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16 April 1998

While in most respects the Budget was fair and reasonable, there is one particular bit of retrospective legislation which will have an adverse affect on many clients of independent financial advisers unless the Inland Revenue or Parliament change their minds.

This is the penal tax on personal portfolio bonds, both UK and offshore.

In future, such investors, in addition to normal tax charges applying to all investment bonds, are to be taxed on a deemed compound 15 per cent investment "profit" each year.

According to a Revenue official, there are no plans to repay the tax if actual investment profits are less than 15 per cent a year or even if the investment makes an overall loss.

The Revenue appears to have a bee in its bonnet about these types of bond, which are really no different than any offshore or investment bond except that they allow an investor to appoint their own manager for the internal life funds to which their policies are linked.

Fraser Smith chairman Michael Bryant has rightly started a campaign to get the Revenue to change its mind.

He says: "There is absolutely no fiscal justification for this attack on personal portfolio bonds. Investors in them pay no less tax than investors in any other type of insurance-linked investment bond.

"Bringing in a tax on deemed artificial profits smacks of penal taxation. Delaying the tax charge for one year so that investors can surrender existing arrangements, perhaps paying additional tax and surrender charges, smacks of bullying."

In any event, the gain to the Revenue is minimal as, presumably, most investors will switch into funds which are accepted by the Revenue and will pay exactly the same tax that personal portfolio bonds do at present.

What madness.

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