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Planning a Christmas party?

Now is the time that many businesses are planning a Christmas celebration for staff as well as possibly for partners/spouses, clients and prospective clients.

The cost of a staff party or other annual entertainment is generally allowed as a deduction for tax purposes. If you meet the various criteria outlined below, then there is no requirement to report anything to HMRC or pay tax and National Insurance. There will also be no taxable benefit charged to employees.

  1. An annual Christmas party or other annual event offered to staff generally, is not taxable on those attending provided that the average cost per head of the function does not exceed £150.
  2. The event must be open to all employees. If a business has multiple locations, then a party open to all staff at one of the locations is allowable. You can also have separate parties for separate departments, but employees must be able to attend one of the events.
  3. There can be more than one annual event. If the total cost of these parties is under £150 per head, then there is no chargeable benefit. However, if the total cost per head goes over £150 then whichever functions best utilise the £150 are exempt and the others taxable. Note, the £150 is not an allowance and any costs over £150 per head are taxable on the full cost per head.
  4. It is not necessary to keep a running total by employee but a cost per head per function. All costs including VAT must be considered. This includes the costs of transport to and from the event, food and drink and any accommodation provided.

VAT incurred on Christmas parties for your staff can be recovered subject to the usual rules. If staff partners/spouses or clients are also invited to the event, the input tax has to be apportioned as the VAT applicable to non-staff is not recoverable. However, if non-staff attendees make a contribution to the event, all the VAT can be reclaimed and of course output tax should be accounted for on the amount of the contribution.

It is important to pay attention to the nuanced tax rules to ensure that your party is tax exempt.

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Reporting employee changes

There are rules that businesses must follow when they are reporting employee changes. These changes must be sent to HMRC using a Full Payment Submission (FPS). The FPS is a submission that you need to make to HMRC every time you pay your employees and must be submitted on or before the usual date you pay your employees. The information provided on an FPS helps HMRC ensure that they have the up-to-date information on your employees.

Additional information is required on your FPS if:

  • it includes a new employee
  • an employee leaves
  • you start paying someone a workplace pension
  • it’s the last report of the tax year
  • an employee changes their address

You may also need to tell HMRC if an employee:

  • becomes a director
  • reaches State Pension age
  • goes to work abroad
  • goes on jury service
  • dies
  • joins or leaves a contracted-out company pension
  • turns 16
  • is called up as a reservist
  • changes gender
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New advisory fuel rates published

Advisory fuel rates are intended to reflect actual average fuel costs and are updated quarterly. The rates can be used by employers who reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars or where employees are required to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. HMRC accepts there is no taxable profit and no Class 1A National Insurance on reimbursed travel expenses where employers pay a rate per mile for business travel no higher than the published advisory fuel rates.

Employees can also use the advisory fuel rates to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. In this case, HMRC will accept there’s no fuel benefit charge. The advisory rates are not binding if you the employer can demonstrate that employees cover the full cost of private fuel by repaying at a lower rate per mile.

The latest advisory fuel rates became effective on 1 September 2019. Fuel rates are reviewed four times a year with changes taking effect on 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December. You can use the previous rates for up to 1 month from the date the new rates apply.

The new rates are as follows:

 

Engine size Petrol – amount per mile LPG – amount per mile
1400cc or less   12p 8p
1401cc to 2000cc    14p 10p
Over 2000cc    21p  14p

 

 

Engine size   Diesel – amount per mile
1600cc or smaller       10p
1601cc to 2000cc    11p
Over 2000cc       14p

 

Hybrid cars are treated as either petrol or diesel cars for this purpose.

Advisory Electricity Rate

HMRC accepts that if you pay up to 4p per mile when reimbursing your employees for business travel in a fully electric company car there is no profit. While electricity is not considered a fuel for tax and NICs purposes, the Advisory Electricity Rate is now published quarterly alongside the other advisory fuel rates.

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HMRC employment status service

HMRC’s employment status service can be used to help ascertain if a worker should be classified as employed or self-employed for tax purposes in both the private and public sector.

The service provides HMRC’s view as to whether IR35 legislation applies to a particular engagement and whether a worker should pay tax through PAYE as well as helping to determine if the off-payroll working in the public sector rules apply to a public sector engagement.

The software can be used to check the employment status of:

  • a worker providing services;
  • a person or organisation hiring a worker; or
  • an agency placing a worker.

HMRC has said that it will stand by the result given unless a compliance check finds the information provided was not accurate. HMRC will not stand by the results of contrived arrangements and those designed to get a particular outcome from the service. HMRC are clear that this would be treated as evidence of deliberate non-compliance and could result in higher penalties.

The service is anonymous, and the results are not stored online. However, the results can be printed and held for your own records. If any changes take place to the worker's role their status should be reassessed.

