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Venture Capital Trusts

Tuesday, 05 February 2013 09:00

Investments providing good upfront tax breaks are not easy to find, but by looking carefully you can find some that do fit the bill.  Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs), are designed to encourage investment in new and emerging businesses, those which the Government is counting on to drag the country out of recession.  Many investors know little if anything about them, how they work or even what VCT stands for.

What is a VCT? VCTs are an investment that allows you to put a maximum of £200,000 a year into a collection of higher risk small companies that are not traded on the stock exchange.

How do they operate? VCTs are themselves listed on the London Stock Exchange and provide capital finance for small, expanding companies with the aim of making capital returns for investors.  They are a tax efficient way to invest into UK smaller companies.  Money raised from individual investors is pooled by the VCT to acquire a number of different investments with the aim of spreading risk across the VCT’s portfolio.

Tax relief is possible Investors may qualify for 30 per cent tax relief when subscribing for new VCT shares, subject to an annual investment limit of £200,000 and a minimum holding period of five years.  However, investors cannot claim more Income Tax relief than the total amount of Income Tax paid in the year in which shares are subscribed.  Investors subscribing within the maximum investment limit of £200,000 per annum are exempt from tax on any capital gains on disposal and all dividends received are free of tax, although the tax credit cannot be reclaimed.  Income Tax relief may be claimed upfront through your PAYE coding or otherwise through a reduction in your payments on account.

What are the rules? You need to keep the VCT for a minimum of 5 years to qualify for the tax relief.  The companies must be unquoted, have a maximum of 250 employees and have assets no greater than £15 million before the investment is made.  The maximum that a VCT can invest in any one company is £5 million.  A VCT cannot be a company involved in financial activities, leasing or royalties, dealing in land, agriculture, hotels, shipbuilding, coal and steel.

How many VCTs are there and are they all alike? There are about 120 VCTs to invest in.  Some are riskier than others and a number specialise in particular sectors, such as the environment, healthcare or technology.  Many VCT managers have become very conservative over recent years and instead of launching new funds they are increasingly producing top-ups to existing VCTs, known as C shares.  It is not unusual for one manager to have 8 versions of its VCT.

How high are the charges? Pretty high.  The total expense ratio (annual charges plus fixed costs) on a typical VCT averages around 3.5 per cent, which is higher than those for unit and investment trusts.

What are the returns like to date? The average five-year return on a mainstream VCT is around 5.5 per cent but with VCTs there is a large performance variation.  Performance figures do not include the provision from tax relief.  Second hand VCTs shares do not qualify for initial tax relief.

Are the risks high? On average figures show very clearly that investing in new businesses is high risk.  You could lose large sums of money, so before considering this type of investing it is advisable to speak with your professional financial adviser.  When you invest in a new VCT there isthe danger that it will not attract enough money to cover its fixed costs and the launch is cancelled.  Another problem is, once you are invested, it can be difficult to get your money out of a VCT because there is not always a ready market for them.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Fraser Bryon - Money Matters

Leaving Assets

Sunday, 27 January 2013 09:00

A growing number of grandparents are feeling the need to help out, by paying their grandchildren’s school fees, higher education costs and the deposit on a first home.  The children of grandparents are now generally on the property ladder, therefore, many grandparents may be considering skipping a generation and leaving the family home to a grandchild or grandchildren, rather than their children.  As many mothers are now leaving childbearing until their 30s and even 40s, this means that many grandparents are now approaching 70 before they welcome their grandchildren.

Trusts Children under 18 years cannot own property, so how can a grandparent leave assets to the very young?  The answer is to leave assets in trust for minor children.  The key to this is that the trust should be written into the Will, and age of access is also very important.  You should use a trust to control when the grandchild will inherit.  If not put in place, he or she will be entitled to the asset at age 18, this may be too young in today’s society.  The answer would be to use a “discretionary trust” where it is up to the trustees to decide who gets what and when.

Inheritance tax Grandparents wishing to leave their family home to grandchildren need to consider inheritance tax (IHT).  If the family home is worth more than £325,000 (or up to £650,000 if the owner is a surviving spouse who is entitled to use their deceased spouse’s unused nil rate IHT allowance) then other assets will need to be available to pay the IHT bill, otherwise the property will have to be sold to meet the tax charge.  Property or any assets left in a discretionary trust, or in a trust until a specified age, may incur a potential IHT charge every 10 years on a sliding scale of up to 6 per cent of the value of the trust in excess of whatever the starting point for IHT is at that time.  Money should be set aside to meet this charge or the trustees may be forced to sell the house to pay the tax bill.  Assets can be left to minors without you realising a trust has been set up.  A trust is automatically formed if assets are left to minor children at a certain age whereby the executors become trustees.  A better solution would be an ‘age contingent’ fixed trust, which would ensure that the grandchild or grandchildren would be entitled to the assets at a predetermined age, say 30 or 35 when they may be more financially aware.

