Tax Year-End: VCTs and tax mitigation

Where an investor is more adventurous and interested in the significant tax rebates available from HMRC, I favour Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) over Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS).

They are both higher risk than typical equity -based funds as they invest in smaller, relatively new companies. Simply put, a VCT is an investment trust comprising a number of different investments, and an EIS is typically just a single investment. It’s an eggs and baskets thing for me – an EIS requires a greater leap of faith.

The tax breaks on VCTs are significant. Provided they are held for the qualifying term (5 years) they offer 30% tax rebate based on the amount you invest (invest £100k, get £30k reduction on your current year’s tax bill – but you must have incurred that much income tax in that tax year in order to benefit) – and all income streams – dividends and capital gains, are tax free.

Innovative providers of VCTs have designed “lower risk” limited life offerings which are designed to liquidate after the qualifying period is up (in practice this is around a 6 year cycle). They invest mainly in asset-backed businesses (e.g. those with significant real estate) and/or those with predictable income streams. Staying within the rules, they  offer fairly modest gross returns whilst mitigating risk as far as they can. When added to the 30% initial tax saving, the IRR on such investments might for example be 7% to 9% for a higher rate taxpayer. After liquidation, the funds can be re-invested again and obtain a further tax rebates. Limited Life VCTs also avoid the criticism levied against traditional VCTs – where encashment is nearly always at a discount price compared to net asset value. A limited life VCT liquidates, so the investor receives full NAV.

But for those who like to buy and hold, then “Evergreen” VCTs can offer more risky but often more rewarding returns, with no tax on the income streams from year to year.

There is a VCT “season which commences in December each year and carries on past the tax year-end, offering investment in one or both tax years for a particular offering. Up to £200,000 per tax year means a maximum of £400k can be invested across the tax year-end. Minimum investments are usually £5,000 to £10,000.

If you would like to hear more about VCTs, please contact me.

Tax Year-End: Capital Gains considerations

Just a quick note to remind those of you with non-ISA investments that just because you haven’t earned crystallised  capital gains in excess of your annual CGT allowance (£11,000 in 2014-15) doesn’t mean you can ignore the planning. The markets have been pretty good over the past few years and many non-ISA investors will have holdings “pregnant” with potentially taxable gains.

And this applies to trustees too – your CGT allowance is 50% of the personal allowance at £5,500.

Unless your investments are modest, my advice is to try and crystallise gains up to just under your annual allowance, so that your portfolio is no longer carrying those gains into a later year, when future sales may cause aggregate gains over the allowance and tax becomes payable.

Even where you do not wish to make any wholesale changes to your investments, it is possible to swap one share (or fund) for another which is very similar. For example, swapping one UK tracker fund for another. This crystallises the gain into the current tax year.

Or maybe you have brought forward capital losses from earlier tax years. Can you utilise them against current gains in an efficient manner?

No reporting of capital gains under the annual allowance is required on a self-assessment tax return to HMRC.

Just sensible housekeeping really 🙂

Tax Year-End: Capped Drawdown plans have one big advantage over their Flexible new friends, but will disappear April 5th 2015

In all the hype over the new pensions rules and flexibility beginning next April, it is easy to miss the rules concerning contribution allowances whilst in drawdown.

There can be reasons and/or advantages to an individual in running a drawdown arrangement and taking income from it whilst simultaneously making contributions (or keeping the option to make future contributions). Care needs to be taken not to fall foul of rules prohibiting the recycling of tax-free cash.

Existing capped drawdown plans which are maintained within their GAD withdrawal limits will retain the annual allowance for further contributions of £40,000, whereas an active flexible plan will have a reduced allowance of £10,000 after April 5th 2015. However, capped Drawdown will no longer be an option after April 2015, when all new drawdown plans will qualify as “flexible” regardless of withdrawal levels. After April 5th, as soon as a “trigger” event occurs, such as taking income or cashing in a small pension in its entirety, the new reduced annual allowance of £10,000 applies.

So, investors wishing to carry on an active drawdown arrangement yet take advantage of the £40,000 contributions limit in future, who do not currently have such a plan,  would need to quickly set up a plan (and make a crystallisation event – e.g. a small withdrawal of tax free cash) prior to April 2015, to be able keep that greater level of annual contribution allowance.

To maintain the £40,000 limit going forward, capped drawdown members must not exceed their GAD income limits in any tax year. To do so creates an event which triggers the smaller contributions allowance going forward.

This is an area where financial advice is essential – in fact drawdown plan providers will generally only deal with you through an adviser(!)

Most new drawdown plans are initiated via a transfer of existing pension money from one or more other pension plans, but in view of the rapidly closing window (realistically you’d need to get a new application in by around March 20th at the very latest),  for a capped plan I would suggest the time for that is already past. However, if you have a reasonable cash lump sum which you can contribute now, then it may still be possible to find a capped drawdown provider and set the account up with instant crystallisation.

NB the above is a brief summary only – we will advise on pertinent rules as appropriate. If you think this sounds suitable for you, we’re happy to advise further – just give us a call on 0345 013 6525 to discuss.

