Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Pension cashing in tops £6bn

Nearly 400,000 people took out £6.45bn of their pension cash in year to April, taking advantage of the new pension freedoms, HM Revenue and Customs said.

The figure covers both cash withdrawals and income drawdown, through which pensioners maintain an investment fund and take a regular income.

On average people pulled out more than £16,400 each between April 2016 and March 2017.

It's the second year that pension savers have been able to use their retirement nest eggs as they like, from the age of 55, subject to paying some tax.

It's hard to gauge from the HMRC figure how much more "cashing in" has been going on. The first year saw at least £4.35bn withdrawn - but pension providers weren't forced to submit full records.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Energy price hikes disguised as savings

Canny consumers who are coming to the end of year-long fixed rate gas and electricity fixed rate deals are in for a shock.

When you look at the price comparison sites to see what you'll be paying next, it's likely to be £100s more.

But that won't be the only surprise.

The switching services will promise you huge savings, like this:

How is there a saving of nearly £400?

Well, it's compared with what you would be paying if you didn't switch deals and you ended up on your current supplier's Standard Rate (the expensive one).

In fact, in this example your best option would be a near £200 increase in your annual bill.

Of course, if (like most people) you're on the Standard Rate already or have never switched before you are likely to make a substantial saving anyway.

For the rest, make sure you click "What will I pay?" and avoid disappointment...

Friday, 17 March 2017

Mind the gap on house prices

Least and most affordable areas in England and Wales, from ONS, comparing now with 17 years ago...

Thursday, 16 March 2017

ABTA cyber attack

The travel agents organisation ABTA says 43,000 members and travellers may have had their personal information stolen in a cyber attack.

It says the attack was perpetrated by an external infiltrator on its web server on 27th February.

ABTA says most of the information taken is what it calls "low risk", including email addresses and encrypted passwords.

But up to 1,000 holidaymakers who uploaded documents to do with holiday complaints may have been more seriously affected.

In their cases photographs, addresses and phone numbers could have been accessed, although ABTA says banking details would not have been available.

Also, more detailed information about 650 travel agents could have been hacked, along with documents supporting their membership applications.

They are being told to monitor their bank accounts and to be vigilant about online fraud.

ABTA says the vulnerability in its server has been identified and dealt with. It wasn't able to identify the infiltrator was, saying that was now a matter for the police.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA's chief executive, apologised for the anxiety and concern the incident had caused.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Self-employed underpaying by £5bn? Really?

What did the Chancellor mean when he said in his Budget speech that...

"The lower National Insurance paid by the self-employed is forecast to cost our public finances over £5 billion this year alone"?

Some might have though he was implying that if only the self-employed paid what employed people pay then the Exchequer would be £5bn a year to the good.

But it's not quite like that.

Yes, Mr Hammond is simply totting up what he would get if all the self-employed were employed - and subtracting what he receives from them at the moment.

He reckons he would be £5.1bn a year better off.

Yet most of that large sum would come from the National Insurance paid by employers, the so-called tax on jobs.

Employer NICs are a substantial 13.8% of pay.

That's not money deducted from wage packets, even if employers see it as part of the cost of taking on staff.

The self-employed do contribute less, £2.80 a week and 9% of pay over £8,060, compared with the straight 12% contributed by employees.

But not £5bn less.

In fact some would argue that they are pushed into self-employment by companies who want to avoid having to pay employer NICs.

Even so, it was individuals whom the Chancellor targeted in his short-lived National Insurance hike, not companies trying to trim their tax bills.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Top cash machine providers

Here's the pecking of the of the biggest operators of free cash machines. It shows how the balance of power has changed. Independent ATM companies occupy two of the top three places. They're the ones outside supermarkets, railway stations and many garages and convenience stores. It means that banks have to pay them 25p a time if their customers find themselves at a shop and want to take out some cash. With so many cash withdrawals now being made at convenient spots where people happen to be shopping or travelling, it means banks are having to pay large sums to other ATM operators - and some bankers don't like it.

10,387 free cash machines - Cardtronics (Independent)
8,127                                     RBS/NatWest
5,821                                     Note Machine (Independent)
4,948                                     Lloyds/Halifax/Bank of Scotland
4,019                                     Barclays

In fact non-bank "independents" operate 2 in every 5 free cash machines.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017