Dividends have their own tax rules and their own rates of tax. The rules and the rates apply in the same way regardless of whether the dividends are paid from your personal or family company as part of a profit extraction strategy, or whether they represent investment income on shares. As part of the Government’s health and social care plan, the rates at which dividends are taxed are to increase by 1.25% from 6 April 2022.
Dividends have already suffered corporation tax
Dividends can only be paid out of retained profits. This means that if you want to pay a dividend from your personal or family company, you can only do so if you have sufficient retained profits from which to pay. ‘Retained profits’ are post-tax profits which have not yet been paid out. Consequently, they have already suffered corporation tax. The rate of corporation tax is currently 19%, but is due to increase from 1 April 2023 where the company’s profits are more than £50,000.
Dividends covered by the dividend allowance are tax-free
All taxpayers, regardless of the rate at which they pay tax, are entitled to a dividend allowance. This is available in addition to the personal allowance, and, unlike the personal allowance, is not abated once income reaches £100,000.
Although termed a dividend ‘allowance’, it is not an allowance as such; rather it is a nil rate band. Dividends that are covered by the dividend allowance are taxed at zero rate. However, they count as part of band earnings. The dividend allowance is set at £2,000 for 2021/22.
Dividends are treated as the top slice of income
Dividends are taxable to the extent that they are not sheltered by the dividend allowance or, if not fully used elsewhere, the personal allowance. In determining the appropriate rate of tax, dividends are treated as the top slice of income.
Dividend tax rates are lower than income tax rates
Dividends have their own tax rates. These are lower than the usual rates of income tax. However, as noted above, dividends are paid from profits which have already suffered corporation tax.
Dividends are taxed at the dividend ordinary rate to the extent that they fall within the basic rate band. This is set at 7.5% for 2021/22. It is to increase to 8.75% from 6 April 2022.
Dividends are taxed at the dividend upper rate to the extent that they fall in the higher rate band. This is set at 32.5% for 2021/22. It is to increase to 33.75% from 6 April 2022.
Dividends are taxed at the dividend additional rate to the extent that they fall in the additional rate band. This is set at 38.1% for 2021/22. It will increase to 39.35% from 6 April 2022.
Capital allowances are the tax equivalent of depreciation, and the mechanism of providing tax relief for certain items of capital expenditure. However, with the exception of cars, capital allowances are not available where accounts are prepared under the cash basis; instead relief may be available as a deduction in computing profits under the cash basis capital expenditure rules.
Plant and machinery capital allowances
Plant and machinery capital allowances are available for items such as machinery, fixture and fittings, tools, computer equipment, plant and vehicles. Capital allowances may be given at different rates.
The annual investment allowance (AIA) is given at the rate of 100% on qualifying expenditure up to the AIA limit. This is set at £1 million until 31 December 2021, reverting to £200,000 from 1 January 2022. Special rules apply where the accounting period spans 31 December 2021.
100% first-year allowances are also available in limited cases, such as for expenditure on new zero emission cars and goods vehicles
18% writing down allowances
Writing down allowances on main rate expenditure is given at the rate of 18% on a reducing balance basis. Main rate capital allowances are available for most plant and machinery.
6% writing down allowances
Some items, such as high emission cars and long life assets are allocated to the special pool and attract writing down allowances at the lower rate of 6%.
Enhanced capital allowances
For a limited period companies are able to claim enhanced capital allowances in respect of qualifying expenditure that is incurred between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2023. A super deduction of 130% is available where the expenditure would otherwise qualify for main rate capital allowances at 18%, and a 50% first-year allowance is available where the expenditure would otherwise qualify for special rate capital allowances of 6%.
Balancing charges and allowances
The capital allowance system provides tax relief for the net capital expenditure (cost less sale proceeds) over the life of the asset. Consequently, when an asset is sold, is it necessary to take account of the disposal proceeds. If the capital allowances that have been claimed over the life of the asset exceed the cost less disposal proceeds, it may be necessary to claw back some of the allowances. This is done by means of a balancing charge.
Let’s assume a van is purchased for £10,000 and the AIA allowance is claimed, providing immediate tax relief for the full £10,000 of expenditure. If the van is sold three years later for £5,000, the net cost to the business is £5,000 (cost of £10,000 less proceeds of £5,000). However, without adjustment, the company would have received tax relief of £10,000. The position is corrected by means of a balancing charge of £5,000. The balancing charge effectively increases the profits that are charged to tax. Where the AIA or a 100% first year allowance has been claimed, the balancing charge will be equal to the sale proceeds.
There will not always be a balancing charge on disposal – it depends on whether the tax written down value is more or less than the sale proceeds. If it is more, there will be a balancing charge and if it is less, there will be a balancing allowance.
A car is purchased for £15,000 on which main rate capital allowances are claimed at the rate of 18%. In year 1, the writing down allowance is £2,700, in year 2, it is £2,214 and in year 3 it is £1815. At the end of year 3, the written down value is £8,271.
