ISAs 20 years on

ISAs – 20 years on

S pensionpigource and Credits – Standard Life Technical

This is the year ISAs turned 20 and statistics suggest it has become a huge hit with savers. The value of adult ISAs stand at over £600 billion, shared between around 22 million account holders.

They have also proved popular with successive Chancellors as a means of encouraging the saving habit with the annual subscription limit having almost trebled since launch.

Their relative simplicity has undoubtedly played a key part in this success, but they’re more than just a tax free piggy bank.

ISAs have evolved over the last 20 years to play an important role in shaping and influencing how clients organise their wealth to achieve their life goals.

Instant Access

One of the main attractions of an ISA is that savings can be accessed at any time, whether invested in cash or stocks and shares. This removes any emotional barrier to not being able to access your own money when you want to and that makes them ideal for building up a ‘rainy day’ fund, or targeting for a specific event at a future date.

The introduction of schemes such as Help to Buy and Lifetime ISA (LISA) have added a little more complexity but with some added incentives for first time house buyers provided they meet certain conditions. The LISA also provides the same incentives for retirement provided clients don’t access the money before age 60.

More recent innovations include:

  • ‘Flexible’ ISAs – ISAs where the provider will allow funds to be withdrawn and replaced within the same tax year without affecting the annual subscription limit. This can be particularly useful for those who need money in an emergency. But before withdrawing funds always check that the ISA manager offers this flexibility. Not all providers offer it and once withdrawn it cannot be repaid to a different ISA.
  • Additional permitted subscriptions (APS) – widowed clients can now claim a one-off subscription limit equal to the value of their deceased partners ISA at date of death. This can be significant in protecting assets from income and gains. ISA savers in the 65 and over group account for the highest average savings value of over £42k, and it’s not uncommon to hear of accounts in excess of £100k. For deaths after 5 April 2018 the value will not only cover the value at date of death, but in most cases the income and capital gains made during the administration period of the estate.

Tax benefits

The ‘tax free’ status of ISA investments is the main draw. There’s no tax on income or gains during roll-up or at the point of withdrawal. This can boost savings, but will also reduce tax administration as self-assessment is not required.

The tax free treatment of income and gains can free up allowances and lower rate tax bands for other assets outside the ISA, such as buy to lets, dividends from owner managed businesses and other investments.

In addition, the income generated from ISAs doesn’t count towards any of the income definitions that determine the personal allowance, pensions tapered annual allowance or child benefit tax charge.

ISAs may also help clients who wish to take gains out of a portfolio within their annual capital gains tax allowance. If they want to buy back the same shares or OEICs, they would normally have to wait 30 days because of the ‘share matching rules’. But such shares can be bought back through an ISA immediately, so that clients are not out of the market for a month. This transaction is sometimes referred to as ‘bed and ISA’.

IHT and retirement planning

ISAs can dovetail neatly with other forms of tax and retirement planning to create a better outcome for clients.

As a client gets older and their need for an ’emergency’ fund diminishes, they may be looking to retirement needs and leaving a tax efficient legacy for their family.

If they’re close to, or at retirement it may make sense to consider maximising pension funding from their ISA savings if they don’t have other resources. There are several reasons for this:

  • Pensions offer the most attractive tax incentives for most people. Tax relief at highest marginal rates on the way in, and the availability of 25% tax free cash on the way out will prove a better deal than ISA for most people seeking a retirement income, even if they pay the same rate of tax in retirement as when they were working.
  • Pensions can be accessed at any time after age 55.
  • Pensions are protected from inheritance tax. ISAs will normally form part of the holder’s taxable estate and potentially liable to IHT at 40%. There could, of course, be a tax charge on pensions when a beneficiary draws money from an inherited pension pot, but only if the member died after the age of 75. Even then the tax charge will be at the beneficiary’s own tax rate which may be less than 40% and delayed until it is actually taken. But there may be an opportunity to manage affairs to ensure it’s taken in a year when other income is low.

The pension option will, of course, depend on clients having enough pensionable earnings and annual allowance, and an eye must also be kept on where funds stand in relation to the pension lifetime allowance.

Funding a pension using ISA funds won’t always be possible, either because a client has no pensionable earnings or has perhaps triggered the £4k money purchase annual allowance. But ISA funds may still have a part to play in effective retirement planning. Retirement income needs could be better served from the ISA rather than pension, again for IHT reasons – better to use a pot that is subject to IHT than one that isn’t.

Clients can, however, engage in IHT planning with their ISA even if they don’t wish to, or are not able to recycle into pensions:

  • Any income produced in the ISA and taken by the client can be included in valuing income in relation to the ‘normal expenditure out of income’ exemption. If this income adds to, or creates ‘surplus’ income, it can be given away and will be immediately outside the client’s estate.
  • Those able to take on greater risk could turn to an ISA that facilitates investment in shares on the alternative share market (AIM shares). Once held for two years, and provided the shares remain qualifying, they won’t get caught in the IHT net.

Investment planning

A client’s plans on how they intend to use their ISA savings will of course influence how it’s invested. If ready cash is needed, or funds are earmarked for a specific date (particularly if that date is short term), they’re not likely to take on much risk. Funds may therefore sit in deposit or fixed interest funds.

But if a client has both ISA savings and non-ISA savings, given the historically low interest rates and the availability of the personal savings allowance (PSA), it may be advantageous to keep their ISA invested predominantly in stocks and shares with their ready cash held outside their ISA. This is because stocks and shares are more likely to provide a higher return than interest, and so the ISA wrapper will give greater protection from tax, particularly if there would be no tax on interest anyway. And stocks and shares can now easily be moved into cash within an ISA if a client’s attitude to risk changes.

Similarly, if a client wishes to use their ISA to hold stocks and shares but there are bear market conditions at the time they wish to make their subscription, they could always make pay into a cash ISA. This means their subscription is not wasted, and will be ready to move into stocks and shares when market conditions are more favourable.

