Last Sourced: 2017-08-01
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Child Trust Fund
A Child Trust Fund (CTF) is a long-term savings or investment account for children in the United Kingdom. New accounts cannot be created but existing accounts can receive new money: CTF new accounts were stopped in 2011 and replaced by Junior ISAs.
The UK Government introduced the Child Trust Fund with the aim of ensuring every child has savings at the age of 18, helping children get into the habit of saving whilst teaching them the benefits of saving and helping them understand personal finance. The Child Trust Fund scheme was promised in the Labour Party's 2001 election manifesto and launched in January 2005, with children born on or after 1 September 2002 eligible.
Eligible children received an initial subscription from the government in the form of a voucher for at least £250. In 2010/11 the child trust fund policy was expected to cost around £520m, less than 0.5% of the £84bn UK education budget. Because the scheme allows for family and friends to top up trust funds, it has given a substantial boost to savings rates, particularly among the poor. According to the Children's Mutual, "In terms of changing people's behaviour, this is the most successful product there's ever been." For households with income of £19,000 a year, 30% of the children in that category are having £19 a month saved for them. Part of this is due to grandparents being more willing to contribute to funds, since the money cannot be diverted to the family finances. Creation of new funds and Government payments into them were ended in January 2011 by the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Act 2010.
Asset-based egalitarianism traces its roots to Thomas Paine, who proposed that every 21-year-old man and woman receive £15, financed from inheritance tax. In 1989 LSE professor Julian Le Grand proposed a similar idea, calling it a "poll grant". Subsequently the related concept of Individual Development Accounts was developed in the United States by Michael Sherraden. This approach - termed "asset-based welfare" by Sherraden - saw asset redistribution less as an egalitarian measure than as one which supported poverty reduction by encouraging saving. Sherraden argued that owning an asset led to people changing their way of thinking, being more likely to plan and invest in their future - in a way that providing people with an equivalent flow of income does not. The idea of a universal account for all children first appears in Sherraden's Assets and the Poor (1991).
In the UK the idea took off in 1999/2000 with a number of contributions to the New Statesman in 1999, including an article from Robert Reich endorsing the idea; and support in 2000 by the influential Institute for Public Policy Research. Sherraden's Center for Social Development collaborated with the IPPR, and a briefing paper by it remarked "It would be impossible to overstate the leadership and contributions of the Institute for Public Policy research in informing and shaping this new policy direction in the United Kingdom". This carried through into proposals being included in the Labour Party's 2001 election manifesto.
The Child Trust Fund scheme was promised in the Labour Party's 2001 election manifesto, and launched in January 2005, with children born after 1 September 2002 eligible. Over the course of the development of the policy up to implementation, it became increasingly focussed on encouraging the poor to save and to develop their financial skills, with less emphasis on the egalitarian redistribution of assets.
According to the Institute of Public Policy Research
Sherraden argued that possessing wealth in your early adulthood improves life outcomes by its effect of changing attitudes:
Child trust funds were opposed by the Liberal Democrats in the 2005 general election, and the Liberal Democrats remain opposed. Their policy has been criticised by Stuart White, who notes various historical examples of CTF-like policies proposed by Liberals in the past, and argues that the Child Trust Fund policy "gives direct expression to a deep, historic Liberal (and SDP) commitment to the ideal of ‘ownership for all’." He adds that "At a time of rising wealth inequality, and widespread asset poverty, the old Liberal slogan of ‘ownership for all’ has never been more urgent."
In April 2010 Julian Le Grand argued strongly against Conservative Party plans to means test the funds (limiting them to households on below £16,000 per year income ), saying that "Confining CTFs to the poor would be divisive, and would result in low take-up and stigma. A universal endowment is a badge of citizenship." He added that if funding had to be cut from the scheme, it would be better to reduce the government's topups, and keep the scheme universal.
The funds are held in trust for the child until they turn 18, and the money is then theirs to use as they see fit. CTFs are managed by the parents/legal guardians of the child until the child reaches the age of 16. At this point, the child will have the option to take over management of the account including choice of provider and investment decisions. However, they will still not be able to withdraw funds from the account until reaching 18. The government has stated that they will be introducing a programme of education in personal finance in schools to enable 16-year-olds to competently manage their CTF.
All of the funds in the account are exempt from income tax and capital gains tax, including at maturity. However, the 10% dividend tax payable on franked income (UK share dividends) cannot be reclaimed. The UK government has stated that at age 18 it will be possible to transfer the entire CTF into an ISA to keep the tax-free status of the investment. If the CTF is withdrawn as cash, the tax benefits will be permanently lost.
If vouchers were not invested within one year of issue, HM Revenue and Customs would open a stakeholder account on behalf of the child. Subscriptions by individuals were in addition to any voucher subscriptions.
Parents and other family members or friends can pay £3,600 a year into their child’s fund from 1 November 2011, previously £1,200. Any gains or dividends will be tax free (except for the 10% tax on UK share dividends). Stakeholder accounts cannot set the minimum contribution above £10, but the provider can set a lower minimum.
Every child born on or after 1 September 2002 was eligible for the CTF, as long as:
The children of Crown servants posted abroad – including the Armed Forces – qualify because they are treated as being in the UK.
Most advisers recommend equity-based CTFs, and the fact accounts allocated by HM Revenue and Customs are put into stakeholder products indicates that the government also believes equities are the best option over such a long period.
CTF funds can be transferred between providers. Rules for transfers are similar to those for Individual Savings Accounts – customers should inform the new provider they wish to use and they will undertake the move. No penalty or fee can be imposed for transferring the account, except for the cost of selling shares (such as dealing charges) in equity accounts.
On May 24, 2010, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury David Laws MP announced that the £250 top up payments into the child trust fund would cease in August 2010, with no payments for newborns from the end of 2010. The Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Act 2010 facilitates the abolition of the fund.