For advisors and financial planners the Budget offers a number of planning opportunities. By far the most significant is the confirmation of the importance of pensions and the formal statement on two significant tax matters:

  1. The removal of the Pensions Levy in 2014
  2. The retention of marginal rate tax relief on contributions.

Other ideas are outlined below.

1. EII – Fun(d) for all the Family?

The Employment and Investment Incentive or EII is the new name for BES. In 2011 the relief available was overhauled and made more attractive but hasn’t been extensively used. This year the proposal is to extend the relief (subject to EU approval until 2020).

Why is it of interest?

With the increases in tax on savings and the reduction of interest rates on deposits clients will be looking for alternatives – EII could be an option.

From the point of view of corporates EII represents a possible source of finance. Particularly for small scale sums up to €500k it is possible to structure an arrangement for “family and friends” which delivers a cost effective and available alternative to bank finance.

EII should be added to the discussion Advisors have with any SME looking for finance.

2. REITs – a new market for brokers?

Real Estate Investment through REITS is big business globally. As of mid-2012, the global index included 414 public real estate companies from 37 countries representing an equity market capitalization of about $1 trillion (with approximately 68% of that total from REITs).(Source Wikipedia)

The key features of a REIT are that it is:

  • a quoted company
  • Invests exclusively in property
  • Is tax exempt/tax transparent

The benefits to the Irish economy are the potential for NAMA and the Banks to tidy up their property debt portfolios.

For private individuals the attractions are likely to be:

  • Access to a new investment option to diversify investment portfolios.
  • An opportunity for larger scale property investors to warehouse their investments in more tax efficient structures.

For all clients with a current or prospective interest in property REITs will now be an essential part of the discussion.

3. High Noon(an) for Film Finance?

The Minister for Finance has made clear that tax relief for Film production will continue but that the individual investor will be eliminated from the process by 2016.

This tax break therefore has a limited remaining shelf life.

Any advisors dealing with clients in this area need to be aware that the end is nigh.

4. Deposits and Life Company Investments

The increase in tax to 36% for rolled up investments is a significant negative. The hunt will now be on for better alternatives leaving advisors with the job of rejigging client portfolios. Alternatives will include:

  • Tax exempt Post Office Investments.
  • EII and REITS mentioned above.
  • Pension funding.

The availability of tax free growth coupled with the confirmation of the levy ending makes pensions more attractive than ever. Whilst the ultimate Fund limit is not yet known the fact is that the average pension fund has only €100k value. It will take a lot of saving to come anywhere near the fund limit. Equally clients should have more comfort about this type of saving due to the reassurances on tax given by the Minister for Finance.

Portfolio reviews should be scheduled for all clients in the new year.

5. Termination Payment Magic – a Non Disappearance before your very eyes!

The current tax code allows €200k to be paid on termination of employment without tax. Thereafter tax is imposed at a special rate due to top slicing relief. This ensures that the tax paid is reduced to the average tax paid by the individual for the previous 3 years.

Budget 2013 proposes the removal of Top Slicing Relief with effect from 1 January 2013. In other words it is still available for the rest of this month.

When you recognise that termination payments can be made to individuals who haven’t actually ceased employment you realise your clients should be made aware of this before it disappears.

Don’t write – email TODAY  to ensure clients have considered this option.

6. Capital Tax Increases - a Laboured Delivery?

Given the composition of the government increases in capital taxes were a given, the surprising thing is the range of breaks that weren’t closed off. These include:

  • Over 55 Retirement Relief – still available at €750k (until 2014 for those aged over 66). This means you can enhance your retirement with an additional €750k in tax free cash.  Any advisors who haven’t built this into their own financial plans need to set aside some personal planning time over Christmas.           
  • Business Property Relief - this allows a 90% reduction in the value of Business assets for CAT  purposes. With the reduction in allowances and the increase in rates every business owner needs to look at this.  Every business owner needs to know about this – and the fact it could disappear.

7. CGT losses – a valuable asset?

We all know individuals who have suffered significant losses on investment portfolios with bank shares perhaps being the most infamous. Yet we all hang in there in the belief that one day they will recover.

A smarter way of doing this would be to crystallise the loss now for use against other gains – saving 33% on all gains. The shares can then be repurchased by a self-administered pension ensuring the recovery is also tax free.

Turning the black cloud of the Budget into a Tax Refund is a guaranteed stocking filler this Christmas.

8. ARF a Loaf is better than no loaf at all

The assets of an ARF can ultimately pass on to children at a tax rate of 30%. The alternative route is much more taxing - the same benefit passed on in cash could be subjected to income tax of 52% (on extraction from a business) and CAT at 33% (on passing to the next generation).

Clients developing an estate plan need to give serious consideration to the benefits of ARFs. Unlike other pension vehicles they allow the transfer of specific assets to the next generation. The certainty provided by the Minister for Finance on Pensions also means that clients have more security using these types of vehicles for planning purposes.

A compulsory point for every estate planning discussion.

9. PFT Planning – A Personal Tax Free Zone?

The Minister for Finance confirmed that the pension limit will be €60,000. However discussions are still on-going with the pension industry as to the level of fund this will permit in practice. These won’t become law until 2014.

Assuming current rules applied the maximum allowable fund would drop to €1.2m. On the other hand the pension industry has suggested:

A factor of 30:1 should be used

The tax free lump sum should be added to this.

In practice this would give a maximum fund of €2m.

Rather than waiting to see how things will turn out, those clients that are close to these limits can take matters into their own hands. All previous Fund Thresholds have provided an exemption for those with funds in excess of the new limit. Therefore it makes sense for clients to pay in as much as possible in the next 12 months if it will increase their funds over €1.2m. This can then form the basis of their new PFT application in 2014.

Nobody minds a tax if it someone else who is paying. Talk to clients with substantial pension funds in 2013.

10. PFT – Avoiding Excesses this Christmas?

For existing clients who already have PFTs the question arises as to how to manage the excess. The cumulative tax rate on the excess is 79%. However Budget 2013 may offer an opportunity to avoid this.
30% of AVCs can be withdrawn and taxed at a marginal rate at any age. A client with a PFT excess may be able to remove the excess using this mechanism and thereby avoid the 70% rate.

Client with a PFT needs special care – make sure they hear about this idea from you first.

11. 6% ARFs – Nice ARF: shame about the Drawdown!

ARFs worth more than €2m are subject to an extra drawdown requirement of 1%. – That’s an extra €20k in taxable income.  Taking the excess money out before you ARF would make sense and the AVC encashment option is one way of doing this.  Clients building up their PFTs need to watch this – add it to your planning list for large pension clients.

12. AVCs – a three year cooling off period

We all know individuals who can and should invest more in pensions. However, in the current environment, they are reluctant to commit to a long term financial issue in case they need the cash in the short term. The AVC encashment option provides a realistic way of managing this. You can now advise clients:
“commit for 1,2 or 3 years. You will avoid tax on the money invested. If you need the money back in the next 3 years you can pay tax at that stage and get 30% back. If you don’t need it in the next 3 years you can probably let it roll tax free until retirement”

A key market for AVC PRSAs will be the public sector. Time to add them to your 2013 to-do list.

13. AND FINALLY (Tongue in cheek)…….

With all the grief around flooded housing, lack of insurance cover etc it is good to know the Minister for Finance cares!

If severe flooding means your house now floats and you are known locally as Noah then you will be glad to know the Minister for Finance has deemed you exempt from the new Local Property Tax.
While the rest of us drown in debt you can sail happily into the sunset!!

*Please note this content is the view of the author and not of Independent Trustee Company