And of course, why wait until the tax year end to take advantage of the annual subscription. Probably down to human nature, but many will leave it until the tax year end before paying in and will have missed out on nearly a whole year of tax free income and growth.

Summary

ISAs have evolved over the last 20 years into a flexible savings plan that’s central to the holistic financial planning for a client. Much more than just a rainy day savings plan.

Source and Credits – Standard Life Technical -30 April 2019

As Independent Financial Advisers we can help and advise you on the tips listed above. Just give us a call on 0345 013 6525 to discuss.

Tax Year End Tips 2019

Tax year end planning 2019 – top 10 checklist

Source: Standard Life Technical:

Plan your tax allowances and reliefs for tax year end 2019 now

With tax year end just around the corner, it’s time to check your clients are making the most of their tax reliefs and allowances to save for a brighter future. There’s a lot to think about.

We’ve created a checklist of our top 10 TYE planning opportunities to explore with your clients and their families, together with the key information you need to make these a reality. 

1. Pension saving: maximise tax relief

  • Additional and higher rate taxpayers may wish to contribute an amount to maximise tax relief at 40%, 45% or even 60% (where personal allowance is reinstated) while they have the opportunity.
  • Those with sufficient earnings can use carry forward to make contributions in excess of the current annual allowance. Remember this is the last chance to benefit from the potential double annual allowance for 2015/16 before it drops off the carry forward radar: it’s a case of “use it don’t lose it” before tax year end.
  • And it’s not just about individuals! For couples, consider maximising tax relief at higher rates for both, before paying contributions that will only secure basic rate relief. Many clients won’t know they can top-up pensions for their partners – and not just by £3,600, but up to their partner’s earnings. And their partner can get tax relief on top.

Key information

  • Total taxable income.
  • Relevant UK Earnings – e.g. earnings from employment or trade only.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years (especially 2015/16).

2. High earners: making a pension contribution before the TYE could  increase their annual allowance

  • Some high income clients will face a cut in the amount of tax-efficient pension saving this tax year. The standard £40,000 AA is reduced by £1 for every £2 of ‘income’ clients have over £150,000 in a tax year, until their allowance drops to £10,000.
  • But it’s possible that some of these clients may be able to reinstate their full £40,000 allowance by making use of carry forward. The tapering of the annual allowance won’t normally apply if income less personal contributions is £110,000 or less. A large personal contribution using unused allowance from the previous 3 tax years can bring income below £110,000 and restore the full £40,000 allowance for 2018/19. And some of it may attract 60% tax relief too.
  • Remember that when working out how much carry forward is available, high earners may also have had a reduced annual allowance from 2016/17 or 2017/18.

Key information

  • Adjusted Income for this year (broadly total income plus employer contributions).
  • Threshold Income for this year (broadly total income less individual contributions).
  • Any unused annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years. 

3. Clients approaching retirement: boost pension saving now before triggering the MPAA

Anyone looking to take advantage of income flexibility for the first time may want to consider boosting their pension pot before April, potentially sweeping up the full £40,000 AA from this year, plus any unused allowance carried forward from the last three years.

Triggering the Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) will mean the opportunity to continue funding into DC pensions will be restricted to just £4,000 a year – with no carry forward.

So it might be worth considering other ways of meeting income needs that don’t restrict future pension saving. Could other non-pension savings be used? And remember, clients who need money from their pension can avoid the MPAA and retain the full £40,000 allowance if they only take their tax free cash.

Key information

  • ‘Income’ required.
  • Non-pensions savings that could support ‘income’ required.

4. Employees: sacrifice bonus for an employer pension contribution

We’re approaching ‘bonus season’ for many companies. ‘Exchanging’ a bonus for an employer pension contribution before the tax year end can bring several benefits.

The employer and employee NI savings made could be used to boost pension funding, giving more in the pension pot for every £1 lost from take-home pay.

Key information

  • Size of bonus.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years.
  • Does employer allow bonus sacrifice?
  • Employer willingness to share NI savings.

5. Business owners: take profits as pension contributions

  • For many directors, taking significant profits as pension contributions could be the most efficient way of paying themselves and cutting their overall tax bill.
  • Of course, if the director is over 55 they now have full unrestricted access to their pension savings (although this might come at the price of a lower annual allowance going forward – see 3 above).
  • There’s no NI payable on either dividends or pension contributions. Dividends are paid from profits after corporation tax and will also be taxable in the director’s hands. By making an employer pension contribution, tax and NI savings can boost a director’s pension fund.
  • Employer contributions made in the current financial year will get relief at 19%, but the rate is set to drop to 17% in 2020. So those business owners who cannot fund a pension every year may wish to pay sooner rather than later, if they have the profits and the cash available.

Key information

  • Company accounting period.
  • Company pre-tax profit.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years. 

6. Use ISA allowances

ISAs offer savers valuable protection from income tax and CGT and, for those who hold all their savings in this wrapper, it’s possible to avoid the chore of completing self-assessment returns.

The ISA allowance is given on a use it or lose it basis, and the period leading to the tax year end, often referred to as ‘ISA season’, is the last chance to top up. Savings delayed until after 6 April 2019 will count against next year’s allowance.

Key information

  • Remaining annual ISA allowance.

7. Recover personal allowances and child benefit

  • Pension contributions reduce an individual’s taxable income. In turn, this can have a positive effect on both the personal allowance and child benefit for higher earners resulting in a lower tax bill.
  • An individual pension contribution that that reduces income to below £100,000 will restore your client’s full tax free personal allowance. The effective rate of tax relief on the contribution could be as much as 60%.
  • Child Benefit is clawed back by a tax charge if the highest earning individual in the household has income of more than £50,000, and is cancelled altogether once their income exceeds £60,000. A pension contribution will reduce income and reverse the tax charge, wiping it out altogether once income falls below £50,000.

Key information

  • Adjusted net income (broadly total income less individual pension contributions).
  • Relevant UK earnings. 
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years.

