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Sunday, 29 January 2012

Taxing times ahead for the Scots

OK here is a bit of boring UK tax legislation, which won't interest most of you unless you happen to own or work for a Scottish company, but under current UK legislation, an exit charge (capital gains, plant and machinery balancing charges and profit on deemed disposal of stock in trade) may arise when a company ceases to be resident in the United Kingdom.

The exit charge is calculated on the unrealised capital gains of the company and the cumulative difference between the fair value of plant and machinery and the balance of unclaimed expenditure qualifying for writing down allowances.  The company is deemed to dispose of all of its assets (including goodwill and shares in subsidiaries) at their open market value immediately before leaving the United Kingdom, and to re-acquire them immediately after ceasing to be within the charge to corporation tax.

A company that ceases to be within the charge to corporation is deemed to discontinue its trade (at least for UK tax purposes). A further UK tax consequence of a deemed cessation of trade will be that the company will be deemed to dispose of its trading stock at open market value, which may give rise to a further tax charge.

This isn't at all unfair.  After all the company will have probably claimed capital allowances in excess of the amount that it has depreciated the same assets in its accounting books, and it may well have unrealised capital gains, so fair enough if the UK authorities want to set things straight when it ceases to be a UK tax payer.  That is exactly what has happened with every other company that has "emigrated" from the UK tax net in the last many, many years.  

There is of course no difference if a company ceases to be UK tax resident by virtue of part of the UK becoming independent.

Can the government assure all the remaining UK tax payers that such rules will continue to be applied and enforced in the event of Scottish independence?

Can the government state what measures will be made by HMRC to ensure the collection of any amounts that might be owed following a company ceasing to be UK resident?

Will the government be advising any companies currently headquartered, controlled and managed in Scotland to move their headquarters south of the border prior to independence in order to avoid any exit charges that would arise if such a move south was made after independence?

I think we need to know.

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