At this time of year we think about New Year’s resolutions. It is also a good time to start planning your tax affairs before the end of the tax year on 5 April.
An obvious tax planning point would be to maximise your ISA allowances for the 2018/19 tax year (currently £20,000 each).
You might also want to consider increasing your pension savings before 5 April 2019 as the unused annual pension allowance is lost after three years.
For those looking to do some inheritance tax planning it would be a good time to review (or make) your Will.
For most taxpayers the maximum pension contribution is £40,000 each tax year, although this depends on their earnings. This limit covers contributions by both the individual and their employer. Note that the unused allowance for a particular tax year may be carried forward for three years and can be added to the relief for the current year, but then lapses if unused. Hence the unused pension allowance for 2015/16 will lapse on 5 April 2019 if unused. Note that under the current rules the net after tax cost of saving £10,000 in a personal pension for a higher rate taxpayer is only £6,000 but there are rumours that this generous relief may be reduced in future.
If your pension savings are more than your annual allowance for the tax year, and you do not have unused annual allowances from the 3 previous tax years to cover the difference, you will have to pay tax on the excess.
You will get a statement from your pension provider telling you if you go above the annual allowance. If you are in more than one pension scheme, ask each pension provider for statements. This will help you work out how much you have gone above the allowance. There is a calculator on the HMRC website.
As you can see from the above, despite the “simplification” of pensions back in 2015, the system is still extremely complicated. Nevertheless, saving in a pension is still very tax-efficient as for a higher rate taxpayer the net cost of saving £10,000 in a pension is currently £6,000.
Although there will be no CGT on gifts of cash there may be CGT to pay where the gift comprises shares or other assets. This is because the transaction will generally be deemed to take place at market value between connected persons even though no money changes hands.
The amount of the gain would normally be determined by comparing the market value with the original cost of the asset gifted. Where the amount of this gain is within the annual CGT allowance (currently £11,700) then there would be no CGT payable.
Where the gift comprises shares in a trading company or other business assets it may be possible for donor and recipient to sign an election to hold over the gain so that no CGT is payable by the donor at the time of the gift. The effect of such an election is that the recipient of the asset will take over the donor’s original cost for subsequent disposal.
Although not particularly generous at £3,000 per donor per annum if this annual IHT exemption is not used by 5 April it is lost, although it is possible to carry the allowance forward one year if unused. This means that if the annual allowance for 2017/18 was not used an individual may make gifts of up to £6,000 in 2018/19.
Where the gifts to individuals exceed the annual exemption there may still be no inheritance tax to pay if they survive for 7 years following the gift or the gift falls within the £325,000 nil rate band.
As the result of changes announced in the Autumn Budget, and now incorporated into the latest Finance Bill, not all ordinary shares necessarily qualify for the 10% CGT entrepreneurs’ relief rate on disposal.
The definition of a personal company was tightened up so that from 29 October the shareholder must have entitlement to at least 5% of the company’s ordinary share capital, voting rights, profits available for distribution, and assets available on the winding up of the company. The shareholder, as before, will also need to be an officer or employee of the company.
This change means that certain “alphabet” and other shares with limited rights may no longer qualify for CGT entrepreneurs’ relief when disposed of. As a consequence of this change you may need to review the rights attaching to the shares that your company has issued and make changes to ensure that the shares qualify.
A more generous inheritance tax exemption applies where the donor can prove that he or she is not transferring capital but is making gifts out of their income. There are detailed conditions for this exemption to apply requiring records to be kept of income and expenditure in order to prove that there is sufficient surplus income each year to make regular gifts to the beneficiaries.
Certain traders can be made liable for the unpaid VAT of another VAT-registered business when you buy or sell specified goods. HMRC have recently updated VAT notice 726 which advises traders to carry out due diligence into their supply chain.
The specified goods are any equipment made or adapted for use as a telephone and any other equipment made or adapted for use in connection with telephones or telecommunication, such as SIM cards.
Also included is equipment made or adapted for use as a computer and any other equipment for use in connection with computers or computer systems and also other electronic equipment for use by individuals for the purposes of leisure, amusement or entertainment, such as Satnavs and games consoles.
Where possible higher rate taxpayers should “Gift Aid” any payments to charity to provide additional benefit to the charity and for the individual to obtain additional tax relief on the payment.
For example where an individual makes a £20 cash donation to charity the charity is able to reclaim a further £5 from HMRC making a gross gift of £25. Where the individual is a 40% higher rate taxpayer he or she is able to claim a further £5 tax relief under self-assessment, reducing their net cost to £15.
Note that the donor is required to make a declaration that they are a UK taxpayer and those that have not suffered sufficient UK tax to support the Gift Aid amount will be taxed on the shortfall.
Remember that Gift Aid does not just apply to gifts of cash. Many charity shops will now sell your donated items on your behalf and are able to treat the sale proceeds as Gift Aided donations. It is also possible to gift quoted securities and land and buildings to charity and claim Gift Aid on the market value of those assets.
Under certain circumstances it is possible to arrange the collection of unpaid tax through your PAYE coding rather than making a balancing payment on 31 January. This will depend upon the amount outstanding and the amount of income taxable under PAYE. There is a further condition that the return is submitted to HMRC online before 30 December 2018 in order that the 2017/18 tax be collected by amending the 2019/20 PAYE coding.