Driving Hastings forward 01424 205481

What is “Making Tax Digital”?

Making Tax Digital (MTD) is a government initiative to modernise HMRC’s tax system, with the aim of making the whole process of administrating tax simpler and more efficient. All of your tax information will be in one place (your digital account) and you will be able to pay tax based on your business activity during the year and you can upload and update your tax account in real time.

Will it affect me?

If you own a business, you are self-employed or a landlord and you pay income tax, national insurance, VAT or corporation tax then it is quite likely you will be affected. This means you will be required to keep track of your tax affairs digitally using MTD compatible software, and to update HMRC at least quarterly via your digital tax account. Eventually this will abolish the annual tax return. This will be the law and there will be penalties for non- compliance.

What do I have to do?

You will need to open and log into your digital account. Everyone will be allocated one through the current Government Gateway. Then you will need to ensure your accounting software can update this account at least quarterly. For most businesses this means a move away from desktop and onto Cloud based accounting software. You are required to choose digital (Cloud) software to maintain your business records and to provide updates of information to HMRC. You will be prompted to send summary updates directly to HMRC – quarterly updates will need to be submitted within a month of quarter end, and an end of year activity report will be due within nine months of the end of the accounting year.

Your accountant can advise you on the software you will need and how to comply with the new quarterly reporting requirements.

When is all this happening?

MTD starts with unincorporated businesses for accounting periods commencing on or after 6 April 2018. There are various dates after this when other types of businesses have to comply.

What’s next?

Your accountant should contact you through 2017 to prepare you and get you ready for Digital Tax well in advance. In the meantime, if you want to discuss how this affects you and your business please contact us.

 

Various rumours were swirling around Westminster in the days before Philip Hammond rose to deliver his first Budget – confirmed as the last time a major fiscal statement will be made in the spring.

The Chancellor, still scarcely nine months in the job, has a reputation as a cautious man and in advance many expected that much of today’s speech would be laying the ground for the Prime Minister to begin formal negotiations for the UK to leave the EU.

That said, the day before Mr Hammond stood up to address the Commons, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) upgraded Britain’s growth forecast, which inevitably raised questions about whether there was yet room for manoeuvre.

Would the Government prove willing to make money available to shore up struggling services or answer the growing criticism over business rates reforms? Would it be tax rises or surprise giveaways bothering the headline writers?

Economic overview

In his opening statement, the Chancellor said that the resilience of the UK economy had continued to defy expectations and the country had enjoyed robust growth. Indeed, he noted that last year Britain’s growth was behind only Germany’s among the world’s biggest economies.

Mr Hammond confirmed that the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) had raised its growth forecasts for the year, with the economy now projected to grow by two per cent in 2017, compared with the previous estimate of 1.4 per cent. The independent body suggests growth next year will be 1.6 per cent and in 2019, 1.7 per cent.

But he made clear that there was no place for complacency in the current climate, acknowledging that levels of debt were still too high (peaking at 88.8 per cent next year), productivity needs to be improved and many families up and down the country continued to feel the pinch almost a decade on from the financial crash.

OBR figures also suggest that inflation will peak at 2.4 per cent this year, with expectations that it will drop off as we approach the end of the decade.

Trying to strike a balance between prudence and positivity, the Chancellor told MPs that the Budget presented an opportunity to put money into public services while ensuring that the nation continued to live within its means. Crucially, he said, the tax and spending plans would form the bedrock of the EU negotiations ahead.

Business and enterprise

Following several weeks of sustained criticism over the burden that business rates changes would place on many enterprises, Mr Hammond announced a three-point plan which he said would amount to an additional £435million support.

Any firm losing existing rate relief will be guaranteed that their bill will not rise by more than £50 a month next year. In addition, there will be a £1,000 discount for pubs with a rateable value of less than £100,000 and the creation of a £300million fund which will enable local authorities to offer discretional relief.

The Chancellor made clear that a fair tax system was one of the best ways to make Britain a top destination for businesses. He reiterated the commitment made by his predecessor, George Osborne, to bring the Corporation Tax rate down to 17 per cent by 2020. A reduction to 19 per cent will take effect from next month.

Following concerns about the current timetable, he confirmed that quarterly reporting would be delayed for small businesses for a year (at a cost of £280million).

Transport and infrastructure

Acknowledging that congestion was an issue in large parts of the country, Mr Hammond said that some £690million would be made available to tackle traffic problems in urban areas and get local networks moving more freely.