8. Investments: take profits using CGT annual allowances

  • Clients looking to supplement their income tax-efficiently could withdraw funds from an investment portfolio and keep the gains within their annual exemption.
  • Even if cash isn’t needed, taking profits within the £11,700 CGT allowance and re-investing the proceeds means there will be less tax to pay when clients ultimately need to access these funds to meet spending plans.
  • Proceeds cannot be re-invested in the same mutual funds for at least 30 days, otherwise the expected ‘gain’ will not materialise. But they could be re-invested in a similar fund or through their pension or ISA. Alternatively the proceeds could be immediately re-invested in the same investments, but in the name of the client’s partner.
  • If there is tax to pay on gains at the higher 20% rate, a pension contribution could be enough to reduce this rate to the basic rate of 10%.

Key information

  • Sale proceeds and cost pool for mutual funds/shares.
  • Gains/losses on other assets sold  – e.g. second homes.
  • Losses carried forward from previous years.

9. Bonds: cash in bonds to use up PA/starting rate band/PSA and basic rate band

  • If your client has any unused allowances that can be used against savings income, such as personal allowance, starting rate band or the personal savings allowance, now could be an ideal opportunity to cash in offshore bonds, as gains can be offset against all of these.
  • If not needed, proceeds can be re-invested into another investment, effectively re-basing the ‘cost’ and reducing future taxable gains.
  • For those that have no other income at all in a tax year, gains of up to £17,850 can be taken tax free.
  • If your client does not have any of these allowances available, but their partner (or even an adult child) does, then bonds or bond segments can be assigned to them so that they can benefit from tax free gains. Remember, the assignment of a bond in this way is not a taxable event.

Key information

  • Details of all non-savings and savings income.
  • Investment gains on each policy segment.

10. No bonus? No problem: recycle savings into a more efficient tax wrapper

  • As mentioned in 8 and 9 above, using tax allowances is a great way to harvest profits tax free. By re-investing this ‘tax free’ growth, there will be less tax to pay on final encashment than might otherwise have been the case. That is to say, when your clients actually need to spend their savings, tax will be less of burden.
  • But there may be a better option to re-investing these interim capital withdrawals in the same tax wrapper. For example, they could be used to fund their pension where further tax relief can be claimed, investments can continue to grow tax free and funds can be protected from IHT.
  • Similarly, capital taken could be used as part of this year’s ISA subscription. Although ISAs don’t attract the tax relief or IHT advantage a pension does, fund growth will still be protected from tax.
  • Which leads nicely on to one final consideration; for clients over (or approaching) 55 – should ISA savings be recycled into their pension to benefit from tax relief and IHT protection?

Key information

  • Unused personal allowances for extracting investment profits.
  • Remaining annual ISA allowance.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years and relevant UK earnings.

Summary

Effective tax planning is a year round job. It’s only at the end of the tax year that you have all the pieces to complete the planning jigsaw, but there are steps you can take now to get ahead of the game and give yourself time to put plans in place. And with less than 8 weeks until 6 April, there’s no time like the present to get started.

Source and Credits – Standard Life Technical

As Independent Financial Advisers we can help and advise you on the tips listed above. Just give us a call on 0345 013 6525 to discuss.

Does it make sense to gift surplus pension income?

Pension freedom changed the dynamics of estate planning, with many individuals now gifting or spending assets which are part of the estate before touching their pension pot which remains IHT free. So does it make sense to gift surplus pension income? Gifting surplus pension income using the ‘normal expenditure out of income’ IHT exemption might seem a pointless exercise. After all, why give away something which isn’t in your estate in the first place?

But if pension withdrawals can be taken tax free (or at least at a lower tax rate than the beneficiary may pay on any inherited pension) there may still be a strong motivation to do so as part of an effective estate planning strategy.

There is no statutory limit on what can be given away and successful claims on regular gifts are immediately outside the estate. Combined with the flexibility offered by pension freedom, this can be remarkably efficient.

Estate planning with pension income

Many clients don’t start thinking about estate planning until after they have ceased working. The first priority must, of course, be ensuring their own income security in old age. But once this is done, should thoughts turn to gifting? Even with a fall in income in retirement, some clients may still have more coming in than they need.

Fixed incomes

Income from annuities or DB pensions can’t be adjusted, so any excess may end up simply being accumulated in the estate and could be subject to IHT on death. Even if it’s subsequently given away as a lump sum it would take seven years to be outside the estate.

However, if that surplus income is given away on a regular basis and the exemption claimed it is immediately outside the estate and offers an opportunity to pass on pension wealth tax efficiently.

This is perhaps an easier decision to make for these clients as the question is simply about what to do with their surplus income, and not whether to take more income from a flexible pension, unless they also have one of these.

Flexible incomes

Those in drawdown have greater freedom to pass on their accumulated pension savings. Any unused funds on death are available as either a lump sum or as inherited drawdown.

The remaining pension funds are typically free of IHT, so there’s unlikely to be an IHT advantage in taking more drawdown income than is needed. But there could be other motivations for doing so.

On a practical level, beneficiaries may need the money now rather than after the client has died. Or the client may simply wish to see their loved ones enjoy the money.

There could also be an income tax benefit. If the client dies after 75, any undrawn tax free cash entitlement will be lost. So what could have been taken tax free before their death would become taxable in the beneficiary’s hands.

However, if surplus income can be generated by making withdrawals which are tax free (or at a lower tax rate than the beneficiary is likely to pay) then there may be good reason to do so.

This takes us to a critical question.
What counts as  ‘income’ from a flexible pension? Flexi-access drawdown, (where there are no limits on what can be taken and withdrawals can be taken as combination of tax free cash and taxable income), gives significant scope to take withdrawals tax efficiently.

When it comes to gifting those withdrawals, the IHT rules also help here. The ‘normal expenditure out of income’ exemption doesn’t use the income definition used for income tax purposes. As income is not defined in the IHT Act, it follows normal accountancy practice to determine what is income.

