You can still order a PS4 from Amazon.co.uk as part of a bundle, but you’ll have to hurry yourself up as the postal service is about to start slowing up under the festive mentalness.
Loads of shops will have limited numbers of the console too, on a first come first served based.
Asda, Tesco, Argos and GAME have promised to have stock if you’re in a rush, but you can expect queues from gaming lunatics who like to stand in lines to prove how much they care about these matters. It’d be worth finding a store that is close enough to a pub, so you can at least get drunk before you queue or, indeed, have somewhere to sit if you decide against it at the last minute.
Tesco are being cagey, but they’ll be announcing their stores on this page so you can find the nearest one with PS4 stock. Argos, meanwhile, are allowing you to reserve one at this page, but they’re for collection only. Game haven’t gone into details yet, but check here throughout the day.
O2 are giving away PS4s with a new £52 a month contract on the day of release. The O2 deal requires an £89.99 up-front cost and you get some games with it too. You will be lumbered with a Sony Xperia Z1 phone too. Participating O2 stores can be found here.
Asda, meanwhile, have announced which stores will have PS4 stock. They’re open from midnight and limit purchases to 1 per customer. The list is rather long, so click over the jump to see which store near you will have a PS4 for you, should you want to pick one up in person on the day of release. For the rest of Europe, click here.
There’s a lot of concern regarding a company called Alpine Electronics. Not to be confused with the Alpine who make car accessories, but rather, a site people have spotted some bargains that appeared to be too good to be true. And, it appears they were indeed not to be believed.
The company, trading via alpineelectronicsltd.co.uk had offers on cheap consoles. After taking numerous orders, the site is now down and it appears that all orders have gone with it.
BW staff contacted the numbers that were on the site before it went down, and there’s no answer. After finding the address of the company, we called the company next door and found that Alpine Electronics had upped sticks and moved on. The person we spoke to admitted that they’d taken numerous calls regarding this matter.
Looking at scamvoid/alpineelectronicsltd, it seems this was a very new company, which makes it difficult to assume that this is anything but a scam.
Over on HUKD, there’s a lot of discussion about the company, with one user noting too many indescrepencies (see here), and lots of comments about emails going unanswered and phone calls which were vague about the company’s history. Many customers have said that they’ve received fake DHL emails about delivery.
Amazon customers have also been talking about Alpine Electronics, with many feeling they’ve been duped. Some customers have already contacted the police about the matter.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE AN ALPINE ELECTRONICS ORDER?
To be safe, it is worth getting in touch with your credit/debit card company or call Action Fraud on 0300 1232040. When contacting Action Fraud, be sure to let them know that the company has vacated their premises, which means they won’t instruct you to send a Breach Of Contract letter to Alpine. Your bank should stand the cost of the transaction, but you’ll need to contact them for more details.
Should your bank prove difficult, remind them that you are in fact protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act whenever you make a purchase for goods or services worth between £100 and £30,000 using your credit card. Section 75 states that you and your credit card provider are “jointly and severally liable” for your purchase. That means, if you’re scammed, your card provider must refund you if the retailer won’t.
Most debit card providers offer protection also. A scheme called Chargeback offers protection on purchases made using Visa, Visa Electron, Mastercard and Maestro debit cards. This makes it possible for you to claim a refund if your transaction is unsatisfactory (goods not being delivered, multiple billing, fraud). Claims must be made within 120 days of when your goods should have been delivered and ask your bank to initiate the Chargeback process and a dispute will be opened by your bank.
If Chargeback fails, take your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
We reported that there had been problems with the PS4, with customers complaining that it was switching off for no reason.
Sony said that problems were only affecting less than 0.4% of units shipped to date and they said in a statement: ”This is within our expectations for a new product introduction, and the vast majority of PS4 feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” They added that they are “closely monitoring for additional reports, but we think these are isolated incidents”.
So how do you fix the issues?
First off, check your TV compatibility or your HDMI connection. Some users have noted that, after initial problems, after updating the firmware on their televisions, issues concerning a lack of audio or video have been sorted. Also, it’d be worth checking the HDMI ports on both your television and PS4, as well as checking the cable you have.
