Personal Tax

The personal allowance for 2014/15

For those born after 5 April 1948 the personal allowance will be increased from £9,440 to £10,000.

The reduction in the personal allowance for those with ‘adjusted net income’ over £100,000 will continue. The reduction is £1 for every £2 of income above £100,000. So for this year there is no allowance when adjusted net income exceeds £118,880. For 2014/15 the allowance ceases when adjusted net income exceeds £120,000.

Comment
The increase in the personal allowance gives more importance to planning before 6 April 2014 where adjusted net income is expected to exceed £100,000. Broadly, adjusted net income is taxable income from all sources, reduced by specific reliefs such as Gift Aid donations and pension contributions.

Tax bands and rates for 2014/15

The basic rate of tax is currently 20%. The band of income taxable at this rate is being reduced from £32,010 to £31,865 so that the threshold at which the 40% band applies will rise from £41,450 to £41,865 for those who are entitled to the full basic personal allowance.

The additional rate of tax of 45% is payable on taxable income above £150,000.

Dividend income is taxed at 10% where it falls within the basic rate band and 32.5% where liable at the higher rate of tax. Where income exceeds £150,000, dividends are taxed at 37.5%.

The personal allowance and tax bands for 2015/16

For 2015/16, the personal allowance for those born after 5 April 1948 will be increased to £10,500, and the basic rate limit will be reduced to £31,785. The threshold at which the 40% band applies will rise from £41,865 to £42,285.

From 6 April 2015, the maximum amount of an eligible individual’s savings income that can qualify for the starting rate of tax for savings will be increased to £5,000 from £2,880, and this starting rate will be reduced from 10% to nil. The 10% rate is not available if taxable non-savings income (broadly earnings, pensions, trading profits and property income) exceeds the starting rate limit.

Comment
This will increase the number of savers who are not required to pay tax on savings income, such as bank or building society interest. If a saver’s total taxable income will be below the total of their personal allowance plus the £5,000 starting rate limit then they can register to receive their interest gross using a form R85.

Transferable tax allowance for some

From April 2015 married couples and civil partners may be eligible for a new transferable tax allowance.

The transferable tax allowance will enable spouses and civil partners to transfer a fixed amount of their personal allowance to their spouse. The transferable allowance is £1,050 for 2015/16 being 10% of the personal allowance.

The option to transfer will be available to couples where neither pays tax at the higher or additional rate. If eligible, one spouse will be able to transfer £1,050 of their personal allowance to the other spouse. The transferor’s personal allowance will be reduced by £1,050. It will mean that the transferee will be able to earn £1,050 more before they start paying income tax.

The claim will be made online and entitlement will be from the 2015/16 tax year. Couples will be entitled to the full benefit in their first year of marriage.

Comment
For those couples where one person does not use all of their personal allowance the benefit will be worth up to £210.

New Tax-Free Childcare scheme

In Budget 2013, the Government announced new tax incentives for childcare. Following consultation on the design and operation of the scheme, the Government has announced improvements.

The relief will be 20% of the costs of childcare up to a total of childcare costs of £10,000 per child per year. The scheme will therefore be worth a maximum of £2,000 per child. The original proposal had a cap of 20% of £6,000 per child.

The scheme will be launched in autumn 2015. All children under 12 within the first year of the scheme will be eligible. Under the original proposal only children under five would have been eligible in the first year of the scheme.

To qualify for Tax-Free Childcare all parents in the household must:

  • meet a minimum income level based on working eight hours per week at the National Minimum Wage (around £50 a week at current rates)
  • each earn less than £150,000 a year, and
  • not already be receiving support through Tax Credits or Universal Credit.

The current system of employer supported childcare will continue to be available for current members if they wish to remain in it or they can switch to the new scheme. Employer supported childcare will continue to be open to new joiners until the new scheme is available.

It is proposed that parents register with the Government and open an online account. The scheme will be delivered by HMRC in partnership with National Savings and Investments, the scheme’s account provider. The Government will then ‘top up’ payments into this account at a rate of 20p for every 80p that families pay in.

Comment
Self-employed parents will be able to get support with childcare costs in the Tax-Free Childcare scheme, unlike the current employer supported childcare scheme. To support newly self-employed parents, the Government is introducing a ‘start-up’ period. During this period a newly self-employed parent will not have to earn the minimum income level.

Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs)

Where an individual subscribes for shares in a VCT, income tax relief at 30% of the subscription price is available. The Government has been concerned that particular forms of share buy-backs and reinvestment arrangements offered by VCTs were not in keeping with the intention of the legislation.

The Government will introduce legislation to:

  • prevent VCTs from returning share capital to investors within three years of the end of the accounting period in which the VCT issued the shares
  • restrict an individuals’ entitlement to VCT income tax relief where investments are conditionally linked in any way to a VCT share buy-back, or have been made within six months of a disposal of shares in the same VCT
  • ensure that HMRC can withdraw tax relief in all cases if VCT shares are disposed of within five years of acquisition.

These changes will take effect from 6 April 2014.

In addition, from the date of Royal Assent, investors will be able to subscribe for shares in a VCT via a nominee.

