The rules surrounding tax and Christmas gifts

Tax and Christmas

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” or so the song goes, when people are busy thinking about what gifts to get each other and possibly what they’ll receive in return. But what are the rules surrounding gifts to employees or clients? Can you claim back the VAT and tax?


In this blog we explore how gifts can be given and how to avoid excessive tax for your company or the person who receives the gift.


Giving and receiving

There are two sides to tax when it comes to Christmas gifts; one is for the giver and the other is for the receiver. The giver is your company, so is your company able to claim a tax relief for the cost, or does your company have to pay any taxes because of its generosity?


Giving to yourself or other employees – direct tax deductions

Remember that even if you’re a one man band, as a director of your Limited Company you’re also an employee, and therefore can still gift yourself at this time of year. Also if your company employs other people, then provided they receive the gift and not you, then the same rules apply.


Limit to your generosity

It’s worth remembering that if you go a little too crazy with your company gifts you could end up with a big lump of coal in your stocking, in the form of a National Insurance and tax bill. The basic limit is £50, so if you buy a gift that costs more than £50 (including any delivery charges) it will count as a taxable perk for the employee that receives it. They will have to pay Income Tax and as the employer, you’ll have to pay class 1A NI at 13.8% of the full cost, plus the tax due if you pay that on their behalf. So for example if you were to give a £60 gift it will cost you a total of £85 because of the tax and NI due.


If you limit each employee’s gift to £50 per person, it will then cover them for the trivial benefits exemption for employees (which means you don’t have to worry about their or your tax or Class 1A NI).


Remember though that cash gifts are not covered by the exemption.



You are able to reclaim the VAT incurred on purchasing the gift if you are not using the Flat Rate Scheme. You may, however, have to account for VAT in the return period in which you purchased the gifts, as they are treated as a supply, if the gifts received by the recipient are more than £50 in a year. If a gift is exempt or zero rated (i.e. a book) you will not have to account for the VAT, unless you are on the Flat Rate Scheme.


Gifts for your clients – direct tax deductions

A tax deduction above is not eligible for business gifts for your clients, but there is a similar exception. As long as the client’s gift costs less than £50 and it is not part of a series of gifts to the same person in the same accounting period (which will then exceed the £50 limit), it is tax deductible. This other exemption, however, does not apply to tobacco, food or drink.


The rules surrounding VAT on gifts for clients is the same as that for gifts for employees. Therefore you must account for VAT if the gift, or gifts (if there’s a series) have a value that exceeds £50.


HMRC – the Grinch that stole Christmas!

To HMRC, Christmas gifts do not hold any special significance, therefore the same tax and VAT rules apply. So whilst it would be nice to think that a waiver on tax and VAT for Christmas gifts would be HMRC’s gift to us, we wouldn’t hold your breath!


Final thoughts

If you’re planning gifts for employees or clients, remember to follow the above rules to ensure you don’t receive unwanted attention from HMRC this coming New Year.


Ensure you speak to your Personal Accountant before you purchase any gifts, as they will be able to advise you on how much tax and VAT you’ll be paying.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Intouch reviews the Office of Tax Simplification’s response to HMRC’s proposed IR35 status tool

HMRC’s proposed IR35 status tool

Last month, Intouch Accounting’s MD Paul Gough shared his thoughts on HMRC’s proposed IR35 status tool within the public sector. In this article he drew attention to the weaknesses in HMRC’s proposals and discussed the likely implications which HMRC appear to have neither fully considered nor understood.


As we wait for the outcome from the consultation phase, we read with interest the recently published response from the Office of Tax Simplification (OTS) in regards to the consultation document.


Who does the OTS side with?

The contracting community. The OTS believe the proposals will add unnecessary complexity to the already confusing subject of IR35. In particular, they believe it will:


  • increase administrative burden, as more information will be needed in order to help determine a contractor’s IR35 status
  • create boundary issues between the private and public sector, as the test’s final decision may not be binding and therefore lack certainty
  • the OTS have previously encouraged the use of a digital employment status tool, but now warn that a tool could only ever simplify the current process if, clear and easy to follow rules and regulations will show (without question) an individual’s working status
  • require two versions, to allow for different circumstances and businesses
  • finally, need to be updated on a regular basis


The Public Sector

It would be unfair to subject all contractors to these changes, without explaining in detail how their sector is affected and whether they should be operating within the proposed rules.


There’s also the ongoing concern that by enforcing such rules they will create an imbalance between private and public sectors. This in turn would make it harder for the public sector to hire contractors with specialist skills.


Protection for the engagers

There must be enforced protection for engagers who can demonstrate that they have taken all reasonable steps to obtain reliable information from the other parties in the supply chain that should have supplied it, but for whatever reason have not done so.


