Tax provisions in the UK winter economy plan
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, presented the government’s “winter economy plan” on Thursday, September 24, 2020.
Faced with a sharp deterioration in data tracking the spread of the coronavirus in the UK, signaling a worsening health crisis, the statement has been given increased importance by the postponement of the autumn budget. Given the severity of the impact of COVID-19 on the UK economy and the continued fragility of the economy, there is some economic and fiscal logic in delaying the budget until the depth and extent of the impact of this latest outbreak of the virus are best heard. The Chancellor was likely keen to avoid a spring rehearsal that saw him present a budget on March 11, 2020 only to then have to provide an updated declaration of emergency nine days later. However, the fall budget postponement may have been greeted with concern by those who hoped it would provide more details on the government’s plans to alleviate the disruption faced by businesses preparing for the end of the period. Brexit transition on December 31, 2020, complete, zero-zero-quota tariff, free trade agreement or not.
Of course, the main objective of the Winter Savings Plan was to protect jobs. The Chancellor presented the government’s new program to replace the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – the Job Support Scheme (JSS) – and a broadly equivalent program for the self-employed – the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) Grant extension. The design, operation and merits of the JSS are discussed in more detail in a alert by our co-workers. There have also been extensions to some of the existing loan programs (including the Bounce Back Loan Program (BBLS), Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Program (CBILS), Interruption Loan Program large company against the coronavirus (CLBILS) and the Future Fund).
As has been the case throughout the crisis, the tax announcements have been low key. Big questions weighing on fiscal policy undoubtedly await in the months and years to come: Can taxation be used to revive the economy once the pandemic has passed? Should fiscal policy be engaged to reformulate the economy in the years to come and help bring the country up to standard? What is the role of taxes in rebalancing the nation’s accounts? Who should bear the biggest tax burden? Is the post-Brexit post-pandemic landscape an opportunity for structural tax reform? Despite this, the Chancellor announced three significant extensions to existing measures aimed at reducing the immediate pressure and the cash flow crisis.
In short, the tax announcements were:
A “new payment system” VAT deferral
The program is available to all businesses that have deferred VAT due during the period March 20 to June 30, 2020. The UK Treasury estimates that more than half a million businesses have deferred VAT, or around 30 billion pounds sterling. It is not known how much of this has since been paid.
The new payment regime gives the companies concerned the possibility of spreading the payment of the deferred VAT due (initially due and payable in full by March 31, 2021) over 11 equal installments during the 2021-2022 financial year. No interest or penalty will be charged on “late” payments.
Companies wishing to take advantage of the program must register; it is not automatic. The enrollment process will be unveiled by HMRC in early 2021. Businesses considering staggering deferred VAT refunds should verify (again) that their payment terms (eg, direct debits) are appropriate.
Extension of the temporary reduced VAT rate for hotels and tourism
Available for all businesses subject to VAT in the hotel, leisure and accommodation sectors. The British Treasury estimates that the measure supports more than 150,000 British companies.
As of July 15, 2020, eligible businesses may apply a temporary reduced rate (5%) of VAT on their deliveries of food, non-alcoholic beverages, hotel and vacation accommodation or admission to certain attractions. The standard rate (20%) of VAT was to be restored on January 12, 2021 but the Chancellor extended the period during which the reduced rate applies to March 31, 2021.
The scope of the measure is not affected. As before, all businesses that also use the Flat Rate Scheme, Tour Operator Margin Scheme (TOMS) or any applicable special retail regime should consider the impact of the reduced rate (and cancellation delayed) on their calculations and VAT accounting.
“Improved payment time” for self-assessment taxpayers
The improved payment deadline is available for independent taxpayers (with up to £ 30,000 in self-assessment obligations due) who have deferred their second installment for the 2019-2020 tax year, initially due by July 31, 2020. Any deferred amount has been payable by January 31, 2021 at the latest.
As part of the enhanced payment term, independent taxpayers who have exercised the option to defer their second deposit will, subject to agreeing a payment schedule with HMRC’s self-service payment term service, authorized to pay the tax due over an additional 12 month period with deferred amounts not due before the end of January 2021.
While it is not clear whether the ‘enhanced payout time’ will also be available for any balancing payments that would otherwise have had to be paid for 2019-2020 on January 31, 2021, the Winter Savings Plan report suggests that it only apply to deferred July 2020 amounts. It is almost certain that the first deposit due for the 2020-21 tax year, also due on January 31, 2021, will be due normally.
Independent taxpayers wishing to take advantage of the extended repayment period should consider clarifying the situation to ensure that they are fully aware of their full self-assessment tax due as of January 31, 2021. Any taxpayer of self-reporters who are unable to pay their tax bill on time, including those who cannot use the online service, are encouraged to continue using the normal “Time to Pay” helpline. From HMRC to agree on a payment plan.
© Copyright 2021 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPRevue nationale de droit, volume X, number 269