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Tax Planning page

Improving your financial health

560 315 Jess Easby

Staying on track to achieving specific financial goals

All of your financial decisions and activities have an effect on your financial health. To help improve your financial health during this period of rising inflation rates and household costs, we look at three areas that could help keep you on track to achieving your specific financial goals.

Beat the national insurance rise

The National Insurance rise from April this year has gone ahead for workers and employers despite pressure to reverse the decision to increase this by 1.25%, which is aimed at raising £39 billion for the Treasury. From April 2023, it is set to revert back to its current rate, and a 1.25% health and social care levy will be applied to raise funds for further improvements to care services.

One way to beat the National Insurance increase is by taking advantage of salary sacrifice, which means you and your employer pay less National Insurance contributions. Some employers may decide to maximise the amount of pension contributions by adding the savings they make in lower employer National Insurance contributions (NICs) to the total pension contribution amount they pay. This is also a way to make your pension savings more tax-efficient. If you choose to take up a salary sacrifice scheme option, you and your employer will agree to reduce your salary, and your employer will then pay the difference into your pension, along with their contributions to the scheme. As you are effectively earning a lower salary, both you and your employer pay lower NICs, which could mean your take-home pay will be higher. Better still, your employer might pay part or all of their NICs saving into your pension too (although they don’t have to do this).

Review your savings

Accounts and rates

Money held in savings accounts hasn’t grown much in recent years due to historically low interest rates. But with inflation running higher, your savings are now at risk of losing value in ‘real’ terms as you will be able to buy less with your money.

In some respects, inflation can be seen as a positive. It’s a sign of strong economic recovery post-COVID, increasing salaries and higher consumer spending. But it’s bad news for your cash savings. Relying solely or overly on cash might prevent you from achieving your long-term financial goals, which may only be possible if you accept some level of investment risk.

In an environment where the cost of living is rising faster than the interest rates received on cash, there is a danger that your savings will slowly become worth less and less, leaving you in a worse position later on. If you have money in savings, it is important to keep an eye on interest rates and where your money is saved. Rates are low and you will lose money in real terms if inflation is higher than the interest rate offered on your savings account or Cash ISA.

Shift longer term savings into equities

During times of high inflation, it’s important to keep your goals in mind. For example, if your investment goals are short term, you may not need to worry much about how inflation is impacting your money. But if you’re investing for the long term, inflation can have a larger impact on your portfolio if it’s sustained – although high inflation that only lasts for a short period may end up just being a blip on your investment journey.

If you have large amounts of money sitting in cash accounts one way to beat inflation is to invest some of your money in a long-term asset that will appreciate with time, thus increasing your buying power over time. There are many ways to invest your money, but most strategies revolve around one of two categories: growth investments and income investments.

Historically, equities have offered an effective way to outperform inflation. Cyclical stocks – like financials, energy and resources companies – are especially well-suited to benefit from rising prices. These sectors typically perform better when the economy is doing well, or recovering from a crisis. Depositing funds into your investment portfolio on a regular basis (such as monthly from salary) can help you invest at different prices, averaging out the overall price at which you get into the market. Known as pound-cost averaging, this can help you smooth out any fluctuations caused by market volatility over the long term. While volatility will always exist, it can be managed and reduced by taking this approach.

Would you like advice on how to improve your financial health? Speak to us to find out how we can help.

Family playing in the snow after discussing tax planning

New Year’s Tax Planning Opportunities

560 315 Eleonore Bylo

Family playing in the snow after discussing tax planningMake full use of your relevant tax planning opportunities

With the tax year end (5 April) on the horizon, taking action now may give you the opportunity to take advantage of any remaining reliefs, allowances and exemptions.

We have provided some key tax and financial planning tips to consider prior to the end of the tax year. Now is also an ideal opportunity to take a wider review of your circumstances and plan for the year ahead.

Check your paye tax code

It’s important to check your tax code. Your tax code is based on the amount of tax you should be paying and the amount you can earn before tax applies. The tax code is the identifier that tells your employer how much tax should be deducted from your salary each time you get paid. If you have multiple employers or pension providers, you may get more than one tax code. If you’re on the wrong one, you could be paying HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) more than you ought to be. On the other hand, you risk getting penalised if you’re paying too little.

Transfer part of your personal allowance

Married couples and registered civil partners are permitted to share 10% of their personal allowance between them. The unused allowance of one partner can be used by the other, meaning an overall combined tax saving.

