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Viewing posts categorised under: Branch 23 investments

HOW TO INVEST – Shares, Equities and Branch 23

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Equities, Luxembourg, US Estate Tax
This article is published on: 7th April 2021

07.04.21

This is the third and final in a series of articles where I have talked about holding stock options, vesting those options and holding them in a tax efficient manner. In this article, I will discuss the importance of de-risking and diversifying your portfolio, and finally how useful a Branch 23 solution is in mitigating against US Estate Tax on shares if you hold them.

WHY WOULD I WANT TO DE-RISK MY HOLDING?
I wrote in more detail about the effect of risk on your portfolio here. However, to explain briefly, it is considered risky, in investment terms, if you hold too much of one particular share or asset or if it makes up 100% of your investment strategy. Some people are perfectly comfortable with being exposed to this level of risk. Other people are less so. If you have 180,000€ in one particular share or equity, and that was all you had, then it might be a good idea to de-risk yourself and reduce the possibility of losing some, if not all of your investment due to market volatility.

WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?
There are some alternatives available and they all centre on diversifying your holdings. If you have shares in a company, whether it be a start-up or a multinational organisation, you could benefit from diversification to insure against significant loss.

At Spectrum, we favour the multi-asset approach to investing for our clients. These investment vehicles allow our clients access to multiple funds, asset classes and locations through a single fund that is managed and monitored by dedicated specialists and experts on the investor’s behalf. This type of fund can increase the potential for diversification and reduce the level of risk.

USA Federal Bank

CAN I BE LIABLE TO US ESTATE TAX HOLDING SHARES?
Yes, you can. If you are a non-US person (neither a US citizen, US green card holder, or a long-term US resident) with US situs assets (including, but not limited to, real

property located in the US, shares of US publicly traded companies, shares of US private companies) you will be liable to US estate tax where the value of said assets is greater than $60,000. The tax rate ranges from 18% to 40%.

A Branch 23 solution could reduce or eliminate any US estate tax for non-US persons which would ordinarily be required upon your death if your US situs assets are worth more than $60,000. Whilst within the solution, there are generally no US income tax or capital gains tax implications for a non-US person. This means that you can hold the shares (should you wish to) for as long as you want, safe in the knowledge that when you pass away, your beneficiaries will not have to pay potentially significant tax liabilities.

Please note that US tax can be extremely complicated and it is advised that you also speak to a US tax specialist to ensure that you are in line with US tax rules.

Contact me to discuss this in more detail at emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or +32 494 90 71 72.

HOW TO INVEST – Stocks – They Don’t Have to be Taxing

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Equities, Investments, Luxembourg, Stock Markets, Stocks & Shares, Tax
This article is published on: 24th March 2021

24.03.21

In my previous article, I described what stock options are and how they can be utilised by both companies and individuals to create wealth. Now, I will look at some of the tax liabilities that you may be subject to and how you may be able to mitigate them when you decide to take up your option to purchase the stock. I will be focussing on the Belgian market, but we are also able to help if you are based in other countries, so do not hesitate to contact us with a specific enquiry.

HOW DO I ENSURE I AM NOT TAXED ON MY STOCK OPTIONS?
Short answer? You cannot. If the option is quoted on a stock exchange, the amount to be taxed is calculated on the basis of its closing price on the day immediately prior to the offer date. If the option is not quoted, then the amount to be taxed is 18% of the underlying share multiplied by the number of option rights held. As with all tax due in Belgium, these need to be reported to the tax authority.

WHAT WILL I BE TAXED AFTER I DECIDE TO TAKE UP MY OPTION?
At the time of writing, the Belgian rate of tax on stocks, shares and equities is 30% on the dividend income received; this tax is known as Withholding Tax. Companies that are established in Belgium are obligated to withhold this tax from investment income received.

If the dividends received into a Belgian bank account are coming from a foreign company, then the bank is obligated to apply the withholding tax. In addition, a withholding tax set at the rate set by the country the dividends are coming from must also be applied. This can be reduced if Belgium has a double taxation treaty with said country.

Let’s look at a quick example. A popular country of origin for stocks, shares or equities is the US. The US can charge a withholding tax of 30% on top of the Belgian withholding tax. Belgium retains a double taxation treaty with the US. This subsequently reduces the US withholding tax by up to half, whilst the Belgian withholding tax remains. On top of this, on January 1, 2018 the Belgian government introduced a withholding tax exemption threshold of up to €800 on dividends to encourage people to invest.

assurance vie

HOW DO I HOLD MY VESTED STOCK IN A TAX EFFICIENT MANNER?
I wrote an article on Branch 23, an investment bond solution available in Belgium for investors who wish to invest in a tax compliant way and also plan for inheritance and estate tax planning. Your stock, shares and equities can be held within this solution and you would not be liable to withholding tax on your investments for as long as you hold the bond. You will pay 2% Insurance Premium Tax when you initially invest and that covers your taxation liability (including Withholding Tax and Social Insurance Contribution that can add up to 59.58%) for however long you hold the bond.

