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4 Key takeaways from the Spring Statement


The Spring Statement is an opportunity to hear the latest updates on the state of the UK economy and what to expect of its growth over the coming months and years. With most people setting their focus firmly on the amorphous hokey-cokey of Brexit negotiations, it’s something of a breath of fresh air to take a moment to look at concrete upcoming strategies and measurable realities.

With that in mind, here are 4 key points you can hang your hat on while what’s on or off the table continues to be debated in the background.

1) Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Employment is up and that means more tax receipts for the Government’s coffers. 2018 ended with 440,000 more people in work than 12 months prior, with 60,000 fewer people relying solely on zero-hours contracts. Government borrowing fell in January to the lowest we’ve seen since 2001 and £21bn of income and corporation tax was raised, leaving a healthy monthly surplus of £14.9bn.

2) Even more taxes

The Making Tax Digital scheme is set to come into effect on April 1st 2019. Looking at it broadly, it’s an effort to modernise the tax system. The first step comes in the form of mandatory digital record keeping for VAT, for those businesses which find themselves above the VAT threshold. It’s undoubtedly a strong example of intent for the future.

3) You guessed it… taxes

No Safe Havens is an initiative that was introduced in 2013 to crack down on those who seek to evade their tax through hiding their income and assets overseas, and those who advise them on how to do so. The Spring Statement brought with it a declaration of further commitment to this cause by investing in the latest technology and enforcing tough new penalties while, at the same time, making sure it’s easy for law abiding taxpayers to handle their tax correctly.

4) Growth is good

Okay, it’s not all about taxes. The Office for National Statistics’ January figures demonstrate the UK Economy has grown to the tune of 0.5%, blowing the economists’ predictions of 0.2% out of the water with the biggest monthly increase we’ve seen since 2016. Construction saw notable growth of 2.8%, with the service sector up 0.3% and manufacturing up 0.8%. We saw inflation fall to 1.8% in January and the general consensus is that we can expect to see UK growth of between 1.3% and 1.4% this year.

That’s your breath of fresh air over. You can get back to talking about Brexit now. If you have any questions surrounding any of these topics or the Spring Statement in general, please feel free to get in touch with us directly.

A guide to self-employed pensions

Running your own business can give you the opportunity to follow your passion and enjoy the ultimate flexible lifestyle. However, it does also mean taking on additional responsibilities. One of these is your pension.

Why moving abroad can affect your state pension



Retiring overseas is a dream for many Brits. After all, who wouldn’t be tempted by the better climate and the amazing travel opportunities found abroad. Where you choose to spend your retirement, however, will affect how much state pension you get.

State pensions are frozen if you decide to move abroad to certain countries, such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada or India. Whilst normal state pensions rise according to the triple lock, in these countries your pension would be frozen. The triple lock means that pensions currently rise by the highest of inflation, average earnings or 2.5% Whether or not your state pension is frozen depends on whether the Government has struck individual deals with the country you move to. As it stands, the Government has only made deals with the EU, the US, Switzerland, Norway, Jamaica, Israel and the Philippines. It has been decades since any new deals have been made.

To illustrate what this freeze means, an expat who retired when the basic rate was £67.50 a week in 2000 would still get that, rather than the £125.95 received by those whose pensions have not been frozen. Likewise, if you qualify for the full state pension of £164.35 and already live in or move to one of the ‘frozen’ countries, the amount you receive will not increase while you stay abroad.

This freeze currently reduces the pensions of approximately 550,000 British pensioners.

However, upon returning to the UK, pensioners are eligible to get their state pension uprated back to the full amount by applying directly to the Department for Work and Pensions service centre.

What about Brexit?

As it stands, nothing is certain until we get a final deal (or no deal!). However, it’s likely that state pensions in the EU will not be frozen. An update on Brexit talks published jointly by the EU and UK indicated they had ‘convergence’ of their positions on state pension increases.

If you’re planning on moving to a ‘frozen’ country like Australia, it’s best to consider the implications of a frozen state pension on your finances sooner rather than later. It will be easier to mitigate the effects when you’re younger and still have greater financial ties to the UK.

Sources
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/expat/article-6278449/Will-state-pension-retire-abroad.html

A snapshot of average weekly household spending

In January, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released their latest Family Spending Survey, revealing the intimate details of British spending habits. In its 61st year, the report provides an insight into family spending habits, as well as showing how they differ between areas of the country.

The average British household spent £572.60 per week in the financial year ending March 2018. After adjustments for inflation, this was the highest weekly expenditure since 2005. Increases in transport and housing costs were chiefly responsible for this rise in expenditure.

