sugar is a drug New sugar tax to double the cost of your favourite snacks?Sugar. Yummy, delicious sugar. It tastes nice, so we like to eat it, even if we are all obese and getting fatter/diabetes/rotten teeth. But what can we do about it? Well a new report into tooth decay recommends slashing the maximum recommended intake to almost a quarter of WHO limits, with a bonus ‘sugar tax’ to help us all decide not to eat sugary treats anymore.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently lowered the recommended sugar limits to a maximum of 50g per day for the average adult and ideally no more than 25g, but a new report from doctors at University College London and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine warns this is still too high, calling for a limit of just 14g per day.

The study, which looked at rates of tooth decay in comparison to average sugar intake, found that people who eat little or no added sugar had little or no tooth decay. As a result, the authors want to impose a maximum sugar intake of five per cent of total calories per day and ideally less than three per cent. Three per cent of total calories would be around 14g for the average adult – less than half a can of fizzy drink or four blocks of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate. For children this would be even lower, with seven-year-olds munching no more than 11g of sugar, or three squares of Dairy Milk.

Now, before anyone starts ranting that no-one, let alone a seven year old, should be munching bars of dairy milk everyday, the sugar limit would also include all sugar added to food by manufacturers (ever checked the sugar content of a ready meal?) or at home, but also natural sugars present in things like honey and fruit juice.

Co-author Professor Philip James, Honorary Professor of Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and past President World Obesity Federation, said  “A sugars tax should be developed to increase the cost of sugar-rich food and drinks.”

“This would be simplest as a tax on sugar as a mass commodity, since taxing individual foods depending on their sugar content is an enormously complex administrative process. The retail price of sugary drinks and sugar rich foods needs to increase by at least 20 per cent to have a reasonable effect on consumer demand so this means a major tax on sugars as a commodity. The level will depend on expert analyses but my guess is that a 100 per cent tax might be required.”

A 100% tax seems quite hefty, but he might be right. Demand for sweet treats is fairly inelastic- meaning that if you want one, you will buy one, without worrying too much about the cost. In order for a sugar tax to have an actual effect, and not just be absorbed into rising costs of living, it needs to be a doozy of a tax, doubling the cost of the ‘bad’ items.

But would it work? If you really want a Mars bar would you pay £1.20 for a Mars bar if you really needed to work rest and play? Or 84p for a can of coke? And let’s not forget that once upon a time Freddos were 10p. Look at them now even without a sugar tax surcharge.

Let’s face it, we probably have all paid similar prices for these products at airports or motorway service stations in the past. But would we just happily keep on paying this amount or would such a high price make us cut down our consumption? Or should the Government just naff off and leave us to enjoy whatever we want to fill our faces with in peace?

Car sales are on the up!

September 8th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

car scrap Car sales are on the up!People are still buying cars, even more so, for the 30th month running!

The number of cars sold so far to August 2014 in the UK is now over 1.5 million. Probably because people can’t afford to catch trains and if you’re going to get rinsed for cash, you may as well do it in the  comfort of your own company.

August also saw car sales jump up 9.4%, which is unusual for a traditionally quiet month, seeing 72,163 cars being registered, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

Also, it’s unusual as its September, when it all gets busy as cars sell when there’s the new number plate season and buyers want to look really ahead and attractive.

2014 sales are also 10.1% above the same period last year. The UK are ahead of the rest of Europe as far as growth in car sales are concerned.

It can’t last, apparently, as the SMMT reckon it will cool off in the next few months.

School premiums driving up house prices

August 27th, 2014 3 Comments By Ian Wade

beacky high 300x200 School premiums driving up house pricesHouse price news now, and if parents want their nippers to go to the best state schools in England, they’re looking down the barrel of half a million to buy a home in the right area.

According to a report from Lloyds, it reckons the average premium to live nearby to a top school is £21,000

The most extreme example was Beaconsfield High School in Buckinghamshire (pictured) where the average house price is £797,000, compared to an average price of £314,000 in the rest of the county, giving it a ‘school premium’ of £483,031, the largest one in England.

Researchers looked at the top 30 secondary state schools in England as well as the top ten performing secondary state schools in each region, based on last year’s [2013] GCSE data.

But it’s not all demented premium news, as Heckmondwike grammar, in West Yorkshire, has results that place it among the top 30 state schools in the country, but house prices nearby average just £99,000.

For that lot in London, Barnet also stands out as an area with some of the best state schools. But house prices are lower in the area than the average for the capital.

A mortgages director at Lloyds, who we’ll call for this purpose Marc Page, said: “Although property values can be significantly lower in neighbouring areas, many parents don’t appear to be put off from paying a premium to ensure their child has the best possible chance to attend their chosen school.”

