Gifting to the next generation

Making large gifts can lead to tax and other complications, so it is helpful to have an imaginative financial plan that overcomes many of the difficulties. Sting recently provoked a flurry of online comment with his solution to the problem: leaving his children nothing of his £180 million fortune.

However, he is the exception to the rule. Older and richer clients often want to make significant financial gifts to their grandchildren or other young relatives, with both familial feeling and estate planning considerations coming into play. The difficulty is that making large gifts can lead to tax and other complications, so it is helpful to have an imaginative financial plan that overcomes many of the difficulties.

How could this work for a reasonably large transfer? Ideally it should be a gift into a bare trust because of the inheritance tax advantages. It will count as a potentially exempt transfer and avoid the possibility of ten-yearly and exit charges and other complexities. The income tax position is simple and tax-efficient, especially if the donor is not a parent. But like Junior ISAs, a bare trust opens up the potential danger of 18-year-olds getting their hands on more money than would be good for them.

The good news is there is a special plan that uses a combination of the design of the investment vehicle and the structure of the trust that holds the investments to stop children getting their hands on too much money, too quickly. The family enjoys the benefits of a bare trust without necessarily providing the early access for the child.

The trust funds can be used on anniversary dates during the child’s life – for example to help with school fees, university costs, or setting up a home. The child cannot touch the money without the trustees’ agreement even after reaching the age of 18. The gift counts as a PET and the funds are in offshore bonds, so until encashment have the same tax profile as a NISA. The profits could well be subject to income tax (unlike a JISA or ISA), but planning might well help minimise that possible liability. An important aspect of the plan is that it is conventional tax planning. It is not what might be called “full frontal” tax avoidance – or indeed  tax avoidance in any aggressive or even assertive sense. That is the view of the company that devised the plan – Canada Life International. Here is how the plan works.

Ringfencing access

The donor –  let us assume it is a grandparent – makes a gift of at least £50,000 into a bare trust that is almost entirely for a grandchild under the age of 18. There would be one trust per grandchild. Distinctive about the trust, however, is that 1% of the trust fund is in favour of a responsible adult – probably one of the parents. So the child would not be able to wind up the trust once they reached the age of 18, because they would not have unanimity among the beneficiaries. The gift into the bare trust is a PET and so outside the grandparent’s estate after seven years and it avoids all the IHT and other complications of a discretionary trust. The drawback is that the beneficiaries cannot be changed – for example, if the grandchild dies.

Investment tax wrapper

The investment tax wrapper is a series of special single-premium fixed term policies written on the life of the beneficiary that pay out on death or on maturity. Each policy (and there can be up to 99 of them) has a fixed maturity date, which can be before or after the child reaches 18. It makes sense for some (or possibly) all of them to be fixed for those years when money might be needed for school fees. If the money is not needed at that time, the trustees can defer the maturity date of each policy to another fixed date – say when the child is in their early or mid 20s and needs money to clear debt, or buy a home, for instance. So there could be a series of maturity dates when the cash is paid out.

The profits on maturity of policies will be fully taxable on the beneficiary because it is a bare trust, even when the child is under 18, as long as the settlor is not a parent. This will allow the child to use their personal allowance – £10,500 from 2015/16. At that time the starting rate for the first £5,000 of savings income will also drop to nil. So a grandchild with just savings income from the trust could have profits in 2015/16 of up to £15,500 tax-free. The parental joint beneficiary with the 1 per cent interest could give it to the main beneficiary, although that could involve some (probably minor) tax consequences.

So a grandparent could make a tax-efficient gift to a grandchild, safe in the knowledge the recipient should be mature enough to receive it.

Mind you, some people never grow up. But the final maturity date for the policies has to be before the child beneficiary reaches the age of 49, by which time Canada Life International believes they might be sufficiently mature or the grandparents might be safely deceased.


Danby Bloch is editorial director of Taxbriefs Financial Publishing

This article originally appeared in Money Marketing

Taxbriefs publishes a range of Key Guides for financial advisers and accountants, including:

  • Pensions flexibility – the new rules
  • Workplace pensions and auto-enrolment
  • Pensions and tax planning for high earners
  • The taxation of investments
  • Taking control of your pension plan
  • Investment planning and asset allocation
  • Investing for income when you retire
  • Investing for children
  • The key stages of financial planning
  • You and yours – estate planning
  • Living abroad
  • Business succession planning
  • Financial protection for you and your family

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