Employment taxes

National Insurance thresholds

The government has recently announced National Insurance thresholds for 2020/21. Most thresholds will rise with inflation. Two thresholds, however, will rise by 10% from £8,632 to £9,500:

  • the primary threshold - which sets the level at which employees start to pay Class 1 National Insurance contributions (NICs)
  • the lower profits limit - which sets the level at which the self-employed start to pay Class 4 NICs.

The upper thresholds which apply to these two classes of NICs remain at £50,000.

Comment

The secondary threshold, which sets the level at which employers pay the main rate of NICs, only rises in line with inflation.

Off-payroll working in the private sector

The changes to the off-payroll working rules (commonly known as IR35), which came into effect in April 2017 for the public sector, will be extended to the private sector from April 2020. Draft legislation has been issued. The new rules apply to payments made for services provided on or after 6 April 2020.

The off-payroll working rules apply where an individual (the worker) provides their services through an intermediary (typically a personal service company) to another person or entity (the client). The client will be required to make a determination of a worker's status and communicate that determination. In addition, the fee-payer (usually the organisation paying the worker's personal service company) will need to make deductions for income tax and NICs and pay any employer NICs.

Only medium and large businesses will be subject to the 2020 rules, so small businesses will not need to determine the status of the off-payroll workers they engage. A small company is one which meets two of these criteria: its annual turnover is not more than £10.2 million: it has not more than £5.1 million on its balance sheet: it has 50 or fewer employees. For unincorporated organisations it is only the annual turnover test that applies. 

Employer provided cars

The scale of charges for calculating the taxable benefit for an employee who has use of an employer provided car is computed by reference to bands of CO2 emissions multiplied by the original list price of the vehicle. The maximum charge is capped at 37% of the list price of the car.
For 2019/20 the rates increased by 3% from the rates applying for 2018/19.

The government announced in Budget 2017 that CO2 emissions for cars registered from April 2020 will be based on the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP). Draft legislation has been issued to amend the previously planned benefit percentages for 2020/21 through to 2022/23: 

  • All zero emission cars will attract a reduced percentage of 0% in 2020/21 and 1% in 2021/22, before returning to the planned 2% rate in 2022/23. 
  • For cars registered before 6 April 2020, the current test procedure will continue to apply and there are no further changes to percentages previously set for 2020/21. These rates will be frozen at the 2020/21 level for 2021/22 and 2022/23.
  • For cars first registered from 6 April 2020 most rates will reduce by 2% in 2020/21 before returning to planned rates over the following two years, increasing by 1% in 2021/22 and 1% in 2022/23.

Comment

WLTP aims to be more representative of real world driving conditions, compared to the current test known as the New European Driving Cycle. The government estimates that reported CO2 values may be on average about 20 – 25% higher under the WLTP testing standards compared to the current test.

Employment Allowance

The Employment Allowance provides businesses and charities with relief from their employer NICs bill. Regulations have been issued to restrict the Employment Allowance, from 6 April 2020, to those employers whose employer NICs bill was below £100,000 in the previous tax year. Employers who are connected to other employers (such as companies within a group) will need to add together all of their employer Class 1 NICs liabilities incurred in the tax year prior to the year of claim to determine eligibility. 

The maximum Employment Allowance will be increased from £3,000 to £4,000 with effect from 6 April 2020.

From 6 April 2020 the Employment Allowance will operate as de minimis State aid. This means it will count towards the total aid a business is entitled to under the relevant de minimis State aid cap.

Comment

De minimis State aid rules apply if a business engages in economic activity, providing goods or services to the market. Most businesses will not have received de minimis State aid before so will not need to do further checks to determine if they are eligible for the Employment Allowance.

Loan Charge review

The Loan Charge tackles disguised remuneration tax avoidance schemes. These are tax arrangements that seek to avoid income tax and NICs by paying income to individuals in the form of loans, usually via an offshore trust, with no expectation that the loans will ever be repaid. The charge applies to any loans made through disguised remuneration schemes after 6 April 1999, which had not been repaid by 5 April 2019.

Draft legislation has been issued to amend the scope of the Loan Charge:

  • It will now only apply to outstanding balances of disguised remuneration loans made between 9 December 2010 and 5 April 2019 inclusive.
  • It will not apply to loans made in tax years before 2016/17 where a reasonable disclosure of the use of a disguised remuneration tax avoidance scheme was made within the relevant tax return or associated documents where appropriate, and HMRC failed to take any action (for example by opening an enquiry).
  • Those affected by the Loan Charge will be able to elect to split their loan balance over three consecutive years 2018/19 to 2020/21 (rather than the full charge arising in 2018/19).
  • The date by which the additional information form must be returned to HMRC will move from 1 October 2019 to 1 October 2020. The form requires taxpayers to provide full information to HMRC relating to any outstanding disguised remuneration loans for which they will need to make tax payments.

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