Tax Year-End: Do you want to make more than £40,000 pension contributions this year? – Carry Forward!

The annual allowance for pension contributions in 2014-15 is £40,000, which is the gross equivalent and includes all contributions from all sources (i.e. incl. employer contributions). Unused allowances from the previous three years may be carried forward and used in the current tax year.  (You need to have been a member of any UK pension scheme in a given tax year to qualify for the contribution allowance in that year).

Carry forward of pension annual allowances can have its intricacies, but basically you must first use the current year’s and then work backwards. All of the tax relief obtained is applied against current year’s income. The annual allowance was £50,000 in each of 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 (so potentially an individual could pay up to £190,000 into pensions in the current tax year).

Please give me a call if you are interested in any last minute lump sums into pensions.

Tax Year-End: ISA Allowances

OK they’re apparently “NISAs” following the latest upgrades, but I’m sticking to the old name for now.

This is pretty straight-forward stuff. You must use your ISA allowance in its tax year, or else it is lost. You must be over 16 for a cash ISA, or over 18 for “Stocks and Shares” ISAs (typically unit trusts or similar mutual funds).

The allowances are:

  • 2014-15 (up to)£15,000 each
  • 2015-16:(up to) £15,240 each

From 2014-15, you can invest any proportion into cash or Stocks and Shares – e.g. you can now invest £15,000 into just a cash ISA, or  £15,000 into Stocks and Shares ISA, or anything in between.

A married couple could invest £60,480 across both tax years. Most of the larger ISA providers will facilitate a double payment now – (they just hold next year’s part of the payment for a week or two and the invest it for you on April 6th).

(Junior ISAs apply for younger people, which have lower allowances than for adults – see  earlier posts).


Made It!

If you leave it to the last minute and are having difficulty with your provider, or you’d like to set up a new ISA account this year, please give me a call. We have last minute facilities with most of the big platforms (Fidelity, Old Mutual, Cofunds etc.) where we can get your application in. And don’t forget we offer an investment advice service – customised portfolios built around your preferences. Our on-going fee for this service is just 0.5% per year.

Tax Year-End: Avoiding the 60% tax band!

For those of you earning over £100,000 this tax year, remember that for every £2 of income earned over £100,000 an individual loses £1 of their personal allowance until they have no allowance left.

This makes the effective rate of tax 60% on income between £100,000 and £120,000 for 2014/15. (40% tax on the £2 (80p) plus 40% tax on the lost £1 allowance (40p) = £1.20 tax on £2).

So when your income is over £120,000 all the personal allowance is lost as this is double the personal allowance.

The measure of £100,000 is the ‘adjusted net income’. Broadly, this is total taxable income less certain deductions e.g. gift aid donations and gross personal pension contributions.

The Plan

You can get your adjusted net income back down below the £100,000 if you can make a lump sum pension contribution of a suitable size:

  • Identify total income for personal allowance purposes i.e. adjusted net income
  • Calculate excess over £100,000 limit
  • Calculate contribution to reduce adjusted net income to £100,000
  • Make the personal pension contribution in the tax year in which the personal allowance is lost.


Mr Savvy has income of £110,000 so has lost some of his personal allowance. A personal pension contribution of £8,000 net, £10,000 gross is made.


So, the contribution has the dual impact of increasing the amount of tax free income through the reclaimed allowance as well as pushing out the basic rate band.

For a resulting net spend of £4,000 Mr Savvy has reduced his tax bill by £6,000 and generated a £10,000 into his pension pot.

The contribution of £10,000 has saved £4,000 in tax and received relief in the pension of £2,000 – an effective rate of tax relief of 60%!

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – the Taxy bits

A summary of the main UK tax changes announced December 3rd 2014. For info on the changes affecting inheritance and pensions, please see The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – the Sexy bits blog.

Personal Allowance – Income Tax

The personal allowance will be increased to £10,600 in 2015-16, £100 more than previously stated. The higher rate (40%) threshold will be £42,385.

ISA changes

From April 2015 the ISA allowance will rise to £15,240, following the substantial rise last summer to £15,000.

Junior ISA and CTF raised to £4,080 p.a.

Non-Domicile Basis of Taxation – Charges to Increase

Non-Doms not Dum-dums

Non-Doms not Dum-dums

Non-doms (a phrase which always makes me think of the Easter Island talking head in “Night at the Museum”) who choose to use the remittance basis and have been resident for at least 7 of the past 9 years, currently pay a charge of £30,000, rising to £50,000 once resident for 12 out of 14 years. This latter amount will increase to £60,000 (from £50,000) in 2014/15, and a new charge of £90,000 will be brought in for those who’ve been resident 17 of the last 20 years in the UK.

The Government will also consult on making the choice to pay the remittance basis charge stick for a minimum of 3 years, so that non-doms are not easily able to swap the basis on which they’re taxed from one year to another.

Non-doms might consider using offshore bonds to help mitigate their taxation, since offshore bonds are not taxed until a chargeable gain arises, and hence controlling chargeable gains can control the tax.

