Overview

Every March, financial advisers are working flat out to get their clients’ affairs in order, before the start of the new tax year on April 6.

This is the bread and butter of managing a client’s portfolio. The client may come into an adviser’s office wanting to pile into the latest investment fad and keen to make as much money as possible, but some of the most important work actually involves the more prosaic work of ensuring one has made the most of one’s tax allowances.

Many reliefs have been set up to ensure that one can make the most of one’s savings and investments, and they should be used without compunction.

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Tax planning with the wider public has earned a dirty reputation, attracting opprobrium from the mainstream press for the promotion of complex instruments that seem to be designed to reduce one’s tax bill.

But many reliefs are far more straightforward than the high profile tax-avoiding film investment schemes, and are designed to encourage saving and investment.

The most basic form of tax planning is in the area of Isas. The allowance for a cash and/or investment Isa is now £15,240. Many may baulk at the low rates being paid by banks and building societies, but at least the allowance now covers a substantial amount of money – how many families could save more than £1,270 a month?

Other allowances include a relief of £11,100 on capital gains, which only applies each year – if an allowance is not used one year, then it is not possible to roll it over to the next year.

There are other schemes to encourage investment. Enterprise Investment Schemes and Venture Capital Trusts give tax advantages to those making investments to fledgling companies; the investments are by definition higher risk than the typical stock market listing, but to compensate, the Treasury has allowed generous tax breaks, to provide another source of financing from early stage companies.

But tax planning is not all plain sailing. Sometimes it involves preparing for changes that will be detrimental to clients’ investments, due to a change in policy at the Treasury. One of the biggest looming on the horizon is the change to stamp duty for landlords with two properties.

From April, it will be more expensive; many landlords will be trying to complete their purchases before April.

Altogether, the tax year end is a time for getting one’s clients’ affairs in order, and when financial advisers earn their crust. After April 6, they can quietly sit back and start thinking about the next year.

Melanie Tringham is features editor of Financial Adviser