Have you heard of a SIPP? They can be a useful tool for investments.

Using a SIPP to save for retirement

A SIPP is a self-invested personal pension which is set up by an insurance company or specialist SIPP provider. It is attractive to those who wish to manage their own investments. Contribution to a SIPP may be made by both the individual and, where appropriate, by the individual’s employer.

Investments

The range of potential investment is greater for a SIPP than for a personal pension or group personal pension scheme.

The SIPP can invest in a wide range of assets, including:

  • quoted and unquoted shares;
  • unlisted shares;
  • collective investment schemes (OEICs and unit trusts);
  • investment trusts;
  • property and land (but excluding residential property); and
  • insurance funds.

A SIPP can also borrow money to purchase investments. For example, a SIPP could take out a mortgage to fund the purchase a commercial property, which could be rented out. The rental income would be paid into the SIPP and this could be used to pay the mortgage and other costs associated with the property.

Making contributions

Tax-relieved contributions can be made to the SIPP up to the normal limits set by the annual allowance. This is set at £40,000 for 2019/20. The annual allowance is reduced by £1 for every £2 which adjusted net income exceeds £150,000 where threshold income exceeds £110,000, until the minimum level of £10,000 is reached. Anyone with adjusted net income of £210,000 and above and threshold income of at least £110,000 will only receive the minimum annual allowance of £10,000. Where the annual allowance is unused, it can be carried forward for three years. Any contributions made by the employer also count towards the annual allowance.

SIPPs operate on a relief at source basis, meaning that the individual makes contributions from net pay. The SIPP provider claims back basic rate relief, with any higher or additional rate relief being claimed through the self-assessment return.

Drawing a pension

A SIPP is a money purchase scheme and the value of benefits available to provide a pension depend on contributions that have been made to the scheme, investment growth (or reduction) and charges.

It is possible to draw retirement benefits at age 55. A tax-free lump sum can be taken to the value of 25% of the accumulated funds. Withdrawals in excess of this are taxed at the individual’s marginal rate of tax.

To prevent recycling contributions, where pension benefits have been flexibly accessed a reduced money purchase annual allowance, set at £4,000 for 2019/20, applies.

Partner note: www.pensionsadvisoryservice.org.uk

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Closing a business can be a difficult time. Be tax efficient with this beneficial liquidation strategy.

Closing a business – when a member’s voluntary liquidation is beneficial

Although it is possible to strike off a company and for distributions made prior to dissolution to be treated as capital rather than as a dividend, this is not an option where the amount of the distributions exceeds £25,000.

Where the taxpayer’s personal circumstances are such that it is beneficial for the remaining funds to be taxed as capital (and liable to capital gains tax), rather than as a dividend, a member’s voluntary liquidation (MVL) can be an attractive option, as depending upon the level of funds to be extracted the costs of the liquidation may be more than covered by the tax savings that can be achieved.

What is an MVL?

An MVL is a process that allows the shareholders to put the company into liquidation. This route is only an option if the company is solvent (i.e. its assets are greater than its liabilities). The directors must sign a declaration of solvency confirming that the company is able to pay its debts in full within the next 12 months and 75% of the members must agree to place the company into liquidation. The shareholders must pass a special resolution to wind up the company. They will also need to pass an ordinary resolution to appoint liquidators. The liquidator must be a licenced insolvency practitioner.

What are the tax implications?

Under an MVL the capital extracted from the company is treated as a capital distribution and is liable to capital gains tax, rather than being taxed as a dividend. Where entrepreneurs’ relief is in point, the rate of tax will only be 10%, assuming enough of the entrepreneurs’ relief lifetime limit remains available. If significant funds are available for distribution, this can generate considerable tax savings.

Example

Edward and Oliver are directors of a company in which they both own 50% of the shares and 50% of the voting rights. Each is entitled to 50% of the profits available for distribution and 50% of the assets on a winding up.

They wish to wind the company up, but as they have cash and assets of £10 million to distribute, they opt for an MVL, to allow them to take advantage of the capital gains tax treatment. Both are additional rate taxpayers, and both meet the qualifying conditions for entrepreneurs’ relief.

