Do you own property that you rent out? Have you borrowed money to buy property - expecting that the rental income will cover the cost of borrowing? Then you need to read this article NOW.
Property business owners, particularly buy-to-let landlords, have been hit with a number of quite dramatic changes in their tax status.
One of the biggest problems to many landlords who have borrowed against rental income is the gradual disallowance of tax relief for finance payments that starts this April.
Biggest Impact on Borrowers
The changes in tax relief will have the most impact on landlords who have borrowed heavily to grow their property portfolio, with a possible two-fold, and negative impact on their property business.
Firstly, if their present claims for mortgage interest and other finance charges are reducing the amount of higher rate tax they are required to pay, once the present changes are fully implemented by 2020, tax bills will increase as tax relief will be limited to the basic rate.
Secondly, if their present claims for mortgage interest and other finance charges are reducing their taxable property income, such that they pay no higher rate tax, when these charges are disallowed their taxable income will increase – possibly into the higher rate bands – and for the first time they may become higher rate tax payers. They will still get some relief for finance charges paid but only at the basic rate.
In both cases, the amount of cash generated, after tax, will reduce. If landlord’s occupancy rates fall, the loss of cash flow will be exaggerated by increased tax bills and investors may face tough choices.
To Fail to Plan is to Plan to Fail…
Planning is absolutely key. If you feel you may be affected, and have not taken professional advice so far, please get in touch with us here at Jones Harris for a no-obligation chat.
We would be delighted to both quantify the effects on your property business cash flow and to offer strategic ideas to minimise the downside consequences.
Burying your head in the sand won’t make this particular issue go away…
Impact of Local Bank Closures
The world is changing – and things that we used to do in ‘real life’ are now often done on the internet – like shopping and banking – but what difference does a loss of the high street bank make?
Well to an ordinary member of the public who is internet savvy probably not much. You can get your cash from a cash-point or at the supermarket checkout and check your balance online and even on a phone. Older people who aren’t internet savvy will obviously struggle with the closures, and unfortunately the elderly will probably be the hardest hit.
Local Bank Closures
However, as accountants and business advisors, here at Jones Harris we’re concerned with the impact of the closure of high street banks on your business – especially following the closure of NatWest in Fleetwood, Yorkshire Bank and Yorkshire Building Society in Cleveleys and HSBC in Blackpool and Lytham during 2017.
So what can you do?
Use the internet. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for online banking. It sounds obvious, but fears of internet safety might have put you off, or structural protocols regarding who in the organisation has access to the business account. These are all issues which can be solved – don’t forget it you need any specialist advice about IT or organisational management, Jones Harris can link you up with our network of trusted professionals.
Ask customers to pay by BACS. Where you are trading with other businesses, request that they pay you by bank transfer. That way you reduce the number of cheques which your business receives and therefore the number of trips to a bank branch.
Cash Banking. This is a more difficult one. If you’re the owner of a retail business or your customers pay you in cash, you’ve not got much choice about paying it into the bank.
It might be time to invest in a good safe and a good cash-in-transit bag so that you make fewer trips to the bank with more money. Could you also recruit the assistance of a strong person to accompany you and act as a bodyguard?! Joking apart, you should always be careful about carrying cash to a bank and consider the safety of your employees in this circumstance. If you trade in large amounts of cash it might be worth considering a cash transit service.
Or, if you do have a high cash turnover, you might consider using it in different ways, for example making payments with it, or you could even look at a scheme to put a cash machine in your shop or public place, in which case the cash from your shop would be used to fill it.
Using other banks. For a member of the public, swapping banks might be a good short term solution to a branch closure – but for a business it’s just not that simple.
Local Post Office Counter
You could, however, use the services of the local Post Office – there’s still one in most towns.
The Post Office website states that “You can access your high street bank account at one of our 11,500 branches.” You can withdraw and deposit from the counter or cash machine free of charge. More information about Post Office branch banking services here
Don’t forget, if you’d like our opinion or advice on any of these areas, you’re always very welcome to get in touch with us here at Jones Harris for a no-obligation chat.
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When is a Hobby a Taxable Trade?
How to work out whether your hobby is in fact a business which generates taxable income
Many people have hobbies like car-booting, or crafting, or buying and selling on eBay - often you start out by attending events and then catch the bug and join in by making and doing things which could earn you a bit of extra cash.
