Late, late tax planning

The 2009 Pre-Budget Report in December signalled a significant number of tax increases in the UK designed to make up the significant Budget deficit following the banking crisis. For many or our clients there will be a significant impact on their finances.
-Income tax rates to rise and personal allowances to reduce for wealthier clients.
-Future changes to rates applicable for dividends, trusts and NICs.
-New 50% income tax band.

There are further complicated rules for pension relief restriction and the end of well-established tax breaks for furnished holiday lettings (currently enjoying business tax advantages). There is speculation about an increase in capital gains tax and I have heard different forecasts from various commentators.

We have about three weeks to do some quick planning which may mitigate in some part the higher tax payable on income receivable after 5th April 2010. It might be slightly less if restrictions are brought in with the 2010 Budget, for which we still await a date.

From 6 April 2010 there are higher rates of tax and fewer reliefs. Those earning in excess of £150,000 will be subject to a ‘super-tax’ of 50% on income over that threshold.

Furthermore, personal allowances will be restricted for those earning more than £100,000, at the rate of £1 for every £2 of income above that figure. As the current personal allowance is being frozen at £6,475 this means the full allowance will be extinguished at an income level of £112,950.

The gradual tapering of the allowance – within the narrow banding of £100,000 to £112,950 – means that where income falls within these limits, the effective rate of income tax is 60%.

In the current fiscal year ending in April it may be possible to convert income chargeable at 50% to gains chargeable at 18% or even an effective 10%. It would really depend on the circumstances of course, so no idle promises.

From 6 April 2010 there will be three rates of tax on dividend income. Where income falls within the basic rate band, the 10% tax credit will extinguish any liability, as before. The equivalent rate for 40% taxpayers remains at 32.5%, but a new rate of 42.5% will be introduced where income will be taxed at the new rate of 50%.

National Insurance contributions (NICs) are due to rise from April 2011 (a further year on), but if these go ahead as planned they will add another 1% to the rate, which is a significant uplift and may be a very sobering thought as people look ahead. Businesses could consider paying themselves in advance through salary or dividends, or paying their employees early bonuses but these are tough times from the point of view of cash flow. Still, any available option should be considered.

Our clients’ finances and tax positions need to be looked at in the round; taxation of small businesses is inextricably linked to the reward and taxation of their owners and their families. Whilst high earners will bear the brunt of the initial increases, every taxpayer will feel the effect. These are tough times and tough decisions need to be made, although not to the long-term detriment of the businesses themselves. In addition, with a General Election in the offing we can only plan in the short term based on what we know now.

If you know anyone who may be affected make sure that their accountants and tax advisers are reviewing their tax positions in these next few weeks. Of course you may wish to talk to me about how I can help. Not everyone will have the flexibility to adjust their financial strategy, but it is worth checking.

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