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Inheritance tax and investments

by John Westwood features@algarveresident.com

John Westwood is the Managing Director of Blacktower Financial Management Group.

Most offshore life companies go to some lengths to highlight that their products are not totally tax free.

For example, most life offices will point out the issue of ‘withholding tax’ that may apply to certain assets.

This is most commonly seen on UK equities where dividends suffer Advanced Corporation Tax (ACT), something that can never be reclaimed. 

They also go some way to make clear that even though a non-UK resident client may not be subject to tax in the UK at the time of a chargeable event (this being a withdrawal, surrender, part-surrender etc.), there is still the likelihood of them being taxed locally in their country of residence.

It is due to these comments that offshore life products are sometimes discounted as suitable solutions by both Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) and clients alike.

How many UK expats are still holding onto a portfolio of Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) and/or Personal Equity Plans (PEPs)?

It is interesting to contrast these with UK tax-favoured products especially ISAs. Often we see articles written claiming that ISAs are tax-free when they should properly be described as ‘free of income and capital gains tax’.

Perhaps there should also be references to withholding tax, since ISAs are not able to reclaim ACT and suffer this in the same way as offshore life companies. 

UK based-IFAs compliance ‘processes’ will usually insist on an adviser ensuring that ISA allowances are fully utilised, before capital can be invested into other products.

If not doing so, the IFA has to jump through a lot of hoops to justify why not. So before they can consider the multitude of investment options out there, they are required to maximise these so called ‘tax-free’ allowances.

There is perhaps an even bigger issue for advisers who fail to point out to their clients that ISAs are as IHT planning un-friendly as you can get!

But what about the effects of Inheritance Tax?

Most important is the inheritance tax (IHT) issue facing an increasing number of investors and particularly those who have been assiduously funding their ISAs and PEPs for many years.

There are a surprising number of people who have, or very soon will have, more than the £325,000 nil-rate band held in these products.

In that situation, and when included in the total value of an estate, the ISAs (or PEPs) are almost certain to give rise to a liability to inheritance tax at 40%. 

Inheritance Tax Planning with ISAs and PEPs…

Unlike other investment products, ISAs cannot be held in trust or given away, so they are unsuited to IHT planning. 

In fact, for some unlucky investors, the amount of IHT that could be payable as a result of these holdings could be higher than the income and capital gains tax that they have saved.

What options are open to me?

To counter this, investors need to be critically aware of their situation and plan appropriately, avoiding the seduction of inaccurate claims of ‘tax-free’ status.A ‘bigger’ financial picture is required to take into consideration all aspects of financial planning with a big emphasis on ‘taxation’ in your place of residence as well as ‘inheritance tax planning’.

Remember, being not resident in the UK does not necessarily exempt you from your UK domicile and therefore a liability to UK IHT.

This facility is not suitable for all expatriates and we recommend that specialist advice should always be sought to examine any financial planning requirements you may consider.

As an Independent Financial Adviser, Blacktower seeks to ensure that our clients receive the advice suitable for their specific circumstances. Please contact us for further details on 289 355 685.

Blacktower Financial Management Group – Telephone 289 355 685.

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