Enews - January 2017

In this month’s eNews we report on a number of issues including the Scottish Budget, the Apprenticeship Levy and Personal Tax accounts. We also look at the changes to National Insurance Contributions, SDLT online refund procedures and charity fines.

Scottish Budget

On 15 December, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay delivered the 2017/18 Scottish Draft Budget setting out the Scottish Government’s financial and tax plans.

Scottish Rate of Income Tax

On 6 April 2016, a fundamental change was made to the taxation system for Scottish resident individuals. The main UK rates of income tax were reduced by 10p for Scottish taxpayers and in its place the Scottish Rate of Income Tax (SRIT) was applied equally to all Scottish taxpayers. As the SRIT was set at 10p, the overall income tax rates are currently the same as in the rest of the UK. So, those who are resident in Scotland are currently liable to two types of income tax and pay SRIT at 10% on most mainstream sources of income such as PAYE income, pensions, rental profit and profits from self-employment.

The SRIT does not apply to income from savings such as building society interest or dividends. These rates are the same for all taxpayers across the UK.

The SRIT is in place for one transitional year and will no longer apply from 6 April 2017 as the Scottish Government have exercised their powers to set the tax rates and bands (excluding the personal allowance) on non-savings, non-dividend income of Scottish taxpayers.

Tax bands 2017/18

On 15 December, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay delivered the 2017/18 Scottish Draft Budget setting out the Scottish Government’s financial and tax plans.

For 2017/18, the Scottish Government is proposing to freeze the Scottish basic rate of income tax at 20% and also to freeze the Scottish higher and Scottish additional rates at 40% and 45% respectively. In addition, the higher rate income tax threshold will increase by inflation to £43,430 in 2017/18. The Scottish Government also confirmed that the higher rate income tax threshold will increase by a maximum of inflation in all future years of this Parliament.

The Scottish Government has therefore not followed the UK Government’s plans to extend the threshold for paying the higher rate level of income tax of 40% from £43,000 to £45,000 for 2017/18. This means that a Scottish higher rate taxpayer will pay £314 more tax in 2017/18 than a UK higher rate taxpayer, being £1,570 at the marginal rate of 20% (40% - 20%).

Internet link: Scottish Draft Budget 2017/18

Apprenticeship Levy

The Apprenticeship Levy is being introduced from 6 April 2017 and will be payable by large employers. The Levy will be 0.5% of the employer’s pay bill, which is explained later in this article, but there is an annual allowance of £15,000.The allowance will be given on a pro-rata basis throughout the tax year.

The recent HMRC guidance confirms employers will need to report their Apprenticeship Levy liability each month:

  • from the start of the tax year if:

    - their annual pay bill (including any connected companies or charities) in the previous tax year was more than £3 million

    - they believe their annual pay bill (including any connected companies or charities) for the tax year will be more than £3 million

  • if an employer’s annual pay bill (including any connected companies or charities) unexpectedly increases to more than £3 million. In which case the employer will need to start reporting when this happens.

An employer’s annual pay bill is all payments to employees that are subject to employer Class 1 secondary NICs. Broadly wages but excluding benefits and expenses. HMRC have confirmed that employers must include payments to employees for whom there are no employer NICs including:

  • all employees earning below the NIC lower earnings and secondary thresholds
  • employees under the age of 21
  • apprentices under the age of 25

The Apprenticeship Levy will need to be reported each month on the Employer Payment Summary (known as the EPS) and should include the following:

  • the amount of the annual Apprenticeship Levy allowance which has been allocated to that PAYE scheme
  • the amount of Apprenticeship Levy you owe to date in the current tax year

HMRC have confirmed that it is not necessary to report Apprenticeship Levy if the employer has not had to pay it in the current tax year.

If you would like advice on the Apprenticeship Levy or other payroll matters please contact us.

Internet Link: GOV.UK apprenticeship levy

Personal tax accounts ‘first birthday’

The government are celebrating the ‘first birthday’ of their award winning Personal Tax Account which recently won Digital Project of the Year at the annual UK IT Industry Awards

HMRC have announced that in its first year, the Personal Tax Account has attracted more than seven million users and there have been millions of transactions including:

  • 1.6 million Income Tax repayments, worth more than £800 million
  • 1 million tax credit renewals
  • 100,000 people checking or updating their company car details
  • 1.6 million people checking their tax estimate
  • 2 million people checking their state pensions.

The press release also states that the Personal Tax Account is designed to be one stop shop for all customer interactions with HMRC and taxpayers using it can:

  • check their state pension
  • complete and return a Self Assessment tax return
  • update tax credits circumstances as they change throughout the year to prevent under and overpayments
  • claim an Income Tax refund that will be paid straight into their bank account
  • check and update their Marriage Allowance.

If you would like advice on your personal tax affairs please contact us.

Internet link: GOV.UK news

National Insurance changes - winners and losers

Tax campaigners have warned that the abolition of Class 2 National Insurance contributions from April 2018 could result in the lowest earners among the self employed being hardest hit.[a]

Class 2 NICs are flat-rate weekly contributions paid by the self-employed to gain access to contributory benefits. The self-employed also pay Class 4 NICs on profits above the Lower Profits Limit. Class 4 NICs do not currently give access to contributory benefits. At Autumn Statement 2016 the Chancellor confirmed that Class 2 contributions would be abolished from 6 April 2018.[b]

At present, self-employed earners whose profits exceed £5,965 a year, the small profits threshold (SPT), are required to pay Class 2 NI contributions at £2.85 a week. These contributions then count towards their state retirement pension and entitlement to certain other contributory benefits. If their profits fall below the SPT, they have the option to make voluntary Class 2 payments.

