Archive for February, 2014

Use it, or Lose it!! Have You Made the Most of Your Allowances?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

HMRC_logoAt this time of year we are normally more interested in making sure that we keep warm and dry than anything else, but believe it or not spring officially begins with the vernal equinox on March 20 at 12:57 P.M. only five weeks away!

Whilst this welcome movement from winter to spring is a time of joy for most, it also pre-empts the end of the 2013/2014 Tax Year, traditionally the busiest time of the year for those of us involved in financial services. This is because we aim to ensure that, wherever possible, our clients take advantage of the numerous tax allowances available to them, especially when some are being scaled back.

To encourage all clients of James & George Collie to take action, here are just some of the allowances we feel everyone should try to take advantage of:

Nil Rate Band of Income Tax
This year every individual has a maximum Nil Rate Personal Allowance of £9,440. If you don’t have taxable income of this level, or are married to someone who hasn’t, then this presents an opportunity to limit your Income Tax liability from income such as dividends from shares and investments, bank/cash account interest, and rental income from property.

Capital Gains Tax Annual Exemption
The current Capital Gains Tax (CGT) Annual Exemption is £10,900. Even if you don’t require capital from your investments, we encourage our clients to realise gains up to this allowance and therefore reduce potential future CGT liabilities, which could be as much as 28% for Higher Rate Tax payers.

In addition, if you have losses from the disposal of any assets in the tax year then make sure to properly document them and retain the evidence for use in future tax years.

Inheritance Tax Annual Exemption
Every year each individual can gift a total of £3,000 to whoever they wish, without it being potentially liable to Inheritance Tax (IHT). We therefore suggest that all clients take this opportunity to reduce a potential future tax on their assets on death of 40%.

Also, it should be remembered that it is possible to use up to one year’s unused exemption from a previous year. This means that a married couple could gift up to £12,000 in the current tax year.

You should also note that it is possible to give as many small gifts of up to £250 as you like.

ISA Allowance
Every year it is important that you utilise your ISA Allowance, currently £11,520, to maximise the tax efficiency of your investments.

Even if you can’t afford to invest additional capital, it may be possible for you to use the CGT Annual Allowance to realise gains from another investment to switch capital to this most tax efficient of investment vehicles, without incurring any immediate tax liability.

Pension Annual Allowance
For most clients the use of the full £50,000 Annual Allowance for pension contributions is perhaps beyond them, but for those that have the ability to make contributions up to this level, the use of this allowance is a vital part of their financial planning. This is especially true this year as from the 2014/2015 Tax Year this Annual Allowance is reducing to £40,000.

However, it may be that some individuals will need to actually consider reducing their pension contributions, as this scaling back of the Annual Allowance could lead them to being subject to a tax charge. This is also being compounded by the Lifetime Allowance for pensions, or the total pension holding someone can have before paying a charge, reducing from £1.5M to £1.25M.

If you think you may be affected by these changes then we strongly suggest you contact us to discuss your situation.

Apart from the above, there are possibly numerous other allowances, exemptions and reliefs that you could be utilising each year to reduce, minimise or even eliminate tax liabilities now or in the future.

James & George Collie Financial Management will be delighted to help you undertake any of your tax and financial planning this year. Please contact Scott Middleton on 01224 563305 or by email (scott.middleton@colliefinancial.co.uk)

- remember you need to………….

Use it, or lose it!!

A New Dawn

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Collie hi-res grey LogoJames Collie and George Collie joined forces to establish the Firm of James and George Collie in 1856, some 158 years ago. Partners and staff have come and gone, but throughout the years the ethics of the Firm remain unchanged – to provide, in a professional and caring manner, the full range of services that clients require and have come to expect.

After 158 years, the current Partners have decided that a new approach should be adopted, and, subject to the formality of approval from the Law Society of Scotland, James and George Collie will convert to a limited liability partnership with effect from 1st April 2014, and will operate as James and George Collie LLP from that date.

Clients and business contacts will see no difference – there will be no change in the composition of our loyal, dedicated and hard-working staff, and the service level ethics will remain as they always have.

The change in status will be formally communicated once it has taken place.

If you have any queries meantime, please speak with your normal contact at the Firm.

Scottish Hockey Appointment

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

AK eNewsletter PicAngie Keith our IT Manager (pictured) was appointed in 2013 to the board of directors at Scottish Hockey.  Angie has been involved in hockey since her school days and currently both plays for, and is a committee member of, Aberdeen Bon Accord MBC Hockey Club.  Angie’s specialism lies in her 25 years’ experience in IT and Project Management and she has worked in both the private and public sectors as well as heading up the IT department at James & George Collie for the last 9 years.

One of her first projects was to help with moving the IT infrastructure of Scottish Hockey from the Edinburgh office to the new Glasgow Hockey Centre at Glasgow Green.  The new centre is specially designed to host the Glasgow 2014 hockey competition for the Commonwealth Games. The facility consists of two synthetic hockey pitches, as well as athlete and official support areas.  When the drama of the hockey competition is over, the world-class sporting facilities will remain, acting as headquarters for Scottish Hockey and being used by Glasgow schools for training and competition.

Angie’s latest project is to lead Scottish Hockey’s transition to a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, working in a short-life working group alongside Scottish Hockey’s Communication Manager Stuart Moffatt and Operations Manager Vincent Bryson.

“Angie has been a fantastic addition to the board at Scottish Hockey, both for her guidance in IT strategy as well as having a fantastic can-do attitude towards solving a myriad of IT problems in what has been a huge period of change for Scottish Hockey.  She has been a tremendous source of expertise for the organisation to call on” said Vincent Bryson, Operations Manager.

