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Proposed changes to IHT for siblings

Archive for the ‘Tax planning’ Category

Proposed changes to IHT for siblings

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020

At the moment, only those who are married or who are registered civil partners are exempt from paying inheritance tax (IHT) on money or property left to them by their spouse. This was expanded to include heterosexual civil partnerships at the end of 2019.

But the law does not cover siblings who are cohabiting.They are liable to pay the standard IHT rate of 40% of anything over the £325,000 threshold.

The injustice this poses for some households was highlighted by the recent case of Catherine and Virigina Utley. They have lived together for over 30 years in the house in Clapham which they both bought. Despite being co-owners, when one of them dies the surviving sister will be forced to sell the property to be able to pay the IHT, estimated at about £140,000. 

Shocked by the unfairness of this situation, Lord Lexden has brought a new Bill to the House of Lords. Under the new proposals, siblings would be exempt from paying IHT on property left to each other, provided they had lived together for at least seven years and that the surviving sibling was over 30. As well as brothers and sisters, the law would also apply to half brothers and sisters and be valid in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While this would be good news for cohabiting siblings, some people feel the proposed changes do not go far enough. The new law still wouldn’t provide any protection for those who are cohabiting but who are not married or in a civil partnership. Cohabiting couples do not have any rights to their home on the death of their partner. In this respect, the UK is way behind other countries.  

A change to the law for cohabiting siblings in terms of IHT will raise questions as to where the line is drawn. Other platonic couples, such as parents and children, or friends who own a property together, may also want to be considered. The rules will have to be sufficiently tightly defined so as not to be open to abuse.      

If you would like to review your IHT liability, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Should over-40s pay more tax to solve the social care crisis?

Thursday, August 13th, 2020

The question of who should pay for social care is a pressing one; successive governments have grappled with the issue and none have found a concrete solution. At the moment, some people who don’t qualify for local council funded care have to sell their homes to cover the costs, which can exceed £1,500 a week. 

Last year, in his first speech as Prime Minister, Johnson outlined the need for a reform of the current system and back in March, the government launched a parliamentary inquiry into the shortage of care available on the NHS. Since then, the large number of coronavirus deaths in care homes across the country has kept the issue firmly in the spotlight.

Ministers in Boris Jonhnson’s health and social care taskforce are currently studying a scheme where everyone over 40 would start contributing towards the cost of care in later life. Over 40s would have to pay more in tax or national insurance, or be obliged to insure themselves against hefty care bills.

Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, is a keen advocate of the plan and is committed to coming up with a solution.

The system that ministers are considering draws on pre-existing models for funding social care in Japan and Germany. Both systems have drawn admiration as sustainable ways of solving the challenges that an ageing population brings.

Under the German system, everyone starts contributing to the scheme when they start working, and employers match their contributions, similar to workplace pension schemes in the UK. At the moment, 1.5% of each person’s salary, plus a 1.5% employer contribution, are ring fenced for social care in later life.

Elderly Germans can use this money to pay carers to help them at home or use them for care home fees. They can even give them to relatives and friends for helping to look after them. 

The Japanese scheme is similar, but people only start contributing when they are 40.

At the moment, nothing has been confirmed. Officials are still looking into the exact mechanism by which over 40s would pay. However, social care experts have cautioned that an insurance model would have to be compulsory to ensure people paid.

The scheme under consideration has found favour with campaigners. Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, said the scheme “may be rather a good deal, since that system offers a level of provision and reassurance that we can only dream of here at the moment.” She added that the scheme would “arguably [be] an appropriate act of national atonement after the catastrophic loss of life we’ve seen in care homes during the pandemic”.

It will be interesting to see how the government eventually decides to finance its scheme. Watch this space.

Problems for the Bank of Mum and Dad

Thursday, July 16th, 2020

With many furloughs coming to an end and an increasing number of redundancies being announced, the Bank of Mum and Dad is being asked to step in on a regular basis to help its adult children with their financial commitments. 

Parents are seeing their children’s debt escalate, which is often primarily due to rent payments. Under coronavirus legislation, private landlords have to give their tenants 3 months’ notice to quit but nevertheless the payment is still due. While homeowners can take a mortgage payment holiday and add the debt to the end of the mortgage, tenants have to repay what they owe much more quickly, even if they have agreed a schedule with their landlords. Housing benefit is often unlikely to cover the full rent. With no source of income on the horizon, grown-up children may resort to requesting a parental bailout.      

