If you invest through your limited company, then you need to report your annual accounts to HMRC. This is also known as annual bookkeeping or simply ‘books’. This guide shows what your accountant will need in order to prepare your accounts based on different investments such as shares, funds and property.
I’ve previously covered how to invest your company profits. In short, it’s a great way to build a passive income out of idle funds sitting in your business account.
However, running an investing company comes with the extra hassle of having to calculate your yearly profit & loss (P&L) and balance sheet. You need to file your annual accounts up to 9 months after your company financial year ends.
Despite the hassle, I have been doing it for 3 years and it’s totally worth it. At a high level, your accountant will need the following things for your company year:
- Total income (interest/rent + dividends + realised capital gains/losses)
- Opening and Closing Balance
- Money In/Out
- Unrealised Gain/Loss
- Total Expenses
I find it easier to report my profits per platform/investment rather than as a whole. I can provide more details and it’s easier for the accountant to spot any mistakes. This is the method I’m going to follow here too.
Annual accounts: A step-by-step example
Let’s follow an example. A company invests in three different things. Property loans, funds/shares and rental property. In fact, most investments are a subclass of those 3 types.
For each platform, we report how much money we made, what type of income it is (interest or dividends) and how much we moved in or out of the platform. So if we put everything in a short online spreadsheet it should look like this:
That’s the backbone of our annual accounts reporting.
A) Property loans
Since this is a new investment, the opening balance is 0. We invested £50,000 into the platform for a nice £5,000 profit in interest payments. The interest was paid into our bank account, therefore, no retained earnings. And because the property loans keep going, the closing valuation will not change.
What do I pay tax on?
You will pay corporation tax on the £5,000 interest.
B) Funds/Shares platform
This is probably the hardest one to track because sometimes platforms do not report valuations on specific dates. They should be able to provide us with the portfolio balance for both the opening and closing days. But even if they don’t, I will show you how to calculate it yourself. I know Vanguard does if you call them up.
So in our example, our opening balance was £100,000 because we assume we were already investing there from previous years. We made a £30,000 contribution during the year. Our funds paid £10,000 in Dividends which is nice. We re-invested the dividends in the same fund, therefore, the Retained earnings figure is also £10,000. Meanwhile, we sold a fund £5,000 higher than we bought it which incurred taxable capital gains. Overall, £150,000 is our closing balance at the company year-end.
What do I pay tax on?
- Fund sell: You made a £5,000 profit from the fund sell therefore you’ll pay corporation tax on that.
- All dividends are tax-free. According to HMRC, the dividends received at the company level are exempt from corporation tax as long as the location of the fund/shares is in the UK or in one of this long country list.
Receiving dividends tax-free is a great benefit which is also the reason I’m investing with Property Partner as a limited company. They distribute the rent as dividends which is an advantage to both companies and individuals.
C) Rental Property
A rental property will pay you rent. Of course, there are property expenses such as mortgage costs and boiler repairs which will reduce your corporation tax. I report all expenses in the Expenses tab.
Our property was bought for £150,000 and we received £15,000 in rental income.
What will I pay tax on?
You will pay corporation tax on the rental income minus all expenses. Expenses can be agency costs, mortgage interest costs, finance costs etc. Note that if you own a property as an individual you can no longer deduct the mortgage interest payments from your gross profits. But as a company, you surely can. It’s important to specify what type of expense each one is. There is a difference between capital improvements and other costs.
Note: Usually, people own SPVs when investing in buy-to-lets. That’s one company (SPV) per property. The tax process though is the same.
D) Other Income
This category is for anything else not covered before, such as bank interest on cash (hardly any these days!).
Once you have reported all income, you need to report your expenses. I like to report expenses separate from income. That’s because some fees are taken directly from the bank account and others from inside each platform.
What matters for your annual accounts is to show the total expenses during your company year along with the type of expense. I have a separate “Expenses” tab on the Google Excel spreadsheet. Don’t ask for permission to edit mine, but make your own copy instead (File -> Make a Copy).
Expenses should be easy to track. It’s extremely important to go forensically through your business bank account and spot any unknown transactions. For example, I had forgotten I had transferred some money back to my personal bank account because I paid some company expenses using my personal card (also known as out-of-pocket expenses).
It’s worth noting that I only report explicit expenses such as transaction costs and platform costs. I do not report the 0.3% fund expense that Vanguard automatically takes from my fund holdings.
Loan interest expense
If you’ve funded your investing company with a loan from your trading one, the loan interest counts as an expense. For example, 5% on a £100,000 loan is £5,000. See below for more.
In case you have money coming in from another company, you need to report the balance. Your accountant will need the money moved in or out of your company. This is a simple figure as reported on the ‘Loans’ tab.
The loan interest acts as an expense in one company and a profit in the lending company. As a result, this should reduce your corporation tax on the investing company and will increase it on your trading company.
The net effect is the same so you’re not avoiding tax nor paying a higher tax bill. It’s just a more formal way of making intercompany loans.
How you will pay the interest is up to you. You can roll it up and pay it after 5 or 10 years together with the principal. Or you can pay it annually or even monthly which is more of a hassle.
If you had multiple loan payments into your company during the year, only the sum of the amount matters. Do not forget to report the Interest as an expense on the ‘Expenses’ tab.
Your accountant will also need the business banking opening and closing balance.
That’s it! The above details should be enough for your accountant to work out your taxes and prepare your annual accounts. Your accountant will send you the final accounts for you to review. These should be the long and abridged format together with a CT600 form. Then they will submit it to HMRC and you need to make a tax payment.
