Tax-free gifts for Christmas

After a very difficult 2020, the traditional Christmas break is almost with us. If you are an employer and looking to give your employees a small token of appreciation for Christmas, then your best option is probably to give them a gift. In order to ensure that this is not a taxable gift, it is important to that the trivial benefits in kind (BiK) rules apply.

There is no tax to pay on trivial benefits in kind (BiK) provided to employees where all of the following apply:

  • the benefit is not cash or a cash-voucher; and
  • costs £50 or less; and
  • is not provided as part of a salary sacrifice or other contractual arrangement; and
  • is not provided in recognition of services performed by the employee as part of their employment, or in anticipation of such services.

So, for example a turkey that cost £45 would qualify as would a £15 bottle of wine. It is also possible to provide employees with a gift voucher (not a cash-voucher) where the value is £50 or less. It is important to remember that the gifts must not be provided in recognition of the employees’ services but merely as a gesture of goodwill at Christmas.

There is an annual cap for directors of a ‘close’ company of £300 per year. If the Christmas gifts have a value of over £50 or cannot be counted as a trivial benefit then the gift must be reported on form P11D and Class 1A NICs will be payable on the value of the gift.

Holiday entitlements if furloughed

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) commonly known as the furlough scheme is open to all UK employers and will now run until 31 March 2021. From 1 November 2020, employees will receive up to 80% of their salary for hours not worked with a review date in January.

One common question concerns holiday pay entitlement if furloughed. Employees will accrue holiday entitlement while they are furloughed and can also take leave while on furlough.

If a furloughed worker is not working on a bank holiday they usually take as paid leave, they can agree with their employer to either take it as normal or to take it at a later date.

An employer can continue to claim for a furloughed worker’s wages when the worker takes annual leave. If the holiday pay is more than the employee earned whilst on furlough their employer must pay the difference.

The government has also passed legislation to relax the restrictions on carrying leave between leave years during the coronavirus pandemic. Since 26 March 2020, where it has not been reasonably practicable for a worker to take some or all of the 4 weeks’ holiday due to the effects of coronavirus, the amount not taken may be carried forward into the following two leave years.

Tax-free perk for Christmas

If you are an employer and looking to give a small Christmas bonus to your employees, then your best option is probably to give them a gift. In order to ensure that this is not a taxable gift, it is important to ensure that the trivial benefits in kind (BiK) rules apply.

There is no tax to pay on trivial benefits in kind (BiK) provided to employees where all of the following apply:

  • the benefit is not cash or a cash-voucher; and
  • costs £50 or less; and
  • is not provided as part of a salary sacrifice or other contractual arrangement; and
  • is not provided in recognition of services performed by the employee as part of their employment, or in anticipation of such services.

So, for example a turkey that cost £45 would qualify as would a £15 bottle of wine. It is also possible to provide employees with a gift voucher (not a cash-voucher) where the value is £50 or less. It is important to remember that the gifts must not be provided in recognition of the employees’ services but merely as a gesture of goodwill at Christmas.

There is an annual cap for directors of a ‘close’ company of £300 per year. If the Christmas gifts have a value of over £50 or cannot be counted as a trivial benefit then the gift must be reported on form P11D and Class 1A NICs will be payable on the value of the gift.

COVID related benefits for employees

The Income Tax treatment of coronavirus tests and the provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to employees during the coronavirus pandemic is covered under specific HMRC guidance. 

The guidance explains how employers should proceed where they are providing coronavirus testing kits, or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to their employees.

Coronavirus testing kits

HMRC confirms that coronavirus tests provided by the government to healthcare workers and other eligible front-line as part of its national testing scheme are not treated as a benefit in kind for tax purposes. There is no tax due and you do not need to report a benefit to HMRC.

Further, where an employer separately provides antigen testing kits to their employees or provides tests completed by a third party then no Income Tax or Class 1A National Insurance contributions will be due.

Personal Protective Equipment 

Where employees are working in scenarios where the likelihood of the transmission of coronavirus is very high and a risk assessment determines that PPE is required, then the necessary equipment must be provided to employees free of charge. The PPE must fit correctly. The provision of this PPE to employees is non-taxable. 

If an employee requires PPE to complete their job and the employer is unable to provide this, then employers must reimburse the actual expenses of employees purchasing PPE themselves. This is non-taxable and employees cannot claim tax relief on these expenses from HMRC.
 

Paying or refunding transport costs

To ease the financial burden on their employees, some employers may look at paying or refunding transport costs for their employees when they return to work. There are tax implications that should be examined. As a general rule, where an employer pays or refunds an employee the cost of transport from work to home, this is considered to be a benefit as it is classified as a private journey. 

In some circumstances there is an exemption from paying tax on this benefit. For this to happen, all of the following 4 conditions must be met:

  • the employee has to work later than usual, and until at least 9pm
  • this happens irregularly
  • by the time the employee finishes work, either: public transport has stopped, or it would not be reasonable to expect them to use public transport
  • the transport is by taxi or similar road transport

Employees may also regularly travel to work in a car with one or more other employees using a car-sharing arrangement. If this arrangement stopped because of unforeseen and exceptional circumstances, which are coronavirus related, and the employer provides transport or reimbursement of the expense of transport from their employee’s home to workplace, this may also be exempt.

HMRC’s guidance is clear that if these requirements are not met, free or subsidised transport is taxable and should be reported through a PAYE Settlement Agreement as a coronavirus related benefit.

PAYE settlement agreement payment reminder

A PAYE Settlement Agreement (PSA) allows employers to make one annual payment to cover all the tax and National Insurance due on small or irregular taxable expenses or benefits for your employees.

