Small business tax

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The Office for tax Simplification is undertaking a review of small business taxation.

I have submitted to them an updated version of a paper I first wrote in 2007 in the light of the so-called ‚ÄòArctic Systems’ decision. The paper is here.

In it I argue that there should be:

1. A change in company law to allow the re-registration of small limited companies as LLPs. An LLP is tax transparent: its income is taxed as if it belongs to its members even though it is a legal entity that is separate from them for contractual purposes;

2. The introduction of new capital requirements for the incorporation of limited companies undertaking trades, and over time forced re-registration of those that do not meet that standard as LLPs;

3. The introduction of a new investment income surcharge at rates broadly equivalent to national insurance charges that would have the benefit of reducing the incentive to split income, restore the taxation balance between income earned from all sources and allow a reduction in the base rate of income tax without adding substantially to the burden of administration for taxpayers since those liable will, in the vast majority of cases, already be submitting tax returns;

4. New, economically justifiable and verifiable standards for splitting income in LLPs so that the risk of legal challenge to such arrangements will be substantially reduced whilst recognising the significant role that the partners of those who supply their services through owner managed corporate entities play in the undertaking of that activity.

I then argue that if this were done then:

a. The administrative burdens for many small businesses would be reduced;

b. The certainty of the arrangements under which they can operate would be increased;

c. The rewards that they rightly seek to pay to those who contribute to the management of these companies from within domestic relationships will be rewarded, but within appropriate constraints;

d. The attraction of freelance status in tax terms would be retained;

e. The current injustice that sees income from labour more heavily taxed in the UK than income from capital would be eliminated in large part without prejudicing the required favoured status of pensioners;

f. The incentives for tax planning would be reduced, so simplifying tax administration;

g. The tax yield might either rise, or a reduction in the tax rate might result.

The challenge in creating such a system is significant because it requires cooperation across government departments, but far from insurmountable. It is part of the challenge of creating an enterprise culture that meets the needs of the UK in the 21st century, and that is a challenge that any government needs to meet.

I am well aware that this paper was well received in HMRC and HM Treasury when submitted in 2007.

Will the Office for Tax Simplification have the courage to deliver on the promise it offers that is entirely consistent with its mandate?