Apportionment and duality

When deciding whether an expense is allowed or disallowed it is important to consider that the expenditure must be incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of your trade or employment. 

Under the legislation any expenditure not incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade, profession or vocation should be disallowed. HMRC takes a slightly more relaxed view that a strict reading of the legislation would suggest. 

One of the main points HMRC examines when considering the application of the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test relates to apportionment and duality.

In this regard, HMRC’s internal manuals state that:

When you consider the application of the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test, it is important that you distinguish between cases where:

  1. a definite part or proportion of an expense has been laid out or expended wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade, profession or vocation. That part or proportion should not be disallowed on the ground that the entire expense is not laid out or expended wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade, profession or vocation,
  2. an expense has been incurred for a dual purpose. Such expenditure should be disallowed.

For example, when considering the running costs of a car used partly for the purposes of the trade and partly for other purposes, HMRC’s position is that the costs apportioned to the business use of the car would be deductible. 

Cash basis for landlords

The cash basis scheme helps sole traders and other unincorporated businesses benefit from a simpler way of managing their financial affairs. Landlords can use the cash basis when recording income and expenditure i.e., recording the flow of money from and to the business.

The scheme is not open to limited companies and limited liability partnerships. The entry threshold for the cash basis scheme is £150,000 and you can stay in the scheme until your business turnover reaches £300,000.

Unlike other taxpayers that need to opt-in to use the scheme, the legislation assumes that landlords will use the cash basis as the default method of calculation. A landlord can still elect to opt out of the scheme in which case they can continue to use generally accepted accounting practice (GAAP) to calculate their taxable profits. Landlords are also required to continue using GAAP if their rental receipts are more than the £300,000 scheme threshold.

HMRC’s property income manual lists the following criteria of when the cash basis is not available to a property business. 

A: The property business is run by a company, limited liability partnership (LLP), trustees or a corporate firm (a partnership with at least one non-individual member).

B: Receipts that would be brought into account under the cash basis for the tax year exceed £150,000. This amount must be proportionally reduced if the property business is only carried out for part of the tax year.

C: If the property business is being carried on jointly with a spouse or civil partner, the same basis must be used by both individuals, unless they make a declaration under S837/ITA 2007 that they are beneficially entitled to the income in unequal shares.

D: Business premises renovation allowance has been claimed, and a balancing event in the tax year gives rise to a balancing adjustment.

E: An election is made to use GAAP because the person believes that traditional accounting is more appropriate. The election must be made within one year of the filing date for that tax year.

Expenditure disallowed

When deciding whether an expense is allowed or disallowed for tax purposes it is important to bear in mind that the expenditure must be incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of your trade or employment.

Under the legislation any expenditure not incurred wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade, profession or vocation should be disallowed. Interestingly, HMRC takes a slightly more relaxed view than a strict reading of the legislation would suggest.

HMRC’s own internal manuals offers advice to HMRC inspectors to exercise care when applying the ‘wholly and exclusively’ test. The advice states that where there is an incidental benefit that does not, of itself, mean that the expenditure is disallowed.

The following example helps clarify this point.  A self-employed consulting engineer may travel to exotic locations to advise on projects. The travel and the exotic locations may be benefits but where there was no private purpose they are incidental to the carrying on of the profession and the cost is allowable.

It is also possible to apportion part of an expense where necessary. For example, when considering the running costs of a car used partly for the purposes of the trade and partly for other purposes.  HMRC’s position is that the costs associated with the business use of the car would be deductible.

Take advantage of the Annual Investment Allowance

The Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) allows business owners to claim the total amount of qualifying expenditure on plant and machinery, up to certain limits. This deduction reduces profits subject to tax.

The AIA can be claimed by an individual, partnership or company carrying on a trade, profession or vocation, a UK non-residential property business or a furnished holiday let business. Please note, that partnerships or trusts with a mixture of individuals and companies in the business structure are unable to qualify for AIA.

The AIA was permanently set at £200,000 for all qualifying expenditure on or after 1 January 2016. However, this limit was temporarily increased to £1 million for a 2-year period from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2020. This increased limit is a generous allowance and should cover the annual spend of most small and medium sized businesses. 

The AIA is available for most assets purchased by a business, such as machines and tools, vans, lorries, diggers, office equipment, building fixtures and computers. The AIA does not apply to cars.

There is now just three months left until the end of the tax year. If you are thinking of incurring large items of capital expenditure for your business, now is a good time to consider your investment options.

Basis periods and change of accounting date

HMRC’s guidance lists the following useful examples about a change of accounting date:

If your accounting date in 2016 to 2017 is more than 12 months after the end of the basis period for 2015 to 2016, your basis period is the period between the end of the basis period for 2015 to 2016 and the new accounting date.

For example, your basis period for 2015 to 2016 ended on 31 May 2015, and the new accounting date is 31 August 2016, your basis period is the 15-month period 1 June 2015 to 31 August 2016.

If your accounting date in 2016 to 2017 is less than 12 months after the end of the basis period for 2015 to 2016, your basis period is the 12 months ending on the new accounting date.

For example, your basis period for 2015 to 2016 ended on 31 December 2015 and the new accounting date is 31 July 2016, your basis period is the 12-month period 1 August 2015 to 31 July 2016, see ‘Overlap profits’, below.

If your new accounting date is 31 March or 1, 2, 3 or 4 April, see Accounting dates in the period 31 March to 4 April below.

In the first example, above an overlap occurs because of the change in accounting date. A portion of profits is effectively taxed twice, this is known as overlap profit. Overlap profits relief can be used to reduce the profits on the final tax return when the business ceases trading or if the accounting period changes but the ideal scenario would usually be not to create the overlap in the first place.