Can’t We Just Leave Things Alone?

The continual tinkering with various tax allowances, reliefs and rates is getting a little tiresome. While I am all for positive change and simplification in this area, the opposite has been true over past years.

The biggest example of these changes is perhaps the £5,000 dividend allowance, which was only introduced last tax year and is now proposed to be reduced to £2,000 from April 2018. To further muddy the water, these proposed changes have been omitted from the finance act to ‘slim it down’ so that it could be passed before parliament dissolves before the election.

As such, we are left in a strange ‘limbo’, where we don’t know what the dividend allowance will be next year. Given that investment planning is a long-term game, it seems a little unfair to me to introduce an allowance one minute, reduce it the second and then back away from that reduction minutes later still.

These types of allowances do drive changes in people’s investment behaviour. For example, many people have been holding assets in ‘general investment accounts’ rather than investment bonds in the hope of making use of these new allowances. Given the changes, this strategy may not now be appropriate and investment holdings may need to be restructured yet again.

While I appreciate the need for the government to increase tax revenue, it would surely be better to set a lower allowance in the first instance, which could be retained for the longer term, rather than continually tinkering.