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Where there’s a will there’s a new way of witnessing it

The law covering how a will can be witnessed in England and Wales is just about to be updated to include the virtual electronic witnessing of wills, in certain circumstances.

This is as a direct result of the lockdown caused by Covid-19. Backdated to January 2020, the new law allows anyone who has been isolating or shielding, and who has access to video software such as Zoom or FaceTime, to get their signature on their will remotely witnessed online. 

The original Wills Act of 1837 stipulates that wills need to be witnessed in the ‘presence of’ at least two witnesses. This has proved to be almost impossible to do properly during lockdown, with many solicitors not having access to offices in order to arrange suitable appointments to witness signatures.

This recent amendment means that the established case law, that allows a witness to observe the signing through a window or door as long as they are in clear view, now extends to live video streaming, just as long as all parties can clearly see and hear what is taking place. 

Under the Electronic Communications Act 2000, a statutory instrument will be enacted in September 2020 stating that the existing phrase ‘in the presence of’ now means either in the physical presence of, or in the virtual presence of (via video link).

Virtually starting the year again

The amendment to the law will be backdated to 31 January 2020, in order that it covers all wills made during the pandemic. It will also be in place up to 31 January 2022, or longer if it is felt necessary to do so. 

However, the Government are also reserving the option to shorten the term too. Once the law reverts back to traditional forms of witnessing, then that will once again have to be performed by someone who is physically (and not virtually) present. 

A last resort

As welcome as it is, this change in the law should only be viewed as a last resort. With remote witnessing being used only once all other physical witnessing options have been explored and found to be impossible. 

Where remote witnessing does take place, then strict precautions must be in place to ensure that fraud and coercion are not present. The witnesses must understand what it is that they are observing and they will not be able to ‘witness’ a pre-recorded video of a will signing.

The Ministry of Justice states that testators (those making a will), when getting it witnessed remotely should make a formal statement such as “I (first name & surname) wish to make a will of my own free will and sign it here before these witnesses, who are witnessing me doing this remotely”

All signatures must all so be ‘wet’ as remote electronic signatures are unacceptable.

If possible, the video stream should also be recorded and kept as a record of events.

Socially distanced alternatives to video technology

As The Ministry of Justice have stated that ‘people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so’. With that in mind, they suggest that that witnessing wills in the following ways are an acceptable execution of the legal requirement during the pandemic, provided that the testator and witness each have a clear line of site:   

  • Witness through a window, or open door of a house or vehicle
  • Witness from a corridor or from an adjacent room into another room through an open door
  • Witness outdoors, from a short distance.

All wills still need to be signed by two witnesses who are not beneficiaries and please keep in mind that electronic signatures are unacceptable.

The longer-term future

The Government has committed to considering ‘wider reforms to the law on making wills’. In the meantime this concession regarding the witnessing of wills during the restrictions imposed by the pandemic should go someway to helping relieve the stress associated with creating or amending bequeathments during lockdown.

In Scotland the law has also been temporarily amended to allow a lawyer to act as a witness via a video conference, just as long as they are not appointed as an executor, either directly or through a trust.

As always, we at Bridgewater Financial Services are here to provide expert and independent advice on any questions you have regarding making a will, Inheritance Tax Planning or any other financial enquiries you may have.

You can also see full the guidance on making wills via video conferencing in England and Wales by visiting GOV.UK. 

 

A New Deal For Britain..

.. a massive opportunity for your SSAS Pension.

There are some remarkable changes coming our way with regard to planning and building permissions for the conversion of commercial property to residential.

As we all know your small self-administered pension scheme (SSAS) is an ideal vehicle to purchase, develop and own commercial property; with some remarkably advantageous ways of funding potential purchases of commercial properties.

We also know that your SSAS isn’t allowed to hold residential property, but did you know that it is allowed to pay for any conversion from commercial to residential?

Meaning that, you can purchase commercial property with your SSAS, flip it to residential and develop it within the SSAS. Just as long as the property is removed from the SSAS Pension BEFORE it becomes habitable. For the avoidance of doubt, ‘habitable’ is defined as the point of which the certificate of habitation / completion is issued.

There are some VERY BIG changes coming to commercial property planning restrictions

In order to get the economy moving again, the Prime Minister has announced his ‘New Deal For Britain’. Within it are some remarkable opportunities for companies to utilise the power of their SSAS pensions, by developing commercial property for residential sale.

This September, we will see some of the biggest changes in planning regulations that have ever impacted upon the commercial property market.

