Personal Taxes – take action now while rates are low!

18 September 2020

With the UK’s level of borrowing this year expected to be almost seven times more than last year, at around £350bn, a cut in Government spending (eventually) and tax rises (sooner) seems inevitable.

A Wealth Tax has been mooted but, having had all the debate around asset rich, cash poor, problems it would cause, talk is now about excluding the main home and pension funds, but still leaves large capital values open to an annual tax.

In addition, the Government already commissioned a review of Inheritance Tax (IHT) last year and the recommendations from the Office for Tax Simplification (OTS) is still sitting around; an election, Brexit and the pandemic having slowed progress on any changes.

However, the OTS has also been asked to review Capital Gains Tax (CGT) in recent weeks, so we expect both of those to be subject to some joined up thinking, together with a Wealth Tax, so that a cohesive plan emerges around taxing capital and capital transactions.

It won’t be enough though – IHT and CGT currently raises around £13bn; income tax raises close to £200bn. So, a very large increase in capital taxes will yield significantly less than a small increase in income tax.

Increases to the top rate of tax, dividend tax and removal of higher rate pension tax relief, at the very least, would yield a significant proportion of tax. An increase to basic rate tax would be even more significant, but would be unpopular. An Institute for Financial Studies (IFS) report last month suggested the UK raised a below average amount from income tax and national insurance compared to other countries and this was mainly lower at the median and higher income range, so an increase on tax at the higher income level would seem more likely.

When could this happen? The Autumn statement in November would be the time for Government to scope out the direction of travel, with new tax rates applying from April 2021. Although some immediate changes could be made from the date of the statement.

So, what to do now?

  • Consider your and your family income needs for the years ahead and whether any of this could be accelerated. Dividends from your company, distributions from trusts and maturity of investments with income could all be considered.
  • Think about likely capital transactions – if you are thinking of selling your business, property or other investment assets or transferring assets within the family – all events for capital gains tax purposes – could you accelerate anything now?
  • What IHT reliefs are you relying on? Relief for business or agricultural assets which currently gives 100% exemption from tax? Will that still survive and what could be done now?

Now is the time to take a step back and undertake a medium term review of personal wealth in the context of business and personal assets and develop a strategic plan.

Action needn’t be taken until we are clear on what direction the Government will take, but if no plan is established, it may not be possible to react quickly to any changes as and when announced.

For more information please contact Gary Heynes.