M&a tax planning uk

“Advanced Tax Planning for M&A in the UK”

Is your business ready for the complex tax rules of mergers and acquisitions after Brexit? The UK is adjusting to new tax laws since leaving the EU. This has changed the way M&A works. Expert advice is crucial to deal with this complexity.

The guide “Tax in M&A in the UK and Europe,” by Herbert Smith Freehills, is key. It was published in August 2022. This guide has important information on tax and corporate issues for deals in the UK and some European places. It’s written by experts and gives insights into the financial rules that are changing.

With the financial rules always changing, UK businesses making M&A deals need specific advice. They must follow new rules like the OECD’s BEPS Action 4. They also need to know how to handle deductions properly. This all requires careful planning.

Herbert Smith Freehills is an expert in UK M&A tax rules. Their recent guide explains the latest laws and what’s normal in the market. It’s a must-have for any business wanting to merge or acquire smoothly in this tricky setting.

Understanding the Current Tax Environment in the UK

The UK’s tax scene is constantly changing, especially with cross-border deals. New laws like the corporate interest restriction, starting from 1 April 2017, follow OECD guidelines. This rule caps interest deductions at 30% of EBITDA, affecting debt finance strategies.

After Brexit, the UK lost some EU tax benefits. This affects mergers and acquisitions between UK and EU companies. Now, companies must navigate new withholding tax rules and consider Brexit’s tax implications more carefully.

Deloitte offers expert services in tax due diligence for mergers and acquisitions. They help understand the Brexit effects and tax issues. Their team looks into current and potential tax risks to avoid future problems.

Adopting OECD BEPS Action 4 shows the UK’s move towards global tax practices. It aims to limit interest deductions and keeps M&A tax issues competitive globally.

Tax complexities in the UK include varying depreciation rates and specific reliefs, like entrepreneurs’ relief. These factors highlight the importance of careful tax planning and expert advice for mergers and acquisitions.

Tax Position for Target Shareholders in M&A Deals

The tax situation for mergers and acquisitions in the UK is always changing. This impacts how much tax shareholders have to pay. Herbert Smith Freehills LLP says it’s important to understand the substantial shareholding exemption (SSE). It helps UK corporate shareholders skip capital gains tax if they hold a big enough share for long enough.

The SSE is very useful since, from 1 April 2020, you can only use half of your stored capital losses to reduce gains. Personal shareholders, though, have different rules for capital gains tax. They need to think about yearly allowances and different rates for different types of gains.

Choosing between buying assets or shares makes a big difference in UK tax. Buyers prefer asset purchases to get tax breaks on gains from selling shares later. Recent years have changed how we treat asset depreciation and allowances, adding new ones for buildings. But in asset buys, tax losses and allowance pools stay with the original company or disappear.

For taxes, we ignore asset depreciation in the accounts, affecting merger and acquisition choices. Shareholders in C-corporations might sell their stock to dodge double taxation on income and distributions. Weighing the options, like buying shares with their contracts but possible debts versus picking certain assets, is key for tax-smart M&A moves.

Optimising the Acquisition Structure for Tax Efficiency

When we talk about mergers and acquisitions, choosing the right acquisition vehicle is crucial. Deciding to buy assets or shares can hugely affect how tax-efficient the deal is. Buying assets can increase tax benefits, but might bring old tax liabilities for the buyer to handle.

On the other hand, buying shares can dodge some liabilities. It might also allow for capital gains tax benefits. This makes the deal more appealing.

Making a deal tax-efficient can save a lot of money. So, it’s important to make choices that benefit all involved parties, like investors and management. The choice of acquisition vehicle affects the deal’s value, timing, and risks. A well-chosen structure can reduce taxes and financial risks.

Dealing with taxes needs expert advice on things like group relief and VAT on transaction fees. The way a deal is financed, through debt or equity, also requires careful thinking. This is to ensure taxes are low and managed well.

Acquisition vehicle choice

A good corporate structure isn’t just tax-efficient. It should also support growth and future acquisitions. Planning should aim to cut future taxes and allow for efficient tax handling. Careful consideration of taxes like SDLT and CGT is vital when choosing an acquisition vehicle.

In conclusion, deciding between asset and share purchases involves many factors. Given the complexity of tax laws, getting expert advice is key for tax efficiency. This will help in making a structured and informed choice.

Key Tax Issues for Employees and Directors

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP offers important insights on tax issues for employees and directors. Understanding the complex tax rules for employee benefits and directors’ pay is vital, especially in merger and acquisition (M&A) deals.

UK tax laws often change in February and November due to fiscal policy updates. These changes can affect how companies plan their employee benefits and directors’ pay during M&A. It’s crucial for companies to stay alert during these months.

Due diligence is key in M&A, covering financial, legal, operational, and cultural checks. It makes sure the deal is in the shareholders’ interest. After merging, considering tax issues is essential. It includes integrating finances, valuing assets properly, and following new rules. It’s also important to manage employment term changes and follow laws correctly.