If you think it might be the PS4 power supply, you need to switch off your PS4 completely, touch the power button on the front of the PS4 for at least 7 seconds until the system beeps twice, then disconnect the plug from the socket in the wall (you must only do this when the power indicator is turned off or you might corrupt data on your console). After that, try again. You can also try the power adapter from the PS3 if that doesn’t work.
If you think it might be the PS4 hard drive, turn off the PS4 and press the power button for 7 seconds (again, until the system beeps twice) and disconnect the PS4 AC power cord from the electrical outlet. Then, when the system is completely off, detach all the other cables from your console. Then, slide the HDD bay cover in the direction of the arrow to remove it and have a look at the hard drive to make sure it is properly seated in the HDD bay. It is a pretty easy job to fix, but you are advised to check Sony’s guide on that. If you’re brave enough, you can install a new hard drive yourself.
If you think software is the problem, then try booting your PS4 in Safe Mode. Again, you press the button on your console for 7 seconds as above. There’s more on that here. In Safe Mode, you can restart the system, update the system’s software, restore default settings, rebuild the database (which scans the drive and creates a new database of all content) or ‘Initialize PS4′. The latter loses all data and settings and returns your PS4 to the stage of being fresh out of the box. If you’re doing that, read this first.
Sony have written a full guide to fixing your PS4 problems, and you can view it here.
If you were lucky enough to lose your child benefit entitlement earlier this year, but continued to draw it, the deadline for informing HMRC is looming. By law, you need to tell HMRC that you owe them money (yes, really) no later than six months after the end of the tax year in which the tax liability arose. For the 2012/13 tax year (the child benefit rules changed in January 2013) which ended on 5 April, you need to register for a Self Assessment return by 5 October. That’s next Saturday.
Why do I need to complete a tax return?
The law changed in January and made those where one partner in a couple has income over £60,000 ineligible for child benefit, and those with an income of between £50,000 and £60,000 entitled to a reduced amount. HMRC wrote to those they thought might be affected to tell them they could either stop receiving the benefit, or they could claim the cash, and repay it through a Self Assessment tax return.
While declining the benefit is the simplest option for those earning over £60k, it may be that the non- or lower-earning partner receives the benefit and they continue to want this cash (rather than asking for ‘housekeeping’). Also, there is a cash-flow benefit of taking cash totalling £1700+ of the Government’s money and not giving it back for up to 22 months. Those earning between 50k and 60k would not be advised to decline the benefit, as they should get a proportion, and even for those whose salary is over £60k, allowable deductions like pension contributions might mean they officially earn less, for child benefit abatement purposes.
Of course, high earners will probably already need to complete a tax return as any non-PAYE income (including miniscule bank interest) will need to be declared and higher rate tax paid. But remember, Labour says people earning £50-£60k are not high earners (although someone earning £6k a year may disagree), so they may indeed be needing a tax return for the first time.
You may also need to declare your child benefit if your income rose above £50k for the first time in 2012/13.
What do I have to do?
You need to register for Self Assessment, but helpfully, you can now do it online here, quoting your National Insurance number. If the only reason for needing a tax return is down to child benefit, then the person earning over £50k should register. If both spouses earn over £50k , then the highest earner should register.
What happens if I don’t register for Self Assessment?
Well, immediately, nothing. However, if HMRC can show that you had a liability and you didn’t tell them in time, you can be penalised for not submitting tax returns and suffer surcharges for not paying back (in tax) the benefit received. The normal deadline for submitting online returns is 31 January following the end of the tax year (so 31 January 2014 for 2012/13), but paper returns normally have to be in by 31 October (2013). However, where a return is not issued by 31 July, you normally get up to three months to submit a paper return. The normal late tax return penalties will apply if you don’t get your tax return in on time.
However, more worrying is the new ‘failure to notify’ penalty regime, under which HMRC can penalise you up to 100% of the tax due just for failing to tell them you were going to owe tax.
Last week, we heard the worrying tale of a Kindle user who had her entire library deleted by Amazon for reasons that they weren’t prepared to share with her. There was a kind of happy ending as her account was later restored, although Amazon were still tight-lipped as to why it all happened.
