Investments  

If you don’t advise clients on VCTs, you soon will be

If you don’t advise clients on VCTs, you soon will be

Pension changes have turned investors and advisers towards venture capital trusts, despite fresh legislation having a dampening effect on the market, according to Alexander Accociates’ Peter Gale.

Speaking during FTAdviser’s Tax Efficient Investing conference today (20 January), wealth manager Peter Gale said the tax relief options available through VCTs would increase demand, particularly if the government decides to tweak the tax perks available in pensions.

Sister newspaper the Financial Times has reported pension tax relief for those on higher incomes looks set to be ditched as part of HM Treasury’s overhaul of the pensions system.

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Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce a move towards a ‘flat-rate’ government contribution in his March Budget, the Financial Times revealed.

Mr Gale said: “If you’re not already advising your clients on VCTs, then you soon will be” adding other options offer less generous tax reliefs.

This is despite legislation changes made last year, which included restricting the type of company VCTS could invest in.

Mr Gale said as a result of the changes some VCT managers will be raising smaller amounts this year, or seek no additional funds at all.

Echoing concerns from Tilney Bestinvest’s Jason Hollands last week, Mr Gale warned advisers that clients who plan to invest in VCTs in this tax year maybe disappointed to find out VCT investment opportunities are already filled up.

Mr Gale pointed out that over the last year, choosing VCT companies has been less about performance risk, and more about legislative risk. “With that comes a more finite pool of potential deals, which is arguably less competitive.”

But he added that many providers are already in the space that HM Revenue & Customs has moved to, in terms of the type of companies allowed to be held within the VCT wrapper, and are not changing any of the criteria for their funds.

Waseem Herwitker, financial adviser at First Alliance Financial Services, said even if the government did tweak pensions this product still offers good tax relief.

He said: “I see VCTs as an addition to all of the planning including pensions, rather than instead of it.”

He said he might consider VCTs if the government opted for a 25 per cent rate relief for pension savers, but pointed out that even that rate would still offer a good tax incentive, and so he would not rule it out from an estate planning perspective.

Colin Selway, an adviser from the same firm, said it is important to look at the whole picture for each client, and currently none of First Alliance’s clients suit the criteria for VCT investment.

“You’ve got to look at every aspect of tax efficient savings, and everything will have its place for the right client, but it doesn’t have its place for every client.”

katherine.denham@ft.com