What will a Conservative government mean for your finances?
David Cameron's surprise election victory has not provided the political certainty you might expect: his Conservative government has an ultra-slim majority of 12 seats - thin compared with the 78-strong majority the prime minister enjoyed as head of the coalition. Nevertheless, the Conservatives do now have a mandate to implement their programme in full.
A 'Blue Budget' will be unveiled on 8 July, which will have significant implications for personal finances. The chancellor, George Osborne, will look to implement the policies in the Conservative manifesto, while quietly dropping ideas developed with his former Liberal Democrat colleagues.
His Budget will have to reflect the Conservatives' promise not to meddle with the main rates of income tax, national insurance and VAT, while raising funding for some of those unfunded manifesto pledges. Look out for lots of fine-print change.
So what does the election result mean for savers, investors and family finances? It will have consequences in many areas.
Isas and other savings
Coming soon to the UK's savings sector: two new types of individual savings account. First up, the Help to Buy Isa, which is scheduled for the autumn.
Savers putting money aside for the deposit on their first home will be able to put up to £200 a month into a tax-free bank or building society savings account, and they will get a £50 top-up from the government for every £200 saved. The money can be used to fund a deposit on a property purchase costing up to £250,000 (£450,000 in London).
The top-up goes straight to the mortgage lender and is only paid out if it is used for a housing transaction. You can only open one Help to Buy Isa (although you can keep paying into it for as long as you want), and you can't do it in a year when you have also opened a conventional Isa.
The Conservatives have promised detailed plans for a second type of individual savings account, a peer-to-peer lending Isa, in the summer. These would enable people who lend money on crowdfunding platforms such as Zopa and Funding Circle to hold their loans within an Isa and shelter the interest from tax.
March's Budget saw Osborne promise not to tax savings interest of up to £1,000 and £500 a year for basic- and higher-rate taxpayers respectively. This pledge will now be honoured with effect from April 2016.
Former pensions minister Steve Webb lost his seat in the election, so he would not have returned to office even if his Liberal Democrat party had continued to play a role in government.
Webb, one of the few pensions ministers in recent years to have actually understood his brief, will be missed by the retirement planning industry, but his replacement, the long-time pension campaigner Ros Altmann, is no less expert and experienced.
Altmann, moreover, was pushing for radical reforms such as the abolition of compulsory annuitisation years before the previous government was converted to this cause (and even before she became a Conservative Party supporter).
The job will include implementing the government's previous proposal to allow people who have already bought pension annuities to auction them off to the highest bidder, which is likely to be possible from next April onwards. 'It is only fair to give people a choice,' Altmann said in March when the idea was floated.
Meanwhile, wealthier savers face imminent cuts to the tax relief available on pension contributions. For people with annual earnings of £150,000 or more, the Conservatives plan to cut the annual allowance - the amount of pension savings people can make each year while still qualifying for tax relief - from £40,000 to £10,000.
The cuts are likely to be introduced gradually, but could begin to take effect from the date of the emergency budget.
The former coalition government's policy of raising the personal allowance so that fewer people pay any income tax at all was Liberal Democrat inspired.
Osborne's promise to get the personal allowance up to £12,500 by the end of the new parliament will now be scrutinised closely. He may, instead, prioritise his promise to move the higher-rate tax threshold to £50,000 over the same period.
What you pay in tax may come to depend on where you live, as the Scottish parliament is set to receive new powers to vary income tax rates in Scotland.
The Conservatives have promised imminent legislation to prevent Scottish MPs voting on rates of income tax in England.
The raid on higher earners' pension tax breaks will fund inheritance tax cuts, which could also be introduced in an emergency Budget.
The Conservatives' proposal is that everyone will keep their current £325,000 inheritance tax allowance (worth £650,000 to a married couple), but they will also get an additional £175,000 allowance each (£350,000 for couples) that they can use when leaving their main home to their children.
The effect for anyone whose property is worth less than £1 million will be to take their main home out of the inheritance tax net.
This additional allowance will still be available to many families whose homes are worth more than £1 million, reducing their inheritance tax bills substantially. But it will be gradually withdrawn from people whose properties are valued at £2 million or more. Those with homes worth more than £2.35 million won't benefit at all.
The Conservatives' manifesto pledge to implement a right-to-buy scheme for housing association tenants claimed to offer up to 1.3 million families the chance to get on the property ladder at discounts of up to 70 per cent on the market value of their homes.
The scheme was roundly criticised by many housing groups, but some form of the scheme is likely to go ahead - although property experts will want more detail on how the government will simultaneously boost house-building programmes.
One emergency budget measure to look out for is the abolition of housing benefit entitlement for 18 to 21-year-olds currently claiming benefits such as Jobseeker's Allowance. This could force some young people to move back in with their parents.
This feature was written for our sister website Money Observer
Invented by a Frenchman in 1954 and ironically introduced in the UK on 1 April 1973, VAT is an indirect tax levied on the value added in the production of goods and services, from primary production to final consumption and is paid by the buyer. Its levying is complex, with a number of exemptions and exclusions. For example, in the UK, VAT is payable on chocolate-covered biscuits, but not on chocolate-covered cakes and the non-VAT status of McVitie’s Jaffa Cakes was challenged in a UK court case to determine whether Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit. The judge ruled that the Jaffa Cake is a cake, McVitie’s won the case and VAT is not paid on Jaffa Cakes in the UK.
A scheme originally established in 1944 to provide protection against sickness and unemployment as well as helping fund the National Health Service (NHS) and state benefits. NI contributions are compulsory and based on a person’s earnings above a certain threshold. There are several classes of NI, but which one an individual pays depends on whether they are employed, self-employed, unemployed or an employer. Payment of Class 1 contributions by employees gives them entitlement to the basic state pension, the additional state pension, jobseeker’s allowance, employment and support allowance, maternity allowance and bereavement benefits. From April 2016, to qualify for the full state pension, individuals will need 35 years’ of NI contributions.
Invidivual Savings Accounts were introduced on 6 April 1999 to replace personal equity plans (PEPs) and tax-exempt special savings accounts (TESSAs) with one plan that covered both stockmarket and savings products, the returns from which are tax-exempt. The ISA is not in itself an investment product. Rather, it’s a tax-free “wrapper” in which you place investments and savings up to a specified annual allowance where the returns (capital growth, dividends, interest) are tax-exempt (you don’t have to declare ISAs and their contents on your tax return). However, any dividends are taxed within the investment, and that can’t be reclaimed.
This is a mutual organisation owned by its members and not by shareholders. These societies offer a range of financial services but have historically concentrated on taking deposits from savers and lending the money to borrowers as mortgages, hence the name. In the mid-1990s many societies “demutualised” and became banks. One academic study (Heffernan, 2003) found demutualised societies’ pricing on deposits and mortgages was more favourable to shareholders than to customers, with the remaining mutual building societies offering consistently better rates. In 1900, there were 2,286 building societies in the UK; in 2011, there are just 51.
The tax levied on the total value of your estate after you die. IHT has to be paid by the beneficiaries of your estate before they can receive any of the money from it. The money can’t be taken from the value of the estate _– it has to be paid before any money can be released. There is an IHT threshold – known as the “nil-rate band” – below which no tax is levied (£325,000 in 2011/12). Any amount above the nil-rate band is subject to tax at 40%. If your estate totals £600,000, there is no tax on the first £325,000; however your estate will pay 40% tax on the remaining £275,000, a total of £110,000. Prudent tax planning can reduce your IHT liability, so always consult a specialist solicitor.