Ceaseless changes to the way investments are taxed are creating headaches for savers, even when they stand to benefit, a report out today argues.
The research from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) contends that incoming changes, such as the personal savings allowance, are creating vast differences in the way different investment vehicles are treated for tax purposes and mean that consumers could find themselves penalised for unwittingly choosing the wrong savings product.
"The last few years have seen radical changes announced to the taxation of savings," said Stuart Adam, one of the report’s authors. "These will take millions of people’s savings out of the tax net altogether.
"Ideally people might make savings decisions based on the underlying risks and returns of different assets. But taxes and charges can significantly change the relative attractiveness of different savings options.
"If people are unsure about how taxes and charges might change, their decisions become even harder."
Despite the slew of changes, the IFS study found that pensions are still the most tax-efficient type of saving, thanks mostly to employer contributions under auto enrolment.
At present, both employees and employers are required to contribute at least one per cent of salary each under auto enrolment, assuming the employer has reached their staging date.
Meanwhile, the report also found that purchasing property to live in was significantly more tax effective than buying buy-to-let property, even before recently announced changes on the deduction of mortgage interest for landlords are taken into account.
The personal savings allowance, which is due to come into force in April, will allow people to earn up to £1,000 in interest tax free and will see banks and building societies stop deducting tax at source.
However, last week, the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group (LITRG) of the Chartered Institute of Taxation (CIOT) warned that, although the changes meant that most people would no longer fork over tax on their interest income, their complexity could cause confusion for some.
According to the IFS report, most of household wealth is currently tied up in either private pension pots (42 per cent) or owner-occupied housing (37 per cent).