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How A Financial Planner Can Help During Divorce

By | Divorce

Divorce is one of the most emotional experiences a person can go through and dealing with the financial implications of this can be one of the most daunting parts of it.

Most people use a solicitor to work through the legal aspects of their divorce but a Financial Planner can really help if your dissolution or financial situation is fairly complex. Needless to say, the financial decisions you make at this time will impact the rest of your life so its important to get the right type of advice at the outset. Handling things on your own can cause you to overlook things, but the appointment of an experienced Financial Planner means that you will be able to explore and be advised on all of the financial options available to you.

In this article, we present some of the key financial aspects of divorce that you need to think about and suggest some common mistakes to avoid.

Immediate Financial Aspects of Divorce to Consider

Naturally after a separation, the immediate financial concern is figuring out how to stay afloat. This is a very unpleasant time, as you go into survival mode. Can you afford to pay your bills, and will you be able to avoid falling into debt with some careful budgeting?

Your prime focus will be the need to provide financial stability for yourself and any dependents you are responsible for. Avoid making any drastic banking decisions such as switching to another provider, especially if you have not agreed this with your former partner.

Money is often tight after a separation, and it’s important that you do not fall into debt. Moreover, it’s crucial that you protect yourself as much as possible from the effects of your former partner falling into debt. As you will still be legally married at this point, this debt certainly will affect you.

If your spouse is the sole name on the mortgage for the family home, then you might want to consider registering a Notice or Restriction. You have a legal right to live there, and this helps in preventing your spouse from taking the unilateral decision to remortgage or sell the home.

Considering the Family Home

One of the trickiest aspects of any divorce is figuring out what to do with the marital home.

It might be in your children’s interests and in your interests, for one of the adults to remain living in the property. However, this might actually be a hindrance to you in terms of moving on with your life.

You also need to consider whether keeping the family home is the most sensible financial decision. Depending on your circumstances, it might make sense to stay put. In many cases, however, the more rational option is to move somewhere more affordable.

You will be faced with monumental, highly-emotional decisions. However, in our experience, we can help clients to bring a lot of clarity to this difficult situation. Indeed, many clients have contacted FAS after their marriage dissolution, thanking us for raising the question about the family home and for the guidance we have been able to provide and in helping them towards making a decision they might not have had the strength to carry out alone.

Other Important Areas of Divorce Planning

You are most likely to have marital assets other than your home which you will need to plan accordingly after a separation.

This is a key time for you to review your assets thoroughly with the help of an experienced Financial Planner. At FAS, we can help you establish what your assets actually are, where they are located and whether these are still appropriate for you, given your dramatic change in circumstances.

For instance, some common questions our Financial Planners present to clients include:

  • Has your attitude to investment risk changed since change in circumstances?
  • Is it now appropriate or sensible to keep your Buy-to-Let property?
  • Do you need assistance with any existing pension arrangements or Pension Sharing Orders?

Pensions may or may not need to be divided following your Divorce. It depends on your particular situation. In light of this, working with a suitably qualified Financial Planner can help you look at how this affects your own retirement planning.

Financial Mistakes to Avoid During Divorce

 

Focusing on the home and neglecting other areas.

Many people become highly attached to the family home during Divorce, especially where children are involved.

This can often lead to many taking over the mortgage borrowing during a divorce settlement in order to keep the family home but at the expense of losing a proportion of their spouse’s pension. In most cases, it is better to sell the marital home, buy something smaller, and take a slice of the former partner’s pension. Of course, this isn’t the right choice for everyone, which is why seeking the right guidance is essential.

 

Accepting an equal pension split

Whilst equally splitting your partner’s pension provision might seem the fairest course of action, you should carefully consider this option before agreeing to it. This will not necessarily result in an equal level of income in retirement. Quite often, it is better to push for an equal income share, rather than a simple 50:50 split of the capital so discussing options with a Financial Planner makes sense.

 

Failing to check valuations

This is where our Financial Planners often provide the most value during a client’s Divorce. Both spouses are legally required to disclose all their assets during Divorce, including businesses and pensions. However, these two areas are quite complex and it is possible to conceal actual values. A Financial Planner who is experienced in this field will be able to help you obtain the relevant documents you need in order to value these assets, ensuring you get a fairer deal in the final settlement.