Shall we look at the Top Ten of where the biggest house price ‘school premiums’ are?:

1. Beaconsfield High School, Buckinghamshire, £483,031, 154%
2. Bishop Vesey’s Grammar School, West Midlands, £131,656, 79%
3. Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, Lancashire, £86,857, 62%
4. St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School, Kent, £152,680, 59%
4. Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School, Buckinghamshire, £184,058, 59%
6. Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, Cheshire, £117,439, 56%
7. Colyton Grammar School, Devon, £53,309, 24%
8. Newport Girls’ High School, Shropshire, £23,432, 12%
8. Wolverhampton Girls’ High School, West Midlands, £20,195, 12%
10. Nonsuch High School for Girls, Sutton, £23,380, 8%

Mostly Girls Schools too, the pervs.

Interest rates: no need for rise

August 20th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

British high street 300x180 Interest rates: no need for riseThanks to supermarket price wars and sales on the high street this summer, there’s been no need for the Bank of England to go ahead with early interest rate rises. Hurrah!

The consumer prices index, or CPI, went from 1.9% to 1.6% last month, which means it is still below the Bank’s 2% target for the seventh month on the trot.

The Office for National Statistics reckon this is down to a third month of falling food costs, which is due to the supermarkets scrambling for what customers they can get with all manner of discounts and offers.

The July RPI figure, which they use to set next year’s regulated rail fares, came in at 2.5%, which hopefully is good news for commuters expecting a massive price increase in the new year.

The City was a bit freaked out by the drop in CPI. Experts said the lack of evidence of inflation would stay the hand of the Monetary Policy Committee from a first rate since 2007.

There’ll no doubt be more exciting news like that when the Bank publishes the minutes of its August meeting, but otherwise that’s all quite optimistic news isn’t it?

Please say it is.

smily death 300x200 You might have to pay inheritance tax while still aliveThe Government have been messing around with inheritance tax and one of the things that is stirring up interest is that those who who try to reduce their inheritance tax bill might have to pay the levy up front.

Thanks to people using complex schemes to cut what they pay in taxes after their death, HM Revenue & Customs want those suspected of avoiding inheritance duty to pay it in full up front.

This is the latest idea the Government have had with the problem of tax avoidance.

 

Basically, the HMRC thinks that people who are suspected of using tax avoidance schemes should be liable to an ‘accelerated payment’ of inheritance tax during their lifetime. If they’re innocent, then they’ll get the money back after investigation.

A spokesman said that this only affects “very small numbers” of rich people, but you can imagine that the wealthy have the kind of accountants clever enough to get around any new rules, and added: “We are seeking views on tackling inheritance tax avoidance schemes. This is an ongoing consultation and no final decisions have yet been taken.”

“The proposals in the consultation paper will only affect a small minority of wealthy individuals who actively seek to avoid Inheritance Tax. Couples would still be able to leave up to £650,000 tax free to benefit their children or grandchildren.”

Tax credit crisis as claimants miss deadline

August 11th, 2014 No Comments By Ian Wade

tax credits 300x221 Tax credit crisis as claimants miss deadlineA load of people have failed to renew their tax credit claims, and now face a world of palaver as they could be cancelled.

According to figures from the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), some 455,000 claimants haven’t renewed their claims, even though the deadline for renewals was delayed after strike action buggered things up.

A three-day walkout by Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) members, meant that the deadline was pushed back by a week.

Households up and down the UK rely on tax credit payments, helping families and the like with basic needs and childcare.

Claimaints who do bother, can now also do it online thanks to a new service from HMRC.

Approximately three million people did renew in time for the deadline, and while the 455,000 who didn’t do it in time, this is lower than the 650,000 who were tardy last year.

If the deadline has completely passed you by, get in touch with the UK Tax Authority sharpish.

grandparent 225x300 Pensions likely to be cashed in after new rules, claim taxmen The taxman reckons a third of the workers who retire with private pensions next year, will cash in their pot immediately.

Due to new rules introduced in March’s Budget, retirees are allowed to dip into their pension savings at normal tax rates.

Of the 400,000 retirees, HM Revenue & Customs is expecting approximately 130,000 will do it.

After the quarter of a pension pot which can be accessed tax free, from next April, workers will pay their normal income tax rate on further cash released, instead of the 55% tax that is currently charged if someone aged over 55 stops work.

This crystal balls thinking also suggest that due to George Osborne’s shaking up of the system,  the Treasury look set to gain around £3.8 billion over the next five years.

