Tax planning for small businesses is never an easy ride and can be a minefield for business owners, especially entrepreneurs who are still finding their feet.
While the use of a good accountant can make life easier, having some tax-saving ideas up your sleeve will help keep the business’s finances looking healthy and allow the money to be better spent elsewhere.
We’ve put together 15 ideas to help you identify where and how those all important tax savings can be made.
1. Use your allowances
Basic tax reliefs and allowances can make you substantial savings, so don’t overlook them. By making the most of tax-free allowances on basic income, dividend income, capital gains and savings income, you may receive over £28,000 a year free of tax.
2. Capital gains allowance
Capital gains are the profit made from the sale of certain investments, and for 2019 - 2020 you can enjoy up to £12,000 tax-free. Be sure to use the full allowance within the tax year as you won’t be able to carry it over to the next. If you joint own assets with your spouse or civil partner, the capital gains tax-free allowance is doubled to £24,000.
3. Contribute to a pension
Pension contributions are tax deductible and are a way to make savings. Paying directly into a pension or making company contributions to an employee’s pension will reduce the amount of corporation tax you need to pay.
4. Know your VAT
Business owners often lose out by misunderstanding VAT or paying more than they necessarily should. After registering for VAT, small businesses can make savings by signing up to the flat rate VAT scheme, under which you’ll only pay VAT as a flat rate percentage of your sales.
5. Transfer assets
Avoid capital gains tax by transferring assets to your spouse or civil partner. A partner on a lower income may also pay a lower level of income tax, so if this is the case it may well be worth transferring savings and investments to them.
6. Extract profit
If you are a business owner or operate through a limited company, extracting money via a small salary up to your personal allowance and topping this up with dividends is the most tax-efficient.
7. Make the most of Entrepreneurs' Relief
Tax savings can be made by using Entrepreneurs' Relief when selling shares or part of your business. Business owners get a reduced capital gains tax rate of 10 per cent on qualifying business assets.
8. Don’t forget your expenses
Keeping hold of all of your business receipts and claiming expenses can help make tax savings, as long as the items have been bought for business use. Business owners can also make use of the annual investment allowance, which allows you to deduct the full value of an item bought for business use from your profits before tax.
9. Make another employee a partner
If you operate a sole trader or limited company business, making another key employee a partner will make you both substantial National Insurance savings, whilst also giving them a role in the business.
10. Employ your spouse
Tax savings can also be made by employing your partner. Bringing them into the business means you can make use of their personal tax allowances too, thus doubling your potential tax-free income and spreading out the income you extract from the business.
11. Employee benefits
Treating your staff to bonuses can also help small businesses make tax savings. Make sure they are paid before the end of the tax year.
12. Use an accountant
Finding the time to successfully look after the books whilst trying to grow your business can be difficult. While the business will benefit from you dedicating some time to bookkeeping, taking on the services of an accountant will certainly help. While you may worry about the cost, you might otherwise fail to claim everything you are entitled to.
13. Know your industry
Keep a finger on the pulse with your trade body or association, as many industries have special tax dispensations, such as uniform allowances.
14. Work from home
If you run your small business from home, there are generous tax savings to be made. HMRC allow a specific home charge per week of £4, but you can also claim tax relief on other bills as well.
15. Plan ahead
Most importantly, tax planning should be done well ahead of the business and fiscal year end so that you can make the most of all tax reliefs available to you. Assessing your profits in advance will give you time to take any further action while you can, such as investing more in pension contributions or buying more machinery to reduce your taxable profits.