It's surprising how much this all can add up, especially if you are particularly good at it - you might have a fantastic eye for a bargain and a knack for making money!
At some point though, if you have got that knack for turning base metal into gold, your hobby will pass over the line from a 'bit of pin money' into a regular source of income and being classed as a 'trade' - which you should be declaring to HMRC and paying tax on.
How do you know when you're running a business?
HMRC follows the guidelines below called “the badges of trade” which helps them to decide whether you're running a part-time hobby that creates an income stream, or a business that needs to be declared on an annual tax return:
1. An intention to make a profit supports trading, but by itself is not conclusive.
2. Is the asset of such a type or amount that it can only be turned to advantage by a sale? Or did it yield an income or give ‘pride of possession’, for example, a picture for personal enjoyment?
3. Transactions that are similar to those of an existing trade may themselves be trading.
4. Was the asset repaired, modified or improved to make it more easily saleable or saleable at a greater profit?
5. Was the asset sold in a way that was typical of trading organisations? Or, did it have to be sold to raise cash for an emergency?
6. Was money borrowed to buy the asset? Could the funds only be repaid by selling the asset?
7. Assets that are the subject of trade will normally, but not always, be sold quickly. If the intention is to resell an item shortly after purchase that's trading. Or if you're going to keep it indefinitely, it's much less likely.
8. An asset that is acquired by inheritance, or as a gift, is less likely to be the subject of trade.
These are some of the ways in which HMRC will decide whether or not you are running a business or passing your time on a Sunday.
One thing that will probably help you to decide whether your income should be declared is to know that from April 2017, the government is to introduce a new £1,000 allowance for property income and a £1,000 allowance for trading income.
If you've got property/rental income or your 'hobby' earns you an income below £1,000 you will no longer need to declare or pay tax on that income.
If your income is over £1000 then you do need to declare it. Don't forget that your income is the amount of profit which you've made, so take off all your expenses and the cost of buying things which you then sell to find out just how much money you've made.
If you'd like some advice just get in touch with us here at Jones Harris for a no-obligation chat. We help all kinds of individuals and businesses large and small with their accounts and financial queries, and we're sure to be able to help you.
A Minute with your Tax Code
We've published articles before, advising that people should check that their tax codes are correct, and with the revelation that around 3.2m are incorrect, you can see how it really could be you.
A report from the National Audit Office revealed that between April 14 and October 2015, 3.2m people were issued with an incorrect tax code – which a minute or two of checking could pick up. Some of these inaccuracies will mean that people have a nice surprise ahead in the form of a refund. However, if you are in the ‘nasty shock’ category after having paid too little tax, it’s best to know about it sooner rather than later and reduce the size of the back payment…
Don’t think you’ll get away with it if you owe HMRC money through a mistake which they’ve made in your tax code as it’s your legal responsibility to make sure that you pay the right amount of tax. If you owe them less than £50 they may write it off. An amount of less than £3000 would be collected via your pay packet with a tax code adjustment. If you are one of the really unlucky ones (or have had your head in the sand for a very long time) and you owe HMRC more than £3000 you should ask for a repayment plan.
Where you or your employees rarely change jobs and have steady personal circumstances, the tax code will tick along from year to year, requiring little more than a cursory glance to make sure that the figures are consistent.
However, errors can be common when people change jobs or maybe do more than one job, after retirement if some employment continues or where a personal pension is received, if there are other personal circumstances where additional payments are collected through your tax code, or even if someone has just typed in the wrong figures.
If you operate a payroll department, the accuracy of the deductions which you make are based on the accuracy of the employees tax code - so while you will have knowledge about who is in receipt of work based benefits like company cars, it's also important that they check other aspects of their code which you wouldn't have knowledge about. Otherwise, small errors in the digits of the tax code can lead to significant errors in the money which they pay.
The Money Saving Expert website has a free, handy online tax code checker which gives you an overview of whether your tax code is likely to be right for your age, earnings and personal circumstances. It’s worth having a look at your own, and sending out a reminder to employees to have a look at theirs.
One final word on our favourite subject about scams – HMRC will never send you an email to say that you are due a tax rebate, so any which you do receive will be a scam. Normal rules apply – whatever you do, don’t click on any attachments or links, and under no circumstances send a reply or any personal details.
