The uses of investment losses…

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen the values of many investments fall. But lower values can have a useful upside. The uses of investment losses

Source: Data from uk.investing.com

‘It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good.’

So it is with the drop in the value of shares and investment funds that has occurred since the start of 2020. It’s worth remembering, however, that paper losses are just that unless and until you sell or otherwise dispose of the investments concerned. Only then do they become real losses.

One perhaps unexpected opportunity lower values offer is that they make it easier to restructure or rebalance investment holdings. Often long-term employees of listed UK companies build up substantial shareholdings in their employer as a result of share schemes, such as the tax-favoured share incentive plan or SAYE plan. The end product can be a ‘portfolio’ heavily weighted towards just one company’s shares – the same company that is the investor’s salary provider and pension funder.

The averaging of prices that goes into a capital gains tax (CGT) calculation can make it difficult to sell down such an outsized holding without facing a tax charge. Now that the value of those shares might have fallen by 20% or more, there is greater scope to create a more balanced portfolio before tax looms into view.

Estate planning is another area to focus on. If you make an outright gift of shares or holdings in funds, then for CGT purposes you are in the same position as if you sold the holding. Here lower values have three benefits:

  • The taxable gain is reduced or even transformed into an allowable loss.
  • Your gift has a lower worth than it would have done at the start of the year, so if it does fall back into the inheritance tax calculation under the seven-year rule, it will have a smaller impact on your estate’s inheritance tax calculation.
  • Any recovery in value occurs outside of your estate.

There are several other ways to utilise market falls in your planning but, as always, make sure you take advice before taking any action.

The value of your investment can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount you invested.

Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future performance.

Investing in shares should be regarded as a long-term investment and should fit in with your overall attitude to risk and financial circumstances.

Tax treatment varies according to individual circumstances and is subject to change

The Financial Conduct Authority does not regulate inheritance tax advice.

22nd May 2020

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