The Chancellor also announced a £270million investment to keep Britain at the forefront of research into biotechnology, robotic systems and driverless cars.

An additional £200million will be ploughed into projects to help secure private sector investment in full-fibre broadband networks and £16million put aside for a 5G mobile technology hub.

Personal tax

Controversially, it was revealed that National Insurance contributions will rise for the self-employed.

Under proposals, Class 4 NICs will increase from nine per cent to 10 per cent next April and to 11 per cent in 2019.

Trying to defend what will undoubtedly be a contentious move, the Chancellor said that the “unfair discrepancy” in contributions between different groups of workers could no longer be justified. Critics have suggested the move has broken with a commitment in the 2015 manifesto.

In more positive news, the personal allowance will rise to £11,500 – the seventh consecutive increase.

The Chancellor reiterated the Government’s previous commitment to increase the allowance to £12,500 and the higher rate threshold to £50,000 by the end of the Parliament in 2020.

There was a boost for road users with confirmation that vehicle excise duty for hauliers and the HGV road user levy will both be frozen.

The Chancellor also announced there would be no change to the previous planned duties on alcohol and tobacco. There will, however, be a new minimum excise duty on cigarettes based on a £7.35 packet price.

Pensions and savings

In what is likely to be an unpopular move, Mr Hammond confirmed that the tax-free dividend allowance for shareholders would be cut from £5,000 to £2,000 as of April 2018.

The Treasury said that the change would “ensure that support for investors is more effectively targeted”, but critics fear it will could further hurt entrepreneurs.

Public spending

Mr Hammond had faced some pressure from his own MPs to plough more revenue into public services.

In an attempt to address criticism that institutions were buckling beneath the strain, the Chancellor confirmed an extra £260million for improving school buildings and funding for an additional 110 free schools (on top of the 500 previously announced). There has been some controversy, however, that some of these are set to be selective.

In an attempt to address the mounting crisis in social care, Mr Hammond announced there would be an extra £2billion in funding over the course of the next three years.  A Green Paper will be published later this year with a view to drawing up a long-term funding plan.

Tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning

The Chancellor said that a fair tax system required people to pay their dues and a series of measures to curb abuses of the system are expected to raise an additional £820million for the Treasury.

A raft of measures to tackle non-compliance were announced, including preventing businesses converting capital losses into trading losses, curbing abuse of foreign pension schemes, introducing UK VAT on roaming telecoms services and imposing new financial penalties for professionals who help facilitate a tax avoidance arrangement that is later defeated by HM Revenue & Customs.

Summary

In his closing remarks, Mr Hammond struck an optimistic tone. Whatever the uncertainties surrounding Brexit, he told MPs that the UK should be confident that our best days lie ahead of us.

It would be fair to say that the Budget was not strewn with giveaways, but the Chancellor did try and take the sting out of some of the main criticisms levelled at the Government in recent months – including its handling of business rates reform and the sluggish response to a mounting care crisis.

That said he is also likely to have stirred up fresh controversies and the decision to increase National Insurance for the self-employed is perhaps evidence that in the current climate tough choices will still have to be made.

To discuss how any of the above changes will affect you and your business, please contact McPhersons on 01424 730000 or email info@mcphersons.co.uk

 

Business in Hastings got in touch with digital experts, McPhersons Chartered Accountants to learn more about digital tax and the impact this could have on you and your business. 

What is ‘Making Tax Digital’?

In 2015, HMRC issued a paper, ‘Making Tax Digital’, which proposes that by 2020 they will have moved to a fully digital tax system. This is not just about software, it signals the end of the traditional tax return.

By 2018 businesses, the self-employed and landlords will need to use software or apps to keep business records and to provide financial information to HMRC on a quarterly basis.

Digital accounts will give small businesses greater certainty and control over their tax position. Those who pay more than one type of tax (corporation tax, VAT, PAYE) will be able to take a single view of their total liabilities across all taxes. There will also be the option to pay tax as you go to help manage your cashflow.

Will it apply to everyone? 
  • The gross turnover or property income threshold of £10,000 is currently being discussed and it is likely that only the smallest unincorporated businesses may be exempt. It will not apply to employees or pensioners unless they have additional income of £10,000 through property or through self-employment
  • Deferring may be possible by one year for gross turnover or income of over £10,000 but below a threshold to be determined.
  • A very small minority who genuinely cannot use digital tools will not have to comply. More details on this are promised.
How do I convert my business to digital? 

