Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Electric car owners to save money under landmark initiative

Thursday, January 26th, 2023

Cheaper motoring is heading down the road with the announcement of a new scheme for smart charging of electric vehicles.

The Electric Vehicle Smart Charging Action Plan, published by the Government and Ofgem, sets out steps being taken to seize on the significant potential of smart charging and make it the preferred method of long duration charging by 2025.

Smart charging harnesses the potential of energy use data and the latest energy innovations to deliver significant benefits for consumers, including allowing motorists to charge electric vehicles when electricity is cheaper or cleaner, allowing consumers to power their home using electricity stored in their electric vehicle, or even sell it back to the grid for profit. It is expected high mileage motorists could save up to £1,000 a year through smarter charging.

Easier charging

Energy and Climate Minister Graham Stuart said: “We want to make smart charging an easier choice for drivers of electric vehicles, whether that is charging on the driveway, at the workplace, or parked on the street. To do that we need to build new network infrastructure at pace, using the latest available technologies.

“This plan sets out how we will work with Ofgem and industry to kickstart the market for smart charging, which we are backing up with £16 million in innovation funding. This will let people take control of their energy usage, in the most convenient and low-cost way.”

The Government has also announced £16 million funding from the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio (NZIP) for technologies that harness the potential of smart charging, including a smart street lamppost which will enable motorists to access smart charging on the move, and projects that will enable domestic appliances, from heat pumps to electric vehicle charge points and batteries, to integrate into a smarter energy system.

Ofgem Director for Strategy and Decarbonisation Neil Kenward said: “As energy regulator, we’re helping create the infrastructure to deliver Britain’s net-zero future at the lowest cost to customers.

Smart benefits

“This latest innovative plan will help to maximise the benefits of smart charging, offer vital savings to consumers and reduce the overall cost of energy by seizing the opportunities to use batteries to both power homes and fuel the wider grid.”

The announcements build on the steps already taken by the Government to enable smart and flexible electric vehicle charging. As of July 2022, all new charge points sold for private use now must have smart functionality and the UK is consulting on a new policy and technical framework to unlock the benefits of domestic smart, flexible energy, and enhance its cybersecurity.

Through the plan, the Government will improve publicly available information and evidence on smart charging, support the implementation of robust consumer service standards and ensure private charge points are secure and compatible with the latest energy innovations.

The roll-out of intelligent and automated smart charging will deliver a win-win situation for all consumers. Reduced electricity system costs will lower prices for everyone, motorists will pay less for charging their electric vehicle, and the electricity powering electric vehicles will be cleaner and greener.

Be on your guard against scammers

Tuesday, January 24th, 2023

It’s a sad fact of life that scammers love to take advantage of vulnerable people, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself.

Making yourself and your loved ones aware of the tactics used by criminals is the first step to staying safe.

Consumer champions Which? have helpfully put together a guide to the leading five banking scams to look out for.

1. Money mule requests

These scammers try to use unwitting victims to help them launder stolen money by using legitimate bank accounts. They will pay you for passing the money through your account.

Lloyds Bank recently revealed that more money mules are falling into the over 40 category, when previously it was understood that younger people were the target as the criminals reached out via social media.

They offer easy investment opportunities with the promise of big rewards. It may seem tempting, especially in the current economic climate, but if you’re caught and charged, you could end up with a 14-year stretch in prison.

2. Shoulder surfing and card identity theft

This has been around for years, but it is still catching people out. Take extra care when you are at the cashpoint and make sure no-one is hovering behind you to take note of your PIN. Many ATMs have small mirrors to help you see behind without making it obvious that you are looking.

Card identity theft is still a major issue. In the first six months of last year, face-to-face card fraud in shops rocketed 72 per cent, costing its victims £33.6m.

Don’t forget to keep a close eye on your card statements and report any activity you don’t recognise to your bank as soon as possible.

3. Fake apps

If you like to download apps, go through official stores rather than clicking links in emails or ads. Last year a fake app call 2FA Authenticator was doing the rounds. It appeared to provide a legit service, but unfortunately it installed malware on users’ devices and accessed banking login data.

4. Is it really your bank calling?

It is not surprising that so many people fall victim to scammers who claim they are calling from the bank. They can appear very authentic and credible and may have sufficient information about you that you begin to trust them. This is what they want.

