Throughout this article, the unqualified term “pound” and the £ symbol refer to the Pound sterling.
In the United Kingdom, corporation tax is a corporate tax levied in the United Kingdom on the profits made by UK-resident companies and on the profits of entities registered overseas with permanent establishments in the UK.
Until 1 April 1965, companies were taxed at the same income tax rates as individual taxpayers, with an additional profits tax levied on companies. Finance Act 1965 replaced this structure for companies and associations with a single corporate tax, which took its basic structure and rules from the income tax system. Since 1997, the UK’s Tax Law Rewrite Project has been modernising the UK’s tax legislation, starting with income tax, while the legislation imposing corporation tax has itself been amended, the rules governing income tax and corporation tax have thus diverged. Corporation tax was governed by the Income and Corporation Taxes Act 1988 (as amended) prior to the rewrite project.
Originally introduced as a classical tax system, in which companies were subject to tax on their profits and companies’ shareholders were also liable to income tax on the dividends that they received, the first major amendment to corporation tax saw it move to a dividend imputation system in 1973, under which an individual receiving a dividend became entitled to an income tax credit representing the corporation tax already paid by the company paying the dividend. The classical system was reintroduced in 1999, with the abolition of advance corporation tax and of repayable dividend tax credits. Another change saw the single main rate of tax split into three. Tax competition between jurisdictions reduced the main corporate tax rate from 28% in 2008-2010 to a flat rate of 20% as of April 2015.
The UK government faced problems with its corporate tax structure, including European Court of Justice judgements that aspects of it are incompatible with EU treaties. Tax avoidance schemes marketed by the financial sector have also proven an irritant, and been countered by complicated anti-avoidance legislation.
The complexity of the corporation tax system is a recognised issue. The Labour government, supported by the Opposition parties, carried through wide-scale reform from the Tax Law Rewrite project, resulting in the Corporation Tax Act 2010. The tax has slowly been integrating generally accepted accounting practice, with the corporation tax system in various specific areas based directly on the accounting treatment.
Total net corporation tax receipts in 2014-15 were £43.0 billion, which was an increase of 7% from £40.3 billion in 2013-14.
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