Monthly Archives

December 2022

Clapperboard reading 2022 review - brighter prospects ahead

Out with the old…

By | Investments

Investment market participants will be keen to see the back of what has been a difficult year for investors. Whilst it may seem a long time ago, 2022 began with markets in a buoyant mood. The restrictions imposed due to Covid-19 were finally ending, and with central banks and Governments continuing the support put in place at the start of the pandemic, global Equities markets peaked around the turn of the new year.

Inflationary pressures were already starting to build at the end of last year, although it would have taken a very brave economist to predict inflation reaching double-digit levels in most Western economies by the third quarter of the year. Whilst some of the blame for the heightened inflation can be placed firmly at the door of Vladimir Putin, the shake-off of the Covid excess and a tight labour market also contributed to the rapid rise in inflation. Central banks have predictably moved to raise interest rates to try and dampen the inflationary fire, but the combination of restrictive central bank policy and concerns over the conflict in Ukraine pushed most asset classes lower over the first half of the year.

The summer saw markets rebound, amidst very tentative indications that inflation was being tamed, although the renewed optimism was dashed by hawkish words by the Federal Reserve and the ill-fated Mini-Budget announced by Kwasi Kwarteng. This forced the Bank of England into the very uncomfortable position of firing up the printing presses once again, to provide liquidity to the Gilt market and caused Sterling to plummet against major currencies.

By early November, the mood finally began to lift, as market participants cheered lower than expected inflation data in the US, and closer to home, a second Budget statement was received more positively. Whilst central banks may not be at the end of the rate hiking cycle just yet, markets are hopeful that the first quarter of 2023 will see the end of this painful period where interest rates have realigned to reflect the prevailing and expected conditions.


Nowhere to hide

One of the key takeaways from 2022 has been the negative impact of higher inflation on most asset classes, and how this has reduced the benefits of diversification. An important component of a well-diversified portfolio is to include exposure to different asset classes that tend to produce a variance in performance, with the aim of balancing weak performance from one particular class or sector, with an improved performance elsewhere.

This year has seen very different conditions emerge, and as the year progressed, the performance of different asset classes began to correlate more closely than they have done for many years. The rapid spike in inflation heralded conditions that are not friendly to fixed interest securities, such as Government and Corporate Bonds, and this has undermined the traditional role Bonds play in reducing volatility, at least for the time being. Equities, which should see less of an impact from the inflationary conditions, also retreated, as sentiment towards risk asset faded in light of the ongoing conflict and worsening economic outlook.

The result has been that 2022 has been a disappointing period for investors in most asset classes, with a high degree of correlation across the board. We do, however, see a return to more normal market behaviour over coming months as our expectation is for inflation to fall back towards mid-single figures by this time next year. We therefore believe that the benefits of diversification, which were rather hidden during this year, will make a return next year.


Taking the medicine

Stock markets are often referred to as “discounting mechanisms”, which work on the notion that the current price of a market or asset takes into consideration all available information at the time, including present and potential future events. Whilst this theory is nowhere near perfect, and short-term sentiment is often dictated by market fear and greed, it is clear that markets do take into account expected economic data within prices we see today.

As a result, the difficult market conditions experienced over the last 12 months can be viewed as being a period of readjustment in asset prices, from the positive outlook many held at the start of the year, to the reality of slower growth, and possible recessionary conditions, as a result of the conflict and the spike in energy, food and fuel prices. We feel that investors should not, therefore, be alarmed by the expected gloomy reports in the media about the state of the economy over coming months, as markets have, at least to some extent, factored this into the current market value.


Brighter prospects ahead?

As 2022 draws to a close, investors will reflect on a bruising year and will be hoping for a return to less volatile conditions over the course of the next year. We certainly feel that current valuations are attractive for many asset classes, and we will explain the reasons behind our optimism for the coming 12 months in our market outlook to be released in January.


As this is the last Wealth Matters for 2022, we would like to take this opportunity of wishing all of our readers a peaceful Christmas, and good health and happiness for 2023.


If you are interested in discussing the above further, please speak to one of our experienced advisers here.


The value of investments and the income they produce can fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Investing in stocks and shares should be regarded as a long term investment and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and your financial circumstance.

Grandparents making festive cookies with grandchildren - A helping hand for grandchildren

A helping hand for grandchildren

By | Financial Planning

As we head into the festive season, the focus of many at this busy time of year will be on buying gifts for loved ones. It may also be a good time for grandparents to think about the benefits of making gifts to help set grandchildren up for adult life, and help with future expenses they may face, such as education and university costs, or funds towards a deposit on their first home.