They want you to be comfortable enough to hand over the information they need so they can carry out their theft. Be on your guard. If you have the slightest doubt that things are not what they seem, put the phone down and call your bank using the number from its website.

5. Online purchase scams

An offer that looks too good to be true probably is. Trust your gut. Use Google to see if anyone has already raised concerns about the company you are considering buying from.

It might look like a good deal, but if your hard-earned money is going straight into a scammer’s pocket, it’s best to walk away. If you do decide to make a purchase, pay with a method that will offer you protection, like PayPal Buyer Protection.

Thanks again to our friends at Which? for highlighting what to look out for.

If you have any concerns about scams, get in touch.

Energy discount scheme a further boost for businesses

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

New energy bills support will give businesses a boost when it is introduced later this year.

A new energy scheme for businesses, charities and the public sector has been confirmed ahead of the current scheme ending in March. The new plan will mean all eligible UK businesses and other non-domestic energy users will receive a discount on high energy bills until 31 March 2024.

This will help businesses locked into contracts signed before recent substantial falls in the wholesale price manage their costs and provide others with reassurance against the risk of prices rising again.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt, said: “My top priority is tackling the rising cost of living – something that both families and businesses are struggling with. That means taking difficult decisions to bring down inflation while giving as much support to families and business as we are able.”

Unprecedented help

The Government provided an unprecedented package of support for non-domestic users through this winter, worth £18 billion per the figures certified by the OBR at the Autumn Statement. This is equivalent to the cost of an increase of around three pence on people’s income tax.

It has been clear that such levels of support, unprecedented in nature and scale, were time-limited and intended as a bridge to allow businesses to adapt. The latest data shows wholesale gas prices have now fallen to levels just before Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and have almost halved since the current scheme was announced.

The new scheme therefore strikes a balance between supporting businesses over the next 12 months and limiting taxpayer’s exposure to volatile energy markets, with a cap set at £5.5 billion. This provides long-term certainty for businesses and reflects how the scale of the challenge has changed since September last year.

“Wholesale energy prices are falling. But to provide reassurance against the risk of prices rising again we are launching the new Energy Bills Discount Scheme, giving businesses the certainty they need to plan ahead.

“Even though prices are falling, I am concerned this is not being passed on to businesses, so I’ve written to Ofgem asking for an update on whether further action is action is needed to make sure the market is working for businesses.”

More support for some

From 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024, eligible non-domestic customers who have a contract with a licensed energy supplier will see a unit discount of up to £6.97/MWh automatically applied to their gas bill and a unit discount of up to £19.61/MWh applied to their electricity bill, except for those benefitting from lower energy prices.

 

A substantially higher level of support will be provided to businesses in sectors identified as being the most energy and trade intensive – predominately manufacturing industries. A long-standing category associated with higher energy usage, these firms are often less able to pass through cost to their customers due to international competition. Businesses in scope will receive a gas and electricity bill discount based on a supported price which will be capped by a maximum unit discount of £40.0/MWh for gas and £89.1/MWh for electricity.

Clampdown on repayment agents will protect taxpayers

Tuesday, January 17th, 2023

New legislation from HMRC that changes the way repayment agents are paid will better safeguard taxpayers and improve standards in the sector.

The way taxpayers who use a repayment agent can receive overpaid tax will be adjusted to protect them and raise standards among repayment agents.

Angela MacDonald, HMRC’s Deputy Chief Executive and Second Permanent Secretary, said: “Taxpayers deserve better – we want to make sure they are better protected before choosing to enter into an agreement with a repayment agent. HMRC’s updated standards for agents will level the playing field and provide the benchmark we expect all repayment agents to meet.”

HMRC will introduce new rules to protect customers from the unscrupulous tactics used by some operators. This means stopping the use of legally binding ‘assignments’ as part of claiming an Income Tax repayment, which could only be cancelled if the agent and taxpayer both agreed to do so. This can be challenging for customers who become dissatisfied with their agent, or who simply wish to take over managing their own claim.

Under new arrangements, if a taxpayer chooses to use a repayment agent to reclaim overpaid tax and wants it sent to the agent, they will need to make a nomination, which they can cancel at any time. The new process will make it easier for taxpayers to stay in control of their repayments.