Digital record keeping will normally mean using a ‘cloud’ or an online accounting package which records income and expenditure as near to real time as possible. McPhersons will be supporting their clients with this transition with software such as Quickbooks Online, live bank feeds and apps such as Receipt Bank as well as assisting with the transition to cloud accounting.

For some clients this will be a huge change. There will be no more handing over a bag of receipts at the end of the year! Even the use of spreadsheets to record transactions will be superseded by cloud accounting. For those who do their own accounts and tax returns, the more involved system could result in them paying more tax than they need to.

What third party information will be included in my digital tax account?

HMRC already has access to third party information and this will be used more effectively and in real time – i.e. not just looking back historically but looking at live data. For example, collating information from employers, pension providers, banks and building societies. Going forward it may also include income from dividends, peer to peer lending and property and savings income.

How will making tax digital work?

HMRC is currently building its own system alongside software providers like Quickbooks, Xero and Sage. Businesses will need to ensure the software they choose is compatible with HMRC.

McPhersons already offer their clients access to licensed software with all these packages with Quickbooks being the preferred choice for many of their clients. Accountants are going to have a key role in helping their clients make the transition and McPhersons have already gone through the move from desktop to cloud with many of their clients.

How can McPhersons help me convert from desktop to the cloud?

McPhersons are cloud accounting specialists and are trained in a variety of cloud accounting software. If you are not yet on the cloud, they will advise the best solution for your business.

What are the benefits of digital accounting?

There are ways to get the most out of on-line/digital accounting and these include:

  1. Utilising ‘bank feeds’ which can automate much of the bookkeeping work – automatically posting entries to avoid you keying them in.
  2. Expense tracking – taking photos of your expenses and sending these direct to your accounts software which then posts it.
  3. Automated invoicing.
  4. Digital payslips for payroll.
  5. Always having up to date information to enable business and tax planning.
What will it cost my business to convert?

The cost to businesses of introducing digital accounting as well as the continuing costs of maintaining digital records and submitting quarterly updates are concerning.

Free software has been promised by HMRC but seems yet to materialise. However, McPhersons can offer a fixed fee and an affordable monthly payment solution that fits your business model whether you are a sole trader, partnership or limited company. This would cover all the work that is required.

There is a view that reporting online could lead to mistakes and fines.

HMRC is attempting to reassure people that they can report online with confidence and are also being more lenient when mistakes are made. The consultation proposes a graduated model with each non-deliberate failure to submit information on time attracting penalty points. Only once the points reach a set level would a penalty be charged.

They are also willing to share more information with software developers about the triggers of tax investigations. Developers can then adapt their software to warn taxpayers to make amendments before final submission of information.

Tax is a complex issue and most businesses will retain their accountant to ensure they are not paying more tax than they have to.

How will I pay my tax going forward?

You will be able to view your current tax position at any time and can choose whether to pay in a single payment or pay as you go. Voluntary Pay As You Go will apply to those unincorporated businesses, sole traders and landlords, in respect of their Income Tax/National Insurance Contributions/Capital Gain Tax, from 1 April 2018, to VAT from April 2019 and to incorporated businesses, in respect of their corporation tax affairs, from 2020.

Contact McPhersons on 01424 730000 or info@mcphersons.co.uk and we will get you fully prepared for the important changes ahead.

 

 

Philip Hammond the new chancellor confirmed in September 2016 that the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme would close at the end of 2016. This decision brought to end three years of Government support for first time buyers. But will it have an impact on your homeownership aspirations?

A successful policy

The scheme was first introduced in October 2013 in an attempt to boost and provide a deposit percentage of lending at high Loan-To-Values (LTVs). This helped first-time buyers get onto the property ladder. Records show that it appears to have had the desired effect: official figures show that the scheme has supported 86,341 purchases since its launch, with 79% of those being to first-time buyers, and has led to a surge in activity in the high-LTV sector with a welcome boost in competition and product choice across the market. Chancellor Philip Hammond decided to write to Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, to say that the scheme would close to new loans at the end of 2016. He said that it had done the job it was intended to do in kick-starting the high-LTV market with the figures demonstrating that the purpose of the scheme “had been successfully achieved”, and that given the average price of a home bought through the scheme stands at £157,000, it’s been shown to support responsible lending.

