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Budget 2012 for Virtual Assistants: April’s tax & business news overview

James at TWD Accountants gives us his overview of how the budget will affect virtual assistants:
Travel for Home-Based Business

If you are self-employed your business may well be based at your home address, although you perform the majority of your work at your customers’ sites. This can apply to a range of trades from plumbers to computer consultants, and even medical professionals.

In order to claim the costs of travelling to your customers’ sites against your taxable profits, you need to show that your trading activity does not cease when you arrive home. The following records should help prove this:

– Precise records of all journeys to your customers’ sites, including the date, the mileage, and any public transport tickets and parking receipts.
– A diary of the time spent working on proposals, quotes and other business related paperwork at your home address.
– Business-related paperwork such as invoices and quotations should show your home address as the business base.
– Any insurance policy you need for your business should show your home address as the operational base for the business.
– Where your business is operated through a company, having the registered office for that company at the home address can also help. HMRC will be able to see these details, but you can hide them from prying eyes on the Companies House register.

You can also make a claim for the cost of running your business from home, so speak to us to see what can and cannot be claimed as a business expense.

VAT Changes

The Government has decided to tidy up some of the areas of VAT law where a different rate of VAT may be charged on very similar goods or services.

Food & drink
All food eaten on the supplier’s premises; ‘eat-in’ purchases, are subject to standard rate VAT (20%). However, the consumption area for the food may be a communal area shared with other retailers, or tables and chairs on the pavement, neither of which are technically on the retailer’s premises. In these cases the rules are to be redefined so that such areas adjacent to the retailer’s premises will count as ‘eat-in’ areas, and the food sold to be eaten there will be standard rated.

Take-away food is subject to zero-rate VAT, unless it is hot food designed to be eaten straight away such as fish and chips. Some retailers argue that the food is only hot because is has been freshly baked, so charge zero-rate VAT. The law is to be clarified so that all hot food to take-away, other than freshly baked bread, will be subject to standard rate VAT.

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Soft drinks designed to rehydrate, slake thirst or give enjoyment, are subject to standard rate VAT. However, some sports drinks are claimed to have nutritional values (e.g. protein enhancers), rather than the usual thirst-quenching properties of a soft drink. Hence the manufacturers have zero-rated those drinks. The law will be changed to ensure that all sports drinks are standard rated just like other soft drinks.

Land and buildings
The letting of a discrete area of land can be exempt from VAT, if the owner has opted to exempt the land or building. Self-storage lock-ups can fall into this exemption. However, other storage facilities where the customer does not have right of entry to a discrete area cannot be exempt from VAT. The law is to be changed to ensure that self-storage facilities are subject to standard rate VAT, whether or not the owner of the facilities has opted to exempt the whole building from VAT.

Miscellaneous items
Rental of hairdressers’ chairs have previously been exempt from VAT in certain cases, but will now always be subject to standard rate VAT.

Sales of caravans will be subject to standard rate VAT, but residential caravans designed and constructed for year-round living will be zero-rated for VAT.

Approved changes to listed buildings are zero-rated for VAT, but repairs to those buildings are standard rated. This encourages the building owners to alter their protected buildings rather than repair them. The law will be changed so all building materials and building services supplied for alterations of listed buildings will be standard rated.

These changes will generally take effect from 1 October 2012, but where the contract for work on a listed building had been signed by 21 March 2012, the zero rate will continue to apply.

How Much To Pay Yourself?

As the director and shareholder of your own company you can decide how much salary to pay yourself each month, in order to use your personal allowance in the most tax efficient way. As a director of your personal company you do not have to pay yourself the national minimum wage unless you have an employment contract with your company.

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From 6 April 2012 the tax free personal allowance is £675 per month (£8,105 per year), so you could take a salary at that level and pay no income tax. However, the monthly thresholds for paying class 1 national insurance (NI) are: £634 for employees and £624 for employers. If your salary is £675 gross per month, your company needs to deduct NI of £4.92 and pay employer’s NI of £7.04 on top.

If you take a lower salary of just over the NI lower earnings threshold of £464 per month you will get the NI credit, so your wages count towards your state pension entitlement, but you don’t pay any tax or NI and neither does the company. However, at that annual salary level (£5,568) you will be ‘wasting’ £2,537 of your tax free personal allowance. At £624 per month there will be no NI to pay and you only have £617 of unused personal allowance, so this is likely to be more beneficial.

As a director’s salary is an allowable expense for Corporation Tax purposes it is always beneficial to pay yourself a salary but talk to us first about the best salary level for you. The correct procedures also need to be in place when paying a salary and we will also need to take into account your other sources of income, as you may be using your personal allowance elsewhere.

April Question & Answer Section

Q. I am about to move abroad, for what I hope will be a permanent relocation. Can I continue to contribute to my tax-free ISAs in the UK?

A. To open an ISA you must be resident and ordinarily resident in the UK for tax purposes. This broadly means that you normally live in the UK. There are exceptions for members of the military and government employees who are sent to work abroad. Once you have emigrated, you will not be permitted to open a new ISA, or contribute to ISAs already held. Also the interest paid on the ISAs you already hold may be taxable in the country you live in.

Q. If a company pays for private medical insurance for its employees and the contract is between the employer and the insurance company, is there a tax charge on the employees? Can the company deduct the cost of the insurance from its profits?

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A. Where the employees earn £8,500 or more a year, or are directors, there is a tax charge for the individuals based on the cost to the company of the insurance. There are exceptions to this tax charge for eye-tests required by health and safety legislation, annual medical checks or health screenings. The company can deduct the cost of the insurance from its profits, as it is part of the cost of employing staff.

Q. I bought an investment property about 6 years ago and after expenses I have a surplus of about £250 per month. I have never declared this income or paid tax on it. How do I go about putting this right?

A. The Taxman is running a series of campaigns to encourage people to come clean about unpaid tax, the latest of which is aimed at people who sell through online markets. Although this is not your situation, you can make a disclosure of your rental profits. You will have to work out how much tax you owe and the interest due on that late paid tax, but we can help you with this. There will also be a penalty to pay, but as you are volunteering the information without being asked, the penalty should be minimal. The penalty could possibly be about 10% of the tax due.

April Key Tax Dates

5th – End of 2011/12 tax year. Last day to use up your annual exemptions for capital gains tax, inheritance tax and ISA’s.

14th – Return and payment of CT61 tax due for quarter to 31 March 2012

19th – PAYE/NIC and CIS deductions due for month to 5/4/2012 or quarter 4 of 2011/12 for small employers.

30th – Additional daily penalties start of £10 per day up to a maximum of £900 for failing to file self assessment tax return due on 31 January 2012 (2010/11 tax return)

Content supplied by TWD Accountants – www.twdaccounts.co.uk

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