by Rebecca Cave
The government has delayed the start of MTD ITSA to 6 April 2024, with MTD for general partnerships postponed to 2025. The change to the tax year basis has also been delayed until at least April 2024.
In a written statement to the House of Commons on 23 September 2021, it was announced that MTD for income tax self assessment (MTD ITSA) would be postponed yet again to April 2024.
“We recognise that, as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s critical that everyone has enough time to prepare for the change, which is why we’re giving people an extra year to do so. We remain firmly committed to Making Tax Digital and building a tax system fit for the 21st Century” announced the new financial secretary Lucy Frazer.
Long time coming
This is the latest in a series of delays and deferrals in the MTD programme, which was proposed by Chancellor George Osborne in late 2015. The MTD start date for small businesses was first planned to be in April 2018, then the focus switched to MTD for VAT. The MTD for income tax programme was to be delayed until lessons had been learnt from the VAT roll-out.
MTD for VAT commenced on time for most VAT registered businesses for VAT periods starting on and after 1 April 2019 but a number of “complex” entities had a deferred start date to 1 October 2019. A similar deferral is now in place for general partnerships (ie not LLPs, mixed or corporate partnerships), with those “ordinary partnerships” due to enter MTD ITSA from April 2025.
There is no indication of when other more complex partnerships will have to join MTD, and we don’t know if the MTD for corporation tax project will start as planned in 2026 or not.
What is the base year?
The turnover for mandation into the MTD ITSA regime remains at only £10,000 per year, much to disappointment of many who were lobbying for a much higher entry threshold.
As the turnover threshold must take into account the taxpayer’s income from all of their sole-trader businesses, plus their rental income, HMRC needs to pull together several figures from the taxpayer’s self assessment tax returns. Only when the tax return totals reach the £10,000 threshold will HMRC issue a notice to file under the MTD regulations.
If MTD ITSA was mandated from 6 April 2023, the turnover test would need to apply to the figures reported in the 2021/22 tax return, submitted by 31 January 2023, and possibly turnover reported in the 2021/22. Both of those years were affected by the pandemic which reduced turnover and rental income for many businesses and landlords.
Local authority grants for businesses liable for business rates would also increase business turnover for those periods. The SEISS grants should not have been included in business turnover, but some taxpayers have reported them as such, leading to HMRC having to make many corrections taxpayers’ self-assessments for 2020/21, and possibly also for 2021/22.
As MTD ITSA will now start in April 2024 the base year for testing the MTD turnover threshold will be the tax year 2022/23. The turnover figures for that year should not be distorted by Covid-related grants, and hopefully will reflect normal trading beyond the pandemic for most businesses.
Tax year basis
When the consultation on changing to the tax year basis of assessment was released in July 2021, doubts were raised on whether there was sufficient time to introduce such a fundamental change to tax law before the mandation of MTD ITSA.
It was apparent that HMRC wanted all unincorporated businesses to switch to the tax year basis before the introduction of MTD ITSA in 2023, but this would make 2022/23 the difficult transitional year.
For businesses with an accounting year end that doesn’t approximate to the tax year, more than 12 months of profits would be assessed in 2022/23. This would have a knock-on effect for a wide range of allowances and charges, including NIC, student loan repayments and capital allowances, to name a few. There was just not enough time to write amendments to regulations in all the areas affected before April 2022.
What’s more using the tax year basis would bring forward the start of MTD ITSA for businesses with a 31 March year end, from 1 April 2024 to 6 April 2023 – which came as a big shock for many accountants and businesses.
The written statement from the new financial secretary to the Treasury, confirmed the change to the tax year basis will not come into effect before April 2024, with a transition year no earlier than 2023. The government will respond to the consultation on reforming basis periods “in due course” but the wording of this statement makes the change to the tax year basis look uncertain.