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What to know about ISAs in 2019/2020

The rules around ISAs (or individual savings accounts) change relatively often and different types of ISA rise and fall in popularity depending on where savers consider the most competitive place to put their hard earned money.

ISAs are a great way to save because of their tax efficiency. You don’t pay income tax or capital gains tax on the returns and you can withdraw the amount any time as a tax free lump sum. Because of their tax efficiency, there are set limits on how much you can save using ISA accounts.

The 2019-20 tax year is an interesting year for ISAs because the main annual allowance isn’t increasing. The yearly total you can invest in an ISA remains at £20,000. This means that the ISA limit remains unchanged since April 2017.

Remember that all ISAs don’t have the same allowance. For Help to Buy ISAs, you can only save a maximum of £200 a month, on top of an initial deposit of £1,200. Lifetime ISAs (LISAs) have a maximum yearly allowance of £4,000, on top of which you benefit from a government top-up of 25% of your contributions.

One ISA allowance that is rising (slightly!) is the Junior ISA, increasing from £4,260 to £4,368. This means that relatives can contribute slightly more to a child’s future, in a savings account that can only be accessed when they reach 18. Junior ISA accounts are rapidly gaining in popularity, with around 907,000 such accounts subscribed to in the tax year 2017/2018. Great news for the youngest generation!

Stocks and Shares ISAs are also gaining more popularity, with an increase of nearly 250,000 in the last tax year. On the whole, though, the number of Adult ISA accounts subscribed to in the last year fell from 11.1 million in 2016/17 to 10.8 million in 2017/18.

For investors with Stocks and Shares ISAs, Brexit uncertainty has understandably created cause for concern. In this scenario, your best course of action is to make sure that your investments are properly diversified around the globe. Speak to us if you are unsure about what you can do to reduce risk during any post-Brexit turbulence. We’ll be more than happy to help.

Sources
https://blog.moneyfarm.com/en/isas/annual-2019-isa-allowance

The perks of saving into a junior ISA

There are so many factors for a parent to consider in doing their best to make sure their children are prepared for the world when they reach adulthood. A lot of those things will be out of your control, but one thing you can consider that could make a real difference is investing into a Junior ISA. If you start early you could accumulate a pot of over £40,000; that’s a birthday present that no 18 year old would be disappointed with.

Entering adulthood with that level of finances comes with life changing opportunities and great freedom of choice. Depending on their priorities, your child could put down a deposit on a property, start a business, pay for training or tuition fees, or even travel the world to their heart’s content.

On April 6th 2019, the amount that can be saved annually into a Junior ISA or Child Trust Fund account will increase from £4,260 to £4,368. Just like an adult ISA, your contributions are free from both income and capital gains tax and often come with relatively high interest rates. For example, Coventry Building Society offer an adult ISA with an interest rate of 2.3% per annum, whereas their equivalent Junior Cash ISA comes with a 3.6% per annum interest rate. Junior ISAs are easy to set up and easy to manage: as long as the child lives in the UK and is under the age of 18, their parent or legal guardian can open the ISA on their behalf. On their 18th birthday, the account will become an adult ISA and the child will gain access to the funds.

Both Junior Cash ISAs and Junior Stocks and Shares ISAs are available, and you can even opt for both, but your annual limit will remain the same across both ISAs. When making that decision there are a few considerations to make; cash investments over a long period of time are unlikely to overtake the cost of inflation but come at a lower risk than their stocks and shares equivalent. With a Junior ISA, however, you can benefit from a long term investment horizon. Although the stock market comes with a level of volatility, you can ride out some of the dips and peaks over a long period. Combined with good diversification, it’s possible to mitigate a fair amount of risk.

Taking a look at potential gains, had you invested £100 a month into the stock market for the last 18 years, figures from investment platform Charles Stanley suggests that a basic UK tracker fund would have built you a pot worth £39,313. In comparison, had you saved the same amount into cash accounts, you’d be closer to £24,000, a considerable difference of nearly £16,000.

With this latest hike in the saving allowance, it’s time to make the most of Junior ISAs and prepare to swap bedtime reading from Peter Rabbit and Hungry Caterpillar to stories of how a stocks and shares portfolio can secure your child’s future.

Sources
http://www.cityam.com/273196/saving-into-junior-isa-great-way-new-parents-invest-their

After Carillion: Accountancy and auditing gets a shake-up

Following widespread criticism from a government review, the accounting regulator Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is to be abolished and replaced by a new regulator. The FRC will be replaced by the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority in a move to boost the quality of a sector which forms a crucial part of the British economy.

The FRC, which currently employs around 200 people, is under substantial pressure after a number of high profile corporate accounting scandals. The collapses of Carillion and BHS, as well as the discovery of alleged accounting fraud at high street café chain Patisserie Valerie, have led many to question the effectiveness of firms operating in the audit sector. Doubts have been cast over the practices of the “big four” firms KPMG, PwC, Deloitte and EY in particular.

KPMG has come under scrutiny for its oversight of Carillion which went under with debts of over £5 billion, while PwC has attracted negative attention for its audit work at BHS.