Stamp Duty – changes to rates 

Stamp duty will now cost less to the average house buyer. The Chancellor has introduced (with immediate effect) a banded system whereby you pay across all relevant bands, not just the highest applicable to your property. They are revised as follows:

Purchase price of property (£)
New rates paid on the part of the property price within each tax band
Tax Within the band
0 – 125,000
125,001 – 250,000
250,001 – 925,000
925,001 – 1,500,000
1,500,001 and over
£ ++++

The magic value is £937,500. Below that there is less duty to pay than previously, and above that there is more.

Interaction of Flexible Pensions and Means testing of Govt. Pension Credit

The treatment of existing pensions, both crystallised and uncrystallised, is now slightly more favourable when means-testing state benefits. The notional income factor to be applied to such benefits is now based on 100% of an equivalent annuity rather than 150%, the previously factor. However, if the income actually being drawn is greater than this, it will be the higher figure that is taken into account.

The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – the Sexy bits

OK so there wasn’t anything that really made the eyes roll this time around, but there were some pleasant confirmations and a relaxation on ISA inheritance: (see also separate blog “The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement – the Taxy bits” for the more routine stuff)…

smug pension kid

Daddy has a really nice pension!

Flexible Pensions and Death Benefits confirmed.

These changes will  have an increasing influence on the direction of estate planning, as their repercussions become more widely accepted.

On death before age 75, any death benefit will be paid tax free provided it is within the Lifetime Allowance (LTA). Thus there is no longer a distinction between “crystallised” and uncrystallised” pots for pre-75 death benefits.

On death at 75 and later, the remaining fund forms death benefits which are taxable on the recipient at his / her income tax rate, when they draw the funds.

Any individual beneficiary of a flexible pension can choose to keep their inherited pension pot in the drawdown wrapper and decide when (or if) they draw down on it. Inheritable Pensions! This IMHO puts pensions at the forefront of inheritance planning going forward.

Inheritability of ISAs

Previously, upon death of a married account holder, their  ISA money would no longer carry ISA status in the hands of the inheriting spouse / civil partner. It now does, so the surviving spouse has the benefit of continuance of that tax-free savings wrapper . This only applies to spouses (spice?) or civil partners however, other beneficiaries will receive the money without ISA status.

Whilst inheriting ISA funds from your spouse is free of inheritance tax (because of the spouse exemption) it is still going to be taxable as part of the estate on second death. So there can be instances where individuals (who are near to or already over age 55) can find it to their advantage to use a personal pension contract to receive their ISA funds:

  • You need earnings to qualify for tax relief on the contributions (although you can contribute a small sum without earnings – £2,880 p.a. net).
  • you can still withdraw the funds from the pension (if 55 or above)
  • you (usually) end up with more cash net of tax
  • the death benefits are the whole fund is payable tax free on death pre-75
  • the death benefits can be directed into a discretionary trust if you prefer (spouse bypass trust)

Single Lifetime IHT Settlement nil rate band

This idea has been dropped (sigh of relief there). The idea of just a single IHT nil rate band for lifetime settlements, i.e. allowing only £325,000 to be gifted in one’s lifetime and allocated across all relevant property trusts they created, has been axed. For the time being at least, the £325k rate will re-set every seven years as before. However there is still likely to be a simplification of periodic and exit IHT tax charges on trusts, to stop people taking advantage of the rule in “Rysaffe” where multiple trusts reduce the overall tax bill.

Changes to intestacy Rules: Inheritance tax and trustees’ powers act 2014

In May the Inheritance and Trustees’ Powers Act 2014 received Royal Assent. The Act contains important revisions to the intestacy rules in England and Wales, and took effect on 1st October 2014. (Statutory instrument SI 2014 No 2039)

The most significant changes cover two common situations where someone dies without a valid will.

1) Leaves a surviving spouse/civil partner but no issue (children, grandchildren, etc)
OLD RULES: Under the current rules the spouse/civil partner is entitled to:

• personal chattels (car, jewellery, etc);
• £450,000 outright; and
• A life interest (a right to income only) in half the residue.

The other half of the residue passes to parents, failing them brothers and sisters and, failing them, their issue. They will also receive the capital from the life interest when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies.

NEW RULES: The new rules will instead pass absolutely everything to the surviving spouse/civil partner.

2. Leaves a surviving spouse/civil partner and issue
OLD RULES: Under the current rules the spouse/civil partner is entitled to:

• personal chattels (car, jewellery, etc);
• £250,000 outright; and
• A life interest in half the residue.

The other half of the residue passes to the child/children (under trust if under 18), with the remaining value of life interest half being paid on the surviving spouse or civil partner’s death.

NEW RULES:The new rules will give the surviving spouse/civil partner half of the residue outright, rather than wrapped in a trust. The children thus lose their reversionary interest.

These new rules will only apply in England and Wales; Northern Ireland and Scotland have their own intestacy rules, although history suggests Northern Ireland will soon copy the English reforms.

However, as we all know, there is no excuse for not having a properly drafted and up-to-date will.

Wills - we all need 'em

We all need one. Without a valid will, your estate probably won’t be distributed in anything like the manner you would wish, and its omission may well cost your estate more in taxes.