch again. 

The following steps are required:

  1. Tell HMRC that your business has restarted trading by registering for Corporation Tax again.
  2. Send accounts to Companies House within 9 months of your company’s year end.
  3. Pay any Corporation Tax due within 9 months and 1 day of your company’s year end.
  4. Send a Company Tax Return – including full statutory accounts – to HMRC within 12 months of your company’s year end.

Whilst reporting dates for annual returns and accounts should remain the same. The Corporation Tax accounting period is different and is set by reference to when the company restarts business activities.

Companies can claim super-deduction from 1 April

The new super-deduction tax break, that will allow companies to deduct 130% of the cost of any qualifying investment from their taxable profits, is available on most new plant and machinery investments that ordinarily qualify for 18% main rate writing down allowances. This means that for every £1 a company invests they can reduce their Corporation Tax bill by up to 24.7p. The new temporary tax relief applies on qualifying capital asset investments from 1 April 2021 until 31 March 2023. 

The super-deduction is designed to help companies finance expansion in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and help to drive growth. This change makes the Capital Allowance regime more internationally competitive, lifting the net present value of the UK’s plant and machinery allowances from 30th in the OECD to 1st.

Commenting on the introduction of the super-deduction, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said:

'The super-deduction is the biggest two-year business tax cut in modern British history – driving our economy by helping businesses to invest, grow and support our Plan for Jobs. I urge firms across the UK to invest in our recovery by taking advantage of this great opportunity.'

An enhanced first year allowance of 50% on qualifying special rate assets has also been introduced for expenditure within the same period. This includes most new plant and machinery investments that ordinarily qualify for 6% special rate writing down allowances. 

The measures have effect in relation to qualifying expenditure from 1 April 2021 and excludes expenditure incurred on contracts entered into prior to Budget day on 3 March 2021. 

Spring Budget 2021 – Corporation Tax

The Chancellor confirmed that the Corporation Tax main rate will remain at 19% from 1 April 2021 for the next 2 years. The main rate had been expected to increase to help pay the massive costs of the coronavirus pandemic to the public purse. 

However, the Corporation Tax main rate will increase to 25% from 1 April 2023 for companies with profits over £250,000. The Chancellor also announced the introduction of a Small Profits Rate (SPR) of 19% from the same date for companies with profits of up to £50,000. 

Where a company has profits between £50,000 and £250,000 a marginal rate of Corporation Tax will apply that bridges the gap between the lower and upper limits. The lower and upper limits will be proportionately reduced for short accounting periods and where there are associated companies.

The Diverted Profits Tax (DPT) will increase from 1 April 2023 from 25% to 31% to maintain the current 6% differential with the main rate of Corporation Tax. The DPT is an anti-avoidance measure that targets large multinational businesses that are deemed to be using contrived and artificial arrangements to divert profits overseas thereby paying less or no tax in the UK.

This announcement gives some short-term relief to businesses, many of whom had expected rates to increase before April 2023. 

Accounts and tax for companies

If you have recently setup a new limited company or are thinking of doing so then one of the areas that you need to be aware is the accounts and tax filing regime for companies.

After the end of its financial year, a private limited company must prepare full annual accounts and a company tax return. The deadline for filing the first set of accounts with Companies House is 21 months after the date the company was registered with Companies House. Annual accounts must be submitted 9 months after the company’s financial year end.

There is a fixed date for the payment of Corporation Tax which is 9 months and 1 day after the end of the relevant accounting period. Note that a company is usually required to pay the tax due in advance of the filing deadline for a company tax return.

In most cases a company’s tax return must be submitted within 12 months from the end of their accounting period. Online Corporation Tax filing is compulsory for company tax returns. Company tax returns have to be filed using the iXBRL data standard using either HMRC’s own software or third-party commercial software.

The accounting period for Corporation Tax is normally the same 12 months as the company financial year covered by the annual accounts. Note that there are penalties for filing late with Companies House and HMRC.

Carry a company trading loss back to previous years

Corporation Tax relief may be available where your company or organisation makes a trading loss. A qualifying trading loss may be used to claim relief from Corporation Tax by offsetting the loss against profits in previous years.

This could be an especially useful option for the many companies that have been adversely affected during the pandemic and may have incurred significant losses. Carrying back a trading loss would allow companies to seek relief for the losses by carrying them back to an earlier profit-making period resulting in a possible reclaim of Corporation Tax.

Usually, such a claim could only be made once a Corporation Tax return has been prepared and submitted to HMRC. However, in exceptional cases HMRC will allow claims to be carried back based on anticipated losses before the end of a current accounting period. Companies making a submission to HMRC requesting the early carry back of losses would need to provide HMRC with full evidence to support such claims.

Losses may only be carried back against profits of a preceding accounting period if the company was carrying on the trade (in which the loss was incurred) at some time in that accounting period.