A win for parents and a win forgrandchildren When the main asset is property, what some grandparents might consider is to leave the assets in trust, with the adult children enjoying the income from the trust until they die and the grandchildren inheriting the capital or the property.  Parents would receive rental income from the property, but on their death the property will revert to the grandchild.  A point to consider is that the assets in the trust are treated as part of the adult child’s estate for IHT purposes, which could create further tax charges.

Take legal advice A good option may be to have an accountant or solicitor to act as one of the trustees to ensure that, if possible, your wishes are carried out.  They will also offer advice on issues that could occur, such as the grandchildren dying before the parents.  Lawyers specialising in trust and estate planning can be found at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners or Resolution.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

Being an Executor

Friday, 18 January 2013 09:00

When a loved one or relative dies, you may find that you have become the executor of the estate.

When a loved one or relative dies, you may find that you have become the executor of the estate. What many do not know is that if the executor makes a mistake managing and distributing the wealth, they can be held personally liable.

Surprisingly few people realise this when they accept the role and even fewer realise the liability can be unlimited and personal to the executor rather than the estate. The Trustee Act of 2000 imposed a statutory “duty of care” on both lay and professional executors, which means you can be held legally or financially responsible for any errors you make.

Most executors find that probate is a fairly straightforward, trouble-free process, but disputes over estates are rising and there are a number of documented cases where executors have faced personal financial or legal claims from beneficiaries, creditors and HM Revenue and Customs.

The main role of the executor is to interpret the Will, which is not so easy following the growth in unregulated Wills. Other duties will include valuing the deceased person’s assets and debts, tracing accounts, including overseas and potential claimants, paying inheritance tax (IHT) and creditors and then distributing the remaining assets to beneficiaries.

If you have been asked to become someone’s executor, you should ask them if they are willing to provide you with a copy of their Will but also their bank and share account details and other relevant financial information. You may not be entirely comfortable with this but it could save you a lot of problems later on and help ensure that their affairs are sorted out efficiently after death.

When you begin to deal with the probate (the management and distribution of the estate) it is essential to keep accurate and clear records of everything you do as an executor. This is particularly important when IHT, at 40 per cent on estates worth over £325,000, is payable.

HMRC will generally challenge any cases where they suspect that the estate has been undervalued therefore it is important to realise that you may end up paying costs yourself if you are at fault. These costs can include penalty payments as well as additional tax.

Probate professionals are usually protected by professional indemnity which covers their costs and legal expenses if problems  rise, so for this reason you may want to consider employing a professional, such as a solicitor or bank. But you will need to add the cost of their fees, which could amount to between 1.5 and 2 per cent of the total value of the estate.

If you decide to relinquish your role as executor you will need to inform the probate office and sign a deed of renunciation, it is important not to undertake any actions in relation to the Will or the estate as you may become legally liable.

A sensible option if you decide to proceed as the executor could be to take out executors insurance. Until recently, cover was just available for specific risks, like protecting an executor against the unexpected appearance of a legitimate beneficiary after the estate has been distributed. However, this new executor’s insurance policy protects you against any legal or financial claims that result from your actions as an executor. The cost of this insurance can be reclaimed from the estate as part of your “reasonable expenses”, so it will not only protect you but will not cost you anything.

Policies are arranged on an annual basis and in most circumstances this should cover the probate period, which generally runs between 6 and 12 months. You can choose the level of cover required based on the total value of the estate or to match a particular risk.

When you have made your decision, it is a good idea to seek advice from as many reliable sources as possible, the Government website www.direct.gov.co.uk, is a good place to start, as is your local probate office and speaking with your professional financial adviser.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

A Balanced Portfolio

Wednesday, 09 January 2013 09:00

Holding a balanced portfolio makes a lot of investment sense: a balanced and diverse portfolio spreads your risk and should help deliver more consistent long-term performance.