Edward and Oliver each receive £5 million on the winding up of the company. They both have the full amount of the entrepreneurs’ relief lifetime limit (£10 million) unused, and it is assumed for simplicity that the annual exempt amount has been used elsewhere. The gain is therefore taxed at 10% and each will pay tax of £500,000 on their distribution of £5 million.

Had they not opted for an MVL and the extracted funds taxed as a dividend, they would have each paid £1,905,000 in tax on the £5 million distribution (£5m @ 38.1%).

Anti-avoidance

Anti-avoidance provisions apply which are designed to target ‘moneyboxing’ (where the company retains more funds than it needs in order to extract them as capital when the company is liquidated) and ‘pheonixism’ (where the company is liquidated, the value extracted as capital and a new company is set up to carry on what is essentially the same business). Liquidation distributions which are caught by the rules are treated as income rather than capital.

Partner note: Insolvency Act 1986, Pt. IV, Ch. III.

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Today’s blog explains how Britain’s most hated tax – inheritance tax – works for married couples and civil partners.

Inheritance tax and spouses and civil partners

Special rules apply for inheritance tax purposes to married couples and civil partners. To ensure valuable tax reliefs are not lost, it is beneficial to consider the combined position, rather than dealing with each individual separately. Married couples and civil partners benefit from exemptions that are not available to unmarried couples.

Inter-spouse exemption

The main inheritance tax benefit of being married or in a civil partnership is the inter-spouse exemption. Transfers between married couples and civil partners are not subject to inheritance tax. This applies both to lifetime transfers and to those made on death.

The inter-spouse exemption makes it possible for the first spouse or civil partner to die to leave their entire estate to their partner without triggering an IHT liability, regardless of whether it exceeds the nil rate band.

Transferable nil rate band

The proportion of the nil rate band that is unused on the death of the first spouse or civil partner can be used by the surviving partner on his or her death. This makes tax planning easier and there is no panic about each spouse using their own nil rate band. If the entire estate is left to the spouse on the first death, on the death of the surviving spouse or civil partner, there will be two nil rate bands to play with.

If the first spouse or civil partner to die has used some of their nil rate band, for example, to leave part of their estate to their children, the surviving spouse or civil partner can utilise the remaining portion. It should be noticed it is the unused percentage that is transferred, rather than the absolute amount unused at the time of the first death – this provides an automatic uplift for increases in the nil rate band.

The nil rate band is currently £325,000.

Residence nil rate band

The residence nil rate band (RNRB) is an additional nil rate band which is available where a main residence is left to a direct descendant. It is set at £150,000 for 2019/20, and will increase to £175,000 for 2020/21. The RNRB is reduced by £1 for every £2 by which the value of the estate exceeds £2 million.

As with the nil rate band, the unused proportion of the RNRB can be transferred to the surviving spouse.

Example

George and Maud have been married for over 50 years. Maud died in 2017 leaving £32,500 to each of her two children. The remainder of her estate, including her share of the family home, was left to her husband George.

George dies in July 2019. At the time of his death, his estate was worth £780,000 and included the family home, valued at £550,000, which was left equally to the couple’s children, Paul and Joanna.

At the time of her death Maud had used up £65,000 of her nil rate band. The nil rate band at the time of her death was £325,000. The transfer to George was covered by the inter-spouse exemption and was free from inheritance tax. Maud has used up £65,000 of her nil rate band (20%), leaving 80% unused. She has not used her RNRB band as she left her share of her main residence to George.

On George’s death, the executors can claim the unused portion of Maud’s nil rate band and RBRB. The nil rate bands available to George are as follows:

Nil rate bands£
George’s nil rate band325,000
George’s RNRB150,000
Unused portion of Maud’s nil rate band (80% of £325,000)260,000
Unused proportion of Maud’s RNRB (100% of £150,000)150,000
Total£885,000

As George’s estate on death is less than the available nil rate bands, no inheritance tax is payable.

Partner note: IHTA 1984, ss. 8A, 18.

