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Tax planning and the law of inertia

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The BBC is on excellent form at the moment making science accessible to the masses. Entropy and the arrow of time sounds more like a Harry Potter book than the perplexing concept hinged on the notion that, as each moment passes, things change and, once these changes have happened, they are never undone. 

Luckily, Brian Cox has a wonderful knack of being able to use the ordinary to explain the extraordinary, which is something that I will attempt here.

Inertia is another one of those concepts – a bit like entropy – that one thinks one ought to be able to explain adequately, only for (ironically) much going around the houses to ensue. 

Such explanations are usually exacerbated by increasing use of flappy hand gestures, punctuated by vague Waiting for Godot references in the vain attempt to at least sound well read, if not metaphysically on point (and I can assure you that I am neither).

Last year, our Taxing Times research found that macroeconomic forces, competitive pressures and basic demographics were helpfully converging to  present some fantastic opportunities for advisers to do more tax planning.

Coupled with these macro drivers was an appreciation among advisers that they could (and should) do more, and most expressed a strong willingness to engage.

Fast-forward a year and little has changed. Why?

The answer, we think at least in part, lies within the law of inertia: the resistance of an object to any change of its state of motion (i.e. the tendency to keep moving in a straight line at constant velocity).

By way of an example, we offer financial advisers that participate in our studies free access to a wide range of practical tax planning knowledge – which is exactly what advisers say they need to overcome the hump. 

In our latest research, we found that only 14 per cent of the advisers requesting access made any use of this desired knowledge over a three-month period. Inertia: why desire and intention do not always equal action.

What this means for providers is that encouraging a change in behaviour among advisers is about more than simply doing that which is asked for. 

What this means for advisers is that, should you be one of the determined souls that manage, by sheer force of will, to alter your course, then the fruits of your labour will be shared only with a small minority. And that has to be worth the effort.

Phil Wickenden is managing director of So Here’s The Plan

PW

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