Major changes will be introduced to Income Tax and Pensions as from 6th April 2011 
Most of the changes below will take effect from 6th April 2011:

- Both employer and employee NI contribution rates will increase by 1%.

- The personal tax allowance will increase to £7,475 but only for those whose earnings are below £100,000.

- Higher rate tax of 40% will apply to earnings in the £35,001 to £150,000 band whilst the additional rate of 50% will continue to apply to earnings over £150,000.

- A new tax regime on pension contributions (both employee and employer pension contributions) will be introduced. The Annual Allowance will reduce to £50,000.

- Any contributions built up above this Annual Allowance will incur a tax charge at the employee’s full marginal rate of tax. The Annual Allowance includes all tax-relievable contributions you may be making to a registered pension scheme including the Company’s pension contribution.

- If the total payments to all your pension plans are less than £50,000 in one tax year, you will be able to carry forward any unused allowance from the previous three tax years. You will be able to carry forward unused allowance from the years before 2011 i.e. a deemed unused allowance can be determined for 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 treating the Annual Allowance as if it has always been £50,000.

- Alternatively Secured Pension (ASP) will be abolished on 6th April 2011.

- Unsecured Pension (USP) will be allowed to continue for life, will be referred to as drawdown pension and will be available in two forms:

- - - Capped: as current USP but with income limits equal to 100% of rates set by HMRC and reviewed every three years before age 75 and every year from age 75.

- - - Flexible: from which unlimited drawdowns can be taken subject to a Minimum Income Requirement (MIR).

- The MIR has been set at £20,000 p.a. for individuals.

- - - There will be no capital alternative to the MIR.

- - - The level of MIR is to be reviewed at least every five years.

- - - To meet the MIR, income must come from a lifetime pension: this pension can be level.

- Individuals in ASP or USP on 6th April 2011 will become subject to the new drawdown pension limits from their next review date.

- Lump sum benefits such as Pension Commencement Lump Sum (tax free cash) and Value Protection will not have to be taken by age 75.

- On death of a pensioner in drawdown current options continue to be available.

- The tax recovery charge on death benefits taken as a lump sum will be 55% at all ages once benefits have been crystallised or if death occurs after age 75.

- Contributions to pensions will not receive tax relief after age 75 and there will be a test against the Lifetime Allowance at age 75 regardless of whether benefits have been crystallised at that point.

For further information or if you feel that you will be effected by these changes please contact us .

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The Latest update on National Employment Savings Trust (NEST) 
From October 2012 UK employers must automatically enrol employees into a ‘qualifying workplace pension scheme’. This auto enrolment could be to your existing company pension scheme if it meets certain criteria. If it does not meet the criteria or if you do not operate a company pension scheme then your employees will be enrolled into National Employment Savings Trust (NEST), a scheme being introduced by the Government.

Between October 2012 and 2017, depending on the size of company, all UK employers will be required to contribute a minimum of 3% of each employee’s eligible earnings into a pension, assuming the employee does not “opt out”. This is intended to incentivise them to start saving towards their retirement. Employees will need to pay a personal contribution of 4% with a further 1% tax relief being added to make the minimum contribution 8%.

Compulsory employer and employee contributions will be phased in.

What is the definition of a ‘Qualifying Scheme’?

Those employers that offer pension schemes which are equivalent to, or provide more generous benefits, than NEST will be allowed to automatically enrol their employees into those schemes rather than NEST.

For an existing or new scheme to be classed as a qualifying scheme it must meet the following minimum criteria for contributions:

FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEME (contracted out) - Accrual rate of at least 1/80th of pensionable pay

FINAL SALARY PENSION SCHEME (contracted in) - Accrual rate of at least 1/120th of pensionable pay

MONEY PURCHASE, STAKEHOLDER or GROUP PERSONAL PENSION PLAN - Minimum contribution of 8% of all qualifying earnings. (between £5,715 and £43,875 pa in 2010/2011 terms) with at least 3% paid by the employer. Schemes must offer a default investment option but will be able to offer an additional choice of funds if they want to.

Are all employers affected?

Self-employed and single director companies will be unable to use auto-enrolment, however they will still be able to use NEST accounts.

Every other business with eligible employees will need to comply with the regulations, even if there is only one employee who meets the criteria.

How attractive is the state scheme for its members?

Currently, there are plans to levy a two percent charge on contributions to pay for the start-up costs of the pension. This is for the repayment of a rumored 600 million pounds that the state is spending to set up the scheme. This is in addition to the 0.3 percent annual management fee.

As long as the two percent contribution charge is in place the potential returns of investors will be eroded.

Should we set up our own scheme rather than go down the ‘NEST’ route?

If you want to attract the best people to your company you will need to offer a pension scheme that offers a choice of good quality funds and low charges.

If you do not already have a pension scheme now is the time to start planning for one.

We can help your company set up a ‘qualifying workplace pension scheme’ that will provide more choice and better results for you and all your valued employees. Contact us today.

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What is Business Protection? 
Research suggests that just 4% of business owners have Business Protection cover in place even though:

* 69% say losing a key individual would have the biggest impact on their business.
* 29% say they would cease trading within 3 months – and 44% within a year.
* 47% have nothing in place to establish what would happen in the event of the death of a business owner.

Death of a Business Partner

On the death of one of the partners in a firm, the beneficiaries of that partner (usually a spouse or family member) may wish to withdraw his/her share of the partnership’s value. This can cause problems for the remaining partners because it might mean that they will have to sell partnership assets to pay the deceased partners family. One solution would be for the partners to insure against the death of each partner – in order to buy out their share.

Death of a Key Employee

The death of an important employee, especially in a small company, may have a devastating effect on a company’s profits. A company may wish to insure against the death of such key employees.

Death of a small Business Shareholder

Small businesses usually have a small number of share holders (often family members, relatives or friends). Surviving shareholders in a small business will probably thus want to buy shares of a deceased shareholder to prevent the shares from going out of the close circle of existing shareholders.

Business Protection helps businesses carry on trading if a key member of staff, shareholder or director dies or contracts a critical illness during the term of the plan.

Contact us if you want to ensure that your business is fully protected.

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Personal Accounts/NEST – The story so far… 
The Pensions Commission found that between 9.6 and 12 million people were undersaving based on the benchmarks they set out. In order to deal with this issue, the Government will be introducing a national pension savings scheme as from April 2012. The scheme was initally known as the ‘personal accounts’ scheme but is now called the ‘National Employment Savings Trust’ or simply ‘NEST’

Employees and employers will be forced to contribute to a NEST account on behalf of the employee, unless the employee chooses to opt out.

Under this new scheme, all employees will be automatically included in a NEST scheme unless their employer already offers a suitable alternative pension scheme. Importantly employees will be forced to contribute 4% of band earnings and employers will have to contribute 3%. A further 1% will be paid in the form of tax relief meaning that a total contribution of 8% of band earnings will need to be paid into the NEST scheme.

Employers must contribute 3% of band earnings, currently described as 3% of employee earnings between £5,000 and £33,500. Employers will be able to phase this in, starting at 1% in 2012, 2% between 2016 - 2017, and 3% by October 2017. In addition, each employer will need to offer an auto-enrolment facility for all members of staff which will need to be in place by the beginning of the 2012 tax year.

Employees will need to contribute 4% of salary, unless they elect to opt-out of the scheme, while HMRC will contribute a further 1% by way of tax relief.

Small employers with fewer than 50 workers will not have to take part in the scheme until sometime between March 2014 and February 2016.

Employers must give new staff basic information about the scheme and staff must be enrolled within a month of starting work. Employees will then be given a further month to decide whether to opt-out.

Employers who already offer employees a pension scheme will have to ensure that their existing scheme is a Qualifying Workplace Pension.

Employers that do not currently offer employees a pension scheme, or those whose schemes do not pass the scheme exempt test and are therefore not considered to be qualifying workplace pension schemes will have to act to comply.

Many details regarding NEST accounts are yet to be finalised and we will aim to keep you posted with the latest developments.

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