Christmas Office Hours

Posted on Thursday 22nd December 2016

The CGA office will be closed from Friday 23rd December, and will reopen on Tuesday 3rd January.

We wish you all the best for Christmas and the New Year.


Latest Crossword Errata

Posted on Monday 12th December 2016

Apologies, there are a couple of across missing clues in this edition's crossword; they are:

 

49  )  Born before the Spanish Communist revolution (5)

50  )  Tokyo delightedly content to use Swiss notes (5)

 

Any otherwise correct solutions sent in with these blank will be included in the prize draw.


Furr & Co.

Posted on Friday 10th June 2016

During these lazy hazy days of Summer what is nicer than a spot of shopping. We've fallen in love with Furr & Co. and we thought you might want to find out more too!

Hungerford in West Berkshire offers the perfect location for up-market independent retailers like the goldsmiths and jewellers, Furr & Company.   Situated at the heart of the outstandingly beautiful North Wessex Downs,  but only an hour from central London,  it offers some great shopping opportunities, particularly in  Bridge Street which has become well-known for its collection of  high quality shops offering an eclectic mix of fashion, interior design and modern art, silver, antiques, hunting, shooting and fishing accessories and of course jewellery. 
 

Furr & Company have had their home in Bridge Street for more than twenty years.  They showcase premier British and Continental jewellery brands as well as their own designs which are produced in their workshops above their main show rooms.

 

 

Good, strong classic designs underpin their heirloom pieces that will last the test of time, and beautifully simple jewellery that works on an every-day basis, enhancing a woman’s wardrobe, but never overwhelming it.  They also hold one of the largest collections of cufflinks outside London.  We love these 18 carat gold hares!

 

 

 

 

Greg and Rachel Furr and their staff are always delighted to offer advice and guidance on jewellery purchases.   Bespoke commissions also form an important part of their portfolio, as well as a comprehensive in-house repair, redesign and valuation service. 

You can find Furr & Co at 
7 Bridge Street, Hungerford, RG17 0EH 
01488 686226

www.furrandco.co.uk


St. James's Place wins prestigious award for the second year running

Posted on Wednesday 13th April 2016

We are delighted to let our members know  that St. James's Place won the prestigious 'City of London Wealth Management Company of the Year' award for the second year running.   CGA Financial & Investment Services joined St. James's Place Wealth Management as a Principal Partner Practice in 1991.

These awards are highly sought after as they are voted for by clients and members of the public based on the quality of advice and service they have received.

Congratulations SJP !


Take Five

Posted on Thursday 25th February 2016

With the tempo of pension reform likely to increase, there will be new traps to avoid, but five retirement planning fundamentals remain.

It’s almost a year since the biggest shake-up in UK pensions in a generation greatly increased flexibility over when – and how – benefits can be taken. Yet at a time when the new freedoms are still bedding in, further radical change could be just around the corner.

Reforms to pension tax relief could be enacted as soon as March, and the new tax year will see increased restrictions on wealthier investors wanting to save into a pension.  

Against this constantly shifting backdrop, financial advice will be the key to making informed choices. The following five ideas could be a good place to start for those who want to better understand the opportunities and traps in 2016.

 1. Take advantage of tax relief whilst doubt remains over its future

Experts believe that tax relief for higher and additional rate taxpayers will be cut in an effort to tilt pension system benefits more towards basic rate taxpayers.

 

Pension tax relief means that, for every £1,000 paid into a pension, a basic rate taxpayer has to contribute £800, a higher rate taxpayer only needs to pay £600, and an additional rate taxpayer just £550. At a time when the Chancellor needs to make deeper cuts to public spending and to improve lower earners’ incentive to save, pension tax relief is a natural target for reform.

 

If reports prove correct, the Chancellor could be about to break the link between tax relief and marginal rates of Income Tax by introducing one flat rate of pension tax relief, instead of the tiered system in use today. The flat rate could be anywhere between 20% and 33% but, crucially, it could be put in place immediately after an announcement is made in the Budget on 16 March.

 

Higher and additional rate taxpayers, who can get up to 40% or 45% tax relief returned to their pension pot, may want to take the opportunity to accelerate pension saving while the existing – some would say ‘generous’ – system remains.

 

 2. Use your available ‘annual allowance’ if you can

You can get tax relief on up to £40,000 of pension contributions made from earnings each year – this is the ‘annual allowance’ – but you could swell your pension pot significantly using the ‘carry forward’ rule. Can some smart financial planning help you maximise tax relief ahead of potential reforms?

 

The amount you can currently invest into a pension each year with tax relief is capped at £40,000. But if you have more cash designated for retirement, unused allowance from the three previous tax years can be carried forward and allocated to the present tax year.

 

By using the carry forward rule, you could add up to £180,000 to your pension this tax year and receive up to £81,000 in tax relief. That is good news if you have the necessary earnings to make such large contributions but, thankfully, smaller sums will benefit too.

From 6 April 2016, additional restrictions will come into effect which mean that those earning more than £110,000 a year could see their annual allowance tapered down from £40,000 to £10,000. For those at the top of the scale, the lost tax relief could amount to £13,500 a year.

