Q. As the end of the current tax year approaches on 5 April what tax efficient investment options should I be considering too minimise my tax liability.

A. Unfortunately everyone’s personal financial and tax circumstances are different but I detail below some of the areas that you may wish to consider
It is important to remember that most allowances for tax efficient investments are fixed for each tax year and cannot be carried over to the next year if not used. Here is a brief summary of the 2011/12 and 2012/13 investment limits:

Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS)
Investors who subscribe for shares under EIS can currently receive income tax relief at 30% of up to £500,000 invested in one year. This annual cap will rise to £1 million from 6 April 2012. However, any amount can be invested in EIS shares to defer tax due on a capital gain made in the period up to three years before the EIS shares were acquired, or to up to one year later. An investment in EIS shares can be treated as if it was made in the previous tax year, to apply the income tax relief against the taxpayer’s tax due for the earlier year.

The conditions companies need to meet to raise funds using EIS are also being relaxed from April 2012. These conditions are still very complex so talk to us first before making a decision to use the EIS scheme.

Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS)
SEIS is a new scheme due to start from 6 April 2012, subject to it receiving Royal Ascent. This will operate like a mini version of the EIS, but the scheme will only be available for five years. The maximum investment by a taxpayer in one tax year will be £100,000, with income tax relief given at 50% of the invested amount. Any gains made on the SEIS shares will also be tax free as long as the investment conditions are not broken and the shares are held for at least three years. In addition if you make a capital gain in 2012/13 (on any asset), you can invest that gain in SEIS shares and achieve 100% tax exemption on that gain. Thus the maximum tax relief for investing in SEIS shares could be 78% of the amount invested.

Venture Capital Trust (VCT)
VCT’s will give you 30% income tax relief on the amount invested, capped at £200,000 per tax year. This investment limit is not expected to increase in 2012/13. Dividends and gains from the VCT are tax free if the VCT shares are held for at least five years.

Individual Savings Accounts (ISA’s)
Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs) can be taken out as cash only accounts (maximum £5,340) or stocks and shares accounts up to £10,680. These limits are for 2011/12. The investment limits for 2012/13 are £5,640 for cash only accounts and £11,280 for stocks and shares.

You can now open a Junior ISA (up to £3,600 per year) for children aged under 18, who do not already have a child trust fund account in their name. Individuals who are aged 16 or 17 can also open a standard cash only ISA in addition to the Junior ISA.
Capital Exemptions and Losses
As well as making investments do not forget your annual Capital Gains Tax (CGT) allowance. You can make up to £10,600 of capital gains in 2011/12 and pay no tax on that amount, as it should be covered by your annual capital gains exemption. If you have not used this annual exemption in 2011/12, check whether you can make any disposals which will crystallise gains before 6 April 2012. Individuals who have non-domicile status may not qualify for this annual exemption.

The annual exemption limit will be frozen in 2012/13 at £10,600. Any unused exemption for 2011/12 cannot be carried forward or passed on to a spouse. However, you can pass assets to your spouse or civil partner tax free. Then on the sale of the asset your spouse’s annual exemption can be set against the gain.

The gift of the asset to your spouse must be done well in advance of the sale, with the correct legal documents drawn up. Take legal advice if you are not sure how to change the ownership of an asset.

If you have assets that have reduced in value so they are now worth almost nothing, you can make use of that loss by making a negligible value claim. If you submit the claim in 2011/12 you can ask for the loss to be treated as arising in 2010/11 or 2009/10 if the asset was also virtually worthless at that earlier date. This is useful, as capital losses can generally only be carried forward, not backwards

It essential before undertaking any investments or disposals to seek professional advice. This article was written prior to the Budget to be held on 21 March 2012.

If you are unsure on any the points made above, please give the TaxWise Advice Line a call on 01455 852555.