It’s expected these changes will lead to fewer people using their pot to buy an annuity, which pays out a guaranteed yearly income once they’ve retired.

An annuity tends to last for the rest of a retiree’s life and acts as an insurance against the possibility of them outliving their savings.

Although annuities haven’t had the best press of late, what with sinking rates and people not being arsed to find the best deal for themselves.

A man named Paul Green, speaking for Saga, said that a survey it had recently carried out among 2,400 over-50s about the new pension freedom found that one in six (15%) of those still working plan to cash in their full pension pot.

“It is vital that people are properly advised about the tax implications of withdrawing more than 25 per cent of their pension pot before they do something that they may live to regret.”

Take heed of his wise words, or you may as well run into traffic now, dear reader.

All hail the superboomers!

August 4th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

breastfeeding 300x226 All hail the superboomers!The Superboomers are here and they’re buggering everything up cliche-wise

According to a new report by Huawei, the over-50s are embracing a second stab at being youthful, and changing what it means to be aged.

This section of society are weathly, healthy and driving the economy with over 1.7 million entrepreneurs over 50 and one in five of them registered as self-employed.

They’re also one of the wealthiest generations, generating 89% of disposable wealth.

A spokesperson, pushed forward to come up with thinky reasons, said: “Superboomers are embracing the fact that they will be living for longer and are having a second go at being youthful. No longer does their age define them: their hobbies, interests and passions move them.”

“Boomers represent a quarter of the population in the UK and are spearheading the longevity revolution. As the retirement age rises and life expectancy grows, news of changes in the state pension age is contributing to a wider shift in the Boomer generation’s attitudes towards their older years.”

“A second life awaits them and they have the financial security, health and vigour to make the most of it.”

The report also says the women over 50 in the UK account for 41% (£2.7 billion) of the annual spending on clothing, shoes and the like, while another report claimed that gym visits peak at the age of 66.

There are around 2.9 million people aged between 50 and state pension age out of work and the Department for Work and Pensions estimates in the next 10 years there will be 3.7 million more, with 700,000 fewer people aged 16 to 49 in the UK labour market.

Well done you, the older people!

energy Customers waving cheerio to big six energy companiesTwo million customers have said “see ya!” to the UK energy market’s big six companies, and opting for smaller and cheaper companies.

Independent figures claim to show droves of households switching their energy supplier as the price of energy carries on going up.

Approximately 100,000 customers a month have swapped over from the big boys to an indie since last June. Snubbing the likes of npower, SSE, EDF, E.ON, Scottish Power and British Gas.

And according to the latest figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change, 1.3 million customers and 866,000 gas customers have changed suppliers in the last three months of 2013.

And as if to rub it in, by switching his gas and electricity supplier to a company exempt from the charges slapped on domestic bills, Energy Secretary Ed Davey  is now spared from paying the average £112-a-year green duty added to most domestic bills after he moved his account to a firm that does not have to pay it.

Maybe he should be doing something about stopping the Big Six being arseholes then, eh readers?

tax letter The tax office is to go on strike (you still have to pay tax, though)The passport people are going on strike, and now, it is the turn of those in the tax office who have had enough.

These walk-outs are the result of long-running disputes over job losses and office closures which have led to backlogs and delays, not to mention the use of private debt collectors.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS) will take part in the strikes over the next three days, which means that the work of HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is going to get some disruptions.

Strikes will be held across the North West and Wales today, Scotland and the Midlands on Thursday, and London, the South East, South West and East of England, and on Friday, Yorkshire, Humberside and Northern Ireland.

The PCS general secretary, Mark Serwotka, said: “These strikes demonstrate we are serious about stopping these damaging cuts and making a positive case for proper investment in this crucial department.”

A HMRC spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed by the timing of the decision by PCS to call a strike to coincide with the tax credits renewals deadline.”

It is almost exactly like the strike is designed to coincide with something that’ll cause inconveniences that will attract attention to what the union are saying, eh HMRC?

tax man HMRC are officially rubbish  Adjudicator upholds 90% of complaintsYou are probably familiar with the concept of an Ombudsman, an independent reviewer who will review the facts of a case once the normal complaints procedure has been exhausted, and will normally find in favour of either the complainant (usually the customer) or the retailer.

Now, we all know that HMRC no longer has victims, rather customers, and as such, it is open to complaints same as any other service provider. While there is no ombudsman for tax-collecting services, there is an Adjudicator. The Adjudicator has now published her annual report for 2013/14, which shows that an unbelievable 90% of customer complaints have been upheld- and government bodies including, and mostly HMRC, have been ordered to pay a whopping £4.4m in redress payments.

