Understanding how your investments are taxed in the UK is crucial, as the implications can significantly impact your returns.
Whether you’re a novice investor, or a seasoned veteran wanting a refresher, this article will explain the taxation rules for investments in the UK, including how to minimise your tax liability to maximise returns.
Tax on investments – how does it work?
Investing in the stock market can be a lucrative way to grow your wealth, but you’ll need to understand the tax implications of your investment activity. So do you need to pay tax if your investments make you profit?
Yes, any profits made from stock trading are subject to tax.
The exception to this is if you’re trading within an ISA or SIPP, which are ‘wrappers’ designed specifically for tax efficiency or exemption.
Assuming you’re not using a wrapper, the amount of tax you must pay depends on several factors, such as the type of investment you have made, the amount of profit you have made, and your personal tax situation.
Let’s dive into the two primary ways you can be taxed below: Capital Gains Tax, Dividends, and Interest.
Capital Gains Tax (CGT) is a tax on the profits you make from selling an asset that has increased in value since you purchased it. This includes stocks, shares, and other assets such as property and artwork.
In the UK, everyone has an annual CGT allowance, which means you can make gains up to a certain amount each tax year without paying tax.
For the tax year 2022/2023, the CGT allowance is £12,300.
Any gains above this threshold will be subject to CGT at either 10% or 20%, depending on your income level.
|Income Tax Band||Capital Gains Tax Rate|
|Basic rate (up to £50,270 in 2022/23)||10%|
|Higher rate (£50,271 to £150,000 in 2022/23)||20%|
|Additional rate (over £150,000 in 2022/23)||20%|
How are Capital Gains Taxed?
Firstly, it’s important to note that CGT is only payable on the gains you make, not the total amount you receive from selling the shares.
For example, if you bought shares for £5,000 and sold them for £10,000, your gain would be £5,000. This gain is subject to CGT, not the total amount you received from selling the shares.
Depending on your overall income, you will be charged 10 or 20% CGT on this amount.
Dividends are a portion of a company’s profits that are paid out to shareholders, and they can be a valuable source of income for investors. However, it’s essential to understand the tax implications of receiving dividends in the UK.
Dividends are subject to dividend tax, after an initial free allowance of £2000. Any dividends you receive above this amount will be subject to dividend tax.
The dividend tax you will need to pay depends on your income level. There are different tax rates for dividends, depending on whether you are a basic rate taxpayer, a higher rate taxpayer, or an additional rate taxpayer. The introductory rate of dividend tax is currently 7.5%, the higher rate is 32.5%, and the different rate is 38.1%.
|Income Tax Band||Dividend Tax Rate|
|Basic rate (up to £50,270 in 2022/23)||7.5%|
|Higher rate (£50,271 to £150,000 in 2022/23)||32.5%|
|Additional rate (over £150,000 in 2022/23)||38.1%|
It’s worth reiterating that if you hold stocks and shares in a stocks and shares ISA, you will not need to pay any tax on the dividends you receive. This can be a valuable way to receive dividend income tax-free, mainly if you are a higher rate or additional rate taxpayer.
In addition to dividend tax, it’s also essential to consider the impact of dividends on your tax situation. Anything you earn contributes to your overall income and could push you into a higher tax bracket.
Interest income is a type of investment income earned from holding an interest-bearing investment, such as a savings account, bonds, or other fixed-income investments. It is the interest paid on the principal amount invested, usually as a percentage of the amount invested.
For example, if you deposit £10,000 into a savings account with an interest rate of 2%, you will earn £200 in interest income over the course of a year. Similarly, if you invest in a bond with a fixed interest rate, you will receive regular interest payments over the life of the bond.