The strategy

It was always intended to come to an end in 2016, but there had been calls for it to be continued, particularly given events that could create uncertainty in the market. There were fears that lenders could once again retreat on the LTV position which follows lesser deposits without a Government guarantee to act as support, so the decision to wind down the scheme came as a bit of a surprise to some. However, the Chancellor doesn’t see this as a problem. He said in his letter that the high-LTV sector has become “less reliant on the scheme as confidence has returned,” he went on to say that there are now over 30 lenders that offer 90-95% LTV mortgages outside of the scheme. He believes that the closure of the scheme “will be unlikely, in current market conditions, to affect significantly the provision of finance to prospective mortgagors, including high LTV borrowers”.

Boom or bust

Many believe this is the exchequers fiscal ‘drawing in of the horns’ , so which is it – boom or bust? The Chancellor certainly seems to think that the high-LTV sector will continue to flourish without the scheme being there, but critics think he has got it wrong. Much of it could come down to how the mortgage market as a whole reacts to the uncertainty caused by the referendum, but more recent figures show that lenders are already becoming slightly more cautious about lending to those with only a 5% or 10% deposit.

All may not be lost, however, as it’s worth pointing out that the Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme, the phase of the initiative that provides support to buyers in the form of a Government loan, is still going to be available, so first time buyers could still find some help. However, the market here is slightly different: although 81% of the 91,759 properties bought using the equity loan scheme have gone to first time buyers, the scheme is only open to those buying new build homes, which means the average value of those properties is far higher at around £225,000.

Not everybody wants to go down this road because there will be a lot more concern about future repayments and the possibility of securing a suitable mortgage in the future, particularly for those seeking a higher-value home, and as a result, many could miss the simplicity of the Government guarantee.

To discuss your mortgage options, please get in touch with McPhersons Financial Solutions on 01424 730000 or email info@mcphersonsfs.co.uk.

The problem with investing a lump sum amount in one go, is the timing of the stock market. If it is high then it will be a while before those investments increase further. Making smaller regular payments by drip-feeding money into your investments on a monthly basis can be a much better and highly effective strategy. Here we highlight some of the main benefits of investing smaller amounts on a regular basis.

Getting ‘pound cost averaging’ right

Investors are not happy when they experience falls in their values. However, short-term falls in share prices can actually provide opportunity and prove advantageous over the long-term for regular savers. By investing smaller amounts every month, investors average out the buy price of investments and benefit from a phenomenon known as ‘pound cost averaging’. This means your investment buys more units or shares when the price goes down, as per the table below and allows you to benefit from bigger returns if and when the share price recovers.

Month Amount Investment Share Price Number of Shares
1 £100 £5.00 20
2 £100 £4.00 25
3 £100 £2.50 40

Based on the table above, the average price purchased over the 3 months is £3.53 per share which is £300 investment divided by 85 shares. However, if you had invested the full £300 lump sum in one go during the first month, you would only have received 60 shares, which is £300 investment divided by £5.00. Of course had the market risen each month, your monthly investment would have bought fewer shares and actually have been worse off than if you’d invested a lump sum at that time. It is fair to say, investing is as much about timing as picking the right stock.

Benefits of regular savings

Some people believe that you need lots of money to start investing. In fact, drip-feeding money into investments over a longer period of time can build a very substantial sum. If you invested £250 per month for ten years, you would have a total of over £37,500 (based on a medium growth rate and a 1% charge).

Affordability – you can start investing from as little as £25 per month and it often costs no more in dealing charges

No fear – Instinctively you will watch the shares as the move up and down and probably want to buy quickly and more when shares are rising and less when they are falling. With smaller investing the money can be automatically taken from your bank account via direct debit and invested every month, regardless of price and movement, which removes the fear factor.

Flexibility – you can alter your investment choices and the amount you invest from month to month. You can even suspend payments for a period if you wish.

The sooner you start the more you will have invested on share platforms, you can choose to invest monthly into a wide selection of investments including, FTSE shares and eligible investment trusts. It’s easy to get started and you can set up a direct debit with some companies from just £25 per month and drip-feed money into your investments. You can also set up a regular savings instruction into Stocks & Shares ISAs, Fund & Share Accounts, SIPPs, Pensions or a Junior Stocks & Shares ISAs with many companies.

The value of your investment and the income from it can go down as well as up and you may not get back the original amount invested. Past performance is not a reliable indicator for future results. Levels, bases and reliefs from taxation are subject to change and their value depends on the individual circumstances of the investor. Please contact us for further information or if you are in any doubt as to the suitability of an investment.

