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Business Tax  •  Capital Gains Tax  •  exit strategy  •  Tax Planning

Introducing the new ‘business asset disposal relief’

By RJP LLP on 21 April, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis is proving all-consuming for the press and as a result, one of the important changes announced in the 2020 Budget is not attracting as much analysis as it merits.  We are referring to the significant restrictions introduced to entrepreneurs’ relief (ER). In fact, these changes are such an emotive topic, that ER has been subtly rebranded and is now called ‘business asset disposal relief’.

Whatever you want to call it; business asset disposal relief; or entrepreneurs’ relief (ER); the tax relief available to shareholders selling shares and to business owners selling business assets has been very significantly scaled back. Under the new rules, the capital gains relief available on the sale of qualifying assets, which must have been owned by the seller for a minimum period of 2 years, has been reduced from a £10m lifetime allowance to a £1m  lifetime allowance. Qualifying individuals will still be eligible to pay a discounted capital gains tax (CGT)  rate of 10% when they sell their qualifying assets, compared with the 20% rate which would otherwise apply, but now on only the first £1m of capital gains in a lifetime, rather than £10m.

The justification for making this change is that the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has listened to various representations and has accepted that the previous relief was ‘expensive, ineffective and unfair’, with three quarters of the relief going to just 5,000 people. In his budget statement, Sunak said that 80 per cent of small businesses would be unaffected and that it would save the Treasury £6 billion over the next five years. It could have been worse, the scheme could have been completely scrapped, and one can’t help wondering if its change of name from the popular ‘ER’ to the less well-known business asset taper relief is not a precursor to it quietly being scrapped in the future.

In spite of the change, a £1m capital gains tax allowance at the 10% rate for qualifying business assets remains attractive and is available to a large proportion of small business owners and SME shareholders, for whom ER as a tax relief is arguably intended anyway. Added to this, capital gains tax rates are low in the UK compared with other jurisdictions and this too is attractive for entrepreneurs. Part of the government’s justification for reforming ER was because it did little to incentivise entrepreneurial activity and the relief mainly benefited a small number of very affluent taxpayers, at the end of a business chain rather than at the beginning.

We will have to wait and see if the reforms to ER are mirrored in the future with a restriction to the lifetime allowance for Entrepreneur Investors’ Relief, the investors’ equivalent scheme, which also provides a 10% tax rate on the first £10m of qualifying gains.

If you are thinking about selling your business and would like expert advice, please email partners@rjp.co.uk

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31 December 2020 - Review disposals of chargeable assets to avoid a possible CGT increase

Capital gains tax is due to be reviewed by the government and if a CGT rise is announced, the new rates may become effective from the next tax year on 6 April 2021. Take advice now if you are thinking of selling property or have other assets giving rise to a capital gains tax liability.