Here at Jones Harris we like to make sure that you are kept up to speed with different kinds of business and financial advice. If you aren’t already a client and you've got a business, or maybe you are retired but have complicated financial affairs, in which case why don't you get in touch for a no-obligation chat?
Have you got an Old Pension Pot?
Have you got some money stowed away in a pension that you've lost track of?
Here's another top financial tip from the repository of useful information at Jones Harris - a quick search which could make you that little bit richer in old age.
It's estimated that four out of five people have lost track of at least one pension pot - at that rate it could very well be you!
According to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) there's a good £400 MILLION floating about in unclaimed pensions and the new Pension Tracing Service enables you to track down your share of it reasonably easily.
Previously, if you wanted to check, it was a more complicated system that involved completing and submitting paperwork and then a wait for a reply. The new system lets you track down the administrators of your lost pensions online and immediately points you in the right direction of what to do next. Although it won't tell you whether you do have a pension or its value, it will tell you who to check with.
There are full details of the service and how to use it on the Pension Tracing Service
Did you really start a business because you wanted to keep accounts?
If the answer to that question is yes, your business has to be either in bookkeeping or accountancy!
However, if yours is one of the 4.1 million UK businesses which don’t employ people it’s likely that you started a business for freedom, flexibility, the ability to float your own boat, do things your way, work around the kids/granny/dog… but not to sit for hours on end each week, keeping accounts and doing paperwork!
Whether you want your business to grow at the speed of light, or whether you just want to earn enough to live, good bookkeeping and accounts are vital to making sure that you are actually on the right path and making a profit for your efforts.
Not only does good paperwork enable you to complete your year-end returns to the tax man efficiently, accurately and without penalty, it also allows you to follow and understand the health of your business, flagging up any timely adjustments to products/pricing/procedures which you need to make.
How much is your time worth?
You should know how much your time is worth when it comes to working out how much to charge your customers. Have you ever looked at how much time it takes you to do your books and worked out how much your time is costing you?
How much would you be willing to pay to release the time you spend doing your bookkeeping to get your evenings or weekends back? Or how much more could you earn if they were able to use the time released to concentrate on the parts of your business which generates income?
As much or as little help as you need
Here at Jones Harris we can provide a seamless bookkeeping-service from receipt to tax return and everything else in between.
How much support you choose to access is entirely up to you - with cloud based software that our bookkeepers are now using, you can still keep abreast of your bank balances, who you owe money to – and perhaps more importantly who owes money to you!
We can also remove the stress of VAT returns and payroll, all carried out under one roof with named individuals to speak to who are familiar with your business. It’s likely that you haven’t had such detailed information before, and it could make a significant difference to the health of your business.
Not as expensive as you might think
With online cloud based software starting from as little as £10 a month, and our Sole Trader Compliance service from just £35 a month (which includes calculating and submitting your self-assessment tax return) you’ll get the experience and ability of a large firm of accountants from Jones Harris without paying an eye watering price. And you can pay by monthly direct debit too and spread the cost.
Why don’t you get in touch for a no-obligation chat about Jones Harris could help your business? (If you do, please mention that you saw it on this website!)
Married Tax Allowance
Did you know that you can gain an extra £212 a year if you are a) married (of course) and b) qualify for Married Tax Allowance.
Here at Jones Harris we discovered that 3.6 million couples nationally are still missing out on claiming this benefit, so logically there must be a lot of you here on the Fylde Coast who could be so much better off a year.
To claim the Married Tax Allowance, you must be married or in a civil partnership, and both born after 6 April 1935.
One of you should be earning less than £10,600 a year (not including tax free savings interest), and the other one should be a basic rate tax payer (sorry, higher rate tax payers don't qualify).
The partner who is on the lower income can transfer £1060 of their unused allowance to the higher earner, thereby increasing the amount which they can earn before tax by an extra £1016 a year. That equates to an extra £212 cash in the hand.
You can take advantage of the scheme by applying direct to HMRC.
You can apply online at this link https://www.gov.uk/marriage-allowance or over the phone on 0300 200 3300. You can apply at any time during the tax year, and retrospectively for the 2015/16 tax year.
You will need both your own and your partners National Insurance numbers, and the transferring partner will also have to confirm their identity with bank information or details from a P60.
There's a full round-up of all the details of the scheme, complexities, how to apply and faq's on the Money Saving Expert website at this link