Albert Johnson I head up the FS Tax recruitment division at The Consultancy Group. We are partners to a range of companies across the UK, from the FTSE 100 & 250, overseas multinationals, and privately owned groups. Personally, I have experience recruiting Tax professionals into the UK market from a Newly-Qualified level through to Head of Tax. I cover specialist areas of Corporate / M&A Tax, International Tax, Tax Compliance and Reporting, Indirect Tax, Transfer Pricing and Employment Taxes.

Impact of Global Trade Wars on UK Corporate Tax Strategies

6 min read

The Landscape of UK Taxation Amidst Trade Wars

The UK’s role in the global market means its tax system is closely linked to international events. As big tech companies face changing tax rules worldwide, the HMRC works to ensure they pay their fair share. At the same time, businesses of all sizes must work through the complexities of tax allowances, deductions, and annual investment allowances to get the best outcomes for their tax responsibilities. In this blog, we’ll dive into how these international developments shape UK corporate tax strategies and what businesses can do to stay ahead.

UK’s Stance Amidst Evolving Tax Ecosystems

A Historical Glance at Taxation Evolution

In April 2020, the HMRC unveiled reforms geared towards ensuring that digital corporations contribute aptly to the national coffers. This move followed an international trend of tightening taxation regulations. Expenditure in digital domains soared, with companies capitalising on allowances for digital infrastructure. On the other hand, physical machinery investments saw benefits from capital allowances, providing tax relief to businesses.

Disposal of Assets and The Tax Implications

As companies grow, asset disposal, especially of digital properties, becomes inevitable. In the UK, these disposals often attract capital gains tax (CGT), calculated on the profit accrued from the sale. When companies make such disposals, they should be acutely aware of the potential reduction in their taxable profits for the financial year. Planning is crucial, especially when the disposal occurs close to the end of a tax year.

Dividends, Deductions, and Governance

Dividends form a substantial component of profits for shareholders. In the UK, dividends are subjected to dividend tax; however, careful planning can help optimise the net amount received after income tax deductions. Ensuring proper governance practices and keeping up to date with the HMRC guidelines can significantly aid in making informed decisions.

Inheritance and Its Tax Implications

With increased digital asset ownership, inheritance issues have become more prevalent. The UK’s inheritance tax is levied on properties passed on to heirs, and while it’s traditionally associated with physical assets, digital assets are increasingly coming under its purview. Planning ensures that one’s successors aren’t burdened with high tax liabilities.

Understanding Key Tax Pillars for UK Businesses

UK Corporate Property

Navigating the UK tax landscape requires businesses to be aware of several critical considerations. From digital assets to research and development, staying informed and proactive is essential. Here are some key areas that businesses must be attuned to to maintain compliance and optimise their tax strategies:

  • Digital Assets and Properties: The tax implications of asset disposals, especially digital properties, demand close attention to ensure accurate reporting and compliance.
  • R&D Investments: Leveraging tax credits available for research and development can provide significant relief, given that R&D is a primary expenditure for many contemporary companies.
  • Inheritance of Digital Assets: The UK’s stance on taxing inherited digital properties is changing. Businesses must remain updated on the latest guidelines, especially as digital assets become more commonplace.
  • Global Tax Landscape: The international tax scenario is in flux, particularly amidst global trade wars. Keeping ahead of these changes ensures businesses are aware of the situation.
  • Digital Taxation vs. Traditional Models: The nuances and challenges presented by digital business models differ significantly from traditional ones, necessitating distinct approaches and strategies.
  • Tax Strategy Adaptation: The dynamic nature of global trade, digital evolution, and shifting tax policies means that businesses must continually re-evaluate and adapt their tax strategies.

With these pillars in mind, UK businesses can better position themselves to navigate the multifaceted space of taxation, balancing compliance with strategic financial planning.

Global Trade Wars and Their Direct Implications on UK Businesses

The rise of global trade wars, particularly those instigated by major economic powers like the U.S. and China, has created ripples in the fabric of international commerce. For the UK, such confrontations don’t just remain in international politics; they directly influence corporate tax strategies.

Global Trade Wars

While many UK companies have benefited from international trade, they’re now at the forefront of these economic tussles. With unilateral digital tax solutions being introduced by various nations, global businesses grapple with an increasingly complex taxation landscape. These trade wars have tangible impacts, whether it’s the imposition of tariffs, increased scrutiny of transfer pricing strategies, or new VAT regulations for digital transactions.

A noteworthy example is the changing dynamics with tech giants, some of whom have been accused of exploiting loopholes in the UK taxation system. The HMRC’s approach to these giants, alongside international tensions, has pushed businesses to re-evaluate their tax strategies, ensuring they remain compliant while optimising their taxable income.

Tech Giants Tax Evasion: The Catalyst of Trade Tensions and Tax Reforms

Tech giants have, in many ways, revolutionised how we live, work, and communicate. However, their exponential growth, especially in September, has also unveiled challenges, particularly in UK corporation tax and global taxation.

