The Twelve Tax Tips of Christmas

The holiday season is upon us, and amidst the tinsel and turkey, there are seasonal-themed strategies to trim down your yuletide tax burdens. 

In our twist on the twelve days of Christmas, we’ll guide you through the festive tax maze with our essential tips. May all your pay be merry and bright, and may all your Christmas tax decisions be right!


1. It’s Party Time: Making Your Christmas Party Tax-Friendly


As the Christmas party season approaches, understanding the tax implications of festive gatherings can make them even more fun. Annual functions such as the Christmas party are exempt from tax up to a cumulative value of £150 per person. 

This figure includes various expenses, such as room hire, entertainment, food, drink, and even transport or accommodation. The event must be open to all employees.

The £150 per head limit also applies separately to spouses or other non-employed guests.


2. VAT on Your Entertaining this Xmas: Navigating Business Entertainment


The holiday season often involves hosting events not just for employees but also for clients, subcontractors, and spouses. Understanding the VAT implications of such occasions is crucial for tax efficiency. 

Any hospitality provided free of charge to individuals who are not employees falls under the category of ‘business entertainment.’

This includes expenses related to food, drink, accommodation, theatre / concert tickets, sports events, nightclubs, and even the use of capital assets such as yachts and aircraft (if you’re lucky enough to have these – they are on the CRM Christmas list!).

VAT is not reclaimable on these business entertainment expenses.

That said, if an event includes a mix of employees and non-employees, such as spouses or clients, the VAT can be reclaimed only on the portion attributed to employee entertainment.

This subtle strategy ensures that businesses optimise their VAT recovery while adhering to tax regulations.


3. Giving Your Employee a Treat: Navigating Bonuses and Gifts


The holiday season often prompts employers to express gratitude to their workforce through cash bonuses or vouchers. While these gestures are appreciated, it’s important to understand the tax implications associated with such gifts. 

Cash gifts or vouchers paid to employees are taxable, and their value needs to be reported through the payroll or on the employees’ P11D forms.

However, there is room for more modest gestures without triggering tax liabilities.

Gifts such as a turkey, bottle of wine, or a Christmas hamper with a value of less than £50, fall under the exemption and are not subject to taxation. 

On the other hand, more substantial gifts may attract a benefit in kind, necessitating proper reporting on P11D forms.

Balancing the warmth of the season with smart financial choices is especially important at this time of year.


4. A More Generous Gift or Party? Maximising Tax Efficiency


If the expenses for the Christmas party surpass the prescribed limit, the entire cost of the event becomes subject to a benefit-in-kind tax, and employees could find themselves facing a tax liability.

Striking the right balance between celebration and financial wisdom will make the party go with more bang for your buck.

As the festivities unfold, businesses may find themselves in generous Santa mode and contemplate more substantial gifts or elaborate parties.

In such cases, it’s imperative to understand the cumulative impact of party and gift expenses for tax efficiency.

If the total amount spent per head on both the party and gifts remains below £150, businesses can leverage the Annual Parties Exemption.

For functions that exceed this limit, employers have the option to enter into PAYE Settlement Agreements.

These agreements allow employers to settle any tax and National Insurance Contributions (NIC) on behalf of their employees, especially in situations where more expensive functions or subsequent events push the cumulative expenses beyond the limit.

With a little understanding about the intricacies of these exemptions, businesses can revel in festivities while staying compliant with tax regulations.


5. Getting Hitched: A Tax Break for Married Couples


Amidst the festive season, some individuals may be contemplating not just celebrations but also tying the knot.

For those who are married or in a civil partnership, there exists a valuable tax break: the ability to transfer up to £1,260 of personal tax allowance from one partner to the other.

This transfer can result in a reduction of the partner’s tax by up to £252 in the current tax year.

A significant number of eligible couples fail to claim this straightforward tax break.

The conditions for eligibility are simple: one partner should not utilise their entire personal allowance, and the other should be a basic rate taxpayer. 

By taking advantage of this often overlooked tax break, couples can enhance both their tax position and their financial well-being during the holiday season.


6. Feeling Charitable this Xmas: Leveraging Gift Aid


As the season of giving unfolds, many individuals choose to make charitable donations. As Cliff Richard says, “It’s a time for giving, a time for getting”. 

For higher-rate taxpayers, ticking the Gift Aid box can unlock additional benefits.

When a donation is made, and the Gift Aid box is ticked, the individual can claim the difference between the basic rate of tax and their own tax rate on their tax return.

This benefit applies to charitable donations made directly and doesn’t extend to contributions made through payroll giving, as the tax relief for payroll giving is calculated at the source. 

By incorporating charitable giving into their festive celebrations, individuals can make a positive impact while optimising their tax position.