Households are spending £18.40 more than they did a year ago, despite splashing out less on dining out and buying fewer clothes than they did 12 months ago.

Transport was the category with the highest average weekly spend. Brits spent £80.80 a week on transport, 14% of their total expenditure. This was followed by spending on fuel, power and housing, which came to £76.80 per week.

Other expenditures have fallen. As a nation, we are drinking far less than we did in the past. This is reflected in our expenditure. 10 years ago, the average amount we spent on alcoholic drinks “away from home” was £10.90 a week. Adjusted for inflation, this has fallen to £8 a week.

Good news for our liver, bad news for pubs. In fact, more than a quarter of British pubs have closed their doors since 2001.

Younger people tend to spend far more on takeaways than the elderly. Households headed by someone under 30 spend on average £7.80 a week on takeaways. By contrast, over 75s spend just £1.80 on takeaways a week.

Northern Irish families, however, spent the most on takeaways. An average of £8.60 per household. Analysts suggest that this is likely to be because families in Northern Ireland are larger than elsewhere in the UK.

Overall spending, too, varies regionally. The average weekly household spending was highest in London, at £658.30, while in the North East of England it was more than £200 less at £457.50. In Wales, the average weekly spend was £470.40 and the Scots spent an average £492.20. The ONS survey paints a diverse picture of the UK’s spending habits that are just as varied as its people.

Sources
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/personalandhouseholdfinances/expenditure/bulletins/familyspendingintheuk/financialyearending2018
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/jan/24/spending-by-uk-households-rises-to-13-year-high

As a parent, could you be missing out on your state pension?

There’s no reason why being a parent, and particularly being a non-earning parent with commitments to their children, should put you at risk of decreasing your state pension entitlement. Currently, however, there are potentially hundreds of thousands of people in this exact position – although thankfully, there are steps to take so that it can be avoided.

Figures supplied to the Treasury by HMRC suggest that there could be around 200,000 households missing out on these pension boosting entitlements. If the child benefits are being claimed by the household’s highest earner, and not the the lower earner or non-earner, these potential national insurance contributions can fall by the wayside. Treasury select committee chairman and MP Nicky Morgan says; “The Treasury committee has long-warned the government of the risk that for families with one earner and one non-earner, if the sole-earner claims child benefit, the non-earner, with childcare commitments forgoes National Insurance credits and potentially, therefore, their entitlement to a full future state pension.”

With 7.9 million UK households currently receiving child benefits, there is potential for a large number of people to be affected. Thanks to data from the Department for Work and Pensions, it’s suspected that around 3% of those (around 200,000) may be in this situation. It’s worth noting that the family resources survey covered 19,000 UK households and as the estimate is sample-based, there is some uncertainty on the exact numbers of those at risk. Nicky Morgan continues, “Now that we have an idea of the scale of this problem, the Government needs to pull its finger out and make sure that people are aware of the issue and know how to put it right.”

Sources
https://www.moneymarketing.co.uk/over-200000-parents-may-be-missing-out-on-their-pension-says-hmrc/

https://www.mirror.co.uk/money/200000-parents-missing-out-state-13895884

From the Adviser-Store

Mary Poppins returns: Can a tuppence really save the day?

Since the release of the film Mary Poppins Returns in December, it’s taken over $250m, making it a financial success. The story of the film itself however seems to recommend a few ways of making your own personal finances successful too. With the original set in 1910, the sequel takes us to 1935 where Michael, just a boy in the first film, is now a man with children of his own. Unfortunately, due to him being unable to repay a loan, he finds himself face to face with the frightening possibility of having his home repossessed.

Thankfully for Michael, in the original film his father gives him shrewd advice to invest his pocket money of a tuppence, rather than giving it to the women selling bird food. Quick reality check; even over the course of 25 years, the compound interest on a mere tuppence is extremely unlikely to have been enough to help Michael out of his rut in the real world. Realistically, with an average interest rate of 6%, saving two pennies wouldn’t even bring you in a single pound. Perhaps his father invested it particularly wisely, finding the unicorn company of his day, perhaps putting it into oil stocks, but even then it would require a huge return. It’s a film, after all, and the overriding message of being responsible with your finances is a noble one, so we can allow them a bit of creative licence.

Beyond taking the advice of investing two pence too literally, there are some positive messages and useful takeaways from Mary Poppins Returns. Ultimately, the tone is optimistic; the suggestion being that even if you’re in a particularly difficult financial position, there’s always a solution. It also suggests that these solutions are easier to come by with a bit of forward planning.