A Short Guide to Funding Long Term Care

By | Financial Planning

The demographic map of the UK is changing. Most of us are now living longer; in 2017 those aged 85+ were 1.35m in number, and this figure could reach 2m by 2031. Although this is wonderful news in many ways (more time with our loved ones!), it also brings significant challenges when it comes to financial planning.

First of all, it implies that people’s retirement funds will need to stretch further compared to previous generations. In 1980, for instance, an Englishman aged 65 had a 1/1000 chance of reaching 100 years old. Today (nearly 40 years later), those odds have shrunk to around 1/100.

This increased longevity is likely to put additional strain on the already overstretched State Pension and is one of the reasons why most employers are no longer offering employees Defined Benefit pensions (which pay a guaranteed lifetime income in retirement). Careful financial planning will, therefore, be needed more than ever to ensure we have the income we need in our later years.

Secondly, increasing life expectancy is also projected to accompany an increase in health problems amongst older people. In particular, research shows that the number of retired people with diabetes, depression, cancer and dementia is likely to at least double by 2035. Many of these conditions require some level of professional care, which come at a significant cost.

Given these trends, projections and figures, it is little wonder that at FAS we are often asked about what people can do to prepare for the possible costs of their future long-term care. In this short guide, we’ll be sharing some of our thoughts on this important subject. If you want to discuss your care strategy with one of our experienced financial planners, please do give us a call.

The Cost of Care

In 2019-20, the precise amount you pay for care depends on a range of factors including:

    Where you live in the country.
    The level of care you need (e.g. 24/7 intensive or temporary and residential).
    The quality of the care home in question.
    Your financial situation.

At the moment, there are around 400,000 people living in care homes across the UK; a figure which is set to rise to 1.2m by 2040. Residential care costs can vary greatly, but typically range from £600-£900 per week. Indeed, some people face annual care costs exceeding £50,000.

Ways to Fund it

£50,000 and similar figures are clearly eye-watering for most people to look at. After all, just 3-years in residential care could cost £150,000; enough to wipe out a significant portion of an Estate, and by extension a family’s Inheritance. How, then, can you prepare your finances for this large, yet unpredictable cost in the future?

In 2019-20, those possessing less than £23,250 in assets are entitled to financial support from their local council, to help cover the fees. If you (or a dependent, child or spouse/partner) continue living at home whilst you receive care, then the value of your house is not normally counted within the means-test determining whether you are eligible for council support.

We do not recommend that you deliberately deprive yourself of assets in order to try and get around this system. Not only does this leave you financially vulnerable, but the council is also likely to detect such deprivation strategies and calculate your care fees as if you still owned the home/assets you have sold or given away.

What, then, are some of the other options you can consider with your financial planner when it comes to creating a strategy for long-term care funding?

Own Income & Family

Some people are in the fortunate position where their siblings, children or other loved ones can contribute towards the costs of their care. This, combined with your own pension income as well as other savings and investments, could be enough to meet your care costs.

Property

Many people are cash-poor but asset-rich by owning a property. In such circumstances, downsizing or Equity Release could be an option to access funds needed to cover care costs. These are hugely important financial decisions with far-reaching implications for your financial plan, so we recommend that you speak with a financial planner about any decision or strategy involving using your property to fund your long-term care costs. It might be that other, more appealing options are available to you.

Care/Immediate Needs Annuity

With the help of an experienced financial planner, it is possible to find a good insurance plan which can help you meet your care costs. These plans usually involve paying a company a one-off lump sum in exchange for a guaranteed lifetime income (tax-free), which would be paid directly to your care home. The amount you pay for the annuity will vary depending on factors such as your age and health.

Invitation

Many commentators have described the UK’s care system as in a state of “crisis”, and many people are understandably worried about how they will cover these possible future costs. However, at FAS we can help you can assess your options with a clear mind and with the best information available.

This content is for information purposes only.

What Is Ethical Investing?