The expenses or benefits included in a PSA must be defined as one of the following;

  • minor – e.g. a small birthday present
  • irregular – e.g. one-off relocation expenses over £8,000 (these are tax-free below £8,000)
  • impracticable (difficult to work out the value of or divide up between individual employees) – e.g. shared cars or taxi journeys

Employers that are required to notify HMRC of the value of items included in a PAYE settlement agreement (PSA) should do so using form PSA1. The deadline for applying for a PSA for 2019-20 expired on 5 July 2020.

However, any tax or National Insurance due for 2019-20 under a PSA must be paid electronically to clear into HMRC’s bank account by 22 October 2020. Employers that pay by cheque must ensure that the payment reaches HMRC by 19 October 2020. There may be interest and / or a late payment penalty due where the payment is made late.

Changes to EMI working time arrangements

Temporary changes to EMI working time arrangements will ensure that individuals who are furloughed or who have their working hours reduced below the current statutory working time requirement for EMI as a result of coronavirus (COVID-19) will retain the tax advantages of the scheme. These changes will apply for a limited period and will have effect from 19 March 2020 until 5 April 2021.

The use of the EMI can help small growing companies to attract and retain sought after employees. The EMI allows employees to buy shares free of Income Tax and NICs on the difference between the amount paid for shares when an option is used and the actual value at the time.

The value of shares over which options may be held by an employee under the EMI scheme is currently £250,000 in a 3-year period. In addition, the shares must be in an independent trading company that has gross assets not exceeding £30 million, has fewer than 250 employees and operates a ‘qualifying’ trade.

Companies that work in 'excluded activities' aren’t allowed to offer EMIs. Excluded activities include:

  • banking
  • farming
  • property development
  • provision of legal services
  • ship building

New advisory fuel rates published

Advisory fuel rates are intended to reflect actual average fuel costs and are updated quarterly. The rates can be used by employers who reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars or where employees are required to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. HMRC accepts there is no taxable profit and no Class 1A National Insurance on reimbursed travel expenses where employers pay a rate per mile for business travel no higher than the published advisory fuel rates.

Employees can also use the advisory fuel rates to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. In this case, HMRC will accept there’s no fuel benefit charge. The advisory rates are not binding if you the employer can demonstrate that employees cover the full cost of private fuel by repaying at a lower rate per mile.

The latest advisory fuel rates became effective on 1 September 2020. Fuel rates are reviewed four times a year with changes taking effect on 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December. You can use the previous rates for up to 1 month from the date the new rates apply.

The new rates are as follows:

Engine size    

Petrol – amount per mile  

LPG – amount per mile

1400cc or less     

10p

7p

1401cc to 2000cc      

12p

8p

Over 2000cc      

17p

12p

 

Engine size     

Diesel – amount per mile

1600cc or smaller  

8p

1601cc to 2000cc    

10p

Over 2000cc  

12p

Hybrid cars are treated as either petrol or diesel cars for this purpose.

Advisory Electricity Rate

HMRC accepts that if you pay up to 4p per mile when reimbursing your employees for business travel in a fully electric company car there is no profit. While electricity is not considered a fuel for tax and NICs purposes, the Advisory Electricity Rate is now published quarterly alongside the other advisory fuel rates.

Using your own vehicle for work?

If you are an employee and use your own money to buy things you need for your job, then you can sometimes claim tax relief for the associated costs. It is usually only possible to claim tax relief for the cost of items used solely for your work.

You may also be able to claim tax relief for using your own vehicle, be it a car, van, motorcycle or bike. There is generally no tax relief for travel to and from your place of work. The rules are different for temporary workplaces where the expense is usually allowable and if you use your own vehicle to do other business related mileage.

Employers usually make payments based on a set rate per mile depending on the mode of transport used. There are approved mileage rates published by HMRC. The approved mileage allowance payment rates are available where you use your own car on a business trip. Where the approved mileage rates are used, the payments to you are not regarded as a taxable benefit.

Where an employer pays less than the published rates, you can make a tax relief claim for the shortfall using mileage allowance relief. For all cars, the approved mileage allowance payment for the first 10,000 business miles is 45p per mile and 25p per mile for every additional business mile. The approved mileage rates are 20p per mile for bicycle travel and 24p per mile for motorcycle travel.

There is an additional passenger payment you can receive of 5p per passenger per business mile from your employer. This is available if you carry fellow employees in your car or van on journeys which are also work journeys for your colleagues. 

Tax and company cars

Most employers and employees are aware of the additional costs of providing company cars and the tax implications they create. However, for many employees the lure of having a company car means that this remains a very popular option. There are some circumstances where it can be possible to offer employees car benefits that are exempt from tax. 

These include:

Cars available for business journeys only

To avoid reporting for car benefit or car fuel benefit, the car should only be available to staff during working hours for employment related duties or to travel to a temporary workplace. The business must also clearly tell their employees not to use the vehicle for private journeys and check that they do not.

Cars adapted for an employee with a disability

These cars are exempt if the only private use is for journeys between home and work and for travel to work-related training.

Fuel paid for by employees
The fuel benefit is removed when an employee pays for all their private fuel use or if the employer pays and the employee reimburses the amount (during the tax year). 

'Pool' cars
Employers are not required to pay or report on 'pool' cars. These are cars that are shared by employees for business purposes only and normally kept on your premises. Employers must ensure the ‘pool’ car rules are properly adhered to. 

Privately owned cars
Employers do not have to pay anything on cars that directors or employees own privately.