Keeping and motivating staff through incentives and share schemes is critical during and after mergers. It’s important to understand the tax effects of giving management sweet equity. Also, shares given to staff or directors come with strict tax rules under ITEPA 2003.

M&A costs include debt, project management, research, legal fees, and tax advice. Directors’ pay packages should reflect these costs but also motivate correctly. Efficiently handling VAT for Bidco, Holdco, and Midco helps save money within the group.

The rise of global work-from-home trends means considering new tax issues. These include taxes on foreign earnings and meeting new compliance needs. Companies must plan for these changes, keeping the global picture in mind.

Transfer Taxes and Their Implications

The UK’s taxation environment for mergers and acquisitions is constantly changing. This is due to shifts in the fiscal climate, competitive pressures, and the effects of Brexit. It’s vital to consider several transfer taxes. These include stamp duty, SDLT, and LBTT, which can greatly influence the financial results of mergers and acquisitions.

Stamp duty is set at 0.5% for share transfers. When it comes to land and buildings, different areas have their own taxes: SDLT in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland; LBTT in Scotland; and LTT in Wales. These taxes must be carefully accounted for since they can add significant costs to transactions.

Since 1 April 2017, rules around interest deductibility changed following OECD’s advice. This was part of BEPS Action 4, and it changed how companies plan their financing. There’s also a reform that limits the use of income-type losses to 50% of taxable profits. For capital losses carried forward, there’s a cap at 50% of capital gains starting from 1 April 2020.

Buying assets can be good. It increases the base cost for capital gains tax and allows for capital allowances. But, this approach means historical tax liabilities stay with the company. On the other hand, buying shares can offer capital gains exemptions. However, this could affect sellers in a negative way.

When making purchases, it’s crucial to allocate the price across assets correctly for tax reasons. There are specific rules for the value of trading stock and how to calculate capital allowances. Beginning 1 April 2019, a 6.5% deduction rate applies to certain items like goodwill and unregistered trademarks. Yet, any depreciation recorded in accounts is not deductible for tax. So, it’s important to follow certain rates for capital and intangible assets.

Capital allowances recapture and tax attributes such as tax losses don’t transfer in asset acquisitions, making the financial landscape more complex. VAT is charged at 20%, but there are exceptions, like for exported goods or transferring a business as a going concern.

For any UK M&A transaction, understanding the different and area-specific transfer taxes is crucial. This ensures financial wisdom and adherence to the evolving tax laws.

The Role of Advance Tax Clearances in M&A

Getting advance tax clearances from HMRC is vital in mergers and acquisitions (M&A). These clearances help by showing the possible tax charges and savings, making the merger process more straightforward. Experts at firms like Herbert Smith Freehills stress the importance of these clearances to lessen risks and follow HMRC rules.

After the UK left the EU on 31 January 2020, the tax rules became more complex. Businesses aiming for favourable tax treatments face new challenges. The UK introduced a corporate interest restriction from 1 April 2017 following OECD’s BEPS Action 4 which impacts interest deductions.

Advance tax clearances help deal with uncertainties like capital gains tax. For example, from 1 April 2020, there’s a limit on using past capital losses against gains, which needs precise planning. Since 1 April 2019, acquisitions involving goodwill valuation get a special 6.5% deduction. This shows why getting clearances is crucial.

The wider financial scene impacts M&A deals too. This includes VAT at 20%, stamp duty at 0.5% on share transfers, and reliefs such as a 2% allowance for non-residential structures. Advance tax clearances let parties involved forecast tax effects, making sure they consider all tax costs before finalising deals.

Debate Financing and Associated Tax Issues

When companies join or buy others, they face many tax issues. This is especially true with debt financing used during these deals. The UK made rules in April 2017 to limit how much interest a company can deduct from its taxes. This was to follow international guidelines and stop aggressive tax avoidance.

Since April 2017, the UK has put a cap on how much interest companies can reduce from their profits before tax. This measure aims to prevent excessive tax planning. Now, it’s crucial for businesses to understand these limits to avoid trouble and keep their taxes low.

Also, from April 2017, if a company loses money, it can only reduce its tax by using half of these losses against its profits. This rule makes it important to plan how to report losses. Plus, restrictions on using capital losses came into play in April 2020, allowing only half to be used against gains.

Between July 2015 and April 2019, companies couldn’t reduce their tax for buying goodwill or some intangibles. But from April 2019, buying goodwill or customer lists lets companies get a tax deduction of 6.5% each year. This change encourages better tax planning in acquisitions.

From October 2018, spending on new buildings for business use comes with a 2% yearly tax deduction. This deduction is another tool for companies to use when planning their tax strategies in mergers and acquisitions.

M&A Tax Planning UK: Key Strategies

In today’s fast-changing business world, a strong M&A tax strategy is key for a company’s growth and resilience. Due diligence is crucial in mergers and acquisitions. It covers financial, legal, and operational checks. This helps spot potential tax risks and chances to save money.