The Adjudicator provides an independent review of complaints about HMRC, as well as against the Valuation Office Agency and the Insolvency Service, although these are only a small proportion compared with the HMRC complaints.  In fact, the actual number of complaints about HMRC has gone down, a staggering 90% of taxpayers’ complaints have been upheld this last year.

There were 1,131 new complaints in 2013/14, 1,087 of which were about HMRC. This is less than half the number in 2012/13, when there was a surge in complaints, many of them about PAYE.

Of the cases resolved last year:

90% were upheld substantially or partially (61% in 2012/13)

7% were not upheld (37% in 2012/13)

3% were withdrawn or reconsidered (2% in 2012/13)

The total amount the departments paid out in redress, on the Adjudicator’s recommendation, was £4,369,258 , massively up on the £1,194,031 the year before. The total includes tax credit overpayments written off, as well as costs reimbursed and compensatory payments.  

Complaints to the Adjudicator are typically about mistakes, unreasonable delays, poor advice or inappropriate staff behaviour.

In her report, the Adjudicator noted that  HMRC had put “a lot of effort” into transforming its complaints handling, and complimented the department on “listening to her constructive criticism.”

She did, however, acknowledge the startling proportion of upheld complaints and described seeing many cases “where HMRC staff failed to consider the circumstances of vulnerable people and where communication was poor.”

Anyone else with a 90% upheld complaint rate might be looking for their P45. But still, at least HMRC are trying, right?!

Carrier bags: more popular than ever

July 16th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

tesco bag 300x187 Carrier bags: more popular than everCarrier bags, or at least ‘single-use’ (ie: plastic) are back on the rise.

The number of bags handed out by UK retailers rose for the fourth year in a row in 2013 to more than 8.3 billion.

In England alone, the number of single-use bags rose 5% from just over seven billion in 2012 to 7.4 billion in 2013.

The Government are all up for the 5p levy that will be introduced in October 2015, but what about the bags NOW man? They’re there. Accumulating up like a mountain of manky plastic. Suffocating us all slowly.

The Government was forced to admit plans to also exempt biodegradable bags will not come in when the levy is introduced, because no such bag currently exists.

Northern Ireland saw their bag numbers plummet by 71% as a charge was introduced in April 2013, whereas Wales saw an 18% increase last year, but its use of carrier bags is a fraction of other parts of the UK following the introduction of a 5p charge in the country. The number of bags handed out in Wales has fallen by 79% since 2010. In Scotland, which is bringing in a levy this year, there was a 6% increase in the number of plastic bags handed out by retailers.

It’s good news for the more robust “bags for life” as they’ve almost doubled since 2006, up from 245 million that year to 424 million in 2013.

A unnamed spokeswoman for the Environment Department (Defra) said: “Countries with the 5p charge have seen a dramatic fall in the number of plastic bags taken from supermarkets – that is why we are introducing a charge in England from October 2015.”

“Our approach will help us reduce plastic bag usage and the litter they cause, while also protecting small and medium-sized businesses from any regulatory burdens at a time when the Government is supporting new growth in our economy.”

Bags.

TAX MONKEYS HMRC publish list of tax avoidance schemes, so theres no excuse for rock starsHM Customs and Revenue has published a list of 800+ schemes that they reckon are being used to deliberately avoid tax and as soon as they get brand new legal powers, happening in August, HMRC will be demanding the disputed tax as “accelerated” payments.

Celebrities such as including David Beckham and Arctic Monkeys have been those accused of using such schemes.

It has been forecast that around 33,000 people will receive tax demands for billions of pounds from HMRC over the next two years. They will be given 90 days to cough-up what’s owed and, should a court decided in the celebrities’ favour, then they will get their money back.

There’s going to be a lot of work in the courts, isn’t there?

The published list shows a series of numbers, known as Scheme Reference Numbers (SRNs), because those who come up with these schemes don’t give them jazzy names like ‘Sleb Cabale Tax Hole’ or ‘The Fu’coffers’. You can have a look at the most boring list in the world, here.

However, those filling out tax returns have to put these numbers on their forms, so they should be able to spot whether they’re owing money to HMRC pretty easily.

Of course, we can’t expect pop stars to be good for much, and in the case of Katie Melua, she admitted she’s been thoroughly “clueless about tax” when she signed up to a tax scheme. She’s paid off all the tax she owes though, so she’s alright.

That said, the main gripe here is not necessarily that pop stars and celebrities are avoiding paying their taxes, but rather, that they’ve managed to ferret all that money away and still be gigantically boring with it!

