Archive for the ‘News’ Category

How to scam the scammers!

Posted: January 23, 2018 in News, Podcasts

It is self assessment season so everyone is rushing to get their tax returns back to HMRC by the end of January!

But scammers are also seeing this as an opportunity.

I had a call from one that starts with a recorded message urging me to phone back Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs as I was being investigated for tax fraud.

The scammers aim in these calls is to get you to make a payment over the phone.

Plenty of people would panic so I called them back, see if you can spot the clues that show this is totally fake.

This is HMRC’s guidance on these sorts of calls:

“We’re aware of a bogus phone call scam being made, claiming to be from HMRC. The fraudsters behind the calls may encourage you to provide personal and financial information in exchange for a bogus tax refund. Alternatively, the bogus call may state that HMRC is filing a lawsuit against you, and that you must make an immediate payment. This scam has been widely reported, and appears to be targeting elderly and vulnerable people.

“If you can’t verify the identity of the caller, we recommend that you don’t liaise with them. If an incident has resulted in financial loss please report this to Action Fraud. It would also assist our investigations if you could forward details such as date, time of call and the telephone number used to”

How long will you live for?

Posted: December 1, 2017 in News, Podcasts

The Office for National Statistics has come up with a handy calculator to work out your life expectancy.

Hopefully your results won’t be too morbid but should instead make you think about how much you need to save to maintain your lifestyle in the future and what your needs will be when you are older.

Apparently I have another 87 years in me! That is a lot more time on the stockmarket and a lot more expenses.

See how you fare in the calculator below.

There was plenty of policy to chew over in the Chancellor’s Budget.

The flagship move was the stamp duty changes- abolishing the tax for first-time buyers purchasing properties up to £300,000 and in high-priced areas on the first £300,000 of houses worth up to £500,000 – but this has already raised fears of a rise in house prices.

Policy and that whole deficit issue aside, Hammond’s speech was probably more memorable for the gags.

One YouTube user has put together a handy video of the best jokes.



Estate agent Strutt & Parker managed to offend a whole generation this week when it claimed millennials would have a better chance of getting on the property ladder if they spent less on luxuries.

The millennial generation is often chastised for wasting its money on fads such as avocado toast and flat whites and then complaining that they don’t have any funds left to save for a mortgage deposit.

There is an argument for watching your spending, but in an environment where house price growth continues to outpace wages, it is by no means easy to save to get on the property ladder.

The government will claim it is helping with savings schemes such as the Help to Buy ISA – which lets first-time buyers save for a deposit tax-free – or its equity loan mortgage scheme, which helps buyers access a home loan with just a 5 per cent deposit.

But all this is useless if there aren’t enough homes.

Developers will say they are building more and can point to 2016 house building data that shows supply is now up close to the 2007 peak, but much of this is new builds. Not everyone wants to live in a new build property, especially with the ongoing debates about rising ground rents.

Right now, the government is essentially pushing up demand for purchases with schemes such as Help to Buy, while builders are left to cope on their own.

Chancellor Philip Hammond risks pushing demand up even further if he, as rumoured, provides stamp duty cuts for first-time buyers in his Budget on Wednesday 22 November.

This won’t suddenly make loads of cheap properties available.

What is really needed is support for everyone so current owners can upsize and downsize. That will unfreeze properties in the chain for all sorts of buyers.

This in turn may incentivise developers to build better and more properties to keep up.

More supply of both new and old properties should see prices coming down.

That leaves a lot more money left for avocado toast!


There has been plenty of coverage of revelations this week that millions of pounds from the Queen’s estate has been invested in offshore tax havens.

The Paradise Papers highlighted hundreds of millionaires using offshore schemes to hide their cash.

This has rightly shone the spotlight on the issue of tax evasion and avoidance, but it is important to get the terminology right.

Tax evasion is illegal. This is where an individual or saver deliberately omits, conceals or misrepresents information in order to reduce their tax liabilities.

Tax avoidance, technically is legal, as long as it is in the spirit of the law. The trouble is HMRC and lawyers and financial advisers may differ on how far the spirit stretches.

HMRC defines avoidance as bending the rules of the tax system to gain a tax advantage that Parliament never intended. This often involves contrived, artificial transactions that serve little or no purpose other than to produce a tax advantage.

