Taking on an apprentice

The CBI has called on the government to provide extra subsidies to help apprenticeship schemes.

The employers’ group wants to see a portion of the government’s £500 million recruitment subsidy fund re-directed towards supporting new apprenticeships. Under the CBI scheme, some £125 million would go towards supporting an additional 50,000 apprentices.

Employers would receive £2,500 in order to supplement the cost of taking on each extra apprentice.

Benefits of apprenticeships
As well as helping to combat unemployment amongst young people, there are good business reasons for considering employing an apprentice.

There is a well-documented shortage of skilled labour in the UK, which can make recruitment difficult. It may make more sense to take on someone young or under-skilled and to train them in the skills your business needs.

The real advantage of an apprenticeship is that it allows an employer to do just this while at the same time providing them with administrative help, financial support and, most importantly of all, a disciplined, measured approach to training.

Apprenticeships are as suited to small as they are to large businesses. Most apprentices are young people, but courses are open to older workers.

Earn and learn
The way that apprentices learn their trade is through a combination of both on-the-job experience and externally structured training. Not only does an apprentice get to understand the needs of the firm, the external training system means they can also bring new ideas to their work and to the business.

There are plans to make apprenticeships integral to UK business. Some 500,000 places should be available within the next decade. Even by 2013, it is hoped to have an extra 90,000 apprenticeships open to 16 to 18 year olds.

At the moment, there are 180 apprenticeship courses, ranging from construction to IT, from catering to manufacture. Recruits and employers have a choice of two types of apprenticeship: a standard course that lasts a year and leads to a level 2 NVQ and a two-year course that leads to a level 3 NVQ.

For the employer’s part, they are required to organise the training and manage the apprentice while they are at work. Apprentices must be paid a wage of no less than £95 a week, although the UK average is £170, and given time off work to study (normally a day a week).

In return, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) will foot the bill for the whole cost of training 16 to 18 year olds and half the cost of training someone over the age of 18. Additionally, grants from the LSC can help to offset the cost of employing an apprentice.

There is an online service that matches employer vacancies with people seeking employment as apprentices in a variety of sectors and areas of the country.

The Apprentice logo
Image via Wikipedia

Any business interested in taking on an employee, and making good the skills gaps they may be experiencing, can visit the LSC apprenticeship website at http://www.lsc.gov.uk/Vacancies/Apprenticeship/

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Sale of property that has been held for letting

We all know the property market has been through terrible times lately. Some businesses, set up in the good times to invest in let property for the long term, have been forced to sell some property to generate  funds to cover ongoing costs.

Where a property investment business starts to develop properties for sale, rather than keeping them for long term letting, the business has started a trade of property development.

So a property, previously held as an investment, is transferred to “stock” , meaning it is now stock being made ready to be sold, then that property must be treated as if it had been sold at its open market value at that point.

This can create a capital gains tax charge, or a capital loss, before the property has actually been sold.

To avoid this problem the business owners can make an election to treat the value of the property when it enters stock, as the value when it was acquired by the business. Any gain or loss will then only arise when the property is eventually sold by the business. This election must be sent to the tax office within two years of the end of the accounts year for a company, or by the first anniversary of 31 January following the tax year end for an unincorporated business.

Offices on San Juan Grade Road in Salinas, Cal...
Image via Wikipedia

Besides the timing issue, the advantage of making this election is that the loss, if one arises, becomes a trading loss made on the sale of stock by the business rather than a capital loss. Generally a trading loss can be set-off against a wider range of income than a capital loss. However, to use this trading loss the Taxman will have to be convinced that the property business has actually started a trade of property development, and is not simply selling off its surplus investments.

This can be a very difficult area and full advice is essential so please contact us for advice in your own circumstances.

Travelling from home to work

If you are employed

It is well established through legal cases that employees cannot claim the cost of travel between home and their normal place of work. H M Revenue & Customs consider this cost merely puts the employee in a position to perform their duties. The definition of employee in the examples that follow includes salaried directors of private limited companies.

