Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) has updated its guidance on the government website regarding the introduction of salary sacrifice schemes, following the changes which came into effect in April this year.
The government announced in last November’s Autumn Statement that it was changing the rules covering salary sacrifice schemes, which have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Why were there changes to salary sacrifice schemes?
Salary sacrifice schemes had led to some employees paying less tax than their colleagues, which was not fair, said the government in the Autumn Statement.
As a result, those opting to take benefits through new salary sacrifice schemes would, from April this year, be expected to pay the same tax as if they had been provided through their cash income.
There were exceptions to this new rule, however, and ultra low emission vehicles emitting less than 75g/km of CO2 (ULEVs), pension savings, childcare vouchers and cycle to work schemes were exempt from the changes.
Arrangements in place before April 2017 are protected until April next year, while existing arrangements for low emitting cars(ULEVs), accommodation and school fees are protected for a further four years, until April 2021.
What is the new guidance?
HMRC’s guidance ‘salary sacrifice for employers’ has been updated on the government website to underline the changes under Optional Remuneration Arrangements which came into effect in April.
The update confirms that income tax and National Insurance contributions (NICs) advantages associated with OpRA (Optional Remuneration Arrangements) have been largely withdrawn as from April this year. OpRA includes salary sacrifice, cash allowances and flexible benefit packages with a cash allowance.
Where a Benefit in Kind (BiK) is provided as part of OpRA, the taxable value is now the higher of the taxable value of the BiK under the normal rules or the amount of salary/cash foregone. This is the value employers must use for calculating the required income tax, Class 1 or Class 1A NICs in respect of the BiK.
As an employer, what should I do next?
If your employees give up salary or a cash alternative for any other BiK, such as a car, you need to follow the new rules.
You need to report the revised taxable value, which is the higher amount of the value of the BiK or salary or cash foregone on the form P11D.
You don’t need to do anything differently if your employees are giving up salary for only pension contributions, childcare vouchers, workplace nurseries, directly employer contracted childcare, cycle to work or cars with CO2 emissions of 75g / km or less, as these are not affected by the new rules.
When do I have to do this?
The new rules came into effect in April. Arrangements entered into before 6 April 2017 are protected until the earlier of:
1) The variation, renewal or auto-renewal of the arrangements
2) 6 April 2018, except for cars with CO2 emissions below 75 g /km, accommodation and school fees when the latest date for the new rules starting is 6 April 2021.
If an employee enters into a new arrangement on or after 6 April this year, then the new rules apply straight away.