This guide and article are not advice. If you are unsure of that suitability of an investment for your circumstances please seek advice. Once held in a pension money is not usually accessible until age 55, which is rising to 58 in 2028. 

Need more help? This feature aims to give some informal hints. If you are unsure of the suitability of an investment for your circumstances please contact McPhersons Financial Solutions for a free meeting info@mcphersonsfs.co.uk or call 01424 730000.

 

 

For weeks now, senior figures from the world of business have been at pains to point out just how important this year’s Autumn Statement will be.

The new Chancellor, Philip Hammond, stepped up to the despatch box to give his most significant speech since he took charge of the Treasury during the summer.

If his predecessor George Osborne, now watching from the backbenches, had come to be defined by his ongoing battle to balance the books in the wake of a financial crisis, the start of Mr Hammond’s tenure was always going to be overshadowed by one word. Brexit.

Businesses across the UK – and indeed overseas – were watching closely to see how the Government intends to steady the economy ahead of the UK beginning the formal process of leaving the European Union.

In his opening remarks, Mr Hammond laid out his stall.

“We will maintain our commitment to fiscal discipline, while recognising the need for investment to drive productivity,” he said.

Economic overview

The Chancellor will have been acutely aware, as he rose to address the Commons, that many headlines tomorrow would be dominated by the economic outlook and in particular the fall in growth forecasts.

He sought to extenuate the positives, pointing out that employment levels were at a record high, the deficit was falling as a share of GDP and that the economy had shown resilience in the wake of the summer’s referendum.

But he also acknowledged that the Brexit vote meant it was more imperative than ever to tackle any frailties in the nation’s finances, adding that the Government was committed to tackling these challenges head-on.

Growth is expected to be 2.4 per cent lower over the forecast period as a result of the uncertainty arising from the referendum result.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has calculated that growth will be 2.1 per cent this year, falling to 1.4 per cent in 2017.

“That is lower than we would like, but still higher than many of our European neighbours,” said Mr Hammond.

Borrowing, meanwhile, will be 3.5 per cent this year, dropping to 0.7 per cent by 2021-22.

While acknowledging that the Government no longer expected to balance the books by the end of the decade, the Chancellor announced three new fiscal rules: to achieve a surplus in the next Parliament and reduce borrowing to two per cent by the end of this one, to get net debt falling by 2020 and to ensure welfare spending is kept within a cap set by the Government.

Business and enterprise

The Chancellor was unequivocal that he wanted the UK to retain its reputation as a top destination for businesses.

He reiterated his predecessor’s commitment to reduce Corporation Tax to 17 per cent, although speculation that he may announce a further reduction (perhaps to 15 per cent) proved to be wide of the mark.

There was news of a two per cent reduction in the transitional relief cap, which will be overseen by the Communities Secretary, and Rural Rate Relief will increase to 100 per cent. This will be worth up to £2,900 for eligible firms.

Conversely, employers will have to make preparations for another increase in the National Living Wage next year. The statutory wage floor will increase from £7.20 an hour to £7.50 as of April 2017.

As part of efforts to make the UK a “world leader” in 5G broadband, ministers will also be offering 100 per cent business rates relief on new fibre infrastructure from April next year.

Finally £400million will be pumped into venture capital funds, via the British Business Bank, to help unlock £1billion in finance for expanding businesses.

Transport and infrastructure

Mr Hammond said that the Government was committed to high-value investment in the nation’s infrastructure and that all of the UK would feel the benefit, acknowledging that too much onus had been placed on London in the past.

At the core of proposals are plans for a new national productivity investment fund, a £23billion pot which will be used to fund innovation and infrastructure.

There was also a commitment that investment in research and development will increase by £2billion annually by 2020, a £1billion digital infrastructure fund (with an emphasis on improved broadband) and the promise of a £1.1billion in additional spending on England’s transport network.

Property

As had been widely trailed before the speech, Mr Hammond confirmed that he would be banning fees charged by letting agents to tenants.

The move, which had actually been Labour policy at the last General Election, was designed to address the fact that fees were continuing to spiral upwards despite the efforts to regulate them. It had nonetheless attracted criticism in some quarters as another “assault” on landlords.

Mr Hammond admitted that a large section of the population continued to struggle to get a foot on the property ladder and said that the Government would shortly be publishing a new white paper to address some of the pressing issues relating to housing.

The Chancellor also confirmed plans for a £2.3billion Housing Infrastructure Fund, which will lay the ground for the construction of 100,000 new homes. In addition, there will be a £1.4billion investment to deliver 40,000 additional affordable homes.

