Tax measures that face delays

Few years in recent history have been as politically turbulent as 2019, which may see three different Prime Ministers before the year is out.

Should somebody other than Boris Johnson win the election, it will be the first time since 1886 that three different PMs - Theresa May, Johnson and his successor - have governed in one calendar year.

What's that got to do with tax policies? Quite a lot, actually, as many of the measures due to take effect from April 2020 could be delayed or scrapped.

The entire election process takes at least five weeks out of the timetable before any Finance Bill receives royal assent. That usually takes around 100 days.

Using that schedule, if an emergency Budget is held in January 2020, a new Finance Bill would be unlikely to receive royal assent until late April or early May.

It is therefore possible that some tax changes previously announced will not be written into law before the start of the new tax year on 6 April 2020.

Reverse charge VAT for construction services has already been kicked into the long grass by 12 months, what other measures could follow suit?

Corporation tax

It was rubber-stamped in Finance Act 2016 that the rate of corporation tax is set to fall from 19% in 2019/20 to 17% for 2020/21.

The prime minister used a recent speech at a Confederation of British Industry conference to confirm this measure will no longer go ahead in April 2020.

Johnson's plan is to retain the tax rate at 19%, for how long is anyone's guess, while Labour and the Greens want to raise this tax - to 26% and 24% respectively.

It is, however, conceivable that this increase could be a stay of execution for up to two million trading companies and the tax rate may change from 2021/22.

Changes to IR35 in the private sector

Calls to delay off-payroll rules extending to the private sector from April 2020 are getting increasingly louder.

The extension will shift responsibility for determining worker status from contractor to employer, bringing it in line with the public sector.

It aims to stop taxpayers avoiding employment taxes by working through their own personal service companies.

The draft legislation is very complex and features controversial measures, while HMRC's check employment status for tax tool has been widely criticised.

Deferring the rollout of the changes to the private sector for at least another year would give those affected more time to prepare, and allow for the rules to be scrutinised.

But with cross-party support for the measure, this could go either way.

Loan charge

Up to 50,000 people whose employers paid them through loans from offshore trusts dating back to 1999 were warned earlier this year they face huge tax bills.

An independent review was launched to see if a tax charge of 45% on all loans advanced was the best way to deal with these disguised remuneration schemes.

The findings of this report were expected to be published last week, only for the Treasury to delay publication until after the general election on 12 December.

That leaves some of those affected in limbo, with very little time to know where they stand before the scheduled deadline for settlements on 31 January 2020.

Digital services tax

A digital services tax on large businesses was announced in Budget 2018 and due to take effect from April 2020.

Ever since that announcement, the trail has gone cold on the 2% levy that should apply on revenues made by certain digital businesses.

It seems likely that a Labour government would want to press ahead with its implementation, while others may want more time to scrutinise the draft rules.

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