UK: The Entrepreneurs´ Budget: Not Now, Darling.

Last Updated: 23 April 2009
Article by Deloitte Tax Group

Most Read Contributor in UK, August 2017

Comment by Tony Cohen, Tax Partner, Deloitte

In his opening speech, Mr Darling declared his budget as a one built of core values of 'fairness' and 'opportunity'. The result of the measures announced, according to the Chancellor, would enable Britain to grow its way out of recession. So will the Budget provide entrepreneurs with the opportunity to achieve growth. And is it fair?

Undoubtedly the headline from an entrepreneurs' perspective was the 10% increase in the income tax rate on earnings of £150,000 or more from 40% to 50% (and yes, this is a 10% increase: the 45% rate announced in November's Pre-Budget Rate was just that: announced, but never implemented). Psychologically the 50% rate is always considered a bit of barrier as only half of every £1 earned is actually kept and indeed the scale is tipped distinctly in HMRC's favour when the impact of the increase national insurance contributions are taken into account. It's a big leap to say that of itself it will deter entrepreneurs from generating income over £150,000 but it will definitely lead to consideration of how the value created is realised. The obvious answer to this from a tax perspective is to plan to ensure that value is realised as a capital gain, the rate of which remained unchanged at 18%. The traditional exit route for gains is limited as very few deals are being done in the current environment. So the message from the Budget must be: invest now to grow for the future and limit the amount taken out.

As to whether the Budget was a 'fair' one there are a few ways of looking at this. From a fiscal perspective it was a mixture of pluses and minuses. On the 'plus' side measures were announced which would clearly support entrepreneurs and small businesses:

  • 40% first year allowance for capital expenditure incurred in between April 2009 and April 2010
  • extension of the loss carry-back from 1 year to 3 years;
  • practical support via the top-up credit insurance and deferral of tax liabilities;
  • deferral of the 1% increase in the small companies tax rate.

Whilst the sentiment is welcome, the impact in cash terms may be limited. The maximum benefit of the additional loss carryback is £14,000 and the value of the 1% deferral over the first £300,000 is £3,000 - neither of which are sums likely to change entrepreneurial behaviour. The increase in capital allowances may have a much bigger financial impact, and could indeed accelerate some investment decisions, but it is a temporary increase for one year only.

On the 'minus' side there are increased costs. The increase in the income tax and national insurance rates as well as the 2p rise in fuel duty is pretty indiscriminate and affects most companies in most sectors, entrepreneurs and small businesses included. From a numbers point of view, then, whether the Budget is fair is arguable. One thing is clear it is not a big Budget give-away.

Another way of looking at whether the Budget is 'fair' is in dealing with the relationship between HMRC and the taxpayer or 'customers' as we are increasingly known. On the one hand HMRC are publicly encouraging open and honest relationships with its taxpaying customers, as evidenced by the increasing role of the Customer Relationship Managers in the forefront of HMRC dealings. It was always accepted that taxpayers could run their businesses to minimise tax yet the increasing interchangeability of avoidance and evasion (one legal, one not) and today's announcement of a 'name and shame' policy for deliberate tax defaulters suggests that taxpayers and HMRC may now not see eye-to-eye. On the face of it naming taxpayers who deliberately default HMRC may not be contentious. The difficulty comes in the definition of 'deliberate' which is applied and which all turns on whether the HMRC believe a taxpayer has taken reasonable care. Where reasonable care has not been taken, the implication is that the default is deliberate. This could apply to 'grey' areas of legislation, even where the taxpayer has taken professional advice and the limit for such naming and shaming is set very low at £25k. This inevitably provokes the question of whether HMRC deliberately intend to use 'naming and shaming' as part of the approach for dealing with difficult tax issues?

The overall message coming out of the Budget for entrepreneurs concentrate on growing the business and plan how to realise the value generated carefully.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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