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4 Key takeaways from the Spring Statement

Posts Tagged ‘budget’

4 Key takeaways from the Spring Statement

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

The Spring Statement is an opportunity to hear the latest updates on the state of the UK economy and what to expect of its growth over the coming months and years. With most people setting their focus firmly on the amorphous hokey-cokey of Brexit negotiations, it’s something of a breath of fresh air to take a moment to look at concrete upcoming strategies and measurable realities.

With that in mind, here are 4 key points you can hang your hat on while what’s on or off the table continues to be debated in the background.

1) Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Employment is up and that means more tax receipts for the Government’s coffers. 2018 ended with 440,000 more people in work than 12 months prior, with 60,000 fewer people relying solely on zero-hours contracts. Government borrowing fell in January to the lowest we’ve seen since 2001 and £21bn of income and corporation tax was raised, leaving a healthy monthly surplus of £14.9bn.

2) Even more taxes

The Making Tax Digital scheme is set to come into effect on April 1st 2019. Looking at it broadly, it’s an effort to modernise the tax system. The first step comes in the form of mandatory digital record keeping for VAT, for those businesses which find themselves above the VAT threshold. It’s undoubtedly a strong example of intent for the future.

3) You guessed it… taxes

No Safe Havens is an initiative that was introduced in 2013 to crack down on those who seek to evade their tax through hiding their income and assets overseas, and those who advise them on how to do so. The Spring Statement brought with it a declaration of further commitment to this cause by investing in the latest technology and enforcing tough new penalties while, at the same time, making sure it’s easy for law abiding taxpayers to handle their tax correctly.

4) Growth is good

Okay, it’s not all about taxes. The Office for National Statistics’ January figures demonstrate the UK Economy has grown to the tune of 0.5%, blowing the economists’ predictions of 0.2% out of the water with the biggest monthly increase we’ve seen since 2016. Construction saw notable growth of 2.8%, with the service sector up 0.3% and manufacturing up 0.8%. We saw inflation fall to 1.8% in January and the general consensus is that we can expect to see UK growth of between 1.3% and 1.4% this year.

That’s your breath of fresh air over. You can get back to talking about Brexit now. If you have any questions surrounding any of these topics or the Spring Statement in general, please feel free to get in touch with us directly.

3 pension changes you may have missed in the Budget

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

There was scarcely a mention of the ‘P’ word in October’s Budget speech (believe us, we were listening closely for it!). Instead, Hammond used the Budget speech as an opportunity to unveil his ‘rabbit in the hat’ changes to income tax thresholds, an increase in NHS mental health funding and a ban on future PFI contracts.

However, we had a good read of the accompanying ‘Red Book’ for any mention of pensions. At 106 pages, this was no mean feat. Fortunately, though, it was time well spent as we found some changes to pensions you may otherwise have missed:

The pension dashboard

HM Treasury confirmed that the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) would look at designing a pension dashboard which would include your state pension. The pensions dashboard will be an online platform that will let you see all of your pension schemes in a single view. The average worker is nowadays expected to work eleven jobs during their career and keeping track of so many pension pots could prove confusing to say the least.

There was an extra £5 million of funding for the DWP to help make the pension dashboard a reality. Commentators see the dashboard as a welcome sign that the government is committed to helping savers keep track of their funds.

Patient capital funding

The government announced a pensions investment package which should make it easier for direct contribution pension schemes to invest in patient capital. Patient capital refers to investments that forgo immediate returns in anticipation of more substantial returns further down the line.

The government may review the 0.75% charge cap and there is widespread speculation that it will be increased to allow more investment in high growth companies.

Cold calling ban

The government has promised to ban pensions cold calling as part of a drive against pension scammers. Almost two years since the government’s initial proposals to combat pension scams were announced, pensions cold calling will finally be made illegal.

Research by Prudential indicates that one in 10 over 55s fear they have been targeted by pensions scammers since the introduction of pension freedoms in 2015. Cold calls, with offers to unlock or transfer funds, are a frequently used tactic to defraud people of their retirement savings.

As much as these measures go a long way to making people’s pensions more secure, the government will be powerless to enforce cold calls made from abroad and not on behalf of a UK company. It is unclear how and if the government will work with international regulators to mitigate the dangers of such calls.

