By Roenica Tyson, 25 November 2021
An endowment is an investment policy (with a minimum five-year term) with tax advantages for affluent individuals and their trusts (with natural beneficiaries only).
In addition to being tax-efficient, there is also no limit to the amount of offshore exposure you can have in your endowment – increasing its attractiveness as investors seek to diversify offshore.
Essentially, an endowment is a life insurance policy, as defined in the Insurance Act. A policy is a contract between a policyholder and a provider whereby the provider agrees to meet an insurance obligation upon the occurrence of a life event, in return for the receipt of a premium from the client. An endowment policy will pay out any remaining funds, not drawn as an income, on your death.
The personal income tax bracket of 45% introduced in 2017 remains daunting for high-income earners, supporting the need for investors to look for more tax-efficient ways to grow their discretionary savings.
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing between a pure discretionary investment plan or an endowment. This includes the availability of interest and capital gains allowances as well as required access to capital within the first five years.
A key consideration in how to choose between the two products is your tax rate. Individuals in an investment plan are taxed at marginal rates of up to 45%, resulting in an effective tax rate on capital gains of 18%. Where the individual invested in an endowment, tax on income will be 30% and effective tax on capital gains will be at 12%. Within the two products (endowment and investment plan) there is no differentiation for dividend tax, which is withheld at 20% either way.
For high-income earners, the endowment can offer significant tax savings. Consider an individual who has no interest and capital gains allowance available and invests R5 million for five years. Assume a balanced fund-type investment with 11% return per year and 20% trading of the portfolio each year.
After five years, allowing for redemptions for payment of income tax annually, such an investment would have grown to R7.93 million in an investment plan. An equivalent investment in an endowment would have grown to R8.09 million, saving the investor R161,000 over the period. This consists of:
If the investor completely sells out of the investment after five years, the tax-saving when realising the remaining capital gains would be an additional R90,000 when opting for the endowment.
Trusts or individuals with significant discretionary savings and high marginal tax rates could consider an endowment. There are restrictions that may not make it a suitable option, but multiple benefits and the significant potential tax-saving are not to be ignored.
In addition to tax savings, an endowment offers the following advantages:
A sinking fund (essentially an endowment, but with no life assured on the policy), allows you to appoint a nominee for ownership who will become the new policyholder on your death. The nominee could be an individual or a trust with individuals as beneficiaries. The trust will benefit from the tax advantages offered by the sinking fund.
If you’re looking to obtain direct foreign exposure in your investment portfolio (including your share portfolio), you could do so via the Global Life Plan from Glacier International, an offshore endowment, or via the Global Investment Plan which is an offshore sinking fund. These structures allow you to customise your investment using a combination of foreign currency investment options while still enjoying all the benefits offered by an endowment or sinking fund policy.
In the case of the Global Life Plan, because you’re investing via an offshore endowment issued by a South African Life company, you don’t create an offshore asset, and therefore don’t require an offshore will. An additional benefit is that you won’t need to appoint international representatives to help wind up your offshore estate, which can be both costly and time consuming. The endowment also ensures that your estate is not subject to foreign inheritance tax which can be as high as 40%. Once again, the sinking fund policy – the Global Investment Plan – is available to trusts as well as individuals.
If you are looking to optimise your portfolio, whether local or offshore, speak to your financial adviser about how an endowment plan could enhance your investment portfolio.