HMRC have confirmed to us that regular withdrawals from flexible pensions, irrespective of the levels withdrawn and whether taken as tax free cash or taxable income, always count as income for the purpose of the IHT exemption. This creates an opportunity for at least 25% of the pension fund to be taken and gifted both income tax and IHT free.

Other conditions

But it is important to remember that the gifts still have to satisfy two additional conditions.

Firstly, the gifts have to be part of normal expenditure. Taking the full 25% tax free cash entitlement and giving it away is a one-off gift. The exemption clearly will not apply and the gift will be a potentially exempt transfer. There has to be an established pattern of gifting. Spreading the gifting of tax free cash over a number of years using a phasing strategy, so that all the tax free cash is taken by the client’s 75th birthday, is a better option.

The second condition is that the gifts should leave the client with sufficient income to maintain their usual standard of living. Any pension withdrawals needed to maintain this standard will not be ‘surplus’. Similarly, the amount of the gift which qualifies for the exemption may be limited if the client has to draw on other capital assets, such ISAs, bonds or OEICs, to supplement their lifestyle.

There is an obvious estate planning advantage to making gifts of assets which form part of the estate before giving away pension funds which do not. So capital gifting may take precedence over income gifts unless other savings have already been exhausted.

Record keeping

Last but not least, it is good practice for anyone who intends using the exemption to keep not only details of the gifts made but also their income and expenditure. This can be captured on the IHT403 form. Ultimately it will be down to the executors to make the claim. And it can be extremely difficult to collate this information post death.

Source: Standard Life technical consulting –
Information correct at 11/12/18

Income Tax Traps – there’s still time to avoid them

I’ve been busy lately helping clients with strategies to save income tax where they e.g. earn over £100,000, or they are (or might be) subject to the tapered annual allowance for annual pension contributions (causing tax penalties next year). Or they simply wish to look at carry forward for pension contributions but aren’t sure how to proceed. These areas are interlinked. UK income tax monopoly

In the first case, you should be aware that as soon as your income exceeds £100,000, you begin to lose your personal allowance by £1 for every £2 your income exceeds it. This causes an effective income tax rate of 60% for earnings caught between £100,000 and £123,000!

In the second case, those people whose total gross income plus employer pension contributions exceeds £150,000 (“adjusted income”) are likely to have see their combined employer/employee pension contribution restricted – the tapered contributions allowance, with consequent tax penalties. This is a tricky area and many people were not ready for it last year!

But there are some simple ways of mitigating or even eliminating the tax charges which arise, using personal contributions into pension, often via unused pension allowances from the previous three tax years.

I have covered these areas in past blogs, and the links are:

You might also look at the current blog on tax year end opportunities which also sets these out and links to the older blog.

 

Her’es an example of tax savings that can be made:

In 2017-18, Phil earns a salary of £95,000 excluding bonus, and has taxable P11d benefits of £2,000. His employer pays pension contributions of £18,000 and Phil contributes £18,000 (gross) under the net pay method. He had no bonus last year but this year has a bonus about to be paid of £50,000.

Before taking steps:

  • Phil’s taxable income is £129,000. He will lose all of his personal allowance, and inter alia will effectively pay income tax at 60% on the band of earnings between £100,000 and £123,000.
  • Phil’s “threshold income” for pension annual allowance purposes is £129,000. He therefore exceeds the £110,000 threshold, and the tapered annual allowance will apply.
  • Phil’s “adjusted income” for pension annual allowance purposes is £165,000, which means he stands to lose £7,500 of his annual pension contributions allowance, reducing it to £32,500 (i.e. below the contributions already made!).

Solution:

Phil makes a personal lump sum contribution of £23,200. This is grossed up by tax relief at source of £5,800, so £29,000 is paid into his pension.

  • It reduces Phil’s taxable income to £100,000, saving £16,200 in tax (an effective rate of 55.9%!).
  • The lump sum pension contribution also reduces his threshold income below the threshold for tapered annual allowance (£110,000), so his annual pensions contributions allowance is not reduced and the full £40,000 allowance applies in 2017-18.
  • His total pension contributions exceed £40,000 (£18,000 + £18,000 + £29,000 = £65,000), but Phil is allowed to utilise carry forward allowance (unused annual allowance contributions) from 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 in order to cover the excess £25,000 contributed.

I agree that the foregoing isn’t the easiest to follow, so why not get advice? If you think you are affected and want to know what steps are available to you to avoid paying any more tax than you have to, I will be happy (subject to availability) to talk you through this area of tax planning free of charge by telephone. Just give me a call on 0345 013 6525 and if I can’t deal with it there and then we’ll schedule a time.

Best wishes

Tony Devine

 

Tax Year End Checklist – Our Top 10 Tax Year End Opportunities

The tax year end is a good time to take stock and look at your tax position before the tax year closes. There are opportunities available to many, and in some cases significant tax savings can be achieved.

Checklist of our top 10 tax year end opportunities

your checklist for tax year end

(Source: Standard Life Technical 2018 – slightly edited)

2017/18 has been a relatively steady year for tax and pension planning. There were no surprises in the Budget, meaning you can continue to benefit from the existing range of tax reliefs and allowances to help save for the future.

This is good news and makes this tax year end very much business as usual. It’s simply a case of reviewing the year to date and identifying where there is still scope to save by maximising unused reliefs and allowances, or even how scope can be created.

The core elements of tax year end planning remain the same:

  • Make full use of available tax advantaged savings, such as pensions and ISAs
  • Ensure tax allowances are fully utilised and opportunities to extract savings tax efficiently aren’t wasted
  • For families, don’t ignore the respective tax rates and unused allowances of both partners.

We’ve created a checklist of our top 10 tax year end opportunities to explore with your clients, together with the key information required to make these a reality.

