3

I am seeking to close a UK business I own but I am worried about being hit with a huge tax bill.

I have been provided a balance sheet which states the following:

  • TOTAL ASSETS LESS CURRENT LIABILITIES: £203,157
  • CREDITORS (amount falling due after more than one year) = £172,056
  • NET ASSETS £31,101

I'm thinking I will only pay tax on £31,101 ? Also what exactly are "current liabilities" and is there is a formal process for settling this ? What about the tooling and machinery I own ? Do I get to sell that off and will there be any further tax on that or is that included in my assets ?

EDIT: There is also a net loss of £7,228 stated on another page

  • 5
    Who provided this balance sheet? If it's your own accountants can you ask them for a full breakdown of the figures? – Ganesh Sittampalam Jan 14 at 13:28
  • The accountant did also supply a profit / loss statement. I guess that's what I should have been focusing on. – Paul Ryan Jan 14 at 14:10
  • 1
    If you want to close it, then IMO the assets are actually the most important thing. You'll need to get the net money out somehow and you might end up paying personal taxes at that point. – Ganesh Sittampalam Jan 14 at 14:51
9

Ask your accountant for a profit and loss statement for the current year. What you're showing us is is a balance sheet. You can't infer taxes from a balance sheet but you can from a profit and loss statement.

  • There is a net loss of £7,228 – Paul Ryan Jan 14 at 14:02
  • @PaulRyan It's unlikely you'll have to pay any corporate taxes this year. Corporate taxes are paid on profits for the year. – Koenig Lear Jan 14 at 14:11
  • 7
    But liquidating a company involves removing its net assets, which you might be liable to personal tax on. – Ganesh Sittampalam Jan 14 at 14:51
3

"I'm thinking I will only pay tax on £31,101" - since when do you pay on assets? With some very few exceptions, taxes are paid on profits. Which you say nothing about.

"Also what exactly are 'current liabilities'" - they are liabilities at the moment the snapshot of the balance is taken. Stuff like unpaid invoices (which may not be due to be paid yet, you know), stuff like open credits or mortgages that are to be paid over time.

"What about the tooling and machinery I own ?" - if those are company assets, then their value in the books (which may not be market value) would have already been included as part of total assets.

"Do I get to sell that off and will there be any further tax " - again, you pay tax on profits, regardless where they come from, as a principle. If you sell a machine for more than it is worth (in the books, as asset) then this is profit.

  • 4
    Re: "since when do you pay [tax] on assets?" ... the answer is: during liquidation -- potentially. On company windup, a liquidation distribution would return surplus equity (if any remains after settling liabilities) to shareholders. Such a distribution can constitute a return of invested capital, as well as retained earnings. Distributing retained earnings to a shareholder would trigger a personal tax liability. So, in theory, "assets" held by a liquidating company could become profit/income to shareholders, from their personal tax perspective. Just not if it's all return of capital. – Chris W. Rea Jan 14 at 15:02
  • Actually no. Potentially and only for retained earnings, awhich I actually explicitly mention (selling assets for a higher than the book price). – TomTom Jan 14 at 15:06
  • Even without selling any assets higher than book value, there could be retained earnings from previous periods that could trigger a personal tax liability when distributed during liquidation. – Chris W. Rea Jan 14 at 22:08
1

If you run any more businesses, you really ought to learn the difference between a profit/loss statement and a balance sheet. Yes, I know it's all greek to you, but if you learn it, it'll actually make sense, and it will help you run your business better.

Your profit/loss shows the money you made/lost that year, and you'll pay taxes on the profit and possibly be able to take a write-off on the losses.

Your balance sheet shows the total after-tax money your company has piled up over the years. Most of it presumably has already had taxes paid on it, so the company won't pay taxes on it again.

The balance sheet is assets minus liabilities. Liabilities are what you owe. Assets are what you have possession of. Depending on how your accountant did your books, "assets" may include the business's tools, inventory and real estate.

Accounting makes a very modest effort to have the book valuation for a tool approximate its resale value. But they are far more interested in following the official standard formula than in actually tracking realistic sale prices, so there may be a wild difference between the two, for better or worse. That's something you have to ask your accountant about. And that sort of thing is why you need to understand accounting, and not just leave it to some guy. A skill is not a business, and this stuff is the difference.

Once the business's debts are paid off, the remaining assets can be distributed to the business owner, you. This distribution may trigger a tax bill for you personally, depending on what corporate structure the business is using. For instance here in the USA we have two categories: Corporation*, where the business is a separate legal person which files its own taxes, and paydown to the owner would be a "dividend" and taxable at a low rate. Or, Pass-Thru**, where the company's taxes are simply folded into the owner's taxes.

Anyway, it's not uncommon for the actual sellable value of the assets to fail to cover the actual cash debt. Depending on your corporate structure, either you are personally liable for it***, or you're not and the company declares bankruptcy to erase any remaining debt****, and this is not you declaring bankruptcy.

See where these categories matter?

If you find all that dreary, who can blame you? But this is where the money is. Learn to love it and make a lot of money. Or go be someone else's employee and let him worry about it and claim the profits therein.


* This would be a C-corporation, or an LLC which asks to be taxed like a corporation. They pay taxes like a separate person, then pass on dividends.

** This would be a Proprietorship (aka nothing), Partnership, S-corporation, or LLC which takes the default passthru treatment. Their income and expenses just fall through onto your personal taxes.

*** A proprietorship (aka nothing) or partnership. In America these concepts were taken straight from English law.

**** A corporation or in America, an LLC (either kind). LLCs were adopted from German law. Corporations were imported from Britain, literally. On a sailing ship.

They were invented by the British, to protect investors who were investing in sailing ship voyages to America. Ten investors, typically middle class Britons betting their life savings, would split the ship rental for one voyage. If everything went right, "their ship would come in". That is where that phrase came from. If the ship sank, the ship owner would sue the one rich guy out of the 10, since the others didn't have any money. The rich guy and many like him got sick of always being sued. They knew people in the House of Lords. So they got laws passed so investors can't be sued individually if they set up a corporation.

Corporations have annoying tax treatment, with they created the S-Corp and GMbH/LLC to give the best of both worlds, the liability shield and pass-thru tax treatment.

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.