If you have a SSAS pension, you could be perfectly placed to take full advantage of these. As of September this year a reform of the current system will introduce the following changes:

  • A vast amount of existing commercial property will be allowed to change its use to residential without the need for a planning application
  • Land and existing commercial buildings in town centres can change use without planning permission
  • Planning permission will no longer be required for the demolition and rebuild of vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings, as long as they are rebuilt as homes
  • Commercial premises, including vacant shops, can be more easily swapped to residential housing
  • Far more types of commercial units will have the flexibility to be repurposed through the reform of the User Class Order.

This is a fundamental changing of the rules around converting commercial property to residential and this can be done advantageously through the use of your SSAS pension.

However the rules governing what you can and can’t do must be closely followed, or you’ll run the risk of exposing the SSAS to draconian taxes on the profits that your property dealings create.

To avoid unwanted taxes there are a few simple things you can do to ensure that things go as smoothly and as tax efficiently as possible:

  • Make sure that your SSAS sells the property to a cash buyer prior to the conversion to residential completing. This means that the completion then takes place outside of your SSAS
     
  • You can leave the capital appreciation inside the SSAS and avoid Capital Gains Tax if existing SSAS members, or a sponsoring company, purchases the incomplete property form the SSAS at market value. They can then finish the project and sell it, paying only the stamp duty and legal costs
  • The SSAS can even sell the uncompleted property subject to a deferred consideration contract. This way the property is removed from the SSAS before completion, but the buyer doesn’t have to pay the full purchase price over until the conversion is complete and they can then apply for a mortgage
  • A great way of ensuring that any property in question qualifies as a genuinely diverse commercial vehicle, and therefore unaffected by the normal residential property rules, is for a number of independent SSAS’s to come together in order to carry out bulk projects
  • Another way to not get taxed for converting or building is simply don’t convert or build. A SSAS can buy and demolish commercial property and then sell the land to a developer for a commercial gain
  • You can also take advantage of any 12 month loan window available by getting the SSAS to lend up to 50% of the funds value in order for the sponsoring company to purchase or convert the property; and repay the SSAS upon the completion of the sale.

There are all sorts of opportunities to take advantage of these coming changes with a SSAS Pension. If you don’t currently have one, then perhaps now’s the right time to convert an existing scheme to a SSAS, or set one up.

Whatever you are thinking, now is the time to act as it can take up to three months to get a new SSAS registered by HRMC. Especially as many of their staff have been moved to other departments in order to handle the furlough scheme.

If you are thinking about setting up a SSAS, in order to take advantage of these new changes in property legislation when they kick-in in September, then please get independent and professional advice.

Doing things right from the very start will save an awful lot of hassle and expense further down the line. Especially with something as complex as a SSAS Scheme, where the wrong advice, or no advice at all, could result in significant tax penalties.

As always, we at Bridgewater Financial Services are here to provide expert and independent advice on any questions you have regarding a SSAS pension, or any other financial enquiries you may have.

Your SSAS pension can provide for your family AND future generations too

You really are never to young to join a SSAS
Your small, self-administered pension scheme (SSAS) doesn’t just provide death and retirement benefits for its members in a tax efficient way – It can do way more for you and your family. Due to their restriction of having no more than 11 members, SSAS schemes are often favoured by smaller businesses where the company directors, family members and senior executives are the beneficiaries. Especially as they allow for members of the family who don’t work for the company to also be included.

Not only that, but a SSAS pension is an asset that can be passed down the family through the generations. Best of all, as a pension it’s legally protected from personal or company creditors so it’s a safe place for the long-term storage of assets.

The big benefit to your family
As investments are held in the names of all of the SSAS trustees, this common ownership means that each member of the SSAS holds a specific portion of the SSAS’s assets. This makes ownership of assets like properties far cheaper and simpler to deal with than they would be if the asset were shared between three or more self-invested pensions (SIPP). The other big benefit of a SSAS, is that individuals can choose their own investments, which is really handy if the business is involved in property or land. Also, where individuals are saving in order to invest in property or land, a SSAS can really help fulfil that ambition (see my previous blog on SSAS property purchase).

What happens when a member retires?
Once a member of the SSAS retires, they have the same options as any other member of a defined contribution pension scheme. This means that you can secure a guaranteed income, take an income from the fund or a combination of the two. If the SSAS is invested in property that is generating and income, this can effectively be remitted out to the member to support their retirement.

Flexibility when it comes to your retirement day
A SSAS allows entrepreneurs to delay the time that they start retirement, as they often retire later than those in employment. It also allows for early retirement from the age of 55 years. Your SSAS will even let you carry on working part-time, receiving some pension and some income at the same time.

