Personal Tax

New State Pension and contracted out NICs

Most people will be aware that the state retirement pension system has changed for people who reach state pension age on or after 6 April 2016 – that is men born after 5 April 1951 and women born after 5 April 1953. The full new state pension is currently £159.55 per week, but the amount that employees who have previously paid National Insurance contributions (NIC) at the contracted-out rate may be affected under the new system. The introduction of the new state pension from 6 April 2016 brought an end to the contracting-out rules.

In very broad terms, to qualify for the minimum amount of state pension an individual needs 10 years of NIC contributions. 35 years or contributions or credits will be needed to qualify for the full amount.

For those people who were already in the workforce at April 2016, transitional arrangements were put in place which means that everyone will be assessed for a ‘starting amount’ under the new system. Using the number of qualifying years on the individual’s National Insurance record as at 5 April 2016, their ‘starting amount’ will be the higher of either:

– the amount they would get under the old state pension, or
– the amount they would get if the new state pension had been in place at the start of their working life.

Both amounts will reflect any periods when they have been contracted out of the additional state pension.

The rules governing contracting out and new state pension are complex, but broadly, if an individual has a ‘starting amount’ of less than the full amount of new state pension, then for each ‘qualifying year’, a certain amount is added to their National Insurance record after 5 April 2016. This equates to around £4.56 a week, (£159.55/35). This amount will be added to the person’s ‘starting amount’, until they reach the full amount of the new state pension, or they reach state pension age, whichever happens first.

For some people it is possible to have a starting amount higher than the full new state pension if they have some ‘additional’ state pension. The difference between the full new state pension and their ‘starting amount’ is called a ‘protected payment’. Those who have a ‘starting amount’ which is equal to the full new state pension will get the full new state pension when they reach state pension age. Before the new state pension was introduces, state retirement pension was made of two parts, namely:

– basic state pension, and
– additional state pension, often referred to as state second pension or SERPS (State Earnings-Related Pension Scheme).

If an individual was in what is known as a defined benefit company pension scheme – where what they are paid in retirement is related to salary – they are likely to have been ‘contracted out’ of the additional state pension. This means that they would have paid a lower rate of NICs and will have earned replacement pension benefits in an employer scheme or a personal pension.

Despite having what they thought were 35 years of qualifying years, they will not necessarily get the full amount of new state pension – although entitlement can be improved by paying contributions after 5 April 2016. The Government has advised that while someone in this situation will get less than the full amount, retirees will still be paid at least what they would have got under the old state pension.

Rent A Room

Although Budget 2017 announced that the Government intends to review the rent-a-room scheme, it currently remains a tax-efficient way of letting out a spare room. Broadly, HMRC’s rent-a-room scheme is an optional exemption scheme, which allows individuals to receive up to £7,500 of tax-free gross income (income before expenses) from renting out spare rooms in their only or main home. The exemption is halved where the income is shared with a partner or someone else. Broadly, as long as income is below the annual threshold, it does not need to be reported to HMRC. If income exceeds the threshold, it needs to be reported to HMRC via the self-assessment system.

In order to qualify under the rent-a-room scheme, the accommodation must be furnished and a lodger can occupy a single room or an entire floor of the house. However, the scheme doesn’t apply if the house is converted into separate flats that are rented out. The scheme cannot be used if the accommodation is in a UK home which is let whilst the landlord lives abroad.

The rent-a-room tax break does not apply where part of a home is let as an office or other business premises. The relief only covers the circumstance where payments are made for the use of living accommodation.

Sometimes additional services are provided, for example, cleaning and laundry. The payments for such services must be added to the rent to work out the total receipts. If income exceeds £7,500 a year in total, a liability to tax will arise, even if the rent itself is less than that.

Accounting for tax

Where the annual threshold is exceeded, there are two options available:

– the first £7,500 is counted as the tax-free allowance and income tax is paid on the remaining income; or
– the landlord opts to treat the renting of the room as a normal rental business, working out a profit and loss account using the normal income and expenditure rules.

In most cases, the first option will be more advantageous. The principal point to bear in mind is that those using the rent-a-room scheme cannot claim any expenses relating to the letting (e.g. insurance, repairs, heating).

To work out whether it is preferable to join the scheme, the following methods of calculation should be compared:

– Method A: paying tax on the profit from letting worked out in the normal way for a rental business (i.e. rents received less expenses).
– Method B: paying tax on the gross amount of receipts (including receipts for any related services they provide) less the £7,500 exemption limit.

