EVEN the staunchest opponent of George Osborne would have to concede that there is no silver bullet to reduce the deficit and boost growth that can come out of Wednesday’s Budget.
So, what do we expect? Clearly some quick, high level cost-cutting measures. The personal allowance is already pledged to increase to at least £8,105. There may be some cuts to direct taxation at the lower ends, but a reduction in VAT – although agreed to be the quickest way to get money in the consumer’s hand – would be a surprise. Will the 50 per cent tax rate go? There has been intense speculation at the weekend; we will soon find out what, if anything, has been decided.
So what will the government do to reward and incentivise the people and businesses with the imagination, determination and drive to help pull the economy out of the doldrums? Sadly, we suspect the answer is: not much.
However, entrepreneurs should not be too disheartened – there are already quite a few measures in place to support them which are simply not being taken up. Deloitte’s recent entrepreneurial survey found that over 75 per cent of all entrepreneurial businesses surveyed failed to claim any research and development (R&D) tax credits in the last three years. Our experience is that many entrepreneurial companies can claim at least some R&D relief offering, in many cases, substantial reductions in tax payable or cash repayments. So what else are entrepreneurs missing? Here are just a few things:
First and foremost, every entrepreneur should be ensuring they understand the Entrepreneurs’ Relief (ER) rules. Finding out on disposal that your shares fall just short of the ER threshold is a problem for many exiting shareholders. In addition, there are opportunities to maximise the relief where spouses are active in a business. If there’s one message we’d send to all entrepreneurs, it is that you should make sure you review this now to ensure you maximise your cash out when you exit. Secondly, if you are actively seeking investors, you should review whether your company qualifies for Enterprise Investment Scheme relief. Investors who are tired of low interest rates are actively seeking exciting investment opportunities and offering them a tax break to do so might be the difference between you and the next business. 20 per cent income tax relief, capital gains tax deferral and a possible tax free exit is not to be sniffed at.
Finally, you need to be entrepreneurial in your attitude to your employees. Employment tax costs keep rising. Allowing your employees to share in equity upside is one of the best ways of reducing your direct employment costs and tying your best people into the business. Such schemes are easy to put in place and tax certainty can be attained. So don’t expect too much from the 2012 Budget, but for those entrepreneurs who are not maximising the opportunities already out there, there is still plenty of good news if you look for it in the right place.
Debbie Griffiths is a tax partner in Deloitte’s Entrepreneurial Business Practice.