When you build a portfolio, you should consider your investment objectives and the amount of reward you are looking for versus the risk you are willing to take.  A diverse portfolio will consist of a mix of different types of asset classes, for example fixed interest and equity based investments.

Over time some investments will most certainly outperform others.  For example, the fixed equity holdings of your portfolio might outperform the interest element, or vice versa.

The result being your portfolio is no longer the asset mix you began with and unless your objectives have changed, the risk profile might no longer be suitable for you.  It could mean you are taking either too much, or not enough risk compared to the objectives you set at the start.

The good news is you can correct this with a simple rebalancing exercise to restore your portfolio to its original mix.

Rebalancing is one of the great investment disciplines.  Rebalancing involves selling some of the holdings which have done well and are in profit, and then reinvesting the proceeds in the holdings which have done less well or undervalued - a sell “high” and buy “low” basis.

If all your holdings are performing differently, how long will your portfolio remain balanced?

The longer a rebalance is left, the worse your portfolio could be out of focus and not delivering your investment goals. Most people review the balance of their portfolio at least annually and some as frequently as quarterly.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

Ethical Investing

Monday, 31 December 2012 09:00

As turmoil continues to hit financial markets worldwide the case for ethical investment has never been clearer.  There are many in the investment world that would agree with this thinking.  With the poor behaviour of banks involved in the recent Libor rate rigging debacle, more and more people are now reviewing their ethical options.

Since the global banking crisis, there have been increasing levels of concern over the stability of traditional investments, and investors are more aware of how financial institutions use their customers’ money.  At the same time, everyone is more aware of global warming issues, the world’s population has continued to grow at a rapid pace and people are becoming concerned about human rights.

As a result, people are now becoming more aware of the impact of their choices.  The amount of money invested in the UK’s green and ethical retail funds recently reached a record of £11.3bn and over the past 10 years, the number of ethical investors has tripled, from 250,000 to 750,000 according to the responsible investment research specialists EIRIS in September 2012.

Ethical investment explained Ethical investment basically allows you to invest in a socially responsible way without having to compromise your principles or moral stance. You can invest directly into companies or projects which meet your ethical criteria, or look at ethical funds which can be growth or income generated.

Many investors are opting for carbon offsetting, where you help to fund a project that will reduce or remove a metric tonne of carbon emissions from the atmosphere.

The company involved will package carbon dioxide emission reduction units into credit bundles that can be purchased as carbon credits.  Other investment projects could be from forestry such as in Brazil, who aim to eradicate illegal logging in environmentally sensitive areas, or Australian farmland investments which will produce food to help ease global shortages.

There are now a large number of ethical funds available and they are generally categorised in various shades of green, depending on the criteria they apply to their investment decisions.  A ‘dark green’ fund is a term used to describe a fund which applies strict negative screening before investing in a company, and exclude companies involved in unethical practices like defence or pharmaceuticals.  A ‘light green’ fund is a term used to describe a fund which uses positive screening and invest in companies which are making a positive contribution to the environment, or which have a good ethical track record.

Some funds combine both shades of green with some companies investing in the oil and gas sector, but the fund will only invest in those which are doing the most to limit their environmental impact, or to improve their ethical performance.

It is still a widely held view that investing ethically means having to sacrifice financial performance, but you can have both profits and principles when it comes to a socially responsible approach to investment.  Choosing to invest ethically means that, the two go hand in hand.

Attitudes to traditional investments are definitely changing as people are looking for something different in the wake of the financial crisis. Awareness of environmental issues has increased and people are making an effort to have a socially responsible outlook when it comes to their future investments.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

RDR

Saturday, 22 December 2012 09:00

The biggest shake-up of the financial world will happen in January 2013. Its effect will touch every part of the industry, from large investment houses to small financial advisers.  The major changes go under the name of the RDR (Retail Distribution Review). But many ordinary investors do not even know what it stands for, and even fewer could tell you what the key elements are.

What does RDR stand for? RDR stands for the Retail Distribution Review.

What is it about? The Financial Services Authority, the City regulator overseeing the RDR, believes that a shake-up is necessary because the current system has not worked well for investors. The aim is to provide greater transparency in an industry that has been harmed by a series of commission-driven mis-selling scandals that have cost investors billions of pounds.

What are the main objectives? The abolition of adviser commission on investment products from January 1, 2013. It is also intended that commission payments by financial groups to websites through which you can buy investments will be abolished from January 2014. The intention is to remove the distorting effect that commission has on investment decisions and to create instead a level playing field where all choices are made on purely investment grounds.