If the car is sold for £8,000, balancing allowances of £271 will be available; however, if the car is sold for £10,000, a balancing charge of £1,729 will arise. The net allowances equal the cost less the disposal proceeds.
The balancing allowance increases taxable profits in the year of sale, while a balancing allowance will reduce the taxable profits.
Add proceeds to the pool
Unless the item is in a single asset pool, balancing charges and allowances are calculated globally for the ‘pool’ rather than on an individual asset-by-asset basis. Thus, when an asset is sold, it is not necessary to calculate the balancing charge individually for that asset – instead, the sale proceeds are simply added to the pool.
Super-deduction and balancing charges
Special rules apply where an asset has benefited from the super deduction of 130% and depending when the asset is disposed of, it may be necessary to inflate the sale proceeds when working out the balancing charge.
You must register your business for VAT if your VAT taxable turnover exceeds the registration threshold. This is currently £85,000.
You must register if:
- at the end of any month, the value of your VAT taxable supplies in the previous 12 months or less is more than £85,000; or
- at any time if you expect the value of your taxable supplies in the next 30 day period alone to exceed £85,000.
Different thresholds apply to businesses based in Northern Ireland for buying from and selling to EU countries.
VAT taxable turnover
The VAT taxable turnover is the total value of sales that are not exempt from VAT. Thus, you should include sales that would attract VAT at the standard rate, the reduced rate or which are zero rated, but not sales that are exempt from VAT.
Exception from registration
If you exceed the VAT registration threshold but believe that your VAT taxable turnover will not exceed the deregistration threshold, currently £83,000, in the next 12 months, you can apply to HMRC for an exception from registration. This can be done on form VAT1. This may be case if you have a one-off sale that is particularly large,
Registration is compulsory if your VAT taxable turnover exceeds the registration threshold (unless an exception applies). However, if your VAT taxable turnover is below this level, you may choose to register for VAT voluntarily. This can be advantageous, particularly if you supply goods that are zero rated (such as food) as it will enable you to reclaim any VAT that you pay on purchases.
How to register
Most businesses are able to register online on the Gov.uk website. In certain cases, registration must be done by post, for example, if you apply to join the agricultural flat rate scheme.
You will receive a VAT registration number once you have been registered for VAT. You should receive a VAT registration certificate within 30 days.
Implications of being VAT-registered
Once you have registered for VAT, you will need to charge VAT at the appropriate rate on any sales that you make. You will also be able to reclaim any input tax that you suffer on purchases.
You may choose to join one of the schemes to simplify the process and reduce the associated VAT return, for example, the flat rate scheme for small business.
You must also file VAT returns each quarter and pay any VAT owing over to HMRC and comply with Making Tax Digital for VAT. You can appoint an agent, such as an accountant, to file your VAT returns on your behalf.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the advice was ‘work from home if you can’. As a result, millions of employees found themselves working at home, often at very short notice. Many still have not returned to the workplace, and homeworking (whether fully or flexibly) is here to stay.
Employees will generally incur additional costs as a result of working from home. They will use more electricity to run their computer and light their workspace and may use more gas as a result of having the heating on during the day.
While for many years there has been a statutory exemption that allows employers to meet or contribute towards the additional costs of working from home, in recognition of the homeworking requirements imposed by the pandemic, employees who do not receive homeworking payments from their employer are able to claim tax relief for the extra household costs that they have incurred while working from home.
Exemption for costs met by the employer
Employers can pay employees a homeworking allowance of £6 per week (£26 per month) tax-free, and without the employee having to demonstrate that they have actually incurred additional household costs of at least this amount as a result of working from home. The tax-free amount is the same, regardless of whether the employee is required to work from home full-time or one day a week. Consequently, the payments can be made to employees who work flexibly, working from home part of the time and at the employer’s workplace part of the time.
Where the employee’s actual additional household costs as a result of working from home are more than £6 per week, the employer can meet the actual costs tax-free, as long as the employee is able to provide evidence in support of the actual additional costs.
Tax relief for employees
Employees who have been required to work from home can claim tax relief for the additional costs of doing so where these are not met by the employer. HMRC will accept claims of £6 per week/£26 per month without needing evidence of the actual additional costs. Where these are higher, the higher amount can be claimed, as long as this can be substantiated.
HMRC are now accepting claims for 2021/22. Claims can be made online at www.tax.service.gov.uk/claim-tax-relief-expenses/only-claiming-working-from-home-tax-relief?_ga=2.193253997.1398232652.1624373729-980780301.1612354164.
Relief is given for the full tax year, even if the employee returns to the workplace before 5 April 2022. Employees who were entitled to the relief for 2020/21 can also claim for that year if they have not yet done so.
Where an employee is required to complete a self-assessment tax return, the claim can be made on the return.
A claim of £6 per week (£312 for the year) will save a basic rate taxpayer £62.40 in tax and a higher rate taxpayer £124.80 in tax.
Special rules apply to company directors when it comes to calculating their Class 1 National Insurance liabilities.