Tax Efficient Death Benefits
SSAS benefits payable on death are not normally subject to inheritance tax. If the scheme member dies before the age of 75, their family members can inherit their fund and take tax free withdrawals for life. After the age of 75, payments are subject to income tax at the beneficiary’s normal income tax rate. The fund can be passed down through the generations as long as it lasts. Unlike a conventional non-pension trust, there is no limitation on how long the trust can last. So the pension fund could be providing valuable benefits to multiple generations of the family of the original members. Beneficiaries are immediately entitled to draw benefits and they do not need to wait until they are at least 55.

Other benefits of SSAS to family businesses
Your SSAS can also be a great way to increase your purchasing power, if you’re looking to accrue assets for the future. Please see my previous blogs on using your SSAS to borrow funds for property and stock purchases.

Get it right from day one
With something as complicated as a SSAS, it’s vitally important that you get the right kind of professional advice from a qualified and expert financial adviser who knows this area well. The wrong advice, or no advice at all, could result in significant tax penalties.

As always, we at Bridgewater Financial Services are here to provide expert and independent advice on any questions you have regarding A SSAS pension, or any other financial enquiries you may have.

Stay safe

Buying Shares with your SASS Pension

Your SSAS pension provides more opportunities than you may think

Did you know that current pension regulations allow you to purchase unquoted shares, both in UK and in overseas companies, through your company pension scheme? Making your small, self-administered pension schemes (SSAS) a vehicle that can fund any share purchases you may currently be considering.

However, these investments are not as straightforward as normal share purchases and come with various restrictions. Which is why it’s so important that you seek professional advice from a suitably qualified and regulated financial adviser. 

Things you really need to consider

Investing in the stock market can be a volatile experience, especially if you are relatively new to the concept. So with something as critically important as your company’s pension scheme, there are some understandable restrictions in place.

If you are considering purchasing shares via your SSAS, then the first thing I would implore you to do, is to get proper advice; as a qualified expert will be able to steer you through the technicalities of bringing your share purchase to fruition and ensuring that you comply with the various rules and regulations associated with SSAS share purchases.

In order to give you an insight into how investing with your SSAS could work, I’ve written this blog. However – it is to be viewed as a guide only. 

What to invest in

Under the pension taxation legislation, your SSAS can make investments across the board. Please make sure you pick the right investments though, or there will be a large and very unwelcome tax consequence of investing in certain areas or where specific limits are breached.

As a general rule, investment in the following areas will not incur a penal tax charge:

  • Investment grade gold bullion
  • Trustee Investment Plans and Bonds
  • Commercial property (including hotels) and land
  • Unit Trusts/OEICS
  • Bank and Building Society Deposit Accounts
  • Stocks and shares
  • Executive Pension Plans
  • Loans to the sponsoring company
  • Copyrights.

It’s also worth noting that Trustees can borrow up to 50% of the net total asset value of the SSAS to assist with any property purchases or cash flow requirement (see my previous blogs).

Market value

At the time of purchase the market value of the shares must be below:

  • 5% of the market value of the scheme’s total assets in any one sponsoring employer
  • Or 20% of the market value of the scheme’s total assets where the shareholdings relate to more than one sponsoring employer
  • There are also limits on the total value of shareholdings that an occupational scheme can purchase.

Purchasing the shares

When buying the shares, the SSAS Trustees must ensure:

  • That the member(s) must have consulted with, and received advice, regarding the share purchase from a regulated financial adviser
  • If the shares are being purchased from or issued by a connected party (for example: a members of the scheme, their relatives, civil partners, a company controlled by someone significant to a member of the SSAS), then a professional valuation of the current market price of the shares should be obtained by the Trustees of the pension scheme. This must be provided before any purchases take place. The company’s auditor, or any other qualified person, can supply the valuations and they must be provided in writing. 

Dividends

It’s important that your investments provide a dividend, as if the shares you’ve purchased don’t provide an income or increase in value, then HMRC may deem them to be an unsuitable investment for your SSAS pension scheme.

The payment of dividends can also bring its own complications, as when the company declares a dividend, it must pay its shareholders. Dividend payments also need to go to the pension scheme, so the company should also issue a cheque for the net amount of the dividend less the advanced corporation tax, as tax cannot be reclaimed by the pension scheme. This cheque should be made payable to the Trustees of the pension scheme, with the Trustee paying it directly into the SASS scheme. 

Ongoing valuation of shares

As there is a requirement to value pension scheme assets on an annual basis, the member Trustees will need to arrange for an accountant to produce an independent valuation (at their cost) regarding the value of the share holdings.