Sound investments are as beneficial now as they were in 1910, so seeking and listening to advice about how and where to put your money can be as helpful for you as it was for young Michael. Keeping on top of your financial situation and making conscious efforts to plan for the future will put you on steady ground and allow you to plan for a future that, in the words of Mary Poppins herself, is “practically perfect, in every way!”

Sources
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46741343

one in seven widows are missing out on valuable tax breaks

New data reveals that thousands of widows are missing out on valuable tax breaks on money inherited from their late husbands or wives.

In 2015, the government introduced a new rule that allows spouses to claim an extra ISA allowance. This allowance, known as an Additional Permitted Subscription allowance (APS allowance), is available to the surviving spouse or civil partner of a deceased ISA investor, where the investor died on or after 3 December 2014.

According to the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (an ISA trade body), around 150,000 married ISA savers die each year. However, just 21,000 eligible spouses used their APS allowance in the 2017-18 tax year, meaning they may be paying more tax than they need to pay.

Many bereaved spouses are unaware of the extra protections they can claim on, while others find the process difficult and confusing.

It is thought that many of those who lose out are widows whose husbands pass away without informing them of the exact nature of their financial affairs. In some cases, widows only discover large sums of money long after their husband’s death.

Situations like this have led to many to call for greater transparency between spouses around their financial affairs. A culture of privacy around financial matters is rife among the ‘baby boomer’ generation, where the higher earner often manages the money and investments. This can leave the bereaved in a precarious position, especially if they don’t know what bank accounts, investments and companies their spouse may have managed.

If your partner has left funds held in an ISA to someone else, you’re still entitled to APS. For instance, if your partner left an ISA of £45,000 to their friends and family, you can use your APS allowance to put an extra £45,000 into an ISA of your own.

Think you might be able to claim? You can apply through your late partner’s ISA provider. You will need to fill in a form, similar to when you open an ISA.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/personal-banking/savings/one-seven-widows-missing-valuable-tax-breaks/

Saving for retirement: what’s the magic number

The fact is, most of us are simply not saving enough to enjoy a similar lifestyle to our working days in retirement. A ‘retirement reality’ report from insurer Aviva shows that nearly 1 in 4 employees believe that retirement will be a financial struggle.

There are plenty of legitimate reasons why we don’t save enough – more immediate financial concerns will naturally take priority. You can’t save for tomorrow, for example, if it means forgoing your mortgage payments today. A lack of financial education also plays a big role. 85% of young adults, when surveyed, revealed that they wish they had been taught more about finance management through their school and university careers.

The Government’s auto-enrolment workers’ pension initiative has helped and there are around 1 million people saving for their retirement for the first time ever, as a result, but how do the numbers add up? The minimum auto-enrolment contribution rate is 5% of annual income, and despite more than half of workers believing this is the recommended rate of saving, it’s far from it. The generally accepted figure among experts, if you wish to maintain a similar lifestyle in retirement, is a contribution equal to 13% of your annual income. Some of this deficit will be made up by employer’s pension contributions, however, we’re still looking at a wide gulf between actual savings and those that are required.

Investment house, Fidelity, has devised a system it calls the ‘Power of Seven’, consisting of a number of savings goals. Ultimately, it suggests that to comfortably retire at 68, you should have saved the equivalent of 7 times your annual household income. So if you were to retire with a household income of £50,000, you’d want a pension pot saved of £350,000. The exact figures will differ from case to case, so it’s recommended to use an online pension calculator to understand your personal situation and check it regularly to keep yourself updated.

There are steps you can take to bolster your pension pot. It’s down to you to take responsibility for your finances, and even small steps like being a member of the works pension scheme and using tax friendly Savings Accounts can be helpful. If you receive a pay increase, perhaps allocate half of it to your savings or investments and enjoy the other half now. As tempting as it can be, it’s important to foster self control to turn down opportunities for frivolous spending – think about tomorrow and give yourself more options in your golden years.

Sources
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/pensions/article-6449851/How-need-squirrel-away-golden-retirement.html

Inheritance Tax – Could there be a better alternative?

Inheritance tax is enormously unpopular to say the least. A YouGov poll found that 59% of the public deemed it unfair, making it the least popular of Britain’s 11 major taxes. What’s more, the tax has a limited revenue raising ability, with the ‘well advised’ often using gifts, trusts, business property relief and agricultural relief to avoid paying so much.

