Keep The Taxman At Bay
Pretty much all the money your earn is subject to some degree of taxation, but you can protect some of it from income tax, Capital Gains Tax (CGT), and inheritance tax. The easiest way to prevent all of your money from falling into the taxman's clutches? Wrap it up in an ISA, pensions, and trusts.
The Individual Savings Account (ISA)
The simplest way to protect your money from income tax and CGT is to hold your savings and investments in an Individual Savings Account, or ISA. An ISA is essentially a tax-proof wrapper for your money: as long as it's tucked inside an ISA, you won't have to pay tax on any income or gains you make from your money.
There are limits to how much you can put in an ISA in each tax year. For the 2013/14 tax year (tax years run from April 6 to April 5) you have a maximum ISA allowance of £11,520. You can invest all of this allowance in shares or funds but only up to £5,760 in cash. So for example, you could put in £5,760 in cash and £5,760 in shares, or you could put the whole £11,520 in shares. The Government has said it plans to raise the ISA limit each year, in line with inflation.
The Motley Fool offers a shares ISA through our Share Dealing service.
ISAs can seem a little complicated and the government tends to tweak the rules for them on a regular basis. They’re well worth investigating though. Many people who have invested in them each and every year since 1999 have built up portfolios worth in excess of £100,000 that are totally protected from the taxman.
If you have an index tracker, you should consider putting it in an ISA. It's a tax-savvy move that won't cost you anything extra, and it could significantly boost your returns in the long run.
We talked about pensions in step six, when we looked at retiring. If your employer offers an occupational pension scheme, you're best to take part - as we demonstrated earlier, the contributions your employer will make to your pension fund amount to free money. If you don't have the option of an occupational scheme, you can start a personal pension, a stakeholder pension, or even a self-invested personal pension (SIPP).
All pensions offer relief from income tax, but they work slightly differently than ISAs: if you're a basic-rate taxpayer and you put £200 a month into a pension, the Government will give you tax relief on this amount, boosting your investment to £250 a month. Higher-rate taxpayers are able to claim more tax back - in this example they would be able to claim a further £50 a month back from the taxman via their tax return.
Money within your pension is free to grow without being taxed. However, once you begin to draw your pension, the money you draw from it - your income - is then taxed at that point, although you will be able to withdraw up to 25% of your pension as a tax-free lump sum, if you want to.
Inheritance tax: the taxman's last hurrah
Inheritance tax is the last tax you will ever have to pay, although technically your estate pays it as by the time inheritance tax is to be paid in your name, you will no longer be with us. Here's how it works: your estate is valued at the time of your death, and a certain amount is tax exempt. The balance is then taxed at 40%. Your estate is the aggregate of all property owned as well as any significant transfers of wealth made within seven years of death.
A number of exemptions arise with inheritance tax, including transfers between spouses, gifts to charities, annual gifts, gifts in consideration of marriage, and a lifetime gift. The most effective, but most complex, way to avoid inheritance tax is through the use of trusts - and for this we strongly encourage you to seek the guidance of a solicitor or financial advisor.
A final note on tax and your money
With a little time and effort, ISAs, pensions, and even trusts can save you from paying a fortune in tax. Just remember, the more money you put in and the longer you keep it there, the greater your potential tax savings will be.
Pay it forward. We're not sure how many people are ready for the financial toll of parenthood, but we bet most wish they’d been a little more prepared. Make your child a millionaire and save yourself a fortune.
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