Save Money This Year with Tax Breaks for Couples

It was Valentines Season, and as you celebrate with your significant other, I thought you could use a few pointers about how to make your status as a couple work for you – financially speaking. For this feature, couples will refer to married pairs (because marriage is recognized by the law).

Here are a few tips to help you put money aside for other household items.

How can I save money as a married spouse?

Under the current UK tax regulations, the following scenarios can result in tax breaks for married couples:

  1. Marriage Allowance

For couples in different tax brackets, marriage allowances present a great tax relief option. If you earn less than £11,500 and your partner falls within the £11,501-45,000 tax bracket, you can transfer 10% of your unused personal allowance to your partner. He/she will then be able to save up to £230 per annum.

  1. Sharing ownership of Buy to Let Property

Transferring ownership of a property between a married couple will incur no capital gains tax. This is what makes it a great tax relief strategy for couples. This strategy involves one spouse transferring shares of a property to the other. If your spouse earns lower income and pays tax at lower rate, this enables part of the property income being taxed at lower rate. However, the overall situations of both partners need to be assessed in order to determine whether or not this strategy is a good fit.

  1. Transfer of Business Ownership

If your partner makes a significant and legitimate strategic contribution and bringing him or her on board was part of your long-term business strategy, transferring shares of your business to them will help you save tax in the long term. Your business will enjoy the first £5,000 tax-free allowance, while the payment of dividends and salaries to you and your spouse will reduce the taxes owed by the business.

  1. Savings on Wedding Cost

This is a creative way for couples to save money through tax relief if they’re planning to get married. Donating valuable wedding decorations to your church, or a charity that is close to your heart, is considered as charitable donations and you can get tax relief from it. However, be aware of the limitations. For example, you will not get tax relief if the size of the donation is more than 4 times of the tax you’ve paid in previous year.

  1. Inheritance Tax

As a married couple, you and your spouse could double your nil rate band for inheritance tax purposes. What that means is that your inheritance value could go untaxed for up to £650,000 if your spouse did not utilize his/her inheritance tax.

P.S. If you find this content useful, we do provide tailored professional advice on your personal or business tax matters. If you are interested, please book me in via the link so we can arrange a chat: https://hannah-xu.youcanbook.me

Mid-Year Tax Planning – Allowance Maximisation

Have you considered mid-year tax planning so that you can take action in time to maximise your allowances and save tax? Mid-year tax planning is around October and there is less than 6 months till 17/18 tax year ends. A lot of people overlook things during the tax year and do not take action which causes them to not take advantage of available allowances and they receive a high tax bill. We are going to share some tips on what you need to consider at this time of the tax year to make the most of your entitled allowances.

3 Major Allowances You Need to Consider

  1. Pension Contribution – If you are paying tax on the 20% threshold, every £80 you invest in your pension pot, the taxman will top-up £20. It is effectively 25% return of investment. No other investment will give a good return as this and it is relatively stable. Despite your income level, you will always need to consider this type of allowance first. For most small businesses, it has now become an obligation for employers to contribute pension to their employees if they are an eligible worker. This type of contribution is funding your retirement and it is funding your future. Even if you could squeeze around £15 per month to your pension pot, that small amount will build up and eventually will give support your lifestyle when you retire. Currently the annual allowance is £40,000. It will be reduced when your income is over £150k. So consult your financial advisor if you consider investing relatively high amount of it.
  2. ISA Allowance – You might want to consider having some savings which is something that everyone can afford to do. A type of savings account is an ISA that is available at the moment. For 17-18 tax year, you can invest up to £20,000 worth of funds into an ISA. There is a cash ISA available as well as a stocks and shares ISA. The interest and dividends you earn from that particular ISA wrapper is tax-free as well. You do not have to have a lot of money in order to start saving, every small contribution counts. In reality, cash ISA can be very useful for when you are considering some emergency funds. It is easily accessible and the interest in it is tax-free.
  3. Venture Capital Trust – This allowance does require more amount of money and is relatively high-risk but the reward is really good. Every £10,000 you invest in a VCT, you receive £3,000 as a tax relief which means you get cash back from the government. It is a government scheme and the money goes towards UK start-up companies. It is a government incentive to encourage people to invest in UK businesses because these are the type of businesses that are very ambitious. The government wants to boost the prosperity and wants these companies to grow. Running a business is not always easy, most small business owners will have a brilliant idea but they might need a certain amount of capital which a VCT can provide.