To understand more how I can help you manage your stocks and shares/equities that you have accumulated in a more tax efficient manner, please contact me at emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or +32 494 90 71 72.

Is Financial Planning Different for Women?

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Financial Planning, Gender pay gap
This article is published on: 28th October 2019

28.10.19

In a recent global poll by UBS, they found that women are ‘acutely aware’ of their financial needs in the long term. The top three needs were identified as follows:

  • Retirement planning – 76%
  • Long term care – 72%
  • Insurance – 68%

Considering this, you would think that the figures would be similar for women taking the lead in managing their own long term financial planning; and you would be wrong. As, in the same report, only 23% took charge of long term financial planning, with 58% deferring to their spouse for criti-cal long term decisions.

Reading this report, I was not surprised. The majority of my clients are men or couples (where the man takes the lead on major financial decisions. However, he will defer to his wife for the house-hold budget), with single women (and I include those who are in relationships but not married) in the minority. The reasons for this range from the perceived understanding that men typically know more about investing, to women thinking they are bad investors. Let me tell you this, some of my best clients are women, as they are less likely to want to sell underperforming funds than men, and therefore are more likely to take advantage of compound interest.

Though it is easier said than done, women need to take a more active look at their own financial planning. The reasons being:

1. Women still live longer
On average, women tend to live four and a half years longer then men; this figure can widen when based on lifestyle and family history and therefore they have to put aside more for their retirement.

2. The earning gap
Whilst great steps have been made in shrinking the earnings gap in some fields, in other fields they have either stayed the same or even widening. Women are also more likely to work part time as well. This obviously means that women have less to put away for their retirement than men.

3. Career breaks
Women are more likely to take a career break than men – whether it is maternity leave or time off to take care of an elderly relative. The outcome is the same. Your earnings potential can be seve-rely affected.

4. Divorce
Regardless of what you may see in the media, on average, women are more severely impacted financially as a consequence of a divorce, than men. This may be a result of men either being the sole breadwinner, or earning significantly more than his wife.

5. Conservative Investors
When investing, women are more risk averse on what they do invest, than men. Potentially mis-sing out of greater gains.

6. Involvement in Financial Decisions
Research shows that when women are involved in financial decisions, 91% report that they are less stressed about their finances and an even larger amount report that less mistakes are made.

Clearly, having the confidence to speak to either your partner or a financial adviser about your fi-nancial planning can greatly alleviate the stress and confusing options that are ahead of you.

To discuss further how to start your financial planning, please contact me either by email emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72 to arrange a no obligation meeting

How to invest – Multi-asset Funds – Investing Made Simpler

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Investment Risk, Investments, multi assets
This article is published on: 16th October 2019

16.10.19

I have spoken about asset allocation and rebalancing and their affect on your investments. An-other strategy that is available to you is multi asset fund management.

You may have heard (read) that I have mentioned that here at The Spectrum IFA Group, we favour the ‘multi asset fund’ route of investing. But, what is that?

MULTI ASSET FUNDS

Multi asset funds provide you with access to multiple funds and asset classes through a single fund, managed and monitored by dedicated experts on your behalf. This type of fund can increase the potential for diversification and help reduce the overall level of risk.

Choosing the right funds and building a diversified portfolio can be extremely difficult. The options available to you are almost limitless, with tens of thousands available to investors in Europe alone.

Generally speaking, it is highly unlikely that a single fund manager is capable of delivering consis-tent outperformance, year on year. Making the right choice for a portfolio and then refining it and rebalancing it over the years takes time, information and skill. Therefore, fund managers need to be monitored to ensure they remain at the top of their game – and replaced when they are not. The resources and/or expertise to do this properly can be time consuming and expensive. There-fore, multi asset funds can play a valuable role in part or all of your investments.

All multi asset funds offer a convenient way to access a wide range of fund managers and asset classes. Spreading investments across a wide range of managers and assets reduces the proba-bility of a fall in value across the whole portfolio.

At the same time, multi asset funds that are designed to target different risk levels make it simple to adapt a portfolio to suit your changing circumstances. For example, if you have no need to ac-cess your savings any time soon, then you are likely to be able to take more risk than clients who are nearing the time when they do need to access their money.

How to invest – Rebalance Your Investments

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Investment Risk, Investments, Netherlands
This article is published on: 9th October 2019

09.10.19

I previously discussed how asset allocation is an investment strategy that can limit your exposure to risk. As you get further along your journey of being an investor, you need to understand how to rebalance your portfolio to keep it in line with your investment objectives.

Rebalancing is bringing your portfolio back to your original asset allocation mix. This may be necessary because over time, some of your investments may become out of alignment with your investment objectives. By rebalancing, you will ensure that your portfolio has not become overexposed to one asset class and you will return your portfolio to a comfortable and more acceptable level of risk.

For example, let’s say that your risk tolerance determined that equities should represent 60% of your portfolio. However, after recent market fluctuations, equities now represent 75% of your portfolio. To re-establish your original asset allocation mix, you will either need to sell some of your funds or invest in other asset classes.

