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Flat rate homeworking expenses

Many small businesses can choose to be taxed on the basis of the cash that passes through their books, rather than being asked to spend their time doing calculations designed for big businesses (‘cash basis’). Where the cash basis is used, it is also possible for the business to use certain simplified arrangements for claiming expenditure in working out taxable profits for income tax purposes. Flat rate expenses can be claimed for business costs for vehicles, working from home, and living at your business premises.

Where a trader runs his business from his home, he will be able to claim flat rate expenses for business use of the property. Using flat rates means it is not necessary to work out the proportion of personal and business use, for example, how much of utility bills are for business. Instead a monthly deduction will be allowable provided certain criteria are satisfied. The current rates are as follows:

– 25 or more hours worked per month can claim £10.00
– 51 or more hours worked per month can claim £18.00
– 101 or more hours worked per month can claim £26.00

The number of hours worked in a month is the number of hours spent wholly and exclusively on work done by the person, or any employee of the person, in the person’s home wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade.

Some businesses use their business premises as their home, for example, guesthouses. Where premises are used for both business and private use, the trader may, instead of making the standard deduction outlined above, make a deduction for the non-business use. The allowable deduction will therefore be the amount of the expenses incurred, less the non-business use amount. The non-business use amount is the sum of the applicable amounts (see below) for each month, or part of a month, falling within the period in question (usually the tax year). The applicable amounts are as follows:

– If there is 1 relevant occupant £350 can be claimed
– If there are 2 relevant occupants £500 can be claimed
– If there are 3 or more relevant occupants £650 can be claimed

A relevant occupant is someone who occupies the premises as a home, or someone who stays at the premises other than in the course of the trade.

Traders need to keep records of business miles for vehicles, the number of hours worked at home, and details of people living at the business premises over the year. A claim to tax relief can then be made on the relevant self-assessment return.

HMRC provide a simplified expenses checker, which can be used to compare what a trader can claim using simplified expenses with what he can claim by working out the actual costs. The checker can be found online at www.gov.uk/simplified-expenses-checker

What is Class 3A national insurance?

Class 3A is a new voluntary type of national insurance contribution (NIC) that is being introduced from 12 October 2015. Broadly, between then and 5 April 2017 certain people will be able to make a contribution to top up their state pension by up to £25 per week. Men born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953 will be eligible to make top up payments. The cost of the contribution will depend on how much extra pension the applicant wants to qualify for (between £1 and £25 per week), and how old they are when they make the contribution. A top up calculator is available on the GOV.uk website at www.gov.uk/state-pension-topup/y. The calculator will help you work out whether it is worthwhile you making Class 3A contributions.

Help to buy ISA

The new help-to-buy ISA, which is expected to be available from Autumn 2015, will enable first-time buyers to save up to £200 a month towards their first home. Investors will receive £50 from the government for every £200 saved, up to a maximum of £3,000. This means that the maximum that can be saved in a help-to-buy ISA is £12,000. The government bonus is added to this amount, so total savings towards the property purchase can be up to £15,000.

Accounts will be limited to one per person rather than one per home, which means that those buying together can both receive a government bonus. A couple will be entitled to hold an ISA each, meaning that a total of £24,000 could be built up across two accounts. With the addition of the government bonus, a total of £30,000 can be built up by a couple under the scheme.

An initial deposit of £1,000 may be made into the account, in addition to regular monthly savings limits. This initial deposit also qualifies for the 25% boost from the government.

The minimum bonus payable by the government will be £400 and the maximum £3,000 per person.

The bonus can be claimed once savings have reached the minimum amount of £1,600. Under the scheme it will take investors just over four and a half years to qualify for maximum bonus of £3,000, if desired.

Help-to-buy ISAs will be available to individuals aged 16 and over. The bonus will only be available to first-time buyers purchasing UK properties.

New accounts will be available for four years, but once opened, there will be no limit on how long an account can be held.

The bonus will be paid when the property is purchased. It will be available on home purchases of up to £450,000 in London and up to £250,000 outside London.

There are certain restrictions under the new scheme, including:

  • help-to-buy ISAs cannot be used if the property is to be rented out;
  • purchases of overseas property do not qualify under the scheme;
  • only one help-to-buy ISA may be held by an individual; and
  • investors cannot open a help-to-buy ISA and a normal cash ISA in the same tax year.