Having a “tough and robust regulator”, capable of ensuring best practice at UK firms, is important for the British economy. Audit and accountancy services provide a £59 billion annual boost to Britain’s gross domestic product, according to a study by Oxford Economics Ltd released in November last year.

The new Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority will operate very differently to the FRC, which the report condemned for being too cosy in the way it regulated auditors. A new chair will oversee the transition to the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority and the existing head, Sir Win Bischoff, will step down.

The new regulator will have enhanced powers. It will be able to intervene directly and make changes in company accounts without having to go to court first. What’s more, it will have powers to regulate the biggest audit firms directly.

The Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority will also be able to implement greater sanctions in the event of corporate collapses and, in serious cases, publish a report on them.

Overall, 48 of the report’s recommendations will be implemented in an attempt to increase confidence in British auditing.

Sources
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/audit-regime-in-the-uk-to-be-transformed-with-new-regulator
https://news.sky.com/story/accounting-regulator-to-be-scrapped-after-damning-review-11662454

Why cruise holidays are booming for retirees

The cruise market offering has changed enormously in recent years, where once it was purely the domain of cabaret cheese and bad karaoke, now there’s something on offer for everyone (don’t worry, though, if you love cabaret and karaoke, that’s still an option). Whatever your tastes and priorities, you won’t be hard pressed to find a cruise to suit your needs.

Cruises have always been a popular choice for retirees but with the new potential for personalisation, they’re more popular than ever, with over 26 million passengers carried worldwide in 2018 alone. So what is it that makes taking to the seas such an attractive prospect?

1) Flexibility

Cruises have the potential to be a catch-all for whatever kind of holiday you’re looking for. Whether you’re after a romantic getaway, a family break over the school holidays, or a round-the-world trip that ticks off everything that’s left on your bucket list; it’s all possible when you’re on a cruise liner.

2) Activities

There really is a cruise out there for everyone. Some people want to lay on the deck and bathe in the sun, some people want to hone their rock-climbing skills, while others want to kayak alongside breaching whales. The possibilities are endless: if your priority is trying the food of critically acclaimed chefs, or even having a go at cooking the dishes yourself, fine dining can now be found onboard in some of the most remote corners of the world’s oceans.

3) Modern life can be stressful

Taking a cruise is not just about the food and entertainment available on board and the chance to see some fantastic locations. It’s also about taking the hassle of too much planning away from the holiday goer. Being able to relax and take a breather while you’re travelling the world is becoming a bigger priority for people and this has been reflected in the incredible attention and investment given to spa and wellness facilities on cruise ships. Plus it’s a great chance to unplug and really experience the world around you.

4) Value

Despite historically being a pursuit of the highest luxury with the pricetag to match, there are plenty of choices available for more budget conscious passengers. All-inclusive cruise holidays are a smart way to enjoy all the bells and whistles whilst remaining price savvy. Pick the right vessel and you can experience entertainment of broadway quality included in your price.

If you want to enjoy your retirement to its fullest but can’t decide on the best way to do that, considering a cruise trip is a great place to start.

Sources
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/amp/travel-tips-and-articles/getting-on-board-10-reasons-to-consider-a-cruise-trip/40625c8c-8a11-5710-a052-1479d27561cd?_t_witter_impression=true
https://cruisemarketwatch.com/growth/

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.

4 Reasons why you should plan your self-assessment early

The Self Assessment season can be a stressful time. Thankfully, it’s over now – at least for those of you who made the deadline… Hopefully you managed to make the January 31 deadline with plenty of time to spare!


Although tax returns are famously stressful, it doesn’t have to be this way. Filing early is obviously the most straightforward way to avoid last minute stress. Here are our top reasons to do it:

1. HMRC’s call centres are always overwhelmed in January

If you’ve ever tried to get hold of HMRC’s personal tax helpline in January, you probably know their ‘on-hold’ music off by heart. HMRC aren’t renowned for their customer service and this reputation is well deserved.

Worst of all, HMRC’s phone line wait times look set to get even worse over coming years due to departmental cuts. If you want to make your Self Assessment as painless as possible, don’t leave it until the last minute. Getting in touch with HMRC outside of their peak times is far less frustrating.

2. If you’re owed a tax refund, you’ll get it sooner

HMRC not only taketh away, they also giveth. Some business owners overpay tax and are owed a tax refund. If you’ve overpaid tax, you’ll find out when you file your Self Assessment.
Your refund won’t be immediate (remember this is HMRC we’re talking about), but should only take a few weeks.

3. You’ll avoid HMRC’s late filing penalties

Naturally, the earlier you file, the easier it is to address any problems and avoid HMRC’s late filing penalties. In case you didn’t know, these are:

  • An initial £100 fine if you miss the January 31 deadline
  • £10 a day fines if you haven’t filed by April 30
  • A £300 fine if you don’t file for another 90 days
  • Another fine of £300 or 5% of your tax owed (whichever is greater) if you don’t file within a year
  • Addition penalties – including a fine of £100 of tax owed – if HMRC thinks you’re delaying your filing on purpose.
    These fines aren’t pretty. It’s always best to err on the side of caution when it comes to Self Assessment.