There are three ways you can rebalance your portfolio:

1. You can sell investments where your holdings are overexposed and use the proceeds to buy investments for other asset classes. With this strategy, you are essentially taking the profits that you have made and reinvesting it into a more cautious fund.

2. You can buy new investments for other asset categories.

3. If you are continuing to add to your investments, you can alter your contributions so that more goes to the other asset classes until your portfolio is back into balance.

Before we rebalance your portfolio, we would consider whether the method of rebalancing we agree to use would entail transaction fees or tax consequences for you.

Depending on who you speak to, some financial experts advise rebalancing at regular intervals, such as every six or 12 months. Others would recommend rebalancing when your holdings of an asset class increase or decrease more than a certain preset percentage. In either case, rebalancing tends to work best when done on a relatively infrequent basis.

Shifting money away from an asset class when it is doing well in favour of an asset category that is doing poorly may not be easy. But it can be a wise move. By cutting back on current strong performers and adding more under performers, rebalancing forces you to buy low and sell high.

To discuss further how rebalancing can help your existing investments, please contact me either by email emeka.ajogbe@spectrum-ifa.com or phone: +32 494 90 71 72.

BRANCH 23 – Tax Efficient Investment In Belgium

By Emeka Ajogbe - Topics: Belgium, Branch 23 investments, Investments, wealth management
This article is published on: 11th February 2019

11.02.19

While you are living in Belgium, you have a number of valuable investment options available to you. If you wish to maximise tax efficiency, Branch 21 or Branch 23 products are very attractive. These are life insurance products widely used in Belgium for saving and investment. While Branch 21 can provide security through guaranteed returns, Branch 23 offers access to a wide range of assets which can provide you with excellent long-term capital growth.

Branch 21 vs Branch 23
Branch 21 products provide the investor with a guaranteed return (at the time of writing, between 0.1% and 1%), with a possible bonus. However, the bonus is not guaranteed and is dependent on the insurer’s terms and conditions. This solution is popular as a pension strategy, but crucially the effect of inflation should always be taken into account when calculating the real rate of return.

By taking out a Branch 21 policy, you qualify for tax relief, which can mean a tax saving of up to 30% on the amounts invested. Currently you can invest up to €980 per year and receive tax relief on it. You can invest more, up to €2,350 per year, in the long-term savings system.

A Branch 21 policy can have a fixed term of, say, ten years, or it can be open-ended. An open-ended policy ends when the policy is surrendered, or on the death of the life assured. You are also able to take out additional guarantees, such as death or disability cover. Note that as this is a life insurance policy, there is a 2% tax on premiums unless it is a pension savings insurance policy.

If Branch 21 is the no-frills option, then its sibling, Branch 23, is the all singing, all dancing alternative that offers broader investment scope and the prospect of higher returns (with of course the increased risk that comes with foregoing a guaranteed yield). A Branch 23 policy can invest in a wide range of assets including:

1. International, multi-asset mutual funds
2. Discretionarily managed portfolios
3. Active or passive investments

Importantly, there is no maximum investment in a Branch 23 product, and for larger amounts you can also access personalised, discretionary investment management.

Returns will vary, depending on market conditions, your attitude to risk and the length of time you remain invested. With the help of a financial professional, you have the opportunity to design a portfolio to suit your personal circumstances, maximising potential returns whilst managing and understanding the principles of investment risk and reward.

The time horizon is key here ie. how long before you envisage needing access to your money. You should not be investing in a portfolio like this unless you have a time horizon of at least 5 years.

Tax efficient investment
As mentioned previously, these solutions are very tax efficient. A 2% tax is payable on premiums if it is not a pension savings insurance policy, but in addition to up to 30% tax relief enjoyed by Branch 21 investors, you will not have to pay withholding tax (based on a notional return of 4.75%) if you leave your funds invested for at least eight years. If you did not received a tax benefit on the premiums, then there is no tax to pay on the money that has accumulated.

With Branch 23, you still pay 2% on your premiums (like Branch 21), but you do not pay a withholding tax on your investments unless it has additional performance guarantees (for example, from structured products). In that case, the withholding tax will then be calculated on the actual return and not a notional 4.75%.

Other than that, there is no tax to pay on the final amount, or on any withdrawals.

Furthermore, these products can also be very useful when it comes to estate planning, since the beneficiary and the life assured do not necessarily have to be the same person. Let’s walk through an example: a parent wishes to gift a substantial amount of money to their child. The child can be designated as the beneficiary of the policy and the parent as the life assured. At the time of the parent’s death, no inheritance tax is due if the parent passes away at least three years after gifting the sum of money to the child (the beneficiary). This is a straightforward and reliable way of ensuring that your wealth is passed on to the people you care most about, without them having to pay inheritance tax on the bequest.

Additional benefits
On top of tax efficiency, estate planning opportunities and the freedom to invest in a wide range of international, multi-asset funds, if you have existing investments these can also be transferred into your Branch 23 policy, with flexible access when you need it.