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The tax consequences of social events

The cost of a staff party or other annual entertainment is generally allowed as a deduction for tax purposes. If you meet the various criteria outlined below there is no requirement to report anything to HMRC or pay tax and National Insurance. There will also be no taxable benefit charged to employees.

  1. An annual Christmas party or other annual event offered to staff generally, is not taxable on those attending provided that the average cost per head of the function does not exceed £150.
  2. The event must be open to all employees. If a business has multiple locations, then a party open to all staff at one of the locations is allowable. You can also have separate parties for separate departments, but employees must be able to attend one of the events.
  3. There can be more than one annual event. If the total cost of these parties is under £150 per head, then there is no chargeable benefit. However, if the total cost per head goes over £150 then whichever functions best utilise the £150 are exempt and the others taxable. Note, the £150 is not an allowance and any costs over £150 per head are taxable on the full cost per head.
  4. It is not necessary to keep a running total by employee but a cost per head per function. All costs including VAT must be taken into account. This includes the costs of transport to and from the event, food and drink and any accommodation provided.

It is highly recommended when planning a staff party or other annual event to try and stick to the tax rules above. This should ensure that your party does not have an extra tax cost for you or your employees. If you need help in crunching the numbers to make sure you do not exceed the allowable limits, please call.

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New advisory fuel rates published

Advisory fuel rates are intended to reflect actual average fuel costs and are updated quarterly. The rates can be used by employers who reimburse employees for business travel in their company cars or where employees are required to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. HMRC accepts there is no taxable profit and no Class 1A National Insurance on reimbursed travel expenses where employers pay a rate per mile for business travel no higher than the published advisory fuel rates.

Employees can also use the advisory fuel rates to repay the cost of fuel used for private travel. In this case, HMRC will accept there’s no fuel benefit charge. The advisory rates are not binding if the employer can demonstrate that employees cover the full cost of private fuel by repaying at a lower rate per mile.

The latest advisory fuel rates became effective on 1 June 2019. Fuel rates are reviewed four times a year with changes taking effect on 1 March, 1 June, 1 September and 1 December. You can use the previous rates for up to 1 month from the date the new rates apply.

The rates are as follows:

 

Engine size  Petrol – amount per mile         LPG – amount per mile
1400cc or less  12p 8p
1401cc to 2000cc   15p 9p
Over 2000cc   22p 14p

 

Engine size  Diesel – amount per mile
1600cc or smaller      10p
1601cc to 2000cc   12p
Over 2000cc      14p

Hybrid cars are treated as either petrol or diesel cars for this purpose.

Advisory Electricity Rate

HMRC now accepts that if you pay up to 4p per mile when reimbursing your employees for business travel in a fully electric company car there is no profit. While electricity is not considered a fuel for tax and NIC purposes, the Advisory Electricity Rate will be published quarterly alongside the other advisory fuel rates.

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Employee Car Ownership Scheme (ECOS)

An Employee Car Ownership Scheme (ECOS) is a set of arrangements whereby employees acquire cars from a specified, often single source and within a specified financing framework. The use of an ECOS can be seen as a halfway measure between providing a company car and leaving an employee to make all their car arrangements privately.

An ECOS gives employees similar benefits to having a company car, for example a new car on a regular basis, and/or central organisation of insurance and servicing but is structured in such a way that the normal car and fuel benefit provisions do not apply.

As the normal car and fuel benefit charges do not apply to an ECOS, HMRC is clear that each transaction has to be considered individually for both tax and NICs purposes to identify whether tax or NICs apply. One of the most important conditions that must be met for an ECOS to be in place, is that the ownership of the car in an ECOS is transferred to the employee at the outset otherwise car benefit will be due.

An ECOS may be designed and administered by the employer, by a company within the same group as the employer, or by a third party that specialises in provision of alternative packages to the company car.

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Chargeable benefits from cheap loans

An employee can obtain a benefit when provided with an employment-related cheap or interest-free loan. The benefit is the difference between the interest the employee pays, if any, and the commercial rate the employee would have to pay on a loan obtained elsewhere. These types of loans are referred to as beneficial loans.

A taxable cheap loan is an employment-related loan:

  • which is outstanding for all or part of the year in which the employee is in employment, and
  • no interest is paid on the loan, or the interest paid is less than is due at the official rate of interest, and
  • none of the exceptions listed in sections 176-179 ITEPA apply.

The official rate of interest on beneficial loan arrangements is currently 2.5%. A change in the rate is only made in the event of significant changes in interest rates. An employee can also benefit if an employment-related loan is released or written off. He or she is then no longer obliged to repay the amount that was lent.

A benefit in kind will be applicable where a loan is provided at an interest rate of less than 2.5%. In addition, employers must also pay Class 1A National Insurance. It is not necessary for the loan to be advantageous to the recipient for a chargeable benefit to arise.