When Class 2 is abolished, payment of Class 4 NI contributions will count towards state benefits. In order to protect some people on low incomes, Class 4 contributions will not be payable until annual profits reach £8,060. However, as long as profits exceed the SPT, the self-employed will be given Class 4 credits, so they will be treated as making contributions even though none was actually paid.

A point to note though is that, unlike Class 2, Class 4 NI cannot be paid on a voluntary basis meaning that the only way that self-employed people on profits below the Class 4 threshold will be able to build up a contribution record, if they did not obtain NI credits through receipt of other benefits, eg tax credits, child benefit or Universal Credit, will be by paying Class 3 voluntary contributions at £14.10 a week.[c][d] 

Anthony Thomas, Chairman of the Low Income Tax Reform Group commented:

‘Some parts of these proposals are good news for self-employed workers on low earnings, but by no means all. Those with profits between £5,965 and £8,060 will be better off because they will pay no NI but be credited with contributions. Our concern is for those with lower earnings than £5,965 who would have to pay voluntary Class 3 contributions in the future to protect their benefits entitlement if they did not obtain NI credits through receipt of other benefits, for example tax credits, child benefit or Universal Credit. Class 3 contributions will cost almost five times the amount they are paying now (£14.10 per week compared to £2.85 per week) and may mean the cost is unaffordable, leading them to rely more on means-tested benefits in the future.’

Internet links: GOV.UK policy paper Low income tax group 

Charity fines

An investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has revealed that two national charities, the RSPCA and the British Heart Foundation, secretly screened millions of their donors so they could target them for more money. The ICO said that this practice breached the Data Protection Act as the charities failed to handle donors’ personal data in accordance with the legislation.

The charities also traced and targeted new or lapsed donors by piecing together personal information which was obtained from other sources. In addition, they traded data with other charities to create a pool of donor data which was available for sale. As the donors were not informed of these practices, they could not give their consent or object.

The investigation was one of a number by the ICO into the fundraising activities of charities sparked by media reports about pressure on donors to contribute. The Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, fined the RSPCA £25,000 and the British Heart Foundation £18,000.

The ICO can take action, including penalties of up to £500,000, against organisations and individuals that collect, use and keep personal data. Anyone who processes personal information must comply with the eight principles of the Data Protection Act which make sure personal data is:

  1. fairly and lawfully processed
  2. processed for limited purposes
  3. adequate, relevant and not excessive
  4. accurate and up to date
  5. not kept for longer than is necessary
  6. processed in line with an individual's rights
  7. secure and
  8. not transferred to other countries without adequate protection.

Internet link: ICO news

SDLT online refund procedures

HMRC have introduced an online service to apply for a repayment of the higher rates of Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) for additional properties if the property sold was previously a main home.

From 1 April 2016 higher rates of SDLT are charged on purchases of additional residential properties.

The main target of the higher rates is purchases of buy to let properties or second homes. However, there will be some purchasers who will have to pay the additional charge even though the property purchased will not be a buy to let or a second home. The 36 month rules set out below will help to remove some transactions from the additional rates (or allow a refund).

Care will be needed if an individual already owns, or partly owns, a property and transacts to purchase another property without having disposed of the first property.

The higher rates are three percentage points above the normal SDLT rates. The higher rates potentially apply if, at the end of the day of the purchase transaction, the individual owns two or more residential properties.

Some further detail:

  • where a new main residence is purchased before disposing of a previous main residence the higher rate will be payable. They then have 36 months to dispose of their previous main residence and claim a refund.
  • purchasers will also have 36 months between selling a main residence and replacing it with another main residence without having to pay the higher rates
  • a small share in a property which has been inherited within the 36 months prior to a transaction will not be considered as an additional property when applying the higher rates.

The online refund process will allow those affected to apply for a repayment of the higher rate of SDLT if the property sold was a previous main home.

Internet Link: GOV.UK SDLT repayment of Higher Rate

Latest statistics show unemployment at 4.8%

The government has announced:

‘labour market has finished a record breaking year with unemployment down by over 100,000 people and the rate running at 4.8%’.

Other statistics include:

  • there continues to be 31.8 million people in work, up by 2.7 million since 2010.
  • the number of women in work is at a record high of almost 15 million
  • long-term unemployment has fallen to 418,000 and is the lowest it has been since 2008, down 31,000 on the quarter
  • youth unemployment is 587,000, a fall of 350,000 since 2010
  • 41% of the 420,000 people now receiving Universal Credit are in work.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Damian Green said:

‘This year will be remembered as one when so many records were made – employment has consistently been running at an all-time high with more women, older workers and ethnic minority groups in work than ever before.

Encouragingly, this good news was extended right across the UK.

But there is more to do to help people of all backgrounds and abilities into work, which will remain a priority as we press ahead with our welfare reforms that are ensuring it always pays to be in work.’

Rachel Smith, CBI Principal Labour Market Adviser, said:

‘We see a mixed picture from the labour market over the last three months, with employment levels remaining more or less the same and unemployment seeing a slight drop.’

‘Although wage growth has gone up somewhat, so has inflation, hitting workers’ pay packets in real terms. Boosting productivity in every region and nation of the UK will be essential if firms are to further raise wages sustainably for their employees.’

Internet links: GOV. UK unemployment rate GOV.UK universal credit statistics CBI comment

[a]LITG report

http://www.litrg.org.uk/latest-news/news/161207-press-release-national-insurance-changes-will-see-winners-and-losers-among

[b]Policy paper https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/abolition-of-class-2-national-insurance-contributions/abolition-of-class-2-national-insurance-contributions

[c]LITG report

[d]Noted