5% allowance

The OTS believe that should a contractor fall ‘inside’ IR35, the 5% deemed payment allowance should be eliminated, as it adds unnecessary complexity for the engager. Instead, the PSC should claim it separately.



If a contractor is found ‘inside’ IR35, then there should be no VAT implications. It is unfair for HMRC to make a PSC pay employer’s VAT whilst being forced onto the payroll.


Tests and the online tool

Parts one and two of the test (before progressing to the online status indicator) do not show conviction, as the decision is not final. The OTS believe that even if the first two parts did show conviction, it still may not apply as it does not allow wiggle room for any changes to the contract, which the engager / contractor may not be aware of.


Materials for the job

The majority of contractors and freelancers provide services which are predominantly knowledge based. If 20% or more of a contract is for materials which are wholly consumed in the services required to complete the contract, then it is automatically deemed to be ‘outside’ of IR35.


There are very few circumstances whereby Limited Company contractors, (such as those who specialise in the IT or finance sector for example), would use 20% of materials to complete a contract and therefore cannot be classed as ‘outside’ under this rule.


Personal service and control

If the 20% test is failed, the engager must then move onto the second part, two questions on personal service and control questions. Should these two questions deliver a positive answer then IR35 will apply. If the engager is unable to answer ‘yes’ to both of these questions, they will then have to progress onto using HMRC’s online status tool.


Attempting to rely primarily on personal service and control tests to determine a contractor’s IR35 status is simply not appropriate for the majority of highly skilled contractors and freelancers. Whilst a highly skilled contractor may not be able to send another contractor in their place, this does not provide a definitive indication of their employment status.


HMRC should also consider the fact that for some contractors, especially those who work within the public sector where security is an issue, that sending a substitute to complete their work is simply not an option.


For skilled workers, the ‘control’ aspect of the test does not always give a clear-cut answer for whether the contractor is a disguised employee or not. Many stakeholders are of the opinion that such a test is more relevant for the lower skilled flexible workforce, where more direct oversight and control over how the work is performed is more common.


The OTS believe that unless the coding for the status tool is based on new employment status case law, then it will be considered biased in HMRC’s favour.



The OTS completely agree that any tax rules should be supported with financial penalties and interest, but that it must be fair. The rules and procedures must therefore be easy-to-follow, to allow the engager to operate correctly and to avoid penalties.


The consultation period outcome

Whilst the exact date for the consultation outcome is still unconfirmed, Intouch will be reviewing it as soon as it’s published, so ensure you’re following us on social media and be first to get all the information and support you need.


Worried about how the proposed changes to IR35 could affect you? Our team of expert Personal Accountants are on hand to offer Intouch clients bespoke advice and support, that’s tailored to their circumstances and future contracting goals.


If this sounds like the type of specialist support you need as a serious contractor, why not get in touch? We look forward to speaking to you.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

Flat Rate VAT Scheme for contractors explained

Flat Rate VAT Scheme for contractors explained

Once a business reaches a turnover of £82,000 within a twelve month period, it is a legal requirement to register for VAT and subsequently, charge VAT (20%). Businesses who are registered for VAT must charge this to their clients and customers (most commonly at a rate of 20% but occasionally at either a reduced or zero rate), but may reclaim any VAT paid out on business-related goods and services (expenses).


For many contractors however, the level of VAT which can be reclaimed is minimal, often as a result of the ‘service’ offered being time, knowledge and experience. In most cases, the level of VAT paid to HMRC by a business equals the difference between VAT charged and VAT claimed back. However, under the Flat Rate Scheme, this is calculated at a fixed rate based on their activities.


Fixed Rate VAT

In short, the Flat Rate VAT Scheme means a contractor must pay only a fixed rate of VAT and may keep the difference. In this instance, under the Flat Rate VAT Scheme, the VAT paid out on goods and services cannot be reclaimed unless on certain capital purchases costing more than £2,000 (in one transaction).



To be eligible to join the Flat Rate VAT Scheme, the business must have turnover of  less than £150,000 per annum (excluding VAT). Whilst it is a legal requirement to register for VAT once turnover exceeds £82,000 in a twelve-month period, it is possible for businesses to voluntarily register when turnover is below this threshold.


How it works

Somewhat different to standard VAT accounting, on the Flat Rate Scheme, you’ll pay a percentage of turnover in VAT as opposed to paying the difference between the amount of VAT charged to clients, less the VAT reclaimed on purchases.


The Flat Rate VAT Scheme fixed rate does differ from industry to industry however, to offer a number of examples:


  • Computer and IT consultancy or data processing – 14.5%
  • General building or construction services – 9.5%
  • Management consultancy – 14%


Whilst this is by no means a comprehensive list of industries within which contractors are commonly seen, the above gives an idea as to how the rates can differ.


