Now that we’ve all had a chance to read and digest what was announced in yesterday’s budget, what about what wasn’t said?
There was no mention of patent box.
We might have expected some mention of the changes that will have to be made to the UK’s patent box regime in order to make it compliant with the requirements of the OECD’s Forum on Harmful Tax Practices (FHTP). This group has been looking at the design of patent box regimes as part of the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) project and (very broadly) has concluded that schemes like the current UK regime are too generous in their design.
To be fair, it is only slightly surprising that the Chancellor said nothing on this yesterday. In principle, the UK has already agreed that it will need to close the existing patent box scheme to new patents/products with effect from June 2016 and to abolish the existing regime altogether by June 2021 (the UK and Germany issued a joint statement at the end of last year containing these proposals). This is in order to allow a phasing in of a new patent box regime that will be designed around what is being termed the “Modified Nexus” approach.
The final details of the approach are being finalised by the FHTP and then the Government will need to draft new legislation to bring in the new regime in the UK. It is possible that the Chancellor is hoping that the FHTP will have finalised its position on patent boxes in time for him to make a more detailed announcement during his Autumn Statement, which – if recent experience is anything to go by – will be delivered in December 2015.
Either way, it is pretty clear that the existing patent box regime is on its way out.