Corporation Tax rate hike and high interest rates can be a costly combination

David Walker
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As the Corporation Tax (“CT”) submission deadline for companies with a 31 March 2023 year-end has now passed, with it goes the submission of the last returns with the “flat” 19% corporation tax rate.

We are now in the era of the 25% rate of CT for companies with taxable profits in excess of £250,000.  

The £250,000 taxable profits limit is however reduced depending on the number of associated companies and this will pull more companies within the scope of the 25% rate.  For example, a company with three associated companies would fall into the 25% CT rate where its taxable profits exceed £62,500 (being £250,000 divided by four), significantly reducing the level of taxable profits to which the lower rate (19%) of CT applies.

The increased rate comes with a number of challenges including cashflow required to settle increased CT liabilities. Whilst companies may have sufficient assets to meet the additional liabilities, it is important to realise that these assets aren’t always immediately accessible and as such, companies need to consider future cash flow early to ensure the required cash is readily available.

On top of the additional funds needed to meet the increased liabilities, another key consideration for companies should be the increasing rate of interest charged by HM Revenue and Customs (“HMRC”) for late or underpaid CT liabilities.

Since 7 January 2022, HMRC have increased the rate of interest charged on late or underpaid CT  thirteen times, rising from 2.75% to 7.75% per annum for payments due 9 months and 1 day after the end of the accounting period. In the same period, interest rates on late or underpaid CT for companies who pay via quarterly instalment payments (“QIPs”) has risen from 1.5% to 6.25%, representing a significant additional expense to companies where payments are based on estimates.

With these increased rates of interest, it has become increasingly important for projections to be as accurate as possible to mitigate any potential late interest charges accruing on underpaid liabilities.

Whilst the risk might not be overly high for companies who pay their liabilities via a single payment, for those companies who pay via QIPs, particularly those within the super QIPs regime, the potential additional costs can be significant.

For example, a company within the super QIPs regime with a year-end of 31 December 2024 would be due make their first instalment payment on 14 March 2024, over nine months before the end of the accounting period.  As such, liabilities are calculated on best estimates available at that time and these figures could be markedly different from the final liability, resulting in significant late interest charges.

Therefore, when businesses are preparing budgets and forecasts for the purposes of estimating CT liabilities, they should take into account the potential additional costs of underpaid interest charges and ensure the required cashflow is available to make the payments.

Furthermore, companies may wish to consider making an overpayment to HMRC on forecasted figures to reduce the risk of underpaid interest charges, as any overpayment would attract repayment interest from HMRC at a rate of 4.25%.

Our team of tax experts can provide assistance to ensure that CT liabilities are estimated as accurately as possible thereby reducing the risk of significant underpaid interest charges.