Dividends are payments from shares, unit and investment trusts, which, investors hope, are not only regular (usually twice a year) but also rise over time to reflect the companys (or trusts) growing fortunes. Dividends are taxable as income.
The good news is tax on UK share dividends is deducted before you get it. If you are a basic rate taxpayer, you dont have to do anything else. Nontaxpayers and ten per cent taxpayers dont need to do anything either. But theres bad news here: You cant reclaim the deducted tax under any circumstances. Even though its called a tax credit by HMRC, we refer to it as a deduction to save confusion.
Top-rate taxpayers have to declare dividends on their self-assessment form and have the cash ready to pay the gap between the 40 per cent rate and the tax deducted.
Whether you get income from unit trusts, investment trusts, or individual shares, look at the date the dividend was declared and ignore the period for which the dividend applied. A 10p a share dividend for the year ending 31 December 2006 declared on 1 May 2007 and paid on 1 June 2007 counts as part of your 2007 " 08 return, not the 2006"07 calculation.
If you invest for long-term growth in shares that pay low or no dividends, youll pay less income tax. But dont forget these shares tend to be riskier. And you can get hit for capital gains tax on your profits.
Dont forget if you are near the top of the basic rate ladder " earning around $36,000 a year " your dividends can push you into the top tax bracket. For instance, if you earn $36,500 and have $3,500 of dividends youll be over the $39,825 (in 2007"08) basic rate tax limit for a person aged under 65.
Dividends from stocks traded in foreign markets can be tough to deal with. You may have to convert dividend payments into sterling as well as account for them separately.
You need to fill out the foreign income pages of the self assessment form. The UK has double taxation agreements with most foreign countries. The effect of these agreements is to cap the tax due on foreign-sourced income so you are no worse off as a result of possibly being taxed twice.
Many stock market companies have schemes by which shareholders can opt to receive new shares to the value of their dividends rather a dividend cheque. Even if you choose this option, you still have to declare the value of the new shares and any balance carried forward in cash because it is not large enough to buy a share. Youre liable for tax on re-invested dividends in just the same way as a cash dividend.
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