If you’ve built up a large collection of ebooks from the Kindle Store and are worried that it could all be wiped away in the blink of an eye for any reason that Amazon see fit, you might be keen to learn how you can save those digital books.
Yes, you can strip away the DRM and save the books to a hard drive or somewhere where Amazon can’t remotely wipe them, BUT it’s almost certainly in contravention of Amazon’s Kindle terms and conditions and it might not work for every one of your books.
If you fancy having a fiddle with some DRM and protecting your ebooks, here’s how (this is the Mac version)…
1: Download Calibre (available for OS X, Windows, and Linux). It’s a “free and open source e-book library management application developed by users of e-books for users of e-books.”
2: Download the DeDRM plugin and unzip it. It’s the piece of code that cracks Amazon’s DRM scheme. After you’ve installed Calibre, open its Preferences (under the File menu) and click on ‘Plugins’ and then, ‘Load plugin from file’ before choosing the K4MobileDRM plugin’s zip file—it’s a zipped file inside of the DeDRM zipped file you downloaded. Don’t decompress this second file.
(For Windows users: you might also need to install both Python and the PyCrypto precompiled binary in order to be able to decrypt some e-books. Get Python here, and get the matching version of PyCrypto from here (either 2.7 or 3.3, for 32-bit or 64-bit Windows, whichever is appropriate).
3: Download Kindle for Mac (or the Windows/Linux equivalent), and connect it to your Amazon account. Download all your e-books (they’re in ‘Archived Items’ in the top left of the app. Once done, your ‘Archived Items’ count will change to zero and ‘Downloaded Items’ should show a number greater than zero.
4: Open up ~/Library/Containers/com.amazon.Kindle/Data/Library/Application Support/Kindle/My Kindle Content/. (this requires you to find the Library file found under the “username” directory).
5: Drag the .azw files (each Kindle e-book) into Calibre.
6: Click ‘Convert books’ in the app’s toolbar. When the ‘Bulk Convert’ window pops up, make sure that EPUB is selected in the upper right corner of the screen. Then click the third item on the left-hand side, “Page Setup,” and configure the output profile to whatever device you want to export. Choose Kindle as the input profile.
7: Click ‘OK’ to start the conversion. Click on ‘Jobs’ to check the progress of your conversions. Once they’re done, you should have a bunch of sub-folders, organized by author’s name, complete with cover art and a converted file in EPUB format. You can keep them safely on your hard drive or read them in Apple’s ‘Books’. Or convert them back to MOBI format and put them on your Kindle – you know you’ve got the backups where Amazon can’t delete them for no explainable reason.
So you’re in the brown sticky stuff and the bailiffs are knocking on your door. So besides pocketing your smart phone in your (brown) trousers and stashing your gold (in the time honoured stash place), what can you friendly neighbourhood Bitterwallet team do to help you in this sticky situation?
Well, debt advice charity the Money Advice Trust has launched an initiative to encourage consumers to stand up for their rights against bailiffs. After having first found out what they are, of course.
Bailiffs are commonly used to collect council tax arrears or to enforce a court judgment, but they can also used to collect parking fines and penalties, tax debt, or child support arrears. Once a bailiff has gained entry by peaceable means, they can return to take your goods and break in if you don’t let them in.
However, contrary to popular opinion, bailiffs are not vampires and do not need an actual invitation to gain entry by peaceable means- leaving a door or window unlocked is all the access they need, and once they’ve been in once, they can come back to take your stuff.
But even the conscientious door closers among you may instead be faced with bailiffs who try to blag their way into a property. Some of the most common techniques witnessed by National Debtline are:
“Can I come in to use your toilet?”;
“I’m from the local council, can I come in?”;
“We have a warrant, so you have to let us in.”
You can even share your best lines on that Twitter using the imaginative #bailiffblags hash tag. If you have nothing better to do.
Joanna Elson OBE, Chief Executive of the Money Advice Trust, said: “The rules and regulations around bailiffs can be quite complicated and so it is not fair to expect your average person in the street to know all the specifics. However there are some rules of thumb that are very useful to be aware of, and one of those is to not let the bailiffs in your property. This means locking doors and windows, and not falling for some of these blags.”
