Business Finance: It’s business as usual after the Budget, saysRobert Leggett

Robert Leggett, Ensors

Robert Leggett, Ensors - Credit: Archant

In the build up to George Osborne’s final meaningful Budget before the next General Election, I wondered whether we would see something radical for business.

What we have seen is very much “business as usual”, continuing down the path previously set but with some welcome extra tweaks along the way.

Announced last year, April will see the headline rate of Corporation Tax fall to 21%. Simplification and stability will be achieved on this point when the rate drops to 20% from April 1, 2015 and the small company’s rate is abolished.

The most important “surprise” involved the Annual Investment Allowance. This relief was due to drop from £250,000 to £25,000 at the end of the year. Instead, from April, it will double to £500,000 until the end of 2015. However, watch out for the transitional rules where your accounting period straddles these dates, and remember that the relief gives 100% allowances in the first year for qualifying expenditure on plant and machinery; it does not give relief for all business investment, as the Chancellor mistakenly said in his speech.

Many corporate clients who are resolving scientific or technological uncertainty as they develop new products, are claiming Research and Development relief. It was good to see the R&D payable tax credit will increase from 11% to 14.5% for companies with losses. Every £100 of R&D expenditure will now yield a repayment of £32.63 ? not a bad subsidy. The relief remains easier to claim than many believe, and should be considered.

The £2,000 NIC Employment Allowance for all business employers will be widely welcomed, as will the 2015 abolition of employer’s NIC on employees aged under 21 and earning below the upper earnings threshold. However, given that pensions auto-enrolment also does not apply to under 22s, I am concerned that these measures will price graduates out of parts of the jobs market.

Of interest to intensive energy users will be the package of measures relating to energy costs, and measures to help exporters and manufacturers. However, we await the detail.

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Partnerships and LLPs were hardly mentioned in the Budget itself, but we know that there are challenges ahead as many innocent businesses will be caught up in complex anti-avoidance measures.

So, in summary, no change of course, and some welcome help in some areas, but it will be fascinating to see what 2015 brings.

: : Robert Leggett is corporate tax partner at Ensors Chartered Accountants.