 

With a reduction in the annual allowance from 6 April 2016, and potential cuts to the rate of available tax relief coming as soon as 16 March, top earners with the ability to carry forward pension contributions have a rapidly closing window of opportunity in which to benefit fully from the existing allowances and reliefs.

3. Be mindful of the ‘lifetime allowance’, even if you’re a younger saver

A million pounds may seem beyond the reach of most people, but a pension pot of this size is increasingly common. Moreover, from 6 April 2016, £1 million is the maximum the Chancellor will allow anyone to have in their pension before the excess is taxed at 55%. The limit is called the ‘lifetime allowance’ and it is, in effect, a ceiling beyond which pension savings should not be allowed to rise.

 

The lifetime allowance applies to the total of all the pension savings you have, including any final salary schemes you belong to, but excludes your State Pension. Obviously, the lifetime allowance doesn’t affect everyone; but for thousands of workers, including middle managers, teachers, and doctors, a combined pension value of £1 million is not unachievable at retirement. What’s more, responsible savers in their 30s and 40s with relatively modest pension pots could expect to reach the lifetime allowance by retirement, given a run of good investment returns.

 

If the lifetime allowance is a concern, there are alternative ways of saving for retirement. For example, rather than continuing to fund your own pension, you could think about using your income to fund someone else’s pot – for instance, that of your spouse or partner. Alternatively, ISAs can provide a tax-efficient home for surplus income and, for the more advanced investor, there are Venture Capital Trusts and Enterprise Investment Schemes to consider.

If the value of all your pension pots exceeds £1 million on 6 April 2016, then you should speak with your financial adviser about stopping contributions and applying for special protection that could shield the excess capital from tax charges.

4. Be smart when taking income

Unexpected tax bills are a potential pitfall of new pension freedoms and highlight the need for advice when preparing for retirement.

 

Since new pension freedoms were introduced in April 2015, retirees no longer have to buy an annuity with their pension pot, but can take benefits in a variety of ways. This includes the option to keep the pension invested in retirement and/or withdraw cash as required. However, freedom has given rise to hidden dangers and increased the likelihood of people making poor decisions.

 

One danger is that people find themselves unwittingly pushed into higher rate tax bands by cashing in too much of their pension in a single tax year. For example, if a £250,000 pension was taken as a lump sum in the current tax year, the tax bill would be over £70,000, even if the individual had no other earnings – and despite the fact that a quarter of the withdrawal is tax-free.

 

Retirement is a time to ensure that benefits accumulated over a lifetime are taken back tax-efficiently. The tax-free personal allowance – an amount of income you can have before you pay tax – can play a key role in keeping tax bills down. Most people in the UK get a personal allowance; this is currently £10,600, but it will be increased to £11,000 for the 2016/17 tax year, and to £11,200 for 2017/18.

 

Instead of taking a large withdrawal in a single tax year, you could spread it over two or more tax years, utilising more than one year’s personal allowance and reducing your overall tax bill. Better still, if you have a partner or spouse, you could have a combined tax-free allowance of £21,200 for 2015/16, and £22,000 for 2016/17.

 

Therefore, if you have the ability to do so, it’s prudent to ensure that your partner’s pension is fully funded, as well as your own.

 

On top of increases to the personal allowance, the basic rate tax limit will be increased to £32,000 for 2016/17 and £32,400 for 2017/18. Similarly, the higher rate threshold will be £43,000 in 2016/17, and £43,600 in 2017/18, providing more scope to obtain tax-efficient income.

 

If you’re thinking of accessing a large sum from your private pension in the near future, it could make sense to take part of the withdrawal before the end of this tax year and the remaining amount in the new tax year. If you have a partner or spouse, you could reduce the tax bill further by splitting withdrawals equally across both pensions.

 

You could end up paying 40% or 45% tax on a large pension withdrawal; but by careful planning you can keep your highest tax rate at 20%, or even zero.

5. Stay on track for the retirement you want

If people have not saved enough then, quite simply, the freedom to take benefits in a variety of ways is of little value.

 

Despite all the advantages of saving into a pension – and the freedoms for taking benefits – the stark truth is most Britons are still not putting enough aside for the retirement they expect.

 

According to BlackRock’s latest Investor Pulse Survey, people want on average £23,000 per year in retirement income, but believe that a pot of £204,000 will achieve this. In fact, it would require a pot of £407,0001.

 

More than half of people in the UK have never checked the value of their pension savings. Two in five don’t know how much they are paying into their pension pot, and three out of five don’t know how much their employer is contributing2.

 

Furthermore, people tend to underestimate how long they will live; those in good health at age 65 are expected to live well beyond the age of 80, meaning that retirement will last 20 years or more3.

Increased flexibility in pension income is welcome. But the most important thing is to build a fund that gives you the retirement you want for the rest of your life.

 

The levels and bases of taxation, and reliefs from taxation, can change at any time and are generally dependent on individual circumstances. The value of an investment with St. James’s Place will be directly linked to the performance of the funds you select and the value can therefore go down as well as up. You may get back less than you invested.