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Make sure to share this article with anyone you know who runs a family business – so they can take advantage of the many ways to lower their tax bill!

Optimising tax-free benefits in family companies

Making use of statutory exemptions for certain benefits-in-kind offers an opportunity to extract funds from a family company without triggering a tax charge.

The essential point to note is that to make the tax saving, the benefit itself, rather than the funds with which to buy the benefit, must be provided.

Mobiles

No tax charge arises where an employer provides an employee with a mobile phone, irrespective of the level of private use. The exemption applies to one phone per employee.

A taxable benefit will however, arise if the employer meets the employee’s private bill for a mobile phone or if top-up vouchers are provided which can be used on any phone

Example

John and Jan Smith are directors of their family-owned company. Their two children also work for the company. The company takes out a contract for four mobile phones and provides each member of the family with a phone. The bills are paid directly to the phone provider by the company. The bills are deductible in computing profits. Each family member receives the use of a phone tax-free, which means they do not need to fund one from their post-tax income.

Pension contributions

Pensions remain a particularly tax-efficient form of savings since nearly everyone is entitled to receive relief on contributions up to an annual maximum regardless of whether they pay tax or not. The maximum amount on which a non-taxpayer can currently receive basic rate tax relief is £3,600. So an individual can pay in £2,880 a year, but £3,600 will be the amount actually invested by the pension provider. Higher amounts may be invested, but tax relief will not be given on the excess. Any tax relief received from HMRC on excess contributions may have to be repaid.

Pension contributions paid by a company in respect of its directors or employees are allowable unless there is an identifiable non-trade purpose. Contributions relating to a controlling director (one who owns more than 20% of the company’s share capital), or an employee who is a relative or close friend of the controlling director, may be queried by HMRC. In establishing whether a payment is for the purposes of the trade, HMRC will examine the company’s intentions in making the payment.

Pension contributions will be viewed in the light of the overall remuneration package and if the level of the package is excessive for the value of the work undertaken, the contributions may be disallowed. However, HMRC will generally accept that contributions are paid ‘wholly and exclusively for the purposes of the trade’ where the remuneration package paid is comparable with that paid to unconnected employees performing duties of similar value.

Other tax-free benefits

Subject to certain conditions being satisfied, other tax-free benefits that a family company may consider include:

  • bicycles or bicycle safety equipment for travel to work
  • gifts not costing more than £250 per year from any one donor
  • Christmas and other parties, dinners, etc, provided the total cost to the employer for each person attending is not more than £150 a year
  • one health screening and one medical check-up per employee, per year
  • the first £500 worth of pensions advice provided to an employee (including former and prospective employees) in a tax year
  • medical treatments recommended by employer-arranged occupational health services. The exemption is subject to an annual cap of £500 per employee

Employing family members, and providing them tax-free benefits, often enables a family-owned company to take advantage of the lower tax rates, personal allowances and exemptions that may be available to a spouse, civil partner, or children. In turn, this arrangement can help reduce the household’s overall tax bill.

Partner Note: ITEPA 2003, s 244, s 308C, s 319; BIM46035, BIM47105

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If you need help on how to time dividends, read our short article that explains the basics

Timing dividends right could help save tax

Timing the date of a dividend payment from a company can determine both the amount and the due date of the tax payable. This may be a particularly useful strategy in a close- or family-owned company.

The dividend allowance, which was originally introduced from 6 April 2016, was cut from £5,000 a year to £2,000 from 6 April 2018. Fortunately, the tax rates on dividend income, above the allowance, remain at 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers, 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers and 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers.

The amount of tax payable on dividend income is determined by the amount of overall income an individual receives during a tax year. This includes earnings, savings, dividend and non-dividend income. The amount of dividend tax paid depends primarily on which tax band the first £2,000 falls in.

Accelerating payment

The timing of the dividend payment may have a marked impact on the directors’ and shareholders’ personal tax situation. A dividend is not paid until the shareholder receives the funds direct or the dividend amount is put unreservedly at his or her disposal, for example by a credit to a loan account on which the shareholder has the power to draw. If the personal tax allowance and basic rate band for a tax year have not been fully utilised towards the end of the tax year, payment of a dividend may mean that the unused portion can be mopped up.