The £1,000,000 inheritance tax exemption

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Mr Osborne has made good his manifesto commitment to ease the burden of inheritance tax, but his approach is not simple. We take a closer look.

One of the surprises in the Conservative manifesto was the proposal to create a new transferable main residence band of £175,000 per person for inheritance tax (IHT). The idea was criticised by many, including the Institute for Fiscal Studies which said “it would have been much simpler and arguably fairer” to just increase the nil rate band to £500,000. In a leaked paper published by The Guardian, even the Treasury, said that “there are not strong economic arguments for introducing an inheritance tax exemption specifically related to main residences”.

Nevertheless the Chancellor has gone ahead with the plan, but it is rather more complicated than the manifesto suggested:

  • The initial band will be £100,000 in 2017/18, rising by £25,000 a year until it reaches £175,000 in 2020/21. It will then increase in line with CPI from 2021/22 onwards.
  • The band will generally only apply to gifts of main residences (not second homes) to direct descendants.
  • The transferability is only between spouses and civil partners – as applies to the existing nil rate band.
  • A taper will apply to the allowance for estates valued at over £2m: the allowance will drop by £1 for each £2 over this threshold.
  • There will be special provisions for those who downsize or cease to own a home on or after 8 July 2015.
  • The legislation introducing the new band will extend the current IHT nil rate band freeze until the end of 2020/21.

The leaked Treasury paper estimated that the measure would still leave 6% of estates liable to IHT by 2020, so you cannot forget the tax completely. To discuss what impact the measures will have on your long term estate planning and what actions you should consider, please contact us.

The value of tax reliefs depends on your individual circumstances. Tax laws can change. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice.

Emergency Budget Summary

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

The Chancellor promised a radical Budget and we got one. But will it radically change the advice our clients need? The following summarises the changes likely to be of most interest to our clients:

Pension Annual Allowance cut for high earners from 2016 – get it while you can

Those with ‘adjusted income’ over £150k will have their Annual Allowance (AA) cut from the 2016/17 tax year, creating a ‘get it while you can’ pension funding window this tax year.

The standard £40k AA will be cut by £1 for every £2 of ‘adjusted income’ over £150k in a tax year. The maximum AA reduction is £30k, giving those with income of £210k or above a £10k AA. Carry forward of unused AA will still be available, but only the balance of the reduced AA can be carried forward from any year where a reduced AA applied.

The ‘adjusted income’ the £150k test is based on is broadly the total of:

  • the individual’s income (without deducting their own pension contributions); plus
  • the value of any employer pension contributions made for them.

The reduced AA won’t however apply where an individual’s net income for the tax year plus the value of any income given up for an employer pension contribution via a salary sacrifice arrangement entered into after 8 July 2015, is £110k or less.

More changes to come? The Government has kicked off a fundamental review of the pension tax framework to ensure it remains fit for purpose, and sustainable, for a changing society. In a consultation launched today, HM Treasury is seeking views on a range of very open questions around what changes (if any) would simplify pensions and increase engagement.

Other pension news

  • Lifetime allowance: The proposed reduction in the Lifetime Allowance from £1.25M to £1M will go ahead as planned from the 2016/17 tax year. It will be indexed in line with CPI from 2018/19. Details are awaited of a new transitional protection option for those with existing pension savings already over £1M who would otherwise face a retrospective tax hit.
  • Death tax: As promised as part of the ‘freedom and choice’ reforms, all pension lump sum death benefits paid after 5 April 2016 in relation to a death at age 75 or above will be taxed as the recipient’s income (removing the flat 45% tax that applies in the 2015/16 tax year).
  • Salary sacrifice: Despite wide pre-Budget rumours, there are no changes to salary sacrifice rules. The Government will, however, be monitoring the growth of such schemes and their impact on tax take.
  • Transfers: To improve consumer access to ‘freedom and choice’, the Government will consult about how to improve the pension transfer process and, potentially, cap charges for over 55s.
  • Annuities: The ability for pensioners to sell their annuities will be delayed until 2017. This allows more time to ensure the related consumer safeguards are in place. More details will be announced in the autumn.

Individual tax allowances

Both the personal allowance and higher rate income tax thresholds will increase over the next two years as follows:

2016/17:

  • Personal Allowance increases to £11,000;
  • Higher rate threshold increases to £43,000.

