We have launched a new website and our blog has moved too!

12/03/2014

doodle ads image3It’s been quite a year so far for Lawrence Grant, Chartered Accountants as we have just relaunched our new website.

We’ve been working very hard to improve the user experience, and we are now able to offer enhanced functionality and stronger signposting to make navigation around the website, and access to any information you require, much easier.

The website pages have been written with a greater emphasis and empathy on understanding the needs of anyone who may be seeking tax advice or accountancy help.

Should you require someone from the firm to call you back to answer any tax enquiry you may have, you can now instantly request a Lawrence Grant partner or member of the team to get in touch!

The enhanced “FREE guides and literature” section now gives visitors the ability to find our wide-ranging list of guides and checklists all in one place, and a much simper process to request any of our literature.

Please take a look around and let us know what you think.

We have also created a new blog so we could better communicate and stay in touch with our followers and subscribers – so why not visit, and follow our new BLOG for the latest tax news and accountancy tips.


The Liberal Democrats have put forward their latest ideas on tax

17/09/2013

lib demThe next General Election is due on 7 May 2015 and politicians are already jostling for position, with talk of another coalition in the air.  As a result, the Liberal Democrats’ latest paper on tax policy has considerably more relevance than some of its predecessors.

The paper, issued for discussion at the party conference in Glasgow, makes a wide range of proposals. Among the more notable are:

  1. An end-of-the-Parliament target for the personal allowance to match the income level equivalent to full-time employment on the National Minimum Wage (around £12,300 from October 2013). The allowance is currently £9,440, rising to £10,000 in 2014/15.
  2. A choice of either leaving the top rate of income tax unchanged, or returning it to 50%, subject to a study showing “that it was likely (on the balance of probabilities) that the revenue raised was less than the cost of making the change.”
  3. A further reduction in the lifetime allowance for pensions to £1m, but no other changes to pension tax reliefs. The allowance is currently £1.5m, falling to £1.25m from 6 April 2014 (at the same time as the annual allowance drops by a fifth to £40,000).
  4. A reduction in the individual capital gains tax annual exemption from the current £10,900 to £2,000, with gains taxed at full income tax rates, i.e. up to 45%/50%. To complicate matters for the greatly increased number of CGT payers, indexation relief would be reintroduced.
  5. The introduction of a Land Value Tax, to “replace business rates and property taxes.”  However, it would not usurp the role of the Lib Dem’s beloved mansion tax, which remains on the agenda at 1% of residential property value of £2m.
  6. The period after which lifetime gifts would be ignored for inheritance tax purposes would be extended from seven years to fifteen. Ultimately the tax would move to an accessions/capital receipts basis, under which tax would be paid by the recipient(s) of bequests (after a lifetime allowance is exceeded), based on their income and circumstances.

While these ideas may never see the light of parliamentary day, they could serve as a useful checklist for long term tax planning.


What happens if you die leaving only your spouse/ civil partner, no children & no will?

09/09/2013

making_a_will_imageYou might imagine that everything goes to the survivor, but currently that is not always the case.

Under the intestacy rules for England and Wales, a surviving spouse/civil partner would receive:

* Personal chattels;

* £450,000 outright; and

* One of half the residue outright.

 

The other half of the residue would go to your parent(s), failing whom your siblings or, if they have predeceased you, their offspring. The rules in Northern Ireland are very similar, while Scotland has its own distinctly Scottish regime.

The Ministry of Justice is now proposing to reform English and Welsh intestacy rules, so that where there are no children, the surviving spouse will inherit the whole estate. There are also revisions planned for the estate distribution when there are children involved.

The ministry says that its proposed changes will “ensure the laws on intestacy become closer aligned with public expectations”. However, any reform will not alter the fact that an up to date will that’s spells out what you want is a better course of action than relying on the state’s interpretation via the intestacy rules.

Your will is up to date, isn’t it..?

If not, we would strongly advise you begin your estate planning right away. Please give us a call if you want to talk through your concerns on 0208 861 7575 or visit our website for more indepth information about the service we offer.