The rules are complicated, and even the Office of Fair Trading recently came up with some new rules on debt collection, handily summarised for us by Len.
“The most important thing is to get some free advice immediately. Organisations like National Debtline and CCCS can talk you through your rights over the phone, even whilst the bailiff is waiting outside,” added Ms Elson, conveniently.
Of course, you are all probably far too sensible to be faced with a fictitiously-full-bladdered bailiff, but just in case you are, Money Advice Trust’s Top Five Tips are:
> If the bailiffs have not been into your home before to collect this debt, they have no right to come in. They cannot break in. You can choose not to let them in;
> By law the police should not force you to allow a bailiff in. Bailiffs will sometimes call the police and ask them to force you to let them in, as many police are unaware of the complex laws and regulations involved;
> Don’t sign anything. If the bailiff leaves papers for you to sign and return, you do not have to do this. You don’t have to sign agreements posted through your door either;
> Except in rent arrears cases, bailiffs cannot take goods which are rented or hired or that belong entirely to someone else. This includes goods on hire purchase agreements.
So. It is no longer Christmas and it is not yet New Year. If you find yourself with some spare time on your hands that you’d rather not spend with your relatives, why not let your thoughts turn to your 2010/11 Self Assessment tax return. This is not as strange as it sounds- last year some 845 people filed their online tax return on Christmas Day and a further 2,408 submitted their self-assessment data on 26 December, according to official HMRC figures.
Importantly for this tax return period, any late returns will get an automatic £100 penalty. You probably know this was also the case last year, but last year, if you didn’t actually owe any money, they would reduce the penalty down to nil. No such reductions will apply from now on- if you are a few seconds after the deadline you will have to pay the full amount, with no reduction at all. Ever.
But why would you want to think about it now? After all, the filing deadline isn’t until 31 January 2012 which is practically months away. Well, the crucial point to note is that the paper deadline was actually 31 October 2011, so all returns filed now need be online returns. HMRC’s own online tax return software is relatively simple to use and can cope with most ordinary situations. However, in order to use this online software you need to register for the online service.
The registration process is quite simple, but knowing and loving you, dear readers, as we do, we thought you might need a handy step-by-step guide. Just in case.
Step by step guide
Find an intermaweb portal and log on to www.hmrc.gov.uk and bask in Moira’s stern look. Click on “Register- new users” in the Do it Online* box, top left (picture 1, for the intellectually challenged)
On the next screen, click on “Register”. Just in case you weren’t sure the first time.
Next, you need to select what type of user you are. There are only four choices, so we are going to assume you are an individual. Click on it.
You are then asked which service you are looking to register for. Put a tick in the Self-Assessment (SA) box and click next.
The following screen informs you that you will need your UTR, and National Insurance Number or Postcode to continue. Assuming you do not need the latter two explaining, your UTR is a ten digit number, often displayed in two groups of five numbers (12345 67890) that should be shown on Self Assessment correspondence from HMRC and certainly on your blank tax return form, or Notice to complete a tax return letter you should have received last April. If you do not have a UTR, have not completed a tax return before, or you can’t find or remember it, it is better that you realise this now while there is still time to do something about it. There is a UTR help section at the bottom of this article. Cause we’re nice like that.
Anyway, once you click next you will receive a dramatic warning, that we have handily de-sensationalised and added common sense:
You will get a User ID soon. Remember/print off/save the email with your User ID number and wait to get a Government Gateway letter in the post. This should take seven days. The letter will contain an activation pin. You will then need to log back into the system with the User ID you were given and the password you create (in a minute) and enter this PIN number.
Obviously this is a bit of a faff and will probably take a week or so. This is why we are telling you this now.
On the following screens you need to accept the terms and conditions, enter your full name and a valid email address, and then create a password. You will then get to the User ID page. THIS IS NOT THE END!
Remember that UTR, NI number and/or postcode you were told you would need? This is where you need them. Click next and enter your UTR, NI number and/or postcode. Click submit.
This is the crunch point. If it has worked successfully, you will see a screen informing you that registration has been successful and that your activation PIN is winging its merry way to you. Once you receive this (as above) you will be able to log in and use the HMRC Self Assessment online tax return preparation software. Job’s a good’un.