As part of ongoing efforts to increase home ownership, there will be a “large-scale regional pilot” of Right to Buy for housing association tenants.

Personal tax

There was welcome news for many taxpayers in the form of an increase to the personal allowance. This will rise from its current level of £11,000 to £11,500 from April 2017. And Mr Hammond said that the Government remained committed to raising it still further (to £12,500) by the end of this Parliament.

Meanwhile, the 40p rate will increase to £50,000 over the course of the same period.

As regards National Insurance (NI), from next April the employee and employer thresholds will be aligned at £157 a week.

There was good news for the nation’s motorists, with the announcement that the Treasury would be cancelling the proposed rise in fuel duty for the seventh year running. On average this is calculated to save car drivers £130 a year and van drivers £350.

However, insurance premium tax will rise to 12 per cent (up from 10 per cent) which some have suggested is likely to wipe out any savings arising from the crackdown on fraudulent whiplash claims.

Tax savings relating to salary sacrifice and benefits in kind are also to come to an end, although exceptions will be made for pensions, childcare, cycling and ultra-low emission vehicles.

Pensions and savings

There were comparatively few announcements on pensions, although Mr Hammond did confirm that the Government would usher in a ban on pension cold-calling.

The Chancellor said that the Government was also committed to helping the nation’s savers and set out plans for a three-year investment bond, offering a 2.2 per cent interest rate on deposits of up to £3,000.

Tax evasion, avoidance and aggressive tax planning

Mr Hammond said the Government had a proud record of tackling tax avoidance and evasion and that the tax gap was one of the lowest in the world.

As part of the ongoing drive to ensure that businesses pay their fair share, he outlined plans for a new penalty for those who enable tax avoidance, which HMRC later challenges and defeats.

Overall it is calculated that the various anti-tax avoidance measures will raise in the region of £2billion over the forecast period.

End of the Autumn Statement

One of the biggest surprises was the news that this year’s Autumn Statement would be the last.

Next year will be the last time that the Budget takes place in the spring. After that it will be moved to the autumn, and while there will be a Spring Statement, this will be used principally to respond to OBR forecasts rather than as a platform for any major announcements.

Mr Hammond said that having just one financial announcement each year would bring the UK in line with the IMF’s best practice.

Summary

Ahead of today’s speech, the Chancellor seemed to play down the prospect of any dramatic new policy announcements, instead placing emphasis on a tax and spending plan which would prioritise prudence and stability.

Certainly this wasn’t a delivery sprinkled with giveaways and perhaps the biggest surprise – given that the media had been briefed in advance about many of the headline announcements – was that Mr Hammond’s first Autumn Statement would also be his last.

The decision to condense all the major tax and spending plans into one annual summary is partly designed to give businesses greater stability and this may well be welcomed in the current climate.

Mr Hammond is unlikely to get away from the fact that uncertainty surrounding Britain’s departure from the EU is calculated to have created a £122billion black hole in the national finances.

 

The buy-to-let market has seen some very significant changes in 2016, most significantly the increase of the additional 3% in stamp duty on any property you own in addition to your primary home.

What this means for those looking to invest their money in buy to lets or property generally may not find the same kind of sound investment that property once provided and offered.

The hike in stamp duty means that any buy-to-let property now attracts a 3% surcharge, which is a considerable increase from the previous rate. Under the old system, if you were buying a property for £200,000, you would pay nothing on the first £125,000 and 2% on the remaining £75,000, resulting in a stamp duty tax bill of £1,500. Now with the 3% levied on the first £125,000 and 5% on the £75,000, you get hit with a much larger £7,500 stamp duty tax bill. This now makes the wait to get additional cost back from any profits much longer.

The longer term prospects for the financial health of buy-to-let does not look good. From April 2017, new limits are being introduced on the amount of mortgage interest that can be offset against rent payments.

It’s a complicated system that some predict will transform profitable buy-to-lets into loss-making properties in most locations, which in turn could force landlords to raise rents considerably or put their properties up for sale.

The chancellor has also stated there will also be cuts to the ‘wear and tear’ allowances, which allow costs for maintenance to be offset against rental income, making achieving a profit even harder to achieve for landlords.

There are also plans in the pipeline from the Bank of England for greater restrictions on who will be eligible for a buy-to-let mortgage. These will mean a wider consideration of a potential landlord’s financial situation, including scrutiny of their monthly income and outgoings, as opposed to just consideration of the rental income of the property under the current system.

