Home Insights Capital allowances, a basic overview

Capital allowances, a basic overview

By Hugh Simpson
28th Feb 2024

As Spring draws nearer, many farmers will be gearing up for a busy drilling season after challenging autumn weather, but with the end of the 2024 tax year approaching as well, now could be a key time for farming businesses to look at reducing their future tax liability.

Capital allowances (CAs) are a useful tool for reducing taxable profit and should be considered when tax planning. What are capital allowances? The basic allowances, known as Writing Down Allowances (WDAs), are essentially HMRC’s equivalent of depreciation. Businesses can largely choose whatever depreciation rates they feel appropriate, but to ensure all businesses are treated in the same way for tax, depreciation and profit/loss on disposal are replaced by CAs in the tax computation.

WDAs apply to assets allocated to the main pool or the special rate pool and attract relief at 18% and 6% respectively. Full relief for expenditure on qualifying plant and machinery in the year of acquisition can be achieved via First Year Allowances (FYAs) or Annual Investment Allowance (AIA). There is no maximum for FYAs (some of these only apply to companies and equipment must be brand new) but AIA has a limit of £1m per year, as per the Spring 2023 Budget, this limit was made “permanent”. Where the AIA limit has been exceeded or the machinery does not qualify for AIA or FYAs, then the WDAs may potentially be used. It must be noted that for allowances to apply, plant/machinery must be on site by the business’s year end, but if purchased under hire purchase arrangements, brought into use before year end as well.

Disposals should not be forgotten; the proceeds on sale of assets that have previously qualified for allowances reduce the CAs and, if the timing of acquisitions and disposals is not right, can turn the CAs negative and actually increase taxable profits, hence, as with all things tax, timing is key!

While reducing the tax liability is important for many farmers, to enable cash to be reinvested in the business, the planning decisions should not be solely based on reducing tax, but considered in the round for the overall benefit of the business.