1. Pension saving at highest rate of relief

  • Successive Chancellors have decided against cutting the rate of tax relief on pension savings for individuals. But with the spotlight constantly falling on pension saving incentives at each Budget, relief at the highest rates may not be around forever.
  • Additional and higher rate taxpayers may wish to contribute an amount to maximise tax relief at 45%, 40% or even 60% (where personal allowance is reinstated) while they have the opportunity. Carry forward can allow contributions in excess of the current annual allowance. For couples, consider maximising tax relief at higher rates for both, before paying in an amount that will only secure basic rate relief.
Key information
  • Total taxable income to current tax year end.
  • Relevant UK Earnings e.g. earnings from employment or trade only.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years.


2. Keep the pensions annual allowance for high earners

  • Some high income individuals will face a cut in the amount of tax-efficient pension saving they can enjoy this tax year. The standard £40,000 AA will be reduced by £1 for every £2 of ‘income’ clients have over £150,000 in a tax year, until their allowance drops to £10,000.
  • But it’s possible that some people may be able to reinstate their full £40,000 allowance by making use of carry forward. The tapering of the annual allowance won’t normally apply if income less personal contributions is £110,000 or less. A large personal contribution using unused allowance from the previous 3 tax years can bring income below £110,000 and restore the full £40,000 allowance for 2017/18 provided it is made before tax year end. And some of it may attract 60% tax relief too.
  • Remember that high earners may also have a reduced annual allowance from 2016/17.
  • For further detail see Higher Earners are you affected by the new tapered (restricted) tax relief on pension contributions? Read on for Possible Solutions
Key information
  • Adjusted Income for this year and last (broadly total income plus employer contributions).
  • Threshold Income for this year and last (broadly total income less individual contributions).
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years.


3. Boost SIPP funds now before accessing flexibility

  • Anyone looking to take advantage of income flexibility for the first time may want to consider boosting their fund before April 5th tax year end, potentially sweeping up the full £40,000 from this year plus any unused allowance carried forward from the last three years.
  • The Money Purchase Annual Allowance (MPAA) will mean the opportunity to continue funding will be restricted. The MPAA is now £4,000 a year since April 2017. If a client is subject to the MPAA, they cannot use carry forward.
  • Clients requiring money from their pension can avoid the MPAA and retain the full £40,000 allowance if they only take their tax free cash.
Key information


4. Sacrifice bonus for an employer pension contribution

  • March and April is typically the time of year when many companies pay annual bonuses. Sacrificing a bonus for an employer pension contribution before the tax year end can bring several positive outcomes.
  • The employer and employee NI savings made could be used to boost pension funding, giving more in the pension pot for every £1 lost from take-home pay.
Key information
  • Size of bonus (if yet to be paid and before tax year end).
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years.
  • Employer willingness to pay in NI savings.
  • Provisions for changing contract of employment.


5. Dividend changes and business owners

  • Many directors of small and medium sized companies may be facing an increased tax bill following changes to the taxation of dividends. This could be amplified next year when the tax free dividend allowance drops from £5,000 to just £2,000. A pension contribution could be the best way of paying themselves and cutting their overall tax bill. (further details at MPAA and Dividend Allowances cuts delayed as Finance Bill trimmed )
  • And, of course, if the director is over 55 they now have full unrestricted access to their pension savings.
  • There’s no NI payable on either dividends or pension contributions. Dividends are paid from profits after corporation tax and will also be taxable in the director’s hands. By making an employer pension contribution, tax and NI savings can boost a director’s pension fund.
  • Employer contributions made in the current financial year will get relief at 19% (this is also the planned rate for the next 2 years) but the rate is set to drop to 17% in 2020. So those business owners who cannot fund a pension every year, may wish to pay sooner than later if they have the profits and the cash available.
Key information


6. Maximise ISA subscription limits

  • ISAs offer savers valuable protection from income tax and CGT, and for those who hold all their savings in this wrapper, it’s possible to avoid the chore of completing self-assessment returns.
  • The allowance is given on a use it or lose it basis, and the period leading to the tax year end, often referred to as ‘ISA season’, is the last chance to top up. Savings delayed until after 6 April 2018 will count against next year’s allowance.

Key information 

  • Remaining annual  ISA allowance.


7. Recover personal allowances and child benefit

  • Pension contributions reduce an individual’s taxable income. In turn, this can have a positive effect on both the personal allowance and child benefit for higher earners resulting in a lower tax bill.
  • An individual pension contribution that that reduces income to below £100,000 will mean the tax payer will be entitled to the full tax free personal allowance. The effective rate of tax relief on the contribution could be as much as 60%.
  • Child Benefit is eroded by a tax charge if the highest earning individual in the household has income of more than £50,000, and is cancelled altogether once their income exceeds £60,000. A pension contribution will reduce income and reverse the tax charge, wiping it out altogether once income falls below £50,000.
Key information
  • Adjusted net income (broadly total income less individual pension contributions).
  • Relevant UK earnings.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years.


8. Take investment profit using CGT annual allowance

  • Clients looking to supplement their income tax efficiently could withdraw funds from an investment portfolio and keep the gains within their annual exemption.
  • Even if an income isn’t needed, taking profits annually within the CGT allowance and re-investing the proceeds means that there will be less tax to pay when clients ultimately need to access these funds for their actual spending needs.
  • Proceeds cannot be re-invested in the same mutual funds for at least 30 days otherwise the expected ‘gain’ will not materialise. But they could be re-invested in a similar fund or through their pension or ISA . Alternatively the proceeds could be immediately re-invested in the same investments but in the name of the client’s partner.
  • If there is tax to pay on gains at the higher 20% rate, a pension contribution could be enough to reduce this rate to the basic rate of 10%.
Key information
  • Sale proceeds and cost pool for mutual funds/shares.
  • Income re-invested into mutual funds (for income and accumulation units/shares).
  • Details of any share re-organisations.
  • Gains/losses on other assets sold e.g. second homes.
  • Losses carried forward from previous years.


