MH Restructuring

Tuesday 4 April 2017

“Targeted Anti Avoidance” – The Fall and Rise (again) of “Phoenixism”?

The recent Finance Act 2016, which came into force on 15 September 2016, introduces a new “targeted anti avoidance” (“TAAR”) provision with a sweeping, and yet potentially unintended, scope in the context of company winding up.

The intention behind the new provision in section 35 of the Act is to ensure that the rules around the payment of tax on a distribution in a company winding up are not abused.  Such a distribution, in the hands of the former company owner, will typically attract capital gains tax (CGT) as a gain on the return of capital at the rate of 10% or 20%. Conversely, dividend payments from the company would usually attract income tax at a much higher rate (potentially up to 38%).

HMRC considers that this tax differential is being exploited by close company stakeholders who contrive to wind up a company, pay a lower amount of CGT on distributions made to them and then start up a new company operating the same or a very similar business (and perhaps repeat the same process routinely). The new TAAR is focused on inhibiting such “phoenixism”. Unfortunately, the new TAAR rules have introduced significant uncertainty.