How to pay your corporation tax to HMRC
After your accountant has submitted the final accounts you will need to pay your corporation tax. Here’s how:
If this is your first company year, you will need to create a Government Gateway account. Once signed in, you need to order an “Activation Code” which will arrive in 5-7 working days by post. Then you enter your Activation Code into your account which will allow you to pay your tax online.
Assuming you now have a working Government Gateway account, you are ready to make an online payment. You can pay by card or by making a bank transfer.
Regardless of which option you choose, you will need your Corporation Tax Reference. A Corporation Tax Reference is very important because it is basically the payment reference HMRC needs when making the payment. This is a bit tricky because it changes depending on which year you’re paying for.
Note that when you log in to your Government Gateway, the UTR greyed out in my image above is NOT your Corporation Tax Reference. If you click on the View your Corporation Tax Statement link this will take you to the old-fashioned HMRC website which shows you your accounting periods.
Click on the accounting period for which you want to make a payment and you should see your balance due. Your Corporation Tax Reference should be right there. It’s a series of long digits followed by a letter. Mine is 16-digit long plus an “A”.
Please note it takes a few days until the amount shows up after your accountant files the accounts.
Now make a payment and use your Corporation Tax Reference, also known as Payslip reference as a reference.
The payment reference should match exactly your corporation tax reference. You cannot pay HMRC without the Corporation Tax Reference as they won’t know what the payment is for. Hopefully, you found the above straightforward! I know I was very confused the first year of doing it.
How to minimize your taxes
We’re not trying to evade any tax, just to minimize it.
As a limited company, there are a few things you can do to minimize your taxes when investing.
- Focus on dividends because they are exempt from corporation tax
When you have to choose between receiving dividends or interest, pick dividends. That’s not to say all investments should be paying high dividends, but it’s a nice benefit. This is why I’m investing in university accommodation which pays high rent in the form of dividends.
- Pick your funds carefully
Spend some time considering some long-term options. Switching between funds incurs capital gains taxes which will cost you money. Unrealised set-it-and-forget-it type of gains is one of the best tax optimization strategies.
- Pick your platforms carefully
This should go without saying but if you’re stuck in an expensive platform then you will have to sell your holdings before moving out. Many times this will cause a higher tax bill.
Pro tips when investing as a limited company
#1 Pro Tip: Avoid accumulation type funds, pick the income type
A lesson learnt after investing as a limited company is to avoid investing in accumulation type funds. Sometimes, funds and ETFs want to make our life easier by re-investing the dividends automatically for us. That’s great for an ISA or pension (SIPP) but not so great once you really want to know what your actual dividends are.
It’s slightly harder to separate the dividends received from the total gain. As a company, we need to be able to report on that because dividends are tax-free and gains from share appreciation are not!
Vanguard is actually pretty helpful in sending documents every 6 months that report your re-invested dividends number. However, not everyone invests with Vanguard directly. Usually, people invest in funds through platforms such as HL and Interactive Investors.
But don’t worry, usually all funds that come in accumulation mode come in income mode too. It’s much easier to receive the income as cash so you know exactly what you need to report. This will save you hours of unnecessary research.
#2 Pro tip: Keep a transaction log file
I like to keep an excel spreadsheet where I log the fund and shares transactions I make. I actually prefer to not automatically invest dividends such that I know exactly what I buy when. Keeping a transaction log file will massively help to calculate capital gains when you sell.
You can always search for your past trades in all share platforms. But it’s much better to have a handy view of all your previous transactions. It helps answer questions such as “How much tax do I have to pay if I want to sell everything?”.
You can also use Morningstar to track your portfolio holdings.
#3 Pro tip: How to calculate your portfolio balance for a specific day in the past
As we said above, we need to report the valuation also known as balance on both the opening and closing day of the company year. If a platform does not give you your balance at any point in time, then it’s easy-ish to calculate it yourself.
For each fund in your holding, you need to know the number of shares you hold, also known as quantity. Even if it’s a fund, you should own a number of fund shares. Once you have this amount, simply find the “Historical price” for the day in question. For example, 85.5 shares x 5,812.00 pp = £4,969.26.
I like to use the Financial Times markets for finding historical fund prices as it’s nice and simple. For example, to find our holding balance for the iShares MSCI World GBP Hedged ETF, go to the Historical tab and pick your date. Now multiply the Close price x your quantity to find your actual value.
#4 Keep it very simple
Preparing annual accounts will give you enough headache. Therefore try to minimize your time spent on it by picking only a few platforms. The more platforms you have the harder it becomes to manage it all. Trust me, I made my mistakes on this one! I consider this to be the most important tip.
Last but not least, do not confuse the company tax year with the personal tax year. The company year can be anything depending on when you started trading. The personal tax year is the classic April-to-April period.
Annual accounts for your investment company: Final Thoughts
Nobody said preparing annual accounts for an investing limited company is easy. I know that the complexity may put you off but consider this: If you make £10,000 and spend 5 hours a year preparing your annual accounts, that’s £2,000 per hour. Is it worth doing it now? The benefits are great and the more you invest the higher the amount should be.
The time you spend preparing your annual accounts is a fixed cost. The gains, on the other hand, scale with the amount invested.
Hopefully, this article will help both accountants and clients work with a common template for filing annual accounts.
Happy investing 🙂
Disclaimer: I am not an accountant by any means. I just like to dig deeper and understand how things work under the hood. You should not rely on this guide for tax advice and you should always seek tax advice from a professional. I am not liable for any damage or losses. As always, do your own research.