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Thinking about closing your limited company? Perhaps you’re retiring or going back into full-time work?
If you want to close a limited company which is no longer trading, you may have to pay Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax. This applies when you’ve made a profit on the original price of the shares you are disposing of.
You pay Capital Gains Tax or Income Tax depending on how the business is closed and how much profit is left inside the business.
There are generally two options available to shareholders and directors when closing their limited company, as long as the company can pay any debts it has; – informal strike-off or a members’ voluntary liquidation (MVL), this article will look at these two options and their tax implications in detail. If you’re looking for more general information, our article on closing down a limited company and your options is the place to start.
An ‘informal’ liquidation or ‘winding up’ of your company can be made by simply applying to Companies House to strike your company off the register. The application is made by submitting certain paperwork to Companies House (known as ‘form DS01’). The company may not make an application for voluntary strike-off if, at any time in the last three months, it has:
HMRC recognises that even when considering a voluntary strike-off over the three-month period, a business will still need to undertake certain activities. HMRC provides examples of activities a business can undertake in the three-month period as:
In practice, this means a company in business to sell apples could not continue selling apples during the three-month period. However, it could sell the truck it once used to deliver the apples or the warehouse where they were stored.
A company cannot apply to be struck off if it is the subject, or a proposed subject, of:
You will commit an offence if you breach these restrictions and you could be fined.
If your company’s retained profits are more than £25,000, all shareholders have to pay income tax on the profits at their personal rate. If your retained profits are above this figure you could speak to an accountant to find the most tax-efficient way to reduce your retained profits to the £25,000 figure.
These retained profits are usually distributed as a final dividend, so the tax rates that apply to a strike-off are either 7.5%, 32.5% or 38.1%, depending on your marginal rate of personal tax. Our article “What are dividends and what tax do I pay on them” has more information.
As mentioned, we would never usually recommend this option for our clients as the full amount including the £25,000 is then taxed as a dividend. Regardless of your marginal rate, it is usually going to be better to bring the retained profits down to £25,000 and take this as a capital distribution upon closure and paying tax of £1,270 (£25,000 profits less £12,300 capital gains allowance for 2020/21 leaving £12,700 to be taxed at 10% Entrepreneurs Relief where available).
If some of the retained profits are paid as salary to a director (rather than as a dividend) then the amount of tax paid depends on the director’s personal rate, which is usually higher than the dividend tax rate.
Where profits are below £25,000, all shareholders pay Capital Gains Tax. When selling shares, the regular rate of Capital Gains Tax is 10% for a basic rate taxpayer, or 20% for people paying more than the basic rate of income tax. However, if you’re eligible to apply for Entrepreneurs’ Relief this would mean you’d pay a tax rate of 10% on the disposal, regardless of the rate of personal tax you pay.
If your company doesn’t meet these conditions, or cannot pay its debts, you cannot apply for a voluntary strike-off and you may have to liquidate your company.
Members’ Voluntary Liquidation (MVL) is a process used to close down a solvent company. The company’s assets are turned into cash and then distributed to shareholders. An MVL is carried out by a licensed insolvency practitioner.
With an MVL, all distributions to shareholders are taxed as a capital gain. If you’re unable to use the informal strike-off route detailed above, or you have a high amount of retained profits, this is usually the most tax-efficient option after you take into account Entrepreneurs’ Relief. Again, you should speak to an accountant to get advice on your personal situation.
However, you need to be aware that distributions from the voluntary liquidation of a company may be subject to income tax under the following circumstances:
You need to take specialist advice before deciding which option to take. Your advisor will need to consider your personal tax circumstances and the amount of profit available to distribute to shareholders.
The following example may assist you in deciding on which option is best for you.
A single director/shareholder wishes to close their company on 30th April 2020. We’ll assume the following:
|Retained earnings of company||£90,000||£90,000|
|Dividend to be taken from the company before 30th April 2019||(£65,000)||(£2,000)1|
|Retained earnings after dividend paid||£25,000||£88,000|
|Annual capital exemption used 2||(£12,300)||(£12,300)|
|Amount of Capital Gain||£12,700||£75,700|
|Capital Gains Tax Payable 3||£1,270||£7,570|
|Dividend Tax Payable at 32.5%||£20,475 4||None|
|MVL advisor fee (estimated)||None||£2,500|
|Total tax and fees for comparison 5||£21,7456||£10,0707|
1 To utilise tax-free dividend allowance. No other dividend issued
2 Individual capital allowance in 2020/21 tax year is £12,300
3 Entrepreneurs Relief rate of Capital Gains Tax is 10% in 2020/21 tax year
4 £65,000 dividend paid Less £2,000 tax free dividend allowance = £63,000 @32.5%
5 May be reduced with personal tax planning
6 £1,270 + £20,475
7 £7,570 + £2,500
You can find out more about MVLs and whether it’s right for you in our article “What is a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation?”.
We also have a Crunch Partner who can offer you a great MVL service if this is what you decide is right for you.
This is only general information, so for bespoke advice please speak with your accountant.