Reducing the impact of the higher-rate income tax

Feb 3, 2010   //   by sam   //   Banking and Savings Accounts, Money Saving Tips  //  1 Comment

The new tax year is approaching, and with it comes a new top rate income tax, meaning that those fortunate enough to be earning over £150,000 will be required to pay 50% income tax on anything above this amount.

In addition, higher rate on dividends will move from 32.5% to 42.5% of the grossed up income (equivalent to 36.11% of the net dividend) for taxable income above £150,000.

As a result of the changes to become effective from 6 April, private banks and wealth managers have been advising those who will be affected to act now in order to protect their income. Many are taking steps to bring forward earnings to this tax year, or plan their finances in an attempt to lower the impact.

Below are some tips outlined by Which4U that higher earners should consider:

  1. Make full use of all your tax allowances Many of us complain about how much tax we pay, but forget to take advantage of tax free breaks. The truth is, many of us could be missing a trick when it comes to tax relief.Always ensure you have used up your allowances by the end of every tax year. A popular tax free savings incentive is your first port of call, in the form of individual savings accounts (ISAs), with an annual allowance of £10,200 (or £7,200 for those under 50 until April 6th), as well as tax-free National Savings & Investments products.No income tax is required to be paid for any interest or capital gains earned using Isas, so make sure you shop around to find the best ISA rates, or alternatively if you wish to invest in a stocks and shares ISA, do some research into the market. Transfer investments that provide an income to your spouse, if he or she does not work or has earnings that fall in a lower tax band. This now not only applies to spouses on the basic rate tax but also those paying 40%, if the other spouse currently earns above £150,000 per year.
  2. Close your bank account According to advisers at Deloitte, those that have a savings account paying interest on an annual basis that is due to be paid after April, should consider closing the account before the new tax rules kick-in in, allowing the interest payment to be subject to a lower rate of income tax. After, you can simply open a new bank account.
  3. Donate to charity in the new tax year After 6 April, high earners making donations using the Gift Aid scheme will qualify for higher tax relief, which means that more money will be given to the charity. However, you should think about the potential impact delaying your regular donations could have on the charity, especially in the current financial climate.
  4. Accelerate your income Some employers have chosen to pay employees their salaries early to avoid the higher tax. Consider asking your employer if this is a possibility. This may be easier for those in entrepreneurial or family businesses.You can also make use of any share options you currently hold, as these attract income tax so you will pay the lower rate. Those already getting pension income are able to opt to receive annual payouts as a lump sum before the changeover date in April.
  5. Add more to your pension fund in the new tax year. It has become apparent that pensions are looking more of an unattractive option to higher earners, with tax relief cut to 20% on some contributions.However, if you do fall into this category, you may want to act fast. In the 2010/2011 tax year, those earning more than £150,000 will be eligible to put in at least £20,000 and up to £30,000 with 50% tax relief, before the new restrictions come into play in 2011. Advisers at Deloitte have suggested that people earning between £100,000 and £113,000 – who will effectively be paying 60% tax from April as a result of their personal allowance also being eroded – should also add to their pensions.
  6. Consider venture capital trusts (VCTs). Although these start-up investment schemes can be quite risky, they are being labelled as an alternative to a pension fund for higher earners because contributions attract 30% tax on the way in.
  7. Move your assets into an offshore bond. Offshore bonds are investment bonds that are operated by life insurance companies and also have some life insurance attached to them. This enables you to avoid paying any tax until you encash the bond. The idea is that by the time you come to encash the bond, you may be subject to a lower rate of income tax, for example when you’re retired – or if you have become an expat or a non-dom, you may not have to pay any UK tax whatsoever. Many well known financial advisers are using this approach for clients.
  8. Change from income investments to Capital Gains Tax. In 2008, capital gains tax was lowered to 18%, and investors have since been looking to acquire returns that are taxed as capital gains rather than income. According to advisers, the 50% income tax band has sped-up this switch. Over the past year, demand for products such as zero dividend preference shares has significantly risen, as well as funds that work on a total return basis instead of generating income, such as absolute return funds.
  9. Consider leaving the country. This may seem like a rather extreme measure – but advisers at Cazenove and Schroders Private Bank have said that many of their clients are considering this option in response to the substantial tax demands.

By Sam Gooch

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  • Tim Burns

    Some great tips here, thanks!