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. 

Contributions towards capital expenditure

A wide variety of grants or subsidies are available to businesses and can be received in addition to their ordinary business income. It is important to identify these contributions and to establish whether they are capital or revenue in nature.

Funding which facilitates capital expenditure, such as new premises or machinery, is normally treated as a capital receipt. The general rule is that a capital grant is deducted from the qualifying expenditure and that capital allowances are available on the net amount.

For this general rule it does not matter if the contribution is:

  • made by a public body or another person (a public body is the Crown or any government or public or local authority wherever it is based)
  • capital or revenue – unless the allowances are dredging allowances (a contribution towards a person’s expenditure on dredging is deducted if it is made by a public body or if it is a capital contribution made by another person)
  • not received until after the expenditure is incurred (if the expenditure was to be met in whole or part by the contribution then it is still deducted)

There are three exceptions to the general rule:

  • Northern Ireland regional development grants (up to 31 March 2003),
  • insurance and compensation, and
  • contributions made by persons (other than public bodies) who cannot get tax relief.

New Patent Box statistics published

HMRC has published official statistics on the number of companies claiming tax relief under the UK Patent Box. The Patent Box allows qualifying companies to apply a lower 10% Corporation Tax rate on profits arising from patent exploitation. The benefit was phased in from 1 April 2016 with the full benefit of the Patent Box available from 1 April 2017. The newly published statistics include figures for 2017-18 together with partial figures for 2018-19.

The statistics show that in 2017-18, 1,305 companies applied the lower Corporation Tax rate (on a phased basis) to profits attributable to patents and other qualifying intellectual property claiming relief of £1,101m. In 2018-19, 1,230 companies have so far claimed relief under the Patent Box of £992m. These figures are expected to be revised upwards when more data becomes available.

28% of the companies were classified as large but together they claimed the vast majority (over 92%) of the total relief. Most of the claims were made by the manufacturing sector but there were also claims from other industries including those defined as falling under the ‘Wholesale and Retail’ and ‘Scientific and Technical’ sectors.

Companies with a 31 December year end

For companies with taxable profits of up to £1.5 million the payment of any Corporation Tax is due 9 months and 1 day after the end of your accounting period. The accounting period is usually the financial year of your business but can be different especially in the first year of business.

This deadline means that companies with the popular year end date of 31 December 2019 should have paid any liabilities for that year at the beginning on or before 1 October 2020. Interest is charged from the day after the tax should have been paid until payment has been made. 

HMRC have not extended the date for Corporation Tax Payments and payment remains due 9 months and 1 day after your accounting year end. However, you can apply to HMRC to pay on an instalment basis or defer payment if your finances have been badly affected by coronavirus. If you have missed your payment date, we would recommend contacting HMRC as soon as possible. We can assist you with this process if required. 

There are special rules for companies with taxable profits over £1.5m. These companies are defined as ‘large’ for Corporation Tax purposes and are required to pay tax due in instalments. 

Corporation Tax and related payments must be made electronically. You cannot pay Corporation Tax by post.