One hazard in a shared house can be that one of the occupants may decide to ‘disappear’ if they are very behind with the rent, leaving the other housemates to cover the arrears. This is a particular issue if the parents of one the remaining tenants had agreed to act as rental guarantors at the outset.         

Which leads on to the next stage of helping with house purchases. Many parents are keen to help their offspring to get a foot on the property ladder. According to Legal and General, the average contribution by the Bank of Mum and Dad rose by more than £6,000, to £24,100 in 2019. This put it in the top 10 of UK mortgage lenders, with parents having given £6.3 billion collectively. 

In the current climate, especially with many high Loan to Value (LTV) mortgages being withdrawn, parental input is certainly needed. But when parents may be facing financial difficulties of their own, are they going to be as willing to keep on lending and gifting deposits?

Some parents may decide to hold fire in the hope that more properties may come onto the market and prices may drop dramatically. Others may decide that if it’s been a bit of a shock to the system having a grown-up child suddenly back under their roof under lockdown, helping provide the funds for a quick house purchase may be preferable!    

If you do decide to act as the Bank of Mum and Dad, it’s important to make sure you can afford it. If you’re using your pension and savings to help out, consider what impact that will have on your own retirement. 

It’s also important to make sure it’s clear whether the money is a gift or a loan, as this will have different tax implications. If your child is moving in with a partner, you may want a say in how the rights to the property will be held should the relationship break down at some point.     

Do get in touch if you have any queries regarding the issues involved in being part of this well-known financial lending institution.

How to make the most of a Junior ISA nest egg

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

As of 6 April, the amount you can put into a Junior ISA (JISA) per annum has increased to £9,000 – quite a jump from the previous allowance of £4,368.

The tax saving this provides makes it an effective way of building up a nest egg for your children if you want to help with a gap year, university fees, or to enable them to get a foot on the property ladder.  

Which type of JISA?

You can choose to put the money into either a cash JISA or a stocks and shares one. Even in these low-interest rate days, the cash ones can attract quite generous rates with some as high as 3.6%. Another advantage is that they don’t have the volatility associated with the stock market, a particular issue at the current time.          

Yet while the majority of JISAs tend to be in cash, experts state that this can be a wasted opportunity. Despite the recent turmoil, the stock market will usually outperform cash savings over the long term. Wealth manager, Jason Hollands, calculates that if you achieved a 6 per cent annual return – which he describes as ‘quite modest’ – a JISA that had £9,000 invested in it each year would be worth more than £290,000 after 18 years. As you can see, once compound interest kicks in, it can have a considerable effect. He estimates that even JISAs that had smaller sums of £50 or £100 a month invested into them would accumulate pots of £19,367 or £38,735 respectively.

So if you’re wanting to use the JISA as a vehicle for a long-term investment to get your child through a degree course or to help them to buy a property, cash is not the most effective way to do so. 

It’s also advisable to invest a regular amount on a monthly basis amount rather than just put in lump sums at specific times. This avoids the worry of knowing whether it’s the right time to invest and also has the benefit of smoothing out the peaks and troughs in share prices.  

Inheritance Tax Implications

Parents or guardians are the only ones who can actually open a JISA but grandparents can pay money into the account. This can be a productive way of using up their annual gift allowance. They do just need to bear in mind the Inheritance Tax rules, though, especially now the JISA allowance has increased. The annual gift allowance on an Inheritance Tax free basis is £3,000 per donor (with one year’s allowance carried forward). Inheritance Tax would be charged on anything over this limit in the seven years before their death. Gifts of up to £250 per person can be given during the tax year as long as another exemption has not been used on the same person.

Once your child turns 18, the JISA becomes theirs. They can either access it directly or transfer it into an adult ISA. This encourages them to develop a lifelong interest in money and helps build up a great investment discipline. In fact, the Government’s decision to increase the JISA allowance was all part of its aim to create a generation of savers.    

The new JISA allowance could mean that your child comes of age on a much sounder financial footing.  

IR35 – ready, steady…not ready?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

The big issue which has been dominating the accounting world in recent months is IR35. Will businesses be ready when the reforms come in on 6th April? 

