Latest Money News

Tax returns
There are 11 days to go before the deadline for filing 2005/2006 tax returns and despite HMRC's campaign there will always be those who leave sending in their forms until the last moment.

You've seen Donald Trump on television ? being a property tycoon sounds wonderful. Realistically, however, you would like exposure to the sector without too much risk. Welcome to the new world of UK real estate investment trusts.

Private medical insurance
If you don't want to rely on the NHS, you can join the 7.5m Britons with private medical insurance ? but it won't cover everything.

Unsecured pensions
Income drawdown plans, or unsecured pensions as they are now known, have been popular in recent years as rates on annuities have fallen, hitting retirement incomes.

Charitable giving
The taxman shows a kindly streak when it comes to giving to charity. Money gifts receive 28 per cent extra from HM Revenue & Customs if you fill out a Gift Aid form. For every 100 you put in, the charity can claim back 28.20 of basic rate tax from the Revenue. Higher-rate taxpayers can reclaim a further 23.08 (ie 18 per cent of the gross donation of 128.20) on their tax return.

Offset mortgages
There is confusion over whether offset mortgages are a product that can cater to everyone, or whether they are best suited to wealthier individuals with sizeable savings.

Online shopping
This weekend is the start of the busiest two weeks of the year for online shopping. IMRG, the industry body for internet retailing, predicts that Britons will spend a record 7bn online in the 10 weeks before Christmas, compared with 3.3bn in the whole of 2004.

Genetic testing
Interest in genetic testing is increasing as more people look to predict whether they are predisposed to inherit a serious disease from a parent or grandparent.

The Pension Protection Fund
The Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which provides a cushion for members of final salary pensions when their employer goes under, recently published its first annual report detailing how many pension scheme members it had provided protection for in its first full year of operations and how the organisation has managed its funding.

Banking codes
On Monday an independent review of personal and business banking codes will begin, conducted by an independent consultant, Mike Young. The revised codes will be published in March 2008.

Maximising personal allowances
Knowing how to plan your finances to ensure that you are not paying unnecessary tax can be tricky. Chas Roy-Chowdhury, head of taxation at the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, says it is hard for people to gain a picture of what allowances are available to them and how they can utilise their particular circumstances.

Tax-free gifts
Earlier this year the government stamped out one of the most common ways to pass money to heirs when it introduced tax liabilities on certain types of trusts. The rules surrounding how much money you can donate to whom now need to be studied even more closely to make sure your family does not get stung for too high a charge when you die.

Contracts for difference
Contracts for difference (CFDs) have been in the news recently following a call from the Association of Investment Companies (AIC ? formerly the Association of Investment Trust Companies) to recommend changes in disclosure regulations. The association argues that these products are being used by some investors to build stakes in companies in a less than transparent manner.

Defined contribution pensions
A defined contribution, or DC, scheme takes contributions from the employer and employee and invests them over the long term to build up a pot of money to fund the employee's retirement.

Overseas mortgages
Buying a property abroad is the dream of many people. But it can turn sour once they get into the intricacies of dealing with overseas banks, solicitors and developers. One area that has become more flexible, however, is arranging a mortgage overseas. Traditionally, most people buying abroad have paid with savings or released equity from their UK properties. But as property prices have soared in popular holiday destinations and foreign lenders have become increasingly accessible to UK buyers, more and more people are borrowing to finance homes abroad.

Long-term savers can cheer upside of rate rise
Long-term savers are raking in some record returns as account providers react to higher inflation and the latest rise in interest rates.

Orphan billions: problem is sharing out the pie
Orphan assets ? billions of pounds of "ownerless" money slushing around in with-profits funds ? are back on the public agenda again with this week's news that the life assurer Prudential is taking steps to unlock its 9bn orphan estate.

Interest grows in property schemes for pensions
Providers of self-invested personal pensions (Sipps) are constructing a wide range of schemes for investors to hold property in their pensions to satisfy continued strong demand for this asset class.

Laggard parents may have missed investment boat
If your child trust fund (CTF) certificate is still languishing in a drawer, you might want to look away now. Strong market performance across the globe means that you could have cost your child thousands of pounds in missed investment opportunities.

Lawyers irked by EU anti-crime measure
Setting up a trust for your beneficiaries has never been straightforward. But it is about to become even more complicated ? and possibly more expensive ? thanks to European Union rules which come into force later this year.

There really is no such thing as a free gift
Calculating how much tax is due on your income and investments is tricky enough. But this year taxpayers are also having to cast their minds back to assets they have already disposed of, as new rules mean these may also be liable for tax charges.

Fears over Revenue's backlog of tax returns
You need to file by the end of January to avoid a penalty, but don't be surprised if you still get a reminder from the taxman

First-time buyers are not yet home and dry
If you have just bought your first property, then congratulations, you've conquered the most inhospitable housing market for the past 15 years.

Love 'em and leave 'em approach swells the bill
Most fund managers only pay lip service to Warren Buffett's dictum that "the ideal holding period is forever"

Pressure grows on would-be investors as double whammy hits market
The combination of rising interest rates and falling rental yields is racheting up pressure on buy-to-let investors, particularly those who are entering the market now as house prices touch new peaks.

New guidelines may end postcode lottery
Long-term care is one of the less palatable realities of life. It is something most of us would rather leave as a bridge to cross when we come to it.

New money calls for the personal touch
There is a growing queue of private banks and wealth managers chasing the 100,000-plus investor as the numbers of these wealthy individuals looks set to break through the 2m barrier for the first time in 2007.

With-profits bonus rates expected to fall further
Holders of with-profits policies look set for another round of disappointment this year when the bonus season kicks off.

Banks hope to grab the bargain-hunters
Sales fever has hit the high street over the last week but as well as bargains on clothes and electronics, the new year can also be a good time to grab decent deals on your finances.

Just a note to say: can I buy your house?
The mismatch between supply and demand in the property market means desperate would-be buyers are bypassing estate agents by dropping leaflets.

From The Financial Times

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