What ever happened to feeling a tax code and buying a crumbling French mansion and taking loads of heroin with models and the like?

tax 215x300 Scary new powers for scary taxman to deduct what he likes from your salary (without telling you)HMRC seems to be getting more sinister by the day. Hot on the heels of regulations allowing HMRC to forcibly remove cash in unpaid tax debts from your bank account, new regulations out for consultation would allow HMRC to change an employee’s tax code, which governs how much tax is deducted from salaries before reaching their bank account, without telling them- for up to 30 days. This means employees could receive far less (or presumably more) wages than they were expecting with no prior warning. Which seems a bit off.

Currently both employer and employee are immediately informed when a tax code is changed, and this allows the employee to contact HMRC should the tax code be incorrectly amended. Figures released last month showed that the number of taxpayers who had paid an incorrect amount of tax rose to 5.5m last year, so it’s not like the system is foolproof either. The proposed delay would mean people only find out when it is too late to correct the mistake and the money has already been deducted from their monthly salary.

Lesley Fidler (her real name, honest), a tax director at Baker Tilly, said: “When you are counting the pounds in your pay packet…you are thinking ‘have I got enough this month?’…People will effectively be lending to the taxman out of their salaries.”

However, Lin Homer, chief executive of HMRC, insisted that the powers would only be used in extreme circumstances and would never leave taxpayers short of “enough money to live.” But before you start chuffing about how on Earth the stonkingly well-paid Chief Exec of a public body would be able to gauge what is enough to live on, don’t worry, because HMRC propose to be able to judge this perfectly by gaining access to 12 months of the target’s personal spending habits. That’s not terrifying AT ALL.

An HMRC spokesman said that the delay is only likely to be used in “limited circumstances” at busy times of the year, such as around the self-assessment deadline and that it was all OK as “HMRC anticipates savings for the taxpayer of several millions pounds in printing and postage costs, as a result of these changes.”

HMRC will, however, welcome “comments on the detail” of the regulations, before finalising them “in the autumn.”

The proposals are currently out for consultation until the end of July.

Nando’s: chickening out of tax legally

July 11th, 2014 1 Comment By Ian Wade

nandos Nandos: chickening out of tax legallySpicy chicken news now, and it transpires that Nando’s are being a bit spicy with their tax affairs.

On the back of a similar claim against Lidl and the like, a report by The Guardian says the chicken chain is all tied up with most of the corporate structure having offshore addresses.

For instance, purchase a £7.30 portion of spicy chicken thighs at Nando’s and the cash flows into a network of accounting devices, involving Malta, the Isle of Man, Guernsey, the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg, Panama and the British Virgin Islands.

Profits finally fetch up in Enthoven’s Taro III Trust. It is based in Jersey and has been operated by Kleinwort Benson. This trust, not liable for UK tax, contains no less than £750m and possibly much more.

It’s all legal, but not exactly transparent to the naked eye. These methods help reduce the tax that the company and family pay around the world in comparison to conventional onshore British operation.

The company’s arrangements can legally avoid capital gains tax, inheritance tax and potential future stamp duty for those like the Enthovens, whose South African heredity makes them “non-doms”.

Nando’s owners also legally reduce their UK corporate tax bill by making various permissible payments offshore. Nando’s does then pay UK corporation tax on the remainder of its profits.

The UK end of 280 restaurants, paid over £21 million of its revenues as a royalty for use of the Nando’s name. This money goes to a low-tax Netherlands set-up called Tortolli BV. Tortolli in turn collects the cash on behalf of another company registered in another tax haven , this time in Malta .

The rent for the restaurants is paid to a separate UK company, also owned by a Netherlands intermediary, and the finance to brand-up each restaurant comes through Channel Island loans.

And if that wasn’t dizzying enough, profits all go to a Luxembourg low-tax registered partnership. Accounts show the Luxembourg entity then pays cash over to the tax-free Jersey family trust as interest on a £750m loan.

Nando’s unnamed spokesman – who we’ll refer to as Mr Nando – said that the company does pay appreciable UK corporation tax and said its licensing fee was standard.

“In the UK, Nando’s Group Holdings Ltd incurred corporation tax of £12.6m on a profit of £58.2m with revenues of £485.2m in the year ending February 2013,” he said.

“Nando’s is a concept founded in South Africa. Nando’s in the UK is one of 22 national franchises operating globally. All the franchises operate under standard market licensing arrangements and this includes the brand licensing fee. This franchising arrangement enables the UK company to access expertise, intellectual property and capital from the company’s global operations and has helped fund its growth.”

If Nando’s peri peri clever (ahem) accounting if unsurprising or forgiveable, then this promotional video starring Goldie, Melinda Messenger and other famousish people should make you want to throw the whole company into the sea.