Tax Planning in light of GAAR and the Panama Papers
There is much interest in the Panama Papers and the fact that a law firm in the Carribean has acted for various international figures (both famous and infamous) to avoid tax.
Here in the UK, the spotlight is on the Prime Minister. The Panama Papers revealed that his father was party to an off-shore tax avoidance scheme and that his mother utilised the legal and widely acceptable form of tax planning called "lifetime transfers".
None of the allegations against the Prime Minister are illegal. Sadly, however, we live in a world where tax planning is regarded by many as reprehensible, a social evil. It does not help that the media sensationalise these issues. It is clear from recent media releases that journalists cannot differentiate between off-shore hedge funds and off-shore family trusts. And sadly, the general public cannot seem to differentiate between companies avoiding taxes (such as Google and Starbucks) and honest hardworking individuals who simply wish to protect their assets and pass them on to the next generation.
The HMRC has recently introduced anti tax-avoidance regulations called GAAR. According to the HMRC, if they regard the tax planning to be abusive - then there will be a challenge. They will analyse each tax planning scheme on a case by case basis.
If your estate is worth more than the nil-rate band (currently frozen at £325,000 until 2021), it is important that you receive bespoke tax planning to ensure that your wealth is preserved for the next generation. The tax planning must be bespoke and tailored to your particular needs. In light of GAAR, the Panama Papers and the HMRC taking an increasingly tough stance on what they regard as abusive planning, gone are the days where you can have an IHT and CGT saving scheme that can be rolled out for everyone.
If you have not revisited your Will for more than a couple of years, or perhaps your will was drafted pre-2007 and it contains a Nil-Rate Band Discretionary Trust - it is time to book an appointment with your Solicitor to see if your Will still suits your requirements. Also, if you took advantage of the lacuna which pilot trusts intended to exploit, this cavity has now been filled and can no longer be exploited. It is therefore important that you speak to your lawyer to ensure to check that your pilot trusts are still valid.
There are also tried and tested lifetime and estate planning strategies which your solicitor can discuss with you to ensure that your wealth is preserved for the next generation. For example, despite what the papers say about Mrs Cameron's gifts to the Prime Minister, lifetime transfer is not a social evil. It is a well established planning tool for preserving wealth in the family and empowering the next generation.
There are other reliefs which if utilised properly can ensure that your assets stay within the family such as Business Property Relief (BPR) and Agricultural Property Relief (APR). There are ways to increase the nil-rate band inheritance tax threshold by utilising the transferable nil rate band and the residential nil rate band. It is important that these reliefs are nailed down and not lost.
At Posada and Co, our lawyers can help you with your estate and capital tax planning needs. We can provide you with an Estate Planning Report following an initial fact-finding meeting with one of our lawyers (which lasts between 60 to 90 minutes, depending on your circumstances). Our usual minimum charge is £450 plus VAT for the Estate Planning Report.
For more information, please contact us on 020 3744 3800.
This article is written by Delfin Posada. Delfin is a director and the founder of Posada & Co. Delfin qualified as a Solicitor and Barrister in Australia in 1999 and has been practising in the UK since 2004.