You don’t often read about Patent Box – a system in the UK which allows companies to apply a lower rate of corporation tax to profits generated from patented inventions – in the mainstream British press. However, the recent takeover by Japan’s SoftBank of ARM Holdings and the post Brexit announcement by GlaxoSmithKline that it is to invest £275 million into UK operations prompted more widespread commentary than usual over the summer period.
The aim of Patent Box is to increase the level of patenting in the UK, to ensure that new and existing patents are developed and commercialised in the UK and to encourage companies to locate in the UK the high-value jobs associated with the developments, manufacture and exploitation of patents.
According to the most recent figures published by HMRC back in September 2016, 225 large companies shared over 95% of the total tax relief from the Patent Box regime in 2013-2014, amounting to £327 million.
ARM Holdings is a great success story in the technology industry. Press coverage of the takeover of ARM reported a fear that the tax incentives intended to encourage companies in the UK to come up with world class technological advances, will be diverted out of the UK to the foreign shareholders.
The UK’s competitive corporate tax system was also cited in the announcement by GlaxoSmithKline to invest so heavily in the UK after the Brexit vote. As long ago as 2012, GSK cited the UK Patent Box policy in its planned drug-ingredient plant investment in the UK and GSK has, and will continue to, benefit from the Patent Box provisions.
Patent Box figures for the post-Brexit period will not be available in the near future. In the meantime, I wonder whether the Patent Box tax effect coupled with the effect on Sterling caused by the decision of the UK to leave the EU will fuel further foreign acquisitions.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.