With spread betting you are not making a physical purchase or sale, so you do not incur some of the drawbacks of trading physical assets. Chief among these in the UK is the need to pay stamp duty or Capital Gains Tax on purchases and sales.
And because profits from betting are not taxed in the UK, any money you make from spread betting is yours to keep in full.
We must emphasise that spread betting is only tax-free under current UK tax law, which may change, and that ultimately your tax treatment will depend on your individual circumstances.
To see how tax-free trading works in detail let’s look at two different ways to gain the same exposure on Vodafone.
Say you buy 1000 Vodafone shares electronically at 225p per share. Not only will this cost you £2250 but you will also have to pay 0.5%, or £11.25, in stamp duty reserve tax. Say the price then rises to 250p per share and you decide to sell all your shares for a profit of £250. You will now be liable for UK Capital Gains Tax (if your total taxable gains for the year exceed your CGT allowance). CGT currently starts at 18% for basic rate UK taxpayers.
Now consider this transaction as a spread bet. For the equivalent exposure you would bet £10 per point on Vodafone at 225. Your initial outlay would be just your margin deposit which could be as low as £60, and you will have no stamp duty to pay. If you later close your position by selling at 250 you would make a clear profit of £250, with no CGT or other deductions.
Of course you might not make a profit, in which case there would be no deductions either way. And any losses from spread betting cannot be claimed as tax relief against other income. But remember that with a physical share trade you have to pay the stamp duty reserve tax at the outset whether your trade goes on to make a profit or not.
For further detail on the tax treatment of spread betting, and your own circumstances, you should always seek independent advice.