Depreciation for tax purposes

In the language of the taxman, depreciation is called “Capital Allowances” or sometimes ”wear and tear allowances”  and how we accountants report it differs in the management reports of businesses be they internal management accounts or for statutory reporting. So what purchases are covered by Capital Allowances? Not always an easy question to answer, but if you buy or make something either physical or intangible (for example software, although not internally generated intellectual property “IP” ), and it is used to produce economic benefit to the business or, put simply, kept long term for the benefit of the business then that will be considered an applicable purchase.

In accountants’ terms, we define Fixed Assets using various headings, for example Buildings, Motor Vehicles, Computers, Plant & Machinery and Fixtures and Fittings. Depending on the type of asset, the business may apply different rates of depreciation.

The taxman’s treatment of Fixed Assets is totally different. There is not a relationship at all, giving rise to a heading in a business’ statutory accounts as “Deferred Tax” being a timing difference between the accountant and the tax treatment.

HMRC starts with two headings, the main pool where most assets are classified and the special rate pool.

Once the purchase or construction has passed the test of being suitable to claim Capital Allowances, the asset is placed in the general pool, unless it qualifies as being classified elsewhere.

The special rate pool covers all assets that are integral to the business’ properties, (not the building itself though, that rule was phased out in 2006).

The assets which are now classed as integral features are:

* Electrical systems (including lighting systems)

* Cold water systems

* Space or water heating systems, powered systems of ventilation, air cooling or air purification, and any floor or ceiling comprised in such systems

* Lifts, escalators and moving walkways

* External solar shading

Over the years a number of exceptional pools were created, ostensibly to make the system more user friendly:

Small Pool Allowance

Two considerations.  If capital expenditure in either the general pool or special rate pool is less than £1,000 then it can be written off in the current year.

New expenditure of £1,000 or less, recorded separately in its own pool and written off in full in the current year.  Just in case you were thing of it, you can’t write off the first £1,000 of expenditure in this manner

 Annual investment allowance (AIA)

This was introduced in 2008 and covers plant and machinery, but not cars. The allowance has been a bit of a yoyo. When it was introduced in 2008, the allowance was £50,000, in 2010 this was increased to £100,000, then in April 2012 reduced to £25,000. It was announced in the Autumn statement that from the 1 January 2013 for two year only this allowance has been increased to £250,000

The AIA replaced the first year allowances which ceased to be allowable from 2008. Although there was a special first year allowance which was applied temporarily in 2009 to energy-saving and water-efficient equipment, cars with very low carbon dioxide emissions and goods vehicles with zero carbon emissions.


Capital Allowance



Main Pool 18%  per annum since 6 April 2012 Until 2008 this was 25%, was previously 20% All assets not included elsewhere


Special Rate Pool 8% per annum Until 2008 this was 10% Long life assets


Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) £250,000 per annum since 1 January 2013 for 2 years When introduced in 2008 was £50K increased to £100K in in 2010. Down to £25,000 in April 2012 On plant and machinery only


First year allowance SME 50%, Medium sized businesses 40% Not  long life assets or leased equipment On plant and machinery only

Capital Allowances on motor vehicles rules are more complicated and are on a separate blog