However, there are a number of important exceptions to this general principle, that home to work travel costs cannot be claimed:-

Automobiles, or
Image via Wikipedia
  • Travel costs from home to a temporary workplace can be claimed – a temporary workplace can be a place of continuous work for up to 24 months, if this period is likely to be exceeded from the start, then the workplace would be considered permanent from the start and no relief would be due. (Note: If it isn’t known that the contract will exceed 24 months, then relief will be due up to the 24 month point, or up to the point when it is known that the 24 months will be exceeded if earlier.) A temporary workplace is one where less than 40% of working time is spent; if this is the case, the 24 month rule doesn’t apply and relief will be available in full.
  • Travel between two places of work required by the same employer.
  • Travel to attend an appointment required by an employer. This cost is allowed even if the journey starts at home.
  • Travel between home and work where home is a workplace and the location of home is dictated by the requirements of the job.

If you are self-employed

Many self-employed business people have set up their businesses to run from their home address. If you are self-employed you can claim for any travel expense which is required by your trade as long as the business element can be separated from any private element. For instance you may use your car for a trip into town to bank your business cheques and call at the supermarket on the way home.

To meet the HM Revenue & Custom’s requirement of reasonable care in apportioning such costs, you must keep appropriate records. For car users this would normally be a written log of business miles and a record of the vehicles recorded mileage at the beginning and end of each trading year. In this way an accurate assessment of average business use can be calculated and applied to total running costs.

And don’t forget, if you run your business through a limited company you are not self-employed. The comments in the first section of this article would apply to your business.

Taxation of Double Cab Pickups

There has been a lot of publicity lately about the tax advantages of running cars with low CO2 ratings. There are a number of benefits:

  • possible 100% first year tax deduction for the cost of the vehicle,
  • much reduced benefit in kind charges,
  • lower road fund tax and so on.

But not all of us want to run such vehicles even if there are tax, VAT and running cost advantages.

Double cab pickups, sometimes described as crew cab pickups, are an anomaly!

A Dodge Ram 1500 crew cab
Image via Wikipedia

For business users, especially the self

-employed, they present an unusual tax opportunity.

The HMRC web site describes double cab pickups as:

“… a front passenger cab that contains a second row of seats and is capable of seating about 4 passengers, plus the driver with four doors capable of being opened independently (two door versions are normally accepted to be vans, even those with rear doors that can only be opened after the front doors and that must be closed before the front doors) and an uncovered pick-up area behind the passenger cab.”

From the tax year 2002 -03 onwards a double cab pickup is classified as a van for both VAT and benefits purposes if it has a payload of 1 tonne (1,000kg) or more.

If your double cab pickup meets this definition:

You can reclaim any VAT added to the purchase price, and

The net capital cost (after VAT has been reclaimed) could be available for a 100% first year tax allowance as part of your Annual Investment Allowance up to a maximum of £50,000 each tax year.

If you are a director or employee, any significant private use of the double cab pickup will trigger a standard benefit in kind charge of tax on £3,000 per year. In addition if your firm/employer provides fuel to cover private use of the vehicle there will be an extra benefit charge of tax on £500 per year at current rates. The best way to minimise any risk of these benefits being applied is to restrict the use of the pickup to business use only, or make sure that any private use meets the HMRC definition of “insignificant private use”.

If you would like more information regarding this article, or any advice regarding tax effective strategies for running your business vehicles please call.

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Loss relief – don’t lose out!

As a measure to help businesses during the recession, the Finance Bill 2009 allows trading losses for businesses to be carried back up to a maximum of three years. To qualify the losses must be suffered:

For limited companies, during trading periods ending in the two year period to 23 November 2010, and
For unincorporated, self-assessed businesses, during the tax years 2008 -09 and 2009 -10.
Losses have to be carried back to the latest year first. For example if the loss is incurred in the year to 31 March 2010 the first carry back is to the year ending 31 March 2009 (there is no restriction on the amount of losses carried back to this year). If losses are still available after this first set off they can be carried back a further two years. (In our example to the year ending 31 March 2008 and then the year ending 31 March 2007).

However the carry back to these further two years is capped at £50,000 per year against total profits for companies. For unincorporated businesses the carry back to the two earlier years is also capped at £50,000 per year but only against profits from the same trade.

If the loss carried back reduces taxable profits in any of the earlier years tax refunds should be forthcoming.

Take note of the following factors:

Tax losses can be enhanced by claims for equipment purchases, and
Self-employed tax payers can lose the benefit of their individual (personal) tax allowances and this needs taking into account when making loss relief claims.