The amount you can transfer is £1,260 for 2021/22 and a transfer is not permitted if the recipient partner pays tax at a rate higher than the basic rate of 20% (higher than the intermediate rate of 21% for Scottish taxpayers).

Contribute up to £9,000 into your child’s junior ISA

The fund builds up free of tax on investment income and capital gains until your child reaches age 18, when the funds can either be withdrawn or rolled over into an adult ISA. Relatives and friends can also contribute to your child’s Junior ISA, as long as the £9,000 limit for 2021/22 is not breached.

Tax-free savings and dividend allowances

For 2021/22, savings income of up to £1,000 is exempt for basic rate taxpayers, with a £500 exemption for higher rate taxpayers. The tax-free dividend allowance is £2,000 for all taxpayers. Married couples and registered civil partners could save tax by ensuring that each person has enough of the right type of income to make use of these tax-free allowances.

Individual Savings Account (ISAs)

You can put the entire amount into a Cash ISA, a Stocks & Shares ISA, an Innovative Finance ISA, or any combination of the three (or up to £4,000 out of the overall £20,000 allowance into a lifetime ISA if aged between 18 to 39). Usually when you invest, you have to pay tax on any income or capital gains you earn from your investments. But with an ISA, provided you stick to the rules on how much you can pay in, all capital gains and income made from your investments won’t be taxed. Every tax year you have an ISA allowance, which is currently £20,000 for the 2021/22 tax year.

Utilise any capital loses

If you realise capital gains and losses in the same tax year, the losses are offset against the gains before the capital gains tax exempt amount (£12,300 in 2021/22) is deducted. Capital losses will be wasted if gains would otherwise be covered by your exempt amount. Consider postponing a sale that will generate a loss until the following tax year, or alternatively realising more gains in the current year.

Maximise pension contributions

The annual allowance for 2021/22 is £40,000. To avoid an annual allowance tax charge, the pension contributions made by yourself, and by your employer on your behalf, must be covered by your available annual allowance. If you haven’t used all your allowances in the last three tax years, it might be possible to pay more into your pension plan by ‘carrying forward’ whatever allowance is left to make the most of the tax relief on offer, though bear in mind that your own personal tax-relievable contribution amount is still capped at 100% of your earnings.

However, different rules apply if you’ve already started to take money flexibly out of your pension plan and you’re affected by the Money Purchase Annual Allowance, or if your income when added to your employer’s payments are more than £240,000 and your income less your own contributions is over £200,000.

Pay pension contributions to save NICs

If you pay pension contributions out of your salary, both you and your employer have to pay National Insurance Contributions (NICs) on that salary. When your employer pays a contribution directly into your pension scheme, the employer receives tax relief for the contribution and there are no NICs to pay – a saving for both you and your employer.

You could arrange with your employer to cover the cost of the contributions by foregoing part of your salary or bonus. You must agree in writing to adjust your salary before you become entitled to that salary or bonus and before the revised pension contributions are paid for this arrangement to be tax-effective, although pension contributions are not caught by the clampdown on salary sacrifice arrangements.

Make a Will and review it

If you die without making a Will, your assets will be divided between your relatives according to the intestacy rules. Your surviving spouse or registered civil partner may only receive a portion of your estate, and Inheritance Tax will be due at 40% on anything else above £325,000 (up to £500,000 if the Residence Nil Rate Band is available).

Leave some of your estate to charity

Where you leave at least 10% of your net estate to charities, as well as the gift to charity being free from Inheritance Tax, the Inheritance Tax on your remainder estate is charged at 36% instead of 40%. The exact calculation of your net estate is quite complicated, so it’s important to receive professional advice when drawing up or amending your Will.

Make regular IHT-free gifts

As long as you establish a pattern of gifts that can be shown to be covered by your net income, without reducing either your capital assets or your normal standard of living, these gifts will be free of Inheritance Tax. The recipients of the gifts need not be the same people each year.

Use the IHT marriage exemption

If your son or daughter is about to marry, you and your spouse can each give them £5,000 in consideration of the marriage, and the gift will be free of Inheritance Tax. The marriage exemption can also be combined with your £3,000 a year Inheritance Tax exemption to allow you to make larger exempt gifts. You can make an Inheritance Tax-free gift of £2,500 for a grandchild’s wedding. Registered civil partnerships attract the same exemptions.

