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January questions and answers

Q. I am the sole director and shareholder of a limited company, which has been trading for many years. Last year, I took an extended holiday and travelled around the world with my wife. We were away for twelve months in total. Whilst I was away the company continued to collect outstanding payments, but it did not receive any other income. Now that I am back, I have taken on another director/shareholder (50%) and company trading has resumed. Should I have informed HMRC that I was going away and how should the losses in the period of temporary non-trading be treated?

A. According to the HMRC Business Income Manual (para BIM80500 onwards), your ‘intention’ to continue to trade at a later date will be an important factor in deciding whether there was a cessation. The Manual states that if:

‘…the new activity is similar in scale and nature to the old, it is relevant to look at all the circumstances in which the break occurred, including the length of the break and the intentions of the business proprietors’ (BIM80580).

A mere decision to wind down or dispose of the business does not of itself amount to a permanent discontinuance if trading activity in fact continues after the decision (J & R O’Kane & Co v CIR [1922] 12TC303).’

If HMRC rule that the old trade did not cease, and therefore a new trade has not commenced, then any losses can simply be carried forward and set off against future profits from the same trade. Also, if it is decided that there was no cessation of trade, there is no requirement to notify HMRC.

Q. My employer has agreed to give me an interest-free loan to purchase my annual rail fare ticket. The season ticket is £5,000. Will I have to pay tax on the loan?

A. Strictly, the taxable benefit on cheap or interest-free loans is the difference between any interest paid and the interest payable at the ‘official rate’ (currently 2.50%). However, there is no charge where the total of all beneficial loans made to an employee do not exceed £10,000 at any time in the tax year.

You should note that tax is charged on the amount written off of any loans, whether or not the recipient of the loan is still employed.

Q. Can the annual capital gains tax (CGT) exemption be utilised against a capital gain that qualifies for entrepreneurs’ relief?

A. The short answer is yes it can.

If you’re entitled to entrepreneurs’ relief, qualifying gains up to the lifetime limit applying at the time you make your disposal (£10 million for disposals on or after 6 April 2011), will be charged to CGT at the rate of 10%.

If your qualifying net gains exceed the lifetime limit applicable to the time you make that disposal, no further relief is due and the excess over that amount is wholly chargeable at the normal rate of CGT at the time your gains accrue. The annual exempt amount is allocated in the most beneficial way, so is set first against gains having the highest rate of CGT. If you make a subsequent business disposal in a later year which qualifies for entrepreneurs’ relief, the total relief (for all years) is still limited to your lifetime limit. Any gains exceeding that limit are wholly chargeable at the normal rate of CGT.

See the HMRC factsheet HS275 for further details.

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