Does this mean that commission has been abolished? No, the RDR proposals refer to new adviser business carried out from January 1, 2013 (and, probably, January 1, 2014, for platforms). It does not apply to existing business, so if, say, you have invested £10,000 now in a fund through an adviser, the adviser will be able to continue taking an annual, or trail commission, typically of 0.5 per cent, even after January 1.  The same will apply to existing business going through platforms.

What else will change? From 2013, advisers will offer either independent advice, which is free from restrictions and reviews the market comprehensively, or will offer restricted advice, and will have to explain to the customer the nature of the restriction. The cost of advice will be decided by the client and adviser and will be set out clearly.

Will this offer transparency? Customers will still be able to get advice without paying their adviser upfront if that is what they prefer, or they could have the money taken from their investments, as at present. At the moment, an adviser recommending a £100,000 investment bond could earn 7 per cent commission upfront, £7,000 from the insurer supplying it without apparently costing the customer anything.  From 2013 if an adviser wants to charge a customer £7,000 for advice on a £100,000 investment that money would have to be identified and paid upfront by cheque or spread over several payments, or it could be deducted from the investment. Whichever way was used, the cost would be clear.

Will all advisers be qualified? From January 2013, advisers will have to meet higher qualification standards. About 96 per cent are already qualified to the requisite level or working towards that.

Will I still be able to get “free” financial advice? Advice has never been free, it has simply been included in the costs to the consumer and paid by the providers. These costs are normally disclosed on the illustration provided.

Should I check what my financial adviser is planning to do? That’s a good idea. Your adviser should be able to tell you what his or her plans are in the run-up to 2013.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

Whether it is Greece’s creditors taking a hit on their debts, Spain receiving a bail out or France being downgraded, the Euro zone crisis has taken centre stage in the financial headlines for the past year. How do you best protect your portfolio to minimise the risk of Euro zone contagion.

Diversity within your portfolio across a variety of asset classes like equities,  property, bonds and commodities, including emerging markets, spreads your risk.

Consider moving out of Western Markets and Europe which are most affected by the Euro crisis. Look for nations with little, or no sovereign risk. The gulf region, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE and Oman, offer protection from the economic downsides in Europe. There are no sovereign debt issues and spending and population growth is still rising. Although growth in emerging markets is slowing, it is still much stronger than in Europe, and nations such as China do not carry the same levels of debt that exist in the Western economies.

It would be wise to keep some exposure to Europe in light of the turmoil. Europe has traditionally been a key part of many portfolios for those who take a longer term view, value can be found in quality companies from core European economies, especially Germany with its strong exporting on the back of a weak Euro.

If Government and equity bonds do not meet your attitude to risk, consider a retail corporate bond. There are several inflation linked and fixed rate bonds available to retail investors from good quality companies. As well as providing inflation beating returns, they are a good way to diversify a portfolio.

In a low yielding, low growth world, investors should favour dividend paying stocks and strategies, which are found in high dividend stocks like BP, BAT and Astra Zeneca, with income likely to account for a much more significant part of equity total returns, going forward.

When looking for sound equity companies, those with strong balance sheets normally avoid turmoil, favoured stocks are in the healthcare, telecoms and non-cyclical consumer sectors.

UK banks still carry exposure to the problems in the Euro zone, most notably foreign banks such as Santander and ING Direct. All banks now operating savings products in the UK must be regulated by the Financial Services Authority and covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme, which covers up to £85,000 of cash savings and £50,000 of investments per authorised financial institution.

The value of your investment and the income from it can go down as well as up and you may not get back the original amount invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator for future results. Please contact us for further information or if you are in any doubt as to the suitability of an investment.

Offshore Bonds

Monday, 22 October 2012 09:00

Many investors do not realise that they can get the benefits of offshore tax planning without having a Swiss bank account. These are established benefits offered by offshore investment bonds. These combine gross roll-up of investment returns, with planning opportunities provided by the chargeable event gains regime.

