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Statutory Interest on Corporation Tax in Solvent Liquidations

This blog is for accountants, tax advisors and directors who are considering a solvent liquidation, commonly referred to as a Members’ Voluntary Liquidation or MVL.

During the course of 2017 we have been informed of what appears to be a change of policy by HMRC in respect of statutory interest on Corporation Tax. HMRC now require the payment of statutory interest at 8% from the commencement of the liquidation on any CT that falls due for payment after that date, even if the normal due date for payment of the tax is not until after the commencement of the liquidation, and payment is made before the normal due date.

HMRC are relying on a decision in one of the Lehman’s cases for this change in policy. That case indicated that statutory interest was due on both future debts and contingent debts, and since CT payable on a normal due date after the commencement of a liquidation is a future debt then statutory interest falls due. Whilst that judgement related to an administration, HMRC are arguing that in view of the similarity in wording in the legislation it applies equally to liquidations.  The standard letter that they are sending to liquidators with demand for statutory interest says:

“Our understanding of the correct treatment of statutory interest derives from the decision of David Richards J in Re Lehman Brothers International (Europe) : Lomas v Burlington Loan Management Limited. In a supplemental decision he restates his conclusion that “interest under Rule 2.88 (statutory interest) is payable on future debts and on the amount admitted to proof in respect of contingent debts from the date on which the administration commenced”.

Rule 2.88 mirrors Rules 14.23 which applies to a winding up. We are also assuming that will also apply to others taxes, VAT, PAYE and NIC etc.

To make matter worse it is clear that HMRC themselves don’t understand or haven’t been made aware of the change of policy and so we are aware of cases where we have paid the statutory interest and it has been paid back to us. The current advice is to pay the CT to the normal office but send the statutory interest to HMRC’s MVL team!

Therefore if you are considering a solvent liquidation further planning will be required to calculate and more importantly pay any tax debts at the commencement of the liquidation or as soon as possible thereafter in order to minimise statutory interest.

Gavin Bates specialises in solvent liquidations, commenting on the change Gavin said:

“This is effectively a hidden tax on entrepreneurs since HMRC are receiving interest that would not be due other than for the decision to cease trading to permit the members to extract their capital from the company. I also find it very unfair that we have no notice of this change of policy.  I often sit with directors many months before my appointment as liquidator in order to plan the process so we will now need to calculate and pay the tax debts as well as many other factors which we work through”

If you wish to discuss this further please feel free to contact us for an initial free meeting which are confidential and impartial.