Raising standards

The changes follow HMRC’s consultation last summer on ‘Raising standards in tax advice: Protecting customers claiming tax repayments’. Responses to the consultation highlighted the need to improve agent transparency and standards with the overall aim of better protection for taxpayers.

As a result, HMRC has set out the following measures:

  • updated standards for agents – applicable to all tax agents and including greater transparency requirements
  • a new HMRC registration process for repayment agents – to make the agent sector more transparent so customers better understand what they are signing up to

Victoria Atkins, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “For too long taxpayers have been left in the dark as a result of misleading and opaque agreements with repayment agents. These new measures will ensure those who are entitled to claim a tax repayment or relief can do so freely and easily – whether they choose to do this themselves or by using an agent.

“This government is making it easier to navigate the system for all taxpayers using an agent to claim money that’s owed to them.”

Changes are good news

Victoria Todd, Head of the Low Incomes Tax Reform Group, said: “We welcome these additional steps, which show HMRC recognises the important role they play in consumer protection. Refund companies have a legitimate role in the tax system, but the practices of some of these companies in recent years have been unacceptable. The proposed changes will hopefully address problems around the use of assignments, increase transparency for taxpayers and set clearer standards for these companies’ behaviour.

“Alongside this, it is important that more effort goes into raising awareness of refunds and ensuring it is as simple as possible for taxpayers to access them. We look forward to working with HMRC on the detail of the proposals.”

These changes form part of the Government’s commitment to tackle problems in the repayment agent market, which is currently an unregulated sector.

If taxpayers think they are owed a tax rebate, they can claim directly from HMRC via the free and secure service on GOV.UK and will receive 100 per cent of the money owed.

If you need any advice on tax issues, get in touch.

Cost-of-living payments to support low-income households

Thursday, January 12th, 2023

Millions of families will be starting the new year with the welcome news they will be receiving cost-of-living support.

The lowest-income households across the UK will get up to £1,350 from the Government in 2023/4 to help with rising costs across energy and food bills.

The new cost-of-living support will be paid from spring, following up to £1,200 in support for more than eight million low-income households in 2022.

Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said: “We are sticking by our promise to protect the most vulnerable and these payments, worth hundreds of pounds, will provide vital support for those on the lowest incomes.

“The Government’s wider support package has already helped more than eight million families as we continue to deal with the global consequences of Putin’s illegal war and the aftershocks of the pandemic.”

Cash in the bank

The new £900 cash boost for more than eight million eligible means-tested benefits claimants, including those on Universal Credit, Pension Credit and tax credits, starts in spring and will go direct to bank accounts in three payments over the course of the financial year. There will also be a separate £150 for over six million disabled people and £300 for more than eight million pensioners on top of their Winter Fuel Payments.

Exact payment windows will be announced closer to the time, but are spread across a longer period to ensure a consistent support offering throughout the year. They will be broadly as follows:

  • £300 – First cost of living payment – during spring 2023
  • £150 – Disability payment – during summer 2023
  • £300 – Second cost of living payment – during autumn 2023
  • £300 – Pensioner payment – during winter 2023/4
  • £299 – Third cost of living payment – during spring 2024

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt said: “I know these are tough times for families across the UK who are struggling to meet rising food and energy costs, driven by the aftershocks of Covid and Putin’s war in Ukraine.

“That’s why we’re putting a further £900 into the pockets of over eight million low income households. These payments are on top of above-inflation increases to working-age benefits and the Energy Price Guarantee, which is insulating millions from even higher global gas prices.

“Tackling inflation is this government’s number one priority and is the only way to ease the strain of high prices, drive long-term economic growth and improve living standards for everyone.”

No need for action

If individuals are eligible they will be paid automatically, and there will be no need to apply. Claimants who are eligible for any of the cost-of-living payments and receive tax credits, and no other means-tested benefits, will receive payment from HMRC shortly after DWP payments are issued.

The Government’s Energy Price Guarantee continues to cap energy costs, saving the average household around £900 this winter and a further £500 in 2023/24. Benefits, including working age benefits and the State Pension, will also rise in line with inflation from April 2023, ensuring they increase by over 10 per cent. April will also see the biggest ever cash rise to the National Living Wage, bringing it to £10.42 an hour, and a further year-long extension of the Household Support Fund in England and associated devolved nation funding worth £1 billion in total.