By | Investments

It’s probably fair to say that in 2019, environmentalism is moving increasingly into mainstream public consciousness. People are now more concerned about how their behaviour, habits and even investments are impacting on the planet. To note just a few developments:

    David Attenborough released his “Climate Change: The Facts” documentary earlier this year, which had a huge impact on bringing the topic to the fore in public discussions.
    Extinction Rebellion (an activist movement advocating rapid, far-reaching measures to combat climate change) has run protests and rallies across the country, throughout the year, to raise awareness and influence politicians on climate change.
    More and more celebrities (such as Prince Harry) are being scrutinised by the media over their use of private jets, due to the carbon footprint they produce.

Whilst opinions may vary on the above events, demonstrations and productions in question, undoubtedly more British people are coming to accept the broad scientific consensus about humanity’s impact on climate change, and want to do something about it. Indeed, many are even asking how their money and investments can be put to responsible use in this regard.

This is where our Financial Planners can often start to talk about ethical investing with certain clients. Other broad, related categories on this subject include “ESG investing” (Environmental, Social & Governance) and “social impact investing”.

Here, we’ll be outlining what “ESG investing” looks like and what it tends to involve. Please note that this content is for information and inspiration purposes only. It should not be taken as investment advice or financial advice.

What Is ESG Investing?

There is no doubt that different companies have a varying impact on the planet and human society. A financial planning business such as FAS, for instance, is a service-based business. It does not have a supply-chain in the same way as a car manufacturer. Whilst both companies will produce a carbon footprint, the latter is likely to have a much greater direct impact on the environment due to the size of the business and the nature of their core product.

ESG investing is an approach to investing which factors in the impact of different companies and other assets upon our physical environment, such as their approach to pollution and consumption of natural resources. It also factors in the governance of these companies (e.g. their approach to anti-corruption and gender diversity on the company board), as well as their impact on the society they inhabit (e.g. wage fairness and corporate social responsibility).

Is ESG Investing New?

It might surprise you to learn that ESG investing was quite a “fringe” approach to investing until recent years, as investor demands have brought it increasingly into the mainstream of investment management solutions.

There are many reasons for this, but among them include the fact that investor demographics are shifting. “Millennials” are growing as a target market of investment firms, and this group, in particular, tends to be very environmentally-conscious.

There is also the fact that many companies themselves have experienced considerable internal change with regards to beliefs about their ESG profile, as mounting evidence about climate change has accumulated over time.

There is also now increasing evidence to suggest that, with a viable strategy, ESG investments can offer investors attractive returns. This is gradually supplanting a common, previous belief widespread in the sector that ESG generally provides lower returns than non-ESG investments.

How Do I Start ESG Investing?

The important thing to recognise with ESG investing is that it is broadly intended to achieve two primary goals, simultaneously:

1/. Meaningful returns for the investor;
2/. Positive impact on the environment, governance and society.

To a degree, these two goals are in constant tension. Sometimes investors are tempted to sacrifice investment performance in the hopes of producing a positive sustainable impact. Whilst this is noble, it achieves little for your financial goals to lose money over the long term. Investing and charitable giving are called two different things for a reason.

On the other hand, there is also the temptation for investors (and fund managers) to chase after investment opportunities with a poor or dubious ESG profile, but which might offer more attractive potential returns. The more you go down this road, the more you dilute the definition of ESG and eradicate the second goal, above.

A good Independent Financial Planner will be able to help you navigate the world of ESG investing carefully with these two goals (as well as your own financial goals) in mind.

For some people, they might want to reconstruct an existing investment portfolio gradually, to include more ESG investments over time. This can help to reduce instability and risk in the portfolio, although some people might find such an approach in tension with their conscience.

Other people reading this article might be nearer the beginning of their investing journey and would like help setting up a portfolio which reflects their “ESG values” to a high degree, from the very outset. One of the challenges here will be establishing your financial goals and selecting an appropriate range of investments which can be justifiably labelled as “ESG”, and which also achieve an appropriate level of diversification, risk-minimisation and potential of return.

Final Thoughts

We have only managed to scratch the surface of ESG investing here in this article. However, we hope it has given you enough information to inspire you and help gather your thoughts on this increasingly important topic.

