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Surge in business sales precede capital gains tax changes

08 April 2008 / by Joy Tibbs
Many UK business owners decided to sell up before the changes to capital gains tax took effect on April 6, while others transferred ownership to avoid the higher rate of tax.

There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding Chancellor Alistair Darling's decision to abolish taper relief and introduce a single capital gains tax rate of 18 per cent.

Although this was lower for some who were subject to the former maximum rate of 40 per cent, it was an 80 per cent hike for those that were previously in the 10 per cent bracket.

One of those keen to put her business up for sale was Linda Bennett, founder of fashion chain LK Bennett.

The business, which started off as a handbag company, has evolved rapidly since it was established in 1990. However, Ms Bennett started looking for a buyer after the new rules were proposed. She transferred ownership of the company prior to the deadline in order to avoid paying the 18 per cent tax rate.

And Ms Bennett is no isolated case. Indeed, KPMG tax partner David Kilshaw told The Times that this has "been the busiest end of financial year in living memory" as entrepreneurs rushed to sell up before the new laws came into effect.

Others include travel company Elegant Resorts, coffee machine manufacturer Coffee Nation and conveyor-belt sushi restaurant YO! Sushi.

And many shareholders also sold or transferred shares before April 6, including London Stock Exchange chief executive, Louise Furse, Lord Sainsbury and Sir James Dyson. It is thought many individuals will have saved tens of thousands of pounds by pre-empting the tax changes.

Meanwhile, some businesses will actually stand to gain from the changes to capital gains tax regulations.

Those who would have previously paid 40 per cent in tax when they came to sell assets – including many buy-to-let landlords – actually stand to gain from the reduction. And many agree that the new laws, which Mr Darling claimed would bring about a "simplified tax system", are a welcome alternative to previous rules which were far from straightforward.

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