 


Fancy a 30% flat tax relief on your pension contributions?

23/08/2013

pension funds 2In 2006 the previous government introduced what it described as ‘pension simplification’, a radical reworking of the pension tax rules. Ever since, there has been a process which has now gained the label of ‘complification’ – adding complexity back into the pension tax system. The current government can take a fair slice of the blame, with its efforts to cut back the cost of tax relief by twice reducing both the lifetime allowance (on total benefits) and the annual allowance (on contributions).

A recent paper from the Pension Policy Institute (PPI) examined who benefits from the current pension regime and highlighted two tax points:

1. Basic  rate taxpayers  are  estimated  to  make  50%  of  the  total   pension  contributions,  but  benefit  from  only  30%  of  pension  tax  relief.  In  contrast,  50% of all  pension tax  relief  goes  to  higher  rate  taxpayers, with the balance going  to  additional  rate taxpayers,  while  these  groups  make  40%  and  10%  of  the  total  contributions respectively.

2. Currently  77%  of  pension lump  sums by number are  under  £40,000, but  these account for just under a quarter  of  the  tax  relief  on  lump  sums. At the opposite end of the scale  2%  of  lump  sums  are  worth  £150,000  or more and  they  attract  nearly a third  of  tax  relief  on  lump  sums.

The PPI’s concluded that instead of marginal rate income tax relief, a flat rate relief of 30% for everyone would be better at incentivising low and middle income earners and spreading the benefit of tax relief more evenly. It looked at a number of options for cutting back on the lump sum, but concluded that these would have limited immediate effect because any change could not be made retrospectively.

The PPI’s ideas on flat rate relief should not be dismissed as just the musings of another think tank. They echo proposals from the Centre for Policy Studies, a think tank founded by Sir Keith Joseph and closely linked to the Conservatives. The other main political parties have both talked about cutting tax relief for high earners, so the writing may well be on the post-election wall.

The value of tax reliefs depends on your individual circumstances. Tax laws can change. The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate tax advice.

Make sure you take full advantage of the tax saving opportunities open to you – call our team of specialists for a personal tax planning review by contacting one of our partners for more information on +44 (0)20 8861 7575


National Savings & Investments are cutting the prize money on premium bonds.

13/08/2013

NS&IIn June, National Savings & Investments (NS&I) announced reductions of between 0.4% and 0.5% from 12 September on three of its variable rate offerings, the most significant being a cut in the Income Bond rate from 1.75% to 1.25%. At the time, some of the press coverage commented that the move increased the relative appeal of premium bonds, where the underlying prize money equated to 1.5% tax-free interest.

Last month NS&I reacted to the resultant inflows into premium bonds by cutting the prize money rate to 1.3% from 1 August. The lower rate will result in two changes:

  • The chances of any one bond winning a prize in the monthly draw will fall from 1:24,000 to 1:26,000.
  • The distribution of winnings will alter (see chart), with an even higher proportion (98.1%) of successful bonds earning their owners the minimum prize of £25.

1.3% tax-free doesn’t look bad if you are a higher rate taxpayer – you would have to earn 2.17% gross interest to match it, which beats any instant access account currently available. However, the 1.3% is theoretical and what you would actually earn depends upon lady luck. The statisticians say that the skew of prizes and the minimum of £25 means on average you will earn less than 1.3%.

Value of prize

Number of prizes in July 2013

Number of prizes in August 2013   (estimate)

£1,000,000

1

1

£100,000

5

3

£50,000

9

6

£25,000

20

11

£10,000

49

30

£5,000

97

58

£1,000

1,142

789

£500

3,426

2,367

£100

33,552

11,891

£50

33,552

11,891

£25

1,831,461

1,724,014

TOTAL

1,903,314

1,751,061

P.S. If you are thinking of that £1 million jackpot, then don’t plan your retirement around it: the odds of winning the top prize in the monthly draw are now less than 1 in 45,500,000,000.

