When it’s time to encash your investment bonds, how much you get back depends on how your investment performed and your tax liability. Investors should take care when encashing (making withdrawals) these investments to avoid unexpected tax bills.
There are lots of terms around bonds which can be confusing for new investors – gilts, yields, surrender values and maturity dates. Fortunately for our clients, we work hard to make financial planning simple. If you’re thinking of encashing all or part of an investment bond, a Wren Sterling adviser can help you make the most of your investment – especially where large gains are made. This article answers some of the questions we’re often asked about investment bonds.
What is an investment bond?
Bonds are loans made to governments or large businesses for a set time. When you ‘cash in’ your investment bond, how much you will get back depends on how the investment has performed. Investment bonds usually pay investors interest to compensate them for this loan. This interest based on a fixed rate, and is usually paid twice a year.
What is a premium bond?
You may have heard of premium bonds – but these are not the same as investment bonds. Unlike other types of bonds, which earn interest or regular income, investors with premium bonds are entered into a monthly prize draw. While there are different types of bonds, in this article we’re going to focus on investment bonds.
When should I cash in my investment bonds?
When you take out a bond, you will have agreed to a maturity date – a deadline at which the investor can expect to receive the value of their bond, which may have fluctuated since it was invested. At this point, some investors choose to re-invest their money, or close the bond and use the funds as they wish.
If your circumstances change and you can’t wait for the maturity date, you can withdraw small amounts from your bond each month or each year, or you can fully encash your policy (withdraw it all). You can withdraw up to five per cent of the amount invested each year (for up to 20 years) without incurring immediate tax. But your tax bill does not disappear, it is deferred until you fully encash the bond, or when it matures, at which time any additional tax will be due.
Whether or not you should cash in your investment bond will depend on your circumstances and your tax liability, as your gains may be liable to income tax. A financial adviser can help you calculate this to ensure you’re not losing out.
Can I cash in part of my bond?
Any ‘part surrenders’ will also have an effect when calculating your gains – so for this article, we’re going to focus on encashing the whole policy (or policy segment), as the basic premise is the same.
Depending on the type of bond you choose, there will be differences. You should always look at policy conditions to find out what charges might apply to withdrawals. For example, the main difference between onshore and offshore bonds is their tax treatment. If you are thinking of making an investment please speak to your financial adviser, as there will be more to consider than is discussed within the scope of this article, which focuses on onshore bonds.
How will I be taxed?
When fully surrendering the investment bond, the ‘chargeable event’ (where any gain may result in a tax liability) is treated as having happened on the day it is surrendered – and your gain is considered as income for that tax year.
There are a number of events which may trigger chargeable events, such as:
- Receiving interest payments
- The Maturity Date
- Transferring ownership of all or part of the bond
- Encashing all or part of the bond
- The event of your death.
How do I calculate my overall gain?
When encashing your bond, the taxable part of your investment is the overall gain. To find out what this is, you add the surrender value (the amount your bond is worth at the time of encashment) and any previous withdrawals, then deduct the payments you have made to the bond, as well as any gains over the five per cent allowance.
Overall gain = Surrender value + Withdrawals – Payments you’ve made – Gains over the five per cent allowance
Let’s use an example. Harry has a taxable income of £21,000, which is within the basic limit. Harry has decided to encash his investment bond, which has gained £7,000 in value. This means there is no additional tax to pay.
Any tax liability is calculated based on the overall gain made on the investment bond – not on the amount invested. As Harry’s gain did not increase his tax liability, this was a simple calculation. However, if this gain had caused Harry’s income to increase, we would need to calculate the top-slicing relief.
How will I be taxed if I am a high rate tax payer?
You will only pay tax on the overall gain if you already pay high rate Income Tax, or if the gain takes your income into the high rate band. You will then pay 20 per cent or 25 per cent tax on the gain, or part of the gain. This is because an onshore bond is effectively taxed at 20 per cent at source.
As an example, Lynne encashes her bond, causing a chargeable event gain of £7,000. Her other income for the same tax year is £48,000. Before adding the gain, Lynne’s taxable income is below the high rate tax limit, but with the gain, Lynne’s total income for that year will fall into the high bracket. This means that Lynne could benefit from top-slicing relief.
|Encashing Lynne's bond||Top-slicing relief|
|Her Personal Allowance||£12,500||£12,500|
|Lynne's taxable income||£35,500||£35,500|
|Amount of the bond to be added to her income||£7,000||£1,000|
|Rate of tax to pay||40%||20%|
How does top-slicing work?
Top-slicing relief can reduce the tax payable on gains from a bond – particularly by those whose tax liability may cause them to be lifted into the high rate tax bracket by their investment gains. When an investment bond is encashed, the investment gain is divided between the number of whole years the policy has been held, called ‘top-slicing’. Only the ‘slice’ of the gain will be added to your income and is considered when calculating your tax liability.
Total gain / Number of whole years the policy has been in force = Slice of gain
Lynne has held her bond for seven years. As her overall gain is £7,000, the sliced gain is £1,000. Only this slice would contribute to her taxable income for that year, and so Lynne doesn’t move to a high tax bracket.
If you’re thinking about encashing all or part of your bond, we’d recommend talking to an Independent Financial Adviser to help you work out your tax liability, and ensure that you’re not paying more tax on your investments than you need to.
At Wren Sterling we take the time to get to know you before we make any recommendations – your personal circumstances, your investment goals and your level of risk. Our on-going clients can benefit from regular reviews, keeping your financial plans on track in the face of life’s opportunities and challenges.
Some clients have retired when they begin to plan for IHT. For some, this may be too late, as this raises the possibility of being taxed on gifts already made as they’re more likely to die within the seven year timeframe for tax-free gifting. Find out more in this article on the essentials of gifting.
The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate taxation advice, the levels, bases and reliefs from taxation are subject to the individual circumstances of the investor.