Make IHT-free gifts each tax year

These gifts are free of Inheritance Tax and, if you forget to make your £3,000 gift one year, you can catch up in the next tax year by giving a total of £6,000 but you can only carry forward the £3,000 allowance for one tax year and must fully use the current year’s allowance as well. Remember, you and your spouse or registered civil partner can each give £3,000 out of your capital every tax year, in addition to gifts you make out of your regular income.

Do I need personal tax planning advice?

It is crucial that year-end tax planning reviews are undertaken as soon as possible, as you will need time to consider all the options available. Many of the allowances and reliefs cannot be applied retrospectively after 5 April 2022. We can provide a comprehensive review, tailored to your individual needs and circumstances. Don’t delay, please contact us if you require further information.

Information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are subject to change. The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

An older lady on her iPad planning for her retirement

The Power of a Plan

560 315 Eleonore Bylo

An older lady on her iPad planning for her retirementHow to create a personal financial plan in 8 steps

When thinking about your future financial wellbeing, it can be helpful to consider a plan. It is a good idea to have a clear sense of what you want from life and use this as a guide for making important decisions.

A comprehensive financial plan helps you achieve your goals by analysing your current situation, planning for the future and providing continuous monitoring of progress towards those goals. A well-thought out plan can help you protect yourself from unexpected events that could affect your ability to meet long-term financial commitments. What do you want to do in life? Who are the people who matter most to you? What do you worry about at night?

Step 1: Set your goals

Without them, it’s hard to know what direction you’re headed and even harder to remember where you came from. Critical goals come before needs and wants.

When life changes – and it always does – your goals help guide your financial decisions and focus on what’s important.

Step 2: Make a budget

So you’ve decided to start keeping track of your income and expenditure, but how do you know where to begin? Creating a budget can seem like a daunting task, especially if you are not familiar with the process.

Not only is it important to know how much money is coming in and going out of your household each month, it’s also vital that you understand where that money is being spent. With a budget, you can align what you make with what you spend. With goals set, you can now organise your money.

In fact, when creating your budget, it’s important to remember that there will be some things that don’t fit into your monthly spending plan, and emergency savings make a great way to cover these unexpected costs.

Step 4: Protect your income

Falling ill or having an accident doesn’t have to become a financial burden on you or your family. What if you or your partner got too sick or hurt to work? Or passed away unexpectedly? Could those who depend on you still pay the bills – and save for the future? Planning your financial future isn’t only about savings and investments.

Of equal importance is putting protection in place for you and your family for when you die or if you become ill. Most people have heard of life insurance, but may not know about the different types or about the options for people affected by ill health. No one likes to think of these things. But life can change in an instant. It’s good to hope for the best, but be ready for the unexpected. Insurance helps you do that.

Step 5: Pay down debt

The importance of paying down personal debt cannot be understated. But it can be difficult to prioritise paying down debt while still paying for essential day-to-day living expenses. However, ignoring the significance of personal debt could lead you to major financial trouble in the long run.

Paying off your debts will not only free up cash flow to allow you to save, it will also go towards improving your credit score. The lower your debt-to-income ratio is, the better your credit rating. Your credit rating affects the interest rates that lenders charge you for mortgages, car loans and other types of financing.

Step 6: Save and plan for retirement

Everyone needs to save and plan for retirement. No matter how much you make or whether you have a job, you should always start saving as early as possible. It is important for you to take control of your retirement planning and make decisions regarding your pension. It is often not appreciated that contributing to a pension arrangement can help you build up an extremely valuable asset.

People are living longer and leading more active lives in retirement. As a result, it is more important than ever for you to think about where your income will come from when you retire. Pension saving is one of the few areas where you can still get tax relief.

Step 7: Invest some of your savings

Saving and investing are important parts of a sound financial plan. Whereas saving provides a safety net for unexpected expenses, investing is a strategy for building wealth. Once you have an emergency savings fund of three to six months’ worth of living expenses, you can develop a strategy to grow your wealth through investing.

Investing gives your money the potential to grow faster than it could in a savings account. If you have a long time until you need to meet your goal, your returns will compound. Basically, this means in addition to a higher rate of return on investments, your investment earnings will also earn money over time.

Step 8: Make your final plans

The importance of estate planning is necessary for all individuals, not just the wealthy. Without proper estate planning in place to protect your assets, you could end up leaving large amounts of money to be fought over by your loved ones and a large Inheritance Tax bill.