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)

SEIS was introduced in 2012 as a way of encouraging equity investment in small companies. This relief was originally introduced for a period of five years and has now been made permanent in respect of both the income and capital gains tax reliefs applicable.

Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs)

From 6 April 2014 the overall ISA savings limit will be increased from £11,520 to £11,880 of which £5,940 can be invested in cash. From 1 July 2014 ISAs will be reformed into a simpler product, the ‘New ISA’ (NISA) and all existing ISAs will become NISAs.

NISAs

From 1 July 2014 the overall annual subscription limit for these accounts will be increased to £15,000 for 2014/15. Special rules apply if investments are made before 1 July 2014. Investments for 2014/15 cannot exceed £15,000 in total.

Savers will also be able to subscribe this full amount to a cash account (currently only 50% of the overall ISA limit can be saved in cash). Under the NISA, investors will also have new rights to transfer their investments from a stocks and shares to a cash account.

There are also changes to the rules on the investments that can be held in a NISA, so that a wider range of securities to include certain retail bonds with less than five years before maturity can be invested. In addition, Core Capital Deferred Shares issued by building societies will become eligible to be held in a NISA, Junior ISA or Child Trust Fund (CTF).

Comment
These measures are part of a broader package of changes to support savers. In particular they will increase the choice and flexibility available to savers in tax advantaged products.

Junior ISA and CTF

The annual subscription limit for Junior ISA and CTF accounts will increase from £3,720 to £3,840 from 6 April 2014. From 1 July 2014 the amount that can be subscribed to a child’s Junior ISA or CTF for 2014/15 will also be increased to £4,000.

The Government has decided that a transfer of savings from a CTF to a Junior ISA should be permitted at the request of the registered contact for the CTF. It is expected that the first transfers will be possible by April 2015.

Social investment tax relief

The Government will introduce a new tax relief of 30% for individuals investing in equity or certain debt investments in social enterprises with effect from 6 April 2014. Organisations which are charities, community interest companies (CICs) or community benefit societies will be eligible.

The tax relief available to an individual has a similar design to investments by individuals in an Enterprise Investment Scheme company. Draft guidance on the reliefs is expected to be published later this month.

Comment
CICs are limited companies that provide benefits to the community and the legal form has only been available since 2005. The reason behind the development of CICs was the lack of legal structures for non-charitable social enterprises. Community benefit societies are incorporated industrial and provident societies where profits are returned to the community for its benefit.The Government wants to make the UK one of the easiest places in the world to invest in social enterprises.

Pension changes

The Chancellor has announced a range of significant measures to bring greater flexibility to individuals who want to access funds in defined contribution pension schemes. Some changes to the current restrictive rules will come into effect from 27 March 2014 whilst further measures will follow in April 2015 after a period of consultation.

Pensions – immediate measures

The immediate measures come into effect from 27 March and cover four broad areas.

Capped drawdown. An individual aged 55 or over can opt for a drawdown pension which allows them to extract amounts from the pension fund which is treated as income for the relevant year. The maximum amount of drawdown is fixed to ensure that the fund is not cleared too quickly. The cap is based on 120% of a notional annuity rate set by the Government Actuary. The cap will be increased to 150%.

Flexible drawdown. Where an individual aged 55 or over can demonstrate that they have pension income (including the state pension) of £20,000 per annum or more they can ignore the drawdown cap and can take whatever amount they wish. Tax will be payable at their marginal rate. The income limit is to be reduced to £12,000 per annum.

Trivial commutation. At present an individual aged 60 or over who has total pensions savings of £18,000 or below can withdraw this as a lump sum. The limit will be increased to £30,000.

Small pots. The Government will increase the amount for small individual pension pots that can be taken as a lump sum regardless of total pension wealth from £2,000 to £10,000. They will also increase the number of small pension pots that can be taken as lump sums from two to three.

Pensions – changes to come

The Government plans to bring even greater flexibility into the pension system from April 2015. In effect an individual will be able to choose what they want to do with their defined contribution pension fund.

  • If they want to draw out all of the fund on retirement they will be able to do so. The tax free element will be 25% of the sum and the balance will be taxed as income in that year.
  • If they wish to buy an annuity they will be able to do so.
  • If they wish to opt for a drawdown arrangement they will be able to do this without any restriction either in the form of a cap or a minimum income limit.

These changes will be subject to a consultation.

Two other important changes will also be made:

  • pension providers and pension trustees will be required to provide free and impartial advice to all individuals approaching retirement so that they can make an informed choice of the options available to them
  • the minimum retirement age for pension schemes will rise to 57 years in 2028 when the state pension age rises to 67 years.
Comment
The Government has indicated that individuals approaching retirement should be trusted to make their own decisions as to what to do with their pension funds and not be restricted by legal requirements. The greater range of options will mean that getting the right advice at the point of retirement will be even more important.

Pension liberation

The Government is concerned about schemes which are intended to encourage people to access their pension funds before they reach retirement and use the funds for other purposes. A range of measures are being introduced to combat these schemes. The measures, generally take effect from 20 March 2014.

With effect from 1 September 2014 a further measure will allow HMRC to refuse to register pension schemes where they believe that the scheme administrator is not fit and proper and the scheme has been established for purposes other than providing pension benefits.