Monthly Archives: April 2013

‘Nothing is certain but death and taxes’ – and they are intrinsically linked

Will your legacy involve just leaving a large Inheritance Tax bill for your loved ones?

In order to protect your family and business, it is essential to have provisions in place after you’re gone. The easiest way to prevent unnecessary tax payments such as Inheritance Tax is to organise your tax affairs by obtaining professional advice and having a valid will in place to ensure that your legacy does not involve just leaving a large Inheritance Tax bill for your loved ones.

Saving your beneficiaries thousands of pounds
Effective Inheritance Tax planning could save your beneficiaries thousands of pounds, maybe even hundreds of thousands depending on the size of your estate. At its simplest, Inheritance Tax is the tax payable on your estate when you die if the value of your estate exceeds a certain amount. It’s also sometimes payable on assets you may have given away during your lifetime, including property, possessions, money and investments.

Inheritance Tax is currently paid on amounts above £325,000 (£650,000 for married couples and registered civil partnerships) for the current 2013/14 tax year, at a rate of 40 per cent. If the value of your estate, including your home and certain gifts made in the previous seven years, exceeds the Inheritance Tax threshold, tax will be due on the balance at 40 per cent.

Leaving a substantial tax liability
Without proper planning, many people could end up leaving a substantial tax liability on their death, considerably reducing the value of the estate passing to their chosen beneficiaries.

Your estate includes everything owned in your name, the share of anything owned jointly, gifts from which you keep back some benefit (such as a home given to a son or daughter but in which you still live) and assets held in some trusts from which you have the right to receive an income.

Against this total value is set everything that you owed, such as any outstanding mortgages or loans, unpaid bills and costs incurred during your lifetime for which bills have not been received, as well as funeral expenses.

Any amount of money given away outright to an individual is not counted for tax if the person making the gift survives for seven years. These gifts are called ‘potentially exempt transfers’ and are useful for tax planning.

Potentially exempt transfers
Money put into a ‘bare’ trust (a trust where the beneficiary is entitled to the trust fund at age 18) counts as a potentially exempt transfer, so it is possible to put money into a trust to prevent grandchildren, for example, from having access to it until they are 18.

However, gifts to most other types of trust will be treated as chargeable lifetime transfers. Chargeable lifetime transfers up to the threshold are not subject to tax but amounts over this are taxed at 20 per cent, with up to a further 20 per cent payable if the person making the gift dies within seven years.

Some cash gifts are exempt from tax regardless of the seven-year rule. Regular gifts from after-tax income, such as a monthly payment to a family member, are also exempt as long as you still have sufficient income to maintain your standard of living.

Combined tax threshold
Any gifts between husbands and wives, or registered civil partners, are exempt from Inheritance Tax whether they were made while both partners were still alive or left to the survivor on the death of the first. Tax will be due eventually when the surviving spouse or civil partner dies if the value of their estate is more than the combined tax threshold, currently £650,000.

If gifts are made that affect the liability to Inheritance Tax and the giver dies less than seven years later, a special relief known as ‘taper relief’ may be available. The relief reduces the amount of tax payable on a gift.

Leaving a tax liability
Inheritance Tax can be a complicated area with a variety of solutions available and, without proper tax planning, many people could end up leaving a tax liability on their death, considerably reducing the value of the estate passing to chosen beneficiaries. So without Inheritance Tax planning, your family could be faced with a large tax liability when you die. To ensure that your family and business benefits rather than the government, it pays to plan ahead. As with most financial planning, early consideration is essential.

Thresholds, percentage rates and tax legislation may change in subsequent Finance Acts. Levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are subject to change and their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you invested.

Which investments are right for you?

Assessing how best to achieve your goals

Building an investment portfolio can be a daunting challenge. However, if you are seeking to save over the long-term, perhaps for retirement or school fees, it may be worth taking the time to assess how best to achieve your goals.

Income or capital growth or a mixture of both
You need to consider which investments are right for you. It is easy to be tempted by the potential for short-term profits, particularly with interest rates so low, but you must also consider your ability to cope with losses, as any investment comes with risks. Knowing what you are prepared to lose helps establish your overall risk profile. Other considerations might include your level of financial understanding and whether you require an income or capital growth or a mixture of both.

Constructing your portfolio carefully
Once you have established these objectives, it is important to construct your portfolio carefully and continue to review it on a regular basis. What one person might consider cautious, another might consider risky, so it is important to understand your needs and seek professional financial advice.