Senior Partner of James & George Collie, Tony Dawson, commented “The Firm fully supports Angie with her involvement on the Board of Scottish Hockey.  Indeed we are far from surprised at the excellent contribution she has made since her appointment.

As a former Scottish badminton international I realise just how important it is to give back what you took out of your sport in your youth.  Sport forms a pivotal role in everyday life in so many different ways.”

Spain is More Than Sun

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

i-chanzaMany years ago, writes Ignacio Chanza, Spanish Lawyer, Scottish Solicitor, and Honorary Consul of Spain for the North of Scotland, I had the idea of coming to Scotland with the intention of learning the Scottish legal system and about the legal profession, having been practising the Spanish legal profession for over fifteen years.  I had, and it persists, a deep interest in knowing the differences and convergences between the Continental and the Common law systems, especially between Scotland and Spain.

I have been studying the Scottish legal system and learning about the legal profession in Scotland for several years and after I re-qualified in Scots law I joined James and George Collie as a Consultant. It is very interesting to compare this legal system with the Spanish legal system and moreover having the opportunity to share my work with other Scottish lawyers and staff in this Firm, without doubt, enriches my personal and professional life.

One of the first things that I realised during my private study is that the Scottish legal system has a lot in common with Spanish law –due to the strong influence of the Roman law on both systems-, mostly, in Property and Contract law and partially in Succession law.

For instance, the concept of ownership in Scots law, of possession or of subordinate or secondary real rights (such as, servitudes, proper liferents, right in securities or leases) have basically the same meaning in Spanish law, with differences peculiar to each country, however with the same overall purpose.

However, I would like to emphasise, in this case, a current misunderstanding and wrong perception about the Spanish legal system.

I can say – and prove it – that Spanish Law is at least as safe as the Scottish legal system. I am aware that a lot of British people have had a very bad experience in their property purchases in Spain but it is not connected to the legal System in Spain. In my view there are two problems: (i) in any country there are people without scruples who want to get an unfair advantage over others and our duty is to combat that with our legal system; (ii) it is possible that some people do not know the correct way to purchase a property in Spain and therefore they did not obtain correct legal advice on the whole purchase process. In my opinion any British person who has any interest in any purchase or business in Spain ought to get in touch with a Spanish lawyer, from the very first stage, in order to give him/her the right advice about the process of purchase or about the process of setting up a new business in Spain.

James and George Collie has the advantage of having and offering an expert legal advice in Spanish law within the Scottish legal culture.

Spain has a very good legal system compared with the other legal systems in Europe. It has at least the same warranties granted to the future owner in the process of buying, and the Land Register is run under the same principles of legality, publicity, priority, registration and specification, just like the Land Register in Scotland, to create a Register of rights rather than just deeds. As in Scotland, the Keeper registers under his or her liability which means that any mistake must be indemnified. Before the title is registered, the lawyer will have drafted the initial agreement as a private document, after examination of the previous title and the circumstances surrounding the transfer. This private document will become a public document by the signature of the notary public who also checks that the agreement is in accordance with the Law and has all elements requisite to be registered in the Land Register. As in Scotland, all of these legal agents have their own professional indemnity insurance in place.

I would like everybody to better understand and, as a result, to gain more confidence in the Spanish legal system through using the expertise and services of James and George Collie that combine the possibility of offering trustworthy Spanish legal advice in an atmosphere and tradition according to the Scottish culture.

To find out more please contact Ignacio Chanza by email (i.chanza@jgcollie.co.uk) or by telephone on 01224 581581

To sign or not to sign – is that the (only) question?

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

signing-a-document-340There is a Bill appearing before the Scottish Parliament in the coming months which seeks to make the signing (or ‘execution’) of contractual documents, easier.  This Bill, when given Royal Assent, will be called the “Conclusion of Contracts (Scotland) Act” The current law on this area is contained in the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act (1995) which this new Bill seeks to use as a basis for amending the current way that we execute documents.

The Bill provides for “execution in counterpart”, which at its simplest, allows for multiple copies of the same document to be signed separately by the various parties to a transaction.  This will provide for a new freedom not previously recognised under Scots law – no longer will we have to have the different parties, who are potentially all over the world, sign the same document.  Instead, there will be the possibility for multiple copies to be signed by each individual party, and when taken together they will form the single binding legal document. As a result, there could be a number of advantages and savings, in both time and expense, in completing oil and gas industry sector contracts, especially where multi-national parties are involved.

The important thing in this proposed new method of execution is the “delivery” of the counterparts i.e. the different signed copies, to the other parties to the contract.  For the document to be valid each counterpart must be delivered to the other parties, who did not sign that copy of the contract, or their nominee. These copies can be handed over to each party’s agents or they can be held centrally by one ‘nominated’ agent and upon agreement by all parties the documents will be held as delivered and the contract concluded.

The Bill also allows for delivery of a ‘traditional document’ regardless of whether or not it has been executed in counterpart, by ‘electronic means’.  Such means will comprise methods such as via email, fax, compact disc, memory stick, or by other means which involve electronic apparatus. The final delivery method is ambiguous and an attempt at future-proofing the Bill, however the rest simply update the law to keep pace with the current age of modern communications, and will allow for expedient delivery to take place; perhaps this is a moot point depending on your stance towards technological innovation!

There are limitations, however – electronic delivery must be in a form which the recipient expresses willingness to accept or which would be considered reasonable in the circumstances. So it cannot be unduly thrust upon you should you not wish it to be.

The final changes aren’t clear as the Bill has still to be laid before the Scottish Parliament. What it finally comprises, and how this will be implemented in practice, will become clear during the course of this year. We will, of course, monitor developments and provide updates.

Should you have any queries, or wish further information meantime, please contact either Innes Miller (i.miller@jgcollie.co.uk) or Jamie Robertson (j.robertson@jgcollie.co.uk)