May 25, 2024

Tax Implications of Buying and Selling Businesses


Buying or selling a business involves significant financial considerations.

Whether you're a buyer or a seller, taxes can greatly impact the overall cost or profit from the transaction. 

It’s my wish in this blog post to provide a comprehensive overview of the key tax factors to consider when engaging in business transactions. 

Because by understanding these tax implications, you can make informed decisions and optimise your financial outcomes.

In this blog post, we will explore the different types of business acquisitions and their tax implications, the specific tax considerations for both buyers and sellers, and how to structure deals for maximum tax efficiency. 

You ready? Let’s begin!

Asset Purchase vs. Share Purchase: What Are the Tax Implications?

When buying or selling a business, one of the first decisions you'll face is whether to structure the deal as an asset purchase or a share purchase. 

Each option has distinct tax implications that can affect both parties.

Asset Purchase:

In an asset purchase, the buyer acquires specific assets and liabilities of the business rather than buying the business entity itself. This approach can provide several tax benefits for the buyer:

  • Capital Allowances: Buyers can claim capital allowances on the purchased assets, which can reduce taxable profits.
  • Stamp Duty: Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) may apply to property transactions within the asset purchase. This can add to the upfront costs.
  • VAT: Depending on the assets, VAT may be applicable, although certain transactions can qualify as a Transfer of a Going Concern (TOGC), which is VAT exempt.

Share Purchase:

In a share purchase, the buyer acquires shares of the company, assuming ownership of the business entity, including all its assets and liabilities. The tax implications include:

  • Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT): Buyers typically pay SDRT at 0.5% of the purchase price of the shares.
  • No Capital Allowances: Unlike asset purchases, buyers cannot claim capital allowances on the acquired assets.
  • VAT Exemption: Share purchases are generally exempt from VAT, simplifying the transaction process.

Choosing the Right Business Purchase Structure for Tax Efficiency

Selecting the appropriate structure depends on various factors, including the nature of the business, the assets involved, and the financial goals of both parties. 

Buyers might prefer asset purchases for the potential tax benefits and control over specific assets. Sellers, on the other hand, might favour share purchases to avoid transferring individual assets and liabilities. 

Tax Considerations for Buyers

Importance of Tax Due Diligence When Buying a Business

Conducting thorough tax due diligence is critical for buyers to avoid unexpected tax liabilities and ensure a smooth transaction. 

Due diligence involves reviewing the target business's tax history, identifying potential tax risks, and ensuring compliance with all relevant tax laws. This process helps buyers make informed decisions and negotiate better terms.

Key areas to investigate during tax due diligence include:

  • Outstanding Tax Liabilities: Check for any unpaid taxes or ongoing tax disputes.
  • Tax Compliance: Verify that the business has been compliant with all tax filings and payments.
  • Tax Reliefs and Allowances: Identify any available tax reliefs and allowances that can be transferred to the new owner.
  • VAT and PAYE Records: Review VAT returns and PAYE records to ensure accuracy and compliance.

How Stamp Duty and SDRT Affect Business Purchases

Stamp Duty and Stamp Duty Reserve Tax (SDRT) are significant considerations when buying a business. Stamp Duty applies to asset purchases involving property, while SDRT applies to share purchases.

  • Stamp Duty: Buyers must pay Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) on property transactions. The rate varies depending on the property's value and type.
  • SDRT: Buyers typically pay SDRT at 0.5% of the purchase price of the shares. This tax is payable on the transfer of shares and is generally the buyer's responsibility.

Understanding these taxes can help buyers budget accurately and avoid surprises during the transaction process.

VAT Implications for Business Buyers

VAT implications depend on whether the transaction qualifies as a Transfer of a Going Concern (TOGC). If it does, the sale is VAT-exempt, provided certain conditions are met, such as the buyer being VAT-registered and intending to continue the same type of business.

  • TOGC: Qualifying transactions are VAT-exempt, simplifying the process.
  • Non-TOGC: If the transaction does not qualify, VAT is chargeable, and the buyer must account for this in their cash flow planning.

Claiming Capital Allowances on Acquired Business Assets

Capital allowances can reduce taxable profits by allowing buyers to deduct the cost of certain business assets over time. Buyers should identify qualifying assets and ensure they claim the appropriate allowances.

  • Qualifying Assets: Include machinery, equipment, and vehicles.
  • First-Year Allowances: Allow immediate deduction of a percentage of the asset's cost.
  • Annual Investment Allowance (AIA): Provides a higher allowance for qualifying expenditure within a specified limit.

Tax Considerations for Sellers

How Capital Gains Tax Affects Business Sales

When selling a business, sellers may be liable for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on the profit made from the sale. CGT is calculated on the difference between the sale price and the original purchase price, minus any allowable expenses.

  • CGT Rates: Depend on the seller's overall income and gains. Higher rate taxpayers pay a higher CGT rate.
  • Allowable Expenses: Include costs of acquisition, improvements, and disposal.

Calculating CGT Liability When Selling a Business

Accurately calculating CGT liability is crucial for sellers. This involves determining the gain, applying any available reliefs, and calculating the tax due.

  • Determine the Gain: Sale price minus purchase price and allowable expenses.
  • Apply Reliefs: Reliefs such as Entrepreneurs' Relief or Business Asset Disposal Relief can significantly reduce CGT liability.
  • Calculate Tax Due: Apply the relevant CGT rate to the taxable gain.

Income Tax Implications for Business Sellers

In some cases, income tax may apply instead of CGT, particularly if the sale is structured as a distribution of profits. Sellers should understand the implications of different tax treatments and plan accordingly.