A basic rate taxpayer will be better off by £80. Higher rate taxpayers will be better off by £203.

2017/18:

  • Personal Allowance increases to £11,200;
  • Higher rate threshold increases to £43,600.

A basic rate taxpayer will be better off by a further £40, and higher rate taxpayers by £160.

These increases are on the way to meeting government pledges to raise the personal allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 during this Parliament.

New dividend allowance

The system of dividend tax credits will be abolished from April 2016. It will be replaced by a new tax free dividend allowance of £5,000. Dividends in excess of this allowance will be taxed at the following rates, depending on which tax band they fall in:

  • Basic rate – 7.5%;
  • Higher rate – 32.5%;
  • Additional rate – 38.1%.

This means that from April 2016, a basic rate taxpayer could have tax free income of up to £17,000 pa when added to the personal allowance of £11,000 and the new ‘personal savings allowance’ announced in the Spring Budget of £1,000. Higher rate taxpayers could have up to £16,500 (as the personal savings allowance is restricted to £500 for these individuals).

Certain individuals may also have savings income falling into the £5,000 savings rate ‘band’, currently taxed at 0%. There is no mention of any change to this band, in which case certain individuals may have tax free income of up to £22,000, depending on the sources of their income.

Making full use of these new allowances can make savings last longer in retirement and potentially leave a larger legacy for loved ones. And strengthens the case for holistic multiple wrapper retirement income planning.

Inheritance Tax: family home nil rate band – but not yet

The Government will introduce a new IHT nil rate band of up to £175,000 where the family home is passed to children or grandchildren. This is in addition to the current nil rate band of £325,000 which has been frozen since 2009 and will remain frozen for the next 5 tax years, until the end of 2020/21.

Who will benefit
The extra nil rate band will be fully available to anyone who:

  • passes the family home to their children or grandchildren on death; or
  • or had a family home, then downsized (passing on assets of equivalent value to children/grandchildren); and
  • has an estate below £2M.

However, the full £175,000 won’t be available until 2020/21. The allowance will first become available in 2017/18 at £100,000 and increase to £125,000 in 2018/19, £150,000 in 2019/20 and £175,000 in 2020/21. It will then increase in line with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

Like the existing nil rate band the new property nil rate band can be transferred between spouses or civil partners. This means a married couple could pass £1M in 2020/21 to their children tax free on death provided the family home is worth at least £350,000, saving £140,000 in IHT.

Who may miss out
But not everyone will benefit from the additional IHT free allowance. Anyone with a net estate over £2M will begin to see their property nil rate band reduced until it is completely lost once the estate is over £2.2m (2017/18) £2.25m (2018/19), £2.3m (2019/20) or £2.35m (2020/21).

It will only apply to transfers to children and grandchildren. Meaning those without children will miss out. And it is not possible to use the exemption for lifetime transfers which may discourage some clients from passing on their wealth during their lifetime.

Clients who could benefit from the property nil rate band may need to revisit their existing wills to ensure they continue to reflect their wishes and remain as tax efficient as possible.

ISA changes

Replacing withdrawals
The proposed changes to ISA, allowing savers to dip into the savings and replace them without it affecting their annual subscription limits, will go ahead from 6 April 2016.

The new contributions would have to be paid within the same tax year as the withdrawal for it not to be counted. These new flexible funding rules will only apply to cash ISAs and any cash element within a stocks and shares ISA. However, it is now possible to move ISA holdings between cash and stocks and shares without restriction, so clients in stocks and shares will be able to benefit provided they move into cash first.

Buy To Let landlords – restriction on interest relief from April 2017

Under current legislation, individuals who use debt to finance the acquisition of residential buy to let properties can claim a tax deduction for finance costs incurred in servicing that debt.

From April 2017, tax relief for interest and finance costs will be restricted for residential buy to let individual landlords. The changes will not affect qualifying furnished holiday lets. The restrictions will be phased in over four years, resulting in tax relief only being available for finance costs at the basic rate of income tax (currently 20%) from April 2020. The restrictions will be phased in as set out below:

Tax Year % Fully Deductible Finance cost % Restricted to Basic rate of tax
2017/18 75 25
2018/19 50 50
2019/20 25 75
2020/21 0 100

With thanks to Standard Life technical department for some of the background. The value of tax reliefs depends on your individual circumstances. Tax law can change. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice.