End of year Tax Planning: Five tax tactics to deploy before the end of March 2024

As we approach the end of the tax year, there is still some time to employ some effective end-of-year tax planning tactics.

Here we look at five steps you can still implement before 5 April which will help to reduce tax liability and protect wealth.

1. Use your annual pensions allowances

Nothing beats pensions when it comes to effective end-of-year tax planning. With contributions attracting tax relief at your marginal income tax rate. This means a 40% income taxpayer can get £10,000 of pension at a net cost of just £6,000, once the tax reliefs are factored in.

‘If you have not hit your annual £60,000 pension contribution allowance, then consider using any spare funds to take advantage of the generous tax reliefs on offer. But keep an eye on your lifetime allowance too.’

You can also carry forward unused annual allowances from the last three tax years, to add an even larger lump sum into your pot – although the total contribution over the tax year is still subject to the limit that it cannot exceed your annual gross earnings.

2. Use – or lose – your Individual Savings Account (ISA) allowances

Up to £20,000 per adult can be subscribed to an ISA before midnight on 5 April, with all returns generated within it sheltered from future taxation. Hollands stresses: ‘If you are unsure of where to invest, you can fund your ISA initially with cash between now and then to use up any of the allowance that remains. Investments do not have to be purchased before then.’

Payments into a Lifetime ISA (LISA) – available to those under 40 – come out of your overall ISA allowance. But the generous government top-up means that for some savers – like those building up a deposit to purchase their first home – using up the annual £4,000 limit may well be worthwhile.

3. Start saving for children

Early saving at or soon after the birth of a child is a powerful tool that can generate big pots by the time they reach adulthood, The Junior ISA allowance is a generous £9,000 a year.

Moreover, even those who are not paying tax are entitled to tax relief on pension contributions of £2,880 a year (which the top-up takes to £3,600), the so-called ‘basic amount’. This means a pension with tax benefits can be opened for a child of any age – or indeed a non-earning spouse.

4. Be strategic with capital gains

Regular disposals of investments each year is a good way to ensure effective end-of-year tax planning. By taking advantage of the annual capital gains tax (CGT) exemption you can protect yourself against a hefty future CGT bill. Otherwise, when you come to dispose of an investment, the profits on which might take you over the annual £6,000 allowance (Note that this will drop to £3,000 in Spril 2024.)

This tactic can also be used to transfer investments that are held outside an ISA into one by the process called ‘Bed and ISA’.  But take action quickly as funds will need to be sold down to cash and moved into the ISA before 5 April and this can take a few days to clear.

Equally, it might be beneficial to crystallise some losses by making a disposal of poorly performing assets to bring the year’s overall capital gains down below the annual allowance.

If you are married or in a civil partnership, then inter-spousal transfers can be used to make sure both partners’ allowances are used optimally. When shares, for instance, are transferred from one spouse to another, it is assumed they are given at cost value and therefore do not trigger a tax liability. The CGT allowance for that year of the spouse who receives the transfer then comes into play.

5. Gifts to reduce inheritance tax liability

There are a number of tax-free financial gifts that you can make each year. These leave your estate immediately so there will not be any inheritance tax to pay. These include: 

  • gifts to a civil partner, husband, or wife (if their permanent home is in the UK); 
  • up to £3,000 in gifts each tax year. This can be carried over for one year giving a total of £6,000; 
  • an unlimited number of gifts up to £250 per person; and 
  • wedding gifts to a child of up to £5,000, to a grandchild or great-grandchild of up to £2,500, or to anybody else of up to £1,000.

The gifting rule noted above allows married couples and civil partners to transfer assets such as cash and investments between them, without giving rise to any tax liabilities, creating numerous opportunities to maximise the use of two sets of tax allowances. You can find out more on the HMRC website here.

If you have any questions about what you can do to improve your end-of-year tax planning please contact us – we’re always happy to help!