A common objection to investing more into a business is cash flow. But under the capital allowances regime, businesses can claim tax relief on certain asset purchases – effectively reducing tax liability while allowing the business to benefit from the capital investment.
Capital allowances are a relatively easy way for a business to make significant tax savings and improve its cash flow through accelerated tax relief. But businesses often underestimate the proportion of their expenditure that qualifies for capital allowances. This means you may be paying too much tax.
By understanding what constitutes qualifying expenditure and what this means in terms of tax savings can make a real difference to your business.
Intros guide, we look at what type of expenditure qualifies for capital allowances and who can benefit.
What are capital allowances?
Capital allowances are a form of tax relief for businesses. These allowances allow you to deduct some or all of the value of qualifying expenditure from your profits before you pay tax.
Capital expenditure on plant and machinery is the most common type of investment giving rise to relief by way of capital allowances. This can include things like computers and office equipment, tools and specialist machinery, and motor vehicles, although special rules apply to cars.
Plant and machinery also generally covers all fixed assets used in a business, although you can’t claim capital allowances on actual buildings and land. You can, however, claim for integral features such as lifts and escalators, space and water heating systems, as well as electrical and lighting systems.
However, the potential for tax relief is even broader than this. Capital allowances can apply to a wide range of expenditure, where businesses across the UK are failing to take full advantage of the available relief.
What type of expenditure qualifies for capital allowances?
In addition to plant and machinery, qualifying capital expenditure can include things like research and development, patents and know-how.
The investment made by businesses in, for example, research and development, can often be significant. Moreover, where this qualifies as expenditure under the capital allowances rules, the tax relief can make a real difference.
Note, that to qualify for capital allowances you must normally own, rather than be leasing, the asset as a result of incurring the expenditure.
However, for costs that do not qualify under the rules, you can very often claim for these in a different way. This will include your day-to-day running costs or items that you buy and sell in the course of your trade.
If you are a sole trader or partner you will need to claim these costs as tax-deductible business expenses or deduct this expenditure from your profits as a business cost if you are a limited company.
Who can claim capital allowances?
To claim capital allowances you must be a ‘qualifying person’. This must be an individual, a partnership of which all the members are individuals, or a company, that has not only incurred the qualifying expenditure but is carrying on a ‘qualifying activity’.
A qualifying activity can include trades, professions or vocations, property or special leasing businesses, as well as employments and offices.
As with qualifying expenditure, the range of qualifying activities is very wide. It broadly covers all taxable activities other than passive investment.
What is the annual investment allowance?
The annual investment allowance provides 100% relief for qualifying expenditure. This means that up to this limit you can deduct the full cost of any capital expenditure from your profits before tax.
It is only where you spend more than the annual limit that you will need to rely on the additional relief provided by capital allowances. However, you can claim enhanced capital allowances in addition to your annual investment allowance, whereby they don’t count towards your limit.
The annual investment allowance is set at £1,000,000 for qualifying purchases.
How do I calculate any capital allowances?
In circumstances where you have exceeded your annual investment allowance, or the item doesn’t qualify under the rules, the writing down allowance can be applied instead.
This allows you to gradually set expenditure against tax in subsequent accounting periods, although the amount of the deduction depends on the item. You are able to do this at any time provided you still own the qualifying item, although it offers much less attractive rates.
The main rate is currently set at 18%, and the special rate at 8% per year.
How do I claim capital allowances?
If you are a sole trader or partnership you will need to claim any capital allowances using your self-assessment or partnership tax return.
For your annual investment allowance and any enhanced capital allowances, you must claim in the same tax year that you made the capital investment.
You can claim enhanced capital allowances in addition to your annual investment allowance, whereby they don’t count towards your limit.
If you use the cash basis rather than the traditional accounting method to calculate your trading profit, with the exception of cars, all other expenditure must be claimed as tax-deductible expenses rather than as capital allowances.
Enhanced capital allowances
Enhanced Capital Allowances offer up to 100% tax relief on new plant or machinery including:
- electric cars and cars with zero CO2 emissions
- plant and machinery for gas refuelling stations, for example storage tanks, pumps
- gas, biogas and hydrogen refuelling equipment
- zero-emission goods vehicles
- equipment for electric vehicle charging points
- plant and machinery for use in a freeport tax site, if you’re a company
There are over 40 enterprise zones throughout England. They are designated areas that provide tax breaks and Government support, including the Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) scheme.
With ECA, qualifying businesses can benefit from tax breaks when investing in eligible energy-saving equipment and technologies.
This measure ensures that the 100% first-year capital allowance will remain available for expenditure incurred in relation to all areas, whenever designated, until at least 31 March 2021. Only new plant and machinery are eligible for enhanced capital allowances, where used or second-hand plant and machinery do not qualify.
Capital allowances FAQs
What qualifies as capital allowances?
Capital allowances are a form of tax relief for businesses purchasing certain qualifying capital assets. They act as an incentive for capital investment.
What is capital allowance example?
An example of capital allowance would be deducting the cost of new computer hardware and office furniture from your company's profits before calculating your tax liability for that tax year.
How much capital allowance can I claim?
Ho much you claim depends on factors such as what you have purchased, its value and when you purchased it. Some assets qualify for Annual Investment Allowance, which allows the business to deduct up to 100% of the qualifying asset's value from profits, up to the annual threshold. The threshold for AIA is £1,000,000 per annum.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal or financial advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law and should not be treated as such.
Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission.
Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal or other advice should be sought.