We understand some people will want to act quickly out of intentions to “make a difference”. Whilst this is completely understandable and noble, it is also important to look after yourself – and your loved ones – by not putting your capital at unnecessary risk.

If you are interested in discussing an ESG investment strategy with us, please do get in touch.

Income Protection vs. Key Person Insurance: Which Do I Need?

By | Pensions

At a glance, Income Protection and Key Person Insurance might look like the same thing. After all, they both intend to help protect a business if someone falls seriously ill or is injured; although the latter safeguards against death, as well.

In broad terms, Key Person Insurance is designed to protect a company’s financial interests. Income Protection, however, is intended to look after an individual and their family (i.e. following a serious injury or diagnosis of illness, which prohibits the person from working).

In this short guide, we have provided a summary of the key similarities and differences between Income Protection and Key Person Insurance. We’ll also be suggesting some scenarios where either might be appropriate to consider.

Key Person Insurance

If you are a Director or an important stakeholder in a particular business, then you will likely want to consider the benefits of Key Person Insurance. Essentially, it is a type of insurance which helps to ensure the business has access to much-needed funds if a key person, shareholder or decision-maker dies.

Some insurance policies will offer Critical Illness Cover (CIC), which could provide an emergency lump sum to the business if a key person can suddenly no longer work due to certain illnesses or injuries. If you are considering adding CIC to a Key Person Insurance policy, then it is important to check the details carefully with one of our Financial Planners. Certain illnesses and injuries might not be covered under different policies. You might need to balance the premiums of the policy with its conditions, as comprehensive policies are likely to be more costly.

Please speak to us about the tax implications of a Key Person Insurance policy. For instance, if you take out a policy for “business continuity purposes” then you should be able to treat the insurance premiums as a tax-deductible business expense. If, however, you are thinking about using Key Person Insurance to protect a loan, then the policy will likely not qualify as “tax-deductible”.

Key Person Insurance can be used to achieve a range of goals, including:

    Repay loans which might need settling.
    Providing funds to help close the business in a methodical, non-chaotic way.
    Open up a financial “safety net” to mitigate against a possible loss of profits.
    Supply funds for staff training and recruitment purposes.
    Provide much-needed funds for projects and developments.

Income Protection

As mentioned above, Income Protection exists primarily to protect an individual and their family, should they find themselves no longer able to work due to injury or illness. Should this, unfortunately, happen to you, and you have taken out such a policy, then if you meet its conditions you should be entitled to up to 80% of your pre-incapacity salary.

Sometimes a business will pay for an employee’s policy (e.g. a Company Director). In which case, this is usually called “Executive Income Protection” or EIP. Similar to Key Person Insurance, EIP can be treated as a tax-deductible business expense.

It’s worth noting, however, that if the policy’s conditions are met then the benefits are paid directly to the business, not to the individual. This means that when the company then distributes this post-incapacity, replacement remuneration to the employee, it will be subject to tax. So, it’s worth running this by us to ascertain the best way to distribute this in a tax-efficient manner.

In many cases, an individual will simply take out a policy themselves rather than a business taking it out on their behalf. Income Protection can be an attractive option for self-employed people, who typically do not otherwise have a means of attaining “sick pay” (since they have no employer to pay it).

Bear in mind that these self-funded policies are not tax-deductible, since you will likely be paying for the premiums using post-tax income. The good news, however, is that the benefits you receive from the Income Protection policy are usually exempt from tax.

Final Thoughts

Many businesses recognise the value of certain types of insurance to protect their assets and future growth prospects. Public Liability Insurance, for instance, is crucial for protecting your business against compensation claims levelled against you by customers. Employers’ Liability Insurance will help to cover you if such claims emanate from your staff.

However, as many as 3/5 small businesses in the UK admit to having no succession plan. Nearly 90% of the UK’s registered companies comprise businesses which employ fewer than 5 people, which are especially vulnerable if a key person was suddenly removed from the picture. This vulnerability, in turn, can hold businesses back due to investor reluctance or maintaining lines of credit.