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to the future. The value of investments and the income from them can fall as well as rise as a result of market and currency fluctuations and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax assumptions are subject to statutory change and the value of tax relief (if any) will depend upon your individual circumstances.

Boosting retirement saving among UK workers

Millions of people are not saving enough to have the income they are likely to want in old age

Up to 11 million workers will now start to be automatically enrolled into a workplace pension which commenced from October last year. Larger employers were the first, with small and medium-sized employers following over the next six years.

A workplace pension is a way of saving for retirement arranged by an individual’s employer. It is sometimes called a ‘company pension’, an ‘occupational pension’ or a ‘works pension’.

The fact is that millions of people are not saving enough to have the income they are likely to want in retirement. Life expectancy in the UK is increasing and at the same time people are saving less into pensions.

In 1901, for every pensioner in the UK there were 10 people working. In 2010, for every pensioner there were 3 people working. By 2050, it is expected that this will change to just 2 workers.

Automatically enrolling workers
Auto-enrolment is the Government’s key strategy to boost retirement saving among UK workers, at a time when employers have been closing company schemes, particularly the most generous final-salary pensions.

Employers will automatically enrol workers into a workplace pension who:

  • are not already in a qualifying pension scheme
  • are aged 22 or over
  • are under State Pension age
  • earn more than £9,440 a year (this figure is reviewed every year), and work or usually work in the UK

Required by law
For the first time employers are required by law to automatically enrol all eligible workers into a workplace pension and make a contribution to it. The Pensions Regulator is responsible for ensuring employers comply with the new law and have produced guidance to help employers to do this. They will write to each employer before the date they are required to start enrolling workers into a workplace pension, and depending on employer size, on at least one other occasion.

One of the employer duties relating to automatic enrolment is that employers are required by law to provide the right information in writing, to the right individual at the right time, so that people know how automatic enrolment will affect them.

Dates for your diary
The date on which workers are enrolled, called a staging date, depends on the size of the company they work for and is being rolled out over the next six years.

Large employers (with 250 or more workers) started automatically enrolling their workers from October 2012 to February 2014

Medium employers (50 – 249 workers) will have to start automatically enrolling their workers from April 2014 to April 2015

Small employers (49 workers or fewer) will have to start automatically enrolling their workers from June 2015 to April 2017

New employers (established after April 2012) will have to start automatically enrolling their workers from May 2017 to February 2018

Once The Pensions Regulator has notified employers of their date to enrol eligible workers into a workplace pension, employers can choose to postpone automatic enrolment for up to three months from that date. If they choose to postpone, employers must inform those workers in writing, including notice of their right to opt-in before the end of the postponement period.

Employers can also use the ‘postponement period’ for any newly eligible workers.

National Employment Savings Trust (NEST)
NEST is a trust-based, defined contribution pension scheme. It was specifically established to support automatic enrolment and make sure all UK employers have access to a suitable pension scheme for their employer duties. The scheme is not-for-profit and the Trustee has a legal duty to act in its members’ best interests. It is designed to be straightforward and easy for employers to use.

NEST offers a low-cost way for people to put money away for their retirement. NEST members have one retirement pot for life that they can keep paying into if they stop working for a period or become self-employed.

Tax-free lump sum
Most people will be automatically enrolled into a Defined Contribution scheme or money purchase scheme. This means that all the contributions paid into your pension are invested until you retire.

The amount of money you have when you retire depends on how much has been paid in and how well investments have performed. In most schemes when you retire you can take some of your pension as a tax-free lump sum and use the rest to provide a regular income.
The Government has set a minimum amount of money that has to be put into a Defined Contribution scheme by employers and workers.

Contribution levels
The minimum contribution level is just that, a minimum. Employers will be able to contribute more than the minimum if they wish, and many already do. Individuals can also contribute more than the minimum if they want to. These amounts can be phased in to help both the employers and employees manage costs.

Some people may be automatically enrolled into a Defined Benefit or Hybrid pension scheme. This type of scheme may also be known as a ‘final salary’ or ‘career average’ scheme. If you are enrolled into one of these schemes, the amount you get when you retire is based on a number of things, which may include the number of years you’ve been a member of the pension scheme and your earnings. In most schemes you can take some of your pension as a tax-free lump sum and the rest as a regular income.

