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HMRC internal manual

Business Income Manual

Specific receipts: unclaimed balances: receipts that become taxable by operation of law: example

S5 Limitation Act 1980

An insurance broker acts for clients on a commission basis. The broker pays client premiums over to various insurers, less the broker’s own commission. In some cases the insurance company, although underwriting the risk, does not ask for payment of the premium. After six years, the broker takes unclaimed balances to his profit and loss account. The broker seeks to deduct the sums in his tax computation.

The broker is the insured’s agent. In this role, the broker procures insurance from an insurer on behalf of the client. This is a common law relationship governed by the law of agency. The rights and obligations as between the agent and the principal are contractual. If the contract is written under the law of England and Wales, any action based on a breach of these contractual obligations (including a breach of the duty to account to the principal) is governed by S5 Limitation Act 1980. That section provides a six-year time limit.

When the premium becomes due to the insurer, the broker is in breach of contract if he does not pass it on. This is a ‘cause of action’ under Section 5 and so after six years (following the decision in Jay’s - The Jewellers Ltd v CIR [1947] 29 TC 274, see BIM40230) any unclaimed balances become trade receipts of the broker, and so taxable at that time.

For discussion of the rules which apply to contracts under the law of Scotland or Northern Ireland, see BIM40230.

Health warning

This page is part of the section of the Business Income Manual on unclaimed balances. You should read the whole section to understand this topic. See the contents page at BIM40200.