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The new Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has introduced some sweeping tax changes this week, but conspicuous by its absence was the Tories’ proposed increase in the Inheritance Tax threshold from £325,000 to £1 million.Yet, anyone worrying about Inheritance Tax should be aware that it is one of the easiest taxes to avoid and only a minority of estates need pay it.
I spoke to Ben Smaje, managing director or Kennedy Black Wealth Management this morning and he pulled together a few of the most straightforward and effective ways to avoid paying IHT which I wanted to share with Money Matters readers:
All this talk of raising capital gains tax is ominous news for zeros.
By ‘zeros’ I mean of course zero dividend preference shares – that class of investment trust shares that lost investors millions back in 2002 and were responsible for the biggest scandal to hit the industry.
The zeros have recently been experiencing something of a comeback – despite their dodgy history – thanks to the fact they are taxed as capital gains not income. A lot of the zero shares launched in the past year have been in response to private client wealth managers, who in turn were responding to pressure from their investors.
Now, it looks like the brief resurgence could be already thwarted. Analysts at Numis Securities said today a rise in CGT ‘appears negative’ for zero dividend preference shares – a view that was also expressed by analysts at Oriel last week.
Of course, there has to be an investment case for the zeros too – with some, such as those from Ecofin, attached to attractive, stable companies. It is early days – but it will be interesting to see how strong the demand for zeros is after the emergency Budget on 22 June.
The Treasury has confirmed that the newly appointed Chancellor George Osborne will present his emergency Budget on Tuesday 22 June, less than six weeks away after the new government has taken power.
Although a number of the government’s flagship tax policies were revealed in the Coalition Agreement there are many difficult choices that have yet to be made, for example whether or not VAT will rise. Entrepreneurs will also be eagerly awaiting details of the proposed increases in capital gains tax and the proposed reliefs.
I might be sitting more than 3,000 miles from Washington DC, but even from here I can detect the rank stench of hypocrisy. President Obama, not content with bashing banks, has now started on Big Oil. He wants to make BP pay every cent of claims arising from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, and has intimated that he will back a bill that raises – retrospectively – the liability limit for claims from $75m to $10bn.
Now, it’s entirely possible that BP may have been negligent, or cut corners. Memories of the blast at its Texas City refinery in 2005, where its safety standards did fall short, are still fresh. But it’s also plausible that one of its subcontractors – rig operator Transocean, or well casing contractor Halliburton – was to blame. Or that the blast was simply bad luck on a spectacular scale. But Congress has, it seems, already tried and convicted the British company and is now working out the punishment.
Home information packs are one of the first casualties of the new coalition government and on the whole this decision has been welcomed as good news for the housing market. After all, sellers see them as an annoyance, buyers don’t ask to see them and solicitors often refuse to rely on the information they contain.
Very few people can say that the introduction of HIPs was not full of good intentions – they were designed to speed up the home-buying process and prevent people from pulling out of purchases further down the line. But the packs were ultimately diluted to the point where buyers and mortgage lenders did not have the information they needed – such as a structural survey – and they’ve been on borrowed time ever since.
In a note out about the decision to scrap HIPs, Nicholas Leeming, commercial director of Zoopla.co.uk, is calling for the government to act quickly to scrap these plans as a delay may cause homeowners considering selling to wait before putting their homes on the market. He says:
A reduction in the supply of homes for sale at this crucial stage in the housing market recovery would harm the revival.
He also says that the retention of Energy Performance Certificates is an environmentally positive move it is more about “complying with EU directives on reducing carbon emissions than helping home buyers and sellers” and that “the new government should now consider replacing HIPs with a simple pre-sales pack to include local searches and a draft contract for sale only.”
Liam Bailey at Knight Frank also believes the HIP decision could go further. He says:
The need to provide an EPC will remain and is still a hurdle to get properties to market. The objective must be to follow the French and Portuguese and require an EPC only when terms have been agreed on a sales – not prior to marketing.
Whatever happens to HIPs it is clear that all eyes are on the UK property market and how the new government’s policies will affect house prices.
My email inbox is filling up with experts’ views on what the new government should do to rescue Britain’s economy but here’s one that caught my attention from PwC.
It’s a video discussion involving John Hawksworth (head of macroeconomics) on immediate economic issues and where taxes are likely to rise, Jon Sibson (head of public sector) on the impact of public sector cuts and Julie Mellor (public sector partner) on the looming challenges for the state of an aging population and how this Government will need to begin to address them.
“UK markets have slumped as the uncertain outcome of the general election unsettles investors”. That’s the general tenor of mainstream press commentary today.
It’s wrong. As our economics writer points out today, gilts are no lower today than they were a month ago. Yes, shares are down – but not by as much as they are in other countries. Sterling might have fallen against the dollar, but it’s still comparatively high against the euro. Much as it might irk our self-important politicians to hear it, the rest of the investing world isn’t that interested in their partisan bickering.
So it seems nothing is to be left untouched by the hung parliament calamity. Now experts are saying that it could add £52 a month to the average mortgage!
This is because, claim flatshare website easyroommate.co.uk, all long-term lenders price their mortgages with reference to the price of gilts – or units of government debt in plain english - and mortgage rates are now rising as the cost of gilts rise.
The value of sterling has nosedived after reports suggested that no main political party had been able to establish a sufficient majority in the election.
The pound hit a 12 month low against the dollar (falling as low as $1.4597) and fell 3 per cent against the euro to 1.1547. But why has it fallen so far?