Pre-Budget - November 24 2008

Here you can find information about previous budgets.

This was a tax cutting mini-budget covering everything from Air Passenger Duty to UK REITS. However, there is plenty of warning of specific tax rises to come in future years - should this Government still be in power! We have pulled out the matters that are most pertinent for small businesses, but as with any Budget further details are likely to emerge in the next few days so please contact us if you have specific queries.


In order to boost consumer spending across all sectors the standard rate of VAT will fall from 17.5% to 15% for a limited period from 1 December 2008 to 31 December 2009, when it will return to 17.5%, as the Chancellor predicts that the recession will be almost over by then.

This is going to be a right royal pain for VAT registered businesses as you need to consider whether to, and how to pass on the VAT reduction. You do not have to change your VAT inclusive prices, but you must change your accounting system to record the correct standard rate of VAT as follows:

  1. You must record the VAT due on all your sales at the correct rate from 1 December 2008. The zero and reduced rates have not changed. Only VAT at the standard rate has reduced to 15%, which amounts to 13.043% or 3/23 of the gross figure, whereas VAT at the old standard rate of 17.5% is 14.894% or 7/47 of the gross.

    A sale worth £470 including VAT at 17.5% on 28 November means you have collected VAT of £70 from the customer. The same sale of £470 made on 1 December including VAT at 15% means you have only collected VAT of £61.30, so you have kept an additional £8.70 profit from that sale.

  2. Any invoices issued from 1 December 2008 must show the new standard rate of 15% for standard rated items. However, if your invoice is for something that was completely delivered before 18 November 2008, or you were actually paid for the complete sale before 1 December 2008, you should use the old standard rate of 17.5%.
  3. If you have the sort of business that receives stage payments for long contracts, such as in the construction industry, there are special rules to consider. The relevant date for VAT is normally when you issue a VAT invoice or receive a stage payment. So any invoices issued for stage payments received on or after 1 December 2008 must have VAT accounted for at 15%, even if some of the work was performed before 1 December.
  4. If you use the flat rate scheme for small businesses you need to look up the new flat rate for your business sector in appendix E of the detailed VAT guide on the HMRC website at Most, but not all of these flat rates have changed from 1 December 2008 and you must apply the new rate to your VAT inclusive sales if you want to stay in the flat rate scheme. We can help you calculate whether you should stay in the scheme with your new flat rate.
  5. If you use the cash accounting scheme you need to be particularly careful about recording exactly when the sale was made and the invoice was issued. This is because you need to pay over VAT of 17.5% for sales made before 1 December 2008 even if you receive the payment on or after 1 December 2008.

Please ask us to run through the VAT rules in relation to your particular business. Remember this VAT change is only temporary, so all your systems will have to be changed again on New Years Eve in 2009 before the standard rate of VAT increases from 15% to 17.5% on 1 January 2010.

Small Business


To help smaller businesses survive the recession the normal one year carry back rule for trading losses is going to be extended to three years, but only for a limited period. When a loss is carried back from the current year (year 0) to year -1, and cancels out the profits in year -1, the tax paid for year -1 can be reclaimed. This provides an immediate cash-flow boost for the loss making business.

The rules will be different for companies and for unincorporated businesses such as sole-traders. In both cases the amount of loss carried back to year -1 will be unlimited as now, but the total loss which can be carried back to years -2 and -3 cannot exceed £50,000. Losses not used against profits in earlier years will be carried forward, assuming the business continues to trade.

  • Companies. Where a loss is made in an accounting period that ends between 24 November 2008 and 23 November 2009, that loss may be carried back up to three years, subject to the £50,000 cap. Where the loss-making period is less than 12 months the £50,000 cap is reduced proportionately. The rules for surrendering a loss to another group company will not be changed.

  • Unincorporated businesses. If you trade as a partnership or sole-trader you are taxed on the profits you make in the accounting period that ends in the relevant tax year. For example the profits or loss for the year to 31 March 2009 are taxed or relieved in the 2008/09 tax year that ends on 5 April 2009.

    In order to claim the extended three year carry back of losses you must have a loss for the accounting period that is taxed in 2008/09. Young businesses in the first four years of trading already get a three year carry back of losses, so this extended loss relief is targeted at established businesses.