If you are considering Key Person Insurance or Income Protection as a possible solution to your needs, then act swiftly. According to the ONS, a 35-year-old man has a 1/62 chance of dying within the next ten years. By the age 45, the chances change to 1/29 and by age 55, the chances are 1/12.

At FAS, we offer financial planning and advice on a wide range of business and income protection solutions. If you are interested in exploring your options, please do give us a call.

A Short Pension Guide for Your Grandchildren

By | Pensions

Did you know that in 2019-20 you can put up to £2,880 per year into a pension for your grandchild (i.e. £240 per month), regardless of their age?

Conveniently, this £2,880 also falls into the £3,000 annual limit on gifts, which are exempt from Inheritance Tax. Moreover, any money which is placed into your grandchild’s pension receives tax relief, effectively acting as a Government “top-up” to your contributions. This tax relief amounts to 20% on the contributions. So, if you put the full £2,880 per year into your grandchild’s pension, they would also receive £720 in the form of tax relief. To be clear, a grandchild can only receive one annual net payment of £2,880 into a pension so two grandparents cannot contribute £2,880 each.

All of these benefits can lead many grandparents to seriously consider making contributions to a grandchild’s pension as they feel it allows them to leave a more meaningful Inheritance to their beneficiaries via Inheritance Tax reduction.

Pensions for Grandchildren: Pros & Cons

As you know, today’s UK State Pension is unlikely to cover most people’s outgoings in retirement. With both the UK’s overall population and life spans projected to increase over the coming decades, the pressure on future Government’s pension budgets is likely to be stretched even further.

In light of this, the main advantage of setting up a pension for your grandchild is so you can potentially make a significant difference to their financial future by:

    Reducing their future reliance on the State Pension.
    Reducing the pressure of them having to make their own pension contributions.

The other attractive benefit to starting a pension for your grandchild (particularly if they are very young) is that the funds you invest in have more time to grow.

For instance, let’s give some thought to how much a single lump-sum contribution of £2,880 into your grandchild’s pension could potentially grow over 30 years, 40 years and 50 years (assuming a 5% annual rate of return). Whilst there are many variables to consider, broadly speaking values could be in the region of:

After 30 years: £12,447.19
After 40 years: £20,275.17
After 50 years: £33,026.11

However, the main disadvantage to consider before setting up a pension for your grandchild relates to accessibility. Under the existing pension rules in 2019-20, you cannot access money in your pension pot(s) until you are at least 55 years old.

So, if your loved one wants to use the money for a house deposit, to cover wedding costs or to help fund their way through University, then they will most likely be unable to do so. Bear in mind that the age you can access your non-State Pension(s) is also set to rise to 57 by 2028 and is it possible that this could rise even further in the distant future.

Some clients prefer to gift money to their grandchild’s Junior ISA or other investment, whilst committing other funds towards their pension. This way, the grandchild can benefit from having investments building for their future retirement, whilst allowing easy access to other funds they may need for a house deposit, wedding or another important life event.

Choosing a Pension for Your Grandchild

Certain types of pension are prohibited when setting up a pension for a grandchild. For instance, you cannot set up a workplace pension on their behalf. However, you should be able to arrange a Personal Pension Plan.

As there are different types of Personal Pension to choose from, it’s a good idea to speak to us first. You could choose to open a SIPP for your grandchild (Self-Invested Personal Pension), which can offer a fairly wide range of investment choices, but bear in mind that these pensions can often carry higher charges when it comes to investment management fees so its best if we are involved to help you find the most competitively charged contract. We can help you choose the right SIPP from the wide range available including “Child SIPPs” or “Junior SIPPs” targeted specifically at grandparents who are interested in setting up a pension for their grandchild.

5 Key Ways A Financial Planner Adds Value

By | Financial Planning

As Financial Planners here at FAS, we understand the value of financial planning which we offer to our clients. However, that value isn’t always easy to explain to those unfamiliar with it.