9. Cash in bonds to use up PA/starting rate band/ PSA and basic rate band

  • If your client has any unused allowances that can be used against savings income, such as Personal Allowance, Starting Rate Band or the Personal Savings Allowance, now could be an ideal opportunity to cash in offshore bonds, as gains can be offset against all of these.
  • For those that have no other income at all in a tax year, gains of up to £17,500 can be taken tax free.
  • If not needed, proceeds can be re-invested into another investment, effectively re-basing the ‘cost’ and reducing future taxable gains.
  • If your client does not have any of these allowances available but their partner (or even an adult child) does, then bonds or bond segments can be assigned to them so that they can benefit from tax free gains. Remember, the assignment of a bond in this way is not a taxable event.
Key information
  • Details of all non-savings and savings income.
  • Investment gains on each policy segment.


10. Recycle savings into a more efficient tax wrapper

  • As mentioned in 8 and 9 above, allowances are a great way to harvest profits tax free. By re-investing this ‘tax free’ growth, there will be less tax to pay on final encashment than might otherwise have been the case. That is to say when your client’s actually need to spend their savings, tax will be less of burden.
  • But there may be a better option to re-investing these interim capital withdrawals in the same tax wrapper. For example, they could be used to fund their pension where further tax relief can be claimed, investments can continue to grow tax free and funds can be protected from IHT.
  • Similarly, capital taken could be used as part of this year’s ISA subscription. Although there’s no tax relief or IHT advantage as with a pension, fund growth will still be protected from tax.
  • Which leads nicely on to one final consideration; should ISA savings be recycled in to a client’s pension in order to benefit from tax relief and IHT protection?
Key information
  • Unused personal allowances for extracting investment profits.
  • Remaining annual ISA allowance.
  • Pension annual allowance available from current year and previous 3 years and relevant UK earnings.


Summary

Only at the end of the tax year do you have all the pieces of the jigsaw. But there are some steps you can take now to get start gathering all the information needed, to be ahead of the game, and give yourself time to put plans in place. And remember, there are less than 5 weeks until the 5th of April.

 

(Source: Standard Life Technical 2018). I am again indebted to Standard Life technical – in this case their adviser facing article has been adjusted slightly to be more consumer-friendly.

Partial DB transfers – the best of both worlds?

Partial DB transfers could be the perfect solution for those caught between needing income security and income flexibility.

Not only could partial DB transfers offer the best of both worlds to clients, it could also be advantageous to employers and trustees too. Most people with a DB pension will be best advised to stick with it. A DB pension offers the peace of mind of a fixed income for life. It will be too much for most people to contemplate giving up, no matter what level of transfer value is on offer.

But what if the guaranteed income level needed to allow clients to sleep easily knowing that they’re financially secure can be met with only part of their accrued DB promise? Transferring the excess to provide income flexibility when required, or to be passed on efficiently to future generations, could generate a situation where everyone is a winner.

  • Member – win: For members who want some guaranteed income, but not as much as their full DB entitlement,  partial DB transfers may be the best fit for their needs. It can provide the guaranteed income they need, plus flexibility with the balance of their accumulated DB wealth.
  • Employer – win: Growing numbers of employers have realised that allowing partial transfers helps get DB liabilities off their balance sheet efficiently. If they stick with an ‘all or nothing’ stance, more liabilities will stay on their books.
  • Trustees – win: Every transfer paid normally improves their scheme’s actuarial funding position – leaving remaining members more secure. It’s rare for a transfer value to be higher than the actuarial ‘technical provisions’ they have to reserve for to back the DB promise.

Who might it be right for?
It may be clear cut whether or not partial DB transfers are appropriate for most clients. But there will be some who sit in the ‘grey area’, needing some guarantee but equally attracted to DC and the benefits that freedom and choice can offer. And it’s these clients who will benefit most from seeking a partial transfer. 

A guaranteed retirement income may provide peace of mind that the bills will be paid in old age. Giving up this guaranteed, inflation-proofed income for life could be a risk too far. Most simply can’t take on the downside risk of moving to DC and should stick with DB.

But for wealthier clients, worries about paying their bills or running out of money won’t be an issue. A DB income for life may simply mean surplus income and unnecessary tax. A transfer to a modern, flexible DC pension may be a better fit for their needs. The ability to take income and tax free cash from a SIPP at the levels they need, when they need it, may give a more tax efficient income and a larger legacy for loved ones.

The advice framework – and how partial transfers fit in
The FCA rules are clear. An adviser’s starting assumption should be that a DB transfer isn’t suitable. A transfer to DC should only be recommended if it’s clearly in the client’s best interests.

This doesn’t mean it’s safe to leave clients in DB where DC would suit them better. But it gives advisers a useful ‘no transfer’ default for cases in the grey area – and some leeway over where they draw the line.

However, where a partial DB transfer is an option, this changes the advice equation – and can remove any grey area. Although a full transfer may not be appropriate, a partial transfer might meet the client’s needs and aims better than sticking with the full DB pension.

Example – A client with a £40k yearly DB pension may only need a guaranteed income of £24k. A transfer value of £1M is on offer in lieu of the pension. But the client couldn’t sleep at night without their guaranteed £2k a month.

  • No transfer: Sticking with the full DB pension provides the guaranteed income the client needs. But it also gives an extra £16k a year unneeded income, an unnecessary income tax bill and, potentially, an IHT problem further down the line.
  • Full transfer: Transferring it all into flexible DC won’t guarantee the required £24k a year – risking a bad client outcome, regulatory sanction and lost sleep all round. And in current conditions, partial annuitisation under DC post-transfer to secure the £24k a year may not make economic sense.

What if a partial transfer was available?

  • Partial transfer: Leaving £24k a year guaranteed income in DB, and transferring the other 40% of the value (£400k) into a flexible DC plan, could give the best of both worlds. It covers the client’s guaranteed income needs efficiently and gives flexibility to draw extra funds when needed, manage tax or create a legacy with the balance. The ideal advice solution?