Selling Shares

Ultimately you would expect the share to be sold at market value, in order to provide retirement or death benefits. However, if the fund has sufficient income in it from other investments, to provide the required benefits, then the shares could be retained in the fund for the next generation.

If the shares are sold to a connected party, then the Trustees must obtain a professional valuation prior to the sale in order to show that the sale price is at market value. 

Get the right advice from day one

Get professional advice on the rules of share purchase via your company pension scheme from a qualified and expert financial adviser who knows this area well. The wrong advice, or no advice at all, could leave you with a whopping great tax bill and a badly damaged pension pot.

As always, we at Bridgewater Financial Services are here to provide expert and independent advice on any questions you have regarding using your pension to acquire property, or any other financial enquiries you may have.

Stay safe

Purchasing property with your company pension

Your SSAS pension and what it can do for you right now

If you read last weeks blog you’ll know all about how your small, self-administered pension schemes (SSAS) has a loanback facility that you can use to access much needed cash flow. If you haven’t read it, please do.

Well, the joys of your SSAS don’t stop there. It can also be used to purchase property. However, please read on carefully, as there are many do’s and don’ts associated with SSAS schemes and property purchase. Getting it wrong could end up costing you a great deal in tax. 

Who can and can’t be involved in the purchase

If you wish to, your pension scheme can purchase property with other parties such as your company, yourself or another pension scheme. It can even purchase property with an unconnected party. 

However, HMRC do require that the pension trustees obtain independent professional advice to confirm the market values regarding the purchase price or rental, if there is any connection with the pension scheme with the vendor of the property. This must be undertaken in order to comply with HMRC’s ‘arms-length’ requirements regarding the transaction. 

Where there is no connection with the other party, HMRC does not require any independent valuation.

For cases of joint ownership

If your SSAS has purchased the property with a third party, then a Declaration of Trust (DOT) will be required, in order to legally recognise the proportion of ownership held by each party. As this involves your pension scheme, the DOT needs to include pre-emption rights. Where the pension scheme may have to liquidate its investment in order to pay death benefits, it’s usual to offer the co-owner(s) first refusal to buy its share.

Your business, yourself and another party can purchase property jointly. As long as any joint ownership is registered with the Land Registry, any property purchased can also be let back to your own business or an unconnected party. It is however important that the SSAS pension scheme only receives its proportion of the sale proceeds or rental income and it must also ensure that it pays its percentage of all ongoing expenses.  

Buying, selling and letting

If you are considering using your SSAS to purchase a vacant property, then you will be required to ensure that there are sufficient funds available to cover repairs, rates, maintenance and all legal and other costs, as there is no rental income immediately available. This is usually achieved by retaining the relevant sum, which is held back in the pension fund. 

You SHOULD NOT purchase residential property with your SSAS. As residential, and some other types of property, are subject to very significant and costly tax charges if held by a pension scheme. To avoid these onerous tax implications, you really should only consider the purchase of commercial property such as retail, office and industrial buildings. 

Flipping from commercial to residential can be done

As your pension scheme can’t hold residential property without facing extremely high tax charges, if you are looking to purchase a commercial property and flip it to residential, then you need to be aware of what point HMRC deems it to have converted to residential. 

From speaking with architects, it’s our current understanding that the certificate of habitation and the point at which a commercial unit becomes a residential one (as referred to by HMRC), is at the point when the Completion Certificate is issue by the architect. As such, it’s imperative that the property is taken out of the pension scheme PRIOR to the Completion certificate being issued by the architect.

Property types you should and shouldn’t consider

This is a brief list of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when it comes to property types you can consider for purchase with your SSAS: 

The Good

  • Shops Industrial property Offices
  • Hotels
  • Care Homes
  • Pubs and Restaurants
  • Farmland Development Land
  • Car Parking

The Bad (property types not allowed)

  • Residential Property
  • Holiday lets
  • Timeshares & beach huts
  • Freehold including long leasehold residential (even if only ground rents)
  • Caravans and other moveable property
  • Log cabins
  • Leasehold property with less than 50 years (deemed a “wasting asset”)  

The Ugly (to be avoided despite being commercial)

  • Any un-lettable property that will be sold again in the short term
  • Specialist properties that are difficult to sell
  • Properties with environmental or contamination issues
  • Any property adjacent to your house or garden 

Please note that this is a guide only and you should properly research if the property you are thinking of purchasing complies with HMRC rules.

Where can you raise the finance for the purchase?

Your SSAS is allowed to borrow from any source available; just so long as the loan terms are commercial. Obviously if the source is a bank or building society, then the terms will automatically be commercial. Where the lender is a source that does not have a consumer credit licence, or is connected to you, then you may have to provide accompanying evidence that the terms are commercial. 