After all, financial planning isn’t particularly tangible; you can’t “see” or “feel” it like you can with retail products, such as a new car. However, financial planning, when done properly, solves many key problems which many of us experience:

    How will I ensure my family is financially secure if I suddenly passed away?
    Am I paying more tax than I need to, and are there ways to free up more of my income?
    How can I be sure that I am fully complying with the various rules about my taxes?
    Can I ensure a meaningful inheritance for my loved ones at the end of my life?
    Is it possible to secure a comfortable, secure retirement income? If so, how?

These are all very important questions which can keep us awake at night. Moreover, the answers are not always clear to people. Take the world of pensions, for instance. There are numerous rules about the State Pension, Workplace Pensions and Personal Pensions which often change over time (e.g. due to Government policy).

Once you start peering into this world, it can sometimes feel intimidating, but speaking to someone who understands the landscape can really help. At FAS, we believe there are at least five ways a good Financial Planner can add real value:

Helping to Clarify your Goals

Have you ever set out to achieve a goal, only to later realise it was unrealistic? Perhaps you thought you could teach yourself Mandarin Chinese fluently within a year, for instance, and quickly realised that it would realistically take more time and investment to get there?

Without the help of a professional Financial Planner, it is easy to make a similar mistake with your finances and wealth. However, the danger is that the costs can be much higher. This is because it is often many years later when people realise that their original retirement goals were unrealistic. With a Financial Planner, however, you can plot your intended course much more clearly and with far better information at your disposal.

At FAS, we will be completely honest with you and explain why we feel you are aiming too high or low with your retirement goals whilst outlining the reasons why. Then we will propose strategies that are achievable, allowing for different possible future scenarios.

Pointing out Blind Spots

It can be easy to think that you have “covered all of your bases” in your financial plan and yet miss out something important which could later cost you dearly.

Take British people who live overseas (Expats) as an example. Many people living abroad believe that they will not have to pay Inheritance Tax when they die due to their residential status, yet the reality is that most people will have to pay Inheritance Tax on their UK assets.

Mistakes like these can come as a nasty surprise later. So it does pay to consult a professional about your financial plan, helping to ensure that you have not missed out anything important.

Getting Better Deals

There are many areas of financial planning where it is possible to pay more than you need to. Take investment management fees as an example.

You might have an investment portfolio which you feel is performing well. Yet if you are paying excessively high fees which eat into your investment returns, then over many decades these could, effectively, represent a “loss” of tens of thousands of pounds.

We will help you to review your portfolio, scan the wider market and help you find the best deal for your needs and goals. Even a slight reduction on your investment management fees, for instance, could make a huge difference to your standard of living later on in retirement.

Minimise Threats

Did you know that in 2018 many people were scammed out of their pensions by fraudsters, costing each victim an average of £91,000? Whilst having a decent Financial Planner on standby is not iron-clad protection against receiving a malicious cold call, a trusted financial planner can help you discuss any unsolicited offers and avoid making costly mistakes with your money.

Simplify Everything

As mentioned above, many areas of financial planning are deeply complicated (such as pensions). A good Financial Planner will help to bring clarity to the world of Inheritance Tax, Income Tax, National Insurance, ISAs, Annual Allowances and more to help ensure you understand it. Moreover, this person can also help you bring different parts of your wealth together. This can not only make things more tax-efficient but can also simplify everything.

For instance, perhaps you are nearing retirement and have over a dozen pension pots scattered around due to a long, successful career in different lines of work. For many people, it can help immensely to consult a Financial Planner who can help consolidate all of these separate pots into a central pot, making everything much easier for you to manage.

Final Thoughts

There are many other benefits to a Financial Planner in addition to the above. For example, this person can help you to manage the emotional rollercoaster of investing. After all, your investments are likely to experience a lot of volatility and it can be tempting to act impulsively.

A Financial Planner can also help you to delineate the areas of your finances and wealth where you can exert control, and where you cannot. They can then help you to focus your energies on the former, allowing you to better relax and enjoy more peace of mind.

If you are interested in speaking to us here at FAS about your financial plan, then we’d be delighted to hear from you!

Alternative ways to boost your Retirement Income

By | Investments

In recent years, pension savers have faced a number of changes in the tax landscape. On the one hand, most people now have a lot more flexibility and control over their pension savings since the 2015 Pension Freedoms, which allows you to start drawing from your workplace and/or private pension(s) from the age of 55. You are also no longer required to use your pension savings to buy an annuity, but now have other options available such as the likes of a ‘drawdown’ arrangement.

