Monthly Archives: January 2019

Is there a better alternative to Inheritance Tax?

Inheritance Tax is enormously unpopular to say the least. A YouGov poll found that 59% of the public deemed it unfair, making it the least popular of Britain’s 11 major taxes. What’s more, the tax has a limited revenue raising ability, with the ‘well advised’ often using gifts, trusts, business property relief and agricultural relief to avoid paying so much.

As it stands, the tax affects just 4% of British estates and contributes only 77p of every £100 of total taxation. This puts the tax in the awkward position of being both highly unpopular and raising very little revenue. Currently the inheritance tax threshold stands at £325,000 per person. Anything above this is subject to a 40% tax (unless you leave everything above the threshold to your spouse, civil partner or charity).

If you own your own home and are leaving it your children (including adopted, foster or stepchildren) or grandchildren and your estate is worth less than £2 million, this can lift the threshold by an additional £125,000 in the 2018-19 tax year (the nil-rate band), to £450,000.

Inheritance Tax is seen as unfair for several reasons, the main one being because it is a tax on giving (while normal taxes apply to earnings) and it is a ‘double tax’ on people who have already earned – and been taxed on – their wealth.

In its report¹ dated May 2018 , The Resolution Foundation; a prominent independent think tank, set out an alternative. They proposed abolishing Inheritance Tax and replacing it with a Lifetime Receipts Tax.

This would see individuals given a Lifetime Receipts Allowance which would allow them to receive tax free gifts through their lifetime up to a set threshold. They would then have to pay tax on any gifts they received that exceeded this threshold. The thinktank suggests that by setting a lifetime limit of £125,000 and then applying tax at 20% up to £500,000 and 30% after that, this would be both a fairer system and harder to avoid. It would also encourage individuals to spread their wealth wider.

They predict that a lifetime receipts tax would raise an extra £5 billion by 2021, bringing in £11 billion rather than the £6 billion inheritance tax currently raises. In a time of mounting pressure on public services like the NHS, this additional revenue would be welcomed by many.

The Lifetime Receipts Allowance would also remove many of the current ways of managing the amount of assets an individual is taxed on upon death. For instance, people would not be able to reduce the size of their taxable estate by giving away liquid assets seven years prior to their death.

The Resolution Foundation also suggests tightening up on existing reliefs such as Business Property Relief, Agricultural Relief, the treatment of inherited pensions and the forgiveness of Capital Gains Tax at death to reduce the scope for tax avoidance.

The Lifetime Receipts Tax is only a think tank recommendation and is not being considered by the government but for the reasons stated … it could have legs.

¹https://www.resolutionfoundation.org/app/uploads/2018/05/IC-inheritance-tax.pdf 

Warning
The information provided is based upon the authors understanding of taxation and legislation at the time of writing.  Any level and bases of, and reliefs from taxation are subject to change.

Gifting to Charity

Charities greatly appreciate people’s generosity, as it is vital to the continuance of their works.

During your lifetime you can support your chosen Charities through volunteering your time, donating items for them to sell or, gifting them money. Any gift of money is usually eligible for gift aid in the hands of the charity (essentially the Government adds 20p for every 80p you donate) and income tax relief for the donor at their highest marginal tax rate.

Gifts on death tend to be of a more substantial nature. These gifts, known as a ‘legacy’ are not counted in your estate for inheritance tax (IHT) –reducing the amount of IHT due. If the amount left to Charities is at least 10% of the net estate at the date of death, the IHT rate applying to the residual estate also reduces from 40% to 36%.

This all sounds simple doesn’t it; but in leaving a legacy to Charity, you should be aware that a Charity has a different legal status to a private individual, thus is subject to stringent legislation.

Each charity is the responsibility of its Trustees who have duties to the Charity’s work. In addition to complying with numerous rules and regulations, trustee duties also include ensuring that any funds left are used for the purpose for which they have been given (if applicable) and ensuring that the charity receives full benefit from the donor (i.e. maximum value for estate assets). However, if the legacies have not been carefully thought out, these two responsibilities can cause distress for executors at a difficult emotional time.

Below are two example scenarios that on the face of it seem reasonable, but could cause some distress to executors:

Scenario 1 – “I leave an amount equal to 10% of my net estate to ABC Charity”
Scenario 2 – “I leave £10,000 to DEF Charity to perform XYZ purpose”

Scenario 1 Issue – The Charity Trustees, upon reviewing the Will and estate account feel that certain assets have been undervalued and as such the Charity has not received the full amount as dictated in the Will. This could result in having to obtain further valuations of major assets and distribute further money to the charity instead of the other beneficiaries.

Scenario 2 Issue – DEF Charity do not perform XYZ purpose. In this instance they may not be able to accept the legacy and additional guidance may be required from their regulator, or even the courts – this could be time consuming and / or costly.

When updating your Will, your solicitor should be able to help with solutions to any potential issues like those highlighted above (for example, gifting a set amount and not stating a particular purpose for the money) – thereby allowing your chosen charities to receive the legacies you wish, whilst not causing your executors any additional issues.

Simplicity is the key here.

Warning
This material is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute advice. The information is based upon the authors understanding of the taxation, legislation and regulations at the time of writing. Any level and bases of, and reliefs from taxation are subject to change.

 

 

Looking at the big retirement picture

Considering making pension contributions ahead of the tax year end?

Investing for the future is vital if you want to enjoy a financially secure retirement, and it requires you to look at the big picture. Although pensions can be complicated, we will help you get to grips with the rules if you are considering making contributions ahead of the tax year end. Here are our top pension tax tips.

