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What can you do to lower you tax bill this year?

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

Would you like to improve your business and/or personal cash balance this year? If so a good place to start is looking at your tax and ways to reduce your tax bill.

Here are some examples of ways to lower your tax that are worth reviewing:

1. Use £78,000 tax allowances first


At the heart of every sensible tax planning is the use and leverage of the tax-free allowances HMRC give us. Make the most of these allowances first as they get wasted if not used. And don’t forget about the allowances of your spouse and children. Did you know that if you add up the income tax allowance, capital gains tax allowance, savings allowance and dividends allowance, you get a whopping £26,000 plus allowances in the year? That’s just for starters. And if you have a spouse or a child who are not using their allowances, then that’s a potential tax-free income of £78,000 (26,000 x 3).

2. Embrace tax efficient pensions

Do think long term and make use of tax efficient retirement planning. So instead of merely contributing to a pension scheme (which you get tax relief for, by the way) and leaving the funds in there, why not consider vehicles like SSAS or SIPPS to help you leverage the funds and get a second bite of the tax cherry. These pension schemes, subject to certain rules, are then used to buy, say, a commercial property and the rental income gets additional tax benefits. 

3. Have a Tax plan

Unless you plan to save tax this year, it’s unlikely to happen and you’re likely to pay more tax than necessary. Avoid retrospective tax planning and aggressive tax schemes – go through this article to see if there are areas you or your accountant have neglected. Despite what you may have heard, there are still plenty of legitimate ways to save tax and sleep well at night. Also, avoid leaving all your taxes till the last minute.

4. Claim this generous corporate tax relief

Normally when you incur a legitimate business expenses wholly and exclusively for the purpose of your trade, you get to claim 100% of these expenses against your business income to reduce your tax bill. But what if the tax rules allow you to claim a lot more than 100%? Say you get to claim £230 even though you’ve only physically spent £100?

Well that’s exactly what the Research and Development (R&D) tax relief allows you to do. So if you have a company in the creative, engineering, software or any innovative industry where you’re solving difficult problems for customers and raising the bar in your industry, please speak to your accountant or a specialist tax adviser about R&D tax relief before 31 March.


Many companies miss out of this valuable relief due to lack of awareness as well as the misconception that R&D is only available to big Laboratories and pharmaceutical industries.

5. Get Your Business Structure Right

Structuring your business for tax optimisation goes well beyond choosing between a limited company or a sole trader. You need to get this basic area right; have you thought of an LLP (limited liability partnership) or a group structure? There are many tax benefits with these two structures and they are not just for professional firms or big corporates. Speak to a tax adviser or your accountant about these.

6. Engage specialist tax advisers

Most business owners naturally turn to their accountants for all things tax. Accountancy and tax are two different professions, although there are many similarities. 

However savvy entrepreneurs normally have both an accountant and a tax adviser. Because they know that accountants are like GPs, who is good and knows all the general rules, but tax advisers are like your surgeons, who are specialists in their field and know the exceptions to the rules. So whilst an accountant will rightly tell you that entertainment is not tax deductible, a tax adviser will usually lift the rocks and find you some exceptions to the general rule that allows you to claim the entertainment.

7. Save £3,000 Off Your Payroll Tax

If you employ staff, do not forget to claim the £3,000 cash off your payroll tax bill. This is not an automatic allowance and must be claimed. There have been cases where small businesses have missed claiming this allowance for a period of 4 years. That’s a lot of money to waste.

8. Reward staff tax efficiently

When it comes to rewarding staff, consider approved share schemes and staff suggestion awards to encourage your staff to get involved and to reward them tax efficiently. 

There are two kinds of staff awards:

  • encouragement awards – for good suggestions, or to reward your employees for special effort
  • financial benefit awards – for suggestions that will save or make your business money

Encouragement awards are tax free up to £25. But financial benefit awards are exempt up to £5,000. That’s right £5,000. 

But before you go ahead and pay your staff tax free income, please note that as with all tax reliefs and tax exemptions, there are conditions to meet. Speak to your tax adviser first.

The other tax efficient reward schemes are the various share option schemes including EMI (Enterprise Management Incentive). Why is this tax efficient? Because when staff sell their shares, they pay 10% tax instead of 20, 30 or 40% if they meet the strict conditions. But again please beware that these rules come with strings attached and always seek advice.

9. Preserve Business Property Relief

A common, and expensive, mistake I see among many business owners is lack of planning around how their businesses should be passed-on tax free when they are not here. The rules, subject to some conditions, allows your life’s work to be enjoyed tax free by your loved ones. But if you do not have a Will or if in your Will you have passed the business to say your spouse, you are wasting this generous tax relief. 

10. Intelligently claim expenses including holidays and school fees

If you have a limited company, did you know that you can claim things like school fees, golf lessons and holidays though your company and save money? Yes you can and HMRC allows you to do this through the benefit in kind system. 


These are examples of ways that can help you reduce your tax bills this year.  As always with tax matters speak to a tax adviser so that you do everything correctly.  Yes, there will be a fee, but you may well find that you save a good deal more than this.  


Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award winning chartered tax adviser and accountant who advises business owners on entrepreneurial tax reliefs. Jonathan is the founder and CEO of The Tax Guys.