Why the rules
Directors, particularly of personal and family companies, can control how and when they are paid and, in the absence of special rules, would be able to reduce their Class 1 National Insurance liability by manipulating the earnings period rules. The rules circumvent this.
Annual earnings period
Company directors have an annual earnings period for National Insurance regardless of their actual pay frequency. This means that if they do not opt to apply the alternative arrangements, their National Insurance liability is calculated cumulatively by reference to the annual thresholds.
For 2021/22 these are as follows:
|Lower earnings limit
|Upper earnings limit
A director is paid £8,000 a month. In month 1, he pays no National Insurance as his earnings are below the annual primary threshold of £9,568.
In month 2, his earnings for the year to date are £16,000. By applying the annual thresholds, his total liability on his earnings to date of £16,000 is £771.84 (12% (£16,000 – £9,568)). As he paid no National Insurance in month, his liability for month 2 is £771.84.
For months 3 to 6 inclusive, his earnings for the year to date fall between £9,568 and £50,270. Consequently, he pays employee’s National Insurance at 12% on his earnings for the month of £8,000, equal to £960 each month.
In month 7, his earnings for the year to date are £56,000 (7 months @ £8,000 a month), on which total contribution of £4,998.84 (12% (£50,270- £9,568)) + 2% (£56,000 – £50,270)) are due. He has already paid £4,611.84 (£771.84 + (4 x £960)), leaving £387 due for the month.
As his earnings for the year have now exceeded the upper earnings limit, he will pay National Insurance at the rate of 2% of all future payments – a liability of £160 per month.
Applying the annual earnings period rules means that the contribution liability falls unevenly throughout the year. The liability for the year is £5,798.60 ((12% (£50,270 – £9,568) + ((2% (£96,000 – £50,270))).
As seen in the example above, calculating the liability by reference to the annual thresholds on a cumulative basis each time the director is paid means that their pay is uneven throughout the year. To overcome this, the director can opt for their National Insurance to be calculated throughout the year on their earnings for each earnings period using the relevant thresholds for the earnings period, as for employees who are not directors, with an annual recalculation on an annual basis at the end of the year.
If this basis is adopted, the director in the above example would pay National Insurance of £483.26 (12% (£4,189 – £797)) + (2% (£8,000 – £4,189))) each month for months 1 to 11, with a final payment of £482.74 in month 12.
Over the course of the year, the annual liability (£5,798.60) is the same which-ever method is used, but collected differently.
Directors can choose the method that suits them best.
If you operate through a limited company, for example as a personal or family company, you will need to extract funds from your company in order to use them to meet your personal bills. There are various ways of doing this. However, a popular and tax efficient strategy is to take a small salary which is at least equal to the lower earnings limit (set at £6,240 or 2021/22) to ensure that the year is a qualifying year for state pension and contributory benefits purposes, and to extract further profits as dividends.
However, this strategy requires the company to have sufficient retained profits from which to pay a dividend. If the company has been adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it may have used up any reserves that it had. As dividends must be paid from retained profits, if there are none, it is not possible to pay a dividend.
Are there other options for extracting funds to meet living expenses?
- Pay additional salary or bonus
Unlike a dividend, a salary or bonus can be paid even if doing so creates a loss – it does not have to be paid from profits. However, this will not be tax efficient once the salary exceeds the optimal level due to the National Insurance hit and the higher income tax rates applicable to salary payments.
- Take a director’s loan
If it is expected that the company will return to profitability, taking a director’s loan can be an attractive option. Depending when in the accounting period a loan is taken, a director can benefit from a loan of up to £10,000 for up to 21 months free of tax and National Insurance. If the company has returned to profitability within nine months of the year end, a dividend can be declared to clear the loan in time to prevent a section 455 tax charge from arising. If the account is overdrawn at the corporation tax due date nine months and one day after the year end, a section 455 tax charge of 32.5% of the outstanding amount must be paid by the company (although this will be repaid after the corporation tax due date for the accounting period in which the loan balance is cleared).
- Put personal bills through the director’s loan account
Another option is for the company to pay the bills on the director’s behalf and to charge them to the director’s loan account. Again, if the company has sufficient profits to clear the outstanding balance within nine months of the year end, a dividend can be declared to prevent a section 455 tax charge from arising. A benefit in kind tax charge (and a Class 1A National Insurance liability on the company) will also arise if the outstanding balance is more than £10,000 at any point in the tax year.
- Provide benefits in kind
Use can be made of various tax exemptions, such as those for trivial benefits and mobile phones, to provide certain benefits in kind in a tax-free fashion.
- Pay rent
If the company is run from the director’s home, the company can pay rent to the director for the office space. This should be at a commercial rate, and the director will pay tax on the rental income. However, there is no National Insurance to worry about and the rent can be deducted in computing the company’s profits, even if this creates a loss.
As a bonus, if the extraction policy creates a loss, it may be possible to carry the loss back to generate a much-needed tax repayment.