Tax move means cheaper PEPs

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The Independent Online
THOUSANDS of people will pay less for their unit trust personal equity plans following a tax ruling by Customs and Excise. The tax change would reduce the cost of investing pounds 6,000 in a unit trust PEP by pounds 52 a year.

Some fund managers have been levying VAT on the initial charge of unit trust PEPs. The initial charges are typically about 5 to 6 per cent.

Customs and Excise has now made it clear that the initial charge will be exempt from VAT. This means a 17.5 per cent reduction on an initial charge, which typically would be about pounds 300 on a pounds 6,000 PEP.

The Association of Unit Trust and Investment Funds (Autif) sought clarification from Customs and Excise about the VAT status of all charges on all types of PEP.

Guidelines thrashed out by Customs and Autif show that unit trust PEP charges are exempt provided there is no extra charge for investing in the trust within a PEP - and that means practically all of them.

The agreement between Autif and Customs and Excise came into force on 1 April.

Perpetual, one of the biggest unit trust PEP providers, said that the clarification would make a difference to thousands of its PEP holders.

Mike Plummer, Perpetual's chief accountant, said: 'At last we have a level playing field. The change could affect thousands of our PEP holders. Nobody will suffer VAT on the PEP charges levied by Perpetual.'

Gartmore used to charge VAT but following the clarification has stopped.

Customs and Excise said that the situation had been confusing. 'The new guidelines make it clear which type of PEP can be exempt and which are not.'

If a fund manager chooses to become VAT-exempt, it will no longer be allowed to claim back VAT on services it buys in.

According to the guidelines, the initial charge on a PEP that invests in shares, or invests in a mixture of shares and unit trusts, will be subject to VAT if the plan is not a self-select scheme. Where it is a self-select scheme, the charge could be exempt or it could be standard-rated.

Simon Smith, Autif's taxation adviser said in a letter to members: 'It is anticipated that this agreement will significantly clarify the VAT treatment in a number of different areas. The existence of the schedule gives us scope to add and amend items as the PEP product develops.'

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