Year-end tax planning tips

As the end of the 2018/19 tax year approaches, it is worthwhile taking time for some last-minute tax planning. Here are some simple tips that may save you money.

  1. Preserve your personal allowance: the personal allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which income exceeds £100,000. For 2018/19, the personal tax allowance is £11,850, meaning that it is lost entirely once income exceeds £123,700. Where income falls between £100,000 and £123,700, the effect of the taper means that the marginal rate of tax is a whopping 60%. Where income is over £100,000, consider making pension contributions or charitable donations to reduce income and preserve the personal allowance. Where this is an option, consider also deferring income until after 6 April 2019 to reduce 2018/19 income.
  2. Claim the marriage allowance: the marriage allowance can save a couple tax of £238 in 2018/19. Where an individual is unable to utilise their personal allowance, they can make use of the marriage allowance to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (rounded up to the nearest £10) to their spouse or civil partner, as long as neither pay tax at the higher or additional rate. The marriage allowance must be claimed.
  3. Pay dividends to use up the dividend allowance: family and personal companies with sufficient retained profits should consider paying dividends to shareholders who have not yet used up their dividend allowance for 2018/19. The dividend allowance is set at £2,000 and is available to all individuals, regardless of the rate at which they pay tax. The use of an alphabet share structure enables individuals to tailor dividend payments according to the individual’s circumstances.
  4. Make pension contributions: tax relieved pension contributions can be made up to 100% of earnings, capped at the level of the annual allowance. The annual allowance is set at £40,000 for 2018/19 (subject to the reduction for high earners). Where the annual allowance is not used up in year, it can be carried forward for up to three years.
  5. Transfer income-earning assets to a spouse or civil partner: where one spouse or civil partner has unused personal allowances or has not fully utilised their basic rate band, considering transferring income earning assets into their name to reduce the combined tax liability (but non-tax considerations such as loss of ownership should be taken into account).
  6. Put assets in joint name prior to sale: spouses and civil partners can transfer assets between them at a value that gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. This can be useful prior to selling an asset which will realise a gain in order to take advantage of both partners’ annual exempt amount for capital gains tax purposes.
  7. Make gifts for inheritance tax purposes: individuals have an annual exemption for inheritance tax of £3,000, allowing them to make gifts free of inheritance tax each year. Where the allowance is not used, it can be carried forward to the next year, but is then lost.

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Does the marriage allowance apply to you?

The marriage allowance can be beneficial to married couples and civil partners on lower incomes. Claiming the marriage allowance is worth up to £238 in 2018/19 and £250 in 2019/20.
Nature of the allowance
The marriage allowance allows one spouse of civil partner to transfer 10% of their personal allowance (rounded up to the nearest £10) to their partner if they are unable to utilise the full allowance. However, it is only available where the recipient pays tax at the basic rate – couples where one party has no income and the other party is a higher or additional rate taxpayer cannot benefit from the allowance.
A personal can transfer 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner if:
• they are married or in a civil partnership;
• they have not used up all of their personal allowance (set at £11,850 for 2018/19 and at £12,500 for 2019/20);
• and their partner pays tax at the basic rate.
For Scottish taxpayers, the marriage allowance is available if the recipient pays tax at the Scottish starter, basic or intermediate rates.
For 2018/19 the personal allowance is £11,850 and the marriage allowance is £1,190. For 2019/20, the personal allowance is £12,500 and the marriage allowance is £1,250.
Impact of the marriage allowance
Where the marriage allowance is claimed, the transferor’s personal allowance for the year is reduced by the amount of the allowance and the transferees personal allowance is increased by the amount of the allowance. Instead of that portion of the personal allowance being wasted, it is set against the transferee’s income, saving tax at the basic (or relevant Scottish) rate.
Example
Lauren is a stay-at-home mum. She has no income in either 2018/19 or 2019/20.
Her husband Joe works as an electrician earning £20,000 a year.
They claim the marriage allowance for both 2018/19 and 2019/20.
For 2018/19, the allowance is £1,190. By claiming the allowance, Lauren’s personal allowance is reduced to £10,660 (£11,850 – £1,190) and Joe’s personal allowance is increased to £13,040 (£11,850 + £1,190). Their combined personal allowances remain at £23,700, but utilising the marriage allowance to increase Joe’s allowance while reducing Lauren’s saves them £238 (£1,190 @ 20%) in tax.
If they claim the marriage allowance of £1,250 for 2019/20, Lauren’s personal allowance will fall to £11,250 (£12,500 – £1,250), while Joe’s personal allowance will increase to £13,750. Claiming the allowance will save them tax of £250 (£1,250 @ 20%) for 2019/20.
The allowance will still be effective where the partner with the lower income does not fully utilise the allowance, even if as a result, they have some tax to pay as a result of making the claim.
Example
In 2018/19, Max has income of £11,000 and his wife Amy has income of £17,000. Claiming the marriage allowance will reduce Max’s personal allowance to £10,660, meaning he will pay tax of £68 ((£11,000 – £10,660) @ 20%). However, Amy’s personal allowance will increase to £13,040, saving her tax of £238. As a couple they are £170 better off (£238 – £68).
How to claim
The marriage allowance can be claimed online: see www.gov.uk/apply-marriage-allowance. Once a claim is made it will apply automatically for subsequent tax years, unless cancelled or circumstances claim. A claim can be backdated to include any tax year since 5 April 2015 for which the qualifying conditions are met.
The allowance can also be claimed for the year in which one partner dies.
Impact on tax codes
Where the marriage allowance is claimed, both the transferor’s and transferee’s tax code are amended as a result. A code with a ‘M’ suffix denotes that the individual has received the marriage allowance, whereas a ‘N’ suffix denotes that the individual has transferred 10% of their personal allowance to their spouse or civil partner.
In the above example, Lauren would have a tax code of 1066N for 2018/19, while Joe’s tax code would be 1,304M. For 2019/20, Lauren’s tax code would be 1125N, while Joe’s tax code would be 1375M.

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