Example

Graham is the sole director and shareholder of a limited company.

He is considering whether to pay a dividend before the end of the 2019/20 tax year. In that tax year he has other income of £25,000. He has retained profits in the company of £100,000.

For 2019/20 the personal tax allowance is £12,500 and the basic rate tax band is £37,500. The dividend allowance is £2,000.

If Graham pays a dividend of £27,000 before the end of the 2019/20 tax year, he will fully utilise his basic rate band, and will be liable to tax at 7.5% on the £25,000 of the dividend income (the first £2,000 of the dividend being covered by the dividend allowance).

Delaying payment

Where the shareholder already has income exceeding the basic rate band in one tax year, delaying the dividend until the start of the next tax year could save tax.

Example

Following on from the above example, say Graham has already paid himself a salary of £50,000 in the 2019/20 tax year, thus fully using up his basic rate band. If he pays the £27,000 dividend before the end of the tax year, he will pay tax on it of £8,125 (£27,000 – £2,000 allowance x 32.5%). This tax will be due for payment on 31 January 2021.

If he waits until the start of the next tax year (2020/21) to pay the dividend, and also receives a salary of £25,000 during that year, the tax due on the dividend will be £1,875 (£25,000 x 7.5%) – a potential saving of £6,250. Graham will also benefit from a delay in the due date for payment of the tax until 31 January 2022.

Fluctuating income

Dividend payments can often be timed to smooth a director/shareholder’s earnings year-on-year. Broadly, where profits fluctuate, a company could consider declaring and paying dividends equally each year, or by declaring a smaller dividend in the first year (when profits are higher) and treating the remainder of the payment as a shareholder loan. At the start of the next tax year, a further (smaller) dividend can be declared, which will repay the loan. Care must be taken with this type of arrangement, not least because the loan must be repaid within nine months of the company’s year-end to avoid a tax charge arising on the company.

The family business potentially offers considerable scope for structuring tax-efficient payments to family members using a mixture of both salary and dividends. A pre-dividend review may be particularly beneficial towards the end of the company’s year-end.

Partner Note: ITA 2017, s 8 and s 13A; F(No 2)A 2017, s 8;  CTA 2010, s 455

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A quick summary of the new tax bands for CO2 car emissions which will be introduced from April next year:

Are low emissions cars tax efficient?

Significant changes are being made from 2020-21 to the company car tax benefits-in-kind bands affecting ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs).

The taxable benefit arising on a car is calculated using the car’s full manufacturer’s published UK list price, including the full value of any accessories. This figure is then multiplied by the ‘appropriate percentage’, which can be found by reference to the car’s CO2 emissions level. This will give the taxable value of the car benefit. The employee pays income tax on the final figure at their appropriate tax rate: 20% for basic rate taxpayers, 40% for higher rate taxpayers and 45% for additional rate taxpayers. This formula means that in general terms, the lower the C02 emissions of the car, the lower the resulting tax charge will be.

For 2019-20, the appropriate percentage for cars (whether fully electric or not) is 16% for those emitting 50g/km CO2 or below, and 19% for those emitting CO2 of between 51 and 75g/km. This means that the taxable benefit arising on a zero-emissions car costing, say £30,000 is £4,800, with tax payable of £960 for a basic rate taxpayer – for a higher rate taxpayer this equates to tax payable of £1,920

By way of comparison, a 2001cc petrol-engine car with a list price of £30,000, will attract an appropriate percentage of 37% in 2019-20. This equates to a taxable benefit charge of £11,100, and a liability of £2,220 a year for a basic rate taxpayer.

New bands

In April 2020, new ULEV rates will be introduced, and the most tax efficient cars will be those with CO2 emissions below 50g/km. There will also be additional financial incentives for electric only cars

From 2020-21, five new bandings are being introduced for full and hybrid electric cars. Fully electric (zero emissions) cars will attract an appropriate percentage of just 2%. This means that the tax benefit arising on an electric car costing say, £30,000 will be just £600. The resulting tax payable by a basic rate taxpayer will be £120 a year and £240 for a higher rate taxpayer.