On the other hand, pension savers also arguably face new restrictions in respect of tax reliefs. For instance, in 2006-07, it was possible to commit up to £215,000 for the tax year into pension savings. Today in 2019-20, the Annual Allowance is significantly lower at £40,000, or up to your yearly salary – whichever is higher.

This, coupled with the ISA savings limit of £20,000 per year, is causing many higher earners in particular to question whether there are other tax efficient avenues open to them to save for the longer term and retirement. For those in this position, there are fortunately a range of options available.

In this article, we’ll be taking a look at three in particular: Venture Capital Trusts, Enterprise Investment Schemes and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes.

Below, you will find a brief overview of each one and a short summary of some of their respective pros and cons. Please note that this content is for information purposes only and should not be taken as financial advice. To receive tailored, regulated financial advice about your own situation please speak to one of our Financial Planners.

1. VCTs

Venture Capital Trusts (VCTs) can be a compelling option for those clients with a higher risk appetite who are interested in investing in small businesses and who want to take advantage of some attractive tax reliefs.

A VCT is a company which typically trades on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), and its main purpose is to achieve growth and income by investing in a portfolio of unquoted businesses. The businesses are selected by the fund manager or team, who will be experienced in finding strong positions for the portfolio.

One powerful reason to consider a VCT is the 30% Income Tax relief which you can claim on the value of your investment. Two important conditions are that you can only invest up to £200,000 per year into VCTs, and you must hold shares for 5 years to retain the tax relief.

So, suppose you invest £10,000 of capital into a VCT, you would receive Tax Relief of £3,000 (i.e. 30%) assuming you hold the investment for the qualifying period, and pay this much Income Tax in the Tax Year in question.

There are drawbacks, however, which you need to be aware of. First of all, there are fees which you will need to pay for the management of the VCTs. These can be around 2%-3% per year, and this naturally eats into your investment returns. Secondly, you will need to factor the 5 years holding period into your financial plan, which might not work for everyone.

2. EIS

The Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) is often confused with VCTs, as they can sound very similar. However, there are some important differences – not least being that the former is a Government Scheme, whilst the latter are quoted companies.

Similar to VCTs, investing in EIS-qualifying companies allows you to claim back 30% of your investment as Income Tax relief. However, one significant difference is the treatment of dividends. VCTs allow you to generate an income via tax-free dividends, which can make them an attractive supplementary tax-free retirement income source.

One of the crucial advantages of EIS investments is that they are exempt from Inheritance Tax, provided the investments qualify for Business Property Relief (BPR) and provided you have owned them for at least 2 years. In addition, whilst you can only commit up to £200,000 per tax year into a VCT, you can put up to £1m per year into EIS-qualifying companies. Indeed, you can even commit up to £2m provided the EIS companies qualify as “knowledge intensive”. Regardless, you must hold EIS shares for at least 3 years to retain the tax relief.

However, you should also be aware that the EIS can carry a higher level of investment risk than VCTs due to the nature of EIS companies. In general, EIS-qualifying companies tend to be smaller with a lot more growth potential, but also carrying a higher risk of failure.

3. SEIS

The Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) is similar to EIS, but with some important differences. Notably, you can only commit up to £100,000 per tax year into SEIS-qualifying companies or funds, but you can claim 50% Income Tax relief on the value of your investments.

Similar to the EIS, you must hold the shares for at least 3 years to retain tax relief and any dividends are also taxable (unlike VCTs). One important drawback to be aware of with SEIS is that companies that qualify for SEIS relief need to be very early stage and therefore the risks are higher than EIS qualifying investments.

Final thoughts

VCTs, EIS and SEIS all offer some attractive benefits to especially higher rate tax payers which are well worth considering within your wider financial plan, especially as you approach retirement. However, their nature as a higher investment risk means that you should consult a Financial Planner about how to integrate these into your financial plan, prior to making any big decisions. If you would like to speak to us about this, then please do get in touch.