Venture Capital Trusts 

How pension freedoms affected the VCT market

This article is part of
Guide to VCT investing

How pension freedoms affected the VCT market

Aggressive: this is how the frequent Treasury slicing of tax allowances on pensions has been described. 

Jason Hollands, managing director of business development and communications for Tilney, points the finger squarely at HM Treasury for making the tax treatment of pensions less favourable over recent years, and says this has helped fuel demand for venture capital trusts (VCTs).

He comments: "There is no doubt that aggressive reductions in the lifetime allowance (LTA), as well as restrictions on the pension annual allowance - such as the tapered allowance for high earners - have been a factor fuelling interest in VCTs as an alternative option for tax-efficient investing."

According to HM Revenue & Customs' VCT statistics, 2016 to 2017 tax year saw £570m invested in VCTs. 

This was an increase on 2015 to 2016 - and was the highest amount invested in one year since the heady pre-financial crisis days of 2005 to 2006.

But 2017-2018 has also been a stellar year for VCT investment. Although the final end-of-year figures are not yet out, already 2017 to 2018 looks to be on course to overtake 2016 to 2017.

The table below, sourced from Octopus Investments, gives a snapshot of the rising levels of VCT investing over the past six years.

2017/2018 (as of: 12 March 2018)

550

2016/2017

540

2015/2016

469

2014/2015

399

2013/2014

392

2012/2013

270

As at 12 March 2018, total VCT fundraising had reached £550m, with weeks still to go before the deadline. This is more than double the 2012 to 2013 tax year fund raise of £270m.

Certainly the figures seem to suggest a surge of interest in VCTs that might coincide with recent tax tampering on pensions - as well as reductions to the erstwhile favourable tax regime on landlords and buy-to let.

Paul Latham, managing director of Octopus Investments, comments: "The ever-growing demand for VCTs is not surprising, when you consider the recent changes to pensions legislation, restrictions on the LTA and the buy-to-let market.

"As these areas become squeezed, people are increasingly looking to VCTs to provide them with a credible way of investing in a tax-efficient manner."

The chart, below, provides a snapshot of total VCT investing across some of the largest VCT funds in the UK as at 6 March.

Source: Tilney

Pensions taxation

For Alex Davies, chief executive of Wealth Club, "pensions changes have been the biggest driver for VCT investment".

He explains: "When you consider the maximum amount you can hold in a pension has fallen from £1.8m in 2011 to 2012, to £1m today, and that higher earners can put in as little as £10,000 a year, compared with up to £225,000 10 years ago, this is hardly surprising."

According to Mr Davies, for those who are already reasonably wealthy, it is clear that "investing solely in a pension is unlikely to provide you with sufficient funds to get you through retirement".

Jack Rose, head of tax efficient investment at LGBR Capital, agrees: "Undoubtedly [pensions changes] have broadened the investor base, increased demand and raised awareness for the products.