Your guide to corporate tax

All businesses that are limited companies operating in or from the UK are liable for corporation tax to some degree, but there are different rules for sole traders and partnerships. For example, a business established in the UK is taxable on its profits worldwide, while a non-resident business is taxable on trading profits that can be attributed to a permanent establishment (PE) in the UK, in addition to being subject to income tax. There are various opt outs and dividend exemptions that may apply, however, depending on status and a comprehensive range of tax treaties. In essence, corporate tax is a territorial system by nature.

Organising your corporation tax

As taxation can be complicated, it is worth making sure a business is completely up to date with current government initiatives and regulations. Specialists can be invaluable in this respect as some schemes include taxes linked to Capital Gains, Restructuring, IR35 enquiries and HMRC correspondence. For example, there is no invoice for corporate tax that a business has to pay: it is up to every commercial organisation to work out the amount of tax due, report it and then pay it on time and in full.

New businesses must first register to pay corporate tax with HMRC, then keep accurate accounting records of all transactions, and finally prepare a tax return on behalf of the enterprise that details the taxable amount payable. If a business is not due to pay tax, this must be reported within a specified time period, normally nine months and one day following the end of the commercial accounting period.

Understanding corporate profits

If a business is trading, profits are taxable. If investments are sold, income from these is also taxable. The same applies to any assets you sell for more than the cost price, as these are known as chargeable gains. UK-based businesses must pay corporate tax on profits they make abroad as well as in the UK. Companies based abroad are liable only for tax on profits from UK activities. There are various formalities to observe if a business has ceased to operate and is dormant, and more again if a dormant company resumes trading.

The UK government has a useful website covering basic information. There is also a helpline for businesses that want to make general enquiries about corporate tax, however be prepared to call early in the morning (8am–9am) or after office hours (5pm–6pm) to get a fairly prompt response. A more detailed guide to corporation tax can be downloaded and printed from the website.

Getting the best advice

Tax specialists make it their business to understand the ins and outs of business taxes. For example, they can advise on how to deduct authorised expenditure from trading income so as to calculate net profit (on which corporate tax is based). As their own charges are deductible, it makes sense to use the best professional advisors available and reduce corporate tax in the process.

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