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Welcome to Saints & Sinners, my new monthly blog praising the good and denouncing the bad in the world of financial planning.

This month's saints are definitely Octopus Investments. No sooner had the ISA rules relaxed allowing investments in Alternative Investment Market (AIM) shares for the first time, Octopus Investments opened it's doors to trading.

Although highly tax efficient, ISAs do in fact form part of the owner's estate on death and can create big Inheritance Tax (IHT) problems. A problem that cannot be resolved by placing them into trust. AIM shares qualify for Business Property Relief so this could be a highly effective solution.

Transferring existing ISA holdings into the new Octopus ISA could preserve existing tax benefits as well as removing the entire value from their estate after just two years (assuming that they still hold the ISA at death) rather than the usual seven.

However, what really sets this concept apart is that, unlike a trust, where assets are owned by the trustees, the AIM ISA leaves the holder in control so that funds can still be accessed if necessary. It's certainly a very innovative idea from Octopus and one which I think will of great value to the many people worried about IHT.

And this month's sinners? It's no contest really because it has to be the US Federal Government. Why? For causing the temporary lay off of a huge number of government employees and gambling with the global economic recovery to try to score political points. While my opinion of politicians generally tends to be unprintable, this level of playground antics from the country that likes to style itself as the leader of the Free World is truly pathetic.

Of course, the expectation is that this huge game of chicken will result in another eleventh hour settlement as aUSdefault (particularly a self inflicted one) is unthinkable, but with such mindless partisanship in play who can feel totally confident about that?

I hope you've enjoyed the blog and please let me know if you require any more information about any of the issues discussed.

Robin Sainty APFS M.A. (Cantab)