If you get an error message, you will need to take further action, namely ringing the HMRC Self Assessment helpline. Before you do so, make sure you have been to the toilet, have a cup of tea and a comfy chair. You will be on the phone a long time. It takes 2 minutes 42 seconds of option selecting before you can even get to wait on hold. And you will hold for many, many minutes.
If you can’t remember your UTR number, or you can’t remember if you were sent a tax return to complete, you will also need to ring the HMRC hotline. They will need to send the UTR out to you by post (they will not give these details over the phone). Another reason why we are telling you this now.
If you think you need to complete a tax return but have not done so previously, you will probably need to get a UTR (because you won’t already have one). This is a separate option on the myriad of repetitive menus on the automated HMRC helpline, and once requested, can take up to 28 days to arrive. In the post. This is why we are telling you now.
Note that it is entirely your responsibility to complete a tax return if you need to (ie if you know you have unpaid tax, by being self-employed or making a capital gain for example) even if HMRC are completely oblivious and have not sent you a return to complete. If they have sent you a return, you must complete it even if you do not owe any tax, or you will get the statutory £100 penalty.
Paying your tax
Any outstanding tax due at the end of the year is due on 31 January as well, and the first Payment on Account for next year’s liability, if applicable, is also due on this date. Even if you cannot afford to pay your tax bill straight away, do file your return on time- as mentioned above, there are no longer mitigations of the standard penalty amount. Tax paid up to 28 days late will only be charged late interest, with no additional surcharge until 28 February 2012.
*although the Revenue website enables you to do lots of things online, it does not have a function to allow you to do that.
Every couple of months we receive an email like this one from avid Bitterwallet reader Stephen. We keep receiving them because the world is still full of low-life loan companies that will do anything to take your money.
So here’s Stephen’s dilemma, along with some background on about why businesses harass consumers with SMS messages:
I keep getting calls and text messages (5 or more per day) from finance companies about debt, loans etc. I have debt but no missed payments – I’m paying everything on time. Not sure where they got my details from but it started a month or so ago.
“Hi, do you need cash now? No guarantor, 95% approvals in August. Get up to £750 today! www.fastresultuk.co.uk…..”
“Your loan has been approved for up to 15k…. www.mrborrower.co.uk…”
“Get up to 300…. www.txtcash.co.uk/sc …”
“Your loan has been approved for up to 15k …www.ukapprovalsite.co.uk…”
“Gr8 news… call 01613780109…”
All the texts come from different mobile numbers 07…. and include these words at the end of the text “reply STOP…”. I replied STOP to two of the texts but they keep coming even more.
How do I stop them?
The worst thing you can do when receiving these types of text messages, is to reply “STOP”. In fact, that’s exactly what they want you to do.
As we’ve seen in the past, there are people who make their money by selling consumer databases to anybody who’ll pay, regardless of whether they have permission to sell the information. Some of that data may be out of date – a person may have moved house or changed their phone number, so these companies are sometimes texting numbers blindly in the hope of a lead.
By replying “STOP” you’re actually confirming the number is still active. You then become a verified contact and your information becomes more valuable; not only will you be spammed by text even more, but you’ll most likely have your details sold on again because they’re still in use.
A quick check of the four websites mentioned by Stephen reveals two of them are the same company using different names, and all of them have two traits in common – there are no direct contact details other than email forms; and you’ve never heard of any of them. Meanwhile the text that provides a phone number is from a company hated by anyone who has the misfortune to contact them or answer a call from them.
The reason you’ve never seen or heard of these companies before is because they’re doing things on the cheap and sly. Buying marketing lists costs hundreds of pounds and create little awareness. That’s good for them, because people are less likely to complain if they think it’s just them being spammed. Meanwhile, television and press campaigns cost tens of thousands of pounds at the bare minimum, but also puts them on the radar of the authorities.
So what can you do if you’re being bombarded by these texts? You could register your number with TPS (Telephone Preference Service) for free. In theory when your mobile number is registered with TPS, marketeers can’t contact you without your express permission. In practice, that simply doesn’t happen. If you supply your number to a business just once, there’s the chance that number can be sold on and then sold to whoever wants it.
