Paying tax bills can be a challenging time for both business owners and sole traders alike. Of course if your business is very successful, tax is simply an expense that needs to be met when your tax payment deadline rolls around. However, there are also many small enterprises that don’t enjoy the comfort of high levels of excess cashflow. For these businesses, the tax payment deadline can be a stressful time, gathering all expenses together and working with your accountant to identify ways in which you can legitimately reduce your tax liability.
Pension contributions are rightly viewed as one of the most effective ways of reducing your tax liability. The challenge is often having the spare cashflow to make that pension contribution while also being able to meet your tax payment! And as a result, the pension contribution often gets reduced or indeed removed in order to meet the tax liability. The unintended consequence of this is that your retirement plans and future lifestyle are now at risk.
So what’s the alternative?
The approach that many sole traders and business owners take to overcome this problem is to make pension contributions regularly (usually monthly) throughout the year, rather than leaving the pension contribution until the last minute. This approach has a number of advantages.
You’re putting yourself at the top of the queue
Leaving your pension contribution until the end of the year results in this payment being based effectively on money available, rather than your retirement plans. The outcome is often a reduced pension contribution and when this happens, the loser is your future self. Your retirement plan is being paid after everybody else, putting you right at the back of your cashflow queue.
The alternative is to work with us on identifying a sustainable regular amount. By then making this contribution regularly each month, you have accelerated yourself to the top of the queue, putting your future self before other expenses. After a while, this simply becomes another regular expense of the business (like your rent, salaries, power and other monthly payments) but now you are truly working for yourself and not just to pay other people’s bills.
Life is easier at year end
Consider an individual business owner who wants to put aside €20,000 - €25,000 into a pension plan each year. That is quite a significant amount to find at year end at the same time that your tax bill is due. The alternative is to pay maybe €1,500 per month into a pension plan. At the end of the year, you are then only looking to find the balancing amount of €2,000 - €7,000. If your company has had a very good year, a larger balancing pension payment might also be possible.
Yes, by adopting this monthly payment approach you are increasing the regular overhead of the business. But you are doing this now with your own interests at heart. The flip side of this coin is in how you are making life so much easier for yourself at the end of the year, when your tax payment is also due.
You also need to consider though your options in case your business goes through a difficult period. We always advocate flexible retirement plans that enable you to change your regular contribution amounts or indeed take a break from them if needed. We want you to fully look after your future self, but we also recognise that you can’t do this while blindly ignoring your current business environment.
You gain from Euro Cost Averaging
Making a single payment each year increases your investment risk. We never suggest that you should try and time the markets and indeed investment risk works both ways – sometimes you gain and sometimes you lose. But the situation that you want to avoid is being up against a deadline (for example the tax deadline) to make a pension contribution at a time when you feel uncomfortable with the investment conditions.
Making a regular contribution significantly reduces this risk. If markets have been performing poorly, well then you are buying in when prices are low – just where you want them to be when you are entering the market. Of course if instead markets have been steaming ahead and you have a nagging doubt that they may be near their peak, they are now relatively expensive. With a monthly contribution, you are now only committing one twelfth of your full year’s pension contribution into the market at that time, rather than potentially the full amount. So in effect your regular payment strategy is smoothing your entry points into the market and as a result reducing your investment risk.
We all like to avoid incurring more regular expenses in our business. However this is one instance where it makes sense. Because you’re bringing yourself to the top of the queue.
We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your own pension contribution strategy – please give us a call and we will help you to put your future self first.