Trust Tax Consultation – Nothing To See Here (Yet)

Please forgive the unusually technical nature of my blog today, but this is an issue that impacts on many of our clients and potential clients – trust taxation.

Many people would have seen the media reports about the consultation that HMRC has launched on the taxation of trusts (among other issues I might add).

The consultation is focusing on the taxation of trusts, their operation and administration and also checking that the treatment of trusts is fair and equitable when taken together with the other possible methods of estate planning.

In principle, none of this is a bad thing.

My Good Friends – The Media

Now as you might expect, the media have vastly over-done the potential impact of this consultation. Some headlines have declared that ‘IHT trusts will be stripped of their tax advantages’.

This makes for a good headline (and no doubt draws readers and traffic to websites to drive ad revenue), but is it actually true?

Well, as with any consultation, the strict answer is – we don’t know.

A consultation is just that, a consultation.

HMRC are seeking input and ideas on some of the questions posed by the consultation.

What we can glean from the questions though is the direction of travel and nothing in the consultation document itself (unlike some of the media commentators, I actually saw fit to read the whole document before making prophecies of doom) has given me major cause for concern at this time.

First of all, many consultations result in no change at all. Either the consultation does not deliver a viable alternative to the status quo, or the whole things just loses steam and falls off the radar. This has happened countless times before.

But, even if we do see action, I think much of it could be positive.

The consultation document first talks about simplifying the taxation of trusts (nothing about the rates here, just the operation). This would be incredibly welcome given the current complexities of accounting for income tax, capital gains tax and inheritance tax across the settlors, the trustees and the beneficiaries of a trust.

Three different taxes accounted for across three different groups of people can and does get messy sometimes and any simplification to this system will do nothing to harm the appeal of trusts.

The document also talks about the fact that the 20% entry charge on gifts into trusts could be perceived as unfair when compared to the unlimited potential gifts we can make to other people.

Although nothing is certain, the language here hints to me that HMRC could be playing with the idea of removing this charge which would again be most welcome.

The only potential downside is that there is hints of an increase to the 6% periodic charge. While this would be unwelcome, it would also be relatively un-important for the majority of our clients on the basis that we usually manage trusts to be below the nil rate band allowance, meaning that no tax is due in any case, regardless of the rate.

The consultation document recognises the benefits of trusts in financial planning and in society and so I don’t see any prospects of trusts being ‘outlawed’ (again, contrary to some headlines you may stumble across).

As with many things, ‘wait and see’ will be the best approach here.

Firstly, the consultation may come to nothing, in which case, no action will be required.

Second, the consultation could provide benefits to trust planning, in which case we will look at how we can take advantage.

And, if we do see any negative changes, we will analyse them and plan around them, just like we have planned around numerous negative tax changes before and no doubt will again in the future.

Despite the headlines, I don’t believe that the consultation (in its current form) is particularly dangerous.

Taking action based on sensationalist headlines on the other hand – well that could prove very dangerous indeed.

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.

Residential Nil Rate Band – Planning actions for estates worth more than £2,000,000

Those with estates worth over £2,000,000 will begin to lose out on the new Residential Nil Rate Band. The new allowance is ‘tapered’ away at a rate of £1 for every £2 that your estate is over £2,000,000.

For example, if your estate was worth £2.1m, you would lose £50,000 of the new Residential Nil Rate Band.

While this is clearly unwelcome news for those with larger estates, it does present some significant planning opportunities.

For example, if a couple had an estate worth £2.2m, they would lose £100,000 of their Residential Nil Rate Band, increasing their inheritance tax bill by £40,000.

If considered planning via trusts or qualifying investments was used to bring the estate back under £2m, not only would the £200,000 excess be outside of the estate for tax purposes, but the full Residential Nil Rate bade could be re-claimed.

Estates of this size should also consider other estate planning and succession actions to ensure that the maximum value can be passed down to future generations.

Our estate planning seminars cover all of the topics outlined above, as well as some other innovative methods by which you can preserve and protect your estate. The events are free to attend and you can book your place here.

Residential Nil Rate Band – Planning actions for estates worth more than £500,000 (unmarried) or £1,000,000 (Married), but less than £2,000,000

People in this category stand to gain significantly from the new legislation, however careful planning is required to ensure that you gain the maximum benefit.

Estates of this size are likely to be facing an inheritance tax liability, despite the introduction of the Residential Nil Rate Band, however this should be significantly reduced.

Some wills created historically contained what is known as a ‘nil rate band’ trust. The use of this type of trust has the potential to cause the Residential Nil Rate Band to be lost, as the transfer of the assets would be to the trust and not to direct descendants. It would be good practice to review you will for the presence of a nil rate band trust.

