Tax Planning before the end of the current tax year.

ISAs 20 years on

ISAs – 20 years on

Spensionpigource 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  • ‘Flexible’ ISAs – ISAs where the provider will allow funds to be withdrawn and replaced within the same tax year without affecting the annual subscription limit.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 Not all providers offer it and once withdrawn it cannot be repaid to a different ISA.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.


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.


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.