Repayment of borrowing

Although you may be able to prove rental income, you should also consider affordability. 

Which is why, at the initial stages of purchase, a Member Trustees should be tasked with considering this aspect. It is also important that you do not rely upon future pension contributions to meet borrowing requirements, as the future payment of contributions is not mandatory.

Borrowing limits

If you are using your SSAS to fund a purchase for the first time, then your first loan can be up to 50% of the net value of the pension scheme. 

For example: 

Pension Scheme value:                                 £100,000 

Maximum borrowing:                                     £50,000 

Amount available to purchase property:   £150,000

  

Get the right advice from day one

Get professional advice on the rules of property purchase, development, leasing, resale or any other aspect of property ownership from a qualified and expert financial adviser who knows this area well. The wrong advice, or no advice at all, could leave you with a whopping great tax bill and a badly damaged pension pot. 

As always, we at Bridgewater Financial Services are here to provide expert and independent advice on any questions you have regarding using your pension to acquire property, or any other financial enquiries you may have. 

Stay safe

 

A SSAS could be the answer to cash flow needs

SSAS – what it is and can you transfer to one today?

A SSAS is a small, self-administered pension schemes (SSAS) for up to 12 members. 

Right now you can transfer any existing pension into a SSAS, where the combined funds can be used to borrow money, up to 50% of the fund value (if needed) to buy back premises owned by the company, releasing funds to clear other debts or to finance projects (e.g. new business opportunities that have arisen out of the current situation as businesses adapt to new areas). With many companies using the loanback facility to get access to extra funds for pressing cash flow needs. 

This loanback facility that is incorporated into all SSAS has been responsible for a dramatic increase in SASS activity over the past few weeks.

According to The Whitehall Group, one of the leading SSAS providers, reported SSAS registrations increasing eightfold in just the first ten days of April 2020, compared to figures for January earlier this year. 

It’s the loanback facility that is so appealing

With borrowing rates for a SSAS at incredibly low levels, companies who have assets or properties in their SSAS are utilising them as security to borrow against, as they realise much needed cash flow for their companies. 

With more and more business owners realising that their own SSAS could provide a low-cost lifeline to keep their businesses afloat during the Covid-19 economic crisis. 

How your SASS could save your business

SSAS can work for your business in many different ways. It can provide loan finance back to the business of up to 50% of the total amount of the net market value of the business SSAS scheme’s assets, as well as 50% of the total amount of cash held.

That kind of cash injection, borrowed against rock-bottom interest rates, is providing the financial lifeline that many businesses so desperately need. With the number of loans reported having quadrupled in April, compared to January’s activity. 

A word of caution

This sudden increase in SSAS activity is a reversal of recent year’s trends, which saw the popularity of SSAS schemes decline, as they are not regulated under the Financial Conduct Authority rules and protections. 

As such a SSAS should be considered carefully and regard should be paid to the wider aspects of the scheme. Your SSAS shouldn’t just been viewed as a low cost route to answering any current and pressing borrowing needs. In fact, any loans made in a SSAS scheme should always be to ensure that the company doesn’t just survive, but also goes onto grow in the future. 

There is also an obligation by the trustees of the SSAS scheme that they do not risk pension money that is intended for retirement. Therefore proper consideration should always be given to determining if the loanback is a good investment for the pension scheme to make. 

Done properly it could be a cash flow lifeline

Although loanbacks are currently a very enticing selling point, any SSAS must be executed properly, or it runs the risk of its members losing out. HM Revenue & Customs have stated that any loans made to the sponsoring employer will qualify as an authorised payment if their key stipulations are adhered to, including:

  • A five year minimum term
  • Interest rates must be at least 1% above the current base rate
  • The loans must not exceed 50% of the SSAS’ net assets.

It’s important that trustees follow procedure and document the loanback correctly. Failure to ensure that the correct securities are in place could mean that the loan will not qualify as a loan. Instead it becomes viewed as an unauthorised payment and will incur tax charges. 

If you are in any doubts regarding the trustees obligations, or how to administer the loanback correctly talk to professional financial advisers like us, to ensure you don’t fall into any of the many pitfalls that can await unsuspecting trustees.

If you need the SSAS lifeline – act now 

The world seems full of endless financial delays during this Covid-19 downturn. Banks are taking longer to process loan applications, charging increased interest rates and asking for personal guarantees.

However applying to switch an existing pension to SSAS, or to set a SSAS up from scratch also takes time. HMRC have to accept and register a new SSAS before any money can be transferred or paid in. So the sooner you start the process, the sooner you can take advantage of the unique facilities of your SSAS. 