Method A applies automatically unless the taxpayer tells their tax office within the time limit that they want method B.

Once a taxpayer has elected for method B, it continues to apply in the future until they tell HMRC they want method A. The taxpayer may want to switch methods where the taxable profit is less under method A, or where expenses are more than the rents (so there is a loss).

Example

During 2016/17, Flo lets out a room in her home. She receives total income of £11,000 (£10,800 rent plus £200 towards bills). She incurs expenses of £3,000. If she uses method A to calculate her tax liability she will pay tax on £8,000 (£11,000 less £3,000). If she uses method B, she will pay tax on £3,500 (£11,000 less £7,500). Flo is better off using method B.

Even though the tax rules for the rent-a-room scheme are different to the general property income tax rules, a resident landlord will still have certain responsibilities towards tenants, particularly in relation to safety. For further information, see the GOV.UK website at https://www.gov.uk/rent-room-in-your-home.

Pension lump sums

I reached state retirement age in March 2016 but deferred receiving my state pension for 12 months. I have been informed that I can now take a lump sum in addition to my regular state pension. Is the lump sum taxable?

The lump sum is taxed as income. In simple terms, the rate of tax that applies to the lump sum will be the highest rate that applies to your other income for that tax year. This means that:

– if you are not liable to tax for that tax year on your other income, ignoring any deductions from that income for the marriage allowance or married couple’s allowance, no tax should be deducted from any state pension lump sum you receive;
– if you are liable to income tax, you will pay tax at one of the following rates: – 20% – where taxable income does not exceed the basic rate limit (£33,500 for 2017/18);

– 40% – where taxable income exceeds the basic rate limit but does not exceed the additional rate limit of £150,000; or
– 45% – where taxable income is over £150,000.

When working out what rate of tax you should pay on any state pension lump sum, the special rates that are used to tax savings income and dividend income falling within the basic rate band – the 0% starting rate for savings, savings and dividend nil rates (personal savings and dividend allowances), are ignored. So if all your other income falls within the basic rate band of tax, you will pay tax at 20% on your state pension lump sum.

Similarly if you are a higher rate taxpayer, you will pay tax at the rate of 40% on your state pension lump sum. This will also be the case if you have dividend income that is chargeable to tax at the rate of 32.5%.

If you are an additional rate taxpayer, that is, you pay income tax at the rate of 45% (or 38.1% on dividends), you will pay tax at the rate of 45% on your state pension lump sum.

Great childcare schemes

The government has some great schemes to help parents balance the very significant cost of childcare with the benefits of being in work.

Below are details of the new ‘tax free childcare’ scheme and also of the free nursery hours available for 3-4 year old.  Parents will be able to apply for both these schemes in one go through the government’s new digital childcare service. Eligible parents can benefit from both tax-free childcare and 30 hours free childcare at the same time.

Please do contact us for advice on your own specific circumstances – we’re here to help!

Tax free childcare

The long-awaited tax-free childcare scheme launched on 28 April 2017 and will be rolled out during the course of the year. In conjunction with this, the government’s new Childcare Choices website is now operative, allowing parents to find out about available support. The website includes a childcare calculator for parents to compare all the government’s childcare offers and check what works best for their families, including the new 30-hour free childcare offer, tax-free childcare or universal credit. Through the website, parents can also pre-register for email alerts that will notify them when they can apply, as well as providing details of existing government childcare offers.

It is currently estimated that some two million working families will be eligible for tax-free childcare. It will be gradually rolled out, with parents of children under two invited to enter the scheme first. By the end of the year, all eligible parents will be able to receive government top-ups of £2 for every £8 that a parent pays into their tax-free childcare account, up to a maximum of £2,000 per child (or £4,000 for disabled children). This will be open to all working parents across the UK with children under 12, or under 17 if disabled.

30 hours free childcare

From September 2017, the new 30 hours free childcare offer for working parents of three and four year olds in England will double the current 15 hours of free childcare currently available, saving eligible working families up to £5,000 a year.

Eligible parents will be able to apply online through the childcare service. They will receive a code – this will allow parents to arrange their childcare place ahead of September 2017. Parents can take their code to their provider or council, along with their National Insurance Number and child’s date of birth. Their provider or council will check the code is authentic and allocate them a free childcare place.