No one wants to spend their Christmas sorting out their financial affairs – you want to spend the holidays scoffing mince pies on the sofa, not figuring out how much tax you owe. On the other hand, if you have a nice block of paid leave around Christmas, it gives you the perfect time to have a quick look at your taxes – you don’t have to do much now to save yourself a lot of stress come the end of January. And when it comes to filing your taxes, it often feels like you’re racing against a deadline, and you just don’t have the time to sit back and make longer term financial decisions. This Christmas is a great time to take a few hours and gauge how the last year went, and what changes you should make for 2017, before January deadlines start making it all too hectic. Here’s how you can begin sorting out your finances before 2017 gets going.
USE ALL YOUR ALLOWANCES AND EXEMPTIONS
There are a number of tax allowances and exemptions available to almost everyone which you can take advantage of by making some simple changes now. Make sure you and your spouse are both using your maximum personal tax allowance of £11,000, and have paid in the maximum allowed £15,000 into both of your ISAs. Gifts to spouses are, in general, exempt from capital gains tax, so some of this can be achieved by just transferring over money to a spouse. And make sure you’ve paid as much as possible into your pension pot – the Annual Allowance can be as much as £40,000 based on your circumstances; and the end of the year is a good time to pay a little extra in, since you’re now heading into the end of the financial year and know roughly how much you have left to pay into your pension after taxes and other requirements.
You should also consider make a charitable donation – it’s all in the festive spirit, and, from a strictly self-interested point of view, it qualifies you for tax relief. If you have stocks and bonds you’re thinking about selling, donate them instead – it means you won’t have to pay capital gains tax on the sale, so it’s a smarter move than selling them and donating the cash to charity. That being said, while there are simple changes you can make to help you with tax planning, it’s always helpful to consult experts – as experienced accountants in London we have the ability to guide and restructure your tax situation to make sure you’re only paying what you owe. Consider using a qualified accountant if you want to supplement the tax planning you’ve already done on your own.
REFLECT ON YOUR PORTFOLIO
The end of the year’s also a great time to have a look at your investment portfolio. You can look back on 2016 and see if your portfolio’s still sticking to your initial strategy, if it’s at a level of risk you want, or if recent events have changed what you should be investing in. For example, the weak pound may mean that you should pivot away from investments in businesses which rely on a lot of imported goods – now’s the time to take a step back and reflect on how your portfolio needs to change, however you decide that is. It’s also a good time to make sure you’re using your maximum Annual Exemption for capital gains tax, currently £11,100 – if you’re selling shares, try and use up as much of that exemption as possible. Restructuring at the end of the year is a good way of keeping your portfolio on course and means you’ll always use up your capital gains exemption.
Remember that the 30th of December is the deadline for your self-assessment tax return if you need to file one and want to pay what you owe through the pay as you earn tax code. After that, the 31stof January is the deadline for online tax returns and for paying everything you owe – and once you get through Christmas, that can suddenly seem pretty close, so make sure you try and get things done during this holiday season. Making some changes now, whether it’s sorting out your portfolio or planning your taxes, can make a world of difference when it gets to the end of January and things become too hectic to take the time to plan properly. If that all sounds like unnecessary added stress over the festive season, DUA are here to help….because it’s always important to ensure you’re entering the new year from the strongest possible financial position.