Remember – we’re always happy to help

As always, were here to help, whenever you need us. If you do have any further questions regarding anything I’ve raised in this blog, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

The 2020 Budget and what it means for you

Rishi Sunak delivered not only his first budget, after finding himself in the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it’s also the Government’s first budget since winning the General Election and leaving the EU. All alongside the growing threat from coronavirus.

Hailed by the Chancellor as “the budget of a Government that gets things done” and widely seen as a change of direction from the traditional fiscal approach of established Conservatism.  

So now the dust has settled, what does it all mean for us? 

Important points for high earners
SAVINGS: In the Finance Bill 2020 the government will set the 0% band for the starting rate of savings income. This means that the rate will remain at the current value of £5,000 for the whole of the UK for 2020 – 2021. 

PENSIONS: The two tapered annual allowance thresholds for pensions will both rise by £90,000. From 6 April 2020 the minimum tapered annual allowance will decrease to £4,000 (down from £10,000). From 2020 onwards the threshold at which an individual is assessed for taper will be £200,000, with the point at which your annual allowance begins to reduce being £240,000. 

Important points for business owners
CAPITAL GAINS TAX: The Finance Bill 2020 will reduce the lifetime limit on gains that are currently eligible for Entrepreneur’s Relief, down from £10 Million to £1 Million for all qualifying disposals made on or after 11 March 2020. 

CORPORATION TAX RATES: The Corporation Tax main rate from April 2020 will stay the same at 19%; with this rate being set in legislation in the Finance Bill 2020.   

ENTREPRENEURS’ RELIEF:  Entrepreneurs’ relief is viewed by the Chancellor as ‘expensive, ineffective and unfair’ with three quarters of the relieve going to just 5,000 people. Which is why Rishi Sunakstated that he wishes to make changes to entrepreneurs’ tax relief, rather than abolish it altogether, as he said that he ‘did not want to discourage genuine entrepreneurs’. As such, he is reducing the lifetime limit for relief from £10m to £1m.  

This reform is set to save around £6bn over the next five years, with around 80% of small businesses going unaffected.

Important points for non-residents purchasing UK property through companies
The 2019 Finance Act legislated that non-UK resident companies that operate a UK property business, or have other property income will now be charged Corporation Tax on property income or profits, rather than these charges being levied as Income Tax. Following the budget, the Finance Bill 2020 will ensure that these measures and changes are smoothly implemented and that the transition of the taxation of UK property profits from Income Tax to Corporation Tax delivers a more equal playing field for UK and non-UK resident companies alike.  

Non-UK RESIDENT STAMP DUTY: As promised in the 2018 Budget, and following a consultation, there will be a change in Stamp Duty Land Tax surcharge on non-UK residents purchasing residential property in England and Northern Ireland. The Finance Bill 2020-21 will introduce a 2% surcharge to take effect from 1 April 2021. 

For the avoidance of doubt, if contracts are exchanged before 11 March 2020 but complete or are substantially performed after 1 April 2021, then transitional rules may also apply. 

Other general but important points
INDIVIDUAL SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (ISA) & JUNIOR ISA’s: The adult annual ISA subscription limit for 2020 – 2021 will remain unchanged at £20,000. Where there will be an increase to £9,000 in the annual subscription limit for Junior ISAs. Both of these measures will apply to the whole of the UK. 

CHILD TRUST FUNDS: The chancellor announced an increase to £9,000 in the annual subscription limit for Child Trust Funds for 2020-21. This measure will apply to the whole of the UK. 

LIFETIME ALLOWANCE FOR PENSIONS: The on going Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase in the lifetime allowance for pensions will increase in line with CPI, rising to £1,073,100 for the tax year 2020 to 2021.  

PERSONAL TAX: The personal tax allowance remains at £12,500. Whilst the threshold for National Insurance contributions will rise from £8,632 to £9,500. This should remove 500,000 of the workforce from NI tax eligibility.  

VAT ON SANITARY PRODUCTS: The 5% VAT levied on women’s sanitary products will be scrapped. 

PLASTIC PACKAGING TAX: A £200 per tonne charge will be levied on all manufacturers and importers on any packaging made of less than 30% of recycled plastic. 

VAT ON DIGITAL PUBLISHING: The chancellor will abolish all VAT on digital publications including books, newspapers, magazines and academic journals from 1 December. 

Alcohol, Tobacco and Fuel
ALCOHOL: All duties on spirits, beer, cider and wine have been frozen. 

