April 2012

Changes to Child Benefit

As you might have seen in the news, the government has introduced changes to who is eligible to receive Child Benefit, taking effect from 7th January 2013. If you or your partner earn over £50,000, the amount of Child Benefit you are eligible for will be reduced – and if one of you earns over £60,000 you will not be eligible to receive any Child Benefit. Those who are earning between £50,000 and £60,000 will have a choice to make before 7th January, since they can still keep some of the Child Benefit they are used to. You can either:

  1. Opt out of Child Benefit, and stop receiving it from 7th January 2012
  2. Choose to continue receiving Child Benefit, but pay a “High Income Charge” as an extra tax, effectively reducing their net Child Benefit. To do this, they must register for Self Assessment and complete a tax return each year

If you choose option 2, you will receive the same amount of Child Benefit as you currently do – but you will have to complete a tax return at the end of the tax year, and HMRC will levy an additional tax of some (or all) of the Child Benefit you received. This so-called “High Income Charge” is calculated as a proportion of where your total income comes between the £50,000 and £60,000 thresholds – e.g., if your income is £55,000, you will have to pay back 50% of the Child Benefit you receive. The income used is your “adjusted net income”, which is not simply your salary – you must add to this any additional income like interest paid on savings, and deduct eligible pension contributions. When you complete a tax return through Self Assessment, HMRC will work out your adjusted net income and the proportion of Child Benefit that you must repay. The High Income Charge will never be more than the Child Benefit you or your partner received. More information is available on HMRC’s High Income Child Benefit Charge page.

If you find yourself in the £50,000 – £60,000 income band, you have a limited amount of time to decide whether you are going to give up Child Benefit or register for Self Assessment (if you haven’t already) and pay the High Income Charge. To help you understand better how this will affect you, there is a government tool you can use to help decide what to do, which will guide you through the relevant points to consider.

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Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 Income Tax No Comments

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New – choose your tax year!

The Salary Calculator has (finally!) been updated so that you can choose to view calculations for different tax years. You will see that there is now a drop-down box in which you can choose the tax year that should be applied. By default, the current 2012/13 tax year will be selected so if you just want to see current values you do not need to do anything.

Details for previous tax years going back as far as the 2005/6 tax years have been made available, so you can see how your take-home pay has changed over the years. You may have forgotten how the personal tax-free allowance has increased over the past few years, which gives you more to take home – or perhaps you’d just like to see how far your salary would have gone a few years ago.

I do plan to add more past years (i.e. before the 2005/6 tax year) to The Salary Calculator, and of course, when the details of 2013/14 and further forward become available, they will be added to the site. Head over to The Salary Calculator to try it out. Please let me know in the comments below if you find this option useful or not!

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Thursday, July 5th, 2012 About The Salary Calculator 5 Comments

What would a 30% flat tax be like?

Earlier this month, the 2020 Tax Commission published a report promoting replacement of our current income tax system, which has varying rates of tax (from 20% to 50%) and National Insurance (typically 12% and 2%), with a simpler system which has a single flat tax at a rate of 30%. They also recommended raising the personal allowance (the amount you can earn tax-free) to £10,000 per year, from its current £8,105.

I thought it would be interesting to see how this plan, if implemented, would affect us when we get paid each month. The following chart compares the April 2012 tax rates in blue with the simplified version in red:

Comparison of a 30% flat tax with current tax rates

Click for a larger, interactive version

As you can see, under this proposal everyone who currently pays tax on employment would take home more money each month, as the total amount due would be less. The 2020 Tax Commission say that as part of this plan, schemes that currently allow people to take income through a business, avoiding National Insurance, would be removed. This might mean that people who are using such schemes to avoid tax at the moment would pay more under the proposal.

But, as you’ve probably realised, if (almost) everyone is paying less tax, that means the Government will get less money. This is indeed true – the gap between the two lines on the chart represents how much less the Government would get each year – and the commission also recommend abolishing inheritance tax and similar taxes, which would further reduce Government income. This would mean further cuts in public spending – which would be difficult to swallow at the moment. More reaction on the report is in this useful BBC article.

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Student Loan repayment threshold

Those of you who are repaying your Student Loan through PAYE might have noticed that this month your student loan deduction is a little lower than usual (£5-£6 lower). This is because the annual threshold for student loan repayments increased in April from £15,000 to £15,795.

Income-contingent Student Loans are repaid from the April after you complete your course, at a rate of 9% on any gross income above this threshold. This is similar to the way income tax is calculated – i.e. a percentage of any income above a certain “free” allowance. However, while the tax-free allowance usually increases by a small amount each year, the student loan repayment threshold has been steady at £15,000 since April 2005 – before that, it was £10,000. If you’ve been paying off your student loan for a few years now, you may be surprised to see this change. More information is available from the Student Loan Repayment site. The Salary Calculator is up-to-date with this change to the repayment threshold.

If you are repaying your student loan and you think you might be close to paying it off, this earlier blog post about Student Loan over-repayment may be of interest to you.

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Monday, April 23rd, 2012 Student Loan No Comments

Comparison of UK and USA take home

You may not know that there is a US version of The Salary Calculator which calculates take-home pay after income tax and Social Security (which is like the UK’s National Insurance). I thought it would be interesting to see how much of their salary our American cousins get to keep compared with how much we get to hold on to over here. I used an exchange rate of $1.59 to the pound, and the 2012 tax rates for both countries, to create this chart:

Comparison of UK and USA take-home pay

Click the image for a larger, interactive version

As you can see, in most cases the Americans get to keep more of their hard-earned cash than we do. The top rate of federal income tax is 35% in the USA, and they only start to pay that if they earn more than $398,100 in a year – compared with 40% tax in the UK if you earn more than £42,475 and 50% if you earn more than £150,000. Also, Social Security is charged at 5.65% of most incomes, compared to National Insurance which is calculated at 12% (although only above income of £7,605 per year). You might have heard in the news some people saying that the 50% tax rate makes Britain unattractive for wealthy business people – this is what they are talking about – if you could run the same business in the USA and pay tens or hundreds of thousands less in tax each year, you’d think about moving – making any British employees you have redundant and employing Americans instead.

However, before you start packing your bags, there are a few other things to consider. Firstly, you can see from this zoomed-in version of the chart that if you earn less than about £12,000 per year, you actually get to keep more of it here in the UK than you would in the US:

Zoomed-in version of the US and UK take-home comparison

Click the image for a larger, interactive version

Also, these calculations only include federal income tax and Social Security – most of the states charge separate income tax on top of what the central government takes, which The Salary Calculator doesn’t currently work out. Another consideration is that in the UK we can rely on the NHS to provide us with healthcare if we need it either for free or for a relatively small prescription charge, but in the USA health insurance can cost thousands of dollars per year.

Also, it can be difficult to get a decent cup of tea.

You can read more about US tax rates on The Salary Calculator (US).

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Thursday, March 29th, 2012 Foreign Currency, Income Tax 7 Comments

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