Business rates


Business rates have been devolved to Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The Chancellor has announced cuts on business rates for half of all properties in England from 1 April 2017. In particular the government proposes to:

permanently double the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) from 50% to 100% and increase the thresholds to benefit a greater number of businesses. Businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 and below will receive 100% relief, rateable values between £12,000 and £15,000 will receive tapered relief increase the threshold for the standard business rates multiplier to a rateable value of £51,000 taking 250,000 smaller properties out of the higher rate.

The government also proposes to modernise the administration of business rates to revalue properties more frequently and make it easier for businesses to pay the taxes that are due.

CBI Director-General, Carolyn Fairbairn, said:

‘Businesses will welcome the Chancellor’s permanent reforms to business rates – taking more small firms out of the regime and changing the uprating mechanism from RPI to CPI, which the CBI has long been calling for.’

Lifetime ISA


A new Lifetime ISA will be available from April 2017 for adults under the age of 40. Individuals will be able to contribute up to £4,000 per year and receive a 25% bonus from the government. Funds, including the government bonus, can be used to buy a first home at any time from 12 months after opening the account, and can be withdrawn from age 60 completely tax-free.

Further details of the new account, which will be available from 2017, are as follows:

  • Any savings an individual puts into the account before their 50th birthday will receive an added 25% bonus from the government.
  • There is no maximum monthly contribution and up to £4,000 a year can be saved into a Lifetime ISA.
  • The savings and bonus can be used towards a deposit on a first home worth up to £450,000 across the country.
  • Accounts are limited to one per person rather than one per home, so two first time buyers can both receive a bonus when buying together.
  • Where an individual already has a Help to Buy ISA they will be able to transfer those savings into the Lifetime ISA in 2017, or continue saving into both. However only the bonus from one account can be used to buy a house.
  • Where the funds are withdrawn at any time before the account holder is aged 60 they will lose the government bonus (and any interest or growth on this) and will also have to pay a 5% charge. After the account holder’s 60th birthday they will be able to take all the savings tax-free.

The Chancellor said in his speech:

‘My pension reforms have always been about giving people more freedom and more choice.

So faced with the truth that young people aren’t saving enough, I am today providing a different answer to the same problem.’

Internet link: GOV.UK lifetime-isa-explained

Capital gains tax rates


The current rates of capital gains tax (CGT) are 18% to the extent that total taxable income does not exceed the basic rate band and 28% thereafter.

The government is to reduce the higher rate of CGT from 28% to 20% and the basic rate from 18% to 10%. The trust CGT rate will also reduce from 28% to 20%.

The 28% and 18% rates will continue to apply for carried interest and for chargeable gains on residential property that do not qualify for private residence relief. In addition, the 28% rate still applies for ATED related chargeable gains accruing to any person (principally companies).

These changes will take effect for disposals made on or after 6 April 2016.

The rate for disposals qualifying for Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER) remains at 10% with a lifetime limit of £10 million for each individual.

HMRC introduce Advance Assurance for R&D


HMRC have introduced Advance Assurance for companies that claim Research and Development (R&D) tax relief.

If a company carries out R&D for itself or other companies, it could qualify for Advance Assurance. This means that for the first three accounting periods of claiming for R&D tax relief, HMRC will allow the claim without further enquiries.

Internet link: GOV.UK guidance

Warning over pension scams


Those approaching retirement are being urged to be aware of a rise in pension scams, as criminals seek new ways to defraud pensioners.

Savers have been urged to be aware of a rise in pension scams, as criminals seek new ways to defraud pensioners. A report produced by Citizens Advice looked at 150 cases where pensioners had fallen victim to fraudsters. The report identified common types of scams which include:

  • encouraging pensioners to move their savings into a ‘new’ pension
  • fake investment opportunities and
  • offering apparently ‘free advice’ and support which actually costs money.

In some cases pensioners are charged a fee for a service that isn’t required, while others are encouraged to part with personal information and bank details, either by email or phone.

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice said: 

‘Scammers see pensioners as a prime target… ‘There are many people looking to benefit from the new pension rules, including scammers. Fraudsters can ruin people’s retirement plans by taking a portion or all of a victim’s pension pots.’

The Pensions Regulator (TPR) has recently launched a campaign to alert people to the danger posed by fraudsters.

From 6 April 2015 individuals have more flexibility as to how they use their pension pot, including the option to choose to take all their savings as a cash lump sum. TPR has warned that scammers are exploiting this change by enticing those about to retire with promises of ‘one-off investments’ or ‘pension loans’ or ‘upfront cash’, most of which are bogus.
Individuals who believe they are being targeted by a pension scam should contact the Pensions Advisory Service on 0300 123 1047. The Financial Conduct Authority’s website also has a list of known scams. Visit scamsmart.fca.org.uk.

Internet link: Citizens Advice publications Press release