For cars emitting CO2 of between 1 and 50g/km, the appropriate percentage will depend on the car’s electric range figure:

MileagePercentage
130 miles or more 2%
70 – 129 miles5%
40-69 miles8%
30-39 miles12%
Less than 30 miles14%

ULEVs with CO2 emissions of between 50g-74g/km CO2 will be on a graduated scale from 15% to 19% (as is currently the case, diesel-only vehicles will continue to attract a further 4% surcharge) as follows:

CO2 emissionsPercentage
51 to 54g/km15%
55 to 59g/km16%
60 to 64g/km17%
65 to 69g/km18%
70 to 74g/km19%
75 or more20%
Plus1% per 5g/km
Up to a maximum37%

Whilst the journey towards ‘greener’ driving has been, and continues to be, a rocky one, in 2014/15 a sub-130g/km petrol car was considered green enough to merit an 18% appropriate percentage. However, by 2020/21, the appropriate percentage on such a car will have risen to 30%. A sub-100g/km band car that was only subject to a 12% charge in 2014/15 will also have risen to 24% by 2020/21. On the other hand, clean air all-electric cars will finally plummet to 2% under the new company car tax incentives from April 2020.

The incentives in the new tax bands are clearly designed to encourage ULEVs as a company car driver’s car of choice, and with around 1 million company car drivers in the UK, this benefit is likely to remain one of the most popular and potent perks of a job.

Partner Note: ITEPA 2003, ss 139-142; Finance Act (2) Part 1 s2

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Who the phone contract is billed to makes a big difference in tax.

Tax-free mobile phone

Mobile phones are ubiquitous – they are also subject to a tax exemption which enables employees to enjoy a mobile phone provided by their employer without suffering a benefit in kind tax charge. However, as with all exemptions there are conditions to be met for the exemption to apply.

Nature of the exemption

The exemption applies where an employer provides an employee with a mobile phone for his or her use. However, ownership of the phone must not be transferred to the employee. The exemption covers the use of the phone and the cost of all calls, including private calls. It also applies to the provision of a SIM card for use in the employee’s own phone.

The exemption is limited to one phone or SIM card per employee. Phones or SIM cards provided to members of the employee’s family or household by virtue of the employee’s employment are treated as if they were provided to the employee.

If the employee is provided with more than one mobile phone or SIM card, second and subsequent phones or SIM cards are taxed as a benefit in kind (as an asset made available for the employee’s use).

If the exemption does not apply, the employer can meet the cost of business calls without triggering a tax charge.

Contract between employer and supplier

While the end result may seem to be the same if the employer contracts with the phone supplier or if the employee takes out the contract and the employer either pays the bill or reimburses the employee, from a tax perspective the outcome is very different.

The mobile phone exemption only applies if the contract is between the employer and the phone supplier. If the contract is between the employee and the phone supplier and the employer meets the cost, the employer is meeting a personal bill of the employee rather than providing the employee with a mobile phone. This is an important distinction and can mean the difference between the exemption being available and the employee suffering a tax hit.

Smartphones count

The exemption applies to smartphones. To count as a phone, the device must be capable of making and receiving voice calls. Tablets, such as iPads, do not qualify (even if calls can be made via What’s App or similar services). The fact that a device has telephone functionality does not in itself qualify it as a mobile phone. As a general rules, devices that use Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) systems will not qualify.

Beware the OpRA rules

The exemption is lost if the mobile phone is made available to the employee under a salary sacrifice or other optional remuneration arrangement (OpRA). Where this is the case, the alternative valuation rules apply and the benefit is valued by reference to the salary foregone instead.

 Partner note: ITEPA 2003, s. 319.

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Government Incentives

Do you think electric cars are worth the tax-free benefits?

