The settlement legislation seeks to ensure that where a settlor has retained an interest in property in a settlement that the income arising is treated as the settlor’s income for tax purposes. A settlor can be said to have retained an interest if the property or income may be applied for the benefit of the settlor, a spouse or civil partner. In general, the settlements legislation can apply where an individual enters into an arrangement to divert income to someone else and in the process, tax is saved.
However, in most everyday situations involving gifts, dividends, shares, partnerships, etc. the settlements legislation will not apply. For example, if there is no “bounty” or if the gift to a spouse or civil partner is an outright gift which is not wholly, or substantially, a right to income.
HMRC’s manuals provide the following two indicative examples of when the settlement legislation does not apply:
Outright gift to a spouse
Mrs L owns 10,000 ordinary shares in a FTSE 100 company. Those shares are worth £40,000. Mrs L gives those shares to her husband. Mr L is now entitled to all the dividends from the shares and can sell the shares if he wants and keep the proceeds. This is an outright gift of shares that are not wholly, or substantially, a right to income since they have a capital value and can be traded, so the settlements legislation does not apply.
Mr M is the sole director and owns all the 100 ordinary shares in M Limited, a small manufacturing company. The company employs 10 people and owns a small factory, a high street shop, tools fixtures and fittings, and three delivery vehicles. Mr M draws a salary of £30,000 each year and receives dividends of £20,000. Mr M then gifts 50 shares to his wife who plays no part in the business. Mr and Mrs M then each receive dividends of £10,000.
HMRC would not seek to apply the settlements legislation to the dividends received by Mrs M. This is because the outright gift of the shares cannot be regarded as wholly or substantially a right to income. The shares have capital rights, and the company has substantial assets so on the winding up or sale of the business the shares would have more than an insubstantial value.