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Former Health Secretary, now Chair of the Health and Social care parliamentary committee, Jeremy Hunt, has called on the government to introduce a social care tax on the over 40s. But you shouldn’t wait for the government to act, instead planning for the future and maximising your retirement pot now.
Reform of how social care is paid for and managed has been fermenting in the agenda of the government for some time. From Theresa May’s ill-fated plans in 2017, to the social care green paper stuck unpublished while the government fights more immediate fires, there are still more questions than answers. In July last year The Guardian reported that Health Secretary Matt Hancock was in favour of a social care tax plan for the over 40s being looked at by government departments. But events have overtaken long-term issues and plans have been on backburners since.
One possibility is raising an age-specific levy or ‘hypothecated’ tax on anyone over the age of 40. This would take a specific amount in tax and the money would be ringfenced to cover the cost of social care, which is currently absorbed by general taxation, but is ballooning in size as our population ages. The government is said to be looking at the experiences of Japan and Germany in funding social care costs. In Germany for example, all workers over the age of 40 pay 1.5% of their annual salary into a ringfenced social care fund. Funds can then be accessed later in life to pay for services such as in-home care or even care home costs.
Another more controversial proposal though is compulsory social care insurance. This would compel those over the age of 40 to take out some form of protection product that would effectively insure themselves against any potential future cost of care. Such a proposal would be inherently more controversial because it would rely on insurance market dynamics and consumer choice to pick policies and decide how much to pay into an individual fund.
In the meantime, it makes sense to ensure you’re doing all you can to prepare financially for any outcome in later life. Research routinely finds that people underestimate, vastly, the cost of later-life care and the possibility that they might need it. A 2019 Which? survey found that people on average underestimated the cost of later life care by around £17,000. Government plans are still at an embryonic stage, and while it will likely come back into focus once the worst of the pandemic is past, for now the most important act individuals can take is to maximise their long-term savings into pensions and ISA as much as possible and making money work harder to leave them with larger pots on retirement.
Pensions and ISAs in particular are an important insurance policy when in retirement as these are much more likely to be easy to liquidate when you need money later in life. If you have any questions around the cost of care in later life or how to prepare your portfolio and would like to discuss these themes further, get in touch with your adviser.