4. You can have a proper Christmas break

Because the deadline falls in the New Year, tax return and festive chaos often coincide. If you don’t have tax on your mind, recharging your batteries at Christmas is much easier (family chaos notwithstanding!). Get it out of the way and really relax over Christmas.

Sources
https://www.crunch.co.uk/knowledge/tax/reasons-to-file-self-assessment-tax-return-early/

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.

Rupert Grint case sheds light on changing accounting dates

Actor Rupert Grint saw some unbelievable and mind boggling things over the years whilst working in the wizarding world of Harry Potter… but his biggest shock yet may have come to him in the more mundane world of muggles, thanks to discrepancies in accounting dates.

Grint made an attempt to change his accounting date from 31st July 2009 to 5th April 2010, as a result of the introduction of an additional tax rate of 50% in 2010/11. Had this change been approved, eight months worth of profits would have fallen back into 2009/10, allowing Grint to avoid the tax rate that wasn’t in place during that year.

Unfortunately for Grint, however, the change was not approved. Well, sort of. After filing his 2009/10 tax return in 2011 with two sets of pages (a 2009 schedule and a 2010 schedule), his first change of accounting date was accepted by HMRC. That was until a VAT visit brought light to a new set of accounts which covered a 20 month period from 1 August 2008 to 5 April 2010.

The FTT concluded that the two schedules which were originally filed were derived from the 20 month period “long accounts”, just being time apportioned versions of the broader figures. To establish a basis period for 2009/10, and for the intended change of accounting date to be successful, he needed to meet an 18 month test for a period of account. However, as only the 20 month long accounts could be considered as accurate accounts, they failed the 18 month test.

A brand new version of accounts miraculously appeared in 2012, covering the same two periods that were initially filed. Where these were different is that they were written up on an accruals basis, rather than the previous time apportioned schedules. The FTT were happy to accept that these did in fact meet the definitions of “accounts”, however where they faltered is that they had materialised after the original 2009/10 return was filed – and so, they were discounted.

For most businesses, a change of accounting date isn’t necessary. There are, however, some who could access transitional overlap relief through the process. The simplest way to avoid the pitfalls that Grint came across? Signing off accounts before your tax return is filed. Not only are accurate accounts helpful to measure business performance, they’re also essential for determining any tax for which you’re liable.

Sources
https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/tax/personal-tax/change-of-accounting-date-spells-disaster-for-harry-potter-actor

Revealed – the top 5 destinations for British pensions

Many British pensioners choose to move abroad, often in search of warmer climes and a more comfortable retirement.

The stereotypical idea of retiring abroad often involves moving to a mediterranean country. However, only one mediterranean country featured among the top 5 countries from which British expat pensioners claimed their state pension. This indicates that things might be changing…

Here are the top 5, in descending order:

5) Spain – 106,420 retirees

The Iberian nation has long been a retirement favourite for Brits, so we were surprised when it only came in fifth. The amount of British pensioners who spend much of the year in Spain is likely to be much higher, with many owning second homes whilst drawing their pension from the UK. Overall 16.7% of registered Spanish property belongs to UK citizens.

Spain is the only non-English speaking nation among the top 5. However, English is widely spoken in major cities and areas with a large number of tourists and expats, like the Costa Brava and Costa Del Sol.

4) Republic of Ireland – 132,650 retirees

Lush rolling scenery and cheap house prices outside of Dublin make the ‘Emerald Isle’ an attractive destination for British retirees. Although the weather may be a little on the damp side, its scenic countryside, dotted with stone castles and slower way of life have encouraged many to retire across the Irish sea.

The large quantity of Irish people living in the UK is also likely to be a factor, with many moving closer to their family after retiring.

3) Canada – 133,310 retirees

Great scenery, kind people and a low crime rate make Canada an ideal retirement destination. Canadians are famously welcoming, meaning settling in is very easy for retirees.

What’s more, Canada has excellent healthcare. There are no fees for medical treatment, doctors’ appointments and dental visits. Even eye tests come free of charge. It’s unsurprising that it’s just a hair behind it’s much more populous neighbour when it comes to the number British retirees settled here.

2) USA – 134,130 retirees

Despite coming in at second on our list, retiring in the US for non-citizens is tough. If you don’t have a job Stateside or a family member to sponsor you, your only option is the Green Card lottery. This is a lengthy and costly process.

All this said, the USA offers some great retirement options. Warm climates in southern areas, wild scenery and the allure of the American lifestyle can prompt Brits to retire across the pond.

1) Australia – 234,880 retirees

Warm weather, barbies on the beach and a high standard of living. It’s easy to see why Australia is the number one destination for British retirees.

However, retiring here does mean having a sizeable pension pot. Australia is a relatively expensive country, reflecting the much higher salaries people generally earn Down Under. House prices are expensive and food bills can leave you reeling.

Sources
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/brits-are-behind-one-fifth-of-properties-sold-to-foreigners-in-spain-as-sky-high-uk-prices-push-a6681296.html
https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/expat/article-6606883/Australia-number-one-destination-retired-British-expats.html
https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/031115/how-retire-us-visas-process.asp

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