Are we seeing the end of tax-free benefits?

Source: HM Revenue & Customs | | 22/06/2017

There have been changes to the tax rules for certain Benefits in Kind which are provided as part of salary sacrifice schemes. These changes, which started coming into effect in April of this year, are beginning to have an impact on certain tax-free benefits provided to employees. The new rules effectively remove any Income Tax and NIC advantages and treat continued use of the benefits provided as if they were part of salary. 

There are transitional rules, they are:

  • arrangements that were in place before April 2017 will be protected for up to a year,
  • arrangements in place before April 2017 for cars with CO2 emissions above 75g/km, accommodation and school fees will be protected for up to 4 years.

New employees that joined a company on or after 6 April 2017 are already subject to the new rules.

The following benefits are not affected by these changes:

  • Employer provided pensions and pensions advice
  • Childcare vouchers
  • Employer provided childcare or workplace nurseries
  • Bicycles and cyclist safety equipment including cycle to work schemes, and
  • Ultra-low emission cars, below 75g/km

Employers and employees are still free to negotiate salary sacrifice arrangements, but any tax and Class 1A NIC advantages will no longer apply unless specifically excluded - see above.

Employees will be able to reimburse their employer for the cash value of any benefit received, after the end of the relevant tax year. For 2017-18, the agreed deadline for repayment will be 6 July 2018. Employees that do so will no longer be taxed on the reimbursed benefits.

Planning note:

There are significant issues to explore here for employers and employees affected by these changes. There is scope, and time during the transitional period, to take a fresh look at remuneration packages and see what can be done to even out the gradual loss of tax and NIC relief for certain benefits. Please call to discuss these options in more detail.

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