Your estate planning should sit alongside making your Will, both key parts of putting your affairs in order later in life. Working out the best ways to leave money in a Will before you pass away can help to make the lives of your loved ones easier when you’re no longer around.

I am ready to start a conversation

Financial planning may be complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. We’re committed to ensuring you feel comfortable, informed and supported at each stage of your financial planning journey. To find out more, or to discuss how we could help you and your family, please contact us.

Younger couple on a boat thinking about their financial future

Steps towards a better financial future

560 315 Eleonore Bylo

Younger couple on a boat thinking about their financial futureSteps towards a better financial future – grow, protect and transfer your wealth

Financial planning is a step-by-step approach to ensure you meet your life goals and achieve a better financial future. Your financial plan should act as a guide as you move through life’s journey. Essentially, it should help you remain in control of your income, expenses and investments so you can manage your money and achieve your goals.

Life rarely stands still. Priorities shift, circumstances change, opportunities come and go and plans need to adapt. But regular discussion and reviews are the key to keeping on top of things. This means adapting your plans when things change, to keep you on course.

1. What are my financial goals?

Generally, people’s financial goals change as they progress through different life stages. Here are some themes which might help you  consider your own goals:

  • In your twenties, you may want to focus on saving for large purchases, such as a car, wedding or your first home
  • In your thirties, you may be planning for your family, perhaps school fees or your children’s future
  • In your forties, your focus may move to retirement planning and growing your wealth
  • In your fifties, paying off your mortgage and feeling financially free is likely to be a priority
  • In your sixties, it is usually about making sure you have enough money to retire successfully
  • In your seventies, your attention may turn to inheritance planning and later-life care

Other plans may also include starting your own business, buying a second home or travelling the world. Of course, everyone is different, so you might have a goal in mind we haven’t mentioned.

2. Are my goals short, medium or long term?

You are likely to have a mixture of short-term (less than three years), medium-term (three to ten years) and long-term (more than ten years) goals. Moving to a larger property might be a short-term goal, while saving for your children’s university fees might be a medium-term goal and retirement planning a long-term goal (depending on your life stage).

You’ll need different strategies, and different saving and investment risk levels, for each of these goals.

3. How hard is my money currently working?

If your cash is currently in a savings deposit account, the interest rate you’ll likely be receiving is probably not going to be sufficient to keep your money growing as quickly as inflation is rising over the longer term. So your savings could eventually lose buying power in real terms over the years ahead.

If you want your money to grow faster, you might want to consider allocating a portion of your savings towards  investments. This may involve more risk than a savings account, but the amount of risk involved will be dependent on you and what you are looking to achieve, so you decide. Obtaining professional advice will ensure you choose investments at a risk level that suits your preferences.

4. Have I paid off my debts?

It’s not always wise to start investing if you have debts that you need to pay off (excluding longterm debts like student loans and mortgages).
That’s because overdrafts, credit cards and other short-term debts can charge you more in interest than you could expect to gain in  investment returns. In most instances, it will benefit you more in the future to become debt-free before you start to grow your wealth.

5. Am I making the most of my tax-efficient allowances?

All UK taxpayers receive certain allowances to help with saving and investing. For example, you may already have an Individual Savings Account (ISA) and be taking advantage of your annual allowance. You also have a capital gains allowance, a dividends allowance and a pension annual allowance. All of these will help you to grow your wealth faster, if you know how to use them.

Tax allowances can be complex though, and they can change without much notice, so if you’re not careful you risk an unexpected tax charge. If in doubt, talk us to review your options.

6. What are my retirement plans?

A key factor in any financial plan is the date you plan to retire, as that typically marks a turning point from accumulation of wealth built up throughout your working life, to the reduction of wealth as you start to spend your savings and pass your assets on to loved ones. Ensuring that those two elements of your life are well balanced is an important part of the financial planning process.

Are you planning with a purpose?

Once you’ve answered these six questions for yourself, your financial plan will start to take shape. But you might still have more questions about how to reach a particular goal, how to reduce a potential tax bill, how to invest without taking on too much risk, how to pay off your debts or how much money you’ll need to retire successfully, in which case we can help. Please speak to us – we look forward to hearing from you.

Information is based on our current understanding of taxation legislation and regulations. Any levels and bases of, and reliefs from, taxation are subject to change. The value of investments and income from them may go down. You may not get back the original amount invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.