Have you invested in premium bonds? Would you say they have been a worthwhile investment?


The UK economy shows signs of growth, but there’s still some way to go…

06/08/2013

signs of growthCast your mind back a little over three months to late April. It was still winter and there was a distinct possibility that the preliminary UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first three months of 2013 would show the economy shrinking for a second successive quarter, creating a “triple dip” recession.  However, the GDP figures issued by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on 25 April confounded the pessimists and showed growth of 0.3%.

Two months later, the ONS revised some 2012 statistics, stating that the first quarter of last year had seen no growth, rather than the 0.1% contraction of previous calculations.  That meant there were not the two consecutive quarters of shrinkage that are the ingredients of a recession, and hence even the “double dip” recession also disappeared.

In July there was a third round of good news, with preliminary figures for the second quarter suggesting that the UK economy had grown by 0.6%. This was faster than the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) was expecting and points to a rarity in future OBR forecasts; an upgrading to growth numbers.

These signs indicate an economy on the mend, but there is a long way to go. The overall output of UK plc is still over 3% below the peak set in the first quarter of 2008 and at much the same level as at the end of 2006.

The gap between where we are now and where we might have been in the GDP growth line before the financial crisis in 2008, is one measure of how much the downturn has cost the economy.

On a more optimistic note, it also suggests plenty of scope for future growth which is always welcome news!

We’ve put together some very useful expense checklists which will advise you on what you can claim for including travel, food, accommodation and motor expenses and much much more – and they are FREE to request.

Anything we can do to help YOU reduce your tax liability!


National Savings and Investment cut rates

22/07/2013

NS&IThe best short term rates are disappearing. 

National Savings & Investments (NS&I) have announced cuts in interest rates to three of its variable rate products to take effect from 12 September, as shown in the table below.

NS&I Product

Today’s Rates Rate from 12/9

Change

Direct ISA

2.25% 1.75% -0.5%

Income Bonds

1.75% 1.25%

-0.5%

Direct Saver 1.50% 1.10%

-0.4%

The cuts are no real surprise, not least because the government set NS&I a net fund-raising target for 2013/14 of nil (give or take £2bn). NS&I’s current variable rates leave it at or near the top of the short term savings league table, which means it is liable to attract substantial inflows. The Financial Services Compensation Scheme deposit protection ceiling of £85,000 is irrelevant to NS&I investors, thanks to a Treasury guarantee. As a result the only effective restriction on individual investment is NS&I’s own limits – £2m for Direct Saver and £1m for Income Bonds.

Shortly after NS&I revealed its deferred interest rate cuts, another NS – ONS (the Office for National Statistics) – published May inflation data showing year on year price increases of 2.7% (Consumer Prices Index) and 3.1% (Retail Prices Index). The news was a reminder how far deposit rates have dropped below inflation, even before tax is taken into account. If you are a higher rate taxpayer, you now need a 4.5% gross interest rate to match CPI inflation. However, the best rates available – fixed for a five year term – are under 3%.

Premium Bond Footnote NS&I did not change the prize money rate for premium bonds, which remains at 1.5%. As premium bond prizes are tax-free, in theory that is equivalent 2.5% gross if you are a higher rate taxpayer. The trouble is that the chances of a win each month are 24,000:1 and over 96% of the prizes are just £25.


We are a firm of Accountants based in Harrow, Middlesex offering tips and tax advice to help sole traders, individuals and businesses in the UK grow. We'll also keep you up-to-date with the latest tax news hitting the headlines! We hope you find our blog helpful and appreciate any feedback.

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Lawrence Grant Chartered Accountants

We are a firm of Accountants based in Harrow, Middlesex offering tips and tax advice to help sole traders, individuals and businesses in the UK grow. We'll also keep you up-to-date with the latest tax news hitting the headlines! We hope you find our blog helpful and appreciate any feedback.

Les Conway

I offer a comprehensive financial planning service covering all aspects including retirement planning, protection and investment needs

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