DEFERRING INCOME TAX ON INVESTED RETURNS The main reason why offshore investment bonds attract the canny investor is that they can use the chargeable event gains regime to control when they pay income tax on their investment returns. They only incur an income tax liability if they incur a chargeable event. These include surrender of the whole bond, or bond segments, withdrawals exceeding their cumulative 5 per cent a year allowance or if there’s a death claim. It is also possible to reduce the chances of a death claim by choosing multiple lives assured. Such planning allows individuals to defer paying tax on their investments. Higher rate taxpayers in particular would welcome advice on legitimate means of sheltering investment income. Such individuals face paying the additional rate of 50 per cent, or 42.5 per cent for dividend income. If the investor has no ISA allowance remaining then an open architecture offshore bond could be the solution. Offering access to a wide range of investments, including deposits and collectives, the offshore bond provider can receive gross interest on the underlying investments although, subject to the 10 per cent unreclaimable tax credit on UK dividends, the investor has no immediate tax liability. If we compare an investor who holds deposits or corporate bond OEICs directly, 20 per cent income tax is deducted at source. They are liable to a further 30 per cent tax on the grossed up interest. Highest level tax payers who directly invest into equity OEICs pay a further 32.5 per cent tax on the grossed up dividend (36.11 per cent of the net dividend). Many investors miss this income tax drag on their investment returns, by concentrating on capital gains tax (CGT) on disposals. By using an offshore bond wrapper, tax can be deferred on an investment legitimately.

MAXIMISING INCOME Other benefits to an investor are that they can withdraw 5 per cent of the original investment each year without incurring any immediate liability to income tax? In their terms, this provides the equivalent spendable income for a 50 per cent taxpayer as earning 10 per cent gross interest. Investors do not have to use all of the 5 per cent allowance each year and any unused allowance accumulates for use in future years. They could reduce to 4 per cent a year for 25 years for instance. In terms of spendable income, this still equates to earning 8 per cent gross interest for an additional rate taxpayer. Lowering the level of regular withdrawals could offer potential for investment growth and reduces the risk of eroding capital. If you do not require regular income, the withdrawal allowance still offers benefits. For example, if the investor’s made no withdrawals, from the first day of the seventh policy year they could withdraw 35 per cent of their original investment amount without incurring an immediate tax liability on any investment growth. The withdrawals are taken into account when a chargeable event gain arises, but it is often possible for the investor to arrange this in a tax year where they are paying a lower marginal rate of income tax. There are also CGT benefits. Investors can switch between different collective investments or move into cash without making CGT disposals. This offers the opportunity to review and rebalance the investor’s portfolio, leaving the CGT annual exemption available for use against other investments. Another advantage of offshore bond investing is the possibility to assign a bond or bond segments to an adult child. Provided the assignment is an outright gift from one individual to another, there is no chargeable event. When the recipient does incur a chargeable event gain, this is calculated as if they had owned the bond from the start and pay tax at their own highest marginal rate. The assignment is normally a potentially exempt transfer for IHT purposes. However, payments from a parent to maintain their child aged over 18 who are in full-time education are exempt dispositions for IHT. This provides a means for parents to support their children at university, as there is no need to create a trust, allowing parents to keep full control and use their investment for any purpose. If they do assign segments to their student child, they see an immediate reduction in their IHT estate and avoid any personal liability to tax.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

SIPP's - Are they right for you?

Friday, 12 October 2012 09:00

Self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs) are being used by a rising number of private investors who want to be in control of their retirement planning, however, experts warn that these DIY plans are not always suitable, or indeed necessary, for everyone.

A SIPP is probably the most appropriate wrapper for those who wish to use the additional flexibility or investment choice that is not found in a personal or stakeholder pension.

SIPPs cover a wide range of asset investment with pension tax relief available on contributions. Permitted investments include bank deposits, bonds, shares, unit and investment trusts, open-ended investment companies (OEICs), exchange traded funds (ETFs), commercial property, hedge funds, foreign currency and warrants.

To qualify for tax relief from HM Revenue & Customs they have to be administered by an authorised provider, but the investor controls what to buy and sell, and when.

One key attraction for the sophisticated investor is the ability to hold commercial property within a SIPP. Investors want to take advantage of low property prices to help boost their retirement income as well as avoiding the volatility of the stock market. Individuals are being attracted to the “hands-on” approach that a SIPP allows. Some sophisticated investors run their own business and manage their own finances, and they want the same control over their pensions.

The two main types of SIPP are: Low-cost SIPPs and full SIPPs. Low-cost SIPPs, which suit most investors are generally offered by online brokers and fund platforms, and give a choice of shares and managed funds. Full SIPPs, which offer the full range of potential options including commercial property and unquoted shares, are generally more expensive.

