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Autumn Statement Update 2015

The Autumn Budget

We set out below our wishes and thoughts around a few of the key issues that we anticipate to see in the Chancellor’s Autumn Budget due on the 22nd November 2017. Check back in with us on the day of the Autumn Budget for our analysis of the Chancellor’s speech and what it will mean in practice. In the meantime, if you require any further assistance please feel free to get in touch.

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a category

Anti-avoidance

Business

Employment and pensions

VAT

Real estate

Open the category headings to read our comments: 

Tax Avoidance

Following the revelations of the recent “Paradise Papers”, we are likely to see continued action on tax avoidance, with the Chancellor under particular pressure to close down opportunities for tax avoidance through offshore structures.

Register of beneficial owners of non-resident companies

We expect to see the introduction of a register of beneficial owners of non-resident companies which hold UK property or engage in UK Government procurement in response to a consultation on this, which closed on 15 May 2017.

Such a register would form an extension to the people with significant control (roughly 25%) register (the “PSC register”), which was introduced in June 2016 for UK companies. The PSC register makes it possible to trace the owners of registered properties owned by companies incorporated in the UK. This can be done by finding out the name of the UK company on the title register to the property (held at the relevant Land Registry) and then looking at that company’s PSC information held by Companies House. However, the requirements of the PSC register do not currently apply to companies incorporated outside the UK.

The intention of the proposed register for non-resident companies is to ensure that overseas entities cannot buy or sell property in the UK unless they have provided information about their beneficial owners. In respect of property already owned by non-resident companies, such a restriction would operate so that a note would appear on the title register for the property until information regarding the property’s beneficial ownership was provided. Entities wishing to buy or sell property would therefore have to register their beneficial ownership information with Companies House.

Requirement to notify HMRC of offshore structures

We might also see a response from the Government on a consultation which proposed the introduction of a new legal requirement that intermediaries creating or promoting certain complex offshore financial arrangements notify HMRC of their creation and provide a list of clients using them. Clients would, in turn, be expected to notify HMRC of their involvement via a notification number on their self-assessment tax return or personal tax account. The requirement would be targeted at structures which represent a higher risk of being used for evading UK taxes. The intention is to give HMRC an improved insight into how such structures are being used, and who is using them.

Construction industry fraud

We are expecting the Chancellor to outline policy options to address VAT and income tax fraud within the construction industry. A recent consultation (which closed on 9 June 2017) considered options for a VAT reverse charge for certain supplies made in connection with a construction project and possible amendments to the Construction Industry Scheme in order to better target fraudulent activity undertaken within the industry.

Business

Business rates

The Government has already proposed switching the indexation of business rates from RPI to CPI from 2021. We may see this switch brought forward to 2018/19, thus limiting the growing burden of business rates. Such a move would undoubtedly be welcomed by businesses and business lobby groups across the UK which have campaigned on this issue for a while.

Patient capital

We are expecting the Government to respond to a consultation (which closed on 22 September 2017) on how to increase the supply of capital to growing innovative firms. The consultation forms part of the Treasury’s Patient Capital Review and considers tax reliefs such as Entrepreneurs’ Relief, the Enterprise Investment Scheme (“EIS”) and the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (“SEIS”). We will be looking out for any changes to these tax-advantaged schemes.

Pensions

There are no definite proposals in relation to pensions, but it is anticipated that any changes will be seen as a money-raising measure and there is likely to be an adverse impact for higher earners. In particular, there has been some press speculation that there could be a change announced in the Budget to the way in which tax relief on contributions is calculated – for example moving from tax relief at a member’s marginal rate to a flat (i.e. for some a lower) rate of relief. There has also been some discussion about the possibility of further reductions to the annual allowance, with suggestions that the basic annual allowance might fall from £40,000 to £30,000 and the level at which the annual allowance begins to taper for high earners might come down from £150,000.

VAT

Reduction of VAT threshold for UK businesses.

Currently £85,000 for UK businesses, it is possible that this could be reduced to something nearer to the EU average of £20,000, as a revenue-raising measure.

Real Estate

Non-resident corporate landlords

One of the main announcements we are expecting from the Chancellor’s Budget is the extension of the corporation tax regime to non-UK resident corporate landlords (“NRCLs”) in respect of rental income.

The impact of such a move would mean that provisions which currently only apply to UK corporation tax payers would also apply to NRCLs. Such provisions include those enacted last week in the Finance (No. 2) Act 2017 such as:

  • the corporate interest restriction rules which limit the deductibility of interest where finance costs exceed £2m per group, and
  • the loss restriction rules which restrict the use of carried forward losses where these exceed £5m per annum

as well as other pre-existing provisions such as the hybrid mismatch rules which could potentially disallow interest (and other payments) between related parties.
 
Bringing NRCLs within the scope of corporation tax would represent a radical change to the status quo. Most UK real estate held by offshore investors is held through companies (i.e. NRCLs) which are highly geared with much internal (as well as possibly external) debt. The extension of the corporation tax regime to NRCLs could therefore have a major impact on anticipated returns.

Importantly, it is not expected that capital gains on commercial property held by non-resident companies will be brought within the scope of corporation tax, so the existing rules here should not change.

Even if the Chancellor does not actually extend corporation tax to NRCLs, we expect provisions with similar results to be introduced.

SDLT

The housing crisis continues. We are not expecting to see any rises in SDLT rates or any reduction in the higher rates for additional residential property purchased by individuals. However, the Chancellor may consider increasing the threshold at which SDLT becomes payable for residential properties with a view to helping first time buyers get onto the property ladder.

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