Tax basis – Getting ready for the end of the transitional year

Are you a sole trader or a member of a partnership? Here is what you need to know about the upcoming tax basis period reforms.

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is introducing changes to how it assesses and collects business taxes relating to the basis period.

At the end of the 2023/24 financial year, these changes will come into effect – altering the way that sole traders, partnerships and other unincorporated businesses pay tax.

Basis period reform – What you need to know

If you are a business owner or self-employed worker, you will use or have used a traditional basis period.

This is a specific period used to calculate taxable profits for a particular tax year, meaning the basis period is typically the corresponding accounting period to the financial year.

Under current regulations, established businesses and sole traders pay tax on qualifying profits in the 12-month accounting period which ends in that tax year – regardless of whether it corresponds to the financial year.

For example, if your accounting period starts on 1 January and ends on 31 December, the financial year would end the following April. This means that your tax return for this period would be due in January two years afterwards.

Under new regulations, from 2024/25, all unincorporated businesses will be taxed on profits from each financial year – 6 April to 5 April the following year.

This will apply regardless of an individual business’ accounting period.

For the example above where the accounting period ends on 31 December, this change means that the business will have to assign profits from two accounting periods to fit into the 6 April to 5 April timeline.

If the accounts are not completed by the tax return submission deadline, it will be necessary to use estimated profits in their place for the three months to 5 April.

At the end of the 2023/24 financial year, the transitional year for the basis period ends.

Businesses will then be taxed on this longer tax period ending in April 2024 to bring their tax years in line with the financial year.

HMRC has introduced regulations to allow tax liabilities accrued during this period to be paid over a period of five years to reduce the burden of additional tax payments.

Navigating your opening year

The rules are slightly different if this is your first year trading as a business. Instead of paying tax on a full year of earnings, your business will be taxed on qualifying profits earned between the date you began trading and 5 April (the end of that financial year).

This means that you’ll have ‘overlap profits’ for your first one to two years of trading. Your profits earned between the end of the financial year and the end of your accounting period will be counted in two tax returns.

These new rules will also apply to new unincorporated businesses.

Preparing for 5 April

As explained, the new regulations mean that businesses with an accounting period that is different from the financial year will need to divide profits between two different tax payments, where their accounting period doesn’t already align with tax year-end.

This could increase the room for error in your tax calculations, resulting in penalties or a heavy tax burden at a later date.

Aligning your accounting period with the financial year could help you streamline your finances and stay on top of your tax calculations in future.

You can shorten your company’s financial year to achieve this, by a minimum of one day and as many times as you like.

Staying on top of your accounts and financial records can help you stay in good fiscal health and maintain tax compliance.

We can help you to understand your tax obligations and make your accounting period work for you.

Need help understanding the changes to the basis period? Contact us today.