The landlords association feels this is a deliberate ploy by the chancellor to free up housing to substitute those the government has failed to plan for.

Ultimately, if you are looking to enter the buy-to-let market soon, you should consider the returns and these new rules. When investing it is always wise to spread your investments and have a diversified portfolio that doesn’t rely solely on placing your money in property just in case as now bricks and mortar means that, even if matters in the property market don’t go your way. 

Need more help?

This feature  aims  to give some informal hints and McPhersons are offering small businesses free advice so get in touch now to arrange your free meeting on 01424 730000 or info@mcphersons.co.uk.

 

We would all like to have substantial income so that we can stop or cut down on the amount of time we spend at work or even retire altogether. But what if you are facing a pension shortfall or need to meet an unexpected expense. Equity release may be an option to consider, as it allows you to unlock some of the wealth accumulated in your property without having to downsize. However, before you consider taking this option, there are key aspects of it which you must consider.

There are two main types of equity release scheme:

Lifetime mortgage – which is a loan secured on your home, it is repaid by selling your home when you die or go into long-term care.

Home reversion – Where you sell all or part of your home to a scheme provider in return for regular income or a cash lump sum, or both, and continue to live in your home for as long as you wish. To qualify for equity release you have to be usually 55 or over and own your own home. If you do have an outstanding mortgage and want to take out equity release, you will need to settle your mortgage first, which will affect the amount you then have access to for other purposes. You will receive tax-free cash as a lump sum, a regular income, or both, to use as you wish and you can continue to live in your own home. Remember though that it is still your responsibility to maintain the home.

Your equity release questions answered:

Q: Is there a minimum amount I have to take?
A: There could be a minimum amount you have to take, it will depend on the scheme and provider. But you may not have to take it all at once. Drawdown loans can be taken in smaller amounts over time.

Q: What happens to my partner if I die?
A: The scheme should be in both your names then the arrangements will continue. If you are using equity release to increase your income, make sure you consider the situation should you or your partner die. If the property and scheme were in your sole name, the property would have to be sold and your partner would have to move out, unless they could repay the lifetime mortgage in full.

Q: Does equity release reduce the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) due on my estate?
A: Equity release will reduce the value of your estate when you die, which may reduce a potential IHT liability. If you are considering using an equity release scheme as part of your planning for IHT, you should obtain professional financial advice.

Q: Is a sale-and-rent-back scheme the same as a home reversion?
A: No, because if you rent you may have to leave your home after the end of the fixed term in your tenancy agreement, which may only last a few years and you may have to pay a much higher rent than under a home reversion plan, and the rent could go up.

Q: What happens if we need long-term care?
A: Your equity release scheme will usually continue unchanged if care is provided in your own home or just one of you moves to a residential or nursing home. If you both move into a care home, the scheme will usually end and the property will be sold. Releasing equity from your home is a very big lifetime commitment, so ensure you have included your family in any decision you make. Equity release may involve a lifetime mortgage or a home reversion plan. To understand the features and risks, it is crucial to obtain a personalised illustration from a professionally qualified adviser because equity release is not right for everyone and it may affect your entitlement to state benefits and will reduce the value of your estate.
INFORMATION IS BASED ON OUR CURRENT UNDERSTANDING OF TAXATION LEGISLATION AND REGULATIONS. ANY LEVELS AND BASES OF, AND RELIEFS FROM, TAXATION ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE. Need more help? This feature aims to give some informal hints and McPhersons Financial Solutions are offering free advice so get in touch now to arrange your meeting.

The state pension was first introduced in May 1908 by the then recently appointed Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith.  The Old Age Pensions Act received royal assent in August of that year and the first payments were made to pensioner in January of the following year.

At that time eligible people over the age of 70 were entitled to a maximum payment of five shilling per week – in today’s term’s this is the equivalent to £20.

Comparing the first 100 years of the state pension it’s clear to see why the government’s pension budget is now under strain. In 1908, there were 500,000 pensioners – in 2008 there were 12 million. The £20 per week payment had increased to £90, and the ratio for surviving to age 100 had increased from 1:200 to 1:4. The government decided to push an initiative for us to save for our own retirement to compliment the state provision.

In 2008, a revised Pensions Act was made for all eligible employees to be automatically enrolled into their company pension. The membership of this scheme runs between October 2012 and February 2018 by which time every organisation of any size will need to offer a workplace pension to their workers.