The only cast-iron way to ensure a mobile number doesn’t receive unwanted SMS messages is either a) never enter your mobile number into any sort of online form or printed form, or b) discontinue the number, start afresh and follow the first option to the letter. That’s inconvenient, but it may just be worth it.
We like simple things here at Bitterwallet. But we also like paying as little tax as possible. So we thought we’d combine these two loves of our life in the attached “Bitterwallet quick reference guide to all those fiddly tax rates and limits“. And there are no complicated schemes, just useful information on how you can stay within your limits. Tax limits that is. You can drink as many units of alcohol as you like while reading it…
So, unless you read certain newspapers (mainly those published by News International), you’ll be aware that a pretty serious allegation has been made against the News Of The World. Namely that a private investigator employed by the paper hacked into the mobile phone of Millie Dowler while she was missing in 2002.
It is alleged that as part of his work for the News Of The World, Glenn Mulcaire intercepted some messages and deleted others once Millie’s voicemail inbox was full – thereby creating false hope that Millie was in fact still alive and that she had deleted the messages herself.
If it’s true, you might agree that it’s reprehensible stuff, truly beyond the pale. You might also be wondering if there’s any action you can take, as a consumer, that will let the News Of The World know how you feel about this. You could stop buying it. But what if you don’t actually buy the paper – you can’t stop buying something you don’t buy to begin with. Is there anything else you can do?
Luckily, what with the modern world being what it is, there most definitely is. You could register your disgust with the companies that advertise in the News Of The World and try to persuade them not to promote their wares within the paper’s tawdry pages.
If you’re a Twitter user, you could send messages to them – here’s a simple-to-use page that allows you to send tweets to some NOTW advertisers with the greatest of ease.
Or, if you prefer an even more personal approach, you might consider emailing senior executives at some of those companies. Click here for a PDF containing a list of email addresses. There’s also a version of the list here in an Excel file, which you could use to mail-merge if that’s your sort of thing.
Alternatively, if you’d like to contact the Press Complaints Commission, @msjenniferjames adds that “For the form, the codes violated by #NOTW are: 3.1, 5.1, 10.1 and 16.2.”
Of course, we should reiterate that the allegations about the Millie Dowling phone hacking haven’t been proven as yet, but we won’t exactly be putting our houses on it all being a load of made-up guff.
(‘Tweet This’ list created by @thegreatgonzo, and email addresses compiled by @EroticPuffin)
This week, HM Revenue and Customs announced that their annual reckoning of tax collected under PAYE will soon be calculated, and unsuspecting taxpayers will get a nice, or nasty surprise in the mail.
Although the new system is no, supposedly, working properly, HMRC expects that any repayment cheques for the overtaxed will be sent out in August and September. Calculations for those who owe money will be sent in batches after that, with the last going out in December and up to £3,000 per individual will be collected this time via PAYE , more than the previous limit of £2,000. The money will be taken from their earnings each month via a change to their PAYE tax code for 2012/13.
Of course, PAYE was introduced to make income tax payment and collection easier for the huge percentage of employed taxpayers in the UK. Assuming your PAYE notice of coding works properly, you should never face a large tax bill, or a large tax repayment, at the end of any tax year.
However, PAYE codes are a blinking mystery to most people (and many accountants), but if you don’t know if your code is right or wrong, how can you advise HMRC when it needs changing to avoid that potential hefty bill. And do you trust them to get it right at the end of the day? Seriously?
How do I decipher my tax code?
PAYE codes are normally comprised of three numbers either preceded by or succeeded by a letter and adding a ’5′ to the end of the three numbers will give you the tax-free allowance applied to your earnings, for example, if your notice of coding reads 747L, your tax-free allowance is £7,475; if 240T, then your allowance is £2,405. Simples.
The letter used does not really matter for the purposes of deciphering your tax code unless that letter is a K. Many people with company cars will have a K code, which basically means your benefits are more than your personal allowances, so these codes add notional extra income to your salary to make sure you pay more tax on a monthly or weekly basis than your salary alone would suggest.