7. A Gift to Your Loved Ones: Understanding Inheritance Tax


Beyond the immediate celebrations, the festive season prompts contemplation of legacy and family. 

Lifetime gifts, when made directly to individuals (absolutely), are free of Inheritance Tax at the time of the gift.

However, these gifts remain chargeable within the donor’s estate for a period of 7 years, unless covered by the £3,000 annual gift allowance or other exemptions.

These gifts, known as Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs), offer a way to pass on assets without incurring Inheritance Tax immediately. 

The rate of tax reduces each year after 3 years up to the 7 year point, providing a sophisticated approach for those considering significant financial gifts during the holiday season.


8. Feeling the Pinch? Review Your Payments on Account


As the year comes to a close, individuals may find themselves evaluating their financial positions, especially in the wake of a change in income. 

For those whose income is likely to be lower than the previous tax year, there’s an option to apply to reduce payments on account.

While this might seem like a tempting way to pay less tax in the short term, it’s essential to approach this decision with caution.

If the income ends up being the same or higher than the previous tax year, reducing payments on account can result in a larger tax bill later on.

Moreover, if an individual underpays, interest will be added to the outstanding amount. 

As individuals review their financial situations during the festive season, it’s crucial to strike a balance between optimising cash flow and avoiding potential pitfalls associated with tax underpayment.


9. Santa Baby: Remember Your Child Benefit


For parents earning more than £50,000, navigating the intricacies of Child Benefit becomes crucial during the holiday season. 

In such cases, full qualification for Child Benefit is not guaranteed, and overpayment is subject to a sliding scale. 

Individuals need to be vigilant, especially when circumstances change, such as moving in with someone who claims Child Benefit.

One strategic approach to potentially mitigate this situation involves contributing more to a pension or making additional gift aid donations.

By doing so, it may be possible to reduce net income below the £50,000 threshold, thereby maintaining eligibility for Child Benefit. 

As individuals plan for the holidays and beyond, keeping a close eye on Child Benefit qualifications ensures financial shrewdness.


10. Remember Your Pension: Uncover Hidden Relief


In the same vein as Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, the festive season often brings reflections on years past and resolutions for the upcoming one.

As individuals contemplate their financial well-being, it’s essential not to overlook potential relief available through personal pension plans and some auto-enrolment pension schemes.

Certain pension schemes operate on a ‘relief at source’ system, offering higher-rate taxpayers the opportunity to claim additional relief. 

Surprisingly, many higher-rate taxpayers are not fully capitalising on this relief, potentially missing out on valuable benefits. 

Ensuring you claim the extra relief you are entitled to can make a significant difference in optimising tax efficiency and enhancing financial stability in the long run.


11. Time to Pay: HMRC’s Lifesaver for Tax Bills


While Christmas is often associated with joy and celebration, the reality for some individuals involves facing the daunting task of calculating and paying taxes.

It’s not uncommon for individuals to procrastinate, but HMRC provides a lifeline in the form of the Time to Pay facility.

This facility allows individuals to spread the cost of their tax bill over 12 monthly direct debits if the amount owed is less than £30,000. 

The key advantage is that individuals can avoid a lump-sum payment, making it more manageable to settle their tax liabilities.

However, it’s important to note that interest is applied on the balance after February 2024. 

To take advantage of this facility, individuals must set it up within 60 days of the tax deadline, providing a practical solution for those facing financial constraints during the holiday season.


12. Wanting to Get Fit in January? Be Mindful of Tax on Gym Memberships


As the New Year approaches, resolutions often include fitness goals in the aftermath of excess mince pies and seasonal beverages. 

Employers looking to support their directors or employees with a gym membership should be aware that this provision is considered a taxable benefit-in-kind. 

This means that the value of the gym membership is added to the individual’s total income and taxed as if it were typical salary income.

Furthermore, employers are liable to pay Class 1A National Insurance Contributions (NICs) on these benefits. 

Proper reporting through an annual P11D is essential to ensure compliance with tax regulations. 

As individuals plan for a healthier start to the New Year, both employers and employees should be mindful of the tax implications associated with fitness-related benefits.


Final thoughts


As we wrap up the year and embark on the festive season, these twelve tax tips are our gift to you, ensuring that your celebrations are not only filled with joy but also with financial prudence. 

From all of us at CRM Accountants, here’s to a tax-savvy Christmas and a joyous new year!

How we can help


At CRM Accountants, we’re here to lend a helping hand as you navigate the intricate world of business taxes, whatever the time of year. 

Our team is dedicated to offering personalised assistance tailored to the distinctive needs of your business.

For expert guidance on tax or any other accounting services, you can count on CRM. 

Whether you’re filling out our festive contact form or giving us a jingle at 01865 379272, we’re ready to make your holiday season financially brighter.

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