15 May 2024 - 8min Read

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Spread betting

Spread betting tax-free in the UK

Spread betting in the UK does yield some tax benefits for traders, but it might be important to know the tax implications for traders who might want to start spread betting.

Spread betting is tax-free in the UK; this means traders don’t pay capital gains tax on profits gained. Also, traders participating in spread betting don’t own the underlying they might be trading; they don’t have to pay stamp duty.

Throughout this article, we’ll review some essential information regarding the tax treatments for UK residents who might want to participate in spread betting.

Just as a side note, it’s not only residents of the UK that could benefit from the tax treatments in spread betting, but also those residing in Ireland.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Key takeaways

  • Spread betting is tax-free for residents of the UK and Ireland, which means they don’t have to pay capital gains tax on their profits.
  • Spread betting is considered a speculative bet, which means traders don’t own the asset they might be trading, and because of that, they don’t pay stamp duty tax.
  • The tax implications can change if spread betting becomes a trader’s primary source of income, in which case they might have to pay income tax.
  • Residents outside the UK and Ireland won’t be able to spread bet and will have to look at other derivative products such as CFDs.
  • Spread betting is traded through leverage, which can magnify their profits and potential losses, which is why risk management is essential.

Marc Aucamp

Content Writer

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What is spread betting?

Spread betting involves traders speculating on the movements of financial assets without owning the assets from an underlying market. Traders can trade in both bull and bear markets; when they think the price of an asset will rise, they can go long (buy) or short (sell) if they believe the price will fall.

Spread betting is a leveraged product, meaning traders only have to deposit a small amount of capital known as margin, giving them bigger market exposure. When opening a position, traders place a bet through a stake, which is a pound per point of movement in the price of an underlying asset.

A trader will place a bet (open a position) in a desired direction they think the market will move. If the market moves in their favour, they will profit with each point of movement in their desired direction. However, if the market moves against them, they’ll make a loss with each point of movement.

Traders can spread bet through various financial markets such as stocks, bonds, forex, commodities, and more.

Let’s say, for example, a trader is looking to place a spread bet on the movement of GBP/USD. They believe GBP/USD will increase from 1.0204, so they open a long (buy) position, betting £30 per point.

They were correct, and the price increased by 10 points from 1.0204 to 1.0214. They decided to close the position at 1.0214, giving them a profit of £300. To calculate the profits or losses, multiply the number of points the market moved by the betting amount (£30 x 10 = £300).

If the market didn’t move in their desired direction and fell by 10 points, they would’ve made a loss of £300.

Before deciding to trade with leverage, it might be best for traders to look at the amount of capital they could afford to lose.

When spread betting, traders don’t have to pay a commission. This is because of the spread. 

The spread is the difference between the bid (sell) price and the ask (buy) price. In spread betting, the buy price will always be higher than the sell price.

However, overnight fees need to be paid if a trader decides to keep their positions open overnight.

Is spread betting taxable?

No, as mentioned above, residents of the UK and Ireland don’t have to pay capital gains tax on any profits earned on their accounts. With spread betting, you also don’t own the asset from the financial instrument you might be trading, so you don’t have to pay stamp duty tax.

However, you won’t be able to offset any losses against any profits gained, such as when trading CFDs (contract for difference).

If you want to learn more about the differences between spread betting and CFD trading, you can click here.

If you decide to make spread betting your primary source of income, you will be liable for income tax because it will be treated as a business or profession.

Tax laws may change in the future, so it might be best to consult with a tax attorney or consultant to find out about any potential tax changes.

Why the UK does not tax spread betting?

The HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) classifies spread betting as a speculative bet instead of an investment. When spread betting, you don’t own the asset from the underlying instrument you might be trading. Instead, you’re speculating on the price movements.

Companies providing spread betting services will, however, have to pay taxes.

According to the guidelines set out by the HMRC, traders who profit by actively trading in the market might have to pay tax rather than those who only take advantage of opportunities that arise in the market.

