When a Conservative majority Government was elected last year, most businesses and business owners breathed a sigh of relief thinking that we were in for a period of stability as far as the UK's tax rules were concerned.
However, since then both in the Autumn Statement 2015 and today's Budget, that has been far from the reality with the Government using their new-found freedom to introduce a raft of new business tax measures.
The headlines from today's Budget from a business tax perspective will no doubt be grabbed by the good-news announcements around a further proposed reduction in corporation tax (to 17% in 2020) and a substantial cut in the rate of capital gains tax (to 20% for higher rate taxpayers and 10% for basic rate taxpayers from April 2016).
However, there are other changes which are likely to be equally, if not more, significant. On the plus side, the fact that entrepreneurs' relief (whereby capital gains tax is charged at 10%) has been extended, rather than being restricted as some had feared, to long term investors in unlisted companies is welcome, although one can't help wondering if this is a pre-cursor to restricting relief under the enterprise investment scheme (EIS) in due course given how heavily the extension seems to borrow from the EIS legislation.
In the camp of the less welcome announcement, the Government's flagship scheme of employee shareholder status (ESS) brought in only a few years ago has been heavily restricted (and in a lot of scenarios will mean in reality that it is abolished completely) with the imposition of a lifetime cap of £100,000 per individual for ESS gains.
In addition, the announcement that employer's national insurance will apply to any termination payment made to ex-employees of more than £30,000 from April 2018 will add 13.8% to the cost to businesses of such payments.
Also, any company or business dealing with real estate and subject to SDLT will be groaning again following yet more changes (and for most, other than the smallest investors, that means increases) in the rates and application of SDLT, for both commercial property with changes similar to those introduced for residential property last year, and the tightening of the recently announced new residential SDLT rules, in particular the confirmation that there will be no exclusion for large property investors as had been anticipated.
So as far as business tax and business owners are concerned, the Budget is very much the usual mixture of headline-grabbing good news proposals being given with one hand and less welcome, less advertised changes taking away with the other.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.