TOBACCO: Tobacco taxes will continue to rise by 2% above the rate of retail price inflation. This will add 27 pence to a pack of 20 cigarettes and 14 pence to a packet of cigars. 

FUEL: Fuel duty has been frozen for the 10th consecutive year. 

Any questions? Please get in touch
As always, were here to help, whenever you need us.

If you do have any questions regarding anything that the chancellor has changed or mentioned in his budget, or any points I’ve raised in this blog, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

 

 

 

The CORVID 19 GOLD RUSH

Please be mindful of my recent blog on the bandwagon effect http://bridgewaterfs.co.uk/2019/12/13/2019-election/well now seems the perfect time to re-stress some of the principles that I mentioned in the blog. Especially given the very real panic that Corvid 19 is causing both in the real world as well as the financial markets.

Specifically I want to address the recent activity in the Gold Market that has seen prices soar, as investors move assets into the perceived safety of this form of asset. 

Why it’s not the right time to buy gold

The price of gold has just halted as investors who were in for the longer term are taking their profits now. However with the traditional jumping onto the gold bandwagon in times of market volatility, for the normal investor there probably won’t be any killings to be made.

There is in fact, a real danger that you’ll be jumping to gold at or near to the top of the market. Meaning that unless you’re investing vast amounts into gold, there maybe little return to be made. Plus you have the very real concern of the journey back down, as the price of gold more properly reflects its place in the grand scheme, once the markets recover – and recover they will.

 

It might be the right time to consider selling

If you’re currently in the gold market and have been prior to the Corvid 19 prompted Gold Rush, then you may well be in a position where selling your investment could result in a higher than expected return. Especially as those desperate to hop onto the bandwagon are still keen to buy your gold at the current inflated market price.

 

Markets are in it for the long term

You should be too.

There have been many triggers for a run on the gold market over the past few decades. Investors get spooked as they know that the markets hate uncertainty; and pandemic viruses spread uncertainty as fast as they spread panic.

The tourist industry suffers, large-scale events get cancelled and the crossing of borders with people and goods becomes difficult or impossible.

All of this has the effect of depressing the markets and causing many of the larger investors to opt out of their usual activities. Hence they buy gold, or other ‘safe’ commodities, and sit the storm out.

They know that the storm will blow itself out, because it always does. They also know that when they get their timing right and return to the investment markets, they’ll be able to buy back in at an advantageous price. With this rush back to the investment markets driving values back to the levels they were prior to abandoned them to buy gold in the first place.

 

Ask any comedian and they’ll tell you it’s all about timing

However, abandoning the investment market in favour of the gilt-edged bandwagon could mean that the joke’s on you.

There really is no need to panic or react, as the markets always return to normal, once whatever it is that it making them jumpy passes.

Trust the past, because the one thing history has taught us over and over again, is that these things blow themselves out. Just like they did when SARS (2003), Swine Flu (2009) and Ebola (2014) caused similar panic selling.

In fact, the only time to ever change your direction of portfolio, is when your end destination changes, not because of any temporary bumps in the road.

 

A calming influence over troubled waters

As always, were here to help, whenever you need us. If you do have any further questions regarding anything I’ve raised in this blog, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.

Post Brexit transition and financial services in the EU

Now that we have officially left the European Union and entered a process of “transition”, a few of our ex-pat clients have been asking me what effect this now has; and how will it impact beyond 31 December 2020.

How will Financial Services and investment opportunities change post 2020?

Dealing with the longer-term question is easy, although it’s also a little unsatisfactory, as the simple answer is that nobody know for sure what the financial and investment landscape will look like post 2020’s trade negotiations with the EU.

Popular opinion is that it would be political suicide to hand control of the jewel in the crown (our financial services industry) over to the EU, or to let the EU impact, change or restrict it in any significant way. That would be bad for the UK, the EU and the world economy in general. The feeling is that we’ll be left with something that looks largely like what exists today.

What is the immediate impact on Bridgewater Financial Services dealing with our EU clients?

Well the simple answer is ‘nothing’. There has, and there will be, no change to our ability to full service and advise our clients throughout the European Union. We are currently pass-ported, via the Financial Services Authority, to help and advise new and existing clients in most EU jurisdictions.

In terms of the UK we are, and will remain, integrated with the European Union with regards to regulation, distribution and classification of all investment funds.

With the Irish UCITS funds remaining fully available in all of their current locations. 

As far as Bridgewater Financial Services is concerned, we will continue to go about our usual business and deal with our EU clients up to 31 December 2020 without any change whatsoever. At the start of 2021 we will either carry on dealing direct with our EU clients, or we will do so via an EU company. It all rather depends upon the outcome of the trade negotiations that will take place throughout the year. 