This means that when trading is your primary source of income, which can be classified as a business or profession, you’ll have to pay income tax on your profits. On the other hand, if you’re only trading occasionally without it being your primary source of income, you won’t be subjected to income tax.

If you’re unsure where you fall into these categories, it might help to contact the HMRC directly for further guidance and clarification.

What are the tax advantages of spread betting in the UK?

Spread betting offers various benefits to traders who might want to participate in the financial markets. One advantage is the tax benefits regarding spread betting. Spread-betting traders don’t pay capital gains tax on their profits, and because they don’t own the asset they’re trading, they don’t have to pay stamp duty tax either.

To put this in better perspective, let’s take an example of someone who is not spread betting. A trader bought 500 Vodafone shares at £15 each; when the price reached £20, they decided to sell their shares and gain a profit of £2500. 

However, capital gains tax and stamp duty still need to be deducted, which comes down to 20.5%, capital gains tax is 20% and stamp duty is 0.5%.

The amount they’ll need to pay towards tax is £512.50, which leaves them with a net profit of £1987.50.

Now, if they were to spread bet, they would’ve been able to take the entire £2500 profit.

That’s not all; spread betting is a leveraged product, so they wouldn’t have to pay the entire £7500 for the shares. If they were trading with a leverage ratio of 5:1, they would’ve only had to deposit £1500 to open the position.

As mentioned above, trading with leverage can magnify profits but expose you to bigger losses if the trade goes against your prediction. It might be essential to look at the amount of capital you could afford to lose.

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Spread betting tax-free countries

Spread betting is only available to residents of the UK and Ireland. Anyone outside these countries who might want to participate in trading, especially leveraged trading, might need to look into different trading instruments, such as CFDs.

The tax implications will also differ; traders looking to trade CFDs must pay capital gains tax on their profits. With that said, every country has their own tax laws; therefore, it might be best to speak to a tax attorney or consultant for all tax-related details.

Spread betting vs share dealing

Spread betting is an alternative way of making a profit on the price movements of financial assets without owning the asset. You’re just speculating on the price movement, whether it will go up or down.

With spread betting, you can access various financial markets such as forex, indices, bonds, shares, ETFs, commodities, and more. Also, spread betting is a leveraged product, so you only have to deposit a small amount of capital (margin) to gain full access to the financial market. As seen in the example above, for £7500 worth of shares, you’ll only need to deposit £1500 at a 5:1 leverage ratio.

With share dealing, you take ownership of the share/s you might want to purchase, and because share dealing is not leveraged, you’ll have to pay the total cost of the shares. Another factor to consider is that because you own the share/s, you’ll be subject to stamp duty tax and capital gains tax for profits gained.

However, having ownership of the share/s, you might be eligible for dividend payouts from the company, voting rights, and other shareholder rights.

Lastly, another difference between spread betting and share dealing is the trading strategies and styles a trader might choose to use. With share dealing, traders and investors generally have a longer-term approach to the market, whereas with spread betting, traders generally have a shorter-term approach.


People also asked

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Unfortunately, spread betting is only allowed for residents of the UK and Ireland. Those outside the UK or Ireland might have to trade other derivative products, such as CFDs.
Yet, you’ll be subject to capital gains tax with CFD trading. Check with your local tax authority for further clarification.

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Yes, spread betting in the UK and Ireland is tax-free, similar to other gambling activities, according to the HMRC. Which means you won’t have to report profits or losses to the HMRC.

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This will depend on the trading product. If a trader is trading forex through CFDs, then yes, they will be liable to pay capital gains tax on the profits they could make. However, if they trade forex through spread betting, then they won’t have to pay capital gains tax on the profits they could make.
Despite that, if spread betting forex is your primary source of income, you might be subject to paying income tax because it is then recognised as a business or profession. For clarification on the matter, you could speak to an HMRC accountant.

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