SIPPs can also be useful to consolidate old personal pensions that have built up over the years. Investors can transfer these pensions across into a SIPP to create a single, easier managed scheme. Remember though, consolidation is not always best. Some older-style pension arrangements may have guarantees and benefits that can be lost on transfer.

Contributing company pension schemes should generally not be transferred. In this case, people should join the company scheme to gain full benefit of the employer contribution, then consider using a SIPP as a top- up scheme.

Investors should question whether they really need the full range of SIPP investments, as there are concerns that a significant number of investors in SIPPs invest the majority of their money in unit trusts or OEICs, which they could do through a conventional personal pension with access to a range of funds via a platform at lower cost. It is worth noting that charges on SIPPs are typically greater than those attached to a personal or stakeholder pension.

The SIPP’s flat fee structure tends to suit individuals with larger funds or sums to invest, as many SIPPs charge an annual fee of about £500, or more, which can be a significant loss of the returns on a smaller pension fund. Experts recommend that, for investors paying for advice, SIPPs are more likely to be cost effective when the fund value exceeds £100,000.

Choosing the most cost effective SIPP will be according to the investor’s individual circumstances.

A full SIPP will be worth paying for, especially for those looking to buy a property within their pension. For others, a funds-only SIPP will be more economical and still provide a wide choice of fund options. For many, a simple personal pension or stakeholder pension can be all that is needed. Many personal pensions now have a more than adequate range of fund options and there is little point paying additional charges of a SIPP if these are not needed.

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

Wealth Protection

Wednesday, 03 October 2012 09:00

At present Inheritance Tax (IHT) is payable at 40 per cent on any monies over £325,000. The nil rate band is the term used to describe the value an estate can have before it is taxed which is £325,000 for single persons (tax year 2012/13) or up to £650,000 for married couples (where the unused portion of someone’s allowance transfers to their spouse or civil partner on death). If you have an estate worth £500,000, £175,000 is taxed at 40 per cent, meaning your IHT tax liability would be £70,000.

Make a Will Making a Will helps you understand just what your estate is really worth at today’s prices. It also provides a good basis to understand how much IHT planning is required. 

Gift Away Under present rules you can gift up to the value of £3,000 a year without it incurring any taxes. This can also be backdated if you have not used the previous year’s entitlement, for example, a couple could in effect gift £12,000 in the first year if they have not used a previous year’s entitlement and then £6,000 (£3,000 each) thereafter. Parents can also give up to £5,000 to each of their children as a wedding/civil partnership gift while grandparents can give up to £2,500. Others can also contribute to loved ones’ weddings/civil partnerships but are only allowed to give up to £1,000. You can make small gifts up to £250 to as many people as you like, as long as you have not already gifted that person in the same tax year. If you are still working and earning an income, you are also permitted to give away any surplus amounts of your income provided that, in making these gifts, your own standard of living is not affected. You must not then access your capital (savings and investments) to live off.

Seven-year PET Potentially Exempt Transfers (PETs) are a sevenyear rule which allows you to make additional tax-free gifts providing you do not pass away within the next seven years and can be anything from cash to property. Be aware that once a gift has been given you cannot still benefit from it, for example, you cannot give away the family home and then continue to live in it unless you pay the market rent. If you were to pass away before the seven years were up, the assets would be taxable, but there is tapering relief of the amount of tax payable  which reduces the nearer you die to the 7 year period, this is known as ‘taper relief’.

Using a trust Putting your assets into a trust in your lifetime could be a good way of decreasing your IHT bill. Limited to the nil rate band, these gifts count as potentially exempt transfers, which means the same rules apply, therefore if you pass away before the seven years are up, IHT will be due. It is possible for a Settlor to place assets in excess of the nil rate band in a trust. These gifts are called ‘chargeable transfers’ with tax being payable immediately the asset goes into the trust. However, if the Settlor dies within seven years then there could be an IHT liability to pay too, but if the Settlor dies after the 7 year period the tax, above the nil rate band, has already been paid as a chargeable transfer.

Rebate Many people do not realise that they can claim back inheritance tax if the property they inherit sells for less than it was valued at during probate. Those who inherited between June 2008 to February 2009 and June 2010 to August 2011 are the most likely to be eligible for money back. With house prices generally falling across over the last four years, thousands of people could still be able to claim back any such overpayment.

Trust advice and Will writing are not regulated by the Financial Services Authority

For advice contact me on 01896 757734 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Fraser Brydon - Money Matters

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