By Annie Makoff HMRC updates Is Budget 2023 good for business? 16 Mar 2023 There are some promising headlines but they come with caveats. Budget 2023 was tipped to be a ‘boring’ budget after the controversy surrounding the last few fiscal events in 2022. So there were no big surprises – most, if not all of this year’s announcements were leaked up to a week before budget day. The aim? To bring certainty and security to the markets by playing it safe, for the most part. One of the main headliners was postponing the 20% energy bill increase. Intended to end in April, the energy price guarantee (EPG) – which limits the amount households can be charged per unit of gas or electricity – will now be extended for a further three months until June. The increase in corporation tax was also widely expected. From April, corporation tax will rise from 19% to 25% for companies with profits exceeding £250,000. However, the Chancellor also announced a new measure that would allow companies to offset 100% of UK investments against their tax bills for the next three years. The measure, which replaces the super deduction tax break, allows companies that pay corporation tax to qualify for full expensing of plant or machinery investments. Also announced: • Help for loss-making R&D SMEs: enhanced R&D tax credits of 27% will be available for SMEs that spend 40% of their total expenditure on eligible R&Ds. • Childcare: up to 30 hours/week free childcare for the under fives which will be implemented in stages between April 2024 and September 2025. • Lifetime allowance – the total amount accrued in pension savings before additional tax is owed – will be abolished. • 50% increase in pensions annual tax-free allowance. • Fuel duty will be frozen for another year. So what do accountants think: has the budget brought relief and certainty to UK businesses or has it missed the mark? Focus on technology and innovation must continue to be backed by tax incentives to encourage growth and development Richard Godmon, Tax Partner, Menzies LLP It’s good to see the Chancellor recognising the importance of the technology sector and focusing on innovation in his speech. There appears to be a clear desire to provide an ecosystem to develop world-leading technology. But it is important that this desire be backed up with a clear and consistent tax incentivisation structure to encourage such businesses to grow and develop in the UK. The Chancellor announced additional tax relief for R&D-intensive SMEs from April 2023. A higher rate of relief for loss-making R&D-intensive SMEs that spend at least 40% of their total expenditure on R&D will qualify for the new rate. In addition, restrictions on overseas expenditure in R&D tax reliefs will be delayed. The previously announced restriction on some overseas expenditure now comes into effect from 1 April 2024 instead of 1 April 2023. The removal of the super-deduction would have left a significant hole and could have ended up discouraging business investment. The Chancellor has plugged the gap with a new policy, effective for three years from April. This is on top of AIA at £1 million, which will support unincorporated businesses, including larger partnerships and LLPs, which will be disappointed not to be eligible for full expensing. Verdict: The budget focuses on technology and innovation, but consistent tax incentivization structures are needed to back these. R&D tax relief and full capital expensing policy seem promising, but devil is in the detail Stephanie Hurst, Tax Director for Corporate Tax Consultancy and Personal Tax Compliance, Monahans This was very much a ‘back-to-work’ budget that seemingly bounced over several key potholes. The newly proposed full capital expensing policy could be exceptionally beneficial to businesses, helping to reduce corporation tax rates and freeing up more money for recruitment. However, as usual, the devil will be in the detail of exactly how this policy will work. What happens if a full expensed asset is sold, for example? The R&D relief appears as an additional relief over and above where we are now, which signals another hugely positive move for home-grown science and tech businesses, at least on the surface. Again, I’m eager to dig deeper into how the 40% expenditure threshold will be calculated and how the claiming system will function before giving it the benefit of the doubt. The double whammy of abolishing the Lifetime Allowance, paired with an increase of the Pensions Annual Tax-free Allowance from £40,000 to £60,000 came out of the blue. But its impact is only for a certain class of older worker; those on a lower income appear to have been forgotten. After all, who among us can afford to contribute £60,000 to their pension? Verdict: Some promising announcements around R&D tax relief and full capital expensing policies but the devil will be in the detail. The budget does not provide enough stability for businesses Richard Pilmore FMAAT, Director, RLTP Accountants The corporation tax rise will have a big impact on many UK businesses. Many businesses will fall into the increased 25% rate of tax (for profits in excess of £250,000) at a time when a lot of other costs are also increasing, so there’s definitely some concern among businesses. Increasing taxation at a time of uncertainty is unlikely to help boost the economy. Energy prices are a major concern for clients. The extension of the energy relief scheme for three months will actually prolong the stress and uncertainty because there is no hint at what may happen after July. It’s already going to be a tricky year. Overall, I think the budget has allayed some immediate concerns, but there is still too much uncertainty around what the future holds for businesses as well as individuals. Verdict: The budget falls short of providing certainty and stability for businesses and individuals in the long term. A ‘resounding disappointment’ for SMEs Nicholas Smith, Director and Head of Tax, Duncan & Toplis The Spring Budget is a resounding disappointment for SMEs across the UK. SMEs make up 99.9% of the UK economy, according to the Government’s own figures. So where is the support for them as the cost of living crisis closes doors across the nation? Chancellor Jeremy Hunt seems focused exclusively on easing cash flow concerns for larger businesses, leaving SMEs to fend for themselves at a point when consumer confidence and spending is plummeting and prices continue to climb. Childcare Childcare measures could enable more working parents to get to work, stay in work and up their hours. The government will introduce 30 hours of free childcare from the moment maternity leave ends, which is expected to reduce childcare costs by nearly 60% for parents. However, this is to be a staggered rollout, meaning that parents will need to wait years to qualify for the full offering. Enhanced R&D credits Measures to support research and development are extremely limited. These credits equate to 27p per pound spent, which business can only claim back if R&D accounts for at least 40% of overall expenditure. This places most companies out of the running and will mean very little to the man on the street trying to keep the lights on. Corporation tax At a time when the UK business community could really do with more simplicity, corporation tax increases create more complexity: • The 19% tax rate still applies for companies with taxable profits of £50,000 or less. • Companies that are part of a group or under common ownership will share the ‘small company’ tax rate under ‘associated companies’ rules. • The 25% tax rate applies to companies with profits of more than £250,000. • For companies with profits between £50k-£250k, there is an effective marginal rate of 26.5%, which seems punitive. And replacing the super-deduction with full capital expensing for the next three years will really only benefit larger businesses and not SMEs. Overall, support for SMEs is vague and unclear, despite sweeping claims designed to kick-start the economy. Verdict: Budget is too focused on big business, leaving SMEs to fend themselves. It’s unlikely to support 99.9% of businesses. Annie Makoff is a freelance journalist and editor.