Self-employed tax basis period reform

The self-employed tax basis period reform has changed the way trading income is allocated to tax years. Under the reforms, the tax basis period has changed from a ‘current year basis’ to a ‘tax year basis’.

This means that all sole trader and partnership businesses must now report their profits on a tax year basis, beginning with the self-assessment return due by 31 January 2025 (covering the tax year 2023-24) and future years.

Under the old rules there could be overlapping basis periods, which charged tax on profits twice and generated corresponding ‘overlap relief’ which was usually given on cessation of the business. The new method of using a ‘tax year basis’ has removed the basis period rules and prevents the creation of further overlap relief. 

The changes do not affect sole traders and partnership businesses who draw up annual accounts to a date between 31 March and 5 April. These businesses will continue to file as usual for the 2023-24 accounting year and beyond. 

The new rules will come into effect in the current 2024-25 tax year with the previous 2023-24 tax year known as the ‘transition year’. During the transitional year, all businesses’ basis periods will have been aligned to the tax year and all outstanding overlap relief used against profits for that tax year.

Any excess profit (after overlap relief) covering more than 12 months, is known as ‘transition profit’. The transitional profit will be spread by default over 5 tax years from 2023-24 until 2027-28.

Changes to Scottish Income Tax rates 2024-25

A reminder of the changes to Scottish Income Tax rates for the 2024-25 tax year. It was announced as part of the Scottish Budget measures that a new tax band called the advanced rate band will apply a 45% tax rate on annual income between £75,000 and £125,140 and would come into effect from 6 April 2024. 

In addition, 1p was added to the top rate of tax and the starter and basic rate bands were increased in line with inflation (6.7%, based on Consumer Price Index from September 2023). There were no changes to the Starter, Basic, Intermediate and Higher tax rates and the Higher rate threshold was maintained at £43,662. The measures are expected to raise an additional £1.5 billion in Income Tax revenue.

The Scottish rates and bands for 2024-25 are as follows:

Starter rate – 19% £12,571 – £14,876
Basic rate – 20% £14,877 – £26,561
Intermediate rate – 21% £26,562 – £43,662
Higher rate – 42% £43,663 – £75,000
Advanced rate – 45% £75,001 – £125,140
Top rate – 48% Above £125,140

The standard personal allowance for 2024-25 remains frozen at £12,570. 

Claim tax relief if working from home

If you are an employee who is working from home, you may be able to claim tax relief for part of your household bills that are related to your work. If your expenses or allowances are not paid by your employer, you can claim tax relief directly from HMRC.

You can claim tax relief if you have to work from home, for example because:

  • your job requires you to live far away from your office; and/or
  • your employer does not have an office.

Tax relief is not usually available if you choose to work from home. This includes if your employment contract lets you work from home some or all of the time or if your employer's office is unable to accommodate you.

Employees can claim tax relief of £6 per week (or £26 a month for employees paid monthly) to cover additional costs if they have to work from home. Employees do not need to keep any specific records if they receive this fixed amount.

Employees will receive tax relief based on their highest tax rate. For example, if you pay the 20% basic rate of tax and claim tax relief on £6 a week, you will receive £1.20 per week in tax relief (20% of £6). Alternatively, employees can claim the exact amount of extra costs they have incurred but will need to provide evidence to HMRC. HMRC will accept backdated claims for up to 4 previous tax years.

Employees may also be able to claim tax relief for using their own vehicle, be it a car, van, motorcycle or bike. As a general rule, there is no tax relief for ordinary commuting to and from your regular place of work. The rules are different for temporary workplaces where the expense is usually allowable or if an employee uses their own vehicle to do other business-related mileage. Employees may also be able to claim tax relief on equipment they have bought, such as a laptop, chair or mobile phone.

Tax-free child care

HMRC is reminding parents that they may be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare (TFC) to help pay for school holiday childcare costs.

The TFC scheme can help parents of children aged up to 11 years old (17 for those with certain disabilities). The TFC scheme helps support working families with their childcare costs. There are many registered childcare providers including childminders, breakfast and after school clubs and approved play schemes signed up across the UK. Parents can pay into their account regularly and save up their TFC allowance to use during school holidays. 

The TFC scheme provides for a government top-up on parental contributions. For every £8 contributed by parents an additional £2 top up payment will be funded by Government up to a maximum total of £10,000 per child per year. This will give parents an annual savings of up to £2,000 per child (and up to £4,000 for disabled children until the age of 17) in childcare costs. 

The TFC scheme is open to all qualifying parents including the self-employed and those on a minimum wage. The scheme is also available to parents on paid sick leave as well as those on paid and unpaid statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave. In order to be eligible to use the scheme parents will have to be in work at least 16 hours per week and earn at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage. If either parent earns more than £100,000, both parents are unable to use the scheme.

HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said:

‘Springtime is a good opportunity to take a fresh look at family finances. A quick check online and you can find out how Tax-Free Childcare can help cut the cost of your childcare bills. Every bit of financial support helps – I would urge families to ’hop to it’ and search ‘Tax-Free Childcare’ on GOV.UK to find out how you could be better off and open your account today.

Still time to register for the Marriage Allowance

There is still time to register for the marriage allowance before the current tax year ends on 5 April 2024. The marriage allowance applies to married couples and those in a civil partnership where a spouse or civil partner does not pay tax or does not pay tax above the basic rate threshold for Income Tax (i.e., one of the couples must currently earn less than the £12,570 personal allowance for 2023-24). HMRC has revealed that March is the most popular month for marriage allowance applications, with almost 70,000 couples applying in March last year.

The allowance works by permitting the lower earning partner to transfer up to £1,260 of their personal tax-free allowance to their spouse or civil partner. The marriage allowance can only be used when the recipient of the transfer (the higher earning partner) does not pay more than the basic 20% rate of income tax. This would usually mean that their income is between £12,571 and £50,270 during 2023-24.

For those living in Scotland this would usually mean income currently between £12,571 and £43,662.

Using the allowance, the lower earning partner can transfer up to £1,260 of their unused personal tax-free allowance to a spouse or civil partner. This could result in a saving of up to £252 for the recipient (20% of £1,260), or £21 a month for the current tax year.

If you meet the eligibility requirements and have not yet claimed the allowance, then you can backdate your claim as far back as 6 April 2019. This could result in a total tax break of up to £1,256 if you can claim for 2019-20, 2020-21, 2021-22, 2022-23 as well as the current 2023-24 tax year. If you claim now, you can backdate your claim for four years (if eligible) as well as for the current tax year.

HMRC’s online Marriage Allowance calculator can be used by couples to find out if they are eligible for the relief. An application can then be made online at GOV.UK.

Tax on savings interest

If you have taxable income of less than £17,570 in 2023-24 you will have no tax to pay on interest received. This figure is calculated by adding the £5,000 starting rate limit for savings (where 0% of the interest is taxable) to the current £12,570 personal allowance. However, it is important to note that if your total non-savings income exceeds £17,570 then the starting rate limit for savings is unavailable.

There is a tapered relief available if your non-savings income is between £12,570 and £17,570 whereby every £1 of non-savings income above a taxpayer's personal allowance reduces their starting rate for savings by £1.

There is also a Personal Savings Allowance (PSA) that can be beneficial to many savers. This allowance ensures that for basic-rate taxpayers the first £1,000 interest on savings income is tax-free. For higher-rate taxpayers the tax-free personal savings allowance is £500. Taxpayers paying the additional rate of tax on taxable income over £125,140 cannot benefit from the PSA.

Interest from savings products such as ISA's and premium bond wins do not count towards the limit. Taxpayers with tax-free accounts and higher savings can still continue to benefit from the relevant PSA limits.

Banks and building societies no longer deduct tax from bank account interest as a matter of course. Taxpayers who need to pay tax on savings income are required to declare this as part of their annual self-assessment tax return.

Taxpayers that have overpaid tax on savings interest can submit a claim to have the tax repaid. Claims can be backdated for up to four years from the end of the current tax year. This means that claims can still be made for overpaid interest dating back as far as the 2019-20 tax year. The deadline for making claims for the 2019-20 tax year is 5 April 2024.

Eligibility for replacement of domestic items relief

The replacement of domestic items relief enables landlords to claim tax relief when they replace movable furniture, furnishings, household appliances and kitchenware in a rental property. The allowance is available based on the cost of domestic items such as free-standing wardrobes, curtains, carpets, televisions, fridges and crockery.

In order for relief to be given, four conditions must be met:

Condition A – the individual or company looking to claim the relief must carry on a property business that includes the letting of a dwelling-house(s).

Condition B – an old domestic item that has been provided for use in the dwelling-house is replaced with the purchase of a new domestic item. The new item must be provided for the exclusive use of the lessee in that dwelling-house and the old item must no longer be available for use by the lessee.

Condition C – The expenditure on the new item must not be prohibited by the wholly and exclusive rule but would otherwise be prohibited by the capital expenditure rule.

Condition D – Capital Allowances must not have been claimed in respect of the expenditure on the new domestic item.

If the 4 conditions are met, then a deduction for the expenditure on the new item can be claimed.

The amount of the deduction is based on:

  • the cost of the new replacement item, limited to the cost of an equivalent item if it represents an improvement on the old item (beyond the reasonable modern equivalent);
  • the incidental costs of disposing of the old item or acquiring the replacement; and less
  • any amounts received on disposal of the old item.

