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Clamp-down on Loan Schemes

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Newsletter issue - February 2011.

There are a number of tax saving schemes marketed to freelancers and contractors, but these schemes can be sensitive to changes in the tax law. One such scheme that involves loans made though particular trusts (known as EBTs) has recently been taken off the market by various suppliers.

Under the EBT scheme the freelancer becomes an employee of the company in the scheme but receives only a small wage, which is subject to tax in the normal way. All his other income is provided as a loan through an EBT. The freelancer pays no tax or NI on the loan capital, but he is charged tax on the deemed interest on the loan, (i.e. on 4% of the value of the loan). The scheme assumes the loan will remain outstanding forever, so the capital value of the loan (which increases with each payment) is never taxed.

However, new tax legislation has been proposed that will apply a tax charge to loans provided under such schemes from 9 December 2010. The employer will be responsible for paying the tax due, as if the loan was regular salary. The tax and NI savings are thus eliminated.

This new tax legislation does not prevent shareholder/ directors taking loans directly from their own companies, or employees receiving season ticket loans from their employers. In both these cases the loan is not provided through a third entity such as an EBT, so it is not taxed as regular salary. However, tax charges can apply to both the company and the director when a director borrows from their own company.