The new tax year started on April 6 and while many people will wait until the last minute to maximise the tax benefits available to them, there is a lot to be said for starting your tax housekeeping sooner rather than later.
There are many ways we can benefit from the tax breaks available each tax year. But trying to cram everything into the month before the tax year ends means you are likely to miss out on some of them. Planning ahead from the start of the tax year means you can mop up any allowances you can access.
Use your ISA allowance early
One of the most beneficial allowances to start using early in the tax year is your Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowance. Each tax year – which runs from April 6 to April 5 – we all have the option of putting up to £20,000 into an ISA. You can put as much as you want into any type of ISA, providing you don’t breach the £20,000 threshold in a single tax year. The money grows free of Capital Gains Tax and Income Tax, plus in a cash ISA you will not pay any tax on savings interest.
Using your ISA allowance at the beginning of the year can generate significant benefits, even if you can’t put the whole £20,000 in at once. For example, if you calculate the difference in the value of an ISA with just £3,000 invested at the beginning of every tax year since 1999 compared with the same amount invested on the last day of the tax year over the same period, the early birds will have more than £9,000 extra in their pot based on the performance of the average global equity fund.
If you and your spouse have both used up your £20,000 allowance and you have children, you can also put up to £9,000 for each child into a Junior ISA. This is a perfect way to put money aside throughout their childhood to pay for school fees, university or even to build a deposit to help them buy their first home.
Use your Capital Gains Tax allowance
This tax year – 2023/24 – the Capital Gains Tax allowance has been more than halved, from £12,300 in 2022/23 to just £6,000. So, anyone crystallising gains of more than £6,000 in this tax year will need to pay CGT on any amount above this limit. The rate you pay will depend on your marginal rate of income tax and what type of asset the gain has been crystallised on.
As we all have the same CGT allowance, it is possible for spouses to shelter up to £12,000 from CGT this year, but that will take some planning. So, speak to your accountant to make sure you are making the right decisions at the right time.
Maximise your Inheritance Tax planning by using your annual allowances
Inheritance tax (IHT) is often considered to be a tax just for the rich. But as house prices have risen and the threshold for paying this tax has remained static at £325,000 since 2009, and is likely to remain at this level until 2028, more people than ever are paying IHT. In fact, the latest figures released by HMRC show IHT receipts have soared by £1 billion to £7.1 billion from April 2022 to March 2023, largely due to house price increases, especially in the South East of England.
So, if you own your home, you may want to think about how you can use the annual allowances to reduce your liability when you pass away.
Any amount you have in your estate at death above this Nil Rate Band – which includes all your assets such as your home, cars, antiques, jewellery, collections and so on – will be taxed at 40%. There is an additional allowance of £175,000 per person, called the Residence Nil Rate Band, if you are passing your home to a direct descendant, such as a child or grandchild. But this is not available to those without children.
Spouses or civil partners passing assets between them on death will not be subject to IHT. So, any unused allowance remaining can be used by the second spouse or civil partner on their death, giving a maximum threshold of £1m if none of the Nil Rate Band or RNRB was used on the first death. The allowance can be passed automatically, you would just need to let the executor of the estate on the second death know this as they would need to make the claim when they apply for probate. So, a letter with your will would be a good way to do this, or by discussing this with the person who writes your will with you.
If your estate would still exceed this level, then you can legally reduce your estate’s value each year by making gifts to loved ones. For example, you can make gifts of up to £3,000 each year which will be free of IHT when you die.
You can also make other gifts of any amount you like, and providing you survive those by seven years, they will no longer be within your estate for IHT purposes. But the rules can be complex, so get advice from your accountant if you think you could be affected by IHT.
These are just a few of the ways you can reduce your tax bills this tax year. We can help you make the most of these and other allowances before you lose them. So, please get in touch with us and we will help you make the right financial decisions for you and your family.