Your direct descendants (i.e children or grandchildren) will need to be the ones who inherit the residential home to qualify for the new relief. Does your current will meet these criteria?

Consideration should be given to other inheritance tax planning actions that could reduce the inheritance tax liability further or eliminate it altogether. This could include the use of lifetime trusts or qualifying investments.

Our estate planning seminars cover all of the above topics in detail and are free to attend. You can book your place here.

Residential Nil Rate Band – Planning actions for estates worth more than £325,000 but less than £500,000 (unmarried) or more than £650,000 but less than £1,000,000 (married couple)

People in this bracket are well placed to make full use of the new Residential Nil Rate Band, so long as the correct planning is put in place.

In effect, people in this category who own a residential home worth at least £175,000 (unmarried) or £350,000 (married couple) and who have children, should be in a position to pass their estate down to their direct descendants with no inheritance tax to pay.

There are however, a number of potential pitfalls to look out for as follows:

Some wills created historically contained what is known as a ‘nil rate band’ trust. The use of this type of trust has the potential to cause the Residential Nil Rate Band to be lost, as the transfer of the assets would be to the trust and not to direct descendants. It would be good practice to review you will for the presence of a nil rate band trust.

Your direct descendants (i.e children or grandchildren) will need to be the ones who inherit the residential home to qualify for the new relief. Does your current will meet these criteria?

We are running a series of free estate planning seminars where you can learn more about the new Residential Nil Rate Band and how to avoid some common mistakes.

Residential Nil Rate Band – Planning Actions for Estates Worth Less Than £325,000 (unmarried) or £650,000 (married couple)

The introduction of the new Residential Nil Rate Band is unlikely to effect people in this bracket, so long as the estate is forecast to remain below these limits (which have now been frozen again until at least 2021) for the foreseeable future.

For those who are expecting their estate to increase over and above these limits, additional planning may be required. We would suggest that you attend one of our free estate planning seminars to learn more about the Residential Nil Rate Band and how to avoid some common mistakes.

As a matter of course, it is good practice to review your will every 5 years or so to ensure that it fully reflects your wishes and remains up to date with current legislation.

People in this category may still wish to consider the use of trusts to protect their family assets, despite the absence of large tax advantages.

The New Property IHT Allowance

One of the more predictable elements of the summer Budget was the introduction of a new ‘Property Nil Rate Band’, which will mean that eventually individuals can pass on a further £175,000 tax free to their direct dependents, in addition to the current £325,000 nil rate band that exists at present.

As with all new legislation however, there are some things to be aware of.

First of all, the new allowance will be introduced in tranches as follows:

  • 2017/18 – £100,000
  • 2018/19 – £125,000
  • 2019/20 – £150,000
  • 2020/21 – £175,000

These amounts are given with reference to the date of death of the deceased.

In addition, the new Nil Rate Band will only apply to a family home (i.e your main residence), passed onto direct descendants, which in the legislation are taken to mean children and grandchildren. There is some further consultation on where the property could be left to certain types of trust.

As with all new legislation, it is important to review you current plans to make sure you get the full benefit. Any older will that include gifts into trust, may not be eligible to claim the new nil rate band, and this could also be true for those who do not own a home, or who choose to leave their home to people not considered to be direct descendants.

We will be covering the new changes in detail during our updated Estate Planning Seminars, running from September onwards. You find out more information here.

Our 2014 Investment Action Plan – Part 4 – Beware of Pension Tax Changes

As the current tax year draws to a close many individuals will be looking to take advantage of the generous tax relief available on pension contributions. While this is an effective form of planning for many clients, care needs
to be taken to ensure that pension contributions and overall savings remain within the permitted limits.

Pensions tax allowances have been an easy target for the government in recent years and 2014 is no different. Both
the Annual and Lifetime Allowance are set to be reduced once again.

The Annual Allowance is the amount of tax advantaged pension saving that an individual can make in a single “pension input period”, not to be confused with the tax year itself. A pension input period is normally 12 months and the actual dates are decided by the pension scheme. Each pension input period relates to a specific tax year. The annual allowance has been on the chopping block for a number of years now, looking something like this over the past few tax years:

10/11 – £255,000

11/12 – £50,000

12/13 – £50,000

13/14 – £50,000

14/15 – £40,000

You are able to carry forward any unused allowance from the previous 3 tax years, although there are special rules relating to this facility for the 10/11 tax year.

People who are members of a final salary pension scheme are particularly vulnerable to the annual allowance.
An increase in salary or a pensionable bonus could easily cause a breach of the allowance and the subsequent tax charge. A series of complex calculations are required to work out the deemed contributions for a final salary pension scheme member. The input amount is not simply based on the payments made by the member, as many people wrongly assume.