HMRC’s internal guidance provides an example highlighting that a brand new budget washing machine costing circa £200 is not an improvement if a replacement for a five year old washing machine that cost around £200 at the time of purchase (or slightly less, taking into account inflation).

Spring Budget 2024 – High Income Child Benefit Charge

The High Income Child Benefit Charge (HICBC) came into force January 2013 and has applied to taxpayers whose income exceeds £50,000 in a tax year and who are in receipt of child benefit. It was announced as part of the Spring Budget measures that the income threshold at which HICBC starts to be charged will be increased from £50,000 to £60,000 effective from April 2024.

The HICBC is charged at the rate of 1% of the full Child Benefit award for each £200 (2023-24: £100) of income between £60,000 and £80,000. (2023-24: between £50,000 and £60,000). For taxpayers with income above £80,000 (2023-24: £60,000) the amount of the charge will equal the amount of Child Benefit received. The HICBC therefore either reduces or removes the financial benefit of receiving child benefit. Increasing the HICBC threshold is expected to have a positive impact for approximately 485,000 families. 

The Chancellor had been subject to intense lobbying regarding the unfairness of this charge as it is levied on an individual basis. For instance, currently dual income families on £49,000 each (with a household income of £98,000) may not be liable to the HICBC, but a single parent earning over £50,000 would be. Going forward, the government intends to administer the HICBC on a household rather than individual basis, but this move is expected to take until at least April 2026.

For new Child Benefit claims made after 6 April 2024, any backdated payment will be treated for HICBC purposes as if the entitlement fell in the 2024-25 tax year if backdating would otherwise create a HICBC liability in the 2023-24 tax year.

If the HICBC applies to you or your partner it is usually worthwhile to claim Child Benefit for your child, as it can help to protect certain benefits and will make sure your child receives a National Insurance number. However, you still have the choice of continuing to receive child benefit and pay the tax charge or elect to stop receiving Child Benefit and not pay the charge.

Spring Budget 2024 – non-dom changes

In a move that may partly have been prompted by seeking to mirror a longstanding policy of the Labour party, the Chancellor has announced that the generous non-dom rules are to be axed.

From April 2025, the government plans to abolish the remittance basis of taxation for non-UK domiciled individuals and replace it with a simpler residence-based regime. Individuals who opt into the regime will not pay UK tax on foreign income and gains (FIG) for the first four years of tax residence. They will continue to pay tax on UK income and gains, as is currently the case for non-domiciled individuals. The Chancellor said that after four years, those who continue to live in the UK will pay the same tax as other UK residents.

Individuals who on 6 April 2025 have been tax resident in the UK for less than 4 years (after 10 years of non-UK tax residence) will be able to use this new regime for any tax year of UK residence in the remainder of those 4 years. 

Individuals who move from the remittance basis to the arising basis on 6 April 2025 and are not eligible for the new 4-year FIG regime will, for 2025-2026 only, pay tax on 50% of their foreign income. This reduction applies to foreign income only; it does not apply to foreign chargeable gains. For 2026-27 onwards, tax will be due on all worldwide income in the normal way.  

Overseas Workday Relief (OWR) will also be reformed from April 2025 with eligibility for the relief based on the new regime. OWR will continue to provide Income Tax relief for earnings from duties conducted overseas for the first three years of tax residence with restrictions on remitting these earnings removed.

The government has also announced an intention to move to a residence-based regime for Inheritance Tax from 6 April 2025. This will be subject to consultation.

Checking Furnished Holiday Let property occupancy

The furnished holiday let (FHL) rules allow holiday lettings of properties that meet certain conditions to be treated as a trade for tax purposes.

In order to qualify as a furnished holiday letting, the following criteria need to be met:

  • The property must be let on a commercial basis with a view to the realisation of profits. Second homes or properties that are only let occasionally or to family and friends do not qualify.
  • The property must be located in the UK, or in a country within the EEA.
  • The property must be furnished. This means that there must be sufficient furniture provided for normal occupation and your visitors must be entitled to use the furniture.

In addition, the property must pass the following 3 occupancy conditions.

  1. Pattern of occupation condition. The property must not be used for more than 155 days for longer term occupation (i.e., a continuous period of more than 31 days).
  2. The availability condition. The property must be available for commercial letting at commercial rates for at least 210 days per year.
  3. The letting condition. The property must be let for at least 105 days per year and homeowners should be able to demonstrate the income from these lettings. 

Where there are a number of furnished holiday lettings properties in a business, it is possible to average the days of lettings for the purposes of qualifying for the 105 days threshold. This is called an averaging election.

There is also a special period of grace election which allows homeowners to treat a year as a qualifying year for the purposes of the furnished holiday let rules where they genuinely intended to meet the occupancy threshold but were unable to do so subject to a number of qualifying conditions.