If you can afford to invest then this is something you can consider, especially if you are earning more than £100,000 as an employee. This can help to reduce tax bill for someone who cannot form a company to run their business and have to be a sole trader but also earn a significant amount of profit. The downside is that you are investing in a small business and it is not always stable, it can be very risky therefore you would always need to consider your risk profile. If you are interested in investing then do seek for professional advice on this matter as a financial advisor will analyse your risk profile. There are different types of investments out there and it is not a good idea to put all of your money into a VCT so you do need to spread out your investments. This is to ensure that you always have some investments to lean on when one goes wrong. Once you have invested, the money will be tied up for at least 5 years, in order for you to keep the tax relief, which means that if you have some immediate cash needs then this is not an option that you should consider. However, if that is not the case then once the small companies grow and pay dividends, the dividends you receive are tax-free.

Things You Need to Double-Check

There are other situations that are quite common and should not be overlooked. If you are an employee you need to double-check if you have made sure your tax code is correct. For example, if you have a wrong tax code and are earning £70,000 but your tax code is BR this means only 20% can be taken from everything you earn which. This means you are under taxed which is a situation that you would want to avoid so do check your tax code if you are on PAYE.

If you are self-employed and the business has just started to take off, you can consider restructuring and looking out for the tax deductions so you do not miss out on them.

P.S. If you find this content useful, we do provide tailored professional advice on your personal or business tax matters. If you are interested, please book me in via the link so we can arrange a chat: https://hannah-xu.youcanbook.me

How Cloud Technology Has Changed the Way Accounting Services Are Delivered

The rising of cloud technology has replaced a lot of labour intensive work. The old way of accounting, which focuses only on number crunching tasks, is going to be replaced by technology. But the new breed of accounting profession will look to interest their clients with the cause and prevention of high tax bills.

Cloud Accounting

Most of us might have been through some sort of technology change over the last couple of years. The digital accounting systems that used to cost thousands of pounds are now replaced by cloud accounting in as little as £20 per month. You do not need to install it onto your PC or on a laptop. You simply have a login and are able to look at your financial information. As it is cloud based, it is easy to sync it with your bank statements which will allow you to have direct bank feeds. All of these things have replaced a lot of labour-intensive work.

Entry-less Receipt Processing (e.g. Receipt Bank)

When it comes to accounting, in the past 5 to 10 years it has involved a tremendous amount of paperwork. Nowadays there are systems and apps like Receipt Bank that can help with the workload. Receipt Bank allows you to take a picture within the app on your smartphone and import it straight to the system. It also enables you to export it as an excel document from there. You do not have to input the name, category and amount as the system does that for you. It extracts the information and saves it as a draft, which you can approve eventually.

It is very handy as you do not have to keep the paper receipts once you have taken a picture of them as it is stored in the cloud. There is a study that shows that keeping physical copies of receipts is not good for your health as the ink on the receipts have a certain type of chemical in them. Receipt Bank not only saves you time and makes things easier, it benefits your health too. When you are digitally storing information, you must always keep in mind cyber security and data protection but in general accounting systems do have a certain level of security that they aim to maintain.

Benefits of Cloud Accounting

  • Most clients nowadays prefer to provide information via cloud accounting especially when it comes to bank statements. This is a benefit as you do not need as much space or storage as before. If some clients do send some paperwork, you can just store it temporarily and scan the document to store it in a cloud then send it back to the client.
  • Less space required and less storage means you do not need to spend much money hiring somewhere big. You can hire an open office and are able to still get the job done.

What System Should You Use If You Are Self-Employed?

When you become self-employed or start your own company you have to take care of your own tax and self-assess your accounts and your tax bill. This means you would need to keep track of how much profit you have made and keep track of your expenses so that you can run your business properly. Most people nowadays do own their own laptops or have access to one, it is very easy to pull out a spreadsheet to total all income and keep a note of all the receipts in order to categorise them etc.

