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Tax changes coming in April


Published: 31 Mar 2021 Update History

A host of tax changes come into force from the start of April 2021, including the long-anticipated introduction of off payroll working (IR35) and the next phase of requirements under Making Tax Digital for VAT. ICAEW’s Tax Faculty outlines what you need to know.

Employment taxes

Off-payroll working (IR35)

The off-payroll working (OPW) rules finally come into force for the private sector on 6 April 2021. The rules aim to ensure that PAYE is accounted for where a contractor would have been an employee of the client, but for the fact that the client has a contract with the contractor’s personal service company rather than the contractor personally.

With OPW being introduced, many more contractors may be encouraged to operate via an umbrella company. LITRG have produced a comprehensive and freely available guide on how umbrella companies and other intermediaries operate in the labour market. Further support from the Tax Faculty can be found on icaew.com/ir35.

Optional remuneration arrangements

The transition period ends on 5 April 2021 for optional remuneration arrangements made pre-6 April 2017 for cars with CO2 emissions above 75g/km, accommodation and school fees. This means that the “modified cash equivalent” rules apply when calculating the benefit in kind for the 2021/22 tax year onwards.

Further details can be found in TAXguide 21/20.

Van benefit charge

From 6 April 2021, the van benefit charge is reduced to zero for employees provided with vans that produce zero carbon emissions.

Employing veterans

From 6 April 2021, employers of veterans will be entitled to a 12-month exemption from national insurance contributions (NIC) for their first year of civilian employment. The exemption only applies to earnings between the secondary threshold and the upper secondary threshold (UST), meaning that the employer will be liable to pay standard rate employer’s NIC on earnings above the UST.

The exemption will apply where the veteran was employed before 6 April 2021 and is still within their first year of civilian employment, but only to earnings paid on or after 6 April 2021.

A manual claim will be required for the 2021/22 tax year with the ambition that the claim will be made in real time from April 2022 onwards. The exemption will initially be available for a three-year period until April 2024.


Making Tax Digital (MTD) for VAT

Businesses required to comply with MTD for VAT are required to have digital links in place for their first VAT return period starting on or after 1 April 2021. HMRC is running four webinars for agents where it will explain the requirements in more detail and answer questions. You can find out times and register via gov.uk.

VAT returns

From 8 April, HMRC will no longer accept VAT returns using software that uses eXtensible Markup Language (XML) to make the submission. Businesses should check with their software supplier to see if they are impacted. The change is to enable HMRC to consolidate all VAT records on to its Enterprise Tax Management Platform, in advance of MTD for VAT becoming mandatory for all from April 2022.

Business tax


For two years from April 2021, companies investing in qualifying plant and machinery can claim a 130% capital allowance deduction, providing 24.7p off company tax bills for every £1 of qualifying expenditure.

Capital allowances for business vehicles

Changes to capital allowances for vehicles were announced at Budget 2020 with many of the first-year allowances relating to business vehicles due to expire on 31 March 2021. While some allowances are extended until 2025, CO2 emissions thresholds have been reduced to encourage business purchases of lower emission vehicles. From 1 April 2021:

  • 100% first-year allowances for cars will only be available for electric cars or cars with zero CO2 emissions which have been purchased new and unused,
  • 18% writing down allowances are only available on purchases of cars with CO2 emissions not exceeding 50g/km; and
  • where a car is purchased and has CO2 emissions exceeding 50g/km, writing down allowances will only be available at the special rate of 6%.

The reduction in the emissions threshold to 50g/km from April 2021 will also apply to the 15% restriction for leased vehicles.

Cap on payable R&D tax credit

A cap on the amount of the payable research and development (R&D) tax credits for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) comes into force for accounting periods beginning on or after 1 April 2021.

The cap limits the amount of payable R&D tax credit that an SME can claim to £20,000 plus 300% of its total PAYE and national insurance contributions liability for the period. The cap does not apply to those companies who:

  • have employees creating, preparing to create or managing intellectual property; and
  • do not spend more than 15% of their qualifying R&D expenditure on subcontracting R&D to, or the provision of externally provided workers by, connected persons.

Construction industry scheme

In a bid to prevent abuse of the construction industry scheme, HMRC is introducing a number of changes from 6 April 2021. These include:

  • the introduction of a set-off amendment power;
  • limiting the exclusion for the cost of materials to cases where the subcontractor directly incurs the cost;
  • changes to the definition of a deemed contractor; and
  • expanding the scope of the CIS registration penalty.

Further details can be found in an article by Howard Royse in February 2021 issue of TAXline.

Stamp taxes

A 2% stamp duty land tax surcharge for purchases of residential property by non-UK residents comes into force on 1 April 2021.

What isn’t happening on 1 April 2021?

In the Spring Budget the Chancellor announced several extensions on measures that had been due to come to an end on 1 April. These include:

  • Reduced rate of VAT for the tourism and hospitality sector: The 5% rate will now apply until 30 September 2021.
  • Stamp Duty Land Tax holiday: The nil rate will remain at £500,000 until 30 June 2021.
  • Social investment tax relief: This has been extended for two years until April 2023.
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