In 2016 a targeted anti-avoidance rule (TAAR) was introduced to prevent individuals from winding-up their close company, taking out the retained cash at capital gains tax rates and then continuing the same business in another vehicle.
In HMRC Spotlight 47 HMRC declare that schemes designed to step around this TAAR, which involve selling the company to a third party rather than winding it up, don’t work, so the TAAR would apply with the result that the withdrawn cash would be subject to tax at income tax rates.
HMRC’s view is misleading to say the least.
The TAAR only applies if a company is wound-up, it can not apply if the company is sold to a third party. If a business owner decides to sell their cash-rich company to a third party in order to release the funds, and within two years (the period defined in the TAAR), starts a similar trade or activity, the income tax charge imposed by the TAAR cannot apply. It is disingenuous for HMRC to imply that it could.
What’s more HMRC say that the general anti-abuse rule (GAAR) would apply in these circumstances if the TAAR doesn’t apply. This is also nonsense, as it was not the intention of Parliament for the TAAR to apply on the sale of a company to a third party.
Clearly if there is a non commercial arrangement with a third party undertaken with the primary aim of sidestepping the TAAR then it is to be expected that the transaction will come under scrutiny.
HMRC is trying to frighten people away from using tax avoidance schemes, which is a good thing, but it needs to use this power in a responsible way.
You can read Spotlight 47 here