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Should I continue trading through a limited company?

In the Summer 2015 Budget, George Osborne announced fundamental changes to the way in which dividends are taxed. The changes take place for dividends received from 6 April 2016. Some individuals who extract profits from their company as dividends may need to consider whether to increase dividend payments before this date.

When a dividend is paid to an individual, it is subject to different tax rates compared to other income due to a 10% notional tax credit being added to the dividend. So for an individual who has dividend income which falls into the basic rate band the effective tax rate is nil as the 10% tax credit covers the 10% tax liability. For a higher rate (40%) taxpayer, the effective tax rate on a dividend receipt is 25%.

From 6 April 2016:

  • The 10% dividend tax credit is abolished with the result that the cash dividend received will be the gross amount potentially subject to tax.
  • New rates of tax on dividend income will be 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers, 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers and 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers.
  • A new Dividend Tax Allowance will remove the first £5,000 of dividends received in a tax year from taxation.

Many owner-managers running their business through a limited company will pay more tax next year if most of the profits are paid out as dividends rather than as a salary.

This prospect raises a number of issues which we address below:

  • There is still a benefit in tax terms for most individuals to continue to trade as a limited company. The tax saved by incorporation compared to being unincorporated will be reduced next year but there is still an annual tax saving.
  • There is still a benefit for a director-shareholder to take a dividend rather than a salary. The amount of the tax saved will be less than under the current regime.
  • If you do not currently extract all the company profits as a dividend you may wish to consider increasing dividends before 6 April 2016. However, other tax issues may come into play, for example the loss of the personal tax allowance if your tota ‘adjusted net income’ exceeds £100,000. There will also be non-tax issues such as the availability of funds or profits in the company to pay the dividend.

Please contact us before you make any decisions about changing the amount of dividends taken. Please note our conclusions above are based on only limited information that has been supplied by the government on the new regime.

We expect draft legislation for the regime to be published by the end of the year.

As the announcement has added to the complexity of the current dividend system we recently published an article answering the questions you have been asking about the big dividend changes. 

More from our tax experts

You can find all of our latest tax articles and tax resources here.

If you are looking for advice in a particular area, please get in touch with your usual Hawsons contact.

Alternatively, we offer all new clients a free initial meeting to have a discussion about their own personal circumstances – find out more or book your free initial meeting here. We have offices in Sheffield, Doncaster and Northampton.

Peter Kennan is responsible for the firm’s specialist taxation services which encompass corporate and business taxation, personal tax and financial planning, trusts and VAT. For more information or advice on anything covered in this article, please contact Peter on [email protected] or 0114 266 7141.

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