The standard, non-adjusted tax code for 2011/12 is 747L, which equals the normal personal allowance of £7,475 per annum. If your tax code is 747L, you are just getting the benefit of a full allowance, with no deductions for things like company benefits in kind or untaxed income. If your tax affairs are simple, you can probably breathe a sigh of relief and go off and do something else.
However, if your tax code is different, or you do have benefits that ought to be included in your tax code, you need to understand the numbers behind it. When HMRC send you the notification of your tax code, you should receive a document with some numbers on. On one side of the page are your allowances and the other side is for deductions. The easiest way to imagine the system is as a set of scales.
On the allowances side, most people will start with 7,475. To this side will be added any extra allowances due, such as additional age related allowances for those over 65/75 or blind person’s allowance. If you earn, or are expected to earn over £100,000, you will either get no allowance or a reduced allowance on this side. Read the rest of this entry »
We have previously told you lot about ISAs being A Good Thing, after all, anything that involves you keeping all your money and the taxman having none of it couldn’t be anything else.
However, because an ISA is a tax-free Government Scheme, there are Rules. And not the type that are meant to be broken. Breaking ISA rules means it will lose its lovely tax-free status and all your interest or investment gain will be subject to tax as usual. Which is not a good thing. So we thought we would furnish you lot with a quick breakdown of what you need to know about investing in, and withdrawing cash from an ISA. Cause we’re nice like that.
1. How much can I invest in an ISA
If you are lucky enough to have spare cash coming out of your ears, you need to be aware that there are limits people. Annual limits on investment that is. For 2011/12 (the tax year that we are in now) you can invest up to £10,680 a year (or £890 a month) in a stocks and shares ISA, or half those amounts (£5,340 a year/£445 a month) into a cash ISA. There is nothing stopping you having both a cash and stocks and shares ISA, but the total you can invest remains the same at £10,680.
This limit will increase every year with inflation. Looks like it might be quite a bit more next year then.
2. Can I take my money out?
Yes. It’s your money. Unless the ISA product you have purchased ties you in for any length of time, you can take your money out willy nilly, if, for example you needed to go to Thailand or something. Even if you are in a fixed duration account you can still get your money, you will just face a loss of interest penalty or the like.
However (and this is a big HOWEVER), withdrawing money does not then replenish your annual limits on investment. If you invest £10,000 and then withdraw £8,000 of it, you still only have £680 limit left. That £8,000 can never again become tax-free savings (well, not in this tax year anyway) so make sure you spend it on something really good. Like bacon.
3. Can I transfer my ISA to another bank/building society/ISA provider?
Yes, but you have to do it properly. If you just take it out and try to reinvest it, you will find yourself in the same situation as above. You have to formally request to transfer your ISA and the banks/providers will do it between themselves within strict time limits from the date of request. Again, NEVER EVER remove the cash yourself.
In many cases, with cash ISAs, it will pay you to transfer your ISA, as i the cash has been invested for any length of time, you may find your interest rate is, well, not very interesting. We have already told you this.
4. Can my small children invest in an ISA?
No. Well, not yet. Currently you need a National Insurance Number to open an ISA account, which means you need to be at least age 16. However, as the Government scrapped the highly popular and lucrative* tax-free saving vehicle known as the Child Trust Fund (CTF), they decided to invent Junior ISAs instead.
Junior ISAs are definitely on the way- they were included in this year’s Budget- but the details have not been ironed out. It is expected they will work in a similar way to cash ISAs for grown ups.
5. What does ISA stand for?
Individual Savings Account. Numpty.
*this may be sarcasm.
UPDATE – avid Bitterwallet reader Mark says: “Be careful with this. I installed it last night (legally – I have a dev license) and this morning I can’t get onto the App Store. It’s beta software.”
On Monday, Apple unveiled iOS5, the new operating system for iPhones, iPads and the iPod Touch. It has lots of fancy bells and whistles, plenty of features that critics believe should have been available from the start and more than a few that mimic those offered by competitors and app developers.
iOS5 won’t be available for some time, however. Developers can get their hands on it so they can start building and testing apps in preparation for its rollout, but if you’re an ordinary punter then you’ll have to wait.
