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Businesses helped by COVID-19 support could face unexpected tax bills

Businesses and self-assessment taxpayers are being reminded they need to include all grants paid as part of the COVID-19 support payments in their tax returns, as some may think these were non-taxable.

Have you set money aside to deal with tax on support grants?

HMRC has highlighted that all money paid for test and trace or self-isolation payments in England, Scotland or Wales are taxable, as are Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebates. The Coronavirus Business Support Grants – also known as local authority grants or business rate grants – must also be included on tax returns as these are considered income for tax purposes.

Companies that received the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) grant or a payment under the Eat Out to Help Out payment scheme will need to include both as income in their CT600 tax return and reported in the relevant boxes on their Company Tax Return.

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Service, said: “We want to make sure companies are getting their tax returns right first time, including any COVID-19 support payment declarations. Support and guidance is available on GOV.UK, just search ‘file my company tax return’.”

Many companies will have been communicating with their accountants throughout the year and realise these grants are taxable. But there are concerns that those who deal with their accountant less often may not realise they should have been putting some of this money aside for tax purposes. This would leave them exposed to a bill that has not been planned for.

An outline of the costs employers could face for CJRS

While the CJRS scheme helped to reduce the number of redundancies companies may otherwise have been forced to make during COVID-19 lockdowns, there were a number of hidden costs involved with these grants. These include employer’s National Insurance contributions and employer’s pension contributions.

For example, if an employee had a normal monthly salary of £2,000 and was on full furlough, then based on 80% of their salary this would have fallen to £1,600 gross. At the rates applied in the 2020/21 tax year, the costs to the employer for this CJRS grant would be:

  • £119.78 of Employer’s Class 1A National Insurance;
  • £32.40 of Employer’s Pension Contributions (based on the 3% minimum under auto-enrolment);
  • There is also the potential cost of accrued holiday, which is £153.80 – calculated based on 4/52 weeks (this is the maximum amount of holiday that can be carried forward into the following year) x monthly salary.

Where holiday has been carried forward to the following year, businesses that are struggling to recover from the pandemic also have to contend with up to four weeks of holiday that can be passed into the following tax year. If an employee leaves the business, this could result in the employer having to find sums potentially into the thousands of pounds to account for this in the employee’s final payslip.

HMRC said to be sympathetic to companies struggling to pay tax bills

Reports suggest that HMRC is being sympathetic in relation to any tax bills that are difficult for companies to meet, with even debt collectors looking to offer solutions to deal with the debt rather than collecting it on the spot.

The deadline for customers or agents filing company tax returns (CT600) is 12 months after the end of the accounting period it covers. The deadline to pay Corporation Tax will depend on any taxable profits and when the end of the accounting period occurs. Information on which support payments need to be reported to HMRC and any that do not is available on GOV.UK.

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If you think you will struggle to meet any of your tax liabilities this year, then please contact us as soon as possible to get advice on the best course of action.