With the end of the 2017/18 tax year rapidly approaching, it is advisable to start planning now to minimise your tax bill as we head into the new financial year.
In this article, we look at ways your business and personal finances can be structured so they are as tax-efficient as possible. There are also some huge changes set to come into effect from 2018/19 and beyond.
Make use of your personal allowance
Everyone is entitled to their own personal allowance, which is set at £11,500 for 2017/18. You potentially stand to benefit if your partner or spouse has little or no income, as you could opt to spread your own income more evenly to take advantage of each person’s personal allowance. To achieve this, you may wish to transfer income or income-producing assets. However, you should be wary of the legislation governing ‘income shifting’ – any transfer must be an outright gift with ‘no strings attached’.
Additionally, some married couples can transfer 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse using the Marriage Allowance. This is available to married couples and civil partners where one earns no more than £11,500 and neither pays tax at the higher or additional rate. In 2017/18, £1,150 can be transferred, reducing a couple's tax liability by up to £230 in the current tax year.
Children are also entitled to their own personal allowance. Income generated via parental gifts, however, is subject to a limit of £100 (gross) per parent, assuming the child is under the 18 years old and has not married. Beyond this limit, parents of minors are subject to tax on this income.
A rise in the personal allowance was announced in the 2017 Autumn Budget. From April 2018, the personal allowance will rise from £11,500 to £11,850. The higher rate threshold, excluding the personal allowance, will rise to £34,500.
It is possible to allocate the personal allowance across various sources of income in whichever manner yields the lowest tax liability.
To learn how the increase in the personal allowance may affect you and your finances, or how your personal allowance can best be utilised, please get in touch with us.
Review your company car arrangements
Company cars are useful business tools for many business owners. However, they do have their cons, and they may not always be the most tax-efficient option.
It is important to ensure that your business motoring arrangements are organised in the most tax-efficient way possible. This will depend on your individual circumstances, and many factors will come into play, including the annual mileage, CO2 emissions, the age of the car, the type of fuel it uses and the retention period.
In 2017/18, the car benefit and car fuel benefit (where fuel for private use is provided with the car), on which you pay income tax at up to 45%, is calculated at up to 37% of the list price (car), and the same percentage on a notional £22,600 (fuel). One aspect to consider is that vans (or similar vehicles not defined as cars) only attract a fixed level of benefit (£3,230 for 2017/18), with accompanying fuel being a fixed benefit of £610.
From April 2018, the benefit-in-kind rates for cars will increase significantly, with further rises planned in 2019 and 2020. The increases are likely to result in cost rises for employers providing company cars to their employees.
In addition, from 6th April 2018, the taxable diesel car benefit for diesel cars will rise from 3% to 4%, and it will be removed altogether for diesel cars which are certified to the Real Driving Emissions 2 standard.
Take profits tax-efficiently
You work hard to ensure your business remains successful and will want to enjoy the rewards that success brings in the most tax-efficient manner possible.
You may wish to extract profits by incorporating the business, which could provide more scope for deferring or saving tax than operating as self-employed or as a partner.
Alternatively, you might want to claim tax-free allowances, such as mileage payments, which apply when your own car or van is driven on business journeys. As separate legal entities, companies can generally offer much flexibility with tax planning, as well as providing other non-tax-related benefits, such as risk mitigation.
Furthermore, and an example of such planning opportunities, employer pension contributions can prove to be a tax-efficient way of extracting profit from your company, and this is something you may wish to consider.
The age-old question of whether it is more beneficial to take dividends over a salary or bonus is one that can be answered by reviewing your personal financial circumstances. Nonetheless, the decision requires careful consideration before you take any action.
Dividends are paid free of National Insurance contributions (NICs), whereas a salary or bonus may carry up to 25.8% in combined employer and employee NICs. A salary or bonus is, however, tax deductible for the company, whereas dividends are not; also, a salary/bonus counts as ‘relevant earnings’ for pension purposes, whereas dividends do not, which may affect pension planning.
In April 2016, the dividend tax credit was abolished and was replaced by a new dividend allowance. The dividend allowance charges £5,000 of dividend income at 0% tax, known as the dividend nil rate. The dividend allowance exists in addition to a taxpayer’s personal allowance and savings allowances. For basic rate taxpayers, the rate of tax on dividend income above the allowance is 7.5%, while for higher rate taxpayers the rate is 32.5%, and for additional rate taxpayers the rate is 38.1%.
The dividend allowance is set to be reduced from £5,000 to £2,000 in April 2018. It could therefore prove to be beneficial to take dividends before the end of the 2017/18 tax year.
Meanwhile, if you are a saver and expect to be affected by the cut in the dividend allowance, you might want to transfer some shares to your spouse or civil partner to utilise each person’s dividend allowance. Do talk to an expert before taking any action.
Personal allowance – make sure your personal allowance is being utilised fully and review spouse’s tax position to see if it would be worthwhile using the Marriage Allowance
Company cars – review plans to replace company cars and ensure the forthcoming rates and changes to diesel cars are considered
Dividends – ensure the dividend allowance has been fully utilised for 2017/18 and forecast your tax bill for 2018/19, given the reduction in the dividend allowance
If you require further support or advice on tax-efficient planning strategies to consider ahead of the 5th April year end, please do not hesitate to call us on 0800 0523 555 or use our online contact form.
By Jo Nockels FCCA
Last updated January 2018
Disclaimer: The information provided is based on current guidance (at date of publication) from HMRC and may be subject to change. Any advice shared here is intended to inform rather than advise. Taxpayer's circumstances do vary and if you feel that the information provided is beneficial it is important that you contact us before implementation. If you take, or do not take action as a result of reading this information, before receiving our written endorsement, we will accept no responsibility for any financial loss incurred.