Employees – will you be automatically enrolled?

As a worker you will fall into one of three categories, one of which automatically places you in your workplace pension. This most common category covers all UK workers aged between 22 and state pension age who earn over £10,000 per year.

If this means you – contributions to your pension will begin at the next pay day after the company’s ‘staging date’ (or after a maximum 3-month postponement period if this has been utilised by your employer). Although you have a right to opt-out, this can only be done once you have been assessed for eligibility, i.e. after staging date.

Pension contributions are based on a qualifying band of income (£5,824 – £43,000 for this tax year). Initially you will pay 1% including tax relief, rising to 5% in April 2019. Your employer will pay 1% of your qualifying earnings, rising to 3% in April 2019. These are minimum amounts and you are normally able to increase your contributions if you wish, however your employer is not obliged to follow suit.

Employers – Is your company ready for auto-enrolment?

Choosing a pension scheme for auto-enrolment is a complicated and time consuming process. There are a number of steps your company will need to go through; starting with finding out your company’s staging date, assessing your workforce, keeping them up-to- date with the pension changes, and informing the Pensions Regulator that you have met your obligations. Once the pension scheme is up and running you then need to make contributions and manage opt-outs and new joiners.

Furthermore, there are a number of other issues that you will need to consider to practically implement the regulations:

  • Which product solution will best suit
  • Which product solution will best suit your company’s needs?
  • What will you choose as your default investment and contribution level?
  • How the costs and admin burden affect your business?
  • How will you retain and maintain your records?
  • How will you notify your eligible jobholders?

Can McPhersons help?

The Pensions Regulator has stated that 7/10 employers are seeking advice on meeting their Auto-Enrolment obligations. If you require assistance, Aron Gunningham is our pension specialist and an independent financial adviser. Aron will be happy to help answer your questions and guide you through your duties.

The Pension Regulator has issued financial penalties for company’s who do not comply by their staging date, or for errors in the scheme once it has been setup. Coupled with the admin involved in meeting your duties, it would be prudent to speak to a financial professional.

Although we can be excused for thinking that our National Insurance contributions should be paying for our retirement, inevitably the state provision will not be sufficient. Under the newly formed ‘single-tier’ state pension, retirees in 2016/17 are entitled to a full pension of £155.65 per week. Rarely is this seen as enough to live on. Like it or not, we must find alternative ways to supplement our retirement income. Auto Enrolment, although not a perfect solution, is the Governments way of forcing us to think more carefully about funding our retirement.

Just call 01424 730000 or email info@mcphersons.co.uk to arrange your free meeting.

You may have heard about storing data in the cloud but did you know that the cloud is not just for that, it is for many other things as well. One of the things it can be used for is accounting. We sat down with the guys at McPherson’s who gave us an overview of what it is and how it can benefit businesses of all sizes, so read on and see if it is for you.

What is cloud accounting and why should I have it?

Whatever the size of your business, small or large, there are many advantages to cloud accounting. It will allow you to work faster, smarter, view your financial information in real time (rather than just when your accounts are prepared) and will allow your accountant to provide more relevant, up to date advice.

How do we know this? Because we are already in it, alongside many of our clients.

What does working ‘in the cloud’ actually mean?

The cloud basically means you have your own space on the internet for all your accounting data. This makes your data and software available anywhere, at any time. All you have to do is log on and you can see everything that is normally currently available on your own hard drive.

The cloud is not just about accounting, it’s everything that allows you to continue working normally wherever you are. As long as you have internet access, you can view your normal desktop from any device, anywhere.

Consider the advantages of this if you implement a more modern, hot-desking, home working culture?

Even better, our clients can see their own information in real time, at any time during the year. Gone are the days that you have to wait until months after the year end to see how your business is doing.

Cloud accounting solutions have great reporting facilities and you can access this not just from your PC but your mobile devices too. Now, together, you can assess performance throughout the year and recommend solutions to improve profits or reduce costs and provide timely tax planning.

I’ve got accounting software – what’s wrong with this?

Ask yourself are you getting the most out of it. Is it cloud based? Does it have good reporting? Is your bookkeeping always up to date? Does your accountant talk to you during the year about your business or does he/she have no idea how your business has performed until the year end accounts are prepared (probably many months after the year end)?

To find out more about how you can get ‘in the cloud’ get in touch with McPhersons on 01424 730000 or info@mcphersons.co.uk