If you need any advice on your financial challenges, get in touch.

Sunak has five priorities – will he be successful?

Thursday, January 12th, 2023

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made his new year pledges, including halving inflation and growing the economy.

He listed his five immediate priorities when he gave his first speech of 2023, asking the public to judge him on the results.

Not surprisingly, critics are, however, suggesting that the PM’s pledges are a little vague – and even suggesting that his inflation promise is unnecessary as economists believe it has already gone as high as expected.

He hasn’t been clear on timelines for growing the economy, which his opponents feel will make it harder for the electorate to judge the success or otherwise.

The PM said: “As your Prime Minister, you need to know what my focus will be, so you can hold me to account directly for whether it is delivered.

“So I’d like to tell you my five immediate priorities.

“These are the five foundations I know can build a better, more secure, more prosperous future that this country deserves.”

PM’s top five

The undertakings included:

  • Halving inflation this year to ease the cost of living and give people financial security.
  • Growing the economy, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country.
  • Ensuring the national debt is falling to secure the future of public services.
  • Bringing NHS waiting lists down by March to enable people to get the care they need more quickly.
  • Passing new laws to stop small boats, so anyone entering the country illegally will be detained and swiftly removed.

“These are five pledges to deliver peace of mind, so that you know things are getting better, that they are actually changing.

‘Hold me to account’

“That you have a government working in your interests, focused on your priorities, putting your needs first.

“And I fully expect you to hold my government and I to account on delivering those goals.”

He used the opportunity to reflect on the progress of the Government since he moved in to No 10, saying the economy has been stabilised; billions of pounds have been given out for cost-of-living support; and more money had been invested in schools, the NHS and social care.

What are your thoughts on Sunak’s pledges?

Support for first-time buyers extended to end of year

Friday, January 6th, 2023

Looking to get on the property ladder this year? A government support scheme has been extended until the end of the year,

The Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, which has already helped 24,000 first-time buyers, will now run an extra 12 months, giving you more time to take advantage.

The scheme, which was launched in April 2021, supports first-time buyers to buy a home with a five per cent deposit. It is just one of the ways the Government is helping people with home ownership

Chief Secretary to the Treasury, John Glen MP said: “For hard-working families facing today’s challenging economic conditions, it’s right that we continue to help them secure their first home or move into their dream house.

“Extending this scheme means thousands more have the chance to benefit, and supports the market as we navigate through these difficult times.”

Since 2010, more than 687,000 households have been helped into home ownership through government schemes. First-time buyers often find it hard to save for a large deposit, and the mortgage guarantee has helped households overcome this barrier and secure the keys to a new home with a deposit as small as five per cent.

More help for home buyers

As well as first-time buyers and current homeowners, the scheme has also helped support the wider housing sector. Lenders reduced the availability of high LTV products during the Covid-19 pandemic, with just eight 95 per cent LTV products available in January 2021.

The Government’s Mortgage Guarantee Scheme helped restore competition and consumer choice to the market, which has benefited businesses and boosted the market.

To also support people to get onto the property ladder, the Government has increased the level where first-time buyers start paying stamp duty from £300,000 to £425,000.

Furthermore, first-time buyers will pay only five per cent on properties costing from £425,001 up to £625,000, as opposed to £500,000 previously. Both of these measures are time-limited to April 2025.

The Government has also continued to provide a range of other options to support home ownership and the wider housing sector. For example, the Help to Buy ISA and Lifetime ISA have collectively facilitated over 618,000 households get on to the property ladder.

More time to prepare for MTD transition

Thursday, January 5th, 2023

If you’re self-employed and have been worried about the approaching 2024 deadline for transitioning to Making Tax Digital (MTD) for Income Tax Self Assessment (ITSA), you can relax.

The Government has made the decision to phase in the mandatory use of software from April 2026, two whole years after the original date.

Victoria Atkins, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, said: “It is right to take the time to work together to maximise the benefits of Making Tax Digital for small businesses by implementing the change gradually. It is important to ensure this works for everyone: taxpayers, tax agents, software developers, as well as HMRC.”

Who is affected?

From April 2026, self-employed individuals and landlords with an income of more than £50,000 will be required to keep digital records and provide quarterly updates on their income and expenditure to HMRC through MTD-compatible software.

