Minimising capital taxes

Capital gains tax

  • As with income tax, each person has an annual exempt amount, which is wasted if not used. For married couples and civil partners this can be effectively managed by ensuring that assets that are sold at a gain are either jointly owned or that each partner sells some assets to cover their annual exempt amount.
  • While gifting assets to a spouse immediately before disposal is acceptable, there are limits on transferring assets in such a way that the end result is circular. It is important that you seek specific professional advice if you intend to do any more than simply sell some assets each to crystallise gains equal to the annual exemption.
  • If one spouse has unused losses, these can only be used up against gains incurred by the same spouse, so once again, transfers of assets before sale can reduce the overall tax liability.
  • Selling an interest in a business can attract entrepreneurs’ relief, and this might also be enhanced when the gain is substantial if both spouses sell the business. Planning in advance of the sale is crucial here – see our guide to entrepreneur’s relief for more details.
  • Where you have a holiday home, or have acquired a second home during the year, an election regarding your main residence might be favourable. No election is made when you move house, but only when you actually occupy two homes at different times, but concurrently. This election is time limited so it is important to consider it at the end of the tax year.
  • If your business premises are owned personally but used in your company or partnership you might need to review any rent charged for their use during the tax year as this can impact on entrepreneur’s relief available on the disposal of the premises. There is a wide range of tax implications to consider so please contact us for advice.

Inheritance tax

  • Reviewing your inheritance tax strategy on a regular basis is an important part of tax planning, and the tax year end is a good time for a quick ‘maintenance review’.
  • You have an annual exemption for gifts of up to £3,000, which if not used in one year can be used in the next. This is the total of gifts in any tax year that are ignored in the event of the donor’s death within 7 years.
  • You might also be able to help your family out with ‘normal expenditure out of income’. You will need to review your current tax position to ensure that any regular gifts in excess of the £3,000 are covered by your income, leaving your income sufficient to cover your normal living expenses. This can be a useful way for grandparents to pay school fees for their grandchildren provided there is sufficient income to support this level of generosity. However, this will need careful review this year in case the income from investments has reduced to such a point that the gifts are now being made from capital.
  • With the advent of transfer of unused nil rate bands between spouses, you and your spouse or civil partner should be able to leave up to £650,000 of exempt legacies between you. There is very little you need to do to ensure access to the transferable nil rate band, but if you have been widowed and have recently remarried, there might be some key estate planning steps to take to protect any unused nil rate band of your (or your partner’s) late spouse.
  • Where, as a result of past IHT planning, you are liable to an income tax charge on pre owned assets you might consider paying for the benefit of the asset, thus reducing the tax charge arising. The consequences of this payment on the recipient will need to be taken into consideration.