Annual and lifetime limits

Getting tax relief on pensions means some of your money that would have gone to the Government as tax goes into your pension instead. You can put as much as you want into your pension, but there are annual and lifetime limits on how much tax relief you receive on your pension contributions. Please note that if you are a Scottish taxpayer, the tax relief you will be entitled to will be at the Scottish Rate of Income Tax, which may differ from the rest of the UK.

Provided that you stay within your pension allowances, all pensions give you tax relief at the rate that you have paid on your contributions. For personal pensions, you receive tax relief at the basic rate of 20% inside the pension. That means for every £800 you pay in, HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) will top it up to £1,000. If you’re a higher or additional rate taxpayer, you can claim back up to an additional 20% or 25% on top of the 20% basic rate tax relief through your self-assessment tax return.

Benefit from tax relief

For workplace pensions, your employer normally takes your pension contribution direct from your salary before Income Tax so that the contribution is not taxed at source like the rest of your employment income, and therefore the full benefit is received inside your pension immediately. If your employer does not handle your contributions before tax, then these would benefit from tax relief in the same way as for a personal pension contribution.

You’re still entitled to receive basic rate tax relief on pension contributions even if you don’t pay tax. The maximum you can pay into your pension as a non-taxpayer is £2,880 a year, which is equivalent to a £3,600 contribution once you factor in tax relief.

Total amount of contributions

The annual allowance is a limit to the total amount of contributions that can be paid in to defined contribution pension schemes and the total amount of benefits that you can build up in a defined

10 Things That are Good for Us

I read various blogs and articles over the weekend and one grabbed my attention, so I thought I would share some of the content with you … and add a little of my own.

Most days (and particularly at this time of year) the media can confuse us with information about activities, foods, drinks, supplements and other things that are supposedly good or bad for us.  The article I read focused on the following things that are good for us – 

  1. Breakfast. Many people skip breakfast (I am not one of them as Nicky, my partner, will testify). A good breakfast gives you energy and keeps you away from the mid-morning biscuit(s). Eating breakfast is associated with maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes, and better concentration and memory. 
  1. Saunas and hot tubs. I have often toyed with the idea of having a sauna installed at home as they can make you feel good and apparently there are health benefits as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, they can improve cardiovascular function and lower blood pressure and relieve symptoms of arthritis, headache and flu.
  1. Organic foods. I know that many of us are sceptical about the benefits of organic food, (especially me as a short-armed Yorkshireman) and particularly because they are more expensive. Science says that organic food, despite the price, are better for you as have more nutrients, less toxins and fewer pesticides.
  1. A sceptical attitude. Now I thought I would score high here, but I maybe verging on being more cynical than sceptical. However, as part of the ‘me’ going forwards I will look at the facts and evidence before believing in something. Sceptics are less likely to fall for the next best thing be it a fad diet, trendy quick fix or cure all. They are also less likely to believe that everything will work out fine and so they take measures to improve their outlook for the future by exercising, eating properly, driving safely and avoiding health risks.
  1. Physical contact. Being physically close, holding hands and giving backrubs all tend to reduce physical pain and this is not something the ladies have simply dreamt up. It was in fact the conclusion from research undertaken by the University of Colorado Boulder whereby 22 couples took part. The women were subjected to mild pain (I guess this would have been equivalent to extreme pain for a man), first when they were holding hands and then when they were sitting together but not touching. The women reported significantly less pain when they were holding hands but not when they were sitting together.  Maybe we could give that a try at the Manchester United matches ….
  1. Herbs and spices. This is definitely something I firmly agree with – any excuse to eat a good curry. Herbs and spices are full of healthy compounds that reduce inflammation and additional flavours that lead us to use less sugar salt and fat in our foods. There is a long list of benefits but here are a few of my favourites (note the curry theme again). Chilli’s boost metabolism and keep blood vessels healthy. Cumin can help weight loss, Cinnamon can help reduce inflammation. Garlic reduces cholesterol and blood pressure. Turmeric may improve memory and help ease pain.
  1. Move. I heard a doctor use the phrase “motion is the best lotion”. It is important to exercise and I’m sure we all know the benefits, so no need for to expand on this one.
  1. Passion and purpose. It is hugely beneficial to have an interest and a passion for things such as a pastime, voluntary work or even continuing to work. We have found that those who fill their time with their passions tend to lead a more fulfilling and healthy life.
  1. Coffee… and tea. Coffee perks you up and tea helps you relax according to WebMD. Coffee may help stave off Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, diabetes and liver disease and the recurrence of colon cancer and tea boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
  1. Sleep. According to a study from Northwestern University, people who are night owls are at risk of developing health problems, including diabetes and neurological disorders. But it seems the crux of the issue is sleep deprivation, which affects not just your physical well-being, but cognitive performance as well. But don’t be complacent if you sleep a lot; sleeping too much is associated with the same health risks as sleeping too little. So how much is the right amount? Apparently somewhere between 7 – 9 hours is about right.

So, if you agree with the experts on things that are good for us, here we have an ‘ideal’ healthy day: –

Wake up with a sceptical attitude, have a healthy organic breakfast with a coffee then off to work or to follow your passion.  Return home, enjoy a cuddle or go for a walk holding hands, followed by a sauna or sit in a hot tub with a cup of tea. Then feast on an organic curry, spend time doing something you enjoy before retiring to bed at a reasonable time.