Electricity for electric cars – a tax-free benefit

The Government is keen to encourage drivers to make environmentally friendly choices when it comes to choosing a car. As far as the company car tax market is concerned, tax policy is used to drive behaviour, rewarding drivers choosing lower emission cars with a lower tax charge, while penalising those whose choices are less green.

The use of the tax system to nudge drivers towards embracing electric cars also applies in relation to the taxation of ‘fuel’. As a result, tax-free benefits on are offer to those drivers who choose to ‘go electric’.

Company car drivers

Electricity is not a ‘fuel’ for the purposes of the fuel benefit charge. This means that where an employee has an electric company car, the employer can meet the cost of all the electricity used in the car, including that for private journeys, without triggering a fuel benefit charge. This can offer significant savings when compared with the tax bill that would arise if the employer pays for the private fuel for a petrol or diesel car. However, it should be noted that a fuel charge may apply in relation to hybrid models.

Example

Maisy has an electric company car with a list price of £20,000. Her employer meets the cost of all electricity used in the car, including that for private motoring. As electricity is not a fuel for these purposes, there is no fuel benefit charge, and Maisy is enabled to enjoy her private motoring tax-free.

By way of comparison, the taxable benefit that would arise if the employer meets the cost of private motoring in a petrol or diesel company car with an appropriate percentage of 22% would be £5,302 (£24,100 @ 22%) for 2019/20. The associated tax bill would be £1,060.40 for a basic rate taxpayer and £2,120.80 for a higher rate taxpayer.

However, the rules do not mean that an employee loses out if they have an electric company car and initially meets the cost of electricity for business journeys and reclaim it from their employer. There is now an advisory fuel rate for electricity which allows employers to reimburse employees meeting the cost of electricity for business journeys at a rate of 4p per mile without triggering a tax bill. However, amounts in excess of 4p per mile will be chargeable.

Employees using their own cars

Currently, there is no separate rate for electric cars under the approved mileage payments scheme. This means that the usual rates apply where an employee uses his or her own electric car for business. Consequently, the employer can pay up to 45p per mile for the first 10,000 business miles in the year and 25p per mile for subsequent business miles tax-free. If the employer pays less than this, the employee can claim a deduction for the shortfall. Payments in excess of the approved amounts are taxable.

Employees with their own electric cars can also enjoy the benefit of tax-free electricity for private motoring – but only if they charge their car using a charging point provided by their employer at or near their place of work. The exemption also applies to cars in which the employee is a passenger, so would apply, for example, if an employee’s spouse drove the employee to work, charging their car when dropping the employee off or picking the employee up.

Partner note: ITEPA 2003, ss. 149, 237A; www.gov.uk/government/publications/advisory-fuel-rates/advisory-fuel-rates-from-1-march-2016

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For grandparents wanting to help out their children or grandchildren, habitual gifts can be made free of inheritance tax. Read more on our blog post.

Give from income to save inheritance tax

Within a family scenario, there are many situations in which one family member may make a gift to other family members. However, the way in which gifts are funded and made can make a significant difference to the way in which they are treated for inheritance tax purposes.

Not all gifts are equal

There is no inheritance tax to pay on gifts between spouses and civil partners. A person can make as many lifetime gifts to their spouse or civil partner as they wish (as long as they live in the UK permanently). There is no cap on the value of the gifts either.

Other gifts may escape inheritance tax if they are covered by an exemption. This may be the annual exemption (set at £3,000 per tax year), or a specific exemption such as that for gifts on the occasion of a marriage or civil partnership or the exemption for ‘gifts out of income’.

Gifts that are not covered by an exemption will counts towards the estate for inheritance tax purposes and, if the donor fails to survive for at least seven years from the date on which the gift was made, may suffer an inheritance tax bill if the nil rate band (currently £325,000) has been used up.

Gifts from income

The exemption for ‘normal expenditure out of income’ is a useful exemption. The exemption applies where the gift:

  • formed part of the taxpayer’s normal expenditure;
  • was made out of income; and
  • left the transferor with enough income for them to maintain their normal standard of living.

All of the conditions must be met for the exemption to apply. Where it does, there is no requirement for the donor to survive seven years to take the gift out the IHT net.