The amount of income tax you will pay on your interest income will depend on your income tax band. The first £1,000 of interest earned by basic rate taxpayers is tax-free, while higher rate taxpayers have a £500 allowance. Additional rate taxpayers do not receive any tax-free interest. Any interest earned above these thresholds is taxed at the appropriate income tax rate.
|Income Tax Band||Interest Income Tax Rate|
|Basic rate (up to £50,270 in 2022/23)||20% on interest income above the £1,000 tax-free allowance|
|Higher rate (£50,271 to £150,000 in 2022/23)||40% on interest income above the £500 tax-free allowance|
|Additional rate (over £150,000 in 2022/23)||45% on all interest income|
It is worth noting that the tax-free allowance for interest income is separate from the personal allowance used for other types of income.
Paying Stamp Duty on Shares
Stamp Duty on Shares (SDRT) is a tax on purchasing shares in the UK. When you buy shares in a UK company, you must pay a certain percentage of the purchase price in SDRT. The current rate of SDRT is 0.5% of the purchase price, which means that if you buy shares for £10,000, you will need to pay £50 in SDRT.
Fortunately, investment platforms will typically deduct the SDRT automatically when you place your order, so you don’t need to declare it separately on your tax return. However, you should ensure that you are aware of the amount of SDRT being charged, as this can affect the total cost of your investment.
How Does Investment Affect Income Tax?
Anything you earn from investments – including dividends, capital gains, interest from any interest-bearing investment (such as a savings account) or rental income from property – contributes to your overall income.
You’ll need to keep careful records and, ideally, work with a qualified tax professional who can keep abreast of the latest allowances and rates.
If you want to work it out yourself, you could follow a process such as the following:
- Identify the types of investment income: As mentioned earlier, investment income can include dividends, interest, rental income, capital gains, and royalties.
- Gather all relevant documents such as investment account statements, dividend and interest statements, rental income statements, and sale of asset statements.
- Add up all dividend income: Remember that the first £2,000 of dividend income is tax-free in the UK.
- Add up all interest income: Add up all the interest income you received during the tax year. Remember that the first £1,000 of interest income is tax-free for basic rate taxpayers, and the first £500 of interest income is tax-free for higher rate taxpayers.
- Add up all rental income: Add up all the rental income you received during the tax year. Remember to deduct any allowable expenses, such as mortgage interest, repairs, and maintenance.
- Calculate capital gains: If you sold any assets during the tax year, calculate the capital gain on each sale by subtracting the purchase price from the selling price. Remember that you can deduct any allowable expenses, such as transaction fees, from the capital gain.
- Add up all investment income: Add up all the investment income you calculated in steps 3 to 6. This will give you the total investment income for the tax year.
- Determine the tax treatment: Depending on the type of investment income, it may be subject to income tax, capital gains tax, or both. Determine the appropriate tax treatment for each type of investment income.
- Calculate the tax liability: Once you have determined the tax treatment for each type of investment income, calculate the tax liability for each type. Remember to take into account any tax-free allowances and deductions.
Trading is Taxed Differently from Investments
As if all this wasn’t complicated enough, a further distinction must be understood.
If you’re an active stock trader and buy and sell shares frequently, you may be classified as a trader rather than an investor. Any profits you make from stock trading will be subject to income tax rather than CGT. Income tax is typically charged at a higher rate than CGT, and the amount you must pay will depend on your income level.
Are you a trader or an investor?
An investor is someone who buys and holds investments for the long term, with the goal of generating income or capital gains over time. Investors typically make occasional trades and do not actively manage their portfolios on a daily basis. For tax purposes, the profits earned by investors are considered capital gains, and are subject to capital gains tax. The tax rate depends on the investor’s income tax band and the amount of profit made.
On the other hand, a trader is someone who actively buys and sells investments in the short term with the goal of making a profit on each trade. Traders make frequent trades and often use complex trading strategies to try to generate profits. For tax purposes, the profits earned by traders are considered income, and are subject to income tax and national insurance contributions. The tax rate depends on the trader’s income tax band and the amount of profit made.
The following factors may be taken into account by HMRC when making this determination:
- Frequency and Duration of Trades: HMRC may look at how often the person buys and sells investments and how long they typically hold them.