    If you made a small profit in the year to 30 April 2008, taxed in 2008/09, but a large loss in year to 30 April 2009, taxed in 2009/10 you will not get the three year carry back. Because the loss has fallen into the 'wrong' taxed year: 2009/10 instead of 2008/09 it can only be carried back for one year instead of three years. In this situation you could change your year end to 31 March 2009 to capture the loss early and take advantage of the three year carry back.

Corporation Tax

Two years ago the rates of corporation tax for companies with 'small' profits were set to rise on 1 April 2008 to 21% then on 1 April 2009 to 22%. The Chancellor has now decided to postpone the second of those increases to 1 April 2010.

Small' profits are those that fall below the small company rate threshold of £300,000. This threshold is proportionately reduced by the number of companies associated with the main company. An associated company can be one run by your spouse or civil partner, or another company over which you have control.

Income Shifting

Last year the Government threatened to bring in legislation to tackle the problem of couples sharing business income to save a bit of tax. This was going to happen from April 2008, but was postponed until April 2009. It has now been put back on the 'too difficult pile' until at least the recession is over. So there are no immediate changes for family businesses.

Personal Tax

Income tax

The rates and thresholds of income tax have been set for 2009/10 as follows:

Rate Band
Savings rate (on Savings income only) 10% £0 - £2,440
Basic Rate 20% £0 - £37,400
Higher Rate 40% Over £37,400

However, an additional higher tax rate of 45% is promised from 6 April 2011 for those with total income above £150,000. These individuals will also lose the benefit of the personal allowance (see below). The rates paid by Trusts will also increase to 37.5% for dividends and 45% for other income from 6 April 2011.

Personal Allowances

In May 2008 the Chancellor increased the basic personal allowance to compensate lower earners for the loss of the 10% tax band. This increase is carried forward into 2009/10 as follows:

Personal allowances: 2008/09 2009/10
Under 65 £6,035 £6,475
65-74 £9,030 £9,490
75 and over £9,180 £9,640
Minimum marriage £2,540 £2,670
Marriage under 75 £6,535 £6,865
Marriage over 75 £6,625 £6,965
Blind persons £1,800 £1,890
Income limit for age allowances £21,800 £22,900

There is a cap on the benefit of the personal allowances given to those aged over 64 where their income exceeds the income limit given in the table above. A similar mechanism of reducing the benefit of the personal allowance is proposed for those with total income over the thresholds of £100,000 and £140,000 in 2010/11 and beyond.

Pension Contributions

The lifetime and annual allowance for pension contributions were set for the five years from 2006/07 to 2010/11. These allowances will now be frozen at the 2010/11 rates until at least 2015/16, which will restrict the tax relief available to very high earners:

  • Life time allowance: £1.8 million
  • Annual allowance: £255,000

National Insurance

There is no immediate change in the main rates of class 1 employers and employees national insurance from 6 April 2009. However, a large rise in class 1 national insurance is proposed from 6 April 2011 to 11.5% for employees, to 13.3% for employers, and the additional rate payable above the upper limit is to increase from 1% to 1.5%. This would bring in a significant amount of additional revenue for the Government beyond 2011.

Class 3 national insurance is a voluntary class normally paid by people who want to top up their NI contributions in order to receive the full state pension. This voluntary rate is increasing from £8.10 per week to £12.05 per week from 6 April 2009. So if you need to top-up your NI contributions it would be best to do this while the rate remains at £8.10 per week.

Other Taxes

Business Rates

From 1 April 2008 most empty business properties became liable to business rates, when previously empty properties were exempt from rates. After much protest, and a number of instances where properties were demolished, the exemption from business rates is to be applied to all properties with a rateable value of less than £15,000 for the tax year 2009/10 only.

Car tax (vehicle excise duty)

There was a lot of fuss after the Budget in March 2008 over the proposed increases in car tax (VED) for older cars registered after 1 March 2001. These increases in VED have now been scaled back to £5 per car per year for most cars for 2009/10, but larger increases will apply for new polluting cars.

Excise Duties

Just to prove this was a real Budget the duties on tobacco and cigarettes increased from 6pm on 24 November 2008. Duties on wine and sprites go up from 1 December 2008. To compensate for the reduction in VAT, fuel duties are also to increase from 1 December 2008 and then again on 1 April 2009!


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