Small business taxation summary
Small business owners were breathing a sigh of relief this afternoon.
The Budget brought a little cheer for SMEs with a doubling of the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) next year and a big increase in Entrepreneur's Relief, but it was mainly the lack of bad news that was welcomed:
- VAT rates are untouched - as are Income Tax and CGT rates
- No change in CT rates - there was a rumour that the main rate might be cut to 25%, but the Chancellor nailed his colours to the mast by announcing that it will continue at 28% for 2011/12. The small profits rate is still due to increase from 21% to 22% from 1 April 2011
- No change to the Business Payment Support Service; during his speech, the Chancellor said the time to pay scheme helped businesses spread £5bn worth of tax payments. "The extra time has also helped businesses pay more of the tax owed." said Darling who said the scheme would be extended for the whole of the next Parliament. Keep an eye out for stricter enforcement and stiffer questioning at the outset.
- In one of several green tax incentives, zero-emmission goods vehicles will now attract a 100% first year capital allowance (BN42).
The cut in small business rates will also be good news later this year.
Since small business owners are typically lower earners, the cut in SDLT for first time buyers will help many of them, perhaps relieving their businesses of the need to draw extra funds to cover the stamp duty on the first house. However, this cut is widely expected to be offset by a hike in house prices, especially those hovering just under the previous £125K threshold.
Many of us were expecting to hear the date from which all VAT-registered businesses will be expected to file their returns online - currently this only affects those turning over more than £100,000 - but there was silence on this point today. This seems inevitable, but at least it's not a current priority.
There was definitely a sense of "it could have been worse" when Alistair Darling sat down - NICs and small company CT are still going up by 1% next year, but at the moment there's nothing worse on the horizon. That's no doubt going to be in the second 2010 Budget.
Under this government, the theme of anti-avoidance is never far away and BN14 announced a clampdown on loans to members of "close companies" (five particpants or less) that are subsequently written off. The Finance Bill will include clauses denying Corporation Tax deduction for the amount of any write-off, effective from 24 March 2010. BN41 is also promising "significant restructuring" of the legislation covering transactions in securities. A wider range of companies will be covered and a new income tax advantage test and new exemption covering fundamental changes in ownership of close companies will be introduced.
The overriding message for SMEs seems to be "steady as she goes": nothing here to rock the boat - although I think we all foresee some stormy waters ahead, especially if we get a change of Government in May. In the meantime the increase in the AIA limit means that fairly modest capital expenditure will obtain full tax relief for the time being, a measure which in itself will be an economic and morale boost to SMEs who are starting to come out of the recession.