News and Events

The Budget

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Chancellor George Osborne's delivered his second budget this week, saying it was intended to provide "enduring growth for the future". As commentators and analysts weigh up the package of measures, it is charities, the property sector and research-based businesses that look set to be the winners. For enterprise, the biggest headline catcher is the announcement of a reduction in the rate of corporation tax, which has already drawn a reaction from big business, with the WPP Advertising Group saying it will possibly return its tax headquarters to the UK as a result. The rate will be reduced by 2% from April, and will reduce by 1% increments to 23% from April 2014, making it the lowest corporation tax rate among the G7 industrialised countries. "This move could make other business structures, such as corporate members of LLPs more attractive in future, so it's going to be worth reviewing this," said Danny Carter, tax expert with Chelmsford based lawyers Gepp & Sons. Research and development for small and medium sized companies – those with up to 250 employees - has received a boost in the shape of a hike in R&D tax relief, rising this April to 200% and further to 225% in 2012. "The sort of expenditure that can be classified under this R&D heading is actually quite wide-ranging, so many companies should benefit. It is any activity which contributes to the resolution of scientific or technological uncertainty or which sets out to find a scientific or technological advance," added Danny Carter. And for entrepreneurs, there is a doubling in the lifetime limit for gains which qualify for Entrepreneurs' Relief on the sale of a company, rising to £10m from April 2011. Said Name Surname, [company/tax]: "This allows qualifying gains to be taxed at 10% instead of the usual capital gains tax rate of up to 28%. This doubling of the limit adds up to an additional potential tax saving of £900,000 for an individual who has developed their company and now sells up. It's certainly worth getting some advice if you are at an advanced stage in any sale negotiations, to make sure you benefit from this." Another longer term benefit for business which is up for consultation is the potential merging of national contributions and income tax, one of a series of options intended to cut back on regulation. Some £350m worth of regulation will be removed, according to the Chancellor. Ten new Enterprise Zones have been announced, with more to follow. Designed to boost regional economies, these revive the 1980's concept and will offer simplified planning rules and tax breaks for business, including business rate exemption for five years. There is also likely to be enhanced capital allowances for manufacturing companies. The overall planning system is set to be overhauled to speed up major infrastructure and development investment. Changes to the Stamp Duty and Land Tax rules for bulk purchases of properties is intended to remove barriers to investment in residential property. The conversion of empty business premises in qualifying areas will benefit from the extension of the Renovation Allowance Scheme for a further five years from 2012. Other property-related measures include clarification on the position with furnished holiday lets. The previous Government had intended to end beneficial tax breaks for holiday-home owners but had been forced to put their proposals on hold. Now, this budget confirms that FHL's will continue to be treated as a trade, with the associated tax benefits, provided certain tougher criteria are met. Properties must be available for letting for 210 days each year, up from 140, and the actual letting must reach 105 days, up from 70. Said Danny Carter: "This 105 figure is potentially the hardest to meet, but there's some leeway as owners will be allowed to roll-over the success of one year into another, as a successful 105 days of letting in year one will be treated as having also met the target for two subsequent years, if certain other criteria are met." And for 10,000 first time buyers, there is a £250m assisted deposit scheme through a shared equity option on new homes. Called the First Buy scheme, it will be open to those with a household income of less than £60,000 who have a 5% deposit available for a new home. They will be able to share in the £250m pot, with early indications suggesting that the funding will be used to support the deposit payment, and that all support will be repayable when the property is sold. Danny Carter said "Early commentators have suggested this may help developers more than buyers, particularly if we are heading for further falls in property prices. However it pans out, it's important that anyone wanting to be part of the scheme really understands what they're signing up for." Also for individuals, there is an offer of reduced Inheritance Tax (IHT) designed to encourage more charitable legacies to be made. Where charities are given at least 10% of an estate, there will be a reduction in the IHT rate from 40% to 36%, applying to deaths from 6 April 2010. Inheritance tax is charged on the estate of a person who has died, if the value is greater than the current threshold of £325,000. This threshold has been frozen through until 2014/15. Danny Carter added: "It's certainly going to be worth people having a review of their will, or taking this change into account if they are writing a new one, particularly if they already have specified donations to charity, as they need to ensure they reach the 10% if they want to benefit from the reduction to the 36% rate." The move is part of the Government's Big Society agenda and intended to stimulate income to charities, who have been affected by cuts in local government grants. Gift aid administration is also to be simplified, especially for small donations such as street collections. • For additional information or comment please contact: Danny Carter of Gepp & Sons. This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.