Will schemes offer partial transfers?
Many schemes don’t currently offer the option of a partial DB transfer. It simply wasn’t historically a feature of the DB landscape. But the numbers now offering partial transfers is on the rise.

The barriers holding some DB schemes back from introducing a partial transfer option are the perceived complexity and cost. Legal fees to amend the scheme documents, actuarial fees to develop a transfer basis and the costs of implementing the necessary administrative processes can all be off-putting.

But these are all achievable. If scheme trustees thought about it, they already provide partial transfers every time they receive a pension sharing order. It’s just about industrialising the process. And the payback for all concerned could be worth it.

Clients with DB and DC rights under the same scheme now have a statutory right to transfer their DC rights and leave the DB pension behind (or vice versa). An ‘all or nothing’ transfer ultimatum doesn’t always support the best member outcomes. It’s why the law was changed to allow DB and DC rights to be transferred independently. But there’s currently no statutory right to make a partial transfer of DB rights.

There are some potential legislative obstacles which may prevent a partial DB transfer. For example, the law doesn’t allow for a partial transfer of GMP rights. And scheme specific protection to both tax free cash entitlement and early retirement ages may be affected following a partial transfer. But there are normally ways to plan around these.

In summary
If this ‘best of both’ option is the best fit for your client’s needs, ask the question of the DB trustees – does their scheme offer partial transfers? And if not, ‘why not?’ By articulating the win/win result this option can produce, it might just trigger a light bulb moment for the employer/ trustees that opens up the most appropriate option for your client and creates the best advice solution for you.

retirement-options-guide-couple

Partial DB transfers – the best of both worlds?

 

Source: Standard Life technical consulting 10th May 2017

Pension contributions – How they can help business owners.

How pension contributions can help business owners

The dividend tax changes have strengthened the case for business owners taking more of their profits in the form of pension contributions. Many directors of small and medium sized companies face an increased tax bill this year as a result of how dividends are now taxed. And pension contributions could provide the best outcome by cutting their future tax bills.

Dividends have long been preferable to salary or bonus as a way for shareholding directors to extract profits. But that advantage has narrowed for many high earning directors. It reinforces the case for directors taking at least part of their benefits as a pension contribution where possible.

Dividend changes

Paying themselves dividends remains a better option than salary. But the gap has narrowed for high earning directors. A director receiving a dividend of £100,000 could be £6,300 worse off under the new rules.

Everyone now gets a £5,000 tax free dividend allowance. Dividends in excess of the allowance will be taxable at 7.5%, 32.5% or 38.1%. Previously, business owners only paid tax on dividends when they took income above the basic rate tax band. That’s because the notional 10% tax credit satisfied the liability for basic rate tax payers. But the changes mean that business owners could now be paying a higher rate of tax on a larger slice of their income.

Tax efficient extraction

Pension contributions remain the most tax efficient way of extracting profits from a business. An employer pension contribution means there’s no employer or employee NI liability – just like dividends. But it’s usually an allowable deduction for corporation tax – like salary.

And of course, under the new pension freedoms, those directors who are over 55 will be able to access it as easily as salary or dividend. With 25% of the pension fund available tax free, it can be very tax efficient – especially if the income from the balance can be taken within the basic rate (but remember, by doing so, the MPAA will be triggered, restricting future funding opportunities).

In reality, many business owners will pay themselves a small salary, typically around £8,000 a year – at this level, no employer or employee NI is due and credits will be earned towards the State pension. They will then take the rest of their annual income needs in the form of dividend, as this route is more tax efficient than taking more salary. But what about the profits they have earned in excess of their day to day living needs?

The table below compares the net benefit ultimately derived from £40,000 of gross profits to a higher rate taxpaying shareholding director this year.

  Bonus Dividend Pension income
taxed at 20% *
Pension income
taxed at 40% *
Gross profit  £40,000 £40,000 £40,000 £40,000
Pension contribution  £0 £0 £40,000 £40,000
Corporation tax at 20%  £0 £8,000 £0 £0
Dividend  £0 £32,000 £0 £0
Employer NI £4,850 £0 £0 £0
Gross bonus £35,150 £0 £0 £0
Director’s NI (£703) £0 £0 £0
Income tax (£14,060) (£10,400) ** (£6,000) (£12,000)
Net benefit to director £20,387 £21,600 ** £34,000 £28,000

* Assumes pension income is taxed after taking 25% tax free cash, and there is no Lifetime Allowance charge.
** Assumes full £5,000 annual dividend allowance has already been used against dividends received in the basic rate band.

Tapered Annual Allowance

Many high earning business owners could see their annual allowance (AA) tapered down to just £10,000. However, by reducing what they take in salary or dividends and paying themselves a larger pension contribution instead could mean they retain their full £40,000 AA.

For example – Amy, 55, runs her own business and pays herself dividends of £150,000 for the 2016/17 tax year. She has no other income. She makes employer contributions of £20,000 into her SIPP.

There are two tests which determine whether the AA is tapered:

  1. If adjusted income is more than £150,000 the AA is reduced by £1 for every £2 subject to a minimum allowance of £10,000
  2. But only if the threshold income is greater than £110,000.

Her ‘adjusted income‘ is £170,000 (income + employer pension contribution). As this is £20,000 above the £150,000 cap, it would normally cut her AA by £10,000 (to £30,000). This means any opportunity to increase her funding for this year, or in the future using carry forward from 2016/17, would be limited to a further £10,000.

However, if she cuts her dividends by just over £40,000 her ‘threshold income’ (total income without employer contributions) would be below £110,000, preserving her full £40,000 allowance.

She could pay the corresponding amount into her pension as an employer contribution using carry forward of unused AA from previous tax years.  This would not affect her AA for 2016/17 because only employer contributions as part of new salary sacrifice arrangement are used to determine threshold income. A shareholder director making an employer pension contribution rather paying salary or dividend is not salary sacrifice.