When calculating the VAT due, the fixed-rate percentage of the gross is taken. This is calculated on the value of sales (including VAT) multiplied by the percentage based on the business’ main activity. As an example, on a sale of £100 (which becomes £120 once VAT is added), an IT Consultant would pay £17.40 to HMRC (14.5% of £120).

During the first year of registration, businesses will  be entitled to an additional 1% deduction on the fixed rate.


What this means for contractors

As a contractor, it may often be the case that you have very few expenses in comparison to other businesses. In this respect, you may find that the scheme is perfect for you, although this can differ between individuals depending upon turnover and expenses claimed.


Benefits of the scheme lie not only in the fact that it is possible to profit from being VAT registered if there would be very little that could be claimed back under the standard scheme, but also that the admin associated with filling a VAT return is significantly reduced. As opposed to being required to submit information on the VAT charged out as well as putting together a claim back for VAT paid out, on the flat rate, the VAT payable can be calculated solely from knowing the revenue.


Whilst not for all businesses, if you’re turning over no more than £150,000 in a twelve month period and don’t find yourself claiming much back in the way of expenses, it’s something seriously worth considering; even if you’re not reaching the £82,000 threshold.


You can find out more information about the Flat Rate VAT Scheme on the website, or the VAT – Could you be paying too much? Flat Rate VAT? blog from Intouch Accounting. However, if you’d prefer a chat with one of our friendly and helpful advisers, why not give us a call today on 01202 375 562 or fill in our contact form and we’ll call you back.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.

New contractors’ guide to VAT

New contractors’ guide to VAT

One area that new Limited Company contractors need to think about from the start is the on-going tax liabilities of their company. Getting it wrong can potentially result in hefty financial penalties or worse, so it’s advisable to consult an experienced contractor accountant  to get the best advice for your circumstances. One type of tax which will be relevant to most Limited Company contractors is Value Added Tax (VAT).


VAT – what it is and where it applies

VAT is charged on the final consumption of a variety of HMRC specified goods and services and is applied to every stage of production and distribution. Most business-related goods and services fall under VAT so the majority of Limited Company contractors are likely to be subject to VAT charges.


How VAT is calculated

At its simplest a contractor VAT bill is the balance of the VAT you have charged to clients, minus the VAT you have claimed back on allowable items you purchased. If you have paid out more in VAT than you have charged, HMRC will refund the difference. The standard UK VAT rate is currently 20%. However, there are other rates which could apply depending on the type of goods or services being sold and where (in the world) they’re consumed.


VAT Accounting Schemes

HMRC offers schemes designed to help contractors in terms of how VAT is calculated and administered.

There are two options for accounting for VAT available to companies with a taxable turnover of up to £1.35million these are:

  • Cash Accounting – with this option the company only accounts for VAT when their invoice is actually paid. This can be helpful for the cashflow of the business. (Under this scheme you can also only claim back VAT on purchases once you’ve actually paid the invoice.)
  • Annual Accounting – with this option the company only submits one VAT Return a year. Monthly payments of the VAT bill amount are made to HMRC throughout the year. This too can be helpful for cashflow.


The Flat Rate Scheme

HMRC offers the Flat Rate Scheme which is designed to make VAT administration easier for many contractors. Rather than claiming VAT on each invoice you pay a percentage of your company turnover. For example 14.5% for an IT consultancy. There are main advantage to this scheme you can continue to charge clients 20% while you give a smaller percentage to HMRC. One downside is that you cannot claim the VAT back on your own business purchases unless they are capital purchases over £2000, which could be an issue for some business types. Another is that if you make a lot of zero rated or VAT exempt sales you’ll still be charged VAT on those sales, even though you’re not charging the client.


When you should register for VAT

VAT registration is mandatory for companies who have made taxable sales in the last 12 months above the current VAT registration threshold amount. For the 2013/14 tax year this is £79,000. HMRC usually increases the threshold by around £1,000 each year so for the 2014/15 tax year the threshold is likely to be higher. Even if your sales are unlikely to reach this level you can still voluntarily register your company for VAT. Many contractors choose to do this as it can offer several advantages as claiming back VAT on invoices they receive. If you decide not to register but you believe you’ll exceed the threshold in the near future (if you win a huge contract for example) you should register as soon as possible to remain within HMRC rules.


How to register for VAT

You need to apply directly to HMRC to register your company for VAT. This can be done online using their website or by post. You can do this yourself or your Intouch accountant can do this for you on your behalf.


Quarterly VAT returns at Intouch

At Intouch we offer Quarterly VAT return administration as a standard part of our comprehensive monthly service package (£98 + VAT per month). Contact us to find out more about our services and how we can help take the stress out of running your business.


This blog has been prepared by Intouch Accounting. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained in this blog has been obtained from reliable sources, Intouch is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. This blog should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting advisers. If you have any specific queries, please contact Intouch Accounting.