Microsoft Excel is cheap and very easy to use, it is quite straightforward but the downside of it is that when you need to put out a report, it can be quite time-consuming as you would need to key in all the words and dates into the spreadsheet. Another downside of Excel is that if you have inputted data into the spreadsheet, anyone else can edit it and input other data which can eventually create errors and can be hard to track. With cloud technology, you can view what has been changed and can track who has edited it which makes things clear. You can always find out the root of a single mistake and are able to correct it.

There are several cloud technologies that you can use such as:

  • Xero
  • QuickBooks
  • KashFlow

Always go for the providers that are bigger, popular and have more recommendations because the smaller ones might end up being merged by the bigger providers.

When Is the Right Time to Start Using Bigger Providers Instead of Spreadsheet?

Spreadsheet is very straightforward to use, if you really want to keep track of your businesses it is more ideal to set up the company on a proper accounting system especially if you are planning for the business to grow. If you do not have a lot of transactions then you can take the time to get familiar with the accounting system. If you have a lot of transactions, you can outsource but you need to make sure you do have the knowledge and the wellness to know what is going on. If you are really serious about your business then it is important to have a proper system set up from day one.

There are people previously on desktop systems such as Sage and would like to transition. You can use a third-party system called Move My Books and you can take the Sage backup and use it to transition to Xero. It helps because you do not need to stress out too much, of course in the end you would need to double-check everything but if you take the right steps, everything should match perfectly.

Nowadays as long as your bank statements are synchronised with your accounting system and most things are automated then you are able to submit important information to HMRC or Companies House. All you or your accountant would need to do is just tweak the figures and then you are able to submit it which is less time-consuming. If you are doing your bookkeeping on Xero, you are able to submit your VAT Return straight from there which is very handy. Xero also allows you to customise your reports just to show you the numbers that really matter to the business. Just because a lot of the work that accountants have been doing has been replaced by technology does not mean that it will make all accountants redundant. It just means that is time for the profession to change the way that it delivers its service.

If Cloud Technology Replaced A Lot of Accountant’s Work, How Will That Change the Way Accountancy Services Are Delivered?

The idea is that cloud technology will automate most of the accounts and tax preparation work, the new breed of accountancy profession will focus more on caring about clients’ needs, help them ease their tension around cash flow problems and pay the right amount of tax through their proactive advisory services. Certainly, a cloud accounting system will make your life much easier. It also makes the accountants life much easier too and that means you can expect slightly reduced accountancy fees when you operate your business on a cloud accounting system.

What it really means is accountants need to change. They will no longer be paid for just adding up the numbers. Technology will do that. Instead, the accountant for the future will interest their clients in the care of their financial health, in tax saving, and in the cause and prevention of cash flow problems. Some accountants will make that change. Some won’t. Either way, it is a good thing for business owners.

If you find this content useful, we do provide tailored professional advice on your personal or business tax matters. If you are interested, please direct message the author of this article so we can arrange a chat.

 

Understand Your National Insurance Contributions

What is National Insurance and What is it Used For?

National Insurance is one of the payroll deductions and a majority of people do have to face it at some degree. National Insurance is used to fund state benefits such as; state pension, maternity allowance and unemployment allowance. These deductions are indirectly benefiting you or benefiting you for the long-term.

Who Needs to Pay National Insurance?

Employee – For employees, the payroll deduction will be class 1 National Insurance.

Self-Employed – There will be two kinds of National Insurance that you would need to pay when you are making a profit, the first is class 2 and the other is class 4.

Business Owners –As a business owner who has employees working for you need to take care of class 1 as well as the class 1 secondary contribution (i.e. employer’s contribution, which is paid on top of your employees’ gross salary).

Investors – Investment income like stocks and shares, dividend income, when you sell assets or if you rent a home do not trigger any National Insurance. However, if you run a property management business as a sole trader, class 2 and 4 National Insurance may apply to you.

