The ‘official rate of interest’ is used to calculate the benefit in kind arising on low interest or interest free loans provided to an employee (or their relative) by an employer, which are in excess of £10,000.
The benefit arising is the notional interest which would arise on the loan calculated at the official rate of interest, less any actual interest paid.
With the Bank of England base rate increasing to 4.25% in March 2023, employees and directors in receipt of loans from their companies may have been expecting a similar rise in the interest rate payable on them. However, they may be in for an unexpected benefit as HM Revenue & Customs have confirmed that their ‘official rate of interest’ would be increased from 2.0% to 2.25%pa from 6 April 2023. The rate is set by Treasury Order and normally fixed in advance for a whole tax year, although it can be varied mid-year when there is a significant change in interest rates. This is ordinarily to ensure that if rates fall then employees are not overtaxed on benefits.
Tax Planning Opportunities
- Employers may wish to consider providing cheap or interest free loans as a tax efficient incentive to employees, perhaps to enable them to buy a car for example. A loan of up to £10,000 will not attract a benefit in kind at all and may prove to be an attractive incentive, perhaps in lieu of a pay rise.
Obviously there will be a cost to the company of providing loans but, if the company has surplus cash, the cost may be relatively small with reference to the interest being earned on a business account.
It is important to note that any loans provided in excess of £10,000 will be subject to a notional interest charge on the whole amount of the loan. In addition where loans are provided by a company to its ‘participators’ (broadly shareholders or loan creditors), or their associates, a tax charge may arise on the company. In general terms the charge arising will be 33.75% of any amount outstanding 9 months after the end of the company’s accounting period. The tax is recoverable by the company after the loan is repaid or written off.
- A further tax planning opportunity may arise where director shareholders have money invested in their business. Very often such money is lent interest free but by charging interest at a commercial rate funds can be extracted in a tax efficient manner. This is because national insurance is not charged on interest (in contrast to salary) and tax relief should be available to the company (in contrast to dividends).
Although any income is likely to be modest, interest paid to a director at the official rate or even slightly higher (on the basis this is accepted as being commercial) is likely to be a better return on surplus funds than could easily be found for personal bank accounts on the high street.
If you would like any further information regarding any of the above opportunities, please contact our Tax Director Jenny Marks.
To see our other news items please visit our Muras Baker Jones – Blog.