Individuals with personal pension schemes will have an easier time making the required calculations, but could
still find themselves over the annual allowance without proper planning.

The Lifetime Allowance is the lifetime limit on pension savings that an individual can accumulate. The allowance was previously £1.8m. This reduced to £1.5m on 6th April 2012 and will fall again to £1.25m this year.

The penalties on any excess pension savings over the lifetime allowance are particularly severe, with the maximum tax charge currently standing at 55%. Once again, members of final salary or career average pension schemes should check carefully where they stand. An annual pension entitlement of £40,000 is an indication that further planning may be required.

There is a range of different protection schemes available which can reduce the impact of the changing lifetime allowance. Care should be taken however, because these protections usually come with some rather restrictive caveats.

Professional advice should be taken to establish your position against the annual and lifetime allowance and to ensure that you take advantage of all of the protections available to you. It can take some time to accumulate all of the information required to provide comprehensive advice in this area so clients should act without delay. 

From Pensions To Property

Following on from my post last week about taking the benefits from your pension plan as cash, I would also like to touch on the growing number of media outlets that are suggesting that people use their pension pot to purchase a buy to let property.

In the same format as last week, I have run a couple of very simple examples to show the tax implications of drawing money out of a pension in order to fund property purchase. For simplicity I am assuming that our subject has £100,000 in a pension pot and is considering purchasing a buy to let property that would have a 5% rental yield after expenses. We will also assume that the pension fund could generate a 5% return after fees. We will assume our subject has £20,000 per annum of other lifetime income.

 

Option 1 – Take all of the pension pot as cash and purchase a buy to let property

£100,000 pension pot could be taken as:

£25,000 Tax free

£75,000 will be subject to income tax as follows

£21,865 @ 20% = £4373 tax

£53,135 @ 40% = £21,254 tax

The client would receive £74,373 in cash and pay £25,627 in tax

£74,373 is then invested in a buy to let property and a 5% income is drawn from the property.

The income would be £3719 per annum ( this would reduce to £2975 after tax)

 

Option 2 – Leave the money invested and draw an income from the pension

£25,000 could still be drawn from the pension tax free (however this money is no longer needed to purchase a property and can be used as income)

£25,000 will provide income for 8.4 years based on £2975 per annum (as the property would produce above)

£75,000 remains invested and earns 5% per annum return on average for the 8.4 years mentioned above.

The £75,000 is now worth £111,793 (approximately).

5% income on this amount is £5589 per annum which would be £4471 after tax.

The client could also choose to draw larger amounts from the capital as well if required.

 

While property can form an important part of a retirement portfolio it would be wise to consider the tax consequences before taking the plunge!

 

 

 

Don’t Fall Into The Pension Tax Trap

I have been having numerous conversations with clients’ in the weeks since the budget who are proposing to withdraw their entire pension fund as cash (as per the new budget announcements) and simply invest the proceeds in the bank or another form of taxable investment.

While I did write about this very topic a few weeks ago, I thought it sensible to mention it again so that people are aware of the consequences of such actions. As such I have prepared a simple worked example to compare the difference between withdrawing a 100k pension fund as one lump sum in cash and investing this in the bank and taking the income gradually from the pension over a number of years. This example is for illustrative purposes only and should not be construed as advice to act. If you are unsure about your own pension provision, you should seek advice from a chartered financial planner.

For the purpose of this exercise I am making a few assumptions:

– The client has £20k per annum in other retirement income from final salary and state pensions.

– The client would like to take a further 10k per year of income to make a total of £30k

 

Option 1 – Take the whole pension as cash on retirement

£25,000 will be paid tax free

£75,000 will be subject to income tax as follows

£21,865 @ 20% = £4373 tax

£53,135 @ 40% = £21,254 tax

The client would receive £74,373 in cash and pay £25,627 in tax

Any income that the money generated would possibly be subject to further income tax or capital gains tax.

 

Option 2 – Take the tax free lump sum and then £10k per annum as required

£25,000 will be paid tax free

£10,000 per annum will be taxed at £20% = £2000 tax

The total tax paid on the original £75,000 remaining fund will only be £15,000

The client would receive £85,000 – a difference of £10,627!

Of course the money would also continue to be invested in a tax efficient environment and could well make substantial further gains over the time period in question.

The above is clearly a very simple example, however it illustrates the taxation implications of taking large pension pots in one lump sum.

 

The point I am trying to make is that the full withdrawal of a pension fund will generally be very tax inefficient and should only really be considered if the fund is very small or there are specific spending plans for the money.

If you would like to find out more about the options available to you at retirement please get in touch to request your discovery meeting.