As it stands, the tax affects just 4% of British estates and contributes only 77p of every £100 of total taxation. This puts the tax in the awkward position of being both highly unpopular and raising very little revenue. At the moment, the inheritance tax threshold stands at £325,000 per person. If you own your own home and are leaving it to a direct descendant in your will, this lifts the threshold by an additional £125,000 in the 2018-19 tax year (the nil-rate band), to £450,000. Anything above this is subject to a 40% tax.

Inheritance tax is seen as unfair because it is a tax on giving (while normal taxes apply to earnings) and it is a ‘double tax’ on people who have already earned – and been taxed on – their wealth.

However, the Resolution Foundation, a prominent independent think tank, has suggested an alternative.

They propose abolishing inheritance tax and replacing it with a lifetime receipts tax.

This would see individuals given a lump sum they could inherit tax free through their lifetime and would then have to pay tax on any inheritance they receive that exceeds this threshold. The thinktank suggests that by setting a lifetime limit of £125,000 and then applying inheritance tax at 20% up to £500,000 and 30% after that would be both fairer and harder to avoid.

They predict that a lifetime receipts tax would raise an extra £5 billion by 2021, bringing in £11 billion rather than the £6 billion inheritance tax currently raises. In a time of mounting pressure on public services like the NHS, this additional revenue would be welcomed by many.

Moving away from inheritance tax would reduce many of the current ways to manage the amount of assets an individual is taxed on upon death. For instance, people would not be able to reduce the size of their taxable estate by giving away liquid assets seven years prior to their death.

The Resolution Foundation also suggests restricting business property and agricultural relief to small family businesses.

The lifetime receipts tax is, at the moment, just a think tank recommendation and is not being considered by the government.

However, the government are trying to introduce changes to probate fees that would see estates worth £2 million or more pay £6,000 in probate fees, up from the current rate of £215. This proposal has seen little support in the House of Lords and the government may consider scrapping the tax.

Sources
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/tax/inheritance/government-could-back-disguised-death-tax-following-lords-pressure/
https://www.accountancyage.com/2018/05/03/inheritance-tax-is-unfit-for-modern-society-and-should-be-abolished-says-think-tank/

New year, new you for your finances

With the new year comes new possibilities, and most of us like to put a resolution in place. While you might not stick to your January gym membership or finally get that novel written, committing yourself to a financial resolution is an excellent way to start 2019.

Improving a financial situation has proven to be a high priority for the British public as we turn the first page on a new calendar. In fact, the average adult will commit £4,600 on financial resolutions; this includes goals like paying off a debt or moving house. For those under the age of 25, 11% of people aim to clear their debts in the new year, and for the over 55s that figure increases to 15%.

Even with the best intentions, however, it can be tough to see resolutions bear fruit. Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to give yourself the best chance.

1. Look before you leap!

It can be tempting to jump into the new year with big plans for the future, but if you’re not looking at where you’re coming from, you may not be giving those plans the preparation they need to flourish. Review your spending for 2018, collect your bank statements, bills and receipts and look out for areas of excessive or unnecessary expenditure. Once you’ve identified any pitfalls, they’ll be much easier to avoid in the year ahead.

2. Find your feet

Once you’ve got a good grasp of how the past year has been for your finances, you’ll have an understanding of where you are currently. There may be actions you can take immediately to better your situation. For example, review any subscriptions or direct debits that you now deem unnecessary. Sell any unnecessary items to create an income without any serious lifestyle changes. Consolidate debts with balance transfer cards, to make payments more manageable and to potentially lower your interest rate. Simplifying and strengthening your financial situation at the start of the year will give you greater control over the coming months.

3. Set goals and be reasonable!

There’s no point in setting a goal that is unachievable, only to disappoint yourself when you inevitably fail to meet it. With a solid understanding of your recent financial habits and your current position, set yourself an achievable plan for the year ahead. Be specific and make it measurable! Rather than pledging to eradicate all of your debt, identify a portion that you’re confident you can clear, and set yourself benchmarks to help track your progress.

4. Draw up a budget

It’s all well and good having a plan but you’ve got to stick to it. A well constructed budget can be just the thing to keep you on the straight and narrow. Gather information about your income and outgoings and regulate your spending. For example, it can be very tempting to treat yourself when you receive some unexpected income but don’t ignore the opportunity to bump up your savings. Perhaps consider splitting that extra money between debt repayments and future savings, and if there’s any left over then go for that posh meal. The key is to keep up to date, and revise your savings goals and budget plans as you go so that you’re prepared for whatever the year may bring!

With the right preparation and planning, 2019 can be a great step forward for your finances – take on the challenge and have a happy new year!

Sources
https://www.equifax.co.uk/resources/money_management/new-year-new-start-to-your-finances.html