Changes to company carry-forward of losses confirmed

Initially announced at the time of the 2016 Budget and following a period of consultation, Finance Bill 2017 contains provisions to reform the tax treatment of certain types of carried-forward loss for corporation tax purposes with effect from 1 April 2017.

Losses arising from 1 April 2017, when carried forward, will have increased flexibility and can be set against the total taxable profits of a company and its group members (referred to as the ‘loss relaxation’).

For all carried-forward losses, whenever they arose, companies will be able only to use the losses against up to 50% of profits (known as the ‘loss restriction’). Each standalone company or group will be entitled to a £5 million annual allowance. Profits within the allowance will not be restricted, ensuring 99% of companies are unaffected by the restriction.

Both the loss restriction and loss relaxation will apply to:

– trading losses;
– non-trading deficits on loan relationships;
– management expenses;
– UK property losses; and
– non-trading losses on intangible fixed assets.

Whilst pre-April 2017 trading losses will not be relaxed, companies will have the flexibility to choose whether or not to use pre-April 2017 trading losses before other available losses.

If a company’s trade ceases and the company has unused carried-forward losses of that trade, those losses can be set without restriction against profits arising in the final 36 months of the trade. Post-April 2017 losses will be able to be set against total profits, whilst pre-2017 losses trading losses will only be able to be set against profits of the same trade. The profits on which losses can be carried-back against will be limited to those generated from 1 April 2017.

The legislation contains loss buying rules which will mean that where a company or group of companies is acquired, any post-April 2017 carried-forward losses that arose before the company or group’s acquisition will not be available to the purchaser’s group for five years.

The legislation also contains a targeted anti-avoidance rule which will prevent any arrangements being entered into with a main purpose of obtaining a benefit from the loss reform rules.

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