What counts as ‘normal’ expenditure?

For the purposes of the exemption, HMRC interpret ‘normal’ as being normal for the transferor, rather than normal for the ‘average person’.

To meet this condition it is sensible to establish a regular pattern of giving –for example, by setting up a standing order to give a regular monthly sum to the recipient. It is also possible that a single gift may qualify for the exemption if the intention is for it to be the first of a series of gifts, and this can be demonstrated. Likewise, regular gifts may not qualify if they are not made from income.

In deciding whether a gift constitutes normal expenditure from income, HMRC will consider a number of factors, including:

  • the frequency of the gift;
  • the amount;
  • the identity of the recipient; and
  • the reason for the gift.

The amount of the gift is an important factor – to meet the test the gifts must be similar in amount, although they do not have to be identical. Where the gift is made by reference to a source of income that is variable, such as dividends from shares, the amount of the gift may vary without jeopardising the exemption.

Gifts will normally be in the form of money to the recipient, or a payment on the recipient’s behalf, such as school fees or a mortgage. The reason for making a gift may indicate whether it is made habitually – for example, a grandparent may makes a gift to a grandchild at the start of each university term to help with living costs. It is also important that having made the gift, the donor has sufficient income left to maintain his or her lifestyle.

When making gifts from income, check that they may meet the conditions to ensure that the exemption is available.

Partner note: IHTA 1984, s. 21.

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If you might want to sell a property cheaply to a family member make sure you read this first.

At first sight, the calculation of a capital gain or loss on the disposal of an asset is relatively straightforward – simply the difference between the amount received for the sale of that asset and the cost of acquiring (and, where relevant) enhancing it, allowing for the incidental costs of acquisition and disposal. However, as with all rules there are exceptions, and particular care needs to be taken when disposing of an asset to other family members.

Spouses and civil partners

The actual consideration, if any, is ignored for transfers of assets between spouses and civil partners. Instead, the consideration is deemed to be that which gives rise to neither a gain nor a loss. The effect of this rule, which is very useful for tax planning purposes, is that the transferee simply assumes the transferors base cost – and the transferor has no capital gain to worry about.

Other connected persons

While the no gain/no loss rules for transfers between spouses and civil partners is useful from a tax perspective, the same cannot be said to be true for market value rule that applies to transfers between connected persons. Where two persons are connected, the actual consideration, if any, is ignored and instead the market value of the asset at the time of the transfer is used to work out any capital gain or loss.

The market value of an asset is the value that asset might reasonably be expected to fetch on sale in the open market.

Who are connected persons?

A person is connected with an individual if that person is:

  • the person’s spouse or civil partner;
  • a relative of the individual;
  • the spouse of civil partner of a relative of the individual;
  • the relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner;
  • the spouse or civil partner of a relative of the individual’s spouse or civil partner.

For these purposes, a relative is a brother, sister or ancestor or lineal descendant. Fortunately, the term ‘relative’ in this context does not embrace all family relationships and excludes, for example, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles and cousins (and thus the actual consideration is used in calculating any capital gain).

As noted above, the deemed market value rule does not apply to transfers between spouses and civil partners (to which the no gain/no loss rules applies), but it catches those to children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings – and also to their spouses and civil partners.

Example 1

Barbara has had a flat for many years which she has let out, while living in the family home. Her granddaughter Sophie has recently graduated and started work and is struggling to get on the property ladder. To help Sophie, Barbara sells the flat to her for £150,000. At the time of the sale it is worth £200,000.

As Barbara and Sophie are connected persons, the market value of £200,000 is used to work out Barbara’s capital gain rather than the actual consideration of £150,000. If she is unaware of this, the gain will be higher than expected (by £14,000 if Barbara basic rate band has been utilised), and Barbara may find that she is short of funds to pay the tax.

This problem may be exacerbated where the asset is gifted – the gain will be calculated by reference to market value, but there will be no actual consideration from which to pay the tax.

Partner note: TCGA 1992, ss. 17, 18, 272, 286.

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