Except you may not have to, because an Apple fanboi has already figured out how to get it onto your handset, without any complicated jailbreaking.
The work of Mert Erdir from Turkey has already been picked up and verified by the likes of Gizmodo. We’ve attempted the method below, but twice ran into error messages on iTunes while trying to install the update. It’s possible Apple have already nailed shut the back door that Mert was using, or it’s possible that your technologically backwards Bitterwallet hacks didn’t do it properly.
Regardless, the method for upgrading to iOS5 is below; we’ll add the disclaimer that what you do with your iPhone is up to you – don’t come crying to us if the result of attempting this is an expensive paperweight:
Download and install iOS 5
1. Download the iOS 5 IPSW file from the web (it’s easy and readily available. Just Google it and torrent it down).
2. Update your iPhone using iTunes. To do this, connect your iPhone to your computer, click on the Check for Update button with the Option (Mac) or Shift (PC) key pressed. Select the iOS 5 IPSW file from the place you downloaded it to.
3. Wait until it upgrades. A new activation screen will appear.
Activate iOS 5
1. Triple click the home button. This will activate the Voice Over.
2. Triple click the home button and Emergency Call will appear.
3. Click on Emergency Call and, while it’s switching, swipe with your three fingers down.
4. The Notification Center will appear!
5. Click on the Weather widget. The Weather app will load.
6. Click on the home button to exit to the iPhone’s springboard.
We’re feeling a little nostalgic here at BW. With Iceland being top of the popularity stakes again owing to its latest volcanic ash spluttering, we remembered the sterling job Icelanders (and specifically Icesave) did in shafting UK customers out of their money (including numerous local councils) back at the height of the banking crisis.
Of course, these weren’t the only banks to go bump, Northern Rock having the dubious honour of being the first UK bank to stumble to its knees. So we thought, in case you are having flashbacks and fretting about your wodges of cash, that we would give you a handy Bitterwallet guide to protecting your savings.
UK FSA regulated banks
Firstly, you are probably aware of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). This applies to savings in UK regulated banks (which is not necessarily just UK banks) and, courtesy of Northern Rock, the amount protected was increased from £50,000 to £85,000 per person, per licensed institution. Get in.
Two important points to note- the limit is per person, so joint accounts get double, but you do need to be aware if you have different accounts with lots of money in, please consider donating to the impoverished writers’ fund you need to make sure they are not only covered by one single licence, so you would therefore only get one lot of £85,000 protection.
For example, Santander recently acquired the retail banking of other institutions, like Bradford & Bingley and Alliance & Leicester. These accounts are under the single licence of Santander, so you only get one lot of £85,000. However, the HBOS/Lloyds takeover retained the two banks’ separate licences, so you get £85,000 for HBOS and £85,000 for Lloyds TSB. But don’t forget- accounts with Lloyds and C&G will both come under the Lloyds licence, and accounts with Halifax, Birmingham Midshires and the AA (!).
A similar deal applies with building societies. The biggest one to watch out for is the Nationwide, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Dunfermline all share a single FSCS compensation limit.
But what about non-UK banks?
Banks from outside the EEA who want to trade in the UK will have to get an FSA licence so you will be covered. However EEA banks (which included Icelandic banks) do not have to, they can instead rely on the EEA Passport scheme.
However, you might still be OK. The FSA has a FSCS top-up list of overseas banks that operate in the UK but who have subscribed to the FSCS. These include ICICI, Citibank, Egg and Firstsave.
But do not fear. After the Icelandic situation, in December 2010, the maximum compensation offered under the EEA Passport scheme was increased to €100,000, which, on current rates, works out at a smidge more than the UK’s £85,000. Although it does mean that you will have to deal with European bureaucrats instead of just UK ones at the FSA.
And that is perhaps the point. Although this protection exists, to actually have to go through the process of claiming the compensation is likely to be a long drawn out and stressful affair. The good news is that, even at the depths of the financial crisis, the Government preferred to bail banks out, than let them go to compensation. Of course, there is no guarantee that they would do the same again, which is why the guarantee scheme is important. Either that, or get a Very Large Mattress.