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A new limit for the Annual Investment Allowance

1 January 2016 sees the latest change to the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA), with the allowance set to fall from £500,000 to a new permanent level of £200,000. This reduction will undoubtedly have an impact on many businesses and the timing of expenditure will be critical when maximising claims under the AIA.

What is the Annual Investment Allowance?

Part of the capital allowances regime, the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) enables businesses to deduct the full cost of plant and machinery (excluding cars - see later) from their profits in the year of purchase. It applies to businesses of any size and most business structures, but there are provisions to prevent multiple claiming. Businesses are able to allocate their AIA in any way they wish; so it is quite acceptable for them to set their allowance against expenditure qualifying for a lower rate of allowances (such as long life assets or integral features).

Apart from reducing the amount of tax payable (by up to 45% for additional rate taxpayers), an AIA claim can protect the personal allowance of a taxpayer earning over £100,000 in the initial year of purchase. However, the lowering of profits could have a dramatic effect on an individual's entitlement to claim Tax Credits, so it is important to seek expert advice before taking action.

How much can I claim?

The AIA was temporarily increased to £500,000 from 1 April 2014 for companies or 6 April 2014 for unincorporated businesses until 31 December 2015. It had been due to fall to £25,000 from 1 January 2016, but in his Summer Budget on 8 July the Chancellor George Osborne announced that the AIA will instead be set at a permanent limit of £200,000 from 1 January 2016.

However, transitional rules will have an impact on the amount businesses can claim, so timing will play a key role in determining how much AIA is available. It is especially important if you are experiencing a need to invest substantial amounts in plant and machinery.

Accounting periods spanning the change

Where an accounting period spans 31 December 2015, the maximum amount of AIA entitlement is calculated on a pro-rata basis. For example, if Company A's accounting period begins on 1 April 2015 and ends on 31 March 2016, approximately three quarters of that period would fall before the date of change (1 January 2016) and approximately one quarter would fall after that date.

Company A will be subject to a transitional AIA maximum, calculated as follows:


Fraction of period

Allowance for full year

Transitional allowance

01/04/15 to 31/12/15




01/01/16 to 31/03/16




Transitional AIA maximum


Timing expenditure for maximum relief

As demonstrated in the above example, the maximum AIA for expenditure incurred before 1 January 2016 is £425,000. However, where expenditure is incurred on or after 1 January to 31 March 2016, the maximum amount of relief will only be £50,000. Therefore, if you want to gain the maximum benefit of the £500,000 AIA, it may be advisable to purchase plant and machinery before 31 December 2015. If this is not an option, you might want to delay expenditure until after 31 March 2016, when the AIA will be set at £200,000. Note that tax relief will be deferred for a full year.

Another (though drastic) alternative would be to change the accounting period end to 31 December 2015 from 31 March 2016. The purchase in December 2015 would be in an accounting period which does not contain any changes in the AIA maximum. There could, however, be repercussions in terms of additional costs and possible advances of tax liability.

It is important to take a considered approach when planning expenditure. Any spending on plant and machinery should be commercially justifiable - there is no cash flow advantage to be gained by simply buying equipment to save tax.

The capital allowances rules can be complex and it is important to consider the timing of any expenditure you are planning to help maximise the relief available. Please contact us if you would like further information or advice.

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