Gifts made to grandchildren under the age of 18 will need to be held in Trust for them, and perhaps the simplest form of Trust arrangement, a Bare Trust, is ideal for this purpose. The Trust is a separate legal entity, and Trustees will need to be appointed to administer the money. The Trustees could be the donor of the gift, the child’s parents, or other responsible individuals.

The Bare Trust continues until the beneficiary reaches 18, although it is important to note that at this point the beneficiary has the right to request that the assets are transferred to them. Some parents and grandparents may see this as less than ideal, as 18 is quite a young age to receive a substantial capital sum. That being said, if the purpose of the gift is to help pay for further educational expenses, funds will be handed over at the time that they are needed.

In addition, Bare Trusts can allow Trustees to advance funds to a child earlier than age 18, however funds must be used for the child’s benefit, such as education costs.


Bare Trusts can be tax-efficient

Bare Trusts can often be a tax-efficient way of gifting funds to the next generation, as income or capital gains arising on assets held in the Trust are taxable on the beneficiary, i.e., the grandchild. As they are unlikely to have any other taxable income at that age, if the amount of Trust income generated is below the child’s personal allowance (which is £12,570 in the current Tax Year) then no income tax will be due. Similarly, capital gains on investments realised are also taxable on the minor beneficiary, and therefore if the gains fall within the Capital Gains Tax (CGT) allowance, there will be no CGT to pay.

It is important to note that these exemptions do not apply when a parent makes a gift for their minor child, as the parental settlement rules may mean income remains taxable upon the parent.


Gifting to reduce an Inheritance Tax liability

Gifts into a Bare Trust are treated in the same way as any other gift and are therefore subject to the same tax rules as any other transfer by way of gift. Each individual has an annual gift allowance of £3,000 and if the allowance from the previous Tax Year has not been used, then this can be carried forward. A couple could therefore potentially make a total gift of £12,000 without any immediate Inheritance Tax (IHT) considerations. Any amount above this would be a Potentially Exempt Transfer and the donor of the gift would need to survive seven years from the date of the gift for this to fully escape their Estate for IHT purposes.

Making use of the annual gift exemption, or making larger gifts, can be a useful method of reducing a potential IHT liability, although the decisions around IHT planning in general are often more complex and require careful consideration. Holistic financial planning can help those in later life consider their potential IHT liability and look at a range of options that can reduce the amount of tax that would be payable by their Estate.


Deciding on an investment strategy

Whilst it is possible for money to remain as cash within a Bare Trust, for example held in a deposit account, most Trustees will opt to look to some form of other investment, such as Equities (Company Shares), Bonds and other assets, such as Property or Infrastructure, to try and achieve better returns than those that can be generated from deposit accounts. Trustees need to make sensible decisions in respect of how funds are invested, and as the responsibility rests with the them, many Trustees opt to receive independent investment advice to devise an appropriate investment strategy.

In addition to the initial investment decisions, Trustees have a duty to review the investments to ensure that they remain suitable. Other than reviewing investment performance, Trustees need to consider whether an investment strategy should be altered as a child moves closer to age 18, in particular if funds will be used at this time.


Bare Trusts need to be registered

A further responsibility that Trustees need to undertake is to register the Trust with the Trust Registration Service. This service is managed by H M Revenue and Customs and is the government’s way of keeping a record of Trusts in the UK.

The Service records the beneficial ownership of assets held in trust, together with the Trustees’ details. When first established, only Trusts that suffer tax on a regular basis had to register, but now Bare Trusts fall within the category of Trust that need to comply with the registration process.

Trustees can register using the Government online portal, and Trustees do need to be aware that they must register a Trust within 90 days of the Trust being established. Failure to register can lead to financial penalties, and whilst HMRC are likely to take a more lenient approach initially, persistent offenders are likely to face fines.

FAS can provide holistic and independent advice to grandparents looking to set up a Trust, including the most appropriate Trust to consider, together with advice on a suitable investment strategy. Speak to one of our experienced advisers for further details here.

Figurine of bride and groom alongside a pile of coins -Tax breaks for married couples

Tax breaks for married couples

By | Financial Planning

Married couples can benefit from tax breaks that can reduce Income Tax, Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax, together with other applications that can affect both personal and business finances. Although some of the rules can be complex, they are worth reviewing to see whether a married couple can benefit.


