Reform of tax ‘Basis Period’ announced by HMRC

The Government has this week announced a consultation concerning a potential reform of the basis on which trading profits arising to the self-employed (including members of partnerships) are subject to income tax. Should the proposed changes go ahead they will impact the self-employed who carry on a trade for UK tax purposes and do not draw up annual accounts to 31 March or 5 April.

In very broad terms, to align the taxation of trading profits with other types of income arising to individuals, the Government has proposed that existing ‘basis period’ rules, whereby income tax on trading profits for a tax year is determined based on profits arising in the accounting period ending in the tax year, will be replaced by a simplified system which would require the self-employed to apportion trading profits to tax years.

Whilst the proposals should certainly remove much of the complexities associated with the taxation of trading profits for many self-employed individuals (particularly in the early years of trade), to align with the introduction of Making Tax Digital (MTD) for income tax, the Government has proposed that these changes will take effect from 2023/24 with a one year transitional period in 2022/23. This leaves very little time for businesses to prepare for the practical implications of the changes which, due to the transitional provisions which will apply in 2022/23, could include cash flow challenges arising from the possibility that a higher income tax liability will arise for that tax year than might otherwise have been the case.

Notwithstanding that the objective of the proposals is the simplification and modernisation of a somewhat outdated set of rules, implementation of the changes over such a short period of time could represent an added burden for the self-employed post-Covid and arguably another unwelcome level of disruption as the whole country looks towards a future after the global pandemic. The consultation closes on 31 August; we will provide further information when available.