The overwhelming view expressed by representatives from various accountancy bodies is that they will most certainly not be, not least because legislation is still not finalised.         

IR35 was introduced in 2000 as an anti-tax avoidance rule, aimed at freelancers or contractors who were deemed by HMRC to be, in effect, working as employees. Under the new rules, every medium and large private sector business in the UK will be responsible for determining the tax status of any contractor they use. This has already been the case in the public sector since 2017.

HMRC is adamant that the reforms should go ahead in order to tackle the ‘fundamental unfairness’ surrounding the current non-compliance with the rules, which it believes could cost the Exchequer more than £1.3bn by 2023-24.   

However, the investigation by the House of Lords finance sub committee has revealed that there are still many uncertainties and unanswered questions. Despite the impending start date, the actual implementation rules are still being set out by HMRC. There is also concern that the CEST tool, which checks someone’s employment status, is still not up to the job.

Julia Kermode, chief executive of the Freelancer & Contractor Services Association, commented that there was mounting evidence that clients had been unable to fully prepare in advance of the April 2020 changes. She explained that a number of businesses were only just finding out about their new liabilities as HMRC’s education programme was delayed to do the general election. 

While large employers, who have in-house tax teams, may have been able to make some preparations, smaller businesses are thought to be less ready as they don’t have the expertise to understand the intricacies of the off-payroll reforms. And even if larger companies are in better shape, the view is that no one is truly prepared.

Businesses are disappointed that their calls for the reforms to be postponed have been ignored and feel that the review by the Treasury didn’t go far enough. They feel that the issues experienced by the public sector since 2017, with many contractors simply leaving and working elsewhere, have not been heeded. This has caused major problems with resourcing and recruitment in organisations like the NHS. There is also concern that some large companies will react by simply issuing a blanket ban and not hiring contractors at all. 

Although experts have welcomed the fact that the Treasury has promised a ‘soft landing’ in the first year of the reforms, they have warned that businesses in the private sector shouldn’t be complacent. The ‘light touch’ will still mean that HMRC will impose penalties if there is thought to have been deliberate non-compliance.   

Proposed changes to IHT for siblings?

Thursday, February 6th, 2020

At the moment, only those who are married or who are registered civil partners are exempt from paying inheritance tax (IHT) on money or property left to them by their spouse. This was expanded to include heterosexual civil partnerships at the end of 2019.

But the law does not cover siblings who are cohabiting.They are liable to pay the standard IHT rate of 40% of anything over the £325,000 threshold.

The injustice this poses for some households was highlighted by the recent case of Catherine and Virigina Utley. They have lived together for over 30 years in the house in Clapham which they both bought. Despite being co-owners, when one of them dies the surviving sister will be forced to sell the property to be able to pay the IHT, estimated at about £140,000. 

Shocked by the unfairness of this situation, Lord Lexden has brought a new Bill to the House of Lords. Under the new proposals, siblings would be exempt from paying IHT on property left to each other, provided they had lived together for at least seven years and that the surviving sibling was over 30. As well as brothers and sisters, the law would also apply to half brothers and sisters and be valid in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

While this would be good news for cohabiting siblings, some people feel the proposed changes do not go far enough. The new law still wouldn’t provide any protection for those who are cohabiting but who are not married or in a civil partnership. Cohabiting couples do not have any rights to their home on the death of their partner. In this respect, the UK is way behind other countries.  

A change to the law for cohabiting siblings in terms of IHT will raise questions as to where the line is drawn. Other platonic couples, such as parents and children, or friends who own a property together, may also want to be considered. The rules will have to be sufficiently tightly defined so as not to be open to abuse.      

If you would like to review your IHT liability, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

The election result and your finances.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2020

With the Conservative’s having won their largest majority since 1987, we thought now would be a good time to reflect on some of the pledges made during the election campaign. How will the promised reforms affect you and your finances? 

Increase of the National Insurance threshold

The NIC threshold is set to rise from £8,632 to £9,500, which will lead to savings of around £100 a year for the 31 million workers who earn above that amount. Over the long term, the Conservatives have set an ambitious £12,500 threshold which would result in a tax reduction of £500 for those who earn over that figure.  