Good M&A tax planning should consider various UK tax impacts. For instance, Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) applies on big residential deals over £500,000. Also, Capital Gains Tax (CGT) depends on what is being sold and for how long it was held. Company profits are hit by Corporation Tax. This can greatly affect the results of M&A transactions.

Value Added Tax (VAT) is also vital in M&A deals, especially when moving assets or services. It’s important to follow the rules here. Laws often change, especially in February and November. Therefore, staying updated with UK tax policies is essential.

After merging, companies must think about how to blend financial systems. They should look at changes in employment, revalue assets, and follow tax rules closely. Proper asset valuation and keeping up with regulations are crucial. They help handle tax issues after the merger.

EY highlights the importance of customizing the M&A tax strategy for each deal. It helps ensure the company’s long-term success and growth. They offer global support and innovative approaches to tackle tax challenges during big business changes.

Addressing Change of Control Issues in M&A

Mergers and acquisitions in the UK bring critical change of control issues. It’s vital to understand these to ensure a smooth changeover and meet regulatory needs. Changes in laws, like those from the OECD’s BEPS, make this landscape complex.

Since 1 April 2017, the introduction of the corporate interest restriction was key. It follows OECD’s advice, setting tough rules on how much interest is deductible. Since 1 April 2020, the UK also capped losses that can be set against gains at 50%. These rules add layers to M&A tax planning.

Control transfer implications

Company law is central when we talk about control changes in M&A. It makes sure deals are legal and follow the rules. Shareholder agreements are also essential. They outline what is expected and protect all involved. Contracts are closely examined for control change clauses, showing the need for careful planning.

Goodwill and other intangibles also pose challenges when buying from others. The rules on deducting goodwill depend on when it was bought. For example, goodwill bought between 8 July 2015 and 1 April 2019 can’t be deducted. But, buy it after 1 April 2019, and you get a 6.5% deduction annually.

In essence, addressing control changes in M&A requires diligence with company laws and shareholder pacts. This attitude helps align the new corporate structure with laws and shareholder hopes, leading to smooth changes and long-term success.

Potential Tax Issues on Selling Target Assets Post-Takeover

In M&A deals with C and S corporations, selling assets after the buyout brings tricky tax issues. C-corporations face double taxation, at both the company and shareholder levels. This makes things more complicated.

The big worry is about capital gains tax. Selling assets after taking over means any profit from the sale can be taxed. This reduces the deal’s profit. The impact of this tax depends on if the seller is a C or S corporation and the tax rules of the place.

Handling trading losses after April 1, 2017, poses another hurdle. These losses can only reduce up to 50% of taxable profits. This limit needs strategic planning to avoid harming the company’s financial health after selling assets. Also, buying assets doesn’t carry over previous tax losses, possibly leading to more taxable income after the buy.

There are also issues with how tax benefits from asset depreciation work after a takeover. Buying assets allows the new owner to write down their value for a tax advantage. But, this depreciation must be handled wisely to be beneficial tax-wise without causing unwanted tax bills.

Capital allowance recapture is another key point. It happens when asset sale proceeds are more than their reduced tax value. This can increase the tax load, adding to the post-sale tax headaches. Knowing these details is vital for protecting corporate interests and securing a good outcome after buying and selling assets.


Learning all about tax planning is key when dealing with mergers and acquisitions in the UK. Good tax management is essential at every step of the deal. It helps with everything from starting the deal to making changes afterwards.

Tax issues such as Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) need close attention. SDLT depends on the deal’s value. CGT rates change based on where the company is based. Corporation Tax affects profits for UK companies in these deals. VAT and Diverted Profits Tax (DPT) also play a part. It’s crucial to carefully plan taxes to ensure deals are efficient and risks are low.

Forming LLCs or incorporating in other countries can cut taxes significantly. After a merger, aligning tax systems helps save money and avoids extra costs. It’s also important to manage taxes on excess cash, severance packages, and ensure the company runs smoothly.

In the end, a merger or acquisition that uses tax benefits wisely can save a lot of money. It helps avoid extra costs and delays. So, companies should focus on complete tax planning and follow the rules closely. This ensures they comply with the law and grow successfully.

Written by
Scott Dylan
Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan

Scott Dylan is the Co-founder of Inc & Co, a seasoned entrepreneur, investor, and business strategist renowned for his adeptness in turning around struggling companies and driving sustainable growth.

As the Co-Founder of Inc & Co, Scott has been instrumental in the acquisition and revitalization of various businesses across multiple industries, from digital marketing to logistics and retail. With a robust background that includes a mix of creative pursuits and legal studies, Scott brings a unique blend of creativity and strategic rigor to his ventures. Beyond his professional endeavors, he is deeply committed to philanthropy, with a special focus on mental health initiatives and community welfare.

Scott's insights and experiences inform his writings, which aim to inspire and guide other entrepreneurs and business leaders. His blog serves as a platform for sharing his expert strategies, lessons learned, and the latest trends affecting the business world.


Make sure to subscribe to my newsletter and be the first to know about my news and tips.