Ten tips for keeping your tax bill to a minimum: As 5 April approaches, you should make sure you take advantage of all the available savings and avoid unnecessary liabilities

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The Independent Online
IF YOU want to save hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds of tax, then the Independent 10-point tax planning checklist below is essential reading.

The end of the tax year looms, and you should act now to keep your tax bill to a minimum.

Patrick Way, tax partner with the solicitors Gouldens, has a piece of advice that will appeal to everyone who finds conventional tax-planning about as interesting as watching two flies climb up a wall.

Spend, spend

Mr Way says: 'The Government may well raise VAT to 25 per cent in the Budget. Therefore, one simple piece of advice to save tax - go out and buy goods before Budget day.'

Married couples

This allowance is currently pounds 1,720. Notify the Revenue before 5 April how the allowance is to be split for the 1993/4 tax year. Either spouse can have the allowance or it can be split equally.

If the wife is a higher rate taxpayer and her husband pays basic rate tax, there will be a saving of pounds 285 if she takes the whole allowance.

If no election is made, the Revenue will give it to the husband as before.

Investment income

Married couples should review their investments so that income is directed to the partner with the lowest tax rate.

In addition, Michael Norrie of the chartered accountants Norrie Stokes & Perrett, advises that you should close any gross interest deposit accounts before 5 April. He says: 'If you have a National Savings Investment Account which pays gross interest or you have a sizeable bank deposit account - banks often pay gross interest on deposits above pounds 50,000 - your tax is provisionally assessed on the interest received in the previous year.

'Interest rates have fallen dramatically over the past year, and if the account is closed before 5 April, the 1992/3 assessment will be based on the gross interest actually received in that year rather than the prior year basis of 1991/2 when interest rates were so much higher.'

Capital gains

Capital gains are taxed at the individual's marginal rate. Married couples should make every effort to ensure that any taxable gains accrue to the party with the lowest tax rate.

CGT exemptions

Have you used your annual exemption of pounds 5,800 for capital gains tax? If not, you will lose it after 5 April. Both husband and wife have pounds 5,800.

Mr Norrie says: 'With the stock market close to record highs, it is worth considering bed and breakfasting shareholdings, having first transferred the holdings to take advantage of the two exemptions.'

If you bed and breakfast, you sell shares one day and buy them back the next.

However, for some people their investments have become worthless.

Mr Way advises: 'Claims should be made to treat these assets as giving rise to a capital gains tax loss. This claim can be made within two years of when the asset becomes worthless. The loss can then be offset against current gains or carried forward.'

Personal pensions

Pension arrangements are the most tax-efficient system of savings available in the United Kingdom.

Check that you have paid the maximum retirement annuity or personal pension contributions in the year ended 5 April 1993, and claimed maximum relief for earlier years. If not, you may lose some tax relief.

The maximum contributions you can make depend on your age and are expressed as a percentage of income.

If you are a member of a company scheme and are already making mandatory pension contributions, you are also entitled to make additional voluntary contributions to your employer's scheme.

Alternatively you can make separate, free-standing additional voluntary contributions into a separate pension arrangement.

Your overall contribution is limited to 15 per cent of your earnings. Tax relief is available only in the year of payment and cannot be carried forward or back. You must, therefore, pay before 5 April 1993 if the 1992/3 tax bill is to be reduced.

Inheritance tax

Make use of the the annual exemption of gifts totalling pounds 3,000 a year.

Personal equity

plans and Tessas

Consider opening a PEP. These are investment schemes free of income and capital gains tax. A total of pounds 9,000 can be invested in any one year.

You might also consider the merits of opening a tax-exempt special savings acccount. Provided that the savings are left in the account for five years, the interest is tax-free.

Company cars

Make sure that your business mileage - this does not include home to work - is more than 2,500 miles for the year to 5 April. You will be charged tax on an extra 50 per cent benefit if your mileage is below this figure.

If you can exceed 18,000 business miles, the standard taxable benefit will halve.

BES

Business expansion schemes will cease on 31 December. Current BES schemes allow individuals to obtain 40 per cent tax deduction on their investment coupled with a capital gains tax-free gain.

Some schemes allow investors to recover significant amounts of their money tax-free within six months.

There are rumours that these schemes may be brought to an end in the Budget. It may, therefore, be better to invest sooner rather than later.

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