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It is important to carry out an annual review and ensure that you have planned properly for the current tax year and that your tax liability is no higher than necessary.
Not all the areas set out below will be relevant to everyone, but if we can help in any way with any of the issues raised in this document, please get in touch. Remember in most cases, to benefit from any tax reliefs, the relevant action must be taken before the tax year ends.
The personal allowance for 2020-21 is £12,500. This is the amount of taxable income that you can earn annually without paying any tax. All individuals should ensure that where possible they are fully utilising their personal allowance.
The personal allowance is gradually withdrawn by £1 for every £2 of net income over £100,000. Net income takes account of losses, pension payments and charitable contributions. This means that any taxable receipt that takes your income over £100,000 will result in a reduction in personal tax allowances. This creates an effective marginal rate of tax of around 60% for those with an income between £100,000 and £125,000. This is far higher than the additional 45% tax rate for those with income over £150,000.
Those with earnings in this bracket should consider what financial planning opportunities are available to them in order to avoid this personal allowance anomaly. For example, options could include increasing pension contributions, giving gifts to charity and investing in certain investment schemes.
To be effective for 2020-21, a pension contribution must have been paid by 5 April 2021. The income and gains which arise as part of pension savings are generally exempt from Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax (CGT). Tax relief for contributions to pension schemes is given at a taxpayer’s marginal rate of Income Tax subject to the annual and lifetime allowances.
The lifetime allowance is the maximum amount of pension and/or lump sum that benefits from tax relief. The maximum lifetime allowance in 2020-21 is £1,073,100.
The annual allowance for tax relief on pensions is currently £40,000 and there is a three year carry forward rule that allows taxpayers to carry forward any unused annual allowance from the last three tax years if they have made pension savings in those years. The annual allowance is reduced for high earners. Those with income in excess of £240,000 will see their allowance tapered. For every complete £2 that their income exceeds £240,000 the annual allowance will be reduced by £1, up to a maximum reduction of £30,000 for individuals whose income is over £210,000.
The minimum level to which the annual allowance can taper down will also be reduced from £10,000 to £4,000.
Donations to charity over the course of a tax year can add up and taxpayers must ensure they keep a proper record of all donations to record them on their tax return. Donations that are made through the Gift Aid scheme allow for the recipient charity to claim 25p worth of tax relief on every pound donated. Higher rate and additional rate taxpayers are eligible to claim relief on the difference between the basic rate and their highest rate of tax.
If it is clear you will not be a higher rate taxpayer in 2020-21 it may be worth bringing forward any planned donations to maximise tax relief and provide earlier benefit to the charity of your choice.
It is also possible to make gifts of certain assets to charities and claim Income Tax relief on the value of the gift. This may be more tax efficient for certain larger charitable donations.
Capital Gains Tax
As with Income Tax, taxpayers have an annual exempt amount for CGT which is forfeited if not used. The annual exemption for individuals in 2020-21 is £12,300. A husband and wife each have a separate exemption. Same-sex couples who acquire a legal status as civil partners are treated in the same way as married couples for CGT purposes. Married couples and civil partners should ensure that assets sold at a gain are either jointly owned or that each partner utilises their annual exempt amount wherever possible. Any unused part of the annual exempt amount cannot be carried forward.
Bed and breakfasting (sale and repurchase) of shares is no longer tax effective but there are some other techniques that can be used to ensure the annual exempt amount is utilised or to establish a loss that can be set against other gains. Proper advice should be taken before undertaking such transactions to ensure that all tax aspects have been considered.
Capital losses are deducted from gains before net gains are calculated. Crystallising a loss that will waste the annual exemption should be avoided. A claim for capital losses can be carried back up to two tax years in certain circumstances. This can help offset gains in earlier years.
Whilst the amount invested in an ISA does not benefit from tax relief the income and gains are free from most taxes including Income Tax and CGT. Withdrawals can be made at any time without the loss of tax relief subject to the specific ISA manager’s terms and conditions.
If an ISA saver in a marriage or civil partnership dies, their spouse or civil partner inherits their ISA tax advantages. The current ISA limit is £20,000.
Enterprise Investment Scheme
The amount of Income Tax relief for individual investors in the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is 30% and the maximum annual amount that an individual can invest through the EIS is £1 million. The limit is further increased to £2 million if at least £1 million of that is invested in knowledge-intensive companies. Tax relief is limited to the amount which reduces the individual’s Income Tax liability for the year to nil.
The tax advantages of the EIS also includes CGT exemption on qualifying gains on shares held for 3 years, CGT deferral relief and tax relief for any losses made on the shares bought.
Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme
The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) provides for extensive Income Tax and CGT breaks for investors and this greatly encourages much needed seed capital in new businesses. The SEIS is most valuable for taxpayers who can fully benefit from the tax reliefs on offer.
For investors the main benefits of the scheme are as follows:
- Income Tax relief worth 50% of the amount invested to qualifying individual investors on a maximum annual investment of £100,000.
- A 50% exemption from CGT on gains reinvested within the scope of the SEIS. The maximum gain to be relieved is capped at £100,000 and the relief will be withdrawn if the SEIS relief is ultimately withdrawn.
- There is a 100% exemption from CGT on the sale of shares more than three years after the date on which they were issued.
- An SEIS investment will normally qualify for 100% relief from Inheritance Tax where the usual conditions are met.
Under certain circumstances, small business owners can also use the scheme to invest in their own businesses.
Venture Capital Trusts
The Venture Capital Trusts (VCT) scheme offers investor’s Income Tax relief of 30% on new subscriptions for ordinary shares in VCTs. The maximum amount qualifying for relief is £200,000 in each tax year. Dividends received from VCTs are exempt from Income Tax, provided the shares acquired (by subscription or purchase) are within the annual limit of £200,000 and held for 5 years. Shares in VCTs acquired within the annual limit are also exempt from CGT on disposal at any time, but losses on disposal are not allowable as capital losses.
As part of an annual review it is important to review your Inheritance Tax position. Regularly reviewing and updating Wills to ensure you are taking advantage of the current rules most effectively is highly recommended.
There is an annual exemption of £3,000 for gifts and this can be carried forward if not used to make a maximum gift of £6,000. These gifts are ignored in the event of the donor’s demise within 7 years of making the gift.
It is also possible for wealthier taxpayers to make gifts and payments that are made from income. With proper planning this can be a useful tool for example to enable grandparents to help pay school fees for their grandchildren. However, careful consideration has to be given to ensure that these payments are made out of income and not out of capital.
We can help advise you on setting up appropriate structures for this.