Averaging is a special relief available to two classes of individual:
The idea was first introduced in 1977 when new rules were
brought in to help farmers because of the fluctuations in their
profits caused by the weather and the increasing influence of world
In 2001 the relief was extended to individuals who personally create literary and artistic works. The relief replaced a previous more complicated relief which was abolished.
There is an introduction to the relief in the SA Tax Return Help Sheets:
The way in which the relief operates is identical in each case.
Very briefly, claims are made in the return for the later year. The
profit for that year is adjusted to half the total profit for that
year and the previous year. In addition an adjustment in terms of
tax is made to the tax due for the later year. The amount of the
adjustment (which may be an increase or a decrease) is the amount
by which the tax and NIC for the previous year would have changed
if the profit for that year had been adjusted to the average
figure. The relief does not apply unless the profits for the two
years differ by more than 25% of the higher figure.
Averaging will only help if the top rate of tax or NIC is different for each of the two years. For example:
The effect of the reliefs is identical but the law is not. That is because the rules on farmers’ averaging (in ICTA88/S96 and TMA70/SCH1B/PARA3) predate the Tax Law re-write project but those for creators of literary and artistic works (ICTA88/S95A, ICTA88/SCH4A) are in the new style. The two provisions are brought together under ITTOIA Chapter 16. You should consult the guidance on farmers’ averaging to see the effect of both reliefs.