Compared to large businesses with physical machinery, assets and fixtures rooted in one place, these digital behemoths operate globally, often without a fixed base in many countries they serve. This absence of “permanent establishment” challenges countries, including the UK, to pinpoint their exact economic activity and, thus, their taxable profits. While many subsidiaries of these giants in December posted record profits, it becomes a starting point to question their actual contribution in terms of corporation tax liabilities.

The primary expenditure for these companies isn’t tangible machinery or labour but research and development. Intellectual property, a product of rigorous R&D, being highly mobile, often finds itself shifted across borders. This allows tech giants to capitalise on reduced rate schemes and R&D tax credits, enabling them to reduce their tax liabilities through innovative transfer pricing and income-shifting mechanisms.

For UK businesses with minimal liability partnerships eyeing to compete on a global stage, professional advice becomes indispensable. Grasping the tactics employed by these tech giants is paramount for devising an effective tax strategy and accentuates the essence of good governance. This ensures that their practices remain compliant with UK taxation laws and the directives from HMRC.

U.S. Response and Potential Repercussions for the UK

The U.S. plays a big role in global financial decisions, especially regarding digital taxation. Because many tech giants come from the U.S., the American government isn’t happy about other countries setting their digital tax rules. They see it as targeting U.S. companies.

US Government

As a reaction, the U.S. might hit back with extra charges (tariffs) on products they buy, like machinery and luxury goods, which could face higher charges when sold to the U.S. This would make UK goods more expensive and less attractive in the American market.

Beyond just extra charges, the U.S. might also set up more trade barriers. This could create more paperwork and rules for UK businesses trying to sell in the U.S., which is a big concern, especially for those UK companies with a large customer base in America.

Broader Implications of UK Corporate Tax Strategies for Professionals

Navigating the complex world of global trade and tax rules, UK corporate tax experts are facing a challenging puzzle. With individual country actions and the rising worries of trade conflicts, the tax space is getting even more intricate.

It’s more than just knowing UK taxes now. Experts need to be familiar with global tax effects, trade deals between countries, and the tax details of various nations. Some countries’ unique digital tax steps and possible U.S. reactions call for smart tax planning. This ensures companies follow the rules and look out for their interests.

Tax experts must also actively help businesses plan for the potential impacts of trade disputes. This could mean looking at new markets, checking over supply routes, or even pushing for more balanced global tax rules.

Being a UK corporate tax expert is about more than just numbers and local tax rules. The job has grown to include strategy, needing a clear vision, flexibility, and a deep understanding of world economic trends.

The Way Forward for Tax: Collaboration or Confrontation?

The conundrum facing the UK and all nations grappling with the digital tax issue hinges on a simple choice: collaboration or confrontation. Each path presents its own set of challenges and rewards, and the stakes are high.

On the one hand, a unilateral approach by the UK in imposing digital taxes might offer a quicker resolution, allowing the government to tap into a lucrative revenue stream. However, this approach could expose the UK to potential trade confrontations with nations like the U.S., threatening economic ties and risking tit-for-tat retaliations.

In contrast, a collaborative approach, potentially under the umbrella of the OECD, offers a more harmonised and stable solution. This would involve a collective decision-making process, reducing the risk of trade wars and providing a level playing field for businesses across the globe. The trade-off is that achieving consensus in such forums can be a slow and painstaking process.

Global Tech Giants

Central to this dialogue are the tech giants themselves. With their expansive reach and significant economic impact, companies like Facebook and Google cannot be mere spectators in this debate. Their cooperation and willingness to be part of a new tax paradigm are essential for a lasting solution. As these companies continue to grow and dominate various sectors, their role in shaping and adhering to future tax landscapes becomes increasingly essential.

Embracing Change in a Dynamic Tax Landscape

The digital age, with its myriad of opportunities and challenges, has thrown the challenge down to UK corporate tax professionals. The rise of tech giants and global trade tensions have made the international tax scenario more dynamic than ever. But within this flux lies an opportunity for collaboration, adaptability, and forward-thinking.

For the UK, the path ahead may be filled with uncertainty. Yet, with cooperation, both at the national and international levels, these challenges can be transformed into milestones of progress. For tax professionals, it’s a call to be at the forefront of this change, leading the charge with knowledge, strategy, and a vision for a more harmonised global tax future.

Navigating the Tax Landscape with The Consultancy Group


Navigating the complex world of UK corporate tax can be overwhelming. That’s where we come in. At The Consultancy Group, we take a friendly, consultative approach, focusing on both the technical and the personal. We get you, and we get the tax world. Our aim? To connect the right people with the right roles seamlessly and honestly.

Thinking about your next move in the tax world or seeking the perfect fit for your team? Drop us a line at The Consultancy Group. Let’s make tax less taxing together.

Albert Johnson I head up the FS Tax recruitment division at The Consultancy Group. We are partners to a range of companies across the UK, from the FTSE 100 & 250, overseas multinationals, and privately owned groups. Personally, I have experience recruiting Tax professionals into the UK market from a Newly-Qualified level through to Head of Tax. I cover specialist areas of Corporate / M&A Tax, International Tax, Tax Compliance and Reporting, Indirect Tax, Transfer Pricing and Employment Taxes.