Year-end tax planning for start-ups

By: Raphael Coman

Date: 22 March 2010

Planning before the end of your accounting year could reduce your tax bill and improve your cashflow. With 5 April fast approaching and many start-ups reaching the end of their year on 31 March, here are my ten tips for year-end tax planning:

  1. Bring forward costs and get tax relief a year earlier. Be careful though, because some expenses have to be spread over tax years, even if you paid for them now. Also keep in mind that tax rates are increasing next tax year, especially for higher income groups.
  2. Make your investment in the business before the year-end and enjoy the reduction in your tax liability a year sooner. Businesses are still entitled to 100 per cent tax relief on most capital expenditure of up to £50,000 per year.
  3. Delay invoices. If possible, plan larger jobs until after the year-end and you will delay payment of tax thereon for a further year. Be careful though, because you must account for tax on fees built up through work in progress.
  4. Value stock. Now is the time to do a stock take to assess write-offs. Stock is valued at the lower of its cost and its net realisable value.
  5. Consider changing your year-end. If your profits have been going down recently, then you could benefit from extending your year-end towards 31 March. If profits improve over the next twelve months, you will delay tax on these profits. Moreover, any profits you made when you started the business could be offset to further reduce your tax bill.
  6. Plan when to take profits out of the company. Any profits for the current year, plus any undrawn profits for previous years, can be taken as a dividend. If you are already a higher taxpayer this tax year, you could delay paying a dividend. If you may become a higher taxpayer next year, you could bring forward the payment. If your spouse is a shareholder in the business, effectively, you have two lots of personal allowance and basic rate to keep taxes low across the family.
  7. Use your ISA allowance. Up to £10,200 for the over-50s and up to £7,200 can be invested in an ISA for the year to 5 April 2010. Income and gains in an ISA are tax-free. Any unused allowance cannot be carried forward, so there are only a few days left to take advantage of the allowance.
  8. Realise capital gains. You can realise capital gains of £10,100 each tax year before you are liable to pay tax. A capital gain could arise on your shares, second home or buy-to-let property.
  9. Be aware that it is widely predicted that taxes will rise with this year’s budget. Capital gains tax is at a historically low level of 18 per cent, and many are predicting that it will increase to 25 per cent or more. Cashing in your investments or transferring them to someone else (other than your spouse) now will ensure you are taxed at the current rate.
  10. Assess whether to change your business type next year. Becoming a sole trader is a cheap, simple way to start – and tax efficient, if you made an initial loss. Now could be the time to go limited or form an LLP, especially with the upcoming rises in tax and National Insurance.

Ray Coman,  Coman & Co Tax Accountants (specialising in helping start-ups to succeed through quality accounting and tax advice)

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