Any claim for trading losses forms part of the Company Tax Return. 

Different rules apply if a company makes a loss in its final period of trading.

R&D tax relief for SMEs

There are two schemes for claiming R&D tax relief – the Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Scheme and the R&D Expenditure Credit (RDEC) Scheme for large companies.

The SME scheme offers more generous reliefs to qualifying companies. The amount of R&D tax relief available depends on the total qualifying spend on R&D activities. A company is defined as an SME if staff headcount is less than 500, and turnover is less than €100m or the balance sheet total is less than €86m. SMEs can claim R&D tax credits of 230% on qualifying expenditure or for loss making companies claim a tax credit worth up to 14.5% of the loss that can be surrendered. 

A new measure is expected to take effect for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2021 that will limit the amount of payable R&D tax credit which a SME can claim to £20,000 plus 300% of its total Pay as you Earn and National Insurance Contributions liability for the period.

A company is exempt from the cap if:

  • its employees are creating, preparing to create or managing Intellectual Property and
  • it does not spend more than 15% of its qualifying R&D expenditure on subcontracting R&D to, or the provision of externally provided workers by, connected persons

The impact on the majority of affected businesses is expected to be negligible. The measures are aimed at those who seek to use the tax relief for fraud and abuse.

MTD for Corporation Tax consultation

HMRC has issued a new consultation to examine how the principles established for Making Tax Digital (MTD) could be implemented for those entities within the charge to Corporation Tax. The consultation is open for comment until 5 March 2021.

The regime MTD started in April 2019 for VAT purposes only. MTD for Income Tax is expected to be introduced from 6 April 2023.

The consultation provides some additional information on the planned rollout of MTD for Corporation Tax. Following the end of the consultation, the government will continue to refine the MTD for Corporation Tax requirements by working collaboratively with stakeholders and will then provide entities with an opportunity to take part in a pilot.

This was based on the success of testing the MTD for VAT service and allowed HMRC to identify issues based on real people’s experiences of the service. HMRC initially introduced a limited, small-scale pilot for MTD for Income Tax, before building in additional functionality and scaling up the numbers of eligible participants and expects to follow a similar pattern for MTD for Corporation Tax.

The pilot will present HMRC with opportunities to check the proposed design of the system and learn lessons. The consultation states that the proposed date to commence the voluntary pilot for MTD for Corporation Tax is April 2024, with mandation to follow from 2026 at the earliest.

Benefit conditions – annual parties and events

Now is usually the time that businesses are planning Christmas parties for staff as well as possibly for partners/spouses, clients and prospective clients. Of course, with the continued pandemic and various lockdowns Christmas is looking pretty much cancelled this year. However, we have set out the benefit conditions for annual parties and events so that we can take advantage of tax exemptions in this area if circumstances allow.

The cost of a staff party or other annual entertainment is generally allowed as a deduction for tax purposes. If you meet the various criteria outlined below then there is no requirement to report anything to HMRC or pay tax and National Insurance. There will also be no taxable benefit charged to employees.

  1. An annual Christmas party or other annual event offered to staff generally is not taxable on those attending provided that the average cost per head of the function does not exceed £150.
  2. The event must be open to all employees. If a business has multiple locations, then a party open to all staff at one of the locations is allowable. You can also have separate parties for separate departments, but employees must be able to attend one of the events.
  3. There can be more than one annual event. If the total cost of these parties is under £150 per head, then there is no chargeable benefit. However, if the total cost per head goes over £150 then whichever functions best utilise the £150 are exempt and the others taxable. Note, the £150 is not an allowance and any costs over £150 per head are taxable on the full cost per head.
  4. It is not necessary to keep a running total by employee but a cost per head per function. All costs including VAT must be considered. This includes the costs of transport to and from the event, food and drink and any accommodation provided.

Company trading losses

Corporation Tax relief may be available where a company or organisation makes a trading loss. The loss may be used to claim relief from Corporation Tax by offsetting the loss against other gains or profits of the business in the same or previous accounting period.

The loss can also be set against future qualifying trading income. Any claim for trading losses forms part of the Company Tax Return. The trading profit or loss for Corporation Tax purposes is worked out by making the usual tax adjustments to the figure of profit or loss shown in a company or an organisation’s financial accounts.

Some of the basic requirements for a trade loss to be set off against other income sources include: 

  • being within the charge to Corporation Tax 
  • the trade must be carried on a commercial basis and with a view to the realisation of profit 
  • at least some of the trade must be carried out within the UK

The rules for the Corporation Tax treatment of carried forward losses changed from 1 April 2017. The changes increased flexibility to set off carried forward losses against total profits of the same company or another company in a group whilst at the same time introduced new restrictions as to the amount of profits against which carried forward losses can be set. Any losses carried forward prior to 1 April 2017 fall under the old loss relief rules and must be handled accordingly.