Those with an income of between £30,000 and £50,000 will need to do this from April 2027. Most customers will be able to join voluntarily beforehand meaning they can eliminate common errors and save time managing their tax affairs.

The Government has also announced a review into the needs of smaller businesses, and particularly those under the £30,000 income threshold.

The review will consider how MTD for ITSA can be shaped to meet the needs of these smaller businesses and the best way for them to fulfil their Income Tax obligations. It will also inform the approach for any further roll out of MTD for ITSA after April 2027.

HMRC’s commitment

Mandation of MTD for ITSA will not be extended to general partnerships in 2025 as previously announced. The Government remains committed to introducing MTD for ITSA to partnerships in line with its vision set out in its tax administration strategy.

“Smaller businesses in particular should be able to experience the benefits of increased digitalisation of Income Tax in a way which meets their needs. That is why we have announced a review to establish the best way to achieve this.”

Jim Harra, Chief Executive and First Permanent Secretary, HM Revenue and Customs, said: “HMRC remains committed to the delivery of Making Tax Digital as a critical part of our strategy for digitalising and modernising the tax system, but we want to make sure we get this right and deliver it effectively.

“A phased approach to mandating MTD for Income Tax will allow us to work together with our partners to make sure that our self-employed and landlord customers can make the most of the opportunities this will bring.”

How it works

The announcement relates to MTD for ITSA only. Making Tax Digital for VAT has already been implemented and is demonstrating the benefits to businesses and the tax system of digital ways of working.

Under MTD for ITSA, businesses, self-employed individuals and landlords will keep digital records, and send a quarterly summary of their business income and expenses to HMRC using MTD-compatible software. In response they will receive an estimated tax calculation based on the information provided to help them budget for their tax.

At the end of the year, they can add any non-business information and finalise their tax affairs using MTD-compatible software. This will replace the need for a Self Assessment tax return.

GOV.UK guidance on Making Tax Digital for Income Tax will be updated shortly.

If you need any support with the transition, get in touch.

Super-deductions finish March 2023

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

Time is running out to claim the super-deduction offering 130% first-year tax relief. The deduction is available to companies until March 2023. The super-deduction was designed to help incorporated businesses finance expansion after the coronavirus pandemic and to help drive growth.

The super-deduction tax break was introduced on 1 April 2021 and allows businesses to deduct 130% of the cost of any qualifying investment on most new plant and equipment investments that would ordinarily qualify for 18% main rate writing down allowances. This means that for every £1 businesses invest, they can reduce their tax bill by up to 25p. The temporary tax relief applies on qualifying capital asset investments until 31 March 2023.

In addition, an enhanced first year allowance of 50% on qualifying special rate assets also applies to expenditure within the same period. This includes most new plant and machinery investments that would ordinarily qualify for 6% special rate writing down allowances.

The super-deduction can only be claimed by companies. This means that self-employed traders are unable to benefit. However, they could benefit from the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) for investments of up to £1 million. The AIA allows for a 100% tax deduction on qualifying expenditure on plant and machinery. The temporary limit of £1 million will also remain in place until 31 March 2023 before reverting to the usual £200,000 limit.

Mortgage payment support

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2023

The Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, recently hosted a meeting at 11 Downing Street to discuss what help may be available to support homeowners who encounter problems paying their mortgage. The meeting was attended by leaders of the UK’s major mortgage lenders, the Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and Martin Lewis of Money Saving Expert. The meeting was convened in light of the increase in interest rates over the last year coupled with rising inflation.

At the meeting, mortgage lenders committed to help all their customers by:

  • enabling customers who are up to date with payments to switch to a new competitive, mortgage deal without another affordability test;
  • providing well-timed information to help customers plan ahead should their current rate be due to end;
  • offering tailored support to those who start to struggle with payments, which may vary by lender, but may include extending the term of the mortgage to make monthly payments lower, a short-term reduction in monthly payments or accepting interest-only payments for a period where appropriate; and
  • ensuring highly trained and experienced staff are on hand to help where needed.

The government also confirmed that they would take action to make Support for Mortgage Interest easier to access and increased funding for the Money and Pensions Service to provide debt advice in England.

The FCA in turn published a consultation on draft guidance clarifying how lenders can support borrowers impacted by the rising cost of living and will also publish more information for borrowers struggling to make their monthly mortgage payment.