As Amy is over 55, she has unrestricted access to the funds in her SIPP. If she made use of the new income flexibilities she would trigger the money purchase annual allowance (MPAA) cutting her future funding to £4,000 a year from April 2017, with no opportunity to use carry forward. However, if she only touches her tax free cash and takes no income she would retain her full AA.

Why now?

There are some very strong reasons for maximising pension contributions now. Corporation tax rates are set to fall from 20% to 19% from the financial year starting April 2017, with a further planned cut to 17% from April 2020.

Companies may want to consider bringing forward pension funding plans to benefit from tax relief at the higher rate. Payments should be made before the end of the current business year, while rates are at their highest.

Business owners who take flexible drawdown  income to replace salary or dividends will see their future funding restricted by the MPAA. So they may need to pay now and mop up any unused allowance using carry forward. But remember that dipping into pension savings by only taking tax free cash maintains the full allowance for ongoing funding.

Source: Standard Life technical consulting – February 22 2017 

Annual Allowance for Pension Contributions: The Tapering rules

Tapering of annual allowance for high incomes

Source – Royal London – pensions technical, 2015.

 

This measure restricts pension tax relief by introducing a tapered reduction in the amount of the annual allowance for individuals with an adjusted income of over £150,000 and a threshold income over £110,000.

Key facts

  • The annual allowance will be reduced for individuals who have ‘adjusted income’ over £150,000 a year.
  • The reduction in the annual allowance is not a flat rate but reduces by £1 for every £2 over £150,000
  • The maximum reduction is £30,000
  • The reduction does not apply to individuals who have ‘threshold income’ of no more than £110,000.

 

Since 6 April 2016, individuals who have taxable income for a tax year of greater than £150,000 will have their annual allowance for that tax year restricted. It will be reduced, so that for every £2 of income they have over £150,000, their annual allowance is reduced by £1. Any resulting reduced annual allowance is rounded down to the nearest whole pound.

The maximum reduction will be £30,000, so anyone with income of £210,000 or more will have an annual allowance of £10,000. High income individuals caught by the restriction may therefore have to reduce the contributions paid by them and/or their employers or suffer an annual allowance charge.

However the tapered reduction doesn’t apply to anyone with ‘threshold income’ of no more than £110,000.

Clearly the definitions of the two incomes are crucial to understanding whether someone is affected by the tapered reduction or not.

Adjusted income v threshold income

Both include all taxable income. So this is not restricted to earnings – investment income of all types and benefits in kind such as medical insurance premiums paid by the employer will also be included.

The difference is pretty simple; adjusted income includes all pension contributions (including any employer contributions) while threshold income excludes pension contributions.

Unfortunately, HMRC’s definitions of adjusted and threshold income tend to cause a bit of confusion because they start with something called ‘net income’. A common sense meaning of this would be ‘income after tax’, but it’s not.

Net income in this context is all taxable income less various deductions. The most important (or at least the most common) of these deductions are member contributions paid to an occupational pension scheme, both money purchase and defined benefit, under the net pay arrangement. This is where the sponsoring employer of the pension scheme deducts employee contributions before deducting tax under PAYE.

The other deductions are things like trade losses, share loss relief and gifts to charities.  A full list of the deductions can be found at s.23 of the Income Tax Act 2007.

However it all becomes a bit easier if we consider taxable income from a more practical view point.

When someone says ‘I earn £x p.a.’, they don’t usually mean that that’s the amount after the deduction of net pay arrangement contributions. We can therefore assume that when someone has earnings of £160,000 and pays contributions of £20,000 under the net pay arrangement, they’ll state their earnings as £160,000, not £140,000. The £160,000 includes the pension contributions.

This is therefore a good place to start for calculating adjusted income (which includes pension contributions). For threshold income, all member pension contributions need to be deducted and you wouldn’t add in employer contributions.

Calculating adjusted income and threshold income

*for a DB scheme, this would be the pension input amount less any employee contributions.

Example

Phil is a company director and sole shareholder of his own company.  His taxable income is £100,000 and he decides to pay an employer contribution of £60,000 (using carry forward to avoid an annual allowance charge).

His adjusted income is therefore £160,000 which would on the face of it trigger a reduction of £5,000 in his annual allowance (half of the £10,000 excess over £150,000).

However his threshold income is only £100,000 and so the tapered reduction does not apply.

Anti-avoidance

To avoid individuals entering into a salary exchange or a flexible remuneration arrangement after 9 July 2015 so they received additional pension contributions but reduce their adjusted or threshold income anti-avoidance rules have been put in place.

The anti-avoidance rules apply if:

  • It is reasonable to assume that the main purpose for the change to the salary exchange or flexible remuneration agreement is to reduce the individual’s adjusted or threshold income (this includes any reductions to nil).
  • The change affects their income in either the current tax year or two or more tax years, including the current tax year.
  • In return for the income being reduced the individual receives an increase in their adjusted or threshold income in a different tax year.

If the anti-avoidance rules apply then the income used to calculate the reduction to the annual allowance for that tax year is the one before any adjustments were made.

Carry forward

It’s still possible to carry forward unused annual allowance from previous years to a year where the taper applies.

However the amount of unused annual allowance available when carrying forward from a year where the taper has applied will be the balance of the tapered amount.

Flexible drawdown

Where an individual flexibly accesses their pension savings they are subject to the money purchase annual allowance.

Individuals who have flexibly accessed their pension savings will continue to have a money purchase annual allowance of £10,000. But where this applies, the alternative annual allowance (normally £30,000), against which their defined benefit savings are tested, will be restricted by the same taper.

This means that those with incomes of £210,000 or more will have an alternative annual allowance of £0 although any available carry forward can be added to this.

Money purchase annual allowance (MPAA)

If someone is subject to the MPAA as well as tapering, the taper reduces the ‘alternative annual allowance’ which applies to any DB benefits they may have.  This is the standard annual allowance less the MPAA of £10,000, so currently the alternative annual allowance is £30,000.

………… (Royal London – July 2015)