State pension triple lock

The state pension lock is set to be maintained, which is unsurprising, particularly after Theresa May’s plans to change the system cost her voters back in 2017. Currently, under the triple lock the state pension increases year on year, in line with whichever is the highest of these three measurements: the average earnings increase, the rate of inflation or 2.5%.

Further pension pledges

The government has pledged to address a separate pension anomaly which can result in people earning under £12,500 to be denied pension tax relief, if their provider uses the ‘net pay arrangement’ approach as opposed to the ’relief at source’ method. 

The government has also mentioned that it will address the ‘taper tax’ issue that is causing many senior NHS medical professionals to turn down work and overtime, rather than risk a retrospective pension tax charge. 

Steve Webb, director of policy at Royal London, raises the concern that there is a “lack of detail” in the suggested reforms, mentioning that “the measure proposed is far too narrow and may not even work. The tapered allowance affects far more people than senior NHS clinicians and creates complexity and uncertainty in the tax system.”

More will be revealed, no doubt, when Sajid Javid delivers his budget on 11 March.  

Income tax

When he was battling for leadership of the Conservatives, Boris Johnson promised to reduce Britain’s tax burden, making the bold statement that he would raise the threshold for the 40% higher-rate income tax band from £50,000 to £80,000. This would have resulted in serious tax savings for the top 10% of earners. It appears, however, that the plan has been shelved, at least for now. 

Rest assured, we’ll keep our ears to the ground and will update you of any significant policy changes in the budget that might affect your finances. In the meantime, if you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Ready for the end of the tax year?

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020

The tax year will end on April 5th. Are you confident that you have made appropriate preparations and maximised your tax allowances?

Here are some of the allowances that you should consider: 

The Marriage Allowance

You can transfer £1,250 of your Personal Allowance to your spouse or civil partner if they earn more than you and pay tax at the basic rate. This could yield a potential tax saving of £250. You need to make sure that you have income within your Personal Allowance of £12,500. An application to HMRC needs to be made for this allowance. It’s also worth noting that you can backdate your claim to include any tax year since April 5th 2015. 

Enterprise Investment Scheme, SEIS and VCT

Investments made with the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) or Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) during the current tax year can be carried back for relief for the 2018/2019 tax year, potentially providing both income tax relief and capital gains tax deferral relief. However, rules differ between the two so be sure to check with each provider. 

For the EIS, you can obtain 30% income tax relief on the amount allocated for shares in EIS qualifying companies, from a minimum of £500 up to a maximum of £2,000,000. For Venture Capital Trusts (VCT), you receive 30% of tax relief on investments up to £200,000. For SEIS qualifying companies, you can receive 50% income tax relief on up to £100,000 per year.  

The Tapered Annual Allowance

For higher income earners, the tapered annual allowance will apply. For every £2 of adjusted income, including employer pension contributions, as well as income over £150,000, your annual allowance is reduced by £1. The Government has a comprehensive guide for working out whether your income will have the allowance applied. You may only be able to assess this accurately as you get closer to April 5th. If you can assess the figures accurately in time to make a pension contribution, then ensure you do so. If not, as soon as the most accurate figures become available, you can take steps to make up any shortfall by carrying it forward to the next year.

The Money Purchase Annual Allowance

You can get tax relief on pension contributions of up to £40,000 per year or 100% of your taxable salary. However, if you have already started drawing income from a defined contribution pension scheme, the amount you can pay into a pension without suffering a tax charge reduces. 

The allowance for the 2019/2020 tax year remains unchanged from last year at £4,000 and applies if you have taken any taxed income from a money purchase or defined contribution pension. This extends to personal pensions, SIPPs and workplace pensions.

Expenses

If you’re an employee, you may be able to claim for expenses not reimbursed by your employer, such as travel mileage (not including home to work), the cost of buying small essential items or equipment needed to do your job, such as tools or professional subscriptions. 

If your employer reimburses you at a rate lower than the current standard mileage rate of 45p per mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p per mile thereafter, you can claim the difference back in your tax return. 

Taking the time now to make sure you’re maximising your allowances can yield notable tax savings at the end of the tax year on April 5th. If you require any help with your tax planning, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us and we will make sure that you’re on the right track. 