This could for example mean understating the value of transactions to reduce stamp duty or misrepresenting profits to reduce corporation tax.

Clamping down on those avoiding and evading tax for illicit gain is important, but at the same time, we must give people confidence to use legal methods of tax relief.

Anyone with a pension or an Isa is technically a tax avoider. Both let you save money and earn interest tax-free. But they are perfectly legal, as long as you keep to your allowances.

You can currently put up to £40,000 per year in a pension and £20,000 into an Isa.

There are other perfectly kosher savings vehicles such as Enterprise Investment Schemes or Venture Capital Trusts that give tax relief for those backing smaller companies.

Additionally, everyone has a personal savings alliance where basic rate taxpayers can earn up to £1,000 in savings income tax-free, while higher-rate taxpayers get a £500 allowance.

Amid all the focus on overseas tax avoidance schemes, it is worth noting that there are offshore investment funds, authorised under the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, that are also perfectly legal.

It is important in all the hysteria over getting the wealthy to pay their fair share to remember the legal ways you can avoid tax so that people can still feel confident about saving without fear of the taxman.

Hopefully the Lego men and women below can help when it comes to tax planning.

tax avoidance


Toy story: The impact of interest rates

Posted: November 4, 2017 in News

The Bank of England has raised interest rates for the first time in a decade.

The Bank of England base rate is one of the main figures used by financial providers to set prices of loans or savings products.

The base rate, typically known as interest rates, is set each month by the Monetary Policy Committee and had been at record lows of 0.25% since August 2016.

But amid increasing numbers of people getting into debt, the Bank of England was concerned that people were relying too much on credit, so has increased interest rates to 0.5%.

This may be good news for savers as banks and building societies use the base rate as a starting point for pricing their own products, so they technically could now offer better returns for your money  (that obviously doesn’t mean they will!) so you could earn more interest and save up for that mortgage deposit or special event faster.

The downside is that banks also use these rates as part of their pricing for mortgages. So the cost of home loans could increase and those on tracker or standard variable rates, which typically follow the base rate, will see their monthly repayments increase.

There is of course an argument that if you can’t afford a 0.25% increase in mortgage payments, then maybe you shouldn’t have a home loan. But that’s for another day.

Here is a simplified explanation of the impact of the interest rate rise using Sylvanian Families:

interest rate rise.jpg

Everyone has a room that has just become a dumping ground for bikes and old boxes or DVD players.

Which rooms are the most used in your house, and which are wasted?

According to Ocean Finance, the dining room has become extinct, what do you think?

Most used room

The government is trying to boost the housing market with the Help to Buy equity loan scheme.

The scheme  offers an interest-free loan for five years from the government that boosts a borrower’s 5 per cent deposit by up to 20 per cent for a mortgage on a new build property worth up to £600,000.

Once that five years is up borrowers will start to pay a low rate of interest on their loan, starting at a rate of 1.75 per cent, and eventually pay back the capital they borrowed when they sell the house.

Whatever side of the housing bubble fence you sit on, the government stats show this scheme is boosting lending.

The first table below shows the number of loans since the scheme launched last April up to September.

Help to Buy loan states for April to September

Help to Buy loan states for April to September

The department for local communities and government released new data in early February 2014 to show even more homebuyers had used the scheme up to the end of January.

But wait at a minute? That column on the right hand side of the table below is exactly the same as the one above?

Help to Buy loan stats for April 2013 to January 2014

Help to Buy loan stats for April 2013 to January 2014

I phoned the DCLG press office who then had to check with a statistician to see if I was correct in saying the percentage figures were wrong. It was no suprise 15minutes later to be told the column was in fact incorrect.

Lets hope this government department isn’t using the same statistician for business rates and council tax!

Bitcoins: Welcome to the future

Posted: November 28, 2013 in News

I put £10 into a Bitcoin ATM in the summer and it is now worth £100.

Read my blog and vote below on whether this cryptocurrency could become a viable investment and form of payment

A very interesting (if hopeful) infographic from on how much you could pay to watch England go all the way in Brazil next year

The Cost To Watch England Win The World Cup In Rio

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