Different Classes of National Insurance and Rates

  • Class 1 – As an employee, if you are earning above that then it is 12% till you earn up to £45,000 but after £45,000 it is only 2%. When your earning goes up, the rates go down. When you have multiple jobs, you need to watch out for your overall earning and if it is more than £45,000. If each job is under £45,000 and everything collected is at 12% then you may have overpaid National Insurance so you do need to watch out for that. Currently, if you are earning less than £8,164 you do not have to pay National Insurance.
  • Class 2 – This is a flat rate contribution, which means that it is £2.85 on a weekly basis. As a self-employed individual, you do need to declare your income through self-assessment, which is also known as a personal tax return. On your tax return, you will have the tax and the National Insurance, which you will have to pay. If your profit is less than £6,025 then you probably will not have to pay class 2 or class 4.
  • Class 3 – This is a voluntary contribution. For instance, if you do not pay National Insurance or if you are an investor and you want to contribute for your state pension then you can voluntarily choose to pay as class 3.
  • Class 4 – This has the same threshold as class 1. Between £8,164 and £45,000 it is 9% and above £45,000 it is 2%. It is collected based on the profit you make. It is important to note that in the future the government may abolish class 2 but if that is the case they may increase the class 4 rate.

Special Attention for Small Business Owners

If you decide to incorporate and are a one-man band company, then decide to take salary from the company, if you are taking more than £8,164 a year then you have to have the main class 1 contribution as well as secondary contribution. Secondary contribution is 13.8% which is paid on top of your gross pay.

  1. Director’s National Insurance – The way director’s pay National Insurance is different to their employees. If you are a normal employee your National Insurance is calculated on a monthly basis but as a director it is calculated on a cumulative basis. For example, if you take £1,000 in month 1, as it is under £8,164 there are no deductions but towards the end of the tax year your accumulative salary is above £8,164 so you start to have more deductions.
  2. Employers Allowance – Most small businesses qualify for approximately £3,000 per year for employer’s allowance. This amount can be deducted from the secondary national insurance. If the government is giving you a £3,000 exemption, you are able to save up to £3,000 a year. If you are a director-only company, unfortunately this does not apply to you, but if you are a small business then it is very likely you will qualify for it. You can double-check with your payroll bureau or accountant.

Understand Your Payslips

 

Payslip v01

What is the number you care about the most when you receive a payslip? That would be the net pay for most people. But your payslip is more than just the net pay!

In this article, we will guide you through what are included in the payslips you receive, what are the deductions, tax codes, etc., in order raise awareness so you can look after your own finances better.

 

Deductions on a Payslip

 

There are two parts of a payslip; income and deductions. The income part of the payslip is very straightforward, some people might notice they may have some other taxable income such as commission, bonuses, etc. However, there are different types of deductions that you need to be aware of. Income tax and national insurance are the two main types of deductions, but at times you may come across a third which is pension.

 

Income Tax vs National Insurance

 

Income tax can also be called PAYE and the amount deducted is based on how much you earn. On the other hand, national insurance goes to the state benefit and has its own threshold. For example, if a person earns more than £8,164 for the current year, then they will have to pay national insurance. The starting rate is 12% up until £45,000 but anything above is 2%. That is what makes income tax and national insurance so different. The more you earn the more income tax is deducted but at the same time the more you earn the less national insurance is being deducted.

 

Pension

 

With auto-enrolment taking place, more people will start to see pension being deducted from their payslip. Although it is classed as a deduction, it is of benefit to you as the amount taken will go into your own pot. The amount is put aside for your retirement. The more you put into your pension the less income tax you have to pay, which is something you might want to consider for the long-run.

 

Tax Codes

 

Tax codes can be very complicated to understand but they are very important. Every year, the normal tax code can be slightly different because each year the personal allowance is different.

 

· 1150L – A lot of people will have this tax code which is the tax code for the current year 16/17. This means that the personal allowance is £11,500.

 

· Emergency Tax Code – There may be different tax codes based on previous overpaid or underpaid tax and if you have a second job. This type of tax code will appear if your employer was not sure what tax code you had from your previous job. Currently it is 1150L W1/M1.

 

Where appropriate, it is important to consider talking to an accountant so that you can make sure you have the correct tax code or paying the right amount of national insurance.

 

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For more details of the tax breaks and tailored advice, please get in touch with the author of this article!