“Today’s Queen Speech was met with raised eyebrows before the monarch even took her throne. The speech normally marks the opening of a parliamentary session and outlines a Government’s proposed policies and legislation for the coming session. However, with no majority, the government’s proposals could end up being empty rhetoric. The speech can basically be seen as a draft of the Conservative manifesto in an upcoming election, which is a matter of when not if.
“Some of the policies outlined today, like the pension bill, are simply long-awaited legislation that have been placed on the back burner as government has been entrenched in what seems to be the never-ending Brexit debate. Other personal finance policies such as social care were given a cursory nod.
“Meanwhile some subjects such as the impact on pension allowances and inheritance tax were notably absent from the speech and we’re none the wiser as to what the current government has in mind with these topics.
“For those making financial plans for later life, this parliament has been a nightmare. So many policy changes have been mooted, but few have come to fruition. It leaves savers and investors playing a guessing game about how to manage their money. And this speech is not going to give them any further clarity.
“Whatever flavour of government comes in, we urge them to be more understanding of personal finances. It is vital that people are incentivised and encouraged to take control of their money and plan for the future, and certainty about tax and savings policy makes that easier.
“For those reviewing their finances now, it is more important than ever to seek professional financial advice in order to make informed financial plans. Policy surrounding our finances is already complex, and this Parliament has only exacerbated that.
“The speech finally delivered the long-awaited pension bill and along with it the necessary clarity on the pension dashboard and collective defined contribution schemes.
“However, there remain important issues, such as discrepancies around net pay schemes that were noticeably absent in the Queen’s Speech. This tax flaw means nearly two million low earners are being deprived of free pension cash. A new government should put fixing this quirk in this system high on their agenda.
“In fact the Office of Tax Simplification shed a harsh light on just these issues at the end of last week with a damning report on the complications within the pension system, including allowances, net pay and child benefit.
“The annual allowance in particular has garnered substantial attention recently as it is wreaking havoc across several public sector professions. The Government should be looking to scrap the taper altogether as this is quite clearly the root cause of the problem.
“The UK’s social care system has been primed for reform for what seems like an eternity. It has proved a subject of hot debate amongst politicians and hit boiling point in the latest party conference season with debates on the topic dominating on all sides.
“Pledges to resolve the issue have been two a penny, but an elusive green paper has yet to materialise. It appears that we have waited for so long that we are now going to bypass that stage altogether, with parties promising to deliver concrete proposals.
“One policy growing in popularity for both camps is free personal care. The impetus for this kind of policy makes sense and it seems straight forward. However, the government will need to be crystal clear to what is included within ‘free’ social care, as it is unlikely to include ‘hotel costs’ such as room and board.
“Whatever the policy, one of the central pillars of the government’s reform needs to be an awareness strategy.
“One notable absence from the speech was inheritance tax, which has been in the news yet again in recent weeks as politicians looking to woo voters have said they would consider scrapping it altogether. This seems like too drastic a change, but reform would go a long way in winning the public’s favour. Estate taxes have become really complicated and more and more households are being dragged into paying IHT duties.
“The Office for Tax Simplification was recently tasked to look at the system and in two reports they outlined some of the arcane intricacies that lurk in the systems and offer a number of options for reform.
“Among other things the paper recommends updating the gifting allowance to align it to inflation; removing capital gains tax uplift on death; extending spousal tax rules to cohabiting partners; and calls for a simplification of the Residence Nil Rate Band. These are some further sensible measures, like extending spousal exemptions to cohabitees, which could resolve some simple flaws.”