Example: John buys and sells shares in a company on a weekly basis, holding them for only a few days each time. He has made over 50 trades in the last year. HMRC may consider him to be a trader rather than an investor due to the frequency and short duration of his trades.
- Level of Expertise: HMRC may also consider the person’s level of expertise in investing and trading. If someone has a deep knowledge of financial markets and can make informed investment decisions, this may suggest that they are a trader rather than an investor.
Example: Sarah has a degree in finance and has worked as a professional trader for several years. She spends several hours daily researching and analyzing market trends before making trading decisions. HMRC may consider her to be a trader rather than an investor.
- Intention: HMRC may also examine the person’s intention behind their investment or trading activity. If someone’s goal is to generate a steady income stream or build long-term wealth, this may suggest that they are an investor. If someone’s goal is to make a quick profit on each trade, this may suggest that they are a trader.
Example: Mark buys shares in a company with the intention of holding them for at least five years in the hope that the company will grow and the shares will increase in value. HMRC may consider him to be an investor rather than a trader due to his long-term investment goals.
It is worth noting that the determination of whether someone is a trader or an investor is not always clear-cut, and the factors above are not exhaustive. Each case will be considered on its individual facts and circumstances. It is important to keep detailed records of investment and trading activity, and to seek professional advice if you are uncertain about how you should be taxed.
How to make your investments tax-efficient
Choosing the right ‘tax-wrapper’ such as an ISA or SIPP is the best way to ensure you’re paying less tax on your investments.
|Investment Wrapper||Tax Benefit||Annual Allowance||Investment Limit||Restrictions|
|Individual Savings Accounts (ISAs)||Tax-free growth and withdrawals||£20,000 (2022/23 tax year)||None||Can only be opened by UK residents aged 16 and over|
|Self-Invested Personal Pensions (SIPPs)||Tax relief on contributions and tax-free growth||100% of earnings (up to £40,000 per year or £4,000 for non-earners)||No investment limit, but an annual allowance may be reduced for high earners||Withdrawals generally cannot be made before age 55|
|Lifetime ISAs (LISAs)||Tax-free growth and withdrawals for specific purposes||£4,000 per year (included in the overall ISA limit)||£ 450,000-lifetime investment limit||Must be aged 18-39 to open|
|Junior ISAs (JISAs)||Tax-free growth and withdrawals (once the child turns 18)||£9,000 per year (2022/23 tax year)||£9,000 per year (2022/23 tax year)||Can only be opened for children under the age 18|
|Child Trust Funds (CTFs)||Tax-free growth and withdrawals (once the child turns 18)||£9,000 per year (2022/23 tax year)||£9,000 per year (2022/23 tax year)||No new CTFs can be opened, but existing ones can be transferred to a JISA|
Tax Planning Strategies
Tax planning strategies are strategies that are used to minimize the amount of tax paid on investments. However, this is a complex area where professional advice is highly recommended.
- Tax-loss harvesting: This strategy involves selling investments that have decreased in value to realize a capital loss, which can be used to offset capital gains and reduce tax liability. The sold investments can then be replaced with similar but not identical investments to maintain the overall investment strategy.
- Offset capital gains with losses: Capital gains can be offset with capital losses to reduce the amount of capital gains tax owed. This can involve selling investments that have lost value to realize the loss, which can then be used to offset capital gains in the same tax year.
- Deferring capital gains: Capital gains can be deferred by holding onto investments for longer periods of time. This can allow the gains to be taxed at a lower rate or to be offset by capital losses in future tax years.
- Using tax-efficient wrappers: Tax-efficient investments, such as ISAs and pensions, can minimise the tax paid on investment income and gains (ideal if you’re saving for your pension pot).
- Giving money to charity: Donations to registered charities can be used to offset income tax or capital gains tax liabilities, depending on the type of donation and the individual’s tax situation.
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