  • Income Tax Rates: Typically higher than CGT rates, impacting overall tax liability.
  • Distribution of Profits: Treated as income and taxed at the seller's marginal rate.

Understanding Goodwill and Intangible Assets Tax Treatment

Goodwill and intangible assets are often significant components of a business sale. The tax treatment of these assets can affect the seller's overall tax liability.

  • Goodwill: Treated as a capital gain and subject to CGT.
  • Intangible Assets: May qualify for specific tax reliefs, reducing taxable gains.

Selling Shares vs. Selling Assets: Tax Pros and Cons

Sellers must decide whether to sell shares or assets, each with distinct tax implications.

  • Selling Shares: Simpler process, with CGT on the sale. May qualify for Entrepreneurs' Relief.
  • Selling Assets: More complex, with potential income tax on distributions and CGT on asset sales.

Understanding these tax implications helps sellers make informed decisions and optimise their tax position in business transactions. Consulting a tax advisor ensures accurate calculations and maximises available reliefs, leading to better financial outcomes.

Structuring the Deal for Tax Efficiency

Understanding Deferred Consideration and Tax Implications

Deferred consideration is a payment arrangement where part of the purchase price is paid at a later date. This structure can be beneficial for both buyers and sellers but comes with specific tax implications.

  • For Buyers: Deferred payments can ease cash flow. However, interest on deferred amounts may be taxable.
  • For Sellers: Deferred consideration spreads tax liability over several years. Be aware that interest received on deferred payments is subject to Income Tax.

Tax Treatment of Earn-Out Arrangements in Business Sales

Earn-out arrangements involve additional payments based on the future performance of the business. These can be complex but offer potential tax benefits.

  • For Buyers: Earn-outs align the seller's interests with the future success of the business. Payments tied to performance are treated as capital gains, not income.
  • For Sellers: Earn-out payments are subject to CGT. Ensure clear criteria and timelines to avoid disputes.

Benefits of Using Tax-Efficient Vehicles in Business Transactions

Using tax-efficient vehicles, like holding companies or special purpose vehicles (SPVs), can optimise tax outcomes in business sales.

  • Holding Companies: Can provide tax advantages by deferring tax on profits until distributed as dividends.
  • SPVs: Facilitate the transfer of assets and liabilities, simplifying the transaction and potentially reducing tax liability.

Post-Transaction Tax Compliance

Tax Filing Requirements After Buying or Selling a Business

After completing a business transaction, both buyers and sellers must meet specific tax filing requirements. Ensuring compliance helps avoid penalties.

  • For Buyers: File returns for any new tax obligations, such as VAT or Corporation Tax. Keep detailed records of the transaction.
  • For Sellers: Report the sale in your Self-Assessment tax return. Calculate and pay any CGT due.

HMRC Notifications for Business Transactions: What You Need to Know

Notifying HMRC about business transactions is crucial for compliance. Ensure timely and accurate notifications to avoid issues.

  • For Buyers: Inform HMRC of changes in company ownership. Update VAT registration if applicable.
  • For Sellers: Notify HMRC of the sale of the business. Provide details on the transaction and any deferred consideration arrangements.

Importance of Record Keeping for Business Transactions

Maintaining thorough records is essential for post-transaction compliance. Good record-keeping supports accurate tax filings and future audits.

  • What to Keep: Contracts, financial statements, and correspondence related to the transaction.
  • How Long to Keep: Typically, keep records for at least six years, as required by HMRC.

By structuring deals for tax efficiency and ensuring post-transaction compliance, both buyers and sellers can optimise their tax positions and avoid unnecessary complications. Consulting with a tax advisor can provide tailored advice and support throughout the process, ensuring all tax obligations are met accurately and efficiently.

How to Choose the Right Tax Professional for Business Transactions

Selecting the right tax professional is crucial for effective tax management during business transactions. 

Professional tax advisors offer expertise that helps navigate the complex tax landscape, ensuring you make informed decisions.

Here are some tips to help you choose the best advisor for your needs.

  • Experience: Look for advisors with experience in handling business transactions. They should be familiar with both buying and selling processes.
  • Credentials: Ensure the advisor is qualified and recognised by professional bodies, such as the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT).
  • Client Reviews: Check reviews or ask for references from previous clients. Positive feedback indicates reliable and effective service.
  • Personal Fit: Choose an advisor you feel comfortable with. Good communication and understanding are key to a successful professional relationship.

At ASWATAX, we will provide you with strategic advice tailored to your specific situation. We will help you through:

  • Strategic Planning: We help you plan for future tax liabilities and provide strategies for long-term tax efficiency.
  • Relief Maximisation: Ensure all eligible tax reliefs and deductions are claimed. This reduces overall tax liability and maximises savings.
  • Smooth Transactions: Professional guidance ensures that transactions proceed smoothly. This minimises disruptions and enhances financial outcomes.


Understanding the tax implications of buying and selling businesses is crucial for both buyers and sellers. From structuring deals for tax efficiency to ensuring post-transaction compliance, each step plays a vital role in optimising financial outcomes. 

Proactive tax management and professional advice are key to achieving successful and financially sound business transactions. By consulting with experienced tax professionals, you can navigate the complexities of business transactions with confidence. 

I hope you find this helpful. Thanks for reading!

Meet Omar

Omar is a Chartered Tax Advisor (a.k.a an expert on tax issues) and founder of ASWATAX. He regularly shares his knowledge and best advice here on his blog and on other channels such as LinkedIn.
Book a call today to learn more about what Omar and ASWATAX can do for you.

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