Once we have a realistic indication of what the outcome of those negotiations is likely to be, we will advise all of our existing clients on how we will go about providing continuation of service and advice. 

Rest assured that we will continue to provide our advice and services in as seamlessly as possibly. Our clients in the European Union are extremely important to us and we understand how important we are to them too. Which is why we will continue to be providing unfettered access to our advice and services well into 2021 and beyond.

Is there anything you should be doing?

Again, the general answer to that question is ‘no’. If there is an individual case that we feel needs examining, we will contact you direct and advice you on the opportunities or concerns we have identified. 

If you are still uneasy regarding the future impact of trade negotiations on your investments and portfolios, then please get in touch with us at Bridgwater Financial Services and we will be delighted to help and advise.

But do rest assured that there are no immediate changes coming. We understand that uncertainty, but there really is no need to panic or worry. 

We will keep you fully informed of any changes, once they become clear. In the meantime, as we always say, the best form of action in uncertain investment markets is to simply wait and see.

Changes in Capital Gains Tax and your home!

Selling a property? Then read on about the changes in CGT coming your way.

This year, on 6 April 2020, HRMC are proposing some changes that could significantly increase the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) paid on the disposal of any residential property. 

That, along with a decrease in the time you have to pay CGT, should generate a one-off additional increase in CGT paid to the Government by around £7bn.

Changes in CGT on your main home

If, like the majority of residential sales, you have occupied the property throughout the period of your ownership as your main residence, then there will be no CGT due on the sale. 

However, if you did once occupy the property as your main residence, but have since moved out and let the property, or kept the property of any other reason, then these changes may well affect you. 

Even getting divorced, separated or working away could see your traditional entitlement to full CGT relief significantly diminished. 

Put simply, if any of the above scenarios apply to you, then you will likely face a larger CGT bill if you transfer or sell your property on or after 6 April 2020.

Letting relief 

Since 1980 the valuable tax break that is Letting Relief that was applied to any property that was your main residence, allowed any private gain that remained after Private Residence relief, to be further reduced by up to £40,000. 

Not only is this £40,000 exempt of CGT, if you qualify, but it is also available to each owner of the property. Meaning that a property could deliver a massive £80,000 CGT exemption for a property owning couple.

The bad news here is that for any disposals made on or after 6 April 2020, HMRC is looking to limit the availability of Letting Relief, by restricting it to those landlords who share occupancy with their tenant. Unfortunately for everyone else, it looks as though letting relief will no longer apply.

If you’ve already moved out, then the clock is ticking

In most cases Final-Period Exemption allows you to have moved out of the disposed of property in the last 18 months and still avoid CGT, even if you now live elsewhere. 

However, from 6 April 2020, this will be reduced to just 9 months before CGT becomes applicable.

Those with a disability, or who have moved to a care home, will still be able to claim private residence relief for the last 3 years of ownership.

A decrease in the time to pay

As HMRC take away with one hand, they would also prefer that you paid a little quicker with the other. 

As CGT is included in your self-assessment due on 31 January, following the year of the disposal of the property, this means that HMRC can be waiting for up to 10 to 22 months after the date of the sale.

HMRC believe that they far are better placed to look after that lump sum than you are. |

So after 6 April 2020 you’ll have just 30 days from the date of completion to clear any CGT liability. All this will be done via a residential Property return and the tax will be treated as a payment on account of the CGT tax due for that year.

So what can you do? What are the opportunities?

Well obviously the single most important thing you can do is to be aware of the changes coming. So the very fact that you are reading this sentence should provide you with some sense of calm. 

Other practical things you may want to consider are:

• Speaking to a knowledgeable financial advisor, who understands these matters

• If you are letting out your old main residence, then workout how much additional tax would be payable if you were to sell after 5 April 2020

• If you have multiple properties and are considering selling or gifting, then consider which properties you should focus upon under the lens of CGT

• Consider disposing of property assets before 5 April 2020, if your tax position suits that choice

• If you individually own a property and you have a spouse or civil partner, then consider transferring ownership into joint names prior to any disposal. This can allow you to take advantage of both of your annual allowances and lower any potential CGT.

A bridge over troubled waters

Although this isn’t the start to the new decade that many private landlords want, there are always actions you can take to mitigate the impact upon your own finances. 

So talk to an expert today.

As always, were here to help, whenever you need us. If you do have any further questions regarding the new CGT regulations, then please get in touch with us at Bridgewater Financial Services, where we will be delighted to help guide you through your individual options and strategies.