Arise and shine!

Jeff Prestridge

Jeff Prestridge

I love this time of year. Waking up in the light, walking to work with birds chattering in the trees (yes, even in central London) and new life spawning around my feet in the gardens of Kensington’s super rich.

Even my own balcony pots overlooking the vibrant River Thames are awash with colour. Uplifting. Sunflower seeds have just been potted up. Geraniums next. Percy Thrower would be impressed.

It all gives me a spring in my step, like a newborn lamb, as I scurry to work with deadlines to meet and editors to both please and appease.

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The start of the cricket season is even just around the corner (much to my delight, I managed to get two tickets in the ballot for the Lords Test match against Pakistan in June). It will be summer before we know where we are – inside or outside the European Union.

April is also a good time, I believe, for all IFAs to wear a smile. Why? Of course, it is a result of ‘out’ with the old tax year and ‘in’ with the new.

’Tis the season to show your prowess and demonstrate to the country that there is nothing more financially uplifting than to benefit from a spot of quality financial planning.

There are tax changes to get to grips with and investment and savings portfolios to tinker with. In other words, clients to please with your intimate knowledge of the intimidatory (perplexing) tax and savings landscapes. Guidance? Forget it. Not a patch on professional financial advice garnered over a lifetime of advising.

This new tax year, the changes prompted by recent Budgets and Autumn Statements (not just the last Budget) are more numerous than usual given George Osborne’s tendency to both meddle and surprise.

There is the introduction of the National Living Wage of £7.20 for employees aged 25 or over, a new single-tier state pension of up to £155.65 a week, a higher tax-free personal allowance of £11,000 and a new higher rate tax threshold of £43,000.

But it is in the savings, investment and pension spheres where the scope for advisers to make a positive difference is greatest. Change afoot at every twist and turn.

Although the Chancellor of the Exchequer stepped back from a radical shake up of tax relief on pension contributions, the 2016/2017 tax year still brings in restrictions for many pension investors.

Additional rate taxpayers are seeing their ability to fund a pension curtailed by a reduction in the amount they can contribute – in some cases their maximum annual contributions will fall from £40,000 to £10,000.

These taxpayers (I am not one) will want advice on where else to invest besides a pension. Individual Savings Accounts? Maybe, although I imagine they will already be investing close to their annual limit of £15,240.

Buy-to-let? Some will be tempted, although changes between now and 2020 in the way rental income is taxed will surely turn many landlords’ portfolios from profit-making to loss-draining. And that is all without the further crackdown on buy-to-let lending that Mr Osborne has warned us is coming.