Alternative arrangements can apply for Defined Benefit and Hybrid pension schemes to help them manage the introduction of auto enrolment. For example, the full provisions can be postponed until 30 September 2017 for existing scheme members. New staff will have to be enrolled from the employer’s staging date.

If employers or individuals do not know what type of scheme they are using for automatic enrolment, their employer will be able to tell them.

Challenges of this new legislation
Not surprisingly, with new legislation comes new jargon and employers will need to become familiar with terms such as ‘eligible jobholders’ and ‘qualifying pension schemes’ when considering their duties.

We can help you through the challenges of this new legislation and provide a full analysis of your options, so that you can identify and implement an agreed plan that best suits your requirements.

Greater clarity on how much care in ‘old age’ may cost

Cap provides long-term savers with a greater idea of future spending

In his Budget speech delivered in March, the Chancellor, Mr Osborne, said this was a Budget for ‘an aspiration nation’. He explained this meant ‘helping those who want to keep their home instead of having to sell it to pay for the costs of social care.’ The confirmation of a £72,000 cap on social care costs provides long-term savers with a greater idea of future spending, but doesn’t cover additional costs incurred in a residential care home.

Cost of care
Savers who were hoping that the Budget 2013 announcement around social care would provide greater clarity on how much their ‘old age’ may cost them could be disappointed to find out that they will still have to foot the bill for uncapped ‘hotel costs’ incurred in a care home, such as food and board.

Means testing limit
Despite an increase in the means testing limit covering total care costs (social care and ‘hotel costs’) to £118,000, many whose estate is worth more than the limit will have to pay for the bill themselves. This means the majority of home owners will still find themselves in the uncertain position of not knowing how much their old age will cost.

High care home fees
People may be surprised that the social care cap does not cover their total care bill. This will result in many pensioners and elderly people having to prepare for high care home fees. Some may even find themselves in the unfortunate position of having to sell their assets to fund their old age. It is important for those who find themselves near or over the means testing threshold to prepare for the financial burden that may be placed upon them to avoid undesired consequences.

Will you be left to pick up the pieces?
The future of social care is one of the most important issues facing the country. All too often the NHS and families are left to pick up the pieces when older people fail in their struggle to cope alone. If you are concerned about how this could impact on you or a family member, please contact us to review your requirements.

Flexible drawdown rules untouched by Budget 2013

Greater opportunities for those with over £20,000 pension income

The eligibility rules for flexible income drawdown from pensions were untouched by Budget 2013, which is welcome news if this is something you are considering or would like to find out more about. Flexible income drawdown is a type of income withdrawal where you can take pension income direct from your pension fund without having to purchase an annuity. Ordinarily, there are limits on the maximum income you can take under income withdrawal (known as ‘capped drawdown’).

Provided you have a secured pension income of over £20,000 ‘Minimum Income Requirement’ a year (which can include any State pension), you could be eligible to use flexible income drawdown in respect of your money purchase pension savings.

Amount of income
Under flexible income drawdown there is no limit on the amount of income you can take in any year. You can tailor your drawdown pension to suit your personal requirements, whether taking regular amounts at a set frequency or ad hoc income when required. There is even the option to draw the entire fund in one go. All income withdrawal payments are subject to income tax under PAYE at your appropriate marginal rate.

Tax-efficient
Flexible income drawdown is tax-efficient, particularly where you wish to ‘phase in’ the use of your pension savings to provide that income. Any money left in drawdown on death is subject to a 55 per cent tax charge, whereas any untouched pension fund money (pre age 75) can pass on to your beneficiaries free of tax.

Once you go into flexible income drawdown you can no longer make tax-efficient pension contributions, so you should look to maximise all allowances, including carry forward, this tax year.

Flexible income drawdown is a complex area. If you are at all uncertain about its suitability for your circumstances we strongly suggest you seek professional financial advice. This is a high-risk option which is not suitable for everyone. If the market moves against you, capital and income will fall. High withdrawals will also deplete the fund, particularly leaving you short on income later in retirement.

At a time when people are being squeezed by the taxman, anything that helps save tax should be considered, and the potential to avoid the 55 per cent tax charge on part of those savings on death could result in significantly more of their estate being passed on to beneficiaries.

Flexible income drawdown is a complex area. If you are at all uncertain about its suitability for your circumstances you should seek professional financial advice. Your income is not secure. Flexible income drawdown can only be taken once you have finished saving into pensions. You control and must review where your pension is invested, and how much income you draw. Poor investment performance and excessive income withdrawals can deplete the fund.