Transferring an Income Tax allowance

Before we look at the current rules, it is worth considering the historic context of the Married Couples Tax Allowance. Prior to 1990, the income of a married couple was added together for tax purposes and treated as if it was the income of the husband. The 1990 Budget introduced the concept of personal taxation, with each individual being taxed on their own income. However, married couples continued to receive a benefit in the form of the Married Couples Allowance, until it was abolished in the 2000 Budget for all married couples, except where one spouse was born before 6th April 1935. This allowance remains available to those couples who meet this criteria and in the current Tax Year can reduce the amount of tax paid by up to £941.50 a year. If the eligible couple were married before 5th December 2005, the tax reduction is received by the married man.

Not to be confused with the Married Couples Allowance, the Marriage Allowance was introduced in the 2015 Budget. This allowance lets you transfer £1,260 of your Personal Allowance to your husband, wife or civil partner, and in the current Tax Year can provide a tax reduction of up to £252 a year.  To benefit, one spouse must have an income below the Personal Allowance, which is £12,570 in the current Tax Year, and can therefore transfer just over 10% of their unused Personal Allowance to their spouse. The higher earning spouse needs to be a basic rate taxpayer, that is to say, he or she receives income between £12,571 and £50,270 a year.

Going about claiming the allowance is straightforward, either via the Gov.UK website or by contacting HMRC, and you can backdate your claim to include any tax year since 5th April 2018 that you were eligible for Marriage Allowance.


Using combined allowances for Capital Gains

Capital Gains Tax (CGT) reform was one of the main features of the recent Budget Statement, delivered by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt. From next Tax Year, the annual CGT allowance will halve and then halve again in the following Tax Year, meaning that gains on asset disposals in future years are more likely to be liable to CGT.

As individuals each receive a CGT allowance, married couples can potentially reduce the amount of CGT payable on disposal, as transfers of assets between spouses are not deemed to generate an immediate tax liability. This allows part of an asset which is held in one spouse’s name to be transferred to the other spouse, so that both CGT allowances can be used.

Common applications of this rule are in the transfer of shares between spouses so that each spouse sells down part of the holding to use both CGT allowances, or the transfer of the percentage of a property prior to sale.


Transferable Nil Rate Band for IHT

Married couples also benefit from the ability to transfer any unused Nil Rate Band on death of a spouse. The Inheritance Tax (IHT) allowance for each individual is £325,000 and this allowance will remain frozen until at least 2028. However, transfer of assets between spouses on death are exempt, and any unused IHT allowance can also be transferred to the surviving spouse. If the first to die leaves all assets to their surviving spouse, their estate will benefit from a double allowance of £650,000 on the second to die.

This ability to transfer allowances also extends to the Residence Nil Rate Band, which is available on Estates where a residential property is bequeathed to a direct lineal descendent. The Residence Nil Rate Band is currently £175,000 and, as with the Nil Rate Band, if unused on the first death, the surviving spouse can receive the unused allowance, providing a further £350,000 allowance.

Contrast this to the position where a couple are not married. Any assets that exceed the Nil Rate Band (or Residence Nil Rate Band) are likely to be subject to IHT at 40%.


Keeping the ISA allowance

When a spouse or civil partner dies, the surviving spouse can inherit any Individual Savings Allowance (ISA) held at the date of death. This can be a valuable benefit if couples have made sensible financial planning decisions and used ISA allowances to hold Stocks and Shares or Cash during their lifetime. The rules provide a fresh allowance equal to the value of the ISA at date of death – or when the ISA is closed – and the new allowance is in addition to any allowance the surviving spouse has in the current Tax Year.

For couples who have built up substantial investment portfolios using the ISA allowances, the Inherited ISA rules are valuable, as the transfer of investments on death could otherwise leave the survivor in the position where future dividends or interest could be liable to tax.


The value of financial planning

Married couples can benefit from modest tax breaks under UK tax legislation, although the rules can be complex and through careful planning, there are other benefits that can be obtained by positioning assets in the most tax advantaged manner.  This is where holistic financial planning can add significant value, considering all aspects of a couple’s circumstances, personal and business assets, to position these to their best advantage. Speak to one of our experienced financial planners who will take a holistic view of your finances.


If you are interested in discussing the above further, please speak to one of our experienced advisers here.


The value of investments and the income they produce can fall as well as rise. You may get back less than you invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance. Investing in stocks and shares should be regarded as a long term investment and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and your financial circumstance.