Our new Head of Tax and Trusts on the key tax issues to look out for in 2020

We are delighted to announce that Steve Meredith, a leading tax lawyer with a national reputation, has been appointed as Head of Tax & Trusts at Attwaters Jameson Hill. He comes with many years of experience and expertise behind him, and believes that the relatively new Residence Nil Rate Band (RNRB), which was first introduced in April 2017, will become a hot topic over the next few years.

The imminent increase of the RNRB threshold to £175,000 per individual (or £350,000 for married couples and civil partners), due to take effect this April, will make it an even more valuable Inheritance Tax (IHT) relief. It will enable homeowners who leave their property to their children or grandchildren to save up to an extra £140,000 on their IHT liability. It may even be possible to claim the relief even if you no longer own a home (for example, you may have sold it to move into a care home), and there are also complicated rules regarding downsizing.

However, Steve foresees difficulties ahead. He says: “The RNRB rules are not straightforward and many lawyers are still struggling to get to grips with them. The relief can easily be lost through faulty Will drafting, or if trust structures have already been set up following an individual’s death. This is where a tax specialist can make a real difference.”

Steve has spent over 20 years in the tax planning field and believes that his long experience and in-depth technical knowledge give him an advantage over most other private wealth lawyers. “I am able to point clients in the right direction (having fully explored all the options with them) and tailor the solution to each individual’s particular family and financial circumstances. This is particularly important these days due to the increasingly complex nature of modern families. For example, we are seeing an increase in clients who have remarried and have children from a previous marriage; with careful planning, it may be possible to claim multiple RNRBs in cases such as these, achieving a potential IHT saving of up to £280,000.”

Steve also believes that the use of family trusts, and Will trusts in particular, will become more widespread in 2020. Steve advises: “Many people are wary of trusts, believing them to be more complex and expensive than they actually are. However, most modern trusts are straightforward and inexpensive to administer. Their main benefits include safeguarding the assets of young or vulnerable beneficiaries, using them to mitigate or defer tax liabilities, and protecting money from creditors including care fees. When used correctly, trusts can give peace of mind and offer valuable protection for assets that people may have spent a lifetime accumulating.”

With particular expertise in IHT and Capital Gains Tax (CGT) planning for high-net-worth individuals, business owners and farmers, Steve is well suited to and already enjoying his new role here at Attwaters Jameson Hill, which has long had an excellent reputation for our lawyers’ expertise in dealing with private wealth legal and tax issues. He typically works with clients in the £1m – £20m wealth bracket, helping them to pass down wealth to the next generation(s) in a safe and tax-efficient manner.

Speaking about his new position, Steve says “I’m originally from Essex myself and was educated at Brentwood School. However, this is the first time that I have worked in the county and I am delighted to be joining a local firm with a friendly, approachable team and a dynamic and progressive outlook.

“My focus will be working with the firm’s clients, including business owners, to help them achieve their aspirations for their wealth. Starting as early as possible is crucial. Often business owners and those with well-paid and demanding jobs are too busy to take time out to plan their affairs.”

Steve concludes: “There is no point in working hard all your life only to give most of your hard-earned money to the taxman when you die. If you come to see me early enough, you may be very surprised at how much tax you can save by taking specialist advice (Steve is one of the relatively few solicitors who are both CTA and STEP qualified) and careful planning. There is a world of difference between thinking you know what you’re doing and really knowing what you’re doing.”

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