Allowances to use before the end of the tax year

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

The tax year will be coming to an end on 5th April. With that deadline in mind, we wanted to remind our clients of all the allowances available to you during the tax year. It’s important to make sure you’re maximising your allowances in all areas so that you mitigate the impact of tax. Listed below are a few allowances you should be considering: 

ISA Allowance

With a cash ISA or a stocks and shares ISA (or a combination of the two), you can save or invest up to £20,000 each year per person, meaning that a married couple can invest up to £40,000 between the two of them. 

Top up your pension contributions

You should make sure you check your pension contributions at least once per tax year as they can be a great way to manage your tax liabilities. For the high earners among you, however, it’s important to keep the lifetime pension allowance in mind. The current lifetime allowance is set at £1,055,000. Remember that contributions causing you to exceed the allowance are taxable. 

For those of you who aren’t nearing the limit, upping your pension contributions can be an effective way to mitigate the impact of tax. If you haven’t managed to make full use of your £40,000 annual allowance, you can carry it forward for up to three years. 

Inheritance Tax

The current tax-free threshold is set at £325,000 for single individuals and £650,000 for married couples. Anything over this amount will be taxed. Inheritance tax is where a little bit of planning can pay dividends in the future. This might be by making full use of your annual gift allowance of £3,000 (£6,000 for married couples), putting assets into trust or re-writing your will. 

Capital Gains Tax

Capital gains tax is a tax on the profits you make when you sell something, such as a second home or a personal possession worth £6,000 or more, except for your car. The tax-free allowance for the 2019/20 tax year is £12,000 per person so couples can pay no tax on a total of £24,000 of gains. Remember that genuine gifts from a spouse or civil partner do not count towards the allowance. 

Boost your children’s savings

The Junior ISA limit is set at £4,368 for this tax year. Why not take the time to give your children’s savings a boost by making sure they’re at the limit? You may even want to contribute to your grown up children’s Lifetime ISA if they have one, and the government will provide a bonus of 25% of the money invested, up to £1,000 per year. 

Your dividend allowance

If you receive dividends through a Stocks and Shares ISA or you’re a company shareholder or director, you can currently receive £2,000 worth of dividends tax free. 

For more information on how to make sure you’re maximising your tax allowances, feel free to contact us. 

Why you must make sure your will is accessible

Wednesday, December 18th, 2019

Do you know where your will is? Even more importantly, do the people who will act as your executors, in the event of your death, know where your will is stored?  

The recent discovery at Lloyds Banking Group that 9,000 wills had been left in storage and not passed on to customers serves as a stark, cautionary tale. The bank is now desperately trying to match envelopes with the relevant families.  

The wills were kept in the bank’s ‘Safe Custody’ service – an ironic name given that the custody actually proved too safe, with no one knowing about the wills’ existence. The service closed to new customers in 2011.

The error means that some executors may have administered a deceased’s estate using what turned out to be the wrong will, unaware that the right one was stored at Lloyds. As a result, some families are having to re-examine old bequests years after they were thought to have been settled.     

Not only will this have caused great inconvenience, it will also have been incredibly distressing for those involved. 

Michael Culver, chairman of Solicitors for the Elderly, commented that the processing failure could lead to estates being wrongly distributed, contentious probate claims, negligence claims against executors and administrators, issues with tax payments and, ultimately, the last wishes of the deceased not being honoured.     

The bank, however, has said that it was only in a small percentage of cases that they did not trace the will when a customer died. According to their spokesperson, 90 per cent of the newly discovered wills had already been superseded by a later will or there were copies available elsewhere. In some cases, the estates were declared intestate but had been distributed in line with the deceased’s wishes anyway.         

What action can be taken? Families affected should make a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman and a counter claim against Lloyds directly. Compensation will be offered, including legal costs, and LLoyds have promised that it won’t claw back assets given to the wrong people. 

As for the future, what lessons can be learnt? It is recommended to always register a will. This case illustrates that it is often better to use a solicitor, who will be specialised in making and storing wills, rather than a high street bank. You can also register a will with the Probate Service for a one-off fee of £20. 

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) advises against safety deposit boxes for wills as it means the executor cannot get access until they get probate and this cannot be granted without a will, so it becomes a bit of a Catch 22 situation.  

If you do have a will stored in a safety deposit box, consider moving it elsewhere to ensure it is accessible. Make sure its whereabouts is known to your executors. It may not be something you or your family want to think about right now but it could save a lot of stress and worry at a difficult time later.